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Russian court extends detention of US reporter Gershkovich

Russian court extends detention of US reporter Gershkovich

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Russian court extends detention of US reporter Gershkovich

A Russian court said on Tuesday it had extended the detention of Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who is awaiting trial on espionage charges he denies, until Jan. 30, 2024.

Gershkovich, a US citizen, was detained by the Federal Security Service (FSB) on March 29 in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg on charges of espionage that carry up to 20 years in prison.

“The court ruled to extend the term of detention of Gershkovich, accused of a crime under Article 276 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, for up to 10 months, that is, until January 30, 2024,” Moscow’s Lefortovo district court said.

Gershkovich denies the charges. He is the first US journalist to be detained on spy charges in Russia since the Cold War.

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Russia said Gershkovich was caught “red-handed” while the FSB, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, said he was trying to obtain military secrets.

The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones say that Gershkovich was simply doing his job in Russia and deny the espionage charges. The Journal and Dow have repeatedly demanded that Russia release him, to no avail.

“Evan has now been unjustly imprisoned for nearly 250 days, and every day is a day too long,” The Journal said in a statement.

“The accusations against him are categorically false and his continued imprisonment is a brazen and outrageous attack on a free press, which is critical for a free society. We continue to stand with Evan and call for his immediate release.”

PRISONER SWAP?

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The White House has called the charges “ridiculous” and President Joe Biden has said Gershkovich’s detention is “totally illegal”.

Diplomats say that Gershkovich was probably detained as part of broader Russian effort to build up a store of arrested US citizens who could we swapped for Russian citizens – and convicted spies – detained in the West.

Russian officials, who insist Gershkovich was caught seeking secrets, say there have been contacts with Washington over Gershkovich but they say that loud American public demands will not help his case.

Russia has said there could be no exchange involving Gershkovich until a verdict is reached in his case. No date has so far been announced for his trial.

A fluent Russian-speaker born to Soviet emigres and raised in New Jersey, Gershkovich moved to Moscow in late 2017 to join the English-language Moscow Times, and subsequently worked for the French news agency Agence France-Presse.

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Since his detention, Gershkovich has appealed against his detention several times, appearing in the glass cages used for suspects in Russian courts. The appeals have been rejected.

His arrest shocked many Western news organisations and there are now almost no US reporters in Russia, which is ranked by the State Department as a hardship posting on a par with Freetown, Mogadishu, Damascus and Kabul.

The US State Department has repeatedly told all US citizens to leave Russia immediately due to “the potential for harassment and the singling out of US citizens for detention by Russian government security officials”.

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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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