World Bank Approves $150 Mn for Better Health, Nutrition in Yemen

Two million Yemeni children face the threat of extreme malnutrition (UN)
Two million Yemeni children face the threat of extreme malnutrition (UN)
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World Bank Approves $150 Mn for Better Health, Nutrition in Yemen

Two million Yemeni children face the threat of extreme malnutrition (UN)
Two million Yemeni children face the threat of extreme malnutrition (UN)

The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors has approved an International Development Association (IDA) grant amounting to $150 million as a Second Additional Financing (AF2) for the Yemen Emergency Human Capital Project (YEHCP).

The financing is set to continue delivering essential health, nutrition, water supply, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services while strengthening the country's systems throughout the embattled nation.

The Bank highlighted that a series of catastrophic events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, measles outbreaks, a cholera epidemic, a locust invasion, and flooding, coupled with escalating food prices, food insecurity, and fragmented delivery of services have adversely affected the country's systems to respond to basic needs.

- Four Key Areas

The project focuses on four main areas: improving healthcare and nutrition services at primary healthcare centers and hospitals, enhancing water supply and sanitation services, strengthening local systems, and providing comprehensive project support and management.

The additional financing aims to bolster institutional capacity and strengthen the health, water, and sanitation system's ability to improve coverage and quality of essential services and resilience against cyclical infectious disease outbreaks.

A vital aspect of this enhancement includes bolstering surveillance, enhancing early detection services, and reinforcing the expertise of healthcare professionals.

The additional financing will also support the country's health information management system to collect quality data for health policy and service delivery.

According to the World Bank's data, As of March 31, 2023, 8.4 million beneficiaries had been served by the project, exceeding its initial target.

The health and nutrition program alone has helped over 4.49 million women and over three million children, with sustained, high coverage of critical maternal and child health services offered at over 2,000 health facilities.

Furthermore, water supply and sanitation measures have provided over 450,000 individuals, 48.5 percent of whom were women and girls, with improved access.

However, based on the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), 17 million people still face acute food insecurity.

Acute malnutrition plagues two million children and 1.3 million pregnant and lactating women. It is a fight against time and deteriorating human conditions.

World Bank Country Manager for Yemen Tania Meyer emphasized the race against time and the deteriorating humanitarian conditions, voicing concerns over the alarming decline of human capital in Yemen.

"In 2023 alone, nearly 21.6 million people, which is roughly three-quarters of the population and includes a staggering 12.9 million children, are in dire need of assistance," she said.

"With this additional financing, we will remain laser-focused on preserving essential health, nutrition, and WASH services while enhancing local systems for delivery. It is imperative that partners continue to collaborate and innovate with scale and urgency to support the country."

The World Bank's country-wide program for Yemen has reached $3.9 billion in IDA grants since 2016.

In addition to funding, the World Bank provides technical expertise to design projects and guide their implementation by building solid partnerships with UN agencies and local institutions with working capacity on the ground.



Blinken Says Israel’s New Settlements in West Bank ‘Inconsistent’ with International Law

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a press conference at La Casa Rosada government house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a press conference at La Casa Rosada government house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP)
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Blinken Says Israel’s New Settlements in West Bank ‘Inconsistent’ with International Law

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a press conference at La Casa Rosada government house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a press conference at La Casa Rosada government house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP)

Israel's expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank were inconsistent with international law, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday, signaling a return to long-standing US policy on the issue, which had been reversed by the previous administration of Donald Trump.

The Trump administration in 2019 effectively backed Israel's right to build West Bank settlements by abandoning a long-held US position that they were "inconsistent with international law".

Speaking at a news conference during a trip to Buenos Aires, Blinken said the United States was disappointed in Israel's announcement of plans for building new housing in the occupied West Bank, saying they were counterproductive to reaching an enduring peace.

"They're also inconsistent with international law. Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion, and in our judgment, this only weakens, doesn't strengthen Israel's security," Blinken said.

In November 2019, Trump's then secretary of state Mike Pompeo announced that Washington no longer viewed Israel's settlements on West Bank land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war as "inconsistent with international law", a reversal of four decades of US policy.

Palestinians and the international community view the transfer of any country's civilians to occupied land as illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and UN Security Council resolutions. Many countries condemned the announcement.


Gaza Ceasefire Talks Underway in Paris, Source Says

Palestinians perform Friday prayers in the ruins of Al-Huda Mosque after it was destroyed by the Israeli army, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2024. (EPA)
Palestinians perform Friday prayers in the ruins of Al-Huda Mosque after it was destroyed by the Israeli army, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2024. (EPA)
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Gaza Ceasefire Talks Underway in Paris, Source Says

Palestinians perform Friday prayers in the ruins of Al-Huda Mosque after it was destroyed by the Israeli army, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2024. (EPA)
Palestinians perform Friday prayers in the ruins of Al-Huda Mosque after it was destroyed by the Israeli army, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2024. (EPA)

Gaza truce talks were under way in Paris on Friday, in what appears to be the most serious push for weeks to halt the fighting in the battered Palestinian enclave and see Israeli and foreign hostages released.

A source briefed on the ceasefire talks, who could not be identified by name or nationality, said talks had begun with Israel's head of Mossad intelligence service meeting separately with each party - Qatar, Egypt and United States.

"There are budding signs of optimism about being able to move forward toward the start of a serious negotiation," the source said. Egypt's Al Qahera TV News also reported that the talks had begun.

An official from Hamas said the militant group had wrapped up ceasefire talks in Cairo and was now waiting to see what mediators bring back from the weekend talks with Israel.

Mediators have ramped up efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, in the hope of heading off an Israeli assault on the Gaza city of Rafah where more than a million displaced people are sheltering at the southern edge of the enclave.

Israel says it will attack the city if no truce agreement is reached soon. Washington has called on its close ally not to do so, warning of vast civilian casualties if an assault on the city goes ahead.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met Egyptian mediators in Cairo to discuss a truce this past week on his first visit since December. Israel is now expected to participate in talks this weekend in Paris with US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

Two Egyptian security sources confirmed that Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel would head on Friday to Paris for the talks with the Israelis, after wrapping up talks with Hamas chief Haniyeh on Thursday. Israel has not publicly commented on the Paris talks.

The Hamas official, who asked not to be identified, said the militant group did not offer any new proposal at the talks with the Egyptians, but was waiting to see what the mediators brought back from their upcoming talks with the Israelis.

"We discussed our proposal with them (the Egyptians) and we are going to wait until they return from Paris," the Hamas official said.

The last time similar talks were held in Paris, at the start of February, they produced an outline for the first extended ceasefire of the war, approved by Israel and the United States. Hamas responded with a counterproposal, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then rejected as "delusional".

Hamas, which is still believed to be holding more than 100 hostages seized in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war, says it will free them only as part of a truce that ends with an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Israel says it will not pull out until Hamas is eradicated.

Late on Thursday, Netanyahu presented his security cabinet with an official plan for Gaza once the fighting stops. He emphasized that Israel expects to maintain security control over the enclave after destroying Hamas, and also sees no role there for the Palestinian Authority (PA) based in the West Bank.

Washington favors a role for a reformed PA.

Two Palestinian officials familiar with the negotiations said Hamas has not changed its stance in the latest push to reach a deal, and still demands that a truce end with an Israeli pullout.

RAFAH UNDER FIRE

Israeli planes and tanks pounded areas across Gaza Strip overnight, residents and health officials said. The Gaza health ministry said 104 people had been killed and 160 others were wounded in Israeli military strikes in the past 24 hours.

The Israeli military said it had killed dozens of militants and seized weapons across Gaza since Thursday.

In Rafah, where over half of Gaza's 2.3 million people are sheltering, an Israeli air strike on a house killed 10 people.

At a morgue in Rafah, a family knelt by the body of their child, killed by overnight Israeli strikes. They tenderly touched and stroked the small body through a shroud.

Airstrikes also killed civilians overnight in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, one of the few other areas yet to be stormed by the Israelis.

In video obtained by Reuters, bereaved families crowded a hospital, where Ahmed Azzam held up the body of his dead baby son wrapped in a shroud, shouting: "You killed them Netanyahu. You killed this innocent child!"

Israel says it is doing its best to minimize harm to civilians as it battles militants in urban areas.

At least 29,514 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct.7, the Gaza health ministry said on Friday.

Israel launched its months-long military campaign after militants from Hamas-ruled Gaza killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages in southern Israel on Oct 7.


US Destroys Houthi Drones, Missiles in Yemen and Red Sea, Military Says

Students recruited into the ranks of Yemen's Houthi militias hold up automatic rifles as they take part in a rally in support of the Palestinians and against the US, Britain and Israel at a university campus in Sanaa on February 21, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas movement in Gaza. (AFP)
Students recruited into the ranks of Yemen's Houthi militias hold up automatic rifles as they take part in a rally in support of the Palestinians and against the US, Britain and Israel at a university campus in Sanaa on February 21, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas movement in Gaza. (AFP)
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US Destroys Houthi Drones, Missiles in Yemen and Red Sea, Military Says

Students recruited into the ranks of Yemen's Houthi militias hold up automatic rifles as they take part in a rally in support of the Palestinians and against the US, Britain and Israel at a university campus in Sanaa on February 21, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas movement in Gaza. (AFP)
Students recruited into the ranks of Yemen's Houthi militias hold up automatic rifles as they take part in a rally in support of the Palestinians and against the US, Britain and Israel at a university campus in Sanaa on February 21, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas movement in Gaza. (AFP)

The US military said on Friday it had destroyed Houthi drones and anti-ship cruise missiles in Yemen and the Red Sea after determining they presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships.

The strikes hit four drones and two cruise missiles that were prepared to launch from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen toward the Red Sea, the military's Central Command said.

The military also shot down three Houthi one-way attack drones near commercial ships operating in the Red Sea, it said.

The strikes were conducted on Thursday and Friday, the Central Command said. There was no damage to any ships, it added.


Netanyahu’s Post-War Plan Says Israel to Keep Security Control on Palestinian Areas 

Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike on Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2024. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike on Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2024. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
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Netanyahu’s Post-War Plan Says Israel to Keep Security Control on Palestinian Areas 

Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike on Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2024. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike on Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2024. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has presented his first official "day after" plan for the Gaza Strip once the war there ends, saying Israel will keep security control over all Palestinian areas and make reconstruction of Gaza dependent on its demilitarization. 

The document proposes Israel would maintain security control over all land west of Jordan, including the occupied West Bank and Gaza - territories where the Palestinians hope to establish an independent state. 

It was swiftly dismissed by Palestinian officials as doomed to failure. 

Netanyahu presented the plan on Thursday to the security cabinet, which could still demand amendments. It was seen by Reuters on Friday. 

In the long-term goals listed, Netanyahu rejects the "unilateral recognition" of a Palestinian state. He says a settlement with the Palestinians will only be achieved through direct negotiations between the two sides - without naming who the Palestinian party would be. 

In Gaza, Netanyahu outlines demilitarization and deradicalization as goals to be achieved in the medium term. He does not elaborate on when that intermediary stage would begin or how long it would last. But he conditions the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip, much of which has been laid to waste by Israel's offensive, on its complete demilitarization. 

Netanyahu proposes Israel have a presence on the Gaza-Egypt border in the south of the enclave and cooperates with Egypt and the United States in that area to prevent smuggling attempts, including at the Rafah crossing. 

To replace Hamas rule in Gaza while maintaining public order, Netanyahu suggests working with local representatives "who are not affiliated with terrorist countries or groups and are not financially supported by them". 

He calls for shutting down the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA and replacing it with other international aid groups. 

"The prime minister's document of principles reflects broad public consensus over the goals of the war and for replacing Hamas rule in Gaza with a civilian alternative," a statement by the Prime Minister's office said. 

The document was distributed to security cabinet members to start a discussion on the issue. 

The war was triggered by a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage, according to Israeli counts. 

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has responded with an air and ground assault on blockaded Gaza that has killed more than 29,400 people, according to Palestinian health authorities. The offensive has displaced most of the territory's population and caused widespread hunger and disease. 

The spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, told Reuters that Netanyahu's proposal was doomed to fail, as were any Israeli plans to change the geographic and demographic realities in Gaza. 

"If the world is genuinely interested in having security and stability in the region, it must end Israel's occupation of Palestinian land and recognize an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," he said. 

The war in Gaza has revived international calls - including from Israel's main backer the United States - for the so-called two-state solution as the ultimate goal for resolving the decades long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Little progress has been made on achieving Palestinian statehood since the signing of the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s. Among the obstacles impeding it are expanding Israeli settlements in territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. 

Most countries regard the settlements, which in many areas cut Palestinian communities off from each other, as a violation of international law. Israel claims a biblical birthright to the land and on Thursday said it would approve more than 3,000 new housing units in settlements. 


Israel Plans to Build 3,300 New Settlement Homes in Response to a Palestinian Attack

A picture taken in the village of Turmus Ayya near Ramallah city shows the nearby Israeli Shilo settlement in the background, in the occupied West Bank on February 18, 2024. (AFP)
A picture taken in the village of Turmus Ayya near Ramallah city shows the nearby Israeli Shilo settlement in the background, in the occupied West Bank on February 18, 2024. (AFP)
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Israel Plans to Build 3,300 New Settlement Homes in Response to a Palestinian Attack

A picture taken in the village of Turmus Ayya near Ramallah city shows the nearby Israeli Shilo settlement in the background, in the occupied West Bank on February 18, 2024. (AFP)
A picture taken in the village of Turmus Ayya near Ramallah city shows the nearby Israeli Shilo settlement in the background, in the occupied West Bank on February 18, 2024. (AFP)

Israel plans to build more than 3,300 new homes in settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in response to a fatal Palestinian shooting attack, a senior Cabinet minister said. The decision is bound to frustrate Washington at a time of growing tensions over the course of Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Israel's finance minister, far-right firebrand Bezalel Smotrich, announced the new settlement plans late Thursday, after three Palestinian gunmen opened fire on cars near the Maale Adumim settlement, killing one Israeli and wounding five.

"The serious attack on Ma’ale Adumim must have a determined security response but also a settlement response," Smotrich wrote on X, formerly Twitter. "Our enemies know that any harm to us will lead to more construction and more development and more of our hold all over the country."

He said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant participated in the discussion. The decision will put in motion approval processes for 300 new homes in the Kedar settlement and 2,350 in Maale Adumim. It will also advance previously approved construction of nearly 700 homes in Efrat.

Once the war in Gaza is over, the Biden administration seeks eventual Palestinian governance in Gaza and the West Bank as a precursor to Palestinian statehood. It's an outcome opposed by Netanyahu and his right-wing government — and pushed farther from view, advocates say, as new settlement plans are advanced.

"Instead of acting in order to prevent future horrible attacks such as of yesterday, the government of Israel is acting to deepen the conflict and the tensions," said Hagit Ofran, from Israeli settlement watchdog group Peace Now.

"The construction in settlements is bad for Israel, distancing us from peace and security," he said.

Consecutive Israeli governments have expanded settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, war-won territories the Palestinians seek for a future state, along with Gaza. Construction has accelerated under Netanyahu’s current right-wing government, which includes settlers, including Smotrich, in key positions.

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war.

Violence has escalated in the West Bank since the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, which triggered Israel's war on the militant group.

Since Oct. 7, Palestinian gunmen have carried out several deadly attacks on Israelis. Israel has held the West Bank under a tight grip — limiting movement and conducting frequent raids against what it says are militant targets. Palestinian health officials say 401 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank during that period.


G20 Agrees Two-State Solution Only Way to Resolve Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, Says Brazil

A meeting on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AFP)
A meeting on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AFP)
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G20 Agrees Two-State Solution Only Way to Resolve Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, Says Brazil

A meeting on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AFP)
A meeting on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AFP)

Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira said on Thursday that foreign ministers of G20 countries were nearly unanimous in supporting a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Vieira was speaking at the end of the two-day meeting of the foreign ministers.

"There was virtual unanimity in the two-state solution as the only solution to the conflict," Vieira was quoted as saying by Reuters.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Thursday that there was consensus on the need for a two-state solution, supported by every speaker who addressed the conflict.

"Everybody here, everybody, I haven't heard anyone against it. There was a strong request for a two-state solution," Borrell told reporters. "It is consensus among us."

"There is not going to be peace ... not going to be sustainable security for Israel unless the Palestinians have a clear political prospect to build their own state," he said.

Borrell said he had asked G20 host country Brazil to "explain to the world that at the G20 everybody was in favor of this solution.”

"We have to mobilize our political capacity to push for this solution to be implemented. Otherwise is just wishful thinking," he said.

He said the crisis in Gaza extends to the West Bank, which is "absolutely boiling" as Israeli settlers are "attacking Palestinian civilians.”

Borrell said he expects Arab nations will make a peace proposal for Gaza in the coming days.

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu largely rejects the creation of a Palestinian state. The United States, Israel's biggest international backer, also maintains that a two-state solution is the feasible way to bring sustainable peace to the region.


Amnesty International Demands Release of Algerian Hirak Detainees

Amnesty International said the Algerian authorities continue to suppress the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, five years after the start of the Hirak movement. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Amnesty International said the Algerian authorities continue to suppress the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, five years after the start of the Hirak movement. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Amnesty International Demands Release of Algerian Hirak Detainees

Amnesty International said the Algerian authorities continue to suppress the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, five years after the start of the Hirak movement. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Amnesty International said the Algerian authorities continue to suppress the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, five years after the start of the Hirak movement. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Algerian authorities must release “immediately and unconditionally” detainees of the Hirak popular protests, who were arrested for exercising their freedom of speech, Amnesty International demanded on Thursday on the fifth anniversary of the eruption of the movement.

“Algerian authorities continue to clamp down on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly five years after the Hirak protest movement first began by targeting critical voices of dissent, whether they be protesters, journalists or people expressing their views on social media,” it added.

“Algeria’s authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all those detained solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, and association. They must ensure that human rights defenders, journalists, activists, trade unionists and others are able to exercise their rights and freely express critical views without fear of reprisals,” said Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“It is a tragedy that five years after brave Algerians took to the streets in their masses to demand political change and reforms, the authorities have continued to wage a chilling campaign of repression,” Morayef added.

The Hirak protest movement began in February 2019 when largely peaceful mass demonstrations took place across Algeria opposing then-President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

“After the Hirak protest movement was halted due to Covid-19 in 2020, the Algerian authorities escalated their repression of peaceful dissent. Hundreds of people have been arbitrarily arrested and detained. Dozens of peaceful protesters, journalists, activists, and human rights defenders continue to languish behind bars for criticizing the authorities,” noted amnesty.

It stated that Algeria’s authorities “must make the five-year anniversary of the Hirak protest movement a turning point by putting an end to this climate of repression and ordering the immediate release of those arbitrarily detained and allowing peaceful protests.”

Last week, France’s Le Monde newspaper published an article, “From Hirak to repression, Algeria enters a new era”, about the protests. It said: “Nearly four years after a peaceful uprising, the political climate in Algeria is deteriorating as the regime intensifies its crackdown on last dissidents.”


US Prepares for ‘Day After’ the War in Sudan

Sudanese refugees (AFP)
Sudanese refugees (AFP)
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US Prepares for ‘Day After’ the War in Sudan

Sudanese refugees (AFP)
Sudanese refugees (AFP)

The US administration voiced its concern over reports of arms shipments sent by Iran to the Sudanese army in its war with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which is allegedly receiving support from Russia and other parties.
Washington is mainly concerned with the day after the war in Sudan, focusing on returning governance to civilians after the conflict.
The US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Molly Phee, recently traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in connection with the African Union Summit.
She was accompanied by USAID Assistant Administrator for Africa Monde Muyangwa, Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer, and Ambassador to Sudan John Godfrey, where they held a series of meetings focused on addressing Sudan's continuing conflict and humanitarian crisis.
The State Department reported that the officials' engagements in Sudan focused on stopping the conflict, facilitating humanitarian assistance, and uplifting pro-democracy civilians working to advocate for the Sudanese people and prepare for post-conflict governance.

Phee underscored that the US has long stood with the Sudanese people and against military governance and that ending the Sudan conflict and restoring civilian governance are high priorities for Washington.
In a meeting with women civil society representatives from different groups and regions across Sudan, the Assistant Secretary stressed the importance of Sudanese women's participation in a political process and a post-conflict civilian government.
She also discussed the severe impact that the fighting has had on women and girls, who have increasingly been targets for conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), and ways to ensure that perpetrators of CRSV and other atrocities are held accountable.
- Popular organizations
The senior official also had the opportunity to speak with leaders of grassroots organizations and Resistance Committee members.
She commended these individuals' courageous efforts to rally support for and provide support to those most affected by the conflict, including by expanding international community engagement with local actors working to provide humanitarian assistance.
They discussed efforts to press the Sudanese army and the RSF leaders to end the fighting and facilitate humanitarian access to address the increasingly dire conditions on the ground.
According to the State Department's Statement, Phee also met with members of the "Taqaddum pro-democracy front and encouraged its further diversification – focusing on women, youth, civil society, grassroots organizations, and representatives of historically marginalized communities."
They aim to enable Sudanese civilians to speak with a more unified voice, calling for facilitating humanitarian assistance, ending the fighting, and returning governance to civilians after the conflict.
The US official consulted with key stakeholders on multilateral efforts to end the conflict, facilitate humanitarian assistance, and support Sudanese civilians.
- "Great concern"
Godfrey told reporters that Washington is "deeply concerned by external support" to the Sudanese Army and RSF.
He added, "There are reports about resumed ties between Sudan and Iran that could reportedly include Iranian materiel support to SAF, which is also very troubling and a source of great concern for us."
He stated that the US "urges external actors to refrain from providing material assistance" because it "prolongs the fighting, extends the war; it also reduces the prospects for finding a negotiated exit from the conflict."


US Report Reveals Exaggeration in Israeli Claims on UNRWA Links with Hamas

Israeli soldiers during a tour organized by the army for journalists in Gaza. (AFP)
Israeli soldiers during a tour organized by the army for journalists in Gaza. (AFP)
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US Report Reveals Exaggeration in Israeli Claims on UNRWA Links with Hamas

Israeli soldiers during a tour organized by the army for journalists in Gaza. (AFP)
Israeli soldiers during a tour organized by the army for journalists in Gaza. (AFP)

A new US intelligence assessment found it is likely that some employees of a United Nations agency took part in Hamas’s Oct. 7 assault on Israel but says the US can’t verify Israeli allegations that a larger number of UN workers have links to the attack, people familiar with the report said.
Washington and other Western capitals last month suspended funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which supplies aid to Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan after Israel shared findings that at least 12 UNRWA employees were connected to the attack of Hamas.
Israeli intelligence agencies said they concluded that 10% of all UNRWA workers had some kind of affiliation, usually political, with Hamas. UNRWA employs around 12,000 people in Gaza.
According to a report by Wall Street Journal, the new intelligence assessment, as described by the officials, doesn’t dispute Israel’s allegations of links between some staff at UNRWA and militant groups, but it provides a more measured appraisal of Israel’s assertions than public statements by US and Israeli officials.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken last month called Israel’s assertions “highly, highly credible” but also said the agency played an essential role in providing relief to people in Gaza.
UNRWA fired the employees allegedly involved in the Oct. 7 attack.
In the new report, which was completed last week, the US’s National Intelligence Council, a group of veteran intelligence analysts, said it assessed with “low confidence” that a handful of UNRWA staffers participated in the Oct. 7 attack, those familiar with the findings said.
A low-confidence assessment indicates that the US intelligence community believes the claims are plausible but cannot make a stronger assertion because it doesn’t have its own independent confirmation.
US officials said that American spy agencies haven’t traditionally focused on gathering intelligence on Gaza, and that Israel hadn’t shared the raw intelligence behind its assessments with the US, limiting their ability to reach clearer conclusions.
The council’s findings, in a roughly four-page report, were circulated within the US government last week, those familiar with the document said. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence—which includes the National Intelligence Council—the State Department and the White House declined to comment.
Tamara Alrifai, UNRWA’s director of external relations and communications, said that the organization takes steps to aggressively protect its neutrality.
“We went the extra mile and fired people on the basis of how serious the allegations are,” she said.
Days after the initial charges, Israeli officials distributed to news organizations a six-page dossier, a summary of a larger report, that included details of the allegations.
Israeli officials say they based the claim on lists of UNRWA employees found in Gaza during the current military campaign that were then cross-checked with other sources of intelligence. UNRWA says it regularly gave updated lists to Israel’s government.
The report also notes what it says is Israel’s longstanding dislike of the UN agency, two of those familiar with the document said.
“There is a specific section that mentions how Israeli bias serves to mischaracterize much of their assessments on UNRWA and says this has resulted in distortions,” one person familiar with the report said.
The US assessment also says that the reality of Hamas’s control in Gaza means that the UN agency has to interact with the group to deliver humanitarian relief, but that that doesn’t mean that the agency is collaborating with the group, the person said.

 

 


Syrian Observatory: Israeli Forces Kidnap Baath Party Commander

A circulated photo of Mutaa Al-Sarhan, a leader in the Syrian Baath Party, in Quneitra
A circulated photo of Mutaa Al-Sarhan, a leader in the Syrian Baath Party, in Quneitra
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Syrian Observatory: Israeli Forces Kidnap Baath Party Commander

A circulated photo of Mutaa Al-Sarhan, a leader in the Syrian Baath Party, in Quneitra
A circulated photo of Mutaa Al-Sarhan, a leader in the Syrian Baath Party, in Quneitra

Israeli forces kidnapped a commander in Al-Baath Party and a member of the Reconciliation Committee from his house in Al-Rafeed village in Qunaitra’s countryside, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation announced that the military has detained a suspect accused of crossing the border from Syria into Israel. The suspect was being interrogated.

The residents of the village accused Israeli forces of crossing the border to kidnap Mutaa Al-Sarhan.

There is no confirmed information about the reasons behind his kidnapping.

Regime forces are prevented from approaching the border area because it is considered a ceasefire agreement zone between the Israeli and Syrian sides.

The report comes one day after an attack - attributed to Israel - on a building in Kafr Sousa in Damascus, targeting Iranian leaders.

The Israeli airstrike hit the residential building on Wednesday, killing two people, Syrian state media and a security source said.

The neighborhood hosts residential buildings, schools and Iranian cultural centers, and lies near a large, heavily-guarded complex used by security agencies.