Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Amid UNRWA funding crisis, desperate Gazans scour trucks for food

Despite ongoing Israeli bombardment prompted by Hamas-led attacks on 7 October that left some 1,200 dead in Israel and more than 250 taken hostage, UNRWA, continues to provide lifesaving aid in Gaza to more than two million civilians.

The war has killed at least 26,637 Palestinians in Gaza and left 65,387 injured, according to the enclave's health authorities. The Israeli military has reported 218 soldiers killed and 1,267 injured in Gaza.

As the largest humanitarian agency in the enclave, UNRWA also operates shelters for over one million people, providing food, water and healthcare services, while also playing the key role of facilitating the work of other UN and partner agencies there.

The shelters, the health centres and everything else is provided in Gaza through UNWRA,” said Christian Lindmeier, spokesperson for the UN World Health Organization (WHO). Repeating the words of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Mr. Lindmeier appealed to donors not to suspend funding to UNWRA “at this critical moment. Cutting off funding will only hurt the people of Gaza who desperately need support.”

The United States said on Friday it had suspended funding in response to allegations made against 12 UNRWA staffers who Israel says took part in the 7 October attacks. A full and urgent investigation is underway and some of the staff allegedly involved have been dismissed by the agency. 

Famine threat persists

Despite the efforts of the UN agency and other humanitarian partners operating in Gaza, many people are on the verge of famine after more nearly four months of war. 

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Some have resorted to scouring aid convoys for food and supplies, including one on Tuesday morning in the southern city of Khan Younis.

“We had a convoy just this morning trying to reach Nasser Hospital with patients, healthcare staff, everybody there needing food, but the very needy population already before basically took the supplies,” Mr. Lindmeier said.

The incident – far from a rare occurrence – “shows how dire the needs are”, he told journalists in Geneva, warning that disease among Gaza’s malnourished population “can just spread like wildfire and that’s on top of the bombing and the shelling and the collapsing buildings”.

Within Nasser Hospital itself, the WHO official reported that the situation “has only gotten worse", with "the shooting, the fighting…the difficulty of access for people to reach Nasser or the difficulty of leaving”.

Uprooted again

The development came as UN aid coordination office OCHA warned that more people had been uprooted from their homes amid ongoing fighting and evacuation orders from the Israeli military.

“We're in the midst of another wave of displacement in #Gaza, following eviction orders for large residential areas and amid intense hostilities,” OCHA said in a post on X, formerly Twitter. “More people are killed or injured. The south is overcrowded and humanitarian access to the north is extremely limited.”

Originally published January 30th, 2024 in the United Nations News Centre

See below for posts related to this topic:

Groups Intensify Global Push for Gaza Cease-Fire After ICJ Ruling,

'No One Is Spared': South Africa Presents Genocide Case Against Israel at ICJ

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Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger withdraw from ECOWAS

Land area under ECOWAS, which is condemned by West Africa’s popular movements as an agent of French imperialism, has been reduced to less than half after their withdrawal

January 30, 2024 by Peoples Dispatch

In a televised statement on Sunday, January 28, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger announced their withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Their exit has shrunk the regional bloc, condemned by West Africa’s popular movements as an agent of French imperialism, to less than half its previous size, given the relatively vast expanse of Mali and Niger in the region.

Reduced from 15 member states to 12, ECOWAS has nevertheless said that the three countries, against whom it was set to go to war last year, “remain important members,” although it had already suspended and sanctioned them.

The “illegal, illegitimate, inhumane and irresponsible sanctions in violation of its own texts… have further weakened populations already bruised by years of violence… by… remote-controlled terrorist hordes,” said the joint statement of the three countries.

First to be suspended and sanctioned was Mali, where in 2020, the government of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, widely perceived by their populations as a puppet of their former colonizer France, was overthrown by a military coup that enjoyed mass support. 

Following another coup in 2021, Col. Assimi Goita formed a transitional military government with popular support, including from the trade unions and the mass protest movement against the domination and military presence of its former colonizer France. Its popularity was consolidated as mass celebratory demonstrations cheered in the streets of Mali’s capital Bamako when Goita’s government ordered the French troops out in February 2022.

Also Read: Withdrawal of French troops from Mali is a historic, anti-imperialist victory

A month before, in January 2022, a similar set of events had been set into motion with a military coup against the government of Roch Marc Christian Kabore in neighboring Burkina Faso, which was also in the throes of mass anti-French protests.

Following another coup in September that year, Captain Ibrahim Traore formed a popularly supported transitional military government which followed in the footsteps of Mali and ordered the French troops out in January 2023. 

Only months after the withdrawal of French troops from Burkina Faso was completed in February 2023, another popular military coup followed in neighboring Niger on July 26. Its President Mohamed Bazoum, who had invited the French troops ordered out of Mali into Niger, was ousted by General Abdourahmane Tchiani. 

The ECOWAS not only suspended Niger and imposed sanctions on the largest country in the bloc, but also threatened a military invasion if Bazoum was not restored to presidency. 

The West African Peoples’ Organization (WAPO) condemned this ultimatum by ECOWAS as “a maneuver by colonial France and Great Britain, under the hegemony of American imperialism, to resort to armed intervention under the guise of restoring democracy and human rights in Niger.” 

Also Read: People’s movements oppose West-backed military intervention by ECOWAS in Niger 

Thousands took to the streets in Niger to demonstrate in support of the transitional military government, which ended the defense agreements with France on August 3 and ordered the withdrawal of French troops.  

Initially refusing to withdraw its troops and its ambassador from Niger on the grounds that it will only deal with the ousted government of Bazoum and does not recognize the military government, France backed the military invasion threatened by the ECOWAS. However, many of its member countries were faced with domestic opposition on the streets as well as in the parliament. 

In Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with the strongest military in the bloc, its President Bola Tinubu, chosen as the chairperson of ECOWAS just over two weeks before the coup, could not secure the approval of the Senate for the military invasion. It called on Tinubu’s government to instead focus Nigeria’s armed forces on securing its own territory from Boko Haram’s insurgency. The African Union (AU) also clarified that it does not support the planned military invasion by ECOWAS. 

In the meantime, Mali and Burkina Faso extended support to Niger, and declared that an attack on it would be regarded as an attack on their own countries. Agreeing to mobilize the militaries of all three countries if anyone were attacked, the trio went on to form the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) in mid-September.   

Later that month, France, which was also facing increasingly angry mass protests as a regular feature outside its base and embassy in Niger, retreated from its earlier position and announced the withdrawal of its troops, which was completed in December. The G-5 Sahel coalition partnering with France’s failed military campaign against insurgencies in the Sahel also came to an end that month.

Following the lead of Mali, which had already withdrawn from this coalition in May 2022, Burkina Faso and Niger announced their withdrawal from G-5 Sahel in December. “The organization is failing to achieve its objectives. Worse, the legitimate ambitions of our countries, of making the G5 Sahel a zone of security and development, are hindered,” its joint statement said, adding “independence and dignity is not compatible with G5 participation in its current form.”

With three of the five countries of the coalition having withdrawn, the remaining two countries who are not ECOWAS members, namely Chad in central Africa and Mauritania in the continent’s northwest, dissolved the coalition on December 6. 

France had up to 5,500 troops in the Sahel at the peak of Operation Barkhane, which started in 2014 and ended in 2022 in failure as the violence by Islamic insurgencies it was fighting increased multifold in this period. This deployment, anchored in the G-5 Sahel, has been reduced to about a thousand troops in Chad, which is ruled by a French-backed military junta. However, the future of its grip on power appears uncertain as an anti-French protest movement is growing here too.   

Also Read: Under French-backed military ruler Mahamat Deby, Chad is a “pressure cooker waiting to explode” 

MaliBurkina Faso and Niger have all alleged that on being forced to withdraw, France is backing the very terrorist groups it had purported to be fighting over the last decade, after spawning them across the Sahel by participating in NATO’s war destroying Libya in 2011.          

Their statement announcing exit from ECOWAS also mentioned “remote-controlled terrorist hordes,” where the adjective insinuated alleged French involvement. The statement also added that “under the influence of foreign powers”, the regional bloc of ECOWAS “has become a threat to its member states”.

ECOWAS has insisted in response that it “remains determined to find a negotiated solution to the political impasse.” Such a statement, in the given context, can also be read as a reiteration of its determination to continue pressuring the three countries, including by penalizing its citizens with sanctions, to force a compromise with the French-backed political elite within.

This article originally appeared at on December 13th, 2023.  

Related Posts

What’s happening in Niger is far from a typical coup

Is this the end of French neo-colonialism in Africa?

The long arm of Washington extends into Africa’s Sahel

Joe Biden is meeting African leaders - why free trade is a major talking point

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Monday, January 29, 2024

Groups Intensify Global Push for Gaza Cease-Fire After ICJ Ruling

By Jessica Corbett

"An immediate cease-fire by all parties remains essential and—although not ordered by the court—is the most effective condition to implement the provisional measures and end unprecedented civilian suffering."

While welcoming the International Court of Justice's initial ruling in the South African-led case accusing Israel of genocide in the Gaza Strip, rights groups around the world on Friday renewed calls for a cease-fire.

The United Nations' top judicial body ordered Israel to "take all measures within its power" to uphold its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide but stopped short of demanding an immediate cease-fire. The ICJ proceedings that could find Israel guilty of genocide are expected to take years—time that the people of Gaza don't have.

"Today's decision is an authoritative reminder of the crucial role of international law in preventing genocide and protecting all victims of atrocity crimes," said Amnesty International secretary general Agn├Ęs Callamard. "It sends a clear message that the world will not stand by in silence as Israel pursues a ruthless military campaign to decimate the population of the Gaza Strip and unleash death, horror, and suffering against Palestinians on an unprecedented scale."

"However, the ICJ decision alone cannot put an end to the atrocities and devastation Gazans are witnessing," she continued. "Alarming signs of genocide in Gaza, and Israel's flagrant disregard for international law highlight the urgent need for effective, unified pressure on Israel to stop its onslaught against Palestinians. An immediate cease-fire by all parties remains essential and—although not ordered by the court—is the most effective condition to implement the provisional measures and end unprecedented civilian suffering."

As of Friday, Israel's retaliation for the Hamas-led attack on October 7 has killed at least 26,083 Palestinians—including 11,500 children—and wounded over 64,400 others, according to Gaza officials. The Israeli blockade and bombardment have also devastated civilian infrastructure, displaced most of the enclave's 2.3 million residents, and deprived them of much-needed commercial goods and humanitarian aid.

Stressing that "the stakes could not be higher," Callamard called on leaders from the United States—which gives Israel billions of dollars in military support—along with the United Kingdom, Germany, and other European Union members to "signal their respect for the court's legally binding decision and do everything in their power to uphold their obligation to prevent genocide."

Balkees Jarrah, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, also demanded that Israel and its allies immediately comply with the court's order on provisional measures, declaring that "lives hang in the balance, and governments need to urgently use their leverage to ensure that the order is enforced."

"The ICJ's speedy ruling is recognition of the dire situation in Gaza, where civilians face starvation and are being killed daily at levels unprecedented in the recent history of Israel and Palestine," Jarrah added. "The court's clear and binding order raises the stakes for Israel's allies to back up their stated commitment to a global rules-based order by helping ensure compliance with this watershed ruling."

Some governments across the world hailed the ICJ ruling as progress—even though Israeli leaders quickly made clear they have no plans to end the war. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said in part that "we continue to believe that allegations of genocide are unfounded and note the court did not make a finding about genocide or call for a cease-fire in its ruling."

Journalists and legal experts called the response from the United States a "mischaracterization" of the ICJ ruling intended to "justify U.S. policy instead of adjusting U.S. policy" and a signal that President Joe Biden has no plans to "stand up for justice."

Still, in a statement Friday, the U.S.-based anti-war group CodePink praised the ruling as "a crucial step toward justice" and asserted that "the only way to ensure Israel complies with the provisional measures is through an immediate cease-fire."

"CodePink reiterates its urgent call to the Biden administration and Congress to promptly terminate all financial support to Israel, given its perpetration of genocidal actions, and to demand an immediate cease-fire," the group said. "We will follow this historic case as it proceeds and continue to advocate in Congress, email and call our representatives, push for city cease-fire resolutions, and, of course, protest, rally, and disrupt until the genocide in Gaza ends and Palestine is free."

Leaders at Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which has spearheaded numerous protests across the United States demanding an end to U.S. support for Israel's unrelenting assault of Gaza, also took aim at Biden—who is seeking reelection this year—and vowed to keep up the fight.

"For over 100 days, the Israeli and the U.S. governments have gaslit and smeared the Palestinian people, denying what the entire world was witnessing: a genocide," noted JVP political director Beth Miller. "Now, the highest court in the world has found these claims plausible. President Biden has a choice to make: He can reject the entire system of international law and continue complicity in Israeli genocide, or he can stop arming a genocidal regime and stop attacking the people and movements struggling to build a more just and peaceful future."

As a hearing was held in U.S. court for a case accusing the Biden administration of complicity in the genocidal violence, JVP executive director Stefanie Fox said, "We don't need courts to tell us genocide is a moral catastrophe, but we do need courts to impose accountability when our own government has so shamefully worked to abet, fund, arm and secure impunity for the Israeli government's genocidal attack on Palestinians in Gaza."

"From here, the next step is clear: an immediate, permanent cease-fire," she added. "We're not stopping until Palestinians, like everyone else, live in justice, safety, and freedom."

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Saturday, January 27, 2024

'Crucial Moment in History': ICJ Orders Israel to Prevent Acts of Genocide in Gaza

By Jake Johnson

"One thing has been made clear on the world stage: There is vastly documented evidence that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians," said the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights.

The International Court of Justice ruled Friday that South Africa's genocide case is plausible and ordered Israel to "take all measures within its power" to uphold its obligations under Article II of the Genocide Convention.

The court also ordered the Israeli government to ensure its military does not commit violations of the convention in Gaza, punish those who incite genocide, immediately provide basic services and humanitarian assistance to Gazans, prevent the destruction of evidence that could show violations of international law, and submit a report to the ICJ on all steps it takes to implement the above measures.

The ICJ did not grant South Africa's request for a cease-fire.

While a final determination from the court on whether Israel is guilty of genocide in Gaza could be years away, Friday's ruling from the United Nations' highest court was seen as a huge blow to the Israeli government and its top arms supplier, the United States, which called South Africa's case "meritless."

"This ruling from the ICJ is a massive legal defeat for Israel and its premiere defenders, the U.S. and Germany," The Intercept's Jeremy Scahill wrote Friday. "The question now is enforceability and whether the U.S. will openly trample international law in an effort to continue aiding Israeli crimes against Palestinians."

As she read the court's interim decision, ICJ President Joan Donoghue cited testimony from United Nations officials and others on the appalling conditions on the ground in the Gaza Strip, where most of the population is displaced, starving, and struggling to survive Israel's relentless aerial and ground assault.

Donoghue said the court deemed the threat of "irreparable harm" to Gazans real and concluded that emergency measures were necessary to protect the Palestinian population from genocide.

"This is a crucial moment in history to finally holding Israel accountable," the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights said in response to the decision. "One thing has been made clear on the world stage: There is vastly documented evidence that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians."

Read the post below related to this topic

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Monday, January 22, 2024

'No One Is Spared': South Africa Presents Genocide Case Against Israel at ICJ

"Israel's political leaders, military commanders, and persons holding official positions have systematically and in explicit terms declared their genocidal intent," a South African lawyer told the top U.N. court.

South African representatives argued before the International Court of Justice on Thursday that Israel is engaged in a genocidal assault on the Gaza Strip, subjecting the enclave to "merciless" bombing with the clear intent to wipe out the Palestinian population.

"They have deplored anyone feeling sorry for the uninvolved Gazans, asserting repeatedly that there are no uninvolved, that there are no innocents in Gaza, that the killers of the women and the children should not be separated from the citizens of Gaza, and that the children of Gaza have brought this upon themselves," South African attorney Tembeka Ngcukaitobi said during his presentation.

Thursday's hearing also featured remarks from South African Justice Minister Ronald Lamola, South African Ambassador to the Netherlands Vusimuzi Madonsela, lawyer Adila Hassim, and international law professor John Dugard, each of whom laid out an aspect of South Africa's case against the Israeli government.

Hassim argued that Israel's "first genocidal act" is the "mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza," pointing to the U.S.-armed military's use of 2,000-pound bombs in southern Gaza-the region to which Israeli forces ordered Gazans to move earlier in the war. 

"No one is spared. Not even newborns," said Hassim, displaying photos of mass graves in the Gaza Strip. "U.N. chiefs have described it as a graveyard for children."

"Israel has forced—forced—the displacement of about 85% of Palestinians in Gaza. There is nowhere safe for them to flee to."

Hassim made the case that Israel is guilty of violating articles 2a, 2b, 2c, and 2d of the Genocide Convention, which defines genocide as harm inflicted "with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group."

"Israel has deliberately imposed conditions on Gaza that cannot sustain life and are calculated to bring about its physical destruction," said Hassim. "Israel has forced—forced—the displacement of about 85% of Palestinians in Gaza. There is nowhere safe for them to flee to."

South Africa's presenters sought to demonstrate genocidal intent in part by directly quoting high-ranking Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Ngcukaitobi pointed to Netanyahu's repeated invocation of biblical passages to paint Gazans as modern-day Amalekites.

The attorney also played footage of Israeli soldiers chanting that they will "wipe off the seed of Amalek" and that there are "no uninvolved civilians" in Gaza.

"Israel's political leaders, military commanders, and persons holding official positions have systematically and in explicit terms declared their genocidal intent," said Ngcukaitobi. "These statements are then repeated by soldiers on the ground in Gaza as they engage in the destruction of Palestinians and the physical infrastructure of Gaza."

South Africa's legal team decided against sharing highly graphic videos and photos during its presentations, saying it did not want to turn the court's proceedings "into a theatre for spectacle."

"South Africa's application in this court today is built on a foundation of clear legal rights, not images," the legal team said Thursday.

South Africa is asking the ICJ to adopt "provisional measures" to halt Israel's mass killing and displacement of Gazans, many of whom are starving and being stalked by disease.

Israel is set to offer its counter to South Africa's case on Friday, which will mark the first time Israel has defended itself in person at the United Nations' highest court.

In the days ahead of the ICJ's public hearings, Israeli officials pressured governments around the world to publicly denounce South Africa's case. The United States, Israel's top ally and leading arms supplier, has dismissed South Africa's arguments as "meritless."

But a growing number of national governments are backing South Africa, including Brazil, Malaysia, Bolivia, and Pakistan. South Africa's ICJ effort has also drawn massive support from grassroots organizations across the globe.

"Israel's killing, injuring, traumatizing, and displacing large numbers of Palestinians and denying water, food, medicine, and fuel to an occupied population meet the criteria for the crime of genocide," reads an open letter signed by more than 1,000 unions, popular movements, and other groups. "If a majority of the world's nations call for a cease-fire, yet fail to press for prosecution of Israel—what is to stop Israel from ethnically cleansing all Palestinians?"

This article originally appeared in Common Dreams on January 11th, 2024.  

Read the post below related to this topic
South Africa Initiates Case Against Israel at International Court of Justice, Common Dreams

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