Syria
syria

Syria: regime ‘normalization’ ‚ÄĒamid war and hunger

At a closed meeting in Cairo, Arab League foreign ministers approved a measure to readmit Syria after more than a decade of suspension‚ÄĒa critical victory for the normalization of Bashar Assad’s genocidal regime.¬†This diplomatic coup, however, cannot mask the reality that Syria’s war is not over. Assad may have retaken most of the country, but various rebel and Kurdish forces still control much of the north. Civilians are still being killed in shelling and other violence. Even before earthquakes devastated large parts of northern Syria three months ago, continuing conflict and a debilitating economic crisis meant deepening hunger. Humanitarian needs in Syria were already at a record high. But amid mounting global crises, the UN-coordinated appeal for Syria in 2023 is only eight percent funded. And food prices are still rising, making it harder still for aid groups to meet the urgent¬†and growing needs of millions of Syrians.¬†(Photo: Giovanni Diffidenti/UNICEF via UN News)

Palestine
Palestine

Israel’s paramilitary plan advances

The Israeli cabinet¬†authorized plans for a paramilitary “National Guard” sought by far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to target violence and unrest in Palestinian communities within Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said that a committee comprised of Israel’s existing security forces is to determine the Guard’s responsibilities, and whether it will be subordinate to the Israel Police or take orders directly from Ben-Gvir, as he demands. Opposition leader Yair Lapid responded by calling the plan an “extremist fantasy of delusional people,” and slammed a decision to cut budgets from other ministries “to fund Ben-Gvir’s private militia.” (Photo: RJA1988 via Jurist)

Palestine
Tel Aviv protest

Israel protests score a win ‚ÄĒfor now

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu¬†announced that he will delay his proposed reforms of the judicial system in the face of ongoing mass protests. Calling it a move to “avoid civil war,” Netanyahu declared in a televised address “a timeout for dialogue.” However, he added: “We insist on the need to bring about the necessary corrections in the legal system.”¬†Opponents of the reform remain wary that the current respite is only¬†temporary, a tactic to buy time while tensions cool.¬†The protest campaign has also seen a wave of civil disobedience, with military reservists refusing to report for duty.¬†Despite the general single-issue focus on the judicial reform, the demonstrations have included an “anti-apartheid bloc” calling for a secular state and decolonization of Palestinian lands.¬†(Photo: Or Adar/The Umbrella Movement via Twitter)

Palestine
Siloam

Political archaeology amid Jerusalem tensions

Israel’s new National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir made a visit to al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, flanked by by a heavy security detail‚ÄĒeliciting outrage from the Palestinian leadership. The Palestinian Authority called the move “an unprecedented provocation,” with Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh accusing Ben-Gvir of staging the visit as part of an agenda to turn the site “into a Jewish temple.” The fracas comes as Israeli authorities have launched another supposed archaeological project in East Jerusalem which critics say masks an ongoing program of “Judaization” of the Old City. This concerns the Pool of Siloam, a small reservoir believed to have served Jerusalem in biblical times. In making the announcement, officials visited the site, accompanied by a large detachment of police‚ÄĒsparking a spontaneous protest from local Palestinian residents. Three members of a Palestinian family that claims rights to the land in question were detained. (Photo: –ö—É–Ņ–į–Ľ—Ć–Ĺ—Ź –°–ł–Ľ–ĺ–į–ľ, –ė–Ķ—Ä—É—Ā–į–Ľ–ł–ľ via Wikimedia Commons)

The Andes
Partnership of the Americas 2009

Colombia joins ‘new partnership’ with NATO

President Joe Biden issued an executive order designating Colombia a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) of the United States. The designation facilitates further weapons transfers from the US to Colombia, and increased military cooperation between the two countries. Colombia is the third MNNA in Latin America, after Brazil and Argentina. Weeks earlier, a delegation of NATO staff visited Colombia to discuss the South American country’s participation in the alliance’s Defense Education Enhancement Program (DEEP). Colombia became NATO’s newest “global partner” in 2018, but this relationship was reinforced last December, when it became a member of the NATO Individually Tailored Partnership Program (ITPP). (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Palestine
Palestine

Electoral impasse exposes Jerusalem apartheid

For weeks, East Jerusalem has seen nightly protests over the impending eviction of hundreds of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah district‚ÄĒculminating in violent clashes with riot police at al-Aqsa Mosque. Compounding the anger is another grievance‚ÄĒIsrael’s denial of East Jerusalem Palestinians’ right to participate in elections for the Palestinian Authority’s Legislative Council. With the overwhelming majority of East Jerusalem Palestinians denied Israeli citizenship by an array of bureaucratic artifices, this means they are effectively disenfranchised of the vote in either sovereignty. (Photo: RJA1988 via Jurist)

Syria
Rukban

Jordan forcibly deports Syrian refugees

Over the past months, dozens of Syrian refugees have been deported by the Jordanian government to Rukban, a desolate camp across the Syria-Jordan border. Authorities say those targeted for deportation have “security” issues, but returnees to the camp deny having had any problems with law enforcement in Jordan. Amnesty International said ¬†that at least 16 refugees have been “forcibly transferred” to Rukban over the past month alone. Watchdog groups say the deportations are a violation of asylum-seekers’ rights, and that sending a refugee back to likely harm‚ÄĒknown as refoulement‚ÄĒis prohibited under international law. While Jordan has been quietly deporting asylum-seekers for several years, this is the first time it has been accused of forcible transfers to the desert no-man’s-land, which experiences scalding temperatures and is largely cut off from food and medicine supplies. “It’s still a human rights violation regardless of what [the refugees] are accused of,” said Sara Kayyali,¬†Syria researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These deportations have happened with no fair trial or due process.” (Photo:¬†Omar al-Homsi/TNH)

Watching the Shadows
PNP_Checkpoints

Global COVID-19 police state escalates

Mounting police-state measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are now resulting in stand-offs between executive and judicial authorities. In El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele is openly defying¬†Supreme Court rulings to respect fundamental rights while enforcing the lockdown. His¬†security forces have arbitrarily detained hundreds in containment centers, where rights observers charge they face an increased risk of spreading COVID-19.¬†Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the government may not continue using tracking capabilities developed by the internal security service Shin Bet in efforts to contain COVID-19, imposing a deadline for¬†Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu¬†to seek legislative approval for the practice.¬†In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte, already threatening to shoot lockdown violators, has escalated to warning of an imminent declaration of martial law. (Photo: Philippine National Police via Wikipedia)

Southern Cone
Santiago protest

Econo-protests from Santiago to Beirut

A state of emergency has been declared in Chile following protests that initially erupted over transit fare hikes in Santiago but quickly escalated to an uprising over general economic agony. Youth have blocked thoroughfares, burned buses and ransacked shops, while whole families have filled the streets in a nationwide cacerolazo‚ÄĒbeating pots and pans to express outrage over the high cost of living. Protesters have similarly taken the streets, erected barricades and clashed with police in Lebanon, where a state of “economic emergency” has been declared. Again, demonstrations were initially sparked by government plans to impose a tax on text messaging, but protests have continued even after the tax was rescinded in response to the upsurge of popular anger. Demonstrators have revived the slogan from the 2011 Arab Revolution, “The people demand the fall of the regime.” (Photo: KaosEnLaRed)

Syria

Syria: UN ‘betrayal’ of rebel zones feared

Aid organizations are protesting a UN decision to centralize coordination of Syria operations in Damascus‚ÄĒa move they say hands more power to the regime of Bashar Assad, and will make it harder to deliver aid to millions who live in rebel-held areas. UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock’s decision was¬†announced at a closed-door meeting in early April¬†to alter the system the UN has used for the past four years. That system was designed¬†to ensure aid is delivered on the basis of need to both government and rebel-held territories‚ÄĒknown as the “Whole of Syria” approach. Facing hunger and desperation, many in besieged rebel pockets are accepting “resettlement” offers from the regime. But they must undergo “security screening” at “transition centers” established for this purpose, where reports indicate men are being separated from their families and detained.¬†The Assad regime has been accused of a mass extermination of detainees, possibly amounting to genocide.¬†(Photo: The New Humanitarian)

Syria

Assad to The Hague ‚ÄĒhope at last?

Even amid growing media portrayals that Bashar Assad has won the war in Syria, the first real hope has emerged that the dictator will face war crimes charges before the International Criminal Court. A group of Syrian refugees who fled to Jordan after surviving torture and massacres submitted dossiers of evidence to the ICC in an attempt to prosecute Assad. Although Syria is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, which establishes the court’s jurisdiction, lawyers in London are citing recent precedent set by the ICC in extending jurisdiction for the crime of forcible population transfers across international borders. (Photo of Aleppo following regime bombardment: 7ee6an)

Syria

More than half million killed in Syria since 2011

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights issued a statistical report on the number of Syrian war victims on the occasion of World Human Rights Day. The statistics show¬†that 560,000 people have been killed since March 2011, including civilians, soldiers, rebel fighters, and “martyrs” who died under torture in the regime prisons. The Observatory found: “Over 93 months…Syrians have been crushed between the jaws of death, with each day declaring a decrease in their numbers…” The Observatory documented the deaths of 104,000 Syrians in the regime’s prisons, likely under torture in most cases, with 83% executed in these prisons between May 2013 and October 2015. In this period, 30,000 were killed in Saydnaya prison alone, according to the Observatory. The remainder of the total were killed in fighting, with civilians constituting a large plurality at 111,330. The rest were from various armed factions. (Photo of Aleppo following regime bombardment: 7ee6an)