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Resources updated between Monday, January 22, 2018 and Sunday, January 28, 2018

January 28, 2018

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

Nikki Haley has a lot more work to do to if she really wants to cut the U.N.'s budget Article

January 27, 2018

Bombing victim

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - A suicide bomber drove an ambulance into a commercial area by pretending to be carrying a patient to a hospital and then detonated his explosives at a checkpoint near the European Union consulate, killing at least 95 people and wounding 158 more in an attack claimed by the Taliban, authorities said.

Saturday's powerful explosion, which came a week after Taliban militants killed 22 people at an international hotel in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, was felt throughout the city and covered the blast area in smoke and dust. Dozens of vehicles were damaged or destroyed, and several shops, including some selling antiques and photography equipment, were decimated.

Windows at the nearby Jamhuriat government hospital were shattered, and its walls were damaged. People ran out to help, and ambulances arrived to transport dozens of wounded people to hospitals.

The attacker used the ambulance to coast through one security checkpoint in central Kabul by telling police he was transporting a patient and then detonated his explosives at a second checkpoint, the Interior Ministry said. Four suspects in the deadly bombing, which occurred near the European Union and Indian consulates, had been arrested and were being questioned, the ministry said, but it didn't elaborate.

"The majority of the dead in the attack are civilians, but of course we have military casualties as well," ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the bombing, which sent thick, black smoke into the sky from a site near the government's former Interior Ministry building.

It has been a month of relentless attacks across Afghanistan, with the Taliban and an Islamic State group affiliate making alternate claims of responsibility. The brutality and frequency of the attacks, including one in December at a Shiite cultural center, has shattered Afghanistan's usually quiet winter, when fighting normally slows down.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres quickly condemned Saturday's attack, saying through a spokesman that "Indiscriminate attacks against civilians ... can never be justified." U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John R. Bass called the attack "senseless and cowardly."

And the International Committee of the Red Cross seethed that the ambulance attack was "unacceptable and unjustifiable," saying in a tweet: "The use of an ambulance in today's attack in #Kabul is harrowing."

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the Taliban's use of an ambulance as a weapon to target civilians "represents inhumane disregard for the people of Afghanistan ... and is a violation of the most basic international norms."

It was the second Taliban attack in a week on high-security targets in the city.

Last weekend, six Taliban militants attacked Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel, leaving 22 people, including 14 foreigners, dead. About 150 guests fled the gun battle and fire sparked by the assault by climbing down bedsheets tied to balconies. The U.S. Department of State said American citizens were killed and injured in that attack.

The hotel attack prompted the United States to repeat its demand that Pakistan expel Taliban members who have found sanctuary on its soil, with particular reference to the Haqqani network. On Wednesday a U.S. drone slammed into Pakistani tribal territory that borders Afghanistan, killing two Haqqani commanders, said Pakistani officials, who deny providing organized camps for their safety. Pakistan says the Taliban cross the porous border that separates the countries along with the estimated 1.5 million Afghan refugees still living in Pakistan.

The recent attacks have infuriated Afghans, frustrated by the worsening security after 16 years of war. The Afghans have expressed their anger with neighbor Pakistan for harboring insurgents and with the U.S.-led coalition for its inability to suppress the insurgency. They also have blamed the deteriorating security situation on a deeply divided government embroiled in political feuding that has paralyzed Parliament.

After Saturday's attacks Pakistan issued a statement that condemned the bombing, saying, "No cause or ends justify acts of terrorism against innocent people."

Afghan security forces, whose competency has been uneven, have struggled to fight the Taliban since the U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in 2014.

U.S. President Donald Trump has pursued a plan that involves sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan and envisions shifting away from a time-based approach to one that more explicitly links U.S. assistance to concrete results from the Afghan government. The Republican president's U.N. envoy, Nikki Haley, said after a recent visit to Afghanistan that his policy was working and that peace talks between the government and the Taliban are closer than ever before.

Taliban bomber in ambulance detonates at Afghan checkpoint; 95 dead Document

January 26, 2018

Luiz Loures of UNAids, left, and World Food Programme official Mick Lorentzen

Senior U.N. figures under investigation over alleged sexual harassment Article

January 25, 2018

Ambassador Nikki Haley and Palestinian President Abbas

Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Nikolay, for the briefing that you gave.

During the past year, as the representative of the United States, I have most often taken the position that this monthly session on the Middle East is miscast. As I've pointed out many times, this session spends far too much time on Israel and the Palestinians and far too little time on the terrorist regimes and groups that undermine peace and security in the region, chief among them Iran, ISIS, Hezbollah, and Hamas. That remains my view. And I expect that in future months I will continue to focus on those threats from the Middle East that draw too little attention at the UN.

However, today I will set aside my usual practice. Today, I too will focus on the issue of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. What has changed?

The events of the past month have shed light on a critical aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian problem, and it is important that we do not miss the opportunity here at the UN to bring attention to it. The aspect I will address is the single most critical element to achieving peace. No, it's not the issues of security, borders, refugees, or settlements. All of those are important parts of a peace agreement. But the single most important element is not any of those. The indispensable element is leaders who have the will to do what's needed to achieve peace.

Real peace requires leaders who are willing to step forward, acknowledge hard truths, and make compromises. It requires leaders who look to the future, rather than dwell on past resentments. Above all, such leaders require courage. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was such a leader.

Forty years ago, President Sadat did an exceptional thing. Egypt and Israel were still in a state of war. In fact, Sadat himself had led Egypt in war with Israel only a few years before. But Sadat made the courageous decision to pursue peace. And when he made that decision, he went to Jerusalem and delivered a speech before the Israeli Knesset. That he went to the Knesset was courageous in itself.

But what took real courage was what he said there. Sadat did not go to Jerusalem on bended knee. He spoke in no uncertain terms about the hard concessions he expected from the Israelis. And then he said the words that both he and the world knew marked a turning point. He said to the Israeli legislators, "You want to live with us in this part of the world. In all sincerity, I tell you, we welcome you among us, with full security and safety."

"We used to reject you," he said. "Yet today, I tell you, and declare it to the whole world, that we accept to live with you in permanent peace based on justice."

These were the words that led to peace between Egypt and Israel. It was not an easy process. It took another 16 months of tough negotiations to reach a peace treaty, and both sides made difficult compromises. But Sadat's words helped make Israel understand that it had a partner with whom it could make those painful compromises. Some have said these were the words that got Anwar Sadat killed. But no one can question that generations of Egyptians and Israeli citizens have enjoyed a peace that has stood the test of time.

Compare those words to what Palestinian President Abbas said to the PLO Central Council 11 days ago. In his speech, President Abbas declared the landmark Oslo Peace Accords dead. He rejected any American role in peace talks. He insulted the American President. He called for suspending recognition of Israel. He invoked an ugly and fictional past, reaching back to the 17th century to paint Israel as a colonialist project engineered by European powers.

Once more, let's contrast Sadat's words with Abbas'. President Sadat acknowledged that some Arab leaders did not agree with him. But he told them it was his responsibility to, "exhaust all and every means in a bid to save my Egyptian Arab People and the entire Arab Nation, the horrors of new, shocking, and destructive wars."

President Abbas also acknowledged criticism from other Arab leaders and he, too, had a message for them. His response was "Get lost." Curiously, President Abbas' speech has gotten little attention in the media. I encourage anyone who cares about the cause of a durable and just peace in the Middle East to read President Abbas' speech for yourself.

A speech that indulges in outrageous and discredited conspiracy theories is not the speech of a person with the courage and the will to seek peace.

Despite all of this, the United States remains fully prepared and eager to pursue peace. We have done nothing to prejudge the final borders of Jerusalem. We have done nothing to alter the status of the holy sites. We remain committed to the possibility and potential of two states, if agreed to by the parties.

Just as it did with Egypt, peace requires compromise. It requires solutions that take into account the core interests of all sides. And that is what the United States is focused on for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hate-filled speeches and end-runs around negotiations take us nowhere. Ultimately, peace will not be achieved without leaders with courage.

King Hussein of Jordan was another such leader. In 1994, he ended 46 years of war and entered into a peace agreement with Israel that holds to this day. When King Hussein signed the peace treaty, he said this: "These are the moments in which we live, the past and the future. When we come to live next to each other, as never before, we will be doing so, Israelis and Jordanians, together, without the need for any to observe our actions or supervise our endeavors. This is peace with dignity; this is peace with commitment."

I ask here today, where is the Palestinian King Hussein? Where is the Palestinian Anwar Sadat? If President Abbas demonstrates he can be that type of leader, we would welcome it. His recent actions demonstrate the total opposite.

The United States remains deeply committed to helping the Israelis and the Palestinians reach a historic peace agreement that brings a better future to both peoples, just as we did successfully with the Egyptians and the Jordanians. But we will not chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what is needed to achieve peace. To get historic results, we need courageous leaders. History has provided such leaders in the past. For the sake of the Palestinian and Israeli people, we pray it does so again.

Thank you.

Nikki Haley to the U.N. Security Council: "We will not chase after a Palestinian leadership that lacks what is needed to achieve peace." Article

President Trump at Davos

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. It's great to be with Prime Minister Netanyahu. We've developed a great relationship, both as countries where I think it's never been stronger - and I can honestly say that - and also, as personal friends.

We have discussions going with Israel on many things, including trade. But the big move and something that was very historic and very important was the fact that we will be moving our embassy, as you know, to Jerusalem. And as we also know, that is way ahead of schedule, by years, and we anticipate having a small version of it opened sometime next year. So that's a long time ahead of schedule.

It's an honor, and it's great honor to be with you. Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Thank you. Mr. President, Donald - thank you.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Mr. President, I want to say something, because this is the first meeting we've had since your historic decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and to move the embassy, and now to expedite the movement of the embassy, to Jerusalem.

I want to say that this is a historic decision that will be forever etched in the hearts of our people for generations to come. People say that this pushes peace backward. I say it pushes peace forward because it recognizes history, it recognizes the present reality, and peace can only be built on the basis of truth. And by recognizing this history, you've made history. And we will always remember that.

We also support you completely in your stalwart position on the Iran nuclear deal. You've said it's a disastrous deal. You've said that if its fatal flaws are not fixed, that you should walk away from it. And I want you to know that if you decide to do that, then we will back you all the way.

We also appreciate the fact that you confront Iran's aggression with us and with other parties in the region as never before. I've never seen the holistic alliance between the United States, Israel, and your other allies in the region as strong, as unified as it is under your leadership.

And the last point is, you stood up for Israel at the U.N. in a remarkable way - rock-solid support. This is a place - it's a house of slander against Israel and against the United States. And by word and deed, you have told them enough is enough.

As you finish your first year in office, I want to say that I look forward to continuing our remarkable, tremendous friendship in the years ahead. And I want to express the appreciation of the people of Israel to you.

Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much, Bibi. Thank you. My honor.

I have to say, on the United Nations, we were pretty much out in the wilderness by ourselves - the United States. And we heard every country was going to be against us. And it was very interesting. I said, you know, we give billions and billions of dollars to these countries. It amounts to hundreds of millions, and sometimes into the billions for certain countries, and they vote against us. And I made a very simple statement that I'm watching. I'm watching. And we ended up getting 68 votes, either "yes" or "we'll take a neutral position," which was okay too.


PRESIDENT TRUMP: Which was essentially a "yes," that's right. But we ended up getting a lot of votes that we were - I would say, virtually, we were going to get none.

And we give billions of dollars away every year to countries, and in many cases, those countries don't even support us. They don't support the United States.

Israel has always supported the United States. So what I did with Jerusalem was my honor. And hopefully, we can do something with peace. I would love to see it.

You know, if you look back at the various peace proposals - and they are endless - and I spoke to some of the people involved, and I said, "Did you ever talk about the vast amounts of funds, money that we give to the Palestinians?" We give, you know, hundreds of millions of dollars. And they said, "We never talk." Well, we do talk about it.

And when they disrespected us a week ago by not allowing our great Vice President to see them - and we give them hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and support - tremendous numbers; numbers that nobody understands. That money is on the table, and that money is not going to them unless they sit down and negotiate peace. Because I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace. And they're going to have to want to make peace too, or we're going to have nothing to do with it any longer.

This was never brought up by other negotiators, but it's brought up by me. So I will say that the hardest subject they had to talk about was Jerusalem. We took Jerusalem off the table, so we don't have to talk about it anymore. They never got past Jerusalem. We took it off the table. We don't have to talk about it anymore. You won one point, and you'll give up some points later on in the negotiation, if it ever takes place. I don't know that it ever will take place.

But they have to respect the process also, and they have to respect the fact that the U.S. has given tremendous support to them over the years, in terms of monetary support and other support.

So we'll see what happens with the peace process, but respect has to be shown to the U.S. or we're just not going any further. Thank you all very much.

Thank you very much, everybody.

Q (Inaudible.)

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Steve, go ahead. Speak up, Steve. That's not like you.

Q Are you close to putting out some sort of Middle East peace plan - proposal?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: We'll see what happens. Yes, we have a proposal for peace. It's a great proposal for the Palestinians. I think it's a very good proposal for Israel. It covers a lot of the things that were, over the years, discussed and agreed on. But the fact is - and I think you know this better than anybody - there were never any deals that came close, because Jerusalem - you could never get past Jerusalem.

So when people said, "Oh, I set it back" - I didn't set it back, I helped it. Because by taking it off the table, that was the toughest issue. And Israel will pay for that. Look, Israel - something is going to happen. They'll do something that's going to be a very good thing. But they want to make peace, and I hope the Palestinians want to make peace. And if they do, everybody is going to be very happy in the end. We'll see what happens, Steve. We're going to see what happens.

Q Mr. President, any comments about Abu Mazen's remarks regarding you personally?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, I didn't really read his remarks, personally. I think I'm probably better off not seeing them. But we've done a lot for them, and hopefully they're going to make peace for their people.

You know what, it's many years of killing people. It's many years of killing each other. They have to be tired and disgusted of it. So let's see what happens. I think, eventually, very sound minds - I hope sound minds - are going to prevail. And it would be a great achievement of mine. I've said it from day one, if we could make peace between Israel and the Palestinians - if we do that, I would consider that one of our truly great achievements.

But the money is on the table. The money was never on the table. I'll tell you up front, we give them tremendous amounts - hundreds of millions of dollars a year. That money is on the table. Because why should we do that, as a country, if they're doing nothing for us? And what we want to do for them is help them. We want to create peace and save lives. And we'll see what happens. We'll see what happens. But the money is on the table.

Thank you very much.

Q Are you ending the aid immediately?

Q Mr. President, what does the timeline look like?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Any time they want. Any time they want.


Trump at Davos: Palestinians are "going to have to want to make peace...or we're going to have nothing to do with it any longer." Article

The protestor who has not been seen since

One day late last month, a woman wearing black trousers and gray sneakers climbed atop a telephone utility box in Tehran's crowded Enghelab Square.

In an act of defiance as quiet as it was striking, she removed her white head scarf, tied it to a stick and waved the garment back and forth like a flag in protest against modesty laws that require Iranian women to cover their hair.

In cellphone videos captured by onlookers, her movements are slow, almost hypnotic, her dark hair flowing down to the middle of her back.

Weeks later, after Iran was shaken by the biggest anti-government protests in nearly a decade, the woman's whereabouts are unknown. She has become the subject of a social media campaign labeled #Where_Is_She, and an anonymous symbol of opposition to what many Iranians view as the theocracy's harsh laws against free expression.

Questions over the woman's fate deepened this week after Nasrin Sotoudeh, one of Iran's most prominent human rights lawyers, posted on Facebook that she had learned the woman was arrested the day of her protest, Dec. 27, released shortly afterward and then rearrested.

Sotoudeh said the woman was 31 and mother to a 20-month-old child, but she did not know whether she had been tried. No family members or friends have come forward to identify her publicly, perhaps to protect themselves as dissidents come under added scrutiny after the unrest.

Shopkeepers near where the woman stood - a street corner with a confectionary and several sidewalk peddlers - said in interviews that her protest went on for more than an hour, until she was arrested by two female police officers.

Peddlers who took video of her were arrested and later released, they said.

Her protest occurred on a Wednesday, a day when activists wear white in protest of the modesty laws that have been enforced with varying degrees of fervor since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution. Women must cover their hair with the head scarf, or hijab, and wear long, loose-fitting coats known as manteaus - or risk being stopped by so-called moral police.

The next day, protests over economic grievances and corruption broke out and quickly spread to dozens of cities. In the ensuing crackdown, more than 20 people were killed and thousands arrested, with some believed to have died in custody under circumstances that authorities have not fully explained.

All that has made the hijab-less woman a cause celebre on social media, her gesture forever linked to the anti-government demonstrations even though she was not actually a part of them.

"As the protests spread, many Iranian activists online were inspired by the nonviolent protest of the lone girl," Masih Alinejad, an activist and founder of the My Stealthy Freedom campaign against enforced hijab, told Al-Monitor, a news site covering the Middle East.

"Her gesture was seen as a symbol of resistance. Her protest caught the imagination of Iranian women and men, feminists and non-feminists."

Internet memes have sprung up showing the woman facing a firing squad, standing in place of the emblem in the Iranian flag and countering a police baton with her hijab.

"I hail what she has done," Golnar Ramesh, a 28-year-old engineer in Tehran, said in an interview.

Ramesh said she often goes without a scarf while in public or driving, in defiance of the moral police, but "I don't have her courage to stand in public near Tehran University for more than an hour."

The Iranian protester who removed her head scarf and waved it in public like a flag has not been seen since Document

January 24, 2018

Site of attack

Militants stormed the offices of Save the Children in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, killing four people and triggering a shootout with police that lasted almost 10 hours, provincial officials and the organization said.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province. Among the four killed were two employees of the NGO, a security guard and an army soldier.

The assault started with a suicide bomber who detonated his explosives' vest at the provincial offices of Save the Children, said Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor.

Security forces killed four other attackers, he said, adding that at least 26 people, including three members of the Afghan security forces, were wounded.

After eight hours the fighting subsided and Khogyani said he initially thought it was over but then the shooting picked up again.

Two hours later, it was finally over, he said.

Carolyn Miles, president of Save the Children, expressed "profound sadness" at the killing of the NGO's staff members in Jalalabad. She said four wounded staffers were receiving medical treatment.

"We are shocked and appalled at the violence, carried out against our staff in Afghanistan who are dedicated humanitarians, committed to improving the lives and wellbeing of millions of children across the country," Miles said.

Miles added that the organization had been working in Afghanistan since 1976, "providing life-saving health, education, nutrition and child protection programs that have helped millions of children." Save the Children also said it had temporarily suspended its work across Afghanistan.

In a statement on its Aamaq media arm, the Islamic State group said one of its suicide bombers with an explosive-laden vehicle and a subsequent raid targeted "British and Swedish foundations and Afghan government institutes."

Both the Taliban and IS are active in eastern Nangarhar province.

Khogyani said the security forces had managed to rescue 46 people, mostly employees of the Save the Children, as the attack unfolded.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert denounced the assault, calling it "heartbreaking" and offered "deepest condolences to the victims and families."

Monica Zanarelli, the International Committee of the Red Cross' head of delegation in Afghanistan, said that an attack against an organization that helps children is "outrageous."

"Civilians and aid workers must not be targeted," she said. "Increased violence has made operating in Afghanistan difficult for many organizations."

Amnesty International's chief for South Asia, Biraj Patnaik, expressed solidarity with Save the Children following the attack.

"It is an organization that has worked tirelessly in Afghanistan for more than four decades, delivering outstanding work during some of the country's most turbulent periods," Patnaik said.

"Bombing and shooting people who are working for no other reason than to help improve the lives of young Afghans is a cowardly and despicable act."

The attack followed a deadly weekend siege of the Intercontinental Hotel in the capital Kabul in which 22 people were killed, including 14 foreigners. Multiple U.S. citizens were killed and injured in the Taliban's 13-hour siege of the hotel, the State Department said Tuesday. No exact figures were immediately available for either the U.S. fatalities or injuries.

Eleven of the 14 foreigners had been previously identified as working for the private Afghan airline KamAir. During a ceremony at Kabul's airport on Wednesday, the bodies of seven Ukrainian citizens were handed over to officials for transfer to Ukraine.

Mirwais Samadi, head of the consulate department at Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry, said the Kabul attack was launched by "terrorists" and their supporters.

"Some of our countrymen were martyred and some foreign nationals also were killed," he said. "We express our condolences and thoughts to the victims and families."

In eastern Ghazni province, meanwhile, four Afghan policemen were killed after their checkpoint came under attack by insurgents, said Arif Noori, spokesman for the provincial governor.

Six insurgents were killed and three were wounded in the battle, which took place early on Wednesday morning in Dayak district, said Noori.

Islamic Terrorists attack Afghan offices of children's NGO, killing 4 Document

The terrorist neutralized by border police at the Tapuach junction in the West Bank, January 23, 2018

Border police thwart attempted stabbing attack Document

January 23, 2018

A member of Afghani security forces and Afghani children

Report: Afghan security forces committed 75 rights abuses, including child sex assault Document

UN Human Rights Council

Israel accuses UN "Human Rights" Council of bias Article

January 22, 2018

Qasr el Yahud baptism site (File photo)

Soldier injured in West Bank car ramming attempt near popular baptism site Document