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Mideast Weekly Roundup

By Saturday, March 18, 2017

International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney recently addressed the United Nations and asked its members to back a United Kingdom probe into Islamic State atrocities in Iraq. Nadia Murad, a human rights activist and Yazidi genocide survivor, joined Clooney at the U.N.’s human rights meeting “The Fight Against Impunity for Atrocities: Bringing Daesh to Justice.” Clooney said, “The U.N. was created as the world’s way of saying ‘never again’ to the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis. And yet here we are, 70 years later, discussing the U.N.’s inaction in the face of a genocide that we all know about, and that is ongoing.” She then asked Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to send a required letter to the United Nations Security Council formally requesting a U.N. investigation into ISIS actions. She ended by pleading with the U.N. to not let the Islamic State “get away with genocide.”

A senior United Nations official resigned this week following the withdrawal of a report accusing Israel of being an apartheid state. Israel had been charged with establishing “an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.” Israel rejected the accusations and was joined by the United States in demanding that the report be withdrawn. When announcing her resignation, Rima Khalaf, the U.N. under-secretary general and executive secretary for Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (which published the report), said that “powerful member states” had pressured the U.N. with “vicious attacks and threats.” Her superior, Secretary-General António Guterres, said that he had no advance knowledge of the report and that the contents did not reflect his views. “When someone issues a false and defamatory report in the name of the U.N., it is appropriate that the person resign,” said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley.

The Syrian civil war entered its seventh year on March 15. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, the sixth year of the strife was the deadliest for Syria’s children. At least 400,000 civilians have died since the war began, and 211 journalists and citizen journalists have been killed. The Senate marked the sixth anniversary of the civil war in Syria by introducing a bipartisan resolution asking President Donald Trump to come up with a solution to end the violence. “It is heartbreaking that we have reached the sixth anniversary of the Syrian civil war,” said Sen. John McCain. “A comprehensive strategy is needed now more than ever to put an end to the horror, suffering and devastation in Syria. The lives of hundreds of thousands of Syrians living under siege literally depend on it.”

Twin suicide bombers in Syria’s capital of Damascus have killed 40 people and injured at least 100 others. A bomb blast ripped through the Justice Palace, Damascus’s city’s main judicial building, on March 15. Another explosion went off in a restaurant in the Rabwah district, killing mostly women and children. There have been no immediate claims of responsibility for the attacks. “The ministry calls on the international community to condemn this heinous terrorist crime that targeted civilian Iraqi visitors to the holy shrines,” said Iraq Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmed Jamal. “It also urges a firm and decisive stand against the takfiri groups responsible for them.”

Dozens of Somali migrants were killed in the Red Sea this week when a Yemen helicopter opened fire on their boat. More than 30 people – including children – died when the military helicopter attacked their vessel on March 17. At least 30 others were injured and more are missing. Yemen’s Shiite rebels said that the shooting was perpetrated by a Saudi-led coalition that has been carrying out attacks all along the coast. “I took cover in the belly of the ship,” said Somali survivor Ibrahim Ali Zeyad. “People were falling left and right. Everyone kept screaming, ‘We are Somali! We are Somali!’ The helicopter was right over us and it had these huge lights on. They just kept shooting.”

Jordan has released Ahmed Daqamseh, a former soldier who opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls in 1997, from jail. Daqamseh killed seven girls and injured five others who were touring the Island of Peace site on the Israeli-Jordanian border. He was diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder and was sentenced to life in prison, but because that punishment is open-ended in Jordan, he was released this week after serving 20 years. Daqamseh has never shown remorse for the killings, instead saying that he wished he had been able to kill all of the schoolgirls at the site that day. In his first statement after his release, he told the press, “There is no country named Israel.”

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein this week called for the release of tens of thousands of detainees in Syria’s prisons. Speaking at a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, al-Hussein called Syria a “torture chamber. A place of savage horror and absolute injustice.” He asked that executioners and torturers in Syria be brought to justice, “ensuring accountability, establishing the truth, and providing reparations.” He added that the prisoner release and perpetrator punishments are necessary to bring reconciliation and peace to the Syrian people.

Israel has bestowed its highest honor upon Elad Foundation founder David “David’le” Beeri. Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett announced that Beeri – the creator of a Jewish settler group – will be this year’s recipient of the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement. The Obama Administration had criticized Beeri’s settlement of Jewish nationalists in Arab districts in Jerusalem, calling his actions detrimental to Israeli-Palestinian relations. Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat praised Beeri’s selection as this year’s award-winner and called him “a man of vision as he is a man of action.”

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