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Resources updated between Monday, April 10, 2017 and Sunday, April 16, 2017

April 16, 2017

UNRWA Bluff Article

April 15, 2017

Ambassador Nikki Haley at a UN Security Council meeting during her presidency of the Council (File photo)

This month the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council falls on the United States. Ambassador Nikki Haley, in her capacity as president for the month, has circulated this note about the agenda for the meeting on April 20, 2017, which will still be on the "Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question." The other 14 members of the Security Council will still be free to ignore her recommendations and continue their obsessive monthly Israel-bashing session.

Her letter:

Letter dated 10 April 2017 from the Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General

I have the honour to inform you that the Security Council, under the Presidency of the United States of America, will hold its quarterly open debate on the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, on Thursday, 20 April 2017. In order to help steer the discussion, the United States has prepared a concept note (see annex).

I would be grateful if the present letter and its annex could be circulated as a document of the Security Council.

(Signed) Nikki Haley
Ambassador
United States Permanent Representative

Annex to the letter dated 10 April 2017 from the Permanent Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General

Concept note for the Security Council quarterly open debate on the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, to be held on 20 April 2017


Multiple conflicts throughout the Middle East have left hundreds of thousands of people dead and millions displaced. The cross-border influx of foreign terrorist fighters has added complexity to an opaque network of terrorist groups with ever-shifting alliances that threaten international peace and security in the region and the world. In Iraq, the Government continues to whittle away at territory controlled by ISIS around Mosul, while the difficult work of reconciliation and reconstruction has only just begun in earnest. Meanwhile, some states continue to sponsor terrorist groups or other militias that are fomenting unrest throughout the region. Hizbullah, for example, remains a terrorist group that not only undermines Lebanon's security, but also plays a key role in enabling the Syrian conflict and providing advice to other terrorists and extremists in the Middle East. In Libya, political factions are struggling to reach a political solution to the country's ongoing political and security crisis, which will hinge on effective United Nations involvement. The Security Council addresses a number of conflicts on a regular basis, but all too often loses sight of the interplay among conflicts and the role of some actors in fomenting and benefiting from conflict throughout the region.

The quarterly open debate provides an opportunity for Council members, Member States and others to examine the conflicts in the Middle East through a broader lens and address what they view as the most serious issues of international peace and security in the Middle East.

Briefer
The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov.

Key questions
Members of the Security Council, Member States and others participating in the open debate are encouraged to think in terms of regional and global contexts, with international peace and security at the core of their observations. Key questions to address will include:

  • Who are the regional players that most benefit from chaos in the region, and what are the connections between terrorist groups and these states?
  • What steps can be taken to identify and address threats to international peace and security?
  • How can the international community work to ensure that bad actors do not benefit from post-conflict reconstruction efforts?

Ambassador Haley is attempting to redirect the security Council's Quarterly ISRAEL-BASHING session to real Mideast criminals Development

April 14, 2017

Illustrative photo

At least once a day, Adam's captors attached metal clamps to his fingers and toes. One of the men then cranked a handle on a machine to which the clamps were linked with wires, and sent powerful electric shocks through his body. If he managed not to scream, others would join in, beating him with wooden sticks or metal rods.

As they tortured him, the men shouted verbal abuse at him for being gay, and demanded to know the names of other gay men he knew in Chechnya. "Sometimes they were trying to get information from me; other times they were just amusing themselves," he said, speaking about the ordeal he underwent just a month ago with some difficulty.

Adam's testimony, as well as that of another gay Chechen man with whom the Guardian spoke, backs up reports that a shocking anti-gay campaign is under way in the Russian republic of Chechnya, involving over a hundred and possibly several hundred men. Some are believed to have been killed. 

Adam was held in an informal detention facility with more than a dozen other gay men, who were all subjected to torture on a daily basis. A similar "mop-up" campaign by governmental security forces took place in towns across the republic. 

Igor Kochetkov, a gay rights activist from St Petersburg, has helped organise an emergency contact centre which gay people in Chechnya can reach out to securely to get help with evacuation. He said "dozens" of people had got in touch to ask for help. Many are in hiding from both their families and the authorities.

"We are talking about the mass persecution of gay people, with hundreds of people kidnapped by authorities," Kochetkov told the Guardian. "This is unprecedented not only in Russia but in recent world history. There is little doubt that we are dealing with crimes against humanity."

Under the Moscow-backed local leader Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya has been rebuilt after two brutal separatist conflicts in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Kadyrov pledges allegiance to Vladimir Putin and a love for Russia, and in return the Kremlin turns a blind eye to human rights abuses. Critics say Kadyrov's notorious battalions have long operated outside the law. 

Journalists at the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which first reported the story, say they have incontrovertible evidence that at least three gay men have been killed since the operation started, and believe the full death toll could be much higher. Chechen society is extremely conservative and homophobic, and there are fears that some gay men may have been killed by their families after being outed by authorities. br>
"I don't know what has happened to the others. It's too dangerous to contact people, because everyone's phones are monitored," said Adam.

  Due to the extreme sensitivity of the subject and the danger of reprisals both against the men themselves and against their families, the names in this article have been changed, and identifying details have been excised. Both men with whom the Guardian spoke are now outside Chechnya but asked that their current location not be revealed.

For Adam, it all started with a phone call from a gay friend. 

"He called me, and in a very calm and normal voice suggested meeting. I've known him for a long time, so I didn't suspect a thing," said Adam. But when he arrived at the arranged meeting place, he realised it was a set up. There were six people waiting for him, some of them in uniform, and they shouted that they knew he was gay. 

At first, Adam denied it, but when it became clear the men had read messages he had sent to others, he admitted he was indeed gay. He was put in the back of a van and taken to the detention facility, where the men were locked in a room and slept on concrete floors.

"They woke us up at 5am and let us sleep at 1am. Different people would come in and take turns to beat us. Sometimes they brought in other prisoners, who were told we were gay and were also ordered to beat us."

Detainees held in multiple locations have reported similar stories of beatings and electric-shock treatment. 

The captors seized mobile phones from the prisoners, scrolling through their contacts and demanding to know which men among them were also gay. "They called us animals, non-humans, said we were going to die there," Adam said. After more than 10 days, some of the men were released to their families. 

"They said: 'Your son is a faggot. Do what you need to with him,'" he recalled. Adam still denied his sexuality to his family, but his father refused to speak with him, and threatened violence. One night shortly after, he collected a few belongings and left his home without saying a word to anyone, aiming to get as far away from Chechnya as possible. He has never lived outside Chechnya and is intimidated about starting life again from scratch. He is no longer in contact with family members.

Alvi Karimov, spokesman for Kadyrov, has denounced the reports of anti-gay operations in Chechnya as "absolute lies and disinformation", insisting that there are no gay people in Chechnya to round up. "You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic," he told Interfax news agency.

He added: "If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement organs wouldn't need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which there is no returning."

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he had no information about the allegations and advised those with complaints to contact authorities: an unlikely recourse given the authorities themselves are implicated.

In Chechnya's ultra-traditional society, based on strong codes of family and clan allegiance as well as Islamic faith, having a gay relative is seen as a stain on the entire extended family. Brothers and sisters of a known gay man would find it hard to get married as the family would be seen as tainted.

Many gay Chechens are married, and lead double lives or suppress their feelings, so as not to cause grief to their families. The men with whom the Guardian spoke said they had never told a single family member or non-gay friend about their sexuality. Meetings and even conversations with other gay men were carried out using extreme conspiratorial methods.

"These people have lived in a completely closed society and have spent their whole lives exercising absolute discretion," said Kochetkov. "Many of them are physically unable even to say the word 'gay'." 

For years, Chechen authorities have blackmailed the republic's tiny, beleaguered gay community. Akhmed, whom the Guardian met in a different location to Adam, always knew he was gay, but forced himself to bury the feelings until a few years ago. His first date with a man ended in disaster, when the other man informed on him to the police. 

It turned out that Akhmed's date had himself been previously "caught", and was working to identify and out other gay men in return for the police not telling his family. The police now demanded money from Akhmed, or threatened to post compromising material about him online. Many gay men were blackmailed in this way over a period of several years, but the events of recent months have taken the persecution to a whole new level.

Akhmed was outside Chechnya when he was called by family members. They passed the phone to police, who had shown up at his family home. The police told him they would hold one of his family members hostage until he returned. 

Another relative spoke to him on the phone and rained insults on him. The police had told his family he was gay, and the relative ordered him to return immediately. "I have not the slightest doubt that my own relatives planned to kill me," he said. "It was an invitation to an execution."

Akhmed promised he would return the next day, but after mulling his options, turned his phone off and fled to Moscow. Later, he managed to escape from Russia and is now seeking asylum in a European country. At the time, he thought he had been singled out and cursed his bad luck, but he now realises this was the first wave of anti-gay round-ups and he was lucky not to have been at home. 

He does not expect to ever visit Chechnya again, and has not spoken to his family since, as he has been told by an acquaintance that authorities are monitoring the family's communications in case their son gets in touch. 

"Imagine knowing that you've ruined not only your own life but the life of your entire family," said Akhmed. "I've always just wanted to make my mother happy and proud. I was ready to marry. I would have taken all these problems with me to the grave. I could never have imagined in my worst nightmares that I would be sitting here in front of a journalist and saying: 'I'm a Chechen and I'm gay.'"

Human rights activists are attempting to get dozens of gay Chechens out of Russia, as they believe the men are not safe from potential reprisals from Chechen authorities or their own relatives even in Moscow or other Russian cities. However, European embassies will only grant asylum if a person has already arrived in the country, and will not give any kind of visa to those planning to seek asylum on arrival. The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, wrote on Twitteron Thursday that the situation in Chechnya was "outrageous". However, the Foreign Office referred a question about whether Britain would agree to give refuge to any of the men on the run to the Home Office.

Akhmed has personally heard other stories of torture and seen photographs of torture-inflicted wounds sent by other gay Chechen men who managed to escape, but the fate of the majority of men is simply unknown, due to the extreme code of silence, and the shame of the families. In most cases, he has no idea if people are in hiding, still being held captive, or dead. 

"Nobody knows how many people have been killed," said Akhmed. "It's just impossible to contact most people or to find anything out. But I would be amazed if it was only three." 

Chechens tell of prison beatings and electric shocks in anti-gay purge: 'They called us animals' Document

Islamic State terrorists (File photo)

Why Islamic States Can't & Don't Defeat Terror: Excuses Instead of Willpower Development

First responders treating the victim of the attack, April 14, 2017 (AP)

British Student Stabbed to Death in Jerusalem Terror Attack Document

April 13, 2017

Palestinian teachers at a government school in Gaza City (File photo)

The Palestinian Authority Education Ministry on Thursday announced it was suspending ties with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) over plans by the international agency to reform its curriculum.

The Palestinian ministry, in a statement published on its official website, called the possible revisions to the curriculum an "affront to the Palestinian people, its history and struggles," and said the suspension would continue until the UN agency's "positions are corrected."

UNRWA has over 312,000 students in its schools across the West Bank and East Jerusalem (together, 50,000) and the Gaza Strip (262,000).

The UN agency has not formally published any plans to alter its curriculum, but leaks to the Arab press of possible changes have led to outrage over recent weeks in Gaza and the West Bank.

The changes, according to Arab media reports, include revisions to maps of Palestine to exclude references to cities inside Israel as Palestinian cities, a practice that numerous studies of Palestinian textbooks have labeled as "incitement." Other changes were reportedly planned to tone down praise for Palestinian prisoners and improve Israel's image.

According to a March report by COGAT, the Israeli Defense Ministry agency responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank and Gaza, part of the reform to the UNRWA curriculum "is a balanced representation of Jerusalem as having religious significance to the three major monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism), and mentioning that Muslim believers have access to the holy sites."

"UNRWA additionally sought to amend textbooks in cases where the content showed gender bias, lacked objectivity, and incited violence against Israel," COGAT added.

The Israeli government, US State Department, and independent organizations have for many years accused the Palestinian education system, including UNRWA schools, of educating Palestinian children to hate Israel and support violence.

COGAT praised the proposed changes as an effort "to create a balanced, positive curriculum with universal values free from violence and incitement."

A representative of the Palestinian Authority Education Ministry refused to speak with The Times of Israel.

"Any distortion of the Palestinian curriculum is a flagrant violation of the laws of the host country, and any change to any letter to appease any party is a betrayal of the Palestinian narrative and the right of the Palestinian people under occupation to preserve its identity and struggle," the PA ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Chris Gunness, the spokesperson for UNRWA, wrote in a statement to The Times of Israel that the UN agency "has worked with the PA for years and has a long track record as a partner teaching children in a highly complex environment."

"UNRWA schools follow the curriculum of the host authority, a practice agreed in 1954 with the support of UNESCO and reaffirmed following the Oslo Accords. It is UNRWA policy to review and where appropriate enrich the official PA textbooks, curricula and other learning materials used in UNRWA schools to ensure compliance with UN values and principles," the statement added.

A report published earlier this month by the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se), said that the 2016-2017 elementary school curriculum in the PA "teaches students to be martyrs, demonizes and denies the existence of Israel, and focuses on a 'return' to an exclusively Palestinian homeland."

The Israeli government has long argued that incitement in Palestinian textbooks is a main contributor to terrorism against Israelis. The issue has taken on increasing significance of late, as members of the United States Congress have threatened to decrease aid to Palestinians if incitement is not curbed.

PA suspends ties with UNRWA over planned curriculum reform Article

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (File photo)

Israeli Defense Minister Knocks UN for Ignoring When Palestinians Kill Palestinians Article

April 12, 2017

The Russian representative voting at the UN Security Council

Russia has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have opened an investigation into the April 4, 2017 chemical gas attack that took place in Syria. The resolution had the backing of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Italy, Ukraine, Japan, Senegal, Sweden, Egypt, and Uruguay; voting against were Russia and Bolivia, and abstaining were China, Kazakhstan, and Ethiopia.

The resolution had been repeatedly watered down by the United States and its allies in the hopes of winning sufficient approval. Russian sources commented: "Unlike the earlier drafts of the resolution on the alleged incident, the final document did not lay the blame for it on Damascus. It also referred to the incident as the "reported use of chemical weapons" rather than stating that such use did take place as a fact."

Not enough groveling to win Moscow's approval, nonetheless.

Russia Vetoes Even Weaker Security Council Resolution on Syrian Gas Attack Article

A UN peacekeeper in Haiti (File photo)

In the ruins of a tropical hideaway where jetsetters once sipped rum under the Caribbean sun, the abandoned children tried to make a life for themselves. They begged and scavenged for food, but they never could scrape together enough to beat back the hunger, until the U.N. peacekeepers moved in a few blocks away.

The men who came from a far-away place and spoke a strange language offered the Haitian children cookies and other snacks. Sometimes they gave them a few dollars. But the price was high: The Sri Lankan peacekeepers wanted sex from girls and boys as young as 12.

"I did not even have breasts," said a girl, known as V01 - Victim No. 1. She told U.N. investigators that over the next three years, from ages 12 to 15, she had sex with nearly 50 peacekeepers, including a "Commandant" who gave her 75 cents. Sometimes she slept in U.N. trucks on the base next to the decaying resort, whose once-glamorous buildings were being overtaken by jungle.

Justice for victims like V01 is rare. An Associated Press investigation of U.N. missions during the past 12 years found nearly 2,000 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers and other personnel around the world - signaling the crisis is much larger than previously known. More than 300 of the allegations involved children, the AP found, but only a fraction of the alleged perpetrators served jail time.

Legally, the U.N. is in a bind. It has no jurisdiction over peacekeepers, leaving punishment to the countries that contribute the troops.

The AP interviewed alleged victims, current and former U.N. officials and investigators and sought answers from 23 countries on the number of peacekeepers who faced such allegations and, what if anything, was done to investigate. With rare exceptions, few nations responded to repeated requests, while the names of those found guilty are kept confidential, making accountability impossible to determine.

Without agreement for widespread reform and accountability from the U.N.'s member states, solutions remain elusive.

Here in Haiti, at least 134 Sri Lankan peacekeepers exploited nine children in a sex ring from 2004 to 2007, according to an internal U.N. report obtained by the AP. In the wake of the report, 114 peacekeepers were sent home. None was ever imprisoned.

In March, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced new measures to tackle sexual abuse and exploitation by U.N. peacekeepers and other personnel.

"Let us declare in one voice: We will not tolerate anyone committing or condoning sexual exploitation and abuse. We will not let anyone cover up these crimes with the U.N. flag," Guterres said.

But the proclamation had a depressingly familiar ring: More than a decade ago, the United Nations commissioned a report that promised to do much the same thing, yet most of the reforms never materialized.

For a full two years after those promises were made, the children in Haiti were passed around from soldier to soldier. And in the years since, peacekeepers have been accused of sexual abuse the world over.

In one particularly grim case in Haiti, a teenage boy said he was gang-raped in 2011 by Uruguayan peacekeepers who filmed the alleged assault on a cellphone. Dozens of Haitian women also say they were raped, and dozens more had what is euphemistically called "survival sex" in a country where most people live on less than $2.50 a day, the AP found.

Haitian lawyer Mario Joseph has been trying to get compensation for victims of a deadly cholera strain linked to Nepalese peacekeepers that killed an estimated 10,000 people. Now, he is also trying to get child support for about a dozen Haitian women left pregnant by peacekeepers.

"Imagine if the U.N. was going to the United States and raping children and bringing cholera," Joseph said in Port-au-Prince. "Human rights aren't just for rich white people."

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker agrees. The Tennessee Republican, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been calling for reforms in the United Nations. He may well get them under President Donald Trump, whose administration has proposed a 31 percent reduction to the U.S. foreign aid and diplomacy budget. Corker and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley want a review of all missions.

Corker recalled his disgust at hearing of the U.N. sexual abuse cases uncovered last year in Central African Republic.

"If I heard that a U.N. peacekeeping mission was coming near my home in Chattanooga," he told AP, "I'd be on the first plane out of here to go back and protect my family."

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The Habitation Leclerc resort was once well known throughout Port-au-Prince as a lush refuge amid the capital's grimy alleyways. During its heyday in the 1980s, celebrities like Mick Jagger and Jackie Onassis would perch by the pool or stroll past the property's Voodoo temple.

By 2004, the resort was a decrepit clutch of buildings, and several children, either orphaned or abandoned by their parents, were living in its ruins.

It was there that V01 met other victims, two girls referred to in the U.N. report as "V02" and "V03" and a young boy, "V08." The boy initially supported them by occasionally bringing food from his aunt, but they were often hungry.

The peacekeepers had arrived that year as part of a new mission to help stabilize Haiti in the wake of President Jean-Bertrande Aristide's ouster. The Sri Lankans, numbering about 900 troops, landed in a historically unstable country in the grip of scattered violence and kidnappings - and a broken government ill-suited to confront the chaos.

Some of the peacekeepers in the Sri Lankan contingent were based near the former resort.

In August 2007, the U.N. received complaints of "suspicious interactions" between Sri Lankan soldiers and Haitian children. U.N. investigators then interviewed nine victims, as well as witnesses, while the sex ring was still active.

V02, who was 16 when the U.N. team interviewed her, told them she had sex with a Sri Lankan commander at least three times, describing him as overweight with a moustache and a gold ring on his middle finger. She said he often showed her a picture of his wife.

The peacekeepers also taught her some Sinhalese so she could understand and express sexual innuendo; the children even talked to one another in Sinhalese when U.N. investigators were interviewing them.

V03 identified 11 Sri Lankan troops through photographs, one of whom she said was a corporal with a "distinctive" bullet scar between his armpit and waist. V04, who was 14, said she had sex with the soldiers every day in exchange for money, cookies or juice.

During her interview with investigators, another young victim, V07, received a phone call from a Sri Lankan peacekeeper. She explained that the soldiers would pass along her number to incoming contingent members, who would then call her for sex.

The boy, V08, said he had sex with more than 20 Sri Lankans. Most would remove their name tags before taking him to U.N. military trucks, where he gave them oral sex or was sodomized by them.

Another boy, V09, was 15 when his encounters began. Over the course of three years, he said he had sex with more than 100 Sri Lankan peacekeepers, averaging about four a day, investigators said.

Under Haitian law, having sex with someone under 18 is statutory rape. U.N. codes of conduct also prohibit exploitation.

"The sexual acts described by the nine victims are simply too many to be presented exhaustively in this report, especially since each claimed multiple sexual partners at various locations where the Sri Lankan contingents were deployed throughout Haiti over several years," the report said.

Investigators showed the children more than 1,000 photographs that included pictures of Sri Lankan troops and locations of where the children had sex with the soldiers.

"The evidence shows that from late 2004 to mid-October 2007, at least 134 military members of the current and previous Sri Lankan contingents sexually exploited and abused at least nine Haitian children," the report said.

After the report was filed, 114 Sri Lanka peacekeepers were sent home, putting an end to the sex ring.

But the sexual exploitation visited upon Haiti's people didn't stop there.

-

Janila Jean said she was a 16-year-old virgin when a Brazilian peacekeeper lured her to a U.N. compound three years ago with a smear of peanut butter on bread, raped her at gunpoint and left her pregnant. She finds herself constantly in tears.

"Some days, I imagine strangling my daughter to death," she said in an interview under the shadow of banana palms near the former Jacmel base.

With her were three other women who said they also were raped by peacekeepers. One of them sat on her heels, scraping coconut from its shell and into a large cauldron of water and corn, the barest of meals for the women and their small children.

Adm. Ademir Sobrinho of Brazil's armed forces said at a conference in London that his force had no such cases of rape, sexual abuse or sexual exploitation.

But like many, Jean didn't report the rape. Nearly a dozen women interviewed by the AP said they were too scared to report the crimes out of fear they would be blamed - or worse, would meet their victimizers again.

The AP found that some 150 allegations of abuse and exploitation by U.N. peacekeepers and other personnel were reported in Haiti alone between 2004 and 2016, out of the worldwide total of nearly 2,000. Aside from the Sri Lankan sex ring in Haiti, some perpetrators were jailed for other cases.

Alleged abusers came from Bangladesh, Brazil, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Uruguay and Sri Lanka, according to U.N. data and interviews. More countries may have been involved, but the United Nations only started disclosing alleged perpetrators' nationalities after 2015.

The litany of abuses is long.

In July 2011, four Uruguayan peacekeepers and their commanding officer allegedly gang-raped a Haitian teenager. The men also filmed the alleged attack on their phones, which went viral on the internet. The men never faced trial in Haiti; four of the five were convicted in Uruguay of "private violence," a lesser charge. Uruguayan officials said at the time that it was a prank gone wrong and that no rape occurred.

The following year, three Pakistanis attached to the U.N.'s police units in Haiti were allegedly involved in the rape of a mentally disabled 13-year-old in the northern city of Gonaives.

U.N. officials went to Haiti to investigate, but the Pakistanis abducted the boy to keep him from detailing the abuse that had gone on for more than a year, according to Peter Gallo, a former U.N. investigator familiar with the case.

Finally, the men were tried in a Pakistani military tribunal, and eventually sent back to Pakistan. In theory, the tribunal could have allowed for better access to witnesses, but it's unclear whether any were called. The Pakistani authorities also refused to allow the U.N. to observe the proceedings. In the end, one man was sent to prison for a year, according to Ariane Quentier, a spokeswoman for the Haiti mission.

"It's an indictment of how the whole U.N. system works," Gallo told the AP.

Pakistan's military has refused several requests for comment on the case.

U.N. data during the 12-year period reviewed by AP is incomplete and varies in levels of detail, particularly for cases before 2010. Hundreds of other cases were closed with little to no explanation. In its review, the AP analyzed data from annual reports as well as information from the Office of Internal Oversight Services.

In the wake of the child sex ring investigation, a team of Sri Lankans spent two weeks in Haiti in October 2007. They interviewed only 25 soldiers out of more than 900 in the country and concluded that just two Sri Lankan corporals and one private had sex with two "young" victims. Three soldiers denied sexual encounters but were suspected of lying, according to the U.N. investigation report.

For six months, the Sri Lankan army and the government declined to respond to AP's questions about the 2007 case. Instead, officials first dodged repeated queries, then gave vague assurances that the scandal represented an isolated incident. Last month, the Sri Lankan government acknowledged its military had conducted inquiries into just 18 soldiers it said were implicated, and that "the U.N. Secretariat has acknowledged in writing, action taken by the Government, and informed that the Secretariat, as of 29 September 2014, considers the matter closed."

Some of the peacekeepers involved in the ring were still in the Sri Lankan military as of last year, Sri Lankan military officials say. The United Nations, meanwhile, continued to send Sri Lankan peacekeepers to Haiti and elsewhere despite corroborating the child sex ring.

Sri Lankan Defense Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi defended the troops, saying, "People are quite happy and comfortable with the peacekeepers."

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Above a rusty bench at an abandoned bus stop in the village of Leogane hangs a sign that reads, "Constructed by the 16th Sri Lanka Peacekeeping Battalion." It's one of the few physical reminders of the battalion's mission - along with children fathered by U.N. personnel.

Marie-Ange Haitis says she met a Sri Lankan commander in December 2006 and he soon began making night-time visits to her house in Leogane.

"By January, we had had sex," she said. "It wasn't rape, but it wasn't exactly consensual, either. I felt like I didn't have a choice."

She said when she first realized that she was pregnant, the Haitian translator assigned to the Sri Lankans told her to have an abortion. Then, she said, U.N. officials accused her of lying. As she spoke, her daughter Samantha sat on her lap wearing an oversized pair of sunglasses with a missing lens.

When she was interviewed in August, Haitis said she had been waiting nearly a decade for the U.N. to consider her paternity claim to help support her daughter.

Finally, early this year, Sri Lankan and U.N. officials told AP that a onetime payment of $45,243 had been made for Haitis' daughter. The United Nations said Sri Lanka accepted the paternity claim without proof of DNA and the commander was dismissed from service.

But such payments are rare.

U.N. officials said they were unable to find any members of the mission in Haiti who might have dealt with the victims in the sex-ring case and did not know what happened to the children. An Italian non-governmental organization, AVSI, said it helped the children by trying to find homes for them, providing them with counseling and helping reintegrate them into schools, but it also lost track of the children shortly after the country's devastating 2010 earthquake.

Atul Khare, the U.N.'s head of field support which oversees the conduct and discipline of peacekeepers, acknowledged the scope of the problem and said the global agency must do more to help victims, including gathering accurate information and following up with troop-contributing countries.

An AP review of reports into conduct on U.N. field missions showed haphazard record-keeping. In a 2008 report, for example, 19 allegations were reported in Haiti, but the U.N. recorded only two incidents worldwide involving minors - a seeming contradiction to the U.N.'s own investigation report in late 2007 that detailed the child sex ring with at least nine child victims.

Some Haitians wonder whether the U.N. has done more harm than good in a country that has endured tragedy after tragedy since it became the first black republic in 1804.

U.N. personnel say they have contributed to the stability in the Caribbean nation over the years, saved lives during the 2010 earthquake's aftermath and prevented violence during periods of unrest. The mission, which currently has nearly 5,000 personnel and is expected to scale down by October, has also been credited with training police, providing security during elections and support to the judiciary.

"I would not say we have achieved everything we set out to do, but we are engaged in a process of continuous improvement that any harmful effect on the local populations could be minimized, if not completely eradicated," Khare said.

Many here are not convinced.

"I'd like to see my attacker face to face and tell him how he has destroyed my life," said 21-year-old Melida Joseph, who said she was raped by one peacekeeper and narrowly escaped being gang-raped in Cite-Soleil, a seaside slum. Like others, she never reported the crime.

"They'll look at this as one big joke," she said. "As far as the U.N. goes, they came here to protect us, but all they've brought is destruction."

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Dodds reported from several locations in Haiti and London and Geneva. Others who contributed to the report were Katy Daigle in Colombo, Sri Lanka; Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal; Kathy Gannon in Islamabad, Pakistan; Saleh Mwanamilongo in Kinshasa, Congo; Francis Kokutse in Accra, Ghana; Brahima Ouedraogo in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; and Sylivester Domasa in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

UN Child Sex Ring Left Victims but No Arrests Article

Members of the Security Council vote on a resolution (File photo)

"Tomorrow (12 April), Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura is expected to provide the Security Council with the monthly briefing on the political situation in Syria. This briefing takes place after a week of intense diplomatic activity on Syria among Council members, largely focused on the 4 April chemical weapons attack in the Khan Shaykhun area of Idlib, which claimed the lives of at least 72 civilians and was followed by retaliatory airstrikes by the US on 6 April on the Shayrat airbase outside of Homs. Yesterday evening the UK circulated a draft resolution on behalf of the P3 condemning the chemical weapons attack and obligating Syria to comply with relevant recommendations of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon's (OPCW) Fact Finding Mission (FFM) and the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM). This is the fourth draft on this issue that has been circulated among Council members in the past week, preceded by an earlier P3 draft, a Russian draft, and an E10 draft.

At press time, it appears that this draft resolution could be tabled for a vote tomorrow afternoon. However, it does not appear that the draft is acceptable to a number of members, including Russia.

Draft Texts on the Chemical Attack

Last week, the Council held two unexpected meetings on Syria. The first, on 5 April, was a public meeting in reaction to the reports of the chemical weapons attack on 4 April, and was followed by scheduled consultations on the monthly report on progress in the elimination of Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons. Following the US airstrikes on Thursday (6 April), Bolivia requested a briefing, which the US presidency held as a public briefing on Friday (7 April). During the meeting on Friday, France, Italy, Japan, Ukraine and the UK expressed support for the US action, while Bolivia and Russia condemned it. The US said that its action was justified and that it was "prepared to do more", although it hoped this would not be necessary. Russia broadly criticised US policy in the Middle East. Following the US airstrikes, Russia announced the suspension of its memorandum with the US on the "Prevention of Flight Safety Incidents in the course of operations in Syria", raising concerns about the increased risk of accidental military encounters in Syria between their forces.

In the days before the 7 April briefing, the P3, Russia and the E10 produced draft resolutions responding to the 4 April chemical weapons attack in Khan Shaykhun. A P3 draft that was informally shared with Council members on 4 April condemned the chemical attack, expressed full support for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon's (OPCW) Fact Finding Mission (FFM), reminded the Syrian government and all parties in Syria of their obligation to cooperate with the OPCW and the UN, including the JIM, and emphasised that this included providing information relevant to the attacks, including air operations and names of helicopter squadron leaders.

Meanwhile, calling the P3 draft "unacceptable," Russia produced its own draft, which did not condemn the attack or specifically ask the Syrian government to provide such information. The draft did, however, express deep concern regarding the alleged "incident with chemical weapons" and called for a full-scale investigation as soon as possible, as well as free access. It also requested the OPCW to share with the Council the composition of the team investigating the incident.

The ten elected members met on Thursday morning (6 April) at ambassador-level to discuss their frustration at not being included in the negotiating process and to share reactions to the P3 and Russian drafts. They met again in the afternoon, after the P3 and Russia had asked that their draft resolutions be put in blue. At that meeting, they discussed an alternative text, which would substitute language in the P3 draft on the Syrian government's obligation to provide information on its activities and access to its airbases-a contentious issue in the P5 negotiations -with agreed language from resolution 2118 of 27 September 2013, which required the verification and destruction of Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles and cooperation with the OPCW and the UN.

Council members met in consultations late on 6 April (Thursday), but neither of the resolutions that were in blue was tabled for a vote. It does not appear that either would have been adopted, given the divisions in the Council, especially among the permanent members. While it is unclear what impact the E10 draft had on a possible vote, it seems that it may have made it more difficult for the P3 and Russia to proceed with a vote on draft resolutions that would have almost certainly not been adopted, either due to vetoes or not having nine votes, when there was an alternative text on the table that might have been acceptable to the majority of members. Shortly after the evening consultations ended, the US began its airstrikes on the Shayrat airbase. The US subsequently expressed its unhappiness at the E10 initiative, stating at the 7 April briefing that "compromising with Russia for a watered down resolution would have only strengthened [Bashar Al-] Assad."

The P3 draft circulated last night retains and expands on the substance of the earlier P3 draft. It also incorporates the agreed language from resolution 2118, proposed in the E10 draft, that obliged Syria to, among other things, provide "immediate and unfettered access and the right to inspect...any and all sites....". At the same time, it retains the previous P3 draft's emphasis on Syria's obligation to provide the JIM and the FFM with information on air operations (such as flight plans and flight logs), names of all individuals in command of any helicopter squadrons, and access to air bases from which the JIM or the FFM believe chemical weapons attacks may have been launched, as well as to respond to meeting requests with generals and other officers. Like last week's P3 draft, the current draft further requests the Secretary-General to report every 30 days on whether this information has been provided, and it recalls language in resolution 2118 threatening to impose measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter in the event of non-compliance.

An additional preambular paragraph has been incorporated that recalls that the 6 July 2016 report of the OPCW Director General states that the OPCW Technical Secretariat was unable to resolve gaps, inconsistencies and discrepancies in Syria's declaration of its chemical weapons stockpiles. The draft does not include any mention of the US airstrike on the Shayrat airbase. Russia's immediate reaction to the P3's latest draft resolution was that it did not address fundamental concerns, questioning the point of having such a resolution.

This morning, eight of the elected members were asked to meet with the P3 at the US mission. At press time, it seemed that there would be no actual negotiations of all 15 members on the draft, although it seems that minor changes may be made to the draft circulated yesterday evening. It appears unlikely that this slightly revised text would be acceptable to some Council members, including Russia..."

Fourth Security Council Draft Resolution on Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack Article

April 11, 2017

UNRWA building in the Gaza Strip (File photo)

"UNRWA is now running a campaign in which it shows itself demanding specific changes in the textbooks used in UNRWA schools, as circulated by some pro-Israel organizations, even though UNRWA cannot make any changes in their school books...

UNRWA has contracted its schools in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and Gaza to require these schools to only use the school books given to the schools by the Palestinian Authority, which means that UNRWA cannot unilaterally mandate or direct any changes in UNRWA school books used for 492,000 school children in its schools in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and Gaza...

At no time does UNRWA say that they will remove members of terror groups from payroll of UNRWA in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and Gaza..."

UNRWA does not have any intention of changing their school textbooks Article

April 10, 2017

The remains of a rocket fired from Sinai that struck an Israeli greenhouse in the village of Yuval in the Eshkol region

The Islamic State affiliate in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula took responsibility for firing a rocket into southern Israel earlier on Monday.

On its official Twitter account, the terror group said "the fighters of the Islamic State have bombed a Jewish settlement in southern Palestine with a Grad rocket."

Just after 11:30 a.m. on Monday morning, the incoming missile alarm known as a "Code Red" sounded in the Negev's Eshkol region, near Israel's westernmost edge, at the border with Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

After a search of the area, police found the rocket in the community of Yuval, near the Egyptian border, in a greenhouse where tomatoes were being grown. The greenhouse was lightly damaged by the rocket.

A 50-year-old man who was nearby when it struck suffered an anxiety attack as a result of the attack, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.

The attack came hours after Israel shut down the Taba Crossing into the Sinai Peninsula, citing information about an imminent terror attack in the area.

On Monday morning, in a highly unusual move, the Transportation Ministry shut down the Taba Crossing into the Sinai Peninsula. It is expected to reopen next Tuesday, April 18, with the end of the Passover holiday, but that decision will only be made following a security assessment, the ministry said in a statement.

Israelis currently in the Sinai Peninsula will still be able to return from Egypt and are, in fact, encouraged to do so immediately, the ministry said.

Thousands of Israelis had been expected to cross into the Sinai Peninsula for the Passover holiday.

The decision to forbid that move came a day after two lethal attacks on Egyptian churches by the terrorist group's so-called Sinai Province.

The closure was ordered by Transportation and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz, after consultation with Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and other security officials, according to the ministry's statement.

This was one of the few times the Taba Crossing was shut down since its opening in 1982, following the Israeli-Egyptian peace deal. The crossing was shut down in 2014, following a terror attack on the Egyptian side of the border. It was also closed in 2011 when Israel also assessed there was a high risk of terror attacks.

On Sunday, the Counter-Terrorism Bureau released a statement encouraging all Israelis to forgo travel to the restive Sinai Peninsula, where the Islamic State has been waging a bloody war with Egyptian security forces and carrying out attacks against civilians.

Two church bombings, one in the city of Tanta and the other in Alexandria, killed at least 43 people earlier on Sunday, with the Islamic State group claiming responsibility.

"The fatal terrorist attacks which took place today reflect once again the terror capability of the Islamic State," the anti-terror bureau said in a statement on Sunday. "In light of the gravity of the threat, the anti-terror bureau advises Israelis currently in the Sinai to leave immediately and return to Israel."

In February, the Islamic State-affiliate, known as the Sinai Province, launched four Grad rockets at the southern city of Eilat. Three were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense battery, while the fourth struck an open field outside the city.

Islamic State in Sinai claims Passover-eve rocket attack on Israel Document

Boko Haram militants in Nigeria (File photo)

An official says two female suicide bombers exploded near the fence surrounding the University of Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria.

Ibrahim Abdulkadir, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency, said there were no casualties other than the attackers in the pre-dawn hours of Monday.

The suicide bombers reportedly were not permitted entry by security personnel deployed around the university.

The attack is the second this year on the university after an incident on January 16 that involved three female bombers. A renowned professor was among the victims of that attack.

Maiduguri, in the state of Borno, is the birthplace of a deadly insurgency by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram.

2 female suicide bombers explode near Nigerian university Document

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley (File photo)

With Nikki Haley, Israel Hopes to See Less UN Bias Article