UN Palestinian refugee agency at ‘risk of death’, UNRWA chief says

UN Palestinian refugee agency at ‘risk of death’, UNRWA chief says
Displaced Palestinians wait to receive UNRWA aid in Rafah on Mar. 7, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 09 March 2024
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UN Palestinian refugee agency at ‘risk of death’, UNRWA chief says

UN Palestinian refugee agency at ‘risk of death’, UNRWA chief says
  • “The agency is at risk of death, it is risking dismantlement,” Lazzarini said

GENEVA: The United Nations Palestinian refugee agency is at “risk of death” after a string of donors suspended their funding over Israeli allegations some staff took part in the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas in southern Israel, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said.
“The agency is at risk of death, it is risking dismantlement,” Lazzarini told Swiss broadcaster RTS in an interview aired on Saturday.
“What is at stake is the fate of the Palestinians today in Gaza in the short term who are going through an absolutely unprecedented humanitarian crisis.”


Lebanon ‘open to any effort to curb Israeli aggression,’ says Berri

Lebanon ‘open to any effort to curb Israeli aggression,’ says Berri
Updated 22 sec ago
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Lebanon ‘open to any effort to curb Israeli aggression,’ says Berri

Lebanon ‘open to any effort to curb Israeli aggression,’ says Berri
  • Parliamentary speaker accuses Israel of ‘greed’ over Lebanese resources
  • Berri’s statement came as hostilities between Hezbollah and the Israeli army in the southern border region entered their 230th day

BEIRUT: Lebanon is willing to cooperate with any international effort to stop Israeli aggression and bring security to the region, Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri said on Friday.
However, in a statement marking the 24th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, Berri warned that Lebanon “is not ready to waive any of its sovereign rights.”
He also accused Israel of displaying “greed toward Lebanon, its resources, its entity, and its land, sea, and air borders.”
Berri’s statement came as hostilities between Hezbollah and the Israeli army in the southern border region entered their 230th day.
The parliamentary speaker called for intensified international and regional efforts to halt Israel’s assault in the Gaza Strip, saying this was crucial to maintain security and stability in the entire region.
Hezbollah claims its actions have been in support of Gaza amid further Israeli threats to Lebanon.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on Thursday from the northern command headquarters “to carry out detailed, important and even surprising plans to return displaced settlers to the north.”
He claimed Israel had killed hundreds of Hezbollah fighters.
Benny Gantz, a minister in the Israeli war Cabinet, said: “Get ready from now on for the return of the residents of the north to their houses safely in early September by force or order.”
Berri returned from Tehran after attending the funeral of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash on May 19.
In his message to the Lebanese, he renewed Lebanon’s “commitment and adherence to UN Resolution 1701, and all its terms and stipulations.”
The resolution calls for an end to hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon to be replaced by Lebanese and UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon, and the disarmament of armed groups including Hezbollah.
Berri accused Israel of ignoring the resolution “since the moment it was issued, with over 30,000 land, sea and air violations.”
Lebanon “upholds its right to defend its land with all the available means in the face of Israeli hostilities,” he said.
He called for the liberation of “the remaining occupied territory in the Kfarchouba Hills, the occupied Shebaa Farms, the northern part of the GHajjar village, and the contested border points with occupied Palestine all the way to the B1 point in Ras Al-Naqoura.”
Caretaker Minister of Defense Maurice Slim said that Lebanon preferred peace to war.
However, “defending the land was and will be the Lebanese state’s choice through the resilience of its army and people, especially the steadfast ones who are still residing in their villages and towns to repel the aggression,” he said.
Israeli warplanes on Thursday struck the town of Maroun Al-Ras in the Bint Jbeil district.
Sirens sounded in Israeli settlements opposite the border with Lebanon amid fears of possible drone attacks.
The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Friday that Hezbollah’s drones caused significant damage in the northern towns and resulted in several fatalities.
Another newspaper, Israel Hayom, said that Hezbollah’s drones are “one of the biggest threats facing Israel in the northern arena.”
The newspaper said that Hezbollah leader Mohammed Hassan Fares, who was killed by an Israeli drone strike last week in Qana, was a scientist who specialized in robotics and machine learning.


2,000 aid trucks stuck at Rafah border: Norwegian Refugee Council

2,000 aid trucks stuck at Rafah border: Norwegian Refugee Council
Updated 23 min 15 sec ago
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2,000 aid trucks stuck at Rafah border: Norwegian Refugee Council

2,000 aid trucks stuck at Rafah border: Norwegian Refugee Council
  • Palestinians ‘actively deprived’ of essential items as Israel steps up operations in city
  • Some in Gaza have been displaced as many as 9 times since October

LONDON: The Norwegian Refugee Council has warned that 2,000 aid trucks are stuck in Egypt at the Rafah border crossing, with Palestinians in Gaza being “actively deprived” of essential goods.
Rafah is the last remaining area of Gaza yet to come under full assault by Israeli forces, with fears now mounting of an imminent operation to take the southern city.
The NRC’s head of operations in Gaza, Suze van Meegen, told the BBC: “The city of Rafah is now comprised of three entirely different worlds: the east is an archetypal war zone, the middle is a ghost town, and the west is a congested mass of people living in deplorable conditions.”
She said medical supplies, tents, water tanks and food are being held up at the border, and in some cases Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced as many as nine times since Israel launched its military operation last October.
“People have no choice but to put their faith in so-called ‘humanitarian safe zones’ designated by the forces that have killed their family members and destroyed their homes,” she added.
Israeli journalist Amos Harel told the BBC that he believes Israel is moving ahead with plans to occupy Rafah with tacit US support.
“It’s quite clear that the Americans are no longer trying to prevent Israel from occupying Rafah. So the Israelis may proceed carefully and not too quickly. But it’s less of a question of whether the Israelis are going to occupy Rafah. It’s quite clear that they are,” he said.
It comes despite earlier warnings by US President Joe Biden against Israel attacking “population centers,” and with the International Court of Justice set to rule on the legality of the Israeli campaign in Gaza after a case was submitted by South Africa in December accusing Israel of genocide.


Escaped Iranian director receives ovations at Cannes

Escaped Iranian director receives ovations at Cannes
Updated 24 May 2024
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Escaped Iranian director receives ovations at Cannes

Escaped Iranian director receives ovations at Cannes
  • He received raucous standing ovations before and after the gala screening of “The Seed of the Sacred Fig,” which is competing for the top prize Palme d’Or
  • He attended the premiere on Friday alongside his daughter and Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani, who lives in exile in France

CANNES, France: It is one of the most dramatic storylines ever delivered at Cannes: Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof walked the red carpet Friday after fleeing a prison sentence in his home country just days before the film festival.
He received raucous standing ovations before and after the gala screening of “The Seed of the Sacred Fig,” which is competing for the top prize Palme d’Or.
“I hope the entire apparatus of oppression and dictatorship will disappear from Iran,” he told the packed Cannes theater, where he brandished photos of the movie’s actors.
Made underground in Iran on a tiny budget, it tells the story of a court prosecutor whose family life is torn apart by the “Women, Life, Freedom” protests that convulsed the country in 2022-23.
Friday was the last day of the Cannes Film Festival screenings, with the winners from the 22 entries to be announced on Saturday by a jury led by “Barbie” director Greta Gerwig.
Rasoulof came under pressure in Iran to withdraw his latest from the festival, but he already knew during the production that he faced a new eight-year prison sentence for “collusion against national security” and hatched a plan to escape the country.
He attended the premiere on Friday alongside his daughter and Iranian actor Golshifteh Farahani, who lives in exile in France.
Speaking after the premiere, Rasoulof said he was thinking of “everyone who allowed this film to be made — those who are here, and those who were prevented from coming.”
An outspoken critic of Iran’s rulers, Rasoulof had already served two prison terms over his uncompromising political films and had his passport revoked in 2017.
It took 28 days on the road, moving between border villages, to get out of the country, he told Deadline magazine.
“The good thing about going to prison in Iran is that you meet all kinds of youthful people who can help you in such conditions,” he told the magazine.
The final film to screen in the competition, later Friday, is “The Most Precious of Cargoes,” the first animated film to compete for the Palme d’Or since 2008’s “Waltz With Bashir.”
It is the tale of a twin thrown to safety from a death train transporting his Jewish parents to Auschwitz, from Michel Hazanavicius, director of the Oscar-winning “The Artist.”
The 77th edition of the world-famous festival has seen a lot of sex, gore and #MeToo-related issues.
A late frontrunner is “All We Imagine as Light,” which premiered Thursday.
The first Indian entry in 30 years, it is a poetic monsoon-set portrayal of two nurses who have migrated to Mumbai, described as a dreamlike five-star “triumph” by The Guardian.
“Emilia Perez,” an audacious musical about a Mexican narco boss having a sex change, has also been a favorite.
Demi Moore has emerged as a serious contender for the best actress award after rave reviews for her “fearless” performance in “The Substance,” an ultra-gory horror film about the pressures women face to maintain bodily perfection as they age.
There has been a lot of love for “Anora,” a raw and often-hilarious story about a New York erotic dancer who strikes gold with a wealthy client, only to face the wrath of his Russian oligarch parents.
Francis Ford Coppola’s ambitious fable “Megalopolis” has its admirers but proved sharply divisive, while Donald Trump biopic “The Apprentice” has drawn strong reviews as well as legal threats from the former US president.
Also on Friday, George Lucas arrived in town to accept an honorary Palme d’Or.
“It’s always great to be recognized,” said the “Star Wars” creator.
“Obviously we have a lot of fans and all that kind of stuff. But in terms of awards, I don’t make the kind of movies that win awards!“


Hezbollah barrages deal heavy damage in northern Israel

Hezbollah barrages deal heavy damage in northern Israel
Updated 24 May 2024
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Hezbollah barrages deal heavy damage in northern Israel

Hezbollah barrages deal heavy damage in northern Israel
  • The barrages have dealt a heavy blow to Israeli towns and villages near the border which have been evacuated for more than six months
  • The Israeli defense ministry body responsible for rebuilding northern communities said it had received 930 reports of damage

SHTULA: A momentary shriek presages a bone-juddering blast, followed by a plume of thick black smoke. Refrigerator-sized holes mark where Hezbollah anti-tank missiles like this one have hit along Israel’s northern border.
Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has been exchanging near-daily cross-border fire with the Israeli army since Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack triggered war in Gaza.
The Iran-backed militants have launched thousands of rockets, mortar rounds, anti-tank missiles and attack drones at northern Israel.
The exchanges of fire have killed at least 11 civilians and 14 soldiers in Israel, according to the army.
At least 429 people have been killed in Lebanon, mostly militants but also including at least 82 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
The barrages have dealt a heavy blow to Israeli towns and villages near the border which have been evacuated for more than six months. They have also served as a warning of the far greater destruction that would be wrought by a full-blown war.
The Israeli defense ministry body responsible for rebuilding northern communities said it had received 930 reports of damage — around a third of them categorized as moderate to critical — the vast majority of it inflicted on residential buildings.
Hundreds more cases remain unassessed in towns like Arab Al-Aramsheh, Menara and Metula because it is considered too hazardous for inspectors to enter.
The report did not cite an estimated cost, but a senior defense official who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity said reconstruction in the hardest hit locations could take months to a year.
In Kibbutz Menara, around 30 percent of buildings have suffered substantial damage, the official said.
At least 26 percent of the reported damage was caused by Israeli troops who have entrenched themselves in evacuated towns and villages along the 120-kilometer (75-mile) border, according to the Northern Horizon Directorate report.
The Israeli military said it “regrets any damage to the residents’ property” and is working to minimize damage as much as possible.
The most vulnerable communities were evacuated immediately after the outbreak of hostilities, displacing some 60,000 civilians. Access to them is restricted by the Israeli military.
But AFP reporters managed to visit Shtula, a village of 300 people sitting on the border that has 44 recorded cases of moderate to critical damage.
Although her neighbor’s house suffered a direct hit, and missiles pounded several other nearby buildings facing Lebanon, Ora Hatan, 60, is one of the few residents who has stayed on.
“An anti-tank missile flew over the chicken coop and right into the house,” said Hatan, pointing at a neighbor’s property.
“A direct hit. Fortunately, no one was home.”
Even after more than seven months of intense bombardment, Hatan won’t leave.
“It’s my house. It’s my land. It’s my country. Where would I go? Why should I go?” she told AFP on her balcony overlooking the Lebanese village of Raymeh two kilometers (little more than a mile) away.
As the war grinds on, and Hezbollah attacks show no sign of relenting, northern residents have grown weary of what many see as talk and little action.
For months, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has said Israel will restore security — diplomatically or militarily. The two sides fought a devastating war in 2006.
Israel’s Channel 13 reported that National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi told lawmakers Wednesday that “the cabinet hasn’t defined any clear objective concerning the north — not dates, not targets, not strategic aims.”
A poll published Thursday by Israel’s public broadcaster showed that 46 percent of respondents backed military action in Lebanon, while 29 percent opposed.
On Thursday, a few hundred activists set up a protest camp to demand urgent action to restore security and allow displaced residents to return to their homes in the north.
One of the organizers, Nisan Zeevi, lives in kibbutz Kfar Giladi and serves on its emergency response team.
Across the valley from his home, a fortified tower seven storys high looms over the kibbutzim in the valley below that have been frequent targets of drone and missile strikes.
A house in the neighboring kibbutz bears a gaping hole where a missile strike killed a woman and her son in January.
Zeevi said the camp aimed “to express our protest to the Israeli government and to the world until they find a solution to the severe security situation.”


Head of UAE national media officer meets with Saudi, GCC ministers

Head of UAE national media officer meets with Saudi, GCC ministers
Updated 24 May 2024
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Head of UAE national media officer meets with Saudi, GCC ministers

Head of UAE national media officer meets with Saudi, GCC ministers
  • Discussed ways to strengthen media cooperation between GCC countries

DOHA: The head of the UAE’s national media office met with informational ministers from Gulf Cooperation Council countries in Doha on Friday, Emirates News Agency reported.

Sheikh Abdulla bin Mohammed Al-Hamed, who is also chairman of the UAE Media Council, met with Saudi Arabia’s media minister Salman bin Yousef Al-Dosari and Abdulrahman Bdah Al-Mutairi, the Minister of Information and Culture of Kuwait. 

Sheikh Abdulla also held talks with Ramzan bin Abdullah Al-Noaimi of Bahrain and Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer Al-Thani, chairman of Qatar Media Corporation.

They discussed ways to strengthen media cooperation between the GCC countries and developing joint initiatives to advance the media industry in the region.