Can Gaza humanitarian pause be starting point for end to Israel-Hamas war?

Analysis Can Gaza humanitarian pause be starting point for end to Israel-Hamas war?
After six weeks of relentless bombardment, a four-day pause will allow Palestinian refugees in Gaza to receive aid. (AFP)
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Updated 25 November 2023
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Can Gaza humanitarian pause be starting point for end to Israel-Hamas war?

Can Gaza humanitarian pause be starting point for end to Israel-Hamas war?
  • Truce that began on Friday will facilitate the flow of aid and allow the exchange of hostages and prisoners
  • Aid agencies warn the four-day pause will not be sufficient to meet the immense needs of Palestinian civilians

LONDON: Humanitarian aid organizations want the four-day truce between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas that came into effect on Friday in Gaza after weeks of fighting to become a permanent ceasefire.

The truce is intended to facilitate the flow of aid into Gaza and will see Israel swap 150 Palestinians held in its jails with 50 of the hostages taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attack that triggered this latest wave of violence.

Reports citing Israeli officials claim the pause in fighting may extend beyond the initial four days if Hamas agrees to release at least 10 further hostages per day.

According to the BBC, the incentive given by the Israeli government to Hamas was important for the families of hostages whose release has not yet been negotiated, with many insisting a partial deal with Hamas was not acceptable.

There were no details, however, on whether any such agreement would see the reciprocal release of any of the 7,300 Palestinians believed to be held in Israeli prisons. According to Reuters, both sides have said the fighting would resume once the truce ends.




Palestinians flee to the southern Gaza Strip. (AP)

Although it is considered a “welcome step,” humanitarian aid organizations have branded the truce “insufficient,” emphasizing the urgent need for an immediate and total ceasefire.

Action Against Hunger, Handicap International, Medecins du Monde, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, Refugees International, and Save the Children have described the truce as something like a band-aid on a gaping wound.

“The humanitarian pause is a welcome step in the right direction but cannot replace a ceasefire,” Jason Lee, country director of Save the Children Palestine, said in a statement on Wednesday. 

Highlighting the violence taking place in both the north and south of the embattled enclave, Lee said there “is really no safe space in Gaza.”

Catherine Russell, UNICEF’s executive director, told the UN Security Council this week that Gaza had become “the most dangerous place in the world to be a child,” adding that “the true cost of this war will be measured in children’s lives,” with more than 5,300 having been killed.

News of the temporary truce has renewed focus on the Rafah crossing on the Gaza-Egypt border, which was closed for the first three weeks of fighting despite being the Palestinian enclave’s sole means of access to the outside world since Israel imposed a blockade in 2007.

INNUMBERS

• 1,400 Truckloads of humanitarian supplies permitted to enter Gaza via Egypt during the month ending Nov. 21.

• 10,000 Truckloads of commercial and humanitarian commodities permitted to enter per month prior to the war.

(Source: UN OCHA)

Since its reopening, some 1,400 trucks carrying aid have entered Gaza through Rafah, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

However, aid groups have said this is only a fraction of what Gazans need, with Chiara Saccardi, head of operations for the Middle East at Action Against Hunger, describing the present state of access through Rafah as “limited.”

Saccardi told a media briefing on Wednesday: “There is a logistical limitation on what can enter through.

“Whatever can enter right now through Rafah is not enough,” she added, calling for the opening of more entry points.

Joel Weiler, executive director of Medecins du Monde, agreed that the Rafah crossing was not sufficient to deliver humanitarian aid into Gaza, calling for the opening of Kerem Shalom on the triple Gaza Strip-Israel-Egypt border.

Weiler called Friday’s truce at best a “band-aid” and at worst “a joke” for medical organizations seeking to assist Gaza. “It is humanitarian-washing,” he added.

The UN has also been calling on Israel to open Kerem Shalom to allow the entry of humanitarian aid and commercial goods into Gaza.




A woman holding a child flees following an Israeli strike in Rafah. (AFP)

Before Israel’s 2007 embargo, the crossing was responsible for the delivery of more than 60 percent of cargo entering Gaza, according to Martin Griffiths, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator.

Focus, though, remains on stopping the bombardment.

Paul O’Brien, executive director of Amnesty International USA, said that given the level of destruction and the lack of supplies, the urgent needs in the besieged enclave were too deep and catastrophic to be met in a few short days.

“Meeting urgent needs in Gaza is not going to happen in a pause for a few days and is not going to happen with a few hundred aid trucks, as essential and crucial as they are,” he told a media briefing on Wednesday.

Those needs are apparent when assessing the scale of damage. Almost half of Gaza’s housing units have either been flattened or severely damaged, and more than 51 percent of education facilities destroyed.

Meanwhile, shortages of fuel have resulted in electricity blackouts, depriving water treatment plants of power and causing waterborne diseases to spread.

Danila Zizi, Handicap International’s country manager for Palestine, said the Israeli bombardment was not only killing civilians but also “causing a range of devastating injuries.”




A relative carries the body of a child during the funeral in Khan Yunis. (AFP)

These include severe spinal injuries and wounds requiring amputations, which doctors are forced to perform without anesthetics, pain relief, or proper aftercare and rehabilitation due to the blockade of aid.

“Before the current austerities, we were looking at 21 percent of persons with disabilities in Gaza. Now, we have zero visibility. We cannot even attempt to estimate how many,” she said.

Echoing O’Brien, Zizi said access to healthcare, food, and water, as well as protecting human dignity, were all continuous needs that could not be met in a few hours or days, calling the current truce insufficient “to deliver aid to 2 million people.”

She said: “We do not know what will happen with a temporary ceasefire. We are not safe to move. We need a ceasefire. We do need safe passage to assess the people in need.”

Joining the call for an immediate and sustained ceasefire across Gaza, O’Brien called on those with influence over Israel, “particularly President Biden and Congress,” to “stand for human rights, work for that sustained ceasefire.”

He urged the US to “suspend arms transfers and support for any measures that violate international humanitarian law,” calling for any breaches to be investigated as war crimes.




Smoke rising above buildings during Israeli strikes on the northern part of Gaza. (AFP)

“The IDF and the US argue that because Hamas is the target, and they live in Gaza, the IDF is adhering to humanitarian law when they bomb churches, schools, hospitals. They are wrong. And these acts must be investigated as war crimes,” O’Brien said.

Hope for a sustained ceasefire appears limited, however. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has reiterated that his government’s aim remains the complete destruction of Hamas.

For Zizi of Handicap International, however, there can be no alternative, with the four-day truce little better than the four-hour daily pause Israel agreed to implement on Nov. 9 with a view to allowing civilians in the north of Gaza to flee to safety in the south.

However, reports indicate that despite the claims of a safe haven in the south, the Israeli military has continued to target the area, as well as its own prescribed routes to safety.

As a result, humanitarian aid organizations, including UN agencies, have rejected Israel’s unilateral proposals to establish “safe zones.”

In a joint statement, these organizations said the establishment of such areas under the present conditions “risk creating harm for civilians, including large-scale loss of life.”


Turkiye’s Erdogan in rare Iraq visit to discuss water, oil, security

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Turkiye’s Erdogan in rare Iraq visit to discuss water, oil, security

Turkiye’s Erdogan in rare Iraq visit to discuss water, oil, security
  • Erdogan is scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani and President Abdel Latif Rashid in Baghdad
  • Trip comes as regional tensions spiral, fueled by the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip and attacks between Israel and Iran
Baghdad: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due Monday in neighboring Iraq for his first state visit there in years, with water, oil and regional security issues expected to top the agenda.
Erdogan is scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani and President Abdel Latif Rashid in Baghdad before visiting officials in Irbil, the capital of northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Region.
“Iraq and Turkiye share a history and have similarities, interests and opportunities, but also problems,” Sudani said during an event at the Atlantic Council on the sidelines of a recent visit to Washington.
“Water and security will be at the top of the agenda,” he said of the upcoming meeting with Erdogan, who last visited Iraq in 2011.
The trip comes as regional tensions spiral, fueled by the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip and attacks between Israel and Iran.
Farhad Alaaldin, foreign affairs adviser to Sudani, told AFP that the main topics Erdogan will discuss with Iraqi officials include “investments, trade... security aspects of the cooperation between the two countries, water management and water resources.”
Alaaldin expects the signing of several memoranda of understanding during the visit.
The sharing of water resources is a major point of contention, with Baghdad highly critical of upstream dams set up by Turkiye on their shared Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which have worsened water scarcity in Iraq.
Erdogan said the issue of water would be “one of the most important points” of his visit following “requests” made by the Iraqi side.
“We will make an effort to resolve them, that is also their wish,” he said.
Iraqi oil exports are another point of tension, with a major pipeline shut down for over a year over legal disputes and technical issues.
The exports were previously independently sold by the autonomous Kurdistan region, without the approval or oversight of the central administration in Baghdad, through the Turkish port of Ceyhan.
The halted oil sales represent more than $14 billion in lost revenue for Iraq, according to an estimate by the Association of the Petroleum Industry of Kurdistan which represents international oil companies active in the region.
Majid Al-Lajmawi, Iraq’s ambassador to Turkiye, hopes for “progress on the water and energy issues, and in the process of resuming Iraqi oil exports via Turkiye,” according to a statement published by the Iraqi foreign ministry.
The ambassador also expects the signing of a “strategic framework agreement” on security, economy and development.
Also on the agenda is a $17 billion road and rail project known as the “Route of Development” which is expected to consolidate economic ties between the two neighbors.
Stretching 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) across Iraq, it aims to connect by 2030 the northern border with Turkiye to the Gulf in the south.
In the first quarter of 2024, Iraq was Turkiye’s fifth-largest importer of products, buying food, chemicals, metals and other products.
Regional security is another topic expected to be thrashed out during Erdogan’s meetings in Iraq.
For decades, Turkiye has operated from several dozen military bases in northern Iraq against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state and is considered a “terrorist” group by Ankara and its Western allies.
Both Baghdad and the Kurdish regional government have been accused of tolerating Turkiye’s military activities to preserve their close economic ties.
But the operations, which sometimes take place deep into Iraqi territory, have regularly strained bilateral ties while Ankara has sought out increased cooperation from Baghdad in its fight against the PKK.
However, in a televised interview in March, Iraqi Defense Minister Thabet Al-Abbasi ruled out “joint military operations” between Baghdad and Ankara.
He said they would establish a “coordination intelligence center at the appropriate time and place.”
Alaaldin, the Iraqi prime minister’s adviser, said security issues will be “highly featured in this trip.”
“There will be some sort of agreement... and perhaps arrangements to safeguard the borders between Iraq and Turkiye where no attacks and no armed groups infiltrate the border from both sides,” he said.
“It is something that will be discussed but the exact details have to be worked out.”

Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon

Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon
Updated 22 April 2024
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Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon

Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon
  • Hezbollah said the drone was an Israeli Hermes 450, a multi-payload drone made by Elbit Systems, an Israel-based weapons manufacturer

AMMAN: Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah said on Sunday it downed an Israeli drone that was on a combat mission in southern Lebanon.
The drone that was brought down above the Al Aishiyeh area in southern Lebanon was “waging its attacks on our steadfast people,” a statement said by the group said.
Israeli forces and Lebanon’s armed group Hezbollah have been exchanging fire for over six months in parallel to the Gaza war, in the most serious hostilities since they fought a major war in 2006.
Hezbollah said the drone was an Israeli Hermes 450, a multi-payload drone made by Elbit Systems, an Israel-based weapons manufacturer.
The fighting has fueled concern about the risk of further escalation.
At least 370 Lebanese, including more than 240 Hezbollah fighters and 68 civilians, have been killed in the fighting according to a Reuters tally. Eighteen Israelis, including soldiers and civilians, have been killed on the Israeli side of the border, according to Israeli tallies.

 


UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king

UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king
Updated 22 April 2024
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UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king

UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king
  • Sunak told the king that the UK’s ultimate goal is to achieve a workable two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday made a phone call to Jordan’s King Abdullah to discuss developments in the Gaza Strip, 10 Downing Street announced.
During the call, Sunak renewed the UK’s support for Jordan’s security and that of the region, saying a significant escalation is “not in anyone’s interests.”
He added that the UK’s focus remains on finding a solution to the conflict in Gaza.
The UK continues to work toward an immediate humanitarian truce to bring in much larger amounts of aid and return the Israeli hostages held by Hamas safely to their families, “leading to a longer-term sustainable ceasefire,” Sunak said.
The two leaders “discussed joint efforts to significantly step up aid to Gaza, with the UK taking part in Jordanian-led aid drops and a humanitarian land corridor to Gaza, as well as the maritime aid corridor from Cyprus,” Downing Street said.
Sunak told the king that the UK’s ultimate goal is to achieve a workable two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. 
The two leaders “agreed on the importance of supporting a reformed Palestinian authority to deliver stability and prosperity across the Palestinian territories,” Downing Street said.
King Abdullah warned of the danger of regional escalation, which he said threatens international peace and security, Jordan’s official Petra news agency reported.
He renewed his call for the international community to intensify efforts to reach an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza to alleviate the worsening humanitarian catastrophe in the besieged Palestinian territory, and warned of the dangerous consequences of an Israeli assault on Rafah.
The king stressed the need to protect civilians in Gaza and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid. 
He pointed to the importance of continuing to support the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees to enable it to provide its humanitarian services in accordance with its UN mandate.


Rockets fired from Iraq at US-led coalition base in Syria

Rockets fired from Iraq at US-led coalition base in Syria
Updated 22 April 2024
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Rockets fired from Iraq at US-led coalition base in Syria

Rockets fired from Iraq at US-led coalition base in Syria
  • The Iraqi military said its forces found the vehicle used by "outlaws" in the attack in northern Nineveh province
  • War monitor said the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose alliance of Iran-backed groups, was behind the attack

BAGHDAD: Rockets were fired late Sunday from northern Iraq at a military base in Syria housing a US-led coalition, according to Iraqi security forces.
In response, the Iraqi forces launched a major search operation in northern Nineveh province and found the vehicle used in the attack, they said in a statement.
It is the first major attack against the coalition forces in several weeks.
It comes days after Israel reportedly responded to an Iranian attack with a drone strike on the Islamic republic, amid tensions fueled by the Gaza war.
The statement from the Iraqi security forces accused “outlaw elements of having targetted a base of the international coalition with rockets in the heart of Syrian territory,” at around 9:50 p.m. (1850 GMT).
The security forces burned the vehicle involved in the attack, the statement added.
Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, said several rockets had been fired “from Iraqi territory at the Kharab Al-Jir base” in northeast Syria, where US forces are stationed.
He accused the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose alliance of Iran-backed groups, of staging the attack.
The group has claimed most of the attacks on US forces carried between mid-October and early February.
Following a series of rocket attacks and drone strikes by pro-Iran armed factions against US soldiers deployed in the Middle East over the winter, there had been several weeks of calm.

*The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has said it is acting in solidarity with Palestinians and out of anger at US support for Israel in the Gaza war.
A January 28 drone attack killed three US soldiers in the Jordanian desert on the Syrian border.
In response, the US military struck dozens of targets in Syria and Iraq, aiming for pro-Iran forces, and drawing criticism from the governments of both countries.
The United States has around 2,500 soldiers stationed in Iraq and nearly 900 across the border in Syria as part of an international coalition created in 2014 to fight the Daesh group (IS).
Sunday night’s rocket attack came against the background of increasing tension in the region, with a flare-up between Iran and Israel.
Early on Saturday, an explosion at an Iraqi military base killed one person and wounded eight others.
Security forces said the blast hit the Kalsu military base in Babylon province south of Baghdad, where regular army, police and members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, or Hashed Al-Shaabi, are stationed.
CENTCOM, the US military command in the region, denied involvement in a strike there. The Israeli army refused to comment.
 


Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis
Updated 21 April 2024
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Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

JERUSALEM: The Gaza war is speeding up Israel’s “annexation” of the Palestinian economy, say analysts, who argue it has been hobbled for decades by agreements that followed the Oslo peace accords.

While the Israel-Hamas war raging since Oct. 7 has devastated swaths of Gaza, it has also hit the public finances and wider economy of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel is tightening the noose on the Palestinian Authority, which rules parts of the West Bank, by withholding tax revenues it collects on its behalf, said economist Adel Samara.

Palestinian livelihoods have also been hurt by bans on laborers crossing into Israel and by a sharp downturn in tourism in the violence-plagued territory, including a quiet Christmas season in Bethlehem.

Samara said that “technically speaking, there is no Palestinian economy under Israeli occupation — Israel has effectively annexed our economy.”

The Palestinian economy is largely governed by the 1994 Paris Protocol, which granted sole control over the territories’ borders to Israel and, with it, the right to collect import duties and value-added tax for the Palestinian Authority.

Israel has repeatedly leveraged this power to deprive the authority of much-needed revenues.

But the Gaza war has further tightened Israel’s grip, Samara said, with the bulk of customs duties withheld since Hamas sparked the war with the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

“Without these funds, the Palestinian Authority struggles to pay the salaries of its civil servants and its running costs,” said Taher Al-Labadi, a researcher at the French Institute for the Near East.