Spanish Chief Prosecutor Will Investigate Deadly Melilla Incident

A picture taken on June 26, 2022, shows the border fence separating Morocco from Spain's North African Melilla enclave, near Nador in Morocco. (AFP)
A picture taken on June 26, 2022, shows the border fence separating Morocco from Spain's North African Melilla enclave, near Nador in Morocco. (AFP)
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Spanish Chief Prosecutor Will Investigate Deadly Melilla Incident

A picture taken on June 26, 2022, shows the border fence separating Morocco from Spain's North African Melilla enclave, near Nador in Morocco. (AFP)
A picture taken on June 26, 2022, shows the border fence separating Morocco from Spain's North African Melilla enclave, near Nador in Morocco. (AFP)

The Spanish chief prosecutor ordered on Tuesday a probe to clarify the circumstances that led to the death of at least 23 migrants trying to cross into the Spanish enclave of Melilla last Friday amid clashes with Moroccan and Spanish security forces.

About 2,000 migrants took part in the attempt to storm a border post with about 100 managing to get across. Both Morocco and Spain have denied using excessive force.

"The State Attorney General's decision is based on the importance and seriousness of the events that took place, which could affect human rights and the fundamental rights of individuals, as well as the uniqueness and complexity of the investigation," the prosecutor office said in a statement.

Moroccan human rights council CNDH, a constitutional body independent of the government, has sent a fact-finding mission to look into the deadly incident.

Separately, the United Nations joined other human rights voices in calling for an independent probe into the clashes.

The incident has sparked political outrage in Spain with several parties demanding answers from the government after the country's prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, thanked the Moroccan security forces for their help controlling the border.

On Monday, Moroccan authorities began prosecuting 65 of the migrants involved in the organization of Friday's mass attempt.

A Moroccan border control chief blamed trafficking gangs for the violence on Monday which he said took a "quasi-military character", adding that "attackers had militiamen profiles and included former military men from countries destabilized by war and conflict," state news agency MAP quoted him as saying.

Since 2017, Morocco has stopped 360,000 illegal migrants from crossing the border into Spain, around 26,000 of them this year alone, he said.

The consequences of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the food crisis have exacerbated the migration challenge.



Abbas Says Gaza War Must End, Conference Needed to Reach Settlement

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Reuters
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Reuters
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Abbas Says Gaza War Must End, Conference Needed to Reach Settlement

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Reuters
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Reuters

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday called for an immediate end to the war in Gaza and an international peace conference to work out a lasting political solution leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

In an interview with Reuters at his office in Ramallah, Abbas, 87, said the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in general had reached an alarming stage that requires an international conference and guarantees by world powers.

Besides Israel's war with Hamas in Gaza, he said Israeli forces have intensified their attacks everywhere in the occupied West Bank over the past year with settlers escalating violence against Palestinian towns.

He reiterated his longstanding position in favor of negotiation rather than armed resistance to end the longstanding occupation.

"I am with peaceful resistance. I am for negotiations based on an international peace conference and under international auspices that would lead to a solution that will be protected by world powers to establish a sovereign Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem," he said.

Abbas was speaking as Israel increased its strikes on Gaza. In two months of warfare, it has killed more than 17,000 people, wounded 46,000 and forced the displacement of around 1.9 million people, over half of them now sheltering in areas in central Gaza or close to the Egyptian border.

Abbas said that based on a binding international agreement, he would revive the weakened Palestinian Authority, implement long-awaited reforms and hold presidential and parliamentary elections, which were suspended after Hamas won in 2006 and later pushed the PA out of Gaza.

He said the PA had abided by all the peace deals signed with Israel since the 1993 Oslo Accord and the understandings that followed over the years but that Israel had reneged on its pledges to end the occupation.

Asked whether he would risk holding elections given the possibility that Hamas could win as it did in 2006, he said: "Whoever wins wins, these will be democratic elections."

Abbas said he had planned to hold elections in April 2021 but the European Union envoy told him before the due date that Israel was objecting to voting in East Jerusalem so he was forced to call it off.

He insisted that there would not be elections without East Jerusalem, saying the PA held three rounds of elections in the past that included East Jerusalem before Israel imposed the ban.


Monitor: Israeli Strike Kills Four Pro-Hezbollah Fighters in Syria

The monitor was unable however to confirm if the combatants were Syrian or not. AFP
The monitor was unable however to confirm if the combatants were Syrian or not. AFP
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Monitor: Israeli Strike Kills Four Pro-Hezbollah Fighters in Syria

The monitor was unable however to confirm if the combatants were Syrian or not. AFP
The monitor was unable however to confirm if the combatants were Syrian or not. AFP

Four pro-Hezbollah fighters were killed on Friday in an Israeli drone strike on their car in the south of Syria, a war monitor said.

The four fighters "working on behalf of Hezbollah" were killed in Madinat al-Baath town in the province of Quneitra, close to the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The monitor was unable however to confirm if the combatants were Syrian or not, but they were not part of the Syrian army, Abdel Rahman said.

The day before, the Observatory, which has a network of sources in Syria, reported that Israel hit sites close to Damascus with eight missiles, as well as a "regime military post in the province of Quneitra", without causing any casualties.

The strikes were a response to the bombardment of Israeli-annexed Golan, the monitor said.

There was no comment from Israel on the drone strike. Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy said Friday that the Israeli military struck a number of targets in Syria in response to two launches on Thursday that fell in open areas.


Egypt’s Presidential Candidates Reject Return of Muslim Brotherhood

An election banner for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Cairo (EPA)
An election banner for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Cairo (EPA)
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Egypt’s Presidential Candidates Reject Return of Muslim Brotherhood

An election banner for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Cairo (EPA)
An election banner for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Cairo (EPA)

Days before the start of Egypt’s presidential elections, statements by the four candidates reflected identical positions summed up in their refusal to the return of the “banned” Muslim brotherhood group to political life.
The elections will be held inside Egypt next Sunday and for three days, while Egyptians abroad cast their ballot about a week ago.
Three candidates are running for the presidential race along with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, who is seeking a third term that will last until 2030.
The candidates include Farid Zahran, head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, Abdel-Sanad Yamama, president of the Wafd Party, and Hazem Omar, head of the Republican People’s Party.
The future of the Muslim Brotherhood raises widespread controversy in Egypt. Authorities have classified it as a “terrorist organization” following the ousting of former President Mohamed Morsi, who belonged to the group, in 2013.
In August 2014, the Supreme Administrative Court in Egypt ruled to dissolve the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the organization.
Advisor Mahmoud Fawzi, head of Sisi’s electoral campaign, said there was no return to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt’s political scene.
In a televised interview, he noted that talks about the return of the Brotherhood had popular, political and legal dimensions.
“In the popular dimension, we all see that the Egyptians expressed their view of the Brotherhood in the revolution of June 30, 2013, and therefore the people’s opinion is clear”, Fawzi stated.
Regarding the political dimension, he said: “Anyone, whose hands are stained with the blood of Egyptians, is not welcome,” stressing that the legal dimension was clear, as the Brotherhood is classified as a terrorist group.
The other three candidates have expressed similar positions.
In a televised interview, Zahran affirmed that he would reject any role for the Brotherhood in political life if he gets elected as president.
Yamama, for his part, noted that there would be no reconciliation with the “terrorist group”, pointing to the need to “fight the Brotherhood’s ideology with democracy.”
The same stance was confirmed by Omar, who ruled out any rapprochement with the Brotherhood,” adding that the group “gambled with the future of the Egyptian people.”


US Embassy in Baghdad Attacked with Rockets, No Casualties

A file photo of the US embassy in Iraq on January 3, 2020. Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP
A file photo of the US embassy in Iraq on January 3, 2020. Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP
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US Embassy in Baghdad Attacked with Rockets, No Casualties

A file photo of the US embassy in Iraq on January 3, 2020. Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP
A file photo of the US embassy in Iraq on January 3, 2020. Ahmad Al-Rubaye, AFP

The US embassy in Baghdad was attacked with two salvos of rockets on Friday morning but there were no casualties, an embassy spokesperson said.
The attack was believed to have been carried out by Iran-aligned militias in Iraq, the spokesperson said. No group immediately claimed responsibility.
It was the first reported rocket attack against the embassy since an umbrella group of Iran-aligned Shi'ite Muslim militias initiated attacks against US forces on military bases in Iraq and neighboring Syria in mid-October, Reuters said.
The armed groups have linked more than 70 such attacks to Washington's backing of Israel in its devastating assault on Gaza.
"We again call on the Government of Iraq, as we have done on many occasions, to do all in its power to protect diplomatic and Coalition partner personnel and facilities," the embassy spokesperson said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani directed security agencies to pursue the perpetrators, describing them as "unruly, lawless groups that do not in any way represent the will of the Iraqi people," a statement from his office said.
He also said that undermining Iraq's stability, reputation and targeting places Iraq has committed to protect were acts of terrorism.
Explosions were heard near the embassy, in the center of Iraq's capital, at about 4 a.m. on Friday. Sirens calling on people to take cover were activated, according to social media videos from the scene.
Aside from its diplomatic staff in Iraq, the United States has about 2,500 troops in the country on a mission it says aims to advise and assist local forces trying to prevent a resurgence of ISIS group, which in 2014 seized large swathes of both countries before being defeated.
"We reiterate that we reserve the right to self-defense and to protect our personnel anywhere in the world," the spokesperson said.
The UN mission in Iraq condemned the attack. "Iraq cannot afford to be drawn into a wider conflict, which would threaten hard-won stability and the achievements made so far," it said in a social media post.


Sudan Rejects US War Crimes Accusations against its Army

A 22-year-old Sudanese mother of two children speaks in a refugee camp in Chad about her exposure to sexual violence in West Darfur. (Archive: Reuters)
A 22-year-old Sudanese mother of two children speaks in a refugee camp in Chad about her exposure to sexual violence in West Darfur. (Archive: Reuters)
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Sudan Rejects US War Crimes Accusations against its Army

A 22-year-old Sudanese mother of two children speaks in a refugee camp in Chad about her exposure to sexual violence in West Darfur. (Archive: Reuters)
A 22-year-old Sudanese mother of two children speaks in a refugee camp in Chad about her exposure to sexual violence in West Darfur. (Archive: Reuters)

Sudan officially announced its rejection of the US State Department’s accusation of its army committing war crimes, and considered it “baseless.”
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that his country formally determined that warring parties in Sudan committed war crimes.
He added that Washington also determined that the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and allied militias committed crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
“The expansion of the needless conflict between RSF and the SAF has caused grievous human suffering,” Blinken said, referring to the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF).
He called on the parties to “stop this conflict now, comply with their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, and hold accountable those responsible for atrocities.”
In a statement on Thursday, the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the US move to accuse the “rebel militia” of committing crimes against humanity, including “crimes of ethnic cleansing, crimes of sexual violence, attacking and kidnapping women and girls, and targeting displaced persons and those fleeing the fighting.”
However, the ministry expressed its rejection of the US war crimes accusations against the Sudanese army, saying that they were baseless.
Those are “indiscriminate allegations that equate the armed forces with the rebel militia that is responsible for unleashing horrific violence, death and destruction... These practices are exclusive to the rebel militia... and accusing the armed forces of such actions is not based on any evidence,” the statement underlined.
The ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the US statement ignored “the duty and right of the Armed Forces, the legitimate national army, to defend the country and the people and protect the headquarters of its leadership,” in the face of an “aggression targeting the foundations of life and the country’s sovereignty...”

 

 

 

 


US Criticizes Israel on Gaza Civilian Toll

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron hold a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, December 7, 2023. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron hold a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, December 7, 2023. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)
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US Criticizes Israel on Gaza Civilian Toll

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron hold a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, December 7, 2023. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron hold a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC, December 7, 2023. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in his strongest public criticism of Israel's conduct of the war on Hamas in south Gaza, said there was a gap between the government's declared intentions to protect Palestinian civilians and the casualties.

"As we stand here almost a week into this campaign into the south... it remains imperative that Israel put a premium on civilian protection," Blinken told a press conference after meeting British Foreign Secretary David Cameron in Washington on Thursday.

"And there does remain a gap between... the intent to protect civilians and the actual results that we're seeing on the ground."

Israel says it must wipe out Hamas after its attack on Israel two months ago and is doing everything possible to get civilians out of harm's way, including warnings about military operations.

A senior US State Department official said Blinken spoke earlier Thursday with Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer to say the US is pleased with new deliveries of fuel to Gaza but still wants to see those and other assistance deliveries increased.

At the same time, Blinken told Dermer that civilian casualties remain too high and that Israel must step up its efforts to reduce them, according to the official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity to discuss the private diplomatic discussion.

US President Joe Biden spoke separately by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jordan's King Abdullah on Thursday.

Biden "emphasized the critical need to protect civilians and to separate the civilian population from Hamas including through corridors that allow people to move safely from defined areas of hostilities," the White House said.

More than 17,170 Palestinians have been killed and 46,000 wounded, according to the Gaza health ministry, since Oct. 7, when Israel began bombarding Gaza in response to a cross-border rampage by Hamas fighters. The Hamas attack killed 1,200 people, with 240 people taken hostage, according to Israel's tally.

The Israeli military on Friday said 92 of its soldiers had been killed in Gaza fighting since its ground incursions began on Oct. 20.


Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee, US Lawmakers Discuss Situation in Gaza

The committee called on the international community to take serious and immediate steps to ensure the delivery of emergency assistance to Gaza. SPA
The committee called on the international community to take serious and immediate steps to ensure the delivery of emergency assistance to Gaza. SPA
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Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee, US Lawmakers Discuss Situation in Gaza

The committee called on the international community to take serious and immediate steps to ensure the delivery of emergency assistance to Gaza. SPA
The committee called on the international community to take serious and immediate steps to ensure the delivery of emergency assistance to Gaza. SPA

Members of the Ministerial Committee, assigned by the Riyadh-hosted Joint Arab-Islamic Extraordinary Summit, met Thursday with US lawmakers in Washington.

The meeting with members of the US House of Representatives and Senate was attended by Committee Chairman and Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, and the Turkish Ambassador to Washington Hasan Murat Mercan, who represented his country in the committee.

Meeting participants discussed the latest developments in the Gaza Strip and its surroundings, the military escalation, and efforts exerted to impose an immediate ceasefire, protect civilians, and ensure application of international law and the international humanitarian law.

Members of the committee called on the international community to take serious and immediate steps to ensure the delivery of emergency humanitarian, food, and medical assistance into Gaza.

Members underscored the need for active roles of parliaments and civil-society organizations in urging governments to end the Israeli occupation authorities’ violations against the Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank, including in East Jerusalem.

Committee members also stressed the importance of reviving the political track to achieve comprehensive and lasting peace following the ceasefire based on a two-state solution and the relevant international resolutions that can lead to realizing the legitimate rights of the Palestinians in establishing their independent and sovereign state on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.


Hamas Says Repelled Israeli Rescue Attempt, Hostage Killed

Members of Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades. dpa
Members of Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades. dpa
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Hamas Says Repelled Israeli Rescue Attempt, Hostage Killed

Members of Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades. dpa
Members of Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades. dpa

The armed wing of Hamas said on Friday it had repelled an attempted hostage rescue by Israeli special forces in the Gaza Strip, inflicting several military casualties, and that a captive also died in the incident.

The Israeli military, which freed a captive soldier in Gaza in late October and is waging a Gaza offensive designed in part to recover 138 remaining hostages, had no immediate comment.

In a statement distributed on Telegram, Hamas' Al-Qassam Brigades said its fighters discovered a special forces unit mounting a rescue attempt and attacked it, killing and wounding several soldiers. It did specify the location of the incident.

It said a captive Israeli soldier was killed, naming him as Sa'ar Baruch, 25. Lists of the hostages published by Israel identify one of them as Sahar Baruch, a civilian student who was 24 when he was seized from his home during the deadly Oct 7 cross-border Hamas rampage that sparked the war.


Israel, on Reuters Finding its Forces Killed Lebanon Journalist, Says Area a Combat Zone

Smoke rises after an Israeli strike over a forested area near Alma Al-Shaab in southern Lebanon near the border with Israel on December 6, 2023. (AFP)
Smoke rises after an Israeli strike over a forested area near Alma Al-Shaab in southern Lebanon near the border with Israel on December 6, 2023. (AFP)
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Israel, on Reuters Finding its Forces Killed Lebanon Journalist, Says Area a Combat Zone

Smoke rises after an Israeli strike over a forested area near Alma Al-Shaab in southern Lebanon near the border with Israel on December 6, 2023. (AFP)
Smoke rises after an Israeli strike over a forested area near Alma Al-Shaab in southern Lebanon near the border with Israel on December 6, 2023. (AFP)

The Israeli military, responding on Friday to a Reuters investigation that determined its forces killed a Reuters journalist in southern Lebanon on Oct. 13, said the incident took place in an active combat zone and was under review.
Without directly addressing the death of Issam Abdallah, a military statement said that at the time Lebanese Hezbollah fighters had attacked across the border and Israeli forces opened fire to prevent a suspected armed infiltration, Reuters said.
"On Oct. 13, 2023, the terrorist organization Hezbollah launched an attack on multiple targets within Israeli territory along the Lebanese border," said the statement issued by the Israeli army.
"One incident involved the firing of an anti-tank missile, which struck the border fence near the village Hanita. Following the launch of the anti-tank missile, concerns arose over the potential infiltration of terrorists into Israeli territory.
"In response, the Israeli army used artillery and tank fire to prevent the infiltration. The Israeli army is aware of the claim that journalists who were in the area were killed.
"The area is an active combat zone, where active fire takes place and being in this area is dangerous. The incident is currently under review," the statement said.
The Reuters investigation found that an Israeli tank crew killed Abdallah, a visuals journalist, and wounded six reporters by firing two shells in quick succession from Israel while the journalists were filming cross-border shelling.
The two strikes killed Abdallah, 37, and severely wounded Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer Christina Assi, 28, just over a kilometer from the Israeli border near the Lebanese village of Alma al-Chaab.


Civilians Injured in South Lebanon… 3 Hezbollah Members Killed

The funeral of a Hezbollah member killed in confrontations in the south (EPA)
The funeral of a Hezbollah member killed in confrontations in the south (EPA)
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Civilians Injured in South Lebanon… 3 Hezbollah Members Killed

The funeral of a Hezbollah member killed in confrontations in the south (EPA)
The funeral of a Hezbollah member killed in confrontations in the south (EPA)

Israel and Hezbollah continued to trade fire on Thursday while the Lebanese party said it carried out a number of attacks targeting military sites and several gatherings of Israeli soldiers.
Hezbollah mourned three of its members who were killed "while carrying out their jihadist duty," the party said in a statement.
However, it did not state that they were killed "on the road to Jerusalem," a phrase listed in their previous statements symbolizing their solidarity and support for Hamas in its conflict with Israel in Gaza.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said while visiting troops near the border with Lebanon, “If Hezbollah chooses to start an all-out war then it will by its own hand turn Beirut and southern Lebanon, not far from here, into Gaza and Khan Younis.”
Several students were injured after Israeli shelling on Thursday struck an educational institution in the southern Lebanese town of Qunin.
As a result of the Israeli aggression against southern Lebanon between October 8 and December 5, the Lebanon Disaster Risk Management Unit said it registered 20,000 displaced people from villages in Tyre district, south Lebanon, Lebanon state-run NNA news said.
Thousands were displaced to other areas and were not registered within the Disaster Risk Management Unit, NNA added.
The unit spoke about a lack of resources to provide services, saying nearly 40 villages on the border with Israel are still not safe for civilians to return.
Later in separate statements, Hezbollah said its fighters targeted the Bayad Blida and Al-Jerdah areas, in addition to several gatherings of Israeli soldiers near the Mitat barracks and the Jal Al-Allam site.
Hezbollah said that among the 11 attacks carried out on Thursday, the party targeted Al-Marj Site and Ramim Forest in the occupied Lebanese Hounin village, in addition to an Israeli barracks in Matat, a village abutting the Lebanese border.
Villages adjacent to the Blue Line in the western and central sectors experienced a cautious calm at night on Wednesday, disturbed by flare bombs, reconnaissance flights, and a shell that landed in the sea off the Bab Al-Tem area in the locality of Qassimiya.
In Marjayoun, NNA said one person was wounded by Israeli shelling that targeted the Tallet Hamames in Serda.
The man was transferred to the Marjayoun Governmental Hospital. NNA’s correspondent also reported that the Marjayoun plain was subject to Israeli artillery shelling on Thursday.
Meanwhile, an Israeli civilian was killed after Hezbollah fired an anti-tank missile from the Lebanese border Thursday.
In response, the Israeli Army said it struck the source of the fire with attack helicopters, tanks, and artillery.