Syria (GPA) – The Syrian government has appealed to the United Nations to punish Israel for an alleged rocket attack on a major military airbase yesterday about two hours after a suicide bombing in Damascus. Last night Damascus was hit by Read More
United States (Tasnim) – US prosecutors accused two relatives of former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of engaging in a scheme to bribe a Middle Eastern official in connection with the attempted $800 million sale of a building complex in Vietnam. Read More
Israel/Palestine (OpenDemocracy) – A two-state solution has international legitimacy, while a deeply integrated polity seems the only realistic option on-the-ground. Does Two States One Homeland square the circle while giving dignity and human rights a chance The UN’s extraordinary resolution 2334 of December Read More
Middle East (NI) – At the beginning of this year, former prime minister of Portugal, António Guterres, became the new United Nations Secretary-General. He arrives at a time when the role of international institutions and the so-called established order are Read More
Israel (Tasnim) – Israel says it is cutting a substantial amount in its annual dues to the United Nations this year in protest of last month’s Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity on occupied Palestinian territories. The announcement made by Read More
Rights at Risk as Calls for Jammeh’s Exit Intensify
The government of President Yahya Jammeh, defeated in Gambia’s December presidential election, has arbitrarily arrested opposition sympathizers and closed three independent radio stations in the past week, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said today. Jammeh is required under Gambia’s Constitution to cede power to President-elect Adama Barrow by January 19, 2017.
Since December 31, intelligence agents have arrested and briefly detained at least six people for wearing or selling T-shirts bearing the logo of the #Gambiahasdecided movement, which has called for Jammeh to respect the election results and step down. Several senior members of the movement have fled Gambia after receiving credible threats from alleged National Intelligence Agency (NIA) officers. On January 1, 2017, intelligence agents forcibly closed three private radio stations, depriving Gambians of independent sources of information during this critical period.
The recent resolution passed by the United Nations Security Council condemning the growth of the illegal colonial Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian land of East Jerusalem and the West Bank was a necessary reprimand for the Netanyahu Government. What made it all the more remarkable was the fact it passed the Security Council without being vetoed by the United States. Historically the United States has shielded Israel from censure by the UN Security Council but this time the Obama administration rightly abstained.
Now, I am about as pro-Israel as they come and feel very protective of Israel. I strongly believe in Israel’s right to exist and I am a huge admirer of the State of Israel and the Israeli and Jewish people. All my closest friends at university were Jewish and I attended meetings of the Cambridge University Jewish Society as well as speaking in defence of Israel at the Cambridge Union. It was one of the greatest privileges of my life to visit the great State of Israel back in November 2013. It was one of the most poignant and memorable trips of my life. My group were taken to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as well as the Israeli-Lebanese border and the Israeli-Syrian border up in the Golan Heights. We got to visit the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament where we had consultations with various Israeli MPs from the Labor Party, Kadima and Likud. We also visited the inspiring Shimon Peres Peace Centre as well as Galilee and Yad Vashem. I would one day love to live in Israel. A magnificent country, only the size of Wales, yet extremely dynamic, innovative, cultured and intellectual with a prodigious output and work ethic. Truly an amazing country and people. But it was not just Israel we visited. We went into the West Bank to Ramallah and met with the de facto Palestinian Foreign Minister as well as Palestinian peace activists.
The Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) spokesman reminded the Tel Aviv regime of a certain defeat it will have to suffer in a war that may break out as a result of pressing ahead with illegal settlement construction in Palestine, saying it will result in Israel’s annihilation.
Speaking at a meeting in Iran’s northwestern city of Oroumiyeh on Thursday, Head of the IRGC Public Relations Department General Ramezan Sharif said Israel’s decision to continue settlement projects on occupied Palestinian territories will “definitely provoke a reaction”, noting that a possible subsequent war will certainly end in the Zionist regime’s defeat and complete destruction.
The general also described the US refusal to veto a UN Security Council resolution against Israeli settlement activity on Palestinian territory as a sign that Washington has come to realize that the course of events and continued settlement construction will result in the collapse of the Zionist regime of Israel.
The United States welcomes the Government of Sudan’s recent efforts to improve humanitarian access. Last week, Sudan amended the “Directives and Procedures for Humanitarian Action.” These revised directives represent a significant step toward improving humanitarian access in Sudan. We believe when implemented, these revised regulations will facilitate humanitarian actors’ efforts to get aid to those in need. We recognize this as a positive step and we expect to see sustained gains in humanitarian access.
We also welcome the recent access given to a U.N. interagency team to travel and conduct a multi-sector assessment in Golo, Central Darfur, which included the first civilian aircraft to land in Golo in five years. Access to this conflict-affected area has allowed the U.N. to conduct a full assessment; and — if sustained — regular air access would enable the international humanitarian community to support relief efforts to Golo and surrounding areas. The United States, as part of its longstanding commitment to the people of Sudan, will continue to support humanitarian efforts there, and will work with all parties to remove remaining impediments to full humanitarian access.
During the last days of December, Russia will host a round of diplomatic talks with Iran and Turkey.
A hundred years ago, Ernst Jünger described a peculiar encounter with a frightened British officer in his account of trench warfare, Storm of Steel: “he reached into his pocket, not to pull out a weapon, but a photograph (…). I saw him on it, surrounded by numerous family (…). It was a plea from another world.” According to conventional wisdom, “war is hell,” as famously sentenced by General Sherman. Hence Jünger’s depiction of the scene as something from another planet. And that is how the world today, more concerned with the holidays and the latest Hollywood blockbuster, is receiving the dire plea for help by multiple civilians caught in the crossfire of the battle for Aleppo. We simply content ourselves with the thought that civilians will always suffer in times of war, for war is hell. Or is it?
A few days ago, the soon to be replaced Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, gave his last press conference. Referring to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, he remarked ominously: “Aleppo is now a synonym for hell”. But surely the Secretary General did not intend merely to describe a regrettable fait accompli, as someone might depict a natural disaster. His closing official words carry a message for the world to actively engage in Aleppo, and particularly to make belligerents stop targeting civilians, for not everything is allowed in war after all. As Michael Walzer has pointed out in his decades-long effort to revive the Just War tradition, we strive to fight wars justly and to uphold rules even in the midst of hell.
The United Nations Security Council was scheduled to vote the evening of December 20 on a resolution demanding Israel halt its settlement expansion policies in all Palestinian territories it occupies. However, according to a UN diplomatic source the vote has been postponed and the new date “is yet unkown.”
The resolution, drafted by Egypt, demands “Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement expansion activities in occupied Palestinian territory, including al-Quds.”
It states such activity is “dangerously imperilling” a two-state solution, and calls for the UN to take “affirmative steps” to reverse this conduct “on the ground.”
Three staff members of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) who were abducted in El Geneina, West Darfur, on 27 November 2016, were freed on 19 December.
Sarun Pradhan and Ramesh Karki, both nationals of Nepal, and Musa Omer Musa Mohamed, a citizen of Sudan, are unharmed and are undergoing medical checks.
Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gholam Ali Khoshroo stressed the necessity for the international community to help end “cultural and military hegemony over the world”.
“To see peace, it is imperative to give up on the mentality of intervention, as well as cultural and military hegemony over the world,” Khoshroo said, addressing a Thursday meeting of the UN General Assembly on the agenda 14: Culture of Peace.
Expressing dismay at the takeover of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) premises by the military in Gambia, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the security forces to immediately vacate the Commission and to refrain from any further acts that could jeopardise efforts towards the peaceful transfer of power.
“This action violates the independent status of the Commission under the Gambian constitution, and could compromise the sensitive electoral material under the IEC’s custody,” said Mr. Ban, according to a statement issued by his office.
“He condemns this outrageous act of disrespect of the will of the Gambian people and defiance towards the international community at a time when a high-level Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) delegation was in the country to broker a peaceful transfer of power,” the statement added.
Protect Civilians, Grant Access to Independent Monitors
Syrian government and allied forces should immediately take steps to protect civilians and captured fighters as the government retakes control of Aleppo after a deal was reached with armed opposition groups there, Human Rights Watch said today. This includes allowing the safe evacuation of civilians and aid deliveries, and protecting civilians from summary executions and arbitrary detention.
The United Nations General Assembly should urgently mandate a UN monitoring team to travel immediately to areas of eastern Aleppo, now under government control, to deter future abuses, document crimes that have been committed, and visit detention sites.
“It has been heart-wrenching to hear the desperate pleas for protection from civilians stuck in the inferno that is Aleppo,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Syrian authorities should ensure that civilians are allowed to safely leave the city and to go where they want.”