2.2 million need food assistance as Gaza Strip risks ‘sliding into hunger hell,’ says WFP

2.2 million need food assistance as Gaza Strip risks ‘sliding into hunger hell,’ says WFP
Palestinians wait to buy bread outside a bakery, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip October 14, 2023. (REUTERS/File)
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Updated 17 November 2023
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2.2 million need food assistance as Gaza Strip risks ‘sliding into hunger hell,’ says WFP

2.2 million need food assistance as Gaza Strip risks ‘sliding into hunger hell,’ says WFP
  • World Food Program says ‘collapse of food supply chains is a catastrophic turning point in an already very dire situation’
  • Lack of fuel forced the final bakery that was still operating in partnership with the UN agency to close its doors this week

NEW YORK CITY: Almost the entire population of Gaza risks “sliding into hunger hell” unless fuel deliveries are allowed to resume and there is a rapid increase in food supplies, an official from the UN’s World Food Program warned on Thursday.

It came as the UN said 2.2 million Palestinians in the territory now need food aid to survive. The WFP said that with “winter fast approaching and unsafe and overcrowded shelters that lack clean water, people are facing the immediate possibility of starvation.”

Abeer Etefa, the WFP’s senior regional communications officer for the Middle East and North Africa region, said: “The collapse of food supply chains is a catastrophic turning point in an already very dire situation. Gaza was not an easy place to live in before Oct. 7, and if the situation was better before this conflict, it’s now disastrous.”

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are growing increasingly desperate in their attempts to obtain bread and other essential food supplies, and cases of dehydration and malnutrition are rapidly increasing “by the day,” she added.

People are lucky if they have one meal a day and their options are mostly limited to canned food, said Etefa, “if it is actually available.”

Although aid trucks are “trickling into Gaza,” it is proving difficult to get the small amounts of food and water that cross the border to those in need because roads have been damaged by the war and fuel is in very short supply as a result of the Israeli blockade.

“The existing food systems in Gaza are collapsing,” Etefa said. “Food production has come to an almost complete halt. Markets have collapsed, fishermen cannot access the sea, farmers cannot reach their farms and the last bakery that the WFP has been working with has closed its doors because of the shortage of fuel.

“Shops have run out of food supplies. The bakeries are unable to operate because of the fuel and clean water shortages, or because they have sustained damage. The last remaining mill has also been hit and stopped operating.”

There were 130 bakeries in Gaza before the war. Eleven of them are known to have been been hit by airstrikes. Others closed after running out of fuel. As a result, supplies of bread, a staple food for Gazans, have dried up.

The WFP was also forced to shut down a local program that since the start of the war had been providing fresh bread for 200,000 Palestinians living in shelters.

With gas and electricity in desperately short supply, Etefa said people have been burning wood to cook or bake. Perishable food is “not really an option at all” because there is no power for refrigerators.

Local markets have shut down completely, only about 25 percent of shops in Gaza remain open and those that do have very limited stock, she added. Small quantities of food can sometimes be found but it is sold “at alarmingly inflated prices” and is of little use without fuel and gas to provide the power to cook it.

“That’s forcing people to survive on maybe one meal a day, if they are lucky to find this meal,” said Etefa. “And for the lucky ones, this meal will include maybe canned food. Some people have actually resorted to consuming raw onions, uncooked eggplant, whatever they can get their hands on.”

The trickle of humanitarian aid that is arriving in Gaza does not come close to making up for the lack of commercial food imports, she added. Of the 1,129 trucks that have entered Gaza since the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt reopened on Oct. 21, only 447 were carrying food supplies.

Before the war, more than 400 trucks a day arrived in Gaza carrying supplies essential to the survival of the population. That number has fallen to fewer than 100 a day, and the food that they carry meets only about 7 percent of the population’s daily minimum caloric needs.

Etefa called for an increase in the number of trucks carrying food to Gaza, the opening of additional border crossings, safe routes for humanitarian workers to distribute aid, and deliveries of fuel to bakeries so that they can resume production of bread.

Juliette Touma of the Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East said the absence of fuel to power generators is also causing a communications blackout in Gaza, as a result of which there would be no cross-border aid operation at the Rafah crossing on Friday.

“It has been almost six weeks (of) total disregard for international humanitarian law,” she said. “Today, Gaza looks like it’s been hit by an earthquake, except it’s man-made and it could have been totally avoided.

“We have just witnessed in the past week the largest displacement of Palestinians since 1948. This was an exodus, under our watch, of people being forced to flee their homes. Some were forced to relive the unlivable traumas from the past, mostly unhealed.”

Touma added that “the dignity of people has been stripped overnight. Children in the shelters are pleading for a sip of water and a piece of bread. People are telling us they must queue for two-to-three hours just to go to the toilet. They share one toilet with hundreds of others. All of this brings us back to the medieval age.”

A ceasefire is required “now, if we want to save whatever is left of our humanity. In fact it’s long overdue,” she said.

She also pleaded for fuel to be delivered “without any conditions or delays” so that humanitarian operations across the Gaza Strip can continue.

“Anything less than our minimum needs would be cruel,” said Touma. “Without it, 2 million people will be deprived of services and humanitarian assistance. The siege on Gaza must be lifted.”


Israeli authorities release 150 Palestinians detained from across Gaza

Israeli authorities release 150 Palestinians detained from across Gaza
Updated 26 sec ago
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Israeli authorities release 150 Palestinians detained from across Gaza

Israeli authorities release 150 Palestinians detained from across Gaza
  • Palestinian detainees were delivered to Kerem Shalom border crossing into Rafah in southern Gaza Strip

GAZA: Israeli authorities released on Monday morning 150 Palestinian detainees who had been arrested in different parts of the Gaza Strip.

The detainees were delivered to Kerem Shalom, a crossing on the border of Egypt, Israel and Gaza, into Rafah in southern Gaza, according to an Arab News reporter in the besieged Palestinian enclave.

Among the released detainees is Sufian Abu Salah, who told local reporters he was arrested “perfectly healthy” and “walking on both legs” but has had his left leg amputated in detention due to torture and neglect.

A video circulated on social media showed Abu Salah skipping on one leg with the support of a wooden stick he used as a crutch.

He told local journalists that while in detention, his foot became infected but Israeli soldiers refused to send him to a hospital. Within seven days, the infection had spread, and he had his leg amputated.

Abu Salah lost his leg due to torture followed by medical neglect in detention. (Supplied)

An internal UN report compiled last month by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees described widespread abuses of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prisons.

Methods of abuse include “physical beatings, forced stress positions for extended periods of time, threats of harm to detainees and their families, attacks by dogs, insults to personal dignity and humiliation such as being made to act like animals or getting urinated on, use of loud music and noises, deprivation of water, food, sleep and toilets, denial of the right to practice their religion (to pray) and prolonged use of tightly locked handcuffs causing open wounds and friction injuries,” according to the UNRWA report.  

“The beatings included blunt force trauma to the head, shoulders, kidneys, neck, back and legs with metal bars and the butts of guns and boots, in some cases resulting in broken ribs, separated shoulders and lasting injuries.”

The prisoners released on Monday also include a child and a doctor. 

Israeli authorities have arrested at least 4,000 Palestinians, including women and children, since the onset of the Israeli onslaught on Gaza on October 7, which was triggered by a surprise Hamas attack on southern Israel.


Kuwaiti ruler names Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah as prime minister

Kuwaiti ruler names Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah as prime minister
Updated 15 April 2024
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Kuwaiti ruler names Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah as prime minister

Kuwaiti ruler names Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah as prime minister
  • Kuwaiti Emir also tasks the new prime minister to form a government

DUBAI: Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah has appointed Ahmad Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah as prime minister, state news agency KUNA reported on Monday.

The Kuwaiti ruler also tasked the new prime minister to form a government.

The Kuwaiti ruler last week accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al-Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, after elections were held to choose new members of the National Assembly.

He also instructed the cabinet to act as caretakers until the formation of a new government.


Netanyahu rival Lapid says Israel lost ‘deterrence’ against Iran

Netanyahu rival Lapid says Israel lost ‘deterrence’ against Iran
Updated 15 April 2024
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Netanyahu rival Lapid says Israel lost ‘deterrence’ against Iran

Netanyahu rival Lapid says Israel lost ‘deterrence’ against Iran
  • Opposition leader: ‘Jewish terrorist violence’ against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank ‘out of control’
  • ‘If we don’t move this government, it will bring destruction upon us’

JERUSALEM: Israel’s opposition leader Yair Lapid on Monday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of leading to a “total loss of Israeli deterrence” in the wake of an unprecedented Iranian attack.
In a scathing criticism posted on X, former premier Lapid also said that under Netanyahu, “Jewish terrorist violence” against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank was “out of control.”
Netanyahu, who returned to power in late 2022 at the helm of a coalition with far-right parties, has brought “heaps of destruction from Beeri to Kiryat Shmona,” Lapid said, calling for early elections.
Beeri, a kibbutz community near the Gaza border, came under attack when Hamas militants stormed the area on October 7, triggering the ongoing war, while the northern town of Kiryat Shmona has suffered during months of cross-border fire between Israeli forces and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Lapid’s remarks came two days after Iran — which backs both Hamas and Hezbollah — launched more than 300 missiles and drones at Israel in retaliation for a deadly strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus.
Israel, the United States and other allies intercepted nearly all launches in the late Saturday aerial attack — the first direct Iranian military action against arch foe Israel.
Netanyahu’s cabinet has weighed Israel’s response to the Iranian attack, but the prime minister has not made any public comments.
In the West Bank, where violence has soared since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, Israeli settlers torched Palestinian homes and cars over the weekend, killing at least two people, after an Israeli teen was “murdered in a suspected terrorist attack,” according to the Israeli military.
Pointing to surging “terrorist” settler attacks, Lapid said: “If we don’t move this government, it will bring destruction upon us.”
The government, which includes hard-line settlers, has prioritized Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967.
Netanyahu has faced in recent months mass protests over the fate of hostages held in Gaza and pressure from a resurgent anti-government movement.
The prime minister’s Likud party responded to Lapid in a statement stressing Netanyahu’s part in “the global campaign” to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons — which Tehran denies it is seeking.


UK government reveals talks with Sudanese paramilitary group

UK government reveals talks with Sudanese paramilitary group
Updated 15 April 2024
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UK government reveals talks with Sudanese paramilitary group

UK government reveals talks with Sudanese paramilitary group
  • Meetings held between Foreign Office, Rapid Support Forces in bid to end fighting, increase aid supply
  • News criticized by some experts as RSF accused of crimes against humanity

London: The UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office has revealed that it has held talks with Sudan’s paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, which has been accused of committing ethnic cleansing and other atrocities.

The Guardian reported on Monday that a freedom of information request to the FCDO revealed that the UK government had opened diplomatic channels with the RSF, including a meeting on March 6.

The FCDO told the newspaper that the talks were aimed at increasing humanitarian aid flow and access in Sudan, as well as ending the fighting between the RSF and the Sudanese Armed Forces.

The RSF has been engaged in a civil war in Sudan for the past year, and has been accused of crimes against humanity by the US, including massacres, mass rape, looting and ethnic cleansing. The UN said the RSF’s activities in Geneina in West Darfur have left 15,000 people dead.

The war has claimed the lives of many thousands of Sudanese civilians, with around 8 million displaced by the fighting.

The UK’s willingness to meet with the RSF has drawn condemnation for what some say is a policy that could normalize a paramilitary group accused of crimes against humanity.

Dr. Sharath Srinivasan, co-director of the Centre of Governance and Human Rights at Cambridge University, told The Guardian that although talking to potentially unsavory groups is perceived as necessary in some diplomatic circles, “talking to the guys with the guns has been part of the perpetuation of violence and authoritarianism in Sudan for the last two, three decades.”

He added: “When (the RSF are) committing untold levels of targeted violence against ethnic groups, and women and children, at a scale that is absolutely horrific and was, even 20 years ago, (the UK is) putting a lot of moral credibility and decency on the line.”

Ahmed Soliman, a senior research fellow at international affairs think tank Chatham House, said the talks are justifiable as part of efforts to end the war and alleviate civilian suffering.

“How is aid going to get into western Sudan unless you engage with the Rapid Support Forces? They control 95 percent of Darfur,” he added.

“This is the dirty reality of the war. It shouldn’t negate engaging with civilians, but it has to be part of trying to ensure that there is a solution, both to ending the war in the near term, and then providing assistance for civilians.”

However, Maddy Crowther, co-director of the Waging Peace human rights group, described the talks as “a terrible move,” saying negotiating with the RSF could prove futile.

“These talks also assume that the RSF are good-faith actors,” she said. “Chatting to the RSF has never resulted in the outcomes that the UK says it wants to achieve in Sudan. I have no sense of why that would change at the moment.”

She added that “for the Sudanese, it will be experienced as a real slap in the face,” and that the diaspora will interpret the news as a “complete abuse of trust that people have placed in the UK and other powers to negotiate or advocate on their behalf.”

An FCDO spokesperson told The Guardian: “The UK continues to pursue all diplomatic avenues to end the violence — to prevent further atrocities from occurring, to press both parties into a permanent ceasefire, to allow unrestricted humanitarian access, to protect civilians, and to commit to a sustained and meaningful peace process.

“The SAF and RSF have dragged Sudan into an unjustified war, with an utter disregard for the Sudanese people. We will do all we can to ensure that they are both held accountable.”


Israel presses on in Gaza as death toll reaches 33,797

Israel presses on in Gaza as death toll reaches 33,797
Updated 15 April 2024
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Israel presses on in Gaza as death toll reaches 33,797

Israel presses on in Gaza as death toll reaches 33,797
  • Fears persisted over Israeli plans to send ground troops into Rafah, a far-southern city where the majority of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have taken refuge
  • On Monday death toll in Gaza reached 33,797 during more than six months of war

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: Israel struck war-battered Gaza overnight, Hamas and witnesses said Monday, as world leaders urged de-escalation awaiting Israel’s reaction to Iran’s unprecedented attack that heightened fears of wider conflict.

The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Monday that at least 33,797 people have been killed in the territory during more than six months of war between Israel and Palestinian militants.
The toll includes at least 68 deaths over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, adding that 76,465 people have been wounded in the Gaza Strip since the war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7.
World powers have urged restraint after Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel late Saturday, though the Israeli military has said nearly all were intercepted.
The Israeli military said it would not be distracted from its war against Tehran-backed Hamas in Gaza, triggered by the Palestinian armed group’s October 7 attack.
“Even while under attack from Iran, we have not lost sight... of our critical mission in Gaza to rescue our hostages from the hands of Iran’s proxy Hamas,” military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said late Sunday.
As mediators eye a deal to halt the fighting, fears persisted over Israeli plans to send ground troops into Rafah, a far-southern city where the majority of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have taken refuge.
“Hamas is still holding our hostages in Gaza,” Hagari said of the roughly 130 people, including 34 presumed dead, who Israel says remain in the hands of Palestinian militants since the Hamas attack.
“We also have hostages in Rafah, and we will do everything we can to bring them back home,” the military spokesman told a briefing.
The army said it was calling up “two reserve brigades for operational activities,” about a week after withdrawing most ground troops from Gaza.
The Hamas government media office said Israeli aircraft and tanks launched “dozens” of strikes overnight on central Gaza, reporting several casualties.
Witnesses told AFP that strikes hit the Nuseirat refugee camp, with clashes also reported in other areas of central and northern Gaza.
Hamas’s attack that sparked the fighting resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,729 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting Sunday following the Iranian attack, where Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the region was “on the brink” of war.
“Neither the region nor the world can afford more war,” the UN chief said.
“Now is the time to defuse and de-escalate.”
More than six months of war have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Rumours of a reopened Israeli checkpoint on the coastal road from the territory’s south to Gaza City sent thousands of Palestinians heading north on Sunday, despite Israel denying it was open.
Attempting the journey back to northern Gaza, displaced resident Basma Salman said, “even if it (my house) was destroyed, I want to go there. I couldn’t stay in the south.”
“It’s overcrowded. We couldn’t even take a fresh breath of air there. It was completely terrible.”
In Khan Yunis, southern Gaza’s main city, civil defense teams said they had retrieved at least 18 bodies from under the rubble of destroyed buildings.
Responding late Saturday to the latest truce plan presented by US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators, Hamas said it insists on “a permanent ceasefire” and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.
Israel’s Mossad spy agency called this a “rejection” of the proposal, accusing Hamas of “continuing to exploit the tension with Iran.”
But the United States said mediation efforts continue.
“We’re not considering diplomacy dead there,” said the National Security Council’s Kirby.
“There’s a new deal on the table... It is a good deal” that would see some hostages released, fighting halted and more humanitarian relief into Gaza, he said.