UN votes to send war-crimes investigators to Gaza

Agencies
May 19, 2018

Gaza/London, May 19: The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Friday voted to send a team of international war crimes investigators to Gaza to investigate the violent protests that have left more than 100 people dead. 

An international commission of inquiry is the UNHRC’s highest level of investigation.

But if the intention was to give hope to Palestinians after six weeks of violent confrontation along the border between Gaza and Israel, it has not entirely succeeded. In a heated tirade, Manuel Hassassian, Palestine’s envoy to Britain, dismissed the UNHRC resolution as “PR and propaganda with no kind of political weight.”

Speaking to Arab News from the West Bank, a clearly emotional Hassassian said: “All these resolutions from all the international organizations but there is nothing concrete ever on the ground. There is no implementation whatsoever.”

Even if the UN did send war crimes investigators, their movements and access would be controlled by the Israelis because they are in charge of the borders, Hassassian said. 

“The Israelis are not going to let them be mobile enough to get around all the areas where there was naked aggression. I am really depressed. I am in the West Bank and what I am seeing with my own eyes is total apartheid. And in Gaza, there are two million people living in subhuman conditions. 

“Israel and the United States seem to be above international law, but when there is any violation by the Arab world, immediately there are sanctions imposed. If this is the model of democracy that you want, then stop preaching to us about the rule of law.”

Only two of the council’s 47 members, the US and Australia, voted against the resolution, while 29 voted in favor and 14 abstained, including Britain, Switzerland and Germany.

The resolution calls for a probe into all alleged violations and abuses “including those that may amount to war crimes.” 

The violence has claimed more than 100 Gazan lives. Sixty Palestinians were killed and thousands injured on Monday alone. That was the day that the US embassy transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and also the eve of the 70th anniversary of the Nakba, in which hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were ejected from their homes and lands as the state of Israel came into being.

The UN vote was welcomed by Palestinian officials and campaigners.

Issam Younis, director of the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, said: “This decision is very important, especially after the UN Security Council failed to issue a condemnation of the occupation because there must be accountability. These were repeated assaults on civilians. The road to justice is long and not achieved by knockout, but by total points.”

Opening the session on Friday, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein slammed the “wholly disproportionate” use of force by Israeli troops, insisting that many of those injured and killed on Monday were “completely unarmed’ yet were “shot in the back, in the chest, in the head and limbs with live ammunition.” 

He added: “Some of the demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, used slingshots to throw stones, flew burning kites into Israel and attempted to use wire-cutters against the two fences between Gaza and Israel. 

But these actions alone do not appear to constitute the imminent threat to life or deadly injury which could justify the use of lethal force.” Yet there was “little evidence” of any attempt by the Israelis to minimize casualties, he said.

It has also emerged that Kuwait circulated a draft resolution to members of the UN Security Council calling for an “international protection mission” to be sent to protect Palestinian civilians.

According to AFP, which obtained a copy of the draft, it does not specify what form such a mission should take. 

Israel immediately condemned the UNHRC’s decision. A statement from the foreign ministry said it “proves once again that it is an anti-Israeli body dominated by hypocrisy and absurdity.”

Gazans began queuing at dawn on Friday after Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi declared the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt would be opened during Ramadan, in a move widely thought to be part of a deal to persuade Gazans to tone down their protests. Hamas leader Ismail Hanuyeh visited Egypt on Sunday but Hamas denies it has come under pressure from Cairo.

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Agencies
September 13,2020

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Muscat, Sept 13: The Sultanate of Oman on Sunday welcomed the initiative of the Kingdom of Bahrain in view of the joint tripartite declaration on relations with Israel.

Oman News Agency quoted a statement issued by the Sultanate as reading, "The Sultanate welcomed the initiative undertaken by the Kingdom of Bahrain, as part of the Kingdom's sovereign rights, in view of the joint tripartite declaration on relations with Israel.

"The Sultanate hopes that this new strategic approach espoused by some Arab countries will be a practical step towards establishing peace based on the termination of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and the setting up of an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

"This embodies the two-state solution as stipulated by UN charters and Arab decisions and, at the same time, reflects the expectations and demands of all Arab countries and peace-loving people aspiring for fair, final and comprehensive peace in the Middle East and the world at large."

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News Network
September 23,2020

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Jeddah, Sept 23: Saudi Arabia has announced the gradual resumption of Umrah and visits to the Two Holy Mosques with a limited number of pilgrims, starting from Oct. 4, 2020, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday citing a source at the Ministry of Interior.

The ministry source said that based on the reports of the competent authorities regarding coronavirus developments and in response to the aspirations of many Muslims at home and abroad to perform Umrah, and based on the leadership's keenness on the health and safety of the visitors the Two Holy Mosques, a royal approval has been given to allow the performance of Umrah and visits to the Two Holy Mosques gradually while taking the necessary health preventative measures.

In the first phase, citizens and expatriates from within the Kingdom will be allowed to perform Umrah at a capacity of 30 percent from Oct. 4 that translates to 6,000 pilgrims per day following the health precautionary measures of the Grand Mosque.

In the second phase, citizens and expatriates inside the Kingdom will be allowed to perform Umrah, visit the Rawdah in the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, and pray in Two Holy Mosques, starting from Oct. 18, with a 75 percent capacity limit that is equivalent of nearly 15,000 pilgrims per day and 40,000 worshippers per day following the health precautionary measures for the Grand Mosque, as well as 75 percent of the capacity in line with the health precautionary measures for the Rawdah in the Prophet’s Mosque.

In the third phase, pilgrims from abroad would be allowed to perform Umrah as of Nov. 1 with a full capacity of 20,000 pilgrims and 60,000 worshipers per day and it will continue until the official end of the coronavirus pandemic or the official announcement that the danger is over. The arrival of Umrah performers and visitors from outside the Kingdom shall be gradual from the countries that are free from health risks related to the coronavirus pandemic, the source added.

The fourth phase will allow the performance of Umrah, visit and prayers by citizens and expatriates from inside and outside the Kingdom, at 100 percent of the normal capacity of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque, when the competent authority decides that the risks of the pandemic has disappeared.

Meanwhile, the entry of pilgrims, worshipers and visitors shall be regulated through the application (Etamarna), which will be launched by the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, with the aim of implementing the health standards and controls approved by the Ministry of Health and the competent authorities.

The source called upon pilgrims, worshipers and visitors to adhere to preventive measures and apply the health instructions and requirements, including wearing face masks, keeping a safe distance, and avoiding a physical contact.

The source affirmed the Kingdom's keenness to enable the pilgrims from inside and outside the Kingdom to perform the rituals in a safe and healthy manner fulfilling the preventative requirements and spatial distancing in order to ensure human safety and protection from the threats of this pandemic, and achieve the objectives of the Islamic law in preserving human lives.

The source explained that the stages announced in this statement will be subjected to continuous evaluation, according to the developments of the pandemic.

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News Network
September 16,2020

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Tbilisi, Sept 16: The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has approved the setting up of a regional office in Riyadh to support the growth of the Middle East’s tourism sector as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

Minister of Tourism Ahmed Al-Khateeb said the UNWTO’s Executive Council members have approved the move to establish the office during a session in Georgia. The office will cover 13 countries within the region, and will serve as a platform to build long-term growth in the travel and tourism sector of the Middle East.

“International cooperation and the role of the UNWTO are more important than ever. I am therefore very excited that Saudi Arabia will become home to the first ever UNWTO Regional Office, which aims to support growth at a national and regional level,” Al-Khateeb said.

“In Saudi Arabia, we are very aware of the transformative power of tourism on the economy and people. We may still be a young destination, but tourism is at the forefront of Saudi Arabia’s vision for the future,” he added.

Recently, Al-Khateeb revealed that the Council of Ministers has given the Ministry of Tourism the go ahead to open a regional office of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in Riyadh as well as to establish a global academy for tourism training.

Al-Khateeb pointed out that the ministry, in cooperation with UNWTO, would work to lay the foundations and standards that enable the proposed academy to be among the best tourism academies in the world.

It is noteworthy that that the UNWTO secretary general praised the Saudi Summer season during a recent visit to the Kingdom during which he toured a number of Saudi summer destinations. Al-Khateeb hoped that the Kingdom, together with UNWTO, would launch a set of initiatives to develop the tourism sector in the region.

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