Local activists in Gaza announced April 29 that they have moved tents that were set up along the border with Israel as part of the "Great March of Return," relocating them 50 meters closer to the border fence. The committee in charge of the Great March said they had moved the "tents of return" closer to the border "as a message of persistence from our people to the world that we are moving forward towards our rightful goals." The tents were initially set up between 500-700 meters from the border line. The announcement came on the 20th day of protests since the Great March began in the besieged Gaza Strip, as hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees demanded their collective right of return to their homelands in present-day Israel. Since the massive popular demonstrations began, at least 36 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces. Among the dead were two minors and a journalist. (Ma'an)
International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on April 8 called for an end to the violence along the border of the Gaza Strip and raised the possibility of ICC prosecutions against Israel and Hamas. In her statement, Bensouda cautioned both sides about the "deteriorating situation" that has engulfed the region:
UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement April 9 saying he is "deeply concerned" about ongoing air-strikes on Douma in Syria's besieged Eastern Ghouta enclave, noting the "killing of civilians" and "destruction of civilian infrastructure," including hospitals and health facilities. The statement said he is "particularly alarmed by allegations that chemical weapons have been used against civilian populations in Douma." It also noted reports of civilians killed by shelling of Damascus from rebel positions in Douma. Guterres called on all sides to abide by Security Council Resolutions 2401, which last month demanded a 30-day halt to hostilitiess. He reiterated that there is no military solution to the conflict.
So, as every Friday, our Syria Solidarity NYC group held its vigil in Union Square to bear witness against the ongoing savage bombardment of Ghouta. But what a scene it was last evening... First, there was a big protest going on against Israel's massacres along the Gaza Strip's border. Now, those standing for Ghouta and Gaza should be natural allies, but there was little interaction between our little protest and their much larger one.
The reasons for this bear some examination...
Human rights organizations have come out in full condemnation of Israel's violent response to massive unarmed civilian protests in Gaza on March 30, which left 16 Palestinians—one farmer and 15 protesters —dead along the Strip's border. Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights, released a statement condemning Israel's use of military snipers against the civilian protesters. "The Israeli military's use of 100 snipers against unarmed Palestinian civilian protesters in the Gaza Strip is illegal," the statement said, adding that "live gunfire on unarmed civilians constitutes a brutal violation of the international legal obligation to distinguish between civilians and combatants."
Two UN rights experts expressed serious concern on Feb. 13 regarding the arrest and detention of Ahed Tamimi, a 17-year-old Palestinian girl who became famous for slapping an Israeli soldier during a physical confrontation. The statements came as Tamimi appeared before an Israeli military court for the first time. UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territory Michael Lynk and Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez demanded Tamimi's immediate release during the proceedings and called for future hearings to be held in strict accordance with international legal standards. Tamimi has been in detention in Israel since her arrest at her home in December, where she was filmed physically confronting Israel soldiers at her family's property in Nabi Salah in the Israel-occupied West Bank. The following month, Tamimi was charged with a number of offenses under Israel military law for both the December incident and for others dating back to April 2016.
As Turkey and its Syrian rebel allies continue their advance on Kurdish-held Afrin, Russia and its Syrian regime allies continue their advance on rebel-held Iblib. Both offensives are taking a horrific toll in civilian casualties, but the parallels don't end there. Even as they ostensibly oppose each other, both Turkey and Assad are accused of conniving with ISIS forces to weaken the defenders of the respective enclaves. And the twin aggressions in Afrin and Idlib come amid a sudden and rapid internationalization of the Syrian war.
Pope Tawadros II, leader Egypt's Coptic Church, has cancelled a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Cairo later this month, in protest of the Trump administration's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump's decision "did not take into account the feelings of millions of Arab people," the church said in a statement. "The Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Church declines to receive American Vice President Mike Pence," it said, adding it would pray for "wisdom and to address all issues that impact peace for the people of the Middle East." The decision comes a day after Egypt's top Muslim cleric, Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb, the head of al-Azhar University, also declined to meet Pence.