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MEDIUM AND NEAR EAST

SAUDI ARABIA – Kingdom accused of killing hundreds of Ethiopians on Yemen border

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Saudi border guards are responsible for the deaths of several hundred Ethiopian migrants trying to cross the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia between March 2022 and June 2023, denounces Human Rights Watch in a new report released Monday, August 21, 2023. Abuses committed while Riyadh has been implementing a broad anti-migrant policy for five years.

Several injured individuals pile up on the back of a truck. Next to them, a body lies on the ground. These images, broadcast on social media, were shot by Ethiopian migrants along the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They illustrate abuses by Saudi border guards against them, Human Rights Watch said on Monday. Saudi border guards killed hundreds if not thousands of Ethiopian migrants and asylum seekers trying to cross the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia between March 2022 and June 2023,” the NGO said, opening a new report.

For six months, between January and June 2023, she interviewed by telephone 42 Ethiopians who tried to cross this border or relatives of killed migrants, analysed multiple photos and videos posted on social media and scanned hundreds of square kilometres of satellite images. We have evidence that Saudi border guards are using explosive weapons and shooting at close range at migrants, including women and children,” said Nadia Hardman, migration researcher at the head of the investigation.

“I saw 30 people executed at once”
“We were hit repeatedly. I saw people being killed in ways I had never imagined. I saw 30 people executed at once,” Hamdiya, 14, told Human Rights Watch. I hid under a rock and slept there. I felt that people were sleeping around me. It wasn’t until I realized it was bodies. I woke up and was alone.”

Like the teenager, many witnesses claim to have been victims of mortar fire or other explosives launched by Saudi border guards during their attempt to reach Saudi Arabia, relying on the precise description of their attacker’s uniform to prove their identity.

“One witness explained that in his group of 170 people, 90 people were killed. A figure he was able to put forward because the survivors returned to pick up the bodies,’ the report continues. Out of 150 people, only seven made it out. There were human remains everywhere, scattered,’ another said. According to the document, another person went to the Saudi border to retrieve the body of a girl from his village. Her body was stacked on about 20 others,” she says. “It’s impossible to count the bodies. It’s beyond imagination.” Testimony corroborated by the discovery of several funeral sites on satellite images consulted by the NGO, notes Nadia Hardman.

While the exact number of migrants killed while crossing the border is impossible to determine, the NGO reports several hundred or even thousands of deaths in recent months. Many of the survivors were seriously injured and stranded in makeshift camps in Yemen without access to medical care or resources to leave.

Anti-migrant policy
Every year, tens of thousands of people try to flee the Horn of Africa towards the Gulf countries. Driven by economic hardships, human rights violations and fighting in the region, they set out on the “East Road”, one of East Africa’s most important and deadly migration routes.

After crossing the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden, fatal for many, these migrants find themselves in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has been leading a military coalition against the Houthi armed group since 2015. In this country at war, itself facing a humanitarian crisis, Human Rights Watch has denounced for several years numerous abuses against these migrants in transit: trafficking, abusive detention, kidnapping, rape, assassinations…

And for several years, their situation has not improved on the other side of the border. Like the other Gulf States, Saudi Arabia was traditionally a preferred destination for migrants, accounting for about 37% of the population. But in 2017, Riyadh implemented a broad “drunkenness” policy, aimed at reducing its dependence on migrant workers, and launched an extensive deportation campaign. Over the past five years, tens of thousands of migrants have been returned to Yemen or to their homes without money, housing or medical care.

The latter thus become pawns at the centre of regional tensions. In April 2020, Houthi fighters, who are engaged in a tug-of-war with the Yemeni central government, forcibly expelled thousands of Ethiopian migrants in the north of the country, forcing them to go to the Saudi border. Dozens of them were killed and many survivors were sent to detention centres on the border. In 2019, HRW had listed ten prisons and centers in which migrants were imprisoned in the kingdom, which has never ratified the main international instruments relating to the imprisonment of migrants.

“While Human Rights Watch has been documenting and warning of migrant killings on the Yemen-Saudi Arabia border since 2014, these new revelations show a further escalation of violence with killings that have become systematic”, concludes the NGO report.

“In recent years, Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in diverting attention from its human rights record, including spending billions to host major cultural or sporting events,” he said. But as she tries to whitewash her image, she shoots unarmed civilians with explosive weapons.”

“If this is the result of a Saudi government policy to murder these migrants, then it is a crime against humanity,” Hardman said, which calls for an international investigation under the auspices of the UN and urges participants in major international events sponsored by the Saudi government to speak out publicly on human rights issues.

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MEDIUM AND NEAR EAST

DUBAI – Opening of COP28: An old complaint from developing countries satisfied?

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The 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference, the 8th since the agreement, opened this Thursday, December 12 (on the vast campus of Expo City, decorated with trees and foliage, located on the outskirts of Dubai), under the vibrant recommendations of Emirati Sultan al-Jaber, President of COP28 to find a way to include fossil fuels responsibility for the consequences of climate change in the final agreement.” In his opening speech, he stressed the role of fossil fuels, which are highly emitting greenhouse gases. As the head of the national oil company Adnoc, he referred in particular to companies such as his, “I am grateful that they have accelerated the pace. But I have to say it’s not enough. And I know they can do so much more.”

the Egyptian Sameh Choukri, President of Cop 27’ is also expressed at the opening ceremony that took place late Thursday morning, before passing the torch to Sultan al-Jaber. “Let’s never lose sight of our North Star, the 1.5°C,” he said, applauded by the hearing. Other speakers included Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and Jim Skea, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

A crucial transition to limit warming to 1.5°C from the pre-industrial era and the objective of the Paris agreement were on the agenda. Finance was also a thorny issue, while expert groups estimate that the world must invest more than $3 trillion a year (about €2,737 billion) by 2030 to achieve the climate goals. So far, developed countries are far from it, whether it is investments for the energy transition or adaptation to the consequences of climate change.

At the same time, and at the same time, a press briefing was held by a climate justice organization, better known as PACJA, the Pan-African Alliance for Climate Justice. PACJA in its press briefing finds it inconsistent and unfair that Africa, which contributes very little to global greenhouse gas emissions, continues to suffer the harmful effects of climate change with impunity.” With this in mind, it calls for immediate and substantial action to address the glaring lack of adequate adaptation measures for the continent. The Alliance delegates were firm in their statements, advocating recognition and beyond, immediate and unconditional correction of the historical injustice facing African nations.

Everything will be decided in the next 15 days with more than 70,000 participants around the negotiating tables, a number to which must be added the multiple actors (companies, observers, activists, etc.) The 28th UN Conference of the Parties on Climate is expected to break the record for attendance at a COP, but also, as a result, the event’s carbon footprint, that is, the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the organization.

The leaders’ summit on 1 and 2 December remains decisive for the future. Will be expected for a speech, Emmanuel Macron, Charles Michel, President of the European Council and Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley. Initially expected, Pope Francis finally cancelled his trip for health reasons.

Still, “Today’s news on loss and damage is a good start for this UN climate conference. All governments and negotiators must use this momentum to achieve ambitious results here in Dubai,” said UN Climate Chief Simon Stiell at a press conference where the announcement was made.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres welcomed the decision to operationalize the new Loss and Damage Fund. According to him, it is an “essential tool for ensuring climate justice.” “I call on leaders to make generous contributions and get the Fund and Climate Conference off to a solid start,” he said.

As a reminder, this fund is a long-standing demand from developing countries, which are at the forefront of climate change and are facing the cost of the ravages caused by ever-increasing extreme weather events, such as drought, flooding, coastal erosion, and so on.

After several years of intense negotiations at annual UN climate meetings, developed countries expressed support for the need to create this fund last year at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Sultan al-Jaber, president of the COP28 climate conference, reportedly said his country, the United Arab Emirates, would commit $100 million to the fund.

Germany would also have pledged a contribution of $100 million to the fund. The United States and Japan also announced their contribution to the fund.

This 28th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which began on Thursday 1st, will take place until Tuesday 12 December 2023.

Source: Senepress

 

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MEDIUM AND NEAR EAST

ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR – “Real” risk of Islamist attacks in Germany

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German internal intelligence warned Wednesday, November 28, 2023, against the “real” and “long-standing” risk of Islamist attacks in the country due to the war between Israel and Hamas.

 “We see calls in the jihadist movement for attacks and for al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) to join the Middle East conflict,” said the director of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Thomas Haldenwang, in a statement.

This public warning – rare from this body in Germany – demonstrates the concern of the authorities, who fear potential “projects (attacks) against the security of Jews, Israeli institutions, but also major public events” in the country.

 “The danger is real and has not been so high for a long time,” said Mr. Haldenwang.

 The German authorities are concerned about the import of the conflict into their country since the beginning of the war, triggered by the bloody attack of the Palestinian Islamist movement on October 7 on Israeli soil from the Gaza Strip.

According to Israel, 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the attack, in which about 240 people were abducted and taken to the Gaza Strip.

In retaliation, Israel, which vowed to “annihilate” Hamas, relentlessly bombed the Gaza Strip until a truce came into effect on Friday. Nearly 15,000 people were killed by these Israeli strikes, according to the Hamas government.

On 2 November, Germany banned activities on its soil related to Hamas, in particular those of the Samidoun association.

This network claims to support the Palestinian prisoners and had distributed pastries in Berlin to celebrate the “victory of the resistance” after the attack of October 7.

Intelligence also points to other dangers, such as “Palestinian extremists, Turkish right-wing extremists, and German and Turkish left-wing extremists,” which “spread hatred, unrest, propaganda, or fake news on social media.” on the conflict.

At the same time, “German right-wing extremists are taking advantage of the current situation to agitate against Muslims and migrants,” Intelligence said.

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MEDIUM AND NEAR EAST

GAZA – Exchange of hostages for prisoners should take place on Saturday

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Twenty hostages held in the Gaza Strip, including 13 Israelis, will be released Saturday, November 25, 2023 in exchange for 39 Palestinian prisoners, Qatar announced after several hours of blockade, on the second day of the truce between Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas.

This truce, the result of an agreement under the auspices of Doha, offered a new day of respite to the inhabitants of the besieged territory after seven weeks of war, triggered by an unprecedented Hamas attack on Israeli soil on October 7.

“After a delay, the obstacles to release the prisoners were overcome through Qatari-Egyptian contacts with both sides, and 39 Palestinian civilians will be released tonight, while 13 Israeli hostages will leave Gaza with seven foreigners”said Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari on X.

Hamas confirmed that it would release the hostages before midnight, after announcing in the afternoon that it was delaying the expected release of this second group of hostages, after a first Friday.

In Beirut, Osama Hamdan, a Hamas official, had mentioned, to explain the delay, “shooting at our people, the number of humanitarian aid trucks for the northern Gaza Strip and failure to meet the selection criteria for the release of women and child prisoners” Palestinians.

The Israeli army considers the northern third of the Gaza Strip to be an area of fighting that it believes houses the Hamas infrastructure center, which took power in 2007. It ordered the people out and prevented anyone from returning.

– “Get them out of hell” –
According to Hamas’ Ministry of Health, seven people were injured by Israeli fire as several thousand displaced Gazans took advantage of the pause in the fighting to head north to return home.

The agreement, also concluded with the support of the United States and Egypt and entered into force on Friday, provides for four days of truce that should allow the release of 50 hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners. This renewable break, which seemed respected on Saturday, also includes the entry of humanitarian aid and fuel into Gaza.

The Israeli bombings, which have continued since the October 7 attack and the military offensive on northern Gaza, have come to an end, as has the rocket fire from the Islamist movement on Israel.

On Friday, 13 first Israeli hostages, women and children, were handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and returned to Israel via Egypt to reunite with their families. Hamas also released ten Thais and one Filipino, who were not part of the agreement.

In return, Israel released 39 Palestinians, women and youth under the age of 19.

In Israel, relatives of the hostages still held in Gaza were anxiously awaiting a way out of a nightmare that has lasted for seven weeks.

In Tel Aviv, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the evening in Hostage Square to demand their release. Get them out of hell,” they read on a banner.

– “Tremendous pressure” –
“Today, we are happy to see ours return but we must not forget all those who have not yet returned,” said Yael Adar, the stepdaughter of Yaffa Adar, 85 and the oldest of the ex-hostages, on the Ynet news site.

Yael Adar’s son Tamir, a 38-year-old father of two young children, is still being held hostage after being abducted as his grandmother in the kibbutz of Nir Oz in southern Israel.

According to the Israeli authorities, 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed on 7 October, and 240 people were taken hostage.

In retaliation, Israel promised to “eliminate” Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel, relentlessly bombing the Palestinian territory and launching a ground offensive on October 27, until the truce.

In the Gaza Strip, 14,854 people, including 6,150 children and youth under the age of 18, were killed by Israeli strikes, according to the Hamas government.

The Israeli army chief of staff, General Herzi Halevi, warned that the war was not over. We will resume attacking Gaza as soon as the truce is over (…) to dismantle Hamas and create enormous pressure to bring back as soon as possible as many hostages as possible, until the last of them,’ he said.

– Overcrowded hospitals –
In the occupied West Bank, scenes of jubilation, amidst fireworks, Palestinian flags and various movements including the green Hamas banner, accompanied the return of the released prisoners on Friday evening.

In East Jerusalem, occupied by Israel since 1967, demonstrations of joy were prohibited.

“I was waiting for the day when I would be released from prison and could hug my mother,” Rawan Nafez Mohammad Abou Matar, who returned home to Beitlo near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, told AFP on Saturday.

“I haven’t touched or hugged her in this way for years,” says the young woman, who was sentenced in 2015 when she was 21, to nine years in prison for attempted murder on an Israeli border guard.

The truce offers a moment of respite to the thousands of displaced people inside Gaza who left hospitals and schools in the southern part of the territory where they had taken refuge to return home.

In hospitals in the southern Gaza Strip, ambulance convoys carrying wounded people from the north continue to arrive. But, says Ashraf al-Qidreh, spokesman for Hamas’ health ministry, “they no longer have the capacity or equipment” to cope.

“It feels good” –
More than half of the territory’s housing has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN, and 1.7 million people have been displaced, out of 2.4 million inhabitants. “The truce feels good, we hope it will last. It’s good when it’s quiet. People want to live,” Mohammed Dheir, who took refuge with his family in Rafah, southern Gaza, told AFP. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from northern Gaza have gathered in this part of the territory since the beginning of the war to try to escape the bombing. The truce has accelerated the arrival of humanitarian aid to Gaza, which has been under Israel’s total siege since October 7. These shipments, whose entry from Egypt is subject to the Israeli green light, have been arriving in recent weeks in dribs and drabs. Dozens of trucks crossed the Rafah border on Saturday for the second day in a row, according to footage shot by AFP.

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