Ray Hanania Show Special: How bad is Gaza’s humanitarian situation?

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Updated 26 October 2023

Ray Hanania Show Special: How bad is Gaza’s humanitarian situation?

 Ray Hanania Show Special: How bad is Gaza’s humanitarian situation?
  • UN Relief and Works Agency spokesperson Juliette Touma says “needs growing by the hour” in the Gaza Strip
  • Israeli attorney Daniel Seidemann slams Netanyahu for bolstering Hamas while marginalizing Palestinian Authority

CHICAGO: The scale of humanitarian suffering in the Gaza Strip has reached unprecedented levels as Israeli airstrikes continue to lay waste to large swaths of the territory, according to Juliette Touma, director of communications for the UN Relief and Works Agency.

During an appearance on the Ray Hanania Radio Show, she painted a grim picture of the situation on the ground, saying: “UNRWA is overwhelmed at the moment in Gaza. The needs are growing by the hour. We do not have supplies. We do not have enough fuel to continue delivering assistance.”

The Gaza Health Ministry said on Wednesday that the death toll since the war began on Oct. 7 had passed 6,500, with 756 Palestinians, including 344 children, killed by Israeli strikes in the previous 24 hours alone.

The unfolding humanitarian crisis is “unprecedented — four times more than what we had planned for in the worst-case scenario,” Touma said. “We are now hosting four times more people than we thought we would have in a worst-case scenario.”

Although Israel has now permitted humanitarian aid to enter Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah, border crossing, the territory’s only link to the outside world, Touma said it is only a fraction of what was being delivered prior to the conflict.

“We’ve seen a number of convoys that have been coming through for the past three days; 54 trucks have come into Gaza,” she said.

People search for survivors and the bodies of victims through buildings that were destroyed during Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis. (AFP)

“That’s absolutely nothing. It’s peanuts. It’s crumbs. If you compare it with the numbers that, according to the UN and UNRWA as well, every day to Gaza we should have 500 trucks coming in, including for aid and 100 for fuel alone. So, we have, in three days, 54 trucks and none of these trucks had fuel on them.”

UNRWA, one of the oldest UN organizations, has been serving the people of Gaza for more than seven decades. It is also the largest UN agency active in the Gaza Strip, with 13,000 staff, many of them teachers. Indeed, it is the only UN agency that operates schools. Since the war began, however, UNRWA has been forced to close its schools in Gaza, depriving at least 300,000 children of education.

“Many of our schools have been turned into shelters where people have sought refuge,” said Touma.

The conflict has exacted a significant toll on the agency itself and its staff.

“We have already lost 35 colleagues at UNRWA,” said Touma. “They were killed. Half of them were teachers, half were men, half were women.”

In the wake of the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, Israel imposed a strict embargo on Gaza, denying its impoverished population of 2.2 million people access to food, water, electricity and medicine. At the same time it launched a daily bombardment, killing thousands of civilians in the process.

Touma called for the blockade to be lifted and for an immediate ceasefire.

“Medicines, fuel, food, water, these are things that are very, very much missing,” she said. “And I don’t think it’s too much to ask. These are the basics that people need to live in dignity. And I also think for people to live in dignity, we need to have a ceasefire as soon as possible.”

Israeli attorney Daniel Seidemann, who also appeared on the Ray Hanania Radio Show this week, said that Israel’s failure to properly engage with the Palestinian Authority, and misconceptions about the true nature of Hamas, created the conditions for the unprecedented attack.

A resident of Jerusalem, member of the Israeli Bar Association and founder of the nongovernmental organization Terrestrial Jerusalem, he added that the dehumanization and violent suppression of Palestinians had contributed to the latest crisis.

Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. The Sunni militia, with roots in the Muslim Brotherhood but with financing and support from Shiite Iran, has engaged in multiple conflicts with Israel, each ending in flimsy ceasefires.

However, the Oct. 7 attack in which 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, were killed by Hamas gunmen who breached the border in several places in the country’s south, marked a fundamental change in the long-running conflict.

“Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for many years bolstered Hamas, favored Hamas, ironically because strengthening Hamas would give you a pretext of not negotiating with the Palestinian Authority and with Mahmoud Abbas,” Seidemann told The Ray Hanania Radio Show, which is sponsored by Arab News and broadcast weekly on the US Arab Radio network.

“He had an ideology, which was firmly entrenched in Israel, that Hamas can be contained. We’re not going to arrive at peace. We don’t have to give up anything. But they can be contained. And that collapsed on Oct. 7.”

According to Seidemann, Israel’s leveraging of Hamas as a tool to undermine the Palestinian Authority merely strengthened the armed group, while failing to recognize its true nature. Seidemann believes Hamas took inspiration for its ideology from Daesh and Al-Qaeda.

UN workers talk in the playground of an UNRWA-run school that has been converted into a shelter in Khan Yunis. (AFP)

“That is something that I did not anticipate, I don’t think many Israelis anticipated,” he said.

“Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert … was the last Israeli leader to negotiate with the PA in good faith. And he lambasted Netanyahu and has been doing so for years: ‘This is a monster that you created. You made false assumptions about it because you didn’t want to deal with Mahmoud Abbas.’

“Israelis have been safe, in many ways, because of the stability of the Palestinian Authority. Netanyahu did everything he could to marginalize them and Hamas was the tool for it.”

While marginalizing the PA, Israeli authorities simultaneously dehumanized the Palestinian people, Seidemann said. A pervading viewpoint was created in which “Palestinian lives matter much less and sometimes don’t matter at all.”

He added: “I very much am sympathetic with the sense that there is a double standard. It’s a global double standard in all sorts of ways. It’s dangerous for me to express that among Israelis these days but, to be honest, that’s what it is.”

By violently repressing any form of dissent, and believing that high-tech military defenses could take the place of a peaceful and dignified solution, and that the world would go on treating the lives of Palestinians as having less worth, the conditions for a violent backlash were laid, according to Seidemann.

“We crush every political expression more radical than a scout meeting, and we have crushed meetings so the political energies go into the direction of people who don’t ask permission — and some of them are violent,” he said.

The blocking of avenues for peaceful resistance and the pushing of Palestinian opposition to the occupation down violent paths has not gone unnoticed, prompting efforts to improve the economic conditions for communities in the West Bank and Gaza.

“People in recent times have been speaking about making the lives of Palestinians better, the improvement of the Palestinian economy,” said Seidemann. “No — the deficit the Palestinians are suffering is the deficit of freedom. The deficit of dignity.

“My friends in East Jerusalem are telling me what the discourse is, on social media, their support for Hamas because ‘we’ve been ignored for years. Nobody has counted us. Everybody’s bypassed us. And regrettably, the only language that Israel understands is violence.’ And I have to concede, we’re proving that.”

Asked whether the peace process can recover from the Hamas attack and resulting assault on Gaza, Seidemann said the ultimate outcome is unknowable but the events of recent weeks have overturned some long-held assumptions.

“The Israeli public is traumatized and that is not auspicious circumstances in which to resume,” he said. “I believe that the notion that Israel can bully and break the will of the Palestinians with superior force has taken a hit and destroyed that myth.

“Yes, you’ve sent this Iron Dome. You’ve sent the soldiers. You haven’t said that’s the one thing that can work, and that is a political agreement, and that is fairness and decency.”

Seidemann is doubtful that the Netanyahu government will change its current course.

“What’s Israel’s goal? I wish I knew,” he said. “I doubt my prime minister knows. It’s one of the reasons, and there are numerous reasons, why it’s time for him to leave.

A shelter for displaced Palestinians in Khan Yunis. (AFP)

“But in his world of ‘we can defer this problem indefinitely; we can live alongside occupation without dealing with it; we can contain the Palestinians; the world doesn’t care; we could normalize and bypass the Palestinians’ — all of that is clearly not true or it hasn’t been true for many of us all along.

“But we’re now entering into a war. We’re in a war and ground operations. And it’s not clear to me what the objective is. I hear from our leaders, and some of them are in exemplary good faith saying we will be victorious. What do you mean by that? And they don’t explain it other than maybe implying that they will destroy Hamas and continue the way things have been.”

While many in the international community have expressed solidarity with Israel following the Hamas attack, they have also called on the Israeli government and military to exercise restraint and to permit humanitarian aid to reach civilians who have been prevented from leaving Gaza.

Israel has massed troops on the border with Gaza in preparation for a widely expected ground operation. The escalation has prompted fears of the conflict escalating into a wider regional war involving other Iranian proxies, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Against this background, Seidemann believes a long-term vision is needed to establish peace between Israel and Palestine.

“We have to think of the day after,” he said. “There’s not going to be peace the day after. There are going to be deeply traumatized people on both sides who have suffered unspeakable horrors.

“And we have to pick up and rebuild. And we will be rebuilding in the Middle East, which has an entirely different architecture from what we’ve known in the past.

“It’s not only that the situation is unknown at the moment. It’s unknowable. But it doesn’t absolve us from preparing for it.”


‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike

‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike
Updated 12 sec ago

‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike

‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike
  • The attacks marked a significant deterioration in the situation on the southern Lebanese border

BEIRUT: Residents of southern Lebanon’s border area took shelter late on Sunday as Hezbollah launched more than 150 missiles at targets inside Israel in one of the largest attacks since the conflict began.

“The ground trembles beneath us and the sky is covered by missiles,” one resident told Arab News.

Hezbollah’s barrage followed a series of Israeli drone strikes earlier in the day that killed at least eight of the group’s members and civilians.

Hezbollah responded by launching missiles toward Kiryat Shmona, the Golan, and military sites in the Al-Manara and Misgav Am areas. 

The attacks marked a significant deterioration in the situation on the southern Lebanese border.

“These are unprecedented barrages of missiles,”  the resident said.

“The area is shaking from the sounds of missiles above our heads heading toward the other side of the border. We see Iron Dome explosions above the towns all the way to the Nabatiyeh area.”

After the two deadly attacks on Naqoura and Aita Al-Shaab earlier on Sunday, the Israeli army struck a motorcycle in the town of Hula with a missile from a military drone, killing three Hezbollah members, Tariq Awad, Hussein Salman Mustafa, and Wissam Ali Hamid, whose brother was killed in an Israeli attack on the city of Bint Jbeil a few weeks ago.  

The Israeli army attacked the town of Yaron in the Bint Jbeil district with two air-to-surface missiles, killing two Hezbollah members. 

The towns of Aitaroun and Al-Adisa were hit by dozens of phosphorus shells, causing’ fires in several neighborhoods.

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza
Updated 26 May 2024

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza
  • Hamas armed wing says fired ‘large rocket barrage’ at Tel Aviv
  • Aid trucks begin entering Gaza through Kerem Shalom crossing

CAIRO/TEL AVIV: Rocket sirens blared Sunday in Israel’s commercial hub of Tel Aviv for the first time in months, with at least three blasts reported across central Israel, AFP correspondents said.

The Israeli military said sirens had been activated over central Israel as fighting raged in Gaza, including in the far-southern city of Rafah.

The armed wing of Palestinian militant group Hamas said it had launched a “large rocket barrage” on Tel Aviv.

The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said in a post on Telegram that they had targeted Tel Aviv “with a large rocket barrage in response to the Zionist massacres against civilians.”

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the latest barrage.

Earlier on Sunday, aid trucks entered Gaza from southern Israel through a new agreement to bypass the Rafah crossing with Egypt after Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side of it earlier this month. But was unclear if humanitarian groups would be able to access the aid because of ongoing fighting in the area.

A total of “200 trucks” had moved from the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, which has been shut since early May when Israel seized the Palestinian side of the terminal, to the Kerem Shalom crossing, some 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to the south.

Egypt has refused to coordinate aid through Rafah as long as Israeli troops control the Palestinian side.

But on Friday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi agreed in a call with his US counterpart Joe Biden to allow aid through Kerem Shalom, the other entry point into southern Gaza, the White House said.

Al-Qahera News did not specify how many trucks had made their way through inspection into besieged Gaza, but said “four fuel trucks” had already crossed and were heading to hospitals.

All aid from Egypt is inspected by Israeli authorities and distributed via the United Nations.

The remainder of the 200 trucks were “expected to cross into Gaza today,” Khaled Zayed, head of the Egyptian Red Crescent in Al-Arish — where the bulk of aid arrives — said.

Drones kill 3 as Israel widens southern Lebanon attacks 

Husain Saleh was killed in Sunday’s drone attack. (Supplied)
Husain Saleh was killed in Sunday’s drone attack. (Supplied)
Updated 26 May 2024

Drones kill 3 as Israel widens southern Lebanon attacks 

Husain Saleh was killed in Sunday’s drone attack. (Supplied)
  • Strike near UN peacekeeping base in Naqoura kills Hezbollah member
  • ‘We are waiting for you,’ Lebanese MP says after Israeli threat of ‘open war’

BEIRUT: Three people, including two civilians, were killed in drone strikes on Sunday as the Israeli army stepped up its attacks on Hezbollah and its ally in southern Lebanon.

The first strike, near a UNIFIL site in Naqoura, killed a Hezbollah member later identified as Mohammed Baydoun.

A second Israeli drone targeted a motorcycle in Aita Al-Shaab, killing a civilian named as Rafik Hassan Kassem, and badly injuring another man, Hussein Saleh, who later died from his wounds.

Saleh, a mechanic with no political affiliations, used to travel to nearby towns to feed domestic animals left behind by owners who fled the region. Arab News had previously interviewed him.

People close to Saleh said that “everyone advised him to stop visiting border villages in fear of being targeted, but he insisted on fulfilling his humanitarian duty.”

An Israeli drone also struck Jabal Al-Blat, opposite Israel’s Zar’it settlement, targeting a transmission tower for Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV Channel.

As hostilities between Hezbollah and Israel entered their 231st day, Khiam village was subjected to heavy Israeli raids, with military drones striking four targets.

In less than 48 hours, Israeli shelling reached the outskirts of Chihine, Majdal Zoun, Kfarhamam in Wadi Hamoul, Zebqine, and Naqoura.

Shelling subsequently reached the villages of Rachaya Al-Foukhar, Hamoul, Zebqine, Labbouneh, the Makraba forest, and the eastern outskirts of Khiam.

A fire erupted after a number of shells landed on the outskirts of Rab Al-Thalathine, near Al-Taybeh village.

Israeli raids on Aita Al-Shaab in the central sector caused serious damage to property, infrastructure and homes.

Hezbollah also announced the deaths of two people in Israeli raids on Aitaroun late on Saturday night.

One of the victims was named as Bilal Amin Mourad, a former principal in the Aitaroun public vocational school. Caretaker Minister of Education Abbas Halabi mourned Mourad’s death on Sunday.

Israeli army spokesperson Avichay Adraee said that the military struck Hezbollah targets in five regions in southern Lebanon.

He said that warplanes raided Hezbollah’s infrastructure and military buildings in Khiam and Aita Al-Shaab, adding that several areas in Khiam, Houla, Markaba and Kfarkila were also bombed.

Sirens sounded in Israeli settlements adjacent to the Lebanese border, including Shlomi, Betzet, Hanita, Ras Naqoura in western Galilee, Avivim in the upper Galilee, and Kiryat Shmona and its surroundings.

Meanwhile, missiles landed in an Israeli army site near Shlomi.

Israeli Army Radio announced that “two anti-armor missiles were launched from Lebanon toward Margaliot in the Galilee panhandle.”

The Israeli Channel 12 said “about 10 missiles were launched from Lebanon toward the Zar’it settlement in the upper Galilee, with no casualties reported.”

Hezbollah’s operations targeted “technical systems in the Israeli Al-Abad site with appropriate weapons, striking it directly and completely destroying it.”

The militant group also struck “a Merkava tank with a direct missile in the Al-Marj site, destroying it and killing and injuring its members.”

It subsequently targeted the Zibdine site in the Shebaa farms and a building for the Israeli soldiers in the Al-Manara settlement. It also hit two buildings for the Israeli soldiers in the Metula settlement and two other buildings for the Israeli soldiers in the Shtula settlement.

MP Mohammed Raad, head of Hezbollah’s parliamentary bloc, responded on Sunday to Israeli statements threatening to wage open war on Lebanon, saying: “We know your situation accurately, and we know who you are and we are waiting for you.”

In response to those criticizing the attacks in southern Lebanon in support of the Gaza Strip, Raad said: “When criminals take their crimes too far, they don’t spare anyone. That’s why we should prevent the enemy from looking for another target, so we don’t wind up being the other victims.”  

Referring to the kamikaze drones used to strike Israeli targets, Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, a member of Hezbollah’s Central Council, promised further operations that will “surprise and humiliate the enemy.”

He said: “For the first time in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Lebanese planes raid Israeli sites in occupied Palestine.”

Recognizing Palestinian state is ‘justice’ for Palestinians: Spain

Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Jose Manuel Albares (L) shakes hands with Palestinian PM.
Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Jose Manuel Albares (L) shakes hands with Palestinian PM.
Updated 26 May 2024

Recognizing Palestinian state is ‘justice’ for Palestinians: Spain

Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, Jose Manuel Albares (L) shakes hands with Palestinian PM.
  • Welcoming Spain’s move to recognize the Palestinian state on Tuesday, Mustafa said: “We want to have every country in Europe to do the same”

BRUSSELS: Recognizing the State of Palestine “is justice for the Palestinian people (and) the best guarantee of security for Israel,” Spain’s foreign minister Jose Manuel Albares said Sunday alongside Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa.
Welcoming Spain’s move, with Norway and Ireland, to recognize the Palestinian state on Tuesday, Mustafa said, “We want to have every country in Europe to do the same.”
Albares and Mustafa spoke side-by-side in Brussels, where the Palestinian leader was also meeting EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide.
Later Sunday, Mustafa was to have further talks with Borrell, Barth Eide and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.
On Monday he will have another meeting in Brussels with the Spanish, Norwegian and Irish ministers. And on Wednesday he will be in Spain.
Israel has warned Spain, Norway and Ireland that ties with them will face “serious consequences” for their announced recognition of a Palestinian state.
Israel’s devastating war in Gaza in retaliation for Hamas’s October 7 attack has given impetus to countries wanting recognition of the State of Palestine.
They hope that the steps toward a long-elusive two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian state, will build foundations for Middle East peace.
A majority of UN member countries recognize Palestinian statehood. European countries are split on the issue.
Spain, Norway and Italy will join EU nations Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Sweden in recognizing the State of Palestine.
Mustafa said recognition of a Palestinian state addresses “the injustice that has been inflicted on the Palestinian people for decades.”
“We hope that this momentum of recognitions and initiatives will continue,” he said.

‘Strong’ Palestinian Authority needed for Mideast peace: EU’s Borrell

‘Strong’ Palestinian Authority needed for Mideast peace: EU’s Borrell
Updated 26 May 2024

‘Strong’ Palestinian Authority needed for Mideast peace: EU’s Borrell

‘Strong’ Palestinian Authority needed for Mideast peace: EU’s Borrell
  • Made comments alongside Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa

BRUSSELS: A “strong” Palestinian Authority is needed to bring peace in the Middle East, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Sunday alongside Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa.
“A functional Palestinian Authority is in Israel’s interest too, because in order to make peace, we need a strong Palestinian Authority, not a weaker one,” Borrell said.
He made the remarks to journalists just before holding talks with Mustafa on how the Palestinian administration can be built up to take over Gaza rule from Hamas.
“We see the meeting today as a very important opportunity for us as a government and new government to present our international partners with the outlines of our priorities and plans for the coming period,” Mustafa said.
The Palestinian leader said the “first priority” was to support Palestinians in Gaza, especially through a ceasefire, and then “rebuilding the institutions of the Palestinian Authority” in that territory, which Hamas seized control of in 2007.
He also called on international partners to press Israel to release Palestinian Authority funding so “we will be ready to reform our institutions... and hopefully together sustain our efforts toward statehood and peace for the region.”
The Brussels meeting, focused on international aid, was being chaired by Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, in connection with the 1993 Oslo Accords that established a series of arrangements between the Palestinians and Israel.
Israel is furious with Norway, and also Spain and Ireland, for announcing they will recognize the State of Palestine on Tuesday.