Many Israelis are furious at their government’s chaotic recovery efforts after Hamas attack

Many Israelis are furious at their government’s chaotic recovery efforts after Hamas attack
1 / 2
Israelis seek comfort in an installation consisting of 224 pillars of light erected by the Jerusalem municipality outside Teddy Stadium as a tribute for hostages abducted by Palestinian militants during the October 7 attack and currently held in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
Many Israelis are furious at their government’s chaotic recovery efforts after Hamas attack
2 / 2
Two people embrace as they stand between posters of hostages abducted by Palestinian militants during the October 7 attack and currently held in the Gaza Strip, placed next to light bulbs and spotlights outside Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem on October 26, 2023. (AFP)Israelis seek comfort in an installation consisting of 224 pillars of light erected by the Jerusalem municipality outside Teddy Stadium as a tribute for hostages abducted by Palestinian militants during the October 7 attack and currently held in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 27 October 2023
Follow

Many Israelis are furious at their government’s chaotic recovery efforts after Hamas attack

Many Israelis are furious at their government’s chaotic recovery efforts after Hamas attack
  • Government infighting and lack of help for those in need have left traumatized survivors to mourn on their own and volunteers to take on recovery efforts
  • Many believe the Netanyahu government neglected basic functions while it focused its efforts to weaken the Supreme Court 

JERUSALEM: More than two weeks after Hamas militants rampaged through a string of sleepy farming towns, many Israelis are furious at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, not just for failing to prevent the attack, but for failing to come to their aid afterward.
While the military is launching unrelenting airstrikes in Gaza that have killed thousands of Palestinians, and hundreds of thousands of Israeli troops are massing for a possible ground offensive, government infighting and lack of help for those in need have left traumatized survivors to mourn on their own and volunteers — many of whom spent the past year protesting the government — to take on recovery efforts.
“It has to be clear. The government is completely incompetent,” said Ruvi Dar, a clinical psychologist and Tel Aviv University professor who has been counseling survivors evacuated from their homes.
“Any support that the refugees are getting right now is completely grassroots. Absolutely nothing by the state,” he said, adding that even volunteers’ hotel rooms are paid for by nonprofit groups.
The backdrop to the outcry is the long-running and contentious plan by Netanyahu and his far-right government to sharply curtail the power of the nation’s judiciary, which sparked months of protests and consumed the Cabinet and the nation.
Many believe the government neglected basic functions while it focused its efforts on attacking the Supreme Court, which it accused of being liberal and interventionist.
Critics have accused Netanyahu of recklessly ignoring a raft of issues. The police force is understaffed, and the military was caught off guard on Israel’s southern flank as forces were more heavily stationed in the occupied West Bank, home to half a million settlers. The government did little to address the spiraling cost of living and rampant killings in Israel’s own Arab communities, while ultra-Orthodox Jewish and pro-settlement coalition partners have received billions of dollars for pet projects.
“Government offices haven’t been functioning for a year now, so obviously they can’t cope with emergency situations. They wasted a whole year on nonsense,” Arnon Bar David, head of Israel’s Histadrut trade union, told Army Radio.
The government faced public wrath almost immediately after being caught by surprise by the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that killed more than 1,400 people, the vast majority civilians. It took hours for the stunned military to respond and send troops to counter-attack, a chaotic response that foreshadowed the government’s dysfunction.
Some government ministers have been blocked by residents from visiting attacked communities and others have been screamed at while visiting the wounded at hospitals.
Standing just feet from Economy Minister Nir Barkat, Ophir Shai’s eulogy for his brother, Yaron, turned into a furious attack on the government.
“You abandoned the soldiers of the IDF. You abandoned the people who live along the Gaza border. You abandoned the state of Israel. You abandoned my beloved brother. I expect you all to take responsibility and resign immediately after the war ends,” he said.
“I won’t forget, and I won’t forgive. I promise to hunt you down forever.”
Even after the initial massacre, the government was slow to respond and appeared in disarray. Israel’s public diplomacy minister, meant to serve as a spokeswoman to the international media, quit in a huff after her responsibilities were turned over to other ministries.
Polls show Netanyahu’s already plunging popularity has collapsed. While other members of the government and the heads of the army and the Shin Bet security service have apologized and taken responsibility for the attack, Netanyahu said nothing of the sort for weeks. Only Wednesday night, 18 days after the attack, did he come close to accepting some responsibility.
“This failure will be investigated thoroughly. Everyone will need to provide answers, myself included, but all of this will happen only after the war,” he said in a brief nationwide address.
Netanyahu also boasted of government assistance for victims, including mass evacuations from hard-hit border communities. “We will not leave anyone behind,” he said.
But Netanyahu has not publicly visited the wounded in hospitals, consoled traumatized evacuated families or gone to a funeral for any of those killed. He has made several public statements, mainly as he greeted world leaders offering support, and he has visited soldiers in the field. But he has not taken questions from Israel’s famously combative media.
Asked for comment, a senior Israeli official said the prime minister “met with families and is fully focused on winning the war.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
With over 200 people being held captive by Hamas militants in Gaza, he did not meet with any of their families until more than a week after the attack — two days after US President Joe Biden spoke to families of US citizens being held.
Meanwhile, Israeli media has reported about a string of government turf wars holding up assistance to victims’ families and evacuees displaced from their homes.
For two days after the attack, “the government wasn’t functioning. We didn’t get any help,” said Yossi Keren, who became head of the regional council in Sha’ar HaNegev, where many of the attacks took place, after his predecessor was killed confronting Hamas gunmen.
Most residents have evacuated, and their needs — everything from getting schooling for children to replacing computers families left behind — are enormous, he said. The government response is slowly getting better, though he remains wary.
“If the government won’t step in, the crisis will be bigger. Much bigger,” Keren said.
Danny Danon, a senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, acknowledged the government’s shortcomings.
“The government agencies were not capable of dealing with the numbers. So it took them some time to come back and to set up and provide the proper services,” he said. “Certainly it’s legitimate for the families to express their pain and criticism.”
He said there would be an inquiry into what went wrong after the war, but right now Israel must remain focused on defeating Hamas. “Netanyahu is very mission-oriented now in the war effort,” he said.
Gideon Rahat, a political science professor at Hebrew University, said the dysfunction was a result of a bloated, divisive government that demonized and then pushed out many respected bureaucrats who would have been competent to handle an emergency.
“When you are a populist government and all you do is talk and tweet and write posts instead of doing real things, when you are needed you don’t know what to do,” he said.
That vacuum in the current crisis has been filled by the government’s sworn enemies, opponents of the judicial overhaul who had mobilized tens of thousands of protesters for weekly demonstrations against the overhaul plan.
Less than 12 hours after the Oct. 7 attack, they sent teams of medical volunteers to hospitals to help with the wounded and deliver food to their families, said Oren Shvill, one of the group’s organizers. The next day, they started evacuating families and pairing them up with host families.
“Really fast, we managed to transform our organization from protesting to civilian aid,” he said. ”Everything we asked for, people just jumped on the mission.”
Now, they have 15,000 volunteers a day coordinated from logistics centers in Tel Aviv, near Gaza and in the north, where the army is fighting Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, he said. And they’ve been lauded as heroes in Israel.
They helped locate missing people; sent equipment to soldiers called to the Gaza border; shipped donated food, clothes, toys and medicine to the evacuees; and began coordinating an informal public relations operation for the country, Shvill said. They sent teachers and therapists to the evacuees’ hotels and set up operations there to answer their questions.
This week, they began sending volunteers to milk cows, pick tomatoes and cucumbers and plant potatoes at abandoned farms in the south.
“Everything we are doing should have been done by the government,” he said.
 


At least one dead after heavy rains set off flash floods in UAE

At least one dead after heavy rains set off flash floods in UAE
Updated 6 sec ago
Follow

At least one dead after heavy rains set off flash floods in UAE

At least one dead after heavy rains set off flash floods in UAE
  • UAE witnessed record rainfall with 254 mm, the most since records began in 1949
  • Dubai International Airport, one of the world’s busiest, facing significant disruptions 

DUBAI: Authorities and communities across the United Arab Emirates were clearing debris on Wednesday after a torrential downpour killed at least one person and caused damage to homes and businesses.
The UAE witnessed a record rainfall with 254 mm falling in Al Ain on Tuesday in less than 24 hours, according to the national meteorology center. That was the most since records began in 1949, before the country was established in 1971.
Although heavy rains had eased by late Tuesday, disruptions were continuing on Wednesday with Emirates airline suspending check-in for passengers departing Dubai airport until midnight.
Dubai International Airport, one of the world’s busiest, said it was facing significant disruptions after the heavy rains delayed or diverted flights and had impacted flight crews.
Passengers departing Dubai were advised against heading to the airport and to check their flight status with their airline.
“We are working hard to recover operations as quickly as possible in very challenging conditions,” the airport wrote on X.
Emirates said passengers who were already in transit would continue to be processed but warned that delays to departures and arrivals should be expected. The Dubai airport website showed hours-long delays for some arrival and departure flights.
Local media reported that an elderly Emirati man in his 70s died on Tuesday morning when his vehicle was caught in flash floods in the Ras Al Khaimah emirate, in the country’s north.
In neighboring Oman, 19 people died, including school children after three consecutive days of heavy rain, according to Omani media, which published images of flooded communities.
The Times of Oman reported that more rain was expected on Wednesday. In Dubai, the skies were clear but in some areas the roads were quiet after the government ordered its employees and all schools to work remotely for a second consecutive day.
UAE media and social media posts showed significant damage from the torrential downpour in some parts of the country, including collapsed roads and homes inundated by water.
Social media posts on Tuesday showed flooded roads and car parks with some vehicles completely submerged. Sheikh Zayed Road, a 12-lane highway through Dubai, was partially flooded, leaving people stuck in a kilometers-long traffic jam for hours.


Iran navy escorting Iranian commercial ships to Red Sea, commander says

Iran navy escorting Iranian commercial ships to Red Sea, commander says
Updated 48 min 26 sec ago
Follow

Iran navy escorting Iranian commercial ships to Red Sea, commander says

Iran navy escorting Iranian commercial ships to Red Sea, commander says
  • Iran is bracing for a possible Israeli retaliation, with Israel’s war cabinet meeting on Wednesday to discuss a response

DUBAI: Iran’s navy is escorting Iranian commercial ships to the Red Sea, Naval Commander Shahram Irani said on Wednesday, according to the semi-official Tasnim news agency.
The move follows the first-ever direct Iranian attack on Israel, carried out in retaliation for a suspected Israeli strike on an Iranian diplomatic compound in Damascus.
Iran is bracing for a possible Israeli retaliation, with Israel’s war cabinet meeting on Wednesday to discuss a response.
“The Navy is carrying out a mission to escort Iranian commercial ships to the Red Sea and our Jamaran frigate is present in the Gulf of Aden in this view,” Irani said.
Tehran was ready to escort vessels of other countries, he added.
The Red Sea has seen significant disruption to Israel-bound shipping due to attacks from Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis.
On April 13, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized the MSC Aries, a Portuguese-flagged container ship which Tehran says is linked to Israel.


Dubai Airports issue travel advisory as fierce storm hits UAE

Dubai Airports issue travel advisory as fierce storm hits UAE
Updated 57 min 32 sec ago
Follow

Dubai Airports issue travel advisory as fierce storm hits UAE

Dubai Airports issue travel advisory as fierce storm hits UAE
  • Record rainfall in UAE, Al-Ain witnesses 254 mm in fewer than 24 hours
  • Long delays for some flights to and from Dubai International Airport

DUBAI: Travelers were warned against heading to Dubai International Airport and advised to check the status of their flights with the airline due to the heaviest rainfall in 75 years, Emirates News Agency reported.

Dubai Airports said flights continued to be delayed and diverted following the deluge and urged passengers to contact airlines for the latest travel information.

“We are working hard to recover operations as quickly as possible in very challenging conditions,” the airport wrote on X.

Emirates Airlines suspended all travel procedures for passengers leaving Dubai on Wednesday, but added they would continue for arrivals and transit passengers. The Dubai airport website showed until midnight. The airport’s website showed extensive delays for some flights.

The UAE witnessed a record rainfall on Tuesday, with the National Center of Meteorology reporting that 254 mm fell in Al-Ain in fewer than 24 hours. This is the highest level since records began in 1949.

On Wednesday morning, the authorities were busy clearing up the debris following the downpour, which caused chaos across the country.

In Ras al-Khaimah, the country's northernmost emirate, police said one 70-year-old man died when his vehicle was swept away by floodwater. 

In neighboring Oman, 19 people died, including children, following three consecutive days of heavy rain. Local media published images of flooded communities and the Times of Oman reported more rain was expected on Wednesday.

The skies were clear in Dubai, but the roads were quiet in some areas after government employees and all schools were ordered to work remotely for a second day.

UAE media and social media posts showed significant damage in some parts of the country, including collapsed roads and flooded homes. Others included images of roads and car parks under water, with some vehicles completely submerged.

Sheikh Zayed Road, a 12-lane highway through Dubai, was partially flooded, leaving people stuck for hours in long traffic jams.


Israeli war cabinet puts off third meeting on Iran’s attack to Wednesday

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) during a War Cabinet meeting at the Kirya in Tel Aviv.   (AFP file photo)
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) during a War Cabinet meeting at the Kirya in Tel Aviv. (AFP file photo)
Updated 17 April 2024
Follow

Israeli war cabinet puts off third meeting on Iran’s attack to Wednesday

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) during a War Cabinet meeting at the Kirya in Tel Aviv.   (AFP file photo)
  • Israel has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry
  • President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekend that the United States, Israel’s main protector, would not participate in an Israeli counter-strike

JERUSALEM: A third meeting of Israel’s war cabinet set for Tuesday to decide on a response to Iran’s first-ever direct attack was put off until Wednesday, as Western allies eyed swift new sanctions against Tehran to help dissuade Israel from a major escalation.
Military chief of staff Herzi Halevi had promised that Saturday night’s launch of more than 300 missiles, cruise missiles and drones from Iran at Israeli territory “will be met with a response,” but gave no details.
While the attack caused no deaths and little damage thanks to the air defenses and countermeasures of Israel and its allies, it has increased fears that violence rooted in the six-month-old Gaza war is spreading, with the risk of open war between long-time adversaries Iran and Israel.
Iran launched the attack in retaliation for an airstrike on its embassy compound in Damascus on April 1 attributed to Israel, but has signalled that it now deems the matter closed.
An Israeli government source said the war cabinet session scheduled for Tuesday had been put off until Wednesday, without elaborating.
President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekend that the United States, Israel’s main protector, would not participate in an Israeli counter-strike.
Together with European allies, Washington instead strove on Tuesday to toughen economic and political sanctions against Iran in an attempt to steer Israel away from massive retaliation.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said he was “leading a diplomatic attack,” writing to 32 countries to ask them to place sanctions on Iran’s missile program and follow Washington in proscribing its dominant military force, the Revolutionary Guard Corps, as a terrorist group.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the US would use sanctions, and work with allies, to keep disrupting Iran’s “malign and destabilising activity.”
She told a news conference in Washington that all options to disrupt Iran’s “terrorist financing” were on the table, and that she expected further sanctions against Iran to be announced in coming days.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell
, speaking in Brussels after an emergency video conference of EU foreign ministers, said some member states had asked for sanctions against Iran to be expanded and that the bloc’s diplomatic service would begin working on the proposal.
Borrell said the proposal would expand a sanctions regime that seeks to curb the supply of Iranian drones to Russia so that it would also include the provision of missiles and could also cover deliveries to Iranian proxies in the Middle East.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said earlier on Tuesday that several EU members had promised to look again at extending sanctions, adding she would head to Israel within hours to discuss how to prevent an escalation.

’CALM HEADS’

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak
told Netanyahu in a call on Tuesday that escalation in the Middle East was in nobody’s interest and would only worsen insecurity in the region, so it was “a moment for calm heads to prevail,” Sunak’s office said.
Sunak had said on Monday the Group of Seven major democracies was working on a package of measures against Iran. Italy, which has the G7 presidency, suggested any new sanctions would target individuals.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani told state TV on Monday night that Tehran’s response to any Israeli counterattack would come in “a matter of seconds, as Iran will not wait for another 12 days to respond.”
The prospect of Israeli retaliation has alarmed many Iranians already enduring economic pain and tighter social and political controls since major protests in 2022-23.
Since the war in Gaza began in October, clashes have erupted between Israel and Iran-aligned groups based in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
Israel said four of its soldiers were wounded hundreds of meters inside Lebanese territory overnight, the first known Israeli ground penetration into Lebanon since the Gaza war erupted, although it has regularly traded fire with the heavily armed Lebanese Hezbollah militia.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby declined on Monday to say whether Biden had urged Netanyahu in talks on Saturday night to exercise restraint in responding to Iran.
“We don’t want to see a war with Iran. We don’t want to see a regional conflict,” Kirby told a briefing.
Some analysts said the Biden administration was unlikely to seek to sharpen sanctions on Iran’s oil exports due to worries about a big spike in oil prices and angering top buyer China.
In a call between the Chinese and Iranian foreign ministers, China said it believed Iran could “handle the situation well and spare the region further turmoil” while safeguarding its sovereignty and dignity, according to Chinese state media.
Iran’s weekend attack caused modest damage in Israel and wounded a 7-year-old girl. Most missiles and drones were shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system and with help from the US, Britain, France and Jordan.
In Gaza itself, where more than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli offensive according to Gaza health ministry figures, Iran’s action drew applause.
Israel began its campaign against Hamas, the Iranian-backed Palestinian militant group that runs Gaza, after the militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages, by Israeli tallies.
Iran’s attack prompted at least a dozen airlines to cancel or reroute flights, with Europe’s aviation regulator still advising caution in using Israeli and Iranian airspace.

 


UN envoy lashes out at Libya’s feuding parties and their foreign backers, then says he’s resigned

 UN envoy lashes out at Libya’s feuding parties and their foreign backers, then says he’s resigned
Updated 17 April 2024
Follow

UN envoy lashes out at Libya’s feuding parties and their foreign backers, then says he’s resigned

 UN envoy lashes out at Libya’s feuding parties and their foreign backers, then says he’s resigned
  • Bathily did not inform the Security Council either at the open meeting or the closed session that followed that he had submitted his resignation, council diplomats said
  • For years, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia backed Haftar while the Tripoli-based militaries enjoyed the support of Turkiye, Qatar and Italy, especially during Haftar’s unsuccessful offensive to take the capital in 2019

UNITED NATIONS: The UN envoy for Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily, lashed out at the country’s feuding parties and their foreign backers at a UN Security Council meeting Tuesday and then confirmed he had submitted his resignation.
The former Senegalese minister and UN diplomat, who has held the job for 18 months, said he had done his best to get the five key political actors in Libya to resolve contested issues over electoral laws and form a unified government to lead the country to long-delayed elections.
But Bathily said his attempts “were met with stubborn resistance, unreasonable expectations and indifference to the interests of the Libyan people.” And he warned that these entrenched positions, reinforced by “a divided regional and global landscape,” may push Libya and the region to further instability and insecurity.
The UN envoy, clearly frustrated, also warned that oil-rich Libya “has become the playground for fierce rivalry among regional and international actors motivated by geopolitical, political and economic interests as well as competition extending beyond Libya and related to its neighborhood.” And he accused these actors of undermining UN efforts.
Bathily did not inform the Security Council either at the open meeting or the closed session that followed that he had submitted his resignation, council diplomats said. But afterward, in response to a question from a reporter, he said, “Yes, I did tender my resignation to the secretary-general,” he said, without giving any reasons.
Libya plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. In the chaos that followed, the country split, with rival administrations in the east and west backed by rogue militias and foreign governments.
The country’s current political crisis stems from the failure to hold elections on Dec. 24, 2021, and the refusal of Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah — who led a transitional government in the capital of Tripoli — to step down.
In response, Libya’s east-based parliament appointed a rival prime minister, Fathy Bashagha, but suspended him in May 2023. The powerful military commander Khalifa Haftar continues to hold sway in the east.
For years, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia backed Haftar while the Tripoli-based militaries enjoyed the support of Turkiye, Qatar and Italy, especially during Haftar’s unsuccessful offensive to take the capital in 2019.
Libya’s strategic location on the Mediterranean, and the political chaos, have made the country a major route for African migrants trying to get to Europe and human smugglers. The Islamic State and other extremist groups also exploited the chaos and while some are in prison in Libya they remain a threat, especially from its restive western and southern borders where these groups have gained support.
Over the last month, Bathily said, the situation in Libya has deteriorated as a result of two major factors.
The first is “the lack of political will and good faith by the major Libyan actors who are comfortable with the current stalemate, which has been going on in Libya since 2011,” he said.
The second is the ongoing scramble for Libya’s territory that has made it a battleground for different foreign actors and Libyan armed groups, he said.
Bathily pointed to initiatives in recent months, whose objective, even if not declared, is “to disrupt the UN-led process” to form a unified government.
He singled out a meeting in Cairo on March 10 where three key political players reportedly reached an agreement that the UN was not part of, and that wasn’t supported by the other parties that were not invited.
“Unilateral, parallel and uncoordinated initiatives contribute to unnecessary complications and to the consolidation of the status quo,” he said, and as long as these continue “there is no way we can move forward.”
Bathily stressed that “the unity of the international community is key to resolving the Libya crisis.”
He said the Security Council, which authorized the 2011 NATO intervention, must demonstrate unity and “compel” Libyan and regional “stakeholders” to back the UN’s efforts to unite Libya through a political dialogue.
The Security Council also has “a moral responsibility” to end the crisis by telling everybody – the “so-called national leaders” in power today and their foreign backers – to let the Libyan people have the opportunity to chart a new course through elections and rebuild the country, Bathily said.
Libya is the richest country in the region and has the resources to be prosperous, stable and peaceful – without regional or international intervention, he said.
Bathily also stressed that peace and stability in Libya is critical for the stability of neighboring western Sahel and the wider region.
“More than ever, the renewed and coordinated commitment among regional and international actors is imperative,” he told the council.