How Arab states are aiding Palestinians amid Gaza’s deepening humanitarian emergency 

How Arab states are aiding Palestinians amid Gaza’s deepening humanitarian emergency 
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Saudi Arabia and the UAE have pledged assistance to Gaza, but aid agencies have struggled to gain access via the Rafah border crossing. (Getty Images/AFP)
How Arab states are aiding Palestinians amid Gaza’s deepening humanitarian emergency 
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A picture taken on October 10, 2023, shows the closed gates of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. (AFP)
How Arab states are aiding Palestinians amid Gaza’s deepening humanitarian emergency 
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Palestinians, some with foreign passports hoping to cross into Egypt and others waiting for aid wait at the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza strip, on October 16, 2023. (AFP)
How Arab states are aiding Palestinians amid Gaza’s deepening humanitarian emergency 
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A convoy of trucks carrying aid supplies for Gaza from Egypt waits on the main Ismailia desert road on the way to the Rafah crossing on October 16, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 20 October 2023
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How Arab states are aiding Palestinians amid Gaza’s deepening humanitarian emergency 

How Arab states are aiding Palestinians amid Gaza’s deepening humanitarian emergency 
  • Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar have pledged millions of dollars to assist Palestinians under Israeli bombardment 
  • Gaza has been under strict Israeli embargo since Hamas launched its cross-border attack on Israel on October 7

RIYADH: As the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens in tandem with Israel’s expanding war with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, the Arab Gulf states have been pledging aid and support to assist civilians living under siege and daily bombardment.

Since Hamas launched its unprecedented cross-border attack on Israel on Oct. 7, Gaza has been under strict Israeli embargo, depriving its 2.2 million-strong population of food, water, medicine, and electricity.

Gaza’s only power plant quickly shut down owing to a lack of fuel. According to the UN, hospitals in the Gaza Strip, where thousands of civilians have taken shelter, are expected to run out of generator fuel within days, putting the lives of patients at risk.

The siege, combined with the closure of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, meant that humanitarian aid agencies found it impossible to deliver assistance. More than 200 trucks and some 3,000 tons of aid are reported to be positioned at or near the Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only connection to Egypt.

UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, has said that unless water and fuel are sent “immediately,” Gaza inhabitants are in “imminent danger” of epidemics and death.

 

 

On Wednesday, Israel said it would allow Egypt to deliver limited humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. The announcement to allow water, food, and other supplies came as anger over the blast at Gaza City’s Al-Ahli Hospital spread across the Middle East, and as US President Joe Biden visited Israel in hopes of preventing a wider conflict in the region.

Biden said Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi agreed to open the crossing and to let in an initial group of 20 trucks with humanitarian aid. The convoy would start moving on Friday at the earliest, White House officials said.




Medics and a convoy of trucks loaded with aid supplies for Gaza provided by Egyptian NGOs waits for an agreement to cross through the Egypt-Gaza border in Arish City in Egypt’s north Sinai Peninsula on October 15, 2023. (AFP)

The office of the Israeli prime minister said Israel “will not thwart” deliveries of food, water, or medicine from Egypt, as long as they are limited to civilians in the south of Gaza and do not go to Hamas militants.

Supplies would go in under the supervision of the UN, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Al-Arabiya TV.

The Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing has been bombed multiple times since Israel launched its war on Hamas. Egypt will have to repair the road across the border that was cratered by Israeli airstrikes.




Medics and a convoy of trucks loaded with aid supplies for Gaza provided by Egyptian NGOs waits for an agreement to cross through the Egypt-Gaza border in Arish City in Egypt’s north Sinai Peninsula on October 15, 2023. (AFP)

“At this stage, we can’t bring aid into Gaza,” Christoph Hangar, a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, told Arab News before the Israeli announcement was made.

“We are pre-positioning staff and relief items as we speak so we’re ready when access to Gaza is granted, which it must urgently be.”

In response to the deepening humanitarian emergency, Arab Gulf states have renewed their commitment to the resolution of the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict and pledged millions of dollars in aid to the relief effort.




Volunteers and NGO workers stand near tents that they set up along the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing on October 19, 2023, demanding clearance for an aid convoy to enter the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

Israel has ordered residents of north Gaza to leave for the south, hoping perhaps to clear the area of civilians in preparation for a ground invasion, which would likely involve brutal urban combat.

The Oct. 7 attack killed at least 1,400 people, most of them Israeli civilians, and resulted in the capture of more than 200 people, who are now being held hostage in Gaza by Hamas and other “resistance factions.”

The presence of the hostages in the enclave has complicated Israel’s plans for a ground invasion.

INNUMBERS

2.4 million Population of the Gaza Strip.

1 million People displaced by the Israeli bombardment.

3,000 Palestinians killed across the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7.

$2 million Money donated to UNRWA by Saudi Arabia.

$6 billion Funding provided to Palestinians by KSrelief since 2000.

Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, was due to meet El-Sisi in Egypt on Thursday to discuss how to get humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the UN chief, said in a statement: “Obviously, in order to move humanitarian aid through Gaza, we need safe passage. We can’t move humanitarian trucks and convoys while active bombardment is ongoing.

“There are intense discussions going on in which we’re involved with a number of parties in order to try to get the most basic humanitarian aid in as quickly as possible and that’s food, water, medicine. Those things are urgently needed.”




Boxes of humanitarian aid and supplies from the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization are loaded aboard cargo planes in Amman, Jordan, for Gaza on Oct. 12, 2023. (REUTERS)

“Since the creation of Israel, the Saudi population and government have always been very sympathetic to the Palestinian cause,” Khaled Al-Maeena, a Saudi political commentator, told Arab News.

“It was done out of genuine goodwill for the Palestinian people who were oppressed and whose lands were occupied. What we are witnessing now is a Palestinian holocaust.”

Since 2000, the Saudi aid agency KSrelief has provided more than $6 billion in aid to the Palestinian people across multiple sectors, including food security, health, education, water, sanitation, and shelter.

In 2022 alone, Saudi Arabia contributed $27 million to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. On Monday, Saudi Arabia announced it would be donating a further $2 million to UNRWA.




Saudi humanitarian aid group KSrelief has a continuing food basket distribution project in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (KSrelief photo)

The money was presented to Philippe Lazzarini, the UNRWA commissioner general, by Naif Al-Sudairi, the Saudi ambassador to Jordan, at the Saudi Embassy in Amman on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia’s private sector has also been making pledges. McDonald’s KSA has publicly announced it will be donating $533,000 to Gaza relief efforts, stating it was “proud of its Saudi identity” and support for humanitarian issues.

“As a purely Saudi company, we have been proud, since our inception, of our Saudi identity, and our continuous contribution to supporting our economy and national community and adopting social and humanitarian matters that our community is concerned with,” the restaurant chain said in an online statement.

“We are delighted to announce that McDonald’s KSA will be donating SR2 million ($533,201) to support the relief efforts for the citizens of Gaza, may God help them. This contribution follows coordination with the relevant official authorities.”

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Prior to the conflict, US-brokered talks had been underway concerning the potential normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel pending clear signs of progress on the status of the Palestinians.

In August, while these talks were ongoing, the Kingdom also offered to resume financial support for the Palestinian Authority.

How the present crisis will impact the normalization talks remains to be seen, but the Kingdom’s stance on the need to resolve the Palestinian question remains unchanged.

In a statement following the Hamas attack, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said it was “renewing its call on the international community to assume its responsibilities and activate a credible peace process that leads to a two-state solution in a way that achieves security and peace in the region and protects civilians.”




Staff members unload aid for the Palestinian Gaza Strip from an Emirates cargo plane on the tarmac of Egypt's el-Arish airport in the north Sinai Peninsula on October 19, 2023. (AFP)

In 2020, the UAE became the first Arab Gulf state to normalize relations with Israel under the US-brokered Abraham Accords.

A Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between the two countries came into effect in March this year, signifying Israel’s first free trade agreement with an Arab state. Bahrain and Morocco followed suit.

In response to the crisis now unfolding in Gaza, the UAE has launched a campaign dubbed Tarahum — or “compassion” in Arabic — to help vulnerable civilians, particularly the 1 million children who make up nearly half of Gaza’s population.

Overseen by the Emirates Red Crescent, the UAE has called for donations and volunteers, with its first relief center established at the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal.




UAE's Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, accompanied by other top officials, visits the Tarahum - for Gaza campaign center in Abu Dhabi, which opened on October 15. Other aid collection centers will also be opened across the ‎UAE at later dates. (WAM photo)

A plane carrying medical supplies has already been sent to the Egyptian city of El-Arish before onward transit to the Rafah border crossing, according to the Emirati state news agency WAM.

On Tuesday, Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, prime minister of the UAE, directed the provision of $20 million in humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.

Qatar has likewise established its own aid effort, deploying a plane bound for El-Arish on Monday carrying 37 tons of food and medical aid, provided by the Qatar Fund for Development under the direction of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

“This aid is part of the State of Qatar’s full support for the fraternal Palestinian people amid the difficult humanitarian conditions due to the Israeli bombardment on the Gaza Strip,” Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.




Qatari Air Force crew load food and medical aid to a cargo plane on October 16, 2023, at Al Udeid Air Base in Doha. The humanitarian aid from the Qatar Fund for Development is headed to Egypt for Gaza refugees. (Qatar News Agency/Handout via REUTERS)

Palestinians have been massing at the sealed Rafah border crossing since the crisis began, in the hope of leaving Gaza before the much talked about ground offensive begins. On the other side of the border fence, aid agencies are powerless to intervene.

“We are exploring all avenues to bring life-saving aid into Gaza,” said Hangar of the ICRC. “This initial goods convoy includes medicine and thousands of household kits for families which include hygiene items and chlorine tablets for drinking water.”

He added: “We are also urgently deploying staff to relieve colleagues in Gaza whenever we are able to move in. This includes a mobile surgical team and other health staff, a weapons contamination expert, and relief coordinators specialized in water and habitat and food security.”

 


Iran says it gave warning before attacking Israel. US says that’s not true

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (L) and US President Joe Biden. (Agencies)
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (L) and US President Joe Biden. (Agencies)
Updated 15 April 2024
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Iran says it gave warning before attacking Israel. US says that’s not true

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (L) and US President Joe Biden. (Agencies)
  • An Iranian source briefed on the matter said Iran had informed the US through diplomatic channels that included Qatar, Turkiye and Switzerland about the scheduled day of the attack, saying it would be conducted in a manner to avoid provoking a response
  • Israel has killed more than 33,700 Palestinians in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory

WASHINGTON/BAGHDAD/DUBAI: Turkish, Jordanian and Iraqi officials said on Sunday that Iran gave wide notice days before its drone and missile attack on Israel, but US officials said Tehran did not warn Washington and that it was aiming to cause significant damage.
Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles on Saturday in a retaliatory strike after a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria.
Most of the drones and missiles were downed before reaching Israeli territory, though a young girl was critically injured and there were widespread concerns of further escalation.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Sunday that Iran gave neighboring countries and Israel’s ally the United States 72 hours’ notice it would launch the strikes.
Turkiye’s Foreign Ministry said it had spoken to both Washington and Tehran before the attack, adding it had conveyed messages as an intermediary to be sure reactions were proportionate.
“Iran said the reaction would be a response to Israel’s attack on its embassy in Damascus and that it would not go beyond this. We were aware of the possibilities. The developments were not a surprise,” said a Turkish diplomatic source.
One senior official in US President Joe Biden’s administration denied Amirabdollahian’s statement, saying Washington did have contact with Iran through Swiss intermediaries but did not get notice 72 hours in advance.
“That is absolutely not true,” the official said. “They did not give a notification, nor did they give any sense of ... ‘these will be the targets, so evacuate them.’“
Tehran sent the United States a message only after the strikes began and the intent was to be “highly destructive” said the official, adding that Iran’s claim of a widespread warning may be an attempt to compensate for the lack of any major damage from the attack.
“We received a message from the Iranians as this was ongoing, through the Swiss. This was basically suggesting that they were finished after this, but it was still an ongoing attack. So that was (their) message to us,” the US official said.
Iraqi, Turkish and Jordanian officials each said Iran had provided early warning of the attack last week, including some details.
The attack with drones, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles risked causing major casualties and escalating the conflict.
US officials said on Friday and Saturday they expected an imminent attack and urged Iran against one, with Biden tersely saying his only message to Tehran was: “Don’t.”

ESCALATION
Two Iraqi sources, including a government security adviser and a security official, said Iran had used diplomatic channels to inform Baghdad about the attack at least three days before it happened.
The exact timing of the attack was not disclosed at that point, but was passed to Iraqi security and military authorities hours before the strikes, allowing Baghdad to close its airspace and avoid fatal accidents.
“The government clearly understood from the Iranian officials that the US military in Iraq was also aware of the attack in advance,” said the Iraqi security official.
A senior Jordanian official said Iran had summoned Arab envoys in Tehran on Wednesday to inform them of their intention to carry out an attack, though it did not specify the timing.
Asked if Iran had also given details about the targets and kind of weapons to be used, the Jordanian source did not respond directly but indicated that that was the case.
An Iranian source briefed on the matter said Iran had informed the US through diplomatic channels that included Qatar, Turkiye and Switzerland about the scheduled day of the attack, saying it would be conducted in a manner to avoid provoking a response.
How far escalation can be avoided remains in question. Biden has told Israel the United States will not join any Israeli retaliation, the US official said.
However, Israel is still weighing its response and will “exact the price from Iran in the fashion and timing that is right for us,” Israeli minister Benny Gantz said on Sunday.

 


Israelis rattled by Iranian attack, fear escalation

A man crosses an empty street in Jerusalem on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
A man crosses an empty street in Jerusalem on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
Updated 15 April 2024
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Israelis rattled by Iranian attack, fear escalation

A man crosses an empty street in Jerusalem on April 14, 2024. (AFP)
  • Israel has killed more than 33,686 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry

JERUSALEM: The first direct attack on Israel by Iran has shaken Israelis and left them fearful that a bigger war is looming.
While the population has long been used to sirens warning of attacks from Hamas, the hundreds of drones and missiles sent from Iran over Saturday night marked a new element in the over-lapping Middle East conflicts.
Israel reported modest damage on Sunday after the military said it shot down almost all of the more than 300 drones and missiles launched by Iran.
But the attack still rattled Israelis, whose army has fought Hamas for years in Gaza but never engaged in direct warfare with regional superpower Iran. Iranian weapons and interceptors could be seen flashing over the sky at night.

I hope there won’t be a big war; none of us in Israel wants a big war, so I hope that’s it, and I hope Iran would stop no.

Jeremy Smith, Resident of Tzur Hadassah

“I think it was quite scary when we started hearing booming in the middle of the night, and we did not know what it was. I mean, we knew what it was, but we didn’t know to what extent it would be,” said Jerusalem resident Cecile Smulowitz.
“But thank God the Israeli army came through, and so far it’s quiet, and we hope it will continue that way.”
Iran mounted its attack in retaliation for a suspected Israeli air strike on Tehran’s embassy compound in Damascus on April 1, which killed 13 people. Israel has neither confirmed nor denied carrying out the attack but is widely believed to have done so.
Following Iranian senior leader Ali Khamenei’s promise to hit back, Israelis were put on high alert.
Iran warned Israel and the US on Sunday of a “much larger response” if there was any retaliation for its mass drone and missile attack.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has repeatedly told the world that Iran is an existential threat to the Jewish state, vowed Israel would achieve victory.
The threat of open warfare erupting between Iran and Israel and dragging the US into the conflict has put the region on edge.
Some Israelis said they did not want an escalation, but with the stakes so high, they are nervous despite having the most powerful and technologically advanced military in the region.
“I hope there won’t be a big war; none of us in Israel wants a big war, so I hope that’s it, and I hope Iran would stop now,” said Jeremy Smith, 60, a resident of Tzur Hadassah.
“I imagine Israel will respond because, I mean, our whole country was covered in missiles and drones. So what can you do? But we have to stop it somehow.”
Before the Iranian attack, Israeli authorities had instructed the public not to hold large gatherings, to close all schools and venues for children’s camps during the Jewish holiday of Passover, and to close some beaches and travel sites.
“We didn’t want the war with Hamas. They attacked us. We don’t want a war with Iran, they attack us,” said Jerusalem resident Amy Friedlang Morgans, 71.
“We don’t want a war with Iran. They, somehow, cannot accept Jewish people living here. This is our homeland. It’s written in the Bible.”
The Iranian attack took place against the background of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, in which Israeli forces have killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry figures.

 


Ambrey says Israel intercepted UAV ‘launched from Yemen’

Ambrey says Israel intercepted UAV ‘launched from Yemen’
Updated 15 April 2024
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Ambrey says Israel intercepted UAV ‘launched from Yemen’

Ambrey says Israel intercepted UAV ‘launched from Yemen’
  • Israel used its seaborne missile defense system for the first time on Tuesday to shoot down a drone approaching from the Red Sea that had set off sirens in the port city of Eilat, the military said

CAIRO: British security firm Ambrey said on Sunday that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) intercepted an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) near Eilat, stating that it assessed the UAV was launched from Yemen.
Ambrey said it also observed unprecedented levels of Automatic Identification Systems (AIS)interference off Eilat and neighboring Aqaba, Jordan, on Sunday.
“These were due to electronic warfare counter-measures,” the statement said.
“A Sa’ar 6-class corvette successfully intercepted a UAV that approached Israeli territory from the southeast using the ‘C-Dome’ Defense System earlier this evening,” the IDF posted on X.
Israel used its seaborne missile defense system for the first time on Tuesday to shoot down a drone approaching from the Red Sea that had set off sirens in the port city of Eilat, the military said.
Eilat has been a frequent target for launches by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen as a show of support for Hamas, the Palestinian group that rules Gaza and is also backed by Iran.

 


US judge tosses out lawsuits against Libyan commander accused of war crimes

US judge tosses out lawsuits against Libyan commander accused of war crimes
Updated 15 April 2024
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US judge tosses out lawsuits against Libyan commander accused of war crimes

US judge tosses out lawsuits against Libyan commander accused of war crimes
  • The ruling was a significant reversal of fortune for Haftar

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia: A US judge has tossed out a series of civil lawsuits against a Libyan military commander who used to live in Virginia and was accused of killing innocent civilians in that country’s civil war.
At a court hearing Friday, US District Judge Leonie Brinkema said she had no jurisdiction to preside over a case alleging war crimes committed in Libya, even though the defendant, Khalifa Haftar, has US citizenship and lived for more than 20 years in the northern Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital as an exile from the regime of Muammar Qaddafi.
The ruling was a significant reversal of fortune for Haftar. In 2022, Brinkema entered a default judgment against Haftar after he refused to sit for scheduled depositions about his role in the fighting that has plagued the country over the last decade.
But Haftar retained new lawyers who persuaded the judge to reopen the case and made Haftar available to be deposed. He sat for two separate depositions in 2022 and 2023 and denied orchestrating attacks against civilians.
Once a lieutenant to Qaddafi, Haftar defected to the US during the 1980s. He is widely believed to have worked with the CIA during his time in exile.
He returned to Libya in 2011 to support anti-Qaddafi forces that revolted against the dictator and killed him. During the country’s civil war, he led the self-styled Libyan National Army, which controlled much of the eastern half of Libya, with support from countries including Russia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. He continues to hold sway in the eastern half of the country.
In the lawsuits, first filed in 2019, the plaintiffs say family members were killed by military bombardments conducted by Haftar’s army in civilian areas.
The lawsuits also alleged that Haftar and his family owned a significant amount of property in Virginia, which could have been used to pay off any judgment that would have been entered against him.
While the lawsuits were tossed out on technical issues over jurisdiction, one of Haftar’s lawyers, Paul Kamenar, said Haftar denied any role in the deaths of civilians.
“He’s not this ruthless figure that everyone wants to portray him as,” Kamenar said in a phone interview Sunday.
Faisal Gill, a lawyer for plaintiffs in one of the three lawsuits that Brinkema tossed out Friday, said he plans to appeal the dismissal.
Mark Zaid, lawyer for another set of plaintiffs, called Brinkema’s ruling perplexing and said he believes that the court’s jurisdiction to hear the case had already been established at an earlier phase of the case.
“A US citizen committed war crimes abroad and thus far has escaped civil accountability,” Zaid said Sunday in an emailed statement.
In court papers, Haftar tried to claim immunity from the suits as a head of state. At one point, the judge put the cases on pause because she worried that the lawsuits were being used to influence scheduled presidential elections in Libya, in which Haftar was a candidate. Those elections were later postponed.


Israel army says Hamas holding hostages in Gaza’s Rafah

Israel army says Hamas holding hostages in Gaza’s Rafah
Updated 15 April 2024
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Israel army says Hamas holding hostages in Gaza’s Rafah

Israel army says Hamas holding hostages in Gaza’s Rafah
  • The move comes just days after the army pulled out all troops from southern Gaza’s main city of Khan Yunis, leaving just one brigade to carry out operations across the Palestinian territory

JERUSALEM: Israel said Sunday that Hamas is holding hostages in Rafah in southern Gaza, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to launch a ground invasion despite international outcry.
“Hamas is still holding our hostages in Gaza... We also have hostages in Rafah, and we will do everything we can to bring them back home,” Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said at a briefing.
In a separate statement, the army said it was calling “approximately two reserve brigades for operational activities on the Gazan front.”
It did not specify whether the brigades would be deployed inside Gaza.
The move comes just days after the army pulled out all troops from southern Gaza’s main city of Khan Yunis, leaving just one brigade to carry out operations across the Palestinian territory.