Palestinians ask diplomats to speak out on conditions in Israeli jails

Palestinians ask diplomats to speak out on conditions in Israeli jails
A man waves a Palestinian flag as others sit with signs showing the faces of prominent Palestinians currently in Israeli prisons, during a protest in solidarity with them and with the residents of the Gaza Strip, in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on July 9, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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Updated 11 July 2024
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Palestinians ask diplomats to speak out on conditions in Israeli jails

Palestinians ask diplomats to speak out on conditions in Israeli jails
  • “This is unacceptable, this is against all human rights laws, and it needs to stop,” Shahin told the meeting in Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian Authority

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian Authority asked diplomats in a Wednesday meeting in the occupied West Bank to speak out on “unacceptable” conditions suffered by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Varsen Aghabekian Shahin, the Palestinian minister of state for foreign affairs, invited mostly European diplomats as well as representatives from international organizations to show them a three-minute video containing testimonies from Palestinians detained by Israel in recent months.
The compilation of footage and media interviews point to mistreatment in Israeli jails and allegations of torture, which Israeli authorities deny.
“This is unacceptable, this is against all human rights laws, and it needs to stop,” Shahin told the meeting in Ramallah, seat of the Palestinian Authority.
The conditions of prisoners “is of much concern to us, Palestinians, and we hope it is to the world as well,” she added.
The foreign ministry, citing figures from advocacy and rights groups, said some 9,600 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel.
Arrests and Israeli military raids in the West Bank have intensified since the Gaza war broke out with Hamas’s October 7 attack.
The Israeli prison authority has declared a “state of emergency,” effectively allowing it to worsen conditions for inmates and restrict jail visits.
According to a report handed out during Wednesday’s meeting, 18 prisoners have been “killed” in Israeli prisons since October 7.
Qadura Fares, head of the Palestinian Prisoners Club advocacy group, stressed it was often difficult to obtain information about detainees, including thousands arrested in Gaza since the start of the war, of whom he said most have probably been released.
“I believe the international community has the tools to help stop what is happening,” Fares said at the meeting.
“So is there a will in the international community to stop what is happening, or is there not?“
In December, the Israeli military said it had launched an investigation into the death in custody of several Palestinians arrested in Gaza and held at the Sde Teiman base near the city of Beersheva.
Several diplomats who attended the Ramallah meeting refused to comment when approached by AFP.
Last week a spokeswoman for the United Nations rights office said it had “been receiving very worrying, very distressing reports of how Palestinian detainees are being treated by Israeli forces since October 7.”


Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply

Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply
Updated 11 sec ago
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Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply

Climate change imperils drought-stricken Morocco’s cereal farmers and its food supply
  • In Morocco, where cereals account for most of the farmed land and agriculture employs the majority of workers in rural regions, the drought is wreaking havoc and touching off major changes that will transform the makeup of the economy

KENITRA, Morocco: Golden fields of wheat no longer produce the bounty they once did in Morocco. A six-year drought has imperiled the country’s entire agriculture sector, including farmers who grow cereals and grains used to feed humans and livestock.
The North African nation projects this year’s harvest will be smaller than last year in both volume and acreage, putting farmers out of work and requiring more imports and government subsidies to prevent the price of staples like flour from rising for everyday consumers.
“In the past, we used to have a bounty — a lot of wheat. But during the last seven or eight years, the harvest has been very low because of the drought,” said Al Housni Belhoussni, a small-scale farmer who has long tilled fields outside of the city of Kenitra.

A farmer works in a wheat field on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)

Belhoussni’s plight is familiar to grain farmers throughout the world confronting a hotter and drier future. Climate change is imperiling the food supply and, in regions like North Africa, shrinking the annual yields of cereals that dominate diets around the world — wheat, rice, maize and barley.
The region is one of the most vulnerable in the world to climate change. Delays to annual rains and inconsistent weather patterns have pushed the growing season later in the year and made planning difficult for farmers.
In Morocco, where cereals account for most of the farmed land and agriculture employs the majority of workers in rural regions, the drought is wreaking havoc and touching off major changes that will transform the makeup of the economy. It has forced some to leave their fields fallow. It has also made the areas they do elect to cultivate less productive, producing far fewer sacks of wheat to sell than they once did.

Farmers work on a wheat farm on the outskirts of Kenitra, Morocco, Friday, June 21, 2024. (AP)

In response, the government has announced restrictions on water use in urban areas — including on public baths and car washes — and in rural ones, where water going to farms has been rationed.
“The late rains during the autumn season affected the agriculture campaign. This year, only the spring rains, especially during the month of March, managed to rescue the crops,” said Abdelkrim Naaman, the chairman of Nalsya. The organization has advised farmers on seeding, irrigation and drought mitigation as less rain falls and less water flows through Morocco’s rivers.
The Agriculture Ministry estimates that this year’s wheat harvest will yield roughly 3.4 million tons (3.1 billion kilograms), far less than last year’s 6.1 million tons (5.5 billion kilograms) — a yield that was still considered low. The amount of land seeded has dramatically shrunk as well, from 14,170 square miles (36,700 square kilometers) to 9,540 square miles (24,700 square kilometers).
Such a drop constitutes a crisis, said Driss Aissaoui, an analyst and former member of the Moroccan Ministry for Agriculture.
“When we say crisis, this means that you have to import more,” he said. “We are in a country where drought has become a structural issue.”
Leaning more on imports means the government will have to continue subsidizing prices to ensure households and livestock farmers can afford dietary staples for their families and flocks, said Rachid Benali, the chairman of the farming lobby COMADER.
The country imported nearly 2.5 million tons of common wheat between January and June. However, such a solution may have an expiration date, particularly because Morocco’s primary source of wheat, France, is facing shrinking harvests as well.
The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization ranked Morocco as the world’s sixth-largest wheat importer this year, between Turkiye and Bangladesh, which both have much bigger populations.
“Morocco has known droughts like this and in some cases known droughts that las longer than 10 years. But the problem, this time especially, is climate change,” Benali said.

 


Rescue operation for capsized oil tanker off Oman deactivated, maritime center says

Rescue operation for capsized oil tanker off Oman deactivated, maritime center says
Updated 50 min 33 sec ago
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Rescue operation for capsized oil tanker off Oman deactivated, maritime center says

Rescue operation for capsized oil tanker off Oman deactivated, maritime center says
  • Nine of the 16-member crew were found alive and one dead, the center reiterated, without giving further detail on the fate of the remaining six crew members

CAIRO: The rescue operation for the Comoros-flagged Prestige Falcon oil tanker that capsized off Oman on July 15 has been deactivated, Oman’s Maritime Security Center said on Tuesday.
Nine of the 16-member crew were found alive and one dead, the center reiterated, without giving further detail on the fate of the remaining six crew members.


UN chief welcomes China-brokered accord seeking Palestinian unity

UN chief welcomes China-brokered accord seeking Palestinian unity
Updated 23 July 2024
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UN chief welcomes China-brokered accord seeking Palestinian unity

UN chief welcomes China-brokered accord seeking Palestinian unity
  • “I think all steps toward unity are to be welcomed and encouraged,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said
  • Israel swiftly slammed the Beijing-brokered deal, with Foreign Minister Israel Katz insisting that “Hamas rule will be crushed“

UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed Tuesday an accord brokered by China seeking reconciliation between Hamas and other Palestinian factions to form a national unity government in Gaza.
“I think all steps toward unity are to be welcomed and encouraged,” his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, adding that Guterres “very much welcomes the signing of the Beijing Declaration by the Palestinian factions.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Hamas announced it had signed the agreement in Beijing with other Palestinian organizations — including rivals Fatah — to work together for “national unity.”
Hamas and Fatah are long-term rivals and fought a brief but bloody war in 2007 in which the former seized control of Gaza.
Fatah continues to dominate the Palestinian Authority, which has limited administrative control over urban areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Israel swiftly slammed the Beijing-brokered deal, with Foreign Minister Israel Katz insisting that “Hamas rule will be crushed” and accusing Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, a leader of Fatah, of embracing the group whose October 7 attacks triggered the war in Gaza.
The text of the deal outlines plans for “a temporary national unity government by agreement of the Palestinian factions” which would “exercise its authority and powers over all Palestinian territories” — the Gaza Strip as well the West Bank, including Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the factions had agreed to set up an “interim national reconciliation government” to govern post-war Gaza.
Speaking at the UN, spokesperson Dujarric said unity among the Palestinian factions was crucial.
“Palestinian unity... is crucial for peace and security and for advancing the aspirations of the Palestinian people for self determination and for fully independent, democratic, contiguous, viable and sovereign Palestinian state,” he said.


Hezbollah in revenge mission following fatal drone attack

Hezbollah in revenge mission following fatal drone attack
Updated 23 July 2024
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Hezbollah in revenge mission following fatal drone attack

Hezbollah in revenge mission following fatal drone attack
  • Member of group killed on the outskirts of Shaqra by Israeli strike
  • Hezbollah retaliated with a drone attack on an Israeli army base on Mount Neria

BEIRUT: A Lebanese man was killed and another injured on Tuesday while in a pickup truck used for selling candy and snacks in the southern villages of Lebanon.

The fatality occurred when an Israeli military drone targeted the vehicle on the outskirts of Shaqra. The victim was identified as Sadek Atawi, a member of the Iran-backed Hezbollah.

Israeli strikes also targeted the outskirts of Naqoura, Markab, Hula, Talusah, and Aita Al-Shaab with shells and incendiary bombs.

Against the backdrop of the attack, alarm sirens sounded in several towns in Upper Galilee, with reports of rockets falling in that area and the region of Western Galilee.

Israeli media outlets reported that “most of the alarm sirens sounded in settlements where residents were not evacuated.”

Sirens were heard in the areas of Jabal Al-Jarmaq, Meron, Netua, Basuta, Shomera, Even Menachem, Kiryat Shmona, and Beit Hillel, along with neighboring towns.

A spokesperson for the Israeli military said that “several drones originating from Lebanon detonated in the vicinity of Mount Meron, while rockets were detected in the areas of Kiryat Shmona and Margaliot.”

Hezbollah said in a statement that it had conducted “an aerial attack using a squadron of drones on the Mount Neria base, in retaliation for the assassination carried out by the enemy in the town of Shaqra.”

Israeli fighter jets once again flew at low altitude over Beirut and its surrounding areas, including Khaldeh, Hadath, Aramoun, Damour, Jiyeh, and Iqlim Al-Kharroub, and traveled all the way to Keserwan and the Jezzine District, causing loud sonic booms as they broke the sound barrier.

Hezbollah targeted on Monday night, for the first time, the Tsurial settlement in Western Galilee with dozens of Katyusha rockets. The group said that the strike was in retaliation for “the attack that targeted civilians in the town of Hanin,” resulting in injuries.

Two Israelis were injured by missiles during the attack on the Tsurial settlement, according to reports in Israel.

Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adraee, in a post on X, said: “The locations targeted by the Israeli army included a Hezbollah weapons depot and infrastructure in Aita Al-Shaab.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Minister of Education Yoav Kisch said on Tuesday that “the next school year will not start in the north due to security complications in this region.”

According to Israeli media, Kisch has urged the prime minister and heads of the security apparatus to “act now and with force against the state of Lebanon. Deciding to carry out war with utmost force against Lebanon is inevitable to restore calm and stability for the residents of the north, and (for) the future of the state of Israel.”

On the subject of the future of the conflict, Israel’s Alma Research and Education Center, which specializes in military affairs, has published a report warning of “the ability of Hezbollah’s Radwan force to invade the Galilee.”

It added: “Despite months of fighting between Israel and Hezbollah, this force can execute plans to take over lands in Israel, just like Hamas did.

“The Radwan force can operate independently, without constant instructions or external logistical assistance.

“Division commanders are significantly independent when making quick tactical decisions on the ground, while the force is equipped with all the infantry and commando weapons currently available on the arms market.”


Houthis and Yemeni government agree to end economic hostilities, expand Yemenia flights

Houthis and Yemeni government agree to end economic hostilities, expand Yemenia flights
Updated 23 July 2024
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Houthis and Yemeni government agree to end economic hostilities, expand Yemenia flights

Houthis and Yemeni government agree to end economic hostilities, expand Yemenia flights
  • UN’s special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, welcomes deal and acknowledges ‘significant role’ of Saudi Arabia in achieving it
  • Following the surprise announcement, Grundberg said the UN was ready to work with all parties to implement the agreed measures

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s internationally recognized government have reached an agreement with the Houthis, facilitated by Saudi Arabia, to lift economic sanctions and increase the number of Yemenia Airways flights from Houthi-held Sanaa.
Hans Grundberg, the UN’s special envoy for Yemen, said both parties agreed to ease economic hostilities by canceling their most recent actions taken against banks in areas the other controls and pledged to halt all such measures in the future.
They agreed to increase the frequency of national carrier Yemenia’s flights from Sanaa to Jordan from one to three a day and to introduce daily flights from the capital to Cairo and India. In addition, the two sides will hold discussions about administrative, technological and budgetary issues related to the airline.
They will also hold talks on the humanitarian and economic challenges under an UN-proposed peace plan known as “the road map.”
Following the surprise announcement, Grundberg said the UN was ready to work with all parties to implement the agreed measures. He also “recognized the significant role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in bringing this agreement about.”
The economic dispute between the government and the Houthis escalated in recent weeks when the government’s Central Bank sanctioned six banks in Houthi-held Sanaa and withdrew their licenses after they refused to relocate their headquarters from Sanaa to government stronghold Aden. The Central Bank had also withdrawn banknotes printed before 2016, which were in extensive use in Houthi-controlled areas, and shut down currency-exchange companies.
The economic sanctions were introduced after the Houthis this year, for the first time since the start of the civil war a decade ago, minted a new currency. The Yemeni government viewed this as an effort by the militia to establish an autonomous economy. The government also ordered Yemenia and telecoms companies to relocate their headquarters to Aden.
In an attempt to put pressure on the government to end its severe economic sanctions, the Houthis seized control of four Yemenia aircraft last month, announced that they would run the airline from Sanaa and threatened to fully restart the war. The militia previously attacked oil terminals in the government-controlled provinces of Shabwa and Hadramout, halting oil exports and preventing the circulation of banknotes printed by the Central Bank. They also banned traders in areas under their control from importing goods through the government and blocked the import of gas from the central city of Marib.
The Yemeni government said it eased its economic sanctions and reached an agreement with the Houthis to avoid exacerbating the economic crisis in militia-controlled areas, in response to requests from the business community and to comply with UN, regional and international mediation efforts.
“The government reiterates its steadfast determination not to subject Yemeni citizens in regions violently controlled by Houthi militia to additional living costs as a consequence of the militants’ unilateral actions, and to allow them to travel,” the official SABA news agency reported.
However critics of the deal, such as Kamel Al-Khoudani from the political bureau of the Yemeni National Resistance, said the government had conceded to Houthi demands for additional flights and an end to punitive measures against banks in Sanaa even though the militia had failed to meet counter-demands, including the resumption of oil exports.
Supporters, such as Yemeni journalist Sami Al-Kaf, argued that the government had successfully coerced the Houthis, who have previously rejected all demands to participate in negotiations, into agreeing to economic talks.