Jordan, Egypt leaders reiterate rejection of Israel’s ‘collective punishment policies’

Update Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi hosted Jordan’s King Abdullah II for a summit in Cairo on Thursday. (AFP/Reuters/File Photos)
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi hosted Jordan’s King Abdullah II for a summit in Cairo on Thursday. (AFP/Reuters/File Photos)
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Updated 19 October 2023
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Jordan, Egypt leaders reiterate rejection of Israel’s ‘collective punishment policies’

Jordan, Egypt leaders reiterate rejection of Israel’s ‘collective punishment policies’
  • The two leaders reject any attempt at the forced displacement of Gazans into Jordan or Egypt

CAIRO: The leaders of Egypt and Jordan have condemned Israel’s “collective punishment” policy against Palestinians in Gaza and its efforts to displace “Palestinians from their lands to Egypt or Jordan.”

King Abdullah and President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on Thursday discussed the military escalation in Gaza during their talks in Cairo.

El-Sisi and the king expressed satisfaction with the recent developments in their close bilateral relations.

During their talks, they reviewed ways to foster closer cooperation to realize the aspirations of the Egyptian and Jordanian people.

They emphasized their commitment to continuing consultations and coordination at the highest political levels in the two countries.

The meeting also focused on the current military escalation in the Gaza Strip and the subsequent deterioration in the security situation and humanitarian conditions of the Palestinian people in Gaza, and the deaths and injuries of thousands, said Ahmad Fahmy, a presidential spokesperson.

El-Sisi and King Abdullah again condemned in the strongest terms the bombing of Al-Ahly hospital and all acts targeting civilians, Fahmy said.

The two stressed the need to sustainably deliver humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing.

They affirmed the rejection of collective punishment policies, including the siege, starvation and displacement of Palestinians from their land to Egypt or Jordan.

Fahmy said that the two leaders warned of the danger of Israeli directives and policies on regional security.

The meeting discussed the efforts of Egypt and Jordan to push for calm and de-escalation.

El-Sisi and King Abdullah II reaffirmed their position that stability in the region required the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, in accordance with international legitimacy, for peace, security and prosperity in the region, Fahmy said.


Will refugee wave from Sudan be a wake-up call for ‘fortress Europe’?

Will refugee wave from Sudan be a wake-up call for ‘fortress Europe’?
Updated 12 sec ago
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Will refugee wave from Sudan be a wake-up call for ‘fortress Europe’?

Will refugee wave from Sudan be a wake-up call for ‘fortress Europe’?
  • Deaths in Mediterranean show how migration route could easily turn into graveyard for people in search of a sanctuary
  • Europe is beginning to feel the repercussions of the coups and conflicts that buffeted Africa’s troubled Sahel belt last year

FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE: As the latest conflict in Sudan approaches its 12th month, the humanitarian situation in the country remains dire.

A combination of food, water and fuel shortages, limited communications and electricity, and sky-high prices for essential items has made life unbearable for millions of people. Medical care has been critically affected too amid severe shortages of medicines and vital supplies.

Under the circumstances, it was probably just a matter of time before the Mediterranean Sea turned from a migration route into a graveyard for Sudanese in search of a sanctuary.

The news of 13 Sudanese perishing and 27 more going missing when a small boat capsized off the Tunisian coast on Feb. 8, is the latest tragic chapter of that ongoing saga.

As the crashing waves of the Mediterranean claim yet more lives, however, a pressing question looms: How will Europe cope with a new wave of asylum seekers and refugees?

Nearly 6,000 Sudanese arrived in Italy last year, most of them displaced by the conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces that erupted in April. This year, that number will likely be much higher.

Europe is also beginning to feel the consequences of last summer’s coup d’etat in Niger, particularly given the country’s historical role as a transit route for migrants from West Africa crossing the Mediterranean Sea.

European leaders have already expressed concern about potential new waves of refugees. Earlier this month, Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said in Rome that “Sudanese refugees are no longer stopping in Egypt but heading for Libya and from there coming to us.”

With nearly 6 million people internally displaced by the current conflict in Sudan and another 1.5 million being hosted by neighboring countries, UNHCR head Filippo Grandi anticipates further movements toward Libya, Tunisia and across the Mediterranean.

“When refugees go out and they don’t receive enough assistance, they go further,” he said after visiting Sudan and Ethiopia earlier this month.

Grandi spoke of the potential consequences if a ceasefire agreement is not signed promptly, explaining that the war in Sudan is becoming increasingly fragmented, with different factions controlling different parts of the country.

“Militias have even less hesitation to perpetrate abuse on civilians,” he said, suggesting that continued war crimes and human-rights violations could trigger further displacement.

As grim and foreboding as Sudan’s immediate future may be, the two feuding factions “seem to favor a fight-and-talk scenario, where the conflict continues both on the battlefield and at the negotiation table,” Kholood Khair, a Sudanese policy analyst, told Arab News.

She said the optimism generated by the recent Manama talks in Bahrain was tempered by the realization that the meeting served just as an initial step, requiring further persuasion by international mediators through coordinated efforts — not the current status quo of competition over mediation venues and strategies.

“Europe has started to wake up to the reality,” Khair said. “Also, the appointment of a new special envoy to Sudan by the US with a potentially different approach is promising.”

Over the past decade, the EU has sought to shift the responsibility for preventing irregular migration onto countries like Sudan, utilizing a policy that, on the surface, aims to combat smugglers and traffickers.

The so-called policy of externalization of Europe’s borders — building legal, procedural and often coercive walls in neighboring states to stop migrants leaving to enter Europe — has been controversial since its inception.

Critics fault the policy for its perceived reliance on state-centric approaches, saying that this aspect often ignores or even contributes to violent conflicts.

Sudan, with its porous borders and strategic location adjacent to Libya and Egypt, has been in the crosshairs of EU migration authorities before the eruption of the latest conflict.

Analysts say the EU’s demands for migration control on Sudan were delegated to proxy militias with a history of causing mass displacement themselves.

Whatever the merits and demerits of Europe’s externalization policies, Sudan, already host to one of the highest numbers of internally displaced people globally, is facing a dangerous descent into warlordism.

The UN says at least 12,000 people have been killed in the conflict so far, although local doctors’ groups say the true toll is far higher.

Against this backdrop of violence and suffering, analysts say the EU’s border externalization policy is, far from being strategic, actually short-sighted.

According to Franck Duvall, senior migration researcher at Germany’s Osnabruck University, beneath the veneer of fighting human trafficking lies the objective of keeping migrants as far away from EU borders as possible, sidestepping international obligations to protect the rights of refugees and migrants.

“The EU’s primary strategy revolves around containing refugees within the region, allocating funds — 160 million euros since 2016 — to support internally displaced persons and host communities within Sudan itself,” he told Arab News.

“To this end, the EU has also reached the agreement with Egypt to stop Sudanese refugees from moving on to the EU’s border.”

Duvall added that “for a long time, the EU has even collaborated with militias in Libya and the regime in Tunisia to stop Sudanese from seeking protection in Europe.”

Anticipating an increasing number of refugees, EU leaders have also quickly made controversial deals with European countries outside the EU bloc.

On Feb. 23, the Albanian parliament approved an agreement that would see tens of thousands of asylum seekers rescued from the Mediterranean held in Italian-run processing centers in Albania.

According to critics, the geographical displacement, occurring beyond European territory, conveniently allows the EU to turn a blind eye to these violations.

Moreover, they say, the emphasis on containment not only obstructs the free movement of people within the region but also diverts resources from development priorities, prioritizing securitization over genuine progress.

Kilian Kleinschmidt, a Tunisia-based migration expert and former UNHCR official with extensive experience, advocates for a paradigm shift. He says newcomers in Europe should be integrated into the workforce from the outset, bypassing prolonged bureaucratic processes.

“We are losing a lot of energy and time and money in this triage, and we need to really be much more pragmatic,” he told Arab News.

“Opening up space for the freedom of movement is not going to create a massive wave, not what we think. It should be balanced and combined with substantial investment in the African continent.”

Kleinschmidt believes the Mediterranean should be a symbol of shared responsibility and proactive solutions rather than a watery grave for those seeking refuge in Europe.

He says the case for the establishment of special economic zones in Africa is not just about addressing migration challenges, but also “about fostering economic growth, stability, and improved living conditions.”

As Europe grapples with a demographic decline and the continued need for a labor force, many officials and humanitarian actors say that embracing pragmatic approaches such as integrating newcomers into the workforce from the beginning will not only benefit migrants, but also contribute to the vitality of European economies.

The Sudan conflict, in a sense, underscores the urgency of a comprehensive, humane, and forward-thinking approach that transcends borders and prioritizes the well-being and aspirations of individuals seeking a better life.


Hamas strikes Israel with rocket salvo from southern Lebanon

Hamas strikes Israel with rocket salvo from southern Lebanon
Updated 52 sec ago
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Hamas strikes Israel with rocket salvo from southern Lebanon

Hamas strikes Israel with rocket salvo from southern Lebanon
  • Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades announced that it had targeted Camp Gibor, the headquarters of Israel’s 769th Eastern Brigade, as well as the airport barracks in Beit Hillel
  • Israeli Army spokesman Avichay Adraee said that 10 of the rockets had struck sites in Israel, while 30 were intercepted

BEIRUT: Hamas’ armed wing in Lebanon has struck Israel with a rocket salvo in a resumption of the group’s military operations in the country.

The militant group’s wing in Lebanon paused attacks south of the border following the assassination of Saleh Al-Arouri in early January.

The senior Hamas leader and founding commander of the Izz Ad-Din Al-Qassam Brigades was killed in an Israeli drone strike on the southern Beirut suburb of Dahiyeh on Jan. 2.

Al-Qassam announced on Wednesday it had targeted Camp Gibor, the headquarters of Israel’s 769th Eastern Brigade, as well as the airport barracks in Beit Hillel, using 40 “Grad” rockets.

The Israeli media reported sirens sounding in Kiryat Shmona, Ma’ayan Baruch, Kfar Yuval, Goshrin and Beit Hillel in the Upper Galilee.

Israeli Army spokesman Avichay Adraee said that 10 of the rockets had struck sites in Israel, while 30 were intercepted. In response, the Israeli military targeted the sources of fire, Adraee added.

Interceptor missiles launched by Israel’s Iron Dome exploded above border villages in the eastern section of southern Lebanon.

Army helicopters evacuated Israelis wounded in the attack to hospitals south of the border, Israeli media reported.

Hezbollah did not announce any military operations against the Israeli Army on Wednesday, after two days of extensive operations.

Meanwhile, Israeli F-15 jets cruised throughout Lebanese airspace.

Political activist Ali Al-Amin told Arab News: “Hezbollah took a decision over a month ago to stop any operations by Hamas and Islamic Jihad from southern Lebanon toward the Israeli Army. It seems now that there is a retreat from this decision. The aim may be to pressure the Americans.”

He added: “The decision to stop Hamas and Islamic Jihad operations was in response to a previous American request to Hezbollah to control the confrontations from the south and prevent their expansion.

“It now seems that there is a need to pressure the American side again to link the truce, if reached in the Gaza Strip, to Lebanon, as the Israeli side had rejected this link and said it would leave the confrontation open in Lebanon after the truce.”

Hezbollah has said it will refuse a ceasefire in southern Lebanon until Hamas accepts a settlement in Gaza.

Israeli jets carried out an airstrike on a home in the border city of Bint Jbeil, targeting a local Hezbollah leader, Ali Wahbi, though there were no reported injuries from the attack.

Jets also struck the Al-Khuraybah area, located between Khiam and Rashaya Al-Fakhar.

Adraee said on X that jets attacked “a weapons depot and military buildings belonging to Hezbollah in Ramyah in southern Lebanon, and a weapons production site for Hezbollah in the area of Khirbet Salim.”

Brig. Gen. Mounir Shehadeh, the former Lebanese government coordinator to UNIFIL, said that Hezbollah has avoided causing civilian casualties in its strikes on strategic targets in Israel.

He added: “Although Hezbollah can launch 1,000 missiles a day, they are not looking for war.

“However, if Israel escalates the conflict, Hezbollah seems prepared to retaliate strongly, potentially altering the region’s landscape.”

Hezbollah’s campaign in support of Gaza, which has lasted 144 days, has seen more than 200 members of the group killed, as well as allied militants and civilians.

The “support war” has also resulted in extensive material damage, with 8,000 homes completely destroyed and 10,000 homes partially destroyed in southern Lebanon.

About 100,000 civilians in Lebanon’s south have also been displaced by the violence.


Arab Parliament denounces Israel for constructing watchtower on Al-Aqsa’s western wall

Arab Parliament denounces Israel for constructing watchtower on Al-Aqsa’s western wall
Updated 28 February 2024
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Arab Parliament denounces Israel for constructing watchtower on Al-Aqsa’s western wall

Arab Parliament denounces Israel for constructing watchtower on Al-Aqsa’s western wall
  • Arab Parliament said that the Israeli occupation aims to change the historical, political, demographic, and legal reality of the occupied city of Jerusalem
  • Parliament called for urgent international intervention to end Israeli violations at Islam’s third holiest site and to take all measures to stop the ethnic cleansing

The Cairo-based Arab Parliament has condemned the construction of a watchtower on the western wall of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the installation of surveillance cameras on it by Israeli authorities.

It held Israel accountable for the consequences of such practices, saying it “exceeded all limits of provoking Muslims around the world and expanding the circle of ongoing aggression against the Palestinian people.”

It added that the “occupation’s measures are invalid, illegitimate, illegal, and a blatant violation of international law and UN and UNESCO resolutions, in light of the genocidal war and ethnic cleansing” in Gaza.

The organization said that the “Israeli occupation aims to change the historical, political, demographic, and legal reality of the occupied city of Jerusalem and its sanctities and to erase the Palestinian Arab identity.”

The Arab Parliament called for urgent international intervention to end Israeli violations at Islam’s third holiest site and to take all measures to stop the “ethnic cleansing to which the Palestinian people are subjected.”

On Sunday, Israeli forces installed surveillance cameras on the watchtower they built on the western wall of the mosque, according to the Palestinian WAFA news agency.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry has strongly condemned the move and denounced the Israeli forces’ daily incursions into the mosque compound and Israeli attempts to “change the historical, political, demographic, and legal reality of Jerusalem.”


Palestinian FM says Hamas knows it cannot be in new govt

Palestinian FM says Hamas knows it cannot be in new govt
Updated 28 February 2024
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Palestinian FM says Hamas knows it cannot be in new govt

Palestinian FM says Hamas knows it cannot be in new govt
  • “The time now is not for a government where Hamas will be part of it, because, in this case, then it will be boycotted by a number of countries, as happened before,” he said

GENEVA: Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki said Wednesday he believes Hamas understands why it should not be part of a new government in the Palestinian territories.
Maliki told a press conference that a “technocratic” government was needed, without the group which is fighting a bitter war against Israel.
“The time now is not for a national coalition government,” Al-Maliki said.
“The time now is not for a government where Hamas will be part of it, because, in this case, then it will be boycotted by a number of countries, as happened before,” he told the UN correspondents’ association.
“We don’t want to be in a situation like that. We want to be accepted and engaging fully with the international community,” he explained.
Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced Monday the resignation of his government, which rules parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, citing the need for change after the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza ends.
A decree from Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said the government will stay on in an interim capacity until a new one is formed.
Maliki said the priority was engaging the international community on to help provide emergency relief to Palestinians, and then looking at how Gaza could be reconstructed.
“Later, when the situation is right, then we could contemplate that option. But what comes first is how to salvage the situation. How to salvage innocent Palestinian lives. How to stop this insane war and how to be able to protect Palestinian people,” he said.
“That’s why I think Hamas should understand this, and I do believe that they are in support of the idea to establish, today, a technocratic government.
“A government that is based on experts, individuals who are completely committed to take up the reins and the responsibility for this period — a difficult one — and to move the whole country into a period of transition into a stable kind of situation where, at the end, we might be able to think about elections.
“And after elections, the outcome of the elections will determine the type of government that will govern the state of Palestine later.”
Maliki is in Geneva to attend the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The war in Gaza began after Hamas launched an attack on October 7 that killed about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.
Hamas militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza.
Israel’s retaliatory bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza have killed at least 29,954 people, most of them women and children, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.


Turkish drones kill 3 in an attack on a local Christian militia in northeastern Syria, officials say

Turkish drones kill 3 in an attack on a local Christian militia in northeastern Syria, officials say
Updated 28 February 2024
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Turkish drones kill 3 in an attack on a local Christian militia in northeastern Syria, officials say

Turkish drones kill 3 in an attack on a local Christian militia in northeastern Syria, officials say
  • The force that was targeted, the local Christian Syriac police known as Sutoro, works under the US-backed and Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria
  • The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said three Suturo police members were killed, as well as one civilian

BEIRUT: Turkish drone strikes in northeastern Syria on Wednesday killed at least three members of a local Christian force and wounded others, including civilians, a Kurdish official and a Syrian opposition war monitor said.
There was no immediate comment from Ankara on Wednesday’s airstrikes. Turkiye has been attacking Kurdish fighters in Syria for years but attacks on the fighters from the country’s Christian minority have been rare.
The force that was targeted, the local Christian Syriac police known as Sutoro, works under the US-backed and Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria.
Siamand Ali of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces told The Associated Press that the Turkish drones initially hit three Suturo vehicles near the northeastern town of Malikiyah. When a fourth vehicle, a pick-up truck, arrived at the scene to retrieve the casualties from the strike, it also came under attack, he said.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said three Suturo police members were killed, as well as one civilian.
The Observatory said the attack was the latest of 65 such strikes so far this year in northeastern Syria that have killed 18 people, mostly Kurdish fighters.
Turkiye often launches strikes against targets in Syria and Iraq it believes to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK — a banned Kurdish separatist group that has waged an insurgency against Turkiye since the 1980s. Turkiye says that the main Kurdish militia in Syria, known as People’s Defense Units, or YPG, is an affiliate of the PKK.
Turkiye’s state-run Anadolu Agency however, reported on Tuesday that the Turkish intelligence agency, MIT, had killed a senior Kurdish fighter member in an operation in the northern Syrian town of Qamishli.
The report identified the woman operative as Emine Seyid Ahmed, a Syrian national, who allegedly went by the code name of “Azadi Derik.”
She reportedly joined the Kurdish Women Protection Units, or YPJ, in 2011 and allegedly planned a number of attacks against Turkish security forces as well as cross-border missile attacks targeting civilians in Turkiye, Anadolu reported.