Sunday, December 31, 2023

Worse than Dresden – WSJ Analyzes Israel’s Destruction in Gaza

December 31, 2023

The destruction generated by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. (Photo: Esmaeel A Omar, via Eyes on Palestine)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

“As many as 80% of the buildings in northern Gaza, where the bombing has been most severe, are damaged or destroyed, a higher percentage than in Dresden.”

The destruction generated by Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip is comparable to the bombing of Germany during World War II, according to a report published by the Wall Street Journal on Saturday.

“Nearly 70% of Gaza’s 439,000 homes and about half of its buildings have been damaged or destroyed,” the WSJ wrote, adding that Most of the strip’s 36 hospitals are shut down, and only eight are accepting patients.

The American newspaper quotes Robert Pape, a political scientist at the University of Chicago and the author of a history of aerial bombing, as saying that, “The word ‘Gaza’ is going to go down in history along with Dresden and other famous cities that have been bombed.”

“What you’re seeing in Gaza is in the top 25% of the most intense punishment campaigns in history,” Pape reportedly added.

The Wall Street Journal further reported that, according to the analysis of satellite data by remote-sensing experts at the City University of New York and Oregon State University, “as many as 80% of the buildings in northern Gaza, where the bombing has been most severe, are damaged or destroyed, a higher percentage than in Dresden.”

According to US officials cited in the report, “Israel dropped 29,000 weapons on Gaza in a little over two months”. 

“By comparison, the US military dropped 3,678 munitions on Iraq from 2004 to 2010,” the report added.

Analyzing the kind of weapons that were used to inflict “maximum damage”, as announced by Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari, the WSJ reported that “Among the weapons provided by the US to Israel during the Gaza war are 2,000-pound ‘bunker buster’ bombs designed to penetrate concrete shelters, which military analysts said are usually used to hit military targets in more sparsely populated areas.”

The Gaza Strip is one of the most densely populated areas in the world.

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 21,822 Palestinians have been killed, and 56,451 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7. 

Palestinian and international estimates say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

Number of Palestinians Killed is Largest Since Nakba – Report

December 31, 2023

Israel carried out new massacres in besieged Gaza. (Photo: via Social Media)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

The number of Palestinians killed in 2023 is the largest since the Nakba (Catastrophe) in 1948, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics said on Sunday.

In a statement issued on the last day of the year, the center noted that 22,404 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the year, including 22,141 since the start of the Israeli aggression on October 7.

98 percent of the Palestinians killed were from the Gaza Strip, including nearly 9,000 children and 6,450 women.

319 Palestinians, including 111 children and four women, were killed in the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. 

As of the last day of 2023, more than 7,000 missing persons have been recorded, 67 percent of whom are children and women. 

Over 1.9 million Palestinians were displaced from their homes in the war-torn Gaza Strip. 

According to data published by the Prisoners and Ex-Prisoners Affairs Commission, thousands of Palestinians have been detained by Israeli occupation forces throughout 2023. 

By the end of November, nearly 7,800 detainees were held in Israeli prisons, including 76 women and 260 children. 2,870 prisoners are held under administrative detention. 

 According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 21,822 Palestinians have been killed, and 56,451 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7.

Palestinian and international estimates say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.


Massive Reduction in Israeli Military Presence in Gaza – What it Means

December 31, 2023

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu meets with soldiers from the Golani Brigade. (Photo: Prime Minister of Israel X Page)

By Palestine Chronicle Editors

Five combat brigades operating in the Gaza Strip is being pulled out from Gaza. What does it mean?

The Israeli army has decided to demobilize (pull out) five combat brigades operating in the Gaza Strip. They include the 551st and the 114th reserve brigades as well as three training brigades.

Yedioth Ahronoth said in its English website that soldiers from these brigades were returning to Israel to help in the replenishing of the Israeli economy.

The Israeli army said that there would no longer be a need for having these many soldiers inside Gaza as the army’s mission has been largely achieved in northern and central regions of the Strip. 

But is this true?

Not in the least. 

Out of the estimated 17 brigades operating in Gaza, four are still fighting in the northern parts and the battles there are far from over. 

Moreover, the battles in central Gaza have not yet exceeded the eastern borders of Al-Bureij refugee camp. Several Israeli army brigades have tried and failed to control a very small area of only a few square kilometers. 

No serious fighting has yet taken place in Nuseirat, Maghazi or Deir Al-Balah, which continue to be subjected to relentless bombardments and massacres.

Though it is true that seven brigades have been reportedly fighting in the Khan Yunis region in the south, they are yet to achieve any significant military gains. 

Is this the start of the much-touted third phase of fighting? 

For weeks, Israeli media have been hinting that a third phase of the fighting will be starting soon. The third phase does not necessarily imply that the first and second phases have succeeded, although this is what the Israeli government would like us to believe. 

At best, the third phase can be considered an attempt at running a way forward, as in giving the impression that the war is going according to plan. 

But is the war going according to plan?

The problem for the Israeli military, from the very first day of the war, is that there was never a clear military plan to match the lofty goals of destroying and dismantling Hamas and reoccupying the Gaza Strip. 

Yesterday, right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to continue the war for “many more months.”

The announcement of a significant reduction indicates that Netanyahu’s statement was intended mostly for local consumption. 

The Walla news website reported that additional forces were most likely to also be pulled out from Gaza next week. At this rate, the Israeli war in Gaza will cease to exist in its current form. 

Did Israel lose the war?

Although this could be understood as a major setback for the Israeli military, which has faced unprecedented resistance in the history of all Arab-Israeli conflicts, it remains unclear if Israel is fully retreating or is still hoping to achieve a form of victory. 

Some Israeli media are even talking about the fourth phase, which is administering the Gaza Strip under Israeli military control. But if Israel could not defeat the Resistance in Gaza, how could it administer Gaza?

Another aspect worth considering is that the Israeli government is still talking about forcibly displacing Palestinians out of Gaza, along with controlling the Philadelphi route between Rafah and Egypt. 

Will Israel succeed in displacing Palestinians? 

This horrific possibility is less likely to take place than ever before. 

For Israel to displace some or all of the 2.3 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, it would have to take control of all of Gaza.

But Israel is still hoping that the strategy of collective punishment will pay dividends. 

International media spoke about the fact that many Palestinian families are now subsisting on rotten food and the hunting of stray animals. If urgent aid does not arrive in Gaza, the very survival of Palestinians in the Strip will be at stake. 

Far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has been pushing the idea of displacing Palestinians, which is being echoed by other top Israeli officials, often under the term ‘voluntary migrations’.

But if Israel is unable to achieve this via outright military force, pushing Palestinians beyond the brink of human tolerance is likely to be their new strategy. 

Are Palestinians winning?

A single Israeli hospital today, the Barzilai Medical Center, reported that they have treated 3,500 Israeli soldiers since October 7.

This is the highest rate of Israeli casualties ever recorded in the 75 years of Israel’s history, and it goes against all the official announcements made by the Israeli military, or even independent estimates published by Haaretz and Yedioth Ahronoth. 

There is no other way of interpreting this, especially with the massive reduction of Israeli military presence in Gaza, except that the Palestinian Resistance is winning and the Israeli military is failing.

The impact of this potential victory will be earth-shattering as it will alter the fundamental relationship between Palestinians and Israelis, between Israel and neighboring Arab and Middle Eastern countries, and Israel’s status as America’s most powerful ally in the region. 

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 21,822 Palestinians have been killed, and 56,451 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7. Palestinian and international estimates say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

South Africa Flash Floods Deaths Hit 22

By Xinhua 

December 31, 2023

The number of people killed in recent flash floods in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, has risen to 22, with three more still missing, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs said Saturday.

The heavy rains on Dec. 24 resulted in Bellspruit River bursting its banks, causing water to overflow onto the N11 road in Ladysmith Town, KwaZulu-Natal Province. Several vehicles traveling along the N11 and households located nearby were swept away.

“KwaZulu-Natal Province premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube has examined the damage caused by flash floods, which have tragically claimed 22 lives as of Saturday, with others still unaccounted for,” the department said in a statement.

Communities are urged to report missing persons, especially those who disappeared on Christmas Eve, according to the statement.

The South African Weather Service has warned that sporadic showers and thundershowers are expected in KwaZulu-Natal Province Sunday.

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs warned residents that there are still likely to be floods since the ground is still saturated due to the past rains.

Sudan’s Economy and Society Destroyed by Conflict

By Xinhua 

December 31, 2023

As the Sudanese people expected to see an end to the years-long instability in 2023 to avoid an economic collapse in the country, Sudan slid into a deadly military conflict in April that has been ongoing till now.


On April 15, residents of the capital Khartoum woke up to the sounds of heavy gunfire and explosions between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary group Rapid Support Forces (RSF). With the conflict entering its ninth month, all doors seem to be closed to any peaceful endeavor as the two warring parties stick to their divergent positions. The descent into chaos has dashed hopes that Sudan will be able to usher in civilian constitutional rule anytime soon. “The year 2023 is a nightmare for the Sudanese.” Abboud Jabir, a Sudanese politician and former member of the Sudanese Parliament, told Xinhua that “the political division and conflicting positions caused the bloodiest war in our country to break out.”

The consequences have been catastrophic and Sudan is now witnessing the largest wave of internal displacement in the world, according to the UN. More than 7.1 million people have been displaced inside and outside the African country, while about 1.4 million Sudanese are living as refugees in neighboring countries, including Egypt, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea and South Sudan, said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in late December. The civilian death toll from the fighting had surpassed 12,190 with many more injured, according to the latest Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project.

Meanwhile, nearly 18 million people across Sudan are facing acute hunger, according to the latest report of the World Food Program, while the World Health Organization has warned of increasing rates of outbreaks of epidemic diseases such as cholera, dengue fever and malaria.


The conflict has brought Sudan’s stagnant economy to its knees with its public revenue drastically decreasing and the national currency depreciating about 80 percent of its market value. “The fact that over 2.7 million citizens lost their jobs in the private sector and the impact of what we call severe involuntary unemployment has led to a decline in the gross domestic product (GDP) by about 20 percent,” said Abdul-Khaliq Mahjoub, a Sudanese economic analyst. “There was also a decline in the general budget’s tax revenues due to the government’s inability to collect them. This, in turn, led to a large deficit in the national income by about 25 percent,” he said. The collapse of the national currency’s exchange rate was a major reason for the worsening inflation figures, the expert noted, which also limited the purchasing power of citizens and weakened the production capacity of the institutions that are still operating without any government support.

According to a recent report by Sudan’s Central Bureau of Statistics, the inflation rate has exceeded 300 percent, resulting in the soaring prices of basic materials, such as bread, sugar, oil, and flour, as well as the rise in transport and communication costs. The production of gold, the country’s highest non-petroleum export which represents 46.3 percent of total exports in 2022, dropped from 18 tons to only two tons in the period from April to December, according to the Central Bank of Sudan. What’s more, the current winter agricultural season has failed due to the lack of irrigation, absence of fertilizers and pesticides, and inability of banks to provide the required financing, said Mahjoub. The International Monetary Fund estimates that Sudan’s debt is expected to increase from 127 percent of GDP in 2022 to 151 percent by the end of 2023.


A meeting scheduled for December 28 between leaders of the SAF and the RSF in Djibouti, which was sponsored by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an East African bloc, was postponed to January 2024 due to “technical reasons,” said Sudan’s Foreign Ministry.

Abdul-Rahim Al-Sunni, a Sudanese political analyst, said “there are serious concerns that continuation of the conflict and the RSF’s control of most areas of western Sudan will ultimately lead to the division of the country,” expressing his hope that a peace agreement could be reached at an early date, otherwise “the unity of Sudan will be threatened.”

The IGAD is leading intensive efforts to revitalize the faltering talks between the leaders of the warring parties, while Saudi Arabia and the United States are trying to inject new blood into their joint initiative that was launched in May without reaching positive results.

Botswana to Role Out Voter Registration Exercise for 2024 Elections

By Xinhua 

December 31, 2023

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in Botswana on Saturday announced that voter registration for next year’s general elections will commence on Jan. 5, 2024.

“It is all system going and the registration of voters has been slated for Jan. 5 to Feb. 3, 2024, ahead of the much-anticipated 2024 parliamentary and local government elections,” said IEC Secretary Jeff Siamisang when updating journalists about the IEC’s preparedness in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, adding that all the materials and human resources needed for the smooth running of the process have been availed. The southern African country’s 1,800 polling stations will open from 8 a.m., local time, to 5 p.m. daily, including weekends. Botswana citizens aged 18 years and above are eligible for registration, said the IEC secretary. This voter registration was postponed twice in November this year after Botswana’s main opposition — the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) — took the IEC to court seeking to be allowed to deploy registration observers across the country.

The registration observers from the UDC were expected to record names, identity card numbers and serial numbers of registration books of voters for the duration of the general voter registration period. The Botswana Court of Appeal, however, ruled against the decision, arguing that the deployment of observers is not provided in the country’s electoral act. Botswana will hold its next general elections in 2024 on the exact month and date yet to be announced.

UN Court Must Expedite Action Over Acts of Genocide Filed Against Israel

By Xinhua 

December 31, 2023

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry on Saturday urged the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to expedite proceedings on a case filed by South Africa accusing Israel of “genocidal” acts in the Gaza Strip.

The case claims “alleged violations by Israel of its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (the ‘Genocide Convention’) in relation to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” according to an ICJ press release. Noting that South Africa and Palestine are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the Palestinian ministry said “what South Africa presented, relying on Article 9 of the convention, and Israel’s violation of Articles 2 and 3, completely aligns with the duties of nations to prevent the commission of this crime.” The ministry called on the ICJ to swiftly respond to South Africa’s request to prevent the “genocidal” acts by issuing a decision to halt Israeli aggression with a ceasefire in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Hamas called on more countries to submit similar requests to international courts against Israel as it has threatened global peace and security. The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It was established by the UN Charter in June 1945 and began its activities in April 1946.

OIC Commends South Africa Suit Against Israel for Acts Genocide

By News Ghana 

December 31, 2023

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has welcomed the suit filed by the Republic of South Africa at the International Court of Justice for the crime of genocide against the Palestinian people committed by Israel, the occupying power.

The OIC has affirmed that the indiscriminate targeting by Israel, the occupying power, of the civilian population and the thousands of Palestinians, mostly women and children, killed, injured, forcibly displaced, and denied basic necessities and humanitarian assistance and the destruction of houses, health, educational and religious institutions, in their totality constitute mass genocide.

The OIC called upon the Court to respond expeditiously and take urgent measures to stop this mass genocide being perpetrated by the Israeli defense forces in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Yemen's Armed Forces: US Responsible for Consequences of Attack on Yemeni Boats in Red Sea

Monday, 01 January 2024 2:12 AM 

File photo shows a military parade by Yemen's Armed Forces in the country's capital city of Sana'a.

Yemen's Armed Forces have issued a stern warning to the United States, saying Washington bears full responsibility for the consequences of a deadly attack by US Navy on Yemeni boats in the Red Sea.

The warning came through a Sunday statement after earlier the same day US Navy helicopters attacked four boats belonging to the Yemeni Naval Forces, sinking three of them and killing at least 10 Yemeni servicemen.

The statement, which was read out by Yemeni Armed Forces' spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Saree, said the attack took place as Yemen's boats "were carrying out their routine official duties in reinforcing security and stability, and protecting maritime navigation" in the Red Sea.

He added that the attack also took place while Yemeni forces were "fulfilling their humanitarian and ethical prohibiting Israeli ships or those heading to the ports of the occupied Palestine from passing through the Red Sea in solidarity with and support of the Palestinian people."

"The American enemy bears responsibility for the consequences and repercussions of this crime, and that its military movements in the Red Sea to protect Israeli ships will not prevent Yemen from fulfilling its religious, ethical, and humanitarian duty in support and aid of the oppressed [people] in Palestine and Gaza," the statement said.

Elsewhere in their statement, the Yemeni Armed Forces once again advised all countries "not to be drawn into American plans aimed at igniting conflict in the Red Sea," affirming that they "will not hesitate to confront any aggression against our country and our people."

Ansarullah insists that the international waterways are secure, except for Israeli ships or those heading towards the occupied territories.

Yemen's Armed Forces have been staging missile and drone attacks against vessels heading to Israeli ports in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which has been under an unrelenting genocidal war by the Israeli regime for more than two months now.

Close to 22,000 people, mostly women and children, have been killed during the war, which the regime launched on October 7 following an operation by Gaza's resistance movements, dubbed Operation al-Aqsa Storm.

The Yemeni forces have vowed to keep up their strikes until the regime stops the war and lifts a concomitant siege that it has been imposing on Gaza.

In reaction, the United States has announced formation of an American-led naval coalition of Washington's allies aimed at heading off the Yemeni attacks.

Washington has already admitted to the failure of the multinational task force.

The United States’ military has admitted to the failure of a Washington-led multinational task force.

Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, the top commander of US naval forces in West Asia, said in a Saturday interview with the Associated Press that Yemen’s Armed Forces show no signs of ending their “reckless” attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea even as more nations join the international maritime mission to protect vessels in the vital waterway.

Iran's President Hopes for End to Israeli Massacre in Gaza in 2024

Sunday, 31 December 2023 5:13 PM

Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi says he hopes the international community takes urgent action in the New Year to put an end to Israel's massacre against the Palestinian people in Gaza.

In separate messages on Sunday, Raeisi extended his congratulations to the leaders and people of Christian countries on the arrival of the New Year.

He prayed to God Almighty for a year full of peace and health for the peoples across the world.

Raeisi said the killing of innocent people in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli regime is one of the biggest crises currently facing the human society.

The president expressed hope that on the eve of 2024 and in light of the joint efforts by the world leaders, the international community would take an immediate action to stop Israel's massacre in Gaza, eradicate oppression and hegemony, and establish lasting peace and security around the globe.

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees warns that 40 percent of Gaza’s population are facing a “risk of famine,” amid Israel’s war on Gaza.

Israel waged the US-backed war on Gaza after Hamas-led Palestinian resistance groups conducted the surprise Operation Al-Aqsa Storm against the occupying entity in response to its decades-long campaign of death and destruction in Palestine.

Israel has killed a total of 21,822 Palestinians, most of them women and children, and 56,451 individuals have been wounded while many bodies remain trapped under rubble.

‘De-Americanised West Asia’: How Events of Oct. 7 Shaped New Face of Region

Sunday, 31 December 2023 6:21 AM

By Aymun Moosavi

The Al-Aqsa Storm Operation (also known as Al-Aqsa Flood) has done more than cement the new equation in Palestine. It is actively contributing to shaping the region's new face in a multipolar world. It is symbolic of the declining influence of the US in West Asia.  

Each resistance group within the Axis of Resistance currently involved in the resistance against the Israeli regime has been preparing for a change to the status quo which has traditionally propelled US interests in the region, providing them with the upper hand.

The Axis of Resistance has long understood the functional role of the Israeli entity as a military outpost to fight wars on behalf of the US, acting as their disciplinary stick to ensure that surrounding states fall in line with their political and economic interests. 

This context is often ignored but is what has come to shape the Axis’ primary goal, which is to ensure that the security of the region belongs to its people and is free from US hegemony.

This would entail dismantling and eliminating the Zionist occupation, whose lifeline is sustained by and dependent on US imperialism.

This status quo has forced the region into a choice between accepting complete US hegemony or facing political and economic starvation. Seeing an end to US influence is therefore in the national interest of each resistance group in the Axis of Resistance in some way or another.

The Lebanese Resistance

The Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement is fully aware that complete security in the country and the region is unlikely with the presence of the illegitimate entity at its borders.

This is not because the Lebanese resistance is unable to protect itself from the Zionist entity as it has proven during its confrontation in the 1980s, 2000, and the victory of Lebanon in 2006, but because it needs to remain vigilant against the Zionist entity’s attempts at bringing violence to its soil, even though its threats are hollow in comparison to the resistance’s capacity to thwart it.

The resistance in Lebanon functions in a constant state of preparedness ready to counter such threats, as the sole factor preventing the reoccupation of Lebanon is the armed resistance, which has proven this to be a costly endeavor for the entity. 

Tracing the road from the first Palestinian Intifada (uprising) in December 1987 to the Al-Aqsa Storm operation in October this year shows the liberation of Palestine is near.

This was echoed by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in his long-awaited speech on Nov 3, when he said it is in the national interest of Lebanon to fight the entity and protect Gaza as if the Gazan resistance falls, Lebanon would be next.

This is because at the core of Zionism is an expansionist logic. Its slogan, “from the Nile to the Euphrates,” is a nod to the Greater Israel plan, which seeks to expand territory to include what they describe as their promised ‘imaginary’ Biblical land - this would put the whole region between Egypt and Iraq under threat.

If not deterred, the entity has openly threatened to occupy as much land as it possibly can. 

What has been made clear in this confrontation, however, is that the resistance does not even consider the Zionist entity an independent threat, but merely an extension of US power, given that it has only found its strength through the political, financial, and military power granted to it by the US.

The US has faced numerous humiliating defeats in recent decades. Facilitating an end to the occupation entity through a Palestinian victory is therefore symbolic of the continuation of this process, as an end to US dominance across the region is a manifestation of the real power balance shift that according to Nasrallah, has been years in the making.

The US now has to rethink the nature of its presence in the region given the occupying Zionist entity’s failure to protect its interests.

Here, it must be emphasised that what has come to shape the region is not a Zionist vision of the region, but an American one. This is an important distinction to make because, for the first time, we are seeing the sponsor and the sponsored diverge over what this vision should entail.

When these differences become more apparent and the entity is simultaneously weakened through military confrontation, the US is left with no choice but to strategise a future plan that will account for the liability of the Israeli occupation exposed by its military failures, and suit the new shift in the balance of power in the region caused by the resistance. 

The Israeli entity is now fighting for its survival, scrambling for ways to ensure US support for its own vision. We saw this in the recent assassination of Sayyid Razi Mousavi, a senior Iranian military advisor based in Syria, which was likely an attempt by the entity to expand the warfront by pulling in Iran, which would force the US to join in direct military action.

This would draw attention away from the Zionist entity’s genocide in Gaza by pulling them away from their front-facing position in the confrontation while diverting the fight to one between the US and Iran in a larger regional war. 

For Iraq, US military presence never stopped after the 2003 war but continued in the form of illegal US military bases, sanctions, and control over the economy.

US strategy has been similar in Syria, with the establishment of bases like Al-Tanf soon after the Western-orchestrated civil war, which set out to sustain the illegal occupation of territory, the plundering of Syrian resources, and prevention of a strong and sovereign Syrian government, in order to dismantle the resistance axis and continue the creation of a ‘New Middle East’ that is aligned with the US, as was trialed in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia during the Arab Spring.  

Though stationed on the pretext of ‘preventing terrorism’ from the very same Daesh that it initially nurtured and supported, the US’s ongoing presence is no more than an attempt to keep a foothold within a region that is strategically important for the control of global economies because of its access to the oil tap.

It is then no wonder why these bases have become frequent targets for the resistance in both countries during the current war. The Axis of Resistance recognizes that Zionist aggression is not localised or independent of its master, but rather part of the broader attempts of the US to ensure the status quo in the region which has traditionally offered them significant control within it.

This would make an end to Zionist aggression dependent on jeopardising US interests in the region - hence, attacking US bases.

To pressure the Zionist entity to stop its aggression in Gaza, the resistance needed to factor in the role the US plays at this level into its plans, which it has excelled in. It is the US that holds the cards here as once its interests are threatened it will have no choice but to move with the tide and tend towards the direction of ceasefire to protect its interests and presence in the region.

What is interesting is that it is not only the resistance’s efforts but the Israeli occupation’s delusions that are pushing the Americans towards this realisation.

The entity that was originally propelled to protect the status quo in the region on behalf of the US is jeopardising US interests, as in trying to level Gaza and the wider Palestinian resistance, it is going against US attempts to find a political solution that can allow the status quo to continue unchecked and has also forced the resistance on the offensive, making them a stronger opponent capable of tipping the status quo out of US favor. 

Criticism over the wider resistance's lack of a full-scale attack against the Zionist entity so far, and disregard for the significance of attacks on US bases is therefore indicative of a failure to understand the broader picture, which situates US presence in the region as the primary cause behind the aggressions of its illegitimate child.

Dismantling the illegitimate entity reflects a weakened US, which is essential for a de-Americanised West Asia, and the coming of a multipolar world; this is at the heart of the wider considerations of the regional parties assisting Al Aqsa Storm. 

In a world monopolised by the US, Yemen’s Ansarullah resistance movement knows it will always face aggression, economic warfare, and find an enemy in Saudi Arabia, which has tried to ensure that its backyard is conducive to its own interests, making it essential that strategic points like the Bab Al Mandeb strait stay out of the hands of Ansarullah, who prioritise calls for Yemeni sovereignty and independence.

Ansarullah is also preparing for the establishment of a multipolar world, as they have first-hand experience of what this shift could bring. Despite almost a decade of war imposed on Yemen by Saudi Arabia which plunged the Arab country into one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time, it was this new multipolar world that finally paused the confrontation through the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia in March 2023, while the US watched.

For Ansarullah, Al Aqsa Storm has provided the space to set new terms of engagement across the wider region, which makes clear that any aggression from the US and its allies will be met with proportionate force, further highlighting how outdated US strategy here is.

Yemeni military has single-handedly posed the biggest threat to the economic functioning of the Israeli occupation, by forcing it out of the Red Sea, and further promising to stop the movement of ships to the occupied territories if the aggression against Gaza continues.

In response to the Yemeni military’s actions, the US formed a multinational coalition in the Red Sea under the guise of ‘protecting’ international trade, which in reality was an attempt to protect the status quo in regional waters that have traditionally been in service of Western interests.

Much to the chagrin of hawks in Washington, the ten-nation alliance has failed to take off with many countries pulling out of it, acknowledging Yemen’s upper hand over them.

Yemeni military’s efforts have been noted for being highly sophisticated and precise, avoiding all non-Western vessels.

Major shipping companies have had to halt operations in the Red Sea, being forced to take new, longer routes, and the US has been scrambling to pressure Saudi to avoid a peace deal with Yemen while the issue continues.

Meanwhile, non-Western trade across the Red Sea is flourishing, as non-Western tankers are reportedly transiting at a higher rate than average.

In just a few weeks, Yemen has set a new equation with global consequences and has pushed the US from a position of dominance to one of defense, having to react and succumb to the resistance's demands, even while resisting power shifts in the region. 

The words and actions of Yemen (Ansarallah) have made it clear that to view the resistance’s operations simply as a fight against Israel is to minimise the significance of the Al Aqsa Storm and to fail to fully grasp the reality of the entity, which is that it is completely dependent on Western backing to survive.

An attack on the entity should therefore be viewed as a broader attack on its American masters. Yemen has highlighted this by not only stopping Israel-linked tankers but also using the opportunity to actively question the legitimacy of US presence in the region.

It ensures control of the narrative by making sure that an attack on the occupying entity is rightfully interpreted as an attack on its master. 

Even before takeoff, the US-led ten-nation maritime alliance in the Red Sea has broken down with many member states withdrawing from it, unnerved by the Yemeni military operations.

Al-Aqsa Storm and a multipolar world 

The US knew long before the Hamas-led Palestinian resistance launched the Al-Aqsa Storm that its attempts to destabilise key members of the Axis of Resistance to keep its monopoly over the region had ultimately failed, through multiple changes across the region which succeeded in accelerating a new multipolar world.

This includes the failing propaganda/culture war against Iran, the failed destabilisation of Syria, the unfolding of BRICS, new strategic alliances such as those between China/Iran/Saudi Arabia and China/Syria, and the potential creation of a new rival economic corridor that would facilitate a shift away from the traditional US monopoly over this area to Russia and China.

Many US plans directly backfired, including the economic warfare on Iran that managed to turn the issue of sanctions into an opportunity, and both Daesh and Israeli campaigns against the Lebanese resistance, which helped them expand field capabilities and experience.

The events of October 7 are a necessary continuation of this process, as this multipolar world cannot flourish with the existence of an entity whose sole function is to act as an outpost for Western interests in the region. 

Al Aqsa Storm is directly challenging the US hegemony, as with the emergence of a strong resistance after this confrontation, the US will have no choice but to take the resistance as a force that is here to stay and one that needs to be handled with an air of compromise.

New deals between Saudi Arabia and Iran can be seen in light of the US tending towards the direction of compromise to ensure some stake in the region, as the Axis of Resistance becomes a more permanent feature of it.

The Israeli entity is therefore becoming more than just a liability. It is becoming an impediment to the new phase of strategic compromise that the US is currently moving towards. 

The Axis of Resistance has proved that it has the upper hand in this battle, and at a broader level, that the occupation is not fit to withstand shifts in the region towards a multipolar world.

Amid the latest aggression on Gaza alone, it has been unable to secure its interests both in Gaza and across the northern front and has had to consistently work towards the resistance’s demands, which was most potently seen in the terms of the temporary humanitarian truce where the entity went from demanding the full eradication of the Palestinian armed resistance to simply an exchange of Israeli non-combatant women and children for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

By extension, the US has had to confront the harsh reality of another failed cause, as the occupation's functional role as an outpost of Western influence in the region has become increasingly outdated, failing to withstand the test of time.

A new, multipolar world cannot exist with markers of the old. The Zionist entity, being the most tangible one, has found itself struggling to maintain its position under the weight of these shifts.

To see the Zionist entity as the only enemy is to miss the broader picture. US influence, which has typically dominated the region, is the driving force behind the entity.

If the US ceases its military and financial backing, the Israeli occupation can no more function. As such, effective assistance of the Palestinian resistance would require the targeting of the primary enemy, which is the occupation's master. This is what the Axis excels in.

The Zionist entity went from being a strong and dependable military base for the US, to now acting as a regional reserve force for the West to use as and when it seeks to stoke up tension in the region. Yet, as these shifts continue to cement out of Western favor, the entity’s functional role is losing importance. 

Despite attempts to paint the Axis of Resistance as subservient to Iran, the different approaches of each member have borne fruit in this struggle against occupation and domination.

The Lebanese resistance has approached from a measured and strategic position to wear out the entity by targeting its military bases, security systems, and any threats on Levantine soil.

Concurrently, the Iraqi and Syrian resistance have played supportive roles by directing their efforts against US bases which constitutes a direct challenge to US presence in the region.

Meanwhile, Ansarullah (Yemeni military) has acted as the arms of the resistance, dealing significant blows directly to the entity’s ability to engage in international trade and function normally in regional waters as a ‘legitimate’ state by halting Israeli ships in the Red Sea armed with weapons to continue its war crimes in Gaza.

Before Al Aqsa Storm, the capabilities of the latter three members of the Axis were greatly underestimated based on this assumption, rather than being seen as having their own strategic interests and methods of functioning.

What Western commentators have struggled to understand is that despite their different methods, they are all ultimately aligned and motivated by one goal, which is to see an end to US presence and influence in the region. The resistance’s operations right now against the Zionist entity, which is a key manifestation of that, is simply an inevitable continuation of this process. 

The Axis’ preparations for change are no less significant than war itself - it is an act of war on the status quo. Each member of the resistance has been waiting for the prime opportunity to display the strengths they obtained as this shifting power balance takes shape, and Oct 7 provided that opportunity.

Oct. 7 was a necessary step in dismantling the US presence in the region. The decay and fall of the Zionist entity has forced the US to reconsider this presence, in both its nature and extent, and is therefore playing an essential role in changing the face of the region from one suffocating under the pressure of US hegemony, to one that is de-Americanised, self-sufficient, and free.

Ayman Moosavi is a UK-based writer and political commentator.

(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)

Iran FM Condemns West’s Silence on Israeli Genocide in Gaza in Phone Call with UK Counterpart

Sunday, 31 December 2023 7:15 PM 

The combination file photo shows Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his British counterpart David Cameron.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has denounced the double-standard approach applied to the ongoing Israeli crimes in the Gaza Strip by some Western countries, stressing that the occupying regime cannot be allowed to continue its genocide of Palestinians in the besieged enclave and set the entire region ablaze.

Amir-Abdollahian made the remarks in a phone call with his British counterpart David Cameron on Sunday, as they discussed bilateral relations and the latest regional developments.

The top Iranian diplomat went on to say that the root of the Palestinian crisis goes back to 75 years of Israeli occupation, its continuous violation of the basic rights of the Palestinians, and the war crimes it committed in the occupied territories, “which of course the role of the UK in these issues is clear”.

Israeli airstrikes in the central part of the Gaza Strip have left at least 100 Palestinians dead and 158 others wounded over the past 24 hours.

He also condemned the silence of some Western governments regarding the crimes committed by the Israeli regime against the innocent Palestinians in Gaza over the past 80 days, stressing that the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas is a liberation movement against occupation and apartheid as was the case in South Africa for many years.

Amir-Abdollahian further expressed hope that the UK will help to improve relations by adopting “a realistic and constructive approach” to regional developments and bilateral ties.

Cameron, for his part, called for Iran’s efforts to prevent the expansion of the scope of war in the region and enhance maritime security.

The two sides also considered it important to continue consultations and to exchange views on topics of interest.

Israel’s indiscriminate strikes have killed dozens more civilians across Gaza, with refugee camps being the main targets of the regime’s genocidal war.

Israel waged the war on Gaza on October 7 after t Hamas carried out Operation Al-Aqsa Storm against the occupying entity in response to the Israeli regime’s decades-long campaign of death and destruction in Palestine.

The Israeli aggression has so far killed nearly 22,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children. Another 55,600 individuals have been wounded while many bodies remain trapped under rubble.

The Tel Aviv regime has imposed a “complete siege” on the territory, cutting off fuel, electricity, food and water to the more than two million Palestinians living there.

Hezbollah Says Clashes with Israel Will End Only if Gaza War Stops

Sunday, 31 December 2023 4:31 PM

Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem

A senior official with of the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah says cross-border clashes with Israel will end only if the regime ends its assaults on the Palestinians in Gaza.

Sheikh Naim Qassem, who serves as Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary General, said on Sunday that the Israeli regime’s efforts to restore peace to the north of the occupied Palestinian territories, where it has been involved in clashes with Hezbollah for nearly three months, will be in vain unless attacks on civilians in Gaza stop completely.

The comments came after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the regime will do whatever it takes to restore calm to northern occupied Palestine where settlers have either been displaced or live in constant fear of missile attacks by Hezbollah.

“Israel will fail to return settlers to the north (of occupied Palestine)... it has to stop the Gaza war first so the war on the Lebanese front could also end,” said Qassem.

The cleric warned that Israel’s refusal to end the war in Gaza would lead to a further escalation in cross-border clashes with Hezbollah.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah resistance movement has launched fresh strikes on Israeli targets in the 1948-occupied territories.

“If (Israel) insists on warfare, the response from the resistance would be tougher,” he said.

Nearly 22,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the Israeli aggression on the Palestinian territory in early October.

The attacks started in response to an operation by the Gaza-based Hamas resistance group which killed 1,200 settlers and military forces in the Israeli-occupied territories.

Resistance groups in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen that find themselves allied with the Palestinians have been targeting Israeli and American targets in the region to force the two to end the aggression on Gaza.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Somalia, Breakaway Somaliland Agree to Resume Dialogue


Women wrapped in Somaliland's flags take part in celebrations of the 27th anniversary of self-declared independence of Somaliland in Hargeisa on May 15, 2018. PHOTO | AFP

Somalia and the breakaway region of Somaliland have agreed to resume dialogue to resolve outstanding issues, after long-running political tensions and years of deadlock.

The deal signed on Friday followed two days of talks mediated by Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, the first of their kind since 2020 when similar negotiations stalled.

"After lengthy discussions, the two sides have agreed to resume the process of talks... with the focus on issues of national interest to reach a sustainable solution," said a joint statement published by the Somali presidency.

The northern region has been seeking full statehood since claiming independence from Somalia in 1991, a move fiercely opposed by Mogadishu and not recognised internationally.

Somaliland has often been seen as a beacon of stability in the chaotic Horn of Africa region, although political tensions surfaced there earlier this year, spilling over into deadly violence.

Under the Djibouti pact, the two sides agreed on a roadmap for talks in 30 days as well as collaboration on security and the fight against organised crime and pledged to work together on peace and stability in conflict zones.

The signing of the deal was overseen by Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Somaliland leader Muse Bihi Abdi.

Previous rounds of talks between the two sides have been held on and off between 2012 and 2020 but failed to make any headway.

The Djibouti agreement was welcomed by Workneh Gebeyehu, executive secretary of regional grouping Igad, which Somalia joined in November.

"(I) emphasise the importance of peaceful means and dialogue in resolving difficulties and grievances in all our member states," he said on X, formerly Twitter.

The British embassy in Somalia also hailed the move as a "vital step towards reconciliation" in a post on X.

Somaliland, a region of 4.5 million people with a long coastline on the Gulf of Aden, is a former British protectorate. 

It prints its own currency, issues its own passports and elects its own government but its quest for statehood has gone unrecognised, leaving it poor and isolated.

Political tensions surged earlier this year, leading to deadly violence between Somaliland's forces and clan militias loyal to Somalia which challenged the authority of the self-declared republic.

However, the region remains relatively stable in comparison to Somalia, one of the poorest countries on the planet which has witnessed decades of civil war and Islamist insurgency.

Algeria President Tebboune’s Visit to France Still Not Finalized

French President Emmanuel Macron and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune

Africa News with AFP

 29/12 - 13:18

The state visit of Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to France is "still the subject of preparations", affirmed the Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, specifying that it depends on the settlement of five files.

“In all sincerity, the conditions of this visit are not suitable,” declared Mr. Attaf in an interview given Wednesday evening to Atheer, the platform of the Qatari channel Al Jazeera.

Mr. Attaf listed the issues of memory, mobility, economic cooperation, the French nuclear tests in the Algerian Sahara of the restitution of the sword as well as the burnous of Emir Abdelkader.

Even though "the president had to go to the Château d'Amboise where the Emir Abdelkader was imprisoned (...) the French authorities refused (to return the Emir's sword and burnous) arguing the need to a law", indicated the minister.

Concerning the French nuclear tests, Mr. Attaf indicated that Algeria was demanding "recognition of the damage caused" as well as "compensation".

Between 1960 and 1966, France carried out 17 nuclear tests on the sites of Reggane, then In Ekker, in the Algerian Sahara. Documents declassified in 2013 revealed significant radioactive fallout that stretched from West Africa to southern Europe.

“We have not reached agreements on five major and heavy issues. But we continue to work on them,” reiterated the minister, emphasizing that visits between officials of the two countries are continuing to prepare for this state visit.

At the beginning of August, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared that his state visit to France was "still maintained" but depended "on the program" of the Élysée, specifying that a "state visit has conditions" and "no "It's not a tourist visit. "

The visit, first scheduled for the beginning of May, was postponed until June, the Algerians fearing that it would be spoiled by the May 1 demonstrations against the highly contested pension reform in France, according to consistent sources.

This visit was to mark the improvement between the two countries after numerous diplomatic crises.

Mali: MINUSMA Hands Over the Timbuktu Camp to the FAMA

Police officers from the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) secure

Africa News with AFP

The UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) officially handed over to the national authorities one of its last camps in a large city in the north of the country, Timbuktu, before the end of its final withdrawal, ORTM public television indicated.

The MINUSMA sites of Gao and Timbuktu were the last camps not to have been handed over because it was planned there, after January 1, for what the UN calls the "liquidation" of the mission, i.e. say, for example, handing over the last pieces of equipment to the authorities, or terminating existing contracts.

But the security situation in this region prey to jihadist attacks has precipitated the definitive departure of MINUSMA to Timbuktu. “Failing to have found a solution for the internal security of the MINUSMA base in Timbuktu, this base had to be closed urgently. Arrangements have been made to do this,” a UN source told AFP under cover of 'anonymity.

“In the name of the highest authorities of the transition, in the name of the population of the Timbuktu region and my name, I would like to say thank you to MINUSMA for the efforts made within the framework of the return of peace, of living together and social cohesion", declared the governor of the region, Bakoun Kanté, during the official handover ceremony, the images of which were broadcast on Thursday on the ORTM television news.

The colonels who took power by force in 2020 in Bamako demanded in June, after months of deterioration in relations, the immediate departure of MINUSMA deployed since 2013 in this country in the grip of a deep multidimensional crisis.

The UN Security Council ended the mission's mandate on June 30 and gave it until December 31 to leave the country.

Since then, MINUSMA, whose numbers have hovered around 15,000 soldiers and police officers more than 180 members of whom have been killed in hostile acts, has staggered the handovers, in sometimes difficult conditions in the north, under pressure from a military escalation between all the armed actors present on the ground.

New Left-Wing Party in Germany Demands End to Russian Sanctions

By Xinhua

December 30, 2023

The Alliance Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW), a new left-wing party in Germany, will campaign for an economic rapprochement with Russia, BSW foreign affairs expert Sevim Dagdelen said on Friday.

The party, a split-off from the existing left-wing Die Linke (or the Left Party), was launched in October by Sahra Wagenknecht, a member of the lower house of the German Parliament (Bundestag), after her own name. It aims to complete its formalities in January and rejects the “economic war, the stupid energy sanctions against Russia,” Dagdelen told public broadcaster ZDF. Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict last year, the European Union (EU) imposed heavy sanctions on Russia, affecting both members of the government and individuals. Foreign trade with Russia was severely restricted.

According to the European Council, a total of 321.5 billion euros (356.9 billion U.S. dollars) in assets in the EU and the Group of Seven countries have been frozen or blocked. The value of goods traded with Russia subject to sanctions amounted to around 135 billion euros. Germany’s monthly exports to Russia have meanwhile dwindled to only 0.8 billion euros in November, according to preliminary figures by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis). Since February 2022, Russia plummeted from fifth to 16th place as Germany’s most important export market outside the EU.

Wagenknecht has been one of the most prominent critics of the West’s strategy in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. “The Russians were ready to end the war in spring 2022 when it had barely begun, if Ukraine had committed to not joining NATO,” she said in her latest video on YouTube. “In this war, people are fighting and dying for NATO,” Wagenknecht stressed. “For the United States to be able to set up military bases and missile bases on Ukrainian territory at some point. That’s what it’s all about.” Although a large majority of Germans are in favor of sanctions against Russia, almost three out of four believe that the frozen trade relations are harming Germany’s economy more than Russia’s, a survey by the German Economic Institute found earlier this year.

In February, Wagenknecht and feminist Alice Schwarzer published a manifesto calling for an end to Western arms supplies to Ukraine. “Negotiating does not mean capitulating. Negotiating means making compromises, on both sides,” it said. So far, more than 900,000 people have signed the document. Alongside Wagenknecht’s BSW and parts of her former party Die Linke, the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) is also speaking out loudly against the sanctions on Russia. “Europe, and Germany in particular, are at risk of being crushed between these major powers,” said AfD leader Alice Weidel in a recent interview, calling for a “responsible government to take countermeasures in order to represent the interests of our country.”

The Ukraine crisis will “not be ended by force of arms,” Weidel stressed. Instead of further escalations towards a third world war, the international community should “work more intensively for peace negotiations.” In initial polls shortly after the foundation of the BSW was announced, it received 12 percent of votes, fueled by inflows from the Left Party and AfD. However, election experts now see a significantly lower electoral potential of only 1 to 3 percent, not enough to reach the required 5 percent hurdle to enter the Bundestag. (1 euro = 1.11 U.S. dollar).

Putin Briefed About Ukraine’s Shelling Attack on Belgorod — Kremlin Spokesman

The president ordered to send a Russian health ministry team and emergencies ministry’s rescuers to the city, his press secretary Dmitry Peskov says

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov © Sergey Bobylev / TASS

MOSCOW, December 30. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has been informed about Ukraine’s shelling attack on the Russian city of Belgorod, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said.

"President Vladimir Putin has been briefed about Ukraine’s strike on residential quarters in Belgorod," he said, adding that the president ordered to send a Russian health ministry team led by Minister Mikhail Murashko and emergencies ministry’s rescuers to the city to help those affected.

Downtown Belgorod came under a massive shelling attack by Ukrainian troops on Saturday. According to the emergencies ministry, ten people, including one child, were killed and 45 others, including four children, were injured in the attack. The strike was followed by ten fires, which were swiftly put out.

Russian Criticizes Czech Republic for Snubbing UNSC Meeting on Shelling of Belgorod

Official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova was referring to the Czech envoy’s refusal to attend the Security Council meeting, which had been requested by Russia, and the statement by Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, who said that, "We refuse to be summoned anywhere by Russia"

Official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry Maria Zakharova Valery Sharifulin/TASS

© Valery Sharifulin/TASS

MOSCOW, December 31. /TASS/. Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has blasted the Czech Foreign Ministry for a statement about the UN Security Council meeting on the Ukrainian shelling of the Russian city of Belgorod.

The diplomat was referring to the Czech envoy’s refusal to attend the Security Council meeting, which had been requested by Russia, and the statement by Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, who said that, "We refuse to be summoned anywhere by Russia."

"I did not think that the Czech Foreign Ministry is so incompetent as not to know how the UN Security Council is set up. This is a multilateral organization that still works in accordance with international law and not heed the 'rules-based world order,'" Zakharova said on Telegram.

The city of Belgorod and the surrounding region have recently come under shelling. The latest strike was carried out with Czech-made MLRS that fired two rockets with cluster munitions into downtown Belgorod. At least 21 people were killed and 111 were injured. Exclusively civilian facilities were hit. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, air defense systems intercepted both rockets and most of the other projectiles. Otherwise, the consequences would have been much more serious, the ministry said.

Serbia to Maintain Friendship with Russia, China — Vucic

Serbian President said his country won’t impose sanctions against Russia or regularly criticize Moscow and Beijing in order to "please someone"

© Russian Foreign Ministry Press Office/TASS

BELGRADE, December 30. /TASS/. Serbia will pursue an independent policy, making headway on the path to the EU and keeping friendly relations with Russia and China, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said.

"Serbia will remain a free, sovereign and independent country that will make its own decisions and continue walking on its path to the EU, even as there are many in Europe who would like to knock Serbia off this path. Serbia with equal pride will continue to maintain its traditional friendship and the best possible relations with the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation," Vucic said.

He said his country won’t impose sanctions against Russia or regularly criticize Moscow and Beijing in order to "please someone."

"We will not seek to please anyone. Our goal is to do everything important in the interest of our people, the citizens of the republic, and not in the interests of any other country or organization," he said.

Russia Never Yielded to Ultimatums, Blackmail — Diplomat About Kiev’s Statements on Talks

According to Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, "anyone who came with a sward or a grenade was kicked out"

© Sergei Fadeichev/TASS

MOSCOW, December 30. /TASS/. Russia has never yielded to any ultimatums or blackmailing, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said, commenting on Ukrainian presidential office adviser Mikhail Podolyak, who said that there will be no talks with Russia.

She recalled his allegations that Russia would accept "ultimatum demands at the highest level." "These terrorist brutes are sparing no effort to zombify their population to force them into trenches at gunpoint and kill them there," she wrote on her Telegram channel.

"Everyone must know: Russia has never yielded to ultimatums or blackmail. Anyone who came with a sward or a grenade was kicked out," she stressed. "Belgorod, the entire country is with you!"

Ukrainian troops have been shelling Belgorod and the Belgorod Region since late Friday. The latest strike was delivered on downtown Belgorod with the use of cluster munitions from Czech-made multiple rocket launchers. At least 14 people, including two children, were killed and 108 others were injured. According to the Russian defense ministry, air defense systems intercepted both missiles and most of the projectiles. Otherwise, the consequences would have been much more serious, it added.

Russia Requests UNSC Meeting on Attack on Belgorod Later on Saturday

Russia also "demanded that the Czech permanent representative be present to explain his country’s supplies of weapons, which are used to kill civilians", Russian First Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Dmitry Polyansky said


UNITED NATIONS, December 30. /TASS/. Russia has requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council later on Saturday following Ukraine’s shelling attack on Belgorod, Russian First Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations Dmitry Polyansky said.

"We have requested an UNSC meeting on Belgorod at 3:00 p.m. New York time (8:00 p.m. GMT) today, December 30. We also demanded that the Czech permanent representative be present to explain his country’s supplies of weapons, which are used to kill civilians," he wrote on his Telegram channel.

Ukrainian troops have been shelling Belgorod and the Belgorod Region since late Friday. The latest strike was delivered on downtown Belgorod with the use of cluster munitions from Czech-made multiple rocket launchers. At least 14 people, including two children, were killed and 108 others were injured. According to the Russian defense ministry, air defense systems intercepted both missiles and most of the projectiles. Otherwise, the consequences would have been much more serious, it added.

Russia’s UN Envoy Says Kiev Regime Shells Russian Cities to Please West

Vasily Nebenzya stated that "the shelling of settlements in Donbass, Kherson and Zaporizhia regions, Crimea and other regions of Russia, the ruthless and blind killings of civilians testify to the agony of the neo-Nazi regime [of Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky, who is mired in terrorism, lawlessness, corruption and cynicism"

© The press service of the Russian Foreign Ministry/ TASS

UNITED NATIONS, December 31. /TASS/. The Kiev regime shells Russian cities to please the West, Russia’s UN envoy Vasily Nebenzya said.

"The shelling of populated areas in the Donbass, Kherson and Zaporozhye regions, Crimea and other Russian regions, the ruthless and blind killings of civilians testify to the agony of the neo-Nazi regime of [Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky, which is mired in terrorism, lawlessness, corruption and cynicism and seeks to kill as many Russian people as possible in its impotent rage as it wants to please its Western masters," he said at a UN Security Council meeting that was convened by Russia in connection with the shelling of Belgorod.

"All organizers and perpetrators of this and other crimes of the Kiev junta will be inevitably punished. We call on all responsible governments and relevant international organizations to condemn this terrorist attack that used cluster munitions, which are banned in most Western countries, and to publicly distance themselves from the Kiev regime and its Western handlers that commit such crimes," the diplomat went on to say.

The city of Belgorod and the surrounding region have recently come under shelling. The latest strike was carried out with Czech-made MLRS that fired two rockets with cluster munitions into downtown Belgorod. At least 20 people were killed and 111 were injured. Exclusively civilian facilities were hit. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, air defense systems intercepted both rockets and most of the other projectiles. Otherwise, the consequences would have been much more serious, the ministry said.

Ukrainian Missile Attack on a Russian City Kills at Least 20, Officials Say

The bombardment of Belgorod on Saturday, apparently in response to an enormous air assault by Moscow a day earlier, appeared to be the deadliest single attack on Russian soil since the start of the war.

Videos verified by The Associated Press, Storyful and The New York Times show smoke and multiple fires in Belgorod, Russia, which the Russian authorities said Ukrainian forces had shelled with missiles and rockets. Ostorozhno Novosti via Associated Press

Constant Méheut reported from Kyiv, Ukraine, and Ivan Nechepurenko from Tbilisi, Georgia.

Dec. 30, 2023

6:41 p.m. ET

The Russian authorities said on Saturday that a Ukrainian attack on the city of Belgorod had killed at least 20 people and injured more than 110 others, in what would be the deadliest single assault against a Russian city since the start of the war nearly two years ago.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that Ukraine had hit Belgorod — a regional center of around 330,000 residents about 25 miles north of the Ukrainian border — with two missiles and several rockets, adding that the strike was “indiscriminate.”

The ministry said that most of the rockets had been shot down, but that some debris had fallen on the city. The Ukrainian government has not officially commented on the Belgorod attack, and Russian claims could not be independently verified.

The attack seemed to be Ukraine’s response to a massive and deadly Russian air assault against its territory a day earlier, and another sign of Kyiv’s determination to bring the war to Moscow’s doorstep. In his overnight address on Friday, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said that his country would continue to “work toward pushing the war back” to “where it came from — home to Russia.”

Saturday’s attack on Belgorod were quickly followed by what Ukrainian officials said were several Russian strikes against the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, about 40 miles from Belgorod, in apparent cross-border retaliation.

The back-to-back assaults underscored how both Moscow and Kyiv remain willing to escalate a war that will most likely mark its two-year anniversary in February, despite Ukraine’s problems with securing Western funding, an increased sense of war fatigue in Russia and enormous casualties on both sides.

“There will always be an answer for all crimes,” Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, wrote on social media on Saturday, while Russia’s Defense Ministry said that the attack against Belgorod would “not go unpunished.”

While the details of Saturday’s attack into Russia were not immediately clear, the death toll alone made it noteworthy. Many Russians have held onto a sense of relative normalcy despite the war, but the violence in Belgorod — which explosions have rocked repeatedly over the last two years — shattered that stability.

To many Ukrainians, the strikes bring home to Russia the kind of suffering that they have endured almost daily for nearly two years; to many pro-war Russians, they are evidence that Moscow must use even more aggressive tactics in Ukraine.

The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry posted a video of the aftermath of the bombardment that showed cars on fire, injured people being carried to shelter and broken glass on the city’s buildings. And Russian state television broadcast videos posted by residents of Belgorod that showed plumes of smoke over the city, shattered glass near residential buildings and people lying on pavements — in a striking echo of scenes that unfolded a day before in Ukrainian cities such as Kyiv, Lviv and Dnipro.

Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of the Belgorod region, said that three children were among those killed on Saturday and that a residential area in the city center had been hit.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting would be convened to discuss the attack. On Friday, the same Council met to address Russia’s assault against Ukrainian cities, with the United States, France and Britain strongly condemning the attack.

Ukraine has said several times that it does not fear taking the war to Russian territory, and it has previously targeted the Belgorod region with cross-border strikes and even brief ground assaults by Kyiv-backed, anti-Kremlin Russian fighters.

So far, such attacks have resulted in at least 50 deaths inside Russia, according to the United Nations, as well as the evacuation of a few thousand civilians and minor clashes with the Russian military.

Saturday’s strike on Belgorod was in response to Russia’s air assault on Friday against Ukraine, said an official from Ukraine’s intelligence services, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter, adding that only military facilities had been targeted. The assault on Ukraine — one of the largest of the war — killed at least 39 people, wounded about 160 others and hit civilian and military infrastructure.

Ukrainian rescuers on Saturday were still pulling bodies from the rubble of a factory that was struck in central Kyiv, the capital, according to local authorities.

And on Saturday evening, the Ukrainian authorities said, Russia launched an assault on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, in what appeared to be Russia’s own response to the Ukrainian attack.

Ukrainian prosecutors in the Kharkiv region said that Russian missiles fired from the Belgorod region targeted the eastern Ukrainian city and that at least 21 people had been injured in the attack. The local authorities added that the Russian military struck the city center six times and reported damage to residential buildings, shops and a medical facility.

Unverified videos and images shared on social media also showed that the Kharkiv Palace Hotel, one of the city’s most popular hotels and a frequent venue for foreign journalists, was hit. Photos of the aftermath of the attack showed the facade of the building pierced by a huge hole the size of several stories.

The back-to-back air assaults on Friday and Saturday come as Ukrainian and Russian troops are bogged down on land in bloody and mostly inconclusive fighting. Moscow has made several advances all along the front in recent weeks, but military experts say its gains are incremental and unlikely to lead to a major breakthrough in the near future.

Constant Méheut has covered France from the Paris bureau of The Times since 2020.

Ivan Nechepurenko has been a Times reporter since 2015, covering politics, economics, sports and culture in Russia and the former Soviet republics. He was raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, and in Piatykhatky, Ukraine.

‘Israel Aims to Destroy Palestinians’ – South Africa Escalates at ICJ

December 29, 2023

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the UN General Assembly. (Photo: UN website)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

South Africa had submitted all necessary paperwork to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Now, Pretoria is seeking justice for Gaza at the ICJ.  

South Africa filed an application instituting proceedings against Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), requesting that the court indicate provisional measures, Anadolu News Agency reported on Friday.

The application filed “alleged violations by Israel of its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in relation to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” the ICJ said in a press release.

“Acts and omissions by Israel … are genocidal in character, as they are committed with the requisite specific intent … to destroy Palestinians in Gaza as a part of the broader Palestinian national, racial and ethnical group,” the statement read.

‘Genocide Convention’ 

“The conduct of Israel – through its State organs, State agents, and other persons and entities acting on its instructions or under its direction, control or influence – in relation to Palestinians in Gaza, is in violation of its obligations under the Genocide Convention,” the statement added, citing the application.

South Africa also accused Israel of “failing to prevent genocide” and “prosecuting the direct and public incitement to genocide” in the application.

“Israel has engaged in, is engaging in and risks further engaging in genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza,” the African country reportedly said.

The application also requested the ICJ to, “indicate provisional measures in order to protect against further, severe and irreparable harm to the rights of the Palestinian people under the Genocide Convention and to ensure Israel’s compliance with its obligations under the Genocide Convention not to engage in genocide, and to prevent and to punish genocide.”

‘Blood Libel?’ 

Earlier this month, South Africa had submitted all necessary paperwork to the International Criminal Court (ICC), bringing war crime charges against Israel over its genocidal war in Gaza.

Moreover, in November, the country’s lawmakers endorsed a motion to suspend ties with Israel until Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commits to a ceasefire in the besieged Palestinian territory.

In response to Pretoria’s latest move, the Israeli foreign ministry on Friday slammed South Africa’s position as a “blood libel”.

“South Africa’s claim has no factual and judicial basis and is a despicable and cheap exploitation of the court,” the ministry said in a statement, according to The Times of Israel. 

The Israeli ministry further accused Pretoria of “collaborating with a terror group that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel.”

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 21,507 Palestinians have been killed, and 55,915 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7. 

Palestinian and international estimates say that the majority of those killed and wounded are women and children.