Russian warplanes are reported to have carried out an air-raid on the main water pumping station for the city Idlib, capital of the besieged province of that name in Syria's north. Witnesses on the ground said Russian Sukhoi jets dropped bombs on the water plant as well as several towns outside the provincial capital on Jan. 2. UN humanitarian official Mark Cutts acknowledged the air-raid without naming the perpetrators, tweeting: "The country is already facing a water crisis & continued destruction of civilian infrastructure will only cause more suffering of civilians." Abu Hazem Idlibi, an official in the opposition administration of the city, said the plant is now out of operation, charging: "The Russians are focusing on infrastructure and economic assets. This is to add to the suffering of people."
UN Secretary General António Guterres on Dec. 13 called upon member states to devise "an ambitious plan for the future to establish restrictions on the use of certain types of autonomous weapons" ahead of the Sixth Review Conference of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). He called on the CCW to "swiftly advance its work on autonomous weapons that can choose targets and kill people without human interference."
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz on Oct. 19 declared six Palestinian human rights groups to be "terrorist organizations," effectively outlawing their activities. The declaration was based on a military finding that they are "secretly linked" to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)–a leftist resistance group that Israel has long designated a "terrorist organization." The named groups are Addameer, al-Haq, the Bisan Center, Defense for Children Palestine (DCIP), the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), and the Union of Palestinian Women's Committees (UPWC).
In Episode 90 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines claims from New York's Gov. Kathy Hochul and local politicians of "anti-Semitic graffiti" spray-painted along Manhattan's Harlem River Drive on the eve of Yom Kippur. The governor's press release did not tell us what the graffiti actually said. This is rather critical information, given the contemporary controversies about what constitutes an anti-Semitic slur, and the confusion between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Yet most media coverage uncritically accepted Hochul's claims. Weinberg parses the facts in the case, and (as usual) finds plenty to criticize on both sides: the spray-painters and the politicians. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
A UN human rights investigator announced July 9 that Israeli settlement of the West Bank and East Jerusalem meets the definition of a war crime. Special rapporteur on the Palestinian Territories, Michael Lynk, addressed a Geneva meeting of the Human Rights Council, in which he gave a report on whether the settlements violate the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Three elements must be satisfied to meet the definition of the war crime of transferring a civilian population into an occupied territory. The material elements are transfer of the population into the territory, and that the transfer took place arising from an international armed conflict. This element was met when Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 as part of an international armed conflict.
US-led forces are currently carrying out war games in Morocco, the periodic "African Lion" exercises which this year also involve troops from Tunisia and Senegal. The games are taking place near the disputed region of Western Sahara, which Morocco is trumpeting this as a re-affirmation of US recognition of its claim to the territory. Prime Minister Saad-Eddine El Othmani said on Twitter ahead of the exercises that the event "marks the consecration of American recognition of the Moroccan Sahara." (The Defense Post, Africa News, June 15)
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) announced May 18 that the Israeli bombardment has resulted in over 58,000 Palestinians being displaced from their homes in the Gaza Strip. Of these, 47,000 are currently seeking shelter in facilities run by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. The bombardment has also led to the destruction of health infrastructure such as COVID-19 testing labs and clinics. The destruction exacerbates privation imposed by the ongoing blockade of the Strip.
In Episode 72 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg repudiates the propaganda line that "Israel has a right to defend itself," exposing this as justification of war crimes, and obfuscation of the reality of apartheid both sides of the Green Line. He also examines the United Nations definition of "genocide" to ask whether Israel's war on Gaza may now be crossing the "genocidal threshold" that Israeli society has long been approaching, in both rhetoric and action that dehumanize the Palestinians. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.