Palestinians in South America criticize government reactions to Israel-Hamas violence

Palestinians in South America criticize government reactions to Israel-Hamas violence
Palestinians search for survivors after an Israeli air strike on buildings in the refugee camp of Jabalia in the Gaza Strip on Oct. 9, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 09 October 2023
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Palestinians in South America criticize government reactions to Israel-Hamas violence

Palestinians in South America criticize government reactions to Israel-Hamas violence
  • Hamas condemned despite pro-Palestinian sympathies of Chilean, Brazilian, Argentinian presidents
  • However, Venezuela demands end to Israeli occupation

SAO PAULO: Living in countries whose presidents have expressed pro-Palestinian views, Palestinian communities in Chile, Brazil and Argentina have expressed disappointment with statements issued by these countries’ governments concerning the fighting between Hamas and Israel.

Most Latin American nations released statements condemning Saturday’s attack on Israel by Hamas from the Gaza Strip.

The exceptions were Venezuela, which demanded that Israel immediately halt the occupation of Palestinian territories, and Bolivia, which said it is following developments with concern and accused the UN of inaction.

In Colombia, the Foreign Ministry released a statement condemning violence against civilians and asking both parties to hold dialogue on a two-state solution.

But President Gustavo Petro has written several times on his X account about the historical violations of the Palestinians’ rights, and shared posts accusing Israel of “apartheid.”

Israeli Ambassador to Colombia Gali Dagan said he expected that a “friendly country” would strongly condemn “the terrorist attack against civilians in the State of Israel.”

Petro answered on X that “terrorism is to kill innocent children, either in Colombia or in Palestine,” and said both sides should negotiate peace.

In Chile, where an estimated 500,000 Palestinians and their descendants live — making up the largest community in the diaspora outside the Middle East — many community leaders were dissatisfied with the statement released by Foreign Minister Alberto van Klaveren on X.

“We are following with great concern the terrorist attack against Israel and express solidarity with the victims and their relatives,” van Klaveren said.

“We condemn the use of violence and demand its immediate stop. We keep our commitment to the peace process between Israel and Palestine.”

Palestinian-born Nicola Hadwa, a prominent Middle East analyst, told Arab News that Palestinians in Chile feel “betrayed,” adding: “That kind of declaration comes from political leaders who are subordinated to the US and Israel.”

Hadwa, who also worked as a football manager and was the first professional coach of the Palestinian national team in 2002, said: “Every day, the Israelis kill two or three young Palestinians and nobody talks about it in the media. When Palestine reacts, suddenly everybody is concerned.”

Chilean President Gabriel Boric’s administration seems to be coming under pressure from both sides.

While Palestinian Chileans criticized van Klaveren’s statement, Israelis — alongside the nation’s Jewish community — were offended by another of his posts.

“The use of force against civilians is never acceptable in armed conflicts, even in the exercise of legitimate defense,” he said.

“This is valid for Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the State of Israel, and any other actor that intervenes in the conflict.”

Israeli Ambassador to Chile Gil Artzyeli described as “unfortunate” the idea that Israel cannot defend itself from such an attack.

Since his electoral campaign, Boric has manifested his support for the Palestinian cause on several occasions.

In September 2022, he refused to receive Artzyeli’s credentials on the day they were scheduled to meet because a Palestinian child had been killed by Israeli forces. Last December, Boric announced that he would establish an embassy in Palestine.

A similar pro-Palestinian record is held by Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who in his second tenure as Brazil’s president officially recognized the State of Palestine, leading other countries in Latin America to do the same.

In his speeches at the UN General Assembly, he always mentions Palestinian hardships, most recently on Sept. 19.

But his X post concerning the Hamas attack disappointed Palestinian Brazilians. “I was shocked by the terrorist attacks today against civilians in Israel, which caused numerous victims,” he said.

“I send my condolences to the victims’ relatives. I reaffirm my repudiation of terrorism in any of its forms.”

Sayid Tenorio, vice president of the Brazil-Palestine Institute, told Arab News: “I was surprised with the use of the term ‘terrorist.’ I don’t think he wrote it. His assistants did, and they seem to be people who are influenced by … pressure from the media.”

Tenorio emphasized that Lula has a “historic commitment to the Palestinian cause,” but in his team there are people who “at the same time defend the Palestinians’ rights and hesitate when it comes to the Palestinian resistance.”

Tenorio added: “I was disappointed but I don’t condemn Lula. I think it was a mistake, maybe an excess of precaution now that Brazil assumed the presidency of the UN Security Council.”

Ualid Rabah, who heads the Arab Palestinian Federation of Brazil, considered Lula’s statement to be “balanced” but also criticized the use of the term “terrorist.”

Rabah said: “In order to please the Zionists, he used that term for us, comparing us with the terrorists who attempted to stage a coup against him on Jan. 8.”

Rabah attributed such an error to the “Zionist gang which is part of the Brazilian left wing,” adding: “We know that word didn’t come from Lula’s mouth nor his heart. He has always been our friend, and we know how to forgive someone who makes a mistake. But we’d like him to apologize for such an injustice.”

Rabah accused the media of trying to make Palestinians “invisible,” adding: “We’re facing a media massacre. How can we be accused of terrorism by people who only want to defend the Israeli regime, run by a handful of fascists?”

In Argentina, where significant Jewish and Palestinian communities live, President Alberto Fernandez condemned “the brutal terrorist attack perpetrated by Hamas.”

He said he talked to Israeli President Isaac Herzog and repeated a couple of times that it was a “terrorist” act.

Argentinian Finance Minister Sergio Massa, who is running for president, also expressed solidarity with Israel and repudiated the “terrorist” aggression waged by Hamas.

During a presidential debate aired on Saturday night, Massa said he would include Hamas on Argentina’s list of terrorist organizations if he is elected.

Fernandez and his party have a record of expressing pro-Palestinian sentiment. In 2021, for instance, Argentina issued a statement condemning the “disproportionate use of force by Israeli security units to face protests against potential displacements of Palestinian families from their homes in the (Jerusalem) neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.” The statement was criticized by Israel and its ambassador to Argentina.

Despite that, many Palestinian Argentinians consider Fernandez and his colleagues to be hesitant when it comes to defending Palestinians’ rights.

“The Palestinian community in Argentina, and the Arabs as a whole, have always expressed how apathetic Fernandez and his government are when it comes to that issue,” said activist Fernando Isas. “Unfortunately, our criticism doesn’t reverberate in society as much as we wish.”

He said there is a “media blockage” in the country impeding people from knowing more about the Palestinian reality.

“Newspapers only talk about attacks ‘suffered’ by the Israelis,” he added. “We need to boost pictures and content on social media. That’s the only way to inform the people.”


Six killed in Sydney shopping center attack

People are led out from the Westfield Shopping Centre where multiple people were stabbed in Sydney, Saturday, April 13, 2024.
People are led out from the Westfield Shopping Centre where multiple people were stabbed in Sydney, Saturday, April 13, 2024.
Updated 13 April 2024
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Six killed in Sydney shopping center attack

People are led out from the Westfield Shopping Centre where multiple people were stabbed in Sydney, Saturday, April 13, 2024.
  • Multiple people were stabbed by the unidentified assailant, who was shot dead by a policewoman at the scene

SYDNEY: Six people were killed and several others injured — including a nine-month-old baby — when a knife-wielding attacker rampaged through a busy Sydney shopping center on Saturday.
Australian police said multiple people were stabbed by the unidentified assailant, who was tracked down and shot dead by a policewoman who is being hailed as a national hero.
The incident occurred at the sprawling Westfield Bondi Junction mall complex, which was packed with thousands of Saturday afternoon shoppers.
New South Wales police commissioner Karen Webb said five women and one man had died. A baby was undergoing emergency surgery.
Police said the attacker is believed to be a 40-year-old man who was known to law enforcement, but he has not yet been formally identified.
Webb played down suggestions that the attack could have been an act of terrorism and said it is believed the attacker acted alone.
“If it is in fact the person we believe it is, then... it’s not a terrorism incident,” she said.
A New South Wales Ambulance spokesperson told AFP that eight patients were taken to various hospitals across Sydney, including the baby who was taken to the city’s Children’s Hospital.
“They all have traumatic injuries,” the official said.
Security camera footage showed a man wearing an Australian rugby league jersey running around the shopping center with a large knife.
Injured people lay lifeless on the floor, or surrounded by pools of blood.
Eyewitnesses described a scene of panic, with shoppers scrambling to safety and police trying to secure the area.
Many people took shelter in shops, trying to protect themselves, their families and frightened strangers.
Ayush Singh was working at a cafe inside the center when the incident occurred.
“I saw the whole thing in front of me,” he told AFP. “I saw a lot of people running around, I saw the guy running with the knife and people running away.”
Singh helped two elderly ladies who were having a coffee to hide inside his cafe. He heard three gunshots ring out, then saw the man lying on the ground.
“It was really scary,” he said. “I’ve felt really safe (in Australia). I’ve been here for six years. I didn’t feel unsafe but now I feel scared.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese praised the bravery of strangers who helped each other and the woman police inspector who rushed headlong toward danger.
“She is certainly a hero. There is no doubt that she saved lives through her action,” Albanese said.

Pranjul Bokaria had just finished up work and was doing some shopping when the stabbing occurred.
She ended up running to a nearby shop and taking shelter in a break room.
“It was scary, there are some people who were emotionally vulnerable and crying,” she told AFP.
She escaped using an emergency exit with other shoppers and staff, which took them to a back street.
She described a scene of “chaos,” with people running and police swarming the area.
“I am alive and grateful,” she said.
As night fell, dozens of heavily armed police and ambulances were still outside the shopping complex, with stretchers ready to take people to nearby hospitals.
The sound of police sirens and helicopters filled the air.
The mall has been locked down and police have urged people to avoid the area.
Britain’s King Charles III said he and his wife Queen Camilla were “utterly shocked and horrified” by the stabbing.
Pope Francis said he was “deeply saddened” by the attack and sent his “spiritual solidarity to all those affected” in a message addressed to the archbishop of Sydney.
Such attacks are virtually unheard of in Australia, which has relatively low rates of violent crime.
 

 


Rwandan expelled from US given life genocide term

Beatrice Munyenyezi is escorted by police officers at a court in Kigali, Rwanda. (AFP file photo)
Beatrice Munyenyezi is escorted by police officers at a court in Kigali, Rwanda. (AFP file photo)
Updated 13 April 2024
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Rwandan expelled from US given life genocide term

Beatrice Munyenyezi is escorted by police officers at a court in Kigali, Rwanda. (AFP file photo)
  • The sentencing came days after Rwanda marked 30 years since the genocide carried out by the extremist Hutu regime between April and July 1994, which left more than 800,000 people dead, mostly Tutsi but also moderate Hutus, according to a UN tally

KIGALI: A Rwandan woman expelled to her homeland three years ago from the US has been given a life sentence for her role in the country’s 1994 genocide, The New Times newspaper reported on Saturday.
A court in the southern town of Huye found Beatrice Munyenyezi guilty of the charges of murder as a genocide crime, complicity in genocide, incitement to commit genocide, and complicity in rape.
However, she was acquitted on a charge of planning genocide, the Rwandan-based national paper said.
The sentencing came days after Rwanda marked 30 years since the genocide carried out by the extremist Hutu regime between April and July 1994, which left more than 800,000 people dead, mostly Tutsi but also moderate Hutus, according to a UN tally.

FASTFACT

Beatrice Munyenyezi was deported in April 2021 from the US after serving a 10-year prison sentence there for lying about her involvement in the genocide as she set about obtaining American citizenship.

Munyenyezi, 54, denied all the charges against her.
But the court concluded she was guilty of ordering and committing murders and attacks herself, including that of a nun who was raped on her orders.
Nicknamed the “commander,” the investigation and several witness accounts said that Munyenyezi was supervising a roadblock in Huye — then called Butare — where she identified Tutsis and had them killed, and also encouraged Hutu extremists to rape women.
She was deported in April 2021 from the US after serving a 10-year prison sentence there for lying about her involvement in the genocide as she set about obtaining American citizenship, saying she faced persecution in her own country.
The case attracted US attention as her mother-in-law Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, a former minister in the genocidal regime, and her husband Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, a former local militia leader, were also on trial for genocide crimes at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania.
They were also sentenced to life in prison, in 2011, before their terms were reduced to 47 years on appeal.

 


Somalia refuses to accept Ethiopian naval base in breakaway region

Somalia refuses to accept Ethiopian naval base in breakaway region
Updated 13 April 2024
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Somalia refuses to accept Ethiopian naval base in breakaway region

Somalia refuses to accept Ethiopian naval base in breakaway region
  • Somalia called the deal illegal as it considers Somaliland part of its territory even though it has had effective autonomy since 1991

NAIROBI: Somalia will never accept Ethiopia’s plan to build a naval base in its breakaway region of Somaliland but would consider granting Ethiopia commercial port access if discussed bilaterally, a senior Somali official said.
Landlocked Ethiopia sparked a diplomatic row with Mogadishu in January by signing a deal with Somaliland to lease 20 km of its coastline in return for recognizing the region as an independent state.
Somalia called the deal illegal as it considers Somaliland part of its territory even though it has had effective autonomy since 1991.

BACKGROUND

Landlocked Ethiopia sparked a diplomatic row with Mogadishu in January by signing a deal with Somaliland to lease 20 km of its coastline in return for recognizing the region as an independent state.

To defuse the acrimony, Kenya, in consultation with Djibouti and the Eastern African Bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, has proposed a maritime treaty to govern how landlocked states in the region can access ports on commercial terms, a senior Kenyan official said on Thursday.
Somalia’s state minister for foreign affairs, Ali Omar, said that before discussing port access bilaterally, Ethiopia must annul its agreement with Somaliland.
“Somalia will never accept (a) naval base,” Omar said.
“Somalia is ready for commercial access in accordance with the international law of the sea.”
He added that Somalia was willing to discuss proposals as long as they met the country’s interests, which are to “safeguard (our) sovereignty, political independence and unity.”
A spokesperson for Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.

 


Biden is cutting short a beach weekend to meet with his national security team amid Mideast tensions

Biden is cutting short a beach weekend to meet with his national security team amid Mideast tensions
Updated 13 April 2024
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Biden is cutting short a beach weekend to meet with his national security team amid Mideast tensions

Biden is cutting short a beach weekend to meet with his national security team amid Mideast tensions
  • Soon after the White House announced the change of plans, the Pentagon reported that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had spoken with his Israeli counterpart
  • Amid the Israel-Hamas war, tensions have escalated since a suspected Israeli strike this month on an Iranian consular building in Syria

DELAWARE, USA: President Joe Biden is cutting short a weekend stay at his Delaware beach house and returning to the White House on Saturday to meet with his national security team and monitor the situation in the Middle East.
Soon after the White House announced the change of plans, the Pentagon reported that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had spoken with his Israeli counterpart “to discuss urgent regional threats ... and made clear that Israel could count on full US support to defend Israel against any attacks by Iran and its regional proxies.
Amid the Israel-Hamas war, tensions have escalated since a suspected Israeli strike this month on an Iranian consular building in Syria killed 12 people, including senior Iranian generals. Israel is bracing for a possible Iranian attack, raising concerns about the United States being pulled into deeper regional conflict.
Biden on Friday said the United States was “devoted” to defending Israel and that “Iran will not succeed.”
Asked by reporters what his message was for Iran, the president’s only reply was: “Don’t.”
He ignored a question about what would trigger a direct US military response, and when asked how imminent an Iranian attack on Israel was, Biden said he did not want to get into secure information, “but my expectation is sooner than later.”
During the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, there have been near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militant group along the Israel-Lebanon border. US officials have recorded more than 150 attacks by Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Syria on US forces at bases in those countries since war started on Oct. 7.
One attack in late January killed three US service members in Jordan. In retaliation, the US launched a massive air assault, hitting more than 85 targets at seven locations in Iraq and Syria.
Meantime, on Saturday, commandos from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard rappelled from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel.
National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the US strongly condemned the seizure and urged Iran to release the ship and crew immediately.
“We will work with our partners to hold Iran to account for its actions,” she said.
Also Saturday, the Israeli-occupied West Bank also saw some of the worst violence since Hamas’ attack on Israel.


Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Kyiv at ‘critical time’, Zelensky says

Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Kyiv at ‘critical time’, Zelensky says
Updated 13 April 2024
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Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Kyiv at ‘critical time’, Zelensky says

Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Kyiv at ‘critical time’, Zelensky says
  • “I am grateful to the chancellor for the decision to supply another, additional Patriot system to Ukraine,” Zelensky said
  • He described their conversation as “important, productive” and said: “I call on all other leaders of partner states to follow this example“

KYIV: Germany will supply a US-made Patriot air defense system and air defense missiles to Ukraine at a “critical time” as Kyiv struggles to defend its energy system from Russian bombardment, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday.
More than two years into its full-scale invasion, Russia has staged three massive airstrikes on power stations and substations in recent weeks, prompting Kyiv to issue desperate appeals for supplies of high-end air defenses.
“I am grateful to the chancellor for the decision to supply another, additional Patriot system to Ukraine, as well as missiles for the existing air defense systems,” Zelensky said after speaking by telephone with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
He described their conversation as “important, productive” and said: “I call on all other leaders of partner states to follow this example.”
Germany will hand over the Patriot system immediately and it will be in addition to air defense systems that were already delivered and planned, the defense ministry said in a post on X.
An April 10 German government summary of arms and military equipment transfers to Ukraine included two Patriot systems on a list of air defense supplies already delivered, making this the third from Germany.
Zelensky said last week that Ukraine needed 25 US-made Patriot air defense systems to cover the country from Russian attacks.
In his statement on the Telegram app on Saturday, the Ukrainian leader said he and Scholz also discussed preparations for a reconstruction conference in Berlin and a peace summit in Switzerland in June.