UN Calls on Israel to Cease All Settlement Activities
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel on Tuesday to cease settlement activity immediately and work with Palestine towards a two-state solution that would ensure respect for human rights in both states.
“I am dismayed by the dramatic increase in Israeli settlement activity,” Ban said. “Settlement activity is a major obstacle to the two-State solution and must cease immediately.”
Ban also called on Israel to transfer withheld tax and customs revenues to Palestine to keep the country financially viable. He spoke at the opening of a meeting by a committee that examines the rights of the Palestinian people, DPA reported.
While Ban‘s comments were mostly addressed to Israel, he warned Palestine to thwart attacks on Gaza and stop weapon transferring into the area calling Israel‘s security concerns “legitimate”.
The secretary general congratulated Egypt for its efforts to work as a facilitator in the discussions.
The UN resolution granting Palestine the status of a non-member observer state last November, a movement Ban said has “resonated deeply” within the organization, has led to a renewed urgency to solve the conflict that began in 1967.
“The status quo is unsustainable and unacceptable,” Ban said. “Both parties must live up to their commitment to a negotiated two-state solution ... and resolve all the core issues, namely, territory, security, Jerusalem, refugees settlement and water.”
CIA Operating Drone Base In Saudi Arabia
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It was the first strike ordered by the Obama administration, and ended in disaster, with dozens of civilians, including women and children, killed.
US officials told the newspaper that the first time the CIA used the secret facility was to kill Awlaki.
Since then, the CIA has been “given the mission of hunting and killing ‘high-value targets’ in Yemen” - the leaders of AQAP who government lawyers had determined posed a direct threat to the US - the officials added.
Three other Americans, including Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, have also been killed in US strikes in Yemen, which can reportedly be carried out without the permission of the country’s government.
The Washington Post reported that President Barak Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, a former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, played a key role in negotiations with the government in Riyadh over building the drone base.
The revelation of the drone base came shortly after the leaking of a US justice department memo detailing the Obama administration’s case for killing Americans abroad who are accused of being a “senior, operational leader” of Al-Qaeda or its allies.
Lethal force is lawful if they are deemed to pose an “imminent threat” and their capture is not feasible, the memo says. The threat does not have to be based on intelligence about a specific attack, since such actions are being “continually” planned by Al-Qaeda, it adds.
NBC News said it was given to members of the US Senate intelligence and judiciary committees as a summary of a classified memo on the targeted killings of US citizens prepared by the justice department.
The latter memo was written before the drone strike that killed Awlaki.
Under President Obama, the US has expanded its use of drones to kill hundreds of al-Qaeda suspects in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. It says it is acting in self-defense in accordance with international law.
OIC Summit Opens With Calls For Syria Dialogue
Leaders of Islamic nations called for a negotiated end to Syria’s civil war at a summit in Cairo that began on Wednesday, thrusting Egypt’s new Islamist president to center stage amid political and economic turbulence at home.
The summit of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation opened on a day when the assassination of a leading Tunisian opposition politician highlighted the fragility of “Arab Spring” democratic revolutions in North Africa.
Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki canceled his trip to the Cairo meeting after Shokri Belaid, a staunch secular opponent of the moderate Islamist government, was shot dead outside his home, triggering street protests.
With Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad making a visit to Egypt after 34 years of estrangement, the two-day meeting was focusing on how to stop the bloodshed in Syria, where Tehran is one of President Bashar Al-Assad’s last allies.
In a keynote address, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi called on the ruling government in Damascus to learn the lessons of history and not put its interests above those of the nation.
Morsi urged all OIC members to support the Syrian opposition’s efforts to unite and bring about change.
Ahmadinejad earlier told Egyptian journalists there could be no military solution and he was encouraged that the Syrian government and opposition were moving towards negotiations to end the conflict in which at least 60,000 people have died.
“Fortunately in Syria at the moment matters between the two parties - the opposition and the government - are heading towards establishing the idea of dialogue and talking together,” Al-Ahram daily quoted him as saying.
Tunisia Opposition Leader Shot to Death
A Tunisian opposition leader critical of the government was shot to death on Wednesday--the first political assassination in post-revolutionary Tunisia.
The killing is likely to heighten tensions in the North African nation whose path from dictatorship to democracy so far has been seen as a model for the Arab world.
Chokri Belaid, a leading member of a leftist alliance of parties known as the Popular Front, was shot as he left his house in the capital, Tunis, the state news agency TAP reported. It said he was taken to a nearby medical clinic, where he died.
Belaid, a 48-year-old lawyer, had been a fierce critic of Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party that dominates the government.
More than 1,000 people quickly gathered in the heart of the capital to protest in front of the Interior Ministry, holding the Islamist-dominated government responsible for the slaying. That is the same site where anti-government protests two years ago eventually toppled Tunisia’s long-time dictator.
Ennahda issued a statement calling the slaying a “heinous crime” that targets the country’s “security and stability”.
“(The party) holds the conspiring parties behind this crime fully responsible and calls on security authorities to make all possible efforts to find the criminals and bring them to justice,” the statement said.
Militants Kill 4 Iraq Policemen In Attacks
Assailants opened automatic fire on police checkpoints in central and northern Iraq early on Wednesday, killing four officers and wounding five, officials said.
In one attack, gunmen in two speeding cars sprayed policemen with machinegun fire in the town of Musayyib, about 60 kilometers (40 miles) south of the capital Baghdad. Two officers were killed and four were wounded there, a police official said.
In the other attack, militants on foot exchanged fire with police at a checkpoint in the city of Mosul, 360 kilometers (225 miles) northwest of Baghdad, killing two policemen and wounding one, AP reported.
Two hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
Security forces are frequently targeted by insurgents seeking to undermine government efforts to restore security in Iraq after years of strife.
The attacks came a day after a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives at an Iraqi army checkpoint north of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least three people.
The blast in Taji, 20 km (12 miles) north of the capital, followed another suicide attack in the same town a day earlier that killed at least 22 people.
It was the eighth suicide bombing in a month in Iraq, where insurgents are seeking to inflame tensions between Shiite, Sunni and ethnic Kurdish factions a year after US troops pulled out of the country.
“There were patches of blood, pieces of clothing and shoes scattered around the place,” said policeman Furat Fleh, whose patrol was near the checkpoint at the time of the blast. “We heard shooting and shouting after the explosion”.
Despite a significant drop in violence since the height of insurgency several years ago, militants still launch deadly attacks almost daily.
Syria’s Car Bombing
Twin car bomb attacks on a military complex in the Syrian city of Palmyra in the province of Homs left 20 people injured.