Al-Shifa doctor says Gaza hospital’s director arrested by Israeli forces

Al-Shifa doctor says Gaza hospital’s director arrested by Israeli forces
Above, the Al-Shifa hospital complex in Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip on Nov. 22, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 27 November 2023
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Al-Shifa doctor says Gaza hospital’s director arrested by Israeli forces

Al-Shifa doctor says Gaza hospital’s director arrested by Israeli forces
  • Mohammad Abu Salmiya was arrested along with several other senior doctors

A doctor at Gaza’s largest hospital Al-Shifa said that the facility’s director and several other medical personnel were arrested by Israeli forces on Thursday.

Thee director, Mohammad Abu Salmiya, has been frequently quoted by international media about the conditions inside Al-Shifa, a major focus of the Israeli ground offensive following the militants’ October 7 attacks.

The Israeli army, which raided the hospital last week, has alleged that Hamas fighters used a tunnel complex beneath the facility in Gaza City to stage attacks.

Hamas and hospital officials have repeatedly denied the claims.

“Doctor Mohammad Abu Salmiya was arrested along with several other senior doctors,” said Khalid Abu Samra, a chief of department at the hospital.

An official in the Hamas-run health ministry specified to AFP that one other doctor and two nurses had been detained, as well as the hospital director.

In a statement, Hamas said it “strongly denounces” the arrest of Salmiya and his colleagues, calling on the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international organizations to work toward their “immediate release.”

Instructions to evacuate the hospital were issued on Saturday, prompting the exodus of hundreds of patients and displaced toward the supposedly safer south of the Palestinian territory.

Salmiya said last week that he had received the evacuation order from Israeli forces after having refused a previous one.

But the Israeli army said the evacuations were carried out at the “request” of Abu Salmiya.

The military released an audio recording presented as a conversation between Salmiya and a senior Israeli officer in which the two men blame each other for the evacuation.

Israeli officials claim Hamas operated a command center in tunnels under the hospital for years — an accusation the Islamist movement and medical personnel reject.

On Wednesday, Israeli soldiers escorted journalists to a tunnel shaft they said was part of a vast underground network used by Hamas.

Al-Shifa hospital has been the scene of an extended Israeli special forces operation as part of its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, where the Hamas-run government says more than 14,000 people have been killed, most of them women and children.

It came after Hamas militants poured across the border in an unprecedented attack on October 7. Israeli officials say about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed and around 240 taken hostage.


No ‘plan B’ once Palestinian aid agency funds end in March, its Lebanon head says

No ‘plan B’ once Palestinian aid agency funds end in March, its Lebanon head says
Updated 58 min 23 sec ago
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No ‘plan B’ once Palestinian aid agency funds end in March, its Lebanon head says

No ‘plan B’ once Palestinian aid agency funds end in March, its Lebanon head says
  • Lebanon chief Dorothee Klaus said: “We hope that as many donors as possible indicate to the agency that they are reconsidering the funding freeze”
  • “This will be the first indicator to the community that UNRWA is cash-strapped”

BEIRUT: The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees has no “plan B” past March should donor countries that withheld funding following Israeli allegations uphold their suspensions, the head of its Lebanon office said on Thursday.
Israel accused 12 of UNRWA’s 13,000 employees in the Gaza Strip of taking part in the Hamas-led assault on Israel last year. The claims came after years of Israeli calls for the agency to be disbanded, and as Gazans face widespread hunger and only a trickle of aid into the bombarded strip.
Sixteen countries suspended funding pending an investigation by the UN’s oversight office that Lebanon chief Dorothee Klaus said would be ready in a few weeks.
“We hope that as many donors as possible indicate to the agency that they are reconsidering the funding freeze, and that funding will be restored to the agency, hopefully in such a way that we don’t have a cash flow issue, and services continue uninterrupted,” she said.
“We do not have a plan B.”
Already, her office may not be able to finance its quarterly cash distribution to 65 percent of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.
“This will be the first indicator to the community that UNRWA is cash-strapped, and this would be the first service that we will not be able to provide in quarter one,” Klaus said.
While UNRWA has faced cash crunches before, the collective suspension has prompted an unprecedented crisis and it would be wrong to think other agencies could fill the gap, she said.
In Lebanon, UNRWA manages 12 camps for refugees, providing services from health care and schooling to garbage collection. If funding dries up, within a couple of days there would be trash filling camp streets, Klaus said.
Israel’s allegations have also prompted a separate review process by UNRWA that she said would examine safeguards protecting its neutrality and independence.
Asked if that would involve an examination of possible affiliations to armed groups of UNRWA staff in Lebanon’s camps, Klaus said she expected her branch would be consulted.


Houthi agency says Israeli, US, British ships banned from Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea

Houthi agency says Israeli, US, British ships banned from Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea
Updated 22 February 2024
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Houthi agency says Israeli, US, British ships banned from Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea

Houthi agency says Israeli, US, British ships banned from Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea
Ships that are wholly or partially owned by Israeli individuals or entities and Israel-flagged vessels are banned from the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea, said statements from an agency controlled by Yemen’s Houthi group seen by Reuters on Thursday.
The statements, sent to shipping insurers and firms from the Houthi’s Humanitarian Operations Coordination Center, also said ships owned by US or British individuals or entities, or sailing under their flags, are also banned.

Day 4 at ICJ hearing: Jordan says Israeli occupation ‘unlawful, inhumane and must end’

Day 4 at ICJ hearing: Jordan says Israeli occupation ‘unlawful, inhumane and must end’
Updated 22 February 2024
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Day 4 at ICJ hearing: Jordan says Israeli occupation ‘unlawful, inhumane and must end’

Day 4 at ICJ hearing: Jordan says Israeli occupation ‘unlawful, inhumane and must end’
  • ‘Israel is violating the rights of Muslims and Christians to the freedom of worship’

The International Court of Justice, the UN’s top court, on Thursday continued its hearing from dozens of states and three international organizations who question the legality of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Representatives from countries including China, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon and Libya were expected to deliver their positions during the third day of the hearing at the ICJ, also known as the World Court.

Speakers from the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have already demanded Israel end its occupation of the Palestinian territories, with the Kingdom’s envoy to the Netherlands Ziad Al-Atiyah stating Israel’s continued actions were legally indefensible.

Ahmad Ziadat, Minister of Justice of Jordan, center, and Ayman Safadi, right, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan, at the International Court of Justice hearing in The Hague. (ANP/AFP)

Ayman Safadi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan, said that “Israel is violating the rights of Muslims and Christians to the freedom of worship by banning Muslims from entering Al-Aqsa Mosque and not protecting priests from humiliation and abuse from Israeli extremists.”

Safadi said that the “occupation was unlawful, inhumane and it must end.”

“Israel has been systematically consolidating the occupation, denying the Palestinians’ rights to self-determination.”

Safadi closed his remarks, saying “Palestinians are being killed in the hundreds every day in Gaza and in the West Bank because Israel is not being held accountable for its war crimes and violation of international law… rule that the Israel occupation, the source of all evil, must end.”

Hayder Shiya Al-Barrak, center, ambassador and head of the legal department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq. (ANP/AFP)

Hayder Shiya Al-Barrak, ambassador and head of the legal department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iraq, called on the ICJ to stop the “systematic killing machine” against the Palestinian people and the end of “mass murder” and “genocide.”

Al-Barrak talked of Israel’s “barbaric acts”, including “air strikes and rocket attacks targeting civilians.”

“These acts constitute war crimes executed with a criminal intent” and are serious violations of the laws of war, the Iraqi representative said, and added that Israel “must be held accountable”.

Reza Najafi, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs. (ANP/AFP)

The Iranian representative said the Israeli occupation force continuously violated Palestinians right to self-determination.

“The establishment of the Israeli regime was done through a violent process which involved the forcible displacement of native Palestinian people to create a majority Jewish colony in line with the Zionist movement,” Reza Najafi, Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs said.

Najafi listed a series of supposed ongoing violations by the Israeli occupying regime: prolonged occupation; alteration of the demographic composition in the occupied territories; alteration of the character and the status of the Holy City; discriminatory measures and violations of the rights of Palestinian people to permanent sovereignty over their natural resources.

Najafi added that “the expansion of settlements, segregated roads and barriers as well as checkpoints has created a system of apartheid which is isolating Palestinian communities.”In his closing remarks, Najafi said “the inaction or insufficient action of the Security Council” was one of the “main causes of prolonged occupation of the Palestinians,” and it was “paralysed due to the stalemate” caused by a “certain permanent member.”

Ma Xinmin, a foreign ministry legal adviser, meanwhile said Beijing “has consistently supported the just cause of the Palestinian people in restoring their legitimate right”.

“In pursuit of the right to self-determination”, he mentioned, the Palestinian people’s use of force to “resist foreign oppression” and complete the establishment of an independent state is an “inalienable right”.


Houthis order shipping ban, missiles set ship aflame off Yemen

Houthis order shipping ban, missiles set ship aflame off Yemen
Updated 51 min 53 sec ago
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Houthis order shipping ban, missiles set ship aflame off Yemen

Houthis order shipping ban, missiles set ship aflame off Yemen

DUBAI: Yemen’s Houthis on Thursday sent shippers and insurers formal notice of what they termed a ban on vessels linked to Israel, the US and Britain from sailing in surrounding seas, seeking to reinforce their military campaign in support of Palestinians.

The move to prohibit such ships from the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arabian sea came as British maritime agencies reported a missile attack set ablaze a cargo vessel off the southern coast of Yemen.

Iran-aligned Houthi militants in Yemen have launched repeated drone and missile strikes in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab Strait and Gulf of Aden since November in support of Palestinians, as the Israel-Hamas war continues and the Gaza death toll reaches almost 30,000.

The Houthi strikes have disrupted a route accounting for about 12 percent of global maritime traffic and forcing firms to take a longer, more expensive route around Africa.

The Houthis’ communication, the first to the shipping industry outlining a formalized ban, came in the form of two notices from the Houthis’ newly-dubbed Humanitarian Operations Coordination Center sent to shipping insurers and firms.

Ships that are wholly or partially owned by Israeli individuals or entities and Israel-flagged vessels, or are owned by US or British individuals or entities, or sailing under their flags, are banned from the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea, Thursday’s notices said.

“The Humanitarian Operations Center was established in Sanaa to coordinate the safe and peaceful passage of ships and vessels that have no connection to Israel,” a senior Houthi official told Reuters on Thursday.

The attacks have already sent shipping insurance premiums rocketing, and the Houthi agency’s newly-formalized remit could further affect prices.

Also on Thursday, US-led coalition forces were responding to a burning ship after two missiles struck it some 70 nautical miles southeast of Aden, Yemen, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said.

The UK-owned, Palau-flagged ship was en route to Egypt from Thailand, according to maritime security firm Ambrey and ship tracking data.

Islander is the name of the vessel, two shipping sources said.

In January, US and British forces began retaliatory strikes on Houthi facilities, though the group’s attacks show little sign of abating.

“If anything, Houthis attacks on cargo ships are intensifying in the Red Sea and around the Gulf of Aden,” Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM wrote in a note on Tuesday.

No ships have been sunk nor crew killed, however there are concerns about the fate of the Rubymar cargo vessel which was struck on Feb 18.

The Houthis said the Rubymar was at risk of sinking but a US defense official said as of Thursday the ship remained afloat


Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator

Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator
Updated 22 February 2024
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Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator

Abandoned Red Sea ship remains afloat, to be towed to Djibouti: operator
  • Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-operated cargo ship, was damaged in Sunday’s Houthi missile strike

DUBAI: A cargo ship abandoned in the Gulf of Aden after an attack by Yemeni rebels remains afloat and could be towed to Djibouti this week, its operator said on Thursday.
Rubymar, a Belize-flagged, British-registered and Lebanese-operated cargo ship carrying combustible fertilizer, was damaged in Sunday’s 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 said.
Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels had claimed on Monday the attack on the ship, saying it was “at risk of potential sinking in the Gulf of Aden” after receiving “extensive damage.”
Khoury said the ship was still afloat and shared an image captured on Wednesday that showed its stern low in the water.
“She will be towed to Djibouti but the tugboat has not yet arrived,” Khoury said. “It should be there in two to three days.”
When asked about the possibility of it sinking, Khoury said there was “no risk for now but always a possibility.”
Ship-tracking site TankerTrackers.com confirmed that the Rubymar had not sunk but warned that the vessel was leaking fuel oil.
The attack on the Rubymar has inflicted the most significant damage yet to 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 Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority said the ship’s last port of call was the United Arab Emirates and it was destined for Belarus.
Its 24 crew members included 11 Syrians, six Egyptians, three Indians and four Filipinos, the authority said in a statement on Monday.
“The vessel has on board 21,999 MT (metric tons) of fertilizer IMDG class 5.1,” the authority said on X, formerly Twitter, describing it as “very dangerous.”
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.