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A United Nations agency that operates in the West Bank and Gaza says Israel is not processing visas for its newly recruited staff, while Israeli officials accuse the agency of “ignoring Israeli victims of terror” in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, a charge the agency denies.
A spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OCHAoPt) accused Israeli authorities last week of delaying issuing new visas for the agency though adding it remains “engaged with the authorities to resolve the situation.”
“We are concerned that this could have a significant long-term impact on ours and the wider humanitarian community’s ability to support Palestinians in need,” Jens Laerke, OCHA spokesperson in Geneva, told CNN. “The impact on OCHA’s facilitation of the response planning for 2023 is already being felt.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan said in an interview with Israeli Channel 12 last Wednesday that he had recommended that OCHAoPt visa applications be frozen.
“They shouldn’t come in because there’s no reason that UN staffers that lie and create a false picture of the Palestinian narrative at the Security Council, there’s no reason they should be on such a stage from within Israel,” Erdan said.
He told Channel 12 on Wednesday that he advised blocking new visas because the agency “doesn’t count as terror attacks Molotov cocktails and stones thrown at Israelis in the streets of East Jerusalem and the West Bank,” Erdan said, referring to incidents where Israeli cars and buses driving in the West Bank and East Jerusalem were hit with stones or other objects.
The UN considers East Jerusalem and the West Bank to be occupied territory, and Israelis living there to be living in illegal settlements. Israel disputes that interpretation of international law.
Erdan said when OCHA is asked why they don’t count Israeli victims, they are told the agency does not have reliable data.
“Of course you don’t, you don’t employ Hebrew speakers, and the senior manager of the agency is Palestinian,” Erdan said.
OCHA’s latest report does record some instances of Israelis being injured by stones thrown at civilian vehicles traveling in the West Bank.
In response to Erdan’s assertion, Laerke said: “Reporting is part of OCHA’s mandate, and it is crucial for effective response coordination and advocacy in support of people in need. OCHA uses the same protection reporting methodology around the world. It includes verification of data and presents information in a balanced manner.”
A spokesperson for Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the visa issue is “part of a broader discussion with OCHA.”
“Israel deplores the one-sided narrative promoted by some OCHA officials, which contradicts the principles of neutrality and impartiality of the United Nations. Israel maintains a dialogue with the agency on the issue,” the spokesperson told CNN.
It’s been the deadliest year in nearly two decades for both Palestinians and Israelis in Israel and across the occupied West Bank, as victim counts on both sides reach levels not seen in years. At least 166 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank this year by Israeli forces as of Monday according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Israel says most killed were militants or engaging violently with soldiers, although human rights groups, and the UN, say bystanders have been killed as well. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) say that as of Monday, at least 31 people have been killed in attacks targeting Israelis so far this year in Israel and the West Bank.
It’s not the first time UN bodies have accused Israel of denying visas. In August, now former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet said that in 2020, 15 international staff at the commission’s Palestine office “had no choice but to leave” because of visa issues.
Second known protest-related execution carried out in Iran
Iran has executed a second man involved in the country’s protest movement after he was convicted of attacking security forces with a knife, state-affiliated news agencies reported on Monday.
- Background: Mizan Online, a news agency affiliated with Iran’s judiciary, identified the protester as Majidreza Rahnavard. He was convicted of “waging war against God” for allegedly killing two members of the Basij paramilitary force, and injuring four others on November 17. He was hanged in a public execution in the northeastern city of Mashhad early Monday morning. Last week, Amnesty International said it had identified at least 17 others, in addition to Rahnavard and Shekari, who are at risk of execution in connection to the recent demonstrations across Iran.
- Why it matters: Rahnavard is the second known person to be executed in connection to this year’s protests. Mohsen Shekari was also killed by hanging last Thursday. Several more Iranians have been sentenced to death by execution during the nationwide unrest.
Lockerbie bombing suspect is now in US custody
A Libyan man accused of being involved in making the bomb that destroyed Pan Am flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie in December 1988 is now in US custody, authorities in the United States and Scotland said Sunday.
- Background: The US charged Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi for his alleged involvement in the bombing two years ago, a spokesman for the UK Crown Office and Prosecutor Fiscal Service told CNN. The US Justice Department issued a statement Sunday morning confirming that the US had “taken custody of alleged Pan Am flight 103 bombmaker,” saying he is expected to make his “initial appearance in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.” The US Justice Department charged Marimi two years ago – he had been in custody in Libya for unrelated crimes.
- Why it matters: The Lockerbie bombing remains the deadliest terrorist attack to have taken place in the United Kingdom. It killed 259 people on board the airliner, along with 11 on the ground.
Israeli military admits killing 16-year-old girl, calls it ‘unintentional’
The Israeli military admitted Monday that its troops shot a 16-year-old Palestinian girl during a raid in the occupied West Bank Sunday night, saying she was killed by “unintentional” Israeli fire “aimed at armed gunmen.”
- Background: Jana Zakarneh’s uncle, Majed Zakarneh, told CNN that his niece “was shot with four bullets, two to her face, one to her neck, and one to her shoulder.” Zakarneh said when “heavily armed” Israeli soldiers began the raid late on Sunday night, they were “heavily shooting everywhere.” Jana had gone up to the rooftop to see what was happening after hearing screams, said Zakarneh. Twenty minutes after Israeli soldiers left the neighborhood, Jana’s father “found her lying on the floor with a face full of blood,” said Zakarneh.
- Why it matters: In a statement on Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, “to investigate the crimes of the occupation and put Israel on the blacklist.” Jana’s death brings the total number of Palestinians killed this year to 218, including 52 in the Gaza Strip and 166 in the West Bank, according to CNN’s tally, a level not seen in more than a decade.
As the first African and first Arab country to reach the World Cup semifinals, Morocco’s soccer team has united a region and continent in celebration.
Fans waved the Moroccan flag in cities all around the world on Saturday, as fans celebrated the Atlas Lions’ historic 1-0 victory over Portugal.
Videos on social media showed car horns blaring long into the night in Casablanca, crowds dancing in London’s Trafalgar Square, streets packed with people in Rabat, fans celebrating in Paris, as well as halls of Moroccan fans erupting with joy when Youssef En-Nesyri’s header found the back of the net and again at the final whistle.
- A day after leaving the 2022 World Cup in tears as his chances to win the tournament for the first time in his career were shattered, Portugal superstar striker Cristiano Ronaldo said bringing a World Cup title to Portugal was “the biggest and most ambitious dream” of his career but “the dream was beautiful while it lasted.”
- Prominent 49-year-old American journalist Grant Wahl died on Saturday in Qatar after collapsing while covering the World Cup, sparking an outpouring of shock and grief across the sports world.
- World Cup holder France remains on course in its title defense after beating England 2-1 on Saturday to reach the semifinals.
- Take a look at these 11 World Cup greats as you’ve never seen them before in these colorful illustrations.
Around the region
On a warm evening last week, Leila Giries sat in her California home, took a deep breath and pressed play on a film she says forced her to relive the most traumatic moment of her life.
“Farha,” released December 1 on Netflix, is inspired by the story of a young Palestinian girl and the violence she witnessed during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, when roughly 700,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes by armed Jewish groups in what Palestinians have since called al-Nakba or “the catastrophe.”
As the groups invaded Farha’s village, her father locked her in a pantry for safety, where she watched the horrors of al-Nakba unfold through a small hole in the wall and crack in the door. As days passed, she was transformed from a spirited 14-year-old who dreamed of going to school into a shell of her former self.
“My kids were watching it at the same time, and when they asked me what I thought, I couldn’t answer them because of how hard I was crying,” said Giries, an 82-year-old Palestinian refugee who survived the war.
“All I could say was, ‘That’s me. Farha is me. That’s me in that room,’” she said.
“Farha” is based on the experience of a Palestinian girl named Radieh, the film’s Palestinian-Jordanian director Darin J. Sallam told CNN at a film screening on Friday in New York City. Radieh survived the war and found refuge in Syria, where she shared her story with a girl she met there. That girl later became Sallam’s mother. Through “Farha,” Sallam hopes Radieh’s story will continue to be shared and “live on in people’s hearts.”
The film, selected as Jordan’s 2023 Oscars entry, has been celebrated the world over for portraying al-Nakba so vividly, as well as offering a perspective on the events that led to Israel’s founding that is rarely seen or heard on a global mainstream platform.
But like most accounts of the 1948 war, the film has also been met with criticism and controversy.
Days before “Farha” was released on Netflix, Israelis and their supporters shared videos on social media of themselves unsubscribing from the movie streaming service. Others spammed online film database IMDb with negative reviews despite not having watched it. They called it inaccurate and hateful, among other disparaging remarks.
Neither Netflix nor IMDb responded to CNN’s request for comment, and the film remains available for streaming.
Read the full report by CNN’s Alaa Elassar here.