UN Welcomes Saudi, UAE Support for WFP in Yemen

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

UN Welcomes Saudi, UAE Support for WFP in Yemen

Wednesday, 8 May, 2019 – 09:00
A man carries sacks of grain he received from a distribution center in Bajil, Yemen, December 13, 2018, 2018. (Reuters)
Hodeidah – Asharq Al-Awsat
The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has welcomed a $240 million contribution from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to support the food needs of vulnerable people in Yemen during the holy month of Ramadan.

“The generous contribution will greatly help Yemenis follow their practices and traditions during this important time,” WFP said in a statement.

“WFP plans to use this contribution to provide millions of families with monthly food rations of flour, pulses, vegetable oil, sugar and salt.”

On the other hand, Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande said Tuesday that it is a relief that the UN has finally been given the green light to use an existing corridor to gain access to the Red Sea Mills, adding that it is very positive that the parties have taken this step.

“Securing access to the Mills has been a long, difficult and frustrating process,” she said.

Grande also stressed the importance of doing everything possible to ensure that all humanitarian partners have free, unimpeded and immediate access to people who need and deserve assistance.

“Everyone knows we need the food in the Mills. It’s now a race against time to salvage supplies that can feed 3.7 million people for a month,” she added.

The WFP, for its part, announced that a technical team led by it has gained access to the Red Sea Mills on the eastern outskirts of Hodeidah city as part of initial efforts to salvage a stock of 51,000 tons of wheat flour stored at the facility.

The Mills have been inaccessible for the last eight months due to intense fighting.

“The technical team will remain at the site to clean and service the milling equipment in preparation for the milling and eventual distribution of the wheat,” WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel explained.

“We will need to send more workers and technical experts to the mills in due course and send supplies to the team now working at the site.”

He noted that in order for works to continue, “ongoing safe access to the Mills, which lie close to sensitive frontline areas” is needed.

In March, the WFP distributed food to more than 10.6 million people in Yemen, the largest number ever reached in a single month.

“We are scaling up to support 12 million people in urgent need of food in the coming months. WFP Operations in Yemen are the biggest for WFP in the world,” the spokesperson added.

WFP explained on its official website that its Deputy Executive Director Amir Abdulla traveled to Yemen on a three-day mission.

He first traveled to Aden, where he met with the legitimate government of the country’s premier and other senior officials before heading to Sanaa, where he met UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths and leaders from the Iran-backed Houthi militias, the statement said.

China finally puts Terrorist Tag on Pakistan’s Masood Azhar

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF INDIA’S HINDUSTAN TIMES)

 

On its new stand on global terror tag for Masood Azhar, China makes 3 points

The renewed focus on blacklisting comes against the backdrop of the Pulwama suicide bombing in February that killed 40 CRPF soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir. Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility for the terror attack.

WORLD Updated: Apr 30, 2019 21:11 IST

HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Masood Azhar,terror tag for Masood Azhar,China
A day before the UN sanctions committee is to decide on a global terrorist tag for Masood Azhar, China on Tuesday signalled a sharp change in its stand on blacklisting the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief.(AFP File Photo)

A day before the UN sanctions committee is to decide on a global terrorist tag for Masood Azhar, China on Tuesday signalled a sharp change in its stand on blacklisting the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief. Beijing, which has blocked four attempts by the United Nations Security Council over the last decade, on Tuesday spoke about the “positive progress” that had been made.

“This problem can be properly solved,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said to a question on media reports that Beijing was finally ready to lift its technical hold on blacklisting the Jaish terror group founder.

Hindustan Times had first reported on Monday that China is likely to go along with the terrorist tag for Masood Azhar. In the past, Beijing has cited both lack of evidence and consensus on why it had stood in the way.

The renewed focus on blacklisting comes against the backdrop of the Pulwama suicide bombing in February that killed 40 CRPF soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir. Masood Azhar’s Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility for the terror attack.

Read | ‘Positive progress made’: China on global terrorist tag for Masood Azhar

At its media briefing on Tuesday, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson made three points.

One, that China supports the issue of listing which Beijing said, should be through political consultation within the framework of the world body’s sanctions committee.

“I think that is also the consensus of the overwhelming majority of the members of the Council,” the official said, pointing that “relevant consultations” were underway in the sanctions committee.

“Within the framework. And positive progress has been mad,” the foreign ministry said.

“Thirdly, we believe in the joint efforts of all parties. This problem can be properly solved,” the spokesperson said.

Also Read | Masood Azhar: Inside the mind of a global terror merchant

The statement and its language are seen as a contrast to its previous ones. Before China had last blocked the move, it had underlined that it would adopt “a responsible attitude act responsibly and continue to participate in discussions”.

The development infuriated the US and its allies, which circulated a draft resolution on listing Azhar among the UN Security Council’s members to force China’s hand.

In backroom negotiations, China conditioned its support to blacklist Azhar on India carrying out a military de-escalation on the border and resuming bilateral dialogue with Islamabad on all outstanding issues including Kashmir.

Azhar was released on December 31, 1999, in a hostage swap at Kandahar airport after an Indian airliner was hijacked by Pakistani terrorists. He has been accused of masterminding some of the most heinous terror attacks in India. Before Pulwama, the JeM was responsible for the 2016 attack on Pathankot airbase, the 2001 attack on Parliament, the Jammu and Kashmir assembly attack the same year, and a series of assaults against security forces in Kashmir.

First Published: Apr 30, 2019 19:50 IST

Mozambique: Cyclone Kenneth: Entire villages wiped out, says UN

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Cyclone Kenneth: Entire villages wiped out, says UN

Media caption Eye witness captures moment Kenneth hits northern Mozambique

A powerful cyclone has “entirely wiped out” villages in Mozambique, according to a UN official.

Gemma Connell, the head of the regional Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said it looked from the air like areas had been “run over by a bulldozer”.

Cyclone Kenneth struck on Thursday with winds of 220km/h (140mph).

It came barely a month after Cyclone Idai killed more than 900 people across three countries.

In a video posted on Twitter after flying over the affected area, Ms Connell pledged to work with local authorities “to get people the supplies they need”.

“The weather is still bad, it is still raining,” she said. “But thankfully the winds have died down.”

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The BBC’s Pumza Fihlani reports that damage to power lines in parts of northern Mozambique is making communication difficult.

Almost 20,000 people have taken shelter in makeshift displacement centres, including schools and churches, our correspondent adds.

A UN spokesman said a total of five people have now died, quoting Mozambique’s government, according to reports.

One person was earlier reported to have been killed when Cyclone Kenneth struck after being crushed by a falling tree. The storm also killed three people on the island nation of Comoros.

Is this unusual for the region?

UN weather experts say it is unprecedented for two cyclones of such intensity to hit Mozambique in the same season.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) also said that no previous records show a cyclone striking the region as far north as Kenneth.

It said a fact-finding mission would examine the “impact of climate change and sea-level rise on Mozambique’s resilience” to extreme weather.

Family displaced by Cyclones Idai and KennethImage copyrightAFP
Image captionFamilies have been left displaced by the cyclones

Amnesty International’s secretary general Kumi Naidoo said the two storms were “exactly what climate scientists warned would happen if we continue to warm our planet beyond its limits”.

“There is one inescapable and burning injustice we cannot stress enough,” he said, adding: “The people of Mozambique are paying the price for dangerous climate change when they have done next to nothing to cause this crisis.”

What was Kenneth’s impact?

Kenneth made landfall on the northern province of Cabo Delgado on Thursday evening, with wind speeds equivalent to a category four hurricane.

Winds eased on Friday, but France’s meteorological agency said up to 800mm of rain was expected to land on Mozambique over the coming days – nearly double the 10-day accumulated rainfall that flooded the port city of Beira during Cyclone Idai.

The UN’s World Food Programme said it was working on an “emergency preparedness plan” with the Mozambican government and other humanitarian groups.

“The most difficult thing is transportation – we don’t have helicopters yet,” Capt Kleber Castro from a Brazilian rescue team said. “We need a lot of support.”

Mozambique’s National Institute of Disaster Management (INGC) said 30,000 people had been evacuated from affected areas.

What is the affected area like?

Cabo Delgado province is not as densely populated as the area hit by Cyclone Idai, and there is apparently more high ground there.

But reports said many thousands of homes had been flattened by the winds, and the area has been hit by militant Islamist violence in recent months, which could complicate humanitarian operations.

Thousands of people had already fled their homes to seek shelter from violence in camps for displaced people.

What about other countries in the region?

Comoros is still reeling from damage caused by the cyclone, and in some southern areas of neighbouring Tanzania, authorities have ordered schools and businesses to close.

People stand by damaged houses and fallen trees in ComorosImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Cyclone Kenneth has already devastated areas of the island nation of Comoros

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies shared images of the damage on social media. In a tweet, the group confirmed it had volunteers on the ground assisting communities.

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Despite Zimbabwe being further inland, officials there said they were also putting their disaster management agencies on alert.

“Drawing lessons from Cyclone Idai we cannot take chances any more,” said Department of Civil Protection director Nathan Nkomo.


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Algerian, Tunisian Meeting Addresses Libyan Crisis, Terrorism

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Algerian, Tunisian Meeting Addresses Libyan Crisis, Terrorism

Friday, 26 April, 2019 – 09:30
A general view shows part of Tunis, the capital of Tunisia [Reuters]
Tunis, London – Mongi Saidani, Asharq Al-Awsat
Algerian Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum visited Tunisia Thursday on his first foreign visit since assuming his position following the political change in his country.

The visit aims at supporting security and military coordination to counter the dangers of terrorism, in light of political instability in Libya, and comes after an invitation from Tunisian Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui.

Prior to Boukadoum’s visit to Tunis, Jhinaoui revealed that he discussed with Libyan National Army (LNA) commander Khalifa Haftar putting an end to the clashes in the country. Haftar informed Jhinaoui that he doesn’t reject calls for dialogue with representatives of the Government of National Accord (GNA).

Haftar noted that as the LNA commander, he is required to fight terrorist organizations.

In a related context, Jhinaoui said that he also spoke with the GNA Foreign Minister, stressing that his country deals with all parties, and does not line up with any Libyan party, at the expense of the other.

Earlier, Jhinaoui called on his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian to push the five permanent countries at the UN Security Council to have a unified stance toward the ongoing fighting in Libya.

Le Drian informed Jhinaoui that France is working with the Security Council member states to put an end to the fighting in Libya.

Both ministers discussed also the need for an immediate ceasefire in Tripoli and for the political process to resume under the auspices of the UN.

In other news, Tunisian security forces stopped the broadcast of Nessma TV channel for violating laws of the audio and visual sector.

The Interior Ministry confirmed that the Communications Authority issued the order to stop the broadcast of the channel, and security forces had entered the network’s offices and confiscated equipment.

“On April 15, the Communications Authority issued an order to seize the network’s broadcasting equipment since the channel is operating without legal basis,” the ministry stated.

The Commission seized the channel’s equipment on the grounds that the company licensed since 2009, did not abide by the new laws since the call to do so in 2014.

Head of the Commission, Nuri al-Lajmi, explained that authorities waited for four years for the channel to settle its status, although the law obliges it to do so within a period not exceeding one year.

Nessma officials said security forces had stormed its Tunis offices on Thursday morning and cut the network’s transmission. The staff gathered in front of the channel’s building and chanted against the government.

The channel also claimed the Commission’s decision was politicized, which Lajmi denied asserting that no political party influenced the government’s order.

The ministry denied the channel’s assertion that security forces had assaulted Nessma employees.

Libyans ‘Ignore’ War To Make Municipal Elections A Success

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Libyans ‘Ignore’ War to Make Municipal Elections a Success

Sunday, 21 April, 2019 – 10:45
A group of members of the Central Committee for Municipal Elections are seen during an election simulation in local school, Tripoli, Libya February 3, 2019. REUTERS/Hani Amara
Cairo – Jamal Jawhar
Municipal elections were held on Saturday in seven cities south Libya despite humanitarian suffering caused by fierce military battles in the capital Tripoli between the Libyan National Army (LNA) and forces loyal to the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).

Fifty-nine polling stations were opened from nine am to six pm to receive some 138.61 voters in Brak al-Shati, Edri al-Shati, al-Rahibat, Ubari, al-Garda al-Shati, al-Shwairif, and Zelton.

The Central Commission of Municipal Councils Elections (CCMCE) tweeted that the voting process continued throughout the day without obstacles or crises amid a remarkable turnout of citizens.

UN envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame hailed Saturday the keenness of Libyans to hold municipal elections despite the current conflict in the country.

Seven municipalities held elections, Salame tweeted on his official twitter account, lauding their persistence to take part in these elections.

CCMCE held municipal elections in nine municipalities in southern and western Libya in late March, the first in five years. The participation rate back then exceeded 40 percent and was under the supervision of the GNA Presidential Council.

Libyan journalist Idris Jabaji, who lives in the southern city of Sabha, wrote on his Facebook page on Saturday that the city’s municipal elections will take place on April 27, announcing his support for one of the competing lists.

The CCMCE had complained about the lack of funds needed to hold the elections and called on the government to provide 50 million dinars ($36 million).

Holding these elections was the first phase of the UN road map, which was supposed to precede adopting a permanent constitution and holding presidential and parliamentary elections before the outbreak of war in Tripoli.

The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) called on the government to provide funding for the municipal elections while it has been providing technical support along with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to the CCMCE since March 2018.

Notably, there are 120 local councils in Libya all of which have begun operating in 2013 to replace the councils established by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. Some of them held elections in 2014.

The municipal council is composed of seven members, who in turn elect their president internally.

DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Ignorant, Racist And Anti-Semitic?

DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Ignorant, Racist And Anti-Semitic? 

When I was a kid back in the 1960’s the Democratic Party and Churches went hand in hand. When I was a young man all of the Jewish folks that I knew of voted Democratic as a block vote. These things are not so anymore. This is not because the Churches/Christians had changed nor did the Jewish people, nor did Israel. What has changed is the Democratic Platform and their beliefs. When the Democratic Party Leadership decided to be pro-abortion they lost many millions of Democratic voters and most of those either decided not to vote at all, or to vote for a Republican especially once Ronald Reagan came onto the National stage. After Mr. Reagan many of those “Reagan Democrats” never ever went back to voting for Democrats. The days of the Jewish people voting for Democrats has become history and the fault of this is squarely on the Democratic Leadership.

This next Presidential voting cycle ahead of the 2020 Elections once again has a Jewish Believer trying to become our next President, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Yet to me, Mr. Sanders is about as Jewish as Jared Kushner is a Christian. You may have just said, hey wait a moment, Mr. Kushner is Jewish, my point exactly! I say, when asked, that I am a Christian but if do not do the will of the Lord, am I really a Christian, or am I nothing but luke warm water that the Lord will spit out? Mr. Sanders is one that I have paid attention to for about six years now, to me, his words and his voting record say that he is very anti-Israel. To me, to my beliefs as a Christian, the Democratic Platform has proven themselves to be very anti-religion, especially anti-Christian and anti-Israel.

I am going to bring up one more person for you to consider, this person is also a declared Democratic Presidential hopeful, Mr. Beto O’Rourke, a former Texas Congressman.  Earlier this month Mr. O’Rourke was giving a campaign speech in Iowa City Iowa when he made these following remarks about Israel’s Prime Minister, Mr. Netanyahu. Mr. O’Rourke called Mr. Netanyahu and the Israeli people who support him “Racists” because of the Palestinian People. He seems to be ignorant/stupid enough to believe that ‘race’ is the issue there. I guess he shouldn’t be blamed too much as it also appears to be the view of the cow whose teet he is suckling. (The Democratic Party Leadership.) Folks, for those of you who don’t already know it, the issue between the Israeli Jews and the Palestinian People has nothing to do with race and everything to do with Ideology. It is a reality that Islamic ideology coexists with nothing and no one. There is an old saying in Israel that I will close this letter to you with today and this saying is absolutely true. ‘If the Palestinians actually wanted peace they could have peace and prosperity tomorrow, all they have to do is swear off all violence and turn over to the U.N. all of their weapons.’ The other half of this wisdom peace says, ‘if Israel turned over all their weapons today to the U.N. THAT TOMORROW, THERE WOULD BE NO ISRAEL!’

Brazil’s President Tells U.N. That Brazil Now Follows The Bible

( BRAZIL 24/7 )

 

Cyclone Idai exposes the gap of disaster risk relief financing in Africa

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘BROOKINGS BRIEF’ NEWS)

 

AFRICA IN FOCUS

Cyclone Idai exposes the gap of disaster risk relief financing in Africa

Mohamed Beavogui

Cyclone Idai that wreaked havoc on southern Africa is reminding us of the need to quickly devise sustainable solutions to confront climate and natural disaster risks. Right now, the humanitarian community and the governments of Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe are appealing for resources and emergency relief to assist over 3 million affected people.

The United Nations has classified Cyclone Idai as the worst tropical cyclone to have hit the southern Africa region in decades. The strong winds and torrential rains have put the region in a state of crisis, causing huge losses of life; flattening buildings; triggering massive floods that damaged critical infrastructure and farmlands, and submerged entire communities; leaving affected people in desperate situations without shelter, food, safe drinking water, and sanitation and hygiene.

The governments of Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe have mobilized their limited available financial, logistical, and humanitarian resources for early response in the affected areas. The international community has sent in volunteer rescue workers and humanitarian aid to support local efforts. However, governments of affected countries and United Nations agencies are still requesting additional resources to support ravaged communities.

Recently, disasters such as cyclones, droughts, and floods are increasing in both frequency and magnitude. According to U.N. International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, from 1998 to 2017, disaster-hit countries reported direct economic losses of $2.9 trillion, of which climate-related disasters accounted for $2.2 trillion. Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions to natural disasters and the impacts of climate change, despite contributing the least to global warming. Climate-induced disaster effects on the continent are particularly devastating and are mainly caused by drought, flood, and cyclones, as well as outbreaks and epidemics of diseases like Ebola, Lassa Fever, and Marburg. The economic and social burden of natural disaster and disease outbreaks was estimated at $53.19 billion in 2014.

In terms of response, the continent has been struggling to allocate part of its limited resources to disaster preparedness, due to various competing priorities in health, education, infrastructure, and other sectors. Hence, the bulk of interventions in the event of disasters comes from donors. Typically, when a disaster strikes, countries, with the help of the international community, launch humanitarian appeals and work to raise funds to respond to the crisis. Meanwhile, the people affected by the disaster are forced to make difficult decisions that deteriorate their livelihoods and reverse hard-earned development gains, forcing more people into destitution, food insecurity, chronic poverty, and, often, involuntary migration.

To change this paradigm, the African Union Heads of State established the African Risk Capacity (ARC) in 2012 to support the development of better risk management systems on the continent, while simultaneously reducing the dependence of African countries on the international community for disaster relief.

ARC brings together three critical elements of disaster risk management to create a powerful value proposition for its members and partners: early warning systems, response planning based on well-prepared and validated contingency plans, and an index-based insurance and risk pooling mechanism.

Several lessons have emerged during the institution’s first five years. The most important is that the resource gap needed to protect vulnerable populations against disasters can be reduced substantially through a combination of efforts and collaboration between governments, international aid, and the private sector. To build sustainable and country-driven responses, aid resources should support government budgets in financing innovative mechanisms, such as risk transfer, and leverage resources from the private sector through, for example, insurance and bonds.

Right now, less than two-thirds of humanitarian appeals are met and only 8 percent of actual losses are covered by international aid in 77 of the world’s poorest countries. The insurance sector covers only 3 percent of disaster-induced losses through payouts. The share of disaster insurance could be substantially increased using innovative risk transfer mechanisms that incorporate governments, international humanitarian agencies, international financial institutions, nongovernmental organizations, insurance companies, and other private sector companies operating in disaster finance. Through this type of scheme, one dollar used to pay for a premium could generate several fold more dollars through a payout.

This model of collaboration could build a sustainable, inclusive, market-based, and more responsive system to drastically reduce the current resource gap. Moreover, the fact that $1 spent for early intervention can save over $4 in a period of six to nine months means the need for overall resources for response would reduce accordingly. Therefore, the availability of adequate resources for early intervention is a solution to explore not with new financing but with already existing resources pre-earmarked by governments and humanitarian partners.

As per current experimentation at ARC, partners such as humanitarian agencies and NGOs can participate in ARC’s disaster insurance schemes through a program called Replica. With help from the German government, these institutions can access aid resources and sign policies with ARC Ltd., the financial affiliate of the ARC group. Under this scheme, the insurance policy taken out by humanitarian partners replicates the policy signed by the government, hence increasing the coverage of the population insured. The actor and the government implement a common response plan when a disaster strikes and the index-based insurance is triggered. The advantage is the ability to provide larger resources earlier after a disaster strikes since money will be available immediately through payouts. The actor will also be able to not only intervene earlier but also provide assistance through an agreed early response plan, thus giving time for international humanitarian efforts to take action.

The combination of early warning contingency planning and index-based risk transfer and pooling is certainly, among others, a solution that can significantly contribute to the reduction of the gap in disaster protection. A solution to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian efforts is in front of us, and all existing actors have a role to play, particularly humanitarian agencies and NGOs.

UN Urges More Mediterranean Rescue Efforts after Aquarius Pullout

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

UN Urges More Mediterranean Rescue Efforts after Aquarius Pullout

Saturday, 8 December, 2018 – 10:00
FILE PHOTO: Migrants disembark from the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship run in partnership between SOS Mediterranee and Medecins Sans Frontieres, after it arrived in Augusta on the island of Sicily, Italy, January 30, 2018. REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello/File Photo
Geneva – Asharq Al-Awsat
French NGO Medecins sans Frontieres has warned that the end of operations of the last refugee rescue ship working in the Mediterranean Sea, Aquarius, would mean more migrants would die, as the UN expressed concern over the decision to retire the vessel.

“This is a somber day,” Nelke Mander, Medecins sans Frontieres’s general director, said in a statement Thursday. “The end of our operations onboard the Aquarius will mean more death in the sea, deaths that are avoidable and without witnesses.”

The decision to moor the Aquarius is the result of a “constant denigration, smearing and obstruction campaign led” against Medecins sans Frontieres and SOS MEDITERRANEAN by the Italian government and supported by other European countries, the NGO said.

The Aquarius was recently accused of trafficking waste and criminal activities — accusations that are “ludicrous”, Reuters quoted Medecins sans Frontieres as saying.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has repeatedly closed Italian ports to the Aquarius, forcing it to sail for days with dozens of rescued migrants aboard to find a port in other countries.

Salvini has refused to take more migrants from the Aquarius, demanding other European Union countries take a share of migrants. He also said the rescue ships like Aquarius encouraged people to take the sea to cross towards Europe.

SOS MEDITERRANEAN director of operations Frederic Penard said “giving up the Aquarius has been an extremely difficult decision” but added that the group was “actively exploring options for a new boat”.

“Search and rescue capacity needs to be reinforced rather than diminished,” UN refugee agency spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo told reporters in Geneva.

She stressed the need to leave “space for NGOs to contribute in a coordinated manner to these efforts”.

“Saving lives is our primary concern,” AFP quoted her as saying.

Aquarius has helped almost 30,000 migrants at sea who have attempted the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

UN force confirms presence of tunnel on Lebanon-Israel border

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ALJAZEERA NEWS)

 

UN force confirms presence of tunnel on Lebanon-Israel border

UNIFIL says it found tunnel, allegedly dug by Hezbollah, near Metula in northern Israel.

UN peacekeepers and Israeli soldiers look towards the border with Lebanon [Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]
UN peacekeepers and Israeli soldiers look towards the border with Lebanon [Ronen Zvulun/Reuters]

The United Nations peacekeepers have confirmed the existence of a tunnel in northern Israel near the Lebanese border, days after Tel Aviv accused armed group Hezbollah of digging under the frontier.

In a statement on Thursday, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said it “visited a location near Metula in northern Israel” and “can confirm the existence of a tunnel at the location”.

UNIFIL said it is “engaged with the parties to pursue urgent follow-up action” and “will communicate its preliminary findings to the appropriate authorities in Lebanon”.

The confirmation by the UN came a day after Lebanon said Israel presented no evidence to prove its claims of a network of attack tunnels allegedly built by Hezbollah.

In a meeting with UN peacekeepers on Wednesday, Lebanon parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said the Israeli accusation was not based on “any real facts at all”.

Operation Northern Shield

On Tuesday, Israel launched an operation dubbed “Northern Shield” to destroy the tunnels it claimed were found at the Lebanese border.

The Israeli military said it provided UNIFIL with a map of the area around Ramieh village on which houses were marked which are “connected to another attack tunnel that has been dug from Lebanon into Israel”, army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus said.

The tunnel crosses into Israel but is not yet operational, he added.

Israel has not detailed how many tunnels have been detected, although Conricus on Thursday said the army was working in three different areas along the border.

The operation is part of Israel’s wider campaign against Hezbollah, including actions to tackle the group’s weapons facilities.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week that Hezbollah was planning to send attackers through the tunnels, which he claimed were big enough to be used by motorcycles, small vehicles and groups of people.

“Hezbollah wants to insert several battalions to our territory with the aim of isolating communities, towns and kibbutzim [collective farms] to continue its reign of terror and abductions which could take place simultaneously,” he told a meeting of foreign diplomats on Thursday.

Israel estimates Hezbollah has approximately 130,000 rockets in its arsenal, although rejects the group’s claim that it has successfully acquired precision missiles.

“Despite Hezbollah’s effort to insinuate otherwise, it is not in possession of any significant accurate capabilities,” Conricus said.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES