TEHRAN: Iran on Wednesday condemned Britain for criticizing the Islamic republic over the launch of its latest military satellite into orbit.
The Islamic republic announced last week the “successful” launch of the Noor-3 imaging satellite by its three-stage Qassed rocket, in the latest display of its aerospace technology.
Western nations have repeatedly warned against such activity, saying the same technology can be used for ballistic missiles including ones designed to deliver nuclear warheads.
Britain on Tuesday denounced the Iranian move, saying it had been done “despite repeated calls from the UN Security Council to halt its ballistic missile program.”
“Iran’s actions further prove its disregard of international restrictions and highlight the grave threat posed by the regime to global security,” it said in a statement.
Iran hit back on Wednesday, condemning the British statement as “interventionist.”
“Achieving scientific and research progress, including in the aerospace field, is the right of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani.
He added that Iran “has reserved the use of peaceful technologies in the path of scientific development and research.”
Last week’s launch was carried out by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
It also drew criticism from Berlin.
“We and our partners remain committed to using all diplomatic means available to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons,” Germany’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
Iran insists it is not seeking nuclear weapons and that its satellite and rocket launches are for civil or defense purposes only.
The Islamic republic has been under crippling US sanctions since Washington’s 2018 withdrawal from a landmark nuclear deal which granted Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its atomic program to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.
Cart ride shows scale of massive destruction in Gaza’s Khan Younis
8-year-old, teen shot dead in West Bank
Erdogan calls Netanyahu ‘butcher of Gaza’
Updated 29 November 2023
GAZA STRIP/RAMALLAH: Swerving to avoid a crater left in the road by a strike, a donkey trots along the debris-strewn streets of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip, then slows to navigate a narrow passageway cleared through the rubble of destroyed apartment blocks.
With a dearth of fuel caused by Israel’s blockade of Gaza since the start of its war against Hamas, donkey carts have become an essential mode of transport for people and goods in the bombarded Palestinian territory.
A reporter crew traveled with Mohammed Al-Najar, whose home in Khan Younis was destroyed by an airstrike and who is now living with his family in a school in Khuza’a, about 8 km away on the eastern outskirts of town.
“It’s hard to move so we use donkey carts. Unfortunately it takes us three to four hours to reach Khan Younis,” said Najar, speaking on the back of the cart.
The slower pace gives a clear view of a city scarred by war, with the white donkey trotting past one scene of destruction after another.
Some buildings had been destroyed, reduced to grey piles of broken concrete and metal rods, the only traces of color from bits of clothing and possessions strewn amid the chaos.
Others were damaged to different degrees — a pockmarked facade, a hole in a wall, missing windows. One was an empty shell, standing thanks to supporting pillars but with no walls.
Sheets of corrugated iron lay on the ground, bent at strange angles, and piles of rubbish and debris were everywhere.
There were hardly any motor vehicles on the road, just the odd scooter. Bicycles were more common, as well as other donkey carts. Mostly, people were on foot. Two men carried a cooking gas cylinder, sharing the weight between them.
At several locations, buildings on both sides of the road had been flattened, and people had cleared passageways just wide enough for one car to pass. The cart passed the burnt-out carcass of a car marooned in chunks of concrete.
The destruction in Khan Younis in the south is not as extreme as in Gaza City and other parts of northern Gaza that have borne the brunt of Israel’s military campaign. Drone footage from the north shows large areas have been blasted into moonscapes.
Meanwhile, an eight-year-old boy and a teenager were killed by the Israeli army on Wednesday in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The ministry said in a statement that “Adam Al-Ghul, eight years old, and Bassem Abu El-Wafa, 15 years old, were killed by bullets from the occupier.”
CCTV footage circulating online and on television news shows a boy being struck by a bullet and falling in the street, sending other children fleeing.
Other images show a teenager also being hit by a bullet and falling, then appearing to call for help as more shots hit the ground around him and other people run for cover.
The teenager can be seen struggling on the ground in apparent agony for at least half a minute.
In other news, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan branded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “the butcher of Gaza” and accused him of spawning anti-Semitism across the world.
“Netanyahu has already written his name in history as the butcher of Gaza,” Erdogan said in nationally televised remarks.
“Netanyahu is endangering the security of all Jews in the world by supporting anti-Semitism with the murders he committed in Gaza.”
Erdogan said: “Statements made by the Netanyahu administration diminish our hopes for the humanitarian pause to be transformed into a lasting ceasefire.”
Separately, Oslo’s city hall on Wednesday raised the Palestinian flag in a show of solidarity with the people of Gaza.
The initiative coincides with the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, celebrated since 1978 following the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly.
“When we know that more than 5,000 children have lost their lives, equivalent to more than 275 school classes, it is only natural to remember them today” Oslo Mayor Anne Lindboe said on the sidelines of the event, which brought together pro-Palestinian activists.
Israel says investigating Hamas report of baby hostage death
The military was “assessing the accuracy of the information”
Hamas official and former Gaza health minister Bassem Naim said later Wednesday at a press conference in Cape Town that the three family members were dead
Updated 29 November 2023
JERUSALEM: Israel’s army said Wednesday it was investigating a report by Hamas’s armed wing that a 10-month-old baby hostage, his four-year-old brother and their mother had all been killed in Gaza.
The military was “assessing the accuracy of the information,” it said in a statement.
“Hamas is wholly responsible for the security of all hostages in the Gaza Strip,” it added. “Hamas’s actions continue to endanger the hostages, which include nine children.”
The Bibas family are among the highest-profile hostages seized in the Hamas attacks on southern Israel on October 7, due to the age of baby Kfir.
The statement from the Israeli military came after the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, announced that Kfir, his brother Ariel and their mother Shiri had been killed in an Israeli bombing in Gaza before the current pause in fighting went into effect.
It made no mention of the boys’ father Yarden.
Hamas official and former Gaza health minister Bassem Naim said later Wednesday at a press conference in Cape Town that the three family members were dead.
“We have confirmed two to three weeks ago that 60 Israelis have been killed under Israeli bombardment and are still under the rubble,” Naim said.
“The woman and her two children are among them, I can confirm that.”
So far, there has been no verification of Hamas’s tally of Israeli hostages killed.
A statement released on behalf of relatives by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said they could only wait for further information.
“Our family has learned of Hamas’s latest claims. We are waiting for the information to be confirmed and hopefully refuted by military officials,” they said.
Images of the baby’s kidnapping from Kibbutz Nir Oz in southern Israel have become one of the symbols of the deadly assault.
The images showed the mother, her face contorted with anguish, holding her two little red-headed boys wrapped in a blanket against her.
Their father was also seen in photographs with his head covered in blood being taken by armed Hamas militants toward the Gaza Strip.
The family were being held by a Palestinian faction other than Hamas, army spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a briefing a few days ago.
Yarden’s sister Ofri Bibas Levy told AFP at a demonstration in Tel Aviv on Tuesday the family’s fate was “directly in the hands of Hamas.”
“Hamas took them and Hamas is required to bring them back now,” she said.
Dana Siton, Shiri’s sister, added that their lives were in “immediate danger... each passing day endangers them.”
Nutritionists interviewed in Israeli media have highlighted the risks of captivity for a baby of 10 months, an age when children are in the process of adapting to solid food.
In one previous case, Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group allied with Hamas, has announced the death of a hostage who was later released alive.
UN chief says Gaza in midst of ‘epic humanitarian catastrophe’
Chinese foreign minister says resumed fighting in Gaza will most likely devour the whole region
Saudi foreign minister warns aid entering Gaza is 'far less than is needed,' demands ceasefire
Updated 29 November 2023
UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday warned that the Gaza Strip was in the midst of an “epic humanitarian catastrophe,” as calls grew for a cease-fire to replace the temporary truce between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants.
“Intense negotiations are taking place to prolong the truce – which we strongly welcome — but we believe we need a true humanitarian cease-fire,” he told a meeting of the UN Security Council, chaired by China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi because China is president of the 15-member council for November.
Last-minute talks continued between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas on Wednesday to extend a truce in Gaza.
“We should work for a comprehensive and lasting cease-fire with the greatest urgency,” Wang told the council. “There is no firewall in Gaza either. Resumed fighting would only, most likely, turn into a calamity that devours the whole region.”
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan — standing with counterparts from Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, Turkiye, Indonesia and Malaysia — told reporters at the United Nations that aid entering Gaza was “far less than is needed.”
“The danger is that if ... this truce expires we will return to the killing at the scale that we have seen, which is unbearable,” he said. “So we are here to make a clear statement that a truce is not enough. What is needed is a cease-fire.”
Addressing the Security Council, Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan accused the ministers of supporting “a terror organization that aims to annihilate Israel.”
“Anyone who supports a cease-fire basically supports Hamas continued reign of terror in Gaza. Hamas is a genocidal terror organization — they don’t hide it — not a reliable partner for peace,” Erdan said. Civilian protection
Israel says Hamas militants killed 1,200 people and took about 240 hostage in a surprise assault on Oct. 7. Israel has focused its retaliation against Hamas in Gaza, bombarding it from the air, imposing a siege and launching a ground assault.
US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said everything possible must be done to scale up aid and protect civilians, including UN staff and journalists.
“The United States has urged Israel to take every possible measure to prevent civilian casualties as it exercises its rights to safeguard its people from acts of terror,” she told the Security Council, adding that Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields “does not lessen Israel’s responsibility.”
More than 15,000 people are confirmed killed, some 40 percent of them under the age of 18, according to Palestinian health authorities deemed reliable by the United Nations. Many more are feared buried under the ruins.
“The truce must become a cease-fire, a permanent cease-fire. The massacres cannot be allowed to resume,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki told the Security Council.
“Our people are faced with an existential threat. Make no mistake about it. With all the talk about the destruction of Israel, it is Palestine that is facing a plan to destroy it, implemented in broad daylight,” he said.
Guterres briefed the Security Council on the implementation of a resolution it adopted earlier this month that called for humanitarian pauses in fighting to allow aid access and the release of all hostages held by Hamas.
The United Nations has scaled up the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza — a coastal enclave of 2.3 million people — during the truce, but Guterres said the level of aid “remains completely inadequate to meet the huge needs.”
“The people of Gaza are in the midst of an epic humanitarian catastrophe before the eyes of the world,” he said. “We must not look away.”
What chances do war-displaced Palestinians in Gaza have of returning to their homes?
Over a seven-week period, Israel’s military has reduced much of once densely populated part of Gaza to rubble
More than 1 million Palestinians have fled the enclave’s north, including Gaza City, considered the urban center
Updated 29 November 2023
LONDON: Following a seemingly successful pause in hostilities, questions are mounting over the fate of Palestinians displaced by the war in Gaza and what hopes they have of returning home if, and when, news breaks of a permanent cessation of hostilities.
In the more than 50 days of constant shelling, Israel’s military has turned much of northern Gaza into a moonscape with entire neighborhoods reduced to rubble.
The homes, hospitals and schools that remain standing are by no means fit to return to, with expectations that authorities will have to go house to house, building to building to determine what level of reconstruction Gazans require.
Yossi Mekelberg, professor of international relations and associate fellow of the MENA Program at Chatham House, told Arab News questions about Palestinians’ return were “heart-breaking.”
“It is a good question to ask but it is also a heart-breaking one because of the level and sheer scale of the destruction, and this is before the war has even been brought to an end and we still do not know if Israel intends to continue offensives further into the south,” Mekelberg said.
“We do know that some Gazans who fled their homes in the north have returned, or tried to return, to see whether their houses are still standing … they were not.”
Over the course of this latest eruption of violence in the more than 75-year-long conflict, it is believed that in excess of one million Palestinians have fled the north of Gaza, including from Gaza City, considered the urban center of the enclave.
Israel’s military may have described the air campaign as unavoidable but emphasizing the sheer scale, UK-based conflict monitor Airwars called it the most intense since the Second World War.
Director of Airwars Emily Tripp told Arab News that this assessment was based on drawing a comparison with the nine-month Battle of Mosul between 2016 and 2017 which, once it ended, had left 80 percent of the city uninhabitable according to the UN and other experts.
“At the time, the US assessed Mosul as the most intense urban battleground since the Second World War and our data shows no more than 6,000 munitions dropped in a single month,” Tripp said.
“If the initial IDF statement of 6,000 munitions dropped in that first week to 10 days holds true, then by the time of the temporary pause last week, it is likely that the IDF has dropped more munitions than the coalition in any month of the campaign against Daesh.”
Speaking to PBS, Yousef Hammash, a Norwegian Refugee Council aid worker who fled south from the ruins of the Jabaliya refugee camp, said he saw no future for his children where they had ended up and wanted “to go home even if I have to sleep on the rubble of my house.”
A 31-year-old taxi driver, Mahmoud Jamal, told the same broadcaster that when he fled Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, he “couldn’t tell which street or intersection I was passing.”
Efforts to keep up-to-date with the scale of damage are hampered by Israeli restrictions on access to Gaza, but in the second week of November the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights suggested at that point about 45 percent of housing stock had been destroyed.
Sources told Arab News that, despite the level of damage, it was “unsurprising” that many Palestinians in Gaza were wary of leaving their homes, but said it remained the safest option.
One said: “In an ideal world, civilians would be able to go somewhere for a short time and come back but there are always concerns that to say they should leave for their safety could be construed as supporting the contention that Israel is looking to ethnically cleanse Gaza.”
• 45 percent Fraction of Gaza housing stock destroyed.
• 6k Shells dropped in a single week in Gaza.
• 1.1m Gaza residents without homes or shelter.
According to Oxfam, those that have stayed number in the hundreds of thousands, even with repeated Israeli warnings for civilians to abandon the northern regions and head south.
Oxfam policy lead Bushra Khalidi, herself based in Ramallah, said Israel’s calls for civilians to relocate south, in the absence of any guarantee of safety or return, amounted to forcible transfer, describing it “as a grave breach of international humanitarian law that must be reversed.”
“There are not enough resources to host over 1.1 million people in the other governorates,” she told Arab News.
“Shelters, aid, water are already in low supply in the south. There is no guarantee that civilians will find refuge in other parts of Gaza. Those who stay behind in northern Gaza cannot be deprived of their protection as civilians.
“The US, UK, EU and other Western and Arab countries that have influence over the Israeli political and military leadership must demand Israel immediately rescind the order to relocate.”
In the face of an apparent lack of leadership from those in positions to influence Israel’s actions in Gaza, the Israeli Defense Forces seems to be in no mood for leniency, having urged those Gazans to have already relocated to relocate again, this time to Muwasi on the coast.
For his part, Mekelberg, noting that when it came to this conflict there was a tendency for the “temporary to become permanent,” said the question becomes one of “where next for Palestinian civilians?”
With 70 percent of Gaza’s prewar population already classified as refugees after having been displaced from other parts of Palestine at various stages of the decades-long conflict, Israel’s intelligence service seemed to have answered that with reported plans to send them to Sinai.
The proposal, subsequently denied by the Israeli government, drew sharp condemnation from Palestinians and Egypt, with Mekelberg citing the latter’s concern of Hamas fighters entering.
“We know that what starts as temporary becomes permanent, and we know this because, 75 years on, there are still Palestinians, who having been displaced in 1946, are still in other countries and this reality is compounding the difficulties of housing refugees,” he said.
This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)
Such concerns have been reflected in statements by Arab leaders. Jordan’s King Abdullah has been direct in saying there were to be “no refugees in Jordan,” while the country’s foreign minister has warned Israel not to leave a mess for other countries to clear up.
Mekelberg said that “if governments suspect this war of being an Israeli effort to ethnically cleanse Gaza,” they would unsurprisingly be less than keen to help.”
Even so, he stressed that in the immediate term it was “paramount” to find safe harbor for the civilian population but given the surrounding politics and availability, or lack thereof, of much-needed humanitarian aid this was proving difficult.
Pointing to international humanitarian law, Khalidi said no country could refuse those fleeing war access and safe refuge.
Nonetheless, she also said states had to be cognizant of the fact that — given the Palestinians already displaced in Gaza and refused their right to return by Israel — any support they offered may inadvertently play into the hands of actors looking to ethnically cleanse the enclave.
With more questions than answers, Mekelberg said a complete rethink was required on how such situations were managed and the obligations and rights of those caught up in conflict.
“As far as Gazans in the present are concerned, winter isn’t coming, it is already there. If you have one instance of heavy rain pouring down and into a sewage system that before the Israeli bombing was struggling, what you will be left with is a huge health crisis,” he said.
“In the face of this, there must be a concerted international effort to establish refugee camps, to supply them with all that is needed, and to keep people safe.”
Right now, he said, we were witnessing a “very unhappy situation” but stressed international support had to be there when the fighting ends, with Gazans helped in both the rebuilding of their homes and, in cases where they were relocated, ensuring they got back to them.
Khalidi added: “An individual must have the right to live safely and peacefully in their homeland.”
6 members of American UN aid worker’s family killed by Israeli attack in Gaza
Hani Almadhoun says his brother, sister-in-law and 4 of their children died when a massive bomb reduced their home to rubble
12 members of his sister-in-law’s family, including 5 children, were killed by an airstrike during the early stages of the conflict in Gaza
Updated 29 November 2023
CHICAGO: All 14-year-old Siwar Almadhoun wanted to do was play basketball. Her 9-year-old brother, Omar, dreamed of being a soccer star.
Their dreams died with them in the early hours of Friday, Nov. 24 when, as they slept, Israeli forces dropped a massive bomb on their home in Beit Lahia, in the Gaza Strip.
Their parents, Majed, 41, and Safa, 38, were also killed in the indiscriminate Israeli slaughter, along with siblings Reman, 18, who had just started college, and 7-year-old Ali, said Hani Almadhoun, Majed’s brother. He is an American citizen who works for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East office in Washington D.C., where he supervises charitable fundraising efforts to help needy families.
Only two of his brother’s children, daughters Roa and Salam, survived the carnage. They are married and live with their families in Rafah.
“Siwar, the basketball player, a 14-year-old girl, she loved basketball,” Almadhoun, 42, told Arab News as he struggled to speak through the grief. “The salt of this earth. A very sweet girl. She was killed. She did nothing. She was asleep, just like her family.
“And half of her mom, only one half, was recovered. Reman was recovered. Ali was recovered … their cat was buried and killed next to them. They adopted a cat named Lucky. A very unfortunate name. They liked to call her Cici. She was killed between the two kids because they loved to play with her so much.
“The only body that was found immediately was Omar. He flew through the window into the street 20 meters away. They went to bury him. They went to find Majed, and my mom knew her son was there. She was grieving and then, on top of that, (there were) no ambulances, no bulldozers were able to come to remove this rubble.”
The bodies of some of the occupants of the five-story apartment building the Almadhoun family owned were thrown from the building when it was destroyed but they could not be immediately recovered because of Israeli sniper fire and the missile strikes that continued to pound the civilian neighborhood.
Almadhoun said his father and mother spent three days searching for the remains of Majed, Safa and their grandchildren.
“They kept digging through the rubble of their destroyed homes but they could find nothing,” he said. “As they searched the area they recovered two and a half bodies that had been thrown by the explosion and were found in a destroyed home next door.
“(My mother) was desperate. She is heart-broken. Nobody is coming to the rescue. I have had meetings as high as the White House, the State Department and all these guys, and I can’t get safety to my family. It broke me.
“We all love our moms and dads. But she is just a lady whose son is buried and she can’t even have a minute with him. She can’t even take a picture with him because his face is swollen.”
Almadhoun said the search continues for Siwar’s body but his family’s efforts are hampered by the communications blackout imposed during the conflict by Israel, which has had total control of the Gaza Strip since 1967.
“There is heartbreak. There is sorrow,” he said. In response to suggestions that his relatives might have somehow had a connection with Hamas or were being used as human shields, he added: “This is personal … I know my family. There is no way that you could build a case against Majed, my brother.
“Majed loved his mom, honored his parents. He was very generous to help neighbors in need. We don’t know why they were killed.”
Almadhoun’s father owned a small grocery store a three-minute walk from the family home. Majed leased space for a kitchenware store in Sheikh Radwan, a 10 minute ride from Beit Lahia. Both shops have also been destroyed.
“All their savings were lost. My family is homeless,” Almadhoun said. “Remember the refugees from 1948.”
The massacre of his family, and the thousands of other civilians killed since the Israeli bombings and invasion began, are difficult to comprehend given their scale, he added.
According to official estimates, more than 14,000 Palestinians have been killed during the Israeli assaults and invasion, nearly 10,000 of whom were civilians with no connection to Hamas.
The attacks are not only partly funded by US taxpayers through US support for Israel, but the Israelis are using American-made weapons including massive 2,000-pound bombs capable of flattening an apartment building in a single strike.
Almadhoun said his brother and sister-in-law had been grieving the loss of 12 members of the latter’s family who were wiped out several weeks ago during the early stages of the Israeli onslaught.
They were killed by an attack in the Atwan area, a few miles south of Beit Lahia, Almadhoun said. The dead included Safa’s father and mother, five of her siblings and five of their young children.
“They lived in the Atwan area of northern Gaza,” he said. “The good volunteers in the family went and dug out the bodies. It was so horrific a scene, and a genocide
at their home, that they would not let Safa see her family because of the brutality: the body parts, the known pieces, the plastic bags.
“My brother Majed, her husband, went and collected the bodies and buried them. There was no proper burial because we know that Gaza is running out of spaces for graves and cemeteries are overflowing with dead bodies.”
The Almadhouns originally came from Ashkelon, which was in the Gaza District of Palestine before it was captured by Israel in 1948. The family fled Gaza to find work in the UAE, which is where Hani was born. But they returned to Beit Lahia to open their businesses there.
Almadhoun said the last time he saw his brother and his family was during a visit to Gaza in August this year. His parents and other surviving relatives are still in northern Gaza but cannot easily be reached.
“My dad is trying to be strong, trying to be normal,” he said. “I know he is not doing well but he is trying to be strong for everybody else. My mom cries and when she cries, I cry. I can’t take it. It is a lot.”