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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News Network
June 7,2021

hajj.jpg

Riyadh, June 7: Announcements about this year’s Haj could be made in the coming days as the Kingdom completes its assessments of the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, said the acting Saudi minister of media, Dr Majid Al Qasabi.

At a press conference held in Riyadh on Sunday, Al Qasabi said the Saudi authorities are following up on (the pandemic) updates and the ministers of Haj and Umrah and health will soon announce a decision.

He said that, due to Covid variants, it was important to evaluate the damage from the spread of the virus carefully and correctly: “We don’t want this year’s Haj to be an epicentre for the spread of the disease in the Kingdom or the Muslim world.”

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has worked hard to improve the services provided in the Haj and Umrah sector, amid the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic.

The Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah Services for Haj and Umrah performers, Eng. Hesham Abdulmonem Saeed, told the press conference that the safe Umrah model aims to protect people by managing the crowds going to the Grand Mosque through booked time slots and improving the services provided for pilgrims through the application of the most modern techniques to meet their personal needs.

He noted that the Eatmarna app developed by the Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority (SDAIA) also verifies the health of permit applicants.

He said that the work to serve the pilgrims was a joint operation involving the public, private and voluntary sectors.

He said: “There is continued cooperation between the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Health, the General Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques and all relevant authorities to help pilgrims and visitors perform Hajj and Umrah with ease.”

Last year’s Haj and the gradual return of Umrah in October was permitted after a safe model had been developed, focusing on modern technology and digitizing the procedures to provide pilgrims with the services they needed through different options provided by the ministry.

These tech-focused models included the Eatmarna application, which allowed users to request permits (praying permits, Umrah permits and Rawdah praying permits) in Makkah and Madinah’s mosques. More than 20 million people have benefitted from the app and more than 30,000 have used the services provided by Inaya (care) centres in Makkah and Madinah, established to serve pilgrims coming from outside the Kingdom.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah also provided safe transportation services by setting up four sites to transport worshippers and pilgrims to and from the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

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News Network
June 12,2021

Riyadh, June 12: Saudi Arabia said it will limit registration for this year’s Hajj pilgrimage to citizens and residents of the Kingdom in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

The ministries of health and Hajj announced Saturday that a total of 60,000 pilgrims will be allowed to perform the pilgrimage this year.

It stressed that those wishing to perform Hajj must be free of any chronic diseases, and to be within the ages from 18 to 65 years for those vaccinated against the virus according to the kingdom’s vaccination measures.  

Hajj pilgrims should be fully vaccinated, or those who took one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before, or those who are vaccinated after recovering from coronavirus infection.

The decision is “based on the Kingdom’s constant keenness to enable the guests and visitors at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque to perform the rituals of Hajj and Umrah,” the ministry said. “The Kingdom puts human health and safety first.”

The hajj begins mid-July. 

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News Network
June 14,2021

Dubai, June 14: The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GCAA) issued a fresh list of safety protocols for passenger and private business charter fights arriving from countries that are currently facing incoming travellers’ suspension.

Measures include mandatory tracking devices for passengers, including golden and silver visa holders said a new safety decision circular issued by the authority. The stringent regulations apply to all aircraft operators conducting flights from and to the UAE and the following countries – Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Uganda, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Zambia.

The circular, a copy of which Khaleej Times has seen, said, “The current development on the Covid-19 pandemic leads the UAE to impose new flight and passengers’ restrictions. The UAE government is closely monitoring the situation and will provide further updates and instructions as necessary.” An official with GCAA also confirmed to Khaleej Times that the circular has been issued by the civil aviation authority. It is said that passengers need to wear the device for at least ten days.

Wristband tracking devices were made mandatory for all international incoming passengers while they complete a mandatory 14-day home quarantine in Abu Dhabi in September last year. However, charter flight operators and travel agencies operating in this sector said the devices were given to incoming passengers arriving in Ras Al Khaimah, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah.

Raheesh Babu, the group COO of Musafir.com, an internet travel agency said passengers landing in Dubai had to adhere to ten-day mandatory quarantine and undergo PCR tests on the first, fourth, and eighth day of their arrival. “As far as we know, none of our passengers who arrived in Dubai were given tracking devices. However, passengers who arrived in RAK and Sharjah were asked to wear the wristband,” said Babu.

He added, “A majority of our customers are from the sub-continent. Since the suspension was announced on April 24, we’ve had approximately 800 businesspersons and families travel to UAE with us.”

The circular said passengers are subject to the required public health protocol upon arrival and any Naturalization and Residency department conditions, they must wear a monitoring and tracking device, comply with a ten-day quarantine period; and complete a PCR test upon arrival followed by two other PCR tests on the fourth and eighth day of their quarantine period.

The rules are also applicable to crew members operating from countries mentioned in the safety decision. Additionally, passengers are to immediately quarantine in a hotel during the whole transit period, and their movement is limited to the required movement between the hotel and the airport without contacting persons of the UAE community, said the circular.

Babu also stated that the approvals process from GCAA have been made extremely stringent to ensure Covid-19 safety. The circular also stated all arrivals are subject to the Immigration conditions in the UAE and the approval of the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCMEA) must be obtained for unscheduled and charter flights. 

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