Israel not doing enough to allow fuel, aid into Gaza – US

An ambulance is stopped by Israeli army forces during a raid in Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank December 5, 2023. (REUTERS)
An ambulance is stopped by Israeli army forces during a raid in Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank December 5, 2023. (REUTERS)
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Updated 06 December 2023
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Israel not doing enough to allow fuel, aid into Gaza – US

An ambulance is stopped by Israeli army forces during a raid in Jenin, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank December 5, 2023.
  • Israeli forces stormed southern Gaza’s main city of Khan Younis on Tuesday, and hospitals struggled to cope with scores of Palestinian dead and wounded

WASHINGTON: Israel needs to do more to allow fuel and other aid into Gaza, the United States said on Tuesday as Israel’s offensive against Hamas in southern areas of the Palestinian enclave intensified.
“The level of assistance that’s getting in is not sufficient,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said at a press briefing. “It needs to go up, and we’ve made that clear to the government of Israel.”
On Monday, 100 humanitarian aid trucks and about 69,000 liters of fuel were delivered to Gaza from Egypt, the United Nations said, about the same as Sunday.
“This is well below the daily average of 170 trucks and 110,000 liters of fuel that had entered during the humanitarian pause that took place between 24 and 30 November,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Tuesday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on his third trip to the Middle East since the Hamas attack on Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, last week pressed the Israeli government to increase the flow of aid and to minimize civilian harm in its offensive against Hamas.
Israeli forces stormed southern Gaza’s main city of Khan Younis on Tuesday, and hospitals struggled to cope with scores of Palestinian dead and wounded.
In what appeared to be the biggest ground assault in Gaza since a truce with Hamas unraveled last week, Israel said its troops — who were backed by warplanes — had reached the heart of Khan Younis and were surrounding the city
A World Health Organization official in Gaza said on Tuesday the situation was deteriorating by the hour.

 

 


Egyptian FM, UN official discuss ways to boost Gaza relief

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. (AP)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. (AP)
Updated 7 sec ago
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Egyptian FM, UN official discuss ways to boost Gaza relief

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. (AP)
  • Shoukry stressed the necessity of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza before the month of Ramadan so that the flow of humanitarian aid and relief materials can be increased in quantities sufficient for the needs of the residents

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has stressed the humanitarian and legal responsibility of the UN Security Council to ensure the full implementation of the provisions of Resolution 2720.

He made the comments during talks with Sigrid Kaag, the UN’s senior coordinator for humanitarian affairs and reconstruction in Gaza.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abu Zeid said that Shoukry and Kaag discussed in depth the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in areas of the Gaza Strip due to starvation and the targeting of civilians and humanitarian aid convoys by the Israeli military.

Shoukry stressed the necessity of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza before the month of Ramadan so that the flow of humanitarian aid and relief materials can be increased in quantities sufficient for the needs of the residents.

He noted the humanitarian risks resulting from systematic attempts to target the work of UNRWA and the suspension of funding to the agency by some donors.

UN official Kaag expressed her appreciation for Egypt’s pivotal role since the beginning of the crisis in Gaza.

Kaag emphasized her keenness to continue consultation and coordination with Egypt to ensure the implementation of her tasks related to increasing aid delivery to the strip.

Shoukry was keen to hear from the visiting UN official about developments in work to activate the UN mechanism established by Security Council Resolution 2720 to facilitate, coordinate, and monitor the entry of aid into the Gaza Strip and how to overcome the existing obstacles that prevent her from being able to implement the mandate more than two months after the adoption of the resolution.

Shoukry said Israel must be pressured to comply with the provisions of international law and remove the obstacles it places to bringing aid in to the enclave, including facilitating the use of all available roads into and from the Gaza Strip, including border crossings and using the most direct paths for aid to reach those who need it.

 


Withholding essential aid from Palestinians is tantamount to a death sentence, says Arab League chief

Withholding essential aid from Palestinians is tantamount to a death sentence, says Arab League chief
Updated 54 min 31 sec ago
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Withholding essential aid from Palestinians is tantamount to a death sentence, says Arab League chief

Withholding essential aid from Palestinians is tantamount to a death sentence, says Arab League chief
  • Ahmed Aboul Gheit was speaking during a meeting with Sigrid Kaag, the UN’s senior coordinator for humanitarian affairs and reconstruction in Gaza
  • Kaag gave a detailed overview of the humanitarian situation in Gaza amid the ongoing Israeli military operations in the territory

CAIRO: Withholding essential, life-saving aid from Palestinians is tantamount to a death sentence and collective punishment, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said.

He was speaking during a meeting with Sigrid Kaag, the UN’s under-secretary-general and senior coordinator for humanitarian affairs and reconstruction in Gaza, at the Arab League’s headquarters in Cairo.

Kaag gave a detailed overview of the humanitarian situation in Gaza amid the ongoing Israeli military operations in the territory and the blockade that is affecting more than 2 million Palestinians.

Jamal Rushdi, a spokesperson for Aboul Gheit, said the discussion focused on the severe deterioration in the humanitarian situation in recent weeks and proposed plans for the delivery of aid.

The Arab League chief said the international community shares responsibility for the tragedy unfolding in Gaza as a result of the tacit approval granted by some significant world powers to Israel, which has allowed authorities in the country to engage in aggressive acts during their war against Hamas in a reprehensible and dehumanizing manner.

Kaag discussed with Aboul Gheit several ideas for delivering aid and the difficulties that have been experienced in achieving this as a result of Israeli intransigence.

Both agreed that the urgent return of Palestinian Authority control of the Gaza Strip is necessary for reconstruction to begin, Rushdi said.

Aboul Gheit reiterated that the current priority is to achieve an immediate ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Hamas, halt the bloodshed, and prevent famine among Palestinians in Gaza.


Frankly Speaking: Understanding Ireland’s stance on Israel

Frankly Speaking: Understanding Ireland’s stance on Israel
Updated 04 March 2024
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Frankly Speaking: Understanding Ireland’s stance on Israel

Frankly Speaking: Understanding Ireland’s stance on Israel
  • Trade minister says Dublin prefers collective EU action, but is ready to impose unilateral sanctions on violent settlers
  • Simon Coveney wants Israel to abide by parameters of international law, not ‘become a monster to defeat a monster’ in Gaza

DUBAI: The Republic of Ireland will look at the option of imposing sanctions unilaterally on extremist Israeli settlers on Palestinian land if the European Union is unable to agree on a collective response, according to the country’s minister for enterprise, trade and employment.

Appearing on the Arab News current affairs show “Frankly Speaking,” Simon Coveney said Ireland would prefer to act collectively with its EU partners, but could be compelled to follow Spain in acting unilaterally if a deal is not agreed.

“Yes, we’ll look to try to do that, but we would much rather that these sanctions were imposed collectively by the European Union. There are 26 of the 27 countries that are in agreement in terms of doing that,” he said in course of a wide-ranging interview.

“Let’s not forget the US too has introduced sanctions on violent settlers in the West Bank to send a very strong signal that they regard what is happening in part of the West Bank in terms of violence against Palestinians as totally unacceptable.”

Violence in the occupied West Bank has increased since the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7 sparked Israel’s military operation in Gaza, with extremist Israeli settlers using the chaos to seize more Palestinian land.

Ireland has been among the most vocal international critics of Israel’s military campaign, which to date has cost the lives of more than 30,000 people, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Health Ministry. Another 7,000 people remain missing and at least 70,450 are injured.

Coveney himself was recently quoted as saying that Israel was behaving like a “rogue state” in Gaza. “My comments in relation to the war in Gaza were a reflection of the frustration of many Irish people, but also many other people around the world that want to see progress on finding the basis for a ceasefire,” he told Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking.”

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s minister for enterprise, trade and employment, said Ireland provides significant funding to support programs for Palestinians across the West Bank and previously across Gaza as well. (AN Photo)

He continued: “And then, of course, trying to make that ceasefire permanent so that we can focus on responding to the extraordinary human suffering that we’re seeing across Gaza now.

“That’s not in any way to diminish the strong Irish criticism and condemnation of the terror attacks that happened to Israeli citizens on Oct. 7 last. But since that awful attack on Israel, we have seen a level of military activity in Gaza that has been devastating.

“We’ve seen almost 30,000 lives lost, many of them women and children. And, of course, a population within Gaza now that is close to starvation. And we need to respond in the context of international law, international humanitarian law, the UN Charter.

“My comments were about responding to the fact that Israel seems not to be listening to many of its partners and allies who are now encouraging restraint and trying to find a basis for a ceasefire.”

Coveney has also said that Israel should not “behave like a monster in order to defeat a monster,” in reference to the country’s military retaliation to the Oct. 7 attack, which saw 1,200 Israelis and other foreign nationals killed and 240 taken hostage.

“When I said you can’t become a monster to defeat a monster, really what I’m referring to there is that a democratic state like Israel has got to abide by the parameters of international law,” he said.

“Even war has rules. We all have a responsibility to hold each other to account in the international community. And in our view, in Ireland, what Israel is doing in Gaza is completely disproportionate to what’s required, as necessary for the defense of Israel.

“The thousands and thousands of children and women who’ve lost their lives under buildings that have collapsed on top of them, this is something that needs to stop and needs to be called out, and is not necessary for the defense of Israel.

“Of course, there must be a consequence to what Hamas did on Oct. 7. And Israel has a right to defend itself.

“But the extent of what has happened, and the loss of life and injury in Gaza, is in my view not justified and is certainly a breach of many aspects of international law and humanitarian law that needs to be called out, which is why we are such a strong advocate for a ceasefire.”

Palestinian child eats bread in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 4, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement. (AFP)

The World Food Programme has warned that a famine is imminent in northern Gaza, which has received very little aid in recent weeks, and where an estimated 300,000 people are living with little food or clean water.

On Thursday, at least 112 Palestinians were killed and 760 injured while trying to get desperately needed aid in Gaza City in the presence of Israeli tanks.

Hamas has accused Israel of firing at civilians, but Israel said most died in a stampede after its troops fired warning shots. Leaders around the world have called for a full investigation.

“Even in the absence of conflict, the efforts that the international community are going to need to put in place in Gaza to prevent starvation, to respond to the extraordinary challenges around healthcare and basic provisions is huge,” Coveney said.

“There are only a few hospitals left that are actually functioning in Gaza.”

Given the incredible destruction, the sheer size of what has taken place in the enclave, would Ireland be willing to step in and help with reconstruction efforts when the war eventually comes to an end?

“Absolutely,” said Coveney.

He explained that Ireland provides significant funding to support programs for Palestinians across the West Bank and previously across Gaza as well.

“We’re one of the strongest supporters of UNRWA, as really the only scaled-up humanitarian organization that can provide the scale of supports that Palestinians need, in Gaza and indeed across the West Bank,” he said, referring to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which supports the relief and human development of Palestinian refugees.

“So, even in the last number of weeks, Ireland has, while other countries have actually been pulling their funding or freezing their funding to UNRWA because of a potential scandal of some UNRWA staff being involved in the terror attacks of October 7, even though a very small number may have been involved, let’s wait and see what the investigation determines.

Simon Coveney, Ireland’s minister for enterprise, trade and employment,  told Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking,” that “since that awful attack on Israel, we have seen a level of military activity in Gaza that has been devastating.” (AN Photo)

Separately, Ireland has tried to give a signal to other donors that, given the scale of human suffering in Gaza at the moment, UNRWA is an organization that needs to be supported, Coveney said.

“And so we have increased our funding by 20 million in the last number of weeks, which means now that we will be giving more than €40 million ($50.628 million) to UNRWA. And we hope that that gives a signal to other countries that are funders and supporters of UNRWA that they need to continue to do that,” he said.

The primary focus of Coveney’s visit to the region was the World Trade Organization’s 13th Ministerial Conference, which took place Feb. 26 to 29 in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi.

Given the current geopolitical situation, however, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the tensions in the Red Sea naturally became talking points on the sidelines of Coveney’s interactions with this Gulf counterparts.

“It’s impossible to come to this part of the world and not talk about what is currently happening in Gaza, because everybody is watching and is horrified by the human suffering and loss of life,” he said.

“People know when they speak to an Irish government minister that we are both interested and engaged in this debate.

“So, yes, on the sidelines of a lot of the trade discussions, of course, we’re talking about regional conflict and it’s impossible not to focus on the Israel-Palestine conflict that we’re seeing right now in Gaza.

“Also, the tension that we’re seeing in terms of the Red Sea and what Houthi rebels are doing in terms of targeting shipping in the Red Sea, which essentially is targeting global trade, because about 30 percent of global goods trade transits through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea, which is significantly being disrupted right now.”

Asked if he noticed a contradiction between the Biden administration’s calls for Israeli restraint in Gaza and sending of weapons and shells to Israel, Coveney responded that the situation required for a realistic appraisal.

“The signal that would be sent to the broader Middle East region of the US preventing arms coming from the US to Israel would potentially be a dangerous one in terms of the signal to Iran and others who are enemies of Israel,” he said.

“I think the US knows that. So, we need to be realistic here on what’s possible.”

 


After 10 years of trying, a Palestinian woman had twins. An Israeli strike killed them both

After 10 years of trying, a Palestinian woman had twins. An Israeli strike killed them both
Updated 04 March 2024
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After 10 years of trying, a Palestinian woman had twins. An Israeli strike killed them both

After 10 years of trying, a Palestinian woman had twins. An Israeli strike killed them both
  • An Israeli strike hit the home of her family in Rafah, killing her children, her husband and 11 other relatives

RAFAH: It took 10 years and three rounds of in vitro fertilization for Rania Abu Anza to become pregnant, and only seconds for her to lose her five-month-old twins, a boy and a girl.
An Israeli strike hit the home of her extended family in the southern Gaza city of Rafah late Saturday, killing her children, her husband and 11 other relatives and leaving another nine missing under the rubble, according to survivors and local health officials.
She had woken up at around 10 p.m. to breastfeed Naeim, the boy, and went back to sleep with him in one arm and Wissam, the girl, in the other. Her husband was sleeping beside them.
The explosion came an hour and a half later. The house collapsed.
“I screamed for my children and my husband,” she said Sunday, as she sobbed and cradled a baby’s blanket to her chest. ”They were all dead. Their father took them and left me behind.”
She closed her eyes, leaned her head against the wall and patted the bundle in a calming gesture that, finally, she’d had the chance to give.
Israeli airstrikes have regularly hit crowded family homes since the start of the war in Gaza, even in Rafah, which Israel declared a safe zone in October but is now the next target of its devastating ground offensive.
The strikes often come without warning, usually in the middle of the night.
Israel says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames their deaths on the Hamas militant group because it positions fighters, tunnels and rocket launchers in dense residential areas. But the military rarely comments on individual strikes, which often kill women and children.
The military on Sunday didn’t comment on this attack but said it “follows international law and takes feasible precautions to mitigate civilian harm.”
Of the 14 people killed in the Abu Anza house, six were children and four were women, according to Dr. Marwan Al-Hams, director of the hospital where the bodies were taken. In addition to her husband and children, Rania also lost a sister, a nephew, a pregnant cousin and other relatives.
Farouq Abu Anza, a relative, said about 35 people were staying at the house, some of whom had been displaced from other areas. He said they were all civilians, mostly children, and that there were no militants among them.
Rania and her husband, Wissam, both 29, spent a decade trying to get pregnant. Two rounds of IVF had failed, but after a third, she learned she was pregnant early last year. The twins were born on Oct. 13.
Her husband, a day laborer, was so proud he insisted on naming the girl after himself, she said.
“I didn’t get enough of them,” she said. “I swear I didn’t get enough of them.”
Less than a week earlier, Hamas-led militants had stormed into southern Israel in a surprise attack, rampaging through communities, killing some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and taking around 250 hostages, including children and a newborn.
Israel responded with one of the deadliest and most destructive military campaigns in recent history. The war has killed over 30,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. Around 80 percent of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have fled their homes, and a quarter of the population faces starvation.
The ministry said last month that more than 12,300 Palestinian children and young teens had been killed in the war, about 43 percent of the overall toll. Women and children together make up three quarters of those killed. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tallies.
Israel claims to have killed over 10,000 Hamas fighters but has not provided evidence.
For the children who survive, the war has made life hellish, humanitarian workers say, with some in northern Gaza beyond the reach of care.
“The sense of helplessness and despair among parents and doctors in realizing that lifesaving aid, just a few kilometers away, is being kept out of reach, must be unbearable, but worse still are the anguished cries of those babies slowly perishing under the world’s gaze,” UNICEF regional director Adele Khodr said in a statement Sunday.
Until Saturday, the Abu Anza family had been relatively fortunate. Rafah has been spared the immense destruction of northern Gaza and the southern city of Khan Younis, where Israeli tanks and ground troops have fought militants block by block after waves of airstrikes.
Rafah is also in the shrinking area of Gaza where humanitarian aid can still be delivered.
But Israel has said Rafah will be next, and the roughly 1.5 million people who have sought refuge there will be relocated, without saying where.
“We have no rights,” Rania said. “I lost the people who were dearest to me. I don’t want to live here. I want to get out of this country. I’m tired of this war.”


Soaring prices hurt Egypt’s Ramadan lantern sales but traders hopeful

Soaring prices hurt Egypt’s Ramadan lantern sales but traders hopeful
Updated 04 March 2024
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Soaring prices hurt Egypt’s Ramadan lantern sales but traders hopeful

Soaring prices hurt Egypt’s Ramadan lantern sales but traders hopeful
  • Only for ‘wealthy families’ now, says resident of Mansoura, Cairo
  • Rising inflation, import costs affecting manufacturing, claims commerce official

CAIRO: Soaring prices have reportedly affected lantern sales in Egypt as Ramadan approaches, but traders are hopeful business will pick up and that buyers will return to the market.

Faraj Al-Gamal, a lantern merchant in Cairo, said although prices had increased this year, there were still buyers seeking the product.

“In the market now, lanterns are starting from EGP50 ($1.60), but some reach up to EGP3,000, depending on the type, size and design,” he told Arab News.

But Hanan Abdelmonem, a 30-year-old resident of Mansoura, north of Cairo, told Arab News: “It has become difficult to buy lanterns this year as they are now only affordable for wealthy families.”

“Last year, I liked a lantern (on Facebook) and asked about its price, finding it to be EGP450. I thought it was expensive and decided against it.

“This year, in 2024, I inquired about the same lantern and was told the price was EGP900. The seller confirmed it was not a joke.

Abdelmonem added: “I chose not to buy the same lantern, possibly because it resembles a star more than a lantern. When I inquired about regular lanterns, he quoted EGP3,200 for them.”

She said some merchants importing goods from abroad were raising prices but this should not be the case for lanterns.

“The lanterns are made in Egyptian factories with Egyptian materials and by Egyptian hands. Why then this price increase?” Abdelmonem said.

But Cairo merchant Faraj Al-Gamal told Arab News: “It’s wrong to say that Ramadan lanterns have become exclusive to the wealthy class. They are for all classes.

“We make lanterns for all classes. The poor who want a lantern will find one with us, and the rich have their lanterns, too. What matters is the joy of children with the lanterns.

“It’s natural that prices were a bit higher this year, having increased by about 20 percent, but they are still within reach for all classes.”

He added: “Ramadan lanterns made of tent fabric range from EGP50 to EGP200 depending on the size. There are also Chinese lanterns that play Ramadan songs, with prices ranging between EGP120 and EGP200.

“There are plastic illuminated lanterns priced between EGP10 and EGP145, while wooden lanterns range from EGP90 to EGP300, depending on the size.”

He said that small- and medium-sized metal Ramadan lanterns cost between EGP130 and EGP250, while large ones made from metal or brass trade for between EGP550 and EGP3,000.

Al-Gamal said lanterns in new designs have been introduced this year by manufacturers.

This year’s latest trend is the introduction of lanterns made of crystal and acrylic, with prices ranging from EGP200 to EGP390.

Barakat Safa, head of the toys and gifts division at the Cairo Chamber of Commerce, told Arab News: “The price increase is not only due to the rising cost of goods and the foreign currency crisis.”

Safa explained that the shortage of lanterns was due to a gradual decline in production that began during Ramadan 2022. The factories were impacted by rising production costs, especially for imported supplies.

These costs were further exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine war and increasing inflation.

Safa said: “In Ramadan 2023 and 2024, Egyptian lantern traders and manufacturers faced losses due to decreased purchasing activities caused by inflation, leading to lower interest in lanterns.”

Safa said 60 to 70 percent of manufacturers skipped production this year and used the previous year’s stock to avoid losses.