US asks Israel to narrow zone of combat in any southern Gaza attack

US asks Israel to narrow zone of combat in any southern Gaza attack
Palestinians drive through Gaza City on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 30 November 2023
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US asks Israel to narrow zone of combat in any southern Gaza attack

US asks Israel to narrow zone of combat in any southern Gaza attack
  • Washington understands Israel’s desire to root out Hamas militants in southern Gaza but believes greater caution is needed in the heavily populated area

WASHINGTON: The United States is urging Israel to narrow the zone of combat and clarify where Palestinian civilians can seek safety during any Israeli operation in southern Gaza, US officials said on Wednesday, to prevent a repeat of the massive death toll from Israel’s northern Gaza attacks.
US officials from President Joe Biden on down, including in the State Department and Pentagon, are pleading with Israel to take a more cautious approach if and when the Israeli military extends its offensive to southern Gaza.
Two-thirds of the enclave’s population of 2.3 million have fled south to avoid the war zone in the north.
Israel’s operation in the north drew strong international criticism and Biden has taken fire at home for his sweeping support for Israel.
Washington understands Israel’s desire to root out Hamas militants in southern Gaza but believes greater caution is needed in the heavily populated area, said two US officials who provided some details of the advice being given.
Many of the lead architects of the Hamas attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7, in which 1,200 people were killed, are in the south, one official noted.
“But given that hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled to the south, at Israel’s request, we believe Israel should only move forward after operational planning has accounted for the presence of many more innocents,” the official said.
Planning should include drawing lessons from the operations conducted in the north to enhance protections for innocent civilians, “including things like narrowing the zone of combat and clarifying areas where civilians can seek refuge,” the official said.
The second official said that when Israel was planning its offensive in northern Gaza, US officials advised the Israelis to use a smaller force than planned, and be careful in terms of tactics, movements, unit size and rules of engagement.
“They are still in the planning phase for the south. We are urging them to factor this into their planning,” the official said.
Both officials said the US would like the Israelis to make sure they know where civilians are situated, focus on high-value precision targets and make sure they are going after specific locations rather than indiscriminate strikes.


Uzbekistan sentences 21 over Indian-made cough syrup deaths

Uzbekistan sentences 21 over Indian-made cough syrup deaths
Updated 6 sec ago
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Uzbekistan sentences 21 over Indian-made cough syrup deaths

Uzbekistan sentences 21 over Indian-made cough syrup deaths
  • At least 86 children were poisoned in the Central Asian country between 2022 and 2023, of whom 68 died
  • India subsequently canceled the production license for Marion Biotech, which manufactured the cough syrups

TASHKENT: Uzbekistan on Monday handed out sentences to 21 people linked to the deaths of 68 children who consumed a contaminated cough syrup produced in India.

At least 86 children were poisoned in the Central Asian country between 2022 and 2023, of whom 68 died.

Indian citizen Singh Raghvendra Pratap, the director of a company that imported the Doc-1 Max syrup into Uzbekistan, was given the harshest sentence of 20 years.

He was found guilty of corruption, tax fraud and forgery, according to the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan.

Samples of the syrup revealed it was contaminated with either diethylene glycol or ethylene glycol, which are toxic substances used as industrial solvents that can be fatal if ingested even in small amounts, the World Health Organization said in January 2023.

India subsequently canceled the production license for Marion Biotech, which manufactured the cough syrups.

During the same period, at least 70 children died in Gambia from acute kidney failure after consuming another syrup imported from India.

In Indonesia, another syrup in similar containers caused the deaths of more than 200 children between 2022 and 2023.


Japanese company training Saudi IT engineers with future cities in mind

Japanese company training Saudi IT engineers with future cities in mind
Updated 8 min 56 sec ago
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Japanese company training Saudi IT engineers with future cities in mind

Japanese company training Saudi IT engineers with future cities in mind
  • Uhuru and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology (KACST) entered a comprehensive business partnership in 2022

TOKYO: Japanese company Uhuru, which applies smart technology to cities and everyday living, has started training IT engineers from the Saudi National Research Institute in Japan.

Uhuru and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology (KACST) entered a comprehensive business partnership in 2022 aimed at technology and business development in smart cities and environmental technologies towards realizing a sustainable society.

The program is being implemented as part of that partnership. Both parties plan to conduct further programs, promoting comprehensive technology and business development from the edge to the cloud.

Saudi Arabia has unveiled “Saudi Vision 2030,” aiming to diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil and at the heart of this vision is the construction of the mega smart city “NEOM,” a mega-project supported by sustainable technologies and highly automated systems.

MUTO Sachio of Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism explained that his department is involved with international cooperation and digitalization, including smart cities.

“Since last year, we have been trying to extend our knowledge to our international community and we have made presentations and seminars in international meetings,” he said.

“People are beginning to be aware of these kinds of models in Japan. I have never been to Saudi Arabia and I’m really looking forward to this kind of communication and the partnership between the two countries.

“I am here to provide my feedback on the smart city program organized by Uhuru for us, the KACST employees. We are currently on the third day of this program, and I am incredibly excited about the experiences we have had so far,” Elham Matub Alkabawi told Arab News Japan.

“During the program, we have visited various companies that are at the forefront of smart city technologies. We have been exposed to advancements in virtual reality, digital twin, and AI applications, which are shaping the cities of the future,” she said.

This week, the program includes visiting the actual fields of Japan’s smart cities in Shirahama Town, Susami Town, and Hidakagawa Town in Wakayama prefecture.


Conservative Muslim Forum seeks UK govt talks over Islamophobia scandal

Conservative Muslim Forum seeks UK govt talks over Islamophobia scandal
Updated 57 min 35 sec ago
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Conservative Muslim Forum seeks UK govt talks over Islamophobia scandal

Conservative Muslim Forum seeks UK govt talks over Islamophobia scandal
  • CMF deputy chair: ‘Is the party racist or Islamophobic? I would say no, from my heart. Individuals? Yes’
  • PM fails to call comments by ex-deputy party chair, ex-home secretary Islamophobic 

LONDON: The Conservative Muslim Forum has said it is seeking to meet with senior government figures as UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his party continue to battle ongoing allegations of Islamophobia.

It comes after the party’s former deputy party chair, Lee Anderson, was suspended by the Conservatives for remarks about Mayor of London Sadiq Khan last week, and an article by former Home Secretary Suella Braverman for the Daily Telegraph claimed that “the Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge” of the UK.

Anderson refused to apologize for his claim that Islamists had “got control” of Khan and London.

Naveed Asghar, deputy chair of the CMF, told The Guardian: “Is the party racist or Islamophobic? I would say no, from my heart. Individuals? Yes. Are these people pandering to the vote base in their seats? I can’t see what’s going on.

“If he (Anderson) is doubling down on the comments, then the party should absolutely be having a word with him. I was hoping that the suspension would be enough.

“Any inflammatory remarks are just not acceptable, whether it’s people on the left making antisemitic comments or people on the right making anti-Muslim comments.”

On a visit to East Yorkshire on Monday, Sunak refused condemn Braverman’s article, saying: “I think that those comments were not about an individual in particular.”

He also stopped short of calling Anderson’s comments Islamophobic, saying: “I’ve been very clear that what he said was wrong, it was unacceptable, and that’s why we suspended (him).

“It’s important that everybody, but particularly elected politicians, are careful with their words and do not inflame tensions.”


Hungary’s parliament ratifies Sweden’s NATO accession, clearing the final obstacle to membership

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, bottom right, addresses a parliament session.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, bottom right, addresses a parliament session.
Updated 26 February 2024
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Hungary’s parliament ratifies Sweden’s NATO accession, clearing the final obstacle to membership

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, bottom right, addresses a parliament session.
  • Hungary is the last of the alliance’s 31 members to give its backing since Turkiye ratified the request last month
  • Vote on Monday removed final membership hurdle for Sweden which first applied to join alliance in May 2022

BUDAPEST: Hungary’s parliament voted Monday to ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO, bringing an end to more than 18 months of delays that have frustrated the alliance as it seeks to expand in response to Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The vote, which passed with 188 votes for and six against, came as a culmination of months of wrangling by Hungary’s allies to convince its nationalist government to lift its block on Sweden’s membership. The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán submitted the protocols for approving Sweden’s entry into NATO in July 2022, but the matter had stalled in parliament over opposition by governing party lawmakers.
Unanimous support among all NATO members is required to admit new countries, and Hungary is the last of the alliance’s 31 members to give its backing since Turkiye ratified the request last month.
Orbán, a right-wing populist who has forged close ties with Russia, has said that criticism of Hungary’s democracy by Swedish politicians had soured relations between the two countries and led to reluctance among lawmakers in his Fidesz party.
But the vote on Monday removed the final membership hurdle for Sweden which, along with neighboring Finland, first applied to join the alliance in May 2022.
Addressing lawmakers before the vote, Orbán said: “Sweden and Hungary’s military cooperation and Sweden’s NATO accession strengthen Hungary’s security.”
Orbán criticized Hungary’s European Union and NATO allies for placing increased pressure on his government in recent months to move forward on bringing Sweden into the alliance.
“Several people tried to intervene from the outside in the settling of our disputes (with Sweden), but this did not help but rather hampered the issue,” Orbán said. “Hungary is a sovereign country, it does not tolerate being dictated by others, whether it be the content of its decisions or their timing.”
Last weekend, a bipartisan group of US senators visited Hungary and announced it would submit a joint resolution to Congress condemning Hungary’s alleged democratic backsliding and urging Orbán’s government to immediately lift its block on Sweden’s trans-Atlantic integration.
But on Friday, Ulf Kristersson, Sweden’s prime minister, met with Orbán in Hungary’s capital where they appeared to reach a decisive reconciliation after months of diplomatic tensions.
Following their meeting, the leaders announced the conclusion of a defense industry agreement that will include Hungary’s purchase of four Swedish-made JAS 39 Gripen jets and the extension of a service contract for its existing Gripen fleet.
Orbán said the additional fighter jets “will significantly increase our military capabilities and further strengthen our role abroad” and will improve Hungary’s ability to participate in joint NATO operations.
“To be a member of NATO together with another country means we are ready to die for each other,” Orbán said. “A deal on defense and military capacities helps to reconstruct the trust between the two countries.”
Monday’s vote on Sweden’s NATO accession was just one matter on a busy agenda for lawmakers in the Hungarian parliament. A vote was also held on accepting the resignation of President Katalin Novák, who stepped down earlier this month in a scandal over her decision to pardon to a man convicted of covering up a string of child sexual abuses.
After accepting Novák’s resignation, lawmakers are expected to confirm Tamás Sulyok, the president of Hungary’s Constitutional Court, as the country’s new president. He is set to formally take office on March 5.
Some opposition parties have said they will not participate in a vote to confirm a new president and have called for direct presidential elections. But Sulyok was nominated by Orbán’s Fidesz party, which has a two-thirds majority in parliament and is expected to easily approve his presidency.
A presidential signature is needed to formally endorse the approval of Sweden’s NATO bid, which is expected within the next few days.


Bangladesh proposes new digital platform to counter Israeli disinformation on Palestine

Bangladesh proposes new digital platform to counter Israeli disinformation on Palestine
Updated 26 February 2024
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Bangladesh proposes new digital platform to counter Israeli disinformation on Palestine

Bangladesh proposes new digital platform to counter Israeli disinformation on Palestine
  • Israel’s ‘systematic misinformation campaigns’ aim to ‘cover its brutality and genocidal massacres’ in Gaza, OIC says
  • At least 88 journalists have been killed in Palestine since Israel’s onslaught on Gaza began in October 

DHAKA: Bangladesh’s state minister for information has proposed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation create a collaborative digital platform to combat Israel’s disinformation campaign against Palestine, as the Muslim grouping launches new plans to expose Tel Aviv’s war crimes. 

Information ministers of OIC member countries were in Turkiye over the weekend for an extraordinary session discussing Israel’s disinformation campaign and attacks on journalists in Gaza, where nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been killed since October. 

State Minister for Information and Broadcasting Mohammed Ali Arafat said Israel’s “despicable disinformation campaign” is an attempt to cover its blatant war crimes in Gaza, including the indiscriminate targeting of babies and children, as well as journalists and humanitarian workers. 

“The world has hardly seen the continued killing of journalists and the spreading of disinformation as is happening in Gaza. I believe fighting to contain and combat against such dissemination of misinformation needs collective effort,” Arafat told the participants. 

At least 88 journalists and media workers were among the tens of thousands of Palestinians killed in over four months since Israel began its onslaught on Gaza, according to the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists. 

“We need to create a collaborative digital platform to combat the spreading of such disinformation against Palestine. I request the OIC Secretariat to prepare a plan in this regard immediately,” Arafat said. 

Bangladesh is ready to support the OIC in establishing an information pool documenting Israeli war crimes that can be regularly shared with its member states, he added. 

“Muslim Ummah must work together to stop this massacre and let the world know the truth. Bangladesh supports and stands firm by our Palestinian brothers and sisters in this dire situation.” 

In a final communique, OIC information ministers condemned Israel’s “systematic misinformation campaigns” to “cover its brutality and genocidal massacres committed in the Gaza Strip.”

The 57-member organization also condemned Israel’s “systematic targeting of Palestinian journalists,” describing it as part of a campaign to “silence the voices of truth-tellers.” 

The OIC said they are determined to collectively “counter and expose attempts by the Israel colonial occupation to cover up the destruction” in the besieged enclave, as they mandate the group’s media monitoring unit to establish an action plan to “lay bare and counter” the Israeli disinformation campaign at the international level.