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UN Security Council demands immediate Gaza ceasefire as US abstains

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The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) demands an immediate ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the release of all hostages as the United States abstains from the vote.

The remaining 14 council members voted in favour of the resolution, which was proposed by the 10 elected members of the council. There was a round of applause in the council chamber after the vote on Monday.

The resolution calls for an immediate ceasefire for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which ends in two weeks, and also demands the release of all hostages seized in the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on October 7.

“The bloodbath has continued for far too long,” said Amar Bendjama, the ambassador from Algeria, the Arab bloc’s current Security Council member and a sponsor of the resolution. “Finally, the Security Council is shouldering its responsibility.”

The US had repeatedly blocked Security Council resolutions that put pressure on Israel but has increasingly shown frustration with its ally as civilian casualties mount and the UN warns of impending famine in Gaza.

Speaking after the vote, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield blamed Hamas for the delay in passing a ceasefire resolution.

“We did not agree with everything with the resolution,” which she said was the reason why the US abstained.

“Certain key edits were ignored, including our request to add a condemnation of Hamas,” Thomas-Greenfield said. She stressed that the release of Israeli captives would lead to an increase in humanitarian aid supplies going into the besieged coastal enclave.

Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour addresses the Security Council on the day of a vote on a Gaza resolution
Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour addresses the UN Security Council [Andrew Kelly/Reuters]

The White House said the final resolution did not have language the US considers essential and its abstention does not represent a shift in policy.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the US failure to veto the resolution is a “clear retreat” from its previous position and would hurt war efforts against Hamas as well as efforts to release Israeli captives held in Gaza.

His office also said Netanyahu will not be sending a high-level delegation to Washington, DC, in light of the new US position.

US President Joe Biden had requested to meet Israeli officials to discuss Israeli plans for a ground invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza, where more than 1 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering.

White House spokesperson John Kirby said the US was “disappointed” by Netanyahu’s decision.

“We’re very disappointed that they won’t be coming to Washington, DC, to allow us to have a fulsome conversation with them about viable alternatives to them going in on the ground in Rafah,” Kirby told reporters.

He said senior US officials would still meet for separate talks with Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, who is currently in Washington, on issues including the captives, humanitarian aid and protecting civilians in Rafah.

Last week, Netanyahu promised to defy US appeals and expand Israel’s military campaign to Rafah even without its ally’s support.

‘Crisis not over’

Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bays said the vote is still a “very, very significant” development.

“After almost six months, … the vote, almost unanimous,” has demanded a lasting and immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

“The US has used its veto three times,” Bays said. “This time, the US let this pass.”

“Resolutions of the Security Council are international law. They are always seen as binding on all the member states of the United Nations,” he added.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a post on X that the resolution “must be implemented”, adding that “failure would be unforgivable”.

The vote came amid international calls to bring the nearly six-month-long conflict to an end as Israeli forces pummel Gaza and humanitarian conditions in the besieged strip reach critical levels.

More than 90 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been displaced, and conditions under Israeli siege and bombardment have pushed Gaza to the brink of famine, the UN said.

More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli assault since October 7, mostly women and children, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Israel began its military offensive in Gaza after Hamas led an attack on southern Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,139 people, mostly civilians, and seizing about 250 others as hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Palestinian leaders welcomed the adoption of the resolution, saying it was a step in the right direction.

“This must be a turning point,” Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour told the UNSC, holding back tears. “This must signal the end of this assault, of atrocities against our people.”

In a statement, the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on UNSC member states to fulfill their legal responsibilities to implement the resolution immediately.

‘Vote in favour of peace’

The ministry also stressed the importance of intensifying efforts to achieve a permanent ceasefire that extends beyond Ramadan, secure the entry of aid, work on the release Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and prevent forced displacement of Palestinians.

Hamas welcomed the resolution and said in a statement it “affirms readiness to engage in immediate prisoner swaps on both sides”.

France called for more work on securing a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

“This crisis is not over. Our council will have to remain mobilised and immediately get back to work. After Ramadan, which ends in two weeks, it will have to establish a permanent ceasefire,” French Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said.

The latest vote was held after Russia and China vetoed a US-sponsored resolution on Friday that would have supported “an immediate and sustained ceasefire”.

Russian Ambassador Vasily Alekseyevich Nebenzya said his country hopes Monday’s resolution will be used in the “interests of peace” rather than advancing the “inhumane Israeli operation against Palestinians”.

“It is of fundamental importance that the UN Security Council, for the first time, is demanding the parties observe an immediate ceasefire, even if it is limited to the month of Ramadan,” he said. “Unfortunately, what happens after that ends remains unclear.”

Russia tried to push for the use of the word “permanent” in regards to the ceasefire. It had complained that dropping the word could allow Israel “to resume its military operation in the Gaza Strip at any moment” after Ramadan, which ends on April 9.

“We are disappointed that it did not make it through,” Nebenzya said.

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NPR editor resigns after accusing US outlet of liberal bias

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Uri Berliner quits broadcaster days after being suspended over essay accusing network of lacking viewpoint diversity.

A senior editor at a public broadcaster in the United States who accused his employer of liberal bias, igniting heated debate about standards in journalism, has resigned.

Uri Berliner, an editor with National Public Radio (NPR), announced his resignation on Wednesday just over a week after he published an essay accusing the outlet of being fixated on race and identity and lacking “viewpoint diversity”.

“I am resigning from NPR, a great American institution where I have worked for 25 years. I don’t support calls to defund NPR. I respect the integrity of my colleagues and wish for NPR to thrive and do important journalism,” Berliner said in a resignation letter posted on X.

“But I cannot work in a newsroom where I am disparaged by a new CEO whose divisive views confirm the very problems at NPR I cite in my Free Press essay.”

My resignation letter to NPR CEO @krmaher pic.twitter.com/0hafVbcZAK

— Uri Berliner (@uberliner) April 17, 2024

NPR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Berliner’s resignation came after NPR on Friday slapped the editor with a five-day suspension without pay in response to his essay calling out the network.

In the essay published in The Free Press, Berliner argued that the outlet had lost the public’s trust by putting a progressive slant on coverage of major news stories, including the COVID-19 pandemic and claims that Donald Trump colluded with Russia.

“There’s an unspoken consensus about the stories we should pursue and how they should be framed,” Berliner wrote.

“It’s frictionless – one story after another about instances of supposed racism, transphobia, signs of the climate apocalypse, Israel doing something bad and the dire threat of Republican policies. It’s almost like an assembly line.”

Berlinera also cited voter registration data that he said showed there were 87 Democrats and no Republicans on staff at the outlet’s Washington, DC, headquarters.

Berliner’s essay promoted public pushback from NPR employees, including recently-appointed CEO Katherine Maher, whose own views came under scrutiny after conservatives surfaced old tweets expressing progressive views.

“Asking a question about whether we’re living up to our mission should always be fair game: after all, journalism is nothing if not hard questions,” Maher said in a memo to staff that was also published online.

“Questioning whether our people are serving our mission with integrity, based on little more than the recognition of their identity, is profoundly disrespectful, hurtful, and demeaning.”

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Al Jazeera and news agencies

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More than 11,000 evacuated in northern Indonesia as Ruang volcano erupts

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Authorities further extend exclusion zone after volcano sends ash and smoke more than two kilometres into the sky.

More than 11,000 people have been told to evacuate from around the Ruang volcano in northern Indonesia amid fears it could collapse causing a tsunami, after erupting multiple times.

Mount Ruang, located in in North Sulawesi Province, first erupted at 9:45pm (13:45 GMT) on Tuesday sending billowing clouds of smoke and ash high into the sky.

After four more eruptions on Wednesday, Indonesia’s volcanology agency raised the alert level for the 725-metre (2,379-foot) high mountain to four, the highest on the scale.

They also widened the exclusion zone around the crater from four kilometres (2.5 miles) to six kilometres (3.7 miles).

More than 800 people were evacuated initially from Ruang to nearby Tagulandang Island, which is located more than 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of the provincial capital, Manado.

But officials said on Thursday morning that more people would need to be evacuated as a result of the widening exclusion zone, and would be taken to Manado.

“At least 11,615 residents who are in the risk area must evacuate to a safe place,” Abdul Muhari, the head of the disaster agency’s disaster data, communications and information centre was quoted as saying by the Kompas newspaper.

Officials also worry that part of the volcano could collapse into the sea and cause a tsunami as it did during a previous eruption in 1871.

Video footage showed flows of red lava streaming down the mountain, reflected in the waters below, and billowing clouds of grey ash above Ruang’s crater.

Muhammad Wafid, the head of Indonesia’s geological agency, earlier said Ruang’s initial eruption sent an ash column two kilometres (1.2 miles) into the sky, with the second eruption pushing it to 2.5 kilometres (1.6 miles).

The volcanology agency said volcanic activity had increased at Ruang after two earthquakes in recent weeks.

Indonesia, which sits along the ‘Ring of Fire’, a horseshoe-shaped series of tectonic fault lines around the Pacific Ocean, has 120 active volcanoes.

In 2018, the eruption of Indonesia’s Anak Krakatoa volcano triggered a tsunami along the coasts of Sumatra and Java after parts of the mountain fell into the ocean. Hundreds of people were killed.

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Al Jazeera and news agencies

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Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 784

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As the war enters its 784th day, these are the main developments.

Rescue workers at the site of a collapsed building in Chernihiv. There is an excavator at the front on top of the rubble. The buildings, which are several stories high. are behind.

Rescue workers at the site of Wednesday’s missile attack on Chernihiv [Genya Savilov/AFP]

Here is the situation on Thursday, April 18, 2024.

Fighting

  • At least 17 people were killed in the Ukrainian city of Chernihiv after it was struck by three Russian missiles. Emergency services said 60 people, including three children, were injured. About 250,000 people live in Chernihiv, which is about 150km (90 miles) north of the capital, Kyiv.
  • One woman was injured by falling debris after Russian forces brought down a done over the Voronezh region. Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said air defence also destroyed 14 airborne targets over the southern Belgorod region. No injuries were reported.
  • The BBC reported the number of Russian soldiers killed in the war in Ukraine had topped 50,000. The data was compiled by BBC Russian, independent media group Mediazona and volunteers.
  • Colonel Serhii Pakhomov, acting head of the Ukrainian military’s atomic, biological and chemical defence forces, told the Reuters news agency that Kyiv had recorded about 900 uses of riot control agents on the front line by Russia in the past six months. The gases, banned for use on the battlefield by the international Chemical Weapons Convention, are being used to try and clear trenches, Pakhomov said. Some 500 troops had required medical help after exposure to toxic substances on the battlefield and at least one soldier died after suffocating on tear gas, he added.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Ukrainian military attacked a large Russian airfield at Dzhankoi in the north of occupied Crimea. A series of explosions were reported at the base. There were no reports of damage.

Politics and diplomacy

  • US House Speaker Mike Johnson said the House would hold a long-delayed vote on a $60bn aid package for Ukraine on Saturday. The bill, passed by the Senate in February, has been held up amid objections from far-right members of Johnson’s Republican party.
  • Writing in the Wall Street Journal, US President Joe Biden urged Congress to approve the package saying the conflict was at a “pivotal moment”.
  • China said that “a lot of work” would need to be done before a planned peace conference on the Ukraine war could take place in Switzerland. It did not say whether it would attend the meeting, which is expected to take place in June.
  • Russia’s FSB security service arrested four people, accusing them of sending money to Ukrainian armed forces and planning to join the country’s military.
  • France appointed investigating magistrates to run a war crimes investigation into the death of Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, a dual French-Irish national, who was killed covering the war in Ukraine in March 2022. Producer Oleksandra Kuvshynova was also killed when the news team’s vehicle came under fire in Horenka near Kyiv. Correspondent Benjamin Hall was badly injured.
  • Cybersecurity firm Mandiant warned a cyber group known as Sandworm, with links to Russian military intelligence, is emerging as a significant global threat after playing an increasingly critical role in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Sandworm “is actively engaged in the full spectrum of espionage, attack, and influence operations”, Mandiant said.

Weapons

  • President Zelenskyy, addressing the European Council by videolink hours after the Chernihiv attack, pleaded for more defence systems. Zelenskyy said Ukraine should enjoy the same cover from aerial attacks as Israel, which was able to intercept a barrage of drones and missiles fired by Iran last weekend. “Our Ukrainian sky, the sky of our neighbours deserves the same level of defence,” he said. “All lives are equally valuable.”
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and other senior German officials pressed fellow European Union members to take action as soon as possible to boost Ukraine’s air defences. On Saturday, Germany announced it was sending an additional Patriot air defence system to Ukraine.
  • NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the NATO-Ukraine Council will meet on Friday to discuss ways on how to provide more air defence systems for Kyiv.
  • A crowdfunding initiative launched by a Slovak group on Monday has so far raised 750,000 euros ($798,000) from members of the public. The group, Peace for Ukraine, hopes to raise one million euros ($1.07 million) for the Czech Republic’s initiative to buy ammunition for Ukraine. Slovakia’s government has refused to send military aid to Kyiv.


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