ESCWA chief resigns under pressure over ‘Israeli apartheid regime’ report

ESCWA chief resigns under pressure over ‘Israeli apartheid regime’ report
Caving in to pressure from the UN Secretary General amid controversy over a report which accused Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” on Palestinians, the head of the world body’s West Asia commission has resigned.

On Wednesday, The UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) published a report accusing Israel “beyond a reasonable doubt” of being guilty of “policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid” against the Palestinian people.

The damning document, which was eventually taken down on Friday, sparked an immediate condemnation from Israel which called the conclusions of the Lebanese-based UN body a “despicable and a blatant lie.”

The Israeli UN ambassador Danny Danon accused the authors of the report of bias, while specifically singling out the ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf for pursuing her own anti-Israeli agenda. The American ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, was also quick to call on the United Nations to withdraw the report.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres immediately distanced himself from ESCWA document, and over the past two days exerted pressure on Khalaf and ESCWA to take down the report. Once Guterres explicitly insisted that the document be removed from the agency’s website, Khalaf announced her resignation.

“I submitted to him my resignation from the United Nations,” Khalaf said at a press conference in Beirut, as cited by Reuters.

Khalaf, however, still stands by the report, calling it the “first of its kind” from a UN agency that sheds light on “the crimes that Israel continues to commit against the Palestinian people, which amount to war crimes against humanity,” the Times of Israel quoted.

.@UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Secretary of @ESCWACIU @RimaKhalaf resigned today following the infamous “apartheid ” report.

The office of the secretary general office explained after Khalaf’s resignation that the head of ESCWA failed to check with UN headquarters before making the report public.

“This is not about content, this is about process,” said Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

“The secretary-general cannot accept that an under-secretary-general or any other senior UN official that reports to him would authorize the publication under the UN name, under the UN logo, without consulting the competent departments and even himself,” he told reporters, the Jerusalem Post reports.

Khalaf has worked to harm Israel and advocate for the BDS movement for years. Her removal from the UN was long overdue. @ESCWACIU

Israel praised Guterres’ persistency and the resignation of Khalaf, with ambassador Danon, saying “the time has come to put an end to those using their status within the UN to promote anti-Israel activity.”

“The Secretary General’s decision is an important step in ending the bias against Israel at the UN,” Ambassador Danon said following Khalaf’s resignation. “Anti-Israel activists do not belong in the UN.”

“Khalaf has for years worked to harm Israel and to promote the BDS and she should have left her role a long time ago,” he added according to Harretz.

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‘You are the future of Europe’: Erdogan urges Turks in EU to have at least 5 kids

‘You are the future of Europe’: Erdogan urges Turks in EU to have at least 5 kids
Turkish President Recep Erdogan has urged all Turks living in Europe to have at least five children, saying they are the future of the continent and that it would be the best response to the “injustices” imposed on expatriates there.

“Go live in better neighborhoods. Drive the best cars. Live in the best houses. Make not three, but five children. Because you are the future of Europe. That will be the best response to the injustices against you,” Erdogan said in the city of Eskisehir on Friday, according to AP.

The comments were made while the Turkish president was campaigning for a ‘yes’ vote in an upcoming constitutional referendum that would grant him sweeping new powers.

It is the latest in an ongoing string of comments aimed at Europe after Turkish ministers were prevented from holding campaign rallies there.

The Netherlands has bore the brunt of the criticisms, after it prevented the ministers from addressing a crowd in Rotterdam on Sunday, and later used water cannons to disperse Turkish demonstrators in the city.

Since then, Erdogan has hurled a string of insults at the European country, including accusing it of state terrorism, acting like “Nazi remnants,” and having a “rotten” character.

However, the president is not the only government official who has made his distaste for the Dutch known.

The country’s interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, said late Thursday that the EU is “playing games” to prevent Ankara from becoming strong, suggesting that Turkey could send 15,000 refugees a month to Europe to “blow its mind.” The minister singled out both the Netherlands and Germany, as three German states previously cancelled scheduled rallies.

Also on Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu warned that Europe is headed for “wars of religion,” claiming Dutch politicians are taking the continent “to a cliff.”

READ MORE: Austria cancels ‘political’ Turkish music concerts amidst referendum campaign scandal

In an effort to achieve a ‘yes’ vote in the referendum, Erdogan is heavily relying on support from the 5.5 million Turkish citizens living abroad.

If the legislation goes ahead, it would give the president the power to issue decrees, declare emergency rule, appoint ministers and state officials, and dissolve parliament.

Critics of the move say the success of the referendum would abolish the country’s system of checks and balances.

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Pentagon’s claim Syria mosque untouched by US airstrike challenged by devastation footage

While the US has admitted targeting terrorists inside a “community meeting hall” in Syria, it firmly denies striking the adjacent mosque building. Footage of the devastation at the site of the deadly airstrike, however, seems to contradict that claim.

An overnight air raid on Thursday destroyed a mosque filled with worshippers in the village of Al-Jinah at the provincial Idlib-Aleppo border, reportedly killing dozens.

Shortly following the strike — which happened in a rebel-controlled area and thus initially blamed on either Moscow or Damascus — a purported fragment of US missile was found in the rubble. Once the dust settled, rebel groups once supported by Washington, accused the US of conducting the strike.

Commenting on the deadly incident the Pentagon denied intentionally targeting the mosque itself. Instead, the Pentagon says its jets and drones killed dozens of fighters inside an adjacent Al-Qaeda meeting hall, some 50 feet (15 meters) away from the worship place.

The US military is investigating and is yet to see any credible proof of civilian casualties inside the mosque which, according to Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis, remained “relatively unscathed” following the strike.

“I wanted to draw your attention to it, because I think there are a lot of reports suggesting that we had targeted a mosque,” Davis said Friday. “We did not. Of course, you know we never would.”

“The mosque is still standing and relatively unscathed,” Davis said, according to AFP. “The building we targeted was adjacent” and the strike “clearly hit the intended target.”

In response to RT’s request for comment, US Central Command also insisted they targeted terrorist gathering “across the street from a mosque,” not the prayer hall itself.

“We did not target, nor did we strike a mosque,” CENTCOM Media Operations Chief Maj. Josh T. Jacques said. “The mosque does not appear to be damaged following the strike.”

To back up their claim the Pentagon released a black and white aerial image showing a building still standing across the street from a compound that had been targeted.

Pentagon just released this photo of strike: “We deliberately did not target the mosque at the left edge of the photo.”

While the Pentagon claims that it targeted a meeting hall full of terrorists, organizations which Washington considers “reputable”, such as the UK-based Syrian Observatory on Human Rights and the White Helmets group, clearly stated that a mosque was destroyed. Washington apparently only considers sources “credible” when it suits their pitch of the story, retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski told RT.

“If they can find somebody to verify what they want to put out, then the White Helmets report will be fine, otherwise, they are not credible,” Kwiatkowski said.

“The White Helmets have been notoriously unreliable on a lot of things and yet the US military and the Pentagon has been very happy to reference them as a credible resource in the past and I’m sure in the future they will as well,” she stressed.

The Pentagon’s version also contradicts the video and witness accounts from the scene. Footage from the scene provided by the pro-opposition Qasioun News shows the aftermath and the destruction of the Al-Jinah mosque.

Other videos widely available online also show wide-scale destruction from the strike, although is impossible to definitely verify footage coming from the rebel-controlled area.

Besides an ample amount of video evidence available online for the US to verify, extremists who at some point were supported by the US are now demanding answers from Washington.

Al-Qaeda affiliate, Ahrar al-Sham, who once fought alongside the Free Syrian Army and now wants to create an Islamic State under Sharia law, said attacks on mosques and places of worship are considered a war crime in most legal codes.

Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a powerful jihadist cell in northwest Syria, also blamed Washington and told Reuters that the US coalition “registers a new crime in its record of targeting the people of Syria.”

The two buildings were clearly part of the same compound according to Bilal Abdul Kareem, an American-born Muslim convert who, despite sharing a cosy relationship with Al-Nusra terrorists, is also considered a somewhat “credible”source in Washington.

“All of that that has been hit behind me is all a part of mosque compound. You can see the destruction. It’s not clear exactly how it’s possible that one part was hit, the other part wasn’t them,” says Kareem said. “It’s not clear and we wish we could get some answers from the [US] government.”

READ MORE: Russia urges US comment on reports of fatal Syria mosque strike

The Russian Defense Ministry earlier on Friday also asked Washington for an explanation, after a piece of an American missile was found at the site. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said there was no doubt the US missiles were indeed intended for terrorists.

“We have no doubt that the US forces were aiming at terrorists,” Zakharova said, adding, that while tragic mistakes that claim the lives of civilians do happen at war, unlike “some of our opponents, we are not going to blame them for ‘intentional’ killing of civilians and destruction of infrastructure.”

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