Israel kills 42 in Gaza as Netanyahu warns war will go on

Israel kills 42 in Gaza as Netanyahu warns war will go on
A firefighter and others inspect the rubble of a residential building that was hit by an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, Sunday, May 16, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 16 May 2021

Israel kills 42 in Gaza as Netanyahu warns war will go on

Israel kills 42 in Gaza as Netanyahu warns war will go on
  • The Gaza Health Ministry said 16 women and 10 children were among those killed
  • Earlier, the Israeli military said it destroyed the home of Gaza’s top Hamas leader in a separate strike

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip: Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City flattened three buildings and killed at least 42 people Sunday, Palestinian medics said. Despite the heavy death toll and international efforts to broker a cease-fire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled the fourth war with Gaza’s Hamas rulers would rage on.
In a televised address, Netanyahu said Sunday evening the attacks were continuing at “full-force” and will “take time.“ Israel “wants to levy a heavy price” from the Hamas militant group, he said, flanked by his defense minister and political rival, Benny Gantz, in a show of unity.
The Israeli air assault early Sunday was the deadliest single attack since heavy fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas nearly a week ago, marking the worst fighting here since their devastating 2014 war in Gaza.
The airstrikes hit a major downtown street of residential buildings and storefronts over the course of five minutes after midnight, destroying two adjacent buildings and one about 50 yards (meters) down the road.
At one point, a rescuer shouted, “Can you hear me?” into a hole in the rubble. “Are you OK?” Minutes later, first responders pulled a survivor out and carried him off on an orange stretcher. The Gaza Health Ministry said 16 women and 10 children were among those killed, with more than 50 people wounded, and rescue efforts are still underway.
Earlier, the Israeli military said it destroyed the home of Gaza’s top Hamas leader, Yahiyeh Sinwar, in a separate strike in the southern town of Khan Younis. It was the third such attack in the last two days on the homes of senior Hamas leaders, who have gone underground.

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Israel appears to have stepped up strikes in recent days to inflict as much damage as possible on Hamas as international mediators work to end the fighting and stave off an Israeli ground invasion in Gaza. But targeting the group’s leaders could hinder those efforts. A US diplomat is in the region to try to de-escalate tensions, and the UN Security Council is meeting Sunday.
In its airstrikes, Israel has leveled a number of Gaza City’s tallest office and residential buildings, alleging they contain Hamas military infrastructure. Among them was the building housing The Associated Press office and those of other media outlets.
The latest outbreak of violence began in east Jerusalem last month, when Palestinian protests and clashes with police broke out in response to Israeli police tactics during Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers. A focal point of clashes was the Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint that is located on a hilltop compound that is revered by both Muslims and Jews.
Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, triggering the Israeli assault on impoverished Gaza, which is home to more than 2 million Palestinians and has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power from rival Palestinian forces in 2007.
At least 188 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including 55 children and 33 women, with 1,230 people wounded. Eight people in Israel have been killed, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier.
Speaking alongside Netanyahu on Sunday, Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, said Hamas did not anticipate Israel’s overwhelming response to its rocket fire. “Hamas made a serious and grave mistake and didn’t read us properly.”
The turmoil has also spilled over elsewhere, fueling protests in the occupied West Bank and stoking violence within Israel between its Jewish and Arab citizens, with clashes and vigilante attacks on people and property.
On Sunday, a driver rammed into an Israeli checkpoint in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah — where the Palestinian families had been threatened with eviction — injuring six officers before police shot and killed the attacker, Israeli police said.
The violence also sparked pro-Palestinian protests in cities across Europe and the United States, with French police firing tear gas and water cannons at demonstrators in Paris.
The military said Sunday it struck Sinwar’s home and that of his brother Muhammad, another senior Hamas member. On Saturday it destroyed the home of Khalil al-Hayeh, a senior figure in Hamas’ political branch.
Hamas’ upper echelon has gone into hiding in Gaza, and it is unlikely any were at home at the time of the strikes. Hamas’ top leader, Ismail Haniyeh, divides his time between Turkey and Qatar, both of which provide political support to the group.
Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group have acknowledged 20 fighters killed since the fighting broke out Monday. Israel says the real number is far higher and has released the names and photos of two dozen alleged operatives it says were “eliminated.”
An Egyptian diplomat said Israel’s targeting of Hamas political leaders would complicate cease-fire efforts. The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door negotiations, said Cairo is working to broker an end to the fighting, as are other international actors.
The Egyptian diplomat said the destruction of Hamas’ rocket capabilities would require a ground invasion that would “inflame the whole region.” Egypt, which made peace with Israel decades ago, has threatened to “suspend” cooperation in various fields, the official said, without elaborating.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has affirmed its support for Israel while working to de-escalate the crisis. American diplomat Hady Amr met with Gantz, the Israeli defense minister, who thanked the US for its support. Gantz said Israel “takes every precaution to strike at military targets only and avoid harming civilians, while its civilians are the targets of indiscriminate attack.”
Hamas and other militant groups have fired some 2,900 rockets into Israel. The military said 450 of the rockets had fallen short or misfired, while Israeli air defenses intercepted 1,150.
The interception rate appeared to have significantly dropped since the start of the conflict, when Israel said 90% were intercepted. The military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Israel has meanwhile carried out hundreds of airstrikes across Gaza.
On Saturday, Israel bombed the 12-story al-Jalaa Building, which housed the offices of The Associated Press, the TV network Al-Jazeera and other media outlets, along with several floors of apartments.
Netanyahu alleged that Hamas military intelligence was operating inside the building. Such reasoning is routinely given for targeting certain locations in airstrikes, including residential buildings. The military also has accused the militant group of using journalists as human shields, but provided no evidence to back up the claims.
The AP has operated from the building for 15 years, including through three previous wars between Israel and Hamas. During those conflicts as well as the current one, the news agency’s cameras, operating from its top floor office and roof terrace, offered 24-hour live shots as militants’ rockets arched toward Israel and Israeli airstrikes hammered the city and its surroundings.
“We have had no indication Hamas was in the building or active in the building,” AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt said in a statement. “This is something we actively check to the best of our ability. We would never knowingly put our journalists at risk.”
In the afternoon, the military called the building’s owner and warned a strike would come within an hour. AP staffers and other occupants evacuated safely. Soon after, three missiles hit the building and destroyed it, bringing it crashing down in a giant cloud of dust.
“The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today,” Pruitt said. “We are shocked and horrified.”


Mother and four daughters killed as they looked for fuel amid Lebanon’s petrol shortage

Mother and four daughters killed as they looked for fuel amid Lebanon’s petrol shortage
Updated 22 min 36 sec ago

Mother and four daughters killed as they looked for fuel amid Lebanon’s petrol shortage

Mother and four daughters killed as they looked for fuel amid Lebanon’s petrol shortage
  • Family were preparing for journey to Beirut airport to meet father as he returned from working abroad
  • Lebanon facing vast queues for petrol amid fuel shortage and economic crisis

BEIRUT: A Lebanese mother and her four daughters were killed when their car was hit by a military vehicle as they searched for fuel amid Lebanon’s petrol shortage.

The family were preparing to travel from southern Lebanon to Beirut airport this week to pick up the daughters’ father, who was expected to fly home from working abroad.

Fatima Koubeissi, her twins Tia and Lia, 4, and her two other daughters Aya, 13, and Zahra, 17, were killed when the military vehicle hit their car from behind on Monday night. Another relative, Hussein Zein, 22, who was driving their car, died on Tuesday from his injuries.

The sisters had not seen their father, Imad Hawile, since he went looking for a job in Liberia five months ago, their uncle Qassim Hawile told Arab News.

Amid a worsening economic crisis, Lebanon is suffering massive fuel shortages with long queues outside petrol stations leading to traffic jams on nearby roads.

Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces [ISF] traffic control section reported a number of recent accidents caused by petrol queues.

The family from Al-Sharqeyye village went searching for petrol on Monday afternoon to prepare for the journey to the airport on Wednesday.

“We have not been able to find petrol across the south,” Qassim said.

ISF’s traffic control said the accident involved five cars and took place on the Jeyye-Saida highway.

A cousin of Fatima told Arab News that the accident happened because of a “vehicle that came in the opposite direction of the road wanting to bypass a queue outside a petrol station.
“They (the mother and four daughters) died on the spot,” he said.

Qassim said his brother contracted malaria during his first month in Liberia and then a second time “so he decided to return for better medication.”

“We did not want my brother to know that his family died in the crash but he saw the news and images on Facebook,” said Qassim.

He said the funeral was expected to take place on Thursday.

The accident happened when their driver saw two BMWs rammed into each other so he stopped but the military vehicle came and hit them from the back, sending it into a pick-up truck, Qassim said.
Civil Defense and Red Cross teams attended the scene and moved the injured and the dead to nearby hospitals.

Petrol stations have been constantly low on subsidized petrol for weeks, but shortages worsened in June as people’s fears of rationing and shortages intensified, leading to a large number of petrol stations closing down.

A number of fistfights, heated arguments and shootings have taken place between irritated drivers.
Last week, three people were injured in an accident outside a petrol station where cars were queueing on the highway connecting Beirut to southern.


Sudan asks UN Security Council to meet over Ethiopia’s Blue Nile dam — statement

Sudan asks UN Security Council to meet over Ethiopia’s Blue Nile dam — statement
Updated 11 min 14 sec ago

Sudan asks UN Security Council to meet over Ethiopia’s Blue Nile dam — statement

Sudan asks UN Security Council to meet over Ethiopia’s Blue Nile dam — statement

KHARTOUM: Sudan asked the UN Security Council on Tuesday to meet and discuss the dispute over the giant dam that is being built by Ethiopian on the Blue Nile, a government statement said.
Sudan’s foreign minister sent a message to the council head calling him to urge Ethiopia to stop the “unilateral” filling of the dam “which exacerbates the dispute and poses a threat to regional and international peace and security,” the statement added.


Italy is a ‘strategic partner,’ says interim Libyan leader

Italy is a ‘strategic partner,’ says interim Libyan leader
Updated 22 June 2021

Italy is a ‘strategic partner,’ says interim Libyan leader

Italy is a ‘strategic partner,’ says interim Libyan leader
  • During meeting with Italian PM Mario Draghi in Rome, Mohamed Younes Menfi stresses ‘importance of partnership and cooperation’
  • The head of the Libyan Presidential Council visited Italy on the eve of the second Berlin Conference on Libya

ROME: The chairman of the Libyan Presidential Council, Mohamed Younes Menfi, considers Italy “a strategic partner for Libya.” During a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi in Rome on Tuesday he also stressed “the importance of partnership and cooperation” with the European nation, according to Italian sources.

Menfi also had a lengthy meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella. His visit to the Italian capital, his first official trip to another country since he was appointed in March, came on the eve of the second Berlin Conference on Libya.

German diplomatic sources told Arab News that the main points of final declaration by the conference about the continuing political process should include a call for the immediate withdrawal of foreign mercenaries from Libya, and strong encouragement to Libyan authorities to play their part in ensuring that democratic elections take place in the country by Dec. 24 as scheduled.

According to a press release issued by the Libyan Presidential Council following Menfi’s meeting with Draghi, the Italian prime minister “reaffirmed his country’s support for the political transition in Libya and to the work of the Presidential Council,” and praised the results achieved so far.

Italian sources said that an agreement was reached for greater coordination in matters related to security and to the prevention of illegal immigration from Libya, and Italy has offered to provide further support to help secure Libya’s borders.

The Italian Coast Guard has said that Libya is the main point of departure in North Africa for migrants attempting to reach Italy on often fragile vessels.


UK urged to stand with Iranian people, reject new president

UK urged to stand with Iranian people, reject new president
Updated 22 June 2021

UK urged to stand with Iranian people, reject new president

UK urged to stand with Iranian people, reject new president
  • British Committee for Iran Freedom: ‘Elections in Iran neither free, fair nor representative’
  • Conservative MP urges UK govt to hold Tehran ‘to account for its support of terrorism, systematic human rights abuses’

LONDON: The British Committee for Iran Freedom (BCFIF) on Tuesday urged the UK government to reject newly elected Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and campaign for him to face justice for human rights abuses. 

Raisi won the presidential election on June 18, but the BCFIF said in a statement: “Elections in Iran are neither free, fair nor representative. It reflects the will of the unelected Supreme Leader and serves as a process to further strengthen the theocracy’s grip on power to the detriment of the Iranian people.”

It added: “This was made clear again on June 18 as the Iranian people rejected the theocracy in its entirety with a widespread national boycott of the presidential election farce.”

The BCFIF said Raisi “had an extensive role in the regime’s current and past crimes against humanity, including the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners and PMOI (People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran) members and supporters in Iran as well as the killing of 1,500 protesters and torture of thousands of arrested protesters during and after the nationwide protests in November 2019.”

In the week after Raisi’s election victory, Sir David Amess, a Conservative MP and co-chairman of the BCFIF, said: “The people of Iran answered the call by the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) Mrs Maryam Rajavi and completely boycotted the election farce in Iran.” 

He added that the BCFIF supports Rajavi’s call “for Raisi to be investigated and face justice in an international tribunal. This issue must be a priority for the UK Government during the 47th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.”

Andrew Rosindell, a Conservative MP and member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said: “With Raisi as president, the regime is signalling that it will continue its repression, persecution of popular dissent and export of terrorism.”

He added: “It is time for our government to follow the recommendations in our report which includes proscribing the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) in its entirety and taking steps to end the impunity of Iranian officials by holding the regime to account for its support of terrorism and systematic human rights abuses.”


EU threatens sanctions over Libya political gridlock

EU threatens sanctions over Libya political gridlock
Updated 22 June 2021

EU threatens sanctions over Libya political gridlock

EU threatens sanctions over Libya political gridlock
  • Warning comes ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers to oversee the withdrawal of foreign forces from the war-torn country
  • Some groups in Libya’s Parliament have engaged in what the EU now views as a delaying tactic

LONDON: The EU has warned that any country or group that delays Libya’s planned elections on Dec. 24 this year will face harsh sanctions.

The warning comes ahead of a meeting of foreign ministers to oversee the withdrawal of foreign forces from the war-torn country.

The Berlin talks will look to outline guidelines for the withdrawal of foreign fighters, and again demand that elections take place at the end of the year. However, previous deadlines set for military withdrawals have been ignored.

The UN has proposed a meeting in Geneva next week of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum to discuss election details. 

But some groups in Libya’s Parliament have engaged in what the EU now views as a delaying tactic, by blocking elections or demanding referendums on a new constitution prior to any nationwide vote. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to attend the Berlin meeting, which follows talks last December that outlined an in-depth roadmap to take Libya toward democracy and end the civil war.

A national unity government was set up in February, but has been hampered by politicians privately seeking election delays.

Many in the country’s elite political class, labeled as oligarchs by critics, are said to fear the loss of power and financial clout that could result from an election.

The Berlin meeting has been urged by the group Lawyers for Justice in Libya to protect human rights in the country and punish those breaching the UN arms embargo, including some states that took part in the last conference. 

The advocacy group also warned that freedom of expression, assembly and association must be protected in order for free and fair elections to be held. 

The House of Representatives, Libya’s existing Parliament, has proved to be the main source of delays, despite its Speaker Aguila Saleh claiming that a national election is a prerequisite for reconciliation in the country.

The Parliament was ordered by the UN to agree to the idea of a constitution-based election and adopt legislation by July 1.

But Libya has descended into a political stalemate, with disagreements about the constitution that would control any future elected president.

Former Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga is a favorite to win, but there are rumors that Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif Al-Islam will also stage a bid for the presidency.