UN suspends delivery of aid to Gaza via US pier

UN suspends delivery of aid to Gaza via US pier
A truck carries humanitarian aid across Trident Pier, a temporary pier to deliver aid, off the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, near the Gaza coast. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 11 June 2024
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UN suspends delivery of aid to Gaza via US pier

UN suspends delivery of aid to Gaza via US pier
  • Stephane Dujarric linked the move to an Israeli hostage rescue operation over the weekend

GENEVA: The UN World Food Programme has suspended the delivery of aid to Gaza via a temporary US military pier in order to assess the security situation, a spokesperson said Monday.
Stephane Dujarric linked the move to an Israeli hostage rescue operation over the weekend that freed four people, but which health officials in Hamas-ruled Gaza say killed 274 people and wounded almost 700, many of them women and children.
“World Food Programme colleagues tell us that we are temporarily pausing operations at the floating dock until a thorough assessment of the security situation is conducted to ensure the safety of our staff and our partners,” said Dujarric, spokesperson for the UN secretary-general.
“We’ve all seen what happened in Gaza over the weekend. We’ve seen some of the media reports. We’ve also taken note of very public statements by the US Central Command that the floating pier had not been used in the operation by the Israeli forces regarding the hostages,” he said.
“I think it’s only normal after such a such an operation takes place with such a large number of victims, that our humanitarian colleagues take a pause, look at the situation. And hopefully it can be returned to use as quickly as possible from our end,” Dujarric added.
Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder told journalists on Monday that the Israeli operation took place near the temporary pier, but was completely separate from the aid delivery effort and its equipment and personnel.
“We’ll continue to work closely with USAID, World Food Programme, the Israelis and all the stakeholders when it comes to ensuring ... security is taken into account,” Ryder said.
He also said that high seas had again disrupted the delivery of aid via the pier, only shortly after shipments resumed Saturday following repairs to the structure from storm damage it suffered last month.
“The sea states ... yesterday and today have prevented additional aid from flowing across the causeway, but all indications are that that will commence again tomorrow,” Ryder said.
Gaza has been devastated by Israeli operations against Palestinian militant group Hamas that are now entering their ninth month, uprooting the coastal territory’s population and leaving them in dire need of humanitarian assistance.


Israel’s security cabinet extends military service: report

Israel’s security cabinet extends military service: report
Updated 12 July 2024
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Israel’s security cabinet extends military service: report

Israel’s security cabinet extends military service: report
  • The 36-month rule will stay in force for the next eight years
  • Israel is planning to send draft notices to thousands of ultra-Orthodox seminary students

JERUSALEM: The Israeli government’s security cabinet has approved a plan to extend compulsory military service for men to 36 months from the current 32 months, Israel’s Ynet news outlet reported on Friday.
The 36-month rule will stay in force for the next eight years, Ynet reported, after a meeting of the security cabinet that took place late on Thursday.
The measure is likely to be submitted to a vote in a meeting of the full cabinet on Sunday, it said.
Israel’s military commanders have said they need to boost manpower so they can sustain the war with the Hamas militant group in Gaza and a confrontation with the Lebanon-based Hezbollah militia.
In a separate initiative, Israel is planning to send draft notices to thousands of ultra-Orthodox seminary students who were previously exempt from military service.


Hamas calls for independent Palestinian government in post-war Gaza

Hamas calls for independent Palestinian government in post-war Gaza
Updated 12 July 2024
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Hamas calls for independent Palestinian government in post-war Gaza

Hamas calls for independent Palestinian government in post-war Gaza
  • A Hamas official told AFP the proposal for a non-partisan government was made “with the mediators.”

Gaza City: Hamas is suggesting during ceasefire negotiations that an independent government of non-partisan figures run post-war Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, a member of the Palestinian Islamist movement’s political bureau said Friday.
“We proposed that a non-partisan national competency government manage Gaza and the West Bank after the war,” Hossam Badran said in a statement about the ongoing negotiations between Israel and Hamas with mediation from Qatar, Egypt, and the United States.
“The administration of Gaza after the war is a Palestinian internal matter without any external interference, and we will not discuss the day after the war in Gaza with any external parties,” Badran added.
A Hamas official told AFP the proposal for a non-partisan government was made “with the mediators.”
The government will “manage the affairs of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in the initial phase after the war, paving the way for general elections” said the official, who did not want his name disclosed.
Badran’s remarks came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that Israel retain control of the Philadelphi corridor, Gaza territory along the border with Egypt. This condition conflicts with Hamas’s position that Israel must withdraw from all Gaza territory after a ceasefire.
Netanyahu said on Thursday that control of the Philadelphi corridor is part of efforts to prevent “weapons to be smuggled to Hamas from Egypt.”
The negotiations are occurring in Doha, Qatar and Cairo, Egypt with the aim of bringing about a ceasefire in Gaza as well as the return of hostages still held there by Hamas.
The war began on October 7 with Hamas’s unprecedented attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza, including 42 the military says are dead.
Israel responded with a military offensive that has killed at least 38,345 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.


Gaza talks explore alternative to Israeli troops on Gaza-Egypt border: sources

Gaza talks explore alternative to Israeli troops on Gaza-Egypt border: sources
Updated 12 July 2024
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Gaza talks explore alternative to Israeli troops on Gaza-Egypt border: sources

Gaza talks explore alternative to Israeli troops on Gaza-Egypt border: sources
  • Israel, Egypt discussing hi-tech surveillance on border
  • Surveillance system is part of Gaza ceasefire talks, System addresses Israeli worries about Hamas smuggling

CAIRO: Israeli and Egyptian ceasefire negotiators are in talks about an electronic surveillance system along the border between Gaza and Egypt that could allow Israel to pull back its troops from the area if a ceasefire is agreed, according to two Egyptian sources and a third source familiar with the matter.
The question of whether Israeli forces stay on the border is one of the issues blocking a potential ceasefire deal because both Palestinian militant group Hamas and Egypt, a mediator in the talks, are opposed to Israel keeping its forces there.
Israel is worried that if its troops leave the border zone, referred to by Israel as the Philadelphi corridor, Hamas’ armed wing could smuggle in weapons and supplies from Egypt into Gaza via tunnels that would allow it to re-arm and again threaten Israel.
A surveillance system, if the parties to the negotiations agree on the details, could therefore smooth the path to agreeing a ceasefire — though numerous other stumbling blocks remain.
Discussions around a surveillance system on the border have been reported before, but Reuters is reporting for the first time that Israel is engaging in the discussions as part of the current round of talks, with a view to pulling back forces from the border area.
The source familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the discussions are about “basically sensors that would be built on the Egyptian side of the Philadelphi (corridor).”
“The idea is obviously to detect tunnels, to detect any other ways that they’d be trying to smuggle weapons or people into Gaza. Obviously this would be a significant element in a hostage agreement.”
Asked if this would be significant for a ceasefire deal because it would mean Israeli soldiers would not have to be on the Philadelphi corridor, the source said: “Correct.”
The two Egyptian security sources, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said Israeli negotiators had spoken about a high-tech surveillance system.
Egypt was not opposed to that, if it was supported and paid for by the United States, according to the two Egyptian sources. They said though Egypt would not agree to anything that would change border arrangements between Israel and Egypt set out in a prior peace treaty.
At a military event on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he could only agree to a deal that preserved Israeli control of the Gaza-Egypt border, but he did not spell out if that meant having troops physically present there.
Talks are underway in Qatar and Egypt on a deal, backed by Washington, that would allow a pause in the fighting in Gaza, now in its 10th month, and the release of hostages held by Hamas.
Israel started its assault on the Gaza Strip last October after Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and capturing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
Since then, its forces have killed more than 38,000 Palestinians, according to medical authorities in Gaza.
Israeli officials have said during the war that Hamas used tunnels running under the border into Egypt’s Sinai region to smuggle arms. Egypt says it destroyed tunnel networks leading to Gaza years ago and created a buffer zone and border fortifications that prevent smuggling.
Israel’s advance into southern Gaza’s Rafah area in early May led to the closure of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza and a sharp reduction in the amount of international aid entering the Palestinian territory. Egypt says it wants aid deliveries to Gaza to resume, but that a Palestinian presence should be restored at the Rafah crossing for it to reopen.


KSrelief distributes food aid in Turkiye and Sudan

KSrelief distributes food aid in Turkiye and Sudan
Updated 12 July 2024
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KSrelief distributes food aid in Turkiye and Sudan

KSrelief distributes food aid in Turkiye and Sudan
  • KSrelief operates aid programs for vulnerable communities across the world

RIYADH: The Kingdom’s aid agency KSrelief has distributed 2,500 food packages for vulnerable people in Turkiye and Sudan, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Friday.

There were 2,000 delivered for earthquake victims in Turkiye’s city of Gaziantep.

A further 500 were distributed in Sudan’s Blue Nile State for 3,425 people.

KSrelief operates aid programs for vulnerable communities across the world.


A rapprochement between Syria and Turkiye is on the table. Here’s what it might mean for the region

A rapprochement between Syria and Turkiye is on the table. Here’s what it might mean for the region
Updated 12 July 2024
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A rapprochement between Syria and Turkiye is on the table. Here’s what it might mean for the region

A rapprochement between Syria and Turkiye is on the table. Here’s what it might mean for the region
  • Ankara and Damascus broke off relations in 2011, as mass anti-government protests and a brutal crackdown by security forces in Syria spiraled into a still-ongoing civil war.

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian President Bashar Assad have recently signaled that they are interested in restoring diplomatic ties that have been ruptured for more than a decade.
Erdogan has said that he will soon extend an invitation to Assad to meet for the first time since Ankara and Damascus broke off relations in 2011, as mass anti-government protests and a brutal crackdown by security forces in Syria spiraled into a still-ongoing civil war.
Turkiye backed Syrian insurgent groups seeking to overthrow Assad and still maintains forces in the opposition-held northwest, a sore point for Damascus.
This is not the first time that there have been attempts to normalize relations between the two countries, but previous attempts failed to gain traction.
Here’s a look at what might happen this time around:
What happened at their last talks
Russia, which is one of the strongest backers of Assad’s government but also has close ties with Turkiye, has been pushing for a return to diplomatic relations.
In December 2022, the Turkish, Syrian and Russian defense ministers held talks in Moscow, the first ministerial level meeting between rivals Turkiye and Syria since 2011. Russia also brokered meetings between Syrian and Turkish officials last year.
However, the talks fizzled, and Syrian officials publicly continued to blast Turkiye’s presence in northwest Syria. Assad said in an interview with Sky News Arabia last August that the objective of Erdogan’s overtures was “to legitimize the Turkish occupation in Syria.”
What’s different now
Russia appears to once again be promoting the talks, but this time around, Iraq — which shares a border with both Turkiye and Syria — has also offered to mediate, as it previously did between regional arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Aron Lund, a fellow with the Century International think tank, said Iraq may have taken the initiative as a way to deflect pressure from Turkiye to crack down on the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that has waged an insurgency against Turkiye since the 1980s and has bases in northern Iraq.
By pushing rapprochement with Syria, Baghdad may be trying to “create some form of positive engagement with the Turks, kick the can down the road, and deflect the threat of an intervention,” Lund said.
The geopolitical situation in the region has also changed with the war in Gaza and fears of a wider regional conflict. Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, an analyst on Turkiye and director of the German Marshall Fund in Ankara, said that both countries may be feeling insecure and seeking new alliances in the face of the war’s potential regional ripple effects.
What Turkiye and Syria want
From Erdogan’s side, Unluhisarcikli said, the attempt to engage is likely driven in part by the increasing anti-Syrian sentiment in Turkiye. Erdogan is likely hoping for a deal that could pave the way for the return of many of the 3.6 million Syrian refugees living in his country.
From the Syrian side, a return to relations with Turkiye would be another step toward ending Assad’s political isolation in the region after more than a decade as a pariah due to his government’s brutal crackdown on protesters in 2011 and alleged war crimes afterward.
And despite their differences over Turkiye’s presence in northwest Syria, Damascus and Ankara both have an interest in curtailing the autonomy of Kurdish groups in northeast Syria.
Turkiye may be concerned that the security situation in northeast Syria could deteriorate in the event that the US withdraws troops it currently has stationed there as part of a coalition against the Islamic State militant group, Unluhisarcikli said. That could require Turkiye to “cooperate or at least coordinate with Syria, to manage the aftermath of the US withdrawal,” he said.
Joseph Daher, a Swiss-Syrian researcher and visiting professor at the European University Institute in Florence, said the two governments likely hope for modest “economic gains” in a rapprochement. While trade never completely stopped, it currently goes through intermediaries, he said, while restoring diplomatic relations would allow official commerce to resume and make trade more fluid.
The prospects for an agreement
Analysts agreed that the talks are unlikely to bring about the full Turkish withdrawal from northwest Syria that Damascus has called for or any other major shift in conditions on the ground in the near term.
Although the two countries’ interests “actually overlap to a large degree,” Lund said, “there are also major disagreements” and “a lot of bad blood and bitterness” that could impede even “lower-level dealmaking.” Both Erdogan and Assad may also want to wait for the outcome of US elections, which could determine the future American footprint in the region, before making a major deal, he said.
In the long run, Lund said, “The logic of the situation dictates Turkish-Syrian collaboration in some form. ... They’re neighbors. They’re stuck with each other and the current stalemate does them no good.”
Unluhisarcikli agreed that a “grand bargain” is unlikely to come out of the present talks, but the increased dialogue could lead to “some confidence building measures,” he said.
Daher said the most probable outcome of the talks is some “security agreements” between the two sides, but not a full Turkish withdrawal from Syria in the short term, particularly since the Syrian government army is too weak to control northwest Syria by itself.
“On its own, it’s not able to take back the whole of the northwest — it needs to deal with Turkiye,” he said.
How people in Turkiye and Syria view a potential agreement
In Turkiye and in government-controlled Syria, many view the prospects of a rapprochement positively. In northwest Syria, on the other hand, protests have broken out against the prospect of a normalization of relations between Ankara — which had previously positioned itself as a protector of the Syrian opposition — and Damascus.
Kurds in Syria have also viewed the potential rapprochement with apprehension. The Kurdish-led authority in northeast Syria said in a statement that the prospective reconciliation would be a “conspiracy against the Syrian people” and a “clear legitimization of the Turkish occupation” of previously Kurdish-majority areas that were seized by Turkish-backed forces.