Syria slams US ‘terrorist war’ in UN address

Syria slams US ‘terrorist war’ in UN address
Bassam Sabbagh, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Syrian Arab Republic, addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 26, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 27 September 2023

Syria slams US ‘terrorist war’ in UN address

Syria slams US ‘terrorist war’ in UN address
  • Washington spent ‘billions of dollars’ to ‘demolish and destroy’ Syrian achievements, says vice FM
  • Damascus will push for independent Palestine, return of Golan ‘no matter how long it takes’

NEW YORK: The US launching a “terrorist war” in Syria has led to “creative American chaos” and destabilization in the Middle East, Syria’s vice foreign minister told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday.

Bassam Sabbagh, who previously served as Syria’s permanent representative to the UN, condemned the policies of successive US administrations “to serve geopolitical and selfish interests” and “work to create and exaggerate problems to ignite tensions and then conflicts.”

The world is facing myriad challenges, he said, listing “devastating conflicts,” the “continued occupation of some peoples,” “sharp rises in poverty and hunger” and “economic blockade policies.”

Confronting these challenges requires global cooperation among all UN member states and the building of a “new multipolar world order that achieves a new balance,” he added.

Sabbagh accused the US of misinterpreting the UN Charter to “justify attacks committed against the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of other countries.”

This led to Washington spending “billions of dollars” to “demolish and destroy development achievements (in Syria) made over decades,” he said.

The emergence of terrorist groups, including Daesh and Al-Nusra Front, can also be blamed on “creative American chaos,” Sabbagh added.

“The basic principle affirmed by the UN Charter is respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of member states,” he said.

“Therefore, any acquisition of the lands of others by force is an occupation, and any illegal military presence on the territory of any sovereign state is a clear violation of this charter.”

He named Israel, the US and Turkiye as the chief exponents of territory violation, saying the activities of the former in Palestine are “consistent with the destructive role” played by the latter two in Syria.

Damascus “spares no effort” in “standing alongside the brotherly Palestinian people,” Sabbagh said, defining the issue as “the central Arab cause.”

He condemned Israel’s occupation of “Arab lands in Palestine and the Syrian Golan” since 1967, demanding that it end “immediately and unconditionally.”

As part of its occupation, Israel is committing the “most heinous forms of grave and systematic violations” of the UN Charter, Sabbagh said.

Israel’s actions this year have pushed the region to “unprecedented levels of tension and instability,” he added, naming a litany of policies targeting Palestinians as well as Syrians in the Golan Heights.

“This is evident in it (Israel) committing more massacres, the escalation of its military aggression, and its repeated missile bombing of Syrian cities, ports and civil airports, which endangered civilian lives and the safety of civil aviation, and hampered United Nations humanitarian operations,” he said.

“This is in addition to its continuation of policies of settlement, Judaization, sieges, arbitrary arrest, forced displacement and racial discrimination in the occupied Arab territories.”

Sabbagh also denounced the “continued support for such practices and silence about them” by some countries that “declare themselves protectors of international humanitarian law.”

He repeated Syria’s support for an independent Palestinian state along the June 1967 borders and the return of the Golan Heights to Syria, “no matter how long it takes.”

He accused the US of causing $115 billion in losses to Syria’s oil sector since 2011. This “systematic and exposed American plunder of the Syrian people’s national wealth” also included gas and wheat, and has led to deprivation and human suffering in an “unprecedented manner,” Sabbagh said.

He urged the UN to meet its obligation in holding the US accountable for the “looted money,” demanding its return to Syria.

As well as siphoning wealth, Sabbagh accused both the US and Turkiye of “infiltrating” Syrian territory and launching an illegal military presence as part of a “flagrant interference” in his country’s internal affairs.

Syria is seeking an end to the “unilateral coercive measures” of the US and its European allies, including sanctions on the “public health, banking and energy sectors.”

These “illegal, immoral and inhumane” measures have only “exacerbated the suffering of Syrians wherever they are, given that their impact includes third countries,” Sabbagh said.

The devastating earthquakes in Syria this year added “a new burden and suffering” for its people, he added, saying Damascus has tried to open all aid tracks for the arrival of humanitarian relief.

“Syria was one of the most stable and prosperous countries in the world. It was achieving food self-sufficiency and providing all the basic necessities of life for its people in a way that was rarely seen in the region,” Sabbagh said.

“However, the terrorist war launched against it since 2011 changed this situation and caused a significant humanitarian crisis.”

He thanked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for launching a flash funding appeal in the wake of the earthquakes, but called on international donors to fulfill their funding pledges in order to improve the humanitarian situation.

Sabbagh declared Syria’s readiness to “welcome the return of every Syrian refugee who left their home, village or city” since 2011, including citizens “who were forced by terrorist organizations to seek refuge.

“I call on Western countries that ask refugees not to return to their homeland to stop these inhumane practices.”

He hailed the achievements of the Arab League Summit in Jeddah in May, which “restored to the collective Arab position its shine, and to Arab joint action its momentum.

“The Arab countries affirmed their support for Syria in preserving its sovereignty … and overcoming the difficult circumstances it’s going through.”

Sabbagh also expressed Syria’s “support and solidarity” with Libya and Morocco in the wake of the recent natural disasters in the two North African countries.

He ended his address by calling for the UNGA to be used as a platform for “dialogue and public diplomacy,” not for “leveling false accusations and launching hostile campaigns.”

Working to translate the UNGA slogan of “Rebuilding trust and reigniting global solidarity” into “real and serious action” will ensure no one is left behind, Sabbagh said.

Israel’s most wanted: the three Hamas leaders in Gaza it aims to kill

Israel’s most wanted: the three Hamas leaders in Gaza it aims to kill
Updated 10 sec ago

Israel’s most wanted: the three Hamas leaders in Gaza it aims to kill

Israel’s most wanted: the three Hamas leaders in Gaza it aims to kill
  • Two military experts said that killing Sinwar, Deif and Issa would allow Israel to claim an important symbolic victory. But achieving even that goal would be long and costly, with no guarantee of success

GAZA: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has a poster hanging on a wall of his office in Tel Aviv, in the wake of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas. It shows mugshots of hundreds of the Palestinian militant group’s commanders arranged in a pyramid.
At the bottom are Hamas’ junior field commanders. At the top is its high command, including Mohammed Deif, the shadowy mastermind of last month’s assault.
The poster has been re-printed many times after Israel invaded Gaza in retaliation for Oct. 7: the faces of dead commanders marked with a cross.
But the three men topping Israel’s hit-list remain at large: Deif, the head of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam Brigades; his second in command, Marwan Issa; and Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar.
Hostilities resumed in Gaza on Friday after a seven-day truce brokered by Qatar collapsed. Reuters spoke to four sources in the region, familiar with Israeli thinking, who said that Israel’s offensive in Gaza was unlikely to stop until those three top Hamas commanders are dead or captured.
The seven-week-old military campaign has killed more than 15,000 people, according to Gaza health officials, stirring international outcry.
The 61-year-old Sinwar, as well as Deif and Issa, both 58, form a secretive three-man military council atop Hamas that planned and executed the Oct. 7 attack. Some 1,200 people were killed and around 240 taken hostage in that assault, the bloodiest in Israel’s 75-year history.
The three leaders are directing Hamas’ military operations and led negotiations for a prisoner-hostage swaps, possibly from bunkers beneath Gaza, three Hamas sources say.
Killing or capturing the three men will likely be a long and arduous task but might signal that Israel was close to shifting from all-out war to less intense counter insurgency operations, according to three of the senior regional sources. That does not mean that Israel’s fight against Hamas would stop.
Officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have said Israel’s objectives are the destruction of Hamas’ military and governmental capabilities, bringing the hostages back, and ensuring that the area around Gaza will never be threatened by a repeat of the Oct. 7 attack. To achieve those goals, eliminating the leadership of Hamas will be essential.
“They are living on borrowed time,” Gallant told a news conference last week, indicating that Israeli intelligence agency Mossad would hunt down the militant group’s leadership anywhere in the world. The Israeli government did not respond to a request for comment.
Two military experts said that killing Sinwar, Deif and Issa would allow Israel to claim an important symbolic victory. But achieving even that goal would be long and costly, with no guarantee of success.
Backed by drones and aircraft, Israeli troops have swept through less populated northern and western parts of Gaza but the hardest, and most destructive, phase of the fighting may lie ahead, military experts said.
Israeli troops have not pushed deep into Gaza City, stormed the maze of tunnels where Hamas’ command is believed to be located, or invaded the enclave’s densely populated south, they added. Some of those tunnels are believed to be around 80 meters deep, making them difficult to destroy from the air.
Michael Eisenstadt, director of the Military and Security Studies Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said it was probably unclear to all sides, including Hamas, exactly how many of its fighters had been killed.
“If (Israel) could say we’ve killed Sinwar, we’ve killed Marwan Issa, we’ve killed Mohammed Deif, that’s a very clear, symbolic and substantive achievement,” Eisenstadt said, adding that Israel faced a dilemma.
“What if they can’t get the guys? Do they keep fighting until they get them? And what if what if they just prove elusive?“
The Israeli military says it has destroyed around 400 tunnel shafts in northern Gaza, but that is only a small part of the network Hamas has built up over the years. At least 70 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the Gaza operation, and some 392 in total, including the Oct. 7 attacks, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has said.
A military officer, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, estimated roughly around 5,000 Hamas fighters had been killed – equivalent to roughly one fifth of its overall strength. Six battalions – numbering around 1,000 men each — had been significantly degraded, the officer said.
Osama Hamdan, a Lebanon-based Hamas leader, said the casualty figures were false and “Israeli propaganda” to cover its lack of military success.
One Hamas insider in Gaza, reached by phone, said that destroying the group as a military force would mean house to house combat and fighting in the warren of tunnels beneath the enclave, which would take a long time.
“If we talk about a year, we will be optimistic,” he said, adding that the Israeli death toll would rise.
President Joe Biden’s administration sees eliminating Hamas’ leadership as a far more attainable goal for Israel than the country’s stated objective of eliminating Hamas entirely, three US officials told Reuters.
While staunchly supportive of Israel, its closest ally in the Middle East, US officials worry that an open-ended conflict driven by Israel’s hope of destroying Hamas entirely would cause a heavy civilian death toll in Gaza and prolong the risk of a regional war.
The United States learned that lesson over years of battling Al-Qaeda, Daesh and other groups during a two-decade-long global war on terrorism.
Iran-backed militants, who blame the United States for Israel’s bombings in Gaza, are already targeting US troops in Iraq and Syria in wave after wave of attacks. One of the attacks last week injured eight US troops.

The shock and fear in Israel engendered by Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack may make it difficult to de-escalate the conflict.
Kobi Michael, a former head of the Palestinian desk at Israel’s Ministry for Strategic Affairs, which counters negative narratives about Israel overseas, said there is strong popular support for the war to continue as Hamas is perceived as part of a broad Iran-backed axis that poses a direct threat to the nation’s survival.
Capturing Sinwar would be an important victory but not necessarily the ultimate one, Michael said.
“Israeli society perceives itself under an existential threat and the options it sees before it are two only: To be or not to be,” he said.
The objective of the war remains to dismantle Hamas’ military and government capabilities, Michael said, which could involve a turbulent period in Gaza after the war. And the greater long-term challenge was to remove the popular appeal to Palestinians of Hamas’ fierce opposition to Israel using education and outreach, he said.
Israel regularly announces the deaths of senior Hamas battalion commanders. An Israeli military officer, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the IDF viewed the elimination of such combat-level commanders as essential to dismantling Hamas’ military capabilities.
The three Hamas leaders have all escaped numerous Israeli operations to kill them. Deif in particular lives in the shadows after escaping seven assassination attempts before 2021, which cost him an eye and left him with a serious leg injury.
An Israeli air strike in 2014 killed his wife, his three-year-old daughter and seven-month-old son.
Speculation by Israeli and Palestinian sources is that the three men are hiding in the tunnels under the enclave but five sources close to their thinking say they could be anywhere within Gaza.
Sinwar, who unlike the elusive Deif and Issa has often appeared in the past at public rallies, is no longer using any electronic devices for fear the Israelis could track the signal, Hamas sources said.
Issa, known as the ‘Shadow Man’, is perhaps the least well known of the three but has been involved in many of Hamas’ major decisions of recent years, and would replace either of the two other men if they are killed or captured, Hamas sources said.
All three men were born into refugee families that had fled or been expelled in 1948 from areas in the newly created Israeli state.
And all three men have spent years in Israeli prisons. Sinwar served 22 years after being jailed in 1988 for the abduction and killing of two Israeli soldiers and the murder of four Palestinian collaborators.
He was the most senior of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners that Israel freed in 2011 in exchange for one of its soldiers, Gilad Shalit, captured by Hamas in a cross-border raid five years earlier.
Like Deif, Issa’s facial features were unknown to the public until 2011 when he appeared in a group photo taken during the Shalit prisoner’s exchange, which he helped to organize.
Gerhard Conrad, a German Intelligence Agency mediator (BND) from 2009 to 2011, was among the few to have met Issa while negotiating Shalit’s prisoner swap.
“He was very meticulous and careful analyst: that’s my impression of him. He knew the files by heart,” Conrad told Al Jazeera television.
Israel has killed Hamas’ leaders in the past, including the group’s founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and its former leader Abdel-Aziz Al-Rantisi, assassinated in a 2004 air strike. New commanders rose to fill their ranks.
“Israel has killed Sheikh Yassin, Rantissi and others but Hamas is not over,” said Hamdan, the Lebanon-based member of the group’s politburo. “Anything might happen in this battle.”  


Senior UK officials discuss Gaza crisis on sidelines of COP28 in Dubai

Senior UK officials discuss Gaza crisis on sidelines of COP28 in Dubai
Updated 3 min 2 sec ago

Senior UK officials discuss Gaza crisis on sidelines of COP28 in Dubai

Senior UK officials discuss Gaza crisis on sidelines of COP28 in Dubai

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Friday met with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, Downing Street announced.

He thanked the emir for Qatar’s important role in facilitating the humanitarian pause in Gaza, which saw the release of dozens of hostages and the vital passage of further aid.

The leaders deeply regretted the collapse of the pause and reiterated the importance of ongoing efforts to secure the release of all hostages and ensure humanitarian assistance reaches those in need in Gaza. 

In the long term, the prime minister said “we must work toward a two-state solution which guarantees the security and prosperity of both Israelis and Palestinians.” 

He reiterated that Hamas had demonstrated that it could not be a partner for peace and could have no future in Gaza.

Sunak also met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, where he reassured him that the UK continues to press Israel on the need to adhere to international humanitarian law and contain settler violence in the West Bank. 

“The prime minister recognized the vital role Jordan has played in addressing the crisis in Gaza and the generosity they have shown in providing significant humanitarian support to Palestinian civilians, including the provision of military field hospitals,” his office said in a separate statement.

Sunak reiterated the UK’s commitment to working toward a lasting resolution to the conflict which delivers dignity, peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians. 

The leaders also confirmed the continued importance of close UK-Jordan cooperation, including on trade, defense and clean technology.

During talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Sunak reiterated the UK’s support for the humanitarian response in Gaza, with planeloads of UK aid, including warehouse facilities and forklift trucks, sent to Egypt to preposition on the border with Gaza. 

He thanked El-Sisi for Egypt’s continued efforts to get much-needed aid into Gaza and secure the release of hostages, as well as their support for the evacuation of British nationals from Gaza.

He said the UK stands ready to provide further support, recognizing that there must be no forcible displacement from Gaza and that aid must be able to reach people across the Gaza Strip. 

Sunak and Israel’s President Isaac Herzog also discussed the conflict with Hamas and the end of the humanitarian pause in Gaza earlier on Friday.

The premier “once again emphasised the need to take all possible measures to avoid civilian casualties and significantly increase the flow of aid to Gaza,” Downing Street said.

Meanwhile, King Charles III, who is also attending COP28, met with Sheikh Tamim on the sidelines of the annual summit to discuss “the friendship and cooperation relations between the two countries and peoples, as well as the means to enhance them,” the Qatar News Agency reported.

The meeting also dealt with exchanging views on the most prominent issues on the summit’s agenda, in addition to a number of developments of joint interest.

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron held talks with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman to discuss the latest developments in Gaza and the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as ways to reduce escalation and bring about a cease-fire.

During the meeting, Sheikh Mohammed stressed that his country, along with its mediation partners, is committed to continuing efforts to return to calm, stressing that the continued bombing of the Gaza Strip after the end of the truce complicates mediation efforts and exacerbates the humanitarian catastrophe in the besieged enclave.

He expressed Qatar’s firm position in condemning all forms of targeting civilians, and that killing innocent people, especially women and children, and practicing the policy of collective punishment are unacceptable, under any circumstance.

He also stressed the necessity of opening humanitarian corridors to ensure that relief and aid reach the Palestinian brothers stranded under bombardment. 

Israel launches air attack on vicinity of Damascus -Syrian state media

Israel launches air attack on vicinity of Damascus -Syrian state media
Updated 31 min 35 sec ago

Israel launches air attack on vicinity of Damascus -Syrian state media

Israel launches air attack on vicinity of Damascus -Syrian state media

DAMASCUS: Israel launched an air attack on the vicinity of Damascus late on Friday, Syrian state media reported.


Inaction on Gaza amounts to ‘approval’ of killing children: UNICEF

Inaction on Gaza amounts to ‘approval’ of killing children: UNICEF
Updated 57 min ago

Inaction on Gaza amounts to ‘approval’ of killing children: UNICEF

Inaction on Gaza amounts to ‘approval’ of killing children: UNICEF
  • Israeli warplanes resumed bombing Gaza, sending Palestinian civilians fleeing for shelter, after a week-old truce ran out with no deal to extend it

GENEVA: UNICEF has appealed for a lasting ceasefire to be implemented in Gaza, describing inaction as “an approval of the killing of children” after a week-old truce between Israel and Hamas collapsed.
“A lasting ceasefire must be implemented,” James Elder, spokesperson for UNICEF, told reporters via video link from Gaza.
“Inaction at its core is an approval of the killing of children.”
The UN described the hostilities as “catastrophic” and urged parties to bring about a lasting ceasefire.
Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN humanitarian office in Geneva, said the resumption of hostilities meant “hell on Earth has returned to Gaza.”
Israeli warplanes resumed bombing Gaza, sending Palestinian civilians fleeing for shelter, after a week-old truce ran out with no deal to extend it.
“The resumption of hostilities in Gaza is catastrophic,” said Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“I urge all parties and states with influence over them to redouble efforts, immediately, to ensure a ceasefire – on humanitarian and human rights grounds.”
In a post on X social media platform, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he regretted the resumption of hostilities and hoped a new pause could be established.
“The return to hostilities only shows how important it is to have a true humanitarian ceasefire,” he said.
Laerke said that the week-long truce had seen significantly larger humanitarian convoys entering densely populated Gaza, even reaching north of Wadi Gaza, which prior to the pause had received almost no supplies.
“With the resumption of war, we fear that the continuation of this (aid) is now in doubt,” he said.
“The Rafah crossing is closed as of now. We need a resumption of a humanitarian pause, not a return to war.”


11 civilians dead in eastern Iraq attack blamed on Daesh

11 civilians dead in eastern Iraq attack blamed on Daesh
Updated 02 December 2023

11 civilians dead in eastern Iraq attack blamed on Daesh

11 civilians dead in eastern Iraq attack blamed on Daesh
  • About 2,500 US troops remain in Iraq as part of international efforts to prevent a resurgence of Daesh

BAGHDAD: A blast and gunfire killed at least 11 civilians in eastern Iraq, two security officials said on Friday, an attack that the provincial governor blamed on Daesh extremists.
The violence in Diyala province occurred on Thursday evening.
It targeted a minibus returning the civilians from an electoral meeting organized by a candidate from their tribe, said an Interior Ministry official.
Muthana Al-Tamimi, the governor of Diyala, which is just outside Baghdad, denounced “a cowardly operation” by Daesh.
On his Facebook page, he called on the security forces to “intensify vigilance against dormant cells” of the extremists.
IS did not immediately claim the attack in Diyala, an area where its cells remain active.


Muthana Al-Tamimi, the governor of Diyala, which is just outside Baghdad, denounced ‘a cowardly operation’ by Daesh.

After rapidly taking over large swaths of territory in Iraq and neighboring Syria, Daesh saw its brutal “caliphate,” self-proclaimed in 2014, collapse under successive offensives in both countries.
Iraqi authorities declared “victory” over the extremist group at the end of 2017, but jihadist cells continue to sporadically launch attacks, particularly on military and police personnel in remote areas of central and northern Iraq.
In the Diyala unrest, at least “11 people were killed and 17 wounded in an attack carried out by an explosive device then gunfire targeting the gathering” provoked by the initial blast in Al-Omraniya village, said a second security source in Baghdad.
The Interior Ministry source said the minibus was targeted “by two homemade bombs on its return from an electoral meeting.”
Sniper fire followed, according to this source, who gave a toll of 12 civilians dead and 13 wounded.
The attack came ahead of the election on Dec. 18 of provincial councils, which in turn elect the governors.
Iraq is trying to move past four decades of war and unrest, including the overthrow 20 years ago of the dictator Saddam Hussein in a US-led invasion.
About 2,500 US troops remain in Iraq as part of international efforts to prevent a resurgence of IS.
A UN report published in July said Daesh has “between 5,000 and 7,000 members across Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, most of whom are fighters.”