Archive for March 5, 2018


February 2, 2018

Turkey on Friday expressed concerns over the US decision to add Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s name to its terrorist blacklist.

In a written statement, Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Hami Aksoy said Turkey is “concerned that this decision of the US Administration, which disregards the realities on the ground, could undermine the Middle East Peace Process, including the efforts for intra-Palestinian peace and reconciliation.”

“We also hope that the decision will not have a negative impact on our country’s humanitarian assistance and economic development activities towards Gaza,” Aksoy said.

“It is obvious that this decision, which overlooks the fact that Hamas is an important reality of Palestinian political life, cannot make any contribution to the just, comprehensive and lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

On Wednesday, the US government dubbed Haniyeh a “specially designated global terrorist” and imposed a raft of sanctions against him.

On its website, the US State Department said Haniyeh had “close links with Hamas’ military wing and has been a proponent of armed struggle, including against civilians.”

The US Treasury Department, meanwhile, also added Haniyeh to its sanctions list, essentially freezing any US-based assets he might have.

The designation also bans individuals and companies from engaging in financial transactions with the Hamas leader.

Haniyeh has been a vocal critic of US President Donald Trump’s decision late last year to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — a move that drew widespread condemnation and protests from across the Arab and Muslim world.

Washington’s recent policy decisions, Haniyeh said after the US move, had served to confirm that “the US Administration can no longer be considered an honest broker… in the so-called peace process.”

On Wednesday evening, Hamas slammed the US decision to add Haniyeh’s name to the terror blacklist, saying the move had revealed the “depth” of Washington’s longstanding bias towards Israel.

“This decision reveals the depth of US bias towards Israel, which has reached the level of a partnership in the aggression against our people,” Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem told Anadolu Agency by phone.

The move, he added, “specifically targets the Palestinian resistance.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180202-turkey-concerned-over-haniyeh-terror-listing/.

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February 26, 2018

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said that 85 per cent of Syrian refugee children in Jordan live below the poverty line.

In a statement released yesterday, the UN body said Syrian families are struggling to meet their basic needs, including feeding, educating and protecting their children.

According to the study, 94 per cent of Syrian children are under five years old and suffer from “multidimensional poverty”, meaning that they are deprived of a minimum of two out of the following five basic needs: education, health, water and sanitation, child protection and child safety.

Four out of ten Syrian families in host communities in Jordan are food insecure while 26 per cent are vulnerable to food insecurity.

“Forty-five per cent of children aged 0-5 years old do not have adequate health services, including vaccination,” it said.

UNICEF’s study revealed that 38 per cent of Syrian children are not enrolled in formal education or have dropped out of school because of distance, cost, lack of space or being bullied.

Moreover, 16 per cent of children aged 0-5 years old do not have birth certificates, which will present them with additional challenges and risks in the future.

It is estimated that Jordan hosts 1.3 million Syrians, only half of whom are registered refugees.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180226-unicef-85-of-syrian-children-in-jordan-live-in-poverty/.

February 26, 2018

Syrian paramilitary groups fighting alongside the regime are being dissolved due to lack of funds, according to Syrian news agencies.

The Syrian Observer reported that thousands of Syrians fighting alongside militias loyal to President Bashar Al-Assad left their groups and joined regime forces because they were not getting paid. It’s believed that members of the militia groups have not received their salaries for six months.

A separate Syrian news agency reported over the weekend that as many as 10,000 fighters have not been paid for six months, and that about half of them have joined the regime’s army in the last few weeks.

Reports mentioned that the National Defense militia operating in eastern Homs countryside had been dissolved, leaving a very small number stationed at the checkpoints surrounding Al-Houla area and the northern Homs countryside.

A Syrian source commenting on the development learned that large numbers of these fighters who had joined the Syrian army were affiliated with the militia groups belonging to businessman Rami Makhlouf.

One disgruntled fighter who was a former member of the National Defense militia said: “I lost vision and half my hearing in the battles, my right arm was amputated, my body was splintered, I fought on most fronts until I was paralyzed, but I did not receive my salary for six months, and there is no income for me and my children except for the salary.”

A report by Syrian news agency Zaman Al Wasl claims that the problem around payment of militia groups was due to a combination of sharp differences between the leader and their founder in Homs and the expected end to the conflict which has seen fighting against opposition forces reduced with missions drying up for militia groups.

Regime loyalists are said to be demanding accountability of the leaders of the militias who stole millions of Syrian pounds while others paid with their lives to defend them and the Assad regime.

Some 5,400 troops are said to have joined the army over the past two months, mostly from the paramilitary forces in the eastern Homs countryside. The Syrian government opened offices in two centers is Homs to attract former militias.

Citing the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights the report claimed that since the start of the conflict in Syria, more than 119,000 pro-regime forces have been killed, including 62,000 troops, tens of thousands of loyalist militiamen, and 1,556 fighters from Hezbollah.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180226-syria-militias-dissolving-due-to-lack-of-funds/.

March 1, 2018

Gaza got its first ever “child friendly school” yesterday on the ruins of Jamal Abdul Nasser School which was completely destroyed during Israel’s 2014 bombardment of the besieged enclave.

Serving 800 pupils, the new school was built by a Qatari education foundation and UN bodies with design input from children and the local community.

The school was opened by Al Fakhoora, a program of the Qatari funded initiative, Education Above All (EAA) Foundation. It was completed in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

Donors of the project are confident that Jamal Abdul Nasser School can now also serve as an emergency shelter for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) during times of conflict. In its press release, the EAA said that the new building is designed to be “environmentally friendly, child-centered and fully accessible for all students. Renewable energy is provided by solar panels, the design incorporates a double wall system, double-glazed, shatter-proof windows, and thermal insulation in the ceiling and floor.”

There are a number of distinctive additions to the school’s multi-purpose halls. “Features of the multipurpose buildings include: flexible learning spaces, an extensive library, IT facilities, breakout spaces, a multi-purpose sports facility and an on-site health facility, providing crucial psychosocial support and child protection services,” said EAA. “The halls are also specially designed to serve as emergency shelters for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) during times of conflict, with gender-sensitive accommodations, emergency power and water networks, and improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities”.

Representatives from UNDP, UNICEF and EAA Foundation were all present at the school opening, as well as returning students from Al Fakhoora’s “Dynamic Future’s scholarship program”. EAA applauded the returning students who have previously completed their education as a result of Al Fakhoora funding.

“We are extremely proud to be part of building this innovative school in Gaza for a community who deserves the highest quality of education facilities. Education is a fundamental human right, one that is crucial to the future of the Palestinian state. By investing in their future, we enable these young people to play a key role in rebuilding their communities, unlocking their full potential,” Farooq Burney, executive director of EAA Foundation’s Al Fakhoora program, said.

The UN was equally effusive in its remarks. Roberto Valent, UNDP Special Representative of the Administrator, said: “UNDP welcomes the opening of the first child-friendly school in Gaza. We are confident that the school, with the support from Qatar Fund for Development, through Al Fakhoora, and in partnership with the Ministry of Education and UNICEF, will become a positive example of ensuring appropriate conditions for education. Most importantly, this model will ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all children and adolescents, with a focus on those left behind.”

UNICEF Special Representative Genevieve Boutin added: “The completion of work at the Jamal Abdul Nasser School is an opportunity to reflect on how this project has helped not only rebuild schools, but also catalyze additional investments in children and young people across Gaza, thanks to generous support from Al Fakhoora, a program of the Education Above All Foundation, and the Qatar Fund for Development.”

Boutin applauded the contributions of children in Gaza in the “design of a safer and more child-friendly school” adding: “We also supported the training of 400 school counselors and 10,000 teachers to provide students with crucial psychosocial support and child protection services, and help them develop life skills and peaceful conflict resolution techniques. All these efforts have contributed to a more positive learning environment, giving us all hope in a better future.”

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180301-gazas-first-child-friendly-school-opens-to-students/.

March 1, 2018

A spokeswoman for the Qatari foreign ministry said yesterday that her country will not change its policy even if the blockade continues forever.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Lulwa Al Khater, made the remarks at the opening session of an international conference organized by the Middle East Dialogue Center in Brussels.

“The siege imposed on Qatar by regional players has accelerated our relations through several axes, the most important of which was the launching of the Qatari-US strategic dialogue,” Al Khater said, adding that the conference in Brussels “is an opportunity to refute the lies spread by the blockade countries and to respond to those who try to discredit Qatar.”

For his part, the Qatari Ambassador to Belgium, Abdul Rahman Bin Mohammed Al Khulaifi, said the siege gave Qatar power and it could overcome its consequences quickly, adding that the siege now has only effects on the social side while the state succeeded in maintaining its stability and security.

Al Khulaifi explained that Qatar has succeeded in finding alternatives and strategic partnerships to achieve its ambitions.

According to the ambassador, Doha has investments worth about $2 billion in Turkey, while Ankara will support the Qatari economy and participate in the 2022 World Cup projects.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180301-qatar-will-not-change-policy-even-if-blockade-never-ends/.

February 26, 2018

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union foreign ministers have tasked the EU’s top diplomat with drawing up a list of sanctions to slap on senior Myanmar military officers over rights abuses against the Rohingya minority.

The ministers on Monday also ordered EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to propose ways to toughen an EU embargo blocking the provision of arms and equipment that could be used for internal repression.

They said the measures are needed “in light of the disproportionate use of force and widespread and systematic grave human rights violations committed by the military and security forces.” About 700,000 Rohingya have fled towns and villages in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state since August to escape a military crackdown.

Negotiations for their return are underway but many fear their safety and well-being are not guaranteed.