Displaced Palestinians forced to fend for themselves in Gaza’s south

Displaced Palestinians forced to fend for themselves in Gaza’s south
People wait while a woman prepares food, as displaced Palestinians, who fled their houses due to Israeli strike, shelter in a camp in Rafah. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 December 2023

Displaced Palestinians forced to fend for themselves in Gaza’s south

Displaced Palestinians forced to fend for themselves in Gaza’s south
  • The grocery stores in Rafah, like elsewhere in Gaza, are empty

RAFAH, Palestinian Territories: A plastic sheet rigged up as a tent, branches gathered from here and there to make a fire — at the southern tip of Gaza, displaced Palestinians are settling in as best they can.
Thousands of Palestinians are fleeing Khan Yunis — Gaza’s main southern city, now surrounded by the Israeli army — toward Rafah, less than 10 kilometers (six miles) away on the territory’s closed border with Egypt.
Many among them had already been displaced once in recent weeks, heading south to escape heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas in the north.
“We arrived here with no shelter and got rained on last night. There isn’t anything to eat — no bread, no flour,” Ghassan Bakr told AFP.
The grocery stores in Rafah, like elsewhere in Gaza, are empty. At the market, the farmers who can still cultivate their land sell tomatoes, onions, cabbages and other vegetables.
On a sidewalk, children throw themselves at a large pot of semolina prepared by a charity, scraping at the bottom with bowls and plastic containers.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are living in “utter, deepening horror,” the UN’s human rights chief said Wednesday, nearly two months after the start of the war, which has displaced around three-quarters of the territory’s 2.4 million people.
The fighting was triggered by Hamas’s bloody October 7 attack on Israel, during which 240 people were taken hostage and around 1,200 were killed, most of them civilians, Israeli authorities say.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said Tuesday that 16,248 people had been killed since Israel’s campaign began, more than 70 percent of them women and children.
Makeshift tents have sprung up in the sandy wasteland between half-finished buildings, with lines strung between them for drying laundry.
All around are suitcases, stacks of firewood and displaced people wandering about with jerrycans, looking for water.
“There have been bombardments, destruction, leaflets dropping, threats and phone calls to evacuate and leave Khan Yunis, but to go where?” asked Khamis Al-Dalu.
More than 80 percent of Gazans are either refugees or descendants of refugees who were driven out or left their land when Israel was founded in 1948.
“Where do you want us to go for God’s sake?” Dalu continued, his temper flaring.
“We left Khan Yunis and now we’re in tents in Rafah, with no roofs, no walls.”
In Khan Yunis, the fighting continued on Wednesday. In otherwise deserted streets, a few remaining residents navigated the rubble left by Israeli strikes as the injured were ferried to hospitals.
“We were sitting and all of a sudden there was a strike. I was hit in the head by a falling stone,” Hussein Abu Hamada told AFP.
“We’re devastated, mentally overwhelmed,” said Amal Mahdi, who also survived a raid. “We need someone to help us, to find a solution for us to get out of this situation.”
On Wednesday afternoon, the Israeli army dropped leaflets over the city inscribed with a verse from the Qur'an: “And the flood seized them while they were wrongdoers” — an apparent reference to the October 7 attack, dubbed Operation Al-Aqsa Flood by Hamas.
The Israeli army did not immediately respond to questions about the leaflets.
“What did we do wrong?” asked Umm Shadi Abu el-Tarabeech, in Rafah after being displaced from the north.
“We don’t have guns, we’re not terrorists and we haven’t done anything bad. We’re defenseless civilians. We’ve looked for refuge in one place after the other, and now they’re dropping these?” she said.
“What is the purpose of these words?”

UK and Jordan air drop aid to hospital in northern Gaza

UK and Jordan air drop aid to hospital in northern Gaza
Updated 11 sec ago

UK and Jordan air drop aid to hospital in northern Gaza

UK and Jordan air drop aid to hospital in northern Gaza
LONDON: Britain and Jordan have air-dropped four tons of aid including medicines, fuel and food to Tal Al-Hawa Hospital in northern Gaza, Britain’s Foreign Office said on Wednesday.
The UK-funded aid was delivered by the Jordanian Air Force.
“Thousands of patients will benefit and the fuel will enable this vital hospital to continue its life-saving work,” British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said in a statement.
“However, the situation in Gaza is desperate and significantly more aid is needed, and fast. We are calling for an immediate humanitarian pause to allow additional aid into Gaza as quickly as possible and bring hostages home.”

US diplomats decry ‘worsening humanitarian situation’ in Sudan

US diplomats decry ‘worsening humanitarian situation’ in Sudan
Updated 17 min 17 sec ago

US diplomats decry ‘worsening humanitarian situation’ in Sudan

US diplomats decry ‘worsening humanitarian situation’ in Sudan
  • 6m people face acute starvation, American envoy tells press briefing attended by Arab News
  • Assistant secretary of state on African affairs: ‘Continued fighting threatening the break-up of the country’

LONDON: US diplomats on Wednesday decried the deteriorating situation in Sudan, with the conflict there having displaced some 8 million people, according to the UN.

During a digital press briefing attended by Arab News, Assistant Secretary of State on African Affairs Molly Phee said she is “deeply concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation” and the risk posed by Sudan’s fractious military forces.

With 6.2 million internally displaced and 1.8 million having been forced to flee abroad, “the continued fighting in Sudan is threatening the break-up of the country,” she added.

“I want to underscore upfront that the United States doesn’t support military governance, and will continue as we’ve done for decades to support the Sudanese people against military repression, and in their goal of charting a democratic future.”

More than 7 million Sudanese are contending with food insecurity, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

US Ambassador to Sudan John Godfrey said of those affected by food insecurity, as many as 6 million face the very real prospect of acute starvation.

Godfrey and Phee both urged the conflicting parties to stop fighting so as to facilitate badly needed humanitarian access.

Godfrey said: “There’s urgent need to facilitate humanitarian assistance; it’s only becoming more urgent by the day.

“This includes facilitating cross-border assistance ahead of the impending rainy season, which will make roads impassable.

“We’re pressing for Sudan-related action in the UN Security Council, and insisting belligerents fulfill obligations under international humanitarian law.”

Conflict erupted last April between former allies who jointly seized power in a 2021 coup: the Sudanese Armed Forces and its breakaway paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

Efforts at broking a ceasefire between them have so far failed, as have efforts to ensure that they meet their obligations to protect civilians under both the Jeddah Declaration and international humanitarian law.

Consequently, Godfrey and Phee said neither party should participate in post-conflict governance as the US and partners, including Saudi Arabia, push for a restoration of civilian government.

Nor is Sudan the lone area of hostilities in the region, with Phee noting that during last week’s African Union Summit, the US had sought to reaffirm its committed support to those fighting against Somali militant group Al-Shabaab.    

“We consulted with our partners in the horn (of Africa) about how to focus on what we’re doing together to tighten up our effort to combat Al-Shabaab,” she said.

“That included discussions on helping Somalia develop. It was important also to speak with Somali partners about their continued focus on governance.”

Mother and 5-year-old daughter killed in Israeli attack on southern Lebanon

Mother and 5-year-old daughter killed in Israeli attack on southern Lebanon
Updated 21 February 2024

Mother and 5-year-old daughter killed in Israeli attack on southern Lebanon

Mother and 5-year-old daughter killed in Israeli attack on southern Lebanon
  • Their home is hit as Israeli airstrikes and artillery shelling targets several towns and villages in the southwest of the country
  • US congressional delegation holds talks with Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri and other Lebanese officials in Beirut

BEIRUT: A mother and her young daughter were killed on Wednesday in an Israeli attack on the town of Majdal Zoun in the Tyre District of Lebanon’s South Governorate.

Khadija Mohammed Salman, who was said to be in her 40s, and her 5-year-old daughter Amal Hassan Al-Durr died when their house was hit. Several other people in the vicinity were injured and taken to hospitals in Tyre.

Majdal Zoun was one of several towns and villages in southwestern Lebanon hit by Israeli airstrikes and artillery shelling. Others included Shehin, the outskirts of Alma Al-Shaab, Al-Dhahira, Al-Jabeen and Tayr Harfa. The most recent targets included Hula, Blida, Aita, Kafr Kila, and Khiam. Earlier, artillery fire that hit Ramia, Al-Naqoura and Alma Al-Shaab on Tuesday night caused extensive damage to crops, olive groves and buildings.

Hezbollah responded to the Israeli attacks within hours by launching 10 military operations against Israeli army positions. The group said its forces “targeted a military position of Israeli soldiers in the Evin Menachem settlement and another military position in the Shomera settlement,” as well as “two buildings in which enemy soldiers were stationed in the Avivim settlement, the Ruwaisat Al-Alam site in the Lebanese Shebaa Farms, and a gathering of enemy soldiers in the vicinity of the Al-Marj military site and the Zibdin military site in the Shebaa Farms.” It said it also targeted “the Metulla settlement and the positions of enemy soldiers there … achieving direct hits.”

Israeli media reported that “a missile hit a building in the Metulla settlement after sirens went off in this settlement in the Finger of Galilee.”

Israeli warplanes broke the sound barrier as they flew over the regions of Tyre, Sidon and Nabatiyeh, causing fear and terror among schoolchildren and families. Widely shared video footage showed teachers attempting to calm terrified pupils in a school by explaining that the sonic boom generated by the planes was just a loud noise and not an attack. Still, many people assumed the noise was caused by airstrikes or other explosions, given the ongoing Israeli attacks extending far into southern Lebanon.

A teacher from a school in Nabatiyeh said: “At first, I thought that a new raid targeted the village of Ghazieh, similar to what happened a few days ago, or that the raid was on Nabatiyeh, due to the intensity of the sound that hurt our ears. I used my phone to find out what was happening and it turned out that it was a plane breaking the sound barrier.”

Meanwhile, caretaker Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi visited the city of Sidon where he chaired a meeting of security chiefs in the south. He said Lebanese authorities were “working with existing capabilities to help the displaced from the south.”

He called for “the south and Lebanon to be spared from the calamity of war” and said “the injustice to which innocent people are subjected is unacceptable.”

Amid growing diplomatic tensions between Lebanon and Israel, the Lebanese mission to the UN reacted to the Israeli envoy’s threats to “implement Resolution 1701 by force in the coming weeks.” Resolution 1707 was adopted by the UN Security Council in 2006 with the aim of resolving the war that year between Hezbollah and Israel. It called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Lebanon and for all armed groups in Lebanon, including Hezbollah, to disarm.

The Lebanese delegation at the UN said: “The one violating Resolution 1701 is Israel, and its land, sea and air violations have been documented by the Security Council since 2006.

“The number of violations has exceeded 30,000, in addition to the daily attacks on southern Lebanese villages, which have led to the killing of dozens of civilians, the displacement of tens of thousands of citizens due to concentrated bombing, daily raids, the use of smart attack drones, and internationally banned white phosphorus shells, which destroyed more than 100,000 olive trees.

“Lebanon repeatedly confirmed, through the statements of its senior officials, that it never wanted a war and does not seek a war in the future. The country has also affirmed that it is fully committed to negotiating and searching for peaceful solutions that preserve its legitimate rights through the comprehensive and balanced implementation of the provisions of Resolution 1701.”

The Lebanese mission continued: “The threats made by senior Israeli officials promising death, chaos and destruction, including the statements of the Israeli representative to the UN, reveal Israel’s underlying intentions to expand the scope of the war and try to find a pretext to launch aggression against Lebanon.

“Therefore isn’t it time, Lebanon wonders, for Israel to give reason, logic and peace a chance instead of carrying on with its policy that relies on force, occupation, intimidation, killing and war?

“Lebanon asks the relevant UN bodies, especially the Security Council, to oblige Israel to stop its attacks and violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty, initiate negotiations through the UN to ensure full adherence to Resolution 1701 and withdraw from the occupied Lebanese territories, in order to work toward the desired political solution and preserve regional peace and security.”

A US congressional delegation held talks with several Lebanese officials in Beirut on Wednesday. A spokesperson for Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri said “he met a delegation consisting of senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Coons, accompanied by the US ambassador to Lebanon, Lisa Johnson. This visit comes in light of the continued daily Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon.”

Egypt, Arab League, Arab Parliament condemn US’ latest veto of Gaza truce resolution

Egypt, Arab League, Arab Parliament condemn US’ latest veto of Gaza truce resolution
Updated 21 February 2024

Egypt, Arab League, Arab Parliament condemn US’ latest veto of Gaza truce resolution

Egypt, Arab League, Arab Parliament condemn US’ latest veto of Gaza truce resolution
  • Condemnation from Cairo came after the US’ third veto of a Security Council draft resolution
  • Resolution was backed by 13 out of the 15 members — but the US vetoed it, while the UK abstained

CAIRO: Egypt’s leaders have warned that the UN Security Council’s repeated failure to adopt a peace resolution and ceasefire in the Gaza Strip was setting “a shameful precedent” for the body.

The condemnation from Cairo came after the US’ third veto of a Security Council draft resolution — proposed by Algeria on behalf of the Arab Group — demanding an immediate end to fighting.

The resolution was backed by 13 out of the 15 members. But the US vetoed it, while the UK abstained.

In a statement, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said that obstructing the passage of a resolution “calling for a ceasefire in an armed conflict that has claimed the lives of more than 29,000 civilians, most of them children and women, is a shameful precedent” in the history of the Security Council.

It added that the international community had a moral and human responsibility to end the daily suffering of Palestinian civilians caught in the line of Israeli fire.

The ministry statement said: “Egypt strongly denounces … selectivity and double standards in dealing with wars and armed conflicts in various regions of the world, which has come to question the credibility of the rules and working mechanisms of the current international architecture, especially the UN Security Council, which is entrusted with the responsibility of preventing and settling conflicts and halting wars.”

Cairo would continue to demand an immediate ceasefire and safe passage for humanitarian aid in the Strip, while opposing any attempts to displace Palestinians outside of their territories, it added.

It also noted Egypt’s opposition to Israeli military operations in the Palestinian city of Rafah.

Egypt’s permanent representative to the UN, Osama Abdelkhalek, said: “(Cairo) calls on the Security Council and all responsible international powers to save the peace option ... through the immediate implementation of the ceasefire.

“This will not hinder the ongoing mediation efforts, but rather provide them with the appropriate conditions to succeed.”

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the latest American veto “clearly indicates its political and moral responsibility for the continuation of the war.”

He added that the US stance “undermines the credibility of the UN system and reinforces the state of paralysis witnessed by the UN.

“(It) provides political cover for Israel to continue the aggression in light of the international community’s inability to stop the heinous crimes committed every day against Palestinian civilians.”

Algeria’s draft resolution aimed to give priority to the humanitarian dimensions in a bid to save hundreds of thousands of Palestinians “who remain vulnerable to the Israeli killing machine, starvation, and disease if the war continues.”

In a statement, the Arab Parliament warned that the Security Council was failing in its duty to control international security and stability and pointed out that system reforms were required.

UK’s top bishop cancels meeting with Bethlehem pastor to avoid angering British Jews: Report

UK’s top bishop cancels meeting with Bethlehem pastor to avoid angering British Jews: Report
Updated 21 February 2024

UK’s top bishop cancels meeting with Bethlehem pastor to avoid angering British Jews: Report

UK’s top bishop cancels meeting with Bethlehem pastor to avoid angering British Jews: Report
  • Munther Isaac says Justin Welby’s aides warned him against sharing platform with Jeremy Corbyn at rally
  • ‘It’s shameful. This sums up the Church of England. They lack the courage to say things’

LONDON: The UK’s archbishop of Canterbury canceled plans to meet Munther Isaac, the Bethlehem-based pastor who has criticized Israel’s war on Gaza, for fear of angering Britain’s Jewish community, The Guardian reported on Wednesday.

Justin Welby, the senior bishop of the Church of England, rejected the meeting after Isaac shared a platform with former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn at a pro-Palestinian rally last weekend, the Lutheran pastor and theologian said.

Corbyn, who led the party in opposition for five years from 2015 to 2020, has been a prominent critic of Israeli policies.

He withdrew from the leadership in part due to controversy surrounding alleged antisemitism within the party.

Isaac has been highly critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza, and a Christmas sermon he delivered last year went viral.

He was invited to speak at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign rally last week by Husam Zomlot, Palestinian ambassador to the UK.

Isaac told The Guardian that Welby’s aides had informed him that no meeting could take place if he shared a platform with Corbyn.

Isaac said: “It’s shameful. It’s not my type of Christianity not to be willing to meet another pastor because you don’t want to explain why you met him.

“This sums up the Church of England. They danced around positions, and ended up saying nothing. They lack the courage to say things.”

Welby is thought to be concerned with rising antisemitism in the UK, and is balancing condemnation of Israel with avoiding outrage among Britain’s Jewish community.

He feared a meeting with Isaac would have caused “huge problems” for British Jews, The Guardian reported.

Lambeth Palace, Welby’s official residence, declined to comment on the matter when asked by The Guardian.

Isaac said: “The small Christian community in Gaza has discovered what is hell on earth. Most of them have lost their homes: 45 destroyed completely and 55 partially destroyed.

“There is no life left for them. This war will most likely bring an end to Christian life in Gaza. Everyone wants to leave.

“It is so painful for us to see the Christian church turn a blind eye to what is happening, offering words of concern and compassion, but for so long they have been silent in the face of obvious war crimes.

“Churches seem paralyzed, and they seem willing to sacrifice the Christian presence in Palestine for the sake of avoiding controversy and not criticizing Israel. I have had so many difficult conversations with church leaders.”

Isaac added: “I know from meeting many church leaders that in private, they say one thing, and then in public, they say another thing. I’ve had the same experience with many politicians and diplomats.”