Baby Anas, rescued from Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, feels warmth of mother’s embrace

Baby Anas, rescued from Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, feels warmth of mother’s embrace
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Palestinian newborn Anas Sbeta lies in an inewborn ncubator, after being evacuated from Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City due to the ongoing Israeli ground operation against Hamas, at a hospital in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Nov. 21, 2023. (Reuters)
Baby Anas, rescued from Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, feels warmth of mother’s embrace
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A Palestinian mother holds her newborn Anas Sbeta, who was placed in an incubator after being evacuated from Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City due to the ongoing Israeli ground operation against Hamas, as he is discharged from a hospital in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Nov. 21, 2023. (Reuters)
Baby Anas, rescued from Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, feels warmth of mother’s embrace
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A premature baby, who was evacuated from Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City due to the Israeli ground operation against Hamas, lies in an incubator at a hospital in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, on Nov. 21, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 November 2023
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Baby Anas, rescued from Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, feels warmth of mother’s embrace

Baby Anas, rescued from Gaza’s Al Shifa Hospital, feels warmth of mother’s embrace
  • “I was losing hope to see my baby alive,” said Warda Sbeta in an interview
  • “I felt alive again, grateful to God that we now have our baby safely in our care”

RAFAH, Gaza Strip: At first, the young mother couldn’t find her newborn son, Anas, among the 31 tiny babies who had just arrived in southern Gaza after being evacuated from Gaza City’s devastated Al Shifa Hospital. She hadn’t seen him for 45 days.
“I was losing hope to see my baby alive,” said Warda Sbeta in an interview with Reuters TV on Tuesday.
She and her husband frantically checked the list of names provided by the head of the neonatal unit where the babies were being cared for, at a hospital in Rafah, and there it was, Anas’s name in black and white.
“I felt alive again, grateful to God that we now have our baby safely in our care,” said Sbeta, speaking at the hospital as she watched over her sleeping son, whom she had dressed in a light blue sleepsuit and matching hat.
Sbeta smiled as she held him in her hands and her husband helped her to wrap him in a white swaddling blanket with pink ribbons and a hood. Once he was bundled up, she cradled him against her chest.
Sbeta, 32, has seven older children and the family, whose home was in Gaza City before the war, are now living in a school in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, that has become a shelter for hundreds of people displaced from the north of the strip.
Sbeta was offered the option of being evacuated to Egypt with Anas so he could receive further medical care, but she did not want to leave her husband and her other children.
“I can’t leave them with only their father. He won’t be able to look after them. So I was obliged to refuse this offer,” she said.
Anas was one of only three out of the 31 premature babies rescued from Al Shifa who stayed behind in Gaza. Of the other two, one was unidentified, according to doctors at the Rafah hospital. They did not give information about the third baby.
When doctors at Al Shifa first raised the alarm nine days ago about the premature babies in their care, 39 of the infants were alive, but eight died because of the dire conditions before the evacuation to Rafah and Egypt could be organized.
A World Health Organization official said on Tuesday that two of the eight had died the night before the evacuation.

’IS HE ALIVE?’
Out of the 31 who were transported to Rafah on Sunday, 28 were evacuated to Egypt on Monday. UNICEF spokesman James Elder said on Tuesday that 20 of them were unaccompanied and eight were with their mothers. There were seven mothers as two of the infants were twins.
Elder said some of the 20 unaccompanied babies were orphans, while for others there was no information about their families. “It all underlines the horrific situation for families in Gaza,” he said.
For Anas, the safety of Egypt was out of reach, but the separation from his family was over.
Sbeta said that Anas was being treated at Al Shifa when war broke out on Oct. 7, the day when Hamas militants rampaged through southern Israel, killing 1,200 Israelis and kidnapping 240, according to Israeli figures.
Israel responded with a military assault on Gaza that has killed some 13,000 Palestinians, according to health officials in the Hamas-controlled enclave, and has made three quarters of the population homeless, according to UN data.
Like hundreds of thousands of others in the northern Gaza Strip, Sbeta and the rest of the family fled their home for southern Gaza, while Anas stayed behind at Al Shifa as the hospital gradually ran out of power, water, food and medicines.
“They called us from Al Shifa to come and take the baby but it was hard for us to return. The route out of Gaza City was open, but the way back was closed,” she said.
The anguish of separation worsened when Israeli forces last week entered Al Shifa, which Israel says has been used by Hamas as a base for its operations — an assertion denied by Hamas — and the family lost communication with the hospital.
“We completely lost any news about the baby. We were not able to know anything about him. Is he alive? Is he dead? Is someone giving him milk?” said Sbeta.
With communications patchy at the shelter in Khan Younis, the parents were struggling to get any solid information, until other displaced people living in the school told them they had heard the babies were being moved south.
The parents rushed to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, but were told they had to go to the maternity hospital in Rafah, where they were finally reunited with Anas.
On Tuesday, he was well enough to leave the hospital. His parents were taking him to the school in Khan Younis, their wartime refuge, to start a new life with his seven brothers and sisters.


Italy to resume funding for UN agency for Palestinian refugees

Italy to resume funding for UN agency for Palestinian refugees
Updated 16 sec ago
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Italy to resume funding for UN agency for Palestinian refugees

Italy to resume funding for UN agency for Palestinian refugees
  • UNRWA, which coordinates nearly all aid to Gaza, has been in crisis after Israel’s allegations
ROME: Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani on Saturday announced Rome would restore funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees as he met with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa.
“Italy has decided to resume financing specific projects intended for assistance to Palestinian refugees, but only after rigorous controls that guarantee that not even a penny risks ending up supporting terrorism,” he said.
Tajani said he had informed the visiting premier “that the government has arranged new funding for the Palestinian population, for a total of 35 million euros.”
“Of this, five million will be allocated to UNRWA,” he said in a statement, with the remaining 30 million euros allocated to Italy’s “Food for Gaza” initiative in coordination with UN aid agencies.
UNRWA, which coordinates nearly all aid to Gaza, has been in crisis since January, when Israel accused about a dozen of its 13,000 Gaza employees of being involved in the October attack on Israel by Hamas.
That led many nations, including top donor the United States, to abruptly suspend funding to the agency, threatening its efforts to deliver aid in Gaza, although several have since resumed payments.
An independent review of UNRWA, led by French former foreign minister Catherine Colonna, found some “neutrality-related issues” but said Israel had yet to provide evidence for its leading allegations.
Created in 1949, the agency employs around 30,000 people in the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Mustafa was later due to meet with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Car blast kills one in Syrian capital: state media

Car blast kills one in Syrian capital: state media
Updated 26 min 3 sec ago
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Car blast kills one in Syrian capital: state media

Car blast kills one in Syrian capital: state media
  • Three vehicles caught fire in the area

DAMASCUS: A car explosion killed one person in Damascus on Saturday, the official Syrian news agency SANA reported, without identifying the victim.
Security incidents, including blasts targeting military and civilian vehicles, occur intermittently in the capital of war-ravaged Syria.
Quoting a police official, SANA said “one person was killed when an explosive device exploded in their car in the Mazzeh district.” It did not provide any other details.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor with a network of sources on the ground, said three vehicles caught fire in the area.
The explosion comes against a backdrop of heightened regional tensions, including the war between Israel and the Iran-backed Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Last month, an explosive device went off in a car in Mazzeh, an upscale neighborhood of Damascus, without causing any casualties, SANA reported at the time.
Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes in Syria since civil war broke out in 2011, targeting Iran-backed forces including Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement as well as Syrian army positions.


UAE President Sheikh Mohamed embarks on China state visit on May 30

UAE President Sheikh Mohamed embarks on China state visit on May 30
Updated 25 May 2024
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UAE President Sheikh Mohamed embarks on China state visit on May 30

UAE President Sheikh Mohamed embarks on China state visit on May 30

DUBAI: UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan will have a state visit to China on May 30 following an invitation from his counterpart Xi Jinping.

Discussions between the two leaders would mainly be regarding bilateral relations between the two countries, and how to further strengthen their economic, developmental and cultural ties, state news agency WAM reported.

Sheikh Mohamed will also attend celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the UAE and China, and will participate in the 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum.

The UAE leader will have a two-day state visit to South Korea, prior to his arrival in China, at the invitation of President Yoon Suk Yeol.

The two leaders will discuss bilateral ties and explore opportunities for greater collaboration across various sectors including trade, investment, energy and technology.


Israel strikes Rafah after top UN court orders it to halt offensive

Israel strikes Rafah after top UN court orders it to halt offensive
Updated 25 May 2024
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Israel strikes Rafah after top UN court orders it to halt offensive

Israel strikes Rafah after top UN court orders it to halt offensive
  • Israel gives no indication it is preparing to change course in Rafah, insists that the court had got it wrong
  • Top UN court earlier ordered Israel to halt military operations in the southern city

RAFAH: Israel bombed the Gaza Strip, including Rafah, on Saturday, a day after the top UN court ordered it to halt military operations in the southern city as efforts get underway in Paris to seek a ceasefire in the war sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) also demanded the immediate release of all hostages still held by Palestinian militants, hours after the Israeli military announced troops had recovered the bodies of three more of the captives from northern Gaza.
The Hague-based court, whose orders are legally binding but lack direct enforcement mechanisms, also ordered Israel to keep open the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, which it closed earlier this month at the start of its assault on the city.
Israel gave no indication it was preparing to change course in Rafah, insisting that the court had got it wrong.
“Israel has not and will not carry out military operations in the Rafah area that create living conditions that could cause the destruction of the Palestinian civilian population, in whole or in part,” National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said in a joint statement with Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman.
The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007, welcomed the ICJ ruling on Rafah but criticized its decision to exclude the rest of war-torn Gaza from the order.
Continued fighting
Hours after the ICJ ruling, Israel carried out strikes on the Gaza Strip early Saturday while clashes between the Israeli army and the armed wing of Hamas continued.
Palestinian witnesses and AFP teams reported Israeli strikes in Rafah and the central city of Deir Al-Balah.
“We hope that the court’s decision will put pressure on Israel to end this war of extermination, because there is nothing left here,” said Oum Mohammad Al-Ashqa, a Palestinian woman from Gaza City displaced to Deir Al-Balah by the war.
“But Israel is a state that considers itself above the law. Therefore, I do not believe that the shooting or the war will stop other than by force,” said Mohammed Saleh, also met by AFP in the central Gaza Strip city.
In its keenly awaited ruling, the ICJ said Israel must “immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in the Rafah Governorate, which may inflict on the Palestinian group in Gaza conditions of life that could bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”
It ordered Israel to open the Rafah crossing for humanitarian aid and also called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.
The Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s October 7 attack resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,800 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
The Israeli military said the three hostages whose bodies were recovered in north Gaza on Friday — Israeli hostage Chanan Yablonka, Brazilian-Israeli Michel Nisenbaum and French-Mexican Orion Hernandez Radoux — were “murdered” during the October 7 attack and their bodies taken to Gaza.
Truce talks
The court order comes ahead of separate meetings on the Gaza conflict in Paris between the CIA chief and Israeli representatives on one side and French President Emmanuel Macron and the foreign ministers of four key Arab states on the other.
Ceasefire talks involving US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators ended shortly after Israel launched the Rafah operation, though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office this week said the war cabinet had asked the Israeli delegation “to continue negotiations for the return of the hostages.”
CIA chief Bill Burns was expected to meet Israeli representatives in Paris in a bid to relaunch negotiations, a Western source close to the issue said.
Separately, French President Emmanuel Macron received the prime minister of Qatar and the Saudi, Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers on Friday “to press for a ceasefire,” according to Cairo.
The French presidency said they held talks on the Gaza war and ways to set up a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
The five countries discussed “the effective implementation of the two-state solution,” it added.
Top US diplomat Antony Blinken also spoke with Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz about new efforts to achieve a ceasefire and reopening of the Rafah border crossing as soon as possible, Washington said.
Aid stuck
Israeli ground troops started moving into Rafah in early May, defying global opposition.
Troops took over the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, further slowing sporadic deliveries of aid for Gaza’s 2.4 million people.
But on Friday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi agreed in a call with his US counterpart Joe Biden to allow UN aid through the other entry point into southern Gaza, the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel, the White House said.
The US military has also installed a temporary jetty on the Gaza coast to receive aid by sea that a UN spokesman said had delivered 97 trucks of aid after “a rocky start” a week ago.
The security and humanitarian situation in the territory remains alarming, with a risk of famine, hospitals out of service, and around 800,000 people, according to the United Nations, having fled Rafah in the last two weeks.
UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said the situation had reached “a moment of clarity.”
“Aid workers and UN staff must be able to carry out their jobs in safety,” he posted on social media site X late Friday.
“At a time when the people of Gaza are staring down famine... it is more critical than ever to heed the calls made over the last seven months: Release the hostages. Agree a ceasefire. End this nightmare.”


Gaza zookeeper fears for his animals after fleeing Rafah

Gaza zookeeper fears for his animals after fleeing Rafah
Updated 25 May 2024
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Gaza zookeeper fears for his animals after fleeing Rafah

Gaza zookeeper fears for his animals after fleeing Rafah

KHAN YOUNIS: In a cowshed in Gaza’s Khan Younis, zookeeper Fathi Ahmed Gomaa has created a temporary home for dozens of animals, including lions and baboons, having fled with them from Israel’s offensive in Rafah.
“We’ve moved all the animals we had, except for three big lions that remain (in Rafah),” he said.
“I ran out of time and couldn’t move them.” Ahmed abandoned his zoo in Rafah when Israel ordered the evacuation of parts of the southern Gazan city.
Before the offensive, the city on the border with Egypt had been spared a ground invasion, and more than half of the Gaza Strip’s population was sheltering there.
Now, the Israeli offensive has sent more than 800,000 people fleeing from Rafah, according to the UN, with Gomaa and his family among them.
“I am appealing to the Israeli authorities: these animals have no connection to terrorism,” Gomaa said, saying he wanted their help in coordinating with aid agencies to rescue the lions left behind in Rafah.
He fears they won’t survive long on their own.
“Of course, within a week or 10 days, if we don’t get them out, they will die because they’ll be left with no food or water.”
Gomaa said he had already lost several of his animals to the war: “Three lion cubs, five monkeys, a newborn monkey, and nine squirrels.”
And while the squawking of parrots fills the air, many of Gomaa’s other birds are no longer with him.
“I released some of the dogs, some of the hawks and eagles, some of the pigeons, and some of the ornamental birds. I released many of them because we didn’t have cages to transport them.”
In the cowshed, Gomaa is making do with what he has, using improvised fencing to raise the heights of the pens so that their new inhabitants, spotted deer, can’t leap out.
Israeli troops began their assault on Rafah on May 7, defying widespread international concern for the safety of the 1.4 million civilians sheltering in the city.