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
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. (REUTERS/File)
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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 who were unable to move continue to stay at Al-Shifa Hospital
  • Israel says Hamas operates a base underneath Al-Shifa, a charge the group denies

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.


Tunisian security units foil 59 sea border crossing attempts, rescue 1,806 migrants

Tunisian security units foil 59 sea border crossing attempts, rescue 1,806 migrants
Updated 4 sec ago
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Tunisian security units foil 59 sea border crossing attempts, rescue 1,806 migrants

Tunisian security units foil 59 sea border crossing attempts, rescue 1,806 migrants
  • At least 18 Tunisians were rescued on June 15 and 16 with the remainder being from sub-Saharan countries

DUBAI: Security units in Tunisia thwarted 59 attempts to illegally cross its sea borders and rescued 1,806 individuals, state news agency Tunis Afrique Press reported on Monday.

At least 18 Tunisians were rescued on June 15 and 16 with the remainder being from sub-Saharan countries, the Directorate General of the National Guard announced in a statement.

Two bodies were also recovered, and 24 wanted individuals, including smugglers and middlemen, were detained. In addition, the authorities seized boats and outboard motors used in illegal migration operations.


Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on Taiz officials

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on Taiz officials
Updated 4 min 5 sec ago
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Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on Taiz officials

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on Taiz officials
  • The minister called on the international community, the UN, and its special envoy to Yemen to condemn this attack.

DUBAI: Yemeni Minister of Information, Culture, and Tourism Muammar Al-Eryani strongly condemned the Houthi militia on Monday for targeting government officials in Taiz, state news agency SABA reported. 

The attack targeted Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Al-Sabri, undersecretary of Taiz Governorate for defense and security affairs; Maj. Gen. Abdul Aziz Al-Majidi, acting commander of the Taiz Axis; Brig. Gen. Mohammed Al-Mahfadi, commander of Brigade 22 Mika; Samir Yahya Abdul-Ilah, director-general of the Cairo Directorate; and several other civilian, security, and military leaders. They were on a visit to National Army officers stationed at the old airport camp northwest of Taiz.

Al-Eryani said that the attack occurred less than 500 meters from the recently reopened Al-Kamp-Republican Palace road, after a decade-long siege imposed by the Houthi militia on the governorate.

The attack highlights the Houthi militia’s lack of commitment to peace and their intent to undermine any efforts to alleviate the suffering of citizens, the minister said. 

Al-Eryani called on the international community, the UN, and its special envoy to Yemen to condemn this attack. He urged for the militia to be classified as a terrorist organization, for its financial, political, and media resources to be cut off, and for measures to be taken to support the government in establishing control and achieving security throughout Yemeni territory.


US imposes new sanctions on Houthis

US imposes new sanctions on Houthis
Updated 8 min 49 sec ago
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US imposes new sanctions on Houthis

US imposes new sanctions on Houthis
  • Three individuals and six entities that facilitated the purchase of weapons for the Houthis have been sanctioned

DUBAI: New sanctions on the Iranian-supported Houthi militia have been imposed by the US, Yemen News Agency (SABA) reported.

“We have sanctioned three individuals and six entities that facilitated the purchase of weapons for the Houthis. Additionally, we have designated one ship owned by one of the sanctioned entities as prohibited property,” said US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

Miller emphasized Washington’s commitment to using “the tools available to obstruct the flow of military materials to Yemen, which enables the Houthis to launch these terrorist attacks.”

He also noted that “Houthi attacks against unarmed commercial ships continue to obstruct navigation in a vital waterway.”


G7 urges Libyan parties to resolve political stalemate

G7 urges Libyan parties to resolve political stalemate
Updated 12 min ago
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G7 urges Libyan parties to resolve political stalemate

G7 urges Libyan parties to resolve political stalemate
  • G7 members emphasized that a comprehensive political process led by Libyans and facilitated by the UN remained the only viable path

DUBAI: The G7 has called on parties in Libya to engage in meaningful dialogue in good faith and without preconditions to overcome the current political stalemate, the Libyan News Agency reported.

In the draft final declaration of their summit in Italy, G7 members emphasized that a comprehensive political process led by Libyans and facilitated by the UN remained the only viable path towards free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections.

The statement reaffirmed the G7’s commitment to stability, independence, territorial integrity and national unity in Libya. It also urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to appoint a new special representative without delay.

The 50th summit of the Group of Seven, which includes the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada and Japan, began on Thursday.


Fight for control of Yemen’s banks between government, Houthis threatens to further wreck economy

Fight for control of Yemen’s banks between government, Houthis threatens to further wreck economy
Updated 18 June 2024
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Fight for control of Yemen’s banks between government, Houthis threatens to further wreck economy

Fight for control of Yemen’s banks between government, Houthis threatens to further wreck economy
  • The Houthis who control the north and center of the country and the government running the south use different currency notes with different exchange rates
  • Yemen has been torn by civil war ever since the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels took over Sanaa and much of Yemen’s north and center in 2015

SANAA, Yemen: Yemen’s Houthi rebels and its internationally recognized government are locked in a fight for control of the country’s banks that experts warn is threatening to further wreck an economy already crippled by nearly a decade of war.
The rivalry over the banks is throwing Yemen’s financial system into deeper turmoil. Already, the Houthis who control the north and center of the country and the government running the south use different currency notes with different exchange rates. They also run rival central banks.
The escalating money divide is eroding the value of Yemen’s currency, the riyal, which had driven up prices for clothing and meat before the Islamic holiday of Eid Al-Adha started on Sunday.
For weeks, Yemenis in Houthi-controlled areas have been unable to pull their money out of bank savings accounts, reportedly because the Houthi-run central bank, based in the capital, Sanaa, has stopped providing liquidity to commercial and government banks. Protests have broken out in front of some banks, dispersed by security forces.
Yemen has been torn by civil war ever since the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels took over Sanaa and much of Yemen’s north and center in 2015. The Saudi-backed internationally recognized government and its nominal ally the Southern Transitional Council, a group supported by the United Arab Emirates, govern the south and much of the east, centered in the southern port city of Aden.
Yemen was already the Arab world’s poorest country before the war began. Punitive actions by each side against the other’s banks over the past week now threaten to undermine merchants’ ability to import food and basic commodities and to disrupt the transfer of remittances from Yemenis abroad, on which many families depend, said Edem Wosornu, director of operations and advocacy for the UN humanitarian coordination office known as OCHA.
“All these factors will likely deepen poverty, worsen food insecurity and malnutrition, and increase reliance on humanitarian assistance,” she told a UN Security Council briefing on Thursday. The dispute could escalate to the point that banks in Houthi-run areas are barred completely from international financial transactions, which she said would have “catastrophic ramifications.”
The internationally recognized government moved the central bank to Aden in 2016, and since then began issuing new banknotes to replace worn-out riyals. Houthi authorities, which set up their own central bank in Sanaa, banned the use of the new money in areas under their control.
In March, the Houthi-controlled central bank announced it was rolling out its own new 100-riyal coins. The international community and Yemen’s recognized government denounced the move, saying the Houthis were trying to set up their own financial system and warning it will deepen Yemen’s economic divide.
Adding to the confusion, the bills have different exchange rates — riyals issued in Sanaa go for about 530 to the dollar, while those from Aden are around 1,800 to the dollar.
In response, the Aden-based central bank gave banks 60 days to relocate their headquarters to the southern city and stop operating under Houthi policies, or else risk facing sanctions related to money laundering and anti-terrorism laws.
The central bank was “forced to make these decisions, especially after the Houthi group issued their own currency and took unilateral steps toward complete independence from the internationally recognized Central Bank in Aden,” said Mustafa Nasr, an economic expert and head of the Studies and Economic Media Center SEMC.
No banks met the deadline — either because they needed more time or because they feared Houthi sanctions if they moved, Nasr said.
When the deadline ran out last week, the central bank in Aden banned dealing with six banks headquartered in Sanaa, meaning currency exchange offices, money transfer agencies and banks in the south could no longer work with them.
In retaliation, the Houthi-run central bank in Sanaa banned all dealings with 13 banks headquartered in Aden. That means people in Houthi-controlled areas can’t deposit or withdraw funds through those banks or receive wire transfers made through them.
Even as the fight for control is going on, both sides are facing a cash crunch. The Houthi government has few sources of foreign currency and its new coins aren’t recognized outside its territory.
In January, the United States designated the Houthis as a global terror group in response to the rebels’ attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea. The Houthis say the attacks are in retaliation for the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. Because of the US decision, banks around the world might be concerned and reluctant to continue any financial dealings with banks that have headquarters under Houthi control, said Youssef Saeed, a University of Aden economic professor.
The economy in Aden isn’t significantly better. The government’s revenues have been hit hard ever since Houthi attacks on oil ports in late 2022 forced a halt in oil exports, the main earner of foreign currency.
Since March, depositors in Houthi-run areas have been unable to pull money out of their accounts. The central bank in Sanaa hasn’t announced any formal restrictions, but several economists told The Associated Press that it has informally stopped releasing funds that individual banks have put in its coffers — in part because of a lack of liquidity.
At one bank that saw protests by depositors last month, the International Bank of Yemen, a note hung in the lobby said, “In coordination with the Central Bank, withdrawals from old accounts have been suspended until further notice.”
Um Ahmed, a 65-year-old woman who was among those protesting outside the bank, said that she was trying to withdraw money to help her son buy a motor scooter for work, but the bank refused.
“I served this country as a teacher for 35 years and saved every penny and deposited my money at the bank, but they took it all,” she said. “This money belongs to my husband and me and our children.”