Sudan’s Foreign Ministry Calls on UN to Criminalize Dealing with RSF

Commander of the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces, Mohamed Dagalo, shakes hands with UN envoy Ramtane Lamamra on Thursday in Uganda (Dagalo's X account)
Commander of the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces, Mohamed Dagalo, shakes hands with UN envoy Ramtane Lamamra on Thursday in Uganda (Dagalo's X account)
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Sudan’s Foreign Ministry Calls on UN to Criminalize Dealing with RSF

Commander of the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces, Mohamed Dagalo, shakes hands with UN envoy Ramtane Lamamra on Thursday in Uganda (Dagalo's X account)
Commander of the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces, Mohamed Dagalo, shakes hands with UN envoy Ramtane Lamamra on Thursday in Uganda (Dagalo's X account)

 The Sudanese Foreign Ministry has urged the international community to criminalize dealing with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, and to designate the “militia” group as "terrorist."

The Ministry said in a statement that it followed with interest the latest report of the UN observers on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1591 regarding Darfur and the war waged by the rebel militia, referring to the RSF and its supporters against the Sudanese people.

It quoted the UN report as saying that the number of "between 10,000 and 15,000 people were killed in one city in Sudan's West Darfur region last year in ethnic violence," including women, children, and the elderly.

It considered that the continued supply of advanced weapons provided and facilitated by specific countries, named by the UN observers, and arriving on flights several times a week, in violation of the relevant Security Council resolutions, enabled the rebel militia to expand its military operations and commit atrocities against civilians.

The Ministry also called on the Security Council to assume its responsibility towards the countries that fuel the war in Sudan by providing the militia with weapons and political and media support, saying they should be considered perpetrators of the aggression punishable by international criminal justice.

A report issued by the UN experts accused the RSF group of using large-scale proceeds from gold mining to fund its devastating war against the nation's army.

The report prepared by United Nations investigators and published by Bloomberg on Sunday claimed that Rapid Support receives supplies from a regional country via Chad.

"Violence by the RSF and allied militias may have killed as many as 15,000 people in one city in the Darfur region in 2023," said the UN report, a figure exceeding the UN's previous toll for the nine-month conflict.

The report traced the root of the RSF to the "Janjaweed militias" formed by the Sudanese government under former President Omar al-Bashir to crush a rebellion in Darfur.

The UN experts believe the group benefited from a complex web of financing and new military supply lines across eastern Chad, Libya, and South Sudan and now controls most of Darffur.

The experts said financial networks set up by the RSF before and during the conflict enabled it to acquire weapons, fund media campaigns, pay salaries, and buy backing from political and armed groups.

The experts also noted in their report that since July, the RSF deployed heavy and advanced weapons, including "drones, howitzers, multiple-rocket launchers and anti-aircraft weapons such as MANPADS.

They added, "The new firepower had a major impact on the balance of forces in Darfur and the wider country."

Meanwhile, a landmine killed ten civilians in the Nile River state of North Sudan.

A medical source at a hospital in Shendi city in River Nile state told AFP that "10 civilians were killed as a result of a mine explosion on a bus" on Saturday.

When the blast happened, the bus was transporting passengers from al-Jazira state to Shendi.

It is believed to be the first incident since the outbreak of battles between the army and the RSF in the country.

According to social media activists last week, the Sudanese army warned the Shendi residents to be careful and avoid areas with barricades that include highly sensitive landmines equipped with long-range explosives.

However, the army has not issued an official statement in this regard.

The conflict in Sudan caused the displacement of about 7.5 million people inside and outside the country, according to the UN.



An Israeli Strike Kills a Hezbollah Air Defense Unit Operative

A photo of the site where an Israeli strike hit a vehicle in the Adloun area (Markazia News Agency)
A photo of the site where an Israeli strike hit a vehicle in the Adloun area (Markazia News Agency)
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An Israeli Strike Kills a Hezbollah Air Defense Unit Operative

A photo of the site where an Israeli strike hit a vehicle in the Adloun area (Markazia News Agency)
A photo of the site where an Israeli strike hit a vehicle in the Adloun area (Markazia News Agency)

An Israeli airstrike on a car in southern Lebanon on Tuesday killed a Hezbollah official.
The Israeli military said in a statement that it had killed Hussein Ali Azqul in the strike and described him as a “significant” operative in Hezbollah’s aerial defense unit. Hezbollah confirmed in a statement that Azqul had been killed.
State media and witnesses said the strike happened in the area of Adloun, between the coastal cities of Sidon and Tyre, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the border with Israel.
The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and allied groups have been clashing with Israeli forces along the border for more than six months against the backdrop of Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Israel has regularly carried out targeted killings of Hezbollah and Hamas members in Lebanon, sometimes in areas far from the border.


Aid Workers Worried over Looming Rafah Invasion

Smoke rises following Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip April 22, 2024. REUTERS/Mahdy Zourob
Smoke rises following Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip April 22, 2024. REUTERS/Mahdy Zourob
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Aid Workers Worried over Looming Rafah Invasion

Smoke rises following Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip April 22, 2024. REUTERS/Mahdy Zourob
Smoke rises following Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip April 22, 2024. REUTERS/Mahdy Zourob

An expected Israeli assault on Rafah has aid groups scrambling for ways to help the 1.5 million civilians sheltering in the south Gaza city but the uncertain timeline poses a logistical nightmare.
"We always are prepared with plans to upscale or downscale but, really, we don't know what to expect," said Bushra Khalidi, head of advocacy at Oxfam.
Oxfam joined 12 other aid groups in a joint call for a ceasefire on April 3, stressing that more than a million civilians, including at least 610,000 children, were "in direct line of fire" in Rafah.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly that Israel will press ahead with the threatened assault on Rafah, the last major population center in Gaza that Israeli ground troops have yet to enter.
The hawkish premier has said that the destruction of the remaining Hamas battalions in Rafah is vital to his government's war aim of destroying the Hamas group in Gaza.
But Israel's staunchest ally the United States has said repeatedly that it opposes any operation in Rafah without credible measures to protect civilians.
The Israeli government said it was planning different evacuation scenarios, including the creation of what military spokesman Daniel Hagari dubbed "humanitarian islands".
He said these tent cities would be spared the fighting and would be set up with international support.
The newspaper said Israel planned to send its troops into Rafah gradually, targeting areas where Israel believes Hamas leaders and fighters are hiding, and expected the fighting to last at least six weeks.
But the aid groups AFP spoke with said they had not been briefed on Israel's plans, and the Israeli army was not able to answer AFP questions on its exchanges with humanitarian organizations.
Earlier this month Israeli media reported that the defense ministry had bought 10,000 tents to be set up outside Rafah over the next two weeks, and planned to acquire 30,000 more.
"I have no idea what the plan with the procurement of tents by the Israelis is," said the head of the UN humanitarian office in the occupied Palestinian territories, Andrea de Domenico,.
Operations on hold
Rafah lies hard by the Egyptian border and hosts the main crossing through which aid enters the whole territory.
"We don't exactly know what shape this operation will take, but what is certain is that there will be a decrease of available aid, and that many people are moving around," said Jean-Raphael Poitou, Middle East Director for Action Against Hunger.
Palestinians have limited options in the event of an Israeli ground assault on Rafah.
They could topple the wall and barbed wire separating the city from Egypt, attempt to return to the north of the Gaza Strip, which the army does not currently allow, or flee towards the Mediterranean coast.
"Rafah is tiny, it's like a village, any operation in such a limited and densely populated area, we can only imagine that it would cause mass carnage and further atrocity crimes," Oxfam's Khalidi said.
The aid group fears it will have to put its activities on hold in Rafah, where half of its offices and buildings housing staff are located.
Khalidi said it was difficult to anticipate where services could be moved to when about 60 percent of buildings in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or damaged, and the Palestinian territory is still subject to air strikes and littered with unexploded ordnance (UXOs).
No UN agency involvement
Other organizations fear for the aid distribution network, a subject of tension with Israeli authorities since the beginning of the war.
An operation "means cutting the aid system off from its lifeline, the Rafah crossing," said Ahmed Bayram, media adviser for the Norwegian Refugee Council in the Middle East.
A UN worker in Jerusalem, who asked not to be identified, told AFP that an Israeli ground operation in Rafah would mean "stepping into the abyss".
"If the current conditions do not allow humanitarian operations at the required scale, just imagine what ground fighting in Rafah will bring about," the UN worker said.
De Domenico warned that humanitarian principles prevented UN agencies from getting involved in establishing replacement displaced persons' camps outside Rafah.
"We will not pre-empt movement or attract movement of people by installing camps," the OCHA official said, adding there was in any case "not much space to do so".
The UN worker in Jerusalem said: "The UN does not participate in forced, non-voluntary displacement".


UN Rights Chief 'Horrified' by Mass Grave Reports at Gaza Hospitals

Palestinian paramedics carry away bodies of dead people uncovered in the vicinity of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on April 17, 2024 after the recent Israeli military operation there. (Photo by AFP)
Palestinian paramedics carry away bodies of dead people uncovered in the vicinity of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on April 17, 2024 after the recent Israeli military operation there. (Photo by AFP)
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UN Rights Chief 'Horrified' by Mass Grave Reports at Gaza Hospitals

Palestinian paramedics carry away bodies of dead people uncovered in the vicinity of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on April 17, 2024 after the recent Israeli military operation there. (Photo by AFP)
Palestinian paramedics carry away bodies of dead people uncovered in the vicinity of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on April 17, 2024 after the recent Israeli military operation there. (Photo by AFP)

UN rights chief Volker Turk said on Tuesday that he was "horrified" by the destruction of the Nasser and Al Shifa medical facilities in Gaza and reports of mass graves containing hundreds of bodies there, according to a spokesperson.

Palestinian authorities reported finding bodies in mass graves at a hospital in Khan Younis this week after it was abandoned by Israeli troops. Bodies were also reported at the Al Shifa site following an Israeli special forces operation.

"We feel the need to raise the alarm because clearly there have been multiple bodies discovered," said Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"Some of them had their hands tied, which of course indicates serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and these need to be subjected to further investigations,” Reuters quoted Shamdasani as saying.

She added that the UN human rights office was working on corroborating Palestinian officials' reports that 283 bodies were found at Nasser and 30 at Al Shifa.

According to those reports, the bodies were buried beneath piles of waste and included women and older people. Turk, addressing a UN briefing via Shamdasani, also decried Israeli strikes on Gaza in recent days, which he said had killed mostly women and children.

He also repeated a warning against a full-scale incursion on Rafah, saying this could lead to "further atrocity crimes.”


Ex-Security Official Sparks Tribal Crisis in Eastern Sudan

Naval base soldiers in Port Sudan (AFP)
Naval base soldiers in Port Sudan (AFP)
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Ex-Security Official Sparks Tribal Crisis in Eastern Sudan

Naval base soldiers in Port Sudan (AFP)
Naval base soldiers in Port Sudan (AFP)

Comments by a former high-ranking official in Sudan's security and intelligence service, questioning the legitimacy of certain tribal groups, have stirred tribal tensions in the country’s east.

Social, political, and civil groups have condemned these remarks as racist and accused backers of the former regime, including the Muslim Brotherhood, of trying to stoke unrest in the east amid the country's ongoing conflict.

Badr Al-Din Abdel Hakam, a retired brigadier and director of security in Kassala state, referred to specific tribal groups in eastern Sudan as refugees from a neighboring country, calling for their Sudanese citizenship to be revoked immediately.

These comments have angered social groups with significant populations in the eastern states (Red Sea, Kassala, and Gedaref).

Youth from affected tribes have held rallies in Port Sudan and Kassala, demanding legal action against the current security official, who is abroad, for his remarks questioning their Sudanese identity.

Sources close to the social sphere told Asharq Al-Awsat that the former security official’s remarks are closely tied to recent discussions held in Port Sudan, sponsored by the Sudanese military, regarding foreign presence and the definition of Sudanese identity.

They suggest that some tribes’ reluctance to join the army in its conflict against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) influenced this stance.

In essence, the official’s comments indirectly mirror the views of army supporters, who have initiated a social media campaign urging for the revocation of citizenship from groups that have shown little enthusiasm for joining the army.

These same sources cautioned that such remarks could reignite past tribal conflicts in the region, leading to casualties among tribal groups.


Truce Crumbles in Sudanese Army's Last Darfur Holdout

(FILES) Supporters of the Sudanese armed popular resistance, which backs Sudan's army, ride on trucks in Gedaref in eastern Sudan on March 3, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the country between the army and paramilitaries. (Photo by AFP)
(FILES) Supporters of the Sudanese armed popular resistance, which backs Sudan's army, ride on trucks in Gedaref in eastern Sudan on March 3, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the country between the army and paramilitaries. (Photo by AFP)
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Truce Crumbles in Sudanese Army's Last Darfur Holdout

(FILES) Supporters of the Sudanese armed popular resistance, which backs Sudan's army, ride on trucks in Gedaref in eastern Sudan on March 3, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the country between the army and paramilitaries. (Photo by AFP)
(FILES) Supporters of the Sudanese armed popular resistance, which backs Sudan's army, ride on trucks in Gedaref in eastern Sudan on March 3, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the country between the army and paramilitaries. (Photo by AFP)

Attacks around the Sudanese city of al-Fashir have shattered a truce that protected it from a year-old war, leading to warnings of a new wave of inter-communal violence and humanitarian risks for 1.6 million residents crammed into the North Darfur capital.
Al-Fashir is the last major city in the vast, western Darfur region not under control of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). The RSF and its allies swept through four other Darfur state capitals last year, and were blamed for a campaign of ethnically driven killings against non-Arab groups and other abuses in West Darfur, Reuters said.
The fight for al-Fashir, a historic center of power, could be more protracted, inflame ethnic tensions that surfaced in the early-2000s conflict in the region and reach across Sudan's border with Chad, say residents, aid agencies and analysts.
Al-Fashir's population includes an estimated half a million people displaced during that earlier conflict, when the army, assisted by militias that evolved into the RSF, put down a rebellion by opposition groups.
About half a million more people moved into the city during the war that broke out between the army and the RSF in the capital Khartoum in April 2023, as long-simmering tensions over integrating the two forces came to a head.
As the war spread to other parts of the country, local leaders brokered a truce in al-Fashir, with the RSF confined to eastern areas of the city while the former groups stayed neutral.
But the arrangement fell apart after the RSF took the town of Melit this month, effectively blockading al-Fashir.
Witnesses say the army has reinforced supplies and troops, including through an air drop to its base in the city, unlike in other state capitals where soldiers quickly fled.
Two prominent former opposition groups, Minni Minawi's Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and Jibril Ibrahim's Justice and Equality Movement, said they would also defend against the RSF.
Many non-Arabs in al-Fashir are gripped with fear.
"We don't know what to do," 39-year-old resident Mohamed Gasim told Reuters by phone. "Al-Fashir is dangerous, but leaving is more dangerous."
VILLAGES RAZED
Even before the truce collapsed, occasional skirmishes killed more than 220 people in al-Fashir in the last year, according to Ismail Khareef, an activist in Abu Shouk, one of the displacement camps that dot the city.
Clashes on April 16 left at least 18 dead, Khareef said. Gunfire and projectiles, including from army warplanes, have fallen on homes, he and other residents say.
Since the start of the month, at least 11 villages on al-Fashir's outskirts have been razed, according to satellite imagery obtained by the Yale Humanitarian Research Lab. At least 36,000 have been displaced, the United Nations estimates.
Local activists and an SLA spokesperson blamed the RSF and allied militias, who have been known to use arson in past attacks, including in West Darfur. The activists said that survivors of the attacks reported around 10 people killed and that the attackers used ethnic insults.
The RSF denied attacking al-Fashir and said it was careful to keep clashes away from civilians in the city, accusing the army and allied groups of attacking it on the outskirts. The RSF has previously denied responsibility for ethnic violence in Darfur.
The army did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Al-Fashir itself has not had functioning running water or power lines for a year, said Awadalla Hamid, Darfur director for Practical Action, speaking to Reuters from the city, where few international humanitarians remain. Only one public hospital is functioning, while displaced people are crammed into schools and public buildings, he said.
Jerome Tubiana, an expert on Darfur and advisor to medical charity MSF, said all-out fighting "risks already complicating further humanitarian access, at a time where available data shows al-Fashir is suffering of an extremely serious food crisis".
SPILLOVER RISK
Since the war began, only small quantities of aid have entered al-Fashir, the only army-approved conduit for shipments to other parts of Darfur. Residents say that though markets are functioning, the RSF's control of the main road has caused prices for fuel, water and other goods to soar.
Recent tensions and violence around al-Fashir have also raised concerns about a wider spillover.
The former opposition groups fighting alongside the army hail from the Zaghawa tribe, which reaches across the border into Chad, counting Chadian leader Mahamat Idriss Deby as a member.
Arab and non-Arab tribes like the Zaghawa have long clashed over land and valuable resources in Darfur, analysts say.
Complicating matters is the entrance of the forces belonging to Musa Hilal, a leading Arab commander from the early 2000s and rival of RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, despite hailing from the same tribe. A spokesperson confirmed a video of Hilal addressing forces in North Darfur on Monday, but said that it was too soon to say if the forces would join the fight in al-Fashir or elsewhere.
"Even if there was a ceasefire between SAF and RSF this is way beyond them. There are scores being settled and tensions being renewed," said Jonas Horner, an independent Sudan analyst.


Lebanon: Bassil Eliminates Bou Saab from FPM after Differences over Presidency

Gebran Bassil, a lawmaker and former minister stands as Lebanon's parliament convenes in a bid to elect a head of state to fill the vacant presidency, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon June 14, 2023. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
Gebran Bassil, a lawmaker and former minister stands as Lebanon's parliament convenes in a bid to elect a head of state to fill the vacant presidency, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon June 14, 2023. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
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Lebanon: Bassil Eliminates Bou Saab from FPM after Differences over Presidency

Gebran Bassil, a lawmaker and former minister stands as Lebanon's parliament convenes in a bid to elect a head of state to fill the vacant presidency, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon June 14, 2023. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
Gebran Bassil, a lawmaker and former minister stands as Lebanon's parliament convenes in a bid to elect a head of state to fill the vacant presidency, in downtown Beirut, Lebanon June 14, 2023. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Disputes between leader of the Free Patriotic Movement Gebran Bassil and Deputy Speaker and FPM official Elias Bou Saab have ended with a rift two years after murky ties between the two.
Bou Saab is not the first to be eliminated from the party. Bassil eliminated several prominent officials from the party in recent years.
Bou Saab was a prominent figure of the FPM and adviser to former President and founder of the FPM, Michel Aoun.
“Bou Saab is no longer among the ranks of the party”, prominent sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. “He has not taken part in the meetings of the (FPM’s) parliamentary bloc in months”.
Two Years of Differences
The first sign of the differences between Bassil and Bou Saab began during the 2022 parliamentary elections. Bassil was blamed for supporting an FPM candidate on the party’s electoral lists in the Metn area other than Bou Saab.
Divisions got deeper after the elections when the candidates for the post of deputy speaker were named.
FPM deputies and lawmakers of the Amal and Hezbollah parties had all voted in favor of Bou Saab who enjoyed the backing of Speaker Nabih Berri.
This “silent dispute” did not shatter the relations between the two men, nor did it affect Bou Saab’s relation with Aoun. Bou Saab, a deputy speaker and parliamentarian, had continuous contacts with Berri, and played a “mediating” role between the FPM and Aoun on one hand, and Berri on the other before the presidential vacuum.
Bou Saab also had a negotiator role with US official Amos Hochstein who mediated the demarcation of Lebanon’s maritime border with Israel in 2022.
Different Relations with the Political Components
Tense relations peaked between the two during the presidential elections. FPM lawmakers were casting blank ballot votes while Bou Saab voted in favor of former minister Ziad Baroud.
In the final presidential election session, Bou Saab was accused of not abiding by an agreement struck between the Lebanese Forces party, the Progressive Socialist Party and the FPM to support former minister Jihad Azour.
In a televised interview two months before, Bou Saab said that Marada leader Sleiman Franjieh had the highest stakes to win the elections. He said that he would vote for him if his triumph stands at one vote.
According to sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the differences between the two grew to their highest that Bassil could no longer tolerate, which drove him to eliminate Bou Saab.
Sources informed about the atmosphere with the FPM said the move is unlikely to affect the political future of Bou Saab.
They said his presence as a lawmaker is not linked to the FPM. He was a deputy before the FPM and will continue to be one despite any developments.


US State Department: Gaza War has Negatively Impacted Human Rights Practices

Displaced Palestinians in the southern Gaza Strip (Reuters)
Displaced Palestinians in the southern Gaza Strip (Reuters)
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US State Department: Gaza War has Negatively Impacted Human Rights Practices

Displaced Palestinians in the southern Gaza Strip (Reuters)
Displaced Palestinians in the southern Gaza Strip (Reuters)

The war between Israel and Hamas that has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza and resulted in a severe humanitarian crisis has had “a significant negative impact” on the human rights situation in the country, the US State Department said in its annual report on Monday.

Significant human rights issues include credible reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings, enforced disappearance, torture and unjustified arrests of journalists among others, said the State Department’s 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, according to Reuters.

The report added that the Israeli government has taken some credible steps to identify and punish the officials who may have been involved in those abuses.

In his first comment on the report, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that the State Department was continuing to assess allegations that Israel has violated human rights law in its operations against Hamas in Gaza.

Blinken rejected suggestions that Washington might have a “double standard” when it comes to applying the law with Israel.

“Do we have a double standard? The answer is no,” Blinken told a news conference announcing the Department's annual human rights country reports.

Israel's military conduct has come under increasing scrutiny as its forces have killed 34,000 Palestinians in besieged Gaza, according to the enclave's health authorities, many of them civilians and children.

The Gaza Strip has been reduced to a wasteland, and extreme food shortages have prompted fears of famine.

Israel launched its assault in response to a Hamas attack on Oct. 7, in which Israel says 1,200 people were killed.

Rights groups have flagged numerous incidents of civilian harm during the Israeli army's offensive in Gaza, as well as raised alarm about rising violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Palestinian Health Ministry records show Israeli forces or settlers have killed at least 460 Palestinians in the West Bank since Oct. 7. But so far the Biden administration has said it has not found Israel in breach of international law.


Yemen’s Alimi Calls for Int’l Efforts to Stop Arms Smuggling to Houthis

The head of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, Dr. Rashad Al-Alimi, met Monday with the US Ambassador to Yemen, Steven Fagin, in Riyadh. SABA
The head of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, Dr. Rashad Al-Alimi, met Monday with the US Ambassador to Yemen, Steven Fagin, in Riyadh. SABA
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Yemen’s Alimi Calls for Int’l Efforts to Stop Arms Smuggling to Houthis

The head of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, Dr. Rashad Al-Alimi, met Monday with the US Ambassador to Yemen, Steven Fagin, in Riyadh. SABA
The head of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, Dr. Rashad Al-Alimi, met Monday with the US Ambassador to Yemen, Steven Fagin, in Riyadh. SABA

The head of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, Dr. Rashad Al-Alimi, has said it was important for the international community to counter Iranian attempts so smuggle weapons to the Houthi militias.

Alimi met Monday with the US Ambassador to Yemen, Steven Fagin, in Riyadh.

They discussed bilateral relations, the situation in Yemen and developments in the region and the world.

Alimi’s warning came as the Iran-backed Houthis have said they will continue to strike merchant ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in what they call solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

State news agency SABA quoted Alimi as saying that Houthi attacks on vessels had severe repercussions on the living conditions of Yemenis, the people in the region and their national economies.

Meanwhile, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg has returned to Muscat as part of his efforts to support the pace process that is set to end the conflict in Yemen.

Grundberg’s office said on “X” that the envoy met in Muscat with the spokesman of the Houthi militias, Mohammed Abdulsalam.

It said that Grundberg also held talks with senior Omani officials. “They discussed ways to make progress on a UN roadmap for Yemen and the need for broader de-escalation in the Middle East,” said the statement.

In his latest briefing to the UN Security Council last week, the envoy called “on the parties to refrain from unilateral escalatory measures and engage in good faith dialogue under the auspices of the UN to find common solutions through collaboration, and to turn disputes into opportunities to take the path towards common prosperity.”

He also called for separating the Yemeni crisis from other crises in the region, including the Israeli war on Gaza.


Failed Rocket Strike Launched on US-led Coalition Forces Base in Syria

FILE - A US military vehicle drives south of the northeastern city of Qamishli, on Oct. 26. 2019 likely heading to the oil-rich Deir el-Zour area where there are oil fields, or possibly to another base nearby, as it passes by a poster showing Syrian President Bashar Assad. (AP Photo/Baderkhan Ahmad, File)
FILE - A US military vehicle drives south of the northeastern city of Qamishli, on Oct. 26. 2019 likely heading to the oil-rich Deir el-Zour area where there are oil fields, or possibly to another base nearby, as it passes by a poster showing Syrian President Bashar Assad. (AP Photo/Baderkhan Ahmad, File)
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Failed Rocket Strike Launched on US-led Coalition Forces Base in Syria

FILE - A US military vehicle drives south of the northeastern city of Qamishli, on Oct. 26. 2019 likely heading to the oil-rich Deir el-Zour area where there are oil fields, or possibly to another base nearby, as it passes by a poster showing Syrian President Bashar Assad. (AP Photo/Baderkhan Ahmad, File)
FILE - A US military vehicle drives south of the northeastern city of Qamishli, on Oct. 26. 2019 likely heading to the oil-rich Deir el-Zour area where there are oil fields, or possibly to another base nearby, as it passes by a poster showing Syrian President Bashar Assad. (AP Photo/Baderkhan Ahmad, File)

A failed rocket strike was launched at a base housing US-led coalition forces at Rumalyn, Syria, marking the first time since Feb. 4 that Iranian-backed militias have attacked a US facility in Iraq or Syria, a US defense official said. No personnel were injured in the attack.
Iraqi authorities said early Monday that they were searching for “outlaw elements” who launched an estimated five missiles across the border from Iraq into Syria late Sunday night targeting the base. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Also on Monday, a US official said American forces had shot down two drones near al-Assad Air Base in Iraq. The circumstances are under investigation, The Associated Press said.
Israel’s defense minister on Monday visited members of an infantry battalion that could soon be blocked from receiving American aid because of human rights violations.
Yoav Gallant on Monday told members of Netzah Yehuda battalion stationed on the Gaza border that they have the full backing of the Israeli state and its military.
The decision by the US may come this week and would mark the first time the country has imposed sanctions on a unit inside the Israeli military and would further strain relations between the two allies, which have grown increasingly tense during the Israel-Hamas war.
The conflict, now in its seventh month, has sparked regional unrest pitting Israel and the US against Iran and allied militant groups across the Middle East. Israel and Iran traded fire directly this month, raising fears of all-out war.
The war was sparked by the unprecedented Oct. 7 raid into southern Israel in which Hamas and other militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 hostages. Israel says Hamas is still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.
The Israel-Hamas war has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, at least two-thirds of them children and women. It has devastated Gaza’s two largest cities and left a swath of destruction. Around 80% of the territory’s population have fled to other parts of the besieged coastal enclave.
The US House of Representatives approved a $26 billion aid package on Saturday that includes around $9 billion in humanitarian assistance for Gaza, which experts say is on the brink of famine, as well as billions for Israel. The US Senate could pass the package as soon as Tuesday, and President Joe Biden has promised to sign it immediately.

 


Review of UNRWA Found Israel Did Not Express Concern about Staff

A truck, marked with United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) logo, crosses into Egypt from Gaza, at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, during a temporary truce between Hamas and Israel, in Rafah, Egypt, November 27, 2023. (Reuters)
A truck, marked with United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) logo, crosses into Egypt from Gaza, at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, during a temporary truce between Hamas and Israel, in Rafah, Egypt, November 27, 2023. (Reuters)
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Review of UNRWA Found Israel Did Not Express Concern about Staff

A truck, marked with United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) logo, crosses into Egypt from Gaza, at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, during a temporary truce between Hamas and Israel, in Rafah, Egypt, November 27, 2023. (Reuters)
A truck, marked with United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) logo, crosses into Egypt from Gaza, at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, during a temporary truce between Hamas and Israel, in Rafah, Egypt, November 27, 2023. (Reuters)

An independent review of the neutrality of the UN agency helping Palestinian refugees found that Israel never expressed concern about anyone on the staff lists it has received annually since 2011. The review was carried out after Israel alleged that a dozen employees of the agency known as UNRWA had participated in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks.

In a wide-ranging 48-page report released Monday, the independent panel said UNRWA has “robust” procedures to uphold the UN principle of neutrality, but it cited serious gaps in implementation, including staff publicly expressing political views, textbooks with “problematic content” and staff unions disrupting operations.

From 2017 to 2022, the report said the annual number of allegations of neutrality being breached at UNRWA ranged from 7 to 55. But between January 2022 and February 2024 UN investigators received 151 allegations, most related to social media posts “made public by external sources," it said.

In a key section on the neutrality of staff, the panel, which was led by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, said UNRWA shares lists of staff with host countries for its 32,000 staff, including about 13,000 in Gaza. But it said Israeli officials never expressed concern and informed panel members it did not consider the list “a screening or vetting process” but rather a procedure to register diplomats.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry informed the panel that until March 2024 the staff lists did not include Palestinian identification numbers, the report said.

Apparently based on those numbers, “Israel made public claims that a significant number of UNRWA employees are members of terrorist organizations,” the panel said. “However, Israel has yet to provide supporting evidence of this.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ordered the UN internal watchdog, the Office of Internal Oversight Services, to carry out a separate investigation into the Israeli allegations that 12 UNRWA staffers participated in the Oct. 7 attacks. That report is eagerly awaited.

In its interim report on March 20, the panel noted UNRWA’s “significant number of mechanisms and procedures to ensure compliance with the humanitarian principles of neutrality,” but also identified “critical areas that need to be addressed.”