Frankly Speaking: Did Oct. 7 attack expedite recognition of Palestine?

Short Url
Updated 18 March 2024
Follow

Frankly Speaking: Did Oct. 7 attack expedite recognition of Palestine?

Frankly Speaking: Did Oct. 7 attack expedite recognition of Palestine?
  • Riyad Mansour says apparent Western support for the two-state solution is an encouraging sign
  • Palestine’s permanent observer to UN notes irony of US giving aid to Gaza while sending arms to Israel

DUBAI: Statements from Western leaders indicate Palestine is now closer to full UN membership than it was prior to the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel that sparked the ongoing war in Gaza, according to Riyad Mansour, the permanent observer of the State of Palestine to the UN.

In recent weeks, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron have frequently spoken of pathways to a Palestinian state, even as Israeli legislators appear intent upon blocking such a move.

“I believe these statements do put us on the course of getting closer and closer to the objective of having a recommendation from the Security Council to the General Assembly to admit the state of Palestine for membership,” Mansour said on “Frankly Speaking,” the Arab News weekly current affairs show.




Riyad Mansour, permanent observer of the State of Palestine to the UN, said “the Israeli government can’t blame anyone they wish, ... there is international humanitarian law and there must be obedience to that law.” (AN photo)

The effort to achieve such a recommendation has been ongoing for many years, having won endorsement at the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation joint summit in Saudi Arabia in November and the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Uganda in January.

“As to the timing, the Israeli side pushed the envelope in that direction when about two weeks ago the Israeli Knesset voted by 99 members out of 120 to deny statehood for the Palestinian people.

“So, they are dictating that the timing is now, and we should proceed as soon as possible through the Security Council for that recognition, and we will,” Mansour added.




Humanitarian aid falls through the sky towards the Gaza Strip after being dropped from an aircraft on March 17, 2024. (REUTERS)

In parallel with the apparent support for Palestinian statehood and UN recognition, the US has also bolstered efforts to increase the amount of humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip.

Months under Israeli bombardment and limits on the number of trucks carrying humanitarian relief and commercial goods into the embattled territory have brought the Palestinian population to the brink of famine.

Although the Israeli military has permitted more trucks to enter Gaza in recent days, the US has sought to supplement the road route with airdrops and now plans to establish a maritime corridor to deliver aid by sea.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Mansour noted that it was ironic, however, that the US was giving aid to Gaza while at the same time sending weapons to Israel, thereby prolonging the war and the suffering of the Palestinian people.

He told “Frankly Speaking” show host Katie Jensen: “It is very ironic. If you want to save lives and send humanitarian assistance, you should not send weapons and ammunition that the Israeli occupying forces use to kill the Palestinian civilian population.

“This is mind-boggling. It doesn’t make sense. If truly the intention is to save lives, then we should not send weapons to allow Israel to kill the Palestinians, and you should use everything possible in terms of political leverage and power to stop Israel from continuing this carnage against our people and to have a ceasefire.”




Riyad Mansour, permanent observer of the State of Palestine to the UN, told “Frankly Speaking” host Katie Jensen “the Israeli government can’t blame anyone they wish, ... there is international humanitarian law and there must be obedience to that law.” (AN photo)

There are, of course, two sides to the war.

Hamas mounted an unprecedented attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking a further 240 hostage, including many foreign nationals, who were taken back to Gaza.

Some have argued that if Hamas had agreed to lay down its weapons and release the hostages early in the conflict, then many innocent lives could have been spared. But Mansour has rejected such narrative, arguing that it was the responsibility of the international community to preserve civilian lives.

He said: “You see, again, the Israelis can say whatever they want. When there is war, it is the duty of the UN to call for a ceasefire and try to resolve it.

“So, therefore, at the UN, I’m devoting all my energy and the energy and the thinking of my entire team in order to accomplish that objective.

“We need to save lives. Every day, the war is continuing, more Palestinian civilians are being killed, especially children and women.




A Palestinian man kisses the shrouded body of a child killed in an Israeli bombing in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip before the burial on March 14, 2024. (AFP)

So, it is the duty of the international community to abide by the principles and the reasons why we established the UN, elected in the charter of the UN, to stop the killing, to stop the fighting, and to try to find solutions to these conflicts.”

Since the onset of the war, Israel has accused Hamas of using the civilian population of Gaza as human shields — building tunnel networks, command centers, weapons caches, and places to hold hostages under hospitals and schools where they are less likely to be targeted in bombing raids.

Does Hamas, therefore, hold a share of responsibility for the civilian death toll in Gaza?

“The Israeli government can’t blame anyone they wish. There is international humanitarian law and obedience to that law regardless of any reasoning or narrative or spinning of whatever one wants to say.

“International humanitarian law puts the responsibility on the attacking army or government to protect civilians, not to harm them under any condition or situation. They have to protect them, they have to protect hospitals, they have to protect personnel who are working in the humanitarian field.

“These are the provisions of international humanitarian law that Israel and any invading or attacking country should abide by and not to blame anyone else but to blame themselves for violating the provisions of these humanitarian international laws,” Mansour added.




Palestinian children salvage some items found amid the destruction caused by Israeli bombing in Bureij in the central Gaza Strip on March 14, 2024. (AFP)

Repeated attempts to secure a ceasefire have failed since the conflict began. Even efforts at the UN Security Council to symbolically demand an immediate halt to the fighting have foundered after the US used its veto power, shielding its Israeli allies from censure.

On whether he and his colleagues at the UN felt let down by the international community for allowing the bloodshed in Gaza to continue, Mansour accused the UN Security Council of dragging its feet.

“The international community should have called for an immediate ceasefire a long time ago, because every day we do not have a ceasefire in place, we have large numbers — hundreds, sometimes thousands — of Palestinians being killed and injured, the great majority of them are women and children,” he said.


READ MORE:

UNICEF says over 13,000 children killed in Gaza in Israeli offensive

US should end weapon supplies to Israel over Gaza war, says top Democrat senator


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a plea last week urging Israel and Hamas to agree to an immediate humanitarian ceasefire during the month of Ramadan.

“We are working relentlessly in the Security Council for that objective.

“We are grateful for the General Assembly that supported us in that regard, when we went there twice, but the Security Council is still dragging its feet, mainly because one country that has a veto power and it’s not listening to the billions of people who are calling for a ceasefire now and to almost 14 countries in the Security Council who are supporting this position,” Mansour added.

Even as consensus evades the UN Security Council, discussions between the Israelis and Hamas brokered by Qatar have also stalled.

Qatari officials accuse the Israeli government of adopting inflexible positions, while Israeli and US officials put the blame on Hamas for failing to release hostages or even agreeing to identify their names or disclose how many remain alive.




Relatives of Israelis being held in Gaza by Hamas militants in Gaza gather in front of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv on March 9, 2024, to press their demand for the release of their loved ones. (AFP)

“You don’t have to listen to all the countries that speak today. It is not an issue trying to blame one party or the other,” Mansour said.

“Pay attention to the reports of international organizations, bodies of the UN, in which they are saying there is a famine situation in northern Gaza, and they are crying day and night; allow humanitarian assistance to scale to enter the Gaza Strip.

“And they are also saying that we cannot distribute all this humanitarian assistance to all parts of the Gaza Strip unless we have a safe way of doing it, which means that we need a ceasefire.

“Those are the objective ones who are the specialists in dealing with saving lives, civilians in situations of war. Those are the ones who are saying objectively what needs to be done — that this war has to stop, a ceasefire, humanitarian assistance in massive amounts should reach all Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

“And they’re not being allowed to do so because of the Israeli occupying authorities who declared from the beginning there will not be water, there will not be food, there will not be fuel extended to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip unless Hamas releases the hostages.

“Therefore, they are using these illegal things to starve the population as tools of war, and that is illegal and it is forbidden and it is a form of genocide — atrocities and wholesale killing of the civilian population to attain political objectives,” he added.




Infographic courtesy of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

UK Foreign Minister Cameron recently said that the leaders of Hamas would need to leave Gaza and must not be permitted to play a role in the enclave’s post-war governance or in a future independent Palestinian state.

But Mansour pointed out that this was a matter for the Palestinians themselves to decide.

He said: “First of all, it is not up to anyone to put conditions on our natural and individual right to exercise self-determination, including our right to have our own independent state.

“These are innate rights for the Palestinian people unconditionally. The UK or anybody else, they cannot impose on the Palestinian people different conditions. For example, when Israel declared its independence in 1948, they did not negotiate that with anyone, nor did they ask for permission from anyone.

“The Palestinian people will not be the exception to the rule. They will behave in such a way that it is an innate right for them to exercise self-determination, including statehood and the independence of our state without conditions, without negotiations, without permit from anyone.”

 


Moroccans in pro-Palestinian march rally against Israel ties

Moroccans in pro-Palestinian march rally against Israel ties
Updated 6 sec ago
Follow

Moroccans in pro-Palestinian march rally against Israel ties

Moroccans in pro-Palestinian march rally against Israel ties
  • Rabat has officially denounced what it said were “flagrant violations of the provisions of international law” by Israel in its war against Hamas, but has not given any indication that normalization with Israel would be undone
  • Israel has killed at least 35,456 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data provided by the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry

CASABLANCA, Morocco: Thousands of Moroccans demonstrated Sunday in Casablanca in support of the Palestinian people and against ties with Israel, an AFP journalist said, more than seven months into the Gaza war.
Protesters in Morocco’s commercial capital chanted “Freedom for Palestine,” “If we don’t speak out, who will?” and “No to normalization,” and many wore keffiyeh scarves or waved Palestinian flags.
The North African kingdom established diplomatic ties with Israel in late 2020 under the US-brokered Abraham Accords which saw similar moves by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Under the deal, the United States recognized Morocco’s claim to sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
Since the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip began on October 7, large-scale demonstrations in Morocco have called for the abrogation of the normalization accord.
On Sunday, the demonstrators marched through central Casablanca in a protest called by a grouping of leftist parties and Islamist movements.
“I cannot remain indifferent and silent in the face of what is happening to the Palestinians who are being killed on a daily basis,” demonstrator Zahra Bensoukar, 43, told AFP.
Idriss Amer, 48, said he was protesting “in solidarity with the Palestinian people, against the Zionist massacre in Gaza and against normalization” of ties with Israel.
Rabat has officially denounced what it said were “flagrant violations of the provisions of international law” by Israel in its war against Hamas, but has not given any indication that normalization with Israel would be undone.
The Gaza war broke out after Hamas on October 7 launched an unprecedented attack on Israel which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,456 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data provided by the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
Hamas also took about 250 hostages on October 7, of whom 124 remain held in Gaza including 37 the Israeli military says are dead.
 

 


What do we know so far about the mysterious crash of the helicopter carrying Iran’s president?

What do we know so far about the mysterious crash of the helicopter carrying Iran’s president?
Updated 10 min 57 sec ago
Follow

What do we know so far about the mysterious crash of the helicopter carrying Iran’s president?

What do we know so far about the mysterious crash of the helicopter carrying Iran’s president?
  • Initially, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the helicopter “was forced to make a hard landing due to the bad weather and fog”

BEIRUT: The apparent crash of a helicopter carrying Iran’s president and foreign minister on Sunday sent shock waves around the region.
Details remained scant in the hours after the incident, and it was unclear if Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the other officials had survived.
Here’s what we know so far.
WHO WAS ON BOARD THE HELICOPTER AND WHERE WERE THEY GOING?
The helicopter was carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the governor of Iran’s East Azerbaijan province and other officials and bodyguards, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. Raisi was returning from a trip to Iran’s border with Azerbaijan earlier Sunday to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, the news agency said.
WHERE AND HOW DID THE HELICOPTER GO DOWN?
The helicopter apparently crashed or made an emergency landing in the Dizmar forest between the cities of Varzaqan and Jolfa in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province, near its border with Azerbaijan, under circumstances that remain unclear. Initially, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said the helicopter “was forced to make a hard landing due to the bad weather and fog.”
WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE SEARCH OPERATIONS?
Iranian officials have said the mountainous, forested terrain and heavy fog impeded search-and-rescue operations. The president of the Iranian Red Crescent Society, Pir-Hossein Koulivand, said 40 search teams were on the ground in the area despite “challenging weather conditions.” The search is being done by teams on the ground, as “the weather conditions have made it impossible to conduct aerial searches” via drones, Koulivand said, according to IRNA.
IF RAISI DIED IN THE CRASH, HOW MIGHT THIS IMPACT IRAN?
Raisi is seen as a protégé to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a potential successor for his position within the country’s Shiite theocracy. Under the Iranian constitution, if he died, the country’s first vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, would become president. Khamenei has publicly assured Iranians that there would be “no disruption to the operations of the country” as a result of the crash.
WHAT HAS THE INTERNATIONAL REACTION BEEN?
Countries including Russia, Iraq and Qatar have made formal statements of concern about Raisi’s fate and offered to assist in the search operations.
Azerbaijani President Aliyev said he was “deeply concerned” to hear of the incident, and affirmed that Azerbaijan was ready to provide any support necessary. Relations between the two countries have been chilly due to Azerbaijan’s diplomatic relations with Israel, Iran’s regional arch-enemy.
There was no immediate official reaction from Israel. Last month, following an Israeli strike on an Iranian consular building in Damascus that killed two Iranian generals, Tehran launched hundreds of missiles and drones at Israel. They were mostly shot down and tensions have apparently since subsided.

 


EU Red Sea mission says it defended 120 ships from Houthi attacks

EU Red Sea mission says it defended 120 ships from Houthi attacks
Updated 45 min 38 sec ago
Follow

EU Red Sea mission says it defended 120 ships from Houthi attacks

EU Red Sea mission says it defended 120 ships from Houthi attacks
  • Human rights activist raps cases of prisoner fatalities as a result of torture in militia’s captivity

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: The EU mission in the Red Sea, known as EUNAVFOR Aspides, said on Sunday that it had protected over 100 ships while sailing the critical trade channel and shot down more than a dozen Houthi missiles and drones in the last three months.

In a post on X marking three months since the start of its operation, the EU mission, which is now made up of five naval units and 1,000 personnel from 19 contributing nations, said that its forces had destroyed 12 drones, one drone boat, and four ballistic missiles fired by the Houthis from areas under their control in Yemen, as well as provided protection to 120 commercial ships since February.

“Great day for Freedom of Navigation, as 3 months have passed since the launch of ASPIDES. Three months of multiple challenges and great achievements. ASPIDES continues its mission in full compliance with international law, to ensure maritime security and seaborne trade,” EUNAVFOR Aspides said.

On Feb. 19, the EU announced the commencement of EUNAVFOR Aspides, a military operation in the Red Sea to defend international marine traffic against Houthi attacks.

At the same time, the Philippines Department of Migrant Workers said on Sunday that 23 of its citizens who were aboard the oil ship assaulted by Houthi militia in the Red Sea on Saturday were safe.

“The DMW is closely coordinating with international maritime authorities, shipping companies, and local manning agencies on the status of ships with Filipino seafarers traversing high-risk areas and war-like zones in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden,” the DMW said in a statement carried by the official Philippine News Agency. 

For seven months, the Houthis have launched hundreds of ballistic missiles, drones, and drone boats against commercial and navy ships along international commerce lanes off Yemen, including the Red Sea.

The Houthis claim that their strikes are intended to push Israel to cease the war in Gaza and allow humanitarian supplies into the Palestinian territory. 

Three civilian sailors, including two Filipinos, were killed in March after the Houthis launched a missile at their ship in the Red Sea.

Many international shipping companies directed their ships to avoid the Red Sea and other passages off Yemen, opting for longer and more costly routes through Africa.

Meanwhile, Yemen human rights activists have said that a man held by the Houthis during the last seven years died as a result of abuse in Houthi imprisonment, making him the latest victim of torture within Houthis detention facilities. 

On Saturday, the Houthis told the family of Najeed Hassan Farea in Taiz through the Yemen Red Crescent that their son had died in their custody, but they did not explain how.

The Houthis abducted Farea in February 2017 after storming his village and home in the Al-Taziya district, preventing him from contacting his family and denying them information about where he was being detained.

Eshraq Al-Maqtari, a human rights activist in Taiz who reached Farea’s family, told Arab News that the Houthis cruelly tortured the man and that his family was stunned to hear of his death after years of information blackout since his detention.

“He was denied the right to communicate, to know his fate, and the right to healthcare, which appears to have caused his death,” she said, adding that since the start of the year, there have been three verified cases of prisoner fatalities as a result of torture in Houthi captivity.


10 years on, thousands forgotten in Syria desert camp

10 years on, thousands forgotten in Syria desert camp
Updated 55 min 49 sec ago
Follow

10 years on, thousands forgotten in Syria desert camp

10 years on, thousands forgotten in Syria desert camp
  • Rukban camp was established in 2014 as desperate people fled Daesh and Syrian regime bombardment in hopes of crossing into Jordan

BEIRUT: In a no-man’s land on Syria’s border with Iraq and Jordan, thousands are stranded in an isolated camp, unable to return home after fleeing the regime and militants years ago.

When police defector Khaled arrived at Rukban, he had hoped to be back home within weeks — but eight years on, he is still stuck in the remote desert camp, sealed off from the rest of the country.

Damascus rarely lets aid in and neighboring countries have closed their borders to the area, which is protected from Syrian forces by a nearby US-led coalition base’s de-confliction zone.

“We are trapped between three countries,” said Khaled, 50, who only gave his first name due to security concerns.

“We can’t leave for (other areas of) Syria because we are wanted by the regime, and we can’t flee to Jordan or Iraq” because the borders are sealed, he added.

The camp was established in 2014, at the height of Syria’s ongoing war, as desperate people fled Daesh and regime bombardment in hopes of crossing into Jordan.

At its peak, it housed more than 100,000 people, but numbers have dwindled, especially after Jordan largely sealed its side of the border in 2016.

Many people have since returned to regime-held areas to escape hunger, poverty and a lack of medical care. The UN has also facilitated voluntary returns with the help of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

The last UN humanitarian convoy reached the camp in 2019, and the body described conditions there as “desperate” at the time.

Today, only about 8,000 residents remain, living in mud-brick houses, with food and basic supplies smuggled in at high prices.

Residents say even those meager supplies risk running dry as regime checkpoints blocked smuggling routes to the camp about a month ago.


Egyptian churches begin preparations to celebrate anniversary of Holy Family’s journey

Egyptian churches begin preparations to celebrate anniversary of Holy Family’s journey
Updated 19 May 2024
Follow

Egyptian churches begin preparations to celebrate anniversary of Holy Family’s journey

Egyptian churches begin preparations to celebrate anniversary of Holy Family’s journey

CAIRO: Egypt’s Coptic community is preparing to celebrate the Feast of the Entry of the Holy Family into Egypt, starting on June 1.

Churches in the country have begun early preparations to welcome visitors, focusing on securing and preparing the sites along the journey the Holy Family is believed to have taken.

Robier El-Fares, an Egyptian Coptic researcher for Arab News, said: “The celebration of the journey of the Holy Family is a relatively new tradition that benefits religious tourism in Egypt. This comes after many years of neglecting the celebration.”

He added: “The route includes about 20 locations that represent the journey from Bethlehem in Palestine, fleeing the persecution of Herod who intended to kill Jesus Christ, and their subsequent travel to Egypt through plateaus and deserts.”

Father Augustinos Morris, priest of the Holy Family Church in Zeitoun, Cairo, for the Coptic Catholics, told Arab News: “Masses will be held at nine in the morning and six in the evening for all Copts who wish to participate. The readings are from Matthew 2, which discusses the flight into Egypt, and include a passage from the Old Testament in the Bible, amid the procedures followed in the holiday masses organised by the scout team.”

Father Matta Philip, priest of St. Mary’s Church in Maadi, Cairo, said: “The church is considered the first point of the Holy Family’s journey to Upper Egypt through a staircase, from there to a boat and then to Upper Egypt.”

He said: “Inside the Church of the Virgin Mary in Maadi, there is an icon depicting the life of the Virgin Mary, the altar vessels, and the Bible open to the verse — ‘Blessed be my people Egypt,’ — and a map of the family's route that starts from Arish and extends to the Monastery of Al-Muharraq.”

“Inside the church is the historic staircase that the Holy Family crossed, with an altar at its beginning where prayers are held,” he said. “From this staircase, the family headed to areas like Al-Bahnasa and Mount Al-Tair and other routes to the Monastery of Al-Muharraq, a journey that took about six months.”

Robier El-Fares said: “The known points of the Holy Family’s journey are 20, starting from Farma, located between the cities of Arish and Port Said, then to Tel Basta.”

“In Cairo, there are many points through which the Holy Family passed, including the area of Ain Shams, in addition to other areas in Maadi and Zeitoun, to start the points of Upper Egypt (southern Egypt), which are numerous including Gabal Al-Tair in Minya, and the Monastery of the Virgin Mary,” he said.