Ceasefire can’t hide scale of destruction in Gaza
The humanitarian community has welcomed the ceasefire agreed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel but warned that the destruction in Gaza will take years, if not decades, to fix.
Speaking from Gaza, Matthias Schmale from the UN relief agency for Palestinians UNRWA, said that there was no “going back to normal” in the enclave, after more than 10 days of rocket fire and airstrike exchanges between the warring parties that have killed more than 250 people and injured thousands.
“Going back to normal life means having to watch very carefully where we are going; unexploded devices, we know that at least one school, one of our 278 schools, where we have established two deeply buried bombs, and we have alerted the Israeli authorities”, he said. “Obviously we cannot just rush back into our buildings and schools, we have to make sure they’re safe.”
The senior UNRWA official also noted that the Kerem Shalom crossing was due to open for several hours on Friday but that for the duration of the clashes, it had not been possible to get people out for medical treatment, or aid reinforcements in.
Mr. Schmale noted that UNRWA staff who are mainly residents of the region said that the violence had been “worse in intensity and terror than 2014”, before echoing the UN Secretary-General’s call for a meaningful political process to resolve the grievances of both Palestinians and Israelis.
War still looms
“Normality here also means 50 per cent employed and rising…I’m convinced after being here two and a half years that we will be back in war unless underlying causes are not addressed; and from a Gaza perspective that means giving people and especially young people a dignified perspective of a dignified life”, he said.
“If you have your own money and take home your own money to buy food instead of depending on handouts from the UN”, the top UN official added, “you’re less likely to run into groupings like Hamas”.
The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, allocated $4.5 million towards the cost of meeting rising needs across Gaza on Friday. The money comes from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which is in addition to some $18 million allocated from the Occupied Palestinian Territory Humanitarian Fund, making for a total of $22.5 million.
It is expected that an inter-agency Flash Appeal for the occupied Palestinian territory will be issued next week.
UNICEF delivers aid containers
The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, delivered 18 containers of aid on Friday following the resumption of relative calm in the Gaza Strip, through the Kerem Shalom crossing, to support children and families in need.
Among the items delivered were first-aid kits, blood supply bags and solution, fire extinguishers, antibiotics and other infection-control kits, together with 10,000 doses of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine.
“We are extremely thankful that a ceasefire agreement in the Gaza strip came into effect at 2am this morning, because the human toll there has been huge”, said Lucia Elmi, UNICEF Special Representative in Palestine. “This will allow families to have much-needed respite and allow for the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance and personnel to the Gaza Strip”, she added.
UN rights experts call for ICC probe
UN independent human rights experts on Friday called on all parties to the conflict in Gaza and Israel to respect the ceasefire, and urged an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into the attacks on civilian populations and other “gross violations of human rights”, according to a statement released through the UN rights office (OHCHR).
The experts pointed to the forced evictions of Palestinian families living in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, in Occupied East Jerusalem, as the spark that set off a full-blown war.
They said that at least 222 people, including 63 children, were killed in Gaza and 12 people died in Israel as a result of the fighting.
More than 450 buildings in the Gaza Strip were completely destroyed or damaged by missiles, the statement continued. Among them were six hospitals, nine healthcare centres and a water desalination plant, supplying around 250,000 Palestinians with clean drinking water, as well as a tower which housed media outlets including the Al Jazeera network, and Associated Press (AP).
‘Asymmetry of power’
“Owing to the vast asymmetry of power, the victims of this conflict are disproportionately Palestinians in Gaza, of whom over 74,000 have been forcibly displaced and made homeless, mostly women and children”, the experts said.
“The conflict has led to a new wave of unprecedented mass destruction of civilian homes and infrastructure, including electrical grids in Gaza, and indiscriminate or deliberate missile attacks on civilians and residential areas in Israel and Gaza, that violate not only international human rights standards, but amount as well to crimes under international law for which there is individual and State responsibility”, the experts continued.
The experts said that all “indiscriminate or deliberate bombardment of civilians and towers housing civilians, media organizations and refugee camps in Gaza and Israel are war crimes that are, prima facie, not justified by the requirements of proportionality and necessity under international law. All parties who engage in such attacks must bear individual and State responsibility as appropriate.”
Independent Special Rapporteurs, are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor specific countries or thematic issues. They serve in their individual capacity and are not UN staff, nor are they paid by the Organization.
Global Times: Xi’s visit to Russia conveys great significance, injects certainty and positive energy
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Moscow is expected to attract global attention as the visit – the first overseas visit of the Chinese top leader in 2023 following the two sessions – is a trip of friendship, cooperation and peace, writes ‘Global Times’.
However, the US and its allies are viewing the upcoming visit through “tinted glasses” by distorting the nature of China-Russia relations, smearing China’s possible role as a mediator in the Ukraine crisis and rejecting its calls for a ceasefire in the conflict.
Some Chinese and Russian observers believe that the question is whether the US and the West want a mediator now or they just want the Ukraine crisis to prolong as long as possible, using Ukraine as a pawn to weaken Russia and control Europe while maintaining its hegemony in the world.
Not only is the US worried about the deepening China-Russia relations, it also constantly smears China and rejects China’s proposal for peace talks, which shows that Washington does not want peace as it only wants to continue using Ukraine as a tool of weakening Russia and using the Ukraine crisis to engage in bloc-led confrontation, Zhang Hong, an associate research fellow at the Institute of Russian, Eastern European & Central Asian Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
Although the US and some of its allies are skeptical about China’s role and show “growing concerns” over the deepening China-Russia relations, some European countries such as France and Germany, which have been under the shadow of the crisis over the past year, are expecting China to play a bigger role in mediating the conflict, some experts said.
The China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination for a new era is based on independent foreign policy, and the regular reciprocal visits of heads of states of Russia and China have been a tradition since mid-1990s said some Chinese and Russian experts.
The Chinese envoy to Russia also viewed such close interactions and exchange of views between the heads of state of the two countries as “the compass and anchor” of the development of bilateral relations.
“President Xi’s state visit to Russia this time is a milestone for China-Russia relations in the new era. It will inject a strong impetus into bilateral relations and lead the sustained development of bilateral ties at a high level,” Chinese Ambassador to Russia Zhang Hanhui told the Global Times in a recent interview.
Ten years ago, Xi’s first overseas visit after being elected as the President was to Russia and during that visit, he elaborated for the first time on building a community of shared future for mankind, Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Sunday. “Ten years later, Xi’s first visit after being elected as president will be to Russia, which also fully underscored how much importance China attaches to China-Russia relations in the new era,” Wang said, noting that the visit will convey milestone significance, setting an example for a new type of international relations.
“As two permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia are responsible for advancing the course of a multipolar world, rejecting unilateralism and hegemony,” Wang said, noting that it’s important to enhance strategic coordination with Russia and remain vigilant on Washington to reproduce the Ukraine crisis in Asia, writes ‘Global Times’.
The American Thinker: “A prestige and perceptions of US power have dramatically crashed”
The shocking announcement that China had brought together bitter rivals Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia to resume diplomatic relations in a deal negotiated in Beijing is a stunning defeat for America, threatening the basis of our Middle Eastern and world diplomatic power, writes Thomas Lifson at “The American Thinker”.
If, as it appears, Saudi Arabia is no longer a reliable ally that can be counted upon to keep the Armageddon-mongering mullahs in Iran at bay while warming up to Israel, then the entire power calculus of the Middle East is shattered.
At a minimum, American prestige and perceptions of our power have dramatically crashed, though our propaganda media are doing their best to prevent the domestic public from understanding this.
The Chinese triumph in the Middle East, pushing aside America as the significant other, is one of the principal, if not the worst, signs of the disaster that the Biden presidency has unleashed. This is very bad news for us, our European and Japanese/Korean/Taiwanese allies dependent on Middle Eastern oil, and Israel.
In trying to comprehend how a catastrophe of this magnitude could have unfolded, I have been searching for explanatory factors. One that, perhaps strangely, didn’t occur to me, was the Nordstream pipeline sabotage. Now I strongly suspect, notes Thomas Lifson, that the U.S. or its proxies are responsible for blowing up the pipeline, which (despite our media virtually ignoring this) ranks as the greatest man-made release of CO2 in history, and which has crippled the economy of Germany, our ostensible ally (for now).
One of America’s most powerful international weapons is its overwhelming control over the global news ecosystem, and a complete blanket of media silence was soon enforced, causing that huge event to quickly fade from public consciousness.
When someone such as Prof. Jeffrey Sachs mentioned what had probably happened on Bloomberg TV, he was quickly yanked off the air. The information that Sachs imparts and that yank-off moment speaks volumes about the propagandistic “global news ecosystem” and is worth viewing.
Unlike the American public, world leaders and their populations are not prisoners of the “news ecosystem,” and, as Sachs points out, many if not most believe that America is not above selling out its own allies. In private, well informed American journalists and others agree.
The suspicion of such perfidy is likely to have weighed heavily on the Saudis, though it was not the sole factor in them turning to China.
There are obviously many long-term factors behind this apparent diplomatic revolution, notably including China’s economic rise and its position as the leading purchaser of Middle Eastern oil.
However, I think that the colossal arrogance of our own country, and the extent to which we have increasingly abused and victimized our own allies and vassals over the years must surely have been a huge contributing factor.
One problem with relying too heavily upon the power of your dishonest propaganda is that you may continue to believe in it yourself even after most of the intended targets of your deception have stopped doing so.
A fundamental distrust of our government and the propaganda lines enforced by our media is the only prudent way to approach understanding the realities of the world historical global power competition underway. We know that we are being lied to, but we don’t fully understand what the lies are, – stresses Thomas Lifson at “The American Thinker”.
Israeli-Palestinian tensions resemble ‘Intifada’ on the brink of a ‘color revolution’ in Israel
Bill Burns says his meetings with leaders during last week’s trip to the region left him more concerned about prospect of increased violence, comments ‘Times of Israel’.
The director of the United States Central Intelligence Agency William Burns expressed his concern last week that the current period of tensions between Israel and the Palestinians is beginning to resemble the violence of the Second Intifada.
The Second Intifada lasted from 2000 to 2005 and for Israelis became synonymous with the suicide blasts and bus bombings that led to the deaths of over 1,000 civilians and soldiers. The uprising that followed the Camp David peace negotiations also saw intense clashes with Israelis troops that left over 3,000 Palestinians dead.
Burns made the remarks days after returning from the region, where he met with senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as the Biden administration has intensified its efforts to calm tensions between the sides.
But Burns said he did not leave the trip feeling optimistic. “The conversations I’ve had with Israeli and Palestinian leaders left me quite concerned about the prospects for even greater fragility and even greater violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
on January 26, the IDF conducted a raid in the northern West Bank city of Jenin during which nine Palestinians were killed, including one civilian. Israel has defended the operation as a necessary anti-terror measure. The PA responded by announcing the severing of its security coordination with the IDF (though Abbas later told Burns ties were only partially cut).
A day later, a Palestinian gunman opened fire outside a synagogue in East Jerusalem, killing seven Israelis.
The IDF has pressed on with an anti-terror campaign to deal with a series of attacks that left 31 people in Israel dead in 2022, and seven more in an attack last month.
The IDF’s operation has netted more than 2,500 arrests in near-nightly raids. It also left 171 Palestinians dead in 2022, and another 41 since the beginning of the year — many of them carrying out attacks or during clashes with security forces, though some were uninvolved civilians.
The US has pressed the PA to walk back its announcement cutting security ties with the IDF, which the Israel security establishment has long touted as crucial for maintaining stability and preventing terror in the West Bank. The PA’s supporters have warned, however, that it will be harder to sustain in the long term in the absence of diplomatic negotiations that boost its image in the Palestinian street.
Many of the Israeli raids have sparked increasingly violent clashes with armed Palestinians frustrated over the Israeli incursions and the PA’s willingness to cooperate.
Commenting on Burns’ remarks, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the CIA director’s concern “is precisely the reason Secretary Blinken from Israel, from the West Bank, from Egypt, encouraged Israelis, Palestinians to take urgent steps themselves that would de-escalate this situation and lead to greater degrees of security and stability for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”
Meanwhile there is a shadow of a ‘color revolution’ looms over Israel. Mass protests have taken over the country and even representatives of the Israeli armed forces are joining them.
Dozens of Israeli air force reservists said they would not turn up for a training day in protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial reforms, a jolt for a country whose melting-pot military is meant to be apolitical.
As Israel’s strategic arm, the air force has traditionally relied on reservists in wartime and requires crews who have been discharged to train regularly in order to maintain readiness.
But in a letter circulated in local media, 37 pilots and navigators from an F-15 squadron said they would skip scheduled drills and instead “devote our time to dialogue and reflection for the sake of democracy and national unity”.
The religious-nationalist government seeks changes that include curbs on the Supreme Court, which it accuses of overreach.
Critics worry that Netanyahu – who is on trial on graft charges he denies – wants excessive power over the judiciary.
Weekly and increasingly raucous demonstrations have swept the country, with some protest leaders – among them former military chiefs – saying that a non-democratic turn in government would warrant mass disobedience within the ranks.
Israel does not publish military personnel figures, making it hard to judge to impact of the air force reservists’ protest, or of similar pledges by some reservists from other branches.
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