6 members of American UN aid worker’s family killed by Israeli attack in Gaza

6 members of American UN aid worker’s family killed by Israeli attack in Gaza
1 / 3
On Nov. 24, 2023, as Almadhoun family slept, Israeli forces dropped a massive bomb on their home in Beit Lahia, in the Gaza Strip. (Supplied)
6 members of American UN aid worker’s family killed by Israeli attack in Gaza
2 / 3
9-year-old Omar Almadhoun dreamed of being a soccer star. (Supplied)
6 members of American UN aid worker’s family killed by Israeli attack in Gaza
3 / 3
14-year-old Siwar Almadhoun wanted to become a basketball player. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 29 November 2023
Follow

6 members of American UN aid worker’s family killed by Israeli attack in Gaza

6 members of American UN aid worker’s family killed by Israeli attack in Gaza
  • Hani Almadhoun says his brother, sister-in-law and 4 of their children died when a massive bomb reduced their home to rubble
  • 12 members of his sister-in-law’s family, including 5 children, were killed by an airstrike during the early stages of the conflict in Gaza

CHICAGO: All 14-year-old Siwar Almadhoun wanted to do was play basketball. Her 9-year-old brother, Omar, dreamed of being a soccer star.
Their dreams died with them in the early hours of Friday, Nov. 24 when, as they slept, Israeli forces dropped a massive bomb on their home in Beit Lahia, in the Gaza Strip.
Their parents, Majed, 41, and Safa, 38, were also killed in the indiscriminate Israeli slaughter, along with siblings Reman, 18, who had just started college, and 7-year-old Ali, said Hani Almadhoun, Majed’s brother. He is an American citizen who works for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East office in Washington D.C., where he supervises charitable fundraising efforts to help needy families.
Only two of his brother’s children, daughters Roa and Salam, survived the carnage. They are married and live with their families in Rafah.
“Siwar, the basketball player, a 14-year-old girl, she loved basketball,” Almadhoun, 42, told Arab News as he struggled to speak through the grief. “The salt of this earth. A very sweet girl. She was killed. She did nothing. She was asleep, just like her family.
“And half of her mom, only one half, was recovered. Reman was recovered. Ali was recovered … their cat was buried and killed next to them. They adopted a cat named Lucky. A very unfortunate name. They liked to call her Cici. She was killed between the two kids because they loved to play with her so much.
“The only body that was found immediately was Omar. He flew through the window into the street 20 meters away. They went to bury him. They went to find Majed, and my mom knew her son was there. She was grieving and then, on top of that, (there were) no ambulances, no bulldozers were able to come to remove this rubble.”
The bodies of some of the occupants of the five-story apartment building the Almadhoun family owned were thrown from the building when it was destroyed but they could not be immediately recovered because of Israeli sniper fire and the missile strikes that continued to pound the civilian neighborhood.
Almadhoun said his father and mother spent three days searching for the remains of Majed, Safa and their grandchildren.
“They kept digging through the rubble of their destroyed homes but they could find nothing,” he said. “As they searched the area they recovered two and a half bodies that had been thrown by the explosion and were found in a destroyed home next door.
“(My mother) was desperate. She is heart-broken. Nobody is coming to the rescue. I have had meetings as high as the White House, the State Department and all these guys, and I can’t get safety to my family. It broke me.
“We all love our moms and dads. But she is just a lady whose son is buried and she can’t even have a minute with him. She can’t even take a picture with him because his face is swollen.”
Almadhoun said the search continues for Siwar’s body but his family’s efforts are hampered by the communications blackout imposed during the conflict by Israel, which has had total control of the Gaza Strip since 1967.
“There is heartbreak. There is sorrow,” he said. In response to suggestions that his relatives might have somehow had a connection with Hamas or were being used as human shields, he added: “This is personal … I know my family. There is no way that you could build a case against Majed, my brother.
“Majed loved his mom, honored his parents. He was very generous to help neighbors in need. We don’t know why they were killed.”
Almadhoun’s father owned a small grocery store a three-minute walk from the family home. Majed leased space for a kitchenware store in Sheikh Radwan, a 10 minute ride from Beit Lahia. Both shops have also been destroyed.
“All their savings were lost. My family is homeless,” Almadhoun said. “Remember the refugees from 1948.”
The massacre of his family, and the thousands of other civilians killed since the Israeli bombings and invasion began, are difficult to comprehend given their scale, he added.
According to official estimates, more than 14,000 Palestinians have been killed during the Israeli assaults and invasion, nearly 10,000 of whom were civilians with no connection to Hamas.
The attacks are not only partly funded by US taxpayers through US support for Israel, but the Israelis are using American-made weapons including massive 2,000-pound bombs capable of flattening an apartment building in a single strike.
Almadhoun said his brother and sister-in-law had been grieving the loss of 12 members of the latter’s family who were wiped out several weeks ago during the early stages of the Israeli onslaught.
They were killed by an attack in the Atwan area, a few miles south of Beit Lahia, Almadhoun said. The dead included Safa’s father and mother, five of her siblings and five of their young children.
“They lived in the Atwan area of northern Gaza,” he said. “The good volunteers in the family went and dug out the bodies. It was so horrific a scene, and a genocide
at their home, that they would not let Safa see her family because of the brutality: the body parts, the known pieces, the plastic bags.
“My brother Majed, her husband, went and collected the bodies and buried them. There was no proper burial because we know that Gaza is running out of spaces for graves and cemeteries are overflowing with dead bodies.”
The Almadhouns originally came from Ashkelon, which was in the Gaza District of Palestine before it was captured by Israel in 1948. The family fled Gaza to find work in the UAE, which is where Hani was born. But they returned to Beit Lahia to open their businesses there.
Almadhoun said the last time he saw his brother and his family was during a visit to Gaza in August this year. His parents and other surviving relatives are still in northern Gaza but cannot easily be reached.
“My dad is trying to be strong, trying to be normal,” he said. “I know he is not doing well but he is trying to be strong for everybody else. My mom cries and when she cries, I cry. I can’t take it. It is a lot.”


Algeria’s president inaugurates Africa’s largest mosque

Algeria’s president inaugurates Africa’s largest mosque
Updated 58 min 31 sec ago
Follow

Algeria’s president inaugurates Africa’s largest mosque

Algeria’s president inaugurates Africa’s largest mosque
  • The vast mosque, which can hold 120,000 worshippers, first opened for prayers in October 2020
  • Known locally as the Djamaa El-Djazair, the modernist structure extends across 27.75 hectares

ALGIERS: Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune officially inaugurated the Grand Mosque of Algiers, the third largest in the world and the biggest in Africa, on Sunday.
The vast mosque, which can hold 120,000 worshippers, first opened for prayers in October 2020, but Tebboune was suffering from Covid-19 and did not attend.
Known locally as the Djamaa El-Djazair, the modernist structure extends across 27.75 hectares (almost 70 acres), and is smaller only than the two mosques in Makkah and Madinah, Islam’s holiest sites, in Saudi Arabia.
It also boasts the world’s tallest minaret — 267 meters (875 feet) — fitted with elevators and a viewing platform that looks out over the capital and the Bay of Algiers.
The mosque’s interior, in Andalusian style, is decorated in wood, marble and alabaster.
To its critics, the mosque is a vanity project of former autocrat Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was forced out in April 2019 after mass street protests against his two-decade-long rule.
The mega-project cost more than $800 million dollars and took seven years to build.
Tebboune’s mandate officially expires at the end of this year but the president, elected in December 2019, has not yet made known whether he intends to run for a second term.


Daesh land mine kills 13 truffle hunters in Syria desert: monitor

Daesh land mine kills 13 truffle hunters in Syria desert: monitor
Updated 25 February 2024
Follow

Daesh land mine kills 13 truffle hunters in Syria desert: monitor

Daesh land mine kills 13 truffle hunters in Syria desert: monitor
  • Syrian desert is renowned for producing some of the best quality truffles in the world

BEIRUT: A blast from a land mine left by the Daesh group killed at least 13 civilians foraging for truffles in the Syrian desert, a war monitor said.
“Thirteen civilians, including women... were killed when a land mine left by the Daesh group exploded while they were searching for truffles” in the desert in Raqqa province, said the Syria Observatory for Human Rights.
The Syrian desert is renowned for producing some of the best quality truffles in the world, which fetch high prices in a country battered by 13 years of war and a crushing economic crisis.
Authorities frequently warn against the high-risk practice.
But every year between February and April, foragers risk their lives to collect the delicacies in the vast Syrian desert, or Badia — a known hideout for jihadists that is also littered with land mines.
In March 2019, Daesh lost its last scraps of territory in Syria following a military campaign backed by a US-led coalition, but jihadist remnants continue to hide in the desert and launch deadly attacks.
They have used such hideouts to ambush civilians, Kurdish-led forces, Syrian government troops and pro-Iran fighters, while also mounting attacks in neighboring Iraq.
Syria’s war has claimed the lives of more than half a million people and displaced millions since it erupted in March 2011 with Damascus’s brutal repression of anti-government protests.


Two Hezbollah members killed in Israeli strike on Syria

Two Hezbollah members killed in Israeli strike on Syria
Updated 25 February 2024
Follow

Two Hezbollah members killed in Israeli strike on Syria

Two Hezbollah members killed in Israeli strike on Syria

DAMASCUS: An Israeli strike on a truck in Syria near the Lebanese border killed two Hezbollah members at dawn on Sunday, a war monitor said.
“Israel struck a civilian truck with a missile near the Syrian-Lebanese border,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in a report.
The strike led to “the death of at least two Hezbollah members,” said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources in Syria.
Hezbollah later announced in separate statements that two of its fighters were “martyred on the road to Jerusalem,” the phrase it uses to refer to members killed by Israeli fire.
A source close to Hezbollah confirmed that both were killed this morning in Syria.
Syrian state media did not report the strike.

Syrian armed forces shot down seven drones aimed at military positions and villages in the countryside of Hama and Idlib, Syrian state media said on Sunday, citing the defense ministry.
The ministry said the drones had been launched by “terrorists,” state media reported.
Since Syria’s civil war began in 2011 following an uprising against the government of President Bashar Assad, Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes in Syria, primarily against pro-Iran forces, among them Hezbollah and the Syrian army.
The strikes have multiplied amidst the ongoing war in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
An Israeli strike on a Damascus residential neighborhood on Wednesday killed three Iran-backed fighters, a Syrian and two foreigners, according to the Observatory.
On February 10, the Observatory reported an Israeli strike on a building west of Damascus that killed three people from pro-Iran militias.
Since the start of the war in Gaza on October 7, Hezbollah has announced the death of 16 members killed by Israeli strikes in Syria.
The Israeli military announced on February 3 that it had “attacked, from the ground and air, more than 50 such targets of Hezbollah spread throughout Syria.”
Israel rarely comments on individual strikes but has repeatedly said it will not allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria.

 


Lebanese doctor saves Japanese boy’s life

Lebanese doctor saves Japanese boy’s life
Updated 25 February 2024
Follow

Lebanese doctor saves Japanese boy’s life

Lebanese doctor saves Japanese boy’s life
  • The boy was quadriplegic, or paralyzed below the neck, when he visited the Okayama University Hospital

DUBAI: Lebanese doctor Abd El Kader Al-Askar, a consultant in orthopedic and spine surgery, successfully treated a 15-year-old Japanese boy who suffered from a rare condition known as basilar invagination.

The boy was quadriplegic, or paralyzed below the neck, when he visited the Okayama University Hospital.

Doctors concluded that he had dislocated the second cervical vertebra, known as C2, which plays an important role in rotating the head. The C2 was displaced toward the opening of the spinal cord and the bottom area of the brain in a condition known as basilar invagination.

Basilar invagination can be present at birth or develop as a result of injury. If not treated, it can lead to death or serious complications, such as hydrocephalus.

In collaboration with the integrated medical team, Al-Askar performed an emergency surgery that lasted over four hours and involved an innovative technique that repositioned the bottom of the skull and the spinal cord.

The boy fully recovered and regained the use of all four of his limbs following the surgery.

Al-Askar is currently in Japan for a medical mission in advanced spine surgery and the treatment of back pain.


Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens
Updated 25 February 2024
Follow

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens
  • Israeli delegation that went to Paris for talks on hostage deal returned on Saturday night
  • Qatar, Egypt and the United States have been spearheading efforts to secure a deal

JERUSALEM: -Israel’s war cabinet has discussed the next steps for negotiations toward a hostage deal and ceasefire in its war with Hamas, as concern deepens over the increasingly desperate situation faced by civilians in the devastated Gaza Strip.
An Israeli delegation that had traveled to Paris for fresh talks on a hostage deal returned to brief the country’s war cabinet on Saturday night, according to an official and local media reports.
National security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said in a televised interview shortly before the meeting that the “delegation has returned from Paris — there is probably room to move toward an agreement.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the meeting would discuss the “next steps in the negotiations.”
Local media later reported that the meeting had concluded with the cabinet agreeing to send a delegation to Qatar in the coming days to continue the talks.
As with a previous week-long truce in November that saw more than 100 hostages freed, Qatar, Egypt and the United States have been spearheading efforts to secure a deal.
Domestic pressure on the government to bring the captives home has also steadily mounted, with thousands gathering in Tel Aviv Saturday night at what has come to be known as “Hostages Square” to demand swifter action.
“We keep telling you: bring them back to us! And no matter how,” said Avivit Yablonka, 45, whose sister Hanan was kidnapped on October 7.
Anti-government protesters were also out in Tel Aviv, blocking streets and calling for Netanyahu’s government to step down as authorities deployed water cannon and mounted officers in a bid to disperse them.
“They are not choosing the right path for us. Whether it’s (the) economy, whether it’s peace with our neighbors,” 54-year-old software company CEO Moti Kushner said of the government, adding “it looks like they never want to end the war.”

After more than four months of shortages inside the besieged Gaza Strip, the World Food Programme said this week its teams had reported “unprecedented levels of desperation,” while the United Nations warned that 2.2 million people were on the brink of famine.
In northern Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp, bedraggled children held out plastic containers and battered cooking pots for what little food was available.
Supplies are running out, with aid agencies unable to get into the area because of the bombing, while the trucks that do try to get through face frenzied looting.
“We the grown-ups can still make it, but these children who are four and five years old, what did they do wrong to sleep hungry and wake up hungry?” one man said angrily.
Residents have resorted to eating scavenged scraps of rotten corn, animal fodder unfit for human consumption and even leaves.
The health ministry said on Saturday that a two-month-old baby identified as Mahmud Fatuh had died of “malnutrition” in Gaza City.
Save the Children said the risk of famine would continue to “increase as long as the government of Israel continues to impede the entry of aid into Gaza.”
Israel has defended its track record on allowing aid into Gaza, saying that 13,000 trucks carrying relief supplies had entered the territory since the start of the war.
The war began after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.
Hamas militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,606 people, mostly women and children, according to a Saturday tally from Gaza’s health ministry.
The ministry said early Sunday that another 98 people had been killed overnight, with the Hamas media office reporting strikes along the length of the territory, from Beit Lahia in the north to Rafah in the south.

An AFP reporter said there had been a number of air strikes on Saturday evening in Rafah, a city along the territory’s southern border with Egypt where hundreds of thousands of Gazans have fled to escape fighting elsewhere.
The presence of so many civilians packed into the area has sparked concerns over Israeli plans for troops to finally push into the city, the last major urban center they have yet to enter.
Despite the concerns, including from key ally the United States, Netanyahu signalled Saturday night that the expected push had not been abandoned, adding that “at the beginning of the week, I will convene the cabinet to approve the operational plans for action in Rafah, including the evacuation of the civilian population from there.”
“Only a combination of military pressure and firm negotiations will lead to the release of our hostages, the elimination of Hamas and the achievement of all the war’s goals,” he added.
Netanyahu this week unveiled a plan for post-war Gaza that envisages civil affairs being run by Palestinian officials without links to Hamas.
It also says Israel will continue with the establishment of a security buffer zone inside Gaza along the territory’s border.
The plan has been rejected by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and drawn criticism from Washington.