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US warns Turkey on exports seen to boost Russia’s war effort

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US warns Turkey on exports seen to boost Russia's war effort

The United States warned Turkey in recent days about the export to Russia of chemicals, microchips and other products that can be used in Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine, and it could move to punish Turkish companies or banks contravening sanctions.

Brian Nelson, the U.S. Treasury Department’s top sanctions official, visited Turkish government and private sector officials on Thursday and Friday to urge more cooperation in disrupting the flow of such goods.

In a speech to bankers, Nelson said a marked year-long rise in exports to Russia leaves Turkish entities “particularly vulnerable to reputational and sanctions risks”, or lost access to G7 markets.

They should “take extra precaution to avoid transactions related to potential dual-use technology transfers that could be used by the Russian military-industrial complex,” he said in a copy of the speech issued by the Treasury.

In the meetings in Ankara and Istanbul, Nelson and a delegation highlighted tens of millions of dollars of exports to Russia that raised concerns, according to a senior U.S. official who requested anonymity.

“There is no surprise…that Russia is actively looking to leverage the historic economic ties it has in Turkey,” the official said. “The question is what is the Turkish response going to be.”

NATO member Ankara opposes the sweeping sanctions on Russia on principle but says they will not be circumvented in Turkey, urging the West to provide any evidence.

Western nations applied the export controls and sanctions after Moscow’s invasion nearly a year ago. Yet supply channels have remained open from Hong Kong, Turkey and other trading hubs.

Citing Russian customs records, Reuters reported in December that at least $2.6 billion of computer and other electronic components flowed into Russia in the seven months to Oct. 31. At least $777 million of these products were made by Western firms whose chips have been found in Russian weapons systems.

PRESSURE

Ankara has balanced its good ties with both Moscow and Kyiv throughout the war, held early talks between the sides and also helped broker a deal for grain shipments from Ukraine.

The trip by Nelson, the Treasury’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, is the latest to Turkey by senior U.S. officials aiming to ramp up pressure on Ankara to ensure enforcement of U.S. curbs on Russia.

The pressure has brought some changes.

Turkey’s largest ground-service provider, Havas, told Russian and Belarusian airlines it may stop providing parts, fuel and other services to their U.S.-origin aircraft, in line with Western bans, Reuters reported on Friday citing a Jan. 31 letter from the company.

In September, five Turkish banks suspended use of the Russian Mir payment system after the U.S. Treasury targeted the head of the system’s operator with new sanctions and warned those helping Moscow against skirting them.

Nelson urged the Turkish bankers to conduct enhanced due diligence on Russian-related transactions, and noted in the speech that Russian oligarchs continue to buy property and dock yachts in Turkey.

In separate talks with Turkish firms, Nelson “urgently” flagged the way Russia is believed to be dodging Western controls to re-supply plastics, rubber and semi-conductors found in exported goods and used by the military, the official said.

The person added that after taking steps last year to press Russia to end the war, the U.S. focus is now “on evasion and particularly evasion in third countries that we are seeing”.

Nelson delivered similar messages in the United Arab Emirates and Oman this week, the Treasury said.

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UN court to give view on consequences of Israel occupation

UN court to give view on consequences of Israel occupation

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UN court to give view on consequences of Israel occupation

 The UN’s top court will next week hand down its view on the legal consequences of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967, a case in which some 52 countries made submissions.

Any opinion delivered by the International Court of Justice would be non-binding, but it will come amid mounting international legal pressure on Israel over the war in Gaza sparked by the brutal Oct 7 Hamas attacks.

“A public sitting will take place at the Peace Palace in The Hague (on Jul 19) … during which Judge Nawaf Salam … will read out the Advisory Opinion,” the ICJ said on Friday (Jul 12).

The ICJ held a week-long session in February to hear submissions from countries following a request from the United Nations late last year.

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The UN has asked the ICJ to hand down an “advisory opinion” on the “legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”.

Most speakers during the hearings have demanded that Israel end its occupation, which came after a six-day Arab-Israeli war in 1967.

But the United States said Israel should not be legally obliged to withdraw without taking its “very real security needs” into account.

Speakers also warned a prolonged occupation posed an “extreme danger” to stability in the Middle East and beyond.

Israel did not take part in the oral hearings.

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It submitted a written contribution, in which it described the questions the court had been asked as “prejudicial” and “tendentious”.

The case before the court is separate from one brought by South Africa against Israel for alleged genocide during its current offensive in Gaza.

South Africa has gone to the ICJ several times arguing that the dire humanitarian situation means the court should issue further fresh emergency measures.

In an initial ruling on January 26, the ICJ ordered Israel to do everything it could to prevent acts of genocide during its military operation in Gaza.

It also called for the unconditional release of hostages taken by Palestinian militant group Hamas during its Oct 7 assault that sparked the war.

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Residents say bodies lie in streets in once-vibrant Gaza neighbourhood

Residents say bodies lie in streets in once-vibrant Gaza neighbourhood

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Residents say bodies lie in streets in once-vibrant Gaza neighbourhood

 Al-Rimal was once one of Gaza City’s most vibrant neighbourhoods, but the end of another Israeli assault left residents stumbling through the rubble on Friday looking for bodies and belongings.

Residents of Al-Rimal, which before the war was home to Palestinian government buildings and most of Gaza City’s remaining shops and restaurants, said bodies had been left lying in the streets.

The Hamas-run territory’s civil defence agency said scores of dead had also been found in nearby districts after Israeli troops ended a new operation against militants in parts of Gaza City.

Al-Rimal has been flattened by successive Israeli military operations since the Hamas attacks across the border started the Gaza war on October 7.

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The neighbourhood had already suffered in previous showdowns with Israel since Hamas seized sole control of the territory in 2007. Several apartment blocks were hit by Israeli fighter jets in 2021.

Teacher Tariq Ghanem said this time Israeli troops had wreaked “massive destruction” on Al-Rimal.

“The houses are on fire and there are shells everywhere,” the 57-year-old said.

“There have been bodies on the roads for the past week and… there is no one to retrieve them. There are injured people everywhere and no one can reach them.”

‘DANGEROUS COMBAT ZONE’

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The Israeli military ordered the evacuation of Al-Rimal, Tal al-Hawa and other districts of Gaza City on Monday and has since warned that the whole city is a “dangerous combat zone”.

One major target of the assault was the abandoned headquarters of the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) in Al-Sinaa district that the army said had been taken over by Hamas.

A military statement said troops had found “parts for assembling an unmanned aerial vehicle, war rooms used for surveillance operations and large quantities of weapons, including tactical drones, rockets, machine guns, mortars, explosives and grenades.”

But residents said buildings across the city suffered heavy damage in the assault.

“There are many appeals for help, but we just cannot reach them,” said civil defence agency spokesman Mahmud Bassal.

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He said dozens of bodies were “scattered in alleys and inside destroyed houses” but his agency did not have the staff to recover them.

AFP correspondents saw heavy destruction across the city with several blocks barely standing.

Residents used donkey carts to ferry the wounded to hospital or to recover what belongings they could from the rubble.

Bassal said about 60 bodies had been found in the Tal al-Hawa and Al-Sinaa districts on Friday. The agency and residents said Israeli troops had pulled out but this was not immediately confirmed by the military.

On Thursday, the civil defence agency said 60 bodies had been found in another neighbourhood of Gaza City, Shujaiya, after Israeli troops pulled out, ending a two-week assault.

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The army said more than 150 “terrorists were eliminated” in its operation in Shujaiya, including Hamas commanders.

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Dozens of bodies reported as battles rock Gaza city

Dozens of bodies reported as battles rock Gaza city

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Dozens of bodies reported as battles rock Gaza cityv

Hamas-run Gaza’s civil defence agency said it found around 60 bodies after Israeli troops withdrew from parts of Gaza City on Friday, as heavy fighting gripped the Palestinian territory.

The grisly discovery came as international mediators pushed on with efforts to halt the war now raging into its 10th month.

US President Joe Biden said at a NATO summit in Washington on Thursday that despite problems, US diplomats and other mediators were making “progress” towards a ceasefire and stressed that “it’s time to end this war”.

The bodies were found in the Tal al-Hawa and Al-Sinaa districts, the civil defence agency said. Israeli forces had moved into the neighbourhoods this week after ordering civilians to evacuate on Monday.

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“There are still missing people under the rubble of destroyed homes, which is difficult for our crews to reach,” agency spokesman Mahmud Bassal said.

Residents and the agency said Israeli troops had pulled out after days of fighting with Hamas militants. This was not immediately confirmed by Israel.

‘TRAPPED’

Gaza’s health ministry had earlier reported 32 deaths in the territory, saying that the “martyrs, a majority of them children and women, were taken to hospitals overnight, because of continued massacres”.

Media linked to the territory’s Hamas rulers, whose October 7 attack sparked the war, said that Israeli forces had launched more than 70 new air strikes.

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Israel’s military said it was also fighting in the Rafah area of the south, where its troops had “eliminated numerous terrorists in close-quarters combat and aerial strikes”.

But the main battleground in recent days has been Gaza City, where two weeks of fighting devastated the eastern district of Shujaiya.

The Israeli army dropped thousands of leaflets on Wednesday urging all Gaza City residents to flee what it called a “dangerous combat zone” — an area where the United Nations said up to 350,000 people were staying.

One of those newly displaced, Umm Ihab Arafat, sat with her children on a sand pile amid the rubble as the incessant hum of Israeli drones filled the sky.

“I have been displaced four times,” she said, pleading for a break for her and her children. “They are entitled to rest, their eyes are full of horror and fear.”

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The International Committee of the Red Cross said “entire families are trapped and desperately seek security. The huge needs are beyond our capacity to respond”.

The ICRC said Gaza City residents had been instructed to move south “to areas that are overcrowded, lacking in essential services and are experiencing hostilities”.

TRUCE TALKS

Israel and Hamas have engaged in months of indirect talks via Qatari, US and Egyptian mediators to reach a still elusive truce and hostage release deal.

At the latest meeting in Doha on Wednesday, Israeli officials discussed the conditions for a ceasefire with US and Qatari mediators.

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The head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency Ronen Bar was headed for talks in Cairo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said.

Netanyahu again insisted that any deal must allow Israel to meet all its war aims — destroying Hamas as well as bringing home all the hostages.

He also said Israel needs to maintain control of Gaza’s southern border with Egypt to prevent weapons being “smuggled to Hamas”.

Biden has laid out what he called an Israeli plan which would see a six-week truce in which hostages held in Gaza would be freed in exchange for Palestinians in Israeli prisons. A second phase would see talks on a full end to the war.

Biden acknowledged on Thursday that “difficult, complex issues” remain but insisted that “we’re making progress”.

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“The trend is positive,” he said, “and I’m determined to get this deal done and bring an end to this war, which should end now.”

Biden also stood firm on his decision to hold up delivery of massive 2,000-pound (900kg) bombs over concerns they could be used in populated areas, even as his administration moved forward on sending Israel less powerful 500-pound munitions.

He again pressed Israel for a “day-after” plan for Gaza and spoke of his diplomacy to persuade Arab states to help with security.

Hamas has proposed an independent and non-partisan government for both post-war Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said Hossam Badran, a member of the group’s political bureau.

END OF TROUBLED AID PIER

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The war started with Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza, including 42 the military says are dead.

Israel responded with a military offensive that has killed at least 38,345 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The World Health Organization said that only five trucks carrying medical supplies were allowed into Gaza last week, while over 70 more are waiting at the border.

Meanwhile, a problem-plagued US effort to get aid in by sea will soon end permanently, the US military said.

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US troops built the $230-million pier but the temporary facility has been repeatedly put out of use by high seas.

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