In former haven, Sudanese terrified by paramilitaries

In former haven, Sudanese terrified by paramilitaries
A communications blackout has made information scarce from Sudan’s Al-Jazira state, which paramilitaries pushed into in December, but rare interviews with residents have detailed grim conditions in the former safe haven. (AFP/File)
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Updated 02 March 2024
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In former haven, Sudanese terrified by paramilitaries

In former haven, Sudanese terrified by paramilitaries
  • One resident told AFP that Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo’s Rapid Support Forces shot at dozens of people in the village of Baranko last week
  • Al-Jazira, in central Sudan, had become a refuge for those fleeing the fighting in and around the capital Khartoum

PORT SUDAN, Sudan: A communications blackout has made information scarce from Sudan’s Al-Jazira state, which paramilitaries pushed into in December, but rare interviews with residents have detailed grim conditions in the former safe haven.
One resident, who requested anonymity for their safety, told AFP that Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF) shot at dozens of people in the village of Baranko last week.
The testimony adds to a litany of abuses during more than 10 months of war between Dagalo’s forces and Sudan’s army led by Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.
The United Nations human rights chief on Friday said Sudanese civilians are living in “sheer terror” and both sides had consistently acted with impunity for multiple rights violations.
“On February 22, the militia fired on dozens of residents who were protesting against the arrest of several young people guarding the houses,” said the resident of Baranko, about halfway between state capital Wad Madani and Khartoum to the north.
Multiple local sources reported 18 wounded in the shooting, a few of whom managed to reach a hospital in Shendi, 250 kilometers to the north, by taking side roads.
Breaking the communications siege via a rare satellite phone call, the anonymous resident told AFP that young men have been taking turns guarding houses at night.
It is a modest attempt to protect the homes from pillage, a signature RSF tactic.
The paramilitary force is the descendant of the Janjaweed militia, which began a scorched earth campaign in Sudan’s western Darfur area more than two decades ago under strongman Omar Al-Bashir.
Washington has accused both sides of war crimes, and said the RSF also carried out ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
Al-Jazira, in central Sudan, had become a refuge for those fleeing the fighting in and around the capital Khartoum.
But in December, the RSF swept into the former breadbasket and proceeded to kill and plunder, witnesses told AFP at the time.
The war has killed thousands, uprooted eight million people and led the country to the edge of famine, aid agencies have warned.
According to UN figures, nearly half a million people had sought refuge in Al-Jazira, including in Wad Madani, but the fighting eventually caught up with them there too, sending thousands fleeing again.
Then on February 7, the Internet and telephones were cut off.
Many residents hope to leave Al-Jazira for somewhere safe, but getting away is not easy, said another Al-Jazira resident, Al-Samani, who only gave his first name out of fear of reprisal.
He lives in the village of Tabet, 80 kilometers northwest of Wad Madani, and spoke to AFP during a brief window of phone signal.
Buses have either been stolen or run out of fuel in a country where service stations have not been resupplied because of closed roads or challenges moving between areas under rival control.
Even for those lucky enough to find a bus and fuel, they need funds but “leaving is difficult because you have to pay, but online payment applications are paralyzed” without Internet, said Samani.
In the past 10 months in Sudan, the economy has gone mostly virtual, after a rise in cash thefts that often ruined families.
The mobile app for the country’s main bank allows users to wire money, to collect tickets and pay for purchases in stores. But it requires an Internet connection, which is no longer functioning.
“For a week, militiamen have been attacking houses and terrorizing women to steal their gold jewelry,” an essential dowry in Sudan, Samani told AFP.
“And there is not a tractor or agricultural tool they have not looted.”
In the nearby village of Abu Adara, “five inhabitants were killed by the RSF on February 25,” a local group, known as a resistance committee, reported.
The resistance committees used to organize pro-democracy protests but now provide aid during the war.
Throughout Al-Jazira during the past week, the resistance committee recorded 86 deaths, as well as others wounded, in 53 villages hit by RSF violence.
Amid the blackout, prices are constantly rising, residents say.
One liter of fuel now costs 25,000 Sudanese pounds, or about $20.
One kilogram (2.2 pounds) of meat, once priced at 6,000 Sudanese pounds before the RSF arrived, has doubled in cost.
RSF fighters took over swathes of land in Al-Jazira, leaving farmers unable to tend their crops, and accelerating economic damage on top of the looting.
With Sudan having lost “80 percent of its income because of the war,” according to Finance Minister Gibril Ibrahim, an army loyalist, imports have nearly disappeared, compounding the struggle for survival in Al-Jazira state.


US and UK issue new sanctions on Iran in response to Tehran’s weekend attack on Israel

An Iranian military truck carries parts of a Sayad 4-B missile past a portrait of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
An Iranian military truck carries parts of a Sayad 4-B missile past a portrait of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Updated 3 sec ago
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US and UK issue new sanctions on Iran in response to Tehran’s weekend attack on Israel

An Iranian military truck carries parts of a Sayad 4-B missile past a portrait of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
  • Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control targeted 16 people and two entities in Iran that produce engines that power the drones used in the April 13 attack on Israel
  • UK is targeting several Iranian military organizations, individuals and entities involved in Iran’s drone and ballistic missile industries

WASHINGTON: The US and UK on Thursday imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran as concern grows that Tehran’s unprecedented attack on Israel could fuel a wider war in the Middle East.
Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control targeted 16 people and two entities in Iran that produce engines that power the drones used in the April 13 attack on Israel. Additionally, the UK is targeting several Iranian military organizations, individuals and entities involved in Iran’s drone and ballistic missile industries.
“We will continue to deploy our sanctions authority to counter Iran with further actions in the days and weeks ahead,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
The action comes after US officials earlier this week warned that they were readying new sanctions in response to Iran’s activity in the region and to prevent future attacks. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill also have been quickly pushing forward legislation that would financially punish the Islamic Republic and its leaders.
Iran’s attack on Israel early Sunday came in response to what it says was an Israeli strike on Iran’s consulate in Syria earlier this month. Israel’s military chief said Monday that his country will respond to the Iranian attack, while world leaders caution against retaliation, trying to avoid a spiral of violence.
European Union leaders also vowed on Wednesday to ramp up sanctions on Iran, targeting its drone and missile deliveries to proxies in Gaza, Yemen and Lebanon.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the existing EU sanctions regime would be strengthened and expanded to punish Tehran and help prevent future attacks on Israel. At the same time, he said, Israel needed to exercise restraint.
“I don’t want to exaggerate, but we are on the edge of a war, a regional war in the Middle East, which will be sending shockwaves to the rest of the world, and in particular to Europe,” he warned. “So stop it.”


Israel bombs Gaza as Middle East tense after Iranian attack

A Palestinian carries a gas cooker as he walks amidst the debris of a destroyed building in the city of Nuseirat.
A Palestinian carries a gas cooker as he walks amidst the debris of a destroyed building in the city of Nuseirat.
Updated 16 min 50 sec ago
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Israel bombs Gaza as Middle East tense after Iranian attack

A Palestinian carries a gas cooker as he walks amidst the debris of a destroyed building in the city of Nuseirat.
  • “We are on the edge of a war in the Middle East which will be sending shock-waves to the rest of the world,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said
  • Iran has warned of “a fierce and severe response” if Israel launches any further attacks after seven of its Revolutionary Guards died in the consular strike

JERUSALEM: Israel launched more deadly strikes on besieged Gaza on Thursday as world powers watched nervously whether the country would retaliate against a weekend attack by its arch enemy Iran.
The Israeli army said it had bombed dozens of targets in the Palestinian coastal territory of 2.4 million people, more than six months into the bloodiest ever Gaza war.
Weeks of talks toward an Israel-Hamas truce and hostage release deal have stalled, according to Qatar’s prime minister who said the Gulf emirate was now “reassessing our role as mediator.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed to destroy Hamas over its October 7 attack on Israel, also stressed on Wednesday that Israel “reserves the right to protect itself” against Iran.
The Islamic republic last weekend carried out its first ever attack to directly target its regional foe but Israel, backed by its allies, intercepted most of the 300 missiles and drones and suffered no deaths.
Iran’s attack was retaliation for an April 1 air strike, which it blamed on Israel, on the consular annex of its embassy in Damascus.
The international community has urged de-escalation since Iran’s attack on Israel which came after months of high tensions and violence involving Israel and Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
“We are on the edge of a war in the Middle East which will be sending shock-waves to the rest of the world,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said ahead of a G7 meeting in Capri, Italy.
Iran has warned of “a fierce and severe response” if Israel launches any further attacks after seven of its Revolutionary Guards died in the consular strike.
However, Tehran had also sought to calm tensions through indirect diplomatic channels with its other major adversary, the United States, which is Israel’s top ally and military supplier.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, in New York for a UN meeting, said Iran had “tried to tell the United States clearly” that it is “not looking for the expansion of tension in the region.”
Washington has made clear it won’t join any Israeli attack on Iran, but has pledged to instead impose new punitive sanctions against Iran.
The European Union on Wednesday said it would impose new sanctions on Iran’s drone and missile producers.
Israeli public broadcaster Kan said Netanyahu, after discussions with US President Joe Biden, decided not to proceed with pre-arranged plans for retaliatory strikes on Iran.
“Diplomatic sensitivities came into play,” a senior Israeli official told Kan, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official added that there would be a response, but that it would be different to the one initially planned.
US broadcaster ABC News, citing three unnamed Israeli sources, reported that Israel had “prepared for and then aborted retaliatory strikes against Iran on at least two nights this past week.”
Among the range of possible responses considered by Israel were an attack on Iranian proxies in the region or a cyberattack, the sources told ABC.
German airline Lufthansa extended its suspension of flights to and from Tehran and Beirut to the end of April and said its planes would continue avoiding Iranian airspace.
Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz welcomed a European Union announcement of sanctions on Iran as “an important step” and wrote on X that “Iran must be stopped now before it is too late.”
Iran’s attack on Israel “is succeeding in taking the focus, particularly the media spotlight, off of the Gaza famine and the Gaza war and the loss of life that is taking place there,” Roxane Farmanfarmaian, a Middle East/North Africa specialist at the University of Cambridge’s POLIS department, told AFP.
“And that was very much I think what Israel planned to do,” she said.
An AFP correspondent in Gaza said Israeli artillery shelling and aircraft strikes again hit Gaza City overnight.
The Israeli military said it struck dozens of militant targets over the past day.
The war started after Hamas launched their unprecedented attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people in southern Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
The militants also took about 250 hostages. Israel estimates 129 remain in Gaza, including 34 who are presumed dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,970 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the latest toll on Thursday from the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.
Gaza’s civil defense said Thursday it had recovered 11 more bodies in the southern city of Khan Yunis during the night.
Israel had also bombed the far-southern city of Rafah.
Gaza rescue crews recovered the corpses of eight family members, including five children and two women, from a house in Rafah’s Al-Salam neighborhood, the civil defense service said.
One woman in Rafah, Jamalat Ramidan, told AFP she and crying children fled the carnage of a strike, stumbling over “body parts and corpses scattered all over the place.”
Talks toward a ceasefire have stalled, said Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, despite months of effort also involving United States and Egyptian officials.
He said his country was undertaking “a complete re-evaluation of its role because there has been damage to Qatar,” which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
Israel has faced growing global opposition to the Gaza war, which the United Nations and aid agencies say has left the north of the territory on the brink of famine.
Netanyahu on Wednesday rejected this, saying Israeli efforts were “above and beyond” what is needed “on the humanitarian issue,” his office said.
The UN Security Council was preparing to vote soon on an Algeria-drafted resolution for full United Nations membership for a Palestinian state, diplomatic sources said.
However, the veto-wielding United States has repeatedly expressed opposition to such a move.


Dubai Airport will return to full operational capacity within 24 hours, COO says

Dubai Airport will return to full operational capacity within 24 hours, COO says
Updated 18 April 2024
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Dubai Airport will return to full operational capacity within 24 hours, COO says

Dubai Airport will return to full operational capacity within 24 hours, COO says
  • The hub has struggled to clear a backlog of flights in the aftermath of heavy rain that swamped the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday

DUBAI: Dubai International Airport will return to its full operational capacity within 24 hours, Dubai Airports Chief Operating Officer Majed Al-Joker told state news agency WAM on Thursday.
The hub has struggled to clear a backlog of flights in the aftermath of heavy rain that swamped the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday.
“Once operations are back to normal, we will assess the damages and would be able to give figure for the size of losses,” Al Joker told Al Arabiya TV in a televised interview.


British MPs urge government to designate IRGC a terror group

British MPs urge government to designate IRGC a terror group
Updated 18 April 2024
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British MPs urge government to designate IRGC a terror group

British MPs urge government to designate IRGC a terror group
  • Signatories to open letter say Iranian organization has ‘never posed a greater threat to UK’
  • Proscription would put Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on par with Daesh, Al-Qaeda

LONDON: A cross-party group of more than 50 MPs and Lords peers in the UK have demanded that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be designated a terrorist organization.

The cross-party group, which includes former home secretaries Suella Braverman and Priti Patel, made the request in an open letter to The Times.

The IRGC is a key component of Iran’s military and power-projection capabilities. More than 125,000 personnel serve in its ranks, spread across wings including the Quds Force, the overseas element responsible for liaising with and supporting militias in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. In recent years, the IRGC has also built a relationship with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The open letter, signed by 134 people, follows last weekend’s Iranian attack on Israel, which signatories described as the “latest chapter of destructive terror by the IRGC.”

It says: “The government has combated extremism and terrorism by proscribing Hamas and Hezbollah but it is not enough.

“The IRGC is the primary source of ideological radicalisation, funding, equipment and training for these groups.

“The government must act against the root cause and proscribe the IRGC as a terrorist organisation.”

Iran’s attack was a response to Israel’s strike on its consulate in Damascus that killed 11 people, including senior commanders.

Former US President Donald Trump designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization in 2019, a year before the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force.

But the UK has been reluctant to follow the US measure for fear of breaking diplomatic communication channels with Tehran.

As part of sanctions on Iran targeting its nuclear program, however, the UK sanctioned the IRGC, freezing the assets of its members and implementing travel bans.

A terrorist designation in the UK would put the IRGC on par with Daesh and Al-Qaeda, and make it illegal to support the group, with a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.

The 134 signatories said the IRGC has “never posed a greater threat to the UK,” accusing “thugs” belonging to the group of stabbing an Iranian dissident in London last month.

The letter was coordinated by the UK-Israel All Parliamentary Party Group, which includes former Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick.


Iran tells US it does not seek ‘expansion of tensions’

Iran tells US it does not seek ‘expansion of tensions’
Updated 18 April 2024
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Iran tells US it does not seek ‘expansion of tensions’

Iran tells US it does not seek ‘expansion of tensions’
  • Tehran carried out its first-ever direct attack on Israel, firing drones and missiles on the weekend
  • Top envoy: Iran communicated with Washington ‘before and after’ launching its attack on Israel

TEHRAN: Iran’s top diplomat said Thursday his country has told the United States that it is not seeking escalation after an unprecedented attack on Israel.
The Islamic republic carried out its first-ever direct attack on Israel, firing drones and missiles on the weekend. The barrage — to which Israel’s army chief has vowed a response — was retaliation for an April 1 air strike on Tehran’s consulate in Damascus. Iran blamed Israel for the consular attack.
Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who is in New York to attend a UN Security Council meeting, said his country has “tried to tell the United States clearly” that Iran is “not looking for the expansion of tension in the region,” he said in a video posted by his ministry.
Iran and the United States have had no diplomatic relations since 1980, but neutral Switzerland represents Washington’s interests in Iran. Both the US and Iran have alluded to the Swiss role as an intermediary.
According to Amir-Abdollahian, Iran communicated with Washington “before and after” launching its attack on Israel.
Iran informed the United States that the decision by the Islamic Republic of Iran to “respond to the (Israel) regime is final,” and the matter concluded, he said.
Iran’s retaliation against Israel left a girl severely wounded but caused little damage. It followed the strike in Damascus that killed seven members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, including two generals.
“Before the operation, we clearly told the American side that we will not target American bases and interests in the region,” Amir-Abdollahian said.
The Islamic republic has celebrated the attack as a success but President Ebrahim Raisi warned of “a fierce and severe response” to further “aggression” by Israel.
During his trip to New York, Amir-Abdollahian is set to meet United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his counterparts from other countries.
The United States, Israel’s top ally, has said it would soon impose new sanctions on Iran’s missile and drone program following the strike on Israel, and said it expects allies to take parallel measures.
The US and other allies helped Israel intercept the Iranian strike.