Pregnant women and newborns face trauma, infection, malnutrition in Gaza under Israeli assault

Special Pregnant women and newborns face trauma, infection, malnutrition in Gaza under Israeli assault
An injured child is brought to the Al-Aqsa Hospital after the Israeli attack. (Getty Images)
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Updated 20 November 2023
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Pregnant women and newborns face trauma, infection, malnutrition in Gaza under Israeli assault

Pregnant women and newborns face trauma, infection, malnutrition in Gaza under Israeli assault
  • Even if they survive childbirth, mothers and babies are not out of danger as shortages threaten health and development
  • The siege of hospitals and blocking of aid deprive women in labor of pain relief and premature newborns of incubators

LONDON: What should have been a time of great joy and excitement has become a living nightmare for thousands of new and expectant mothers living under siege and constant Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip.

For Layla, 28, whose name has been changed for her safety, bringing a new life into the world at a time of so much death and destruction fills her with dread. “What worries me most is falling in love with life, amid all the death, once I hold my baby,” she told Arab News.

Like 5,500 other pregnant women in the Gaza Strip, Layla is due to give birth very soon amid a conflict between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas that has devastated healthcare infrastructure and deprived the population of access to nutritious food, clean water and public sanitation.

The closure of hospitals and clinics under the intense bombardment and chronic shortages of electricity, fuel and medicine are among the biggest challenges faced by the roughly 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza.




Prematurely born Palestinian babies in Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. (Dr. Marawan Abu Saada via AP)

As of Nov. 10, some 18 hospitals and 51 primary care centers across the embattled enclave are no longer operational, meaning fewer than 60 percent of hospitals and 30 percent of public health centers are operating to some degree.

Fikr Shalltoot, Gaza director for Medical Aid for Palestinians, or MAP, a British charity operating in the Palestinian enclave, said that pregnant women in Gaza “face a dire reality, with limited access to essential health services amid a near-total humanitarian disaster.”

“With over 180 births daily and a staggering 235 attacks on healthcare infrastructure since Oct. 7, the situation is critical,” Shalltoot told Arab News. This leaves women deprived of emergency obstetric services and forces many to give birth in unsafe conditions.

“Closed hospitals force births in shelters, homes and streets amid rubble, raising infection risks,” she said. “Maternity hospitals, like Al-Hilo, face attacks.”

Hospitals in Gaza have been on the frontline of the conflict, overwhelmed by wounded civilians since the start of Israel’s military campaign, which came in retaliation for the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7, which killed 1,200 and saw more than 200 people, both Israelis and foreigners, taken hostage.

Some 135 health facilities across Gaza have been damaged or destroyed. Although these facilities are protected under international humanitarian law, Israel claims Hamas has been using hospitals, particularly Gaza’s largest, Al-Shifa, to host underground command centers.




The aftermath of an explosion at the Ahli Arab hospital in central Gaza. (AFP)

Hamas and medical staff deny these facilities are being used to store weaponry, conceal hostages, or move fighters along a sophisticated network of tunnels. Israeli forces who took control of Al-Shifa on Wednesday are yet to provide evidence to support their claim.

There are at least 650 patients, including 22 in intensive care and 36 premature babies, at Al-Shifa, according to local media, in addition to some 400 medical staff. More than 2,000 Gazans have also taken refuge within the facility.

Amid the destruction and shortages, made worse by Israel’s restrictions on the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, physicians have been forced to take extreme measures, such as performing cesareans without anesthetic or pain relief.

“Some women face complications while giving birth, and to stop the problem and because there are no (capabilities), tools, (or) time, (physicians) are faced with the extreme option to take out the uterus,” Soraida Hussein-Sabbah, gender and advocacy specialist at ActionAid Spain, told Arab News.

At Al-Awda Hospital, the only provider of maternity services in northern Gaza, doctors performed 16 cesarean C-sections last weekend under extremely challenging circumstances, according to local media.

Hussein-Sabbah said that although there are many trained and specialized obstetrics physicians and nurses in the Gaza Strip, as well as private and public maternity hospitals, “these cannot operate normally right now.”

INNUMBERS

• 50,000 Pregnant women in Gaza.

• 5,500 Women due to give birth soon.

• 180 Average number of births daily.

Despite this, “any specialized person found in a shelter, or any place … will continue serving as much as possible,” she added.

Elaborating on the dangers of conducting cesareans under such extreme circumstances, Zaher Sahloul, head of MedGlobal, a US-based medical NGO, said that while “doctors typically try to deliver as fast as possible,” performing such surgery requires them to “cut through multiple layers” and then “suture multiple layers.”

Performing such an operation without anesthetic, or even a partial dosage of pain relief, would be agonizing.

“It is, as you can imagine, an extremely traumatic experience, something that would be associated with PTSD,” Sahloul told Arab News. Medical professionals are also forced to discharge new mothers within three hours, which poses additional risks.

New mothers are typically monitored for a minimum of 24 hours because the postpartum period is associated with various complications, including hemorrhage. Even before the latest outbreak of violence in Gaza, “the two biggest causes of (maternal) deaths were bleeding and sepsis,” said Sahloul.

“The lack of water and sanitation puts them at an even higher risk of infection and sepsis. (Hospitals) do not (even) have any blood to transfuse these patients if they start to have complications.”

Even if they survive the ordeal of childbirth in these conditions, mother and baby are not out of danger. The lack of hygiene facilities, nutritious food, clean drinking water, safe sleeping spaces, and other basic comforts and necessities threaten health and development.




A Protester holds a placard at The Hague in support of Palestinian children. (Getty Images)

Fatty acid and vitamin deficiencies in lactating mothers can compromise newborns’ immune systems, putting them at risk of communicable diseases as well as cognitive development challenges, said Sahloul.

Fatema, another woman trapped inside Gaza, has resorted to using clean clothes to manage discharge as she lacks access to sanitary towels. Embarrassed, and with limited privacy, she has then buried those clothes, she told ActionAid.

More than 1.4 million Palestinians have been displaced since Oct. 7, according to the UN’s humanitarian office, OCHA. Many have set up makeshift tents outside hospitals, while others have squeezed into the corridors of schools or have slept out in the open.

MedGlobal’s Sahloul warned that with limited access to food and water, malnourished women face the risk of “preterm delivery,” which is also associated with fetal and neonatal morbidity and mortality.

Shalltoot of MAP, meanwhile, cautioned that as access to obstetrics services becomes increasingly difficult, “maternal deaths will rise, stress-induced complications soar, and malnutrition worsen, affecting childhood survival.” Moreover, “without fuel, premature babies relying on neonatal care face a life-threatening crisis.”

She added: “Maternity care at Al-Awda Hospital hangs in the balance. Doctors report a surge in premature births due to the bombing of homes, a heartbreaking crisis where premature deliveries are performed while mothers lay dying.”

Three premature babies at Al-Shifa died on Tuesday after the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit was knocked out of operation. The lives of at least 36 others are in danger amid a lack of electricity and fuel for incubators, according to the facility’s director.

With women and children making up more than 70 percent of the casualties — one in four of them women of reproductive age — access to maternal health services is critical, said Shalltoot.




Palestinians queue as they wait to buy bread from a bakery, amid shortages of food supplies and fuel. (Reuters)

“Gaza is in urgent need of support to protect the lives of mothers and newborns,” she said, adding that “a ceasefire is imperative for pregnant women and infants.”

She said: “Without immediate access to fuel, aid, and medical experts, we face the looming threat of infectious diseases. Mass starvation, treatable deaths and a healthcare system in ruins are imminent unless swift action is taken.

“Opening multiple crossings is crucial to prevent a humanitarian freefall. Our plea is clear — act now to avert a catastrophic crisis.”

MAP has delivered a range of items, including medications and medical disposables that can be used to support delivery and the treatment of women and babies. “With our partner in Gaza, Ard El Insan, we have released all of our medications and food items for malnourished children and their families,” Shalltoot added.

Save the Children and ActionAid have also called for an immediate ceasefire and the opening of a humanitarian aid corridor.

“For this to happen, there is a need for a unified and coordinated call and pressure for the Rafah crossing to open, and the Israeli occupation forces to comply with international humanitarian law and allow for aid to come and civilians to be saved,” said ActionAid’s Hussein-Sabbah.

As of Nov. 14, at least 11,320 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, of whom over 4,650 are children and more than 3,145 are women, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. A total of 198 medics have also died.

Earlier this month, Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, described Gaza as “a graveyard for children” and “a crisis of humanity.”




A mother covers her child's face to protect from the smoke as Palestinians leave from the northern part of the Gaza. (Getty Images)

In a statement to Arab News, Save the Children said: “During this humanitarian catastrophe, civilians, especially children, continue to pay the heaviest price for the ongoing violence.

“Children are being killed at a devastating rate, whole families are being wiped from the registry, and a growing number of people, including children, are being left with no surviving family members.”

Attacks on schools and hospitals are considered “a grave violation against children by the UN and may amount to violations of international humanitarian law.”

Calling for an end to “the continued, systematic assaults,” the NGO said that “hospitals and schools cannot be battlegrounds, and children cannot be targets. Yet in Gaza, all three are attacked on a daily basis.

“Even during wartime, basic elements of humanity must prevail.”


Yemen’s Houthis ballistic missile misses US tanker Torm Thor

Yemen’s Houthis ballistic missile misses US tanker Torm Thor
Updated 21 sec ago
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Yemen’s Houthis ballistic missile misses US tanker Torm Thor

Yemen’s Houthis ballistic missile misses US tanker Torm Thor
CAIRO: The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said early on Monday that Yemen’s Houthis launched one anti-ship ballistic missile likely targeting the MV Torm Thor, but missed the US-flagged, owned and operated oil tanker, in the Gulf of Aden on Feb. 24.
The missile impacted the water causing no damage nor injuries, CENTCOM added in a post on X.
The Iran-aligned group said on Sunday that they targeted the tanker, as the militants continue to attack shipping lanes in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.
The US military also shot down in “self-defense” two one-way unmanned aerial attack vehicles over the southern Red Sea on Sunday, said CENTCOM.
The Houthis, who control the most populous parts of Yemen, have launched exploding drones and missiles at commercial vessels since Nov. 19 as a protest against Israel’s military operations in Gaza.
The turmoil from Israel’s war with the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas has spilled over to some extent into other parts of the Middle East. Apart from the Houthi attacks on vital shipping lanes, Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah group has traded fire with Israel along the Israel-Lebanon border and Iraqi militia have attacked bases that host US forces.

Calls on compatriots to choose between being a democratic state or an apartheid one

Calls on compatriots to choose between being a democratic state or an apartheid one
Updated 26 February 2024
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Calls on compatriots to choose between being a democratic state or an apartheid one

Calls on compatriots to choose between being a democratic state or an apartheid one
  • Israeli journalist Gideon Levy accuses Israel of dehumanizing, demonizing Palestinians
  • Calls on compatriots to choose between being a democratic state or an apartheid one

DUBAI: With the war in Gaza heading toward its sixth month, some are wondering if there is any end in sight to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. What is certain, however, is that Israel carries out a policy of dehumanization of Palestinians to justify its occupation, according to one of Israel’s most famous journalists.

“Israel systematically, from its first day, dehumanized and demonized the Palestinians in order to maintain their occupation, to maintain even the creation of the state of Israel,” Gideon Levy said.

He said Israel “is very efficient in manipulating propaganda and brainwashing all over the world,” and is “the only occupier in history which presents itself as a victim.”

Levy, who has spent over four decades as a journalist writing for the Israeli daily Haaretz covering mainly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, made these remarks on the Arab News current affairs show “Frankly Speaking.”

Gideon Levy has spent over four decades as a journalist and columnist for the Israeli daily Haaretz. He spoke to Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking,” the Arab News current affairs show. (AN photo)

Levy has been harshly critical of Israel’s actions, particularly those carried out in the wake of the Hamas attack in southern Israel in October 2023 which resulted in 1,200 deaths and the kidnapping of 240 people. According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, nearly 30,000 people, many of which are women and children, have been killed so far in Israel’s retaliatory offensive.

Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, have been putting pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire or scale back its offensive. The Kingdom has made the establishment of a Palestinian state a prerequisite for any normalization deals, with Israeli officials keen on the idea of improved relations with Arab states.

Levy, however, doubts that any Israeli prime minister, including current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would go that far.

“I don’t see them … putting an end to the occupation,” he told Katie Jensen, host of “Frankly Speaking.”

Israeli politicians might be hoping for a repeat of the 2020-2021 Abraham Accords, which saw Israel normalize relations with the UAE and Bahrain.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu (2-R) grins from ear to ear after signing the so-called Abraham Accords with Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani (L) and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (R), brokered by the US government under President Donald Trump (2-R), at the White House in Washington, DC, on Sept. 15, 2020. (AFP/File)

Israel quickly also normalized ties with Morocco and Sudan.

“Maybe they also hope that, like in the Abraham Accords, in which they got quite a good deal without changing the policy toward the Palestinians, only by all kind of lip services for this,” he said.

“I think that all the candidates for being prime minister in Israel, not only Netanyahu but also the opposition, would still prefer to maintain an occupation rather than to have normal relations with an important country like Saudi Arabia.”

Even beyond the Arab world, Israel’s counteroffensive in Gaza has triggered international backlash, including South Africa’s landmark court case against Israel in the International Court of Justice. However, Levy sees most of this as empty words.

This photo taken on January 26, 2024, shows the International Court of Justice panel assembled in The Hague during the reading of the genocide case filed by South Africa against Israel over its attacks on civilians in the Gaza Strip. (X: @CIJ_ICJ)

“Sympathy toward the Palestinians is very deep rooted among the grass roots, but I don't see many leaders really care about the Palestinians. Unfortunately, they fall between the chairs for many years now, when many statesmen give their lip service about solidarity with them, but finally almost nobody is doing for them anything and they are left quite alone, especially in (the) last years,” Levy said.

“Yes, there is a lot of talking going on; condemnations, resolutions, rulings, rules, hearings, many, many things. There is only one thing lacking, and this is action. That is, taking measures.

“The world never took real measures and the US, in particular, never took any measures to promote its interest, to promote its ideas. The US claims that it wants to see this war ended. And (at the same time) it is supplying Israel with more ammunition and more arms.”

Israel has learned “that you can very easily ignore the talk and stick to its policy, because Israel doesn’t pay any price for its policy,” Levy said.

A shipment of 155mm artillery shells supplied by the US for use by the Israeli army is transported on a truck along a highway between the Jerusalem and Beersheba in southern Israel on October 14, 2023. (AFP)

With Palestinians themselves and leaders across the world calling for peace, Levy is not certain that peace should be the top priority when it comes to talks on Palestine, but rather justice for the Palestinian people.

“I am calling for justice, not for peace … maybe peace will be the bonus that we’ll get out of it. But I am not sure that two people are ready for peace, but there is one people who deserve justice. And this must be pushed by the world.”

From 1978 to 1982, Levy worked as an aide and spokesman for Shimon Peres, the then leader of the Israeli Labor Party. In 1982 he began to write for Haaretz, and later worked there as a deputy editor.

He has long written of his support for a one-state solution in which Jews, Arabs, and all citizens have equal rights — a controversial opinion among both Israelis and Palestinians.

“There are 700,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied territories. Nobody is going to evacuate them. And there is no viable Palestinian state with 700,000 Jewish settlers, part of them very violent, all of them very ideological. I don’t see (a two-state solution) happening.”

Objects are scattered more than a week after Jewish settlers attacked the occupied West Bank village of Wadi al Seeq on October 24, 2023. (AFP/File)

He added: “If not the two-state solution, what is left? Only the one state … the only problem is that it’s not a democracy.

“I have to tell my fellow Israelis, you can’t have it all. If you wanted a Jewish state, you had to pull out from the occupied territories a long time ago.

“If you want a democratic state, you should give up the Jewish state because you cannot have it both, because there are two peoples here. Either you are an apartheid state or you are a democracy.”

As the Israeli bombardment continues across the entirety of Gaza, many Palestinians have begun to lose hope in their own officials. Even one month prior to the start of the most recent Israel-Hamas war, 78 percent of Palestinians wanted the resignation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on Feb. 7, 2024, during a Middle East tour, his fifth urgent trip to the region since the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza erupted in October. (POOL / AFP)

Observers now speculate whether there could be a replacement for Abbas, one that could carry out reforms and to revitalize the PA.

For Levy, jailed Palestinian dissident Marwan Barghouti could be a contender.

“He was the only one who would really unite the Palestinian people, Hamas and Fatah, together. I believed also that he is a man of peace. And he proved it in many ways,” he said.

Barghouti was arrested by Israel in Ramallah in 2002, and two years later was sentenced to five cumulative life sentences on five counts of murder.

“I hope he’s still capable of leading the Palestinians. I don’t have a better idea. I’m not sure Hamas will accept him today. Twenty years ago, yes, (but) I’m not sure today,” Levy said.

“I’m a great believer of him. And because I believe in him, and because so many people believe in him, Israel will never release him. And that’s so tragic.”

The portrait of jailed Palestinian dissident Marwan Barghouti (R) is seen along with that of the  late South African president Nelson Mandela at an office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Barghouti, in Israeli custody for nearly two decades after being convicted over multiple killings during the second intifada, is being compared to Mandela, who successfully led the resistance to apartheid in South Africa. (AFP/File)

Particularly since October, the popular rhetoric in Israel has increasingly turned against Palestinians, something that Levy blames on a combination of racism and dehumanization.

“If you conduct such a brutal occupation over so many years, if you teach your soldiers and your young people, generation after generation, that there is nothing cheaper, and there is nothing cheaper than the life of a Palestinian, I can tell you, if the Israeli army would have killed so many dogs as it did (people) in Gaza, it would be a huge, huge scandal in Israel.”

In addition to this, Israeli news media, which Levy explains “doesn’t cover the suffering of Gaza,” has played a role in inflaming racist attitudes in the country.

“They know Israelis don’t want to see it, don’t want to hear about it. It’s an outcome of decades of brainwashing, decades of humanization; as I said before, decades of demonization of the Palestinians.

“Israelis don’t meet Palestinians anymore at all, because of the barrier of the (West Bank) separation wall. There’s almost no contact anymore between the two peoples,” Levy said, explaining that the Oct. 7 attack has led Israelis to lump all Palestinians in the same category as Hamas and the perpetrators of the attack.

Participants run past a section of Israel's controversial separation barrier during the "Freedom of Movement Palestine Marathon" in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on March 10, 2023. (AFP/File)

“We are in a very, very low moment in history. And obviously the racism is now politically correct in Israel. It's enough to have one attack, like this terrible attack on the 7th of October, to make all the incorrect political ideas as politically correct.

“Because after what they have done to us, most of Israelis think, we have now the right to do and say whatever we want, because of those horrible things they did.

In the minds of Israelis now, Levy said, “all Palestinians must take responsibility for the October 7 crimes, all of them took part in it.”

 


WTO convenes ministers in UAE with slim hopes for breakthrough

WTO convenes ministers in UAE with slim hopes for breakthrough
Updated 26 February 2024
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WTO convenes ministers in UAE with slim hopes for breakthrough

WTO convenes ministers in UAE with slim hopes for breakthrough

ABU DHABI: The world’s trade ministers gathered in the UAE on Monday for a high-level WTO meeting with no clear prospects for breakthroughs, amid geopolitical tensions and disagreements.
The World Trade Organization’s 13th ministerial conference (MC13), scheduled to run until Thursday in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is the first in two years.
The WTO is hoping for progress, particularly on fishing, agriculture and electronic commerce.
But big deals are unlikely as the body’s rules require full consensus among all 164 member states — a tall order in the current climate.
“I don’t have hopes that a very substantive agreement will be announced,” said Marcelo Olarreaga, Professor of Economics at the University of Geneva.
“My impression is that the negotiators are dealing with tactical positions — how to make it look like it is the other (side) who is blocking negotiations,” he told AFP.
Even WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said she expects the meeting to be challenging due to the “economic and political headwinds” — from the war in Ukraine, attacks in the Red Sea, inflation, rising food prices and economic difficulties in Europe and China.
Her team is working around the clock to draft agreements for the talks, she told journalists this month, noting that “negotiating positions are still quite tough,” notably on agriculture.

During the WTO’s last ministerial meeting, held at its Geneva headquarters in June 2022, trade ministers nailed down a historic deal banning fisheries subsidies harmful to marine life and agreed to a temporary patent waiver for Covid-19 vaccines.
They also committed themselves to re-establishing a dispute settlement system which Washington had brought to a grinding halt in 2019 after years of blocking the appointment of new judges to the WTO’s appeals court.
“Replicating the success, the miracle, of MC12 in 2022 will be extremely challenging,” European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said this month.
“Negotiations on the big-ticket items” — such as fisheries, agriculture and the e-commerce moratorium — will “remain open until the final phase of the conference,” he added.
“Negotiations on dispute settlement reform and potentially some parts of the outcome document will also be challenging.”
However, the WTO faces pressure to eke out progress on reform in Abu Dhabi ahead of the possible re-election of Donald Trump as US president.
During his four years in office from 2017 to 2021, Trump threatened to pull the United States out of the trade body and disrupted its ability to settle disputes.
“There will be the US elections in November...so this is the last chance,” a diplomatic source in Geneva told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“Postponing anything until after MC13 is not a good strategy.”
Earlier this month, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai underlined Washington’s “commitment to reforming the WTO and creating a more durable multilateral trading system.”
But Olarreaga of the University of Geneva said the other members of the WTO “cannot expect huge concessions” from the administration of US President Joe Biden in an election year.

While there is doubt over progress at the WTO on major issues such as agriculture, there is hope for small advances on other fronts, particularly aid for developing countries.
On Monday, two new countries, the Comoros and East Timor, are expected to be accepted as WTO members.
More than 120 countries and regions, including China and the European Union, but not the United States, issued a ministerial declaration early Monday, marking the finalization of an agreement aimed at facilitating international investments in development.
They also issued a submission requesting the official integration of the deal into the WTO, but some diplomats fear opposition from India, which rejects any agreement that does not include all member states.
But amid the difficulty of obtaining full consensus, more and more plurilateral agreements — deals with a narrower number of signatories — are being reached, applying only to the participating countries.
Adding to the challenges for those gathering in the UAE, is the ongoing war in Gaza and related attacks by Yemeni rebels on ships in the Red Sea, a campaign that has disrupted global maritime trade.
“The current situation is characterized by geopolitical tensions,” said a European diplomat who spoke to AFP on the condition of anonymity.
“High expectations from developing nations following the financial crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as economic tensions due to inflation... (add to the) risk of fragmentation of the global economy,” the diplomat said.

 


Most UK exporters hit by Red Sea disruption, survey shows

Most UK exporters hit by Red Sea disruption, survey shows
Updated 26 February 2024
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Most UK exporters hit by Red Sea disruption, survey shows

Most UK exporters hit by Red Sea disruption, survey shows
  • 55 percent of exporters reported disruption, British Chambers of Commerce reports
  • Houthi militants have launched repeated drone and missile strikes in the Red Sea

LONDON: Most British exporters and manufacturers have felt an impact from disruption in the Red Sea caused by attacks on shipping by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, according to a survey.
The British Chambers of Commerce said 55 percent of exporters reported disruption, as did 53 percent of manufacturers and business-to-consumer services firms, a category that includes retailers and wholesalers. Across all businesses, 37 percent reported an impact.
“There has been spare capacity in the shipping freight industry to respond to the difficulties, which has bought us some time,” the BCC’s head of trade policy, William Bain, said.
“But our research suggests that the longer the current situation persists, the more likely it is that the cost pressures will start to build,” he added.
Some businesses reported container hire costs had quadrupled, while others faced delivery delays of three to four weeks, as well as cashflow difficulties and shortages of parts.
The Bank of England has highlighted the Red Sea disruption as one of the main upside risks to inflation this year, although to date the attacks and broader conflict in the Middle East has had less economic impact in Britain than it originally feared.
Houthi militants have launched repeated drone and missile strikes in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab Strait and Gulf of Aden since November in support of Palestinians, as the Israel-Hamas war continues.
Last week the Houthis said they would step up attacks on shipping with links to Israel, the United States and Britain.
The BCC conducted its survey between Jan. 15 and Feb. 9 with responses from 1,087 firms, 90 percent of which had under 250 employees.
On Thursday, the S&P Purchasing Managers’ Index showed British businesses’ costs rose at the fastest rate in six months in February. Higher freight costs related to Red Sea disruption were cited by many manufacturers, but rising wage bills were a bigger factor for most.


Gaza deal won’t affect Israel’s Hezbollah fight: defense minister

Gaza deal won’t affect Israel’s Hezbollah fight: defense minister
Updated 26 February 2024
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Gaza deal won’t affect Israel’s Hezbollah fight: defense minister

Gaza deal won’t affect Israel’s Hezbollah fight: defense minister
  • Talks are underway toward a possible deal for Hamas to release hostages and pause the fighting in Gaza

JERUSALEM:  Defense minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday said there would be no let up in Israeli action against Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, even if a ceasefire and hostage deal is secured in Gaza.

Gallant visited the military’s Northern Command in Safed, which was hit earlier this month by a militant rocket strike from southern Lebanon, killing a soldier.

Talks are underway toward a possible deal for Hamas to release hostages and pause the fighting in Gaza, which was sparked by the militants’ attack on southern Israel on October 7.

Since then, there have been near-daily cross-border exchanges of fire between Israel and Hamas’s allies Hezbollah on the border with Lebanon, prompting fears of a regional escalation.

Both Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Iran.

Gallant said he was keen to assess how Israel was combating increased Hezbollah activity from across the heavily fortified border.

“If anyone thinks that when we reach a deal to release hostages in the south and the firing stops it will ease what is happening here they are wrong,” he said in a video message.

Israel’s aim is to ensure the Iran-backed militants do not pose a threat from border areas in southern Lebanon, he added.

If a diplomatic solution to the situation is not possible, “we will do it by force,” Gallant warned.

On Sunday, the Israeli military said it had intercepted a “suspicious aerial target” in the Upper Galilee region of northern Israel, and rockets were fired at a number of locations.

Jets then struck a “terrorist cell exiting a Hezbollah military compound” and two “military compounds” on the Lebanese side of the border, it added.

Since October 7, 10 Israeli soldiers and six civilians have been killed by hostilities in the north, according to an AFP tally.

On the Lebanese side, at least 276 people have been killed, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also 44 civilians.

Hamas’s attacks on October 7 left around 1,160 people dead and saw 250 hostages taken, of whom about 130 are still thought to be in Gaza, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

In Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry says at least 29,692 have been killed in the war between the militants and Israel.