Sudan conflict ‘could be turning into full-scale civil war’

Sudan conflict ‘could be  turning into full-scale civil war’
Displaced people sit around food cooking on a bonfire at a school in Sudan’s northern border town of Wadi Halfa. (AFP)
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Updated 14 September 2023
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Sudan conflict ‘could be turning into full-scale civil war’

Sudan conflict ‘could be  turning into full-scale civil war’
  • Volker Perthes says violence in Darfur region ‘has worsened dramatically,’ with civilians being targeted

NEW YORK: The UN special envoy for Sudan who was declared unwelcome by the country’s military rulers resigned in a final speech to the UN Security Council, warning that the conflict between Sudan’s rival military leaders “could be morphing into a full-scale civil war.”

Volker Perthes, who had continued to work outside Sudan, said the fighting shows no sign of abating, with neither side appearing close to “a decisive military victory.”
He also said the violence in Sudan’s western Darfur region “has worsened dramatically,” with civilians being targeted based on their ethnicity.
Tensions between Sudan’s military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, commanded by Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, burst into open fighting in mid-April.
At least 5,000 people have been killed since then and over 12,000 wounded, Perthes said, while calling the figures conservative and saying the actual number “is likely much higher.”
The envoy said there were at least 13 mass graves in and around Geneina, the capital of West Darfur’s province, according to credible reports the UN Joint Human Rights Office received.
The graves were a result of attacks by the RSF and their allied Arab militias on civilians, mostly African communities, Perthes said.
The western Darfur region was the scene of a genocidal campaign in the early 2000s.
More than 20 million people — almost half Sudan’s population — are experiencing acute hunger and food insecurity, the UN humanitarian office’s operations director, Edem Wosornu, told the council.
“And more than 6 million people are now just one step away from famine,” she said.
“If the fighting continues, this potential tragedy comes closer to reality every day.”
The fighting has forced 4.1 million people to flee their homes to other places in Sudan and more than 1 million to seek refuge in neighboring countries, Wosornu said, stressing that displacement and insecurity “have driven cases of sexual violence to distressing levels.”
Perthes was a key mediator after the conflict began, but the military government claimed he was biased and informed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on June 8 that he was declared persona non grata.
The UN denounced the move, saying that a member of its personnel cannot be declared persona non grata — unacceptable to the government — and that this goes against the UN Charter.
In announcing his resignation, Perthes, who was appointed as special representative for Sudan in January 2021, urged the warring sides to end the fighting and warned them “they cannot operate with impunity.”
“There will be accountability for the crimes committed,” he said.
Guterres told a news conference that he had accepted Perthes’ resignation, saying, without elaborating, that the envoy “has very strong reasons to resign.”
Perthes also warned of “the risk of a fragmentation of the country,” pointing to a myriad of compounding crisis, including Darfur, the cross-border mobilization of Arab tribes, fighting in the country’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile provinces between the Sudanese military and rebels, and rising tensions in eastern Sudan amid ongoing tribal mobilization.
He also added — referring to Sudan’s longtime autocratic leader Omar Al-Bashir who was deposed in a popular uprising in 2019 — that “the mobilization by former regime elements advocating for a continuation of the war is of particular concern.”
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield sharply criticized Sudan’s military leaders for threatening to end the UN political mission in Sudan known as UNITAMS if Perthes addressed the Security Council, calling the threats “unacceptable” and declaring that “No country should be allowed to threaten this council’s ability to carry out its responsibilities for peace and security.”
In a highly unusual procedure aimed at trying to maintain the UN mission, the council meeting started with a briefing by Ghana’s ambassador who chairs the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Sudan, and Sudan’s UN Ambassador Al-Harith Mohamed was then given the floor.
He claimed the government “is in control of the political and security initiatives and is communicating with all regional players and international terrorist in order to end the war,” and is receiving “the full support of the Sudanese people who categorically reject the presence of the Rapid Support Forces.”
He urged the Security Council and the international community to support the government, accusing the Rapid Support Forces and their militias summoning “killers and mercenaries” to destroy the country. “The international community must not allow for a new generation of terrorists against the state who who transform (it) into Frankenstein,” he said.
Albania’s UN Ambassador Ferit Hoxha then gaveled that council meeting to an end and after the Sudanese ambassador left, he gaveled the start of a new meeting on the secretary-general’s lateat report on Sudan, which opened with the briefing by Perthes.
Thomas-Greenfield told Perthes the United States regrets his departure.
Perthes made no mention of his next steps. A former German academic with extensive background in international relations, Perthes served as chief executive officer and director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs from 2005 to September 2020.
From 2015 to 2018, he served as a UN assistant secretary-general and senior adviser to UN special envoy for Syria.


Netanyahu blocks minister’s order to build hospital for Gaza children

Netanyahu blocks minister’s order to build hospital for Gaza children
Updated 4 sec ago
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Netanyahu blocks minister’s order to build hospital for Gaza children

Netanyahu blocks minister’s order to build hospital for Gaza children
JERUSALEM: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday overruled an order by his defense minister to build a field hospital in Israel to treat sick Gaza children, officials said.
The decision was a new sign of divisions within Netanyahu’s ruling coalition over its handling of the war in Gaza in the face of persistent international criticism of the high civilian toll.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced this week that he had ordered the building of a “temporary hospital” in Israel to treat sick children from Gaza.
Gallant discussed the project in a call with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a government statement said Wednesday.
Reports said the hospital would be built close to Israel’s border with Gaza to help children suffering from cancer, diabetes and other illnesses who could not get treatment in the Palestinian territory.
But the prime minister’s office announced suddenly on Thursday that Netanyahu “does not approve the establishment of a hospital for Gazans within Israeli territory — therefore, it will not be established.”
An Israeli official told AFP the defense ministry first asked the prime minister’s office two weeks ago “to speed up the evacuation of patients, especially sick children,” from Gaza.
“No response was received, so the minister issued an order to the army to establish a field hospital within Israeli territory as an immediate solution for sick children.
“The prime minister canceled the order and, for political reasons, blocked a humanitarian solution,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Gallant and Netanyahu are longtime rivals. In March last year, the prime minister sacked his minister, a fomer general, after he spoke out against judicial reforms. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets and Netanyahu revoked his decision.

Body found, 9 men rescued in search for missing tanker crew off Oman

Body found, 9 men rescued in search for missing tanker crew off Oman
Updated 22 min 52 sec ago
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Body found, 9 men rescued in search for missing tanker crew off Oman

Body found, 9 men rescued in search for missing tanker crew off Oman
  • Six remaining crew from the Yemeni-bound and Comoros-flagged Prestige Falcon are still missing
  • Omani vessels and personnel, as well as an Indian Navy warship, joined the search

AL-MUKALLA: Nine crewmen from an oil tanker that capsized off Oman have been rescued and a body recovered, the Omani maritime agency said on Thursday.  

In a post on X, the Omani Marine Security Center said the rescued sailors, eight Indians and one Sri Lankan, are in “good health” and receiving medical attention.

Six remaining crew from the Yemeni-bound and Comoros-flagged Prestige Falcon are still missing after the tanker capsized 25 nautical miles southeast of Ras Madrakah, near the Omani port town of Duqm, on Monday.

“Search-and-rescue efforts are still ongoing to locate the remaining missing crew members,” the Omani center said.

Omani vessels and personnel, as well as an Indian Navy warship, joined the search.

The Omani Ministry of Transport, Communications, and Information Technology said in a statement on Wednesday that the Prestige Falcon “almost completely” sank, and that the cause of the incident is being investigated.

The ministry said that it has prioritized rescuing the missing crewmen, followed by righting the ship and dealing with any environmental hazards. 

This comes as Houthi leader Abdul Malik Al-Houthi repeated threats on Thursday to continue attacks in the busy shipping lanes despite a recent strike that resulted in an oil spill in the Red Sea.

Al-Houthi said that 25 ballistic missiles, drones, and drone boats have been launched at ships in the past seven days alone.

He claimed that the militia attacks on 170 ships since November have left the Israeli port of Eilat facing bankruptcy, and forced the US aircraft carrier Eisenhower to “flee” the Red Sea.

“Operations at sea have a significant influence on American commercial activity, the economic position in America and Britain, and the Israeli enemy,” Al-Houthi said.

Environmentalists say that a leak from a tanker targeted by the Houthis in the Red Sea has resulted in a 200 km slick moving south, threatening the area’s already fragile ecosystem.

Wim Zwijnenburg, of the Humanitarian Disarmament Project at Dutch peace organization PAX, told Arab News that diesel from the ship’s engine is spreading to a marine conservation area near Saudi Arabia’s Farasan Island and Eritrea’s Dahlak archipelago.

“The Red Sea is home to various protected species, including turtles, sharks, and fish such as the coral grouper. But there are also indications that both pollution and climate change are affecting coastal fishing communities and coral reefs,” he said.

“This conflict-linked oil spill is just a sad continuation of further degradation of the unique ecosystems in the Red Sea.”

On Monday, a Houthi drone boat struck and damaged the Liberian-flagged oil tanker Chios Lion northwest of Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah.

Since November, the Houthis have attacked ships in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Indian Ocean, claiming to be acting in support of the Palestinian people and to force Israel to cease its war in Gaza.

In response, the US launched retaliatory strikes on Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and branded the militia a terrorist group.

Houthi media said on Thursday that US and UK forces carried out three airstrikes on Hodeidah city airport in the western province of Hodeidah.


Israel parliament votes to oppose Palestinian state

Israel parliament votes to oppose Palestinian state
Updated 18 July 2024
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Israel parliament votes to oppose Palestinian state

Israel parliament votes to oppose Palestinian state
  • Resolution is symbolic but lays down marker before Netanyahu’s Washington trip
  • Palestinian state would cause existential danger to Israel and its citizens, says resolution

JERUSALEM: An Israeli parliament vote to oppose a Palestinian state as an “existential threat,” just days ahead of a visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington, brought Palestinian and international criticism on Thursday.
The 120-member Knesset late on Wednesday passed by 68 votes to nine a resolution that said a Palestinian state on land occupied by Israel would “perpetuate the Israel-Palestinian conflict and destabilize the region.”
The resolution is symbolic but lays down a marker before Netanyahu’s Washington trip as well as an opinion to be issued by the International Court of Justice over the legality of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
“The Knesset firmly opposes the creation of a Palestinian state (on land) west of Jordan,” said the resolution, referring to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which has been devastated by the war unleashed by the October 7 Hamas attacks.
“The creation of a Palestinian state in the heart of the land of Israel would constitute an existential danger for the state of Israel and its citizens, would perpetuate the Israel-Palestinian conflict and destabilize the region.”
It predicted that Hamas would take over the state and turn it into “a radical Islamic terrorist base” seeking to destroy Israel.
The resolution said “promoting” a Palestinian state was “a reward for terrorism and would only encourage Hamas and its supporters” after the October 7 attacks.
The Palestinian Authority said there would be “neither peace nor security for anyone without the establishment of a Palestinian state.” It accused Israel’s ruling coalition of “plunging the region into an abyss.”
The French foreign ministry expressed “consternation” at the resolution that it said was “in contradiction with resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council.”
The Knesset voted by an even larger majority in February against countries unilaterally backing a Palestinian state. Spain, Ireland, Norway and Armenia have since said they recognized a Palestinian state.
The latest Knesset resolution was proposed by a right-wing deputy in opposition to Netanyahu’s coalition of conservative and far-right parties. However, coalition deputies and some centrist lawmakers voted in favor.


Netanyahu makes a surprise visit to southern Gaza, days before speech to US Congress

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu sits in a military vehicle during a surprise visit to Israeli soldiers in Rafah, Gaza Strip.
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu sits in a military vehicle during a surprise visit to Israeli soldiers in Rafah, Gaza Strip.
Updated 5 min 42 sec ago
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Netanyahu makes a surprise visit to southern Gaza, days before speech to US Congress

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu sits in a military vehicle during a surprise visit to Israeli soldiers in Rafah, Gaza Strip.
  • Netanyahu’s visit to Rafah was announced hours after Israel’s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, visited Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a surprise visit to troops in southern Gaza on Thursday, his office said, just days before his speech to the US Congress.
Netanyahu’s visit to Rafah was announced hours after Israel’s far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, visited Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site, a move that could disrupt the delicate Gaza ceasefire talks.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, an ultranationalist settler leader, said he had gone up to the contested Jerusalem hilltop compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque to pray for the return of the hostages “but without a reckless deal, without surrendering.”
The move threatens to disrupt sensitive talks aimed at reaching a ceasefire in the 9-month-old Israel-Hamas war. Israeli negotiators landed in Cairo on Wednesday to continue talks.
The visit also came just days before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaves for a trip to the United States, where he will address Congress.
Ben-Gvir said while standing in front of the golden dome of Al-Aqsa Mosque that he “is praying and working hard” to ensure that Netanyahu will not give in to international pressure and will continue with the military campaign in Gaza.
Ben-Gvir last visited the site in May to protest countries unilaterally recognizing Palestinian statehood.
He has been convicted eight times for offenses that include racism and supporting a terrorist organization. As a teen, his views were so extreme that the army banned him from compulsory military service.
As security minister, Ben-Gvir oversees the country’s police force. As a key coalition partner, Ben-Gvir also has the power to rob Netanyahu of his parliamentary majority and try to force early elections.
Ben-Gvir has used his influence to push forward pet projects and encourage Netanyahu to press ahead with the war in Gaza in the face of widespread calls to reach a ceasefire deal that would bring home hostages.
The Palestinian Foreign Ministry condemned Ben-Gvir’s visit as a “provocative intrusion” that endangered the fragile status quo regarding the Jerusalem hilltop compound, which is considered holy for both Muslims and Jews.
The site is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount, and by Muslims as Haram Al-Sharif, a holy site and important national symbol. Ben-Gvir has frequently visited the site during times of conflict, drawing condemnation. Tensions over the compound have fueled past rounds of violence.


Israel parliament votes to oppose Palestinian state

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses lawmakers in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses lawmakers in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem.
Updated 18 July 2024
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Israel parliament votes to oppose Palestinian state

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses lawmakers in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, in Jerusalem.
  • “The Knesset firmly opposes the creation of a Palestinian state (on land) west of Jordan,” said the resolution
  • The French foreign ministry expressed “consternation” at the resolution

JERUSALEM: An Israeli parliament vote to oppose a Palestinian state as an “existential threat,” just days ahead of a visit by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington, brought Palestinian and international criticism on Thursday.
The 120-member Knesset late on Wednesday passed by 68 votes to nine a resolution that said a Palestinian state on land occupied by Israel would “perpetuate the Israel-Palestinian conflict and destabilize the region.”
The resolution is symbolic but lays down a marker before Netanyahu’s Washington trip as well as an opinion to be issued by the International Court of Justice over the legality of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
“The Knesset firmly opposes the creation of a Palestinian state (on land) west of Jordan,” said the resolution, referring to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which has been devastated by the war unleashed by the October 7 Hamas attacks.
“The creation of a Palestinian state in the heart of the land of Israel would constitute an existential danger for the state of Israel and its citizens, would perpetuate the Israel-Palestinian conflict and destabilize the region.”
It predicted that Hamas would take over the state and turn it into “a radical Islamic terrorist base” seeking to destroy Israel.
The resolution said “promoting” a Palestinian state was “a reward for terrorism and would only encourage Hamas and its supporters” after the October 7 attacks.
The Palestinian Authority said there would be “neither peace nor security for anyone without the establishment of a Palestinian state.” It accused Israel’s ruling coalition of “plunging the region into an abyss.”
The French foreign ministry expressed “consternation” at the resolution that it said was “in contradiction with resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council.”
The Knesset voted by an even larger majority in February against countries unilaterally backing a Palestinian state. Spain, Ireland, Norway and Armenia have since said they recognized a Palestinian state.
The latest Knesset resolution was proposed by a right-wing deputy in opposition to Netanyahu’s coalition of conservative and far-right parties. However, coalition deputies and some centrist lawmakers voted in favor.