Saudi FM, Gulf ministers take part in GCC Summit preparatory meeting in Doha

Saudi minister of foreign affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan was among ministers who met at a preparatory meeting in Doha on Sunday. (SPA)
Saudi minister of foreign affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan was among ministers who met at a preparatory meeting in Doha on Sunday. (SPA)
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Updated 03 December 2023
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Saudi FM, Gulf ministers take part in GCC Summit preparatory meeting in Doha

Saudi FM, Gulf ministers take part in GCC Summit preparatory meeting in Doha
  • Other GCC foreign ministers and the group’s secretary-general, Jassim Albudaiwi, also took part in the session

RIYADH: Saudi minister of foreign affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan was among ministers who met at a preparatory meeting in Doha on Sunday for the upcoming Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ministerial meeting, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The meeting was chaired by Qatar’s Prime Minister and foreign minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, who is also chairman of the current session of the ministerial council.

Other GCC foreign ministers and the group’s secretary-general, Jassim Albudaiwi, also took part in the session.

During the meeting, they discussed a number of reports on the follow-up to the implementation of decisions made at the previous GCC Supreme Council summit in Riyadh. 

They also discussed relations between member states, memoranda and reports submitted by the ministerial and technical committees as well as the Secretariat General.


Houthis attack ship off Yemen’s Aden

Houthis attack ship off Yemen’s Aden
Updated 7 sec ago
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Houthis attack ship off Yemen’s Aden

Houthis attack ship off Yemen’s Aden
  • Vessel reported an incident around 91 nautical miles southeast of Yemen’s port city of Aden
  • UN official said that attacks by Yemen’s Houthi militia on ships in the Red Sea have quadrupled global shipping costs and cut cargo movement by 30 percent

AL-MUKALLA: The UK Maritime Trade Operations agency cautioned ships crossing the Red Sea on Monday to exercise care after a vessel reported an incident around 91 nautical miles southeast of Yemen’s port city of Aden.

This came as a UN official said on Monday that attacks by Yemen’s Houthi militia on ships in the Red Sea have quadrupled global shipping costs and cut cargo movement by 30 percent. 

Oleg Kobyakov, director of the office for liaison with Russia at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, told the Russian news agency TASS that what he called the Houthis’ “blockade” of the Red Sea and Bab Al-Mandab Strait has led to an increase in the price of goods across the globe, hurt the movement of goods, increased fuel bills for ships by an average of 15 percent, and pushed many shipping companies into taking the “8,000 km” route through the Cape of Good Hope to travel between Asia and Europe to avoid Houthi attacks. 

“The blockade of Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the Red Sea by the Houthis is hurting global food trade. The cost of chartering a ship to travel along this route has almost quadrupled while cargo traffic has dropped by 30 percent,” he said.

Since November, the Houthis have targeted scores of commercial and naval ships going through international seas near Yemen, seized a commercial ship, and blocked the Red Sea before all Israel-bound ships. The Houthis claim their assaults are intended to push Israel to break its embargo on Gaza. 

On Feb. 18, Houthi missiles targeted the MV Rubymar, a Belize-flagged and Lebanese-operated ship, severely damaging it and triggering a big oil leak in the Red Sea.

The ship, carrying more than 21,000 tonnes of fertilizer, sank on Saturday, raising global fears about a possible environmental disaster in the Red Sea as well as hazards to trade along the critical route.

Similarly, the Houthis have accused the US of exaggerating the environmental damage of the ship and its contents. 

The ship’s around 21,000 tonnes of ammonium phosphate sulfate fertilizer are good for fish and coral reefs, as well as helping plants grow in seawater, according to Houthi media official Nasr Al-Din Amer, who purportedly cited a study by an “international” fertilizer production business. 

Amer said in a post on X that the study “refutes American propaganda about the ‘Red Sea disaster.’” 

Meanwhile, the Houthis have announced the mobilization of thousands of fighters in the central province of Marib under the banner of “supporting people in Palestine,” raising concerns in Yemen that the Houthis are using public outrage over Israel’s war in Gaza to resume a military offensive in Marib.

The Houthis said on Sunday that 4,000 of their armed militants journeyed for three days and 100 km from the Harf Sufyan District in the province of Amran to Marib’s Majzar District, where they would settle in preparation for instructions from their commanders to “reinforce” Palestinians.

Another 2,500 infantry Houthi men marched from the same Amran province to Marib on Saturday, allegedly to help Palestinians, according to Houthi official media.

Between January 2021 and April 2022, thousands of civilians and combatants were killed in the province of Marib when the Houthis began a massive military assault to capture control of the region.

Despite moving closer to the city, the Houthis lost thousands of men, failed to seize Marib, and were forced to halt their attack in April 2022 under a UN-brokered ceasefire.

With the current Houthi military rallies outside Marib, Yemen’s government authorities have raised the alarm about a possible Houthi assault on the city under the pretext of battling Israel.


Egyptian FM, UN official discuss ways to boost Gaza relief

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. (AP)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. (AP)
Updated 24 min 16 sec ago
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Egyptian FM, UN official discuss ways to boost Gaza relief

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. (AP)
  • Shoukry stressed the necessity of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza before the month of Ramadan so that the flow of humanitarian aid and relief materials can be increased in quantities sufficient for the needs of the residents

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has stressed the humanitarian and legal responsibility of the UN Security Council to ensure the full implementation of the provisions of Resolution 2720.

He made the comments during talks with Sigrid Kaag, the UN’s senior coordinator for humanitarian affairs and reconstruction in Gaza.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said that Shoukry and Kaag discussed in depth the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in areas of the Gaza Strip due to starvation and the targeting of civilians and humanitarian aid convoys by the Israeli military.

Shoukry stressed the necessity of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza before the month of Ramadan so that the flow of humanitarian aid and relief materials can be increased in quantities sufficient for the needs of the residents.

He noted the humanitarian risks resulting from systematic attempts to target the work of UNRWA and the suspension of funding to the agency by some donors.

UN official Kaag expressed her appreciation for Egypt’s pivotal role since the beginning of the crisis in Gaza.

Kaag emphasized her keenness to continue consultation and coordination with Egypt to ensure the implementation of her tasks related to increasing aid delivery to the strip.

Shoukry was keen to hear from the visiting UN official about developments in work to activate the UN mechanism established by Security Council Resolution 2720 to facilitate, coordinate, and monitor the entry of aid into the Gaza Strip and how to overcome the existing obstacles that prevent her from being able to implement the mandate more than two months after the adoption of the resolution.

Shoukry said Israel must be pressured to comply with the provisions of international law and remove the obstacles it places to bringing aid in to the enclave, including facilitating the use of all available roads into and from the Gaza Strip, including border crossings and using the most direct paths for aid to reach those who need it.

 


Withholding essential aid from Palestinians is tantamount to a death sentence, says Arab League chief

Withholding essential aid from Palestinians is tantamount to a death sentence, says Arab League chief
Updated 04 March 2024
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Withholding essential aid from Palestinians is tantamount to a death sentence, says Arab League chief

Withholding essential aid from Palestinians is tantamount to a death sentence, says Arab League chief
  • Ahmed Aboul Gheit was speaking during a meeting with Sigrid Kaag, the UN’s senior coordinator for humanitarian affairs and reconstruction in Gaza
  • Kaag gave a detailed overview of the humanitarian situation in Gaza amid the ongoing Israeli military operations in the territory

CAIRO: Withholding essential, life-saving aid from Palestinians is tantamount to a death sentence and collective punishment, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said.

He was speaking during a meeting with Sigrid Kaag, the UN’s under-secretary-general and senior coordinator for humanitarian affairs and reconstruction in Gaza, at the Arab League’s headquarters in Cairo.

Kaag gave a detailed overview of the humanitarian situation in Gaza amid the ongoing Israeli military operations in the territory and the blockade that is affecting more than 2 million Palestinians.

Jamal Rushdi, a spokesperson for Aboul Gheit, said the discussion focused on the severe deterioration in the humanitarian situation in recent weeks and proposed plans for the delivery of aid.

The Arab League chief said the international community shares responsibility for the tragedy unfolding in Gaza as a result of the tacit approval granted by some significant world powers to Israel, which has allowed authorities in the country to engage in aggressive acts during their war against Hamas in a reprehensible and dehumanizing manner.

Kaag discussed with Aboul Gheit several ideas for delivering aid and the difficulties that have been experienced in achieving this as a result of Israeli intransigence.

Both agreed that the urgent return of Palestinian Authority control of the Gaza Strip is necessary for reconstruction to begin, Rushdi said.

Aboul Gheit reiterated that the current priority is to achieve an immediate ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, halt the bloodshed, and prevent famine among Palestinians in Gaza.


Frankly Speaking: Understanding Ireland’s stance on Israel

Frankly Speaking: Understanding Ireland’s stance on Israel
Updated 04 March 2024
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Frankly Speaking: Understanding Ireland’s stance on Israel

Frankly Speaking: Understanding Ireland’s stance on Israel
  • Trade minister says Dublin prefers collective EU action, but is ready to impose unilateral sanctions on violent settlers
  • Simon Coveney wants Israel to abide by parameters of international law, not ‘become a monster to defeat a monster’ in Gaza

DUBAI: The Republic of Ireland will look at the option of imposing sanctions unilaterally on extremist Israeli settlers on Palestinian land if the European Union is unable to agree on a collective response, according to the country’s minister for enterprise, trade and employment.

Appearing on the Arab News current affairs show “Frankly Speaking,” Simon Coveney said Ireland would prefer to act collectively with its EU partners, but could be compelled to follow Spain in acting unilaterally if a deal is not agreed.

“Yes, we’ll look to try to do that, but we would much rather that these sanctions were imposed collectively by the European Union. There are 26 of the 27 countries that are in agreement in terms of doing that,” he said in course of a wide-ranging interview.

“Let’s not forget the US too has introduced sanctions on violent settlers in the West Bank to send a very strong signal that they regard what is happening in part of the West Bank in terms of violence against Palestinians as totally unacceptable.”

Violence in the occupied West Bank has increased since the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7 sparked Israel’s military operation in Gaza, with extremist Israeli settlers using the chaos to seize more Palestinian land.

Ireland has been among the most vocal international critics of Israel’s military campaign, which to date has cost the lives of more than 30,000 people, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry. Another 7,000 people remain missing and at least 70,450 are injured.

Coveney himself was recently quoted as saying that Israel was behaving like a “rogue state” in Gaza. “My comments in relation to the war in Gaza were a reflection of the frustration of many Irish people, but also many other people around the world that want to see progress on finding the basis for a ceasefire,” he told Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking.”

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s minister for enterprise, trade and employment, said Ireland provides significant funding to support programs for Palestinians across the West Bank and previously across Gaza as well. (AN Photo)

He continued: “And then, of course, trying to make that ceasefire permanent so that we can focus on responding to the extraordinary human suffering that we’re seeing across Gaza now.

“That’s not in any way to diminish the strong Irish criticism and condemnation of the terror attacks that happened to Israeli citizens on Oct. 7 last. But since that awful attack on Israel, we have seen a level of military activity in Gaza that has been devastating.

“We’ve seen almost 30,000 lives lost, many of them women and children. And, of course, a population within Gaza now that is close to starvation. And we need to respond in the context of international law, international humanitarian law, the UN Charter.

“My comments were about responding to the fact that Israel seems not to be listening to many of its partners and allies who are now encouraging restraint and trying to find a basis for a ceasefire.”

Coveney has also said that Israel should not “behave like a monster in order to defeat a monster,” in reference to the country’s military retaliation to the Oct. 7 attack, which saw 1,200 Israelis and other foreign nationals killed and 240 taken hostage.

“When I said you can’t become a monster to defeat a monster, really what I’m referring to there is that a democratic state like Israel has got to abide by the parameters of international law,” he said.

“Even war has rules. We all have a responsibility to hold each other to account in the international community. And in our view, in Ireland, what Israel is doing in Gaza is completely disproportionate to what’s required, as necessary for the defense of Israel.

“The thousands and thousands of children and women who’ve lost their lives under buildings that have collapsed on top of them, this is something that needs to stop and needs to be called out, and is not necessary for the defense of Israel.

“Of course, there must be a consequence to what Hamas did on Oct. 7. And Israel has a right to defend itself.

“But the extent of what has happened, and the loss of life and injury in Gaza, is in my view not justified and is certainly a breach of many aspects of international law and humanitarian law that needs to be called out, which is why we are such a strong advocate for a ceasefire.”

Palestinian child eats bread in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 4, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement. (AFP)

The World Food Programme has warned that a famine is imminent in northern Gaza, which has received very little aid in recent weeks, and where an estimated 300,000 people are living with little food or clean water.

On Thursday, at least 112 Palestinians were killed and 760 injured while trying to get desperately needed aid in Gaza City in the presence of Israeli tanks.

Hamas has accused Israel of firing at civilians, but Israel said most died in a stampede after its troops fired warning shots. Leaders around the world have called for a full investigation.

“Even in the absence of conflict, the efforts that the international community are going to need to put in place in Gaza to prevent starvation, to respond to the extraordinary challenges around healthcare and basic provisions is huge,” Coveney said.

“There are only a few hospitals left that are actually functioning in Gaza.”

Given the incredible destruction, the sheer size of what has taken place in the enclave, would Ireland be willing to step in and help with reconstruction efforts when the war eventually comes to an end?

“Absolutely,” said Coveney.

He explained that Ireland provides significant funding to support programs for Palestinians across the West Bank and previously across Gaza as well.

“We’re one of the strongest supporters of UNRWA, as really the only scaled-up humanitarian organization that can provide the scale of supports that Palestinians need, in Gaza and indeed across the West Bank,” he said, referring to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which supports the relief and human development of Palestinian refugees.

“So, even in the last number of weeks, Ireland has, while other countries have actually been pulling their funding or freezing their funding to UNRWA because of a potential scandal of some UNRWA staff being involved in the terror attacks of October 7, even though a very small number may have been involved, let’s wait and see what the investigation determines.

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s minister for enterprise, trade and employment,  told Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking,” that “since that awful attack on Israel, we have seen a level of military activity in Gaza that has been devastating.” (AN Photo)

Separately, Ireland has tried to give a signal to other donors that, given the scale of human suffering in Gaza at the moment, UNRWA is an organization that needs to be supported, Coveney said.

“And so we have increased our funding by 20 million in the last number of weeks, which means now that we will be giving more than €40 million ($50.628 million) to UNRWA. And we hope that that gives a signal to other countries that are funders and supporters of UNRWA that they need to continue to do that,” he said.

The primary focus of Coveney’s visit to the region was the World Trade Organization’s 13th Ministerial Conference, which took place Feb. 26 to 29 in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi.

Given the current geopolitical situation, however, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the tensions in the Red Sea naturally became talking points on the sidelines of Coveney’s interactions with this Gulf counterparts.

“It’s impossible to come to this part of the world and not talk about what is currently happening in Gaza, because everybody is watching and is horrified by the human suffering and loss of life,” he said.

“People know when they speak to an Irish government minister that we are both interested and engaged in this debate.

“So, yes, on the sidelines of a lot of the trade discussions, of course, we’re talking about regional conflict and it’s impossible not to focus on the Israel-Palestine conflict that we’re seeing right now in Gaza.

“Also, the tension that we’re seeing in terms of the Red Sea and what Houthi rebels are doing in terms of targeting shipping in the Red Sea, which essentially is targeting global trade, because about 30 percent of global goods trade transits through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea, which is significantly being disrupted right now.”

Asked if he noticed a contradiction between the Biden administration’s calls for Israeli restraint in Gaza and sending of weapons and shells to Israel, Coveney responded that the situation required for a realistic appraisal.

“The signal that would be sent to the broader Middle East region of the US preventing arms coming from the US to Israel would potentially be a dangerous one in terms of the signal to Iran and others who are enemies of Israel,” he said.

“I think the US knows that. So, we need to be realistic here on what’s possible.”

 


After 10 years of trying, a Palestinian woman had twins. An Israeli strike killed them both

After 10 years of trying, a Palestinian woman had twins. An Israeli strike killed them both
Updated 04 March 2024
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After 10 years of trying, a Palestinian woman had twins. An Israeli strike killed them both

After 10 years of trying, a Palestinian woman had twins. An Israeli strike killed them both
  • An Israeli strike hit the home of her family in Rafah, killing her children, her husband and 11 other relatives

RAFAH: It took 10 years and three rounds of in vitro fertilization for Rania Abu Anza to become pregnant, and only seconds for her to lose her five-month-old twins, a boy and a girl.
An Israeli strike hit the home of her extended family in the southern Gaza city of Rafah late Saturday, killing her children, her husband and 11 other relatives and leaving another nine missing under the rubble, according to survivors and local health officials.
She had woken up at around 10 p.m. to breastfeed Naeim, the boy, and went back to sleep with him in one arm and Wissam, the girl, in the other. Her husband was sleeping beside them.
The explosion came an hour and a half later. The house collapsed.
“I screamed for my children and my husband,” she said Sunday, as she sobbed and cradled a baby’s blanket to her chest. ”They were all dead. Their father took them and left me behind.”
She closed her eyes, leaned her head against the wall and patted the bundle in a calming gesture that, finally, she’d had the chance to give.
Israeli airstrikes have regularly hit crowded family homes since the start of the war in Gaza, even in Rafah, which Israel declared a safe zone in October but is now the next target of its devastating ground offensive.
The strikes often come without warning, usually in the middle of the night.
Israel says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames their deaths on the Hamas militant group because it positions fighters, tunnels and rocket launchers in dense residential areas. But the military rarely comments on individual strikes, which often kill women and children.
The military on Sunday didn’t comment on this attack but said it “follows international law and takes feasible precautions to mitigate civilian harm.”
Of the 14 people killed in the Abu Anza house, six were children and four were women, according to Dr. Marwan Al-Hams, director of the hospital where the bodies were taken. In addition to her husband and children, Rania also lost a sister, a nephew, a pregnant cousin and other relatives.
Farouq Abu Anza, a relative, said about 35 people were staying at the house, some of whom had been displaced from other areas. He said they were all civilians, mostly children, and that there were no militants among them.
Rania and her husband, Wissam, both 29, spent a decade trying to get pregnant. Two rounds of IVF had failed, but after a third, she learned she was pregnant early last year. The twins were born on Oct. 13.
Her husband, a day laborer, was so proud he insisted on naming the girl after himself, she said.
“I didn’t get enough of them,” she said. “I swear I didn’t get enough of them.”
Less than a week earlier, Hamas-led militants had stormed into southern Israel in a surprise attack, rampaging through communities, killing some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and taking around 250 hostages, including children and a newborn.
Israel responded with one of the deadliest and most destructive military campaigns in recent history. The war has killed over 30,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. Around 80 percent of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have fled their homes, and a quarter of the population faces starvation.
The ministry said last month that more than 12,300 Palestinian children and young teens had been killed in the war, about 43 percent of the overall toll. Women and children together make up three quarters of those killed. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tallies.
Israel claims to have killed over 10,000 Hamas fighters but has not provided evidence.
For the children who survive, the war has made life hellish, humanitarian workers say, with some in northern Gaza beyond the reach of care.
“The sense of helplessness and despair among parents and doctors in realizing that lifesaving aid, just a few kilometers away, is being kept out of reach, must be unbearable, but worse still are the anguished cries of those babies slowly perishing under the world’s gaze,” UNICEF regional director Adele Khodr said in a statement Sunday.
Until Saturday, the Abu Anza family had been relatively fortunate. Rafah has been spared the immense destruction of northern Gaza and the southern city of Khan Younis, where Israeli tanks and ground troops have fought militants block by block after waves of airstrikes.
Rafah is also in the shrinking area of Gaza where humanitarian aid can still be delivered.
But Israel has said Rafah will be next, and the roughly 1.5 million people who have sought refuge there will be relocated, without saying where.
“We have no rights,” Rania said. “I lost the people who were dearest to me. I don’t want to live here. I want to get out of this country. I’m tired of this war.”