Middle East

They fled their village in a panic, the older children carrying the little ones, walking for seven hours just to get away. The youngest children are shaking, their cheeks are bright pink from the cold. Finally, a van stops — it's a godsend. The family piles in with their hastily filled bags containing just a change of clothes, which they managed to grab in the darkness as they ran. In the last two months, more than 832,000 people have fled the last opposition-held territory in Syria in the wake of a relentless air campaign and a swift ground offensive by the Syrian regime and its Russian backers. Tens of thousands of people are still on the move. Nearly 700,000 of the newly displaced are women and children, according to the latest UN figures.There is plenty of international condemnation, but little action to relieve the situation in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib and the surrounding areas.The van takes Samar and the six kids in her care to her sister-in-law's house in a village close to the town of Atarib. It's not far enough, but for now it will have to do. "I don't feel better here," Samar told CNN. "We need to leave but we need to try to figure out transport or something because if we try to walk it will be impossible."The kids wait patiently and without complaint outside their house in the last opposition-held territory in Syria, as their mother packs their belonging in the back of a truck.Just a few doors down, Umm Abdo's kids wait outside, bundled up in their winter coats as she finishes loading a truck with mattresses and blankets. The airstrikes are getting too close. It's time to leave. "We are only taking a little, just some clothes, only what we need," Umm Abdo said.She walks into the bedroom one last time and pulls out the kids' toys from the closet.Eight-year-old Dima grabs her favorite — a pink teddy bear called Hamze. The youngest, two-year-old Betoule, grabs a yellow chick. Ten-year-old Abdelbased keeps his hands in his pockets — he is too old to play with stuffed animals anyway. The pink teddy bear is called Hamze. It's eight-year-old Dima's favorite toy, but her mother can only bring along the essentials, and toys don't make the cut.They fled their home two years ago, but had created new memories and a sense of stability in this house. The kids were in school and they had friends. Umm Abdo tells the girls to put the toys back. They don't protest or hesitate, seemingly hardened well beyond their years, and head out to the truck. After a final look around the house, Umm Abdo walks out, locking the front door behind her. It's an incredible act of optimism as the Syrian regime onslaught continues and the future looks bleak.

Fear of Syrian regime abounds

There are no good options for the population as the opposition enclave disintegrates.In the short term, many say they would prefer a Turkish protectorate that would let people go back home. The nightmare scenario is for the Syrian government to take back control and reimpose its brutal regime of massacres and mass detentions.For its part, Turkey has upped its military presence, sending in hundreds of armored vehicles and tanks in an effort to stop the government advance. Turkey suffers first deaths in direct combat with Syria since start of warThirteen Turkish soldiers and one civilian contractor have been killed in Syrian government attacks over the last two weeks, and Turkey has responded by shelling regime positions with a warning that they will respond even more harshly if their soldiers come under fire again.Officials in Ankara say they will no longer tolerate aircraft targeting the civilian population in Idlib, but it's unclear how Turkey can end the airstrikes given that the Syrian regime and Russia control the airspace.The Syrian government's official line over the last nine years has been that they are fighting "terrorists," even as they have hit civilian infrastructure, targeting hospitals, clinics and schools. In Idlib, Hayat Tahrir Al Sham (HTS), a reincarnation of the al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra, has been the dominant force. But that dynamic is changing with Turkey's increased military footprint in the area, according to Omer Ozkizilcik, the editor-in-chief of Suriye Gundemi, a Turkish analysis center focused on the Syrian civil war, and an analyst of the pro-government think tank SETA."HTS is no longer the dominant force in Idlib but the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF)," said Ozkizilcik. "Even without TAF, the internal balance of power has changed in favor of Turkish-backed rebels, who were forced out when extremists returned to Idlib."

Civilians race to escape military advance

Umm Abdo drives off to join the thousands of others on the jam-packed roads out of Idlib, unsure of where they are headed or when she will be able to put her children to sleep in peace. It's a race against the Syrian government advance from the east, which threatens to choke off access to a nearby Turkish-controlled safe zone inside Syria. The Turkish border is open for aid coming into Syria, but closed to people who want to leave.Turkish officials have been warning for months that they cannot handle a new influx of refugees into the country, but the Syrian regime's offensive in Idlib could push nearly 3 million more people across the border into a nation that already hosts almost 4 million Syrian refugees.Souad watches the two-lane road outside her tent congested with desperate people fleeing, crammed into cars, trucks and vans. Tears roll down her face. "Is this what has become of us, oh Lord?" she asks no one in particular.She may have to pack her family and move again, but for now she looks on in grief. The last opposition enclave is crumbling around her. The sound of artillery sometimes pierces through the cacophony of honking horns, as vehicles carrying the possessions of desperate people struggle to leave.Once independent from each other, the camps along the border with Turkey have sprawled into a massive city of semi-permanent structures. It is a scene that plays out on every road leading out of the area.A father clutching his sick daughter says they've been on the road for two days trying to reach safety. Where is that? He points ahead. "The camp," he says, before rushing off.Once independent from each other, the camps along the border with Turkey have sprawled into a massive city of semi-permanent structures. More than one million people, displaced from nine years of fighting, already live in the ever-expanding camps, which provide some semblance of security even as the freezing temperatures take their toll. Sitting in the corner of the family's tent, Samiya recalls the night when temperatures dipped below freezing as the last of their fuel ran out. Her seven-month-old baby, Abdulwahab, was warm when she changed his diaper and fed him that evening before putting him to sleep for the night. Just after dawn, she woke up to the screams of her older kids. Abdulwahab's little body was as cold and gray as the cement their tent sits on. Read More – Source

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Israel's military said on Sunday it had thwarted an attempted malware attack by Hamas that sought to gain access to soldiers' mobile phones by using seductive pictures of young women.


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The phones of a few dozen soldiers were affected, but the military "does not assess that there has been a substantial breach of information", said Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, an army spokesman.

Conricus said this was the third attempted malware attack by Hamas in less than four years, but that the latest effort indicated the Islamist group, which controls the Gaza Strip, had improved their capacity to wage cyber-warfare.

"What we are talking about today is more advanced," he said. "They are upping their game."

According to Conricus, the attacks began with messages that purported to be from young, "attractive-looking" women.

The texts were delivered through Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram as well as the messaging application Telegram, which Israel said Hamas had not used previously.

To avoid engaging in voice calls with soldiers, the messengers posing as young women claimed to be hard of hearing or new immigrants with poor Hebrew, Conricus said.

Once contact was made, subsequent messages encouraged soldiers to click on a link to download an application that would allow for an easier exchange of photos.

These apps, which the military identified as Catch&See, ZatuApp and GrixyApp, sought to infect the soldiers phones with malware that would givRead More – Source

Middle East

Since 2003, worldwide concern over Iran's nuclear program has increased as Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) spar over investigation and details of Iran's program. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has repeatedly denied Iran is building a bomb and says weapons of mass destruction are forbidden under Islam.1957 – The United States signs a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Iran.1958 – Iran joins the IAEA.1967 – The Tehran Nuclear Research Center, which includes a small reactor supplied by the United States, opens.1968 – Iran signs the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.Mid-1970s – With US backing, Iran begins developing a nuclear power program.1979 – Iran's Islamic revolution ends Western involvement in the country's nuclear program.December 1984 – With the aid of China, Iran opens a nuclear research center in Isfahan.February 23, 1998 – The United States announces concerns that Iran's nuclear energy program could lead to the development of nuclear weapons.March 14, 2000 – US President Bill Clinton signs a law that allows sanctions against people and organizations that provide aid to Iran's nuclear program.February 21, 2003 – IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei visits Iran to survey its nuclear facilities and to encourage Iran to sign a protocol allowing IAEA inspectors greater and faster access to nuclear sites. Iran declines to sign the protocol. ElBaradei says he must accept Iran's statement that its nuclear program is for producing power and not weapons, despite claims of the United States to the contrary.June 19, 2003 – The IAEA issues a report saying that Iran appeared to be in compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but that it needed to be more open about its activities.August 2003 – The IAEA announces that its inspectors in Iran have found traces of highly enriched uranium at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant. Iran claims the amounts are contamination from equipment bought from other countries. Iran agrees to sign a protocol of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty that allows for unannounced visits to their nuclear facilities and signs it on December 18, 2003. October 2003 – The Foreign Ministers of Britain, France and Germany visit Tehran, and all parties agree upon measures Iran will take to settle all outstanding issues with the IAEA. Under obligation to the IAEA, Iran releases a dossier on its nuclear activities. However, the report does not contain information on where Iran acquired components for centrifuges used to enrich uranium, a fact the IAEA considers important in determining whether the uranium is to be enriched for weapons.November 2003 – Iran agrees to halt uranium enrichment as a confidence building measure and accepts IAEA verification of suspension.December 2003 – Iran signs the Additional Protocol to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty with the IAEA voluntarily agreeing to broader inspections of its nuclear facilities. February 2004 – A.Q. Khan, "father" of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program, admits to having provided Iran and other countries with uranium-enrichment equipment.June 1, 2004 – The IAEA states they have found traces of uranium that exceed the amount used for general energy production. Iran admits that it is importing parts for advanced centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium, but is using the parts to generate electricity. July 31, 2004 – Iran states that it has resumed production on centrifuge parts used for enriching uranium, but not enrichment activities.August 8, 2005 – Iran restarts uranium conversion, a step on the way to enrichment, at a nuclear facility, saying it is for peaceful purposes only, and flatly rejects a European offer aimed at ensuring the nation does not seek nuclear weapons.August 9, 2005 – Iran removes the IAEA seals from its Isfahan nuclear processing facility, opening the uranium conversion plant for full operation. IAEA spokesman Mark Gwozdecky states that the plant "is fully monitored by the IAEA" and "is not a uranium enrichment plant."September 11, 2005 – Iran's new foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, says the country won't suspend activities at its Isfahan uranium conversion facility and it plans to seek bids for the construction of two more nuclear plants. January 10, 2006 – Iran resumes research at its Natanz uranium enrichment plant, arguing that doing so is within the terms of an agreement with the IAEA.January 12, 2006 – Foreign ministers of the EU3 (Great Britain, France, Germany) recommend Iran's referral to the United Nations Security Council over its nuclear program.January 13, 2006 – Mottaki states that if Iran is referred, its government under law will be forced to stop some of its cooperation with the IAEA, including random inspections.February 4, 2006 –President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad orders Iran to end its cooperation with the IAEA.April 11, 2006 – Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iran's former president, states that Iran has increased the number of functioning centrifuges in its nuclear facilities in Natanz and has produced enriched uranium from them. August 31, 2006 – The IAEA issues a report on Iran saying the Islamic republic "has not suspended its enrichment activities" despite this day's deadline to do so. Iran can possibly face economic sanctions.December 23, 2006 – The UN Security Council votes unanimously to impose sanctions against Iran for failing to suspend its nuclear program.February 22, 2007 – The IAEA issues a statement saying that Iran has not complied with the UN Security Council's call for a freeze of all nuclear activity. Instead, Iran has expanded its uranium enrichment program. March 24, 2007 – The United Nations adopts Resolution 1747 which toughens sanctions against Iran. The sanctions include the freezing of assets of 28 individuals and organizations involved in Iran's nuclear and missile programs. About a third of those are linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, an elite military corps.May 23, 2007 – The IAEA delivers its report to the United Nations on Iran's nuclear activities. The report states that not only has Iran failed to end its uranium enrichment program but has in fact expanded its activity. June 21, 2007 – Iran's Interior Minister Mostapha PourMohamedi claims, "Now we have 3,000 centrifuges and have in our warehouses 100 kilograms of enriched uranium." …"We also have more than 150 tons of raw materials for producing uranium gas."December 2007 – A US intelligence report finds that Iran abandoned a nuclear weapons program in 2003.February 20, 2009 – The Institute for Science and International Security reports that Iranian scientists have reached "nuclear weapons breakout capability." The report concludes Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon but does have enough low-enriched uranium for a single nuclear weapon. An official at the IAEA cautions about drawing such conclusions. The IAEA says Iran's stock of low-enriched uranium would have to be turned into highly enriched uranium to become weapons-grade material. February 25, 2009 – Iran runs tests at its Bushehr nuclear power plant using "dummy" fuel rods loaded with lead in place of enriched uranium to simulate nuclear fuel. A news release distributed to reporters at the scene states the test measured the "pressure, temperature and flow rate" of the facility to make sure they were at appropriate levels. Officials say the next test will use enriched uranium, but it's not clear when the test will be held or when the facility will be fully operational. September 21, 2009 – In a letter to the IAEA, Iran reveals the existence of a second nuclear facility. It is located underground at a military base, near the city of Qom. October 25, 2009 – IAEA inspectors make their first visit to Iran's newly disclosed nuclear facility near Qom. February 18, 2010 – In a statement, the IAEA reports that it believes Iran may be working in secret to develop a nuclear warhead for a missile.August 21, 2010 – Iran begins fueling its first nuclear energy plant, in the city of Bushehr. December 5, 2010 – Ali Akbar Salehi, Iran's atomic chief and acting foreign minister, announces that Iran's nuclear program is self-sufficient and that Iran has begun producing yellowcake, an intermediate stage in processing uranium.January 8, 2011 – Salehi reports that Iran can now create its own nuclear fuel plates and rods.September 4, 2011 – Iran announces that its Bushehr nuclear power plant joined the electric grid September 3, making it the first Middle Eastern country to produce commercial electricity from atomic reactors.September 5, 2011 – In response to Iran's nuclear chief stating that Iran will give the IAEA "full supervision" of its nuclear program for five years if UN sanctions are lifted, the European Union says that Iran must first comply with international obligations.November 8, 2011 – The IAEA releases a report saying that it has "serious concerns" and "credible" information that Iran may be developing nuclear weapons. January 9, 2012 – The IAEA confirms that uranium enrichment has begun at the Fordo nuclear facility in the Qom province in northern Iran.January 23, 2012 – The European Union announces it will ban the import of Iranian crude oil and petroleum products.January 29, 2012 – A six-member delegation from the IAEA arrives in Tehran for a three-day visit, shortly after the EU imposes new sanctions aimed at cutting off funding to the nuclear program. January 31, 2012 – In Senate testimony James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, says there's no evidence Iran is building a nuclear bomb. CIA Director David Petraeus agrees. February 15, 2012 – Iran loads the first domestically produced nuclear fuel rods into the Tehran research reactor.February 21, 2012 – After two days of talks in Iran about the country's nuclear program, the IAEA expresses disappointment that no progress was made and that their request to visit the Parchin military base was denied. March 28, 2012 – Discussions regarding Iran's nuclear future stall. April 14, 2012 – Talks resume between Iran and six world powers over Iranian nuclear ambitions in Istanbul, Turkey.May 25, 2012 – An IAEA report finds that environmental samples taken at the Fordo fuel enrichment plant near the city of Qom have enrichment levels of up to 27%, higher than the previous level of 20%.June 18-19, 2012 – A meeting is held between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, France, Russia, China, Great Britain and Germany) in Moscow. No agreement is reached.June 28, 2012 – Iranian negotiator,Saeed Jalili writes to European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton warning world powers to avoid "unconstructive measures" such as the oil embargo that's about to go into effect and that was agreed upon by the EU in January.July 1, 2012 – A full embargo of Iranian oil from the EU takes effect.August 30, 2012 – A UN report finds that Iran has stepped up its production of high-grade enriched uranium and has re-landscaped Parchin, one of its military bases, in an apparent effort to hamper a UN inquiry into the country's nuclear program.September 24, 2013 – During a speech at the UN General Assembly, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says "Nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction have no place in Iran's security and defense doctrine, and contradict our fundamental religious and ethical convictions."October 16, 2013 – The latest discussions between Iran and the six world powers center on a proposal put forth by Iran to recognize the peaceful nature of its nuclear energy pursuits. The meeting is described as "substantive and forward-looking."November 24, 2013 – Six world powers and Iran reach an agreement over Iran's nuclear program. The deal calls on Iran to limit its nuclear activities in return for lighter sanctions.January 12, 2014 – It is announced that Iran will begin eliminating some of its uranium stockpile on January 20. January 20, 2014 – Iran's nuclear spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi tells state-run news agency IRNA that Iran has started suspending high levels of uranium enrichment. January 20, 2014 – The European Union announces that it has suspended certain sanctions against Iran for six months. February 20, 2014 – Following talks in Vienna, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announce that a deal on the framework for comprehensive negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program has been reached. November 24, 2014 – The deadline for a final nuclear agreement between Iran and the UN Security Council's P5+1 countries has been set for July 1, 2015. April 2, 2015 – Negotiators from Iran, the United States, China, Germany, France, Britain and Russia reach a framework for an agreement on Iran's nuclear capabilities, which includes reducing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98%. The deadline for the complete agreement is July 1. April 9, 2015 – Rouhani announces that Iran will only sign a final nuclear agreement if economic sanctions are lifted on the first day of implementation. July 14, 2015 – A deal is reached on Iran's nuclear program. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) reduces the number of Iranian centrifuges by two-thirds. It places bans on enrichment at key facilities, and limits uranium research and development to the Natanz facility.July 20, 2015 – The UN Security Council endorses the nuclear deal.January 16, 2016 – IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano says Iran has completed all the necessary steps agreed under the nuclear deal, and that all participants can begin implementing the JCPOA.March 8-9, 2016 – Iran test-fires two Qadr ballistic missiles during a large-scale military drill, according to Iran's state-run Press TV. US officials say that the tests do not violate the JCPOA but are very likely in breach of a UN resolution calling on Iran not to undertake ballistic missile activity.January 29, 2017 – Iran launches a medium-range ballistic missile, its first missile test since Donald Trump became US president, but the test fails, according to information given to CNN by a US defense official. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn says the United States has put "Iran on notice." February 3, 2017 – In reaction to the January 29 missile test, the US Treasury Department says it is applying sanctions on 25 indiRead More – Source

Middle East

Sanaa, 10 February 2020 – Initial reports indicate that on 7 February, Al Jafra Hospital, and Al Saudi field hospital in Majzer District in Marib, were hit during clashes. The hospitals, which lie about 75 kilometres north west of Marib City, serve a population of about 15,000, many of them displaced people.

The facilities have been badly damaged, including the intensive care unit, occupational therapy unit, inpatients unit and the pharmacy at Al Jafra Hospital, which is the main hospital in the area. The nearby Al Saudi field hospital, a mobile clinic, was structurally damaged. In addition, a paramedic was injured. Given ongoing hostilities in the area, the hospitals were closed for the safety of staff and patients.

“This is a completely unacceptable breach of international humanitarian law”, said Ms. Lise Grande, Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen. “Its terrible that facilities upon which thousands of people depend to survive have been badly damaged.”

“The health sector has been hit very hard during this war,” said Ms. Grande. “Preventing further damage and helping to rebuild it are some of our highest priorities.”

Fighting escalated in districts in Marib and neighbouring governorates in mid-January, scattering up to 4,673 families across Marib, Sanaa and Al Jawf governorates. Many of those fleeing frontline areas were displaced for the second time and have exhausted all their resources. Humanitarians have been rushing to respond to the thousands of people displaced across the region in recent weeks. This includes providing emergency kits of food, hygiene supplies, shelter materials and other essential items to 1,884 families, as well as providing life-saving water, sanitation and hygiene; health; nutrition and protection services.

Yemen is the worlds worst humanitarian crisis with nearly 80 per cent of the population in need of some form of humanitarian assistance and protection. Ten million people are a step away from famine and 7 million people are malnourished.

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Middle East

BAGHDAD – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and its implementing partners in collaboration with the Ministry of Education (MoE), WFP have relaunched its school feeding programme, following the successful 2018 pilot in West Mosul.

Under the School Feeding Programme, WFP is distributing fresh meals to 330,000 children, in 1,200 primary schools across the country during the academic year. The simple meal provided ensures the children have enough energy to start the school day. The schools were selected in coordination with the Ministry of Planning. The programme covers 11 governorates across the country including Mosul, Basra, Anbar and Diyala.

Although over two years have passed since the areas controlled by the Islamic State were retaken, the education system in Iraq is still recovering from decades of underinvestment and instability.

“The school feeding programme for 2019-2020 is the start of a new, comprehensive, and long-term initiative which reflects the value we place on our dear students and helps us fulfil our obligation to provide students with a suitable school environment, especially in the context of the current situation that the country is experiencing,” said Senior Chief of Research, Ministry of Education Dr. Ali Salman Hassan.

“Education is a powerful tool for young generations. It can help them develop their country and the world. By providing children with fresh, nutritious meals at school, WFP supports their growth and nutritional intake, as well as encouraging their families to send them to school regularly,” said WFP Country Director in Iraq Abdirahman Meygag.

The school meal includes a bottle of water or fruit juice, fresh Iraqi bread, cheese and a piece of fruit. This balanced meal provides the energy that school children need to focus during classes. In addition, all the food is purchased from local suppliers, bakeries, fruit markets and small businesses. This strengthens the capacity of small business owners, facilitates the creation of hundreds of livelihood opportunities in areas where the programme is implemented, and invigorates national and local food systems.

“The school feeding programme is the cornerstone of the education and health system in any country. There is no education without health, and no health without nutrition. To complete this cycle and achieve this goal, there should be a rich, nutritious and balanced food basket, appropriate for Iraqi students. School feeding is a natural right, that should be fulfilled by the state,” said Head of Environmental Awareness and School Health Dr Fawzi Rajab Tawfeeq.

WFP continues to work in coordination with sister UN agencies and partners to ensure that education and learning have a lasting impact on the future of Iraqs children, improving their opportunities, health and wellbeing, and boosting equality.

The United Nations World Food Programme is the worlds largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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Middle East

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A Turkish court on Friday acquitted renowned novelist Asli Erdogan on charges of membership of an armed terror organisation.


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The court in Istanbul also acquitted Erdogan, who is living in exile in Germany, of disrupting the unity of the state, and dropped charges of spreading terror propaganda.

Erdogan, whose books have been translated into various different languages, was an occasional columnist for pro-Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem, which was shut down after the failed 2016 coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The novelist Erdogan – no relation to the Turkish president – was held in pre-trial detention for four months in 2016 Read More – Source

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The database took more than three years to complete, after being mandated in a resolution passed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016. It been hailed by campaign groups as a significant step forward in their efforts to make sure Big Business respects international law.The overwhelming majority of the 112 firms named on the database are Israeli, including many of the country's main banks. But the list also includes a number of well-known international companies, including, among others, Motorola Solutions, General Mills, Trip Advisor and Airbnb of the United States, Opodo and JC Bamford of the United Kingdom and Alstom of France.The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has acknowledged the list's publication would be controversial."I am conscious this issue has been and will continue to be highly contentious. However, after an extensive and meticulous review process we are satisfied this fact-based report reflects the serious consideration that has been given to this unprecedented and highly complex mandate," Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.Israel's response was unequivocal. Israel's President Reuven Rivlin said the initiative was "shameful" and reminiscent of "dark periods in our history." Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused the Human Rights Council of pursuing a "discriminatory anti-Israel policy" and said publication of the list represented "the ultimate surrender to pressure exerted by countries and organizations interested in harming in Israel" and amounted to "a stain … on human rights itself."Israel has built more than one hundred settlements in territories it captured from Jordan during a short war in 1967. Under international law, the settlements in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which are home to more than six hundred thousand people, are considered illegal, though Israel and the United States dispute such a characterization.The database identifies a series of different business activities pursued by the companies named in working with the settlements, including the supply of equipment and materials used in housing construction, the supply of utilities to support infrastructure and of surveillance equipment, and the use of natural resources, in particular water and land.Palestinians say Trump's deal is racist. But their leaders are bereft of ideas on how to fight it Only two of the foreign firms listed above responded to CNN's request for comment: Airbnb declined to make a statement, and a General Mills spokesman acknowledged the company had a factory making bakery products in Atarot — considered part of undivided Jerusalem by Israel but part of the West Bank by most of the international community — and said that about half the workforce are Palestinians who enjoy full social benefits.For the Palestinian leadershRead More – Source

Middle East

The U.N. human rights office on Wednesday released a list of more than 100 companies it said are complicit in violating Palestinian human rights by operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank – a first-ever international attempt to name and shame businesses that has drawn fierce Israeli condemnation.


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The list's publication after repeated delays escalated a looming showdown between Israel and the international community over its more than half-century policy of building settlements in the West Bank. Emboldened by a new U.S. Mideast initiative, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annex Israel's more than 100 settlements, while the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague has indicated she will soon launch a war-crimes investigation into settlement policies.

The list included well known global companies, among them Airbnb, Motorola and General Mills. Although the vast majority of the world considers settlements illegal, Wednesday's report did not accuse the companies of violating international law. Instead, it appeared to be aimed at pressuring them by drawing negative attention to their ties to a much-maligned Israeli policy.

UN Human Rights Office issues a report on business enterprises involved in certain activities relating to the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in response to a specific request by @UN_HRC. Learn more: https://t.co/qDVrtFZKwV

— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) February 12, 2020

“I am conscious this issue has been, and will continue to be, highly contentious,” said Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. “However, after an extensive and meticulous review process, we are satisfied this fact-based report reflects the serious consideration that has been given to this unprecedented and highly complex mandate."

The Human Rights Council in 2016 instructed the U.N.'s human rights office to create a "database" of companies deemed to be linked to or supportive of the settlements. Beginning with a potential list of over 300 companies, it narrowed it down to 112 firms involved in practices that raised human rights concerns, such as settlement construction, security services, banking and equipment that was used to demolish Palestinian property.

The report does not call for sanctions or have any concrete impact on the companies. But Israeli officials accused the report of caving in to pressure from the grassroots Palestinian-led boycott movement against Israel and raised concerns the list could be used as the basis for boycotts and other economic pressure against the companies.

In a statement, Netanyahu called the rights council "unimportant."

“Instead of the organization dealing with human rights, it only tries to disparage Israel. We strongly reject this contemptible effort,” he said.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki hailed the list as a “victory for international law and for the diplomatic effort to dry up the sources of the colonial system represented by illegal settlement in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

With broad international backing, the Palestinians claim the West Bank and east Jerusalem as parts of a future independent state. Israel, which captured both areas in the 1967 Mideast war, has annexed east Jerusalem – a step that is not internationally recognized – and said it has no intention of dismantling any of its West Bank settlements. Nearly 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank, in addition to more than 200,000 in east Jerusalem.

In a reflection of how entrenched the settlements have become, the list is dominated by Israeli companies, including leading banks, construction companies, supermarkets and mobile phone operators.

But there also were international companies, including travel firms like Airbnb, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Booking.com and Opodo. Many offer vacation rentals in the settlements.

Other names include consumer food maker General Mills, tech and communications giants Motorola Solutions and Altice Europe, and infrastructure companies like France's Egis and Alstom, and British company JC Bamford Excavators.

In a statement to The Associated Press, JC Bamford said it is “not involved in the activities referred to in this report” and should not have been included. The company's products are offered through a local dealer, Comasco, that also appeared on the list.

Airbnb declined comment. The San Francisco company said in November 2018 that it was removing its listings in West Bank settlements. After some Israeli-American homeowners sued, the company reversed course and said it would donate all profits from the listings to humanitarian aid organizations.

Israel and the U.S. regularly accuse the Human Rights Council of anti-Israel bias, and the Trump administration withdrew the United States in 2018 – faulting the U.N. for accepting autocratic governments that the administration said have repeatedly violated human rights.

The rights council is made up of 47 governments, with countries like Libya, Venezuela and Somalia among its members. The overwhelming majority of resolutions passed by the council has focused on Israel and its treatment of Palestinians, and Israel is the only country in the world whose policies automatically face scrutiny at every council session.

For decades, the U.S. joined the rest of the international community in criticizing settlement construction. That began to change after President Donald Trump took office in 2017. Surrounded by advisers with close ties to the settlement movement, Trump took a more sympathetic line towRead More – Source