Israeli forces battle Hamas around Gaza City, as military says 800,000 have fled south

Update Israeli forces battle Hamas around Gaza City, as military says 800,000 have fled south
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More than half the territory’s 2.3 million Palestinians have fled their homes. (AFP)
Update Israeli forces battle Hamas around Gaza City, as military says 800,000 have fled south
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Above, Palestinian relatives wait to collect the bodies of eight family members killed in an Israeli air strike from the Najjar Hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Oct. 30. (AFP)
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Updated 31 October 2023
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Israeli forces battle Hamas around Gaza City, as military says 800,000 have fled south

Israeli forces battle Hamas around Gaza City, as military says 800,000 have fled south
  • Release of Private Ori Megidish was ‘secured during a ground operation’ inside Gaza
  • United Nations has repeatedly called for a humanitarian truce in the violence

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip: Israeli troops battled Hamas militants and attacked underground compounds on Tuesday with a focus on northern Gaza, from which an estimated 800,000 Palestinians have fled south despite continued Israeli bombardment across the besieged enclave.
Buoyed by the first successful rescue of a captive held by Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected calls for a cease-fire and again vowed to crush Hamas’ ability to govern Gaza or threaten Israel following its bloody Oct. 7 rampage, which ignited the war.
More than half the territory’s 2.3 million Palestinians have fled their homes, with hundreds of thousands sheltering in packed UN-run schools-turned-shelters or in hospitals alongside thousands of wounded patients. Israeli strikes have hit closer to several northern hospitals in recent days, alarming medics.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA, says nearly 672,000 Palestinians are sheltering in its schools and other facilities — four times their capacity. Thousands of people broke into its aid warehouses over the weekend to take food, as supplies of basic goods have dwindled because of the Israeli siege.
There has been no central electricity in Gaza for weeks, and Israel has barred the entry of fuel needed to power emergency generators for hospitals and homes.
UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini accused Israel of “collective punishment” of the Palestinians, and of forcing their displacement from northern Gaza to the south, where they are still not safe.
The agency, which hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza rely on for basic services even in normal times, says 64 of its staff have been killed since the start of the war, including a man killed alongside his wife and eight children in a strike late Monday.
“This is the highest number ever of UN aid workers killed in any conflict around the world in such a short time,” spokesperson Juliette Touma told The Associated Press. “UNRWA will never be the same without these colleagues.”
The war has also threatened to ignite even heavier fighting on other fronts. Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group have traded fire on a daily basis along the border, and Israel and the US have struck targets in Syria linked to Iran, which supports Hamas, Hezbollah and other armed groups in the region.
The military said it shot down a drone outside Israeli airspace on Tuesday near the Red Sea city of Eilat, without providing further details. Earlier this month, a US Navy destroyer in the Red Sea intercepted three cruise missiles and several drones launched toward Israel by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
In the occupied West Bank, where Israeli-Palestinian violence has also surged, the army demolished the family home of Saleh Al-Arouri, a senior Hamas official exiled over a decade ago. Ali Kaseeb, head of the local council in the village of Aroura, said the home had been vacant for 15 years.
Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, said ground operations in Gaza are focused on the north, including Gaza City, which he said was the “center of gravity of Hamas.”
“But we also continue to strike in other parts of Gaza. We are hunting their commanders, we are attacking their infrastructure, and whenever there is an important target that is related to Hamas, we strike it,” he said.
The military said it struck some 300 militant targets over the past day, including compounds inside tunnels, and that troops had engaged in several battles with Palestinian militants armed with antitank missiles and machine guns.
Hamas released its own video showing what it said was a battle in northern Gaza on Sunday. A fighter wearing a GoPro-style camera emerged from a tunnel with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and ran across sand dunes and shrubs with other militants amid the clatter of gunfire.
It was not possible to independently confirm the reports.
Larger ground operations have been launched both north and east of Gaza City, which before the war was home to over 650,000 people.
Video footage released by the military showed soldiers walking across an open area as heavy gunfire echoes in the background and setting up a position in the ruins of a heavily damaged building.
Conricus said some 800,000 people have heeded the Israeli military’s orders to flee from the northern part of the strip to the south. But tens of thousands of people remain in and around Gaza City, and casualties are expected to mount on both sides as the battle moves into dense, residential neighborhoods.
The window to flee south may be closing, as Israeli forces reached Gaza’s main north-south highway this week. Video circulating Monday showed a tank opening fire on a car that had approached a sand berm but was turning around. Gaza’s Health Ministry said three people were killed.
Zaki Abdel-Hay, a Palestinian man living a few minutes’ walk from the road south of Gaza City, said people are afraid to use it. “People are very scared. The Israeli tanks are still close,” he said over the phone, adding that “constant artillery fire” could be heard near the road.
In a news conference late Monday, Netanyahu rejected calls for a cease-fire to facilitate the release of captives or end the war, which he has said will be long and difficult. “Calls for a cease-fire are calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas,” he told a news conference. “That will not happen.”
Netanyahu, who faces mounting anger over Israel’s failure to prevent the worst surprise attack on the country in a half century, also said he had no plans to resign.
More than 8,500 Palestinians have been killed in the war, mostly women and minors, the Gaza Health Ministry said Monday. The figure is without precedent in decades of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Over 1,400 people have died on the Israeli side, mainly civilians killed during Hamas’ initial attack, also an unprecedented figure. Palestinian militants have continued firing rockets into Israel.
The military said Monday that special forces rescued one of the estimated 240 captives seized by Palestinian militants during the wide-ranging assault. It said Pvt. Ori Megidish, 19, was “doing well” and had been reunited with her family.
Hamas has released four hostages, and has said it would let the others go in return for thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, which has dismissed the offer. Hamas released a short video Monday showing three other female captives.
Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, meanwhile, continues to worsen.
The World Health Organization said two hospitals have been damaged and an ambulance destroyed in Gaza over the last two days. It said all 13 hospitals operating in the north have received Israeli evacuation orders in recent days. Medics have refused such orders, saying it would be a death sentence for patients on life support.
Israel says it targets Hamas fighters and infrastructure and that the militants operate among civilians, putting them in danger.
Israel has allowed more than 150 trucks loaded with food and medicine to enter Gaza from Egypt over the past several days, but aid workers say it’s not enough to meet rapidly growing needs.
Israel says it has reopened two main water lines in Gaza, but the UN office for humanitarian affairs said one of them had stopped working after operating for two weeks and that the other one was in need of repairs.


Iraq hangs 11 convicted of ‘terrorism’: security, health sources

Iraq hangs 11 convicted of ‘terrorism’: security, health sources
Updated 7 min 54 sec ago
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Iraq hangs 11 convicted of ‘terrorism’: security, health sources

Iraq hangs 11 convicted of ‘terrorism’: security, health sources
  • Under Iraqi law, terrorism and murder offenses are punishable by death, and execution decrees must be signed by the president
  • A security source in Iraq’s southern Dhi Qar province told AFP that 11 “terrorists from the Daesh group” were executed by hanging at a prison in Nasiriyah

NASIRIYAH, Iraq: Iraqi authorities have executed at least 11 people convicted of “terrorism” this week, security and health sources said Wednesday, with rights group Amnesty International condemning an “alarming lack of transparency.”
Under Iraqi law, terrorism and murder offenses are punishable by death, and execution decrees must be signed by the president.
A security source in Iraq’s southern Dhi Qar province told AFP that 11 “terrorists from the Daesh group” were executed by hanging at a prison in the city of Nasiriyah, “under the supervision of a justice ministry team.”
A local medical source confirmed that the health department had received the bodies of 11 executed people.
They were hanged on Monday “under Article 4 of the anti-terrorism law,” the source added, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
All 11 were from Salahaddin province and the bodies of seven had been returned to their families, the medical official said.
Iraqi courts have handed down hundreds of death and life sentences in recent years for people convicted of membership in “a terrorist group,” an offense that carries capital punishment regardless of whether the defendant had been an active fighter.
Iraq has been criticized for trials denounced by rights groups as hasty, with confessions sometimes obtained under torture.
Amnesty in a statement on Wednesday condemned the latest hangings for “overly broad and vague terrorism charges.”
It said a total of 13 men were executed on Monday, including 11 who had been “convicted on the basis of their affiliation to the so-called Daesh armed group.”
The two others, arrested in 2008, “were convicted of terrorism-related offenses under the Penal Code after a grossly unfair trial,” Amnesty said citing their lawyer.


Biden says Israel must allow aid to Palestinians ‘without delay’

Biden says Israel must allow aid to Palestinians ‘without delay’
Updated 24 April 2024
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Biden says Israel must allow aid to Palestinians ‘without delay’

Biden says Israel must allow aid to Palestinians ‘without delay’
  • “We’re going to immediately secure that aid and surge it,” Biden said
  • “Israel must make sure all this aid reaches the Palestinians in Gaza without delay“

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Wednesday demanded that new humanitarian aid be allowed to immediately reach Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as key US ally Israel fights Hamas there.
“We’re going to immediately secure that aid and surge it... including food, medical supplies, clean water,” Biden said after signing a massive military aid bill for Israel and Ukraine, which also included $1 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza.
“Israel must make sure all this aid reaches the Palestinians in Gaza without delay,” he said.
US-Israel relations have been strained by Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to send troops into the southern Gazan city of Rafah, where 1.5 million people are sheltering, many in makeshift encampments.
“This bill significantly — significantly — increases humanitarian assistance we’re sending to the innocent people of Gaza who are suffering badly,” Biden said.
“They’re suffering the consequences of this war that Hamas started, and we’ve been working intently for months to get as much aid to Gaza as possible.”


Israel hits Lebanese border towns with 14 missiles

Israel hits Lebanese border towns with 14 missiles
Updated 24 April 2024
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Israel hits Lebanese border towns with 14 missiles

Israel hits Lebanese border towns with 14 missiles
  • Hezbollah targets Israeli settlements in retaliation for Hanin civilian deaths
  • Hezbollah said it attacked the Shomera settlement with dozens of Katyusha rockets

BEIRUT: Clashes between Hezbollah and Israeli forces escalated sharply on Wednesday, the 200th day of conflict in southern Lebanon’s border area.

Israeli airstrikes created a ring of fire around Lebanese border towns, with at least 14 missiles hitting the area.

In the past two days, military activity in the border region has increased, with Hezbollah targeting areas in northern Acre for the first time in the conflict.

On Wednesday, Israeli strikes hit the outskirts of Aita Al-Shaab, Ramya, Jabal Balat, and Khallet Warda.

The Israeli military said it had destroyed a missile launching pad in Tair Harfa, and targeted Hezbollah infrastructure in Marqaba and Aita Al-Shaab.

Israeli artillery also struck areas of Kafar Shuba and Shehin “to eliminate a potential threat.”

Hezbollah also stepped up its operations, saying this was in retaliation for the “horrific massacre committed by the Israeli enemy in the town of Hanin, causing casualties and injuries among innocent civilians.”

A woman in her 50s and a 12-year-old girl, both members of the same family, were killed in the Israeli airstrike. Six other people were injured.

Hezbollah said it attacked the Shomera settlement with dozens of Katyusha rockets.

The group said it also targeted Israeli troops in Horsh Natawa, and struck the Al-Raheb site with artillery.

It also claimed to have killed and wounded Israeli soldiers in an attack on the Avivim settlement.

Israeli news outlets said that a rocket-propelled grenade hit a house in the settlement, setting the dwelling ablaze.

Hezbollah’s military media said that in the past 200 days of fighting with Israel, 1,998 operations had been carried out from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq, including 1,637 staged by Hezbollah.


Egypt denies any discussions with Israel over Rafah offensive

Egypt denies any discussions with Israel over Rafah offensive
Updated 24 April 2024
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Egypt denies any discussions with Israel over Rafah offensive

Egypt denies any discussions with Israel over Rafah offensive
  • Egypt reiterates opposition to any move on Rafah
  • Warnings tell of expected losses and negative repercussions

CAIRO: Egypt has denied any discussions with Israel regarding an offensive in the Palestinian city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt’s State Information Service, has refuted what has been claimed in one of the major American newspapers: that Egypt has discussed with the Israeli side its plans for an offensive in Rafah.

Rashwan has affirmed the Egyptian stance — announced several times by its political leadership — of complete opposition to the operation, which it is thought will lead to further massacres, massive human losses, and widespread destruction.

He added that Egypt’s repeated warnings have reached the Israeli side, from all channels, since Israel proposed carrying out a military operation in Rafah. These warnings tell of expected losses and the negative repercussions on the stability of the entire region.

Rashwan added that while Israel is contemplating its operation — which Egypt and most of the world and its international institutions stand against — Egyptian efforts since the beginning of the Israeli aggression had focused on reaching a ceasefire agreement and the exchange of prisoners and detainees.

He said Egypt was seeking the entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, especially the north and Gaza City, and the evacuation of wounded and sick people for treatment outside the area.

Egypt has repeatedly opposed the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza and is warning against any military operation in Rafah.


UAE announces $544m for repairs after record rains

People walk through flood water caused by heavy rains, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 17, 2024. (Reuters)
People walk through flood water caused by heavy rains, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 17, 2024. (Reuters)
Updated 24 April 2024
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UAE announces $544m for repairs after record rains

People walk through flood water caused by heavy rains, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 17, 2024. (Reuters)
  • Wednesday's announcement comes more than a week after the unprecedented deluge lashed the desert country
  • “The situation was unprecedented in its severity but we are a country that learns from every experience,” Sheikh Mohammed said

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates announced $544 million to repair the homes of Emirati families on Wednesday after last week’s record rains caused widespread flooding and brought the Gulf state to a standstill.
“We learned great lessons in dealing with severe rains,” said Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum after a cabinet meeting, adding that ministers approved “two billion dirhams to deal with damage to the homes of citizens.”
Wednesday’s announcement comes more than a week after the unprecedented deluge lashed the desert country, where it turned streets into rivers and hobbled Dubai airport, the world’s busiest for international passengers.
“A ministerial committee was assigned to follow up on this file... and disburse compensation in cooperation with the rest of the federal and local authorities,” said Sheikh Mohammed, who is also the ruler of Dubai, which was one of the worst hit of the UAE’s seven sheikhdoms.
The rainfall was the UAE’s heaviest since records began 75 years ago.
Cabinet ministers also formed a second committee to log infrastructure damage and propose solutions, Sheikh Mohammed said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
“The situation was unprecedented in its severity but we are a country that learns from every experience,” he said.
The storm, which dumped up to two years’ worth of rain on the UAE, had subsided by last Wednesday.
But Dubai faced severe disruption for days later, with water-clogged roads and flooded homes.
Dubai airport canceled 2,155 flights, diverted 115 and did not return to full capacity until Tuesday.