Gaza medics say Israeli fire wounds dozens of protesters

Palestinians protest on the beach at the border with Israel near Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Monday, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (AP)
Updated 02 October 2018

Gaza medics say Israeli fire wounds dozens of protesters

GAZA CITY: Gaza’s Health Ministry says 37 Palestinians have been wounded by Israeli gunfire at a beach protest.
The ministry says thousands protested Monday near the land and sea barrier in the northwestern corner of the Gaza Strip, and that dozens suffered from tear gas inhalation.
Fishing boats raising Palestinian flags participated in the protest against the blockade of Gaza, calling for an end to decade-long restrictions on fishing.
The protest was called by Hamas, which seized power in Gaza in 2007. Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade since then, citing security concerns.
Hamas has staged regular demonstrations against the blockade since March. Israeli fire has killed at least 144 Palestinians in the border protests. In August, a Gaza sniper shot an Israeli soldier dead.
This comes as the United Nations agency that supports Palestinian refugees withdrew some of its international staff from the Gaza Strip on Monday, saying it was concerned for their safety, a statement from the organization said.
Anger has mounted in Gaza over the past few weeks among Palestinian employees of UNRWA (The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees). Facing a financial crisis, the organization has had to cut jobs in Gaza, sparking strikes and protests.
“UNRWA today decided to temporarily withdraw part of its international staff from Gaza following a series of worrying security incidents affecting its personnel in the Strip,” the agency said.
UNRWA said its director of operations and other international staff would remain in Gaza and that its operations continue there. A source in Gaza said 13 international staff were withdrawn and six more remained in the Strip.
“Earlier today, a number of staff were harassed and prevented from carrying out their duties by individuals protesting recent measures resulting from UNRWA’s challenging financial situation,” the statement said.
Hani Al-Omari, a local UNRWA employee, told Reuters that dozens of people whose jobs were recently cut or reduced had gathered outside a hotel where they heard UNRWA international staff were meeting, some surrounding the vehicle of one of them.
“We wanted to send a message to them that they will not be comfortable while they plan to execute us by cutting our jobs,” Al-Omari said.
UNRWA in its statement called on Gaza authorities to “provide effective protection to its employees and facilities.”
Eyad Al-Bozom, spokesman for the Hamas-led interior ministry in Gaza, said the ministry was committed to the protection of UNRWA’s staff and facilities.
“The protection measures did not change, but due to the recent job reductions in the Gaza Strip there has been anger among the employees. We will not let these protests develop and we will not allow any attacks against employees or facilities,” he said.
UNRWA provides services to about 5 million Palestinian refugees across Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza. Most are descendants of some 700,000 Palestinians who were driven out of their homes or fled fighting in the 1948 war that led to Israel’s creation.
In August, the United States announced a halt in its aid to UNRWA, calling it an “irredeemably flawed operation,” prompting the organization to appeal to donors for help
UNRWA chief Pierre Krahenbuhl said on Thursday that the agency received contributions of $118 million, narrowing a budget gap for this year to $68 million. The pledges were made at a meeting on the sidelines of the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations in New York.
Gaza has been for years in deep economic crisis. With poverty rampant and unemployment high, many of its two million residents depend on UNRWA services.

Militant rocket fire kills 12 civilians in Syria: state media

Updated 29 min 17 sec ago

Militant rocket fire kills 12 civilians in Syria: state media

  • Former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham being blamed for the attack

DAMASCUS: Rocket fire has killed 12 civilians in a regime-held village in northwestern Syria, state news agency SANA has said blaming former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham for the attack.

SANA said 15 people were also wounded late Sunday in the attack on Al-Wadihi village south of Aleppo city and said HTS, which controls parts of Aleppo’s countryside as well as most of neighboring Idlib, was responsible.

It published graphic pictures purporting to show some of the victims in a hospital in the aftermath of the attack, including of bandaged men and children lying on stretchers, thick blankets covering their bodies.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the same death toll — saying five children were among those killed — and also blamed militants based in rural Aleppo for the attack.

But the Britain-based monitor did not specify whether HTS or other allied militant groups were responsible.

The attack came as Syrian government forces have been locked in clashes with HTS fighters in nearby Hama province.

More than 35 combatants, mostly regime forces, were killed on Saturday in battles in Hama’s countryside, according to the Observatory.

Parts of Aleppo, Hama and Idlib are supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented as militants refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, HTS extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian government and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.