Preventing aid getting to Gaza could be ‘a crime’: ICC prosecutor

Preventing aid getting to Gaza could be ‘a crime’: ICC prosecutor
Israel imposed a siege on Gaza in the aftermath of the October 7 Hamas attack, blocking humanitarian aid from entering the Palestinian enclave. (AFP)
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Updated 30 October 2023
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Preventing aid getting to Gaza could be ‘a crime’: ICC prosecutor

Preventing aid getting to Gaza could be ‘a crime’: ICC prosecutor
  • Karim Khan: ‘These supplies must get to the civilians of Gaza without delay’
  • Egypt’s Rafah crossing only entry point through which international aid trickles in

CAIRO: The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor warned Sunday that blocking humanitarian aid from entering Gaza could constitute a crime.
“Impeding relief supplies as provided by the Geneva Conventions may constitute a crime within the court jurisdiction,” Karim Khan told reporters in Cairo.
He was speaking after a visit to Egypt’s Rafah crossing, where he said trucks full of desperately needed goods remained stuck and unable to cross into Gaza.
“I saw trucks full of goods, full of humanitarian assistance stuck where nobody needs them, stuck in Egypt, stuck at Rafah,” he said.
“These supplies must get to the civilians of Gaza without delay.”
Rafah is the only entry point through which international aid is currently able to trickle into the Hamas-run Palestinian territory, which is facing a near-total siege and relentless Israeli bombardment.
Israel imposed the siege and unleashed its massive bombing campaign after Hamas gunmen stormed across the border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 230 hostages, according to Israeli officials.
Israel’s strikes have since then killed more than 8,000 people, half of them children, the Hamas-controlled health ministry in the territory said.
Since limited aid deliveries resumed through the Rafah crossing on October 21, a total of 117 trucks have entered.
Prior to the siege, some 500 trucks carrying aid and other goods entered Gaza every day.
Khan said he wanted “to underline clearly to Israel that there must be discernible efforts without further delay to make sure civilians (in Gaza) receive basic food, medicines.”
On Sunday the United Nations warned it feared a breakdown of public order after looting at food aid centers in Gaza run by its agency for Palestinian refugees, the UNRWA.
UN chief Antonio Guterres said the situation was “growing more desperate by the hour” as casualty numbers increase and essential supplies of food, water, medicine and shelter dwindle.
Khan said his office had an ongoing investigation into “any crimes committed on the territory of Palestine and any crimes committed, whether it’s by Israel and Palestine or whether it’s acts committed on the territory of Palestine or from Palestine into Israel.”
“This includes current events in Gaza and also current events in the West Bank,” Khan said.
He said he was “very concerned also by the spike of the number of reported incidents of attack by settlers against Palestinian civilians” in the territory Israel has occupied since 1967.
Khan also stressed that hostage-taking was a breach of the Geneva Conventions.
“I call for the immediate release of all hostages taken from Israel and for their safe return to their families,” he said.
The British lawyer said “Israel has clear obligations in relation to its war with Hamas, not just moral obligations but legal obligations” to comply with the laws of conflict.
“These principles equally apply to Hamas in relation to firing indiscriminate rockets into Israel,” he said.
Set up in 2002, the ICC is the only global independent tribunal to probe the world’s worst crimes including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Palestinians signed up to the court’s founding Rome Statute in 2015.
Israel, which is not a signatory to the ICC, has refused to cooperate with the probe or recognize its jurisdiction.


Security Council to hold emergency meeting after Rafah strike: diplomats

Security Council to hold emergency meeting after Rafah strike: diplomats
Updated 7 sec ago
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Security Council to hold emergency meeting after Rafah strike: diplomats

Security Council to hold emergency meeting after Rafah strike: diplomats

UNITED NATIONS, United States: The UN Security Council has convened an emergency meeting for Tuesday after a deadly Israeli strike on a displaced persons camp in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, diplomats told AFP.
The closed-door meeting was requested by Algeria, which is currently a non-permanent member of the council, diplomats said.


New settler units on Palestinian land hand Israel a powerful demographic weapon

New settler units on Palestinian land hand Israel a powerful demographic weapon
Updated 27 May 2024
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New settler units on Palestinian land hand Israel a powerful demographic weapon

New settler units on Palestinian land hand Israel a powerful demographic weapon
  • Israeli authorities accused of exploiting Gaza war to create “more facts on the ground” in occupied West Bank
  • Uptick noticed in approvals for illegal settlements in East Jerusalem within or alongside Palestinian neighborhoods

LONDON: On July 11 last year, 68-year-old Nora Ghaith and her husband Mustafa Sub Laban lost their battle to hold on to their home in Jerusalem’s Old City — in which Ghaith was born — when Israeli police broke down their door and forcibly evicted the elderly couple.

The eviction of the last remaining Palestinians in an apartment building now filled with settlers was carried out under a controversial law. This legislation enables Jews to claim properties that supposedly belonged to their families before they were evicted in 1948, and were subsequently occupied by Palestinian refugees.

Since Oct. 7, plans for no fewer than eight new settlements in East Jerusalem have been fast-tracked. (AFP)

The Legal and Administrative Matters Law was passed in 1970 after Israel annexed East Jerusalem. The same law does not, however, permit the far larger number of Palestinians whose families were evicted from West Jerusalem in 1948 to reclaim the properties they lost.

In fact, the Absentee Property Law, passed in 1950 and amended in 1973, prevents Palestinians from reclaiming lost properties.

Both laws are doubly unjust, critics say, because Jews who left East Jerusalem in 1948 were later given Palestinian properties in West Jerusalem as compensation, and in being allowed to “reclaim” properties in East Jerusalem are being doubly compensated.

Israeli troops patrol the Palestinian refugee camp of Al-Fara, in the occupied West Bank. (AFP)

Last year, the “deeply shocking and heart-breaking” eviction of the Ghaith-Sub Laban family and many other Palestinian families in East Jerusalem was condemned by UN experts as “part of Israel’s apartheid machinery at work, designed to consolidate Jewish ownership of Jerusalem and racially dominate the city’s population.”

The human rights special rapporteurs said such evictions were “a gross violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime,” and evidence of “intention to annex and colonize the occupied territory in violation of international law.”

Between Oct. 7 last year and March 10, some 98 Palestinian homes were demolished, research reveals. (AFP)

Less than a year on, however, two Israeli human rights nongovernmental organizations said that while the global community’s attention has been focused on the death and destruction unfolding in Gaza, there has been “a major acceleration in the promotion and fast-tracking of new settlement plans in East Jerusalem and a dramatic spike in the rate of demolitions of Palestinian homes.”

The Israeli government “is clearly exploiting the war to create more facts on the ground to predetermine the final status of Jerusalem and thwart all prospects for a negotiated political agreement, while forcibly displacing Palestinians from their homes and the city,” Amy Cohen, director of international relations at Ir Amim, told Arab News.

Ir Amim, or City of Nations, is an Israeli NGO working “to render Jerusalem a more equitable and sustainable city for the Israelis and Palestinians who share it and to help secure a negotiated resolution on the city.”

Research, carried out jointly with Bimkom-Planners for Planning Rights, reveals that between Oct. 7 last year and March 10, some 98 Palestinian homes were demolished — an almost two-fold monthly increase compared with the period preceding the war.

At the same time, there has been “a major uptick” in efforts to create illegal settlements in East Jerusalem either within or alongside Palestinian neighborhoods.

These plans provide for more than 12,000 housing units. With an average 6.5 births per woman among ultra-Orthodox Jewish families recorded in the period 2019 to 2021, this means tens of thousands of additional settlers will be moving into East Jerusalem.

From 2008 to May 12 this year, 1,498 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. (AFP)

According to the most recent census, approximately 361,700 (61 percent) of East Jerusalem’s population are Palestinian Arabs. The remaining 234,000 (40 percent) are Jewish — all of whom are regarded by the international community as illegal settlers in the territory, which has been occupied by Israel since the Six Day War in 1967.

The growing number of illegal settlements is especially concerning in light of the statistics for violent assaults in the West Bank. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, from 2008 to May 12 this year, 1,498 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — 10 times as many as the 149 Israeli deaths reported.

There is an even greater disparity in the number of injuries on both sides — 95,383 Palestinians and 2,373 Israelis.

The Israeli authorities “are certainly exploiting the circumstances right now, taking advantage of the fact that the international community is obviously overwhelmed with the horrific, catastrophic conditions in Gaza and all of its implications,” said Cohen.

The growing number of illegal settlements is especially concerning in light of the statistics for violent assaults in the West Bank. (AFP)

“So, while the attention is diverted there — and the Israeli government is complicit in this — the activists in the settler movement are really taking advantage of the circumstances to create more ‘facts on the ground.’”

These “facts” are motivated by the Israeli government’s policy “to ensure that Jerusalem remains what they often call the ‘united, eternal capital of Jerusalem,’ and to preserve the essence of the city being a Jewish capital.

“That means not only do they have to secure control over as much space as possible, but also over the demographic balance of the population — the demographic majority must be in favor of Jewish Israelis, which is being achieved by targeting the Palestinian population.”

She added: “These policies and these measures essentially put a cap on the Palestinian demographic, which serves as a form of — and it’s horrific to even say this — but a form of displacement and population control, to ensure that there will be a Jewish demographic majority in the city.

INNUMBERS

98 Palestinian homes demolished in Oct. 7-March 10 period in East Jerusalem.

12,000 Housing units planned in illegal settlements in East Jerusalem.

“And this has been playing out in the form of demolitions.”

Since Oct. 7, plans for no fewer than eight new settlements in East Jerusalem have been fast-tracked.

The fear, said Cohen, was that the situation was approaching a tipping point beyond which the implementation of a two-state solution would become impossible.

“If the international community were to come together today with representatives of Israel and the Palestinian Authority and begin to sit down and draw some sort of road map, it would look very, very different than it did 20 years ago, during Camp David or even before that during the Oslo Accords,” she said.

The Israeli government ‘is clearly exploiting the war to create more facts on the ground to predetermine the final status of Jerusalem,’ said Amy Cohen.

“Obviously, any road map would have to be adapted to the reality of today. You cannot reverse most of what has happened up until now in Jerusalem. But you can certainly prevent what Israel is trying to do right now.

“And so first and foremost is the need to really address the here and now, to halt the major developments on the ground for settlements and to halt the mechanisms of displacement, such as demolitions and evictions.”

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She added: “If the international community is really serious about a two-state solution, it needs to act now to hold Israel accountable to international law and the parameters of a two-state solution, and so far we haven’t seen that.”

Since the outbreak of the war there has been renewed discussion about the need to jump-start a new peace process, to renew dialogue toward an agreed-upon negotiated resolution.

The Absentee Property Law, passed in 1950 and amended in 1973, prevents Palestinians from reclaiming lost properties. (AFP)

“But with that, we have to bring back the centrality of Jerusalem in the debate, because without Jerusalem there is really no two-state solution.

“And as we all know, without a two-state solution, we will not be able to achieve peace and security for all of us, Israelis and Palestinians, living between the river and the sea.”


Aid trucks arrive in Gaza, but no deliveries yet

Aid trucks arrive in Gaza, but no deliveries yet
Updated 27 May 2024
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Aid trucks arrive in Gaza, but no deliveries yet

Aid trucks arrive in Gaza, but no deliveries yet

CAIRO: More than 100 aid trucks managed to reach the Gaza Strip by Monday morning after an agreement to reroute aid through the Kerem Shalom border crossing, but supplies have not been distributed amid an ongoing Israeli assault, sources said.

Deliveries are badly needed as little aid has reached southern Gaza since May 6, when Israel took control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing, about 3.5 km from Kerem Shalom and the main entry point into Gaza for humanitarian and commercial supplies.

The latest arrivals would be the biggest aid delivery into southern Gaza by far since the launch of Israel’s attacks in Rafah, with most days seeing no trucks crossing the border.

Israeli forces began a ground offensive in the east of Rafah over three weeks ago. An Israeli airstrike on Sunday triggered a fire that killed 45 people

Officials said in a tent camp in Rafah on Monday, prompting an outcry from global leaders. Egyptian security sources said 123 aid trucks had crossed the border and delivered goods to the UN. 

An Israeli source confirmed that aid had been brought into Gaza and delivered to partners.

An Egyptian aid source said four fuel trucks had also crossed the border.

However, UN and Palestinian officials said Palestinian trucks that went to pick up the aid at the crossing returned empty.

“Trucks moved through, but it was not possible to collect them due to the rocket attacks and the IAF (air force) strikes,” said a UN official in Gaza, adding that the supplies belonged to the UN’s Palestinian aid agency UNRWA and the World Food Programme.

On Friday, Egypt and the United States agreed to utilize Kerem Shalom until arrangements were made to re-open Rafah from the Palestinian side, the Egyptian presidency said. Egypt has refused to coordinate with Israel on the crossing.


With few signs of Syria solution, EU pledges more support to refugees

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.
European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.
Updated 27 May 2024
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With few signs of Syria solution, EU pledges more support to refugees

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.
  • Jordan’s foreign minister said the international community was abandoning Syrian refugees as funding to support them in host countries dwindles

BRUSSELS: The European Union pledged more than 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion) on Monday to support displaced Syrians, but it dismissed any notion of them being able to return home because of instability under Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Before an EU-led donor conference on the 13-year-old war, Jordan’s foreign minister said that the international community was abandoning Syrian refugees as funding to support them in host countries dwindles, suggesting that ways had to be found to ease voluntary returns to Syria.
The EU conference aims to keep the war on the agenda, as well as support for the millions of refugees it has created. But as the economic and social burden on neighboring countries mounts the bloc is divided and unable to find solutions, diplomats say.
Refugees returning home is not yet one of them however, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell made clear at the start of the conference.
“While the European Union would wish that returning home could be a realistic option for all refugees, everywhere and always, we concur with the United Nations system that currently the conditions for safe, voluntary and dignified returns to Syria are not in place,” Borrell said.
“We insist that it is the Assad regime that bears the primary responsibility for putting in place these conditions.”
Borrell said the bloc was pledging 560 million euros in 2024 and 2025 to support refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan and a further 1 billion euros for Turkiye.
Syria has become a forgotten crisis that nobody wants to stir, amid the Israeli war in Gaza and tensions growing between Iran and Western powers over its regional activities.
Although Assad has long since reasserted control over most of Syria in a war that began with a 2011 uprising against him, more than 5 million refugees mostly in Lebanon, Turkiye and Jordan and millions more displaced internally still have little prospect of returning home.
“We’re going to be sending a very clear message from Jordan as a host country that we feel that refugees are being abandoned,” Ayman Safadi told reporters on arrival in Brussels. “Host countries are being abandoned.”
Jordan is hosting around 1.3 million Syrians. Safadi said the issue “can only be solved by them going back to their country. So we need to focus more on creating conditions conducive for them to return voluntarily.”
Funding to support refugees is dropping with the likes of the World Food Programme reducing its aid. Countries say hosting refugees is an increasing burden, notably in economic crisis-hit Lebanon, where the discontent has seen forced deportations.
“We expect our partners to uphold international law, including the principle of non-refoulement, and reject and condemn any forced deportations,” Borrell said.
The 8th Syria conference brings together European and Arab ministers along with key international organizations, but beyond vague promises and financial pledges there are few signs that Europe can take the lead, diplomats said.
The bloc has no ties with the Assad government and Monday’s talks come just ahead of the European elections on June 6-9 in which migration is a divisive issue among the EU’s 27 member states. With far-right and populist parties already expected to do well, there is little appetite to step up refugee support.
An upswing in migrant boat arrivals from Lebanon to Europe, with Cyprus and Italy major destinations, has prompted some EU countries to warn of a big new influx into the bloc.
“We’ll continue to do everything we can. But unless we’re helped, unless the international community shoulders its responsibility, there will be a decrease in services and there will be more suffering for refugees,” Safadi said.


Motorcyclist killed in Israeli strike near hospital in southern Lebanon

Motorcyclist killed in Israeli strike near hospital in southern Lebanon
Updated 27 May 2024
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Motorcyclist killed in Israeli strike near hospital in southern Lebanon

Motorcyclist killed in Israeli strike near hospital in southern Lebanon
  • Health Ministry denounces ‘full-fledged crime’ as health care workers, patients injured in drone attack

BEIRUT: An Israeli strike on Monday outside a hospital in south Lebanon killed one person, the latest deadly raid in the country’s south.

Victim, Ali Wizani, on a motorcycle at the hospital entrance, was heading for medical tests.

Fifteen other people sustained varying injuries, including seven civilians and eight health care workers at Salah Ghandour Hospital in the city of Bint Jbeil.

The hospital security guard, Hassan Jouni, underwent surgery due to severe injuries.

An Israeli combat drone carried out Monday’s attack during a peak time when patients were arriving at the hospital at the start of the week.

For the first time since the hostilities began in the southern Lebanon border area, the Israeli army targeted the vicinity of a hospital on Monday morning.

The Israeli military has increased its efforts in recent days to apprehend individuals using cars or motorcycles on the roads, resulting in the fatalities of Hezbollah members and civilians.

The Lebanese Ministry of Health condemned the brutal Israeli shelling that targeted the hospital.

The hospital “is the only one still operating in this area from which residents have been displaced due to Israeli attacks,“ its director, Dr. Mohammed Sleiman, told Arab News.

“When the drone carried out its attack on the hospital entrance, there were people gathered to enter, which caused injuries.”

He said: “The hospital staff quickly evacuated the patients from the damaged front floors.

“We found that the shells used contained nails or iron fragments that left traces in the hospital building.

“The hospital’s role is humanitarian. The Israelis know the hospital very well, and we follow all required instructions during wars.”

Dr. Sleiman added: “In the July 2006 war, the hospital was subjected to direct shelling, and after today’s attack, we resumed work normally.

“We receive all patients in addition to the wounded from Israeli attacks. We currently have 17 patients besides the war-wounded.

“We receive non-urgent surgeries, and we have a medical team residing in the hospital since the attacks began.

Ambulances operate normally, and the medical staff comes to the hospital as usual. After the attack, doctors and nursing staff who were off-duty came to the hospital to help.

“We do not suffer from any shortages of medicines and equipment, as the Ministry of Health supplies us with what we need.”

The Health Ministry described the hospital attack as a “full-fledged war crime and a new episode in the series of repeated and flagrant violations committed by Israel against health care facilities and health care workers in Lebanon, violating all human rights laws, the Geneva conventions, and all international laws and norms that stipulate the protection and respect of health care workers and the provision of safety for them during armed conflicts.”

Hezbollah retaliated against the Israeli assault on the hospital by “targeting and destroying the newly installed spy equipment at the Miskaf Am site.”

Media outlets in Israel reported that “firefighting crews are working to extinguish a massive fire that broke out in the settlement of Kiryat Shmona after rockets were launched from Lebanon.”

Hezbollah targeted “a building used by enemy soldiers in the Margaliot settlement with appropriate weapons and achieved confirmed casualties.”

The group also “launched an intense fire attack on the Al-Malikiyah position with guided missiles and artillery shells, targeting its garrison, its equipment, and the positions of its soldiers.”

Hezbollah used “attack drones on targets inside the site and hit them accurately” in its retaliation.

The Israeli army said that “a Sky Rider drone fell inside Lebanese territory, and the incident is being investigated.”

The Israeli military said that it bombed a building where Hezbollah members were located in the Yaron border area on Sunday.

Additionally, the air force targeted Hezbollah members in Hula, hitting a weapons storage facility in Mays Al-Jabal and military infrastructure in Khiam.

The Israeli raid on the town of Yaron led to casualties.

The border villages have not been spared from continuous Israeli bombardment, which it is said, aims to destroy homes and properties and burn crops with internationally prohibited phosphorus bombs.

An Israeli army spokesman said, “The Israeli forces have increased their readiness for the war on Lebanon. Over the past weeks, the 146th Division and the 205th Reserve Armored Brigade conducted an exercise at the division and brigade level simulating ground maneuvers in Lebanon.”

The spokesperson said “the exercise simulated combat scenarios on the northern front, the rapid deployment of forces in the field, the role of division and brigade command centers, and the readiness of forces for attack.” 

Also on Monday, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati discussed the security situation in the south with Gen. Aroldo Lazaro, the commander of UNIFIL Forces.

The talks included preparations to submit the periodic report to the UN Security Council about the implementation of Resolution 1701 and the coordination between UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army.