UN flags at half-mast for staff killed in Gaza

UN flags at half-mast for staff killed in Gaza
A general view of the United Nations flag flies at half-mast to mourn the lives of UN workers lost during the war between Israel and Hamas, at the at the United Nations Office Nairobi (UNON) in Nairobi on November 13, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 13 November 2023
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UN flags at half-mast for staff killed in Gaza

UN flags at half-mast for staff killed in Gaza

GENEVA: UN offices worldwide lowered their flags to half-staff and observed silence on Monday in memory of the 101 staff members of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East who have lost their lives in Gaza.
The blue and white UN flag was lowered at 9:30 am local time at offices in Bangkok, Tokyo and Beijing, a day after the world body reported “a significant number of deaths and injuries” in strikes on a facility in Gaza.

In Geneva, the second-largest UN headquarters after New York, the UN flag flew at half-mast and none of the other flags of the 193 member countries were hoisted along the main alley of the compound. Staff were also invited to hold a “private” minute of silence, spokesman Rolando Gomez said.
Events were also held in Katmandu and Kabul, where the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Roza Otunbayeva led about 250 people in observing the minute’s silence.

The death toll among UNRWA employees in the recent violence is the highest in UN history, and continues to rise.

Among those who have died were teachers, school principals, health professionals, engineers, administrative personnel, and a psychologist. They were part of the 13,000-strong UNRWA workforce in Gaza.

Tom White, UNRWA’s director in the Gaza Strip, said: “UNRWA staff in Gaza appreciate the UN lowering the flag around the world. In Gaza, however, we have to keep the UN flag flying high as a sign that we are still standing and serving the people of Gaza.”

The agency is sheltering approximately 780,000 Palestinians in more than 150 facilities in the Gaza Strip. These people have sought refuge under the UN flag.

Israeli violence in Gaza has not spared UN locations. Over 60 facilities have been impacted so far, with 10 receiving direct hits, the majority of these being in the central and southern regions, extending from Wadi Gaza.

More than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and minors, have been killed since the war began, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

(With AFP)


Mitrovic: I don’t think I’ve played a better derby

Mitrovic: I don’t think I’ve played a better derby
Updated 10 min 34 sec ago
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Mitrovic: I don’t think I’ve played a better derby

Mitrovic: I don’t think I’ve played a better derby

Two-goal hero Aleksandar Mitrovic was full of praise for the Al-Hilal fans after they generated an electric atmosphere in the 3-0 Riyadh derby victory over title rivals Al-Nassr.

Mitrovic snatched a late brace for Al Hilal on Friday, adding to Sergej Milinkovic-Savic’s opener to put Luis Castro’s side to the sword at the King Fahd Stadium. The victory extends their lead at the top of the Saudi Pro League to seven points.

And Mitrovic, who played in the West London derby for Fulham, Tyne-Wear derby for Newcastle and Belgrade derby for Partizan, claimed that Friday’s clash between Riyadh rivals Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr was the pick of them.

“[It was] amazing, really amazing,” Mitrovic said after the match. “I played derbies in many countries but for sure this is of not the best, for sure top, top of the list.

“The pressure before the game, the build-up with fans before the game really, really amazing something special. To be honest I don’t think I ever played a better derby.”

Mitrovic has quickly become a fan favourite at Al-Hilal, helped by his 20 goals in 20 games across all competitions for the Riyadh heavyweights. The double against Al-Nassr meant the supporters were serenading their Serbian striker again.  

“I’m lucky that everywhere I play I always have a great relationship, but with these fans it’s amazing,” Mitrovic said. “Since the first day I arrive. Even when I didn’t come here yet, there was speculation I get so many messages and support and everything.

“And since I arrived form the first moment, we had a really special connection. They make me happy, I hope I will continue making them happy. It’s a happy marriage.”

Both sides had opportunities in the game but it was the league leaders who were eventually more ruthless in front of goal, despite spurning some earlier chances.

“It was a very open game,” Mitrovic added. “From the beginning of the first half we were better, we dominated; we had probably three, four clean chances to score goals but we didn’t. We knew that of course they have quality, a lot of experience.

“We knew that if we want to win the game we had to keep a clean sheet. I think we scored the first goal on time and we defended really, really, well as a team.

“[With the] second goal we killed the game, the third goal as well. I could even have scored a hat-trick today with a little bit of luck. But overall it was a great performance, a great game from us and very big win for us and our fans.”


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 27 min 51 sec ago
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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?“
A MORE ATTAINABLE GOAL
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.

EXISTENTIAL THREAT
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.
FAILED ASSASINATIONS
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 37 min 10 sec ago
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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 02 December 2023
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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.

 


Protester in Atlanta sets self on fire outside Israeli consulate

Police stand guard in Washington, DC. (AFP file photo)
Police stand guard in Washington, DC. (AFP file photo)
Updated 02 December 2023
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Protester in Atlanta sets self on fire outside Israeli consulate

Police stand guard in Washington, DC. (AFP file photo)
  • The United States has seen an uptick in Anti-Semitic, anti-Arab and Islamophobic threats and violence since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza in October

WASHINGTON: A protester outside the Israeli consulate in Atlanta was in critical condition Friday after setting themself on fire, in what police said was likely an “extreme” political statement.
“A Palestinian flag was reported at the location and was part of the protest,” said Darin Schierbaum, police chief of the southern US city.
He said the incident was “likely an extreme act of political protest.”
A security guard was also injured after trying to stop the protester, according to emergency first responders.
“Both individuals sustained burns,” Atlanta Fire Chief Roderick Smith told journalists.
He did not specify the age or gender of the protester.
“The security guard noticed that the individual was attempting to set themselves afire” shortly after the protester arrived outside the consulate building around noon (1700 GMT), Smith said.
The guard “immediately attempted but failed to stop the individual.”
The guard was burned on his wrist and leg, Smith said, while the protester was in critical condition with “full thickness” burns to their body. Both were taken to the hospital, he added.
“We actually have dedicated patrols that are occurring at this location and other Jewish and Muslim communities in the city,” Schierbaum added.
The United States has seen an uptick in Anti-Semitic, anti-Arab and Islamophobic threats and violence since the start of Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza in October.
Earlier this week a US man was charged with attempted murder over the shooting of three men of Palestinian descent in Vermont, and a six-year-old Palestinian-American boy was stabbed to death in Illinois in October.