US finds both sides in Sudan conflict have committed atrocities in Darfur

A Sudanese family who fled the conflict in Murnei in Sudan's Darfur region, sit beside their belongings while waiting to be registered by UNHCR. (Reuters)
A Sudanese family who fled the conflict in Murnei in Sudan's Darfur region, sit beside their belongings while waiting to be registered by UNHCR. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 December 2023
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US finds both sides in Sudan conflict have committed atrocities in Darfur

US finds both sides in Sudan conflict have committed atrocities in Darfur
  • Fighting that began in Khartoum earlier this year has descended into ethnic violence in recent weeks

WASHINGTON D.C.: The Biden administration said Wednesday it has determined that both sides in the ongoing conflict in Sudan have committed atrocities in the African nation's western region of Darfur and elsewhere, saying the fighting “has caused grievous human suffering.”
The State Department said the Rapid Support Forces and the Sudanese Armed Forces are responsible for either war crimes or crimes against humanity, or both, in Darfur, where fighting that began in the capital earlier this year has descended into ethnic violence in recent weeks.
“Based on the State Department’s careful analysis of the law and available facts, I have determined that members of the SAF and the RSF have committed war crimes in Sudan,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “I have also determined that members of the RSF and allied militias have committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.”
The finding does not include sanctions being imposed on leaders or members of either side but creates the authority for the US to impose them.
“This determination provides force and renewed urgency to African and international efforts to end the violence, address the humanitarian and human rights crisis, and work towards meaningful justice for victims and the affected communities that ends decades of impunity,” Blinken said. “Today’s determination does not preclude the possibility of future determinations as additional information about the parties’ actions becomes available.”
The Biden administration has already imposed sanctions on RSF and Sudanese army officials for their actions in other parts of the country, including Khartoum, the capital.
On Monday, the administration imposed sanctions on three Sudanese men accused of undermining “peace, security and stability.” Those sanctions freeze all property and assets held by Taha Osman Ahmed al-Hussein, Salah Abdallah Mohamed Salah and Mohamed Etta al-Moula Abbas in US jurisdictions.
All three held senior government positions under former autocratic President Omar al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for 30 years. They were forced out of public office after al-Bashir was toppled in a popular uprising in 2019.
The sanctions were the latest the US has imposed on Sudanese leaders and companies in recent months.
In September, the US imposed sanctions on Abdel-Rahim Hamdan Dagalo — brother of the RSF leader — for alleged acts of violence and human rights abuses committed by the paramilitary.
In June, the US placed sanctions on four key companies either linked to or owned by the army and the RSF. In addition, it put visa restrictions on officials from both Sudanese sides, as well as other leaders affiliated with al-Bashir, but didn’t specify who was affected.
Sudan plunged into chaos in April when long-simmering tensions between the military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, and the Rapid Support Force paramilitary commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo escalated into open warfare.
The conflict had killed up to 9,000 people by October, according to the United Nations. However, activists and doctors groups say the real figure is far higher.
In Darfur, which was the site of a genocidal campaign in the early 2000s, the conflict has morphed into ethnic violence, with the RSF and allied Arab militias attacking ethnic African groups, according to rights groups and the UN.


Head of UN peacekeeping force warns further strikes in south Lebanon could jeopardize political solution to conflict

Head of UN peacekeeping force warns further strikes in south Lebanon could jeopardize political solution to conflict
Updated 13 sec ago
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Head of UN peacekeeping force warns further strikes in south Lebanon could jeopardize political solution to conflict

Head of UN peacekeeping force warns further strikes in south Lebanon could jeopardize political solution to conflict
  • Israel shells 50 km into Lebanon after Hezbollah targets Meron base with 40 missiles
  • Lt. Gen. Aroldo Lazaro Saenz: We have continued our active work with the parties to reduce tensions and prevent dangerous misunderstandings

BEIRUT: The head of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon on Tuesday warned that an escalation of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah could jeopardize a political solution to the conflict.

UNIFIL mission commander, Lt. Gen. Aroldo Lazaro Saenz, highlighted an “alarming shift in recent days in the exchange of fire along the southern Lebanese border,” adding that “the expansion and intensification of strikes” could hinder ceasefire negotiations.

His comments came a day after Israel targeted Hezbollah positions near the Lebanese city of Baalbek. Hezbollah hit back by firing dozens of missiles at the Meron air control base on Jabal Al-Jarmaq (Mount Meron).

Lazaro said that the ongoing exchanges between the Israeli army and Hezbollah had “claimed the lives of a very large number of people, caused severe damage to homes and public infrastructure, endangered livelihoods, and changed the lives of tens of thousands of civilians on both sides of the Blue Line.”

He added: “In recent days, we have continued our active work with the parties to reduce tensions and prevent dangerous misunderstandings, but recent events have the potential to jeopardize the political solution to this conflict.

“We urge all concerned parties to cease hostilities to prevent further escalation and leave room for a political, diplomatic solution that can restore stability and ensure the safety of people in this region.”

On Tuesday, Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati held talks with the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Joanna Wronecka to discuss the “mechanisms” for implementing a UN Security Council resolution calling for a full cessation of hostilities.

According to the PM’s media office, Wronecka urged “all parties to calm down and work toward diplomatic solutions.”

Israel’s mobile Iron Dome air-defense system intercepted several missiles fired by Hezbollah toward the Meron base. The Israeli army responded with a fighter-jet raid on the outskirts of Bissariye near Sidon, more than 50 km away from the Lebanese border. No casualties were reported. Warplanes also hit the towns of Jibchit, Mansouri, and Hanniyeh, where a woman was wounded.

An Israeli army spokesperson said: “Thirty-five rockets were fired from Lebanon toward Jabal Al-Jarmaq, but no damage or injuries occurred after targeting the air surveillance base.

“In response to these rockets, warplanes attacked a military site and several Hezbollah military infrastructures in southern Lebanon.”

The Meron air control facility sits atop Jabal Al-Jarmaq, the tallest mountain peak in northern Israel. It serves as the only hub for managing, monitoring, and controlling air traffic in the area, alongside Mitzpe Ramon in the south.

Hezbollah media reported that the Meron base focused on “arranging, coordinating, and overseeing all air activities toward Syria, Lebanon, Turkiye, Cyprus, and the northern region of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It serves as a significant hub for electronic interference operations in these areas, and a large number of elite officers and soldiers work in this base.”

An exchange of artillery shelling between the two sides continued on Tuesday afternoon but was confined to an area south of the Litani River.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army at the Miskaf Am settlement shot at a bread van crossing a road near to a Lebanese army checkpoint. The driver and his wife escaped injured.


Fertilizer-laden Red Sea ship ‘at risk of sinking,’ says Yemeni minister

Fertilizer-laden Red Sea ship ‘at risk of sinking,’ says Yemeni minister
Updated 22 min 54 sec ago
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Fertilizer-laden Red Sea ship ‘at risk of sinking,’ says Yemeni minister

Fertilizer-laden Red Sea ship ‘at risk of sinking,’ says Yemeni minister
  • Houthis launched missiles at the M/V Rubymar badly damaging it and causing a large oil slick in the Red Sea
  • Yemen’s government has issued a frantic plea to nations and marine conservation bodies to assist in rescuing the ship

AL-MUKALLA: Tawfeeq Al-Sharjabi, Yemen’s water and environment minister, said they are in a race against time to save a sinking ship laden with thousands of tonnes of fertilizer in the Red Sea, urging international assistance to prevent an ecological disaster. 

On Feb. 18, Yemen’s Houthi militia launched missiles at the MV Rubymar, a Belize-flagged and Lebanese-operated ship, badly damaging it and causing a large oil slick in the Red Sea.

Yemen’s government organized an emergency committee on Saturday and issued a frantic plea to nations and marine conservation bodies to assist in rescuing the ship and preventing a possible environmental calamity in the Red Sea. “The situation is grave, and the ship is at risk of sinking,” Al-Sharjabi told Arab News by telephone. 

Yemeni officials said the Houthi missiles damaged the ship’s engine room, causing saltwater to fill it, and that they are now in touch with the ship’s owners and international organizations to send tugs to tow it after draining it of water. The danger, according to the Yemeni minister, stems from the ship’s cargo of 22,000 tonnes of ammonium phosphate-sulfate NPS fertilizer, which, although unaffected by the missiles, might explode or flow into the ocean if the ship sunk or struck the coast. “Efforts are now underway to bring a tugboat to remove water from the ship, balance it, return it to its usual position, and then tow it to the closest shore,” Al-Sharjabi said.

The Houthis vowed this week to trade the recovery of the British-owned ship for humanitarian supplies to Gaza, raising concerns that they may use the ship as leverage. Despite stating that they have not received formal threats from the Houthis, Al-Sharjabi urged the militia not to obstruct the ship’s rescue attempts, adding that Yemenis throughout the nation, including those living in Houthi-controlled regions, will suffer from an ecological calamity. “This is a worthless bargain and just balloons in the air,” he said.

Capt. Yeslem Mubarak, vice executive chairman of the Maritime Affairs Authority and a member of the government’s commission dealing with the sinking ship, told Arab News on Tuesday that the ship is 16 nautical miles from Yemen’s Red Sea town of Mocha and 20 nautical miles from the island of Hanish. He added that it has no connection to Israel and is owned by a Syrian businessman. “The ship is in an unstable condition and is going to sink,” Mubarak said.

Since November, the Houthis have seized a commercial ship and fired hundreds of drones and missiles at commercial and naval ships going through the Red Sea, enforcing a ban on Israel-linked or Israel-bound vessels transiting through the key maritime channel. The Houthis claim that their activities are intended to push Israel to remove its blockade of Gaza.

To halt the Houthi attacks on ships, the US and its allies have launched hundreds of airstrikes on Sanaa, Saada, and other Houthi-controlled regions in Yemen, hitting ammunition, drone and missile storage facilities, drone and missile launchers, and other targets.

On Tuesday morning, the US Central Command said it had foiled Houthi assaults on ships on Monday by destroying three drone boats, two anti-ship cruise missiles, and a drone in Yemen that were all intended to target commercial and navy ships in the Red Sea. 


Egypt warns of ‘catastrophic repercussions’ if Israeli attacks Rafah

Egypt warns of ‘catastrophic repercussions’ if Israeli attacks Rafah
Updated 27 February 2024
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Egypt warns of ‘catastrophic repercussions’ if Israeli attacks Rafah

Egypt warns of ‘catastrophic repercussions’ if Israeli attacks Rafah
  • Israel has said a truce with Hamas would delay, not prevent, a ground invasion of Rafah
  • “The world is witnessing the most heinous crimes and violations against the Palestinian people,” Shoukry said

GENEVA: Egypt warned on Tuesday that Israel’s planned ground invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza would have “catastrophic repercussions” for peace in the Middle East.
Foreign ministers from Arab League countries told the United Nations Human Rights Council that some nations were turning a blind eye to the suffering in Gaza.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said the extreme polarization exposed by the Gaza war had laid bare the double standards of some members of the UN’s top rights body.
Israel has said a truce with Hamas would delay, not prevent, a ground invasion of Rafah on the Egyptian border, where an estimated 1.4 million Palestinian civilians have sought refuge from the war.
“The world is witnessing the most heinous crimes and violations against the Palestinian people,” Shoukry said.
He called for an immediate ceasefire and urged Israel not to attack Rafah.
“Any military action in the present circumstances would have catastrophic repercussions that undermine peace in the region,” he warned.
The war in Gaza began after the Hamas militant group that controls the Palestinian territory 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 29,878 people, most of them women and children, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.
Shoukry said some countries on the 47-member Human Rights Council in Geneva were shying away from the firm action they had taken over other conflicts.
“It seems that life in Gaza is not worthy enough of their attention, that the massacre of tens of thousands of children fails to shake their otherwise all-too-sensitive conscience,” he said.
“The lives of Gaza’s children are seemingly less valuable than others.
“This preludes the... collapse of the international system, including this council.”
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Abdullah Al-Yahya said the “brutal crimes of the Israeli occupation forces against defenseless civilians” had led to “catastrophic crisis and destruction.”
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said the world “cannot keep turning a blind eye” to the “unprecedented human disaster” in Gaza.
Qatari International Cooperation Minister Lolwah Al-Khater said Gaza was witnessing a “genocidal war,” while the situation in the Israeli-occupied West Bank was also deteriorating.
“Sponsoring this Israeli exceptionalism above international law by some global powers should stop,” she told the council.
Meanwhile Tunisian Foreign Minister Nabil Ammar, speaking via video-link, said human rights were being violated in Gaza “with the utmost barbarism” and said the international community had been “paralyzed because of a handful of countries.”


Gaza residents fear possible truce would only pause, not stop, the war

Gaza residents fear possible truce would only pause, not stop, the war
Updated 27 February 2024
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Gaza residents fear possible truce would only pause, not stop, the war

Gaza residents fear possible truce would only pause, not stop, the war
  • “We don’t want to go back to war because war after the first truce destroyed us and destroyed our houses,” said Rehab Redwan, a woman who had fled her house in Khan Younis
  • “Can you imagine — there’s no food, nothing to drink”

RAFAH, Gaza Strip: Homeless, hungry Palestinians fearing an Israeli assault on their last relatively safe haven in Gaza said they were desperate for a lasting ceasefire as the United States said a temporary truce could be agreed soon.
A proposed deal from the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in early March could stop the fighting for the first time since a brief truce in November and ease a human catastrophe unfolding in Gaza.
However, while negotiators discuss a reported proposal for a six-week truce, Israel’s enemy Hamas has said big differences remained and it was still demanding a permanent end to the fighting.
“We hope it will be a permanent ceasefire. We don’t want to go back to war because war after the first truce destroyed us and destroyed our houses,” said Rehab Redwan, a woman who had fled her house in Khan Younis to shelter in a roadside tent.
“Can you imagine — there’s no food, nothing to drink. There are no basics for life,” she added, saying she wanted to go back home even if it now rubble.
After nearly five months of Israel’s air and ground campaign, around 85 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have fled their homes, most houses are damaged or destroyed, famine looms and disease is rife, say aid agencies.
The war began when Hamas fighters attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel’s air and ground campaign in Gaza has since killed around 30,000 Palestinians, health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave say.

PERMANENT OR TEMPORARY TRUCE
Walking with a small child through the crammed streets of Rafah, where most displaced Gaza residents have fled to and which Israel says it plans to assault next, Faraj Bakroon said reported conditions for the proposed truce made no sense to him.
As well as including only a weeks-long pause in fighting, there is no indication that Israel would allow people who fled south to go back to their homes in the north — particularly if they are men of military age.
“If the truce is like the previous one and they would start war again after it is over, we don’t want it. And if we can’t go to the north then a truce is not needed. Let’s keep the war until it is totally over,” he said.
“How will we go according to the age they specified? How do we take the children? We can’t leave our children behind and move. We need to bring them,” he added.
Still, for many people in Gaza any stop to fighting would be welcome, even if it falls short of a lasting ceasefire.
“We want a total truce in which we can live,” said Rashad Daher through his full white beard. But he added, “regarding this temporary truce, we ask God that it happens.”
Ahmed Al-Far, living in Rafah after fleeing his home in Gaza City in the north, where Israel’s offensive focused first, said he hoped for a truce “so people can catch their breath and heal their wounds.”
“There are 150 to 200 martyrs daily among the people. It’s a huge loss for our people,” he said.


Jordan’s King Abdullah says Gaza aid must be doubled to stem crisis

Jordan’s King Abdullah says Gaza aid must be doubled to stem crisis
Updated 27 February 2024
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Jordan’s King Abdullah says Gaza aid must be doubled to stem crisis

Jordan’s King Abdullah says Gaza aid must be doubled to stem crisis
  • Jordan is urging Western allies to lobby Israel to boost quantities of aid coming from the kingdom via Kerem Shalom on the border of Egypt, Israel and Gaza

AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah said on Tuesday that humanitarian aid to Gaza must be doubled to prevent a deterioration in a hunger crisis affecting over 2 million people.
The monarch was quoted by state media as telling visiting USAID chief Samantha Power that the international community had to put more pressure on Israel to ease restrictions on the flow of food into the territory.
Jordan is urging its Western allies to lobby Israel to boost the quantities of aid coming from the kingdom via Kerem Shalom on the border of Egypt, Israel and Gaza, beyond the existing Rafah crossing, officials say.
Israel has said it is not blocking aid and blames problems on the UN and Palestinian sides for any delays.
Separately, the king arrived at a military air base to oversee the departure of seven C-130 military transport aircraft, three from Jordan and the rest from Egypt, Qatar, France and the UAE, that will air drop food parcels along the Gaza coast for a second day.
Jordan, which the UN and Western donors have turned into a regional hub for humanitarian supplies to Gaza, for the first time on Monday, along with the French army, air dropped food via four flights to thousands of displaced people sheltering on the beach.
Previous air drops that parachuted in medicines and humanitarian provisions were sent to hospitals that the Jordanian army runs in Gaza.