Iran threatens Mediterranean closure over Gaza, without saying how

Iran threatens Mediterranean closure over Gaza, without saying how
Israeli navy soldiers prepare navy ship "Snapir" before setting out to the Mediterranean sea waters around the Gaza Strip, at the Israeli naval base in Ashdod, amid continuing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas (AFP)
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Updated 23 December 2023
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Iran threatens Mediterranean closure over Gaza, without saying how

Iran threatens Mediterranean closure over Gaza, without saying how
  • Iran backs Hamas against Israel and it accuses the United States of backing what it calls Israeli crimes in Gaza
  • Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group has over the past month attacked merchant vessels sailing through the Red Sea

An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander said the Mediterranean Sea could be closed if the United States and its allies continued to commit “crimes” in Gaza, Iranian media reported on Saturday, without explaining how that would happen.
Iran backs Hamas against Israel and it accuses the United States of backing what it calls Israeli crimes in Gaza, where weeks of bombardment have killed thousands of people and driven most of the population from their homes.
“They shall soon await the closure of the Mediterranean Sea, (the Strait of) Gibraltar and other waterways,” Tasnim quoted Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, coordinating commander of the Guards, as saying.
Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group has over the past month attacked merchant vessels sailing through the Red Sea in retaliation for Israel’s assault on Gaza, leading some shipping companies to switch routes.
The White House on Friday said Iran was “deeply involved” in planning operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea.
Iran has no direct access to the Mediterranean itself and it was not clear how the Guards could attempt to close it off, although Naqdi talked of “the birth of new powers of resistance and the closure of other waterways.”
“Yesterday, the Arabian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz became a nightmare for them, and today they are trapped ... in the Red Sea,” Naqdi was quoted as saying.
The only groups backed by Iran on the Mediterranean are Lebanon’s Hezbollah and allied militia in Syria, at the far end of the sea from Gibraltar.


Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis
Updated 41 min 16 sec ago
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Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

JERUSALEM: The Gaza war is speeding up Israel’s “annexation” of the Palestinian economy, say analysts, who argue it has been hobbled for decades by agreements that followed the Oslo peace accords.

While the Israel-Hamas war raging since Oct. 7 has devastated swaths of Gaza, it has also hit the public finances and wider economy of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel is tightening the noose on the Palestinian Authority, which rules parts of the West Bank, by withholding tax revenues it collects on its behalf, said economist Adel Samara.

Palestinian livelihoods have also been hurt by bans on laborers crossing into Israel and by a sharp downturn in tourism in the violence-plagued territory, including a quiet Christmas season in Bethlehem.

Samara said that “technically speaking, there is no Palestinian economy under Israeli occupation — Israel has effectively annexed our economy.”

The Palestinian economy is largely governed by the 1994 Paris Protocol, which granted sole control over the territories’ borders to Israel and, with it, the right to collect import duties and value-added tax for the Palestinian Authority.

Israel has repeatedly leveraged this power to deprive the authority of much-needed revenues.

But the Gaza war has further tightened Israel’s grip, Samara said, with the bulk of customs duties withheld since Hamas sparked the war with the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

“Without these funds, the Palestinian Authority struggles to pay the salaries of its civil servants and its running costs,” said Taher Al-Labadi, a researcher at the French Institute for the Near East.


UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza

 UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza
Updated 21 April 2024
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UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza

 UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza
  • Shoukry pointed out that the increase in Israeli assaults and illegal settlement practices in the West Bank raises the risk of the conflict erupting in the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territories

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese discussed the condition of human rights and Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territories on Sunday.

Shoukry received Albanese, the UN special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, in Cairo, where they called for an immediate end to Israeli attacks on Gaza in compliance with international laws and demanded the safe delivery of humanitarian aid.

They also called for a stop to mounting settler violence in the West Bank, demanding accountability of the perpetrators.

Shoukry pointed out that the increase in Israeli assaults and illegal settlement practices in the West Bank raises the risk of the conflict erupting in the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territories.

He warned of the security repercussions of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which undermines the stability of the broader region.

The foreign minister expressed regret over the reluctance of several countries so far to describe Israeli practices as a flagrant violation of international law.

Shoukry and Albanese discussed the status of human rights and the humanitarian condition of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Shoukry reiterated the need to stop Israel from implementing policies of collective punishment, indiscriminately targeting civilians, and displacing Palestinians from their lands.

The UN rapporteur denounced Israel’s refusal to allow her to conduct a field visit to the Gaza Strip and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Albanese expressed her deep concern for the catastrophic humanitarian situation Palestinians are experiencing and called on Israel to comply with its obligations under international law as the occupying power.

She also stressed her keenness to continue discussions with Egypt regarding ways to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians.

 


Arab League, UN cooperating on women’s security 

Arab League, UN cooperating on women’s security 
Updated 21 April 2024
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Arab League, UN cooperating on women’s security 

Arab League, UN cooperating on women’s security 
  • Agreement will develop the Arab Women’s Strategy for Security and Peace

RIYADH: The Arab League and United Nations Women Regional Office for Arab States signed a cooperation agreement, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

It was signed by Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Haifa Abu Ghazaleh and Susanne Mikhail Eldhagen, regional director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

Abu Ghazaleh highlighted the significance of cooperation in the “Women, Security and Peace” program. It will develop the Arab Women’s Strategy for Security and Peace as well as various national strategies across Arab countries, she added.

Eldhagen highlighted the challenges faced by women in conflict zones, including in Gaza. She hailed progress in women’s rights through cooperation between the UN and Arab League.
 


190 bodies found in mass grave in Gaza’s Nasser Medical Complex

190 bodies found in mass grave in Gaza’s Nasser Medical Complex
Updated 21 April 2024
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190 bodies found in mass grave in Gaza’s Nasser Medical Complex

190 bodies found in mass grave in Gaza’s Nasser Medical Complex
  • Civil defense department alleges claimed that some of those killed had been tortured by the Israeli military

LONDON: A mass grave containing 190 bodies has been discovered by Palestinian civil defense teams at the Nasser Medical Complex in the Gazan city of Khan Younis, Jordan News Agency reported on Sunday.

The civil defense department said the deceased were victims of an Israeli attack on the facility.

Mahmud Bassal, spokesman for the department, claimed that some of those killed had been tortured.

“There were no clothes on some bodies, which certainly indicates (the victims) faced torture and abuse,” Bassal told AFP

Search efforts are ongoing, with officials saying a significant number of victims remain buried at the site.

The department estimates that around 700 individuals have been killed and buried in mass graves within the complex since the Gaza conflict broke out on Oct. 7.

The discovery was made following the withdrawal of Israeli military forces from Khan Younis on April 7. 

Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians since the conflict began, at least two-thirds of them children and women, according to the enclave’s Health Ministry.

It says the real toll is likely higher as many bodies are stuck beneath rubble or are in areas that are unreachable.


Houthis launch ‘indoctrination’ summer camps

Abdul Malik Al-Houthi announced the opening of the annual summer camps on Saturday. (File/AFP)
Abdul Malik Al-Houthi announced the opening of the annual summer camps on Saturday. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 April 2024
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Houthis launch ‘indoctrination’ summer camps

Abdul Malik Al-Houthi announced the opening of the annual summer camps on Saturday. (File/AFP)
  • Children in Houthi camps taught how to make models for military equipment, sectarian ideas that inspire hatred, violence, says analyst 

AL-MUKALLA: The leader of the Houthi militia has called on families in regions under his control in Yemen to encourage their children to join summer camps, a move that has renewed accusations against the militia of child soldiering.

Abdul Malik Al-Houthi announced the opening of the annual summer camps on Saturday, saying they would fill in the free time of the country’s children during the summer and teach ideas rooted in the “faith identity” of Yemen, which would allegedly protect them from foreign ideas and also motivate them to confront their enemies. 

“The enemies are disturbed by the summer courses, and their media outlets usually start organized campaigns attacking the courses and those responsible for them,” Al-Houthi said, urging his supporters not to listen to critics. 

After their leader’s speech, Houthi officials in Sanaa, Hajjah, Hodeidah, and other areas controlled by the militia launched summer camps in their cities and encouraged parents to send their children. 

Similarly to summer camps in previous years, the Houthis have faced accusations from Yemeni government officials, journalists, activists, and human rights organizations that they exploit schools, mosques, and other facilities used for these camps to indoctrinate, recruit, and train children for military purposes against the government.

“The Houthi militia has converted these summer camps into mobilization camps before conscription. This is the initial step in the recruitment process,” Ali Al-Fakih, editor of Al-Masdar Online, told Arab News.

Instead of teaching children peace, human values, music, and sketching, Al-Fakih said, children in Houthi camps are taught sectarian ideas that inspire hatred, violence, and killing, as well as how to make models for military equipment.

“Unfortunately, all of the ideologies taught in these camps promote sectarianism, instigate hatred and violence, and create time bombs,” he said.

Videos from Houthi summer camps in recent years have shown Houthi figures instructing youngsters how to wield weapons while some children were taken on a tour of the graves of deceased Houthi warriors.

Other children were observed screaming Houthi slogans, professing allegiance to the militia leader, vowing to battle militia opponents such as Israel and America, and participating in mock military parades. 

Critics have warned families living in Houthi-controlled areas not to listen to the militia’s calls to join summer camps, noting that many graduates of those camps have turned their guns on their own families.  

“To parents in areas controlled by the terrorist Houthi militia, boycott Houthi summer camps to save your children’s lives. Beware of clerics, charlatans, and deceptive phrases,” said Saleh Al-Qutaibi, a Yemeni army officer in the central city of Marib.

In their most recent report to the UN Security Council, released late last year, the UN Panel of Experts accused the Houthis of committing the majority of human rights violations in Yemen, including child soldiering.

It said that Houthi summer camps exist in three forms: open summer camps for boys and girls, model summer camps for children, and closed residential summer camps where boys aged 13 to 17 spend at least a month without seeing anyone, including their families. The report said that the latter camps provide boys with military training.

To get youngsters into their camps, the Houthis offer incentives such as waiving their registration costs for the following school year. Families that refuse to send their children to the camps are penalized by being denied humanitarian help and having their children abducted and sent to the conflict. 

Al-Fakih said this year that Houthis in the province of Ibb would not release students’ school year results if they did not attend summer camps. 

“They tied the submission of results for the last school year to the student’s attendance at summer centers,” Al-Fakih said.