Thursday, February 29, 2024

Israeli Source Confirms Army Shot Palestinians Waiting for Aid: Report

By Al Mayadeen English

29 Feb 2024 21:36

Earlier in the day, Al Mayadeen's correspondent reported that the massacre occurred on al-Rashid Street, to the west of Gaza City.

Turkish-based news agency Anadolu Agency reported on Thursday, citing Israeli military sources, that the Israeli army deliberately opened fire at a group of Palestinians as they were waiting for humanitarian aid.

The source, who requested anonymity, told Anadolu that the shooting took place near the "humanitarian corridor" in southern Gaza. The Israeli occupation forces fired at Palestinians as they approached an Israeli force overseeing the entry of aid trucks into Gaza City.

The source attempted to justify he massacre on the basis that the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) "sensed danger as civilians approached them", prompting them to open fire.

The source further stated that the army claimed a stampede occurred as they were trying to distribute aid. They blamed the crowded group for injuring other Palestinians and causing trucks to strike civilians.

According to an initial investigation conducted by the army, soldiers fired warning shots and targeted the legs of Palestinians as they approached a checkpoint overseeing the entry of trucks. 

Considering the number of civilians who got killed in the event, the accusations are incorrect.

The genocidal nature of the event is compounded by the fact that the civilians were unarmed and fled as the army fired at them. 

At least 104 Palestinians were killed in the massacre, Gaza's health ministry said.

Earlier in the day, Al Mayadeen's correspondent reported that the massacre occurred in al-Rashid Street, to the west of Gaza City.

A field source from the Palestinian Resistance told Al Mayadeen that tens of others were wounded in the attack that targeted Palestinian civilians who were waiting in line to receive aid packages in the northern Gaza Strip.

Israeli armored vehicles and tanks also ran over the bodies of several martyrs, while others fired incendiary shells toward civilians in the area, according to the commander. 

Gaza's Health Ministry confirmed earlier today that the number of Palestinian martyrs has surpassed 30,000.

"The number of martyrs exceeds 30,000," a Ministry statement announced, adding that the toll includes at least 79 martyrs reported overnight".

Resistance Informs Al Mayadeen of its Non-negotiables in Ongoing Talks

By Al Mayadeen English

29 Feb 2024 23:31

Senior Sources in the Palestinian Resistance informed Al Mayadeen that Hamas leadership confirmed that there would be no negotiations under the threat of starvation.

Senior Sources in the Palestinian Resistance informed Al Mayadeen that relief for the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip is one of the non-negotiables of the Palestinian resistance in the first stage. 

These non-negotiables of the first stage, according to the sources, include the reconstruction and immediate rehabilitation of hospitals, bakeries, and public facilities as well as the withdrawal of the occupation forces from the strip and the return of the displaced to the areas of Gaza and the north without restrictions or conditions. 

As for the second stage, the Palestinian resistance stressed that no consensus would be reached without negotiations regarding Palestinian detainees and a permanent ceasefire. 

The sources emphasized that Hamas communicated these non-negotiables in a crystal clear manner as they also represented other Palestinian Resistance factions. They further confirmed that Hamas's leadership emphasized that this message is directed at everyone who wants to reach any deal. 

Hamas leadership confirmed that there would be no negotiations under the threat of starvation, the sources stated. 

They added that there is no need to remain in negotiations without meeting the needs of the people specifically by providing food for Palestinians in Gaza and its northern part in particular as this remains a priority for Hamas and the resistance.

Al Mayadeen’s sources said that the Israeli side was only interested in the Doha talks with the file of prisoners held by the resistance in Gaza.

The sources said  that the Israelis offered no flexibility on the three main issues.

The senior Resistance sources said that Hamas has become convinced that "Israel" is working to gain time and give priority to the survival of the current government coalition over the interest of reaching an agreement.

Hamas Rep. in Lebanon says Paris draft leak part of US operation

Ahmad Abdul Hadi, Hamas' representative in Lebanon, informed Al Mayadeen on February 27 that Reuters' leaks regarding the negotiations to work out a ceasefire in Gaza are part of the psychological warfare that fits the narrative and notions the United States is attempting to perpetuate.

He noted that the Resistance is not satisfied with the proposal, adding that it will not compromise on any of its demands, particularly "on a ceasefire and reaching an honorable, serious deal".

Abdul Hadi then affirmed that the Resistance intends to reach a deal that guarantees its people's demands, as Palestinians have sacrificed a great deal, stressing that "Israel will not gain through mediation what it was not able to achieve on the battlefield."

"We are open to any ideas posed by mediators, but are also keen on preserving our key demands," Abdul Hadi told Al Mayadeen, highlighting how the Israeli occupation is "seeking to hold Hamas accountable for any later failures in talks, planning to use this as an excuse to pave the way for the invasion of Rafah."

He revealed that the leaks were part of the Paris negotiations, but were purely the US and "Israel's", who attempted to give the public an illusion that Hamas approved of them, and reiterated that "everything being shared is not serious, but a ploy to maneuver and press on the Resistance."

Resistance Victorious in al-Zaytoun, Merkava Parts Seen Everywhere

By Al Mayadeen English

29 Feb 2024 11:43

A field commander from the Palestinian Resistance says Israeli forces withdrew from al-Zaytoun under the Resistance's fire on Thursday.

As "Israel" commits yet another clear act of genocide, killing and injuring more than a thousand Palestinian civilians to the west of Gaza City, the Palestinian Resistance marks yet another victory on the southeastern axis of the northern Gaza Strip, a field commander in the Palestinian Resistance told Al Mayadeen. 

Our source from the Palestinian Resistance confirmed that Israeli occupation forces withdrew from al-Zaytoun neighborhood under the Resistance's fire following several top-tier attacks.

He said that debris resulting from the Resistance's attacks on armored vehicles and Merkava tanks could be seen across the axes of confrontation, which saw intense fighting.

The source also confirmed that bloodied and ripped pieces of military garments are scattered in several areas indicating casualties among enemy soldiers. 

Israeli occupation forces failed in their advance into al-Zaytoun neighborhood in southeast Gaza City, after expecting a quick operation in the area. The occupation claims that the attack comes in line with its alleged third stage of operations. These "operations" were expected to follow low-intensity methods and would require relatively low-effort raids and incursion into areas in the Gaza Strip, following a large-scale invasion into the same areas that were supposedly "cleared".

More than 10 days since the attempted invasion of al-Zaytoun, the Palestinian Resistance continues to confront and deal mighty blows to occupation soldiers, killing and injuring multiple enemy troops, including a company commander and another platoon commander of the Givati Brigade. 

On Wednesday, our source said that the Dawlah Intersection and al-Sikka Street in Gaza City have been "turned into a graveyard" for Israeli Merkava tanks.

"The occupation's military incurred heavy losses," on February 27, the Resistance commander told Al Mayadeen, adding that military "helicopters landed [in the area] three times to evacuate those killed and wounded."

"Israeli warplanes intervened three times to cover the evacuation operations, executing concentrated raids on several axes," the source explained.

"Our fighters from [every faction] are still in their combat positions and are carrying out their tasks according to plans established in advance," the Resistance commander in al-Zaytoun told Al Mayadeen, highlighting the Resistance's ability to command and control large-scale operations in the northern Gaza Strip, contrary to Israeli claims.

"A state of confusion dominates the movements of the occupation soldiers [in al-Zaytoun neighborhood]," the field source said at the time.

Hungary Refuses to Transfer $18 mln on Weapons for Ukraine, Sends it to Chad Instead

Peter Szijjarto noted that Hungary carries out a wide program on provision of economic and social aid to this African country

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS

BUDAPEST, February 29. /TASS/. The government of Hungary refused to transfer $18 billion to the European Peace Facility, opting to spend them on upholding security and stability in Chad, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said at the press conference after the meeting with his counterpart from Chad Saleh Annadif.

He noted that Hungary advocates peaceful settlement of the conflict in Ukraine and therefore "did not agree to send approximately $18 million to the European Peace Facility, which could have been used to pay for weapons, already sent to Ukraine."

"We decided to use these $18 million to strengthen the security in Chad, to create a new educational facility for training of army officers in Chad, and to improve capabilities of the Chadian Armed Forces," Szijjarto said. He noted that Hungary carries out a wide program on provision of economic and social aid to this African country.

Previously, Hungary said that it will note veto the enlargement of the European Peace Facility, which funds procurements of weapons for Ukraine, but will not participate in the facility itself. The EU External Action Service proposed to increase this fund by 5 billion euros in 2024, in order to expand the arms shipments to the Ukrainian army. Szijjarto pointed out that shipping weapons is a red line for Hungary.

In this regard, Budapest announced that it will not contribute to the enlargement of the fund, but is ready to provide this sum for Ukraine to provide aid it sees fir. During the February 1 summit in Brussels, the EU leaders were unable to pass a decision on the expansion of the European Peace Facility by 5 billion euros, as was insisted by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and EU High Representative Josep Borrell. This discussion was postponed until March.

The European Peace Facility was established in 2021 to fund EU’s efforts in defense and security, including its peacekeeping operations. However, after the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine, the EU started using it to compensate its expenses for arms shipments to the Ukrainian army.

Putin Warns That Sending Western Troops to Ukraine Risks a Global Nuclear War

Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed Thursday to fulfill Moscow’s goals in Ukraine and sternly warned the West against deeper involvement in the fighting, saying that such a move is fraught with the risk of a global nuclear conflict. (Feb. 29)


10:04 AM EST, February 29, 2024

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed Thursday to fulfill Moscow’s goals in Ukraine and sternly warned the West against deeper involvement in the fighting, saying that such a move is fraught with the risk of a global nuclear conflict.

Putin’s blunt warning came in a state-of-the-nation address ahead of next month’s election he’s all but certain to win, underlining his readiness to raise the stakes in the tug-of-war with the West to protect the Russian gains in Ukraine.

In an apparent reference to French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement earlier this week that the future deployment of Western ground troops to Ukraine should not be “ruled out”, Putin warned that it would lead to “tragic” consequences for the countries who decide to do that.

Putin noted that while accusing Russia of plans to attack NATO allies in Europe, Western allies were “selecting targets for striking our territory” and “talking about the possibility of sending a NATO contingent to Ukraine.”

“We remember the fate of those who sent their troop contingents to the territory of our country,” the Russian leader said in an apparent allusion to the failed invasions by Napoleon and Hitler. “Now the consequences for the potential invaders will be far more tragic.”

In a two-hour speech before an audience of lawmakers and top officials, Putin cast Western leaders as reckless and irresponsible and declared that the West should keep in mind that “we also have the weapons that can strike targets on their territory, and what they are now suggesting and scaring the world with, all that raises the real threat of a nuclear conflict that will mean the destruction of our civilization.”

The strong statement followed earlier warnings from Putin, who has issued frequent reminders of Russia’s nuclear might since he sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022 as he sought to discourage the West from expanding its military support for Kyiv.

Putin emphasized that Russia’s nuclear forces are in “full readiness,” saying that the military has deployed potent new weapons, some of them tested on the battlefield in Ukraine.

The Kremlin leader said they include the new Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile that has entered service with Russian nuclear forces, along with the Burevestnik atomic-powered cruise missile and the Poseidon atomic-powered, nuclear-armed drone, which are completing their tests.

At the same time, he rejected Western leaders’ statements about the threat of a Russian attack on NATO allies in Europe as “ravings” and again dismissed Washington’s claim that Moscow was pondering the deployment of space-based nuclear weapons.

Putin charged that the U.S. allegations were part of a ploy to draw Russia into talks on nuclear arms control on American terms even as Washington continues its efforts to deliver a “strategic defeat” to Moscow in Ukraine.

“Ahead of the U.S. election, they just want to show their citizens, as well as others, that they continue to rule the world,” he said. “It won’t work.”

In his speech that focused heavily on economic and social issues ahead of the March 15-17 presidential vote, Putin argued that Russia was “defending its sovereignty and security and protecting our compatriots” in Ukraine, charging that the Russian forces have the upper hand in the fighting.

He reaffirmed his claim that the West was bent on destroying Russia, saying “they need a dependent, waning, dying space in the place of Russia so that they can do whatever they want.”

The Russian leader honored the troops fallen in Ukraine with a moment of silence, and said that military veterans should form the core of the country’s new elite, inviting them to join a new training program for senior civil servants.

Putin has repeatedly said that he sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022 to protect Russian interests and prevent Ukraine from posing a major security threat to Russia by joining NATO. Kyiv and its allies have denounced it as an unprovoked act of aggression.

The Russian leader has repeatedly signaled a desire to negotiate an end to the fighting but warned that Russia will hold onto its gains.

Putin, 71, who is running as an independent candidate in the March 15-17 presidential election, relies on the tight control over Russia’s political system that he has established during 24 years in power.

Prominent critics who could challenge him have either been imprisoned or are living abroad, while most independent media have been banned, meaning that Putin’s reelection is all but assured. He faces token opposition from three other candidates nominated by Kremlin-friendly parties represented in parliament.

Russia’s best-known opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whose attempt to run against Putin in 2018 was rejected, died suddenly in an Arctic prison colony earlier this month, while serving a 19-year sentence on extremism charges. Navalny’s funeral is set for Friday.

Gunfire Paralyzes Haiti as Powerful Gang Leader Says He Will Try to Detain Police Chief, Ministers


8:57 PM EST, February 29, 2024

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Heavy gunfire paralyzed Haiti’s capital Thursday, and at least four police officers were slain, as a powerful gang leader announced that he would try to capture the country’s police chief and government ministers.

The move came during the absence of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who is in Kenya trying to finalize details for the deployment of a foreign armed force to Haiti to help combat gangs.

Gunmen shot at Haiti’s main international airport and other targets, including police stations, in a wave of violence that caught many people by surprise. At least four police officers, including two women, were killed in an attack on a station near the community of Canaan, according to a police union.

The violence forced the airport, businesses, government agencies and schools to close as parents and young children fled through the streets in panic. At least one airline, Sunrise Airways, suspended all flights.

Jimmy Chérizier, known as “Barbecue” and leader of the gang federation G9 Family and Allies, was seen in a recorded video announcing that the aim was to tie up the police chief and government ministers and prevent Henry from returning to Haiti.

“With our guns and with the Haitian people, we will free the country,” he said.

A spokesman for the prime minister’s office could not be immediately reached for comment. The head of Haiti’s National Police, Frantz Elbé, and police spokesman Garry Desrosiers did not return messages for comment.

Gunfire still rang out Thursday evening and dozens of Haitians were seen carrying children and heavy bags stuffed with belongings fleeing their neighborhoods. They raised their hands as a peace offering to potential gangs while rushing through intersections.

Armored vehicles patrolled empty streets in downtown Port-au-Prince while others remained stationed near gang-controlled slums.

Residents in some neighborhoods, including Canape Vert and Turgeau, set up roadblocks to prevent gangs from entering as men who were not wearing uniforms stood by with machine guns.

Pierre Alex Boucher, a math teacher who lives in downtown Port-au-Prince, said he heard heavy gunfire before dawn. Several hours later, as the gunfire continued, he stood on his roof and said he saw police in an armored car trying to fight gang members and then abruptly leave.

The shooting then worsened, and when he saw what he believes were teenagers with machine guns, he fled his home, feeling that his life was in danger.

“The area is completely invaded by gangs,” Boucher said of his neighborhood. “A lot of people couldn’t make it out, and some locked themselves inside their homes.”

He said he spoke with friends who saw people who had been shot to death.

“The country has to revolt against the gangs,” he said. “No one is safe.”

It was not clear if Chérizier, the gang leader, had the backing of other major gangs that are estimated to control up to 80% of Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

Diego Da Rin, with the International Crisis Group, noted that Barbecue in his speech referred to a coalition called Viv Ansanm, which means “living together” in Haitian Creole. The coalition was created last year as part of a peace pact between Barbecue’s federation and another powerful gang called G-Pep and had as a main goal to bring down Henry’s administration.

However, the coalition crumbled just days after it was announced, and Da Rin said it remains to be seen whether Barbecue truly has the support of other gang leaders.

“I don’t know how much credibility to give Barbecue right now,” Da Rin said. “Rivalries between gangs are so strong and alliances ever shifting that it’s complicated they could act in a concerted manner for a long time without much trouble.”

However, he noted that gunmen launched coordinated attacks in Port-au-Prince on Thursday. In addition to the attack on the main international airport, gunmen also set fire to a police station in downtown Port-au-Prince.

The attacks came a day after Henry met in Guyana with Caribbean leaders, who said he pledged to hold long-awaited general elections by mid-2025. It is the third time he has announced such a deadline, with previous promises made in 2022 and 2023. There are currently no elected officials in Haiti, with Henry sworn in as prime minister with the backing of the international community shortly after the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

Henry traveled from Guyana to Kenya in hopes of moving forward on the deployment of Kenyan police officers to Haiti. A court in the East African nation ruled last month that the proposed deployment was unconstitutional, but Henry and Kenyan officials have been working on a deal that would allow forces to arrive in Haiti soon.

“There has always been the danger that as discussions progress and the goal of the mission gets closer that the gangs will try to flex their muscles and discourage the troops,” Da Rin said.

The government of Haiti said in a statement that Henry arrived in Kenya on Thursday. They did not say when he would return to Haiti.


Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Ghana’s Anti-LGBTQ+ Bill Draws International Condemnation After it is Passed by Parliament

A bill which criminalizes LGBTQ+ people in Ghana and their supporters drew international condemnation Thursday after it was passed by parliament, with the United Nations calling it “profoundly disturbing” and urging for it not to become law. (Feb. 29)


5:25 PM EST, February 29, 2024

ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — A bill which criminalizes LGBTQ+ people in Ghana and their supporters drew international condemnation Thursday after it was passed by parliament, with the United Nations calling it “profoundly disturbing” and urging for it not to become law.

In a statement, Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner, said the bill broadens the scope of criminal sanctions against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people simply for being who they are, and threatens criminal penalties against those perceived as their allies.

“Consensual same-sex conduct should never be criminalized ... The bill, if it becomes law, will be corrosive, and will have a negative impact on society as a whole,” she said.

The bill, which was voted through by parliament in the West African nation on Wednesday, was first introduced three years ago. It criminalizes relationships, sexual activity and public displays of affection between members of the LGBTQ+ community.

It also targets their supporters and the promotion and funding of LGBTQ+-related activities. Those convicted could face up to a decade in prison.

The bill has been sent to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

Ghana has generally been considered to be more respectful of human rights than most African countries, but since the legislation passed through parliament, international condemnation has grown.

The United States said it was deeply troubled by the bill, saying it threatens Ghanaians’ freedom of speech and is urging for its constitutionality to be reviewed, said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller on Wednesday.

In a radio interview the attorney general and minister of justice, Godfred Yeboah Dame, said he would not advise the president to sign a bill into law that didn’t abide by the constitution.

Audrey Gadzekpo, chairman of the Center for Democratic Development, a rights group, said it will continue advocating to get the bill thrown out, including by going to court.

LGBTQ+ people in Ghana say they’re worried for the safety of those around them such as health providers, as well as for themselves.

“The passage of this bill, it demonstrates to me and all Ghanaians that our politicians do not respect our democracy. They do not respect our constitution, nor do they respect the many international rights treaties that Ghana has signed onto over the years,” a queer person who did not want to be named for fear of reprisal told The Associated Press.

“I don’t know how much longer I can continue to live in a country that has criminalized me,” she said.


Associated Press writers Misper Apawu in Accra and Sam Mednick in Dakar, Senegal contributed to this report.

Chad Opposition Leader Was Killed as he Led Attack on Security Agency in the Capital, Official Says


10:37 AM EST, February 29, 2024

N’DJAMENA, Chad (AP) — An opposition leader in Chad was among several people killed as he led an attack on the national security agency in the country’s capital this week, the state prosecutor said Thursday.

The attack underscored the tenuous situation in the central African country of Chad ahead of a presidential election scheduled for May 6.

The killed leader, Yaya Dillo, was the current president’s cousin and a strong contender in the upcoming election. He headed the Socialist Party Without Borders, which was behind Wednesday ‘s attack at the National State Security Agency.

State Prosecutor Oumar Mahamat Kedelaye said Dillo was among several killed but did not elaborate on the circumstances of his death or say who shot him.

The well-armed attackers, in more than 10 vehicles, drove up and stormed the agency’s offices in the country’s capital of N’Djamena. At least two dozen people have been arrested and investigations are underway, Kedelaye said.

The attack followed the arrest earlier Wednesday of the opposition party’s finance secretary for allegedly trying to assassinate the president of the country’s supreme court.

Chad’s interim president, Mahamat Deby Itno, seized power after his father who ran the country for more than three decades was killed fighting rebels in 2021. Last year, the government announced it was extending the 18-month transition for two more years, which led to protests across the country.

Internet was cut in Chad on Wednesday afternoon and had not been restored by late Thursday.

Algeria is in the Spotlight as Leaders of Gas Producing Countries Convene for Summit

7:28 AM EST, February 29, 2024

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algeria is looking to cast itself as a critical supplier of natural gas for European countries seeking to lessen their dependence on Russia as it welcomed Thursday envoys from energy rich nations to a key summit.

For three days, Algeria will host leaders from 13 other nations in its capital of Algiers, including Russia, Iran, Qatar and Venezuela as the industry confronts waning demand for oil and gas and new competition from renewable energy sources.

The summit will offer participants a chance to coordinate on investments and ties with purchasing countries and to further develop production capacity. Officials have also indicated the summit will provide a venue to showcase Algeria’s growing role as a secure and reliable energy supplier.

Algerian President Abdelmajid Tebboune said in a message on the summit’s website that the gathering underscores how “natural gas is increasingly in demand as a crucial energy source for socio-economic development, being one of the main clean and environmentally friendly alternative energy sources.”

As European countries have tried to wean themselves off Russian energy, Algeria has emerged as the continent’s second largest pipeline supplier of gas, after Norway. It is the top supplier of gas to Spain and also Italy, whose Premier Giorgia Meloni visited last year. Algeria’s state-owned energy company Sonatrach recently signed a deal to sell natural gas to Germany’s VNG.

Karim Allam, an oil and gas industry analyst, said the summit would provide an opportunity to make the case for gas as “a product of the future.”

Algeria “wants to finalize long-term contracts that will provide security for the future, while seeking to bolster its status as a credible and serious producer country,” he said.

However, headwinds remain. Despite aggressive plans to expand production between now and 2030, Algeria has struggled to deliver more gas to Europe at the pace promised. Sonatrach continues to confront infrastructure needs, slowing demand for gas and new competition from countries like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Algeria’s growing population is also projected to increase energy demands, much like Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country.

“There’s a growing concern over the necessity to balance domestic needs with the export commitment,” said Alberto Rizzi, a researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “And there’s a game over who the last man standing is — who can produce at the price, volume and with the least pollution.”

Algeria has made preliminary moves to invest in renewable energy, specifically green hydrogen power, but continues to be heavily invested in fossil fuels. Oil and gas revenue accounted 38% of the country’s budget from 2016 to 2021, according to World Bank figures.

At Least Two Dozen Migrants Died off Senegal’s Northern Coast Trying to Reach Europe, Say Officials

FILE - Senegalese youth gather around pirogues on the beach at dusk in Fass Boye, Senegal, Aug. 29, 2023. Officials in Senegal say at least two dozen people have died off Senegal’s northern coast and many were injured when a boat carrying migrants capsized. The boat was bound for Europe and capsized Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 near the town of Saint-Louis where bodies washed up on shore. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)


6:57 AM EST, February 29, 2024

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — At least two dozen people died off Senegal’s northern coast and many others were injured when their boat capsized, officials said, underscoring the danger of the route used by an increasing number of migrants seeking to reach Spain from West Africa.

The boat was bound for Europe and capsized near the town of Saint-Louis, where bodies washed ashore Wednesday afternoon and the fire department was alerted, said Alioune Badara Sambe, the local governor.

The injured are being treated in a hospital in Saint-Louis and an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the accident has been opened, he said.

The number of migrants leaving from Senegal on rickety wooden boats surged last year, and nearly 1,000 people died while trying to reach Spain by sea in the first six months of 2023, according to the Spanish migration advocacy group Walking Borders.

Factors such as youth unemployment, political unrest and the impact of climate change push migrants to risk their lives on overcrowded boats.

Senegal has been thrown into turmoil as elections meant for February were controversially delayed by the president, sparking deadly protests. Elections have been proposed for June but it’s unclear when or whether the president, whose term officially ends in April, will step down.

Fresh from a Deadly Cholera Outbreak, Zambia Declares Drought a National Emergency

FILE - Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema addresses a press conference at his residence in Lusaka, Zambia, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, declared the country’s debilitating drought a national disaster and emergency, saying it has devastated food production and electricity generation as the nation battles to recover from a recent deadly cholera outbreak. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)


1:17 PM EST, February 29, 2024

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema Thursday declared the country’s debilitating drought a national disaster and emergency, saying it has devastated food production and electricity generation as the nation battles to recover from a recent deadly cholera outbreak.

Like some of its neighbors, the southern African country is suffering a severe drought as the El Nino weather pattern worsens harsh weather conditions attributed in part to climate change.

In an address to the nation, Hichilema said he has instructed security forces to focus more on food production in the largely peaceful country.

He said 84 of the country’s 116 districts are affected by the prolonged drought and authorities will take food from areas where there is an excess and distribute it to needy areas. In addition, the country plans more food imports and is mobilizing United Nations agencies and local businesses to assist.

The drought has destroyed about 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) of the 2.2 million hectares (5.4 million acres) planted with the staple maize crop, he said.

“This drought has devastating consequences on many sectors such as agriculture, water availability and energy supply, risking our national food security and the livelihoods of millions of our people. The dry spell is projected to continue even into the month of March, affecting over 1 million of our farming households,” said Hichilema.

Electricity generation has not been spared, with the country expecting a power deficit of about 430 megawatts “potentially reaching 520 megawatts by December,” he said, as water levels decline at the country’s major source of hydro power, the Kariba Dam, which it shares with neighbor, Zimbabwe.

To cope, the country will import electricity and also ration supplies to its approximately 20 million people, he said.

Zambia was recently hit by one of its worst cholera outbreaks that killed more than 400 people and infected more than 10,000.

Some Zambians, weary of continued crises, have coined songs labeling the outbreaks of coronavirus and cholera as well as the current drought as a “triple tragedy,” said Hichilema.

Although many countries in southern Africa are yet to declare a national disaster, they are also in a dire situation because of the influence of El Nino weather patterns, according to the U.N agency, the World Food Program.

Parts of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana are experiencing the driest February in the past 40 years, while severe rainfall shortages have been recorded in southern Malawi, eastern Angola and parts of Mozambique, said the WFP in a bulletin this week.

The United States Agency for International Development, the U.S. government’s foreign aid agency, has estimated through its Famine Early Warning Systems Network that 20 million people in southern Africa will need food relief between January and March.

Many people in the areas of highest concern such as Zimbabwe, southern Malawi, parts of Mozambique and southern Madagascar will be unable to feed themselves into early 2025 due to El Nino, USAID said.

‘We are Managing the Battle’ – Resistance Roundup – Day 145

February 28, 2024

An Al-Qassam fighter in Al-Zaytoun. (Photo: video grab)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

The Palestinian Resistance is still able to ‘manage the battle’ not just in the Zaytoun neighborhood but in other neighborhoods, refugee camps, and cities across Gaza.

“We are managing the battle in the Al-Zaytoun neighborhood with all strength, capability and control,” a commander with the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Resistance movement Hamas, told Al-Jazeera.

Indeed, news from the battlefield indicates that the Palestinian Resistance is still able to ‘manage the battle’ not just in the Zaytoun neighborhood but in other neighborhoods, refugee camps, and cities across Gaza.

Below are the latest statements by the two main Resistance forces in Gaza, and the Lebanese Resistance Movement Hezbollah.

The statements below were communicated via their Telegram channels and are published here in their original form.

Al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas)

“Al-Qassam Brigades bomb from southern Lebanon the headquarters of the Eastern Brigade 769 Gibor Camp and the Airport Barracks in Beit Hillel in northern occupied Palestine with two rocket barrages consisting of 40 Grad rockets, in response to the Zionist massacres against civilians in the Gaza Strip and the assassination of the martyr leaders and their brothers in the southern suburb (Dahiya) of Lebanon.

“After returning from the front lines, our fighters confirmed targeting a Zionist infantry force fortified inside a building with an anti-personnel shell and eliminating its members in the Abasan Al-Kabira area east of Khan Yunis city in the southern Gaza Strip.

“After returning from the front lines, our fighters confirmed targeting a Zionist troop carrier with Shuath and Janibiya explosive devices previously planted in the Abasan Al-Kabira area east of Khan Yunis city.

“After their return from the battle lines, our fighters confirmed that they clashed with a special Zionist force from point-blank range, eliminating one soldier and wounding another next to Al-Shafi’i Mosque, west of the city of Khan Yunis.

“After their return from the battle lines, our fighters confirmed that they targeted two Zionist Merkava 4 tanks with Al-Yassin 105 and tandem shells on the Mashru’ road west of the city of Khan Yunis, south of the Gaza Strip.

“WATCH: Scenes of Al-Qassam fighters confronting enemy forces invading Al-Zaytoun neighborhood east of Gaza City.

“A leadership source in Martyr Izz El-Din Al-Qassam Brigades to Al-Jazeera: We are managing the battle in Al-Zaytoun neighborhood with all strength, capability and control, inflicting heavy losses on the vehicles, officers, and soldiers of the occupation.

“Al-Qassam Brigades bombarded gatherings of enemy vehicles and soldiers behind the Noujoum Hall in Al-Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza City with heavy-caliber mortar shells.”

Al-Quds Brigades (Palestinian Islamic Jihad)

“We bombarded the Kissufim (IOF) site with a barrage of 107mm rockets.

“Our fighters are engaged in fierce clashes with enemy forces using appropriate weapons in the Abasan Al-Kabira area, east of Khan Yunis.

“We targeted a Zionist Merkava tank and a D9 bulldozer with tandem shells and RPG shells in the advancement axis, west of the city of Khan Yunis.

“We bombed with a barrage of mortar shells a gathering of enemy forces on Street 10, south of the Al-Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza City.

“After their return from the combat lines in the southeastern area of Al-Qarara in Khan Yunis city, our fighters reported clashing with a Zionist infantry force comprising of 4 soldiers using appropriate weapons, inflicting deaths and injuries on all of them.”


“In support of the steadfast Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and backing their valiant and honorable resistance, the Islamic Resistance carried out a number of operations against the sites and deployment of the Israeli enemy army at the Lebanese-Palestinian border on Wednesday, 28-2-2024, as follows:

“- Eastern Sector:

1- At 17:00, targeting the Ramtha site in the occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms with rocket weapons, hitting it directly.

2- At 17:05, targeting the Al-Samaqa site in the occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms with rocket weapons, hitting it directly.

“- Western Sector:

1- At 17:00, targeting the deployment of Israeli enemy soldiers in the vicinity of the Birkat Risha site with rocket weapons, achieving direct hits.”

(The Palestine Chronicle)

US Killing ‘Large Numbers of Palestinians’ in Gaza – What Did Aaron Bushnell Know?

February 28, 2024

What did Aaron Bushnell know? (Image: Palestine Chronicle)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

“He told me on Saturday that we have troops in those tunnels, that it’s US soldiers participating in the killings,’’ Bushnell’s unnamed friend told the Post.

The young US soldier who set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington DC on February 25 had direct knowledge of US fighters engaged in active combat in Gaza, the New York Post reported, citing a friend of Aaron Bushnell.

Bushnell, the US airman who served in the Air Force’s 70th Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, was driven to the act as a desperate attempt to bring attention to the Israeli genocide in the Strip, according to his own last words. 

His last words were: “I’m about to engage in an extreme act of protest but, compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, it’s not extreme at all. This is what our ruling class has decided will be normal”.

The Post, however, suggests that there is more to the story. 

“He told me on Saturday that we have troops in those tunnels, that it’s US soldiers participating in the killings,’’ Bushnell’s unnamed friend told the Post, which indicated that it has verified the connection between the two. 

What the Friend Said

These are excerpts from Bushnell’s friend’s statement to the Post: 

“His actual job involves the processing of intelligence data. Some of what he was processing had to do with the Israeli Gaza conflict.

“One of the things he told me is that coming across his desk … was the US military was involved in the genocides going on in Palestine.

“There’s just too many things I don’t know, but I can tell you that the tone of his voice just had something in it that told me he was scared.

“I’ve never heard that tone come out of him.”

US Military in Gaza

Though the Biden Administration insisted that no US troops would be directly involved in the war on Gaza, media reports suggested that the US has some kind of direct military involvement in the Israeli war, which has led to the killing and wounding of over 100,000 civilians. 

The Post cited an earlier New York Times report saying that US special operations forces have been deployed in Israel since Hamas’ October 7 to “identify hostages, including American hostages.” 

“Special forces have also been on hand to assist with strategy for Israeli troops in Gaza, who are flushing out Hamas members from the network of tunnels under the territory,” according to the Post, which added that the NYT report had noted that US troops are “not assigned any combatant roles.”

Israel’s Genocide 

The Israeli genocide in Gaza has ignited anger all over the world, not just against Israel, but also against the US and its western allies who either directly supported the war or did little to stop it. 

Currently on trial before the International Court of Justice for genocide against Palestinians, Israel has been waging a devastating war on Gaza since October 7. 

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, 29,954 Palestinians have been killed, and 70,325 wounded in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza starting on October 7.

Moreover, at least 7,000 people are unaccounted for, presumed dead under the rubble of their homes throughout the Strip. 

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

The Israeli aggression has also resulted in the forceful displacement of nearly two million people from all over the Gaza Strip, with the vast majority of the displaced forced into the densely crowded southern city of Rafah near the border with Egypt – in what has become Palestine’s largest mass exodus since the 1948 Nakba.

Israel says that 1,200 soldiers and civilians were killed during the Al-Aqsa Flood Operation on October 7. Israeli media published reports suggesting that many Israelis were killed on that day by ‘friendly fire.’ 

(The Palestine Chronicle)

Caribbean Leaders Say Haitian Prime Minister Agrees to Hold Long-awaited Elections by Mid-2025

FILE - Children and their guardians gather outside a police station after they fled their homes in Cite Soleil due to gang violence, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 12, 2024. Indiscriminate violence in Haiti is escalating — especially in the capital and surrounding region — with armed gangs carrying out killings and acts of sexual violence, Ulrika Richardson, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in the conflict-wracked Caribbean nation, said Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Odelyn Joseph, File)


10:39 PM EST, February 28, 2024

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — Caribbean leaders said late Wednesday that embattled Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry has agreed to hold general elections by mid-2025 as the international community pushes to raise money for a foreign armed force to fight gang violenc there.

Members of the Caricom regional trade bloc issued a statement at the end of a four-day summit in Guyana saying Henry agreed there is a need to hold elections and work with the oppositiosaid and civil society groups to achieve that goal.

The statement said that all stakeholders in Haitian society, including Henry, will have to make concessions to allow for elections and the restoration of democracy in an impoverished country that has no elected officials in power.

“Caricom heads expressed their deep concern over the continued deterioration of the security, humanitarian and political situation and the continued delay in overcoming the political stalemate, which have blocked the possibility of free and fair elections,” the statement bloc said.

“Caricom heads underlined the critical and immediate need for a clear political path forward which should be participatory and inclusive.”

An assessment team will be created by the U.S., Canada and the United Nations to help Haiti prepare for elections.

A spokesman for Henry’s office declined to comment. Henry was en route to Kenya after leaving Guyana, officials said.

Henry has repeatedly pledged to hold elections ever since being sworn in as prime minister after the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, but he and other officials say gang violence has not allowed them to move forward on those promises.

The situation in Haiti is “truly terrible,” Bahamian Prime Minister Philip Davis said at the summit’s closing news conference. “Haiti is hemorrhaging. … We are deeply concerned about the continued deterioration of the security situation.”

He said Caricom will soon host a meeting in Jamaica of key Haitian stakeholders as the region strives to find a political solution for the country.

Meanwhile, a U.N.-backed deployment of a Kenyan police force to Haiti has faced legal obstacles in that East African nation, with a court ruling the plan unconstitutional.

Chad Says Opposition Group Attacked Security Agency in Capital, a Day After Election Date Was Set


11:33 AM EST, February 28, 2024

N’DJAMENA, Chad (AP) — Several people were killed in an attack on the national security agency in Chad’s capital, officials said on Wednesday.

Opposition group The Socialist Party Without Borders attacked The agency, known as ANSE, D’jamena, government spokesman Abderaman Koulamallah in a statement. The group is led by Yaya Dillo, the current president’s cousin and a strong contender in the upcoming election.

Koulamallah said, “the situation is now totally under control” but did not reveal the exact number of people killed. He said some were arrested and others were being pursued.

In the same statement, the government said that earlier the party’s finance secretary tried to assassinate the president of the supreme court, which led to his arrest.

Chad’s interim president, Mahamat Deby Itno, seized power after his father who ran the country for more than three decades was killed fighting rebels in 2021. Last year, the government announced it was extending the 18-month transition for two more years, which led to protests across the country.

On Tuesday, the government announced that presidential election would be held on May 6.

On Wednesday afternoon the internet was cut in the capital and tensions remained high.

South Sudan Blames Fighting in Neighboring Sudan and Attacks in the Red Sea for its Crisis


7:08 AM EST, February 28, 2024

JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — South Sudan’s government on Tuesday blamed the country’s economic crisis in part on the fighting in neighboring Sudan and the instability in the Red Sea, where Yemen’s Houthi rebels have been attacking international shipping.

With most government workers not having been paid for the past of five months and the cost of living skyrocketing, Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth told reporters that outside factors have impacted South Sudan’s oil exports — the country’s main source of revenue.

The news conference by Lueth was meant to provide an update on South Sudan’s sluggish economy since the 2018 signing of a peace deal that ended the country’s own internal conflict.

Lueth also said that oil wells, which were water-logged by heavy floods over the past rainy season, are not yet fully operational.

The low levels of productivity have been compounded by the fact that the pipeline taking South Sudan’s crude through Sudan to its main Red Sea hub, Port Sudan, has been blocked in areas where there is fighting, he said.

But even if the crude oil were to reach Port Sudan, it would still not be possible to ship it because of the ongoing threats to shipping in the Red Sea, Leuth said.

“So, apart from low production, there are physical difficulties confronting the oil sector,” he said. “The combination of all these factors has seriously affected” South Sudan.

Neighboring Sudan plunged into chaos in mid-April when clashes erupted in the capital, Khartoum, between rival Sudanese forces — the country’s military, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, and a paramilitary faction known as the Rapid Support Forces, under the command of Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.

The fighting quickly spread across the African country, especially urban areas but also the restive western Darfur region, and has so far killed at least 12,000 people and sent over 8 million fleeing from their homes.

South Sudan gained independence from Sudan in 2011 following decades of civil war that cost million of lives. Soon after independence South Sudan fought its own civil war from 2013 to 2018, when rivals President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar signed a power-sharing agreement and formed a coalition government.

South Sudan, a landlocked country, produces around 150,000 barrels of fuel a day and uses Sudanese pipelines to transfer its oil to the global market in an agreement with the government of Sudan. Sudan pockets $23 per barrel as transit fees for oil exports from South Sudan.

Senegalese Leaders Propose June Elections After Court Rejects President’s 10 Month Delay

FILE - Demonstrators protest President Macky Sall’s decision to postpone the Feb. 25 vote, citing an electoral dispute between the parliament and the judiciary regarding some candidacies, in Dakar, Senegal, on Feb. 9, 2024. A national dialogue panel in Senegal proposed holding elections in early June, the first proposed new date offered since the president attempted to push elections back to the end of the year. (AP Photo/Stefan Kleinowitz, File)


7:06 AM EST, February 28, 2024

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — A group of Senegalese civic and religious leaders proposed holding elections in early June, the first new date offered since the president attempted to push elections back to the end of the year.

President Macky Sall who faces term limits at the end of his second terms, said in early February he was postponing an election for 10 months, just weeks before it was set to take place on Feb. 25.

But Senegal’s highest election authority, the Constitutional Council, rejected that move and ordered the government to set a new election date as soon as possible.

Sall called for a two-day national dialogue earlier this week, aiming at fostering trust among the candidates and the population. Civil, political and religious leaders attended, but almost all of the candidates on the ballot refused to participate. On Tuesday, the panel proposed holding the vote on June 2.

Sall has said that he will step down by April 2, which is the end of his current term, but it’s unclear who will take over if elections are not held before that.

Senegal has been seen as a rare stable democracy in a region rife with coups. The delay of the vote has sparked deadly protests across the country.

The panel called for the Constitutional Council to review decisions that blocked candidates including Karim Wade, an opposition leader and son of former Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, from the ballot.

The election authority disqualified Wade because he previously held dual citizenship. He renounced his French nationality in order to run.

Sall has defended his decision to delay elections, but has accepted the Council’s ruling and attempted to calm the situation. At the launch of the dialogue he said he would propose a general amnesty law addressing the protests, in which hundreds of people were jailed.

It wasn’t immediately clear who would be freed if the amnesty was enacted or how it might affect Ousmane Sonko, a popular opposition leader who is currently in jail.

Burundi Detains Dozens of Soldiers Who Refused Deployment in Fight Against M23 Rebels in Congo


7:50 AM EST, February 28, 2024

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Dozens of Burundian troops have been detained for refusing to be deployed to eastern Congo in the fight against the M23 rebel group as it advances toward a major border city, according to army officers, prison officials and other witnesses.

The dissenting soldiers were being held in at least four prisons across the tiny central African country, they told The Associated Press.

Clashes between M23, which the U.S. says is backed by Rwanda, and Congolese troops have intensified in recent weeks with the rebels threatening the Congo city of Goma on the Rwanda border.

Burundian President Évariste Ndayishimiye, in a public broadcast on Dec. 29, acknowledged the presence of Burundian troops in eastern Congo under the terms of a defense pact with Congolese authorities.

“If you do not help your neighbor put out the fire when his house is burning, tomorrow, if it is your turn, he will not come to help you,” he said. “If Burundi is going to help (Congo), it is defending itself.”

He said in that address that it was “normal for Burundian soldiers to be killed on Congolese territory.”

Tensions have been rising in Africa’s Great Lakes region as Rwanda, Burundi and Congo trade accusations over support for violent rebel groups operating in the lawless areas of eastern Congo.

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi has accused Rwanda’s government of actively supporting M23, which controls territory near the Rwanda border. U.N. experts have cited “solid evidence” that members of Rwanda’s armed forces were conducting operations in support of the rebels in eastern Congo. Rwanda denies supporting the M23.

At the same time, Burundi is accusing Rwanda of supporting another Congo-based rebel group opposed to Burundi’s government. The group, known as RED-Tabara, has claimed responsibility for multiple deadly attacks inside Burundi. The latest attack, in which at least nine people were killed, happened on Sunday.

Burundi last month suspended diplomatic relations with Rwanda and closed their border, calling it a response to Rwanda’s alleged backing of RED-Tabara, which is based in Congo’s South Kivu province. Rwanda denies the allegation.

Burundian authorities have not revealed how many troops have been deployed to eastern Congo. They also haven’t commented on the arrests of soldiers who refuse deployment across the border. Brig. Gaspard Baratuza, the Burundian military spokesman, did not respond to requests for comment.

According to two army officers and multiple prison guards who spoke to the AP, the arrests of dissenting soldiers started in December, with more than 200 detained. They include at least 103 in the Rumonge prison in the southwest, two prison guards there said. Others were being held in remand centers in Ngozi in the north, Ruyigi in the east, and Bururi in the south, according to prison guards in each of those penal institutions.

An army colonel in Bujumbura, the commercial capital, said many soldiers have been imprisoned “for having refused to fight alongside the (Congolese army) against the M23.” Some also face additional charges of stealing war funds, he said, without elaborating.

“Some have already been dismissed from the army, but there are also some who have been acquitted. It is no secret that many soldiers are detained for these acts,” he said.

The colonel, like others who spoke about the detentions, requested anonymity because of safety concerns.

A Burundian army captain told the AP he had deserted the military after refusing to be sent to Congo. “For a professional soldier to engage in combat, there must at least be the motive for the conflict,” he said. “He must also measure his strengths and weaknesses and those of the enemy. But in the current situation we are being asked to go and fight blindly.”

Washington has urged de-escalation of tensions in eastern Congo, where M23 is one of more than 100 armed groups active in eastern Congo, seeking a share of the region’s gold and other resources as they carry out mass killings.

Many M23 fighters, including Congolese Tutsis, were once members of Congo’s army. The group’s leaders say they are fighting to protect local Tutsis from extremist Hutu groups such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, whose members were among the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against minority Tutsis in Rwanda.

Rwandan authorities cited concerns over this armed group in a statement last week rejecting U.S. calls for Rwanda to withdraw its troops and missile systems from Congolese territory.

___ Associated Press writer Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda, contributed to this report.

Activists Urge Nigeria to Delay Shell’s $2.4 Billion Sale of Assets in Deeply Polluted Niger Delta

FILE - A member of Shell staff on the Bonga offshore oil Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessel off the coast of the Niger Delta in Nigeria, on Dec. 26, 2011. Local activists and international environmental groups want Nigeria’s government to delay approving the sale of oil company Shell’s onshore assets, claiming Shell is trying to shirk its environmental and social responsibilities in the highly polluted Niger Delta. The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), a Dutch non-profit, released a report Wednesday Feb. 28, 2024 saying Shell shouldn’t be allowed to divest in the delta unless it takes “responsibility for its toxic legacy of pollution and ensures the safe decommissioning of abandoned oil infrastructure.” (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba, File)


9:44 AM EST, February 28, 2024

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Local activists and international environmental groups want Nigeria’s government to delay approving the sale of oil company Shell’s onshore assets, claiming Shell is trying to shirk its environmental and social responsibilities in the highly polluted Niger Delta.

The London-based company is trying to sell its subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company — which operates its onshore assets in the delta — to Renaissance Africa Energy Company, a consortium of local companies. Shell says the $2.4 billion divestment deal is part of a “wider reconfiguration of the Nigerian oil and gas sector.”

But the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO), a Dutch non-profit, released a report Wednesday saying Shell shouldn’t be allowed to divest in the delta unless it takes “responsibility for its toxic legacy of pollution and ensures the safe decommissioning of abandoned oil infrastructure.”

Protesters have appealed to the government of Nigeria, Africa’s top oil producer, to halt the sale until environmental concerns are addressed. Lezina Mgbar, a 54-year-old healthcare worker and farmer who participated in a weekend demonstration in the country’s oil capital of Port Harcourt, said her Korokoro Tai community in Ogoniland has been “severely” affected by oil spills.

“In the morning, children and women have to travel far to get water, so children often cannot get to school on time, and our farm yields are poor,” Mgbar told The Associated Press. “We demand that Shell restore our land and clean our water before any divestment.”

Scientific studies have found high levels of chemical compounds from crude oil, as well as heavy metals, in the delta, where the industry largely drives Nigeria’s economy but can leave communities’ water sources slick with contaminants.

Activists say Shell has a history of poor divestment in the region. They point to a wellhead blowout in the Santa Barbara River, which flows through the Niger Delta, in 2021. The wellhead wasn’t producing but wasn’t decommissioned by Shell or its new owners, Aiteo Eastern E & P. The facility spewed crude oil and associated gas for 38 days and caused planet-warming methane to be released into the atmosphere, killed fish and devastated riverside farms.

Richard Steiner, an environmental consultant with a history of work in the Niger Delta, said the blowout on the Santa Barbara River highlights the risk of Shell and other oil majors transferring assets to new local firms without resolving legacy environmental and social concerns first.

“Many of the purchasing companies do not have the technical or financial capacity to manage these oil and gas operations safely,” he said.

Shell says it assesses the financial strength, culture and social and environmental performance records of companies it sells assets to. A spokesperson added that “mandatory submissions to the federal government allow the regulators to apply scrutiny across a wide range of issues and recommend approval of these divestments, provided they meet all requirements.”

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who holds the portfolio of petroleum minister, will ultimately decide the fate of the Shell-Renaissance transaction. His spokesperson did not comment when contacted on Monday.

SOMO’s report documents other cases of environmental pollution that were allegedly not addressed by Shell before past divestments. Two communities, Ogale and Bille in Rivers State, have been in court pushing to make the company address past environmental concerns.

Shell and other oil companies often blame third-party interference, namely militant attacks and vandalism by oil thieves, for spills. However, companies still must clean up regardless of the cause, according to Nigeria’s law.

The deal with Renaissance is the latest move by Shell to limit its onshore operations in Nigeria while focusing on deepwater operations. Other companies, including Chevron, ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies, have been taking similar steps but without the scale of protests Shell, which is the most dominant in the region, has faced.

The civil society coalition that helped organize protests aimed at delaying the sale have petitioned Tinubu to adopt a set of principles to ensure more responsible petroleum industry divestments.

That “would help ensure a transparent process that would assess the capacity of the incoming companies, with meaningful community consultation throughout, address environmental pollution and deteriorating and abandoned infrastructure,” said Florence Kayemba, director of the Niger Delta-focused Stakeholder Democracy Network, one of the groups that came up with the principles.

Unlike in previous sales, Shell is transferring all its subsidiary shares to Renaissance, resulting in a change of ownership that would see SPDC continue to carry liabilities. Shell has said SPDC, with new ownership, will continue with the current staff and be responsible for remediation where spills have occurred in the past.

SOMO’s report noted the arrangement but said the energy giant is still trying to avoid its responsibility.

Audrey Gaughran, SOMO’s director, told the AP in a statement that “ensuring that the historical pollution, the lack of funding for safe decommissioning and poor financial transparency are fully addressed in Nigeria will be an important litmus test for a just energy transition across the world.”

ICC Awards $56 Million in Reparations to Thousands of Victims of Convicted Ugandan Rebel Commander

FILE - Dominic Ongwen sits in the court room to listen to the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court’s judgment on the Defence’s appeals against his conviction and sentence in The Hague, Netherlands, Dec. 15, 2022. Judges at the International Criminal Court on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, granted reparations of more than 52 million euros ($56 million) to tens of thousands of victims of the convicted commander in the the shadowy Ugandan rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army, including former child soldiers and children born as a result of rapes and forced pregnancies. (Sem van der Wal/Pool Photo via AP)


10:59 AM EST, February 28, 2024

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Judges at the International Criminal Court on Wednesday granted reparations of more than 52 million euros ($56 million) to thousands of victims of a convicted commander in the shadowy Ugandan rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army.

The nearly 50,000 victims covered by the order included former child soldiers and children born as a result of rapes and forced pregnancies.

Dominic Ongwen was convicted three years ago of 61 offenses, including murders, rapes, forced marriages and recruiting child soldiers in 2002-2005. An ICC appeals panel upheld his convictions and 25-year sentence in late 2022, setting the stage for an order for reparations.

“Tens of thousands of individuals suffered tremendous harm due to the unimaginable atrocities committed” as rebel fighters led by Ongwen attacked four camps for displaced people in northern Uganda, said Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt.

“Similarly, over 100 women and girls and thousands of children, boys and girls under the age of 15 suffered profound, multifaceted harm as a result of being kidnapped. Many were later subjected to sexual and gender based crimes and/or forced to serve as LRA soldiers, being kept in captivity with cruel methods of physical and psychological coercion,” he added.

Ongwen was not in court for the reparations hearing. While he is considered liable for the reparations, the court ruled that he is indigent and said the reparations will be paid by a trust fund for victims set up by the court’s member states.

Schmitt urged “states, organisations, corporations and private individuals to support the trust funds for victims’ mission and efforts and contribute to its fundraising activities.”

He said victims would each receive 750 euros ($812) as a “symbolic award” while other reparations would come in the form of community-based rehabilitation programs.

Evidence at Ongwen’s trial established that female civilians captured by the LRA were turned into sex slaves and wives for fighters. The LRA made children into soldiers. Men, women and children were murdered in attacks on camps for internally displaced people.

“The chamber concludes that the direct victims of the attacks, the direct victims of sexual and gender based crimes and the children born out of those crimes, as well as the former child soldiers, suffered serious and long-lasting physical, moral and material harm,” Schmitt said.

The LRA began its attacks in Uganda in the 1980s, when one of the court’s most-wanted fugitives, Joseph Kony, sought to overthrow the government. After being pushed out of Uganda, the militia terrorized villages in Congo, Central Africa Republic and South Sudan.

Ongwen was among those abducted by the militia led by Kony. As a 9-year-old boy, he was transformed into a child soldier and later a senior commander responsible for attacks on camps for displaced civilians in northern Uganda in the early 2000s.

Defense lawyers portrayed him as a victim of LRA atrocities. But the judge who presided over his trial called Ongwen “a fully responsible adult” when he committed his crimes.

Activists welcomed his convictions for offenses against women, which included rape, forced pregnancy and sexual slavery.

Kony, whose whereabouts are unknown, faces 36 charges, including murder, torture, rape, persecution and enslavement. Prosecutors are seeking to hold a hearing into the evidence against him at the court in Kony’s absence.

The LRA leader was thrust into the global spotlight in 2012 when a video about his crimes went viral. Despite the attention and international efforts to capture him, he remains at large.

ICC cases against three other LRA leaders were terminated after confirmation that they had died before they could be arrested.

UN Hands Over 1st Military Base in Congo to Begin its Drawdown After Decades in the Country


4:45 PM EST, February 28, 2024

KAMANYOLA, Congo (AP) — United Nations peacekeepers handed over their first military base to security forces in eastern Congo on Wednesday as part of an eventual withdrawal after decades of operating in the country. The handover comes as violence soars in the conflict-riddled region.

Peacekeepers transferred responsibility and equipment at its base in Kamanyola in South Kivu province to Congo’s national police as part of a phased drawdown agreed upon between the government and the U.N. last year.

Eastern Congo has long been overrun by dozens of armed groups seeking a share of the region’s gold and other resources. The U.N. has been operating in the country for 25 years with its primary mission being the protection of civilians. But frustrated Congolese say that no one is protecting them from rebel attacks, leading to protests against the U.N. mission and others that have at times turned deadly.

Last year, the U.N. Security Council extended the peacekeeping mandate until Dec. 20 and decided that its troop ceiling until June 30 should be 13,500 military personnel, 660 military observers and staff officers, and 2,001 international police. It ordered a reduction from July to 11,500 military personnel, 600 military observers and staff officers and 1,713 international police.

The mission is expected to close 14 bases and facilities in South Kivu by June, at which point the U.N. Security Council will decide on a timeline for the rest of the withdrawal.

The drawdown comes amid soaring violence in recent weeks as one of the most active rebel groups, M23, launched attacks against a community considered the last line of defense before the region’s largest city of Goma.

The M23, with alleged ties to Rwanda, had been dormant for nearly a decade but resurfaced more than two years ago. Its fighters are accused of seizing swaths of land, forcing thousands of people to flee and causing a dire humanitarian crisis.

The U.N. says it’s been supporting Congo’s army by defending positions that are protecting civilians, which remain intact despite coming under fire.

Speaking at the ceremony on Wednesday, U.N. mission chief Bintou Keita said she hoped the handover was the start of a peaceful withdrawal process.

“We hope that the handover of Kamanyola ... will serve as a model and inspiration for the rest of (the peacekeepers’) disengagement process,” she said.

But there were mixed emotions among the population Wednesday as the base was handed over. Some praised the mission for its peace-building work. The U.N. “has contributed a great deal,” said Gloire Bahati. “I can imagine that without it, we would all be trampled underfoot by our enemies.”

Others said it was time for Congo’s security forces to protect the country, noting that decades of foreign involvement had yielded little.

“When (the UN) arrived, we thought we would see a serious crackdown on insecurity,” said Ushindi Kulimushi, a resident of the town. “But unfortunately, we have experienced the same thing up to the present day. Let (them) go, because it has failed in its mission,” he said.


Associated Press writer Sam Mednick contributed from Dakar, Senegal

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

From Rachel Corrie to Aaron Bushnell: Sacrificing for Palestine

By Aya Youssef

The United States' defeaning silence on its own citizens who were affected by its own policies speaks volumes.

"I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do anymore."

- Rachel Corrie, 2003

"Compared to what people have been experiencing in Palestine at the hands of their colonizers, [this] is not extreme at all."

- Aaron Bushnell, 2024

There is almost a two-decade time difference between these two sentences. However, both sentences originate from American witnesses of Israeli crimes in occupied Palestine.

Rachel Corrie and Aaron Bushnell bravely sacrificed their lives in support of the Palestinian cause, denouncing their country's role in the 75-year Israeli occupation.

Yet, the striking question remains: How many more activists must tragically die before the United States truly listens to its citizens?

21 years earlier: The story of Rachel Corrie 

On March 16, 2003, Rachel Corrie, an American peace activist, was tragically crushed to death and killed by an Israeli armored bulldozer while peacefully protesting the demolition of Palestinian homes in Gaza.

Corrie's death shook the world, surprising mainstream media, which seldom covered the Palestinian deaths and Israeli massacres. Her death was especially jarring as it involved a young American killed by the US' staunch ally, "Israel". 

In March 2003, US Representative Brian Baird presented a resolution in Congress urging the government to conduct a thorough and prompt investigation into Corrie's death. However, the House of Representatives did not proceed with the resolution.

While the United States expressed condolences to Corrie's family, which is the bare minimum, Washington faced criticism for not taking a stronger stance, or pressing "Israel" more forcefully for accountability. Some critics argue that the US could have done more to advocate for justice on behalf of Corrie and to address human rights violations in occupied Palestine. 

The United States, often touted as a champion of human rights and democracy, has consistently failed to hold “Israel” accountable for its crimes. Despite mounting evidence of war crimes and human rights abuses committed by Israeli forces, the US continues to provide unwavering political and military support to the Israeli genocide. This is particularly evident today in light of the ongoing Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, where nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been murdered by the Israeli regime. 

As always, "Israel" persisted in manipulating events according to its own agenda and interests, and continues to do so to this very day.

Protests, tributes, and social media posts are flooding in to commemorate Aaron Bushnell, a 25-year-old active-duty member of the United States Air Force, who set himself on fire outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C., to protest the Israeli genocide in Gaza bankrolled by the US. 

However, President Joe Biden remained silent. The President seemed vocal to talk about how "Brave Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are dying," yet not a word was mentioned for Bushnell. 

This silence sparked criticism of the Biden administration's double standards, especially after Hamas, who the US designated as a "terrorist organization", blamed Biden's policies for Bushnell's death for its support and aid for the Israeli crimes in Gaza. 

Shouldn't a President, the leader of a nation, acknowledge events where one of its own citizens protests against the President's policies? We are not expecting a change of heart here, but how can the US preserve its "democratic" facade after all? 

It should be noted that the scene of a one-man revolt scenario isn't new in the United States. Nearly 60 years ago, American anti-war activist Norman Morrison ignited a firestorm by dousing himself in kerosene and setting himself ablaze outside the office of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, at the Pentagon, opposing the US involvement in the Vietnam War.

Yet, throughout its history, the US government has often ignored the plight of its citizens who are affected by its policies, turning a blind eye to internal dissent.

So who is going to mourn the heroes?

As the so-called international community watches silently while Gaza endures a live-streamed genocide, global protests, and disruptions continue to amplify the Palestinian cause, dissent with the policies of Western governments is growing, interrupting speeches and shouting "Free Palestine" in defiance of oppression.

Those who are resisting in all forms are the ones who are mourning our heroes. Meanwhile, those who turned a blind eye to the war crimes, will be haunted by every rock, bullet, and shout for freedom. 

Those martyred for Palestine are honored and remembered by those who share their pain, and who have witnessed the true horrors of genocide, occupation, and apartheid.

To those who have sacrificed and are still sacrificing for the sake of the Palestinian cause, may your legacy long live, resonating through generations as a testament to your righteous moral stance in history.

Sudanese Armed Forces Commander Visits Libya for Ceasefire Talks

By Al Mayadeen English

26 Feb 2024 16:26

Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has arrived in Libya following a ceasefire proposal by Mohamed al-Menfi, the chairman of the Libyan Presidential Council.

Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council and commander of the country's regular armed forces, arrived in the Libyan capital of Tripoli on Monday to discuss a ceasefire proposal regarding the Sudanese war. 

He was greeted by Mohamed al-Menfi, the chairman of the Libyan Presidential Council, at the airport, and will later meet with the head of the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU), Abdul Hamid Dbeibah. 

The GNU revealed last week that Dbeibah initiated a ceasefire proposal and will be inviting both warring sides for negotiations over the Sudan war. On Saturday, Dbeibah held talks with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and invited him to Libya on a diplomatic visit. 

The war in Sudan is rapidly transcending into a more dangerous horizon, specifically amid the most recent developments. 

Authorities loyal to the Sudanese army blocked aid deliveries to the Darfur region, one of the most affected regions by the war, a movie decried by aid workers and the United States. 

For over two decades in Darfur, the RSF has employed the "scorched earth" war tactic, involving the deliberate widespread destruction of property and resources. Currently, the RSF has captured four out of the five major cities in the region. 

Due to the destruction the region is seeing, almost 650,000 Darfur citizens fled to the bordering country of Chad, but many remain stuck in the face of the dangers of war and blocked aid. 

In this context, the United Nations, which had already been limiting its Darfur-Chad cross-border operation, revealed that authorities have blocked the border, shutting the corridor for relief aid, and restricting the operation itself, the World Food Program's country director Eddie Rowe said. 

The Sudanese foreign ministry, loyal to the Sudanese Army Forces (SAF), has denied all US allegations, calling them "false accusations", and also revealed that the Chad-Darfur border was being used to smuggle weapons that allowed the RSF to "commit atrocities" in the region.

The blockage of aid would have detrimental effects on Darfur, which is already struggling. An international aid worker told AFP that "Children and babies are already dying from hunger and malnutrition. There will be an immense human impact... and quite possibly large-scale mortality rates."