UN Security Council to vote on resolution urging cessation of hostilities in Gaza to deliver aid

UN Security Council to vote on resolution urging cessation of hostilities in Gaza to deliver aid
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Supporters of the Boston Coalition for Palestine march in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 17, 2023, calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (Reuters)
UN Security Council to vote on resolution urging cessation of hostilities in Gaza to deliver aid
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Supporters of the Boston Coalition for Palestine march in Boston, Massachusetts, on December 17, 2023, calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 December 2023
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UN Security Council to vote on resolution urging cessation of hostilities in Gaza to deliver aid

UN Security Council to vote on resolution urging cessation of hostilities in Gaza to deliver aid
  • The council said Monday’s 5 p.m. EST vote would not take place
  • Diplomats said negotiations were taking place to get the US, Israel’s closest ally, to abstain or vote “yes” on the resolution

NEW YORK CITY: The UN Security Council delayed a vote on an Arab-sponsored resolution calling for a halt to hostilities in Gaza to allow unhindered access to deliver humanitarian aid to the massive number of civilians in need of food, water and medicine until Tuesday morning, as members intensified negotiations to try to avoid another veto by the United States.
The council said Monday’s 5 p.m. EST vote would not take place, and diplomats said negotiations were taking place to get the United States, Israel’s closest ally, to abstain or vote “yes” on the resolution.
A key issue is how to implement and sustain a desperately needed aid operation. Human Rights Watch accused Israel earlier Monday of deliberately starving Gaza’s population by blocking the delivery of water, food and fuel, a method of warfare that it described as a war crime. The United Nations’ food agency reported on Dec. 14 that 56 percent of Gaza’s households were experiencing “severe levels of hunger,” up from 38 percent two weeks earlier.
The draft on the table Monday morning called for an “urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities” for humanitarian access to deliver aid. But this language is expected to be watered down to a “suspension” of hostilities or something possibly weaker to satisfy the Americans, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private.
The US vetoed a Security Council resolution on Dec. 8 that was backed by almost all council members and dozens of other nations demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. The 193-member General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a similar resolution on Dec. 12 by a vote of 153-10, with 23 abstentions.
The importance of a Security Council resolution is that it is legally binding, but in practice many parties choose to ignore the council’s requests for action. General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but though they are a significant barometer of world opinion.
The draft resolution that was being considered by the 15 council members on Monday recognizes that civilians in Gaza don’t have access to sufficient food, water, sanitation, electricity, telecommunications and medical services “essential for their survival.” Also, it would express the council’s “strong concern for the disproportionate effect that the conflict is having on the lives and well-being of children, women and other civilians in vulnerable situations.”
More than 19,400 Palestinians have been killed according to the Gaza Health Ministry since Israel declared war on the Palestinian militant Hamas group following its surprise attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7 that killed about 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and took about 240 hostages.
Hamas controls the Gaza Strip and its Health Ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths. Thousands more Palestinians lie buried under the rubble in Gaza, the UN estimates. Israel says 116 of its soldiers have died in its ground offensive.
The proposed council resolution reiterates its demand that all parties comply with international humanitarian law, especially protecting civilians and the infrastructure critical for their survival including hospitals, schools, places of worship and UN facilities.
The draft, obtained by The Associated Press, demands the parties to the conflict — Hamas and Israel — fulfill their obligations under international humanitarian law and enable “the immediate, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale directly to the Palestinian civilian population throughout the Gaza Strip.”
It “calls for an urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access” in Gaza and also “firmly condemns all violations of international humanitarian law, including all indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian objects, all violence and hostilities against civilians, and all acts of terrorism.”
The draft also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all Hamas-held hostages .
The draft confirms its “unwavering commitment to the vision of the two-state solution,” and stresses “the importance of unifying the Gaza Strip with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.”
The draft is being negotiated by the United Arab Emirates, which is the Arab representative on the Security Council, and requests UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres establish am expeditious mechanism to monitor all humanitarian shipments to Gaza by land, sea and air.


Hindu-Muslim divisions sway voting in Indian district scarred by deadly riots

Hindu-Muslim divisions sway voting in Indian district scarred by deadly riots
Updated 9 sec ago
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Hindu-Muslim divisions sway voting in Indian district scarred by deadly riots

Hindu-Muslim divisions sway voting in Indian district scarred by deadly riots
  • Villages are largely self-segregated by religion in and around Muzaffarnagar in the most populous Uttar Pradesh state
  • Violent clashes broke out in 2013 after two Hindus stabbed Muslim youth to death, accusing him of harassing their sister

MUZAFFARNAGAR: Hindu-Muslim enmity made way for peace in an Indian district that saw deadly riots a decade ago but religious divisions still influence residents who voted on Friday in general elections in which Hindu nationalism is a key theme.

Villages are largely self-segregated by religion in and around Muzaffarnagar district, in the most populous northern state of Uttar Pradesh, but people say there is no longer tension between the majority Hindu and minority Muslim communities.

Violent clashes broke out here in 2013 after two Hindus stabbed a Muslim youth to death, accusing him of sexually harassing their sister. They were later beaten to death by a Muslim mob, which sparked riots that killed about 65 people, mostly Muslims, and displaced thousands.

Violence has not returned to the district known as the country's sugarcane-belt, but political divisions remain as Hindus typically vote for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Muslims for the opposition.

Modi's government has "controlled Muslims", said Ramesh Chand, a Hindu biscuit baker in Kairana city near Muzaffarnagar.

Critics accuse the nationalist BJP of targeting India's 200 million minority Muslims to please their hardline Hindu base - charges they deny.

Modi is widely expected to win a third term on the back of strong growth, welfare and his personal popularity despite some concern about unemployment, price rises and rural distress.

Chand said Modi had improved security in the region. "We can live in peace, whether or not we have jobs ... We can sleep with our doors open."

There were opposing views too.

In Jaula village, sugarcane farmer Mohammed Irfan, 50, said Modi's "high-handedness against Muslims" as well as unemployment and inflation were major reasons for him voting for the opposition Samajwadi Party.

Uttar Pradesh elects 80 lawmakers to the 543-member lower house of parliament, the most among all states, and a strong showing here is critical to the nationwide outcome.

Support for Modi was visible in Kutba Kutbi village, the epicentre of the 2013 riots.

Although there is "brotherhood" between the two communities now, nearly all Muslim families left the village after the riots, said Vinay Kumar Baliyan, 43, a farmer who said he supports Modi for promoting economic growth and raising India's stature globally.

But Irfan said Muslims are expected to vote in larger numbers this time as Eid celebrations this month brought many migrant workers and students home.


After Pakistan alert, WHO likely to issue wider warning on contaminated J&J cough syrup

After Pakistan alert, WHO likely to issue wider warning on contaminated J&J cough syrup
Updated 19 April 2024
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After Pakistan alert, WHO likely to issue wider warning on contaminated J&J cough syrup

After Pakistan alert, WHO likely to issue wider warning on contaminated J&J cough syrup
  • The UN health body said it puts out global medical product alerts to ‘encourage diligence’ by authorities
  • The WHO this week sent out alert on five batches of contaminated cough syrup ingredients found in Pakistan

LONDON: The World Health Organization is likely to issue a wider warning about contaminated Johnson and Johnson-made children’s cough syrup found in Nigeria last week, it said in an email.

Nigeria’s regulator recalled a batch of Benylin paediatric syrup last Wednesday, having found a high level of diethylene glycol in the product during routine testing.

The contaminant, alongside another closely related toxin, ethylene glycol, has been linked to the deaths of more than 300 children in Cameroon, Gambia, Indonesia and Uzbekistan since 2022, though there is no evidence that these incidents are linked with the latest recalls.

The UN health body said it puts out global medical product alerts to “encourage diligence” by national authorities and was likely to do so in this instance, “subject to confirmation of certain details from parties.”

The recalled batch of Benylin syrup was made by J&J in South Africa in May 2021, although Kenvue now owns the brand after a spin-off from J&J last year.

J&J has referred requests for comment to Kenvue. In an emailed statement on Friday, Kenvue said it had carried out tests on the batch recalled by Nigeria and had not detected either diethylene or ethylene glycol.

“We continue to work closely with health authorities and the WHO and are engaging with NAFDAC to understand their test results, including verifying the authenticity of the sampled product, the testing methodology used, and results reported by the agency,” the statement added.

Since Nigeria’s recall, five other African countries have also pulled the product from shelves — Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa, where the drug was made.

South Africa’s regulator has also recalled another batch of the syrup, which is used to treat coughs, hay fever and other allergic reactions in children.

Diethylene glycol is toxic to humans when consumed and can result in acute kidney failure, although there have been no reports of harm in the latest incident.

RAW MATERIALS

In the 2022 cases, the contamination in the syrups came from the raw materials used by manufacturers in India and Indonesia.

The WHO said it was collaborating with both the manufacturer and regulatory authority in South Africa to investigate the Benylin paediatric syrup, and had information on the source of the ingredients used. Kenvue has previously said it tested its ingredients before manufacture.

The agency said the possibility that the syrup was counterfeit was also “under consideration as part of investigations.”

Earlier this week the WHO sent out a separate alert on five batches of contaminated cough syrup ingredients found in Pakistan that appeared to have been falsely labelled as Dow Chemical products.

It was the first alert the WHO has sent on excipients — elements of a medicine other than the active pharmaceutical ingredient — rather than finished products, the agency confirmed on Friday.

The batches of propylene glycol were contaminated with ethylene glycol.

“It was critical for WHO to also alert manufacturers that may have been procuring this material to exercise more caution,” a WHO spokesperson said by email.

Propylene glycol is not an ingredient in Benylin paediatric syrup, a Kenvue spokesperson said on Friday.


Polish flag carrier LOT cancels Friday flights to Tel Aviv and Beirut, PAP reports

Polish flag carrier LOT cancels Friday flights to Tel Aviv and Beirut, PAP reports
Updated 19 April 2024
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Polish flag carrier LOT cancels Friday flights to Tel Aviv and Beirut, PAP reports

Polish flag carrier LOT cancels Friday flights to Tel Aviv and Beirut, PAP reports
  • Decisions about future flights would be made on an ongoing basis

WARSAW: Polish national airline LOT canceled flights on Friday to Tel Aviv and Beirut due to the unstable situation in the region, a spokesperson was quoted as saying by state news agency PAP.
“Today’s flight 151/152 to Israel from Warsaw and to Beirut 143/144 have been canceled,” Krzysztof Moczulski told PAP. He said decisions about future flights would be made on an ongoing basis.


French police arrest man who threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s Paris consulate

French police arrest man who threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s Paris consulate
Updated 19 April 2024
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French police arrest man who threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s Paris consulate

French police arrest man who threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s Paris consulate
  • Police verifying man’s identity and trying to determine whether he had weapons

PARIS: A man who had threatened to blow himself up at Iran’s consulate in Paris was arrested by police, a police source said.

French police earlier cordoned off the Iranian consulate, Reuters reporters saw, and did not immediately confirm finding any weapons.

A police source told Reuters the man was seen at about 11 am (0900 GMT) entering the consulate, carrying what appeared to be a grenade and explosive vest.

A Paris police official told The Associated Press that officers were verifying the man’s identity and trying to determine whether he had weapons.

Police earlier said they were at the scene and asked the public to avoid the area but provided no further details.

Service was interrupted on a nearby metro line for security reasons, the RATP metro company said.

A police cordon remained in place on Friday afternoon, but traffic was resuming in the area.

A person at the Iranian embassy who responded to a call from Reuters declined to provide any information on the situation.

It was unclear whether the incident had any link to the escalating tensions between Iran and Israel.

Earlier on Friday, explosions echoed over the Iranian city of Isfahan in what sources described as an Israeli attack, but Tehran played down the incident and indicated it had no plans for retaliation — a response that appeared gauged toward averting region-wide war.

The incident also comes as Paris is gearing up to host the summer Olympics.

* With Reuters and AP


Blinken says US ‘not involved in any offensive operation’

Blinken says US ‘not involved in any offensive operation’
Updated 19 April 2024
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Blinken says US ‘not involved in any offensive operation’

Blinken says US ‘not involved in any offensive operation’
  • ‘All I can say is for our part and for all the members of the G7 our focus is on de-escalation’

CAPRI, Italy: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday refused to comment on reports of an attack by Israel on Iran, beyond saying Washington was “not involved in any offensive operation.”

Speaking to journalists after a meeting with G7 counterparts in Italy, he declined to answer repeated questions about explosions in Iran, and reports that Israel had carried out retaliatory strikes.

“I’m not going to speak to these reported events... All I can say is for our part and for all the members of the G7 our focus is on de-escalation,” Blinken told a press conference on the island of Capri.

“The US has not been involved in any offensive operation,” he said.

Speaking to reporters earlier, G7 host Antonio Tajani, the foreign minister of Italy, said Washington had been informed in advance of the strikes, without giving details.

“The United States were informed at the last moment,” he said, adding that “it was just information” passed on — without saying who by.

The reports dominated the G7 Friday, with Tajani forced to change the agenda, but little public information emerged.

In its final statement, the Group of Seven ministers said: “In light of reports of strikes on April 19th, we urge all parties to work to prevent further escalation. The G7 will continue to work to this end.”

Israel had warned it would hit back after Iran fired hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel almost a week ago, in retaliation for a deadly strike — which Tehran blamed on its foe — that levelled Iran’s consular annex at its embassy in Syria.