Worsening sanitation in Gaza ‘perfect storm for tragedy’: UN

Worsening sanitation in Gaza ‘perfect storm for tragedy’: UN
Palestinians walk amid the rubble of buildings damaged during an Israeli strike on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on November 20, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 22 November 2023
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Worsening sanitation in Gaza ‘perfect storm for tragedy’: UN

Worsening sanitation in Gaza ‘perfect storm for tragedy’: UN
  • Police say two Oct. 7 Hamas infiltrators held from Bedouin town in southern Israel

GENEVA/JERUSALEM/BERLIN: Fuel shortages and worsening sanitation in the Gaza Strip are shaping up to be the perfect storm for tragedy through the spread of disease, the UN warned on Tuesday.

UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, said there was a serious threat of a mass disease outbreak in the besieged Palestinian territory.

“Without enough fuel, we will see the collapse of sanitation services. So we have then, on top of the mortars and the bombs, a perfect storm for the spread of disease.

“It’s a perfect storm for tragedy,” UNICEF spokesman James Elder told a press briefing in Geneva.

“We have a desperate lack of water, fecal matter strewn across densely populated settlements, an unacceptable lack of latrines, and severe, severe restraints on hand-washing, personal hygiene and cleaning.”

Speaking via video-link from Cairo, Elder said the potential for wider loss of life in Gaza was being significantly exacerbated because an estimated 800,000 children in the enclave are displaced from their homes.

“If children’s access to water and sanitation in Gaza continues to be restricted and insufficient, we will see a tragic yet entirely avoidable surge in the number of children dying,” said Elder.

“It’s also important to note it’s starting to rain in Gaza. Now combined, children face a serious threat of mass disease outbreak. This, of course, would be lethal.”

Hamas gunmen stormed across the border from Gaza into Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking around 240 people hostage, according to Israeli officials.

In retaliation, Israel launched a relentless bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza, killing more than 13,300 Palestinians, thousands of them children, according to the territory’s Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Supplies of water, electricity, fuel and food were cut off to the impoverished and densely populated territory in the aftermath of the Hamas attacks.

Elder called for the release of 30 or so children being held hostage “somewhere in this hellscape,” saying their fear and torment “has toend.”

UNICEF is particularly concerned about the risk of a cholera outbreak in the Gaza Strip, fearing an exponential rise in child deaths if an outbreak was to strike.

Meanwhile, Israeli police confirmed they had arrested two Gazans, one Hamas militant, found hiding in southern Israel after infiltrating the area during the Oct. 7 attacks.

The detentions, in early November, were first reported by Israeli media with the details confirmed by a spokesman for the border police.

He said the pair were arrested in Rahat, a town in southern Israel mostly populated by Bedouin 

Arabs, following an operation by an undercover border police unit. The town lies about 30 km from the Gaza border. Both were unarmed and found in an empty house.

One was a Hamas militant while the other was a Gaza resident. Both were taken for investigation.

In a separate statement, Israeli police said they had found an anti-helicopter missile and other weapons which had been “taken from combat zones.”

Police and explosives experts have been trying “to locate weapons and explosive devices that were left in different areas of fighting by Hamas militants and taken by civilians,” the statement said. Following specific intelligence, they found weapons “including an anti-helicopter missile launcher, a Kalashnikov rifle, cartridges and ammo” in the Eshkol region that flanks the Gaza border.

Germany backs Israel

Germany’s interior minister urged Muslim groups in the country to explicitly condemn the Oct. 7 attacks and to voice solidarity with Israel. The nation is home to about 5.5 million Muslims, making up the second biggest religious group.

“I expect the Muslim organizations to clearly position themselves and uphold their responsibilities in society,” minister Nancy Faeser said in an interview with German broadcaster ARD.

The groups need to “clearly condemn” the attack by Hamas and not just with a “yes, but,” she said. “It must be very clear. We stand by Israel’s side,” added Faeser.

Some Muslim groups have indeed “lived up to their responsibilities,” she said. “Some have not.” The voices “defending our values” must get louder, said the minister. There has not yet been a public reaction from Muslim groups.

At the same time, Faeser said at a conference of German politicians, Muslim groups and representatives of the Christian and Jewish communities that anti-Semitism allegations must not be instrumentalized for anti-Muslim sentiment. “We must not offer any space to those who declare Muslims to be the cause of all evils.

“Those who are now creating a mood against Muslims under the pretext of fighting anti-Semitism want to divide and not unite us.”


US downs three Houthi drones, strikes anti-ship missiles

US downs three Houthi drones, strikes anti-ship missiles
Updated 57 min 46 sec ago
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US downs three Houthi drones, strikes anti-ship missiles

US downs three Houthi drones, strikes anti-ship missiles
  • Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis have been targeting shipping for months and their attacks have persisted despite repeated American and British strikes

Washington: American forces shot down three attack drones near commercial ships in the Red Sea Friday and destroyed seven anti-ship cruise missiles positioned on land, the US military said.
Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis have been targeting shipping for months and their attacks have persisted despite repeated American and British strikes aimed at degrading the rebels’ ability to threaten a vital global trade route.
Early on Friday, US forces “shot down three Houthi one-way attack (drones) near several commercial ships operating in the Red Sea. There was no damage to any ships,” the Central Command (CENTCOM) said on social media.
In a statement later in the day, CENTCOM said US forces destroyed “seven Iranian-backed Houthi mobile anti-ship cruise missiles that were prepared to launch toward the Red Sea.”
It said those strikes , carried out between 12:30 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. Sanaa time, were made in self-defense.
“CENTCOM forces identified these missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined that they presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and to the US Navy ships in the region,” it said in a statement.
The day prior, American forces struck four Houthi drones as well as two anti-ship cruise missiles, CENTCOM said, adding that the weapons “were prepared to launch from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen toward the Red Sea.”
The Houthis began attacking Red Sea shipping in November, saying they were hitting Israel-linked vessels in support of Palestinians in Gaza, which has been ravaged by the Israel-Hamas war.
US and UK forces responded with strikes against the Houthis, who have since declared American and British interests to be legitimate targets as well.
Anger over Israel’s devastating campaign in Gaza — which began after an unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 — has grown across the Middle East, stoking violence involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.


US warns of environmental disaster from cargo ship hit by Houthi rebels

US warns of environmental disaster from cargo ship hit by Houthi rebels
Updated 24 February 2024
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US warns of environmental disaster from cargo ship hit by Houthi rebels

US warns of environmental disaster from cargo ship hit by Houthi rebels
  • The Belize-flagged Rubymar was damaged Sunday by a missile strike claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels
  • It was transporting 41,000 tons of fertilizer when it was attacked, says Roy Khoury, the CEO of Blue Fleet CEO

WASHINGTON: A cargo ship abandoned in the Gulf of Aden after an attack by Yemeni rebels is taking on water and has left a huge oil slick, in an environmental disaster that US Central Command said Friday could get worse.

Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-operated cargo ship carrying combustible fertilizer, was damaged in a Sunday missile strike claimed by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Its crew was evacuated to Djibouti after one missile hit the side of the ship, causing water to enter the engine room and its stern to sag, said its operator, the Blue Fleet Group.
A second missile hit the vessel’s deck without causing major damage, Blue Fleet CEO Roy Khoury told AFP.
CENTCOM said the ship is anchored but slowly taking on water and has left an 18 mile oil slick.
“The M/V Rubymar was transporting over 41,000 tons of fertilizer when it was attacked, which could spill into the Red Sea and worsen this environmental disaster,” it said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
The ship’s operator said Thursday the ship could be towed to Djibouti this week.
Khoury said the ship was still afloat and shared an image captured on Wednesday that showed its stern low in the water.
When asked about the possibility of it sinking, Khoury had said there was “no risk for now, but always a possibility.”
The attack on the Rubymar represents the most significant damage yet to be inflicted on a commercial ship since the Houthis started firing on vessels in November — a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war.
The Houthi attacks have prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, which normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development warned late last month that the volume of commercial traffic passing through the Suez Canal had fallen more than 40 percent in the previous two months.
 


UN rights chief deplores ‘entrenched impunity’ in Gaza war

UN rights chief deplores ‘entrenched impunity’ in Gaza war
Updated 24 February 2024
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UN rights chief deplores ‘entrenched impunity’ in Gaza war

UN rights chief deplores ‘entrenched impunity’ in Gaza war
  • UN agency for Palestinian refugees at ‘breaking point,’ deplores chief

GENEVA, NEW YORK: The UN human rights chief said on Friday that perpetrators of gross human rights violations in the conflict between Israel and Hamas must be held accountable.

“The entrenched impunity that OHCHR — the UN rights agency — has reported on for many years cannot persist,” High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said in a report on the situation in Gaza and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
He said that this impunity had contributed to violations that could amount to international crimes.
Turk urged all parties to the conflict to “put an end to impunity and conduct prompt, independent, impartial, thorough, effective and transparent investigations” into alleged crimes under international law. He also called on them to implement a ceasefire on human rights and humanitarian grounds, to ensure full respect for international law, and to ensure accountability for violations and abuses.

FASTFACT

‘The entrenched impunity that OHCHR — the UN rights agency — has reported on for many years cannot persist,’ High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk said in a report on the situation in Gaza and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Last month, the International Court of Justice 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 as requested by South Africa, which brought the case.
In separate proceedings, South Africa on Tuesday urged the court to issue a non-binding legal opinion that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is illegal, arguing it would help efforts to reach a settlement.
Separately, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees warned it has reached a critical juncture as it struggles to cope with the war in Gaza.
“It is with profound regret that I must now inform you that UNRWA has reached a breaking point,” chief Philippe Lazzarini said, as donors freeze funding, Israel exerts pressure to dismantle the agency and humanitarian needs soar.
“The Agency’s ability to fulfill the mandate given through General Assembly Resolution 302 is now seriously threatened,” he said in a letter to the assembly.
That is the resolution under which the agency was founded in 1949, following the creation of Israel. UNRWA employs some 30,000 people working in the occupied territories, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
Several countries — including the US, Britain, Germany and Japan — have suspended funding to UNRWA in response to Israeli allegations that some of its staff participated in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
In an interview published over the weekend Lazzarini said $438 million has been frozen — the equivalent of more than half of expected funding for 2024. He said Israel was waging a concerted effort to destroy UNRWA.
The UN fired the employees accused by Israel and has begun an internal probe of UNRWA.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also tasked an independent panel with assessing whether UNRWA acts in a neutral fashion in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Lazzarini asserted that Israel has provided no evidence against the 12 former employees it accuses, but 16 countries have suspended funding anyway.
“I have cautioned donors and host countries that without new funding, UNRWA operations across the region will be severely compromised from March,” he said.
He added: “I fear we are on the edge of a monumental disaster with grave implications for regional peace, security and human rights.”
The war started after Hamas’s unprecedented Oct. 7 attack which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians.
Hamas militants also took about 250 hostages — 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 29,410 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by Gaza’s Health Ministry.

 


West Bank drone strike killed Palestinian fighter, claims Israel

West Bank drone strike killed Palestinian fighter, claims Israel
Updated 24 February 2024
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West Bank drone strike killed Palestinian fighter, claims Israel

West Bank drone strike killed Palestinian fighter, claims Israel
  • The drone strike in Jenin came hours after three Palestinian gunmen opened fire at cars on a congested West Bank highway near a Jewish settlement on Thursday, killing an Israeli man and wounding eight others

JERUSALEM: The Israeli Army said on Friday that a Palestinian fighter on his way to carry out a shooting attack was killed in a drone strike in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin a day earlier.
Yasser Hanun from the Islamic Jihad group had previously been detained for his involvement in the “terrorist organization’s military activities,” the army said in a statement.
The resident of Jenin refugee camp “was eliminated while en route to carry out another shooting attack,” the statement said, without elaborating.
Witnesses and residents said the strike also killed 17-year-old Saeed Jaradat.
A witness said weapons in the car exploded after the strike on Thursday.

BACKGROUND

Israeli troops and settlers have killed at least 400 Palestinians in the West Bank since the war began, according to the Health Ministry in Ramallah.

Hanun was involved in several shooting attacks targeting Israeli settlements in the West Bank as well as shooting at soldiers and military posts, the army said.
Palestinian news agency Wafa said two people were killed and four wounded in the strike.
Video footage showed a car severely burned from the hit, its roof torn as if by a can opener.
“Two successive missiles” struck the car, Usayd Shelbi, who witnessed the strike, said.
“The situation was dangerous. The weapons in the car were exploding,” he said.
Crowds of mourners gathered for the funeral of the two men on Friday.
“This occupation bares its fangs clearly ... It rejects the existence of the Palestinian people,” Jamal Haweel, a leader in the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said.
The drone strike in Jenin came hours after three Palestinian gunmen opened fire at cars on a congested West Bank highway near a Jewish settlement on Thursday, killing an Israeli man and wounding eight others.
The gunmen were killed.
The West Bank has seen a surge in violence, to levels unseen in nearly two decades, since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza began on Oct. 7.

 


UAE invests $35bn in development of Egypt’s Mediterranean coast region

UAE invests $35bn in development of Egypt’s Mediterranean coast region
Updated 24 February 2024
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UAE invests $35bn in development of Egypt’s Mediterranean coast region

UAE invests $35bn in development of Egypt’s Mediterranean coast region
  • The deal, signed by a private consortium led by ADQ, a sovereign investment fund based in Abu Dhabi, is the single largest foreign direct investment in Egypt

LONDON: The UAE, represented by a private consortium led by ADQ, a sovereign investment fund based in Abu Dhabi, signed a landmark agreement with Egypt on Friday to invest $35 billion in Ras El-Hekma, a region on the Mediterranean coast 350 kilometers northwest of Cairo. It represents the single largest foreign direct investment in Egypt.

“In addition to acquiring the development rights for Ras El-Hekma for $24 billion, ADQ will also convert $11 billion of deposits that will be utilized for investment in prime projects across Egypt,” the Emirati state news agency, WAM, reported.

“The vision is to develop the region into a leading, first-of-its-kind Mediterranean holiday destination, financial center and free zone spanning over 170 million square meters and equipped with world-class infrastructure to strengthen Egypt’s economic and tourism growth potential.”

The Egyptian government will retain a 35 percent stake in the development.

Mohammed Hassan Alsuwaidi, the Emirati minister of investment, said: “With this signing, a new chapter begins in the long-standing bilateral relations between our two nations.

“Underscored by mutual respect and trust, this investment demonstrates the UAE’s commitment to supporting the government of Egypt in realizing the abundant potential of the local economy.

“As a large-scale infrastructure project, the planned Ras El-Hekma development will foster widespread impacts across multiple sectors, be a catalyst for job creation, and attract significant additional foreign direct investments in the years to come.”

ADQ said work to build the “next generation city” over 170 square kilometers — nearly a fifth of the size of Abu Dhabi city — would begin in early 2025. The city would feature investment zones, technology and light industry, amusement parks, a marina and an airport as well as tourism and residential developments.

Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly told a press conference that the deal would bring in $15 billion in the next week and $35 billion over two months — though he said $11 billion of that money would be converted into Egyptian pounds from existing UAE dollar deposits in Egypt’s central bank.

(With Reuters)