US student protesters dig in as Israel-Hamas war grinds on

Update US student protesters dig in as Israel-Hamas war grinds on
A sign sits erected at the Pro-Palestine protest encampment at the Columbia University campus in New York on Apr. 22, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 24 April 2024
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US student protesters dig in as Israel-Hamas war grinds on

US student protesters dig in as Israel-Hamas war grinds on
  • Since last Monday, dozens of students and alumni have come together to express solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel is waging war against militant group Hamas
  • “Millions of Palestinians in Gaza are sleeping out in the cold every single night without access to food and shelter,” said Yazen

NEW YORK: Yazen has slept on Columbia University’s south lawn almost every night for more than a week now, one of several dozen students living at the prestigious school’s “Gaza Solidarity Encampment.”
The 23-year-old Palestinian-American has been splitting his days between his medical studies at Columbia’s historic Butler Library, adjacent to the smooth green lawn, and the upkeep of the colorful tents on the school’s main campus, in the heart of New York City.
Since last Monday, dozens of students and alumni have come together to express solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel is waging war against militant group Hamas.
They are demanding Columbia divest from companies with ties to Israel — and the demonstrations are spreading to other campuses around the United States.
A burgeoning number of protesters now keep vigil daily at Columbia, though numbers ebb and flow from the dozens to the hundreds as students join just for the day, leave to study — or, in Yazen’s case, go home to feed his cat.
“Millions of Palestinians in Gaza are sleeping out in the cold every single night without access to food and shelter,” said Yazen, who did not give his surname.
“We have tents, they don’t have tents,” he said.
He’s determined to stay, even after the university last week called in the police, leading to the arrest and suspension of more than 100 students.
“As a Palestinian, is it my responsibility to be here and show my solidarity with the people in Gaza? Absolutely,” Yazen said.
Universities have become the focus of intense cultural debate in the United States since Hamas’s October 7 attack and Israel’s overwhelming military response, as a humanitarian crisis grips the Palestinian territory of Gaza.
The protest at Columbia has hosted speakers and music performances, Islamic prayers and seder meals for the Jewish holiday of Passover, which began Monday.
But the Middle East conflict is inflammatory in the United States, and as the death toll in Gaza rises — and university authorities up the pressure on the demonstrators to dismantle the encampment — the mood on campus has become uneasy.
This week, in-person classes at Columbia were canceled.
University authorities are caught between condemning anti-Semitism while allowing the protesters to exercise free speech.
But it is a thin line. Tensions reached their peak last week when university authorities called in the police, but it is not just the demonstrators who are feeling the heat.
Melissa Saidak, a Jewish graduate student at Columbia’s School of Social Work, said the protest has also drawn throngs of more aggressive and often violent outsiders to Colombia’s gates.
“A person was yelling at me, screaming at me, calling me a Zionist and a murderer. They were banging a pot or something,” said Saidak, who wears a dog tag in solidarity with Israeli hostages in Gaza and Star of David around her neck.
“It was causing me a lot of physical pain, this was just me trying to get home.”
She thinks Columbia is not doing enough to protect Jewish students — particularly with being transparent and explicit about the harm done to them.
“School has continued to make it a lot worse,” she said.
University president Minouche Shafik had set a deadline of midnight Tuesday to resolve the unrest.
Immediately after that announcement, which came near midnight, hundreds more people flocked to the protest, their numbers spilling over the sidewalks and another lawn.
In a frenzied confusion, demonstrators rushed to clear the camp, carrying half-disassembled tents and bags of supplies away.
But then the deadline was extended for another 48 hours, with the school agreeing not to call in the police or the National Guard.
Student organizers called it an “important victory,” citing fears of “a second Jackson State or Kent State massacre” — referring to two 1970 incidents in which authorities faced off against student protesters, with fatal consequences.
By Wednesday morning the encampment had returned to regular programming.
For now — despite the new looming deadline — it shows no sign of letting up.
D.P., a 22-year-old student who only gave her initials and works security for the encampment, is among those who’ve decided to stay.
“It seems clear to me that it’s what’s necessary for this right now,” she said.
“I can’t stand the thought of not being at camp,” she said. “I think that this whole place is only working because everyone is putting everything they have into it.”


US says new UN draft on Gaza war will not help anything

US says new UN draft on Gaza war will not help anything
Updated 9 sec ago
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US says new UN draft on Gaza war will not help anything

US says new UN draft on Gaza war will not help anything
  • Washington, increasingly frustrated with how Israel is waging the war and its mounting civilian death toll, allowed that resolution to pass by abstaining from voting

UNITED NATIONS, United States: The United States is wary of a new UN resolution on the war in Gaza, its deputy ambassador said Wednesday, as a draft seeks an immediate ceasefire and a halt to Israel’s offensive in Rafah.
Algeria called an urgent UN Security Council meeting on Tuesday after an Israeli strike killed 45 people at a tent camp in Rafah for displaced people on Sunday, drawing international condemnation.
“We’ve said from the beginning that any kind of additional product on the situation right now probably is not going to be helpful,” deputy US envoy Robert Wood told reporters, referring to a text from the council.
“It’s not going to change the situation on the ground.”
Algeria started circulating its draft among fellow members of the Security Council after the emergency meeting.
The draft resolution, which draws on last week’s ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), “decides that Israel, the occupying Power, shall immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in Rafah.”
It also “demands an immediate ceasefire respected by all parties, and also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”
No vote on the text has been scheduled yet.
“We don’t think another resolution is really going to change the dynamics on the ground,” said Wood.
Wood said the United States, which freely uses its veto power in the Security Council to protect Israel, believes that negotiations in the region are the proper way to achieve a ceasefire.
In Washington, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the Algerian text is imbalanced and fails to note that “Hamas is to blame for this conflict.”
Gaza-based Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar could end the fighting right away if he agreed to a ceasefire and hostage release deal, said Kirby.
In early May indirect talks between Israel and Hamas failed to achieve a ceasefire and a hostage and prisoner release deal. Qatar, Egypt and the United States acted as intermediaries.
In a meeting on Wednesday, many members of the Security Council noted the ICJ ruling last week ordering Israel to halt its offensive in Rafah immediately.
“This council should speak out urgently on the situation in Rafah and call for an end to this offensive,” French Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said.
The ambassador from Guyana, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, said her country felt helpless “in the face of the dehumanization of a people, disregard for the rule of law and impunity.”
“When will it end? Who can make it end?” she asked.
“And yet, we cannot afford to remain silent, as too many have already been tragically silenced, forever, in this war,” said Rodrigues-Birkett.
The council has struggled to find a unified voice since the war broke out with the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, followed by Israel’s retaliatory campaign.
The Hamas attack resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,171 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
After passing two resolutions centered on the need for humanitarian aid to people in Gaza, in March the Security Council passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire — an appeal that had been blocked several times before by the United States, Israel’s main ally.
Washington, increasingly frustrated with how Israel is waging the war and its mounting civilian death toll, allowed that resolution to pass by abstaining from voting.


France accuses allies of ‘political positioning’ in recognizing Palestinian state

France accuses allies of ‘political positioning’ in recognizing Palestinian state
Updated 29 May 2024
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France accuses allies of ‘political positioning’ in recognizing Palestinian state

France accuses allies of ‘political positioning’ in recognizing Palestinian state
  • French President Emmanuel Macron said the same day he would be prepared to recognize a Palestinian state, but such a move should “come at a useful moment“
  • “France is not involved in any political positioning, it is looking for diplomatic solutions to this crisis,” Sejourne added

PARIS: France’s foreign minister Wednesday accused fellow EU members Spain and Ireland of having recognized Palestinian statehood as part of “political positioning,” instead of seeking a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Spain, Ireland and Norway on Tuesday officially recognized the State of Palestine, sparking a furious response from Israel.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the same day he would be prepared to recognize a Palestinian state, but such a move should “come at a useful moment” and not be based on “emotion.”
Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne told senators that France was “in favor of a two-state solution,” under which the states of Israel and Palestine would coexist in peace.
“By definition, the issue of recognition will of course come into that. But the concern now — which I have clearly shared with my Spanish and Irish counterparts — is what happens the day after recognition: How diplomatically useful is it?” he said.
“France is not involved in any political positioning, it is looking for diplomatic solutions to this crisis,” Sejourne added.
“It is unfortunate that a certain number of European states put political positioning first in the context of campaigning for the European elections, which does not solve anything.”
European Parliament elections are due to be held next week.
“Tell me, what exactly has the Spanish recognition changed a day later in Gaza? Nothing!” the foreign minister said.
The latest Gaza war was sparked by Palestinian militant group Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the Israeli army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,171 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
The Israeli military says 292 soldiers have been killed in the Gaza military campaign since the start of the ground offensive on October 27.


Nearly 3 out of 10 Afghan children face emergency levels of hunger in 2024— NGO 

Nearly 3 out of 10 Afghan children face emergency levels of hunger in 2024— NGO 
Updated 29 May 2024
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Nearly 3 out of 10 Afghan children face emergency levels of hunger in 2024— NGO 

Nearly 3 out of 10 Afghan children face emergency levels of hunger in 2024— NGO 
  • Estimated 2.9 million Afghan children under five years of age to suffer acute malnutrition in 2024, says Save The Children 
  • Afghanistan reels from immediate impacts of flood, long-term effects of drought and return of refugees from Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: About 6.5 million children in Afghanistan were forecast to experience crisis levels of hunger in 2024, a nongovernmental organization said.

Nearly three out of 10 Afghan children will face crisis or emergency levels of hunger this year as the country feels the immediate impacts of floods, the long-term effects of drought, and the return of Afghans from neighboring Pakistan and Iran, according to a report released late Tuesday by Save The Children.

New figures from global hunger monitoring body Integrated Food Security Phase Classification forecast that 28 percent of Afghanistan’s population, about 12.4 million people, will face acute food insecurity before October. Of those, nearly 2.4 million are predicted to experience emergency levels of hunger, which is one level above famine, according to Save the Children.

The figures show a slight improvement from the last report, released in October 2023, but underline the continuing need for assistance, with poverty affecting half of the population.

Torrential rain and flash floods hit northern Afghanistan in May, killing more than 400 people. Thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged and farmland was turned into mud.

Save the Children is operating a “clinic on wheels” in Baghlan province, which was hit the worst by floods, as part of its emergency response program. The organization added that an estimated 2.9 million children under the age of 5 are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2024.

Arshad Malik, country director for Save the Children in Afghanistan, said that the NGO has treated more than 7,000 children for severe or acute malnutrition so far this year.

“Those numbers are a sign of the massive need for continuing support for families as they experience shock after shock,” Malik said. 

Children are feeling the devastating impacts of three years of drought, high levels of unemployment, and the return of more than 1.4 million Afghans from Pakistan and Iran, he added.

“We need long-term, community-based solutions to help families rebuild their lives,” Malik said.

More than 557,000 Afghans have returned from Pakistan since September 2023, after Pakistan began cracking down on foreigners it alleges are in the country illegally, including 1.7 million Afghans. It insists the campaign isn’t directed against Afghans specifically, but they make up most of the foreigners in the South Asian country.

In April, Save the Children said that a quarter-million Afghan children need education, food and homes after being forcibly returned from Pakistan.

Malik added that only 16 percent of funding for the 2024 humanitarian response plan has been met so far, but nearly half the population needs assistance.

“This is not the time for the world to look away,” he said.

Meanwhile, the European Union is allocating an additional 10 million euros (nearly $10.9 million) to the UN food agency for school feeding activities in Afghanistan. These latest funds from the EU follow an earlier contribution of 20.9 million euros ($22.7 million) toward the World Food Program’s school meal program in Afghanistan for 2022 and 2023.

The funding comes at a timely moment and averts WFP having to downsize its school meal program this year because of a lack of funding, the WFP said in a statement.

“Hunger can be a barrier to education. The additional EU funding to our long-standing partner WFP ensures that more children in Afghanistan receive nutritious food,” said Raffaella Iodice, chargé d’affaires of the EU’s delegation to Afghanistan.

The WFP’s statement said that the agency will be able to use the funding to distribute fortified biscuits or locally produced nutritious school snacks to pupils in more than 10,000 schools in the eight provinces of Farah, Ghor, Jawzjan, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Paktika, Uruzgan and Zabul.

Last year, WFP supported 1.5 million school-age children through this program.


Poland charges Ukrainian with ‘incitement to espionage’

Poland charges Ukrainian with ‘incitement to espionage’
Updated 29 May 2024
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Poland charges Ukrainian with ‘incitement to espionage’

Poland charges Ukrainian with ‘incitement to espionage’
  • The Ukrainian citizen, identified as Oleksandr D., was arrested in early March
  • He is suspected of having “encouraged a Polish citizen to participate in foreign intelligence activity against Poland“

WARSAW: Poland’s security services on Wednesday said a 26-year-old Ukrainian man had been charged with provocation and incitement to espionage against the NATO member.
In recent months Poland, a staunch Ukraine supporter, has seen several sabotage plots on its territory that it has blamed on neighboring Russia.
The Ukrainian citizen, identified as Oleksandr D., was arrested in early March and is suspected of having “encouraged a Polish citizen to participate in foreign intelligence activity against Poland,” security services spokesman Jacek Dobrzynski said in a statement.
“This activity was to consist of sharing photos of military vehicles that were intended for aiding Ukraine and which were crossing the border between Poland and Ukraine,” he added.
In exchange for information, the Polish man was to receive a payment of 15,000 euros ($16,000), Dobrzynski said, without specifying if he had accepted the offer.
Oleksandr D. was charged on Tuesday and faces at least eight years in prison if found guilty.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has said previously that several attempts at diversion, sabotage and arson had been undertaken in Poland on behalf of Russia over the past few months.
These acts “were fortunately averted thanks to the vigilance of our services and allies,” Tusk said in mid-May.
He also said that Poland would reinforce its intelligence services amid the sabotage attempts and concerns over Russia.
A loyal ally of Kyiv’s, Poland is a main country through which Western nations are transferring weapons and munitions to Ukraine to help in the fight against Russia.


Volcano in Iceland erupts again

Volcano in Iceland erupts again
Updated 29 May 2024
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Volcano in Iceland erupts again

Volcano in Iceland erupts again
  • Authorities had warned of the risk of renewed volcanic activity in the area just south of the capital Reykjavik

COPENHAGEN: A volcano in southwestern Iceland erupted on Wednesday, live video from the area showed, making it the fifth outbreak since December.
The new outburst happened as another eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula recently ended after spewing fountains of molten rock for almost eight weeks.
Authorities had warned of the risk of renewed volcanic activity in the area just south of the capital Reykjavik as studies showed magma accumulated underground.
The fiery spectacle underlines the challenges the island nation of almost 400,000 people face as scientists have warned eruptions could happen over and over in Reykjanes for decades or even centuries.
The eruption was the eighth on the peninsula, home to some 30,000 people, since 2021 when geological systems that were dormant for some 800 years again became active.
Previous incidents had disrupted district heating, closed key roads and even razed several houses in the Grindavik fishing town, where only a few residents have since returned.
In an attempt to prevent further damage man-made barriers have been built to steer lava away from infrastructure including the Svartsengi geothermal power plant, the Blue Lagoon outdoor spa and Grindavik.
Icelanders often refer to their country as the “Land of Fire and Ice” as a tribute to its otherworldly landscape forged by glaciers and volcanoes which is positioned between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates, making it a seismic hotbed.
While a 2010 eruption in a different part of Iceland grounded some 100,000 flights internationally due to huge ash clouds, Reykjanes is typically home to fissure outbreaks which do not reach into the stratosphere.