UN Security Council to vote Friday on Palestinian UN membership

UN Security Council to vote Friday on Palestinian UN membership
File photo The United Nations Security Council holds a meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including Iran's recent attack against Israel, at UN headquarters in New York City on April 14, 2024.(AFP)
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Updated 17 April 2024
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UN Security Council to vote Friday on Palestinian UN membership

UN Security Council to vote Friday on Palestinian UN membership
  • According to the Palestinian side, 137 of the 193 UN member states already recognize a Palestinian state
  • Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan has strongly opposed the Palestinian membership bid

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to vote Friday on a Palestinian request for full UN membership, said diplomats, a move that Israel ally the United States is expected to block because it would effectively recognize a Palestinian state.
The 15-member council is due to vote at 3 p.m. (1900 GMT) Friday on a draft resolution that recommends to the 193-member UN General Assembly that “the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations,” diplomats said.
A council resolution needs at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the US, Britain, France, Russia or China to pass. Diplomats say the measure could have the support of up to 13 council members, which would force the US to use its veto.
Council member Algeria, which put forward the draft resolution, had requested a vote for Thursday afternoon to coincide with a Security Council meeting on the Middle East, which is expected to be attended by several ministers.
The United States has said that establishing an independent Palestinian state should happen through direct negotiations between the parties and not at the United Nations.
“We do not see that doing a resolution in the Security Council will necessarily get us to a place where we can find ... a two-state solution moving forward,” US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said on Wednesday.
The Palestinians are currently a non-member observer state, a de facto recognition of statehood that was granted by the 193-member UN General Assembly in 2012. But an application to become a full UN member needs to be approved by the Security Council and then at least two-thirds of the General Assembly.
The UN Security Council has long endorsed a vision of two states living side by side within secure and recognized borders. Palestinians want a state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, all territory captured by Israel in 1967.
Little progress has been made on achieving Palestinian statehood since the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the early 1990s.
The Palestinian push for full UN membership comes six months into a war between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza, and as Israel is expanding settlements in the occupied West Bank.


Syria, donors must step up to help refugees return, UN refugee chief says

Syria, donors must step up to help refugees return, UN refugee chief says
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Syria, donors must step up to help refugees return, UN refugee chief says

Syria, donors must step up to help refugees return, UN refugee chief says
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said the Gaza war and the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict showed what happens if refugee questions are left unaddressed
“If you leave it unattended ... it comes back with a vengeance”

BRUSSELS: The Syrian government and international aid donors must both do more if they want millions of Syrians forced to flee the country by war to return home, the UN’s refugee chief has said.
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said the Gaza war and the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict showed what happens if refugee questions are left unaddressed.
“If you leave it unattended ... it comes back with a vengeance,” Grandi told Reuters in Brussels on the sidelines of a European Union-led conference on aid for Syrians.
The forum yielded pledges of 7.5 billion euros in grants and loans for coming years, the EU said on Monday evening.
But 13 years after an uprising against President Bashar Assad spiralled into war, the fate of more than five million Syrian refugees living outside the country is increasingly contentious.
Lebanese politicians have been pushing for more refugees to be sent home. Some 800,000 Syrians are registered with the UN refugee agency in Lebanon, whose authorities say the true number of Syrians in the country is around two million.
The issue has also risen up Europe’s political agenda, with EU member Cyprus concerned that large numbers of refugees unwelcome in Lebanon will arrive on its shores.
But Western nations have not resumed ties with Assad, regarding him as a war criminal — an accusation he denies — and saying Syria is still unsafe for large-scale returns.
Some Arab states began re-engaging with Assad in the aftermath of a deadly 2023 earthquake but had little success in convincing him to create conditions for refugee returns.
Speaking on Monday evening, Grandi said he could not tell Western countries how to engage with Assad, but they could fund humanitarian work inside Syria by organizations such as his own.
“Something has got to give in all this, you know?” he said. “You cannot have the cake and eat it. You have to invest if you want solutions.”

VOLUNTARY RETURNS
Grandi said refugees should only return voluntarily – and this could only happen if they felt safe in Syria and could rely on basics such as housing and ways to earn a living.
For Syrian authorities, this meant providing security and solving bureaucratic problems such as documentation.
“It’s slow progress, but we’re working on it,” Grandi said. He said he told Assad last year he had a “huge confidence gap” with his own people, who need convincing they can trust him.
More than 500,000 people have been killed in the Syrian war and about 150,000 remain unaccounted for.
Many of the country’s schools, water supplies and electricity stations have been destroyed. A devastating economic crunch has added to the country’s woes in recent years.
Western aid donors had an important part to play too, Grandi said, with more funding for projects inside Syria.
“We have a program in Syria, but it is not very well funded,” he said, adding one flagship scheme had only received between 30 percent and 35 percent of the required funding.
“We need to invest more to create conditions for people to go back,” he said.

Netanyahu says deadly Israeli strike in Rafah was the result of a ‘tragic mistake’

Netanyahu says deadly Israeli strike in Rafah was the result of a ‘tragic mistake’
Updated 28 May 2024
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Netanyahu says deadly Israeli strike in Rafah was the result of a ‘tragic mistake’

Netanyahu says deadly Israeli strike in Rafah was the result of a ‘tragic mistake’
  • Israeli strike in Rafah that set fire to camp housing displaced Palestinians killed at least 45 people
  • Strike has added to surging international criticism Israel has faced over its war with Hamas

TEL AVIV, Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that a “tragic mistake” was made in an Israeli strike in the southern Gaza city of Rafah that set fire to a camp housing displaced Palestinians and, according to local officials, killed at least 45 people.
The strike only added to the surging international criticism Israel has faced over its war with Hamas, with even its closest allies expressing outrage at civilian deaths. Israel insists it adheres to international law even as it faces scrutiny in the world’s top courts, one of which last week demanded that it halt the offensive in Rafah.
Netanyahu did not elaborate on the error. Israel’s military initially said it had carried out a precise airstrike on a Hamas compound, killing two senior militants. As details of the strike and fire emerged, the military said it had opened an investigation into the deaths of civilians.
Sunday night’s attack, which appeared to be one of the war’s deadliest, helped push the overall Palestinian death toll in the war above 36,000, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between fighters and noncombatants in its tally.
“Despite our utmost efforts not to harm innocent civilians, last night there was a tragic mistake,” Netanyahu said Monday in an address to Israel’s parliament. “We are investigating the incident and will obtain a conclusion because this is our policy.”
Mohammed Abuassa, who rushed to the scene in the northwestern neighborhood of Tel Al-Sultan, said rescuers “pulled out people who were in an unbearable state.”
“We pulled out children who were in pieces. We pulled out young and elderly people. The fire in the camp was unreal,” he said.
At least 45 people were killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and the Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service. The ministry said the dead included at least 12 women, eight children and three older adults, with another three bodies burned beyond recognition.
In a separate development, Egypt’s military said one of its soldiers was shot dead during an exchange of fire in the Rafah area, without providing further details. Israel said it was in contact with Egyptian authorities, and both sides said they were investigating.
An initial investigation found that the soldier had responded to an exchange of fire between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants, Egypt’s state-owned Qahera TV reported. Egypt has warned that Israel’s incursion in Rafah could threaten the two countries’ decades-old peace treaty.
The UN Security Council scheduled an emergency closed meeting for Tuesday afternoon on the situation in Rafah at the request of Algeria, the Arab representative on the council, two council diplomats told The Associated Press ahead of an official announcement.
Rafah, the southernmost Gaza city on the border with Egypt, had housed more than a million people — about half of Gaza’s population — displaced from other parts of the territory. Most have fled once again since Israel launched what it called a limited incursion there earlier this month. Hundreds of thousands are packed into squalid tent camps in and around the city.
Elsewhere in Rafah, the director of the Kuwait Hospital, one of the city’s last functioning medical centers, said it was shutting down and that staff members were relocating to a field hospital. Dr. Suhaib Al-Hamas said the decision was made after a strike killed two health workers Monday at the entrance to the hospital.
Netanyahu says Israel must destroy what he says are Hamas’ last remaining battalions in Rafah. The militant group launched a barrage of rockets Sunday from the city toward heavily populated central Israel, setting off air raid sirens but causing no injuries.
The strike on Rafah brought a new wave of condemnation, even from Israel’s strongest supporters.
The US National Security Council said in a statement that the “devastating images” from the strike on Rafah were “heartbreaking.” It said the US was working with the Israeli military and others to assess what happened.
French President Emmanuel Macron was more blunt, saying “these operations must stop” in a post on X. “There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians. I call for full respect for international law and an immediate ceasefire,” he wrote.
The Foreign Office of Germany, which has been a staunch supporter of Israel for decades, said “the images of charred bodies, including children, from the airstrike in Rafah are unbearable.”
“The exact circumstances must be clarified, and the investigation announced by the Israeli army must now come quickly,” the ministry added. ”The civilian population must finally be better protected.”
Qatar, a key mediator in attempts to secure a ceasefire and the release of hostages held by Hamas, said the Rafah strike could “complicate” talks, Negotiations, which appear to be restarting, have faltered repeatedly over Hamas’ demand for a lasting truce and the withdrawal of Israeli forces, terms Israeli leaders have publicly rejected.
The Israeli military’s top legal official, Maj. Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi, said authorities were examining the strike in Rafah and that the military regrets the loss of civilian life.
Speaking to an Israeli lawyers’ conference, Tomer-Yerushalmi said Israel has launched 70 criminal investigations into possible violations of international law, including the deaths of civilians, the conditions at a detention facility holding suspected militants and the deaths of some inmates in Israeli custody. She said incidents of property crimes and looting were also being examined.
Israel has long maintained it has an independent judiciary capable of investigating and prosecuting abuses. But rights groups say Israeli authorities routinely fail to fully investigate violence against Palestinians and that even when soldiers are held accountable, the punishment is usually light.
Israel has denied allegations of genocide brought against it by South Africa at the International Court of Justice. Last week, the court ordered Israel to halt its Rafah offensive, a ruling it has no power to enforce.
Separately, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as three Hamas leaders, over alleged crimes linked to the war. The ICC only intervenes when it concludes that the state in question is unable or unwilling to properly prosecute such crimes.
Israel says it does its best to adhere to the laws of war. Israeli leaders also say they face an enemy that makes no such commitment, embeds itself in civilian areas and refuses to release Israeli hostages unconditionally.
Hamas triggered the war with its Oct. 7 attack into Israel, in which Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seized some 250 hostages. Hamas still holds about 100 hostages and the remains of around 30 others after most of the rest were released during a ceasefire last year.
Around 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes. Severe hunger is widespread, and UN officials say parts of the territory are experiencing famine.


Iraq’s Sadr demands closure of US embassy after Rafah strike

Iraq’s Sadr demands closure of US embassy after Rafah strike
Updated 28 May 2024
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Iraq’s Sadr demands closure of US embassy after Rafah strike

Iraq’s Sadr demands closure of US embassy after Rafah strike
  • Moqtada Sadr Sadr condemned the Israeli strike and Washington’s “shameless” support for the “genocide”

BAGHDAD: Influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr renewed his calls to close the US embassy in Baghdad Tuesday after an Israeli strike killed dozens of civilians in a camp in Gaza.
Health officials in Gaza said the Sunday night strike killed at least 45 people in a displaced persons’ camp in Rafah, the south Gaza city where Israel launched a controversial offensive earlier this month.
Sadr condemned the Israeli strike and Washington’s “shameless” support for the “genocide” he charged was under way in Gaza.
“I reiterate my demand to expel” the US ambassador and “close the embassy through diplomatic means without bloodshed,” he said in a statement on X.
He said that would be a more effective deterrent than the use of force and would mean US officials “don’t have an excuse to destabilize Iraq.”
Sadr once led a militia fighting US-led forces after the 2003 invasion that toppled longtime dictator Saddam Hussein.
He retains a devoted following of millions among the country’s Shiite Muslim majority community, and wields great influence over Iraqi politics.
The Iraqi foreign ministry condemned the “criminal acts that the occupation continues to commit” in Gaza, and urged the international community to take “deterrent” steps and impose sanctions on Israel.
The Israeli strike prompted a wave of international condemnation.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a “tragic accident” but vowed to push on with the military campaign to destroy Hamas.
The war in Gaza began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7, resulting in the death of around 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,050 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
All of Iraq’s political parties support the Palestinian cause. Like its neighbor Iran, Iraq does not recognize the Israeli state.


Vessel tilts off of Yemen’s coast after missile attack, Ambrey says

Vessel tilts off of Yemen’s coast after missile attack, Ambrey says
Updated 27 min 57 sec ago
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Vessel tilts off of Yemen’s coast after missile attack, Ambrey says

Vessel tilts off of Yemen’s coast after missile attack, Ambrey says
  • The vessel issued a distress call stating it had sustained damage

SANAA: A merchant vessel off the Yemeni coast took on water and tilted to one side after being targeted with three missiles, British security firm Ambrey said on Tuesday.
The vessel issued a distress call stating it had sustained damage to the cargo hold and was taking on water approximately 54 nautical miles southwest of Yemen’s Hodeidah, Ambrey added.
“According to the distress call, the vessel was listing,” it said.
Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis have launched repeated drone and missile strikes in the Red Sea region since November, later expanding to the Indian Ocean in what they say is solidarity with Palestinians.


Tanks reach Rafah’s center as Israel presses assault despite global scrutiny

Tanks reach Rafah’s center as Israel presses assault despite global scrutiny
Updated 28 May 2024
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Tanks reach Rafah’s center as Israel presses assault despite global scrutiny

Tanks reach Rafah’s center as Israel presses assault despite global scrutiny
  • Israeli forces pounded Rafah with airstrikes and tank fire overnight, residents say
  • Israel presses offensive despite an international outcry over an attack on Sunday that killed at least 45 Palestinians
CAIRO: Israeli tanks reached the center of Rafah for the first time on Tuesday, witnesses said, three weeks into a ground operation in the southern Gaza city that has sparked global condemnation.
The tanks were spotted near Al-Awda mosque, a central Rafah landmark, the witnesses told Reuters. The Israeli military said its forces continued to operate in the Rafah area without commenting on reported advancements into the city center.
Overnight, its forces pounded the city with airstrikes and tank fire, residents said, pressing its offensive despite an international outcry over an attack on Sunday that sparked a blaze in a tent camp, killing at least 45 Palestinians, more than half of them children, women and the elderly.
Since that strike, at least 26 more people have been killed by Israeli fire in Rafah, officials in the enclave run by Hamas militants said.
Israeli tanks pushed toward western neighborhoods and took positions on the Zurub hilltop in western Rafah in one of the worst nights of bombardment reported by residents. On Tuesday, witnesses reported gunbattles between Israeli troops and Hamas-led fighters in the Zurub area.
Witnesses in Rafah said the Israeli military appeared to have brought in remote-operated armored vehicles and there was no immediate sign of personnel in or around them. An Israeli military spokesperson had no immediate response.
Since Israel launched its incursion by taking control of the border crossing with Egypt three weeks ago, tanks had probed around the edges of Rafah and entered some of its eastern districts but had not yet entered the city in full force.
Reacting to Sunday night’s attack in a camp where families displaced from assaults elsewhere in Gaza had sought shelter, global leaders urged the implementation of a World Court order to halt Israel’s assault.
Residents said the Tel Al-Sultan area, the scene of Sunday’s deadly strike, was still being heavily bombarded.
“Tank shells are falling everywhere in Tel Al-Sultan. Many families have fled their houses in western Rafah under fire throughout the night,” one resident told Reuters over a chat app.
Around one million people have fled the Israeli offensive in Rafah since early May, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) reported on Tuesday.
Israel has kept up attacks despite a ruling by the top UN court on Friday ordering it to stop, arguing that the court’s ruling grants it some scope for military action there.
Spain, Ireland and Norway will officially recognize a Palestinian state on Tuesday, despite an angry reaction from Israel, which has found itself increasingly isolated after more than seven months of conflict in Gaza.
The three nations have painted their decision as a way to speed efforts to secure a ceasefire in Israel’s war with Hamas.
More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive, Gaza’s health ministry says. Israel launched the operation after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel says it wants to root out Hamas fighters holed up in Rafah and rescue hostages it says are being held in the area.