31 premature babies are evacuated from Gaza’s largest hospital, but scores of trauma patients remain

A Palestinian medic cares for premature babies evacuated from Al Shifa hospital to the Emirates hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 19, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)
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A Palestinian medic cares for premature babies evacuated from Al Shifa hospital to the Emirates hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 19, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)
31 premature babies are evacuated from Gaza’s largest hospital, but scores of trauma patients remain
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WHO said more missions being arranged to evacuate to the Nasser Medical Complex and the European Gaza Hospital in southern Gaza. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 20 November 2023
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31 premature babies are evacuated from Gaza’s largest hospital, but scores of trauma patients remain

31 premature babies are evacuated from Gaza’s largest hospital, but scores of trauma patients remain
  • The fate of the newborns at Shifa Hospital had captured global attention after the release of images showing doctors trying to keep them warm
  • 25 of Gaza’s hospitals aren’t functioning due to lack of fuel, damage and other problems

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip: Health officials said 31 premature babies in “extremely critical condition” were transferred safely Sunday from Gaza’s main hospital and will go to Egypt, while over 250 patients with severely infected wounds and other urgent conditions remained stranded days after Israeli forces entered the compound to look for Hamas operations there.
The newborns from Shifa Hospital, where power was cut and supplies ran out while Israeli forces battled Palestinian militants outside, were receiving urgent care in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. They had dehydration, hypothermia and sepsis in some cases, said Mohamed Zaqout, director of Gaza hospitals. Four other babies died in the two days before the evacuation, he said.
A World Health Organization team that visited Shifa for an hour Saturday said hospital corridors were filled with medical and solid waste, increasing the risk of infection for patients who were “terrified for their safety and health, and pleaded for evacuation.” Twenty-five staff stayed behind.
The UN agency said the vast majority of patients had amputations or burns, and many wounds were severely infected, with antibiotics unavailable. Missions were being planned to evacuate the remaining people to southern Gaza in the next 24-72 hours, “pending guarantees of safe passage,” the WHO said.
Later Sunday, Israel’s army said it had strong evidence supporting its claims that Hamas maintains a sprawling command post inside and under Shifa. Israel has portrayed the hospital as a key target in its war to end Hamas’ rule in Gaza following the militant group’s wide-ranging attack into southern Israel six weeks ago.
The army said it found a 55-meter (60-yard) tunnel about 10 meters under the hospital’s 20-acre complex, which includes several buildings, garages and a plaza. It said the tunnel included a staircase, blast-proof door and a firing hole that could be used by snipers.
The Associated Press couldn’t independently verify Israel’s findings, which also included a pair of security camera videos showing what the military said were two foreign hostages, one Thai and one Nepalese, taken to the hospital following the Oct. 7 attack.
The army also said an independent medical report had determined that a female Israeli soldier, Cpl. Noa Marciano, whose body was recovered in Gaza last week, had been killed by Hamas inside the hospital.
Hamas and hospital staff earlier denied the allegations of a command post under Shifa. Critics describe the hospital as a symbol of what they call Israel’s reckless endangerment of civilians. Thousands in Gaza have been killed in Israeli strikes, and there are severe shortages of food, water, medicine and fuel in the besieged territory.
Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan dismissed the Israeli military’s announcement and didn’t deny that Gaza has hundreds of kilometers of tunnels. However, he said, “the Israelis said there was a command and control center, which means that the matter is greater than just a tunnel.”
SHIP SEIZED
Israel’s military said Yemen-based Houthi rebels had seized a cargo ship in the southern Red Sea sailing from Turkiye to India but said no Israelis were aboard and that it wasn’t an Israeli ship.
The Houthis said they had seized an Israeli ship and crew and took the vessel to the Yemeni coast but gave no details, other than to say it was treating the captives “in accordance with the teaching and values of our Islamic religion.” The Iranian-backed group had threatened to target Israel-linked vessels in the Red Sea.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office blamed the Houthis for the attack on the Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader, a vehicle carrier affiliated with an Israeli billionaire.
HEAVY FIGHTING IN THE NORTH
Heavy clashes were reported in the built-up Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza. “There was the constant sound of gunfire and tank shelling,” Yassin Sharif, who is sheltering in a UN-run hospital there, said by phone.
The commissioner-general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Philippe Lazzarini, said 24 people were killed the day before in what witnesses described as an Israeli airstrike on a school in a crowded UN shelter in Jabaliya. The Israeli military, which has repeatedly called on Palestinians to leave northern Gaza, said only that its troops were active in the area “with the aim of hitting terrorists.”
“This war is having a staggering and unacceptable number of civilian casualties, including women and children, every day. This must stop,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement on that strike and another on a UN-run school within 24 hours.
More than 11,500 Palestinians have been killed, according to Palestinian health authorities. A further 2,700 have been reported missing, believed buried in rubble. The count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants; Israel says it has killed thousands of militants.
HOSTAGE NEGOTIATIONS
About 1,200 people have been killed on the Israeli side, mainly civilians killed during the Oct. 7 attack, in which Hamas dragged some 240 captives back into Gaza and shattered Israel’s sense of security. The military says 63 Israeli soldiers have been killed, including 12 over the past 24 hours.
Hamas has released four hostages, Israel has rescued one, and the bodies of two were found near Shifa where there had been heavy fighting.
Israel, the United States and the Arabian Gulf nation of Qatar, which mediates with Hamas, have been negotiating a hostage release for weeks. “We are hopeful that we can get a significant number of hostages freed in the coming days,” Israel’s ambassador to the US, Michael Herzog, told ABC’s “This Week.” He added, “We’re talking about a pause in the fighting for a few days, so we can get the hostages out.”
Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, said Sunday the “the sticking points, honestly, at this stage are more practical, logistical.”
WINTER ARRIVING
More than two-thirds of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have fled their homes. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, or UNRWA, is struggling to provide basic services to hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Seventeen of its facilities have been directly hit, the agency said.
Their misery has worsened in recent days with the arrival of winter, with cold winds and driving rain.
Over the weekend, Israel allowed UNRWA to import enough fuel to continue humanitarian operations for another couple of days, and to keep Internet and telephone systems running. Israel cut off all fuel imports at the start of the war, causing Gaza’s sole power plant and most water treatment systems to shut down.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Saturday gave the clearest indication yet that the military plans to expand its offensive to the south, where Israel has told Palestinian civilians to seek refuge. Israel has repeatedly struck what it says are militant targets across the south, often killing civilians.
The evacuation zone is already crammed with displaced civilians, and it was not clear where they would go if the offensive moved closer. Egypt has refused to accept any influx of Palestinian refugees, in part because of fears that Israel would not allow them to return.
Palestinian-Canadian Khalil Manaa, 71, left Gaza for Egypt on Sunday. After fleeing to southern Gaza, he said he and relatives shared a crammed home of 40 people. “And there, we also were subjected to intense strikes. … A rocket hit our house,” he said.
 

 


Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows

Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows
Updated 5 sec ago
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Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows

Iran election seen as legitimacy test for rulers as dissent grows
  • Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called voting a religious duty
  • Parliament has no major influence on foreign policy or Iran’s nuclear agenda
DUBAI: Iran holds a parliamentary election on Friday seen as a test of the clerical establishment’s popularity at a time of growing dissent over an array of political, social and economic crises.
The vote will be the first formal gauge of public opinion after anti-government protests in 2022-23 spiralled into some of the worst political turmoil since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Critics from inside and outside the ruling elite, including politicians and former lawmakers, say the legitimacy of Iran’s theocratic system could be at stake due to economic struggles and a lack of electoral options for a mostly young population chafing at political and social restrictions.
Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called voting a religious duty. He accused the country’s “enemies” — a term he normally uses for the United States and Israel — of trying to create despair among Iranian voters.
The commander of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, said on Wednesday that “each vote is like a missile launched at the enemy’s heart.”
But Iranians still have painful memories of the handling of nationwide unrest sparked by the death in custody of a young Iranian-Kurdish woman in 2022, which was quelled by a violent state crackdown involving mass detentions and even executions.
Economic hardships pose another challenge. Many analysts say that millions have lost hope that Iran’s ruling clerics can resolve an economic crisis fomented by a combination of US sanctions, mismanagement and corruption.
While establishment supporters will likely vote for hard-line candidates, widespread public anger at worsening living standards and pervasive graft may keep many Iranians at home.
Prices for basic goods like bread, meat, dairy and rice have skyrocketed in past months. The official inflation rate stands at about 40 percent. Analysts and insiders put it at over 50 percent.
The US 2018 withdrawal from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with six world powers, and its reimposition of sanctions, have hit Iran’s economy hard. Efforts to revive the pact have failed.
Reformists shun ‘meaningless’ vote
Iranian activists and opposition groups are distributing the Twitter hashtags #VOTENoVote widely on social media, arguing that a high turnout will legitimize the Islamic Republic.
With heavyweight moderates and conservatives staying out of Friday’s race and reformists calling it an “unfree and unfair election,” the vote will pit hard-liners and low-key conservatives against each other, all proclaiming loyalty to Iran’s Islamic revolutionary ideals.
The interior ministry said 15,200 candidates will run for the 290-seat parliament, with a vetting body called the Guardian Council approving 75 percent of initially registered hopefuls.
The unelected Guardian Council, made up of six clerics and six legal experts generally within Khamenei’s orbit, has the authority to scrutinize laws and election candidates.
Ballots will mostly be counted manually, so the final result may not be announced for three days, although partial results may appear sooner.
On the same day, Iranians also vote for the Assembly of Experts, which appoints and can dismiss the supreme leader. The 88-member clerical body rarely intervenes directly in policy but is expected to help choose the 84-year-old Khamenei’s successor.
Parliament has no major influence on foreign policy or Iran’s nuclear agenda. These are determined by Khamenei who holds the utmost authority in the country’s unique dual system of clerical and republican rule.
Polling has projected turnover of about 41 percent, while former lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi said on Monday that surveys showed the participation could be as low as 27 percent, significantly lower than 42 percent in a 2020 parliamentary vote.
Discredited after years of failed attempts at widening political and social freedoms, the pro-reform opposition suffered further unpopularity in 2022 when protesters scorned its mantra of gradual change.
The Reform Front coalition has said it will not take part in the “meaningless” election but has not boycotted the vote.

Israel strikes near Damascus, Syria-Lebanon border: monitor

Israel strikes near Damascus, Syria-Lebanon border: monitor
Updated 29 February 2024
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Israel strikes near Damascus, Syria-Lebanon border: monitor

Israel strikes near Damascus, Syria-Lebanon border: monitor
  • Israel rarely comments on individual strikes but has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria

Beirut: Israel hit a car used by Hezbollah in Syria, close to the Lebanese border, also striking near Damascus Thursday, a war monitor said, hours after similar attacks near the Syrian capital.
“An Israeli drone targeted a car belonging to Hezbollah in the Homs countryside near the Syrian-Lebanese border,” said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
At the same time, “violent explosions resounded after Israeli strikes hit southwest of Damascus,” said the Britain-based monitor with a network of sources inside Syria.
An AFP correspondent in Damascus said they heard faraway explosions.
On Wednesday evening, Israel struck near Damascus, killing two Syrian pro-Hezbollah fighters, the Observatory had said.
Last week, an Israeli strike on a truck in Syria near the Lebanese border killed two Hezbollah members, also according to the Observatory.
Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups have been fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces following the eruption of civil war.
Since Syria’s war began in 2011, Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes against its northern neighbor, primarily targeting pro-Iran forces, among them Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Syrian army.
But the strikes have multiplied during the almost five-month-old war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Israel rarely comments on individual strikes but has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria.
Syria’s war has claimed the lives of more than half a million people and displaced millions since it broke out in March 2011 with Damascus’s brutal repression of anti-government protests.


UN rights chief: War crimes committed by all parties in Israel-Hamas conflict

UN rights chief: War crimes committed by all parties in Israel-Hamas conflict
Updated 29 February 2024
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UN rights chief: War crimes committed by all parties in Israel-Hamas conflict

UN rights chief: War crimes committed by all parties in Israel-Hamas conflict
  • UN human rights office had recorded ‘many incidents that may amount to war crimes by Israeli forces’

GENEVA: UN human rights chief Volker Turk on Thursday said war crimes had been committed by all parties in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, calling for them to be investigated and for those responsible to be held accountable.
“Clear violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws, including war crimes and possibly other crimes under international law, have been committed by all parties,” Turk told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“It is time — well past time — for peace, investigation and accountability.”
Hamas gunmen killed 1,200 people and captured 253 hostages in an attack on Israel on Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies.
The attack sparked an Israeli offensive in Hamas-run Gaza, which it says is intended to rescue the remaining hostages and eradicate Hamas. Health authorities in Gaza say some 30,000 people have been confirmed killed during the offensive.
Turk, who was presenting a report on the human rights situation in Gaza and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, said his office had recorded “many incidents that may amount to war crimes by Israeli forces.”
He said there were also indications that Israeli forces have engaged in “indiscriminate or disproportionate targeting” in violation of international law.
Israel has said it is doing all it can to minimize harm to civilians.
Turk said Palestinian armed groups launching indiscriminate projectiles across southern Israel and the holding of hostages also violated international humanitarian law.
Last month, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide against Palestinians and do more to help civilians, although it stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.
Turk said the prospect of an Israeli ground assault in the southern border town of Rafah, where some 1.5 million people are estimated to be crammed after fleeing their homes further north to escape Israel’s offensive, “would take the nightmare being inflicted on people in Gaza into a new, dystopian, dimension.”
“For my part, I fail to see how such an operation could be consistent with the binding provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice,” he said.
Turk added that such a ground offensive would incur massive loss of life, increase the risk of atrocity crimes, spur more displacement and “sign a death warrant for any hope of effective humanitarian aid.”


Strike on Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza kills and wounds dozens

Strike on Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza kills and wounds dozens
Updated 29 February 2024
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Strike on Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza kills and wounds dozens

Strike on Palestinians waiting for aid in Gaza kills and wounds dozens
  • Hospital officials say an apparent Israeli strike on a crowd of Palestinians waiting for humanitarian aid in Gaza City has killed and wounded dozens

RAFAH: At least 70 people were killed in a strike early Thursday on a crowd of Palestinians waiting for humanitarian aid in Gaza City, bringing the total number killed since the start of the Israel-Hamas war to more than 30,000, Gaza’s Health Ministry said.
Gaza City and the rest of northern Gaza were the first targets of Israel’s air, sea and ground offensive launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. The area has suffered widespread devastation and has been largely isolated from the rest of the territory for months, with little aid entering.
Aid groups say it has become nearly impossible to deliver humanitarian assistance in most of Gaza, in part because of the crowds of desperate people who overwhelm aid convoys. The UN says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians face starvation.
Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said another 280 people were wounded in Thursday’s strike.
Fares Afana, the head of the ambulance service at the Kamal Adwan Hospital, said medics arriving at the scene found “dozens or hundreds” lying on the ground. He said there were not enough ambulances to collect all the dead and wounded and that some were being brought to hospitals on donkey carts.
The Israeli military said it was looking into the reports.
The Health Ministry said the Palestinian death toll from the war has climbed to 30,035, with another 70,457 wounded. It does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its figures but says women and children make up around two-thirds of those killed.
The ministry, which is part of the Hamas-run government, maintains detailed records of casualties. Its counts from previous wars have largely matched those of the UN, independent experts and even Israel’s own tallies.
The Hamas attack into southern Israel that ignited the war killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and the militants seized around 250 hostages. Hamas is still holding around 130 hostages, a quarter of whom are believed to be dead, after releasing most of the others during a weeklong ceasefire in November.


Russian rocket successfully puts Iranian satellite into orbit

Russian rocket successfully puts Iranian satellite into orbit
Updated 29 February 2024
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Russian rocket successfully puts Iranian satellite into orbit

Russian rocket successfully puts Iranian satellite into orbit
  • The Iranian state TV said the 110-kilogram satellite has three cameras

MOSCOW: A Russian rocket on Thursday successfully put an Iranian satellite into orbit, a launch that underlined increasingly close cooperation between Moscow and Tehran.
Russia’s state-run Roscosmos corporation said that a Soyuz rocket blasted off from the Vostochny launch facility in the country’s far east to carry the Iranian satellite and 18 Russian satellites into orbit.
The Iranian state TV said the 110-kilogram satellite has three cameras to take images for environmental, agricultural and other purposes.
Iran’s state TV said the satellite will be put into orbit around the North and South Poles, synchronized to be in the same fixed position relative to the Sun, and will be fully functional after a calibration of its systems.
Thursday’s launch comes after Russia put into orbit the Iranian Khayyam satellite in 2022.
Iran’s Communication Minister Isa Zarepour told the TV that Iran’s space program has had a total of 23 launches, including 12 during President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration.