Resources updated between Monday, June 08, 2015 and Sunday, June 14, 2015
June 12, 2015
"Back in 2004, confirmation of UNRWA's [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] relationship with Hamas came from the very highest level when the U.N. organization's long-time Commissioner-General, Peter Hansen, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, "I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don't see that as a crime." Hansen left his post soon after.
According to its critics, UNRWA allows the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to dictate what will be taught in UNRWA schools, including incitement against the State of Israel, the aspiration to martyrdom, and the demonization of Jews. Hamas is alleged to control the UNRWA teaching staff union and through those teachers, feed young and impressionable minds a diet of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic indoctrination. UNRWA vehemently denies this charge...
But in a damning two-part critique of UNRWA published last August and September, Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan Halevi, an expert on radical Islam, reported that in every school, including those run by UNRWA, there is a Hamas appointed representative who, 'serves as a liaison for the group and is responsible for enlisting the students to the 'Islamic Bloc' and for organizing activities in the school and after school hours.'
The Islamic Bloc, according to Halevi, is 'the official wing of Hamas...' Islamic Bloc activities 'are an important means for Hamas to carry out indoctrination of the younger generation, both in state-run schools and in UNRWA schools in the Gaza Strip, paving the way for the recruitment of the students to the ranks of Hamas and eventually to the Al-Qassam Brigades,' Halevi reports...
[A]fter 65 years, UNRWA should undergo a thorough review of its finances and its relationships – whether they be by choice or necessity – with designated terrorist organizations such as Hamas. Finally, its perceived lack of impartiality vis-a-vis the ongoing tensions between Israel and Gaza that have led to three bloody and violent military encounters in the last six years must be addressed."
A Saudi-led airstrike this week hit a public bus on a highway in southern Yemen linking the city of Aden with the north, killing at least 20 passengers, witnesses and officials said Thursday.
Another set of airstrikes hit a family traveling in a private car, a farmer driving a pick-up truck loaded with potatoes, also near Aden this week, as well as a group of anti-rebel fighters in a southwestern city.
The casualties underscore the losses and dangers faced by Yemeni civilians increasingly caught in the crossfire as the Saudi-led coalition targets the country's Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, in a bid to stop their advances.
The Saudi-led campaign and ground fighting in Yemen have killed 1,037 civilians, including 234 children, between mid-March and May and displaced more than a million people, according to U.N. estimates.
In a joint statement Thursday, 13 international aid groups appealed for a permanent ceasefire, saying 80 percent of Yemen's population has been affected by violence and is in need for assistance.
"Millions are at risk of dying from the conflict, preventable diseases, and hunger," said Hanibal Abiy Worku, Norwegian Refugee Council's director in Yemen.
In May, a five-day pause was violated repeatedly, and aid groups said it was hardly sufficient to reach millions in the Arab world's poorest country. U.N.-mediated peace talks aimed at ending the conflict are due to take place on June 14 in Geneva.
The Geneva-based Medicins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement Thursday that at least 100 people were wounded in a single day of violence, on Wednesday, in Aden, overwhelming hospitals already suffering shortage of medical supplies.
This week's civilian casualties from airstrikes were confirmed by a senior military official running an operations room in Aden allied with the Saudi-led coalition. He told The Associated Press over the phone that he had complained to the Saudis about the incidents. The Iranian-backed Houthis seized the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, last year and much of northern region. The U.S.-backed coalition launched its airstrikes campaign on March 26.
The Houthis have been joined by soldiers loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh in battles pitting them against tribesmen and fighters in southern provinces.
The bus was struck Tuesday on the highway between Aden and the city of Taiz. The bodies of the passengers lay strewn by the roadside in the area of al-Rabat for a whole day, before they were retrieved and brought to Aden, said a resident in the city, Walid Salami. There were children and women among them, he said.
"People were afraid to come to the rescue of those injured because of the airstrikes," added Salami, who had seen the remains of the victims as he drove by the bus on Wednesday. He said bodies of some of the children were still in their seats.
The highway is used by Houthis to send reinforcements to Aden, witnesses said, adding that there were at least 10 vehicles carrying fighters that were also hit in the airstrikes, not far from the bus that was struck. The number of Houthi casualties remained unknown and the witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals.
In Sheikh Osman, another war-torn area on the outskirts of Aden, at least five other vehicles carrying Houthi fighters were set ablaze when missiles hit them Monday, officials said. Two people in the private car and the farmer also were hit and killed by airstrikes Monday in a nearby area, officials and witnesses said.
A nearly empty residential building in a northern district of Aden was hit by missiles Wednesday, killing two civilians, the officials said.
According to MSF, more than 100 people were wounded - including a group attending a funeral - after they came under heavy shelling in Aden's residential area of al-Bassateen on Wednesday. Shells also landed close to the MSF hospital on Thursday, the group said.
"Hospitals in Aden are full - some are placing mattresses in front of their front gates to accommodate patients," said Thierry Goffeau, the group's director in Aden.
In the southwestern city of Dhale - which anti-rebel forces recently captured from the Houthis - at least 20 of the anti-Houthi fighters were accidentally killed as Saudi-led coalition warplanes targeted the rebels there Tuesday, several fighters said.
The officials and anti-Houthi fighters spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
June 11, 2015
"A delegation from the prosecutor's office of the International Criminal Court at The Hague is due to arrive in Israel on June 27 as part of the prosecution's preliminary examination into whether war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in the occupied Palestinian territories, according to senior Palestinian sources...
The purpose of the preliminary examination is to determine if there is a reasonable basis to the claim that crimes have been committed that are within the court's authority to investigate. If the prosecution does decide to launch an investigation, it is possible they will not just investigate allegations of Israeli war crimes, but also actions committed by the Palestinians.
An independent attorney who is advising the Palestinian committee told Haaretz the delegation's visit is a good sign that indicates the court is taking the issue seriously...
A PLO source said that the prosecution at The Hague was working more quickly than the Palestinians had expected..."
"Iran's envoy to the U.N. nuclear agency declined on Thursday to commit to nuclear transparency measures that were part of a preliminary deal Tehran and world powers reached in April, deflecting U.S. demands to implement such provisions.
The United States urged Iran to implement the so-called Additional Protocol, which allows more intrusive access to Iranian sites, and Code 3.1, which requires from Iran early notification of the construction of any new nuclear facilities...
Laura Kennedy, U.S. envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, told a session of the IAEA's 35-nation governing board that it 'remains critical for Iran to implement the provisions of Modified Code 3.1 ... without delay'...
Kennedy further said Iran had still not resolved longstanding IAEA questions about the "possible military dimensions" (PMD), mainly before 2003, of its nuclear programme..."
"[T]he IDF's international law department [is] essentially the best little niche law firm you've never heard of. These distinguished attorneys carry assault rifles, get shot at frequently, and sit at the cutting edge of the law of armed conflict. The unit goes by 'Dabla,' the acronym for the Hebrew name of the international law department; Dabla, in turn, sits inside Israel's equivalent of the U.S. Army's Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps...
But to understand Dabla is to understand the insanity of the avalanche of criticism raining down on Israel for the way its military fights...
Here are just some of the steps and warnings designed to prevent civilian casualties that might take place before missiles start flying: The IDF may, variously, gather detailed intelligence on who lives in the building; call or text those who reside in a particular building with a warning that a strike is coming; drop Arabic-language leaflets over the area warning residents; fly a drone with sophisticated surveillance cameras overhead, as an extra set of eyes to make sure the civilians have vacated; drop a small charge on the roof which shakes the building, as a final warning signal that a strike is coming; and employ a highly precise and carefully chosen weapon system which, IDF lawyers and commanders hope, would destroy only the weapons cache but not surrounding rooms.
Talk about signaling your intentions to the enemy. How can any military win a war when it decides to fight this way? No matter. That is how Israel chooses to fight...
But here's the kicker: Although most strikes were carried out without harm to innocent bystanders, IDF field commanders nixed other approved strikes in Gaza, despite these multiple layers of precautions to prevent civilian casualties. Why? 'There is no symmetry in international law,' says Lt. Col. Robert Noyfield, the Dabla attorney in charge of targeting. 'We do it out of moral obligation; we do it for ourselves. We are a democratic country that abides by the rule of law. By doing so, of course, we also hope to avoid criticism from the international community. How can we be faulted when abiding by the law?'
But faulted they are, despite going far beyond what international law requires, in ways that are surprising and maybe a bit meshugge. This scribe has spent time downrange in Iraq and Afghanistan with U.S. troops, who are known to chafe under rules of engagement propounded in part by our own Pentagon lawyers. But after two weeks embedded with the Dabla attorneys and meeting with front-line commanders, including drone pilots, tank drivers, paratroopers, and infantry soldiers, it's hard not to be a tad taken aback by the IDF's legal zeal...
For better or worse, combat commanders and Dabla attorneys will bend over backwards to prevent civilian casualties. The concept is simply deeply embedded into the IDF culture."
"Members of a U.N. peacekeeping mission engaged in 'transactional sex' with more than 225 Haitian women who said they needed to do so to obtain things like food and medication, a sign that sexual exploitation remains significantly underreported in such missions, according to a new report obtained by The Associated Press...
Among its findings: About a third of alleged sexual abuse involves minors under 18. Assistance to victims is 'severely deficient.'...
A year ago, the report says, investigators interviewed 231 people in Haiti who said they'd had transactional sexual relationships with U.N. peacekeepers. 'For rural women, hunger, lack of shelter, baby care items, medication and household items were frequently cited as the `triggering need,' the report says. Urban and suburban women received 'church shoes,' cell phones, laptops and perfume, as well as money...
Each of those instances of transactional sex, the report says, would be considered prohibited conduct, 'thus demonstrating significant underreporting.'..."
Hundreds of thousands of people risk starvation in South Sudan where a resurgence in fighting and deepening food shortages have left some with nothing to eat except water lilies, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Wednesday.
Violence had intensified in the world's youngest country in the past few weeks and troubled peace talks are unlikely to restart soon, the aid agency added, appealing for donations.
More than 100,000 people have fled the recent clashes between rebels and government forces, the Red Cross said, joining 2 million displaced since the conflict began in December 2013. "Urgent action needs to be taken to save hundreds of thousands of people in South Sudan from starvation," the ICRC said in a statement.
They are among an estimated 4.6 million South Sudanese facing severe food insecurity, up from 2.5 million at the start of the year, amid rising prices, dwindling stocks and a "disastrous" economy, it added.
"Many people in Leer county (in Unity State) have eaten water lilies in the last weeks - their only meal, the only food available," Franz Rauchenstein, head of the ICRC delegation in South Sudan, told a Geneva news briefing.
"Malnutrition rates may further rise in areas that have already reported critical or serious malnutrition levels such as counties in Jonglei, northern Bahr al Ghazal and greater Upper Nile," he said, speaking by video link from the capital Juba.
The ICRC aims to deliver food rations to 330,000 people this year in South Sudan, which declared independence from Sudan in 2011. It is its second largest operation worldwide after Syria, with a revised budget of 153 million Swiss francs ($164.92 million).
"I wouldn't talk about famine for the time-being, that is not yet the case. But we could well go into a situation where the situation becomes more dire especially in the next three to four months," said Rauchenstein, a nutritionist.
Fighting has intensified, especially in the north of Jonglei state, Unity and Upper Nile, for several reasons, Rauchenstein added.
"The most important one probably is that the peace process has not yielded any substantive results. Also there has been the dry season, towards the end of the dry season the roads have dried up so more important military operations are possible.
"In the absence of a political solution it is clear that the possibility to look for a military victory is again gaining momentum, and I think that is exactly the period we are facing."
June 10, 2015
Syria's brutal conflict has left more than 230,000 people dead including almost 11,500 children since it broke out in 2011, a monitoring group said Tuesday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had documented the deaths of 230,618 people.
The toll includes 69,494 civilians, among them 11,493 children and 7,371 women. Combatants account for a majority of those killed, with 49,106 regime forces and 36,464 government loyalists among the dead.
The loyalist fighters killed were mostly members of local militias, but also included 838 from Lebanon's powerful Shiite movement Hezbollah and 3,093 Shiite fighters from other countries.
The Observatory documented the deaths of 41,116 rebels, Syrian jihadists and Kurdish fighters.
Anti-regime foreign fighter deaths numbered 31,247, most of them jihadists.
Abdel Rahman said another 3,191 of those documented killed in the conflict remained unidentified.
The Britain-based Observatory relies on a broad network of activists, fighters, and medics across the war-ravaged country.
May was the bloodiest month of 2015 in Syria, with 6,657 killed -- the majority of them regime forces and jihadist fighters locked in fierce clashes on several fronts.
The Observatory's toll does not include some 20,000 people who have disappeared after being arrested, 9,000 people in government detention, and at least 4,000 people held by the Islamic State jihadist group.
The monitoring group said thousands of people had disappeared or were unaccounted for after clashes.
As a result, the Observatory estimates that the conflict's actual death toll is likely tens of thousands higher than its figure.
"United Nations monitors said governments reported no new incidents of Iran violating Security Council sanctions against its nuclear program, even though some have unfolded in plain sight.
'The current situation with reporting could reflect a general reduction of procurement activities by the Iranian side or a political decision by some member states to refrain from reporting to avoid a possible negative impact on ongoing negotiations' between Iran and six world powers, said a panel of experts for the UN committee on Iran sanctions in its latest report, dated June 1 and made public Tuesday...
No country reported that General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the elite Quds force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, violated a UN-mandated travel ban despite 'a number of media reports with photographs and videos' showing him in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, 'reportedly organizing and training militia and regular forces in those countries.' The report included examples of such photos.
The report provides fresh ammunition for critics, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of both parties in the U.S. Congress who say that President Barack Obama and America's allies are too eager for a deal with Iran. The Islamic Republic, they say, is likely to cheat on any nuclear accord reached in negotiations that face a self-imposed June 30 deadline..."
June 9, 2015
Islamic State's Libya branch has carried out another kidnapping, targeting a large group of Eritrean Christians who were traveling to Libya in hope of boarding a migrant boat to Europe.
The news was confirmed by a US defence official. Local media reports claim the migrants were kidnapped by militants south of the city of Tripoli, last Wednesday.
Three Eritrean migrants reportedly managed to escape from the kidnappers after the militants asked who in the group were Muslims and tested their knowledge of the Koran.
According to Meron Estafanos, the co-founder of the Stockholm-based International Commission on Eritrean Refugees, there were 12 Eritrean Muslims and some Egyptians in the group of 88 migrants.
Estafanos said the Muslims in the group were in a seperate truck from the Christians. 12 Eritrean Christian women were also separated from the main group.
The news comes after ISIS released a film in February showing the beheading of 21 captured Egyptian Christians on a similar beach, which immediately drew Egyptian airstrikes on the group's suspected positions in Libya.
ISIS then released a video in April, showing 30 Christians from Ethiopia being beheaded and shot on a beach and a forestry area in Libya.
A 22-year-old man who spent three years in a New York jail -- despite never being charged with a crime -- killed himself Saturday.
Kalief Browder was 16 when he was arrested in 2010 for allegedly stealing a backpack in New York City.The teen's family was unable to raise the $10,000 bond to release him from Rikers Island, and he spent three years awaiting trial at the prison, where according to some media reports he was beaten by officers and other inmates and held in solitary confinement for 400 days.
Browder, whose case was profiled in 2014 in The New Yorker, always maintained his innocence. He would not accept a plea deal and said he wanted to go to trial to prove his innocence.
According to the magazine, Browder attempted suicide more than once during his confinement. Though Browder's case was eventually dismissed in 2013, the teen said he was scarred from the ordeal.
"People tell me because I have this case against the city I'm all right," he told the magazine. "But I'm not all right. I'm messed up. I know that I might see some money from this case, but that's not going to help me mentally. I'm mentally scarred right now. That's how I feel. Because there are certain things that changed about me and they might not go back."
Browder tried to kill himself again, six months after his release from prison, and was reportedly prescribed psychiatric medication after becoming increasingly depressed and paranoid.
Browder's case received widespread publicity in April when The New Yorker released leaked security footage from inside Rikers Island, showing Browder being beaten by a guard and, in a separate incident, up to 10 gang members. Browder received support from support from rapper Jay Z and talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell and his case prompted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to ban solitary confinement for 16-and 17-year-old inmates.
On the night before he hanged himself at his family's home Saturday, Browder told his mother, "Ma, I can't take it anymore," the New York Daily News reported.
In an interview Sunday with the Los Angeles Times, Browder's lawyer, Paul V. Prestia, said the teen's harrowing ordeal in jail for three years with no trial led to his suicide.
"I think what caused the suicide was his incarceration and those hundreds and hundreds of nights in solitary confinement, where there were mice crawling up his sheets in that little cell," Prestia said told the newspaper. "Being starved, and not being taken to the shower for two weeks at a time ... those were direct contributing factors. ... That was the pain and sadness that he had to deal with every day, and I think it was too much for him."
Jennifer Gonnerman, who profiled Browder's case for The New Yorker, reported he hanged himself with an air conditioning cord at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at his family's Bronx home.
Browder had a lawsuit pending against New York City at the time of his death.
At least 49 civilians, including six children, have been killed in air strikes by government forces in north-western Syria, activists say.
The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that missiles had hit a public square in the rebel-held village of al-Janudiya.
Many people had gathered there to go shopping, the group added.
Al-Janudiya is situated in the west of Idlib province, which is now almost completely controlled by rebel forces.
An alliance including al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, the al-Nusra Front, seized control of the provincial capital at the end of March, and the major town of Jisr al-Shughour, near al-Janudiya, a month later.
The rebels are now advancing on the Mediterranean coastal province of Latakia, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad and his Alawite sect.
The Syrian Observatory and the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), an opposition activist network, both said government aircraft had attacked al-Janudiya on Monday.
The LCC put the death toll at 60 and warned that it was likely to rise because some of the dozens of wounded people were in a critical condition.
Syrian government officials have so far not commented on the reports.
The LCC also reported that several people had been killed on Monday in a government air strike in the town of Taftanaz, in eastern Idlib, and that four others had died when government helicopters dropped barrel bombs in the town of Tal Rifaat, in neighbouring Aleppo province.
The UN says more than 220,000 people have been killed since the uprising against Mr Assad began four years ago. Almost 12 million others have been displaced.
June 8, 2015
"United Nations Secretary General Bank Ki-Moon has decided not to include Israel or the Israel Defense Forces on its "blacklist" of states and/or organizations that systematically and continuously harm children during time of conflict.
The secretary general's decision to leave the Israeli military off of the list was made against the recommendation of his special envoy on the matter, Leila Zerrougui of Algeria, following intense pressure from both Israel and the United States.
UN agencies in Israel and the Palestinian territories reported an alarming number of child victims in last year's war in the Gaza Strip but were split on whether Israel should be put on a list of violators of children's rights, a UN document said. The final decision on the report was left up to Ban.
Nevertheless, in the report ... Ban leveled harsh criticism over Israeli policy...
'I urge Israel to take concrete and immediate steps, including by reviewing existing policies and practices, to protect children, to prevent the killing and maiming of children, and to respect the special protections afforded to schools and hospitals,' Ban said..."
At the same time as the Obama administration is barreling ahead with an Iran deal, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is clearly telling the world that Iran is not fully cooperating with the Agency. Yukiya Amano told the board of governors meeting in Vienna on June 8, 2015 that the IAEA cannot determine whether Iran's nuclear program is completely peaceful. Amano called on Iran to stop concealing information and blocking inspections. In his words:
"Concerning safeguards implementation in Iran, the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of nuclear material declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement. However, the Agency is not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities....
The Agency remains ready to accelerate the resolution of all outstanding issues under the Framework for Co-operation. This can be realised by increased co-operation by Iran and by the timely provision of access to all relevant information, documentation, sites, material and personnel in Iran."
"On Oct. 9, 2013, the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti and law firm Kurzban, Kurzban, Weinger, Tetzeli & Pratt filed a lawsuit against the U.N. in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of Haitian cholera victims and their families. The case demanded the installation of water and sanitation infrastructure to control the epidemic and save more than 5,000 lives a year... [Briefs in support were] signed by two dozen human rights and human interest groups from around the world.
'The groups are deeply concerned that innocent victims of the 2010 cholera outbreak in Haiti have been offered no redress for their suffering and injuries,' the groups state in the briefs. 'International organizations have an obligation to accept responsibility when they commit internationally wrongful acts. They must also provide redress to individuals who have suffered because of their actions. These principles apply with equal force to the United Nations.'
According to a previous ... report, extensive evidence shows U.N. peacekeepers introduced the deadly strain to the country from reckless waste management that leaked into Haiti's principal river. The U.N. has been unwilling to accept responsibility for its role in the outbreak, and a growing number of human rights advocates are calling on the agency to compensate victims and invest in sustainable clean water and sanitation infrastructure to fight the problem.
According to the report, the hurdles faced by Haitian cholera victims also illustrate a serious gap in accountability measures available when non-state actors, such as the U.N., are the human rights violators..."
"The European Union is telling Iran to cooperate with a stalled U.N. probe of suspicions that it worked on atomic arms if the country wants a nuclear deal that will see removal of sanctions.
The cautionary EU statement comes ahead of a June 30 target date for such an agreement. It was obtained by The Associated Press ahead of its delivery at a meeting of the U.N's International Atomic Energy Agency that opens Monday.
Iran denies any work on - or interest in - nuclear arms and has fended off IAEA demands for cooperation with its investigation. The EU statement says getting to the bottom of the allegations 'will be essential' to a nuclear deal.
Iran also would have to accept limits on its present nuclear activities."