Israel bombards Gaza, including evacuation areas for Palestinians

Update Israel bombards Gaza, including evacuation areas for Palestinians
Vast areas of Gaza have been reduced to rubble and the UN says about 80 percent of the population has been displaced. (File/AP)
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Updated 09 December 2023
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Israel bombards Gaza, including evacuation areas for Palestinians

Israel bombards Gaza, including evacuation areas for Palestinians
  • Israeli strike on Khan Yunis killed six people, while five others died in separate attack in Rafah
  • Hamas, Palestinian Authority condemned US veto as death toll in Gaza reaches 17,487

GAZA: Israeli warplanes struck parts of the Gaza Strip in relentless bombardment Saturday, hitting some of the dwindling bits of land it had told Palestinians to evacuate to in the territory’s south.
The strikes came a day after the United States vetoed a United Nations resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, despite its wide support. The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 13-1, with the United Kingdom abstaining.
“Attacks from air, land and sea are intense, continuous and widespread,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the council before the vote. Gaza residents “are being told to move like human pinballs – ricocheting between ever-smaller slivers of the south, without any of the basics for survival.”
Gaza was at a “breaking point” with the humanitarian support system at risk of collapse, and Guterres said he feared “the consequences could be devastating for the security of the entire region.”
Gaza’s borders with Israel and Egypt are effectively sealed, leaving 2.3 million Palestinians with no option other than to seek refuge within the territory 25 miles (40 kilometers) long by some 7 miles (11 kilometers) wide.
With the war now in its third month, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has surpassed 17,400, the majority women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory, whose counts do not differentiate between civilians and combatants.
Two hospitals in central and southern Gaza received the bodies of a total of 133 people from Israeli bombings over the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said midday Saturday.
Israel holds the Hamas militants responsible for civilian casualties, accusing them of using civilians as human shields, and says it has made considerable efforts with evacuation orders to get civilians out of harm’s way. It says 93 Israeli soldiers have died in the ground offensive after Hamas’ deadly Oct. 7 raid in Israel that killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took about 240 hostage.
Hamas said Saturday it continued its rocket fire into Israel.
In Gaza, residents reported airstrikes and shelling in the north and south, including the city of Rafah near the Egyptian border — one area where the Israeli army had ordered civilians to evacuate to. In a colorful classroom there, knee-high children’s tables were strewn with rubble.
“We now live in the Gaza Strip and are governed by the American law of the jungle. America has killed human rights,” said Rafah resident Abu Yasser Al-Khatib. “The Palestinian people will not leave and do not want to leave.”
Israel has been trying to secure the military’s hold on northern Gaza despite heavy resistance from Hamas. Tens of thousands of residents are believed to remain despite evacuation orders, six weeks after troops and tanks rolled in.
The Israeli military said Saturday its forces fought and killed Hamas militants and found weapons inside a school in Shijaia in a densely populated neighborhood of Gaza City. It said soldiers discovered a tunnel shaft in the same neighborhood where they found an elevator, and in a separate incident, militants shot at troops from an UN-run school in the northern town of Beit Hanoun.
More than 2,200 Palestinians have been killed since the Dec. 1 collapse of a weeklong truce, about two-thirds of them women and children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.
The truce saw hostages and Palestinian prisoners released, but more than 130 hostages are believed to remain in Gaza.
On Saturday, a kibbutz that came under attack on Oct. 7 said 25-year-old hostage Sahar Baruch had died in captivity. His captors said Baruch was killed during a failed rescue mission by Israeli forces Friday. The Israeli military only confirmed that two soldiers were seriously wounded in an attempted hostage rescue and that no hostages were freed.
With no further cease-fire in sight and a trickle of humanitarian aid reaching just a few parts of Gaza, residents reported severe food shortages.
“I am very hungry,” said Mustafa Al-Najjar, sheltering in a UN-run school in the devastated Jabaliya refugee camp in the north. “We are living on canned food and biscuits and this is not sufficient.”
While adults can cope with hunger, “it’s extremely difficult and painful when you see your young son or daughter crying because there are hungry and you are not able to do anything,” he said.
Despite growing international pressure, the Biden administration remains opposed to an open-ended cease-fire, arguing it would enable Hamas to continue posing a threat to Israel. Officials have expressed misgivings in recent days about the civilian death toll and dire humanitarian crisis but have not pushed publicly for Israel to wind down the war.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has argued that “a cease-fire is handing a prize to Hamas, dismissing the hostages held in Gaza and signalling terror groups everywhere.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken continued to meet with counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Turkiye and elsewhere as frustration grew with the US stance. Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan has said the US veto of the Security Council resolution showed Washington’s isolation.
“From now on, humanity won’t think the USA. supports the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday.
Fidan and the Palestinian, Saudi, Qatari, Nigerian, Indonesian, Egyptian and Jordanian ministers met with Blinken to press for an end to the fighting, and the group was to meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday.
Despite restrictions on demonstrations, protesters at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai called for a cease-fire.
Israel has expanded its blistering air and ground campaign into southern Gaza, sending tens of thousands fleeing.
“It was a night of heavy gunfire and shelling as every night,” Taha Abdel-Rahman, a resident of Khan Younis, said by phone Saturday.
Airstrikes were reported overnight in the Nuseirat refugee camp, where resident Omar Abu Moghazi said a family home was hit, causing casualties.
Israel has designated a narrow patch of barren coastline in the south, Muwasi, as a safe zone. But Palestinians there described desperately overcrowded conditions with scant shelter and poor hygiene facilities.
“We are living here in a tough cold. There are no bathrooms,” said Soad Qarmoot, who was forced to leave her home in the northern town of Beit Lahiya.
“I am a cancer patient,” Qarmoot said as children huddled around a wood fire. “There is no mattress for me to sleep on. I am sleeping on the sand. It’s freezing.”
Imad Al-Talateeny, who fled Gaza City, said Muwasi lacks basic services to accommodate the growing number of displaced families.
“I lack everything to feel a human,” he said.


Fertilizer-laden Red Sea ship ‘at risk of sinking,’ says Yemeni minister

Updated 5 sec ago
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Fertilizer-laden Red Sea ship ‘at risk of sinking,’ says Yemeni minister

Fertilizer-laden Red Sea ship ‘at risk of sinking,’ says Yemeni minister
  • The Houthis launched missiles at the M/V Rubymar badly damaging it and causing a large oil slick in the Red Sea
  • Yemen’s government has issued a frantic plea to nations and marine conservation bodies to assist in rescuing the ship

AL-MUKALLA: Tawfeeq Al-Sharjabi, Yemen’s water and environment minister, said they are in a race against time to save a sinking ship laden with thousands of tonnes of fertilizer in the Red Sea, urging international assistance to prevent an ecological disaster. 

On Feb. 18, Yemen’s Houthi militia launched missiles at the MV Rubymar, a Belize-flagged and Lebanese-operated ship, badly damaging it and causing a large oil slick in the Red Sea.

Yemen’s government organized an emergency committee on Saturday and issued a frantic plea to nations and marine conservation bodies to assist in rescuing the ship and preventing a possible environmental calamity in the Red Sea. “The situation is grave, and the ship is at risk of sinking,” Al-Sharjabi told Arab News by telephone. 

Yemeni officials said the Houthi missiles damaged the ship’s engine room, causing saltwater to fill it, and that they are now in touch with the ship’s owners and international organizations to send tugs to tow it after draining it of water. The danger, according to the Yemeni minister, stems from the ship’s cargo of 22,000 tonnes of ammonium phosphate-sulfate NPS fertilizer, which, although unaffected by the missiles, might explode or flow into the ocean if the ship sunk or struck the coast. “Efforts are now underway to bring a tugboat to remove water from the ship, balance it, return it to its usual position, and then tow it to the closest shore,” Al-Sharjabi said.

The Houthis vowed this week to trade the recovery of the British-owned ship for humanitarian supplies to Gaza, raising concerns that they may use the ship as leverage. Despite stating that they have not received formal threats from the Houthis, Al-Sharjabi urged the militia not to obstruct the ship’s rescue attempts, adding that Yemenis throughout the nation, including those living in Houthi-controlled regions, will suffer from an ecological calamity. “This is a worthless bargain and just balloons in the air,” he said.

Capt. Yeslem Mubarak, vice executive chairman of the Maritime Affairs Authority and a member of the government’s commission dealing with the sinking ship, told Arab News on Tuesday that the ship is 16 nautical miles from Yemen’s Red Sea town of Mocha and 20 nautical miles from the island of Hanish. He added that it has no connection to Israel and is owned by a Syrian businessman. “The ship is in an unstable condition and is going to sink,” Mubarak said.

Since November, the Houthis have seized a commercial ship and fired hundreds of drones and missiles at commercial and naval ships going through the Red Sea, enforcing a ban on Israel-linked or Israel-bound vessels transiting through the key maritime channel. The Houthis claim that their activities are intended to push Israel to remove its blockade of Gaza.

To halt the Houthi attacks on ships, the US and its allies have launched hundreds of airstrikes on Sanaa, Saada, and other Houthi-controlled regions in Yemen, hitting ammunition, drone and missile storage facilities, drone and missile launchers, and other targets.

On Tuesday morning, the US Central Command said it had foiled Houthi assaults on ships on Monday by destroying three drone boats, two anti-ship cruise missiles, and a drone in Yemen that were all intended to target commercial and navy ships in the Red Sea. 


Egypt warns of ‘catastrophic repercussions’ if Israeli attacks Rafah

Egypt warns of ‘catastrophic repercussions’ if Israeli attacks Rafah
Updated 57 min 10 sec ago
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Egypt warns of ‘catastrophic repercussions’ if Israeli attacks Rafah

Egypt warns of ‘catastrophic repercussions’ if Israeli attacks Rafah
  • Israel has said a truce with Hamas would delay, not prevent, a ground invasion of Rafah
  • “The world is witnessing the most heinous crimes and violations against the Palestinian people,” Shoukry said

GENEVA: Egypt warned on Tuesday that Israel’s planned ground invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza would have “catastrophic repercussions” for peace in the Middle East.
Foreign ministers from Arab League countries told the United Nations Human Rights Council that some nations were turning a blind eye to the suffering in Gaza.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said the extreme polarization exposed by the Gaza war had laid bare the double standards of some members of the UN’s top rights body.
Israel has said a truce with Hamas would delay, not prevent, a ground invasion of Rafah on the Egyptian border, where an estimated 1.4 million Palestinian civilians have sought refuge from the war.
“The world is witnessing the most heinous crimes and violations against the Palestinian people,” Shoukry said.
He called for an immediate ceasefire and urged Israel not to attack Rafah.
“Any military action in the present circumstances would have catastrophic repercussions that undermine peace in the region,” he warned.
The war in Gaza began after the Hamas militant group that controls the Palestinian territory launched an attack on October 7 that killed about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.
Hamas militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza.
Israel’s retaliatory bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza have killed at least 29,878 people, most of them women and children, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.
Shoukry said some countries on the 47-member Human Rights Council in Geneva were shying away from the firm action they had taken over other conflicts.
“It seems that life in Gaza is not worthy enough of their attention, that the massacre of tens of thousands of children fails to shake their otherwise all-too-sensitive conscience,” he said.
“The lives of Gaza’s children are seemingly less valuable than others.
“This preludes the... collapse of the international system, including this council.”
Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Abdullah Al-Yahya said the “brutal crimes of the Israeli occupation forces against defenseless civilians” had led to “catastrophic crisis and destruction.”
Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita said the world “cannot keep turning a blind eye” to the “unprecedented human disaster” in Gaza.
Qatari International Cooperation Minister Lolwah Al-Khater said Gaza was witnessing a “genocidal war,” while the situation in the Israeli-occupied West Bank was also deteriorating.
“Sponsoring this Israeli exceptionalism above international law by some global powers should stop,” she told the council.
Meanwhile Tunisian Foreign Minister Nabil Ammar, speaking via video-link, said human rights were being violated in Gaza “with the utmost barbarism” and said the international community had been “paralyzed because of a handful of countries.”


Gaza residents fear possible truce would only pause, not stop, the war

Gaza residents fear possible truce would only pause, not stop, the war
Updated 27 February 2024
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Gaza residents fear possible truce would only pause, not stop, the war

Gaza residents fear possible truce would only pause, not stop, the war
  • “We don’t want to go back to war because war after the first truce destroyed us and destroyed our houses,” said Rehab Redwan, a woman who had fled her house in Khan Younis
  • “Can you imagine — there’s no food, nothing to drink”

RAFAH, Gaza Strip: Homeless, hungry Palestinians fearing an Israeli assault on their last relatively safe haven in Gaza said they were desperate for a lasting ceasefire as the United States said a temporary truce could be agreed soon.
A proposed deal from the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in early March could stop the fighting for the first time since a brief truce in November and ease a human catastrophe unfolding in Gaza.
However, while negotiators discuss a reported proposal for a six-week truce, Israel’s enemy Hamas has said big differences remained and it was still demanding a permanent end to the fighting.
“We hope it will be a permanent ceasefire. We don’t want to go back to war because war after the first truce destroyed us and destroyed our houses,” said Rehab Redwan, a woman who had fled her house in Khan Younis to shelter in a roadside tent.
“Can you imagine — there’s no food, nothing to drink. There are no basics for life,” she added, saying she wanted to go back home even if it now rubble.
After nearly five months of Israel’s air and ground campaign, around 85 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have fled their homes, most houses are damaged or destroyed, famine looms and disease is rife, say aid agencies.
The war began when Hamas fighters attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel’s air and ground campaign in Gaza has since killed around 30,000 Palestinians, health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave say.

PERMANENT OR TEMPORARY TRUCE
Walking with a small child through the crammed streets of Rafah, where most displaced Gaza residents have fled to and which Israel says it plans to assault next, Faraj Bakroon said reported conditions for the proposed truce made no sense to him.
As well as including only a weeks-long pause in fighting, there is no indication that Israel would allow people who fled south to go back to their homes in the north — particularly if they are men of military age.
“If the truce is like the previous one and they would start war again after it is over, we don’t want it. And if we can’t go to the north then a truce is not needed. Let’s keep the war until it is totally over,” he said.
“How will we go according to the age they specified? How do we take the children? We can’t leave our children behind and move. We need to bring them,” he added.
Still, for many people in Gaza any stop to fighting would be welcome, even if it falls short of a lasting ceasefire.
“We want a total truce in which we can live,” said Rashad Daher through his full white beard. But he added, “regarding this temporary truce, we ask God that it happens.”
Ahmed Al-Far, living in Rafah after fleeing his home in Gaza City in the north, where Israel’s offensive focused first, said he hoped for a truce “so people can catch their breath and heal their wounds.”
“There are 150 to 200 martyrs daily among the people. It’s a huge loss for our people,” he said.


Jordan’s King Abdullah says Gaza aid must be doubled to stem crisis

Jordan’s King Abdullah says Gaza aid must be doubled to stem crisis
Updated 27 February 2024
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Jordan’s King Abdullah says Gaza aid must be doubled to stem crisis

Jordan’s King Abdullah says Gaza aid must be doubled to stem crisis
  • Jordan is urging Western allies to lobby Israel to boost quantities of aid coming from the kingdom via Kerem Shalom on the border of Egypt, Israel and Gaza

AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah said on Tuesday that humanitarian aid to Gaza must be doubled to prevent a deterioration in a hunger crisis affecting over 2 million people.
The monarch was quoted by state media as telling visiting USAID chief Samantha Power that the international community had to put more pressure on Israel to ease restrictions on the flow of food into the territory.
Jordan is urging its Western allies to lobby Israel to boost the quantities of aid coming from the kingdom via Kerem Shalom on the border of Egypt, Israel and Gaza, beyond the existing Rafah crossing, officials say.
Israel has said it is not blocking aid and blames problems on the UN and Palestinian sides for any delays.
Separately, the king arrived at a military air base to oversee the departure of seven C-130 military transport aircraft, three from Jordan and the rest from Egypt, Qatar, France and the UAE, that will air drop food parcels along the Gaza coast for a second day.
Jordan, which the UN and Western donors have turned into a regional hub for humanitarian supplies to Gaza, for the first time on Monday, along with the French army, air dropped food via four flights to thousands of displaced people sheltering on the beach.
Previous air drops that parachuted in medicines and humanitarian provisions were sent to hospitals that the Jordanian army runs in Gaza.


UN says Israel ‘systematically’ blocking Gaza aid access

UN says Israel ‘systematically’ blocking Gaza aid access
Updated 27 February 2024
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UN says Israel ‘systematically’ blocking Gaza aid access

UN says Israel ‘systematically’ blocking Gaza aid access
  • It has become nearly impossible to carry out medical evacuations and aid deliveries in northern Gaza and increasingly difficult in the south
  • All planned aid convoys into the north have been denied by Israeli authorities in recent weeks

GENEVA: Israeli forces are “systematically” blocking access to people in need in Gaza, complicating the task of delivering aid in what has become a lawless war zone, the UN said Tuesday.
It has become nearly impossible to carry out medical evacuations and aid deliveries in northern Gaza and increasingly difficult in the south, said Jens Laerke, spokesman for the United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA.
All planned aid convoys into the north have been denied by Israeli authorities in recent weeks, with the last allowed in on January 23, according to the World Health Organization.
Making matters worse, even convoys cleared in advance with Israeli authorities have repeatedly been blocked or come under fire.
Laerke pointed to an incident last Sunday when a convoy, jointly organized by the WHO and the Palestinian Red Crescent (PCRS), to evacuate patients from the besieged Al Amal hospital in the southern city of Khan Yunis, was blocked for hours and paramedics detained.
“Despite prior coordination for all staff members and vehicles with the Israeli side, the Israeli forces blocked the WHO-led convoy for many hours the moment it left the hospital,” Laerke told journalists in Geneva.
“The Israeli military forced patients and staff out of ambulances and stripped all paramedics of their clothes,” he said, adding that the convoy, which was carrying 24 patients, remained blocked for seven hours.
“Three PRCS paramedics were subsequently detained, although their personal details had been shared with the Israeli forces in advance,” Laerke said, adding that just one had been released so far.
“This is not an isolated incident,” he stressed.
“Aid convoys have come under fire and are systematically denied access to people in need.”
Such “inadequate facilitation for the delivery of aid throughout Gaza means that humanitarian workers are subject to unacceptable and preventable risk of being detained, injured or worse,” Laerke said.
The Hamas attack that triggered the war resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
Militants also took about 250 Israeli and foreign hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza including 31 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s military campaign has killed at least 29,878 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-ruled territory’s health ministry.