US State Department official resigns, says US report on Gaza inaccurate

US State Department official resigns, says US report on Gaza inaccurate
Officials who resigned prior to Gilbert include Arabic language spokesperson Hala Rharrit and Annelle Sheline of the human rights bureau. (AFP/File)
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Updated 31 May 2024
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US State Department official resigns, says US report on Gaza inaccurate

US State Department official resigns, says US report on Gaza inaccurate

WASHINGTON: A US State Department official who quit this week said on Thursday her resignation was precipitated by an administration report to Congress that she said falsely stated Israel was not blocking humanitarian aid to Gaza, prompting her to resign in protest of President Joe Biden’s Israel policy.

Stacy Gilbert, who served in the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, was a subject matter expert working on the report.

“There is so clearly a right and wrong, and what is in that report is wrong,” Gilbert said in an interview.

The United Nations and aid groups have long complained of the dangers and obstacles to getting aid in and distributing it throughout Gaza.

As the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has exceeded 36,000 and a humanitarian crisis has engulfed the enclave, human rights groups and other critics have faulted the US for providing weapons to Israel and largely defending Israel’s conduct.

The State Department submitted the 46-page unclassified report earlier this month to Congress as required under a new National Security Memorandum that Biden issued in early February.

Among other conclusions, the report said that in the period after Oct. 7 Israel “did not fully cooperate” with US and other efforts to get humanitarian aid into Gaza.

But it said this did not amount to a breach of a US law that blocks the provision of arms to countries that restrict US humanitarian aid.

Gilbert, who worked for the State Department for over 20 years, said she notified her office the day the State Department report was released that she would resign. Her last day was Tuesday.

US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters on Thursday that he would not comment on personnel issues but that the department welcomes diverse points of view.

He said the administration stood by the report and continued to press the government of Israel to avoid harming civilians and urgently expand humanitarian access to Gaza.

“We are not an administration that twists the facts, and allegations that we have are unfounded,” Patel said.

The Israeli embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Gilbert’s accusations.

Gilbert’s bureau was one of the four that contributed to a classified initial options memo, reported exclusively by Reuters in late April, that informed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Israel might be violating international humanitarian law.

Gilbert said the State Department removed subject matter experts from working on the report to Congress when the document was a rough draft about 10 days before it was due. She said the report was then edited by more senior officials.

In contrast to the published version, the last draft she saw stated that Israel was blocking humanitarian assistance, Gilbert said.

Officials who resigned prior to Gilbert include Arabic language spokesperson Hala Rharrit and Annelle Sheline of the human rights bureau.

More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s air and land war in Gaza. Israel launched its offensive after Hamas fighters crossed from Gaza into southern Israel on Oct. 7 last year, killed 1,200 people and abducted more than 250, according to Israeli tallies.


Rwanda’s Paul Kagame wins fourth term with 99% of vote

Rwanda’s Paul Kagame wins fourth term with 99% of vote
Updated 57 min 55 sec ago
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Rwanda’s Paul Kagame wins fourth term with 99% of vote

Rwanda’s Paul Kagame wins fourth term with 99% of vote
  • Paul Kagame has ruled the small African nation with an iron fist as de facto leader then president for three decades
  • Bespectacled is credited with rebuilding a traumatized nation after the 1994 genocide – but he is also accused of ruling in a climate of fear

KIGALI: Rwandan President Paul Kagame was gearing up Tuesday for a fourth term in office after winning a thundering 99.15 percent of the vote in an election where only two challengers were allowed to run against him.
The outcome of Monday’s poll was never in doubt, with Kagame ruling the small African nation with an iron fist as de facto leader then president for three decades.
Partial results issued by the election commission seven hours after polls closed showed that Kagame had won 99.15 percent of the vote — even more than the 98.79 percent he got in the last poll seven years ago.
Democratic Green Party candidate Frank Habineza could only muster 0.53 percent and independent Philippe Mpayimana 0.32 percent, according to the results issued with 79 percent of ballots counted.
In an address from the headquarters of his ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the 66-year-old thanked Rwandans for giving him another five years in office.
“The results that have been presented indicate a very high score, these are not just figures, even if it was 100 percent, these are not just numbers,” he said.
“These figures show the trust, and that is what is most important,” he added.
“I am hopeful that together we can solve all problems.”
Full provisional results are due by July 20 and definitive results by July 27.
“In general, the electoral process happened in a safe and transparent atmosphere for Rwandans living abroad and at home,” the National Electoral Commission said in a statement.
With 65 percent of the population aged under 30, Kagame is the only leader most Rwandans have ever known.
The bespectacled 66-year-old leader is credited with rebuilding a traumatized nation after the 1994 genocide — but he is also accused of ruling in a climate of fear at home, and fomenting instability in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.
Over nine million Rwandans — about two million first-time voters — were registered to cast their ballot, with the presidential race being held at the same time as legislative elections for the first time.
“(Kagame) gives us everything we ask him, such as health insurance. This is why he wins by a big margin,” said 34-year-old mechanic Francois Rwabakina.
Kagame won with more than 93 percent of the vote in 2003, 2010 and in 2017, when he again easily defeated the same two challengers.
He has overseen controversial constitutional amendments that shortened presidential terms from seven to five years and reset the clock for the Rwandan leader, allowing him to potentially rule until 2034.
Rwandan courts had rejected appeals from prominent opposition figures Bernard Ntaganda and Victoire Ingabire to remove previous convictions that effectively disqualified them from Monday’s vote.
The election commission also barred high-profile Kagame critic Diane Rwigara, citing issues with her paperwork — the second time she was excluded from running.
Ahead of the vote, Amnesty International said Rwanda’s political opposition faced “severe restrictions... as well as threats, arbitrary detention, prosecution, trumped-up charges, killings and enforced disappearances.”
The imbalance between the candidates was evident during the three-week campaign, as the well-oiled PR machine of the ruling RPF swung into high gear.
The party’s red, white and blue colors and its slogans “Tora Kagame Paul” (“Vote Paul Kagame“) and “PK24” (“Paul Kagame 2024“) were everywhere.
His rivals struggled to make their voices heard, with barely 100 people showing up to some events.
Kagame’s RPF militia is lauded for ending the 1994 genocide when it marched on Kigali — ousting the Hutu extremists who had unleashed 100 days of bloodletting targeting the Tutsi minority.
The perpetrators killed around 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis but also Hutu moderates.
Kagame has overseen a remarkable economic recovery, with GDP growing by an average of 7.2 percent per year between 2012 and 2022, although the World Bank says almost half the population lives on less than $2.15 a day.
But abroad, Kigali is accused of meddling in the troubled eastern DRC, where a UN report says its troops are fighting alongside M23 rebels.
In the parliamentary election, 589 candidates were chasing 80 seats, including 53 elected by universal suffrage.
In the outgoing assembly, the RPF held 40 seats and its allies 11, while Habineza’s party had two.
Another 27 spots are reserved for women, the youth and people with disabilities.


200 more Kenyan police deploy to tackle Haiti violence

200 more Kenyan police deploy to tackle Haiti violence
Updated 16 July 2024
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200 more Kenyan police deploy to tackle Haiti violence

200 more Kenyan police deploy to tackle Haiti violence
  • Deployment comes after the East African nation sent some 400 officers to the violence-ravaged Haitian capital Port-au-Prince in June
  • Deployment was approved by a UN Security Council resolution in October, only to be delayed by a Kenyan court decision in January that ruled it unconstitutional

NAIROBI: Another 200 Kenyan police officers have left for Haiti under a UN-backed mission to try to quell rampant gang violence in the troubled Caribbean nation, senior police officers said Tuesday.
The deployment comes after the East African nation sent some 400 officers to the violence-ravaged Haitian capital Port-au-Prince in June, part of a controversial offer to send some 1,000 police to help stabilize the country.
The promise — made by embattled President William Ruto, who is trying to calm roiling anti-government protests at home — has run into persistent legal challenges in Kenya.
“We have 200 police officers who left last night, they should land in their destination of Haiti this morning,” one senior police officer said on Tuesday. “They are joining their colleagues who are already on the ground.”
Another senior police source confirmed that the officers had left on Monday night, traveling by chartered plane, adding: “More will be departing soon until we have all the 1,000.”
The East African nation is leading a force expected to number a total of some 2,500 personnel.
Other countries, mostly in Africa and the Caribbean, are also contributing to the mission, which is blessed but not managed by the United Nations.
On July 1, Kenya’s National Police Service issued a statement to scotch rumors that seven officers had been killed in Haiti.
The forces deployed had been “received warmly,” and were “all safe and ready to discharge their clear and specific mandate,” it said.
They were “working closely with their host, the Haitian National Police, and have so far undertaken strategic mapping of the likely areas of operational concerns and conducted several joint patrols within Port-au-Prince.”
The deployment was approved by a UN Security Council resolution in October, only to be delayed by a Kenyan court decision in January that ruled it unconstitutional.
The court said Ruto’s administration had no authority to send officers abroad without a prior bilateral agreement.
While the government secured that agreement with Haiti in March, a small opposition party, Thirdway Alliance Kenya, has filed a fresh lawsuit in another attempt to block it.
The United States had been eagerly seeking a country to lead the mission and is supplying funding and logistical support.
But President Joe Biden flatly ruled out US boots on the ground in Haiti — the poorest nation in the Americas, where Washington has a history of intervention.
Human Rights Watch has raised concerns about the Haiti mission and doubts over its funding, while watchdogs have repeatedly accused Kenyan police of using excessive force and carrying out unlawful killings.
Haiti has long been rocked by gang violence, but conditions sharply worsened at the end of February when armed groups launched coordinated attacks in Port-au-Prince, saying they wanted to overthrow then-prime minister Ariel Henry.
The violence in Port-au-Prince has affected food security and humanitarian aid access, with much of the city in the hands of gangs accused of abuses including murder, rape, looting and kidnappings.


4 Indian soldiers are killed in a gunfight with suspected rebels in disputed Kashmir

4 Indian soldiers are killed in a gunfight with suspected rebels in disputed Kashmir
Updated 16 July 2024
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4 Indian soldiers are killed in a gunfight with suspected rebels in disputed Kashmir

4 Indian soldiers are killed in a gunfight with suspected rebels in disputed Kashmir

NEW DELHI: Four Indian soldiers were killed in a gunfight with suspected rebels fighting against Indian rule in the disputed region of Kashmir, the Indian military said Tuesday.
The soldiers were killed late Monday when they were fired at by militants hiding in the forests of southern Doda district in Jammu division, the Indian military said in a statement on the X social media platform. Government forces had been conducting a search based on intelligence input when the shooting occurred.
No insurgent group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attack was the latest in a flurry of violence in the region. Last week, five soldiers were killed in the nearby Kathua district when suspected rebels ambushed an army vehicle. In June, nine people were killed when suspected militants fired at a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims.
Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for Indian-controlled Kashmir’s independence or merger with neighboring Pakistan. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
New Delhi insists the Kashmir militancy is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle.
Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.
Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the territory in its entirety.


Indian troops battle gunmen in Kashmir, several wounded

Indian troops battle gunmen in Kashmir, several wounded
Updated 16 July 2024
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Indian troops battle gunmen in Kashmir, several wounded

Indian troops battle gunmen in Kashmir, several wounded
  • The army has given no details of casualties and there was no official confirmation of deaths
  • Indian media widely reported five soldiers had been “critically” wounded, PTI news agency says four dead

New Delhi: Troops in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir hunted Tuesday for militants after several soldiers were critically wounded in ferocious gunbattles, with Indian media reporting four had died.

Muslim-majority Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from British rule in 1947, and the disputed northern territory has suffered an uptick in attacks in the past two months

The Indian army’s 16 Corps said security forces had launched an operation Monday evening in Doda district.

“Contact with terrorists was established...(a) heavy firefight ensued,” it said in a statement. “Initial reports suggest injuries to our bravehearts.”

The army gave no further details of casualties, and there was no official confirmation of deaths.

But Indian media widely reported five soldiers had been “critically” wounded, and the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported on Tuesday that four later died of their wounds.

The army said “additional troops” had been brought in.

“Operations are continuing,” it added.

The clashes come a day after the Indian army killed three suspected militants in Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Sunday.

India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir in full and have fought multiple conflicts for control of the Himalayan region.

New Delhi and Islamabad accuse each other of stoking militancy and espionage to undermine each other.

Rebel groups have waged an insurgency since 1989, demanding independence for the territory or its merger with Pakistan.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers, and rebels.

Earlier this month, gunmen killed five soldiers after ambushing an army convoy, and two other soldiers and six suspected militants were killed in separate clashes.

In June, nine Indian Hindu pilgrims were killed and dozens wounded when a gunman opened fire on a bus carrying them from a shrine in the southern Reasi area.

It was one of the deadliest attacks in years and the first on Hindu pilgrims in Kashmir since 2017 when gunmen killed seven people in another ambush on a bus.


Three hikers die in Utah parks as temperature hit triple-digits

Three hikers die in Utah parks as temperature hit triple-digits
Updated 16 July 2024
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Three hikers die in Utah parks as temperature hit triple-digits

Three hikers die in Utah parks as temperature hit triple-digits
  • Father and daughter who got lost on a strenuous hike in Canyonlands National Park found dead
  • Tourists continue to flock to parks in Utah and other southwestern states during the hottest months of the year

SALT LAKE CITY: Three hikers died over the weekend in suspected heat-related cases at state and national parks in Utah, including a father and daughter who got lost on a strenuous hike in Canyonlands National Park in triple-digit temperatures.
The daughter, 23, and her father, 52, sent a 911 text alerting dispatchers that they were lost and had run out of water while hiking the 13 kilometers Syncline Loop, described by the National Park Service as the most challenging trail in the Island in the Sky district of the southeast Utah park. The pair set out Friday to navigate steep switchbacks and scramble through boulder fields with limited trail markers as the air temperature surpassed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).
Park rangers and a helicopter crew with the Bureau of Land Management began their search for the lost hikers in the early evening Friday, but found them already dead. The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office identified them on Monday as Albino Herrera Espinoza and his daughter, Beatriz Herrera, of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Due to the jagged terrain, safety officials used a helicopter to airlift the bodies out of the park and to the state medical examiner on Saturday morning, according to the sheriff’s office. Their deaths are being investigated as heat-related by the local sheriff and the National Park Service.
Later Saturday, first responders in southwest Utah responded to a call about two hikers “suffering from a heat related incident” at Snow Canyon State Park, which is known for its lava tubes, sand dunes and a canyon carved from red and white Navajo Sandstone.
A multi-agency search team found and treated two hikers who were suffering from heat exhaustion. While they were treating those individuals, a passing hiker informed them of an unconscious person nearby. First responders found the 30-year-old woman dead, public safety officials said.
Her death is being investigated by the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department. She has not been identified publicly.
Tourists continue to flock to parks in Utah and other southwestern states during the hottest months of the year, even as officials caution that hiking in extreme heat poses serious health risks.
Three hikers have died in the past month at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, where summer temperatures on exposed parts of the trails can exceed 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius). A 50-year-old man from Texas died on July 7 while trying to reach the South Rim. Weeks earlier, a 69-year-old man collapsed and died while hiking in the sweltering heat, and a 41-year-old who had spent the night at the bottom of the canyon was found dead not far from his campsite. Temperatures deep within the Grand Canyon can rise into the triple digits during the summer.
A motorcyclist died earlier this month in Death Valley National Park in eastern California, and another motorcyclist was taken to a hospital for severe heat illness. Both were part of a group that rode through the Badwater Basin area amid scorching weather.
The air temperature in Death Valley reached at least 125 degrees Fahrenheit (52 degrees Celsius) for nine consecutive days July 4-12 — the park’s longest streak at or above that temperature since the early 1900s, the National Park Service announced Monday. Now, parts of the park are experiencing a multiday power outage triggered by a thunderstorm as temperatures continue to linger just above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Elsewhere on Monday, authorities said a 61-year-old man was found dead inside his motor home in eastern Washington state. The man likely died Wednesday when the temperature in the area reached 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius), Franklin County Coroner Curtis McGary said.
Authorities also suspected heat in the death of an 81-year-old man Saturday in Oregon but have released no further details. His death brings the state’s tally of suspected heat-related deaths to 17 since the July 4 weekend, The Oregonian/Oregonlive.com reported.