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Israel rejects ‘shameful’ UN resolution amid criticism of Netanyahu

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UN resolution

Israel has responded furiously to a UN security council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, recalling two of its ambassadors to countries that voted for the motion and threatening to cut aid.

The security council adopted the landmark resolution demanding Israel halt all settlement building and expansion in the occupied territories after Barack Obama’s administration refused to veto the resolution on Friday.

A White House official said Obama had taken the decision to abstain in the absence of any meaningful peace process. The resolution, which passed by a 14-0 vote, was met with loud applause in the packed chamber when the US ambassador, Samantha Power, abstained.

The move was immediately condemned by the office of the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, as “shameful”. A spokesman pointedly referred to Israel’s expectation of working more closely with the US president-elect, Donald Trump.

The security council last adopted a resolution critical of settlements in 1979, with the United States also abstaining. The United States vetoed a similar resolution in 2011, which was the sole veto cast by the Obama administration at the security council.

Amid emerging criticism of the handling of the vote by Netanyahu, whose manoeuvres were seen as an attempt to sideline Obama and his administration, Israel ordered steps against a number of countries.

Those steps included the recall of the Israeli ambassadors to New Zealand and Senegal, who voted for the resolution, cancelling a planned visit by the Senegalese foreign minister to Israel in three weeks and cancelling all aid programmes to the African country.

The two countries voted along with the UK, France, Russia and China in favour of the resolution describing Israeli settlement building as a “flagrant violation” of international law.

Responding to the Israeli moves, New Zealand’s foreign minister, Murray McCully, said the decision should have been no surprise to Israel, which knew Wellington’s position long before the UN vote.

“We have been very open about our view that the [security council] should be doing more to support the Middle East peace process and the position we adopted today is totally in line with our long-established policy on the Palestinian question.”

The vote has sharply underlined the extent of Israel’s international isolation under Nentayahu.

In particular the vote – in which 14 of the 15 countries on the Security Council vote in favour – dramatised the hollowness of Netayahu’s boast at the UN general assembly in the autumn over Israel’s purported diplomatic advances at the UN, not least among African members.

Russia and China too, both permanent members of the security council with veto rights who have been heavily courted by Israel, also voted in favour.

While Israel may expect a much easier ride after the inauguration of Donald Trump, support of the motion from countries like the UK and France underlines the deep frustration in Europe with the policies of Netanyahu’s rightwing coalition over settlements and the moribund peace process.

For its part the Obama administration made clear that the US decision to abstain was in direct response to choice made by Netanyahu on settlements.

The resolution also serves as a warning to the incoming Trump administration over its policies following the appointment by Trump of a far right pro-settler ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.

While the US and EU have worked closely together in coordinating foreign policy on the Israel-Palestine question, there has been growing support among European governments for tougher steps against Israel, which has already resulted in a directive on the labelling of settlement products.

The strength of the language in the resolution reiterating the illegality of Jewish settlements built on land intended for a Palestinian state, occupied by Israel in 1967, is also likely to have an impact on multinational companies operating in the occupied territories or working with Israeli enterprises with links to the occupied territories, underlining the risk of legal action against them.

While the resolution is not binding in legal terms it will, however, have other practical impacts, not least in the impact it may have on the Palestinian complaint to the international criminal court, which includes Israeli settlement.

The resolution also includes language calling for differential treatment of Israel within the pre-1967 borders, calling on states to “distinguish[ing], in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967”, which could potentially pave the way for future sanctions.

Israeli supporters in the US – both senators and lobby groups – used even stronger language. Morton Klein, president of the right wing Zionist Organization of America, railed in unequivocal terms: “Obama has made it clear that he’s a Jew hating, antisemite.”

Leading pro-Israel Republicans also weighed in including House Speaker Paul D Ryan, who denounced the US abstention as “absolutely shameful,” and promised that “our unified Republican government will work to reverse the damage done by this administration, and rebuild our alliance with Israel”.

In Israel, however, questions were already being asked about Netanyahu’s handling of the vote. Writing in Haaretz, columnist Chemi Shalev was particularly scathing about Netanyahu’s diplomatic failure.

“Resolution 2334 shatters the [Israeli] government-induced illusion that the settlement project has been normalised, that it passed the point of no return, that it is now a fait accompli that will remain unchallenged.

“In recent years, after President Obama desisted from efforts to advance the peace process, Netanyahu, his ministers and settler leaders had behaved as if the battle was over: Israel built and built, the White House objected and condemned, the facts on the ground were cemented in stone.

“You can have your cake and eat it too, the government implied: thumb your nose at Washington and the international community, build in the West Bank as if there’s no tomorrow and still get $38bn in unprecedented [US] military aid.”

Middle East

Putin warns against further actions violating UN charter

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Vladimir Putin

Moscow, April 16 : Further actions violating the UN charter such as the recent US-led strikes on Syria will result in chaos in international relations, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani over phone on Sunday.

The two leaders condemned Saturday’s airstrikes by the US and its allies on Syria and agreed that it would hinder the process of a political settlement in the war-torn country, according to a Kremlin statement, Xinhua news agency reported.

“It was stated that this illegal action seriously damages the prospects for a political settlement in Syria. Putin in particular stressed that if such actions, carried out in violation of the UN Charter, continue, it will inevitably lead to chaos in international relations,” the statement read.

The US, together with Britain and France, launched missile strikes on Syria on Saturday, saying that it was in response to an alleged chemical weapon attack by the Syrian military. The Syrian government has categorically denied the accusation.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on the same day held an emergency meeting over the missile attack at Russia’s request but failed to approve a resolution condemning the bombardment.

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Middle East

Saudi Arabia supports US-led airstrikes on Syria

The Ministry expressed Saudi Arabia’s full support to the US, Britain and France’s military operations on military targets in Syria.

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Syrian Strike

Riyadh, April 14 : Saudi Arabia on Saturday extended support to the coordinated missile strikes by the US, Britain and France on military targets in Syria.

The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) cited a source in the Saudi Foreign Ministry as saying that “the Ministry expressed Saudi Arabia’s full support to the US, Britain and France’s military operations on military targets in Syria”.

An official from the Ministry highlighted that the operations were a response to the use of banned chemical weapons by the Syrian regime against innocent civilians and its years of “horrible crimes”, the agency report said.

The official held the Syrian government responsible for such military attack and the international community for not taking serious steps against the regime.

The US, Britain and France launched coordinated strikes against Syria’s research, storage and military targets to “punish” the Bashar al-Assad regime for an apparent chemical attack in Douma last week that killed over 70 people. The military action was denounced by Damascus and its ally Moscow as a “failure” and “an act of aggression”.

Western allies warned Syria on Saturday that they could launch further attacks if chemical weapons were used again.

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Middle East

Militias unlawfully detain, torture thousands in Libya, says UN

These facilities are notorious for endemic torture and other human rights violations or abuses.

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Human Rights Zeid Raad al- Hussein

Geneva, April 11 (IANS/AKI) Armed groups in Libya, including those affiliated with the state, hold thousands of people in prolonged arbitrary and unlawful detention and submit them to torture and other human rights violations and abuses, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

“Men, women and children across Libya are arbitrarily detained or unlawfully deprived of their liberty based on their tribal or family links and perceived political affiliations,” says the report by the UN Human Rights Office.

“Victims have little or no recourse to judicial remedy or reparations, while members of armed groups enjoy total impunity.

“This report lays bare not only the appalling abuses and violations experienced by Libyans deprived of their liberty, but the sheer horror and arbitrariness of such detentions, both for the victims and their families,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al- Hussein.

“These violations and abuses need to stop – and those responsible for such crimes should be held fully to account.”

Since renewed hostilities broke out in 2014, armed groups on all sides have rounded up suspected opponents, critics, activists, medical professionals, journalists and politicians, the report says. Hostage-taking for prisoner exchanges or ransom is also common. Those detained arbitrarily or unlawfully also include people held in relation to the 2011 armed conflict – many without charge, trial or sentence for over six years.

The report, published in cooperation with the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), summarises the main human rights concerns regarding detention in Libya since the country’s rival political factions signed a deal on December 17, 2015 that led to the formation of a UN-backed unity government.

The implementation of provisions in the deal to address the plight of people detained arbitrarily for prolonged periods of time has stalled, the report notes.

“Rather than reining in armed groups and integrating their members under State command and control structures, successive Libyan governments have increasingly relied on them for law enforcement, including arrests and detention; paid them salaries; and provided them with equipment and uniforms,” the report says.

As a result, the power of these armed groups has grown unchecked and they have remained free of effective government oversight, according to the report.

Some 6,500 people were estimated to be held in official prisons overseen by the Ministry of Justice’s judicial police, as of October 2017. There are no available statistics for facilities nominally under the Interior and Defence ministries, nor for those run directly by armed groups, the report notes.

“These facilities are notorious for endemic torture and other human rights violations or abuses,” the report states.

For example, the detention facility at Mitiga airbase in Tripoli holds an estimated 2,600 men, women and children, most without access to judicial authorities. In Kuweifiya prison, the largest detention facility in eastern Libya, some 1,800 people are believed to be held.

There have also been consistent allegations of deaths in custody. The bodies of hundreds of individuals taken and held by armed groups have been uncovered in streets, hospitals, and rubbish dumps, many with bound limbs and marks of torture and gunshot wounds, the report says.

“The widespread prolonged arbitrary and unlawful detention and endemic human rights abuses in custody in Libya require urgent action by the Libyan authorities, with support from the international community,” says the report.

State and non-State actors that effectively control territory and exercise government-like functions must as a first step release those detained arbitrarily or otherwise unlawfully deprived of their liberty, the report said.

The report calls on the authorities to publicly and unequivocally condemn torture, ill-treatment and summary executions of those detained, and ensure accountability for such crimes.

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