UN chief appeals for halt to hostilities in Gaza and Sudan during Ramadan

A Palestinian searches for his belongings amid the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip, March 11, 2024. (AFP)
A Palestinian searches for his belongings amid the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip, March 11, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 11 March 2024
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UN chief appeals for halt to hostilities in Gaza and Sudan during Ramadan

A Palestinian searches for his belongings amid the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Rafah, the southern Gaza
  • Guterres also calls for release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas and removal of all obstacles to provision of aid for Palestinians
  • He urges political, religious and community leaders everywhere to do all they can to ensure the holy month is ‘a time for empathy, action and peace’

NEW YORK CITY: The secretary-general of the UN on Monday appealed for all sides involved in the conflicts in Gaza and Sudan to honor the spirit of the holy month of Ramadan by silencing their guns.

Antonio Guterres also called for the release of the Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza and for all obstacles to the provision of aid to the people of the territory to be removed “at the speed and massive scale required.”

Speaking at the UN headquarters in New York, he said: “Today marks the start of the holy month of Ramadan, a period when Muslims around the world celebrate and spread the values of peace, reconciliation and solidarity.

“Yet even though Ramadan has begun, the killing, bombing and bloodshed continue in Gaza.”

The war in Gaza, now in its sixth month, began on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants attacked Israeli towns, killing about 1,200 people, according to the Israeli authorities.

The relentless Israeli military onslaught that followed has so far killed more than 31,000 Palestinians and injured more than 100,000. The bodies of several thousand additional victims are believed to be buried under the rubble of damaged and destroyed buildings.

Meanwhile the growing risk of famine threatens to add to the death toll in the besieged territory. More than 25 Palestinians have reportedly died of starvation so far, most of them children.

“The eyes of the world are watching,” said Guterres. “The eyes of history are watching. We cannot look away. We must act to avoid more preventable deaths.”

The killing of civilians and the destruction of buildings and infrastructure in Gaza are on a level unseen in the time since he became secretary-general, he added as he lamented the fact that life-saving humanitarian aid for Palestinians “is coming in trickles, if it comes at all.”

He said that “international humanitarian law lies in tatters,” and warned that a threatened Israeli incursion into Rafah, the last remaining refuge for more than 1.5 million displaced Palestinians, who are living in squalid conditions amid a “catastrophic” humanitarian crisis, could “plummet the people of Gaza into an even deeper circle of hell.”




This picture taken from a position in northern Israel shows an Israeli Air Force fighter jet flying over the border area with south Lebanon on March 10, 2024, amid increasing cross-border tensions between Lebanon's Hezbollah and Israel as fighting continues with Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

The most compelling calls for an immediate ceasefire and the release of hostages have come from the families of victims of the war, Guterres said, as he pleaded for their voices to heard and heeded.

“Israeli hostage families who shared their torment and anguish and pleaded for the immediate release of their loved ones,” he said. “And Palestinian families who shared heart-wrenching testimonies of family members killed in Israeli bombardments and pleaded for an immediate ceasefire.

“As one of those family members said: ‘We are not here for condolences. We are not here for apologies. We are here for immediate action.’”

Guterres also renewed his appeal for hostilities to cease in Sudan during Ramadan. Fighting broke out in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, in April 2023 between Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, the nation’s army chief and de facto head of state, and Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, who leads the Rapid Support Forces paramilitaries.




Children play at a camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on the eve of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan on March 10, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)

Since then the civil war has spread, killing 12,000 people, displacing at least 8 million, and forcing 19 million children out of school. The widespread threat of starvation also looms.

“The fighting there must end for the sake of the Sudanese people, who face hunger, horrors and untold hardships,” said Guterres.




Destruction left by the Israeli offensive on Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, is seen Friday, March 8, 2024. (AP)

“In Gaza, in Sudan, and beyond, it is time for peace. I call on political, religious and community leaders everywhere to do everything in their power to make this holy period a time for empathy, action and peace.

“Let’s not forget that beyond Ramadan, Christians will soon celebrate Easter and Jews will celebrate Passover. It is time to end the terrible suffering. Now is the time to do it.”


Iran supreme court overturns rapper Salehi’s death sentence: lawyer

Iran supreme court overturns rapper Salehi’s death sentence: lawyer
Updated 2 sec ago
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Iran supreme court overturns rapper Salehi’s death sentence: lawyer

Iran supreme court overturns rapper Salehi’s death sentence: lawyer
  • Popular rapper Toomaj Salehi was jailed for backing nationwide protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death
TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme court has overturned a death sentence against popular rapper Toomaj Salehi who was jailed for backing nationwide protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death, his lawyer said Saturday.
“Salehi’s death sentence was overturned,” the rapper’s lawyer Amir Raisian said in a post on X, adding that the supreme court had ordered a retrial.

Jordanian police discover explosives stored in residential apartment

Jordanian police discover explosives stored in residential apartment
Updated 54 min 48 sec ago
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Jordanian police discover explosives stored in residential apartment

Jordanian police discover explosives stored in residential apartment
  • The explosives, found in a home in the Marka neighborhood northeast of Amman, were detonated onsite after the area was evacuated

AMMAN: Police in Jordan said on Saturday they had uncovered and detonated explosives stored in a residential area of the capital and were investigating the incident.
The explosives, found in a home in the Marka neighborhood northeast of the capital, were detonated onsite after the area was evacuated, according to a brief statement by public security directorate. Witnesses said the area was sealed by police.
The statement did not say if police suspected it was terrorism related or if arrests were made, or detail the quantity of explosives. It added more details would be published once the investigation was complete.
Over the past year, Jordan has said it has foiled many attempts to smuggle weapons by infiltrators linked to pro-Iranian militias in Syria, who it says have crossed its borders with rocket launchers and explosives, adding that some of the weapons managed to get through undetected.
Iran has denied being behind such attempts.
Most of the clandestine flow of arms into the country has been bound for the neighboring Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jordanian officials say.
There have also been arrests of several Jordanians linked to the Palestinian militant group Hamas suspected of involvement in smuggling arms to the West Bank, they add.


Israel army says Israeli civilian shot dead in West Bank

Israel army says Israeli civilian shot dead in West Bank
Updated 22 June 2024
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Israel army says Israeli civilian shot dead in West Bank

Israel army says Israeli civilian shot dead in West Bank
  • The military and Israeli police were investigating the circumstances of the death, the military said, without offering details

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military said on Saturday that an Israeli civilian died after being shot near the occupied West Bank city of Qalqilya and that troops had launched an operation in the area.
The military and Israeli police were investigating the circumstances of the death, the military said, without offering details.
“IDF troops are currently operating in the area of Qalqilya after an Israeli civilian was pronounced dead, shortly after being found shot in the area,” the military said in a statement.
Israeli media reported that the dead man, who was in his 60s, was a Jewish Israeli citizen.
In recent days, there have been several violent incidents in Qalqilya and its vicinity.
On Friday, Israeli and Palestinian authorities said at least two Palestinians were killed in an Israeli operation in the city.
Israeli authorities said the two were militants from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group.
Violence in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967, has been on the rise for more than a year, particularly since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7.
At least 549 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces or settlers across the West Bank since October 7, according to Palestinian officials.
Attacks by Palestinians have killed at least 14 Israelis in the West Bank over the same period, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.


Week before presidential election, Iranians divided on whether voting will address pressing problems

Week before presidential election, Iranians divided on whether voting will address pressing problems
Updated 22 June 2024
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Week before presidential election, Iranians divided on whether voting will address pressing problems

Week before presidential election, Iranians divided on whether voting will address pressing problems
  • Iranians head to the polls on June 28 to choose from six candidates, five conservatives and a relative reformist
  • Election comes as Iran grapples with economic pressures, international sanctions, compulsory headscarves for women

TEHRAN: With just a week remaining before a presidential election, Iranians are divided over whether voting will address pressing economic issues and mandatory hijab laws.
Iranians head to the polls on June 28 to choose from six candidates — five conservatives and a relative reformist — to succeed Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash last month.
The election comes as Iran grapples with economic pressures, international sanctions and enforcement of the compulsory headscarves for women.
“They promise change, but won’t do much,” said Hamid Habibi, a 54-year-old shop owner at Tehran’s bustling Grand Bazar.
“I’ve watched the debates and campaigns; they speak beautifully but need to back their words with action,” he said.
Despite his skepticism, Habibi plans to vote next week.
The candidates have held two debates, each pledging to tackle the financial challenges impacting the country’s 85 million people.
“The economic situation is deteriorating daily, and I don’t foresee any improvements,” said Fariba, a 30-year-old who runs an online store.
“Regardless of who wins, our lives won’t change,” she said.

Others, like 57-year-old baker Taghi Dodangeh, remain hopeful.
“Change is certain,” he said, viewing voting as a religious duty and national obligation.
But Jowzi, a 61-year-old housewife, expressed doubts, especially about the candidate line-up.
“There’s hardly any differences between the six,” she said. “One cannot say any of them belongs to a different group.”
Iran’s Guardian Council approved six candidates after disqualifying most moderates and reformists.
Leading contenders include conservative parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and the sole reformist candidate, Masoud Pezeshkian.
Keshvar, a 53-year-old mother, intends to vote for the candidate with the most robust economic plan.
“Young people are grappling with economic hardships,” she said.
“Raisi made efforts, but on the ground, things didn’t change much for the general public, and they were unhappy.”
In the 2021 election that brought Raisi to power, many voters stayed away, resulting in a participation rate just under 49 percent — the lowest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has urged a high voter turnout.
Yet, 26-year-old shopkeeper Mahdi Zeinali said he would only vote if a candidate proves to be “the right person.”
This election comes at a turbulent time, with the Gaza war raging between Iran’s adversary Israel and Tehran-backed Palestinian militant group Hamas, along with ongoing diplomatic tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.
Compulsory hijab laws remain contentious, particularly since mass protests triggered by the 2022 death in custody of Mahsa Amini.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, was detained for an alleged breach of Iran’s dress code for women, who are required to cover their heads and necks and wear modest clothing in public.
Despite increased enforcement, many women, especially in Tehran, defy the dress code.
Fariba expressed concern that after the election, “things would go back to where they were,” and young women won’t be able to remove their headscarves.
Jowzi, an undecided voter who wears a veil, regards it as a “personal” choice and opposes state interference.
“It makes no difference who becomes president,” she said.
“What’s important is what they actually do. It’s not important to me whether or not they have a turban. They need to act humanely.”


UAE contributes $5 million to United Nations OCHA for humanitarian efforts in Sudan

UAE contributes $5 million to United Nations OCHA for humanitarian efforts in Sudan
Updated 22 June 2024
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UAE contributes $5 million to United Nations OCHA for humanitarian efforts in Sudan

UAE contributes $5 million to United Nations OCHA for humanitarian efforts in Sudan

DUBAI: The UAE will allocate $5 million to support the Sudan Humanitarian Fund (SHF) that would be managed by the United Nations, state-run WAM news agency reported. 
In an agreement with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UAE contribution to the Sudan Humanitarian Fund will be managed by OCHA, in order to “facilitate access to funds to address the most critical humanitarian needs and emergencies on the ground,” WAM reported. 
Martin Griffiths, Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, in a statement said: “We are deeply grateful to the Government and the people of the United Arab Emirates for your generous support of $70 million to help bring relief to the people of Sudan through the United Nations. With this allocation, we can bolster our lifesaving support to families and communities caught up in Sudan's unprecedented humanitarian crisis.”
“The UAE’s long-term support to Sudan is a testament to our dedication to fostering a prosperous Sudan and promoting stability in the region. We are pleased to partner with OCHA and other UN agencies to deliver vital aid to those most impacted,” according to Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s Assistant Minister for Political Affairs and Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“I reiterate the UAE’s unwavering position is to call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, and a peaceful solution to the crisis,” she added.

Meanwhile, Emirati officials also signed an agreement with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) to address the humanitarian crisis in Sudan and prevent the imminent risk of famine. 

FAO has received US$5 million in funding from the UAE, which will be directed towards the project titled ‘Mitigating Famine in Sudan – Support to Conflict-Affected Vulnerable Smallholder Farming and Pastoralist Households’.

The FAO project, set to run for one year, aims to provide emergency crop, livestock, and veterinary assistance to 275,000 vulnerable smallholder farmer and pastoralist households, benefiting approximately 1,375,000 individuals.

The UAE contributions to OCHA and FAO are part of a broader commitment of $70 million dedicated to addressing urgent humanitarian needs in Sudan, through UN agencies and humanitarian organizations.

This funding is a substantial portion of the $100 million pledge made by the UAE in April at a global humanitarian conference for Sudan and its neighboring countries.
This contribution takes the total amount of UAE aid to Sudan in the past 10 years to more than $3.5 billion.