How a ceasefire and unrestricted aid access could yet prevent a famine in north Gaza

Analysis How a ceasefire and unrestricted aid access could yet prevent a famine in north Gaza
Displaced Palestinian children gather to receive food at a government school in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 19, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 02 April 2024
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How a ceasefire and unrestricted aid access could yet prevent a famine in north Gaza

How a ceasefire and unrestricted aid access could yet prevent a famine in north Gaza
  • Some 300,000 people trapped in the enclave’s north face extreme food insecurity amid ongoing aid restrictions
  • Even if sufficient aid is permitted to enter Gaza, starving children will require specialist treatment, warn experts

LONDON: Desperate appeals from UN agencies urging Israel to allow aid into Gaza to alleviate hunger and avert an imminent famine in the north of the embattled Palestinian enclave appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

Despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire and accusations of genocide by Francesca Albanese, the special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the West Bank and Gaza, Israel has continued to bombard the area and limit the flow of aid.

A long queue of relief trucks remains stranded on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, even though “88 percent of the population faces emergency or worse food insecurity,” according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification scale.




Displaced Palestinians gather to collect food donated by a charity before an iftar meal on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on March 11, 2024. (AFP)

On March 26, 12 people are reported to have drowned and six others crushed to death in a stampede when desperate Palestinians tried to collect food packages dropped from the air off the coast of northern Gaza. 

The incident has prompted authorities in Gaza to call for an end to airdrops — an aid delivery method introduced by the US in early March as a workaround, but which critics have called “useless” and “flashy propaganda.” 

In an earlier incident, an aid package air-dropped into Gaza is reported to have crashed into a crowd of people waiting below, killing five and wounding several others, when its parachute failed to open.

The US and other aid agencies are now looking to establish a maritime aid corridor. However, with the necessary port infrastructure still under construction, this will take many months. 




Humanitarian aid being dropped on the Gaza Strip, west of Gaza City, on March 25, 2024. (AFP)

Unless a ceasefire takes effect immediately and aid organizations are granted full access, the IPC projects that famine will arrive in northern Gaza by April or May at the latest, impacting the roughly 300,000 people thought to remain in the area.

“The dire situation of people who are starving in the north of Gaza is entirely preventable, and aid agencies are ready to deliver food and other essential goods to those people,” Ruth James, Oxfam’s regional humanitarian coordinator, told Arab News.

“We just need an open border.”

In order to meet the minimum needs of Gaza’s stricken population, UN officials say between 500 and 600 trucks loaded with humanitarian aid and commercial goods must be permitted to enter the Gaza Strip every day. Since the conflict began, barely a fraction of that has arrived.




Trucks carrying humanitarian aid enter the Gaza Strip via the Rafah crossing with Egypt on November 24, 2023. (AFP)

Volker Turk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, recently told the BBC that Israel bore significant blame for having created what amounts to a man-made famine, and that there was a “plausible” case that Israel was using starvation as a weapon of war.

Speaking to Katie Jensen, host of the Arab News current affairs program “Frankly Speaking,” James Elder, a spokesperson for the UN children’s fund, UNICEF, this week said his agency would be able to respond quickly once restrictions are lifted.

“If there was a ceasefire and multiple entry points were opened up and restrictions were lessened in terms of getting aid in, there is no doubt we could turn around much of this humanitarian catastrophe, particularly the nutritional situation for the most vulnerable,” he said.




A Palestinian woman who fled Khan Yunis prepares food for her family at a camp set in the southern Gaza Strip Rafah region on February 15, 2024. (AFP)

Despite reports from aid agencies and news outlets claiming that Israel is deliberately withholding deliveries of humanitarian relief, Israeli officials insist they are allowing unlimited supplies to flow into the enclave via Gate 96 — a new entry point into the north.

“As much as we know, by our analysis, there is no starvation in Gaza. There is a sufficient amount of food entering Gaza every day,” Colonel Moshe Tetro, head of Israel’s Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza, said in a statement on March 22, according to Reuters.

The following day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visited the Rafah border crossing in Egypt’s northern Sinai, where truckloads of international relief for Gaza waited as Israel continued to obstruct their mission.

Describing the situation as a “moral outrage,” the UN chief said: “Here, from this crossing, we see the heartbreak and heartlessness of it all. A long line of blocked relief trucks on one side of the gates, the long shadow of starvation on the other.”

INNUMBERS

16.5% Children under the age of five in north Gaza deemed to be acutely malnourished. (IPC)

27 Gazans in the north who have already died of starvation. (CARE)

500 Trucks per day required to meet minimum needs of Gazans. (UN)

Aid organizations believe the only way to save lives in Gaza is to immediately halt the violence and open all border crossings, including Rafah and Kerem Shalom, to facilitate the unrestricted delivery of aid.

“Israel needs to open all entry points to us and our humanitarian partners so that we could get a consistent flow of food supplies across border entries and also crossing points within Gaza in order to reach the north, where famine is imminent,” Shaza Moghraby, spokesperson for the UN World Food Programme, told Arab News.

“As far as the WFP is concerned, we need at least 300 trucks every single day, throughout the Gaza Strip, to meet basic food needs, especially in the north. WFP has only managed to bring 11 convoys to the north since the start of the year. 

“Daily deliveries are needed to avert famine. For many families, it is already (too) late. Right now, we are seeing people dying — children dying — from hunger-related causes or a combination of malnutrition and disease. 

“Those tens of people can easily become hundreds and thousands if we do not act right now and have the access that we need.”




A general view shows the damage in the area surrounding Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital after the Israeli military withdrew from the complex housing the hospital on April 1, 2024. (AFP)

At least 27 Palestinians in northern Gaza, 23 of them children, have already died from acute malnutrition and dehydration, according to a March 14 report by CARE, an international NGO fighting world hunger.

According to the IPC, around 16.5 percent of children under five years of age in the north of Gaza were severely malnourished as of February. That figure is now likely far higher.

UNICEF’s Elder said that although aid agencies “have contingency plans always” and are prepared for worst-case scenarios, it is unlikely that “anyone planned for the scenarios that we see now for the fastest decline into catastrophic food (shortages) since the nutrition body (IPC) announced its findings a week or so ago.”




Aid organizations believe the only way to save lives in Gaza is to immediately halt the violence and open all border crossings. (AFP)

However, even if an unrestricted flow of aid is permitted to enter the embattled enclave, the starving population, especially children, will require special medical and dietary attention in order to recover, said Nourhan Attallah, a nutritionist and pharmacist based in southern Gaza.

“The impact of famine on children extends beyond just vitamin deficiencies and weight loss; it affects all the body’s systems, including the brain,” Attallah told Arab News. 

Starvation takes a toll on “the kidneys and liver due to insufficient protein consumption. Heart problems then develop as a result of kidney function defects, stomach and digestive system problems, dehydration, and diarrhea. Without timely treatment, these complications ultimately lead to death.”

She added: “The brain can also shrink in size as a result of malnutrition. Reduced reward response, emotional changes and inflexibility may also develop.” However, with medical help, death from malnutrition can be prevented.

“We can certainly save children, infants and even adults from the specter of malnutrition if we implement rapid and correct therapeutic intervention,” said Attallah. “The recovery rate in cases of malnutrition is high, reaching 90 percent, provided immediate intervention is provided and the appropriate conditions for treatment are ensured.”




Palestinian children suffering from malnutrition receive treatment at a healthcare center in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 5, 2024. (AFP)

Elaborating on the intervention needed, she said: “Severely malnourished children need to be fed and rehydrated with great care. They cannot be given a normal diet immediately. They’ll usually need special care in hospitals.

“Once they’re well enough, they can gradually eat normally. They need pre-prepared meals with a high density of nutrients and calories, and they must eat every two hours, and take supplements and vitamins as well.”

Humanitarian organizations are well-aware of these special needs in the case of catastrophic hunger and starvation.

Moghraby, of the WFP, said that while humanitarian organizations “need to flood the Gaza Strip with basic food supplies, we need our people — WFP and other UN agencies — to go in there, to monitor and administer the distributions with guarantees for the safety of people and staff.”

This is “to make sure those children who have been starving — whose bodies have been denied food for such a long time — get the special nutritional products they need, because it can be very dangerous to consume just any diet.




Palestinian children react as they gather to collect aid food in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, on February 26, 2024. (AFP)

“We’ve seen this in Yemen and other places. This is what we’re appealing for. It’s not just any food — we need to be very, very careful about the kinds of food delivered to the areas that have been experiencing starvation.”

Oxfam’s James echoed Moghraby’s warning. “Specialized services can be scaled up to provide therapeutic food and in-patient care for extremely malnourished people,” she said.

However, “in order to scale up these services, a ceasefire and increase in access across the border are required.”

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No plan for Erdogan to meet Assad in Moscow, Turkish source says

No plan for Erdogan to meet Assad in Moscow, Turkish source says
Updated 24 July 2024
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No plan for Erdogan to meet Assad in Moscow, Turkish source says

No plan for Erdogan to meet Assad in Moscow, Turkish source says
  • Assad’s government has restored diplomatic relations with some Arab states that were severed during the war, but Damascus remains at odds with Ankara, which still protects some anti-Assad rebels in Syria’s northwest

MOSCOW: A newspaper report that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will meet Syrian President Bashar Assad in Moscow next month is incorrect, a Turkish diplomatic source said.
Turkiye’s Daily Sabah newspaper cited an unidentified source as saying that such a meeting could take place in August in Moscow, with Russian President Vladimir Putin as a mediator.
The diplomatic source, speaking to a group of journalists on Monday after the report appeared, said there was no plan for an Erdogan-Assad meeting in August in Moscow.
Turkiye has long been one of the main backers of Assad’s opponents in the Syrian civil war which began in 2011, while Russia is one of Assad’s main battlefield allies, having helped him restore control over most of Syria.
Assad’s government has restored diplomatic relations with some Arab states that were severed during the war, but Damascus remains at odds with Ankara, which still protects some anti-Assad rebels in Syria’s northwest.
Erdogan said earlier in July he would extend an invitation to Assad “any time” for possible talks to restore relations, and Putin could help facilitate the contact. Assad said he would meet Erdogan only if they could focus on core issues including a pullout of Turkish forces from Syrian territory.
Asked about the report of a potential meeting in Moscow between Assad and Erdogan, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not confirm any specific plans but said Russia would like to see improved relations between the two countries.
“The issue of facilitating the organization of certain contacts between Turkish and Syrian representatives at various levels is really on the agenda.
“Many countries, and of course Russia as a country that plays a significant role in the region, are interested in helping the two countries to establish relations. This is very important for the whole region.”

 


Sudan paramilitary chief ‘welcomes’ US-mediated ceasefire talks

Sudan paramilitary chief ‘welcomes’ US-mediated ceasefire talks
Updated 24 July 2024
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Sudan paramilitary chief ‘welcomes’ US-mediated ceasefire talks

Sudan paramilitary chief ‘welcomes’ US-mediated ceasefire talks
  • Ceasefire talks set to take place in Switzerland on August 14

PORT SUDAN: The commander of Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, at war with the army for over a year, agreed late Tuesday to ceasefire talks next month.

In a post on social media site X, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo said he “welcomed” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s invitation to negotiations.

“I declare our participation in the upcoming ceasefire talks on August 14, 2024, in Switzerland,” the paramilitary commander wrote.

“The talks in Switzerland aim to reach a nationwide cessation of violence, enabling humanitarian access to all those in need, and develop a robust monitoring and verification mechanism to ensure implementation of any agreement,” Blinken said.

Since April 2023, a brutal war has raged between Sudan’s regular military, under army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and his former deputy Dagalo’s RSF.

The conflict has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and uprooted more than 10 million people, including two million who have fled across borders, according to the United Nations.

Previous mediation attempts, including by the African Union, have failed to get the warring parties in the same room, as experts said both forces vied for the tactical advantage on the ground.

Indirect talks between the RSF and Sudanese military, held this month in Geneva by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s personal envoy for Sudan, Ramtane Lamamra, were called an “encouraging” first step by the UN.

The talks focused on humanitarian aid and protecting civilians, though neither side met directly with the other.

Both the RSF and the army have been repeatedly accused of war crimes including deliberately targeting civilians, indiscriminate shelling of residential areas, and blocking humanitarian aid, while millions of Sudanese suffer on the brink of starvation.

The RSF has specifically been accused of ethnic cleansing, systematic sexual violence and rampant looting.


What is the human cost of Israel’s relentless pursuit of Hamas commanders in Gaza?

What is the human cost of Israel’s relentless pursuit of Hamas commanders in Gaza?
Updated 24 July 2024
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What is the human cost of Israel’s relentless pursuit of Hamas commanders in Gaza?

What is the human cost of Israel’s relentless pursuit of Hamas commanders in Gaza?
  • Hundreds of Palestinians have died in operations that Israeli forces say targeted Hamas fighters or aimed to free hostages
  • The civilian toll following Israel’s recent bombing of Al-Mawasi and Khan Younis has drawn international condemnation

LONDON: Israel’s military has killed dozens of Palestinian civilians and wounded hundreds more, including children, in its relentless pursuit of Hamas commanders in Gaza, despite designating many of its areas of operation as “safe zones.”

Palestinian health officials said on Monday that 16 civilians were killed in eastern Khan Younis under Israeli shelling, even after Israel issued new orders to evacuate some neighborhoods to keep the civilian population away from areas of combat.

This latest bloodshed followed Israel’s July 13 airstrike on Al-Mawasi camp, another designated safe zone in southern Gaza, which killed at least 90 Palestinians and wounded 300 others, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

Israel said the target of this strike was Mohammed Deif, head of Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, as well as Rafa Salama, commander of the group’s Khan Younis Brigade, whom Israel believes was a mastermind of the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas-led attack.

Denying reports of his death, a Hamas official told the AFP news agency following the strike that Deif was “well and directly overseeing” operations, but he provided no proof for the claim.

Meanwhile, Daniel Hagari, the spokesman for the Israeli military, has said “there are increasing signs that we succeeded in the elimination of Mohammed Deif.”

Smoke rises from Gaza, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict. (Reuters)

Speaking to Al-Arabiya TV channel on Friday, he said: “Rafa Salama was certainly eliminated; Mohammed Deif and Salama sat side by side during the strike. Hamas is hiding what happened to Deif.”

Herzi Halevi, Israel’s chief of the general staff, has also accused Hamas of “concealing the results” of the strike on a west Khan Younis compound, where both Deif and Salama were purportedly hiding.

Regardless of whether the strike on Al-Mawasi was successful or not, the attack on an area packed with civilians drew global condemnation, with observers accusing the Israeli military of violating international humanitarian law.

Josep Borrell Fontelles, the high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy, wrote on the social media platform X: “Wars have limits enshrined in international law; end can’t justify all means. We condemn the violation.”

He added: “Once again we call for access to independent investigations and accountability, and for an end to the appalling situation of innocent civilians in Gaza.”

On the day of the attack, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi “to express our serious concern about the recent civilian casualties in Gaza.”

Women react after Israeli bombardment as they take refuge at the Jaouni school. (AFP)

The deadly Al-Mawasi strike was not the first incident since the conflict began on Oct. 7 in which the Israeli military has been accused of disregarding the safety of civilians and violating international humanitarian law in the pursuit of Hamas commanders.

In the fighting since the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack, at least 38,900 Palestinians, including more than 13,000 children, have been killed, according to the UN Human Rights Office. The proportion of the dead who were combatants is a matter of dispute.

The Israeli army’s bombing campaign, which Israeli officials say is aimed at Hamas and not civilian targets, has also destroyed medical, sanitation, and educational infrastructure across the Palestinian enclave.

Last month, in an operation that rescued four hostages, the Israeli military killed and injured hundreds of Palestinians in the densely populated Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

The Israeli military said there were “under 100” Palestinian casualties but was uncertain how many of them were “terrorists.”

But almost a quarter of the 142 killed in the operation were women and children, Al-Awda Hospital in Nuseirat told BBC Arabic’s “Gaza Today” show, adding that 250 others were injured.

Children walk past a destroyed classroom in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

Expressing “profound shock” at the impact on civilians in Nuseirat, UN spokesman Jeremy Laurence said the Israeli forces’ actions “seriously call into question whether the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precaution … were upheld.”

In March, the Israeli military mounted a raid on Gaza’s largest medical facility, Al-Shifa Hospital, where it claimed Hamas fighters and other Palestinian militants were hiding.

Some 3,000 people were sheltering in Al-Shifa at the time of Israel’s raid, Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry said. At least 1,500 Palestinians, including 13 children and 21 patients, were killed in the two-week raid, according to the Euro-Med Monitor, a nongovernmental organization headquartered in Geneva.

Israeli officials said that “over 200 terrorists” were killed in and around Al-Shifa, as well as hundreds detained, including several Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives.

It has been impossible to independently verify the reported numbers due to a lack of reporting access to Gaza.

Israeli soldiers travel in a military vehicle by the Israel-Gaza border. (Reuters)

Between July 8 and 12, Israel attacked six schools operated by the UN Relief and Works Agency, killing dozens of civilians sheltering in the area, before reportedly razing the UN agency’s headquarters in Gaza City on July 15.

Israel has accused local staff at UNRWA of participating in the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, prompting the UN agency to launch an internal investigation and several major donors, including the US, to suspend funding for its operation in Gaza and throughout the region.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini called Israel’s attack on his agency’s Gaza headquarters “another episode in the blatant disregard of international humanitarian law.”

In a post on X, he said: “UN facilities must be protected at all times. They must never be used for military or fighting purposes. Every war has rules. Gaza is no exception.”

In a separate post, Lazzarini stressed that “schools must never be used for fighting or military purposes by any party to the conflict.”

NOTABLE CIVILIAN CASUALTY EVENTS

• Oct. 7, 2023: 1,200 Israeli and other nationals killed in southern Israel, hundreds taken hostage, in Hamas-led attack.

• Oct. 31, 2023: 110+ Palestinians killed in Israeli strike targeting ‘senior Hamas commander’ in Jabalya refugee camp in northern Gaza.

• Feb. 29, 2024: 112 Palestinians waiting for aid killed, 760 more injured outside Gaza City amid Israeli gunfire and panic.

• April 1: 7 World Central Kitchen workers killed in Israeli strikes in violation of military procedures on convoy delivering aid in Gaza.

• May 27: 45+ Palestinians killed in Israeli strike targeting ‘two senior Hamas commanders’ in Rafah.

• June 9: 274 Palestinians killed in Israeli military raid that freed 4 hostages who were held in Nuseirat refugee camp.

• July 13: 90+ Palestinians killed, 300 wounded in Israeli airstrike targeting Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif in Al-Mawasi.

Source: Gaza Health Ministry, Israeli govt.

Warning that “all rules of war have been broken in Gaza,” he said: “The blatant and constant disregard of international humanitarian law continues unabated.”

Israel has consistently denied accusations that it targets civilian infrastructure, accusing Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups of using tunnels under Gaza’s hospitals to mount attacks and conceal weapons, thereby using the population as human shields.

Commenting on Israel’s conduct, a New York-based international lawyer, who asked to remain anonymous, told Arab News that in the Gaza war, “international law remains relevant as a framework for accountability and justice by providing mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable for war crimes, genocide, and other atrocities.”

Palestinians walk on a street flooded with sewage water in Deir El-Balah. (AFP)

The International Criminal Court, which prosecutes individuals accused of war crimes, has made an attempt to hold “both parties to the conflict” accountable for alleged war crimes.

Israeli officials believe the ICC is likely to issue arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant within the next two weeks, Israeli media reported on July 17.

Karim Khan, ICC chief prosecutor, filed an application in May for arrest warrants against two Israeli and three Palestinian individuals suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Hamas commander Deif was among the Palestinians listed in the ICC’s arrest warrant, alongside Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, and Yahya Sinwar, head of the Islamist movement in Gaza.

The arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant accused them of using starvation as a tool of war, extermination, and deliberately attacking civilian populations, alongside other war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Opinion

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

Khan said he had “reasonable grounds” to believe the five men bore “criminal responsibility” for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity during the war in Gaza.

The decision caused anger among the Hamas leadership, in Israel, and even in the US. US President Joe Biden described the move as “outrageous,” saying there was “no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.”

Hamas said the ICC’s prosecutor was “equating the victim with the executioner” and demanded the withdrawal of the allegations against its leaders.

Israel has consistently denied accusations that it targets civilian infrastructure. (AFP)

The New York-based international lawyer said that although international law and ongoing developments “create a foundation for addressing atrocities and fostering a more just and peaceful world,” its enforcement “can be inconsistent and subject to political influence.”

On July 19, the UN’s International Court of Justice at The Hague declared Israel’s occupation and annexation of the Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip, the West Banks and East Jerusalem, to be “unlawful” in a landmark ruling.

Stating that Israel’s discriminatory laws and policies against Palestinians violate the prohibition on racial segregation and apartheid, the ICJ also ordered Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories “as rapidly as possible.”

Israel has since Oct. 7 also mounted dozens of raids on the West Bank and East Jerusalem, killing at least 500 Palestinians, 143 of them children, according to UN figures.

The ICJ’s recent ruling, however, is a non-binding advisory opinion that was sought by the UN General Assembly in 2022, preceding the Israeli onslaught on Gaza and not directly linked to it.

Responding to the ruling, Netanyahu’s office issued a statement saying: “The Jewish people are not occupiers in their own land — not in our eternal capital Jerusalem, nor in our ancestral heritage of Judea and Samaria (the occupied West Bank).

“No decision of lies in The Hague will distort this historical truth, and similarly, the legality of Israeli settlements in all parts of our homeland cannot be disputed.”

In December last year, South Africa brought a case against Israel before the ICJ, alleging it had committed genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Between July 8 and 12, Israel attacked six schools operated by the UN Relief and Works Agency, killing dozens of civilians sheltering in the area. (Reuters)

The ICJ issued a provisional ruling in January, modified in May, ordering Israel to “immediately halt its military offensive” and urging Hamas to release the hostages immediately and unconditionally.

Regardless, Israel has continued to bomb Rafah and other parts of the Gaza Strip where well over a million displaced Palestinians are sheltered, while Hamas is believed to still hold 116 hostages.

No amount of legal wrangling has brought the conflict closer to resolution.

Diplomats and region watchers continue to call on both sides to accept an immediate ceasefire, to exchange hostages and prisoners, and to actively pursue a solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the creation of an independent Palestinian state.


Tunisia migrants in ‘unsuitable conditions’: rights group

Tunisia migrants in ‘unsuitable conditions’: rights group
Updated 24 July 2024
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Tunisia migrants in ‘unsuitable conditions’: rights group

Tunisia migrants in ‘unsuitable conditions’: rights group
  • FTDES found that 77 percent of those interviewed for the study were subjected to physical or verbal violence, though only about five percent filed a complaint “due to their administrative status”

TUNIS: More than half of the mainly sub-Saharan migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers in Tunisia currently live in “unsuitable conditions,” a domestic rights group said Tuesday.
In its latest study on migration, the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (FTDES) found that “over half” of migrants in Tunisia lived “in the street, public parks, encampments, and outdoor areas.”
Tunisia is a key departure point for irregular migrants attempting perilous sea crossings across the Mediterranean to seek better lives in Europe.
Earlier this month, Tunisian Interior Minister Khaled Nouri said that more than 74,000 migrants were intercepted while trying to make the sea crossing to Europe between January 1 and mid-July.
FTDES found that 77 percent of those interviewed for the study were subjected to physical or verbal violence, though only about five percent filed a complaint “due to their administrative status.”
Even when they were sick, nine in 10 people interviewed said they did not seek health treatment “for fear of arrest.”
Anti-migrant violence spiked last year in Tunisia after President Kais Saied said in a speech that “hordes of illegal migrants” posed a demographic threat to the country.
Many were kicked out of their homes and lost their jobs amid an ensuing wave of attacks on migrants.
The study said that authorities’ mistreatment of migrants further motivates them to leave Tunisia.
But with the EU’s increasing efforts to curb migration, they often found themselves stranded in the North African country.
The migrants’ situation in Tunisia is influenced by “external factors related to Europe’s migratory policy,” FTDES spokesman Romdhane Ben Amor said.
The Tunisian state, he added, “needs this (migration) crisis externally to receive more funds ... and internally to present itself as the protector of Tunisians.”
Last summer, Tunisia and the European Union signed an agreement through which Tunis received financial aid worth 105 million euros ($112 million) in return for measures to deter migrant departures, including ramping up interceptions.
Between January 1 and June 25 this year, some 3,500 migrants were sent back to their home countries through the International Organization for Migration’s “voluntary humanitarian return program.”
That figure marked a 200 percent increase in voluntary repatriations compared to the same period in 2023.
 

 


Iraq bans a Kurdish separatist group and strengthens its cooperation with Turkiye

Iraq bans a Kurdish separatist group and strengthens its cooperation with Turkiye
Updated 23 July 2024
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Iraq bans a Kurdish separatist group and strengthens its cooperation with Turkiye

Iraq bans a Kurdish separatist group and strengthens its cooperation with Turkiye
  • Iraq has not followed Turkiye’s lead in designating the PKK a terrorist group but has put it on its list of banned organizations

IRBIL, Iraq: The Iraqi government announced Tuesday an official ban on a Kurdish separatist group which has been engaged in in a long-running conflict with Turkiye.
Turkiye has been seeking greater cooperation from Baghdad in its fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that has waged an insurgency against Turkiye since the 1980s and is banned there.
The order issued July 14 and published Tuesday by the Department of Administrative Affairs at the Iraqi Parliament said Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani had issued instructions for the PKK to be described as the “banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party” in all official correspondence. It was the clearest statement from the Iraqi government on the group’s status to date.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Iraq in April for the first time in more than a decade. At the time, Erdogan said he and Sudani had “consulted on the joint steps we can take against the PKK terrorist organization and its extensions, which target Turkiye from Iraqi territory.”
Iraq has not followed Turkiye’s lead in designating the PKK a terrorist group but has put it on its list of banned organizations.
The PKK has maintained bases in northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region. In recent months, Turkiye has built up its troops in northern Iraq and has threatened an offensive to clear PKK forces from the border area.
Turkiye often launches strikes against targets in Syria and Iraq that it believes to be affiliated with the PKK. Baghdad has complained that the strikes are a breach of its sovereignty, but earlier this year, the two governments issued a joint statement saying that the “PKK organization represents a security threat to both Turkiye and Iraq.”
The Turkish defense ministry said Tuesday that four suspected PKK militants were killed in an air offensive in northern Iraq, including one who was allegedly on a list of militants most wanted by Turkiye.
The ministry identified the man as Yusuf Kalkan and said he was wanted for membership in a terror organization as well as for founding and directing a terror group.