In blunt remarks, US Vice President Harris calls out Israel over ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza

US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the Edmund Pettus Bridge during an event to commemorate the 59th anniversary of
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US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the Edmund Pettus Bridge during an event to commemorate the 59th anniversary of "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, Alabama, on March 3, 2024. (AFP)
In blunt remarks, US Vice President Harris calls out Israel over ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza
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Mother of the Palestinian twins Wesam and Naeem Abu Anza, who were born during the conflict between Israel and Hamas and were killed in Israeli air strikes, reacts during their funeral, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip March 3, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 04 March 2024
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In blunt remarks, US Vice President Harris calls out Israel over ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza

In blunt remarks, US Vice President Harris calls out Israel over ‘catastrophe’ in Gaza
  • Says Israel must open new border crossings and not impose any unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of aid
  • She also urged Hamas to agree to an immediate six-week ceasefire as Cairo talks begin
  • Israel boycotted the talks after Hamas rejected its demand for a complete list naming hostages that are still alive, according to an Israeli newspaper

CAIRO/RAFAH, Gaza Strip: US Vice President Kamala Harris on Sunday demanded Palestinian militant group Hamas agree to an immediate six-week ceasefire while forcefully urging Israel to do more to boost aid deliveries into Gaza, where she said innocent people were suffering a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

In some of the strongest comments by a senior leader of the US government to date on the issue, Harris pressed the Israeli government and outlined specific ways on how more aid can flow into the densely-populated enclave where hundreds of thousands of people are facing famine, following five months of Israel’s military campaign.
“Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire,” Harris said at an event in Selma, Alabama. “There is a deal on the table, and as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal. Let’s get a ceasefire.”
“People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane and our common humanity compels us to act...The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses,” she said.

On Sunday, a Hamas delegation had arrived in Cairo for the latest round of ceasefire talks, billed by many as the final possible hurdle for a truce, but it was unclear if any progress was made. Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth’s online version reported that Israel boycotted the talks after Hamas rejected its demand for a complete list naming hostages who are still alive.
Washington has insisted the ceasefire deal is close and has been pushing to put in place a truce by the start of Ramadan, a week away. A US official on Saturday said Israel has agreed on a framework deal.
An agreement would bring the first extended truce of the war, which has raged for five months so far with just a week-long pause in November. Dozens of hostages held by Hamas militants would be freed in return for hundreds of Palestinian detainees.
One source briefed on the talks had said on Saturday that Israel could stay away from Cairo unless Hamas first presented its full list of hostages who are still alive. A Palestinian source told Reuters that Hamas had so far rejected that demand.

After the Hamas delegation arrived, a Palestinian official told Reuters the deal was “not yet there.” There was no official comment from Israel.
In past negotiations, Hamas has sought to avoid discussing the well-being of individual hostages until after terms for their release are set.
In other diplomatic moves, Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz will meet Harris at the White House on Monday and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Tuesday. US envoy Amos Hochstein will visit Beirut on Monday to pursue efforts to de-escalate the conflict across the Lebanese-Israeli border.

“Gunfire and chaos“
The death last week of more than 100 Palestinians approaching an aid truck in Gaza has captured the severe humanitarian crisis in the densely-populated enclave, an incident Harris recalled during her speech.
“We saw hungry, desperate people approach aid trucks simply trying to secure food for their family after weeks of barely any aid reaching northern Gaza and they were met with gunfire and chaos,” Harris said.
Israel said on Sunday its initial review of the incident had found that most of those killed or wounded had died in a stampede. Military spokesman Daniel Hagari said Israeli troops at the scene initially fired only warning shots, though they later shot at some “looters” who “approached our forces and posed an immediate threat.”




A Palestinian girl carries a child through the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on March 3, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement. (AFP)

Muatasem Salah, a member of the Emergency Committee at the Ministry of Health in Gaza, told Reuters the Israeli account was contradicted by machine gun wounds.
In her comments, Harris laid out specific ways on how the Israeli government can allow more aid into Gaza. “They must open new border crossings. They must not impose any unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of aid. They must ensure humanitarian personnel, sites and convoys are not targeted, and they must work to restore basic services and promote order in Gaza, so more food, water and fuel can reach those in need.”
Under pressure at home and abroad, the Biden administration on Saturday carried out its first airdrop of aid into the coastal enclave, with a US military transport plane dropping 38,000 meals along Gaza’s Mediterranean coastline.
Critics of airdrops say they have only a limited impact on the suffering, and that it is nearly impossible to ensure supplies do not end up in the hands of militants.
The United States will continue these airdrops, Harris said, and added that Washington was working on a new route by sea to also send aid.
The war was unleashed in October after Hamas fighters stormed through Israeli towns killing 1,200 people and capturing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Since then, Israeli forces have killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities.
Swathes of the Gaza Strip have been laid to waste, nearly the entire population has been made homeless, and the United Nations estimates a quarter of Gazans are on the verge of famine.
At a morgue outside a Rafah hospital on Sunday morning, women wept and wailed beside rows of bodies of the Abu Anza family, 14 of whom Gaza health authorities say were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah overnight.
The youngest of the family who were killed were infant twins Wesam and Naaem, the first children of their mother after 11 years of marriage. They were born a few weeks into the Gaza war.
“My heart is gone,” wailed Rania Abu Anza, who also lost her husband in the attack. “I haven’t had enough time with them.”

 


 

 

 


India’s Congress seeks action against Modi for ‘objectionable’ comments about Muslims

India’s Congress seeks action against Modi for ‘objectionable’ comments about Muslims
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India’s Congress seeks action against Modi for ‘objectionable’ comments about Muslims

India’s Congress seeks action against Modi for ‘objectionable’ comments about Muslims
  • Modi, who is seeking a third consecutive term, referred to Muslims as ‘infiltrators’ during Sunday’s speech
  • Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said Modi’s ‘deeply objectionable’ statement violated sections of law

NEW DELHI: India’s main opposition Congress party petitioned the Election Commission on Monday to act against Prime Minister Narendra Modi for making what it said were “deeply objectionable” comments about Muslims that violated election laws.

Modi, who is seeking a rare third consecutive term, referred to Muslims as “infiltrators” during a campaign speech on Sunday, drawing widespread criticism from opposition groups.

In his speech, Modi said the Congress election manifesto promised to confiscate and redistribute the wealth of Indians, which it denies.

Modi said if the party adhered to remarks in 2006 of then Congress Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that minority Muslims should have the “first claim on resources” to share in the fruits of development, then wealth would be distributed to “infiltrators” and those who have “more children.”

Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its affiliates often refer to Muslim militants illegally crossing the border from Pakistan as infiltrators.

They have also criticized Muslims for their higher birth rates and invoked fears that India’s Muslim population would overtake that of its majority Hindus.

India’s estimated 200 million Muslims make up the world’s third-largest Muslim population. India has a population of 1.42 billion people.

Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said Modi’s “deeply objectionable” statement violated sections of the law that prohibit candidates from asking people to vote or refrain from voting for anyone on the grounds of “religion,” “community” or “religious symbols.”

“We have asked the Election Commission to state that this is the position in law,” Singhvi told reporters, urging it to act against Modi in the same way it would against anyone else accused of similar offenses.

The Election Commission did not respond to a request for comment.

Modi’s government has repeatedly been accused of discrimination against Muslims, with civil society, opposition groups, and some foreign governments raising concerns over decisions they say are aimed at fanning discrimination and keeping the BJP in power.

The government has denied all accusations, and Modi has said he works for the betterment of all.

Under election laws, the Election Commission can ask a party or its leader to respond to a complaint, issue adviseries cautioning them or prohibit them from campaigning for a specified period, or launch a criminal case against repeat offenders. India’s seven-week election began on April 19 and will end on June 1, with results due on June 4.


Macron discusses MidEast crisis with Israel’s Netanyahu, Egypt’s El-Sisi

Macron discusses MidEast crisis with Israel’s Netanyahu, Egypt’s El-Sisi
Updated 22 April 2024
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Macron discusses MidEast crisis with Israel’s Netanyahu, Egypt’s El-Sisi

Macron discusses MidEast crisis with Israel’s Netanyahu, Egypt’s El-Sisi
  • Macron had also reiterated to Netanyahu that France wanted an immediate and lasting ceasefire in Gaza

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron held phone calls on Monday with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to discuss ways of avoiding an escalation in the Middle East crisis, said France and Egypt.
The French presidency said Macron, in his call with Netanyahu, had reaffirmed Paris’s desire to avoid an escalation in the Middle East and to stand up to what it said were Iran’s efforts to destabilize the region.
The French presidency added that Macron had also reiterated to Netanyahu that France wanted an immediate and lasting ceasefire in Gaza and said Paris was working to ease tensions arising from clashes on the border between Israel and Lebanon.
In a separate statement, Egyptian presidential spokesperson Ahmed Fahmy said Macron had also discussed the Middle East crisis with the Egyptian leader and that both Macron and El-Sisi had agreed on the need to avoid further regional escalation.


India’s Kohli fined for angry outburst at IPL umpires

India’s Kohli fined for angry outburst at IPL umpires
Updated 22 April 2024
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India’s Kohli fined for angry outburst at IPL umpires

India’s Kohli fined for angry outburst at IPL umpires
  • Kohli fell early in Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s chase after he was caught by Kolkata Knight Riders Harshit Rana
  • Visuals on social media showed Kohli having discussion with umpire after the match as pundits weighed in on dismissal

NEW DELHI: India star Virat Kohli has been fined half his match fee for an angry outburst in response to his dismissal from an Indian Premier League match, the league said Monday.

Kohli fell early in Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s chase on Sunday after he was caught and bowled by Kolkata Knight Riders pace bowler Harshit Rana and his team went on to lose by one run at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens.

But the former India captain looked confident the high full-toss was above his waist as the umpires checked for a no-ball.

TV umpire Michael Gough declared it out after technology suggested the trajectory of the ball dipped below the waist of the batsman, who returned furious after exchanging words with the on-field officials.

“Kohli committed a Level 1 offense under Article 2.8 of the IPL’s Code of Conduct,” an IPL statement said.

“He admitted to the offense and accepted the Match Referee’s sanction.”

Visuals on social media showed Kohli having a long discussion with an umpire after the match ended and pundits weighed in on the dismissal.

Former India batsman Navjot Singh Sidhu slammed the call and asked for the “rules to be changed“

Ex-India quick Irfan Pathan said on X, formerly Twitter, “if Virat Kohli was standing at the popping crease the ball would have been lower than his measured waist height, making it a legal delivery.”

Kohli has been the top run-getter in the T20 tournament so far with 379 runs in eight matches but his team Bengaluru remains bottom of the 10-team table with just one win.


Philippines, US forces to take military drills into disputed South China Sea

Philippines, US forces to take military drills into disputed South China Sea
Updated 22 April 2024
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Philippines, US forces to take military drills into disputed South China Sea

Philippines, US forces to take military drills into disputed South China Sea
  • More than 16,000 Filipino, American soldiers are involved in the annual exercises this year
  • Beijing, Philippines have overlapping claims in the resource-rich South China Sea

MANILA: Filipino and US forces began their annual joint military drills on Monday, segments of which will, for the first time, take place outside of the Philippines’ territorial waters following a string of maritime clashes between Manila and Beijing in the disputed South China Sea.

The exercises, known as Balikatan — Tagalog for shoulder-to-shoulder — will run up until May 10 and involve over 16,000 military personnel, along with more than 250 Australian and French forces.

For the first time since the annual drills started over 30 years ago, the Philippines and the US will conduct joint naval drills beyond the 12 nautical miles (22.2 km) of the Philippines’ territorial waters, in parts of the open sea claimed by China.

“This exercise represents the essence of unity, collective responsibility, and enduring partnership between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America and other partners,” Philippines’ military chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said during the opening ceremony.

“It is not a partnership of convenience but rather a clear reflection of our shared history, unwavering commitment to democracy and respect for international law in our pursuit of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Throughout the three-week exercise, soldiers from the two militaries will operate out of a joint command center to perform four major activities with a focus on countering maritime, air, land, and cyber attacks.

“It’s the first time that we are going beyond our (12) nautical miles,” Maj. Gen. Marvin Licudine, Philippines exercise director, told reporters.

The Balikatan training operations are not directed at a particular country, he said, but are more focused on the “development of interoperability,” with an increased complexity of the drills and scenarios to let soldiers learn more from one another.

The joint exercises take place as Philippine and Chinese coast guard and other vessels have featured in a series of increasingly tense territorial face-offs since last year, including Chinese use of water cannons against a Philippine vessel in the South China Sea last month, causing damage and injuries.

After the incident, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said his government would take countermeasures against “illegal, coercive, aggressive, and dangerous attacks” by the Chinese Coast Guard.

“We seek no conflict with any nation, more so nations that purport and claim to be our friends but we will not be cowed into silence, submission, or subservience,” Marcos had said in a statement.

The Philippines and China, along with several other countries, have overlapping claims in the resource-rich waterway, where a bulk of the world’s commerce and oil transits.

Beijing has been increasing its military activity over the past few years, with the Chinese Coast Guard regularly encroaching on the Philippine part of the waters, the West Philippine Sea, despite a 2016 ruling by an international tribunal in The Hague dismissing China’s expansive claims.

Don McLain Gill, an international studies lecturer at De La Salle University in Manila, said the scope of this year’s Balikatan is a “clear reflection of Manila’s commitment to exercise its sovereignty and sovereign rights within its exclusive economic zone.

“This year ’s exercise will also involve complex maritime security issues such as simulations of recovering islands from hostile forces, which add a practical dimension to collective self defense efforts by the like-minded partners,” he told Arab News.

“Clearly, securing the WPS based on international law will not bode well for China’s expansionist interests. While the Balikatan is aimed at improving joint preparedness amidst emerging challenges in the region, the challenge posed by China's expansionism is clearly one of the critical factors that provoke regional security.”


Suspected extremists abducted over 110 civilians in Mali: sources

Suspected extremists abducted over 110 civilians in Mali: sources
Updated 22 April 2024
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Suspected extremists abducted over 110 civilians in Mali: sources

Suspected extremists abducted over 110 civilians in Mali: sources

DAKAR: Suspected extremists in central Mali are holding more than 110 civilians whom they abducted six days ago, local sources told AFP on Monday.
Three buses carrying the civilians were stopped on April 16 by “jihadists,” who forced the vehicles and the passengers to head toward a forest between Bandiagara and Bankass, a local group of associations and an elected official said.’

“We demand the release of more than 110 passengers of three buses abducted on Tuesday by jihadists,” a member of the group, Oumar Ongoiba, told AFP.

An elected official from Bandiagara, who wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons, said, “The three buses and the passengers, more than 120, are still being held by jihadists.”

Mali has since 2012 been ravaged by different factions affiliated to Al-Qaeda and the Daesh group, as well as by self-declared, self-defense forces and bandits.

The worsening security situation has been compounded by a humanitarian and political crisis.

The violence spilled over into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger, with all three countries seeing military regimes seize power.