US, Japan Urge Nations Not to Deploy Nuclear Weapons in Orbit

The United States and Japan on Monday proposed a UN Security Council resolution stressing that nations should comply with a treaty that bars putting nuclear weapons in space, a message that appeared aimed at Russia.

Washington believes Moscow is developing a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon whose detonation could cause havoc by disrupting everything from military communications to phone-based ride services, a source familiar with the matter has said.

Russia, a party to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that bars putting “in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction,” has previously said it opposes deploying nuclear weapons in space.

Russia’s defence minister has also denied it is developing such a weapon. Deploying a nuclear weapon in orbit is barred by the treaty; developing one, however, is not prohibited.

In their resolution seen by Reuters, the United States, the only nation to use a nuclear weapon in war, and Japan, the only nation attacked with one, urged countries bound by the treaty not to place such weapons into space and also not to develop them.

NATO Chief Visits Georgia to Discuss Cooperation, Path to Membership

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg travelled to Georgia on Monday, where he met with leaders to discuss strengthening cooperation between the nation and the alliance and a path to eventual membership.

Stoltenberg held meetings with President Salome Zourabichvili and Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze in the capital, Tbilisi. Kobakhidze was elected to his position last month and has sometimes been critical of the West, though he has expressed a desire to join both NATO and the European Union.

At a joint news conference after their talks, Stoltenberg expressed his appreciation for Georgia’s “substantial contributions to NATO” and said NATO fully supports Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

He said South Ossetia and Abkhazia are part of Georgia, despite Russia’s insistence they are independent. The Russian military seized control of the territories in a brief 2008 war.

Stoltenberg also called Russia’s efforts to organize elections in parts of Georgia and Ukraine “completely illegal” and called Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent reelection as “clearly neither free nor fair.”

Pakistani Fighter Planes Bomb ‘Terrorist Sanctuaries’ in Afghanistan

Pakistan confirmed Monday that its military had carried out “intelligence-based” aerial strikes inside Afghanistan to punish “terrorists” responsible for killing hundreds of civilians and security forces in cross-border raids.

A foreign ministry statement said the counterterrorism operation had targeted fugitive commanders allied with Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, a globally designated terrorist organization operating out of Afghan sanctuaries.

Afghanistan’s Taliban government denounced the pre-dawn strikes in the southeastern Paktika and Khost border provinces, claiming they resulted in the deaths of eight civilians, mostly women and children. The identities of the slain people could not be verified from independent sources.

“We have repeatedly urged the Afghan authorities to take concrete and effective action to ensure that the Afghan soil is not used as a staging ground for terrorism against Pakistan. We have also called on them to deny safe havens to TTP and to hand over its leadership to Pakistan,” the Pakistan Foreign Ministry stated.

Rights Violations in Iran May Be Crimes Against Humanity, UN Investigators Find

Iran’s violent repression of peaceful protests and widespread, systematic violations of human rights could, in many cases, amount to crimes against humanity, according to a UN fact-finding mission.

The three-member team on the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Iran, in its first report to the UN Human Rights Council, accuses the Iranian government of a litany of crimes in connection with the protests that erupted following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini on September 16, 2022.

The mission, which was established two months later to investigate the crackdown on the protests, accuses Iranian authorities of “egregious human rights violations.”

They include unlawful deaths, extra-judicial executions, arbitrary arrests, rape, sexual violence, and enforced disappearances.

The chair of the mission, Bangladeshi lawyer Sara Hossain, who also presented the report, said these acts were conducted in the context of a “widespread and systematic attack against women and girls” and others expressing support for human rights.

Famine Imminent in Northern Gaza, Food Security Experts Warn

Famine is imminent in the northern Gaza Strip between now, and May, and the rest of Gaza’s population is facing crisis levels of hunger and worse, a United Nations-backed food security report concluded Monday.

“More than half of all Palestinians in Gaza —1.1 million people — have completely exhausted their food supplies and are facing catastrophic hunger, according to the report,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters Monday after the release of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report.

“This is the highest number of people facing catastrophic hunger ever recorded by the Integrated Food Security Classification system — anywhere, anytime,” Guterres said.

The U.N.-backed IPC report says famine could occur at any time in the coming weeks, with an estimated 210,000 people in northern Gaza facing the most catastrophic danger.

In the southern governorates of Deir al-Balah, Khan Younis and Rafah, where about 1.5 million Palestinians have fled the fighting, the experts say they are a step away from famine.

Israel Launches Operation at Gaza City Hospital

Israel’s military said Monday it was conducting an operation at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, an area where it came under international criticism for a November raid.

Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said in a statement that Israeli forces were acting Monday because senior Hamas officials were using the hospital to command attacks against Israel.

“We will conduct this operation with caution and care while ensuring that the hospital continues its important function,” Hagari said.

Witnesses reported airstrikes in the area of the hospital, which is the largest in the Gaza Strip, as well as the presence of Israeli tanks.

European Union foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell said Monday that Israel “is provoking famine” in Gaza and using starvation “as a weapon of war.”

“In Gaza, we are no longer on the brink of famine. We are in a state of famine, affecting thousands of people,” Borrell told a conference on humanitarian aid for Gaza in Brussels.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said his government “allows extensive humanitarian aid into Gaza by land, air, and sea for anyone willing to help,” and he accused Hamas militants of “violently disrupting aid convoys.”

Haitian Gangs Launch New Attacks Amid Transitional Council Delays

Gangs attacked affluent neighbourhoods in Haiti early Monday, killing at least a dozen people, according to witnesses.

The upscale neighbourhood of Petionville outside the capital, Port-au-Prince, was one of those attacked, and at least 12 bodies were found, according to residents and media.

Gunmen looted homes in the Laboule and Thomassin communities before sunrise, forcing residents to flee. Until now, both communities had been mainly peaceful amid the gang attacks in Port-au-Prince.

The attacks also targeted Haiti’s power company, which said Monday that four substations “were destroyed and rendered completely dysfunctional.” The attacks have left much of the capital without power.

According to The Associated Press, the recent attacks have led to concerns that gang violence would not subside in Haiti, even though Prime Minister Ariel Henry announced last week that he would resign once a transitional council was established. The gangs had demanded that Henry resign.

Pentagon: US Warned Niger About Russia, Iran Ties Before Junta Revoked Accord

U.S. officials travelled to Niger last week to express concerns about the country’s potential development of ties to Russia and Iran before the ruling junta Saturday revoked an accord governing the roughly 1,000 U.S. military personnel there, the Pentagon said Monday.

The Pentagon added it was seeking clarification about the way ahead. Niger said Saturday it had revoked “with immediate effect” its military accord with the United States that had allowed Pentagon personnel to operate on its soil.

Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said the U.S. government had “direct and frank” conversations in Niger ahead of the junta’s announcement and was continuing to communicate with Niger’s ruling military council known as the CNSP.

“The U.S. delegation was there to raise a number of concerns. … We were troubled (about) the path that Niger is on. And so, these were direct and frank conversations, to have those in person, to talk about our concerns and to also hear theirs,” Singh said.

“U.S. officials expressed concern over Niger’s potential relationships with Russia and Iran.”

Since its July 2023 coup, the military junta that seized power in Niamey has kicked out French and European forces and quit the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc. Like juntas in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, it has strengthened military ties with Russia.

Gambian Lawmakers to Vote on Bill to Repeal FGM Ban

A Monday vote could make Gambia the first country to repeal its ban on female genital cutting. Also referred to as female genital mutilation or FGM, the procedure includes the partial or full removal of external genitalia. The practice has been rising worldwide in recent years despite moves to outlaw it.

According to a report from the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, earlier this month, around 30 million women globally have undergone the procedure in the past eight years. It largely occurs in Africa, some parts of Asia, and the Middle East. The procedure often occurs between infancy and adolescence to control women’s sexuality.

The World Health Organization says the procedure has no benefits. It can lead to serious bleeding and death, and long-term effects can include urinary tract infections, menstrual problems, pain, decreased sexual satisfaction and childbirth complications, as well as depression, low self-esteem and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jaha Dukureh, the founder of Safe Hands for Girls, a local group in Gambia that aims to end the practice, told The Associated Press she worried repealing the 2015 ban on FGM could lead the way for more backsliding on women’s rights. Dukureh says she underwent the procedure herself and watched her sister bleed to death.

“If they succeed with this repeal, we know that they might come after the child marriage law and even the domestic violence law. This is not about religion but the cycle of controlling women and their bodies,” she said.

According to UN data, the prevalence of FGM in Gambia has fallen steeply since the ban. Gambia’s former leader, Yahya Jammeh, banned the practice in 2015 without public explanation, imposing steep fines and jail sentences, surprising activists.

However, the new repeal bill is backed by religious conservatives, a powerful majority in the small Muslim nation. The bill’s text says, “It seeks to uphold religious purity and safeguard cultural norms and values.”

Lawmaker Almameh Gibba, who presented the repeal bill, argued the ban violates citizens’ rights to practice their culture and religion.

When the first people were convicted under the law last August for performing FGM on eight infant girls, the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council responded by saying female circumcision was one of the virtues of Islam.

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