Israel: The Israeli military on Thursday said it dropped leaflets across the Gaza Strip, warning residents to stay far from the Israeli border during a mass protest. Military officials are expecting a large turnout at Friday’s demonstration, raising the likelihood of bloodshed. Over 115 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during near-weekly demonstrations. The Hamas-led demonstrations have been fueled by despair over a decade-old Israel-Egyptian blockade, imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of the territory.
Demonstrators have also called for the “right of return” to lost ancestral homes in what is now Israel. Some two-thirds of Gaza’s 2 million people are descendants of refugees who fled or were forced from their homes during the war surrounding Israel’s establishment in 1948.
A preliminary probe by the Israeli military into the killing of 21-year-old Palestinian medic Razan al Najjar says she was not killed deliberately – as they did not fire directly at her but at the other demonstrators.
Israel accuses Hamas of using demonstrators as human shields while trying to carry out attacks and says it is defending its sovereign border. Some protesters have hurled flaming tires and firebombs toward the fence, and in some cases have tried to break through. But the vast majority of Palestinian casualties, including over 3,700 people wounded by Israeli fire, have been unarmed. The UN and EU have accused Israel of using excessive force, while rights groups say the open fire orders are illegal because soldiers are shooting toward unarmed people when their lives are not in imminent danger.
In the leaflets, the army told Gazans that approaching the border fence is liable to be “severely detrimental.” “For your own benefit, it is better that you not participate in the violent riots at the fence, not attempt to breach it, and not permit Hamas to turn you into a tool to advance its narrow agenda,” the army said. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have participated in the protests. Friday’s demonstrations are meant to coincide with “Jerusalem Day,” a day of protest against Israeli control of the city of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem day was established in 1979 in Iran to coincide with the last Friday of Ramadan. This year, the protests take on added significance after the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In recent weeks, Israel has struggled with a new phenomenon of flaming kites flown over the border into Israel. The kites have caused wildfires and extensive damage to Israeli agricultural land nearby.
The Israeli military said it has adopted the use of drones to intercept some 500 kites and flaming balloons. Col. Nadav Livne, commander of the unit operating the drones, told reporters Thursday that the drones now have a “more than 90 percent” success rate in taking down the kites. “But it’s not 100 percent protection,” he said.
Peace talks with Taliban will happen soon: US
KABUL: The US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan said talks with the Taliban will “happen very soon” but if the insurgents continue to fight, then American forces would support Afghan forces in the war.
Talks between the Taliban and American officials have hit a roadblock after the hardline militants cancelled the fourth round of peace talks last week and rejected the involvement of the Afghan government in the dialogue.
The Taliban threatened to pull out of the peace process with the United States if they diverted from the issue of foreign force withdrawal from Afghanistan, a key demand of the insurgents to end the 17-year war.
The Taliban’s warning came hours after Zalmay Khalilzad landed in Afghanistan after meeting officials from India, China and the United Arab Emirates to discuss the peace process. “If the Taliban want to talk, we can talk. If they want to fight, we can fight,” Khalilzad told journalists in Kabul.
The White House has said President Donald Trump had not issued orders to the Pentagon to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, but the White House has not denied reports that the United States plans to pull out some of the 14,000-strong force currently deployed.
Khalilzad said: “We hope that they [Taliban] want to make peace. But if they do not choose to come to the table, if they choose to continue fighting, the United States will stand with the Afghan people and the Afghan government and support them.”
Speaking about the next date for a meeting with the Taliban, he said: “We are hopeful it will happen very soon. That’s what we’re working towards.” “What we want is to see this conflict end through negotiation, to continue our partnership with Afghanistan and to ensure no terrorist threatens either of us,” Khalilzad told reporters.
UN approves mission to shore up Yemen truce
UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved the deployment to Yemen of up to 75 monitors in a new mission to shore up a fragile ceasefire and oversee a pullback of forces from the flashpoint port of Hodeida.
The observer mission was agreed during talks last month in Sweden between the Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels and an advance team is already on the ground in the rebel-held city.
The unarmed monitors will be sent to Hodeida city and port as well as to the ports of Saleef and Ras Issa for an initial period of six months.
The resolution calls on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to “expeditiously” deploy the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeida Agreement (UNMHA), led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert.
Guterres has described the mission as a “nimble presence” that will report on violations in Hodeida, which for months was the front line in the war after pro-government forces launched an offensive to capture it in June.
Human Rights Watch warned of a tough road ahead and urged the council to keep the pressure on the warring sides.
“The countdown for exchanging prisoners is fast approaching, but the parties have missed deadlines, putting the prisoner swap in jeopardy,” said Louis Charbonneau, HRW’s UN director.
Lift travel ban on opposition leaders: Pak SC asks Imran Khan govt
Islamabad: Pakistan’s Supreme Court Thursday ordered the government led by Prime Minister Imran Khan to lift the travel ban imposed on opposition leader Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and the Sindh Chief Minister, and asked the country’s anti-corruption body to probe their involvement in Rs 35 billion ‘fake accounts case’.
As many as 172 suspects were placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) on the recommendations of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) formed by the apex court.
A person cannot fly abroad if his name is placed on the ECL.
The Supreme Court, in a detailed judgement, ordered the government to remove the names of opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from the ECL.
It, however, referred the report and material collected by the JIT in the Rs 35 billion ‘fake accounts case’ to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), Dawn news reported.
The JIT probe focused on “32 fake accounts” which were allegedly used to give massive financial benefits to former president Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and several others.
“Removing of the names will not prevent (the) NAB to probe and in case sufficient material is found connecting these individuals with cognisable offences, it will not be precluded from making an appropriate request to the federal government to place their names on (the) ECL again or take any appropriate action provided by law,” according to the judgement authored by Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan.
The apex court in its earlier instructions asked the government to delete names of Bilawal and Shah from the ECL but the Cabinet waited for the detailed judgment.
After the judgement, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said the government will decide whether it should implement the court orders or file a review petition.
Justice Ahsan was part of the three-judge bench that last year took a suo-motu cognisance after it emerged that several big names were involved in money laundering through fake accounts.
Currently, a Karachi court is hearing the case against Zardari and Talpur for alleged money laundering.