DUBAI: Egypt’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday bombing targeting displaced people in south Gaza has “a clear objective,” and that is to force the enclave’s residents to leave.
“Egypt has clearly declared its utter rejection of any enforced displacement attempt of Palestinians,” the ministry’s spokesman posted on the social media messaging platform X.
Israel-Hamas truce extension to facilitate exchanges, allow more aid into Gaza
Eleven Israelis freed by Hamas entered Israel Monday night after more than seven weeks in captivity in Gaza
Thirty-three Palestinians released by Israel arrived early Tuesday in east Jerusalem and West Bank town of Ramallah
Updated 28 November 2023
TEL AVIV, Israel: Israel and Hamas agreed to extend their cease-fire for two more days past Monday, raising the prospect of further exchanges of militant-held hostages for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel and a longer halt to their deadliest and most destructive war.
Eleven Israeli women and children, freed by Hamas, entered Israel Monday night after more than seven weeks in captivity in Gaza in the fourth swap under the original four-day truce, which began Friday and was due to run out. Thirty-three Palestinian prisoners released by Israel arrived early Tuesday in east Jerusalem and the West Bank town of Ramallah. The prisoners were greeted by loud cheers as their bus made its way through the streets of Ramallah.
The deal for two additional days of cease-fire, announced by Qatar, raised hopes for further extensions, which also allow more aid into Gaza. Conditions there have remained dire for 2.3 million Palestinians, battered by weeks of Israeli bombardment and a ground offensive that have driven three-quarters of the population from their homes.
Israel has said it would extend the cease-fire by one day for every 10 additional hostages released. After the announcement by Qatar — a key mediator in the conflict, along with the United States and Egypt — Hamas confirmed it had agreed to a two-day extension “under the same terms.”
But Israel says it remains committed to crushing Hamas’ military capabilities and ending its 16-year rule over Gaza after its Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel. That would likely mean expanding a ground offensive from devastated northern Gaza to the south.
Monday’s releases bring to 51 the number of Israelis freed under the truce, along with 19 hostages of other nationalities. So far, 150 Palestinians have been released from Israeli prisons.
After weeks of national trauma over the roughly 240 people abducted by Hamas and other militants, scenes of the women and children reuniting with families have rallied Israelis behind calls to return those who remain in captivity.
“We can get all hostages back home. We have to keep pushing,” two relatives of Abigail Edan, a 4-year-old girl and dual Israeli-American citizen who was released Sunday, said in a statement.
Hamas and other militants could still be holding up to 175 hostages, enough to potentially extend the cease-fire for two and a half weeks. But those include a number of soldiers, and Hamas is likely to make much greater demands for their release.
The newly released hostages included three women and nine children — including 3-year-old twin girls and their mother — from the kibbutz Nir Oz, a community near Gaza that was hard hit in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. The kibbutz said 49 of its residents remain in captivity, including the father of the twins. The Israeli military said late Monday that the hostages were undergoing initial medical checks in Israel before being reunited with their families.
Most of the hostages freed so far have appeared to be physically well. But 84-year-old Elma Avraham, released Sunday, was airlifted to Israel’s Soroka Medical Center in life-threatening condition because of inadequate care, the hospital said.
Avraham’s daughter, Tali Amano, said her mother was “hours from death” when she was brought to the hospital. Avraham is currently sedated and has a breathing tube, but Amano said she told her of a new great-grandchild who was born while she was in captivity.
Avraham suffered from several chronic conditions that required regular medications but was stable before she was kidnapped, Amano said Monday.
So far, 19 people of other nationalities have been freed during the truce, mostly Thai nationals. Many Thais work in Israel, largely as farm laborers.
France said three of the hostages released Monday were French-Israeli dual citizens, two 12-year-olds and one 16-year-old. The French government is ‘’working tirelessly’’ to free five other French citizens held hostage, the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Palestinian prisoners released so far have been mostly teenagers accused of throwing stones and firebombs during confrontations with Israeli forces, or of less-serious offenses. But some were convicted in alleged attempts to carry out stabbings, bombings and shootings. Many Palestinians view prisoners held by Israel, including those implicated in attacks, as heroes resisting occupation.
The freed hostages have mostly stayed out of the public eye, but details of their captivity have started to trickle out.
Merav Raviv, whose three relatives were released Friday, said they had been fed irregularly and lost weight. One reported eating mainly bread and rice and sleeping on a makeshift bed of chairs pushed together. Hostages sometimes had to wait for hours to use the bathroom, she said.
In Washington, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby welcomed the extension of the truce.
“We would, of course, hope to see the pause extended further, and that will depend upon Hamas continuing to release hostages,” Kirby told reporters.
RESPITE IN GAZA
More than 13,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, roughly two-thirds of them women and minors, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. More than 1,200 people have been killed on the Israeli side, mostly civilians killed in the initial attack. At least 77 soldiers have been killed in Israel’s ground offensive.
The calm from the truce allowed glimpses of the destruction wreaked by weeks of Israeli bombardment that leveled entire neighborhoods.
Footage showed a complex of several dozen multistory residential buildings that had been pummeled into a landscape of wreckage in the northern town of Beit Hanoun. Nearly every building was destroyed or severely damaged, some reduced to concrete frames half-slumped over. At a nearby UN school, the buildings were intact but partially burned and riddled with holes.
The Israeli assault has driven three-quarters of Gaza’s population from their homes, and now most of its 2.3 million people are crowded into the south. More than 1 million are living in UN shelters. The Israeli military has barred hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled south from returning north.
Rain and wind added to the hardship of displaced Palestinians sheltering in the compound of Al-Aqsa hospital in central Gaza. Palestinians in coats baked flatbreads over a makeshift fire among tents set up on the muddy grounds.
Alaa Mansour said the conditions are simply horrendous.
“My clothes are all wet, and I am unable to change them.” said Mansour, who is disabled. “I have not drunk water for two days, and there’s no bathroom to use.”
The UN says the truce made it possible to scale up the delivery of food, water and medicine to the largest volume since the start of the war. But the 160 to 200 trucks a day is still less than half what Gaza was importing before the fighting, even as humanitarian needs have soared.
Long lines formed outside stations distributing cooking fuel, allowed in for the first time. Fuel for generators has been brought for key service providers, including hospitals and water and sanitation facilities, but bakeries have been unable to resume work, the UN said.
Iyad Ghafary, a vendor in the urban Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, said many families were still unable to retrieve the dead from under the rubble left by Israeli airstrikes, and that local authorities weren’t equipped to deal with the level of destruction.
Many say the aid is not nearly enough.
Amani Taha, a widow and mother of three who fled northern Gaza, said she had only managed to get one canned meal from a UN distribution center since the cease-fire began.
She said the crowds have overwhelmed local markets and gas stations as people try to stock up on basics. “People were desperate and went out to buy whenever they could,” she said. “They are extremely worried that the war will return.”
Rare survey details how Gazans wary of Hamas before Israel attack
Despite the majority negative view of Hamas uncovered by Jamal’s research, the report cautions that following the Hamas attack on Israel, perceptions may have changed
Updated 28 November 2023
PRINCETON, United States: Many Gazans were hostile to Hamas ahead of the group’s brutal October 7 attack on Israel, with some describing its rule as a second occupation, according to rare polling data analyzed by a US-Palestinian researcher.
The findings are striking against a backdrop of protests and counter-protests triggered by the attack, with the relationship between Hamas and ordinary Gazans often the subject of heated debate.
“We find in our surveys that 67 percent of Palestinians in Gaza had little or no trust in Hamas in that period right before the attacks,” said Amaney Jamal, dean of Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs.
“This is especially important because of the (erroneous) argument that all of Gaza supports Hamas, and therefore all of Gaza should be held accountable for the actions, atrocious actions of Hamas.”
Jamal is one of the driving forces behind the Arab Barometer which conducts surveys and polling in the region, including in Gaza where fieldwork concluded on the eve of the attacks on Israel.
She said that Hamas, which won elections in the Palestinian territories in 2006 and is designated a “terrorist” organization by Washington and the EU, was seen as “corrupt” and “authoritarian” by many respondents.
“Seventy-five percent said in the previous 30 days, they could not afford to feed their households. So again, this is an impoverished society, a society that is basically saying the Hamas-led government has some levels of corruption,” said Jamal.
“When we ask people, who do you blame?... we thought that the number-one culprit was going to be Israel because of the blockade. But most people cited Hamas corruption, more so than they cited the Israel blockade.”
Jamal, 52 and born in California and brought up in her family’s native Ramallah, said there was also a perception that “the Palestinian Authority or the Hamas-led government across time have become more dictatorial — and more authoritarian.”
“For the average Palestinian in the West Bank or in Gaza (they say) ‘we have this (Israeli) occupation and then we have these Palestinian governments that are also authoritarian’. So a common phrase is we used to be occupied by one power, now we’re occupied by two.”
The latest Arab Barometer was undertaken in Gaza, where 399 people were surveyed, and the West Bank, where 790 were polled, from the end of September to October 6. Its findings were published in the journal Foreign Affairs.
“About 60 percent said that they believed they could not express their opinions freely and openly at the eve of the attacks (and) about 72 percent said that they could not protest peacefully against the Hamas-led government,” Jamal said. “There was fear of retaliation or retribution from the government.”
The Palestinian Authority of president Mahmud Abbas, which runs Palestinian areas in the West Bank, fared poorly in Jamal’s survey, with only 9 percent of responses favorable.
Despite the majority negative view of Hamas uncovered by Jamal’s research, the report cautions that following the Hamas attack on Israel, perceptions may have changed.
“Israel cut off water, food, fuel, and electricity supplies to Gaza following the October 7 attacks, plunging the territory into a deep humanitarian crisis... the suffering the Palestinians have experienced has likely hardened their attitude,” it said.
Ahead of the attacks on Israel, more than half of respondents favored a two-state solution — a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The remainder opted either for a Palestinian-Israeli confederation or a one-state solution. But one-in-five supported armed resistance before the events of October 7, and the massive Israeli military response that followed.
“(Gazans were) open to a peaceful reconciliation with Israel based on 1967 borders,” Jamal said.
Blinken to return to Israel, West Bank as truce extended
The trip comes as mediator Qatar announced a 48-hour extension of a truce between Israel and Hamas, opening the way for further releases of hostages and the arrival of humanitarian aid into the war-battered Gaza Strip
Updated 28 November 2023
BRUSSELS: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will pay his third wartime visit to the Middle East this week, a US official said Monday, just as mediators announced an extension of a truce in Gaza.
Blinken will also head this week to Dubai to represent the United States at the COP28 climate summit, which President Joe Biden is skipping after two previous years of attending to highlight US leadership.
A senior US official, speaking as Blinken arrived in Brussels for NATO meetings, said the top US diplomat would meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah.
“In his meetings in the Middle East, the secretary will stress the need to sustain the increased flow of humanitarian assistance to Gaza, secure the release of all hostages and improve protection to civilians in Gaza,” the official said.
“The secretary will discuss with partners in the region the principles he laid out for the future of Gaza and the need to establish an independent Palestinian state,” the official said.
The trip comes as mediator Qatar announced a 48-hour extension of a truce between Israel and Hamas, opening the way for further releases of hostages and the arrival of humanitarian aid into the war-battered Gaza Strip.
There was no immediate confirmation from Israel, which has vowed to keep up the fight to destroy Hamas.
The United States has been pressing Israel to work with the Palestinian Authority and rein in settlers who have attacked Palestinians in the West Bank since October 7, but Netanyahu has been a long-time critic of Abbas and of a two-state solution.
Blinken and Biden have vowed support for Israel after Hamas militants stormed into the US ally on October 7 and killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in Israel’s deadliest-ever attack.
But US officials have also voiced increasing concern about the Israeli reprisals’ toll on civilians, which have galvanized public opinion in much of the world.
The bombing and ground campaign has left almost 15,000 people dead, mostly Palestinian civilians, according to Gaza’s Hamas government.
Blinken will head Friday to COP28 in Dubai, which opens on Thursday in the largest-yet UN-led summit on climate change.
Biden has attended the last two annual summits, in Scotland and Egypt, in hopes of showing that the United States has turned the page from his climate skeptic predecessor Donald Trump, who is seeking the White House again.
The Biden administration has pushed through billions of dollars of investment in the green economy, including electric cars.
Another US official earlier said that Biden would not attend COP28, whose attendees include Pope Francis. Officials did not give a reason. Biden has been consumed by the Middle East but is seeking to focus on his domestic agenda with less than a year to go before the presidential election.
Blinken will also seek to rally support for Ukraine in talks with NATO foreign ministers in Brussels and then at a meeting in North Macedonia of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
“We anticipate that he’ll engage in a good discussion with our OSCE colleagues about support for Ukraine,” said James O’Brien, the top US diplomat for Europe.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that North Macedonia, which has joined Western sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, has agreed to let him attend the annual meeting of the pan-European security body in which Russia is a member.
Russian state media said that EU member Bulgaria has informed Moscow it would allow Lavrov’s plane to cross its airspace.
But Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said there would not be a meeting with Blinken.
“No, (they) haven’t asked, (they) won’t ask and there won’t be a meeting” he told Russian state news agencies.”
Last year, OSCE host Poland refused to let Lavrov attend, sparking an angry response from Russia.
US officials have cut most top-level contact with Russia since the February 2022 full-scale invasion of Ukraine, although Blinken briefly met Lavrov in March on the sidelines of a G20 meeting in India.
COP28’s director general backs using technology to aid climate action
Panel discussion focused on the changing landscape of climate technology
Updated 28 November 2023
LONDON: The director general of COP28 hosted a session on Monday at the Dubai Future Forum on harnessing the potential of technology to promote climate action, the Emirates News Agency reported.
During a panel discussion called “Uniting for COP28: Leveraging Technology and Defining the Climate Technology Future,” Majid Al-Suwaidi said: “Technology and innovation is a cross-cutting theme across the COP28 agenda, and for good reason.
“Climate technologies can significantly bolster our capacity to both mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change, but they must be accessible and affordable.
“To meet our climate goals and drive the green transition, we must invest in and swiftly scale climate tech innovations. There is so much that we can achieve together at the convergence of climate, technology and policy.
“Through dedicated spaces and curated programs, COP28 will also showcase the diverse contributions of entrepreneurs and technology, especially those originating from the Global South.”
The panel discussion focused on the changing landscape of climate technology, as well as the importance of multiple stakeholders’ contributions and partnerships in driving innovation and deployment to address the climate challenge.
David Livingston, senior adviser to the US special presidential envoy for climate; Sabrin Rahman, COP28’s director of partnerships; and Asya Al Shehhi, COP28’s negotiator for technology, science and innovation, were among the panelists.
COP28 will host the Climate Innovation Forum on Friday, gathering government, business and technology leaders to showcase cutting-edge technologies.
It will focus on innovation, including artificial intelligence, satellite technology, big data, sustainable energy, industrial decarbonization, and other topics.
There will also be exhibitions and events in the COP28 Technology and Innovation Hub in the Green Zone, such as the Startup Village, a dedicated space in the hub showcasing 150 of the most innovative climate tech initiatives.
A majlis at the Dubai Future Forum brought together a group of people to discuss the obstacles of realizing AI’s potential in climate action. While AI is largely considered as a significant asset in combating climate change, technology is typically produced by a small group of people, which can have an impact on who it benefits and who it does not.
The majlis considered how governments and society should advocate for more inclusive design in order to ensure that AI’s involvement in climate mitigation and adaptation policies is done by everyone, for everyone.
The conversation emphasized the importance of inclusivity, from the very beginning of the design process all the way through implementation to ensuring that the climate-AI nexus works for everyone.
AI experts, futurists, climate experts, lawmakers, youth advocates, and industry executives were among those who attended.
Iraq sees risk of regional conflict if Gaza war resumes
Two sets of US strikes in Iraq last week killed 10 members of Kataeb Hezbolla
Updated 28 November 2023
BAGHDAD: Iraq sees a risk of regional conflict if the current truce in Gaza is not turned into a permanent cease-fire, the Iraqi prime minister’s foreign affairs adviser said, as mediators sought an extension of the temporary four-day Israel-Hamas truce.
Israel’s devastating bombardment of Gaza in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel has drawn in Iran-aligned armed groups in the region including Lebanese Hezbollah and several Iraqi factions, who have mounted near-daily attacks on Israeli and US forces.
But there have been no reports of attacks on US forces in Iraq or Syria since Israel and Hamas began a four-day truce last week that was set to expire on Monday, compared to over 70 in the weeks prior.
Some of the main Iraqi armed factions behind the recent attacks, including Kataib Sayyid Al-Shuhada and Kataeb Hezbollah, have announced they will abide by the Gaza cease-fire but indicated they would resume attacks if it ends.
They have also said in statements that they still seek the eventual ouster of US forces in Iraq. There are around 2,500 US troops on a mission the US says is to advise and assist Iraqi forces battling remnants of Islamic State.
“The entire region is on the verge of a devastating conflict that may include everyone, and the extent of its expansion or how to control and stop it is not known,” said Farhad Alaadin, foreign affairs adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani.
“For this reason, we see any cease-fire in the conflict as beneficial and important at this stage for the people of Palestine and Gaza first and for all countries in the region, including Iraq,” he told Reuters.
European Union Ambassador to Iraq Thomas Seiler said in a social media post that he hopes Iraqi factions “continue with their cessation of attacks.”
Two sets of US strikes in Iraq last week killed 10 members of Kataeb Hezbollah, according to posts by the group on social media, a move condemned by the Iraqi government as escalatory and a violation of sovereignty.
Kataeb Hezbollah is part of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a group of mostly Shiite Muslim armed groups formed to fight Islamic State in 2014 that became an official security agency under the command of the prime minister.
While technically part of the state, some of the PMF’s most powerful Iran-backed factions often act outside the chain of command. Sudani has said attacks by armed groups on foreign forces in Iraq were unlawful and went against the country’s national interest.