UK’s Cameron pressed over arms sales to Israel

UK’s Cameron pressed over arms sales to Israel
Cameron recommended arms sales to Israel be allowed to continue on Dec. 8 despite fears by Foreign Office officials over Israel’s military and humanitarian conduct in Gaza. (AFP)
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Updated 21 January 2024
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UK’s Cameron pressed over arms sales to Israel

UK’s Cameron pressed over arms sales to Israel
  • Foreign secretary chose to continue sale of equipment despite departmental fears over Israeli conduct in Gaza
  • Cameron tells select committee legal advice ‘consistent’ with government maintaining its stance

LONDON: UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron has been asked to clarify claims he made regarding arms sales to Israel by the chair of the UK’s foreign affairs select committee.

Cameron recommended arms sales to Israel be allowed to continue on Dec. 8 despite fears by Foreign Office officials over Israel’s military and humanitarian conduct in Gaza.

His decision was backed 10 days later by Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch, who agreed that Israel had not broken international humanitarian law.

On Jan. 9, Cameron was asked by the foreign affairs select committee about the decision not to suspend arms sales over fears IHL has been breached by Israel in its campaign against Hamas.

The committee’s chair, Alicia Kearns, asked Cameron to confirm whether a formal review of the decision had taken place. He admitted he held concerns about Israel’s conduct, but said: “My job is not to make a legal adjudication. I am not a lawyer.”

The foreign secretary did not tell MPs if he had received legal advice saying Israel had broken international humanitarian law, but said: “The legal advice I have received is consistent with the fact that we have not changed our export procedures.”

He told the committee: “What I have to do is act on the advice that I am given. That advice is based on what we believe is happening, so we ask a whole series of questions of the Israeli government about individual actions that are brought to our attention. We receive advice on that, consider that advice, and then pass it on to the department of trade for them to make the decision on arms exports.”

Foreign Office fears over Israel’s conduct were revealed in a business department affidavit handed to a court in London as part of a claim for a judicial review into arms sales to Israel brought by the Global Legal Action Network.

The papers showed the Foreign Office’s Export Control Joint Unit launched “a change in circumstances review” into arms sales after the conclusion of a Ministry of Defense review in November.

“Given the paucity of information, the scale and intensity of the conflict, the death toll, the unusual civilian population density coupled with their inability to evacuate and the concomitance mounting effects of the conflict on civilians, (the government’s) current inability to come to a clear assessment on Israel’s record of compliance with IHL poses significant policy risks,” the Foreign Office papers said.

The department subsequently sought assurances from the Israeli Embassy in London, but still informed Cameron on Dec. 8 that he had the option to stop arms sales or pause them.

“The availability of each of the options turned on the foreign secretary’s assessment of whether there is a clear risk that items would be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of IHL,” the papers said.

On Dec. 12, Cameron “decided that he was satisfied that there was good evidence to support a judgment that Israel is committed to comply with IHL. On the basis of that assessment in particular, the foreign secretary decided to recommend option 1 to the secretary of state for business and trade.”


UPDATE 2-Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Kyiv at ‘critical time’, Zelensky says

UPDATE 2-Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Kyiv at ‘critical time’, Zelensky says
Updated 5 sec ago
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UPDATE 2-Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Kyiv at ‘critical time’, Zelensky says

UPDATE 2-Germany to send new Patriot air defense system to Kyiv at ‘critical time’, Zelensky says
“I am grateful to the chancellor for the decision to supply another, additional Patriot system to Ukraine,” Zelensky said
He described their conversation as “important, productive” and said: “I call on all other leaders of partner states to follow this example“

KYIV: Germany will supply a US-made Patriot air defense system and air defense missiles to Ukraine at a “critical time” as Kyiv struggles to defend its energy system from Russian bombardment, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday.
More than two years into its full-scale invasion, Russia has staged three massive airstrikes on power stations and substations in recent weeks, prompting Kyiv to issue desperate appeals for supplies of high-end air defenses.
“I am grateful to the chancellor for the decision to supply another, additional Patriot system to Ukraine, as well as missiles for the existing air defense systems,” Zelensky said after speaking by telephone with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
He described their conversation as “important, productive” and said: “I call on all other leaders of partner states to follow this example.”
Germany will hand over the Patriot system immediately and it will be in addition to air defense systems that were already delivered and planned, the defense ministry said in a post on X.
An April 10 German government summary of arms and military equipment transfers to Ukraine included two Patriot systems on a list of air defense supplies already delivered, making this the third from Germany.
Zelensky said last week that Ukraine needed 25 US-made Patriot air defense systems to cover the country from Russian attacks.
In his statement on the Telegram app on Saturday, the Ukrainian leader said he and Scholz also discussed preparations for a reconstruction conference in Berlin and a peace summit in Switzerland in June.

Sydney knife attacker shot dead after killing 6 in Bondi mall

Sydney knife attacker shot dead after killing 6 in Bondi mall
Updated 13 April 2024
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Sydney knife attacker shot dead after killing 6 in Bondi mall

Sydney knife attacker shot dead after killing 6 in Bondi mall
  • Five of the six victims killed were women, while eight people were taken to hospital with stab wounds
  • Australia has some of world’s toughest gun and knife laws, attacks such as the one on Saturday are rare

SYDNEY: An attacker who fatally knifed six people in a Sydney mall was shot dead by police in the beachside suburb of Bondi on Saturday, police said, as hundreds fled the scene.
The assailant was shot by a police officer after he attacked shoppers in the busy Westfield Bondi Junction shopping center, police said in a statement.
Five of the six victims killed were women, while eight people, including a nine-month-old baby, were taken to hospital with stab wounds, New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb told a press conference.
Police at this stage do not believe the attack was terrorism-related, Webb said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said there was no indication yet of the man’s motive.
“This was a horrific act of violence, indiscriminately targeting innocent people going about an ordinary Saturday doing their shopping,” he told a press conference.
“Tonight the first thoughts of all Australians are with the victims of these terrible acts.”
Australia has some of the world’s toughest gun and knife laws, and attacks such as the one on Saturday are rare.
’ON THE RAMPAGE’
Emergency services were called to the mall, about three kilometers (1.9 miles) from Sydney’s iconic Bondi Beach and popular with children and families, just before 4 p.m. (0600 GMT) after the stabbing reports, police said.
Ayush Singh, 25, was working in a cafe in the mall when he saw the attack and then heard gunshots as police responded.
“I saw the guy with the knife running and chasing people. As he walked just past beside me I heard two or three gunshots and the guy was neutralized,” he told Reuters.
“People around me were terrified. There were some old ladies I helped to get them inside a safe place inside the cafe.”
Two other witnesses told Reuters they heard shots.
“Even 20 minutes after people were rushed out of the mall, I saw SWAT teams of people sweeping the surrounding streets,” one witness said.
The other witness said they saw a woman lying on the ground and took shelter in a jewelry store.
An eyewitness described the police officer shooting the attacker to state broadcaster ABC.
“If she did not shoot him, he would have kept going, he was on the rampage,” said the man, who did not give his name. “She went over and was giving him CPR. He had a nice big blade on him. He looked like he was on a killing spree.”
Several posts on social media showed crowds fleeing the mall and police cars and emergency services rushing to the area.
The mall will remain closed on Sunday while an investigation continues, police said.


Ukraine’s army chief says eastern front under intense Russian assault

Ukraine’s army chief says eastern front under intense Russian assault
Updated 13 April 2024
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Ukraine’s army chief says eastern front under intense Russian assault

Ukraine’s army chief says eastern front under intense Russian assault
  • Syrskyi said he traveled to the area to stabilize the front as Russian assault groups using tanks and armored personnel carriers took advantage of dry, warm weather
  • “This is linked primarily to the significant activization of offensive action by the enemy after the presidential elections in Russia,” he wrote on the Telegram app

KYIV: Ukraine’s army chief said on Saturday the situation on the eastern front had worsened in recent days as Russia has intensified its armored assaults and battles rage for control of a village west of the devastated city of Bakhmut.
The statement by Col. General Oleksandr Syrskyi more than two years since Russia’s invasion reflected the grim mood in Kyiv as vital US military aid that Kyiv expected to receive months ago remains stuck in Congress.
Syrskyi said he traveled to the area to stabilize the front as Russian assault groups using tanks and armored personnel carriers took advantage of dry, warm weather that has made it easier to maneuver.
“The situation on the eastern front in recent days has grown considerably more tense. This is linked primarily to the significant activization of offensive action by the enemy after the presidential elections in Russia,” he wrote on the Telegram app.
Since President Vladimir Putin won a new term in a stage-managed mid-March election, Russia has stepped up its attacks on Ukraine and unleashed three massive aerial strikes on its energy system, pounding power plants and substations.
The slowdown in military assistance from the West has left Ukraine more exposed to aerial attacks and heavily outgunned on the battlefield. Kyiv has made increasingly desperate appeals for supplies of air defense missiles in recent weeks.
Moscow’s forces, Syrskyi said, were taking significant losses during their attacks in the east, but were also making tactical gains.
Social media channels reported the fall of Ukraine’s eastern village of Bohdanivka to the west of the occupied city of Bakhmut, prompting Kyiv’s defense ministry to deny them.
But it acknowledged fierce fighting in the area and said Russian assault groups had reached the village’s northern outskirts overnight. “Bohdanivka is now under the control of the defense forces,” it said.
The settlement lies a few kilometers northeast of the town of Chasiv Yar, a Kyiv-controlled stronghold that Russia has been trying to reach after seizing the town of Avdiivka in February to the south.

SEIZE THE STRATEGIC INITIATIVE
Russia’s defense ministry said on Saturday its forces had captured Pervomaiske, a village to the south also located in Ukraine’s Donetsk region where Moscow has focused its offensive operations for months.
Moscow said its troops had improved their tactical position on the front line there after capturing the village 8 kilometers (4.97 miles) southwest of occupied Avdiivka. Kyiv did not immediately comment on the status of Pervomaiske.
Syrskyi said Russian armored assault groups were attacking on the fronts of Lyman as well as Bakhmut and using dozens of tanks and armored personnel carriers to try to break through lines on the Pokrovsk front.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has warned Russia may be preparing a big offensive push in late May or in June, inspected domestically-produced weapons at an event outside Kyiv where he presented state awards to Ukrainian arms producers.
At the event, Ukraine’s military drone forces chief said supplies of drones to the front lines this year were already three times higher than the volume supplied over the course of the whole of last year, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency reported.
He also said Ukraine had strike drones capable of flying 1,200 km.
In his statement, Syrskyi said only a technological edge over Russia in sophisticated weapons would allow Kyiv “to seize the strategic initiative” from a better equipped and larger foe.
He called for better training for soldiers and in particular infantry, a clear reference to Ukraine’s manpower challenges.
Ukraine’s parliament passed a bill on Thursday to overhaul how the armed forces draft civilians into the ranks. Zelensky also signed legislation last week lowering the draft age from 27 to 25.


UK’s Prince William, wife Kate, ‘saddened’ by Sydney stabbing

UK’s Prince William, wife Kate, ‘saddened’ by Sydney stabbing
Updated 13 April 2024
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UK’s Prince William, wife Kate, ‘saddened’ by Sydney stabbing

UK’s Prince William, wife Kate, ‘saddened’ by Sydney stabbing
  • “We are shocked and saddened by the terrible events in Sydney earlier today,” the Prince and Princess of Wales said
  • The 41-year-old William’s father King Charles III is the monarch of Australia

LONDON: Britain’s Prince William and his wife Catherine said Saturday they were “shocked and saddened” by a stabbing at a shopping center in Sydney that left six people dead and several others wounded.
The incident occurred at the sprawling Westfield Bondi Junction mall complex, which was packed with thousands of Saturday afternoon shoppers.
Australian police said multiple people were stabbed by the unidentified assailant, who was tracked down and shot dead by a policewoman.
“We are shocked and saddened by the terrible events in Sydney earlier today,” the Prince and Princess of Wales said in a post on the social media site X.


“Our thoughts are with all those affected, including the loved ones of those lost and the heroic emergency responders who risked their own lives to save others. W & C,” they added.
The 41-year-old William’s father King Charles III is the monarch of Australia.
Catherine announced last month that she was undergoing treatment for a cancer discovered following abdominal surgery.
Her shock disclosure came after Charles revealed that he was receiving treatment for an unspecified cancer.
Both have taken a back seat from frontline royal duties as they recuperate.


How Ramadan, Eid celebrations helped Filipinos nurture closer ties with Palestinians

How Ramadan, Eid celebrations helped Filipinos nurture closer ties with Palestinians
Updated 13 April 2024
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How Ramadan, Eid celebrations helped Filipinos nurture closer ties with Palestinians

How Ramadan, Eid celebrations helped Filipinos nurture closer ties with Palestinians
  • Iftar and Eid initiatives with Palestinian evacuees from Gaza attracted hundreds of Filipino Muslims and non-Muslims
  • 170 Filipino Palestinians and their closest family members were evacuated from Gaza by the Philippine government

MANILA: For Carmelita Jalova, this year’s Ramadan was the first in decades observed away from Palestine.

After marrying a Palestinian man, Jalova moved from the Philippines to her new family’s home in Gaza and had been living there ever since — until Israel’s deadly invasion forced her to leave.

Jalova was among 170 Filipino Palestinians evacuated from Gaza by the Philippine government in November.

For most of them, Eid celebrations this week were the first time they had spent the main Muslim holiday away from extended families and friends.

“Our first Ramadan here in the Philippines after almost 30 years is so different than what it was in Palestine,” Jalova said, as she remembered the scent of authentic traditional pastry that filled her neighborhood as everyone prepared for Eid, the busy streets of Gaza as people would gather for evening prayers, and “the smiles and happy faces, full of hope that their prayers and fasting will be answered by Allah.”

Following some initial help from the Philippine government, most of the evacuees after their arrival were left to their own devices until civil society groups stepped in.

One such group was the Moro-Palestinian Cooperation Team, which has been helping them with accommodation and finding means of subsistence in the Philippines. Among the initiatives were a pop-up kitchen that introduced Filipinos to traditional Palestinian cuisine during Ramadan, and participation in a halal food bazaar in the Quezon City Memorial Circle on Eid.

For Jalova and her children, it was their first time selling home-cooked food.

“They were so amazed during the bazaar, maybe because we ran out of food in such a very short time,” she said. “It gives them the confidence to go on ... acceptance of what we are dealing (with) right now.”

The culinary initiatives drew hundreds of Filipinos curious to taste iconic dishes from Palestine and meet the refugees in person. Their presence and the support of volunteers was what made this year’s holy month unforgettable for Jalova and her family.

“So thankful that all of them became a part of our Ramadan,” she said. “(It’s) so meaningful and unforgettable.”

While many in Gaza have lost all their relatives as Israeli ground and air attacks have in the past six months killed at least 33,600 people, the evacuated Filipinos and their closest Palestinian family members were grateful they were together and alive.

Mariam Lacson, whose family lives in Little Gaza, sees this Ramadan as a blessing as those in the community can still spend time with their loved ones.

“Maybe Allah has a better plan for us, that’s why we are here in the Philippines,” said Lacson, whose closest Palestinian family found refuge in her native country.

“(We have a) place to stay, food on our table. We feel safe, especially since we have brothers and sisters around us, who are tirelessly there for us.”

One of the people she had in mind was Kamilah Dimaporo Manala-o, the co-founder of the Moro-Palestinian Cooperation Team.

Since the arrival of Gaza evacuees, Manala-o’s family has been involved in building and supporting their community, with interactions especially frequent and close during the holy fasting month.

“We spent our Ramadan with the Filipino Palestinian refugees that came from Gaza. It has been very eventful because of them and also very rewarding,” Manala-o told Arab News.

“During the last night of Ramadan, the Palestinian fathers gave us a heartwarming speech about how thankful they are, that we have become family to them and have made it easier for them. This Ramadan has been the most meaningful one for us. And their words made everything worth it.”

Like Manala-o and her team, other Filipinos, too, have stepped up to help the refugees settle in the Philippines and ensure they enjoy meaningful Eid celebrations.

Filipino Muslim doctor Naheeda Mustofa and her husband Mustofa Mardjuki, who serves as the imam of the Indonesian embassy in Manila, hosted 37 refugees at her clinical facility’s compound at the Islamic Studies, Call and Guidance of the Philippines in Cavite.

While most of the refugees have since moved on to other places, Mustofa remains in touch with them and has employed some at her clinic.

Her family would usually travel to Indonesia to observe Eid Al-Fitr, but this time they decided to stay and host special celebrations that were accompanied by rituals for three new babies that were born to the refugees.

“We were really happy to celebrate the three babies ... we used to go home to south Sumatra to celebrate Eid with my husband’s relatives, but we put this on hold,” she said.

“We are not rich at all, but Allah is making us feel rich with the tasks we are able to take up.”