EU’s Borrell urges Israel ‘not to intimidate,’ ‘threaten’ ICC judges

Update EU’s Borrell urges Israel ‘not to intimidate,’ ‘threaten’ ICC judges
“Recognizing the Palestinian state is not a gift to Hamas, quite the contrary,” he said. “The Palestinian authority is not Hamas, on the contrary they are deeply confronted.”.(AFP)
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Updated 24 May 2024
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EU’s Borrell urges Israel ‘not to intimidate,’ ‘threaten’ ICC judges

EU’s Borrell urges Israel ‘not to intimidate,’ ‘threaten’ ICC judges
  • The warrants, if granted by the ICC judges, would mean that any of the 124 ICC member states would technically be obliged to arrest Netanyahu and the others

MADRID: EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on Friday urged Israel “not to intimidate” or “threaten” the judges of the International Criminal Court, whose prosecutor has requested arrest warrants for Israel’s prime minister and defense minister.
“I ask everyone, starting with the Israeli government, but also certain European governments, not to intimidate the judges, not to threaten them,” Borrell said during an interview with Spanish public television TVE, calling for “respect for the International Criminal Court.”
What the court’s prosecutor “has done in presenting a case should not be considered as an anti-Semitic attitude,” the former Spanish foreign minister added.
ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said Monday that he requested arrest warrants for as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as top Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh and Mohamed Deif, on suspicions of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
While he said the Palestinian militant chiefs could be culpable of “extermination,” “rape and other acts of sexual violence” and “taking hostages as a war crime,” he accused the Israelis of “starvation,” “wilful killing,” and “extermination and/or murder.”
Netanyahu said he rejected “with disgust ... the comparison between democratic Israel and the mass murderers of Hamas,” and Biden also stressed that “there is no equivalence — none — between Israel and Hamas.”
The warrants, if granted by the ICC judges, would mean that any of the 124 ICC member states would technically be obliged to arrest Netanyahu and the others if they traveled there. However the court has no mechanism to enforce its orders.
The Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s unprecedented attack on October 7 resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of 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 35,800 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry. European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Friday said that recognizing a Palestinian state was not a gift to Hamas.
Ireland, Norway and Spain said on Wednesday they would recognize a Palestinian state on May 28, to help secure a halt to Israel’s Gaza offensive after the Hamas attack on Oct.7 and revive peace talks that stalled a decade ago.
“Recognizing the Palestinian state is not a gift to Hamas, quite the contrary,” he said. “The Palestinian authority is not Hamas, on the contrary they are deeply confronted.”
He added the EU already talked, financed and met the Palestinian authority.
“Every time someone makes the decision to support a Palestinian state, ... the reaction of Israel is to transform it in an antisemitic attack,” he added.


UK PM Sunak’s Conservatives set for heavy election defeat, polls forecast

UK PM Sunak’s Conservatives set for heavy election defeat, polls forecast
Updated 6 sec ago
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UK PM Sunak’s Conservatives set for heavy election defeat, polls forecast

UK PM Sunak’s Conservatives set for heavy election defeat, polls forecast
  • Polling by YouGov showed Keir Starmer’s Labour was on track to win 425 parliamentary seats in Britain’s 650-strong House of Commons
  • Savanta poll, published by the Telegraph newspaper, said Sunak could even lose his own parliamentary seat in northern England
LONDON: Three opinion polls on Wednesday predicted a record defeat for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives at a July 4 election, forecasting the Labour Party would comfortably win a large majority after 14 years in opposition.
Polling by YouGov showed Keir Starmer’s Labour was on track to win 425 parliamentary seats in Britain’s 650-strong House of Commons, the most in its history. Savanta predicted 516 seats for Labour and More in Common gave it 406.
YouGov had the Conservatives on 108 and the Liberal Democrats on 67, while Savanta predicted the Conservatives would take 53 parliamentary seats and the Liberal Democrats 50. More in Common forecast 155 and 49 seats respectively.
Chris Hopkins, Political Research Director at Savanta, said its projection put Labour on course “for a historic majority.”
The three polls were so-called multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) surveys, an approach that uses voters’ age, gender, education and other variables to predict results in every British voting district. Pollsters used the method to successfully predict the 2017 British election result.
They are largely in line with previous surveys predicting a Labour victory, but show the scale of the Conservatives’ defeat could be even worse than previously thought.
YouGov’s forecast of 108 seats for the Conservatives was around 32 lower than its previous poll two weeks earlier.
Both Savanta and YouGov predicted that the party of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher could be left with the lowest number of seats in its near 200-year history contesting elections.
Sunak, who in a final throw of the dice last week pledged to cut 17 billion pounds of taxes for working people if re-elected,
has failed to turn the polls around so far in a campaign littered with missteps.
His task has been made harder by the surprise mid-campaign return to frontline politics by prominent Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, a right-wing populist, whose Reform UK party threatens to split the right-of-center vote.
Britain has a first-past-the-post electoral system, meaning Reform could pick up millions of votes across the country without winning any individual seats.
YouGov predicted Reform would win five seats and Savanta none. More in Common did not give a figure for Reform.
The Savanta poll, published by the Telegraph newspaper, said Sunak could even lose his own parliamentary seat in northern England, once considered a safe Conservative constituency, with the contest currently too close to call.
Sunak has acknowledged that people are frustrated with him and his party after more than a decade in power, dominated at times by political turmoil and scandal.
All three surveys projected several senior government ministers, including finance minister Jeremy Hunt, were on course to lose their seats.
Most opinion polls currently place Keir Starmer’s Labour about 20 percentage points ahead of the governing Conservatives in the national vote share.
Other polls in recent days have also presented a grim picture for Sunak, with one pollster predicting “electoral extinction” for the Conservatives.

Community leader accuses Reform UK’s Nigel Farage of ‘undermining Muslim communities’

Community leader accuses Reform UK’s Nigel Farage of ‘undermining Muslim communities’
Updated 31 min 19 sec ago
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Community leader accuses Reform UK’s Nigel Farage of ‘undermining Muslim communities’

Community leader accuses Reform UK’s Nigel Farage of ‘undermining Muslim communities’
  • Iman Atta, of the Tell Mama organization which monitors Islamophobia in the UK, called on other political leaders to ‘step up’ to address divisions
  • Britain needs ‘leadership that will bring communities together, not divide them further,’ she says

LONDON: A Muslim community leader has accused Reform UK’s Nigel Farage of “attacking and undermining Muslim communities” in a bid to win votes during the July 4 general election, according to the Independent on Wednesday.
Iman Atta, of the Tell Mama organization which monitors Islamophobia in the UK, said Farage’s comments last month were “worrying,” and called on other political leaders to “step up” to address divisions.
When questioned about Conservative plans to bring in national service for 18-year-olds, the Reform UK leader said there are “a growing number of young people in this country who do not subscribe to British values, in fact loathe much of what we stand for.”
Farage confirmed during his interview on Sky News that he was referring to Muslims.
Describing his comments as “disgraceful,” Atta said the claims are “nothing new,” a reference to remarks Farage has made in the past.
After the Westminster terror attack in 2017, Farage told a US TV network: “I’m sorry to say that we have now a fifth column living inside these European countries.”
Referring to his “fifth column” remark, Atta said: “He obviously keeps on attacking and undermining Muslim communities in any way that he can find in order to be able to attract more votes and spread more polarization among communities.
“It’s actually quite worrying for us to see that, especially at a time when our country needs leadership that will bring communities together, not divide them further.”
Atta added that now is the time for “leadership that is calling out hatred and division, that is promoting integrity, that is addressing really what brings our communities together in a challenging time across the world.
“I think it’s a time that we need to see better leadership step up.”
Tell Mama has published its Manifesto Against Hate, with key proposals for the next government, including the appointment of a “hate crime czar” to prioritize and oversee initiatives; more ministerial engagement with local communities “to foster inclusivity and reduce social divisions”; and boards to be established at local, regional, and national levels to promote dialogue and collaboration between Muslim and Jewish communities.
Atta said that following the Oct. 7 attacks and subsequent Israel-Gaza conflict, the relationship between the two communities suffered “quite a fracture,” which will take years to repair.
“Communities on all sides have just forgotten about the basic elements of understanding, empathy and listening. There has been a lot of abuse online toward both Muslim and Jewish communities, but also offline,” she added.
Atta said there has been considerable “anger within Muslim communities on the approach the UK has had on the Israel-Gaza war.”
Regarding next month’s elections, she said some Muslims feel that engagement with a new government, “whoever that government is, is key in order to be able to lobby and change the dynamics of how we speak about the war, but equally how we address the issues that are arising (in communities in the UK) off the back of the war in Israel and Gaza.”


White House cancels US-Israel meeting in anger at Netanyahu’s latest accusations: report

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a state memorial ceremony at Nachalat Yitzhak cemetery in Tel Aviv.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a state memorial ceremony at Nachalat Yitzhak cemetery in Tel Aviv.
Updated 54 min 2 sec ago
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White House cancels US-Israel meeting in anger at Netanyahu’s latest accusations: report

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a state memorial ceremony at Nachalat Yitzhak cemetery in Tel Aviv.
  • Israeli leader’s claim Washington has been withholding weapons a ‘public stunt,’ officials say

LONDON: The White House canceled a meeting with Israel regarding Iran after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the US of withholding weapons on Tuesday, according to an Axios report.

In a video released on Tuesday, Netanyahu claimed he had told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that it was “inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunition to Israel.”

He implied the holdup was slowing Israel’s offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

President Joe Biden’s top advisers, angered by Netanyahu’s public statement, made a public statement of their own by canceling the US-Israel meeting scheduled for Thursday, Axios reported.

“This decision makes it clear that there are consequences for pulling such stunts,” a US official told the news outlet.

Another said the meeting had been postponed, not scrapped altogether.

Biden has delayed delivering certain heavy bombs to Israel since May over concerns about civilian deaths in Gaza.

However, Blinken said on Tuesday that the 2,000-pound bombs are the only ammunitions under review. He told reporters that “everything else is moving as it normally would.”


Europe must host Gaza children, Greek foreign minister says

Palestinians gather on Wednesday to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip. (Reuters)
Palestinians gather on Wednesday to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip. (Reuters)
Updated 54 min 59 sec ago
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Europe must host Gaza children, Greek foreign minister says

Palestinians gather on Wednesday to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip. (Reuters)
  • The psychological impact of the war on the youngsters is ‘tremendous,’ Gerapetritis says

ATHENS: Europe has a duty to host children hurt and traumatized by war in Gaza for as long as the conflict continues, Greek Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis said.

Gerapetritis is seeking partners in what he hopes would be a project to temporarily bring the children to the EU. He said he discussed the idea with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa this week.
“We need to face this tragedy very clearly,” Gerapetritis said.
“Europe should be open to injured people from (Gaza) but also to children who are now facing famine or other sorts of dangers.”

FASTFACT

Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis believes Greece’s historical ties with the Arab world give it credibility to act as a peace broker.

Greece was elected as a member of the UN Security Council for 2025-2026 earlier this month. Gerapetritis believes Greece’s historical ties with the Arab world give it credibility to act as a peace broker.
The 56-year old, who has held the post for a year, did not say how many people could be hosted by Greece or the EU but said the issue was under discussion with Palestinian authorities.
Gerapetritis stressed that the initiative was not linked to regular migration, which has become politically sensitive in Europe and strongly opposed by a resurgent right.
“This is an obvious call for humanitarian assistance. We’re not talking here about economic migrants or other types of irregular migration,” he said, days after far-right parties surged in European parliamentary elections.
Greece condemned the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas against Israel but has called for a halt to Israel’s ground and air assault on Gaza that Palestinian authorities say has killed more than 35,000 people and flattened whole cities.
The World Health Organization says many in Gaza face famine-like conditions, and more than 8,000 children under five years old are suffering from acute malnutrition.
In addition, the psychological impact of the war on children is “tremendous,” said Gerapetritis.
Gerapetritis said he talked to Palestinian and Israeli prime ministers this week about ways to seal peace and reconstruct Gaza.
“We shouldn’t wait ... for the war to stop to start discussing it,” he said.
“It is going to be a giant project, and we have to develop it as early as possible,” he said.
A Gaza ceasefire would also help reduce attacks on ships by Houthis in the Red Sea, which has affected Greece’s shipping sector.
“I am relatively optimistic that alongside the ceasefire that we’re hoping to achieve very shortly, the situation also in the Red Sea will become much better,” Gerapetritis said.

 


Extremists from Africa’s Sahel cross into Nigeria’s north

Extremists from Africa’s Sahel cross into Nigeria’s north
Updated 19 June 2024
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Extremists from Africa’s Sahel cross into Nigeria’s north

Extremists from Africa’s Sahel cross into Nigeria’s north
  • Extremists believed to be linked to Al-Qaeda have in the last year crossed over from Benin’s hard-hit northern region and settled in Kainji Lake National Park
  • Clingendael Institute report: ‘A link between Lake Chad and the Sahel is a major opportunity for Al-Qaeda and Daesh to boast about their profiles as leaders of global extremism’

ABUJA, Nigeria: Extremist fighters who had long operated in Africa’s volatile Sahel region have settled in northwestern Nigeria after crossing from neighboring Benin, a report said Wednesday, the latest trend in the militants’ movements to wealthier West African coastal nations.
The extremists believed to be linked to Al-Qaeda have in the last year crossed over from Benin’s hard-hit northern region and settled in Kainji Lake National Park, one of Nigeria’s largest, where other armed groups have also gained access, according to the report by the Clingendael Institute think tank, which has done extensive research in the Sahel.
Residents close to the park told The Associated Press that the facility, which holds one of West Africa’s fast-declining lion populations, has been closed for more than a year because of security threats from armed groups attacking neighboring villages and roads.
“Before, it was like a tourism center (but) now, people find it difficult to pass through there,” said John Yerima, who lives near the park in New Bussa town. “You cannot enter that road (leading to the park) now. It is dangerous seriously.”
The security situation at the 5,300-square kilometer (2,000-square mile) park in Niger state and along the nearby border with Benin is “getting out of hand” and is “a much more explosive situation than we had anticipated,” said Kars de Bruijne, one of the authors of the report and a senior research fellow at the institute.
The “sustained presence” of the armed groups in the park is the first sign of a connection between Nigeria’s homegrown extremists that have launched a decadelong insurgency in its northern region, and Al-Qaeda-linked militants from the Sahel, the vast arid expanse south of the Sahara Desert, Bruijne said.
Their presence offers an opportunity for the extremists to claim large-scale success in both countries, already wracked by deadly attacks in recent years, he added.
Known as a global hot spot for violent extremism, the Sahel region’s worsening security crisis comes as military coups are toppling democratic governments. As the military governments struggle to contain the violence, they are increasingly severing security with traditional partners France and the United States and turning to Russia for support.
In northwest Nigeria, security analysts have in the past warned that the region’s remote territories, where the government is largely absent but have rich mineral resources and high poverty levels, present an opportunity for expansion for extremist groups that had operated mainly in the Sahel, as well as the Daesh group, whose fighters hold sway in the Lake Chad basin.
“A link between Lake Chad and the Sahel is a major opportunity for Al-Qaeda and Daesh to boast about their profiles as leaders of global extremism,” the report said.
There are also concerns from conservationists that the presence of armed groups in the park could further threaten the remaining lions whose populations have declined as a result of climate change and poaching.
“The security situation has become top of the list when it comes to the concerns about the lion populations in Nigeria,” said Stella Egbe, senior conservation manager at the Nigerian Conservation Foundation.
The Clingendael report said it is unclear what the motive of the Sahel extremists in the park is and what their relationship with other armed groups there will be. Security analysts say it offers opportunities for logistics and more influence amid booming illegal trade across the porous border.
“The Sahelian extremists potentially can try to use northwestern Nigeria as a place for fundraising, for logistics and to try to influence the extremist groups there as part of their own competition,” said James Barnett, a fellow at the Hudson Institute whose works in northwestern Nigeria were cited in the report.
Across many villages in Nigeria’s northwest, banditry — not extremist fighters — remains the major security threat, Barnett said.
The bandits have on a few occasions in the past collaborated with extremist fighters as two separate groups in carrying out attacks. But even in rare collaborations, he said, there can be “very deadly consequences.”