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UN Appoints Dutch Diplomat Humanitarian Coordinator for Gaza

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres has appointed a veteran Dutch diplomat and politician, Sigrid Kaag as the Senior Humanitarian Coordinator for Gaza

Guterres announced the appointment in a statement on Tuesday.

Kaag, who is Holland’s outgoing Deputy Prime Minister, will facilitate, coordinate, monitor and verify aid consignments for Gaza, in line with a recent Security Council resolution.

She will also establish a mechanism to accelerate humanitarian relief shipments through States that are not party to the conflict.

Kaag, who is expected to take up the assignment on January 8, 2024, has experience in political, humanitarian and development affairs, as well as diplomacy.

She is the first Holland’s Deputy Prime Minister and first woman Finance Minister, and was Minister for Trade and Development Cooperation, as well as Foreign Affairs.

Kaag has also held senior positions in the UN system, including Special Coordinator for Lebanon, and the Special Coordinator, Joint Mission of the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN in Syria.

Her other posts included Assistant Secretary‑General, UN Development Programme, and UNICEF’s Regional Director for Middle East and North Africa.

Prior to that, Kaag had served in several senior positions with UNICEF, the International Organisation for Migration, and the UN agency that assists Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

On Friday, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2070 which, among others, demanded for immediate, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale directly to Palestinian civilians throughout the Gaza Strip.

The resolution requested the Secretary-General to appoint a Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator and called for the “expeditious” establishment of the UN mechanism to ramp up aid distribution. (NAN)

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Flames, Smoke Continue to Emerge from Massive Landfill in Delhi

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Flames and columns of thick smoke continued to emerge from a massive landfill in the Indian capital city of New Delhi on Monday, officials said.

Fire fighting operations were underway and fire-fighters were splashing water on the burning mounds of garbage.

The fire has continued at the colossal landfill site since it broke out on Sunday evening.

Meanwhile, toxic fumes emanating from the landfill have left residents in the neighbourhood to gasp for breath.

“There is a pungent smell all around. The smoke is poisonous and causes irritation in the eyes,’’ Dileep Pandey said.

Pandey is a local resident, living within the area.

“We are also facing difficulty in breathing.

’’

While the cause of the fire remained undetermined, authorities have initiated legal proceedings against unidentified individuals in relation to the incident.

According to the Delhi Fire Services department, the landfill caught fire because of the methane produced in the heaps of waste.

Officials listed hot and dry weather conditions as the reason behind the blaze. (Xinhua/NAN)

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Israeli Forces Vow Response to Iran’s Attack Despite Calls for Restraint

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Israelis awaited word on how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would respond to Iran’s first-ever direct attack as international pressure for restraint grew amid fears of an escalation of conflict in the Middle East.

Netanyahu on Monday summoned his war cabinet for the second time in less than 24 hours to weigh a response to Iran’s massive weekend missile and drone attack, a government source said.

While the attack caused no deaths and little damage, thanks to the air defences and countermeasures of Israel and its allies, it has increased concerns that violence rooted in the Gaza war is spreading, and fears of open war between the long-time foes.

Israeli military chief of staff Herzi Halevi said on Monday that “this launch of so many missiles – cruise missiles and drones – into Israeli territory will be met with a response” but gave no details.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani told state TV on Monday night that Tehran’s response to any Israeli retaliation would come in “a matter of seconds, as Iran will not wait for another 12 days to respond”.

But the prospect of Israeli retaliation has alarmed many Iranians already enduring economic pain and tighter social and political controls since protests in 2022-23.

Iran launched the attack in retaliation for an airstrike on its embassy compound in Damascus on April 1 attributed to Israel, and signalled that it did not seek further escalation.

U.S. President Joe Biden told Netanyahu at the weekend that the United States, which helped Israel blunt the Iranian attack, would not participate in an Israeli counter-strike.

Since the war in Gaza began in October, clashes have erupted between Israel and Iran-aligned groups based in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq.

Israel said four of its soldiers were wounded hundreds of metres inside Lebanese territory overnight, the first known Israeli ground penetration into Lebanon since the Gaza war erupted, although it has traded fire with the Lebanese Hezbollah militia.

“We’re on the edge of the cliff and we have to move away from it,” Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief, told Spanish radio station Onda Cero.

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron made similar appeals.

Washington and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also have called for restraint.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby declined on Monday to say if Biden had urged Netanyahu in talks on Saturday night to exercise restraint in responding to Iran.

“We don’t want to see a war with Iran. We don’t want to see a regional conflict,” Kirby told a briefing, adding that it was for Israel to decide “whether and how they’ll respond”.

Foreign Minister Israel Katz said he was “leading a diplomatic attack” alongside Israel’s military response, writing to 32 countries to place sanctions on Iran’s missile programme and proscribe its Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organisation.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Iran’s actions threatened stability in the Middle East and could cause economic spillovers.

The U.S. would use sanctions, and work with allies, to keep disrupting Iran’s “malign and destabilising activity”, she added.

However, some analysts said the Biden administration was unlikely to seek to sharpen sanctions on Iran’s oil exports due to worries about boosting oil prices and angering top buyer China.

In a call between the Chinese and Iranian foreign ministers, China said it believed Iran could “handle the situation well and spare the region further turmoil” while safeguarding its sovereignty and dignity, according to Chinese state media.

Russia has refrained from publicly criticising its ally Iran but has also warned against further escalation.

Iran’s retaliatory attack, involving more than 300 missiles and drones, caused modest damage in Israel and wounded a 7-year-old girl.

Most missiles and drones were shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome defence system and with help from the U.S., Britain, France and Jordan.

In Gaza itself, where more than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli offensive according to Gaza health ministry figures, Iran’s action drew applause.

Israel began its campaign against Hamas, the Iranian-backed Palestinian militant group that runs Gaza, after Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages, by Israeli tallies.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the Group of Seven major democracies were working on a package of coordinated measures against Iran.

Italy, which holds the rotating G7 presidency, said it was open to new sanctions and suggested any new measures would target individuals.

Iran’s attack prompted at least a dozen airlines to cancel or reroute flights, with Europe’s aviation regulator still advising caution in using Israeli and Iranian airspace. (Reuters/NAN)

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50 killed in Afghanistan Road Accidents During Eid Holiday

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No fewer than 50 people died and 185 others injured in road accidents during the four-day Eid el Fitr holiday
across Afghanistan.

The country’s General Directorate of Traffic Police on Monday said a total of 102 road accidents occurred across Afghanistan in the period, killing 50 commuters, including eight women and 13 children, and injuring 185 others.

Herat, Ghazni, and Paktika were among 34 provinces of the country where most of the road accidents took place, the department said.

Overspeeding, reckless driving, non-compliance to traffic rules, and lack of traffic signals on highways were the main causes of the deadly accidents, the government agency said.

(Xinhua/NAN)

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