UN human rights chief says widespread disease, hunger inevitable in Gaza

Update UN human rights chief says widespread disease, hunger inevitable in Gaza
UN rights chief Volker Turk said Thursday he was ringing the loudest possible alarm bell over the ‘potentially explosive’ situation in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (Keystone via AP)
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Updated 16 November 2023
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UN human rights chief says widespread disease, hunger inevitable in Gaza

UN human rights chief says widespread disease, hunger inevitable in Gaza
  • Volker Turk: Depletion of fuel would have a ‘catastrophic’ impact across Gaza
  • ‘I am ringing the loudest possible alarm bell about the occupied West Bank’

GENEVA: The United Nations human rights chief said on Thursday widespread outbreaks of disease and hunger seemed “inevitable” in Gaza after weeks of Israeli assault on the densely populated Palestinian enclave.

Speaking at an informal briefing to states at the United Nations in Geneva after visiting the Middle East, Volker Turk said the depletion of fuel would have a “catastrophic” impact across Gaza. It would lead to the collapse of sewage systems, health care and end the scarce humanitarian aid being supplied.

“Massive outbreaks of infectious disease, and hunger, seem inevitable,” Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said.

The World Health Organization has warned of “worrying trends” in disease spread in Gaza, saying there had been an unusually large number of cases of diarrheal disease in the enclave, where bombardments and a ground operation have disrupted the health system, access to clean water and caused people to crowd into shelters.

In comments to the media after his briefing to UN member states, Turk said lasting peace was impossible without an end to longstanding violations of human rights.

“Warnings by my office and others about human rights violations over many years have been ignored, not only in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territory, but also by states with influence on the parties to this crisis,” he said.

“This needs to change for this conflict to be enduringly resolved.”

Turk, who described the bombardment by Israel as “of an intensity rarely experienced in this century,” also expressed concern about increasing violence and discrimination against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

“In my view, this creates a potentially explosive situation, and I want to be clear: we are well beyond the level of early warning,” Turk told states.

“I am ringing the loudest possible alarm bell about the occupied West Bank.”


Algeria’s president inaugurates Africa’s largest mosque

Algeria’s president inaugurates Africa’s largest mosque
Updated 58 min 31 sec ago
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Algeria’s president inaugurates Africa’s largest mosque

Algeria’s president inaugurates Africa’s largest mosque
  • The vast mosque, which can hold 120,000 worshippers, first opened for prayers in October 2020
  • Known locally as the Djamaa El-Djazair, the modernist structure extends across 27.75 hectares

ALGIERS: Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune officially inaugurated the Grand Mosque of Algiers, the third largest in the world and the biggest in Africa, on Sunday.
The vast mosque, which can hold 120,000 worshippers, first opened for prayers in October 2020, but Tebboune was suffering from Covid-19 and did not attend.
Known locally as the Djamaa El-Djazair, the modernist structure extends across 27.75 hectares (almost 70 acres), and is smaller only than the two mosques in Makkah and Madinah, Islam’s holiest sites, in Saudi Arabia.
It also boasts the world’s tallest minaret — 267 meters (875 feet) — fitted with elevators and a viewing platform that looks out over the capital and the Bay of Algiers.
The mosque’s interior, in Andalusian style, is decorated in wood, marble and alabaster.
To its critics, the mosque is a vanity project of former autocrat Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced out in April 2019 after mass street protests against his two-decade-long rule.
The mega-project cost more than $800 million dollars and took seven years to build.
Tebboune’s mandate officially expires at the end of this year but the president, elected in December 2019, has not yet made known whether he intends to run for a second term.


Daesh land mine kills 13 truffle hunters in Syria desert: monitor

Daesh land mine kills 13 truffle hunters in Syria desert: monitor
Updated 25 February 2024
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Daesh land mine kills 13 truffle hunters in Syria desert: monitor

Daesh land mine kills 13 truffle hunters in Syria desert: monitor
  • Syrian desert is renowned for producing some of the best quality truffles in the world

BEIRUT: A blast from a land mine left by the Daesh group killed at least 13 civilians foraging for truffles in the Syrian desert, a war monitor said.
“Thirteen civilians, including women... were killed when a land mine left by the Daesh group exploded while they were searching for truffles” in the desert in Raqqa province, said the Syria Observatory for Human Rights.
The Syrian desert is renowned for producing some of the best quality truffles in the world, which fetch high prices in a country battered by 13 years of war and a crushing economic crisis.
Authorities frequently warn against the high-risk practice.
But every year between February and April, foragers risk their lives to collect the delicacies in the vast Syrian desert, or Badia — a known hideout for jihadists that is also littered with land mines.
In March 2019, Daesh lost its last scraps of territory in Syria following a military campaign backed by a US-led coalition, but jihadist remnants continue to hide in the desert and launch deadly attacks.
They have used such hideouts to ambush civilians, Kurdish-led forces, Syrian government troops and pro-Iran fighters, while also mounting attacks in neighboring Iraq.
Syria’s war has claimed the lives of more than half a million people and displaced millions since it erupted in March 2011 with Damascus’s brutal repression of anti-government protests.


Two Hezbollah members killed in Israeli strike on Syria

Two Hezbollah members killed in Israeli strike on Syria
Updated 25 February 2024
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Two Hezbollah members killed in Israeli strike on Syria

Two Hezbollah members killed in Israeli strike on Syria

DAMASCUS: An Israeli strike on a truck in Syria near the Lebanese border killed two Hezbollah members at dawn on Sunday, a war monitor said.
“Israel struck a civilian truck with a missile near the Syrian-Lebanese border,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a report.
The strike led to “the death of at least two Hezbollah members,” said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources in Syria.
Hezbollah later announced in separate statements that two of its fighters were “martyred on the road to Jerusalem,” the phrase it uses to refer to members killed by Israeli fire.
A source close to Hezbollah confirmed that both were killed this morning in Syria.
Syrian state media did not report the strike.

Syrian armed forces shot down seven drones aimed at military positions and villages in the countryside of Hama and Idlib, Syrian state media said on Sunday, citing the defense ministry.
The ministry said the drones had been launched by “terrorists,” state media reported.
Since Syria’s civil war began in 2011 following an uprising against the government of President Bashar Assad, Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes in Syria, primarily against pro-Iran forces, among them Hezbollah and the Syrian army.
The strikes have multiplied amidst the ongoing war in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
An Israeli strike on a Damascus residential neighborhood on Wednesday killed three Iran-backed fighters, a Syrian and two foreigners, according to the Observatory.
On February 10, the Observatory reported an Israeli strike on a building west of Damascus that killed three people from pro-Iran militias.
Since the start of the war in Gaza on October 7, Hezbollah has announced the death of 16 members killed by Israeli strikes in Syria.
The Israeli military announced on February 3 that it had “attacked, from the ground and air, more than 50 such targets of Hezbollah spread throughout Syria.”
Israel rarely comments on individual strikes but has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria.

 


Lebanese doctor saves Japanese boy’s life

Lebanese doctor saves Japanese boy’s life
Updated 25 February 2024
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Lebanese doctor saves Japanese boy’s life

Lebanese doctor saves Japanese boy’s life
  • The boy was quadriplegic, or paralyzed below the neck, when he visited the Okayama University Hospital

DUBAI: Lebanese doctor Abd El Kader Al-Askar, a consultant in orthopedic and spine surgery, successfully treated a 15-year-old Japanese boy who suffered from a rare condition known as basilar invagination.

The boy was quadriplegic, or paralyzed below the neck, when he visited the Okayama University Hospital.

Doctors concluded that he had dislocated the second cervical vertebra, known as C2, which plays an important role in rotating the head. The C2 was displaced toward the opening of the spinal cord and the bottom area of the brain in a condition known as basilar invagination.

Basilar invagination can be present at birth or develop as a result of injury. If not treated, it can lead to death or serious complications, such as hydrocephalus.

In collaboration with the integrated medical team, Al-Askar performed an emergency surgery that lasted over four hours and involved an innovative technique that repositioned the bottom of the skull and the spinal cord.

The boy fully recovered and regained the use of all four of his limbs following the surgery.

Al-Askar is currently in Japan for a medical mission in advanced spine surgery and the treatment of back pain.


Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens
Updated 25 February 2024
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Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens
  • Israeli delegation that went to Paris for talks on hostage deal returned on Saturday night
  • Qatar, Egypt and the United States have been spearheading efforts to secure a deal

JERUSALEM: -Israel’s war cabinet has discussed the next steps for negotiations toward a hostage deal and ceasefire in its war with Hamas, as concern deepens over the increasingly desperate situation faced by civilians in the devastated Gaza Strip.
An Israeli delegation that had traveled to Paris for fresh talks on a hostage deal returned to brief the country’s war cabinet on Saturday night, according to an official and local media reports.
National security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said in a televised interview shortly before the meeting that the “delegation has returned from Paris — there is probably room to move toward an agreement.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the meeting would discuss the “next steps in the negotiations.”
Local media later reported that the meeting had concluded with the cabinet agreeing to send a delegation to Qatar in the coming days to continue the talks.
As with a previous week-long truce in November that saw more than 100 hostages freed, Qatar, Egypt and the United States have been spearheading efforts to secure a deal.
Domestic pressure on the government to bring the captives home has also steadily mounted, with thousands gathering in Tel Aviv Saturday night at what has come to be known as “Hostages Square” to demand swifter action.
“We keep telling you: bring them back to us! And no matter how,” said Avivit Yablonka, 45, whose sister Hanan was kidnapped on October 7.
Anti-government protesters were also out in Tel Aviv, blocking streets and calling for Netanyahu’s government to step down as authorities deployed water cannon and mounted officers in a bid to disperse them.
“They are not choosing the right path for us. Whether it’s (the) economy, whether it’s peace with our neighbors,” 54-year-old software company CEO Moti Kushner said of the government, adding “it looks like they never want to end the war.”

After more than four months of shortages inside the besieged Gaza Strip, the World Food Programme said this week its teams had reported “unprecedented levels of desperation,” while the United Nations warned that 2.2 million people were on the brink of famine.
In northern Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp, bedraggled children held out plastic containers and battered cooking pots for what little food was available.
Supplies are running out, with aid agencies unable to get into the area because of the bombing, while the trucks that do try to get through face frenzied looting.
“We the grown-ups can still make it, but these children who are four and five years old, what did they do wrong to sleep hungry and wake up hungry?” one man said angrily.
Residents have resorted to eating scavenged scraps of rotten corn, animal fodder unfit for human consumption and even leaves.
The health ministry said on Saturday that a two-month-old baby identified as Mahmud Fatuh had died of “malnutrition” in Gaza City.
Save the Children said the risk of famine would continue to “increase as long as the government of Israel continues to impede the entry of aid into Gaza.”
Israel has defended its track record on allowing aid into Gaza, saying that 13,000 trucks carrying relief supplies had entered the territory since the start of the war.
The war began after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.
Hamas militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,606 people, mostly women and children, according to a Saturday tally from Gaza’s health ministry.
The ministry said early Sunday that another 98 people had been killed overnight, with the Hamas media office reporting strikes along the length of the territory, from Beit Lahia in the north to Rafah in the south.

An AFP reporter said there had been a number of air strikes on Saturday evening in Rafah, a city along the territory’s southern border with Egypt where hundreds of thousands of Gazans have fled to escape fighting elsewhere.
The presence of so many civilians packed into the area has sparked concerns over Israeli plans for troops to finally push into the city, the last major urban center they have yet to enter.
Despite the concerns, including from key ally the United States, Netanyahu signalled Saturday night that the expected push had not been abandoned, adding that “at the beginning of the week, I will convene the cabinet to approve the operational plans for action in Rafah, including the evacuation of the civilian population from there.”
“Only a combination of military pressure and firm negotiations will lead to the release of our hostages, the elimination of Hamas and the achievement of all the war’s goals,” he added.
Netanyahu this week unveiled a plan for post-war Gaza that envisages civil affairs being run by Palestinian officials without links to Hamas.
It also says Israel will continue with the establishment of a security buffer zone inside Gaza along the territory’s border.
The plan has been rejected by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and drawn criticism from Washington.