Sydney, Dec 15 (AP/UNB) — Australia has decided to formally recognize west Jerusalem as Israel's capital, but won't move its embassy until there's a peace settlement between Israel and Palestinians, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Saturday.
He said in a speech that Australia will recognize east Jerusalem as Palestine's capital only after a settlement has been reached on a two-state solution. The Australian Embassy won't be moved from Tel Aviv until such a time, he said.
While the embassy move is delayed, Morrison said his government will establish a defense and trade office in Jerusalem and will also start looking for an appropriate site for the embassy.
"The Australian government has decided that Australia now recognizes west Jerusalem, as the seat of the Knesset and many of the institutions of government, is the capital of Israel," Morrison said. He said the decision respects both a commitment to a two-state solution and longstanding respect for relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Morrison had earlier floated the idea that Australia may follow the contentious U.S. move of relocating its embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, but it was seen by many Australians as a political stunt. Critics called it a cynical attempt to win votes in a by-election in October for a Sydney seat with a high Jewish population.
The consideration had sparked backlash from Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia, threatening a free trade deal which has now been delayed.
Opposition leader Bill Shorten said Saturday that the decision to recognize west Jerusalem as Israel's capital but not move the embassy there was a "humiliating backdown" from the October by-election campaign.
"What I'm worried is that Mr. Morrison put his political interest ahead of our national interest," Shorten told reporters.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move that is not internationally recognized. Israel considers east Jerusalem an indivisible part of its capital, while the Palestinians seek the area, home to the city's most sensitive holy sites, as the capital of a future state.
Jerusalem, Dec 13 (AP/UNB) — Israeli security forces tracked down a Palestinian accused of killing two Israelis and shot and killed him on Thursday, ending a two-month manhunt hours after troops killed another Palestinian wanted in a separate attack.
Israeli police said Ashraf Naalweh was found armed near the West Bank city of Nablus and was killed during an arrest raid.
Israel accuses Naalweh of shooting to death two Israelis and wounding another at an attack on a West Bank industrial zone in October. He fled the scene and Israeli forces have been searching for him since.
"Israel's long arm will reach anyone who harms Israeli citizens," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
Police said it had made a number of arrests in its attempt to hunt down Naalweh and suspected he was planning on carrying out another attack.
On Wednesday, Israeli forces killed Salah Barghouti, a Palestinian suspect wanted in a drive-by shooting earlier this week at a West Bank bus stop, shooting him just hours after an Israeli baby delivered prematurely as a result of the attack died.
In Sunday night's attack, assailants in a Palestinian vehicle opened fire at a bus stop outside a West Bank settlement, wounding seven people, including a 21-year-old pregnant woman, before speeding away.
The militant Hamas group that rules the Gaza Strip said that both Barghouti and Naalweh were its members but stopped short of claiming responsibility for the attacks the two carried out.
"The flame of resistance in the (West) Bank will remain alive until the occupation is defeated on all our land," Hamas said.
Also Thursday, police said an assailant stabbed two officers in Jerusalem's Old City, wounding them lightly. The officers opened fire on the attacker and he was killed, spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.
Police identified the man as a 26-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank. It released security camera footage that shows the man lunging toward the officers and appearing to stab them.
New York, Dec 12 (AP/UNB) — Time magazine on Tuesday recognised journalists, including the slain Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, as its 2018 Person of the Year in what it said was an effort to emphasize the importance of reporters' work in an increasingly hostile world.
The designation wasn't intended as a specific message to the magazine's runner-up choice, President Donald Trump, who has denounced "fake news" and called some reporters enemies of the people, said Ben Goldberger, executive editor.
Time cited four figures it called "the guardians." Besides Khashoggi, they are the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, where five people were shot to death in June; Philippine journalist Maria Ressa; and Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been jailed in Myanmar for a year.
It's the first time since the magazine began the end-of-year tradition in 1927 that Time has featured a journalist or recognized someone posthumously.
Time said that 2018 has been marked by manipulation and abuse of information, along with efforts by governments to foment mistrust of the facts.
Goldberger said the magazine hopes the choice reminds people outside of journalism about the importance of the work.
Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said he sees this message already starting to get through — sadly, in part because of the attention paid to Khashoggi's killing. Khashoggi is one of at least 52 journalists murdered so far this year, the committee said.
"In some ways, I feel we're at a turning point," Simon said.
Khashoggi was killed two months ago when The Washington Post columnist, who had lived in the U.S., visited Saudi Arabia's consulate in Turkey for paperwork so he could get married. He had been critical of the Saudi regime.
The Washington Post applauded Time for its message of support for journalists.
"We hope this recognition will prompt our nation's leaders to stand up for America's values and hold accountable those who attempt to silence journalists who cover our communities or in Jamal's case, an oppressive authoritarian government," said Fred Ryan, the Post's publisher and CEO.
Reesa co-founded the online site the Rappler, which has aggressively covered the government of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte. She was recently charged with tax fraud, with many in the Philippines seeing that as a reaction to the Rappler's reporting.
Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were imprisoned after investigating a massacre of Rohingya Muslims.
Four journalists and a sales assistant were killed by a gunman at the Capital Gazette newspaper last spring.
Time is producing four different covers featuring "the guardians."
Last year Time recognized people who came forward to report on sexual misconduct. Trump, this year's runner-up, was Person of the Year in 2016.
The third-place finisher this year was special counsel Robert Mueller, who Time indicated could move up in next year's rankings depending on the findings of his investigation into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russia.
United Nations, Dec 11 (AP/UNB)— Twenty million people in war-torn Yemen are hungry — a staggering 70 percent of the population and a 15 percent increase from last year — and for the first time 250,000 are facing "catastrophe," the U.N. humanitarian chief said Monday.
Mark Lowcock, who recently returned from Yemen, told reporters there has been "a significant, dramatic deterioration" of the humanitarian situation in the country and "it's alarming."
He said that for the first time, 250,000 Yemenis are in Phase 5 on the global scale for classifying the severity and magnitude of food insecurity and malnutrition — the severest level, defined as people facing "starvation, death and destitution."
Lowcock, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said those 250,000 Yemenis facing "catastrophe" are overwhelmingly concentrated in four provinces "where the conflict is raging quite intensely" — Taiz, Saada, Hajja and Hodeida.
The only other country where anyone is in Phase 5 is South Sudan, with 25,000 people affected, he added.
Lowcock said there are also nearly 5 million Yemenis in Phase 4, which is defined as the "emergency" level, in which people suffer from severe hunger and "very high acute malnutrition and excess mortality" or an extreme loss of income that will lead to severe food shortages. He said these people live in 152 of Yemen's 333 districts, a sharp increase from 107 districts last year.
Large numbers of people "have moved into a worse category of food insecurity" as a result of the war, Lowcock said.
The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital of Sanaa by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who toppled the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. A Saudi-led coalition allied with Yemen's internationally recognized government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
Saudi-led airstrikes have hit schools, hospitals and wedding parties and killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. The Houthis have fired long-range missiles into Saudi Arabia and targeted vessels in the Red Sea.
Civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict, which has killed over 10,000 people and created the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
"There's millions of Yemenis who are hungry and sick and scared and desperate and starving, but they've all got one message and their message is that they're at the end of their tether and they want this war to stop," Lowcock said.
He said "there are millions and millions of people whose plight would be much, much worst but for the ongoing relief operation," which is currently reaching 8 million Yemenis.
Lowcock said the U.N. plans to reach 15 million people next year and will be appealing for $4 billion — compared to this year's $3 billion appeal and last year's $2 billion request.
He said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will host a pledging conference with Sweden and Switzerland in Geneva on Feb. 26. And he welcomed a new $500 million pledge from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, key coalition members, saying he understands "it will be largely in response to the 2019 appeal."
Lowcock stressed again the five key things needed to bring situation under control:
—A cessation of hostilities, especially around the key port of Hodeida, the "lifeline" where 70 percent of food aid and imports are shipped in. "The vast majority of population who are in Houthi-controlled areas can basically be reached most easily and in some cases only through Hodeida," he said.
—Reducing restrictions on aid organizations and fuel imports that are vitally needed. Lowcock cited reports Monday that the coalition agreed that 17 vessels could come into port and said the U.N. is checking to see if that means fuel will be delivered to Hodeida.
—Stabilizing the economy, which has seen "a dramatic collapse" as a result of the war. Lowcock said government revenue is probably about 15 percent of its pre-war levels and billions of dollars will be needed next year just to finance the budget.
—Support the U.N. humanitarian appeal for $4 billion for 2019.
—Take the first steps to end the war at U.N.-mediated talks taking place in Sweden between the government and the Houthis.
Dubai, Dec 9 (AP/UNB)— Leaders of Gulf Arab countries, including those boycotting Qatar, met on Sunday in Saudi Arabia's capital for a regional summit, a gathering that Qatar's ruling emir choose not to attend amid the dispute.
The absence of Qatar's Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, as well as Qatar's recent decision to withdraw from the Saudi-dominated OPEC oil cartel, underlined the simmering crisis facing the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Despite mediation efforts by Kuwait, the gap remains between others in the six-nation GCC, an alliance formed in 1981 in part to offer a counterbalance to Iran, and Qatar — countries that are all American allies. The United States, which under President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, also has been unable to mend relations even as it wants a unified front for its high-pressure campaign targeting Tehran.
Saudi King Salman greeted GCC leaders Sunday as they descended down a golden escalator at a Riyadh air base and never mentioned Qatar in his remarks to the summit. The king instead spoke about the need to counter Iran, as well as the kingdom's ongoing war in Yemen.
His son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been linked to the slaying and dismembering of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Saudi agents in October in Istanbul, sat prominently behind his father.
Kuwait's ruler, the 89-year-old Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, did obliquely discuss Qatar, warning of internal divisions threatening the GCC.
"We are all concerned about what's going on and that's why we have to embody our unity . because we face a lot of challenges," Sheikh Sabah said.
Qatar's Sheikh Tamim sent Sultan bin Saad al-Muraikhi, minister of state for foreign affairs, to represent the country. Al-Muraikhi offered no comments during the open session of the GCC meeting. The sheikh had attended last year's GCC meeting in Kuwait, where nations boycotting Qatar sent lower-level representatives.
Bahrain's Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa tweeted that Sheikh Tamim should have "been there at the summit."
In June 2017, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties to Qatar. They also launched an economic boycott, stopping Qatar Airways flights from using their airspace, closing the country's sole land border with Saudi Arabia and blocking its ships from using their ports.
They say the crisis stems from Qatar's support for extremist groups in the region, charges denied by Doha. The four nations also have pointed to Qatar's close relationship with Iran. Qatar restored full diplomatic ties to Iran amid the dispute.
Qatar's natural gas reserves have made the Arabian Peninsula country fantastically wealthy, sparking its successful bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Qatar also hosts the al-Udeid Air Base, the home of the forward headquarters of the U.S. military's Central Command and about 10,000 U.S. troops.
The U.S. deputy assistant secretary for Arabian Gulf affairs, Timothy Lenderking, said Washington wants to see Gulf unity and ties with Qatar repaired soon.
"GCC unity's been a really important pillar for U.S. engagement with this region, with the Gulf, with the Middle East. We'd like to see that unity restored," he said on the sideline of a security summit on Yemen in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
"It's important not only for the GCC to be a strong bulwark against Iranian influence in the Arabian Peninsula but also to allow us to capitalize on economic linkages that can add development to the region and that can help the countries bind together," he said.