Lebanon backtracks on ICC jurisdiction to probe alleged war crimes

Lebanon backtracks on ICC jurisdiction to probe alleged war crimes
Smoke billows over the southern Lebanese village of Khiam near the border with Israel, following an Israeli airstrike on May 25, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 29 May 2024
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Lebanon backtracks on ICC jurisdiction to probe alleged war crimes

Lebanon backtracks on ICC jurisdiction to probe alleged war crimes
  • Lebanon has accused Israel of repeatedly violating international law since October
  • Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib never filed the requested declaration

BEIRUT: Lebanon has reversed a move to authorize the International Criminal Court to investigate alleged war crimes on its soil, prompting a prominent rights group to deplore what it called the loss of an “historic opportunity” for justice.
Lebanon has accused Israel of repeatedly violating international law since October, when the Israeli military and Lebanese armed group Hezbollah began trading fire in parallel with the Gaza war. Israeli shelling has since killed around 80 civilians in Lebanon, including children, medics and reporters.
Neither Lebanon nor Israel are members of the ICC, so a formal declaration to the court would be required from either to give it jurisdiction to launch probes into a particular period.
In April, Lebanon’s caretaker cabinet voted to instruct the foreign ministry to file a declaration with the ICC authorizing it to investigate and prosecute alleged war crimes on Lebanese territory since Oct. 7.
Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib never filed the requested declaration and on Tuesday the cabinet published an amended decision that omitted mention of the ICC, saying Lebanon would file complaints to the United Nations instead.
Lebanon has regularly lodged complaints with the UN Security Council about Israeli bombardments over the past seven months, but they have yielded no binding UN decisions.
Habib did not respond to a Reuters question on why he did not file the requested declaration.
A Lebanese official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the initial cabinet decision raised “confusion” over whether a declaration would “open the door for the court to investigate whatever it wanted across different files.”
The official said the request to revisit the decision came from George Kallas, a cabinet minister close to parliament speaker Nabih Berri, who heads the Shiite Muslim Amal movement that is allied with the politically powerful Hezbollah.
Hezbollah and Amal have both fired rockets into Israel, killing eight civilians and displacing around 60,000 people from towns near the border since October.
Contacted by Reuters, Kallas confirmed he requested a review of cabinet’s initial decision but denied it was out of fear Hezbollah or Amal could become subject to ICC arrest warrants.
Human Rights Watch condemned the cabinet’s reversal.
“The Lebanese government had a historic opportunity to ensure there was justice and accountability for war crimes in Lebanon. It’s shameful that they are forgoing this opportunity,” said HRW’s Lebanon researcher Ramzi Kaiss.
“Rescinding this decision shows that Lebanon’s calls for accountability ring hollow,” he told Reuters.
Information Minister Ziad Makary, the government spokesman, said that he had backed the initial decision and would “continue to explore other international tribunals to render justice” despite the reversal.
Lebanon backtracked a few days after the ICC requested arrest warrants over alleged war crimes for Israel’s prime minister and defense minister and three Hamas leaders.
The initial push to file an ICC declaration came from MP Halima Kaakour, who holds a PhD in public international law. She recommended the measure to parliament’s justice committee, which unanimously endorsed it. Cabinet approved it in late April.
“The political parties that backed this initiative at first seem to have changed their mind. But they never explained the reason to us or the Lebanese people,” Kaakour told Reuters.
“Lebanon’s complaints to the UN Security Council don’t get anywhere. We had an opportunity to give the ICC a period of time to look at it, we have the documentation — if we can use these international mechanisms, why not?”


Egyptian president tours Prophet’s biography museum

Egyptian president tours Prophet’s biography museum
Updated 9 sec ago
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Egyptian president tours Prophet’s biography museum

Egyptian president tours Prophet’s biography museum
  • El-Sisi explored the various creative pavilions that illustrate aspects of the Prophet Muhammad’s life

RIYADH: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi visited the International Fair and Museum of the Prophet’s Biography and Islamic Civilization in Madinah, Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

During his tour on Friday, El-Sisi explored the various creative pavilions that illustrate aspects of the Prophet Muhammad’s life.

He viewed the panorama of the prophet’s chamber, which showcases authentic details of its construction and development through to the modern era.

El-Sisi was also introduced to a simulation of the Prophet’s pulpit, displayed through models and smart interactive screens. The exhibition highlighted the Kingdom’s efforts in serving the Qur’an and the Two Holy Mosques.

Expressing his admiration for the exhibition and museum project, El-Sisi extended his gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their efforts and hospitality.
 


8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza
Updated 6 min 17 sec ago
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8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza
  • The deaths will likely fuel calls for a ceasefire and heighten Israeli public anger over ultra-Orthodox exemptions from the military
  • In January, 21 Israeli troops were killed in a single attack by Palestinian militants in Gaza

JERUSALEM: Israel’s military said Saturday that eight soldiers were killed in southern Gaza in the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.
The troops were killed in an explosion, the army said, without elaborating. The deaths will likely fuel calls for a ceasefire and heighten Israeli public anger over ultra-Orthodox exemptions from the military.
In January, 21 Israeli troops were killed in a single attack by Palestinian militants in Gaza.
Last month, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered an end to government subsidies for many ultra-Orthodox men who don’t serve in the army. A new draft law hasn’t been passed, but the coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week voted in favor of extending exemptions for religious men. Although the vote was only procedural, it caused an uproar by being approved during a war in which hundreds of soldiers have died and many others remain inside Gaza or on the front lines against Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.
Yoav Gallant, Israel’s Defense Minister and member of the country’s War Cabinet, has insisted that all sectors of Israeli society should contribute equally during its war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s coalition government contains a powerful bloc of ultra-Orthodox parties that have been longtime partners of Netanyahu. If these parties leave the government, the country would be forced into new elections, with Netanyahu trailing significantly in the polls amid the war.
In Tel Aviv, anti-government protests have been ongoing for months, with many demonstrators calling for the immediate return of the hostages, along with Netanyahu’s resignation.
Israel’s bombardment and ground offensives in Gaza have killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian health officials, who don’t give the breakdown of civilians and fighters. The war has also driven about 80 percent of the population of 2.3 million from their homes, and Israeli restrictions and ongoing fighting have hindered efforts to bring in humanitarian aid, fueling widespread hunger.
Israel launched its campaign after Hamas and other militants stormed into Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 hostage. More than 100 hostages were released during a weeklong ceasefire last year in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. Hamas is believed to be holding around 80 hostages and the remains of another 40.
Months of ceasefire negotiations have failed to find common ground between Israeli and Hamas. On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Hamas proposed changes to a US-backed plan, some of which he said were “workable” and some not.
Hamas has continually called for a permanent ceasefire and complete Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza as part of any deal that would see the hostages released. While the proposal announced by US President Joe Biden includes these two provisions, Hamas has expressed concern about whether Israel will commit to them.
Violence has flared in the West Bank since the Israel-Hamas war erupted. On Saturday, a 16-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces near the northern city of Nablus, the Ramallah-based Health Ministry said. The Israeli army didn’t immediately respond to request for comment about the shooting.


UNICEF says Israel denied entry to aid convoy for Gaza 

UNICEF says Israel denied entry to aid convoy for Gaza 
Updated 23 min 44 sec ago
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UNICEF says Israel denied entry to aid convoy for Gaza 

UNICEF says Israel denied entry to aid convoy for Gaza 
  • UNICEF spokesman James Elder said such denials are “consistent and relentless,” with hundreds of similar incidents documented

LONDON: UNICEF has reported that one of its aid convoys was denied entry to northern Gaza this week, despite possessing all the necessary documents, in what the organization’s spokesman described as a common occurrence.

In an interview with the BBC’s “Today” program, UNICEF spokesman James Elder, who was in one of the aid lorries attempting to travel from southern to northern Gaza on Wednesday, said that despite having all the required paperwork it took the convoy 13 hours to travel approximately 40 kilometers (30 miles). After spending eight hours at checkpoints, they were ultimately denied entry to northern Gaza, he said, “so 10,000 children who were going to benefit from nutritional supplies, medical supplies, did not.”

Elder said the reasons behind the decision were unclear, but noted that such denials are “consistent and relentless,” with hundreds of similar incidents documented.

The Israeli army responded by claiming that the documentation for the UNICEF vehicle in the convoy was incorrectly filled out and accused Elder of presenting a “partial picture.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by James Elder (@james_unicef)

While waiting at one of the checkpoints, Elder said he witnessed a group of around eight men attempting to catch fish with a single net. “Suddenly we heard a tank coming down, we heard... automatic fire,” he said. “We saw two fishermen fleeing, one was shot in the back, one in the neck.”

The UN spokesman added that the WHO, which had paramedics in the convoy, requested permission from the Israeli Defense Forces to provide medical support to the injured men, but this request was denied. He later saw the fishermen’s wounds when their colleagues were allowed to retrieve their bodies.

Elder, who had last been in Gaza six weeks previously, said the situation is far worse now. “It’s the first time I’ve seen a real level of despondency,” he said. “They’re so despairing, they’re so broken, they’ve lost so many family members. They have nothing left.

“It’s very unsettling to see a child when their parent can’t protect them, it’s heartbreaking when a parent can’t protect their child,” he continued. “Increasingly I’m hearing people say, ‘I just want this over, I’m happy if there’s an airstrike on me tonight.’”
 


UNRWA slams Israeli allegations in Google Ads dispute

UNRWA slams Israeli allegations in Google Ads dispute
Updated 38 min 31 sec ago
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UNRWA slams Israeli allegations in Google Ads dispute

UNRWA slams Israeli allegations in Google Ads dispute
  • Israeli government’s claims appear as “sponsored links” at the top of Google search results for UNRWA

LONDON: The UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees has rejected claims made against it in Israeli advertisements on Google as “unrealistic.”

The Israeli government’s claims appear as “sponsored links” at the top of Google search results for UNRWA, Anadolu Agency reported.

These advertisements from the Tel Aviv administration’s website contain unsubstantiated allegations, including accusations of UNRWA employees’ involvement in the Oct. 7 attacks and that the agency has been infiltrated by Hamas and other groups.

UNRWA spokesman, Jonathan Fowler, said that the allegations of infiltration were baseless. Fowler noted that the agency had conducted repeated investigations and taken corrective actions when allegations of neutrality violations had arisen, both during and before the war in Gaza.

He stressed that there was no evidence linking any of the agency’s employees to the Oct. 7 operation on settlements adjacent to Gaza.

Earlier in April, an independent review headed by the French former foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, found that Israeli authorities had yet to provide any evidence to back up their allegations that a dozen people worked for UNRWA.

The wide-ranging 48-page report, seen by Arab News, also found that Israel had not previously expressed concerns about any individuals named on the agency staffing lists that it had been receiving since 2011.
 


UN experts say Sudan paramilitaries recruiting in Central Africa

UN experts say Sudan paramilitaries recruiting in Central Africa
Updated 15 June 2024
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UN experts say Sudan paramilitaries recruiting in Central Africa

UN experts say Sudan paramilitaries recruiting in Central Africa
  • “The spillover effect of the conflict in the Sudan has significantly affected the situation in the Central African Republic,” said the expert committee
  • This “continues to constitute a security threat to civilians and an impediment to humanitarian activities in the area“

UNITED NATIONS: Sudanese paramilitary forces are using the Central African Republic as a “supply chain,” including for recruitment of fighters, according to a report published Friday by UN experts, who are concerned about a “spillover effect.”
Sudan descended into war in April 2023 when the generals in charge of the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) took up arms against each other in a fight for control, rejecting a plan to integrate.
“The spillover effect of the conflict in the Sudan has significantly affected the situation in the Central African Republic,” said the expert committee, formed by the UN Security Council to monitor sanctions on Central Africa.
They highlighted in particular the humanitarian situation, as the country sees an influx of millions of Sudanese refugees, as well as incursions by the two warring Sudanese parties — plus air raids by the Sudanese army in and around the Umm Dafog border post, where the RSF is present.
This “continues to constitute a security threat to civilians and an impediment to humanitarian activities in the area,” the experts said.
They insist the paramilitaries are also using the Am Dafok area in the Central African Republic on the border “as a key logistical hub.”
Because the RSF can “move between the two countries easily through a long-standing network” they have been able to recruit “from among armed groups in the Central African Republic.”
“Opposition armed groups from the Central African Republic have been reported to have actively recruited for, and sent members of their own groups to fight in, the Sudan under RSF,” the experts said.
They noted in particular fighters in Sudan since as early as August 2023 from the Central African rebel group Popular Front for the Rebirth of Central Africa (FPRC).
The experts said they are aware that this armed group and others “are still able to cross between the Sudan and the Central African Republic at will and use Sudanese territory to launch attacks.”
The experts thus called on Central African authorities to “counteract the surge in arms trafficking from neighboring countries, particularly given the current conflict situation in the Sudan.”
They also asked the leaders to combat “the infiltration of foreign fighters into the Central African Republic, which poses a significant long-term threat to the region.”