Heavy Fighting across Gaza as Israel Presses Ahead with Renewed US Military, Diplomatic Support

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike on Gaza's al-Shuja'ia district as seen from Nahal Oz, Israel, 09 December 2023. EPA/ATEF SAFADI
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike on Gaza's al-Shuja'ia district as seen from Nahal Oz, Israel, 09 December 2023. EPA/ATEF SAFADI
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Heavy Fighting across Gaza as Israel Presses Ahead with Renewed US Military, Diplomatic Support

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike on Gaza's al-Shuja'ia district as seen from Nahal Oz, Israel, 09 December 2023. EPA/ATEF SAFADI
Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike on Gaza's al-Shuja'ia district as seen from Nahal Oz, Israel, 09 December 2023. EPA/ATEF SAFADI

Heavy fighting raged Sunday across Gaza, including in the devastated north, as Israel pressed ahead with its offensive after the US blocked the latest international push for a ceasefire and rushed more munitions to its close ally.

Israel has faced rising international outrage and calls for a permanent cease-fire after the killing of thousands of Palestinian civilians. About 90% of Gaza's 2.3 million people have been displaced within the besieged territory, where UN agencies say there is no safe place to flee.

The United States has lent vital support to the offensive once again in recent days, by vetoing United Nations Security Council efforts to end the fighting that enjoyed wide international support, and by pushing through an emergency sale of over $100 million worth of tank ammunition to Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked US President Joe Biden for the “important ammunition for the continuation of the war."

The US has pledged unwavering support for Israel's goal of crushing Hamas' military and governing abilities, and returning all the hostages captured in the Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war. Hamas and other Palestinian militants stormed into southern Israel that day, killing some 1,200 people and capturing around 240, over 100 of whom were released during a weeklong ceasefire late last month.

Israel's air and ground war in response has killed thousands of Palestinians, mostly civilians, and forced some 1.9 million people to flee their homes. With a trickle of aid allowed in, and delivery impossible in much of the territory, Palestinians face severe shortages of food, water and other basic goods.

"Expect public order to completely break down soon, and an even worse situation could unfold including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a forum in Qatar, a key intermediary.

Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, told the forum that mediation efforts will continue to stop the war and have all hostages released, but “unfortunately, we are not seeing the same willingness that we had seen in the weeks before.”

Israel's national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, told Israel's Channel 12 TV that the US has set no deadline for Israel to achieve its goals of dismantling Hamas and returning all hostages.

“The evaluation that this can’t be measured in weeks is correct, and I’m not sure it can be measured in months,” he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN that “we have these discussions with Israel including about the duration as well as how it’s prosecuting this campaign against Hamas. These are decisions for Israel to make."

This is a war that cannot be won, Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, asserted to the Qatar forum, and warned that “Israel has created an amount of hatred that will haunt this region that will define generations to come.”

FIGHTING AND ARRESTS IN THE NORTH Israeli forces face heavy resistance, even in northern Gaza, where neighborhoods have been flattened by air strikes and where ground troops have operated for over six weeks.

Israel’s Channel 13 TV broadcast footage showing dozens of detainees stripped to their underwear, hands in the air. Several held assault rifles above their heads, and one man walked forward and placed a gun on the ground.

Other videos have shown groups of unarmed men held in similar conditions, without clothes, bound and blindfolded. Detainees from a group who were released Saturday told The Associated Press they had been beaten and denied food and water.

Israel has not commented on the latest video or the allegations of mistreatment, but government spokesman Eylon Levy said “increasing numbers” of Hamas fighters were surrendering.

Residents said there was still heavy fighting in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shijaiyah and the Jabaliya refugee camp, a dense urban area housing Palestinian families who fled or were driven out of what is now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation.

“They are attacking anything that moves,” said Hamza Abu Fatouh, a Shijaiyah resident. He said the dead and wounded were left in the streets as ambulances could no longer reach the area, where Israeli snipers and tanks positioned themselves among abandoned buildings.

“The resistance also fights back,” he added.

Israel ordered the evacuation of the northern third of the territory, including Gaza City, early in the war, but tens of thousands of people have remained, fearing that the south would be no safer or that they would never be allowed to return to their homes.

Heavy fighting was also underway in and around the southern city of Khan Younis.

WAITING DAYS FOR FOOD The price of food has soared as much of Gaza faces severe shortages. Abdulsalam al-Majdalawi said he had come every day for nearly two weeks to a UN distribution center, hoping to get food for his family of seven.

“Every day, we spend five or six hours here and return home (empty handed),” he said. “Thank God, today they drew our name.”

With the war in its third month, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has surpassed 17,700, the majority women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for civilian casualties, saying the militants put civilians in danger by fighting in dense, residential neighborhoods. The military says 97 Israeli soldiers have died in the ground offensive. Palestinian militants have continued firing rockets into Israel.

Netanyahu’s office said Hamas still has 117 hostages, as well as the remains of 20 people killed in captivity or during the Oct. 7 attack. The militants hope to exchange them for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

Israel says it has provided detailed instructions for civilians to evacuate to safer areas, even as it strikes what it says are militant targets in all parts of the territory. Thousands have fled to the southern town of Rafah and other areas along the border with Egypt — one of the last areas where aid agencies are able to deliver food and water.

The war has raised tensions across the region, with Lebanon's Hezbollah trading fire with Israel along the border and other Iran-backed militant groups targeting the US in Syria and Iraq.

France said one of its warships in the Red Sea shot down two drones that approached it from Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels have vowed to halt Israeli shipping through the key waterway.

Israel’s national security adviser said Israel would give Western allies “some time” to organize a response but if the threats persist, “we will act to remove this blockade.”



UN Refugee Chief Says Sudanese Refugees May Head to Europe If Aid Not Provided

Sudanese refugees wait for their turns to fetch water from wells made available by the NGO Doctors Without B (MSF) at the Farchana refugee camp near the East Chad Sudan border, 07 April 2024.(Issued 09 April 2024). (EPA)
Sudanese refugees wait for their turns to fetch water from wells made available by the NGO Doctors Without B (MSF) at the Farchana refugee camp near the East Chad Sudan border, 07 April 2024.(Issued 09 April 2024). (EPA)
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UN Refugee Chief Says Sudanese Refugees May Head to Europe If Aid Not Provided

Sudanese refugees wait for their turns to fetch water from wells made available by the NGO Doctors Without B (MSF) at the Farchana refugee camp near the East Chad Sudan border, 07 April 2024.(Issued 09 April 2024). (EPA)
Sudanese refugees wait for their turns to fetch water from wells made available by the NGO Doctors Without B (MSF) at the Farchana refugee camp near the East Chad Sudan border, 07 April 2024.(Issued 09 April 2024). (EPA)

The United Nations refugee chief said on Friday that Sudanese refugees could be making their way to Europe if humanitarian aid was not adequately provided to the people of the war-torn country.

War erupted in Sudan on April 15, 2023, between the Sudanese army and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), devastating the country's infrastructure, prompting warnings of famine and displacing millions of people inside and outside the country.

Thousands of civilians have been killed, although death toll estimates are highly uncertain, and both sides have been accused of committing war crimes.

Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said the humanitarian crisis in Sudan could prompt desperate Sudanese to flee beyond neighboring countries, where nearly two million people have already sought shelter.

"We know very well that this region is full of criminals that want to take advantage of the misery of refugees and displaced and help them move on at a cost towards North Africa, towards Europe," Grandi told Reuters at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.

"I'm making the case for more support to be given to those that are displaced inside Sudan or immediately in the neighboring countries, because otherwise they will become refugees along those routes."

Arrivals of refugees and other migrants, particularly those who reach countries by irregular means, is a significant and divisive political issue in a number of European nations.

Statistics published by UNHCR show increased movements of Sudanese refugees to Europe, with 6,000 arriving in Italy from Tunisia and Libya since the beginning of 2023.

That figure represents an almost sixfold increase compared to the previous year, although Sudanese people still represent a small percentage of arrivals in Italy.

"Is humanitarian aid going to stop everybody from moving? Of course not," said Grandi, who will take part in a donor conference on Sudan in Paris on Monday.

"But certainly, it is a stabilizing factor that reduces the incentives for people to be trafficked and smuggled on."

In separate comments on Friday, the World Health Organization said the crisis in Sudan will worsen in the months to come if the fighting does not stop and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian aid is not secured.

"We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg, and the situation could be much more dire," WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said, stressing that 15 million people were in need of urgent health assistance and that diseases such as cholera, malaria and dengue were spreading.

Lindmeier said medical supplies in the country were estimated at about 25% of the needs, and 70 to 80% of Sudanese health facilities were not functioning due to the conflict.


Somalia Says It Will Never Accept Ethiopian Naval Base in Somaliland

 The port of Berbera in Somaliland offers Ethiopia access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal further north. (AFP)
The port of Berbera in Somaliland offers Ethiopia access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal further north. (AFP)
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Somalia Says It Will Never Accept Ethiopian Naval Base in Somaliland

 The port of Berbera in Somaliland offers Ethiopia access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal further north. (AFP)
The port of Berbera in Somaliland offers Ethiopia access to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal further north. (AFP)

Somalia will never accept Ethiopia's plan to build a naval base in its breakaway region of Somaliland, but it would consider granting Ethiopia commercial port access if discussed bilaterally, Somalia's state minister for foreign affairs said on Friday.

Landlocked Ethiopia sparked a diplomatic row with Mogadishu in January by signing a deal with Somaliland to lease 20 km (12 miles) of its coastline in return for recognizing the region as an independent state.

Somalia called the deal illegal as it considers Somaliland as part of its territory even though it has had effective autonomy since 1991.

"Somalia will never accept (a) naval base ... Somalia is ready for commercial access in accordance with the international law of the sea," Somalia's state minister for foreign affairs Ali Omar told Reuters.

He added that Somalia was willing to discuss proposals so long as they meet the country's interests which are to "safeguard (our) sovereignty, political independence and unity".


UN Says Waterborne Illnesses Spread in Gaza Due to Heat, Unsafe Water

Palestinians families flee during an Israeli military operation in the Al-Nusseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
Palestinians families flee during an Israeli military operation in the Al-Nusseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
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UN Says Waterborne Illnesses Spread in Gaza Due to Heat, Unsafe Water

Palestinians families flee during an Israeli military operation in the Al-Nusseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
Palestinians families flee during an Israeli military operation in the Al-Nusseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip, 12 April 2024. (EPA)

Waterborne diseases are spreading in Gaza due to a lack of clean water and rising temperatures, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Gaza said on Friday.

"It is becoming very hot there," Jamie McGoldrick told reporters via video link from Jerusalem. "People are getting much less water than they need, and as a result, there have been waterborne diseases due to lack of safe and clean water and the disruption of the sanitation systems."

"We have to find a way in the months ahead of how we can have a better supply of water into the areas where people are currently crowded at the moment," he said, after making his final visit to Gaza at the end of his three-month assignment.

Contaminated water and poor sanitation are linked to diseases such as cholera, diarrhea, dysentery and hepatitis A, according to the World Health Organization.

Since mid-October, following the assault on Gaza in response to deadly attacks in southern Israel by Hamas, WHO has recorded more than 345,000 cases of diarrhea, including more than 105,000 in children under 5.

Israel has committed to facilitate the ability of humanitarian organizations to scale up aid in Gaza, and has approved the resumption of the operation of the water pipeline in northern Gaza.

The Gaza Strip's only natural source of water is the Coastal Aquifer Basin, which runs along the eastern Mediterranean coast from the northern Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, through Gaza and into Israel.

Its quality over the years has deteriorated rapidly, largely because it had been pumped out to meet the demands of Gaza's population more rapidly than it could be replaced by rainwater.


Israeli Forces Kill Two Palestinians Including Hamas Gunman in West Bank

An interior view of a damaged car where one of two people were killed during an Israeli raid, in the West Bank city of Tubas, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
An interior view of a damaged car where one of two people were killed during an Israeli raid, in the West Bank city of Tubas, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
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Israeli Forces Kill Two Palestinians Including Hamas Gunman in West Bank

An interior view of a damaged car where one of two people were killed during an Israeli raid, in the West Bank city of Tubas, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
An interior view of a damaged car where one of two people were killed during an Israeli raid, in the West Bank city of Tubas, 12 April 2024. (EPA)

Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians, including a member of the armed wing of Hamas, near Tubas in the occupied West Bank on Friday following a raid on the town earlier in the morning, the military said.

It said Mohammad Omar Daraghmeh, whom it described as the head of Hamas infrastructure in the Tubas area of the Jordan valley was killed during an exchange of fire with security forces. It said a number of weapons and military-style equipment, including automatic rifles were found in his vehicle.

Hamas confirmed Daraghmeh's death and his membership of its armed Al-Qassem Brigades.

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA said another man was killed by Israeli forces conducting a raid in the Al-Fara refugee camp in Tubas. Hamas said it mourned the man's death but did not claim him as a member.

The military said forces carrying out the operation opened fire on Palestinians who threw explosive devices and killed one man it said was attempting to attack them.

The incident was the latest in a wave of confrontations in the West Bank between Israeli security forces and Palestinians, including both gunmen and unarmed protestors, since the start of the war in Gaza last October.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, most of them armed fighters but some of them unarmed civilians, and thousands have been arrested or detained. In the same period more than a dozen Israelis have been killed by Palestinian attackers.


Thousands of People Mourn Slain Lebanese Forces Official

Mourners carry the coffin of Pascal Sleiman, an official of the Lebanese Forces party, during his funeral in Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
Mourners carry the coffin of Pascal Sleiman, an official of the Lebanese Forces party, during his funeral in Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
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Thousands of People Mourn Slain Lebanese Forces Official

Mourners carry the coffin of Pascal Sleiman, an official of the Lebanese Forces party, during his funeral in Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 April 2024. (EPA)
Mourners carry the coffin of Pascal Sleiman, an official of the Lebanese Forces party, during his funeral in Jbeil, Lebanon, 12 April 2024. (EPA)

Thousands of Lebanese on Friday mourned a slain Lebanese Forces official authorities said was killed by a Syrian gang, with supporters pointing the finger at Lebanon's Hezbollah group.

Pascal Sleiman was a coordinator in the Jbeil area north of Beirut for the Lebanese Forces (LF) Christian party, which opposes the government in neighboring Syria and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.

On Monday, the army said that Sleiman, who had gone missing the day before, was killed in a carjacking by Syrian gang members who then took his body across the border.

His party said it would consider Sleiman's death a "political assassination until proven otherwise".

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has denied that his party was involved.

Speaking after Sleiman's funeral, LF leader Samir Geagea called for the "failed, corrupt" authorities in Lebanon to be changed.

Geagea blamed their failure, among other things, on "illegal weapons" -- a barely veiled reference to Hezbollah.

The Iran-backed group is the only party in Lebanon that has kept its weapons arsenal after the end of the 1975-1990 civil war, and it wields great influence on the country's political life.

Since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7, Hezbollah has traded near-daily cross-border fire with Israeli forces in actions opposed by the LF and other parties.

"We don't want to wake up one day, as we did now, and find ourselves involved in a never-ending war," Geagea said Friday.

Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, spiritual leader of Lebanon's largest Christian sect, held back tears as he presided over Sleiman's funeral in Jbeil.

Outside the St Georges church, LF supporters waved the party's white flag with its cedar tree -- the symbol of Lebanon -- circled in red.

Mourners told AFP they were unconvinced by the army's version that car thieves killed Sleiman.

"This story never convinced me. It is not coherent at all," said Jean Habshi, 50, who came to pay his respects.

"Enough with Hezbollah, enough with the illegal weapons," Roba Hajal, 24, told AFP outside the church.

"If they (Hezbollah) did not kill him, at the very least they allowed the Syrians in. We are all at risk of meeting Pascal's fate," she said.

Lebanon has a long history of political assassinations that have taken place with impunity.

Years of economic meltdown have further strained a weak judiciary that has been widely accused of succumbing to political interference.

Ziad Hawat, an LF lawmaker from Jbeil, on Friday called for a "serious, transparent" probe into Sleiman's murder, adding that the party had concerns "based on past experiences".

"We do not want the killer to be known to all," he added, while "remaining unknown to the judiciary".

On Tuesday, caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi vowed to get tough on Syrians after several were arrested on suspicion of involvement in Sleiman's killing.


Israel Pounds Gaza as Iran Attack Threat Puts Region on Edge

A boy stands in the rubble of a house during an Israeli military operation in Al-Nusseirat refugee camp south of Gaza City,12 April 2024. (EPA)
A boy stands in the rubble of a house during an Israeli military operation in Al-Nusseirat refugee camp south of Gaza City,12 April 2024. (EPA)
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Israel Pounds Gaza as Iran Attack Threat Puts Region on Edge

A boy stands in the rubble of a house during an Israeli military operation in Al-Nusseirat refugee camp south of Gaza City,12 April 2024. (EPA)
A boy stands in the rubble of a house during an Israeli military operation in Al-Nusseirat refugee camp south of Gaza City,12 April 2024. (EPA)

Residents reported heavy Israeli fire in central Gaza on Friday, with regional tensions soaring after Iran threatened reprisals over a strike in Syria this month that killed two Iranian generals.  

As talks for a truce and hostage release dragged on, fears that Iran could soon launch an attack on Israel spurred France to recommend its citizens avoid travelling to the region.  

Mohammed al-Rayes, 61, told AFP that he fled Israeli "air strikes and artillery shelling" in Al-Nusseirat, central Gaza overnight.  

"It was all fire and destruction, with so many martyrs lying in the street," he said.

Another resident, Laila Nasser, 40, reported "shells and missiles" throughout the night.

"They will do to Nuseirat what they did to Khan Y0unis," said Nasser, vowing to flee to the southernmost city of Rafah, like most of Gaza's population.  

Israeli troops pulled out of the devastated city of Khan Younis last week after months of heavy fighting, but officials said the move was in preparation for and assault on Hamas militants in Rafah.  

Authorities in the Hamas-ruled territory reported dozens of new air strikes in Gaza's central region.  

Israel's military said its aircraft had struck more than 60 militant targets in Gaza over the previous day.  

The Hamas media office said 25 people were taken to hospital in Deir al-Balah city "as a result of an air strike on a house".  

'Shoulder to shoulder'

The war began with Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack against Israel which resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.  

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,634 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the territory's health ministry.  

The latest bombardments in Gaza came after Israel said it had strengthened air defenses and paused leave for combat units, following a deadly April 1 air strike that destroyed Iran's consulate building in Damascus.  

Iran blamed its arch foe Israel, which has stepped up strikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria since the Gaza war began.  

US President Joe Biden said Wednesday that Iran was "threatening to launch a significant attack" and sent the head of US Central Command, General Michael Kurilla, to Israel for urgent talks.  

The White House said on Friday that the threat from Iran remained "real".  

After meeting Kurilla, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel and the United States were "shoulder to shoulder" in facing the threat from Iran, despite recent differences over the conduct of the war in Gaza.  

"Our enemies think that they can pull apart Israel and the United States, but the opposite is true -- they are bringing us together and strengthening our ties," Gallant said. "We stand shoulder to shoulder."

Washington, which has had no diplomatic relations with Tehran since the aftermath of the 1979 revolution, also asked its allies to use their influence with Iran to urge restraint, the State Department said.  

After calls with his Australian, British and German counterparts Thursday, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said: "Iran does not seek to expand the scope of the war."  

But he added that it felt it had no choice but to respond to the deadly attack on its diplomatic mission after the UN Security Council failed to take action.  

Khaled Meshaal, a senior Hamas official, said its six-month-old battle with Israel would "break the enemy soon".

He spoke at an event in Doha, Qatar, to mourn members of Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh's family killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza on Wednesday.  

"This is not the final round," he said. "It is an important round on the path of liberating Palestine and defeating the Zionist project."

New crossing for aid

France on Friday warned its nationals against travelling to Iran, Israel, Lebanon or the Palestinian territories, after the US embassy in Israel announced it was restricting the movements of its diplomats over security fears.  

Moscow and Berlin urged restraint.

In their October attack, Hamas militants seized about 250 hostages, 129 of whom remain in Gaza, including 34 the Israeli army says are dead.  

Washington has ramped up pressure on Netanyahu to agree to a truce, increase aid flows and abandon plans to send troops into Rafah.  

The Israeli army said Friday that an undisclosed number of aid trucks had been allowed to enter Gaza through a newly opened border crossing into the north of the territory.  

"The first food aid trucks entered through the new northern crossing from Israel into Gaza yesterday," the Israeli defense ministry body that oversees Palestinian civil affairs, COGAT, said.  

Despite repeated AFP requests for comment, Israeli authorities did not disclose how many trucks entered Thursday nor the exact location of the new crossing, which Israeli media reported to be close to the Zikim kibbutz.  

Gallant had trumpeted the new crossing on Wednesday, promising to "flood Gaza with aid", but on Thursday the UN Security Council said "more should be done to bring the required relief given the scale of needs in Gaza".  

The UN says famine is imminent in Gaza, much of which has been reduced to a bombed-out wasteland.  

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said an assessment team that visited Khan Younis found "destruction disproportionate to anything one can imagine" and three medical centers that were no longer functioning.  

Truce talks which started on Sunday in Cairo have brought no breakthrough on a plan presented by US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators, which Hamas said it was studying.  

The framework plan would halt fighting for six weeks and see the exchange of about 40 hostages for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, as well as more aid deliveries.


Egypt Pardons Thousands of Prisoners on Eid al-Fitr

Ambassador Moushira Khattab, President of the National Council for Human Rights, in a previous visit to the Correction and Rehabilitation Center of the Ministry of Interior (National Council for Human Rights)
Ambassador Moushira Khattab, President of the National Council for Human Rights, in a previous visit to the Correction and Rehabilitation Center of the Ministry of Interior (National Council for Human Rights)
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Egypt Pardons Thousands of Prisoners on Eid al-Fitr

Ambassador Moushira Khattab, President of the National Council for Human Rights, in a previous visit to the Correction and Rehabilitation Center of the Ministry of Interior (National Council for Human Rights)
Ambassador Moushira Khattab, President of the National Council for Human Rights, in a previous visit to the Correction and Rehabilitation Center of the Ministry of Interior (National Council for Human Rights)

Egypt released more than 3,000 prisoners, in a usual annual amnesty on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr.

The Egyptian Ministry of Interior said, on Thursday, that the Ministry’s Community Protection Sector examined the cases of inmates, both male and female, in correctional and rehabilitation centers across the country, to determine those deserving of pardon, in implementation of the decision of the President of the Republic, on the occasion of the celebration of Eid al-Fitr.

The official Middle East News Agency reported that the families of the released prisoners have expressed their “happiness at the change they saw in their children’s behavior” as a result of their presence in the rehabilitation centers, expressing gratitude for “giving them a new opportunity to engage within society.”

A number of human rights organizations say that Egyptian prisons suffer from overcrowding and weak health services.

In this regard, MP Tariq Radwan, head of the Human Rights Committee in the Egyptian House of Representatives, said: “The decision to pardon detainees confirm that the Egyptian state is seeking new policies towards human rights and the right of expression.”

In a statement, Radwan noted that the decision was a “positive step” towards a real and effective national dialogue, stressing that “the Egyptian state confirms its determination to provide an adequate atmosphere that meets the aspirations of the Egyptian people.”

Caption: Ambassador Moushira Khattab, President of the National Council for Human Rights, in a previous visit to the Correction and Rehabilitation Center of the Ministry of Interior (National Council for Human Rights)


Sudanese Diplomat Criticizes His Country’s Absence from Paris Conference

Displaced Sudanese children play near tents at a camp in southern Gadaref state for people who fled Khartoum and Jazira states, in war-torn Sudan, on March 20, 2024. (AFP)
Displaced Sudanese children play near tents at a camp in southern Gadaref state for people who fled Khartoum and Jazira states, in war-torn Sudan, on March 20, 2024. (AFP)
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Sudanese Diplomat Criticizes His Country’s Absence from Paris Conference

Displaced Sudanese children play near tents at a camp in southern Gadaref state for people who fled Khartoum and Jazira states, in war-torn Sudan, on March 20, 2024. (AFP)
Displaced Sudanese children play near tents at a camp in southern Gadaref state for people who fled Khartoum and Jazira states, in war-torn Sudan, on March 20, 2024. (AFP)

Sudan’s ambassador to France Dr. Khaled Farah expressed his surprise and condemnation at the absence of his government from a conference in Paris that will focus on the situation in his country.

The event, which will take place at the French Foreign Ministry on Monday, is being organized in cooperation with Germany and the European Union, in the absence of official Sudanese representation.

“The conference addresses a matter that concerns an independent and sovereign state. It was arranged without consulting Sudan,” he said, adding that the legitimate government was not invited to participate at any level.

Farah pointed out that the Rapid Support Forces will be “implicitly present and strongly participating in this conference, through political allies and sympathizers... such as the so-called Democratic and Civil Forces (Taqaddum) ... and other non-governmental organizations, civil society groups, and representatives of some political organizations and individuals.”

He expressed alarm that the conference will ultimately be used to prop up the RSF and back it with diplomatic and financial support “under the pretext of concern for the tragedy of the Sudanese people.”

The Sudanese diplomat criticized equating his government with the “rebel Rapid Support militia” - RSF - rejecting some of the common expressions that describe the ongoing war as between “two warring parties” or “the two sides of the conflict.”

“The matter is simply a failed military coup for the purpose of seizing power, with the support and complicity of some regional and international circles,” he remarked.


Disintegration of the State Allows Israeli Mossad to Deeper Infiltrate Lebanon

Hezbollah supporters attend a ceremony in Beirut’s southern suburbs honoring members killed in clashes with Israel. (Reuters)
Hezbollah supporters attend a ceremony in Beirut’s southern suburbs honoring members killed in clashes with Israel. (Reuters)
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Disintegration of the State Allows Israeli Mossad to Deeper Infiltrate Lebanon

Hezbollah supporters attend a ceremony in Beirut’s southern suburbs honoring members killed in clashes with Israel. (Reuters)
Hezbollah supporters attend a ceremony in Beirut’s southern suburbs honoring members killed in clashes with Israel. (Reuters)

The Israeli Mossad appears to have breached Lebanon in wake of its economic and financial collapse that have weakened state institutions and its security services

In the past two years, the Mossad has been able to penetrate Hezbollah’s circles, and this has led to the assassination of dozens of field commanders and members since the beginning of the clashes in southern Lebanon on Oct. 8.

The murder of Mohammad Srour in Beit Meri in Lebanon’s northern Metn area has led to speculation that he may have been killed by Israeli intelligence, a theory that was consolidated by the Israeli press.

Lebanese judicial sources backed this view by pointing to his role in transferring money from Iran to Hezbollah and the Hamas movement in Lebanon, and the fact that he is on the US sanctions list.

Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the judicial and security investigations put forward multiple scenarios for his assassination, noting that they were looking for evidence to confirm whether external parties were behind the crime.

Former Minister Rashid Derbas said the Beit Meri operation bore the hallmarks of the Mossad, stressing that any crime that occurs in Lebanon is the “natural result of the collapse of the state and its structure.”

“No party, entity, or militia can replace the state, no matter how strong it is,” Derbas said, added that the disintegration of the state is due to “the duality of power and Hezbollah’s control over it.”

The Information Division of the Internal Security Forces has been able, in the past two years, to arrest around 20 agents working for Israel, including people who had joined Hezbollah.

The investigations revealed that the Mossad “was luring these people with money, communicating with them through an unmonitored network, holding meetings with them in countries such as Türkiye, Greece, Cyprus, and Africa, and assigning them security tasks.”

The former head of the military court, Brigadier General Khalil Ibrahim, who previously tried hundreds of these agents, noted that Mossad’s security activity in Lebanon never stopped, but its decline for a period was due to the vigilance of the security services and their ability to dismantle dozens of networks.

He explained that Israel “has espionage networks that are active in a country with fragile security,” stressing that Lebanon’s economic crisis has had negative repercussions on the military and security institutions and their technical, operational and intelligence capabilities.


Iranian Revenge Looms Large over Upcoming Meeting between Iraqi PM, Biden

 Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani (Reuters)
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani (Reuters)
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Iranian Revenge Looms Large over Upcoming Meeting between Iraqi PM, Biden

 Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani (Reuters)
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani (Reuters)

Iran’s response to Israel’s attack on its consulate in Syria will loom large over the meeting between Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and US President Joe Biden in Washington next week.

The leaders are scheduled to meet on April 15.

Iran has vowed to retaliate to the April 1 attack, which killed a top Iranian general, and that marked an escalation in the violence that has spread through the region since the Gaza war began.

Tehran has carefully avoided any direct role in the regional spillover, while backing groups which have waged attacks from Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.

Iranian-backed Shiite militias have not attacked US troops in Syria and Iraq since early February.

In Washington, Sudani will focus on the security cooperation and the situation of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition deployed in Iraq amid growing calls in his country for its withdrawal.

He will also discuss US sanctions on Iraqi banks, said an Iraqi government source.

Iraqi military spokesman Yahya Rasool said on Tuesday that the Iraqi military committee and its counterpart in the anti-ISIS coalition agreed to form a “firm security partnership with the US.”

A statement from the committee said the US will help in bolstering and developing the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces to boost the security of Iraq and the region.

The government source told Asharq Al-Awsat that Biden will discuss with Sudani the role of Iran in Iraq and the need to limit the activities of its proxies.

He will likely also address the role Iraq can play in halting the Iranian escalation in wake of the consulate attack.

US Middle East envoy Brett McGurk has called the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Iraq to ask them to deliver a message to Iran urging it to lower tensions, a source with knowledge of the situation said according to Reuters on Thursday.

Two Shiite sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Iranian response is unlikely to take place in Iraq.

The pro-Iran factions will not reopen the Iraqi scene to confront the Americans, they added.