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Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, attends a news conference during an informal EU Development Ministers Council, in Brussels, Belgium, Feb 12, 2024. (File photo: REUTERS/Johanna Geron) - 



VOInews, Geneva : The head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency said he was cautiously optimistic some donors would start funding it again within weeks, warning it was "at risk of death" after Israel alleged some of its staff took part in the Oct 7 Hamas attack.

An independent review of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been launched under French former foreign minister Catherine Colonna, and the final report is expected to be published next month.

"I am cautiously optimistic that within the next few weeks, and also following the publication of Catherine Colonna's report, a number of donors will return," UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said in an interview with Swiss broadcaster RTS that was aired on Saturday (Mar 9).

Lazzarini told RTS that UNRWA was at "risk of death, at risk of dismantlement".

Colonna, whose work on the review began in mid-February, said on Saturday she would visit Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Amman next week.

UNRWA, which provides aid and essential services to Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the Israeli-occupied West Bank and across the region, has been in crisis since Israel accused 12 of its 13,000 staff in Gaza of involvement in the Oct 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war in the Palestinian enclave.

The allegations prompted several countries, including the United States, to pause funding.

When the allegations emerged, UNRWA fired some staff members, saying it acted to protect the agency's ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, and an independent internal UN investigation was launched.

UNRWA said some employees released into Gaza from Israeli detention reported having been pressured by Israeli authorities into falsely stating that staff took part in the Oct 7 attack, according to a report by the agency dated February.

"What is at stake is the fate of the Palestinians today in Gaza in the short term who are going through an absolutely unprecedented humanitarian crisis," Lazzarini told RTS.

UNRWA runs schools, healthcare clinics and other social services in Gaza, and distributes humanitarian aid. The UN has said some 3,000 members of staff are still working to deliver aid in the enclave, where it says 576,000 people - one quarter of the population - are a step away from famine.

"The agency I currently manage is the only agency that delivers public services to Palestinian refugees," Lazzarini said.

"We are the quasi-ministry of education, of primary health. If we were to get rid of such a body, who would bring back the million of girls and boys who are traumatised in the Gaza Strip today back to a learning environment?"//CNA-VOI


An exterior view of the Picasso Museum in Paris on Jan 29, 2024. (Photo: AFP/Ian Langsdon) - 



VOInews, PARIS : The Picasso Museum in Paris, which houses the world's biggest collection of the Spanish artist's works, is reopening on Tuesday (Mar 12) with an overhauled display and a first-ever tribute to his ex-partner, the renowned painter Francoise Gilot.

The new permanent collection will present a fresh selection of 400 works by Pablo Picasso across the museum's 22 rooms.

They have been drawn from some 200,000 items stored in its archives, which include a large proportion of the 2,000 paintings and more than 11,000 drawings he completed during his lifetime.

All the key periods are represented - from blue, pink and cubist to surrealist, collage and ceramics.

The museum boasts that it is the only institution that can trace Picasso's development from the very beginning up to his death in 1973.

A section called Laboratory highlights Picasso's countless sculptures - made from cardboard, metal, wood, cigar boxes and whatever else came to hand - together with related drawings and paintings.

Another focuses on his work during World War II and the Nazi occupation of Paris, including the sculpture Man with a Sheep, which became a symbol of resistance.

One room has been entirely dedicated to Gilot, who died in June 2023 at the age of 101.

She lived with Picasso for a decade up to 1953 and had two children with him.

Gilot is seen as the one long-term partner who managed to stand up to his often tyrannical behaviour toward women, establishing herself as an artist in her own right.

With many of Picasso's works travelling around the world for the 50th anniversary of his death in 2023, the rehanging is billed as "his return home" said Cecile Debray, the museum's director.

It contrasts his work with artists who influenced him, including Henri Matisse and Paul Cezanne, as well as many anonymous sculptures from Africa and Oceania that ended up in his collection.

A research centre will be inaugurated near the museum in the autumn//CNA-VOI


Reuters visuals journalist Issam Abdallah takes a selfie in Maras, Turkey, on Feb 11, 2023. (Photo: REUTERS/Issam Abdallah) - 



VOInews, BEIRUT/THE HAGUE : An Israeli tank crew killed a Reuters reporter in Lebanon in October by firing two shells at a clearly identified group of journalists and then "likely" opened fire on them with a heavy machine gun in an attack that lasted 1 minute and 45 seconds, according to a report into the incident published on Thursday (Mar 7).

The report by the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO) - which was contracted by Reuters to analyse evidence from the Oct 13 attack that killed visuals journalist Issam Abdallah - found that a tank 1.34 km away in Israel fired two 120 mm rounds at the reporters.

The first shell killed Abdallah, 37, and severely wounded Agence France-Presse (AFP) photographer Christina Assi, 28.

A Reuters investigation in December covered TNO's preliminary finding that a tank in Israel had fired at the journalists.

In its final report on Thursday, the institute revealed that audio picked up by an Al Jazeera video camera at the scene showed the reporters also came under fire from 0.50 calibre rounds of the type used by the Browning machine guns that can be mounted on Israel's Merkava tanks.

"It is considered a likely scenario that a Merkava tank, after firing two tank rounds, also used its machine gun against the location of the journalists," TNO's report said. "The latter cannot be concluded with certainty as the direction and exact distance of (the machine gun) fire could not be established."

Reuters could not independently determine if the Israeli tank crew knew it was firing on journalists, nor whether it also shot at them with a machine gun and, if so, why.

Neither of the two surviving Reuters reporters or another AFP journalist at the scene remembered the machine gun fire. All said they were in shock at the time.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) did not respond to requests for comment about any aspect of the attack on journalists. Asked to comment on TNO's preliminary findings in December, the IDF said: "We don't target journalists."

A day after the Reuters investigation was published, it said the incident took place in an active combat zone.

International humanitarian law bars attacks on journalists as those in the news media have the full scope of protection granted to civilians and cannot be considered military targets.

"We condemn, in the strongest terms, the attack on a clearly identifiable group of journalists, working in the open. The attack killed our colleague Issam Abdallah and injured several others. We reiterate our calls on Israel to explain how this could have happened and to hold those responsible to account," Reuters Editor-in-Chief Alessandra Galloni said.

AFP Global News Director Phil Chetwynd reiterated his call for a thorough and transparent investigation by the Israeli military.

"If reports of sustained machine gun fire are confirmed, this would add more weight to the theory this was a targeted and deliberate attack," he said.

Ihtisham Hibatullah, Al Jazeera's manager of international communications, urged the Israeli government to disclose the findings of its own investigation.

"This incident strongly indicates intentional targeting, as confirmed by investigations, including by TNO," he said.

Lebanon's Minister of Information did not respond to a request for comment//CNA-VOI



 Tunisian journalist Khalifa Guesmi (C-L) reacts with journalists after his release in front of the Tebourba prefecture on March 6, 2024. Tunisia's Court of Cassation on March 6 overturned the journalist's prison sentence for revealing information about the security services, his lawyer said, paving the way for a retrial. Khalifa Guesmi, a correspondent for Tunisia's most popular radio station Mosaique FM, was convicted in November and handed a one-year prison sentence that was later increased to five years on appeal. (Photo by SOFIENE HAMDAOUI / AFP)


VOInews, Jakarta: A Tunisian court overturned on Wednesday a journalist's prison sentence for revealing information about the security services, his lawyer said, paving the way for a retrial.


Khalifa Guesmi, a correspondent for Tunisia's most popular radio station, Mosaique FM, was convicted in November and handed a one-year prison sentence that was later increased to five years on appeal.


The Court of Cassation "invalidated the five-year judgement and ordered it to be reviewed", Guesmi's lawyer, Rahal Jallali, told AFP.


Guesmi left prison Wednesday evening, an AFP correspondent reported.


The journalist remains under prosecution, according to his lawyer, under Article 34 of the anti-terrorism, law which "punishes with 10 to 20 years' imprisonment" anyone who publishes information "for the benefit of a terrorist organisation".


Journalists and civil society representatives gathered in Tunis on Wednesday to show support for Guesmi and to call for his immediate release.


Local and international NGOs have launched several calls for his release and condemned the five-year prison sentence as "a sham verdict" and "a major setback for the judicial system".


They have criticised what they say is a marked decline in press freedom in Tunisia since President Kais Saied seized full control of the country in July 2021.


On Wednesday, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), in a post on social media platform X, welcomed what it called "a first step towards justice" for Guesmi and said it "should be followed by his immediate release and acquittal".


Jailed since September 3, Guesmi was found guilty of "participating in the intentional disclosing of information related to interception, infiltration, and audiovisual surveillance or the data collected therein".


He was held for a week in March 2022, after Mosaique FM published on its website information about the dismantling of a "terrorist cell" and the arrest of its members.


Source : AFP


The head of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), Noureddine Taboubi, speaks during a protest against a proposed legislation that will grant the government sweeping powers over NGOs, on Saturday (2/3/2024). (Photo: AFP/Fethi Belaid) Tunisian civil society groups fear the government is planning to starve them of foreign funding under the pretext of fighting money laundering and terrorism. Tunisian president Kais Saied, who launched a sweeping power grab in 2021 and rules by decree, has accused many non-government organizations of serving "foreign agendas".


VOInews, Jakarta : US President Joe Biden said Monday that he hopes a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that would pause hostilities and allow for remaining hostages to be released can take effect by early next week.

As reported by (27/2) asked when he thought a ceasefire could begin, Biden said that he hopes by the beginning of the weekend.

Negotiations are underway for a week long ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to allow for the release of hostages being held in Gaza by the militant group in return for Israel releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

The proposed six-week pause in fighting would also include allowing hundreds of trucks to deliver desperately needed aid into Gaza every day. (


VOInews, Jakarta: Newly installed Malaysian king Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar warned opposition lawmakers against disrupting political stability on Monday (Feb 26), in a maiden parliamentary speech that will likely bolster the position of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and his unity government.

At the opening of the third session of the 15th parliament, Sultan Ibrahim also expressed support for Mr Anwar’s economic reforms and raised concerns about the country’s debt, urging the government to improve its fiscal position. Both points attracted thumps of support from the House, packed with Members of Parliament (MPs) dressed in white ceremonial garb.

The loudest cheers came when the king declared he would not entertain any moves to derail political stability, a veiled reference to earlier speculation that the opposition Perikatan Nasional (PN) was trying to overthrow the unity government using backdoor manoeuvres. (


VOInews, Jakarta: Sweden has cleared its final obstacle to joining Nato after Hungary's parliament voted to ratify the bid. The Nordic nation applied to join the defence alliance after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

As reported by (27/2), last week Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban that all Nato members are expected to help an ally which comes under attack.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said it was a "historic day" and a "big step" for Sweden to abandon 200 years of neutrality. (


Smoke from bushfires rises north of Beaufort, near Ballarat in Victoria, Australia on Feb 24, 2024. (File Photo: AAP Image via Reuters/David Crosling) - 



Voinews, Sydney - Hundreds of thousands of residents in Australia's southeast were told to evacuate on Wednesday (Feb 28) due to an intense heatwave that authorities said could further spread a massive bushfire in Victoria state, which faces its worst conditions in four years.

Extreme fire ratings have been issued for large parts of Victoria with the Wimmera region in the west given a catastrophic ranking, the top warning level. Mildura, a rural city of about 56,000, could touch 45 degrees Celsius, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

A potential fire impact zone that covers several rural towns has been identified as officials urged around 30,000 residents there to leave their homes by Wednesday morning.

"Today will be a very challenging day for firefighters," Jason Heffernan, Chief Officer at Victoria fire department told ABC television. "Today is one of those days when communities may need to take immediate action at very short notice."

Hundreds of firefighters were still battling a massive blaze near the city of Ballarat, 95 km west of Melbourne. The fire, burning since last Thursday, has already destroyed six homes, killed livestock and burnt more than 20,000 hectares (200 square kilometres).

A heat wave is set to sweep in from Australia's outback interior, moving across Victoria before likely shifting east to the state of New South Wales on Thursday. Total fire bans are in place across several cities, including Melbourne.

Dry lightning could spark new fires while strong winds forecast from Wednesday afternoon could spread the existing one near Ballarat, Heffernan said.

Heffernan urged people to reconsider any decision to stay back to protect their homes.

"Unless your property is immaculately prepared and you have firefighting resources available and you are fit and you are mentally capable to sustain a long duration firefight ... my strong advice to the community is to leave early," he said//CNA-VOI



Figurines with computers and smartphones are seen in front of TikTok logo in this illustration taken, February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration - 



Voinews, Jakarta - ByteDance-owned short video app TikTok is replacing several senior executives including the person running its trust and safety unit which handles content moderation, the Information reported on Tuesday, citing people at the company and a memo sent to staff.

Adam Presser, operations head of the app who reports to TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, will now oversee trust and safety, according to the Information.

Last month, Chew testified before Congress alongside Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg and other tech and media heads in a hearing where lawmakers accused the companies of failing to protect children from escalating threats of sexual predation on their platforms.

Replying to questions from Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, TikTok's CEO had said that the company would spend more than $2 billion on trust and safety efforts. Cormac Keenan, who had led global trust and safety, will now take on a strategic advisory role in the senior leadership team, a spokesperson at TikTok confirmed//CNA-VOI

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