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Overshadowed by Ukraine war, Yemen on brink as pledges fall short | Russia-Ukraine war News



The United Nations and aid groups have warned of grave consequences for Yemen after an international pledging conference failed to raise enough money to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in the war-torn country.

Overshadowed by the conflict in Ukraine, aid-starved Yemen – already suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations – is on the verge of total collapse.

“A shortfall in funding means the needs of people will not be met,” said Auke Lootsma, the UN Development Programme’s resident representative to Yemen.

“The outlook for next year looks very bleak for Yemen. This is the bleakest situation we’ve had so far in the country.”

The UN had sought $4.3bn to address Yemen’s food shortages this year and prevent 19 million people from going hungry.

But only $1.3bn could be raised at the conference on Wednesday in the Swiss city of Geneva.

“The $1.3bn committed at the pledging conference out of just over $4bn requested was a disappointment,” said Abeer Etefa, a World Food Programme spokeswoman for the Middle East and North Africa region.

With the country almost completely dependent on imports, aid groups say the situation will only worsen following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which produces nearly a third of Yemeni wheat supplies.

Some 80 percent of its about 30 million people depend on aid for survival, after seven years of a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, directly or indirectly.

The UN voiced disappointment as it has repeatedly warned that aid agencies are running out of funds, forcing them to slash “life-saving” programmes.

Famine conditions

Rights activists have blamed the fighting between the Saudi-led military coalition and the Houthi rebels for causing the unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The coalition launched a military offensive in 2015 in support of the country’s internationally recognised government, which was toppled by the Iran-linked group.

The WFP has said the levels of hunger risk becoming catastrophic as the Ukraine crisis pushes up food prices.

Even before Russia invaded its neighbour, the WFP said Yemeni food rations were being reduced for eight million people this year, while another five million “at immediate risk of slipping into famine conditions” would remain on full rations.

“Clearly, pressing concerns over events in Ukraine cast a shadow on [the pledging] event,” Etefa of the WFP said.

UN agencies had warned before the conference that up to 19 million people could need food assistance in the second half of 2022.

“We’d hoped for more, particularly from donors in the region who have yet to step up and commit funds for a crisis in their back yard,” Etefa said.

“If we act now, we can avert what could be a point of no return and we can save millions.”

Major donors, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which were among the top three at last year’s conference, did not pledge funds this year.

The two oil-rich Gulf countries are leading members of the military coalition that intervened in the Yemen war in 2015, shortly after the Houthi rebels seized the capital, Sanaa, and subsequently much of the north.

The UAE withdrew troops from the country in 2019 but remains an active player.

‘Lives will be lost’

“Some of Yemen’s affluent neighbours, also parties to the conflict, have so far pledged nothing for 2022. We hope this will change,” Erin Hutchinson, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Yemen country director, told AFP.

“It is a catastrophic outcome for the humanitarian response in Yemen. More people are in need this year in Yemen than in 2021. More lives will be lost.”

During Wednesday’s pledging conference, representatives from Saudi Arabia and the UAE stressed the need to stop the Houthi’s “terrorist” actions, with the Emirati official saying the rebels “obstruct and deviate aid”.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, said it has provided more than $19bn in aid and development to the country in the past few years.

“Coalition partners appear now to prefer to control their own funding for Yemen, rather than leave it to the UN,” Elisabeth Kendall, a researcher at the University of Oxford, told AFP.

“This may be because Yemen’s worst-hit areas are under Houthi control, so it may be unpalatable to see their aid flowing into the very areas over which they are fighting.”

According to Abdulghani al-Iryani, a senior researcher at the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies, the coalition partners “appear to make their humanitarian response in the way that reaps the greater political benefit, through their own organisations”.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council said on Thursday it seeks to host discussions between Yemen’s warring sides in Saudi Arabia, despite the Houthi rebels’ rejection of talks in “enemy countries”.

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Israeli court questions ban on Jewish prayer at Al-Aqsa compound | Israel-Palestine conflict News



Court overturns a police order barring three Jews from holy site after they prayed there in violation of the status quo.

A lower Israeli court has overturned a police order barring three Jews from the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound after they prayed there in violation of understandings with Muslim authorities, questioning the legal basis of such enforcement.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, located in occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City and housing Islam’s third-holiest site, is referred to as al-Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, by Muslims. According to an agreement in place since 1967, non-Muslims are allowed onto the site during visiting hours, but they are barred from praying there.

Jews believe the 35-acre compound is where the Biblical Jewish temples once stood.

Israel allows Jews to visit on condition they refrain from religious rites. But the increasing number of such visits, including over the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan that coincided this year with the Jewish Passover festival, has stoked the fears of Palestinians, who see this as Israeli attempts to change the holy site’s sensitive status quo.

‘A grave assault’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas issued a statement calling Sunday’s ruling “a grave assault against the historic status quo … and a flagrant challenge to international law”.

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled in favour of three appellants who had been banned from the Old City for 15 days for prostrating themselves and intoning a core Jewish prayer at the compound. The ruling quoted police as saying those actions disrupted its officers’ duties and threatened public order.

Removing the ban, Judge Zion Saharai said that while he had no intention of interfering in law enforcement at the site, “the appellants’ conduct does not raise worry of harm befalling national security, public safety or individual security”.

Police had no comment. Eran Schwarz, a lawyer whose firm represented the appellants, said he expected police to contest the ruling. Magistrate’s courts can be overturned by district courts, with Israel’s Supreme Court a final course of appeal.

The ruling came a week before far-right Israelis are due to hold an annual flag march through the Old City, marking its capture by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war. Israel later annexed occupied East Jerusalem, a move not recognised by most of the international community. The event is resented by Palestinians, who want the Old City and other parts of occupied East Jerusalem as the capital of their hoped-for future state.

Hamas, a Palestinian group that fought a Gaza war with Israel last year that was partly stoked by tensions in occupied East Jerusalem, described the flag march’s planned route through a Muslim quarter of the Old City as “adding fuel to the fire”.

“I warn the enemy against carrying out such crimes,” Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said in a televised address.

Jordan, a United States-backed Israeli security partner that serves as custodian of Al-Aqsa, has also voiced concern about the Jewish visits to the compound.

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Will Labor govt in Australia put climate change at the forefront? | Climate Crisis



Video Duration 25 minutes 00 seconds

From: Inside Story

Australia’s conservative coalition has been voted out of office after nearly a decade in power.

Australia has seen unprecedented bushfires and flooding in recent years.

Extreme weather has brought climate change to the top of the agenda for voters.

And Greens and climate-focused independents made big gains in Saturday’s election, at the expense of the conservative coalition.

Australia is a major exporter of fossil fuels, and the outgoing government often objected to plans to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Neighbouring Pacific Islands say Australia is blocking climate action, even as their territories are under threat of sinking.

Uneasy ties with the island nations are spilling into security, as concerns mount in Australia and the United States about China’s recent deal with the Solomon Islands.

How will Australia’s new government tackle China’s growing influence in the Pacific?

Presenter: Hashem Ahelbarra


Carlyle Thayer – Emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales and director of Thayer Consultancy

Anna Skarbek – CEO of Climateworks Centre

Gregory Melleuish – Professor of history and politics at the University of Wollongong

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Pakistan: Ousted PM Imran Khan calls for march on Islamabad | Politics News



Khan says he will never accept the new government and calls on his supporters to rally peacefully on Wednesday.

Pakistan’s defiant former Prime Minister Imran Khan has called on his supporters to march peacefully on Islamabad on May 25th, to press for fresh elections.

Khan, who served as prime minister for more than three and a half years, was ousted in a no-confidence vote in parliament by an alliance of all major political parties.

Since his removal, Khan has addressed rallies in several cities as he mobilises for a grand show of strength in the capital on Wednesday.

“We will never accept [the new government] – no matter how long we have to remain in Islamabad, we will remain there,” Khan told reporters in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Sunday.

Khan’s call came after a marathon session of talks with leaders from his Tehreek-e-Insaf party in Peshawar. He describes the march as a move to protect the country’s sovereignty, as he alleges that the vote that removed him was a United States-organised plot.

In his speech, Khan urged authorities not to oppose the march, which will gain strength outside of Islamabad before heading to the city centre.

Once in the city, the former prime minister said, his supporters will remain until parliament is dissolved and new elections are called. Thousands have come to his rallies in the past.

Khan claims the US wanted him removed from office because of his foreign policy choices in favour of Russia and China, and because of a visit he made on February 24 to Moscow, where he held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin – as Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine. He has also said the US dislikes his strident criticism of Washington’s “war on terror“.

The US Department of State has denied any involvement in Pakistan’s internal politics.

Khan came to power in 2018 promising to eradicate corruption and revive Pakistan’s economy, but he failed to deliver on most of his pledges.

He has nonetheless been able to draw huge crowds at rallies since his removal from office.

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