French envoy calls for Gaza ceasefire, condemns West Bank violence

French envoy calls for Gaza ceasefire, condemns West Bank violence
During a meeting with the Jordanian-French Friendship Committee of the Senate, Alexis Le Cour Grandmaison highlighted the need to prioritize a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. (X/@FranceJordanie)
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Updated 04 March 2024
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French envoy calls for Gaza ceasefire, condemns West Bank violence

French envoy calls for Gaza ceasefire, condemns West Bank violence

AMMAN: The ⁠French ambassador to Jordan has pledged ongoing financial assistance to the UN Relief and Works Agency.

During a meeting with the Jordanian-French Friendship Committee of the Senate, Alexis Le Cour Grandmaison highlighted the need to prioritize a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and curb settler violence in the West Bank.

Grandmaison reiterated France’s support for UN resolutions concerning Gaza and pledged ongoing financial assistance to UNRWA, reported Jordanian news agency Petra.

The ambassador praised Jordan’s efforts in providing aid to Gaza and lauded King Abdullah II’s stance on the Palestinian issue and Israel-Hamas war. He also reiterated his country’s support of Jordan’s role in ensuring regional peace and stability and backing for its custodianship of holy sites in Jerusalem.

Senator Issa Murad stressed a ceasefire in Gaza was urgently needed and commended King Abdullah II’s humanitarian efforts to alleviate conditions there. He emphasized the importance of international support for UNRWA.

The committee urged France to increase aid to Gaza and to use its influence on the international stage, particularly in the UN Security Council, to address the Palestinian question and end the Gaza conflict.


Head of UN agency for Palestinians urges probe into staff killings

Head of UN agency for Palestinians urges probe into staff killings
Updated 4 sec ago
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Head of UN agency for Palestinians urges probe into staff killings

Head of UN agency for Palestinians urges probe into staff killings
  • Lazzarini stressed an investigation was necessary “to have accountability, in order not to set a new low standard in future conflict situations,” Lazzarini said

UNITED NATIONS, United States: The director of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees hit back at Israel Tuesday, calling for a Security Council probe into the “blatant disregard” for UN operations in Gaza after some 180 staffers were killed.
Philippe Lazzarini also revealed that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) had been able to partly offset a funding shortfall by raising $100 million from online donations since the Israel-Hamas conflict broke out in October.
His comments came a day after the release of an independent review that said Israel had not yet provided evidence supporting its claim that hundreds of UNRWA staff were members of terrorist groups. The review did, however, identify “neutrality-related issues” within the agency, for example in employees’ social media posts.
While accepting the findings of the review, Lazzarini told reporters that attacks on UNRWA’s neutrality “are primarily motivated by the objective to strip the Palestinians from the refugee status — and this is a reason why there are pushes today for UNRWA not to be present” in Gaza, east Jerusalem and the West Bank.
UNRWA was established in 1949 to serve Palestinians who lost their homes in the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as their descendants. There are now 5.9 million registered Palestinian refugees.
Lazzarini said that he recently “called on the members of the Security Council for an independent investigation and accountability for the blatant disregard of UN premises, UN staff, and UN operations in the Gaza Strip.”
As of Tuesday, 180 UNRWA staff have been killed in the war, 160 premises have been damaged or destroyed, and at least 400 people have been killed while seeking the protection of the UN flag, Lazzarini said.
Vacated UNRWA premises have been used for military purposes by the Israeli army or Hamas and other militant groups, while UNRWA staffers have been arrested and even tortured, he added.
Lazzarini stressed an investigation was necessary “to have accountability, in order not to set a new low standard in future conflict situations,” Lazzarini said.
Allegations by Israel in January that some UNRWA staff participated in the Hamas attacks led to many donors freezing some $450 million in funding at a time when Gaza’s 2.3 million people are in dire need of food, water, shelter and medicine.
Many countries have since resumed their donations, while others, including the United States — which passed a law blocking funding until at least March 2025 — have not.
“In terms of our funding of UNRWA, that is still suspended. We’re gonna have to see real progress here before that gets changed,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday.
Lazzarini said UNRWA was operating “hand to mouth for the time being” but said that online fundraising to the agency totaled $100 million since October 7, in “an extraordinary indication of grassroots solidarity.”
Israel has repeatedly equated UNRWA with Hamas, the militant group responsible for the October 7 attack which resulted in the death of around 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.
At least 34,183 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory bombabardments and ground offensive, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.


Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses
Updated 23 April 2024
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Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

JERUSALEM: An Israeli battalion which US media say Washington is likely to sanction over alleged rights violations against Palestinians, has a long history of transgressions and impunity, according to analysts and Israeli media.

The military’s Netzah Yehuda unit was founded in 1999 to encourage ultra-Orthodox Jewish men to enlist but has since accepted other religious recruits including residents of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, where Netzah Yehuda was deployed until 2022.

The unit has mainly attracted marginalized ultra-Orthodox youths “who see the army as a means of integrating into Israeli society and earning a living,” said David Khalfa of Jean-Jaures Foundation, a French think tank.

But it has also drawn “rather radical religious nationalists having strong hostility toward Arabs,” he said. “Marked by a strong ideological and sociological leaning, the battalion has acquired a scandal-prone reputation.”

Marwa Maziad, a visiting lecturer of Israel studies at the US University of Maryland, told the Middle East Eye website that unlike most army units, Netzah Yehuda relies on volunteers.

She said: “The battalion attracts religious Zionists, who combine Jewish religious interpretations with nationalist militarism” and are closely associated with the extreme fringes of the Israeli settler movement.

The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, is home to 3 million Palestinians alongside some 490,000 Israelis living in settlements considered illegal under international law.

“A large part of the unit’s soldiers were born and raised in the West Bank,” Khalfa said, noting Netzah Yehuda was often tasked with policing and “counter-insurgency” operations in the Palestinian territory.

“A significant number of them — not all — committed abuses and the army hardly imposed any sanctions,” Khalfa said.

The January 2022 death of Palestinian American Omar Assad, 78, at the hands of Netzah Yehuda soldiers in the West Bank drew attention to the unit, with the US State Department later that year ordering embassy staff in Israel to investigate the case.

Handcuffed, gagged and blindfolded, Assad was left lying on the ground on his stomach for more than an hour in a freezing winter night.

Following Assad’s death, several Israeli media outlets published reports detailing incidents linked to the battalion that had gone largely unpunished, including beatings of Palestinians and attacks on Bedouin citizens of Israel.

The Jerusalem Post newspaper said Netzah Yehuda troops effectively allowed settlers to attack Palestinians, while Haaretz, a left-leaning daily, denounced the “clear ideological connection between the residents of the settlements and the unauthorized outposts and the soldiers” in the unit.

According to Khalfa, “within the army there are lively debates” over Netzah Yehuda, with some military officials considering it “dangerous for the army to bring together so many young people sharing the same nationalist ideology.”


Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit

Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit
Updated 23 April 2024
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Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit

Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit
  • Aircraft escorted by Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 fighter jets

AMMAN: The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah arrived in Amman on Tuesday for a two-day state visit to Jordan, the Kuwait News Agency reported.

The emir’s aircraft was escorted by Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 fighter jets as it entered Jordan’s airspace. Upon arrival at Marka Airport, he was warmly received by Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah.

An official welcoming ceremony took place, according to a statement by the royal court. The day continued with Sheikh Mishal and King Abdullah engaging in formal discussions at Basman Palace which focused on strengthening long-standing bilateral relations and enhancing cooperation to meet the aspirations of their countries.

Sheikh Mishal congratulated King Abdullah on the 25th anniversary of his coronation and spoke of Jordan’s progress under his leadership. The session was attended by top officials from both countries.

Sheikh Mishal was awarded the Al-Hussein Necklace, the highest civilian medal in Jordan, by King Abdullah.

The meeting concluded with a banquet hosted by King Abdullah in honor of Sheikh Mishal and his delegation, which celebrated the deep ties between Kuwait and Jordan.
 


US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’

US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’
Updated 23 April 2024
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US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’

US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’
  • Facility will consist of an offshore platform for the transfer of aid from vessels, and a pier to bring it ashore

WASHINGTON: The United States will begin construction “very soon” on a pier to boost deliveries of desperately needed aid to Gaza, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Gaza — a small coastal territory — has been devastated by more than six months of Israeli bombardment and ground operations against Hamas militants, leaving the civilian population in need of humanitarian assistance to survive.
“All the necessary vessels are within the Mediterranean region and standing by,” Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder told journalists, referring to the watercraft carrying equipment for the pier project.
“We are positioned to begin construction very soon,” Ryder added.
The facility will consist of an offshore platform for the transfer of aid from larger to smaller vessels, and a pier to bring it ashore.
Plans were first announced by US President Joe Biden in early March as Israel held up deliveries of assistance by ground.
US officials have said the effort will not involve “boots on the ground” in Gaza, but American troops will come close to the beleaguered territory as they construct the pier, for which Israeli forces are to provide security on the ground.


Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm
Updated 23 April 2024
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Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm
  • DXB CEO Paul Griffiths says challenges remain, including baggage backlog
  • Regular flight schedules have resumed, with 1,400 flights operating each day

DUBAI: Regular flight schedules at Dubai International Airport had resumed by Monday following the storm early last week that caused the highest rainfall the UAE has experienced in 75 years, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said on Tuesday. About 1,400 flights are now operating each day.

“With roads in and around the airport 100 percent clear of water accumulation, our manpower, logistics and facilities are operating as usual again,” he added.

“To have the airport back up and running is no small feat. Also, 2,155 flights were canceled and 115 were diverted. We had to work closely with our airline partners and service providers to rework schedules, boost manpower and look after all those who had been disrupted.

“I’m continuously amazed by the unwavering dedication of our Dubai Airports employees, airline partners, government agencies, commercial partners and service partners. It has been the most challenging adverse weather event we’ve had to navigate, and our people and partners worked tirelessly to keep the operation running and to assist our guests.”

Griffiths said the welfare of passengers remained a central focus throughout the disruptions over the past week. After some initial difficulties in delivering supplies as a result of flooded roads around Dubai International and Dubai World Central airports, more than 75,000 food packs were successfully provided for passengers stranded at the two locations.

“While certain challenges remain, including processing the baggage backlog, we’re working closely with our service partners but know there’s still more work to be done and, once again, thank guests for their patience while we work through this,” said Griffiths.

“We’re deeply saddened by the ongoing impact of the heavy rainfall on affected communities and businesses across the UAE. We’re also supporting our own people who were badly affected by the weather and will continue to support wherever we can.”