Saudi king labels Israeli offensive in Gaza a war crime

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah criticised international inaction over Israel's offensive in Gaza, which he described as involving mass slaughter and “war crimes against humanity”, in a speech read out on his behalf on state television. -Reuters Photo

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah broke his silence on Friday over the three-week-old conflict in Gaza, condemning what he saw as international silence over Israel’s offensive and describing this as a war crime and “state-sponsored terrorism”.

Saudi Arabia, which regards itself as a leader of the Sunni Muslim world, has played only a background role in the diplomacy to reinstate calm in Gaza, leaving the main Arab pursuit of a ceasefire to close ally Egypt and fellow Gulf monarchy Qatar.

“We see the blood of our brothers in Palestine shed in collective massacres that did not exclude anyone, and war crimes against humanity without scruples, humanity or morality,” Abdullah said in a brief speech read out on his behalf on state television.

“This (international) community, which has observed silently what is happening in the whole region, has been indifferent to what is happening, as if what is happening is not its concern. Silence that has no justification.”

His speech, which focused mainly on what he described as a Middle East-wide threat from militancy, followed criticism by some Saudis on social media, including prominent clerics, over Riyadh’s quiet response to the Gaza crisis.


Political complications


The kingdom’s policy towards Gaza is complicated by its mistrust of the territory’s ruling Hamas, a movement with close ideological and political links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Riyadh regards as a terrorist organisation.

Saudi Arabia believes the Brotherhood has a region-wide agenda to seize power from established government leaders, including the kingdom’s al-Saud dynasty, and has quarrelled with Qatar over its support for the group.

Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, a political analyst in the United Arab Emirates, said the speech was a bid to rebut accusations that Saudi Arabia – along with allies Egypt and the UAE – was happy to see Hamas weakened by Israel’s offensive, which was prompted in part by increasing Hamas rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.

“People want to see a stronger position from these three countries and it is not coming over very strongly,” he said.

The kingdom’s muted response to the crisis so far has been echoed across a region already absorbed by a series of civil wars, insurgencies and internal political strife that have erupted in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab uprisings.

Since the Israeli air and ground onslaught began, Saudi Arabia’s public expressions of condemnation over the violence have been mostly limited to statements following the weekly cabinet meetings, and to pledges of humanitarian aid.

Newspaper coverage, which often follows the official line in Saudi Arabia, has often relegated the conflict to inside pages in sharp contrast to previous Israeli incursions into Gaza.

Some editorials have taken the rare step of blaming Hamas for the bloodshed, in which 1,509 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed, rather than Israel. There have been 66 Israeli deaths, 63 of them soldiers.

Riyadh took a far more prominent role at past junctures of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It sponsored the 2002 Arab peace initiative offering the Jewish state an end to conflict with all Arab states in return for the creation of a Palestinian state and return of Palestinian refugees. Israel rejected it.

Since the offensive began, however, King Abdullah has met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and U.N. Secretary General Ban ki-Moon to discuss the crisis.


Ceasefire collapse


The conflict in Gaza has coincided with Saudi attempts to navigate multiple regional crises, including political chaos in Egypt, two separate insurgencies in its neighbour Yemen and wars in Iraq and Syria.

This regional turmoil is set against Saudi Arabia’s bitter rivalry with Shia power Iran and its fears of rising influence exerted by Sunni militant groups the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which seek to topple the al-Saud dynasty.

In his speech, Abdullah condemned militants who he said were killing innocent people and mutilating their bodies in contravention of Islamic teachings.

He also called on the region’s leaders and religious scholars to prevent Islam from being hijacked by militants.

He further said he was disappointed by the lack of any follow-up from other countries to his proposal two years ago to establish an international centre to combat terrorism.

Israel declared a Gaza ceasefire over on Friday only hours after it was announced, saying Hamas militants violated the pact 90 minutes after it took effect and apparently captured an Israeli officer while killing two other soldiers.

The truce was the most ambitious attempt yet to end the fighting and followed increasing international alarm over the soaring Palestinian civilian death toll.

Thousands still without shelter in earthquake-hit areas

AWARAN: Although the government, the army and some non-governmental organisations have been providing relief to people affected by two earthquakes in Awaran and Kech districts of Balochistan, thousands are still living without shelter and food.

The provincial government admitted that relief goods could not be transported to several areas because of security reasons and dilapidated condition of roads. Meanwhile, looting of relief was reported from Mashkay area.

Armed men took away three trucks and abandoned them after offloading supplies. Confirming the incident, officials said the government was making arrangements to provide security for smooth supply of relief to the affected areas.

Hundreds of thousands of people were rendered homeless after their houses were razed to the ground by the earthquakes which also destroyed wells and their other sources of water.

Citing an initial assessment, officials said 180,000 to 200,000 people had been affected by the quakes. About 35,000 houses collapsed or were badly damaged. Some villages in Awaran and Kech have been flattened.

RESCUE WORK REVIEWED: A meeting presided over by the chief secretary on Sunday reviewed rescue and relief activities in the quake-hit areas and decided to immediately provide 35,000 tents to the affected families. They will also be given ready-to-eat food and dry ration for one month.

“The Balochistan government has been making efforts and utilising all its available resources to provide shelter, drinking water, food and medicines to the affected families,” the chief secretary said. Besides, he added, the federal and provincial governments, the army and Frontier Corps and Edhi Foundation and some NGOs were also providing relief to the affected people.

He said there was no need for an international appeal because the government had adequate stock of tents, foodstuff, medicines and other items. But, he added, it was up to Chief Minister Abdul Malik Baloch to take a decision in this regard. The meeting was informed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was expected to visit the quake-stricken districts after his return from New York and announce a package for rehabilitation of the affected families. It was told that 10,000 tents announced by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and 5,000 by Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah had started reaching the affected districts.

The Balochistan government has shifted the offices of commissioner and regional police officer of Kalat division to Awaran to monitor rescue and relief operation and law and order and ensure smooth supply of relief.

Balochistan government’s spokesman Mir Jan Mohammad Buledi and Provincial Disaster Management Authority’s director general Hafiz Abdul Basit told reporters that so far 153 trucks loaded with relief goods had reached the affected areas. Twenty trucks are being dispatched daily. They said a group of quake-hit people stopped a truck in Tarteej area on Sunday and took away relief goods, but added that such incidents were not unusual since people were hungry and needed food.

They said Mashkay had been badly affected by the earthquakes. “Four transport helicopters and a C-130 plane are being used to drop relief goods in Nokjo, Jeebri and other areas of Mashkay sub-division.”

They said 28 trucks carrying relief items had reached Mashkay and another 26 had been dispatched to the affected areas.

“We have decided to divide the affected areas into six sectors for better coordination between the civil administration and the army, FC and other stakeholders for distribution of relief goods,” Mr Basit said.

He said 18 people were killed and over 50 injured in Saturday’s earthquake in Nokjo.

Mr Buledi said the provincial government was serious about the relief work and that’s why the chief minister himself had been in Awaran for three days. He said Dr Malik and Senator Mir Hasil Bizenjo, accompanied by officials, had visited Labach and other areas and distributed relief goods among the affected people.

DSS adds: The victims of Saturday’s earthquake have been buried.

“All the 22 victims were buried on Sunday in Nokjo village of Awaran district, which was badly affected by the quake yesterday,” a senior local government official said.

Pehli Kiran,Community Service: By Pir Arkam Photographer

We went to a little poor school, along with story books, colouring books and made these little flowers smile 🙂

Child labor and poverty are inevitably bound together and if you continue to use the labor of children as the treatment for the social disease of poverty, you will have both poverty and child labor to the end of time.

 

Rich kids gave us their old clothes. They were the best clothes we ever had. We were these very pure, naive, poor children. The rich kids called us a lot of names but it never bothered us because we didn’t know what the words meant.

Katy Perry visits destroyed school

This gallery comprises photos released by Unicef, showing US singer Katy Perry on a visit to a primary school in Ampihaonana, Madagascar, that has been rebuilt by Unicef after it was destroyed by a cyclone on April 5, 2013.

Perry’s visit is intended to focus on the children’s situation in one of the poorest countries in the world that is still recovering from a political crisis and ensuing coup in 2009. Currently, some 82 per cent of Malagasies are unable to afford basic needs and services, including food and healthcare.