Patients, staff and displaced leave on foot as Israel orders Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital evacuated

Update Patients, staff and displaced leave on foot as Israel orders Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital evacuated
Tents and shelters used by displaced Palestinians stand at the yard of Al Shifa hospital during the Israeli ground operation around the hospital, in Gaza City. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 18 November 2023
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Patients, staff and displaced leave on foot as Israel orders Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital evacuated

Patients, staff and displaced leave on foot as Israel orders Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital evacuated
  • At least 450 patients unable to be moved remained at Al-Shifa hospital
  • Israel claims Hamas operates a base underneath Al-Shifa, a charge the militants deny
  • Hospital director says Israeli troops instructed him to ensure “the evacuation of patients, wounded, the displaced and medical staff”

GAZA CITY: Hundreds of people fled on foot Saturday after Israel’s army ordered the evacuation of Gaza’s main hospital where more than 2,000 patients, medics and displaced people were trapped by the war between Israel and Hamas.
An AFP journalist witnessed the movement, on a road leading south, but health officials in the Hamas-ruled territory said 450 patients unable to be moved remained at Al-Shifa hospital. The facility has become the focus of the war that is entering its seventh week after Hamas’s October 7 attacks on southern Israel.
Israel has been pressing military operations inside the hospital, searching for the Hamas operations center it says lies under the sprawling complex — a charge Hamas denies.
Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas in response to the October 7 attacks which Israeli officials say killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and saw about 240 people taken hostage.
The army’s air and ground campaign has since killed 12,000 people, including 5,000 children, according to the Hamas government which has ruled Gaza since 2007.
In Gaza City on Saturday morning, Israeli troops ordered over loudspeakers the evacuation of the Al-Shifa hospital “in the next hour,” an AFP journalist at the scene reported.
They called the hospital’s director, Mohammed Abu Salmiya, to instruct him to ensure “the evacuation of patients, wounded, the displaced and medical staff, and that they should move on foot toward the seafront,” he told AFP.
Israel has come under mounting pressure to back up its allegations that Hamas is using hospitals as command centers, a charge denied by Hamas, an Islamist movement with an armed wing. Al-Shifa hospital has also rejected the allegation.
The United Nations estimated 2,300 patients, staff and displaced Palestinians were sheltering at Al-Shifa before Israeli troops entered the facility on Wednesday.

Evacuation order
Israel has told Palestinians to move from the north of Gaza for their safety, but deadly air strikes continue to hit central and southern areas of the narrow coastal territory.
“They said the south was safer, so we moved,” Azhar Al-Rifi told AFP.
But her family was caught in another strike that killed seven relatives, including her five-year-old nephew.
Nada Abu Hiya, aged eight, said she suffered the third bombing of the war at the Nuseirat refugee camp on Friday.
“There are bombings everywhere,” she said. “My grandmother is dead, my mother is dead, my grandfather is dead, my uncle is dead, they destroyed our house. Our neighbors’ house is also destroyed and they are all dead.”
Israel has imposed a siege on Gaza, allowing just a trickle of aid in from Egypt but barring most shipments of fuel over concerns Hamas could divert supplies for military purposes.
A first consignment of fuel entered Gaza after Israel’s war cabinet bowed to pressure from its ally the United States and agreed to allow two diesel tankers a day into the Palestinian territory.
“We took that decision to prevent the spread of epidemics,” Israel’s national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said.

Fuel shortage
A two-day blackout caused by fuel shortages ended after a first delivery arrived from Egypt late Friday, but UN officials continued to plead for a ceasefire, warning no part of Gaza is safe.
A senior US official said Washington had exerted huge pressure on Israel for weeks to allow fuel in.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said 70 percent of residents have no access to clean water in south Gaza, where raw sewage has begun to flow on the streets.
Under the deal, 140,000 liters (37,000 gallons) of fuel would be allowed in every 48 hours, of which 20,000 liters will be earmarked for generators to restore the phone network, the US official said.
A communications blackout hampered aid deliveries, UNRWA said. Humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told the UN General Assembly that fuel supplies to the agency so far were “a fraction of what is needed to meet the minimum of our humanitarian responsibilities.”
The Hamas health ministry said 24 patients had died in 48 hours due to the lack of fuel for generators.
In the latest bloodshed, a strike on a residential building in the southern city of Hamad killed 26 people, the director of the Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis said.
“I was asleep and we were surprised by the strike. At least 20 bombs were dropped,” Imed Al-Mubasher, 45, told AFP.
His wife Sabrin Mussa said: “All of a sudden, the house caught fire. I found myself with gravel in my mouth and I immediately looked for my husband and daughters.
“I saw human remains everywhere,” and screamed for help, she said.
The Israeli military has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Targeting hospitals
Israel has come under scrutiny for targeting hospitals in northern Gaza, but says the facilities are being used by Hamas — a claim rejected by the group and medical staff.
The military says it has found rifles, ammunition, explosives and the entrance to a tunnel shaft at the hospital complex, claims that cannot be independently verified.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said, without providing details, that there were “strong indications” hostages may have been held at the Shifa facility.
Israel has not recovered hostages at the hospital but said it found the bodies of two kidnapped women not far away.
The remains of kidnapped woman soldier Noa Marciano, 19, were found at “a structure adjacent to Al-Shifa hospital” on Friday, a day after the body of 65-year-old Yehudit Weiss was recovered.
Those held hostage range from infants to octogenarians, and there has been little information on their fate despite ongoing negotiations mediated by Qatar and Egypt to secure releases.
In Gaza, more than 1.5 million people have been internally displaced, and Israel’s blockade has left civilians facing the “immediate possibility of starvation,” according to World Food Programme head Cindy McCain.
More than half of Gaza’s hospitals are no longer functional due to combat, damage or shortages, and people are waiting four to six hours for half the normal portion of bread.


Jordan’s civil aviation authority ‘temporarily’ closes Jordanian airspace

Jordan’s civil aviation authority ‘temporarily’ closes Jordanian airspace
Updated 5 sec ago
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Jordan’s civil aviation authority ‘temporarily’ closes Jordanian airspace

Jordan’s civil aviation authority ‘temporarily’ closes Jordanian airspace

AMMAN: The Jordanian Civil Aviation Regulatory Commission on Saturday announced that Jordanian airspace will be closed “temporarily” for inbound and outbound flights in light of rising regional risks. 

The commission said in a statement that the decision has been taken to ensure the safety and security of Jordanian aerospace in light of the rising escalation and after assessment of the potential regional risks. 

Stopping short from giving further details on the source of these risks, the commission said that Jordanian airspace would be closed to all incoming, departing, and transiting flights temporarily starting from 20:00 UTC, 11:00pm local time, for several hours. 

It added that this measure would be continuously updated and reviewed according to developments. 

The commission said that this measure is taken "to ensure the safety and security of civil aviation in the Jordanian airspace.”


Hamas says submitted response to Gaza truce mediators

Hamas says submitted response to Gaza truce mediators
Updated 24 min 23 sec ago
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Hamas says submitted response to Gaza truce mediators

Hamas says submitted response to Gaza truce mediators
  • Truce talks started on April 7 in Cairo but have so far brought no breakthrough on a plan presented by US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators
  • Hamas said it was also ready “to conclude a serious and real prisoner exchange deal between the two parties“

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: Hamas said Saturday it had submitted its response to Egyptian and Qatari mediators on a proposed truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip, insisting on a “permanent ceasefire.”
Truce talks started on April 7 in Cairo but have so far brought no breakthrough on a plan presented by US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators.
In a statement, the Palestinian militant group said it “reaffirms adherence to its demands” including “a permanent ceasefire, the withdrawal of the occupation army from the entire Gaza Strip, the return of the displaced to their areas and places of residence, intensification of the entry of relief and aid, and the start of reconstruction.”
Hamas said it was also ready “to conclude a serious and real prisoner exchange deal between the two parties.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has opposed a permanent ceasefire and vowed to send ground troops into Rafah, ignoring an international outcry against it, including from the United States.
Netanyahu’s office said Saturday “the only obstacle to obtaining the release of the abductees is Hamas and not any factor on the Israeli side.”
“Among other things, Hamas demands an end to the war and a complete withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip.
“The cabinet and the security forces are united in their opposition to these unfounded demands.”
“Hamas to this day has refused any deal and any compromise proposal,” it said.


Israelis rally against government amid deadlock on Gaza hostages

Israelis rally against government amid deadlock on Gaza hostages
Updated 44 min 54 sec ago
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Israelis rally against government amid deadlock on Gaza hostages

Israelis rally against government amid deadlock on Gaza hostages
  • As concern mounts in Israel for the wellbeing of the 129 remaining hostages their families and friends have organized increasingly vocal demonstrations
  • They have dovetailed with activists who have long called for Netanyahu’s ouster given his trial on graft charges

TEL AVIV: Thousands of Israelis rallied against their government on Saturday, with some demanding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu call off the half-year-old war in Gaza amid a deadlock in diplomatic efforts to retrieve hostages held there by Hamas.
Hamas-led gunmen seized 253 people during an Oct. 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,200 others, according to officials. Some hostages were freed in a November truce but Egyptian- and Qatari-mediated efforts to secure another deal appear to have stalled.
As concern mounts in Israel for the wellbeing of the 129 remaining hostages, who cannot be contacted, their families and friends have organized increasingly vocal demonstrations against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rightist government.
They have dovetailed with activists who have long called for Netanyahu’s ouster given his trial on graft charges — which he denies — and his attempts to overhaul the judiciary last year.
“Our country’s near the abyss. We’ve already started to drive down and we must stop it. I’m here to gather the force to tell the people that they need to come out and they need to tell our government that it’s time to stop,” said Marva Erez, 45, who was among demonstrators in Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu said he will continue with the war to dismantle Hamas, despite alarm in Washington and other Western capitals at the civilian toll in Gaza, where medical officials say more than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed.
Hamas has said any new hostage deal must bring about an end to the Gaza war and withdrawal of all Israeli forces.
“There will be a (hostage) deal,” Culture Minister Miki Zohar, a senior member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, told Channel 12 TV. “But not at any price.”
The anti-government protest in Tel Aviv was held separately to a smaller vigil for the hostages. Many of those taking part in the latter event soon merged with the bigger demonstration.
Michael Levy, whose brother Or is among the hostages, said he was protesting because “we have no time for the talks.”
“We need actions. We need to get them home,” he said.


Iraqi prime minister heads to Washington as regional tensions flare

Iraqi prime minister heads to Washington as regional tensions flare
Updated 13 April 2024
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Iraqi prime minister heads to Washington as regional tensions flare

Iraqi prime minister heads to Washington as regional tensions flare
  • “This official visit occurs at a delicate and sensitive time in the relations with the US, as well as in the context of regional conditions and the ongoing crimes against innocents in the Palestinian territories,” a statement from Al-Sudani’s office said

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani left Baghdad on Saturday for the US, his office said, where he will meet with the US president as regional tensions flare.
US President Joe Biden is due to receive the Iraqi leader on Monday to “coordinate on common priorities” and discuss the “evolution of the military mission” of the US-led anti-terror coalition in Iraq and Syria, according to the White House.
The trip comes after Iran threatened to retaliate for deadly strikes, blamed on Israel, on its consulate in the Syrian capital, Damascus.
Biden has said he expects Tehran to take action “sooner rather than later.”

BACKGROUND

President Joe Biden is due to receive the Iraqi leader on Monday to ‘coordinate on common priorities’ and discuss the ‘evolution of the military mission’ of the US-led anti-terror coalition in Iraq and Syria, according to the White House.

“This official visit occurs at a delicate and sensitive time in the relations with the United States, as well as in the context of regional conditions and the ongoing crimes against innocents in the Palestinian territories,” a statement from Al-Sudani’s office said.
The surging tensions come against the backdrop of the six-month war waged by Israel against Iran-backed Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza.
The conflict has since drawn in regional actors, including Iran-backed groups in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.
Al-Sudani’s office added that the “meeting with President Biden will discuss the regional issues and the current escalations, focusing on the joint efforts to promote calm and prevent the conflict from widening, which could impact global stability.”
After the war in Gaza erupted, armed groups linked to Iran carried out a slew of attacks across the region on US soldiers deployed to the Middle East with the anti-Daesh coalition in support of Palestinians.
Washington has responded by striking several factions.
But calm has largely returned, and tensions have subsided between the US and Iraq, which have resumed talks on the future of the anti-Daesh coalition.
Iraqi authorities have voiced hope for drawing up a timeline to reduce the presence of US forces.
The talks aim to establish “a timeline to end the coalition’s mission and transition to bilateral relations with the coalition member states,” Al-Sudani’s office added on Saturday.
A State Department official, quoted on their website, said the US hopes the talks will also “focus on energy, water, business investment — US businesses investing in Iraq — and we want to talk about the private sector and the banking reforms that we have been working on.”

 


Israel closes schools over security concerns: army

Israel closes schools over security concerns: army
Updated 13 April 2024
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Israel closes schools over security concerns: army

Israel closes schools over security concerns: army
  • There will be “no educational activities” when the school week begins on Sunday
  • The measure is set to last two days, according to online army guidelines

JERUSALEM: Israel is closing schools nationwide over security concerns, military spokesman Daniel Hagari said on Saturday, after Iran threated to retaliate for a deadly air strike on its Damascus consulate.
There will be “no educational activities” when the school week begins on Sunday “in light of the security situation,” he said in a televised statement.
The measure is set to last two days, according to online army guidelines.
Iran has vowed retaliation after the presumed Israeli strike on April 1 which levelled its consulate in Damascus, killing seven members of the Revolutionary Guards including two generals.
US President Joe Biden said on Friday that he expected Iran to retaliate “sooner (rather) than later.”
Earlier on Saturday Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a container ship “related to the Zionist regime (Israel)” near the Strait of Hormuz, state media reported.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz postponed a planned visit to Hungary and Austria which had been scheduled to begin on Sunday “due to the security situation,” his spokesman said.