Israel agrees to pauses in Gaza attacks, US says, but no reports of lull in fighting

A family drink tea amid the rubble of a building destroyed in Israeli bombing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 7, 2023. (AFP)
A family drink tea amid the rubble of a building destroyed in Israeli bombing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 7, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 09 November 2023
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Israel agrees to pauses in Gaza attacks, US says, but no reports of lull in fighting

A family drink tea amid the rubble of a building destroyed in Israeli bombing in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 7
  • “We are undertaking localized and pinpoint measures to enable the exit of Palestinian civilians from Gaza City southward,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said
  • Taher Al-Nono, a political adviser to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, said that unspecified negotiations were continuing and no deal had been reached with Israel so far

GAZA/WASHINGTON: Israel has agreed to pause military operations in parts of north Gaza for four hours a day from Thursday, the White House said, raising hopes of a respite in more than a month of fighting that has killed thousands and stoked fears of regional conflict.
The pauses, that would allow people to flee along two humanitarian corridors and could be used for the release of hostages, were significant first steps, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said.
But as night approached, there were no immediate reports of a lull in fighting raging among the ruined buildings in the north of the Gaza Strip.
There was also no direct confirmation from Israel, which spoke more generally of measures that appeared to correspond to arrangements already in place.
“We are undertaking localized and pinpoint measures to enable the exit of Palestinian civilians from Gaza City southward, so that we do not harm them. These things do not detract from the war fighting,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.
Israeli forces completely encircled Gaza City in recent days and the military has been allowing civilians safe passage along the main route south for three or four hours each day, with ever growing numbers of families opting to escape.
There would be no full cease-fire for now, Gallant told reporters.
“We will not stop fighting as long as our hostages are in Gaza and as long as we have not completed our mission, which is toppling the Hamas regime and eliminating its military and governance capabilities,” Gallant said.
Taher Al-Nono, a political adviser to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, said on Thursday that unspecified negotiations were continuing and no deal had been reached with Israel so far.
Israel unleashed its assault on Gaza in response to a cross-border Hamas raid on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which gunmen killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and took about 240 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
It was the single worst day of bloodshed in Israel’s 75-year history and drew international condemnation of Hamas and sympathy and support for Israel.
But Israel’s retaliation in the Hamas-ruled enclave caused great concern as a humanitarian catastrophe unfolded.
Palestinian officials said 10,812 Gaza residents had been killed as of Thursday, about 40 percent of them children, in air and artillery strikes while basic supplies are running out and areas laid waste by unrelenting Israeli bombardments.
US President Joe Biden told reporters he had sought a longer pause than four hours. “I’ve asked for a pause longer than three days,” he said as he left the White House.
Asked if he was frustrated with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden said, “It’s taken a little longer than I hoped.”
DISPLACED PACK GAZA HOSPITALS
In northern Gaza, Israeli forces fought Hamas militants and inched their way closer to two big hospitals as the plight of civilians in the besieged Palestinian territory worsened.
Thousands more Palestinians were fleeing from the embattled north to the south along a perilous frontline path littered with bodies after Israel told them to evacuate, people on the route said.
But many are staying in the north, packed into the Al Shifa Hospital and Al-Quds Hospital as ground battles rage around them and more Israeli air strikes rain down from above.
Israel says its Hamas foes have command centers embedded in the hospitals.
In Paris, officials from about 80 countries and organizations were meeting to coordinate humanitarian aid to Gaza and find ways to help wounded civilians escape the siege, now in its second month.
“Without a cease-fire, lifting of siege and indiscriminate bombarding and warfare, the haemorrhage of human lives will continue,” Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said before the White House announcement.
Israel and its main backer the United States say a full cease-fire would benefit Hamas.
Residents in Gaza City, a Hamas stronghold, said Israeli tanks were stationed around the area. Both sides reported inflicting heavy casualties on one another in intense street battles.
Israel, which has vowed to wipe out Hamas, says 33 of its soldiers have been killed in its ground operation as they advanced into the heart of Gaza City. Hamas has long vowed to destroy Israel.
NOWHERE TO RUN
Thousands of Palestinians have sought refuge at Al Shifa hospital inside Gaza City despite Israel’s orders to evacuate the area it has encircled. They are sheltering in tents in the hospital grounds and say they have nowhere else to go.
The UN humanitarian office OCHA said Israel had again told residents of the north to move south, and that shelling around the main road continued, endangering evacuees.
“We saw decomposed bodies, people from civilian cars, civilians like us, not military cars or resistance men,” Khaled Abu Issa said after crossing into the south with his family at Wadi Gaza.
Another resident, who asked not to be named, said he had crossed with his wife and six children.
“You have to hold your ID card in your hand and raise it as you go past the Israeli tanks and then walk several more kilometers searching for a lift,” he said.
Southern areas have also come under regular attack. In Khan Younis, Gaza’s main southern city, residents picked through the rubble and debris of a building destroyed by an Israeli air strike, hoping to find survivors, on Thursday morning, witnesses said.
Tensions have also soared on other faultlines. Lebanese group Hezbollah said it fired missiles over the border into Israel, and Israel’s military said it responded with artillery fire.
Ten Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in a raid on Jenin city and refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said. Israel’s military said it was conducting counter-terrorism raids.


Abbas to discuss intra-Palestinian dialogue in Ankara

Abbas to discuss intra-Palestinian dialogue in Ankara
Updated 7 sec ago
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Abbas to discuss intra-Palestinian dialogue in Ankara

Abbas to discuss intra-Palestinian dialogue in Ankara
  • The Israeli military said on Sunday it intensified operations in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, destroying dozens of militant targets in a blitz of air and artillery strikes

ANKARA: Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas will visit Turkiye on Tuesday for talks about the Gaza war and reconciliation efforts between Palestinian factions, the Turkish foreign minister said.
The visit comes as intensive diplomacy is underway to pause the fighting in the almost five-month-old war between Israel and Hamas sparked by the Oct. 7 attacks.
Turkiye’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said: “There is a serious desire and effort to reach a ceasefire before Ramadan,” in closing remarks to an annual diplomacy forum in the Mediterranean holiday resort of Antalya.
Fidan confirmed that Abbas would visit Ankara on Tuesday at the invitation of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a vocal advocate of the Palestinian cause.
Both leaders would discuss “the developments in Palestine, the current course of the war as well as the intra-Palestinian dialogue, Fidan said.
Hamas is a rival of Abbas’s Fatah faction that rules the semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank.
It ousted Fatah from Gaza in 2007 following its landslide victory in the previous Palestinian parliamentary elections.
Erdogan has become one of the harshest critics of Israel’s war in Gaza.
He has branded Israel a “terrorist state” and compared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler while calling Hamas “a liberation group.”
The Israeli military said on Sunday it intensified operations in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, destroying dozens of militant targets in a blitz of air and artillery strikes.
The air force and artillery hit about 50 targets within six minutes, it said, in a bid to “intensify operational achievements in the area.”
“During the strikes, the troops destroyed terrorist infrastructure and eliminated Hamas terrorists who were operating from civilian facilities in urban areas,” it said.
Residents in the area said they were surprised by the swift advancement of Israeli tanks, which sparked fresh battles with gunmen.
In one housing project some families took to social media, saying they were unable to leave their homes with the tanks in the streets.
Islamic Jihad said it attacked two tanks with rockets and blew up a building where soldiers had entered.
Khan Younis has been a focus of Israel’s military offensive in recent weeks.

 


Maintaining GCC-Egypt diplomatic links vital to regional security: Egyptian foreign minister

Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry speaks in Riyadh.
Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry speaks in Riyadh.
Updated 03 March 2024
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Maintaining GCC-Egypt diplomatic links vital to regional security: Egyptian foreign minister

Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry speaks in Riyadh.
  • Gulf ministers briefed on breakdown in talks over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

CAIRO: Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry on Sunday highlighted the importance of Cairo maintaining its strong links with Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

His comments came as he took part in a joint consultative meeting of Egypt and GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh.

In a speech, Shoukry noted the increased significance of political consultation in tackling key issues of mutual concern and the shared social and economic strategic interests of Egypt and council member nations.

He also pointed out that solid relations between the parties were vital in working toward stability in the region and dealing with the ongoing crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Ahmed Abu Zeid, spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that during the meeting in the Saudi capital, Shoukry warned of the disastrous humanitarian repercussions of any ground military operation by Israel in the city of Rafah and the threat such action would pose to regional security.

And he called on Israel to stop obstructing the access of humanitarian aid to the Strip.

The Egyptian minister also discussed with his GCC counterparts continued Iran-backed Houthi attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea, along with the latest situations in Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Somalia.

Regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Shoukry highlighted what he described as Ethiopia’s uncompromising approach to tackling project issues with its neighbors, a stance that had led Cairo to withdraw from negotiations.

GCC Secretary-General Jasem Al-Budaiwi said it was crucial that Arab nations cooperated in dealing with regional challenges including bringing about a Gaza ceasefire and ensuring Nile water security for Egypt and Sudan.


Egyptian envoy highlights support for Lebanon stability efforts

Alaa Moussa participates in a meeting of ambassadors of five-nation group in Lebanon with caretaker PM Najib Mikati.
Alaa Moussa participates in a meeting of ambassadors of five-nation group in Lebanon with caretaker PM Najib Mikati.
Updated 03 March 2024
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Egyptian envoy highlights support for Lebanon stability efforts

Alaa Moussa participates in a meeting of ambassadors of five-nation group in Lebanon with caretaker PM Najib Mikati.
  • The ambassador emphasized Egypt’s support for electing a new president for Lebanon 16 months after the position became vacant
  • He also stressed the urgency of completing this process due to the regional situation

CAIRO: Alaa Moussa, Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon, participated in a meeting of the ambassadors of the five-nation group in Lebanon with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, France, the US, and Qatar.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cairo said Egypt participated in the meeting to support Lebanon and promote its stability.

The ambassador emphasized Egypt’s support for electing a new president for Lebanon 16 months after the position became vacant.

He also stressed the urgency of completing this process due to the regional situation.

Moussa and other ambassadors emphasized the five-nation group’s role: to assist Lebanese parties in reaching a fair and transparent agreement on electing the president through dialogue or consultation.

The five-nation group will not interfere with the appointment of the next Lebanese president, which is the exclusive role of the Lebanese parliament.

Mikati said he appreciated the five countries’ efforts to support Lebanon in facing its current challenges.

He also said electing a new president is crucial in completing Lebanon’s state institutions and implementing necessary political and economic reforms to overcome the current crises.

The Arab and international community launched the coordination framework last year to support Lebanon, which has been without a president since the end of former President Michel Aoun’s term in October 2022.


Houthis vow to sink more UK ships in the Red Sea 

UK-owned vessel Rubymar, which had sunk in the Red Sea after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile fired by Houthis.
UK-owned vessel Rubymar, which had sunk in the Red Sea after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile fired by Houthis.
Updated 03 March 2024
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Houthis vow to sink more UK ships in the Red Sea 

UK-owned vessel Rubymar, which had sunk in the Red Sea after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile fired by Houthis.
  • The US military confirmed on Saturday that the UK-owned vessel Rubymar had sunk after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia vowed on Sunday to target more UK ships in the Red Sea, despite growing worldwide outrage over the sinking of a vessel carrying thousands of tonnes of fertilizer. 

Hussein Al-Ezzi, the group’s deputy foreign minister, said that its forces would continue sinking ships in the Red Sea, even if it meant causing an ecological disaster off Yemen’s coasts. He also blamed the UK for participating in US-led strikes against Houthi areas, as well as supporting Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip.

Al-Ezzi said in a post on X: “Yemen will continue to sink more British ships, and any repercussions or other damage will be added to Britain’s bill, as it is a rogue state that attacks Yemen and partners with America in sponsoring the ongoing crime against civilians in Gaza.”

The Houthi threats came a day after the Yemeni government and the US Central Command announced that the Belize-flagged Rubymar, which was hit by the militia’s missiles last month, sank with a cargo of more than 21,000 tonnes of fertilizer, raising concerns about possible environmental disaster for Red Sea coral reefs, along with shipping using the route.

The Houthis said that the ship was owned by the UK and was targeted in retribution for the country’s strikes on Yemen, as well as its backing for Israel’s blockade and bombing of Gaza.

The Houthis have seized the commercial ship Galaxy Leader and launched hundreds of drones and missile strikes against commercial and naval vessels in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab, and the Gulf of Aden, since November.

The group says it has banned any Israel-bound ships from passing across the Red Sea in order to force Israel to allow humanitarian assistance into the besieged Gaza Strip.

Yemen’s Minister of Transport Abdul Salam Humaid said in a statement on Saturday that he had asked the Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea & Gulf of Aden, based in Jeddah, and other marine conservation bodies for assistance in containing any pollution from the ship, as well as help in forming a legal commission to force the ship’s owners to remove the vessel and its cargo.

The US Central Command said on Sunday that the ship’s cargo of ammonium phosphate sulfate fertilizer constituted a hazard to nautical life, and that the sinking ship was also a risk to other vessels passing through the Red Sea.

The US military said in a statement: “As the ship sinks, it also presents a subsurface impact risk to other ships transiting the busy shipping lanes of the waterway. The Houthis pose a heightened threat to global maritime activities.”

Despite worldwide condemnation and warnings about the consequences of its actions, the Houthis have renewed threats to obstruct a rescue mission for the ship prior to humanitarian aid arriving in Gaza.

Yemen’s Houthi leader Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi blamed the sinking of the Rubymar on UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his government, saying on Saturday that his group would only let the world rescue the ship if Israel lifted its siege of Gaza.

Al-Houthi said on X: “We say to Sunak, you and your government are responsible for the (sinking of the) ship MV Rubymar, as well as for supporting genocide and the blockade of Gaza.”

The militia has said it would release the crew of the Galaxy Leader if requested to do so by Hamas.

Nasr Al-Din Amer, a Houthi media official, said: “Given that the crew was operating on a ship related to Israel, their governments may make a request to the brothers in the Hamas organization, and if they accept, we have no objections.”


Born and died during Gaza war, infant twins are buried in Rafah

Born and died during Gaza war, infant twins are buried in Rafah
Updated 03 March 2024
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Born and died during Gaza war, infant twins are buried in Rafah

Born and died during Gaza war, infant twins are buried in Rafah
  • The twins — a boy and a girl — were among five children killed in the strike on a house in Rafah
  • The members of the Abu Anza family killed in the strike were lined up in black body bags

RAFAH: Born a few weeks into the Gaza war, infant twins Wesam and Naeem Abu Anza were buried on Sunday, the youngest of 14 members of the same family whom Gaza health authorities say were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah overnight.
Their mother, Rania Abu Anza, held one of the twins, its tiny body wrapped in a white shroud, to her cheek and stroked its head during the funeral on Sunday. A mourner held the second baby close by, pale blue pyjamas visible beneath a shroud.
“My heart is gone,” wept Abu Anza, whose husband was also killed, as mourners comforted her. She resisted when asked to release the body of one of the babies ahead of burial. “Leave her with me,” she said, in a low voice.
The twins — a boy and a girl — were among five children killed in the strike on a house in Rafah, according to the health ministry in Gaza. Abu Anza said she had given birth to them — her first children — after 11 years of marriage.
“We were asleep, we were not shooting and we were not fighting. What is their fault? What is their fault, what is her fault?” Abu Anza said.
“How will I continue to live now?“
Relatives said the twins had been born some four months ago, about a month into the war which began on Oct. 7, when Hamas stormed Israel, in an attack that killed 1,200 people and resulted in another 253 being abducted, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel’s offensive has killed more than 30,000 people in the Gaza Strip since then, according to Gaza health authorities, laying waste to the territory and uprooting most of its population.
The members of the Abu Anza family killed in the strike were lined up in black body bags. A man wept over the body of one of the dead, a child wearing pyjamas. “God have mercy on her, God have mercy on her,” said another man, consoling him.
Abu Anza said she had been wishing for a ceasefire before Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month which begins around March 10.
US President Joe Biden has expressed hope one will be agreed by then. “We were preparing for Ramadan, how am I supposed to live my life? How?” she said.