BRUSSELS: Government offices in the EU can ban employees wearing religious symbols such as Islamic headscarves, even when they do not have contact with the public, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled on Tuesday.
Such a rule can be imposed “in order to put in place an entirely neutral administrative environment,” the court said.
The judgement derived from a case lodged by a worker in a Belgian local government office who challenged a ban on her wearing an Islamic headscarf, feeling that it infringed on her freedom of religion and she was being discriminated against.
The Luxembourg-based court said a prohibition “of any sign revealing philosophical or religious beliefs… is not discriminatory if it is applied in a general and indiscriminate manner to all of that administration’s staff and is limited to what is strictly necessary”.
The ruling — valid for public sector offices across the EU — backs up previous EU court judgments that found such bans can be legal in private sector workplaces.
It said national courts should decide the applicability of such prohibitions, and that public offices could also have policies limiting such bans to public-facing workers, or decide to authorise the wearing of visible religious or philosophical signs of belief.
“Each Member State, and any infra-State body within the framework of its competences, has a margin of discretion in designing the neutrality of the public service which it intends to promote in the workplace, depending on its own context,” it said.
Cairo, Egypt: Believing in humanitarian duty and social responsibility, Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Founding Chairman of the Emirati Al Habtoor Group, donated a large number of fully equipped ambulances to provide health support to the brothers in the Gaza Strip and to confront the health repercussions resulting from the Israeli aggression.
The first batch of cars was purchased and equipped with the latest medical technologies in the Arab Republic of Egypt. Islam Kamal Ghoneim, representative and CEO of the Al Habtoor Group - Egypt, handed it over to the Palestinian Red Crescent through the Egyptian Rafah crossing, in cooperation with the Egyptian Tribal and Families Council, and under security supervision and coordination with the Egyptian Armed Forces.
Al Habtoor commented on the donation, saying: “Standing by our brothers in the Gaza Strip, especially in these circumstances, is an imperative duty for every Muslim and Arab and for everyone who takes human values as their calling, and we have been committed to that since the 1970s. The suffering of our Palestinian brothers is great, and we must all offer what God Almighty enables us to do to support their steadfastness.”
“This donation reflects the spirit of solidarity and humanitarian support to which Khalaf bin Ahmed Al Habtoor is committed,” Ghoneim said. “We hope that these cars will provide immediate support to improve the health conditions of our people in Gaza.”
Ghoneim added: “We thank and appreciate the efforts of the Egyptian Armed Forces, the Tribal Council, and the Egyptian families in enabling us to implement this humanitarian initiative, in light of the almost impossible conditions for delivering aid. Without them, we would not have been able to do so.”
It is worth noting that Khalaf bin Ahmed Al Habtoor was and remains committed to supporting the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian people, by contributing to improving their conditions. In 2012, he made a contribution to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) with the aim of supporting Palestinian refugees in Syria, employing 200 Palestinian workers in the West Bank, providing job opportunities for thousands of Palestinian refugee workers, and enhancing access to clean water and sustainable agriculture methods, at a cost estimated at one million dirhams.
As part of the “Help Them” campaign in 2010, which was launched by the United Arab Emirates to provide relief and support to the people of Gaza, Khalaf Al Habtoor donated 103 cars to the service sectors in Palestine. In the same year, Al Habtoor was keen to hold a sporting event called the “Palestine-Emirates Polo Cup,” the proceeds of which were entirely allocated to projects supported by the “Palestinian Cooperation Foundation” in marginalized areas and deprived humanitarian communities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
He also supported the Palestine International Marathon 2014, which was organized by the Welfare Association for the Palestine Marathon under the slogan “The Right to Freedom of Movement,” with an amount of ten thousand US dollars.
In the same year, he launched the Pathways to Peace Initiative at the University of Illinois, which aims to settle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The essence of the initiative includes holding a symposium at the university through which students review examples from history of cultural, religious and ethnic conflicts and the steps taken to resolve these issues. At the conclusion of the symposium, a group of students and educational staff at the university traveled to the Middle East region to reach a solution to end the ongoing conflict that affects the entire Middle East region and the West as well.
He donated 3.7 million dirhams to the Carter Center - to support the program to bring peace to the Middle East, specifically to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians.
• Hamas returns 13 Israeli, three Thai and one Russian prisoner, says it is willing to extend truce
• Palestinian farmer killed by Israeli forces in refugee camp; 8 dead in West Bank
JERUSALEM: Israel’s prison service said 39 Palestinian detainees were released on Sunday under the terms of a truce agreement, while Hamas hand over 17 prisoners on the third day of a truce with Israel.
The release of some of the prisoners includes, 13 Israeli prisoners, three Thais and one with Russian citizenship.
Meanwhile, holding a news conference, President Joe Biden said a 4-year-old US citizen was also released. Biden said he hoped the pause in Israeli aggression against Gazans can go on as long as prisoners are getting released. He said he hoped more Americans would be released by Hamas although he did not have firm news.
In addition, a source close to Hamas said the group was willing to extend the current truce with Israel in Gaza for two to four days beyond its initial expiry on Monday.
“Hamas informed the mediators that the resistance movements were willing to extend the current truce by two to four days. The resistance believes it is possible to ensure the release of 20 to 40 Israeli prisoners,” the source told AFP.
The killing of a Palestinian farmer in the central Gaza Strip had earlier added to concerns over the fragility of the truce.
The farmer was killed when targeted by Israeli forces east of Gaza’s long-established Maghazi refugee camp, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
Meanwhile, the Hamas also said on Sunday that four of its military commanders in the Gaza Strip had been killed, including the commander of the North Gaza brigade, Ahmad Al Ghandour. It did not say when they had been killed. Qatar, Egypt and the United States are pressing for the truce to be extended beyond Monday but it is not clear whether that will happen.
Israel had said the ceasefire could be extended if Hamas continued to release at least 10 prisoners a day. A Palestinian source had said up to 100 prisoners could go free.
West bank violence
Israeli troops killed eight Palestinians over a 24-hour period in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said.
Five people were killed by Israeli army fire in Jenin, the ministry said, during an incursion by a large number of armoured vehicles into the city, which was recently the scene of the deadliest Israeli raid in the West Bank in almost 20 years.
Medical sources told AFP 15 people were wounded, while witnesses reported that an Israeli drone had carried out an air strike on Jenin’s refugee camp.
Other witnesses said on Saturday that the Israeli army had surrounded Jenin’s public hospital and the Ibn Sina clinic, and that soldiers were searching ambulances.
The Israeli army said it had arrested the suspected perpetrator of an attack that killed two Israelis in August.
A 25-year-old doctor was killed on Saturday outside his home in Qabatiya, near Jenin, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
A Palestinian was also killed in El-Bireh, near the city of Ramallah, and another during an Israeli army raid on a village south of Nablus, it said.
WASHINGTON: In a significant shift of tone, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan hinted on Sunday at the possibility of President Joe Biden attaching conditions to US aid to
Israel while his deputy Jon Finer added that US aid was never unconditional.
In interviews to various US television channels, Mr Sullivan stated that President Biden acknowledged the notion during a recent press conference. This development comes as health officials in Gaza report a staggering toll from weeks of Israeli attacks, with over 14,500 deaths and 1.7 million people displaced.
Pressed on whether President Biden would consider legislation attaching conditions to aid for Israel, Mr Sullivan did not rule out the possibility.
“He is going to continue to focus on what is going to generate results,” he said, pointing to the recent prisoner releases as a testament to the effectiveness of direct presidential diplomacy behind closed doors with both Israeli and Arab partners.
As pressure mounts from some Democrats expressing empathy towards Palestinians, President Biden’s openness to considering conditions on aid to Israel reflects a nuanced approach. During a recent press gathering, Mr Biden referred to the idea as a “worthwhile thought.”
Mr Sullivan emphasised the administration’s commitment to results-driven diplomacy, highlighting the ongoing efforts behind closed doors to address the crisis.
The international community continues to monitor the situation closely, with the United States navigating a delicate balance between supporting the Israeli military action and recognising the humanitarian impact of the unrest.
As the Biden administration grapples with the complexities of the region, the possibility of attaching conditions to aid adds a new dimension to US-Israel relations, potentially reshaping the dynamics of American involvement in the ongoing crisis.
In another interview, Deputy National Security Adviser Mr Finer emphasised the principle that “no assistance that the United States provides to any country is unconditional.”
He said that while Israel had the right to defend itself, “those rights come with obligations and that obligation includes conducting this conflict in a way that distinguishes civilians from non-combatants in a way that is proportional.”
Mr Finer accused Hamas of committing “flagrant violations of international laws” but said that “this does not diminish Israel’s obligations, it is a facet of this conflict that makes the challenge extremely daunting.”
Responding to another question, Mr Sullivan revealed that 10 American prisoners remain in Gaza, with three of them qualifying for release under the latest deal due to being women and children.
Twenty-four prisoners were released on Friday in the first wave and an additional 17 were released on Saturday, including a 9-year-old Israeli Irish girl who was believed to be dead.
Just hours before 4-year-old American prisoner Abigail Idan was released by Hamas in Gaza, Mr Sullivan said “we have reasons to believe she would be released soon.”
In a piece he wrote for New York Times last week, Senator Bernie Sanders, said that although the US has provided Israel a “substantial” amount of aid in its war with Hamas, the “blank cheque approach must end.”
“The United States must make clear that … there are conditions to that friendship and that we cannot be complicit in actions that violate international law and our own sense of decency,” he wrote.
“That includes an end to indiscriminate bombing; a significant pause (for humanitarian assistance to (reach Gaza). the right of displaced Gazans to return to their homes; no long-term Israeli occupation of Gaza; an end to settler violence in the West Bank and a freeze on settlement expansion; and a commitment to broad peace talks for a two-state solution in the wake of the war.”
WATCH: Cuban President leads pro-Palestine march
27 minutes ago Orphans, mums and kids: Israel braces for delicate task of receiving hostages An army of Israeli medics, child protection experts and trauma specialists were bracing to receive 13 women and children released from Gaza after weeks of Hamas captivity, AFP reports.
While their identities were not immediately made public, millions of Israelis eagerly awaited news of their return on the first day of a four-day truce and hostage swap.
Authorities were also gearing up for the complex task of helping those released to come to terms with a nearly seven-week hostage ordeal that may have left them deeply traumatised.
“Some don’t know that their significant others — their families, husbands, parents, siblings — have been murdered,” top child protection expert Sarit Sarfatti told reporters ahead of the release.
“Some don’t know that their entire community has been almost entirely annihilated. We will have to break the news to them very soon. This is something that cannot be delayed because we don’t want them to find out through rumours.”
34 minutes ago WATCH: Red Cross teams transport Israeli, Thai hostages out of Gaza
40 minutes ago Qatar says 13 Israelis, 10 Thais and one Filipino freed by Hamas A total of 24 hostages — 13 Israelis, 10 Thais and one Filipino — were handed to the Red Cross in Gaza by Hamas, Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesman said, AFP reports.
“Those released include 13 Israeli citizens, some of whom are dual citizens, in addition to 10 Thai citizens and a Filipino citizen,” Majed Al Ansari said.
He said that 39 women and children detained in Israeli jails had also been freed under a deal to exchange hostages seized by Hamas for Palestinian prisoner
US authorities thwarted a plot to kill a Sikh separatist in the United States and issued a warning to India over concerns the government in New Delhi was involved, the Financial Times (FT) reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.
There was no immediate response from India’s foreign ministry, or from the US embassy in New Delhi to requests for comment on the report.
The Financial Times said that the sources did not say if the protest to India resulted in the plot being abandoned by the plotters, or if it was foiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The protest to New Delhi was registered after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was welcomed on a state visit by President Joe Biden in June, the report said.
The report comes two months after Canada said there were “credible” allegations linking Indian agents to the June murder of a Sikh separatist leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in a Vancouver suburb.
India has rejected Canada’s accusations.
Apart from the diplomatic warning to India, US federal prosecutors have also filed a sealed indictment against at least one suspect in a New York district court, the FT report said.
The paper identified Gurpatwant Singh Pannun as the target of the foiled plot.
The FT report said Pannun had declined to say whether US authorities had warned him about the plot, but quoted him as saying he would “let the US government respond to the issue of threats to my life on American soil from the Indian operatives”.
Pannun, like Nijjar, is a proponent of a decades-long, but now fringe demand to carve out an independent Sikh homeland from India named Khalistan.
India’s anti-terror agency recently filed a case against him for threatening not to let flag carrier Air India operate anywhere in the world while warning its passengers of danger to their lives.
US opposes displacement of Gazans to another country: US envoy United States Special Envoy for Middle East Humanitarian Issues David Satterfield has said the country is against the displacement of Palestinians from the battered Gaza Strip to another country, Reuters reports.
Satterfield told Lebanese broadcaster al-Jadeed that Gazans displaced to the strip’s south by Israel’s military operations “must be allowed to return to homes in the north as soon as possible”.
He said the US “wants to see Israel succeed in its campaign” and warned Hezbollah to halt missile fire on Israel if it wanted to avoid an escalation.
24 minutes ago Swiss govt to propose legislation to ban Hamas The Swiss government said it has decided to propose a ban on the Palestinian group Hamas, Reuters reports.
A ban on Hamas is “the most appropriate response to the situation that has prevailed in the Middle East since 7 October,” when the group launched an attack on Israel from the Gaza Strip, said the government in a statement
37 minutes ago More than 50 from same family killed in north Gaza: Palestinian minister More than 50 members of the same family have been killed in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza during Israel’s military campaign, the Palestinian foreign minister said, Reuters reports.
“Only this morning, from the Qadoura family in Jabalia, 52 people have been wiped out completely, killed,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said on the sidelines of a briefing by Arab and Muslim foreign ministers in London.
“I have the list of the names, 52 of them, they were wiped out completely from grandfather to grandchildren.”
42 minutes ago Israeli-Palestinian peace camp shaken but determined The Israel-Palestinian peace camp has long promoted dialogue against hatred and bloodshed but the passions inflamed by the deadliest Gaza fighting yet pose entirely new challenges for the movement.
Many of its activists believe that talking to each other is now more important than ever, at a time when the fighting rages unabated and both sides mourn their dead.
“It wasn’t easy before the war,” said Sulaiman Khatib of Combatants for Peace, a group he co-founded in 2006 and whose Israeli and Palestinian members hold weekly meetings and frequent protests.
“But now it’s even mor