UN alarmed as Middle East war intensifies

The Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres. (REUTERS)
The Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres. (REUTERS)
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Updated 01 November 2023
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UN alarmed as Middle East war intensifies

The Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres. (REUTERS)
  • Antonio Guterres: ‘Civilians have borne the brunt of the current fighting from the outset’

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations chief said Tuesday he was “deeply alarmed” by the intensifying conflict between Israel and Hamas, while the UN refugee agency appealed for the divided Security Council to act.
The 15-member Council has not adopted any resolution on the three-week-long war in the Middle East, rejecting four drafts.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the escalating fighting included “ground operations by the Israel Defense Forces accompanied by intense air strikes, and the continued rocket fire toward Israel from Gaza.”
“Civilians have borne the brunt of the current fighting from the outset,” he said in his statement.
“I repeat my utter condemnation of the acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas on 7 October. There is never any justification for the killing, injuring and abduction of civilians. I appeal for the immediate and unconditional release of those civilians held hostage by Hamas.
“I condemn the killing of civilians in Gaza and I am dismayed by reports that two-thirds of those who have been killed are women and children.”
Guterres also underlined his fears “about the risk of a dangerous escalation beyond Gaza.”
As fierce fighting raged Tuesday, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees urged the UN Security Council to unite and back a cease-fire.
“A humanitarian cease-fire can at least stop this spiral of death and I hope that you will overcome your divisions and exercise your authority in demanding one,” Filippo Grandi told the Security Council in New York.
Grandi later told reporters that bringing help into Gaza was the most important humanitarian goal.
“Palestinians do not want to leave Gaza. They want aid to come into Gaza and that should be the priority,” he said.
Some Security Council draft texts have been blocked by the United States because they did not mention Israel’s right to defend itself, while one was stymied by Russia and China in particular because it did not clearly call for a cease-fire.
Israel launched its most intense military campaign ever on Gaza after suffering the bloodiest attack in its history when Hamas gunmen on October 7 killed some 1,400 people in a brutal cross-border raid, according to Israeli officials.
Israeli warplanes on Tuesday kept up a relentless barrage of strikes on Gaza, where the Hamas-run health ministry said that at least 8,525 people had been killed, including over 3,500 children.


Wars in Gaza and Sudan ‘drive hunger crisis affecting 280 million worldwide’

Wars in Gaza and Sudan ‘drive hunger crisis affecting 280 million worldwide’
Updated 24 April 2024
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Wars in Gaza and Sudan ‘drive hunger crisis affecting 280 million worldwide’

Wars in Gaza and Sudan ‘drive hunger crisis affecting 280 million worldwide’
  • New report on global food insecurity says outlook for 2024 is ‘bleak’

JEDDAH: More than 280 million people worldwide suffered from acute hunger last year in a food security crisis driven by conflicts in Gaza and Sudan, UN agencies and development groups said on Wednesday.

Economic shocks also added to the number of victims, which grew by 24 million compared with 2022, according to a report by the Food Security Information Network.

The report, which called the global outlook for this year “bleak,” is produced for an international alliance of UN agencies, the EU and governmental and non-governmental bodies.

Food insecurity is defined as when populations face food deprivation that threatens lives or livelihoods, regardless of the causes or length of time. More geographical areas experienced “new or intensified shocks” and there was a “marked deterioration in key food crisis contexts such as Sudan and the Gaza Strip,” said Fleur Wouterse, a senior official at the UN’s Food and Agricultue Organization.

Since the first report by the Global Food Crisis Network covering 2016, the number of food-insecure people has risen from 108 million to 282 million, Wouterse said. The share of the population affected within the areas concerned had doubled from 11 percent to 22 percent, she said.

Protracted major food crises are ongoing in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Syria and Yemen. “In a world of plenty, children are starving to death,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

“War, climate chaos and a cost-of-living crisis, combined with inadequate action, mean that almost 300 million people faced acute food crisis in 2023. Funding is not keeping pace with need.”

According to the report, situations of conflict or insecurity have become the main cause of acute hunger. For 2024, progress would depend on the end of hostilities, said Wouterse, who said aid could rapidly alleviate the crisis in Gaza or Sudan, for example, once humanitarian access to the areas was possible.
 


Yemen’s Houthis say they targeted American and Israeli ships

Yemen’s Houthis say they targeted American and Israeli ships
Updated 24 April 2024
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Yemen’s Houthis say they targeted American and Israeli ships

Yemen’s Houthis say they targeted American and Israeli ships
  • The Iran-aligned group said it targeted the US ship Maersk Yorktown, an American destroyer in the Gulf of Aden and Israeli ship MSC Veracruz in the Indian Ocean
  • “The Yemeni armed forces confirm they will continue to prevent Israeli navigation,” Sarea said

CAIRO/DUBAI: Houthi militants in Yemen have attacked what they said were two American ships and an Israeli vessel, the group’s military spokesman said on Wednesday, the first such attack in more than two weeks.
The Iran-aligned group said it targeted the US ship Maersk Yorktown, an American destroyer in the Gulf of Aden and Israeli ship MSC Veracruz in the Indian Ocean, the spokesman, Yahya Sarea, said in a televised speech.
Yemen’s Houthis have been attacking ships in the Red Sea region since November in what they say is a campaign of solidarity with Palestinians fighting Israel in Gaza.
“The Yemeni armed forces confirm they will continue to prevent Israeli navigation or any navigation heading to the ports of occupied Palestine in the Red and Arabian Seas, as well as in the Indian Ocean,” Sarea said on Wednesday.
Separately, British maritime security firm Ambrey said earlier on Wednesday that it was aware of an incident southwest of the port city of Aden, an area where the Houthis often target ships they say are linked to Israel or the United States.
The vessel reported an “explosion in the water” approximately 72 nautical miles east-southeast of Djibouti, an updated advisory from Ambrey said.
Houthi attacks have disrupted global shipping through the Suez Canal, forcing firms to re-route to longer and more expensive journeys around southern Africa. The United States and Britain have launched strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen.


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

Iraq hangs 11 convicted of ‘terrorism’: security, health sources
Updated 24 April 2024
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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.