Palestinian militants fire rocket at Jewish settlement

Palestinian militants fire rocket at Jewish settlement
Mourners carry the body of a Palestinian who was killed in an Israeli raid, during his funeral in Jericho, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 August 2023
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Palestinian militants fire rocket at Jewish settlement

Palestinian militants fire rocket at Jewish settlement
  • Israel says launch failed
  • Two killed in rare Israeli raid on West Bank city of Jericho

JERUSALEM: Palestinian militants renewed their efforts to fire a rocket at a Jewish settlement on Tuesday amid spiralling violence in the occupied West Bank.

A group called the Ayyash Battalion said its fighters “succeeded in striking the unlawful settlement Shaked, west of Jenin, with a Qassam rocket.” The attack was a “response to the enemy crimes against our people,” itsaid.

The Israeli military described the incident as a “failed rocket launch,” and said soldiers had located the improvised rocket and launcher remnants.

It was the fourth incident of rocket fire or an attempted launch in the northern West Bank since June 26. There have been no reports of related casualties.

Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip are known to have large stockpiles of rockets, but their presence in the West Bank has been rare. Israeli forces have also been changing their approach in the West Bank, with drone strikes on Palestinian targets in recent months.

Israeli troops killed two Palestinians on Tuesday in the first deadly raid in the Jericho area for months. The Palestinian health ministry identified those killed as Qusay Omar Suleiman Al-Walaji, 17, and Mohammed Ribhi Njoom, 25.

Nasser Al-Anani, director of Jericho’s public hospital, said the two victims suffered “wounds right in the heart with explosive bullets.” Two other wounded people had been admitted to the hospital, he said.

Omar Al-Walaji, the father of the dead teenager, said his son used to ride his motorcycle to any clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces. “He used to work with me at the greengrocer’s and he moved around a lot,” he said.

Ribhi Njoom, whose family lives in the Aqbat Jabr camp next to where the raid took place, said he did not know how his son came to be fatally shot. “Every time the occupation army enters the camp, young people gather and throw stones at the army,” he said.


Suspected fake Ozempic causes hypoglycemia in 11 in Lebanon

Suspected fake Ozempic causes hypoglycemia in 11 in Lebanon
Updated 29 November 2023
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Suspected fake Ozempic causes hypoglycemia in 11 in Lebanon

Suspected fake Ozempic causes hypoglycemia in 11 in Lebanon
  • Officials suspected the drugs were fake after discovering the doses were different from the ones calibrated for authentic
  • Ozempic injector pens Counterfeit Ozempic has already been found in at least 17 countries, including the UK, Germany, Egypt and Russia

BEIRUT: Eleven people suffered bouts of dangerously low blood sugar in Lebanon this year, one of whom required hospitalization, after injecting suspected fake versions of Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drug Ozempic, according Lebanese health officials.
A director for the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health, Rita Karam, said officials suspected the drugs were fake after discovering the doses were different from the ones calibrated for authentic Ozempic injector pens.
Explosive demand for Ozempic and other drugs used for weight loss, including Eli Lilly’s Mounjaro and Novo’s Wegovy, is fueling a global surge in counterfeit versions, Reuters interviews with law enforcement, anti-counterfeiting and public health officials showed last month.
Counterfeit Ozempic has already been found in at least 17 countries, including the UK, Germany, Egypt and Russia. Several have issued warnings to pharmacies and consumers to be vigilant about counterfeits, since it is not clear what they actually contain.
Karam said the ministry had begun investigations into the 11 cases, but that the source and batch numbers of the drugs in question had not been identified in most, which made it hard to determine what the victims may have taken.
Three of the people who took the suspected fake Ozempic did so to control their diabetes, while four took it for weight management, Karam said. The other four injected the drug for an ‘unspecified indication.’
People with diabetes need to closely manage their blood sugar, which can be done with a variety of medicines including Ozempic. When blood sugar, or glucose level, gets too low they can suffer hypoglycemia, with symptoms that may include headaches or dizziness and can progress to a loss of consciousness or seizures.
Lebanon’s Ministry of Public Health issued two recalls related to Ozempic in January 2023, according to its website. No cases of potentially counterfeit Ozempic were reported in Lebanon in 2022, Karam said.
Novo Nordisk said it investigates and reports every counterfeit case it finds to local authorities, and that it has created a guide for health care providers in the Middle East to show how to spot fake drugs.
More than a quarter of Lebanese adults are obese, according to 2017 figures from the World Obesity Federation. Obesity has been closely linked with type 2 diabetes, by far the most common form of the disease.
Data from the International Diabetes Federation showed that almost 9 percent of adults in Lebanon had diabetes in 2021, compared to nearly 14 percent in the United States.
Karam said Ozempic is neither purchased nor provided by the Ministry of Public Health.
Wegovy, Novo Nordisk’s weight-loss drug with the same active ingredient — semaglutide — as Ozempic, was shown to help patients lose an average of 15 percent of their weight in a late-stage trial.
The scramble for supplies of the powerful pound-shedding molecule has led to shortages of Ozempic in several countries including Britain, Germany, Belgium and the United States.
A source familiar with anti-counterfeiting efforts told Reuters last month that markets where sales of fake weight-loss drugs were most prevalent included Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East.
Several people have been hospitalized in Austria for hypoglycemia after taking potentially fake versions of Ozempic. The health safety regulator there said the side effects indicated the product contained insulin instead of semaglutide.
Last month, Belgium’s drug regulator said it had seized counterfeit versions of Ozempic in which the injector pens were confirmed to contain insulin.


More captives to be freed as Israel-Hamas truce extended

More captives to be freed as Israel-Hamas truce extended
Updated 29 November 2023
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More captives to be freed as Israel-Hamas truce extended

More captives to be freed as Israel-Hamas truce extended
  • US, Israeli spy chiefs in Doha to discuss ‘next phase’ of deal, fueling hopes for prolonged halt to violence

GAZA STRIP: A new group of Israeli hostages are due to be freed in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, as Israel and Hamas accused each other of violating an extended truce in their devastating seven-week war.

The temporary cessation of hostilities and releases of captives have been hailed as a glimpse of hope in the conflict sparked by deadly Hamas attacks that prompted an Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

As a two-day extension to the pause in hostilities began, US and Israeli intelligence chiefs were in Doha, capital of truce mediator Qatar, to discuss the “next phase” of the deal, fueling hopes for a prolonged halt to the violence.

Israel and Hamas are under international pressure not to return to all-out fighting when the latest truce ends on Thursday, but instead to build on the prisoner swaps to find a solution to the conflict.

A source close to Hamas said that 10 hostages held in Gaza would be freed in return for 30 prisoners released from Israeli prisons on Tuesday.

In addition to those releases, “some foreign workers held in Gaza” will also be freed, the source said.

Israeli leaders, however, have so far insisted that their campaign to crush Hamas will resume once they have received as many hostages as possible in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

And on Tuesday, each side accused the other of breaking the truce agreement.

Palestinian movements denounced what they dubbed “truce violations by the occupier,” and a journalist saw an Israeli tank fire three times in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City as Palestinians attempted to make use of the lull to return to their homes.

The Israeli military described the shelling as “warning shots,” saying a tank fired as suspected militants approached army positions. At least one person was hurt, the reporter saw.

The Israeli military meanwhile alleged that three explosive devices were detonated near its forces in the northern Gaza strip, “violating the framework of the operational pause.”

The IDF said: “In one of the locations, terrorists also opened fire at the troops, who responded with fire. A number of soldiers were lightly injured during the incidents.

“In both incidents, the troops were located in positions as per the framework of the operational pause.”

Israel’s ground and air operation in the Gaza Strip has killed almost 15,000 people, mostly civilians, according to the territory’s Hamas government.

TV images show buildings several stories high flattened by the Israeli bombardments in the central Gaza Strip and residents walking through the rubble of ruined homes.

Israel has vowed to stick to its war aim of destroying Hamas and rescuing all 240 hostages.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari said that his government would use the extension to work for a “sustainable truce.”

The heads of the US and Israeli intelligence agencies were in Qatar to discuss the “next phase” of the Gaza deal, a source briefed on their visit said.

“The director of the CIA and the director of the Israeli National Intelligence Agency are in Doha to meet with the Qatari prime minister,” the source said, requesting anonymity.

The discussions, he said, aim “to build on the progress of the extended humanitarian pause agreement and to initiate further discussions about the next phase of a potential deal.”

The latest round of exchanges on Monday night brought the total number of people released under the truce to 50 Israeli hostages, and 150 Palestinian prisoners, all women and minors.

Another 19 hostages have been freed under separate deals, including Thai workers and a dual Russian-Israeli citizen.

Sharon Calderon, the aunt of 16-year-old Sahar and 12-year-old Erez who were released on Monday, called for their father Ofer to be freed also. Two other family members were killed on Oct. 7.

“We’ve got Erez and Sahar here and we’re very, very happy we got them home. We have to get Ofer and the rest of the kidnapped and bring them here ... to be again a big happy family.”

Shortly after the arrival of the hostages was confirmed, Israel’s prison authority said 33 Palestinian inmates had been released.

In annexed East Jerusalem, Palestinian prisoner Muhammad Abu Al-Humus called his release “an indescribable joy” and kissed his mother’s hand as he entered his home.

“I’m very happy. I hope that others will soon be released — my friends, my cousins.”

Israel views the truce as a temporary measure to secure hostage releases and says it plans to continue its military offensive.

The government has agreed a 30.3 billion shekel ($8.2 billion) war budget that will now go to parliament.

But Israel faces increasing pressure for a more lasting ceasefire and the ramp-up of humanitarian aid to Gaza, where an estimated 1.7 million people have been displaced, according to the UN.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to pay his third wartime visit to the Middle East this week, meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

US officials said the United States was sending three military aircraft to Egypt from Tuesday to bring medicine, food and “winter items” for Gaza via northern Egypt.

In Gaza, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said no fuel had arrived for generators at hospitals in the territory’s north, despite the truce.

The World Food Programme said it had delivered food to 121,161 people in Gaza since Friday, when the truce began, but that a high risk of famine remained. “What we see is catastrophic,” said WFP’s director for the Middle East, Corinne Fleischer.

The UN children’s agency UNICEF said aid flows into northern Gaza had increased since the truce began, but spokesman James Elder warned that given the destruction “all this aid is triage (minimum emergency care) ... It’s not even enough for triage.”


No attacks on US troops since Israel-Hamas truce began: Pentagon

No attacks on US troops since Israel-Hamas truce began: Pentagon
Updated 28 November 2023
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No attacks on US troops since Israel-Hamas truce began: Pentagon

No attacks on US troops since Israel-Hamas truce began: Pentagon
  • “There have been no attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria since November 23, since the operational pause began,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told journalists
  • The attacks have caused injuries to dozens of American personnel — who are in Iraq and Syria

WASHINGTON: The near-daily attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria have stopped since a truce between Israel and Hamas went into effect last week, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
American forces in the two countries have been targeted with rockets and drones more than 70 times since mid-October — a surge in violence the United States has blamed on Iran-backed forces.
“There have been no attacks on US forces in Iraq and Syria since November 23, since the operational pause began,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told journalists.
The attacks have caused injuries to dozens of American personnel — who are in Iraq and Syria as part of efforts to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State jihadist group — but all have since returned to duty.
The spike in attacks on US forces is linked to the war between Israel and Hamas, triggered on October 7 when the Palestinian militant group carried out a shock cross-border attack from Gaza that Israeli officials say killed about 1,200 people.
Israel responded with a relentless land and air on Hamas-controlled Gaza that the territory’s health ministry says has killed almost 15,000 people.
Those deaths have provoked widespread anger in the Middle East and provided an impetus for attacks against American troops in the region by armed groups opposed to their presence and to Washington’s backing for Israel.
A four-day truce mediated by Qatar went into effect on November 24 under which Hamas released hostages and Israel freed Palestinian prisoners.
The truce has since been extended and mediators are working for a lasting halt to the seven-week Israel-Hamas war.
The United States was flying drones over Gaza as part of efforts to locate hostages seized by Hamas, but those activities have been paused as part of the truce, Ryder said.


US tells Israel any military operation in Gaza must avoid further civilian displacement

US tells Israel any military operation in Gaza must avoid further civilian displacement
Updated 28 November 2023
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US tells Israel any military operation in Gaza must avoid further civilian displacement

US tells Israel any military operation in Gaza must avoid further civilian displacement
  • The US wants Israel to carefully think its military campaign due to mounting pressure caused by Palestinian death toll
  • Benjamin Netanyahu has already indicated Israeli forces will restart military operation after the conclusion of ceasefire

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration has told Israel that it must work to avoid “significant further displacement” of Palestinian civilians in southern Gaza if it renews its ground campaign aimed at eradicating the Hamas militant group, senior US officials said.
The administration, seeking to avoid more large-scale civilian casualties or mass displacement like that seen before the current temporary pause in the fighting, underscored to the Israelis that they must operate with far greater precision in southern Gaza than they did in the north, the officials said, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the White House.
Amid mounting international and domestic pressure about the rising Palestinian death toll, the White House has begun to put greater pressure on Israel that the manner of the coming campaign must be “carefully thought through,” according to one of the officials. The Israelis have been receptive when administration officials have raised these concerns, the official said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that Israeli Defense Forces will eventually restart military operations after the conclusion of the current, temporary ceasefire that has allowed for an exchange of hostages taken by Hamas for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. The two sides agreed Monday to extend the truce for an additional two days and to continue swapping hostages for prisoners.
President Joe Biden has said he would like to see the pause — which has also allowed a surge of much-needed humanitarian aid to get into Gaza — continue as long as feasible. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return this week to the Middle East as the US hopes to find a way to extend the ceasefire and get more hostages released, the State Department said Monday. It will be his third trip to the region since Israel’s war with Hamas began last month.
Still, Biden and top officials have also been clear-eyed about Israel’s desire to continue operations focused on Hamas that over the last seven weeks have largely focused on the north. They have said they support Israel’s goal of eliminating Hamas’ control over Gaza and the threat it poses to Israeli civilians, but have grown more vocal about the need to protect the lives of Palestinian civilians. Hamas has been known to seek shelter among the territory’s civilian population, and Israeli officials have released videos from northern Gaza of what they said are weapons stockpiles and firing locations placed among civilian infrastructure.
More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began on Oct. 7, roughly two-thirds of them women and minors, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. More than 1,200 people have been killed on the Israeli side, mostly civilians killed in the initial attack. At least 77 soldiers have been killed in Israel’s ground offensive.
The US believes roughly 2 million Palestinians are now in south and central Gaza. Biden administration officials have made clear to the Israelis that an already stretched humanitarian support network would be unable to cope with the sort of displacement that those from northern Gaza have endured in Israel’s retaliatory strikes and ground operations.
Biden administration officials have also told the Israelis they expect them to conduct operations in a way that will be “maximally deconflicted” with the operation of humanitarian aid facilities, United Nations-supported shelters and core infrastructure, including electricity and water.
The World Health Organization has warned that the war has caused a burgeoning public health crisis that is a recipe for epidemics as displaced Palestinians have been forced to take shelter in cramped homes and camps.
One administration official said vaccines are among the medical goods flowing into Gaza, but there has also been a focus on potable water supplies and sanitation to prevent outbreaks of typhoid and cholera. To that end, the White House has also pushed to get as much fuel into Gaza as possible — something the Israelis resisted, particularly in the first weeks of war, citing concerns that it would be siphoned by Hamas.
The officials said the US on Tuesday would dispatch the first of three US military humanitarian aid flights to northern Egypt carrying medical supplies, food aid and winter items for Gaza’s civilian population.


Hamas senior official invites Elon Musk to visit Gaza

Hamas senior official invites Elon Musk to visit Gaza
Updated 28 November 2023
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Hamas senior official invites Elon Musk to visit Gaza

Hamas senior official invites Elon Musk to visit Gaza
  • “We invite him to visit Gaza to see the extent of the massacres and destruction committed,” Hamas’ senior official Osama Hamdan said

BEIRUT: A Hamas senior official invited US billionaire Elon Musk on Tuesday to visit the Palestinian Gaza strip to see the extent of destruction caused by the Israeli bombardment.
“We invite him to visit Gaza to see the extent of the massacres and destruction committed against the people of Gaza, in compliance with the standards of objectivity and credibility,” Hamas’ senior official Osama Hamdan said in a press conference in Beirut.
On Monday, Elon Musk, the social media mogul assailed for his endorsement of an anti-Jewish post, toured the site of the Hamas assault on Israel and declared his commitment to do whatever was necessary to stop the spread of hatred.