Another top donor says it will resume funding the UN agency for Palestinians as Gaza hunger grows

Mourners watch as medical personnel transport the bodies of 47 Palestinians, that were taken and later released by Israel, during a mass funeral in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 7, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)
Mourners watch as medical personnel transport the bodies of 47 Palestinians, that were taken and later released by Israel, during a mass funeral in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 7, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 10 March 2024
Follow

Another top donor says it will resume funding the UN agency for Palestinians as Gaza hunger grows

Another top donor says it will resume funding the UN agency for Palestinians as Gaza hunger grows
  • Overall, the ministry said, at least 30,878 Palestinians have been killed since the war began

JERUSALEM: Another top donor to the UN agency aiding Palestinians said Saturday that it would resume funding, weeks after more than a dozen countries halted hundreds of millions of dollars in support in response to Israeli allegations against the organization.
Sweden’s reversal came as a ship bearing tons of humanitarian aid was making preparations to leave Cyprus for Gaza after international donors launched a sea corridor to supply the besieged territory facing widespread hunger after five months of war.
Sweden’s decision followed similar ones by the European Union and Canada as the UN agency known as UNRWA warns that it could collapse and leave Gaza’s already desperate population of more than 2 million people with even less medical and other assistance.
“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is devastating and the needs are acute,” development minister Johan Forssell said in Sweden’s announcement, adding that UNRWA had agreed to increased transparency and stricter oversight and controls. Sweden will give UNRWA half of the $38 million funding it promised for this year, with more to come.
Israel had accused 12 of UNRWA’s thousands of employees of participating in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel that killed 1,200 people and took about 250 others hostage. Countries including the United States quickly suspended funding to UNRWA worth about $450 million, almost half its budget for the year. The UN has launched investigations, and UNRWA has been agreeing to outside audits to win back donor support.
On the eve of Ramadan, hungry Gaza residents scrambled for packages of food supplies dropped by US and Jordanian military planes — a method of delivery that humanitarian groups have called deeply inadequate compared to deliveries by ground. But the daily number of aid trucks entering Gaza since the war has been far below the 500 that entered before Oct. 7 because of Israeli restrictions and security issues.
People dashed through devastated neighborhoods of Gaza City as the parachuting aid descended. “I have orphans, I want to feed them!” one woman cried.
“The issue of aid is brutal and no one accepts it,” said another resident, Momen Mahra, claiming that most of the airdropped aid falls into the sea. “We want better methods.”
The US military said that its planes on Saturday airdropped more than 41,000 “meal equivalents” and 23,000 bottles of water into northern Gaza, the hardest part of the enclave to access.
The Health Ministry in Gaza said that two more people, including a 2-month-old infant, had died as a result of malnutrition, raising the total number of people who died from hunger to 25. Ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra said the toll included only people brought to hospitals.
Overall, the ministry said, at least 30,878 Palestinians have been killed since the war began. It doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tallies, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead. The ministry is part of the Hamas-run government, and its figures from previous wars have largely matched those of the UN and independent experts.
The opening of the sea delivery corridor, along with the airdrops, showed increasing frustration with Gaza’s humanitarian crisis and a new international willingness to work around Israeli restrictions. The sea corridor is backed by the EU together with the United States, the United Arab Emirates and other involved countries, and the European Commission has said that UN agencies and the Red Cross will also play a role.
The ship belonging to Spain’s Open Arms aid group was expected to make a pilot voyage to test the corridor as early as this weekend. The ship has been waiting at Cyprus’s port of Larnaca for permission. Israel has said it welcomed the maritime corridor, but cautioned that it would need security checks.
Open Arms founder Oscar Camps told The Associated Press that the ship pulling a barge with 200 tons of rice and flour would take two to three days to arrive at an undisclosed location where the group World Central Kitchen was constructing a pier to receive it. The group has 60 food kitchens throughout Gaza to distribute aid, he said.
US President Joe Biden has announced a plan to build a temporary pier in Gaza to help deliver aid, underscoring how the US has to go around Israel, its main Middle East ally and the top recipient of US military aid. Israel accuses Hamas of commandeering some aid deliveries.
United States officials said it will likely be weeks before the Gaza pier is operational. The executive director of the US arm of medical charity Doctors Without Borders, Avril Benoit, in a statement criticized the US plan as a “glaring distraction from the real problem: Israel’s indiscriminate and disproportionate military campaign and punishing siege.”
Sigrid Kaag, the UN senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, has said air and sea deliveries can’t make up for a shortage of supply routes on land.
Meanwhile, efforts to reach a ceasefire before Ramadan appeared stalled. Hamas said Thursday that its delegation had left Cairo until next week.
International mediators had hoped to alleviate some of the immediate crisis with a six-week ceasefire, which would have seen Hamas release some of the Israeli hostages it’s holding, Israel release some Palestinian prisoners and aid groups be given access for a major influx of assistance into Gaza.
Palestinian militants are believed to be holding around 100 hostages and the remains of 30 others captured during the Oct. 7 attack. Several dozen hostages were freed in a weeklong November truce.
 

 


DR Congo thwarts Kinshasa ‘coup attempt’: army

DR Congo thwarts Kinshasa ‘coup attempt’: army
Updated 24 sec ago
Follow

DR Congo thwarts Kinshasa ‘coup attempt’: army

DR Congo thwarts Kinshasa ‘coup attempt’: army
  • Army spokesman said around 40 of the attackers, some of them foreigners, had been arrested, and four — including their leader — were killed
  • The coup plotters reportedly carried flags of Zaire, the DRC's name under dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who was overthrown in 1997

KINSHASA: The DR Congo military on Sunday said it had thwarted an “attempted coup” near the offices of President Felix Tshisekedi in Kinshasa involving “foreigners and Congolese.”

It happened in the early hours of the morning outside the residence of Economy Minister Vital Kamerhe, in the Gombe area in the north of the capital, near the Palais de la Nation that houses the president’s offices, a spokesman said.
“An attempted coup d’etat has been stopped by the defense and security forces,” said General Sylvain Ekenge in a message broadcast on national television.
Shots were also heard near the Palais de la Nation at the time of the coup attempt, according to a number of sources.
Later on Sunday, army spokesman General Sylvain Ekenge said several Americans and a British man were part of the group involved in the operation.
The coup bid was led by Christian Malanga, a Congolese man who was a “naturalized American” and had been “definitively neutralized” — killed — by the security forces, Ekenge said in a broadcast on Sunday evening.
The group was made up of “several nationalities,” Ekenge said, adding that around 40 of the attackers had been arrested, and four — including Malanga — killed.
“We also have a naturalized British subject, the number two of the group,” the spokesman added. Malanga’s son, Marcel Malanga, was also among the attackers, he said.

Links to deposed dictator

Kamerhe and his family were not harmed in the attack but two police officers looking after them were killed, said a source close to the minister.
The group had planned to attack the home of the new Prime Minister Judith Suminwa, and the residence of Defense Minister Jean-Pierre Bemba.
But they “could not identify the home” of Suminwa and had not been able to find Bemba at his residence.
After the attack at Kamerhe’s home, the group then went to the Palais de la Nation, brandishing flags of Zaire, the name of the Democratic Republic of Congo under the dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who was overthrown in 1997.
“I am shocked by the events this morning and very worried by the reports of American citizens allegedly being involved,” Lucy Tamlyn, the US ambassador to the DRC, posted on X, formerly Twitter.
“Rest assured that we are cooperating with authorities in DRC to the fullest extent possible, as they investigate these criminal acts and hold accountable any American citizen involved.”
France’s ambassador had reported automatic weapon fire in the area, urging nationals to avoid it.

During the day, certain streets near the Palais de la Nation remained closed to traffic, but the situation appeared calm, AFP journalists reported.
“I’m a little afraid to move around like that in Gombe, there aren’t many people... But I have to sell my goods,” bread-seller Jean-Mbuta said.

Videos on social media showed men in fatigues at the Palais de la Nation, brandishing flags of Zaire.

The Zaire flag was mostly green while the DRC one is largely blue.
“The time has arrived, long live Zaire, long live the children of Mobutu,” a man who appeared to be the head of the group said in Lingala, a language spoken in parts of the DRC.
“Felix has fallen... we are victorious,” he added.
AFP was also unable to verify the videos.
Tshisekedi was re-elected at the end of December when he received more than 70 percent of votes in the first round.
The parties backing him won around 90 percent of seats in the parliamentary elections held the same day.
But he is yet to form a government some five months after the elections.
Kamerhe on April 23 was named as a candidate for president of the National Assembly, the DRC’s main legislative body.
 


Daesh group claims deadly Afghanistan attack on tourists

A Taliban security personnel stands guard in Nangarhar province. (AFP file photo)
A Taliban security personnel stands guard in Nangarhar province. (AFP file photo)
Updated 20 May 2024
Follow

Daesh group claims deadly Afghanistan attack on tourists

A Taliban security personnel stands guard in Nangarhar province. (AFP file photo)
  • The attack is believed to be the first deadly assault on foreign tourists since the Taliban returned to power in 2021 in a country where few nations have a diplomatic presence

KABUL: The Daesh group on Sunday claimed responsibility for an attack targeting tourists in Afghanistan that killed three Spaniards and three Afghans.
The terrorist group said in a statement on its Telegram channels that “fighters shot at Christian tourists and their Shiite companions with machine guns” in the mountainous city of Bamiyan on Friday.
The tour group was fired on while shopping in a market in Bamiyan, around 180 kilometers (110 miles) west of the capital Kabul.
The terrorists said they attacked a “bus of tourists who are citizens of coalition countries,” referring to a US-led coalition that has battled Daesh in the Middle East.
“The attack comes in line with the directives of the leaders of the Daesh to target nationals of coalition countries wherever they may be,” the statement added.
Taliban officials said on Saturday they had arrested seven suspects in the aftermath of the attack.
The number of bombings and suicide attacks in Afghanistan has reduced dramatically since the Taliban authorities took power.
However, a number of armed groups, including IS, remain a threat.
The terrorists have repeatedly targeted the historically persecuted Shiite Hazara community, considering them heretics.
Hazaras make up the majority of the population in Bamiyan province, Afghanistan’s top tourist destination.
The attack is believed to be the first deadly assault on foreign tourists since the Taliban returned to power in 2021 in a country where few nations have a diplomatic presence.
Increasing numbers of visitors have traveled to Afghanistan as security has improved since the Taliban ended their insurgency after ousting the Western-backed government.
The Taliban government has yet to be officially recognized by any foreign government.
It has, however, supported a fledgling tourism sector, with more than 5,000 foreign tourists visiting Afghanistan in 2023, according to official figures.
Western nations advise against all travel to the country, warning of elevated risks of kidnappings and attacks.
The group targeted in Friday’s attack was made up of 13 travelers from various countries, including six Spanish nationals.
Spanish officials said Sunday that all three Spaniards killed in the attack were from Catalonia.
They included a mother and a daughter and a 63-year-old man who worked as an engineer.
An 82-year-old Spanish retiree was seriously wounded and was evacuated to a Kabul hospital operated by the Italian NGO Emergency, where she and others injured in the attack were stabilized.
“She is progressing favorably from her injuries, but her prognosis is uncertain,” the Spanish foreign ministry said Sunday.
Spanish diplomats had traveled to Afghanistan and had been working to repatriate the bodies of the dead and transfer the wounded, in coordination with a European Union delegation in Kabul.
The Spanish embassy in Kabul was evacuated in 2021, along with other Western missions, after the Taliban took back control of the Afghan capital.

 


Elon Musk launches Starlink service in Indonesia

Elon Musk launches Starlink service in Indonesia
Updated 19 May 2024
Follow

Elon Musk launches Starlink service in Indonesia

Elon Musk launches Starlink service in Indonesia
  • Indonesia is the third Southeast Asian country where Starlink will operate
  • Starlink expected to improve internet access for thousands of Indonesian health centers 

JAKARTA: Elon Musk and Indonesian Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin launched SpaceX’s satellite internet service on Sunday, aiming to boost connectivity in the world’s largest archipelago.

Musk, the billionaire head of SpaceX and Tesla, arrived in Bali by private jet on Sunday morning, before attending Starlink’s launch at a community health center in the provincial capital Denpasar. 

Wearing a green batik shirt, he inaugurated Starlink together with Sadikin, Communications Minister Budi Arie Setiadi and Maritime, and Fisheries Minister Sakti Wahyu Trenggono, and said that the satellite service would help millions in Indonesia to access the internet. 

“We’re focusing this event on Starlink and the benefits that high-bandwidth connectivity can bring to a rural island and to remote communities,” Musk told reporters in Denpasar. 

“I think it’s really important to emphasize the importance of internet connectivity and how much of a life-changer that could be.” 

Indonesia, an archipelagic state comprising over 17,000 islands, is home to more than 270 million people and three different time zones. Following the launch, Musk said that internet connectivity was also integral for learning and business. 

“You can learn anything if you’re connected to the internet, but if you’re not connected, it’s very difficult to learn,” Musk said. “And then if you have some virtual services that you wish to sell to the world, even if you’re in a remote village, you can now do so with an internet connection. So, it can bring a lot of prosperity, I think, to rural communities.”

Indonesia is the third Southeast Asian country where Starlink will operate. Neighboring Malaysia issued the firm a license to provide internet services last year, while a Philippine-based firm signed a deal with SpaceX in 2022. 

On Sunday, Starlink was launched at three Indonesian health centers, two of which are located in Bali and one on the remote island of Aru in Maluku. Officials say the services will be prioritized for health and education, and in outer and underdeveloped regions. 

Starlink is expected to bring high-speed connectivity to thousands of health centers across the country, Sadikin said, allowing Indonesians in remote areas to access services that were previously not available to them. 

“With Starlink … 2,700 community health centers that had difficulties getting internet access and another 700 that didn’t have internet access, now can have them. So, the services will not differ with health centers … that are located in the cities,” the health minister said. 

The arrival of Starlink in Indonesia is expected to boost equal internet access across Southeast Asia’s largest economy. 

“A satellite-based internet service like Starlink will certainly be very beneficial for the country because there are still many regions which don’t have internet access,” said Pratama Persadha, chairman of the Communication and Information System Security Research Center. 

Other sectors in Indonesia, such as education and the digital economy, will also get a boost from Starlink, he added. 

“Wherever the location that requires good internet connection, whether on top of the mountain, in the middle of the forest, or in the middle of the sea, they can still enjoy the internet through satellite-based services like this.” 


Suspected rebels kill political activist in Indian-administered Kashmir

Suspected rebels kill political activist in Indian-administered Kashmir
Updated 19 May 2024
Follow

Suspected rebels kill political activist in Indian-administered Kashmir

Suspected rebels kill political activist in Indian-administered Kashmir
  • Two Indian tourists visiting the Himalayan territory were also wounded in a separate attack in Anantnag
  • Rebel groups opposed to Indian rule have for decades waged an insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir

NEW DELHI: Suspected rebels shot dead an activist from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party in Indian-administered Kashmir, local authorities said Sunday after the latest violent attack in the disputed region.

Police named the victim as Aijaz Ahmad, a local leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who was fired upon in Shopian district on Saturday evening, days after the region began voting in India’s six-week national elections.

The BJP’s local office in Kashmir confirmed Sunday that Ahmad had died and announced plans to stage a protest against the attack.

Two Indian tourists visiting the Himalayan territory were also wounded in a separate attack by suspected rebels in nearby Anantnag on the same day, police said, adding that both had been hospitalized.

Security forces had cordoned off the surrounding area to find those responsible for separate incidents, police said.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947, with both claiming the Himalayan territory in full.

Rebel groups opposed to Indian rule have for decades waged an insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir, demanding either independence or a merger with Pakistan.

India accuses Pakistan of backing the militants — charges Islamabad denies.

The conflict has left tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and militants dead.

Violence has drastically reduced since 2019, when Modi’s government canceled the Muslim-majority region’s limited autonomy and brought it under direct rule from New Delhi.

Security forces have reported a spate of clashes in Kashmir since voting began last month in ongoing general election.

Earlier this month suspected rebels killed an Indian air force member and injured four others in an ambush on a military convoy.
 


Pakistani students return from Kyrgyzstan after mob violence in Bishkek 

Pakistani students return from Kyrgyzstan after mob violence in Bishkek 
Updated 19 May 2024
Follow

Pakistani students return from Kyrgyzstan after mob violence in Bishkek 

Pakistani students return from Kyrgyzstan after mob violence in Bishkek 
  • At least 5 Pakistani citizens injured in clashes in Bishkek
  • Islamabad is arranging special flights to get students home

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government has repatriated 140 students from Kyrgyzstan after mobs attacked foreign citizens in the capital, Bishkek, over the weekend. 

A special flight bringing the first batch of Pakistani students home landed at an airport in Lahore on Saturday night, with Islamabad planning to use more such flights to bring back citizens who want to leave Bishkek after violent incidents in the Kyrgyz capital.

On Friday, hundreds of Kyrgyz men in Bishkek attacked buildings where foreign students live, including Pakistan citizens who are among thousands studying and working in the Central Asian country. 

The angry mob reportedly targeted these residences after videos of a brawl earlier this month between Krygyz and Egyptian students went viral online, prompting anti-foreigner sentiment over the past week. The Kyrgyz government deployed forces on Friday to mitigate the violence. 

“Our first concern is the safe return of Pakistani students,” Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi said. 

“God willing, more students would be brought back via additional flights (on Sunday).”

Students who spoke to Arab News said that the Pakistan Embassy in Kyrgyzstan advised them to stay indoors after the mob attack. But when they ran out of food and water and some became fearful of potential riots, they asked authorities to evacuate them. 

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that the return to Pakistan of citizens who wished to do so would be “facilitated at the government’s expense.”

Sharif is sending a two-member delegation, including Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar, to Bishkek on Sunday to meet with Kyrgyz officials and provide assistance for Pakistani students. 

“The decision to send this delegation was made to ensure necessary support and facilities for Pakistani students,” a statement issued by Sharif’s office reads. 

Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Saturday it had summoned and handed a note of protest to Kyrgyzstan’s top diplomat in the country in response to the violence in Bishkek. 

Five Pakistani medical students were injured in the mob attack, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Hassan Zaigham said, with one student admitted to a local hospital with a jaw injury. 

“No Pakistani was killed or raped in the violence,” he told Arab News over the phone, dispelling rumors circulating on social media. 

“The situation is under control now as Bishkek authorities have dispersed all the miscreants.”