Gazans say hunger is causing social breakdown, fueling fears of exodus into Egypt

Gazans say hunger is causing social breakdown, fueling fears of exodus into Egypt
A Palestinian woman bakes bread inside a damaged house in Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip on December 11, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 11 December 2023
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Gazans say hunger is causing social breakdown, fueling fears of exodus into Egypt

Gazans say hunger is causing social breakdown, fueling fears of exodus into Egypt
  • Narrow coastal strip has been under a full Israeli blockade since the start of the conflict more than two months ago
  • Over 2.3 million people driven from their homes and residents say it is impossible to find refuge and increasingly food

GAZA: Hamas said it was striking back against Israeli forces across Gaza on Monday and Palestinians and international relief agencies said public order was disintegrating as hunger spread, fueling fears of a mass exodus to Egypt.
The narrow coastal strip has been under a full Israeli blockade since the start of the conflict more than two months ago and the border with Egypt is the only other way out.
Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes and residents say it is impossible to find refuge, or increasingly food, in the densely populated enclave, with around 18,000 people already killed and conflict intensifying.
Gazans said people forced to flee repeatedly were dying of hunger and cold as well as bombardment, describing desperate attacks on aid trucks and sky high prices.
“Had any of us expected that our people may die of hunger, had it crossed anyone’s mind before?” said Rola Ghanim, among many expressing bewilderment on social media.
Aid trucks risked being stopped by desperate residents if they even slowed down at an intersection, Carl Skau, said deputy executive director of the UN World Food Programme.
“Half of the population are starving, nine out of 10 are not eating every day,” he told Reuters on Saturday.
One Palestinian told Reuters he had not eaten for three days and had to beg for bread for his children.
“I pretend to be strong but I am afraid I will collapse in front of them at any moment,” he said by telephone, declining to be named for fear of reprisals.
After the collapse of a week-long cease-fire on Dec. 1, Israel began a ground offensive in the south last week and has since pushed from the east into the heart of the city of Khan Younis, with warplanes attacking an area to the west.
On Monday, militants and some residents said fighters were preventing Israeli tanks moving further west through the city and clashing with Israeli forces in northern Gaza, where Israel had said its tasks were largely complete.
Israel said dozens of Hamas fighters had surrendered and urged others to join them. The armed wing of Hamas said it had fired rockets toward Tel Aviv, where Israelis fled to shelters.
UN officials say 1.9 million people — 85 percent of Gaza’s population — are displaced and describe the conditions in the southern areas where they have concentrated as hellish.
“I expect public order to completely break down soon and an even worse situation could unfold including epidemic diseases and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday.

ISRAEL DENIES SEEKING TO EMPTY GAZA
Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general of UNRWA, the UN body responsible for the welfare of Palestinian refugees, wrote on Saturday that pushing Gazans closer and closer to the border pointed to “attempts to move Palestinians into Egypt.”
The border with Egypt is heavily fortified, but Hamas militants blew holes in the wall in 2008 to break a tight blockade. Gazans crossed to buy food and other goods but quickly returned, with none permanently displaced.
Egypt has long warned it would not allow Gazans into its territory this time, fearing they would not be able to return.
Jordan, which absorbed the bulk of Palestinians after the creation of Israel in 1948, accused Israel on Sunday of seeking “to empty Gaza of its people.”
Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy called the accusation “outrageous and false,” saying his country was defending itself “from the monsters who perpetrated the Oct. 7 massacre” and bringing them to justice.
Hamas gunmen on Oct. 7 killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostage, according to Israeli tallies. About 100 hostages were freed during the truce, some with relatives left behind.
“I am petrified I will get bad news that he is no longer alive,” Sharon Alony-Cunio, released with her two little girls, told Reuters of her husband, who is still being held.
Israel has vowed to annihilate the militant Islamist group, which has ruled Gaza since 2007 and is sworn to Israel’s destruction.
Since Oct 7. at least 18,205 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and 49,645 wounded, according to the Gaza health ministry. The toll no longer includes northern Gaza and many people there and elsewhere remain trapped under rubble.
Israel says the instructions to move are among measures to protect the population. It accuses militants from Hamas, which controls Gaza, of using civilians as human shields and stealing humanitarian aid, which Hamas denies.
The Israeli military accused Hamas of hiding weapons in UNRWA facilities in Jabalia and distributed video purporting to show Hamas gunmen beating people and taking aid in the Gaza City district of Shejaia.
Israel has prevented most aid from moving into Gaza, saying it fears it will just fuel Hamas attacks.
Government spokesman Eylon Levy said Israel was working to open the Kerem Shalom crossing which processed most aid before the war and blamed international agencies for holdups at the crossing from Egypt, which is designed for pedestrians.
In the Israeli-occupied West Bank and neighboring Jordan, most shops and businesses closed in response to Palestinian calls for a strike but the impact on Israel was unclear.
The Gaza health ministry said 32 Palestinians were killed in Khan Younis overnight. The armed wing of Hamas said it had hit two Israeli tanks with rockets and fired mortars at Israeli forces.
Militants and residents said fighting was also fierce in Shejaia, east of the center of Gaza City, the northwestern Sheikh Radwan district and Jabalia further north.
In central Gaza, where Israel told people to move on Monday toward “known shelters in the Deir Al-Balah area” health officials said the Shuhada Al-Aqsa hospital had received 40 dead.
Medics also said an Israeli air strike had killed four in a house in Rafah, one of two places near Egypt where Israel says Palestinians should take refuge.


Prosthetic limbs center opens at UAE-funded field hospital in Gaza

Prosthetic limbs center opens at UAE-funded field hospital in Gaza
Updated 22 February 2024
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Prosthetic limbs center opens at UAE-funded field hospital in Gaza

Prosthetic limbs center opens at UAE-funded field hospital in Gaza
  • Staff at the center, which will make and fit high-grade, made-to-measure prosthetics, provide rehab services
  • Convoy of 11 trucks carrying 240 tonnes of aid from UAE enters Gaza

DUBAI: A center for prosthetic limbs opened on Wednesday at a UAE-funded field hospital in Gaza. It aims to make and fit high-grade, made-to-measure prosthetics, and offer rehabilitation services to patients.

It is part of the UAE’s Operation Gallant Knight 3 which was launched based on directives from President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan to provide help and support for the Palestinian people.

On its opening day, measurements were taken from 36 patients who require a prosthetic, the Emirates News Agency reported. It is expected that the total number of people helped by the center will exceed 100 in the next few days. Other departments in the field hospital have treated 5,423 other patients so far.

Meanwhile, a humanitarian convoy from the UAE entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt, also as part of Operation Gallant Knight 3. It consisted of 11 trucks delivering more than 240 tonnes of aid supplies, including winter clothing, tents, household necessities, food and medical supplies.

As of Tuesday, Emirati officials said more than 15,809 tonnes of humanitarian aid have been delivered to Palestinians as part of Gallant Knight 3 using two cargo ships, 165 flights and 476 trucks.

The UAE has also set up six desalination plants, with a daily production capacity of 1.2 million gallons of water, to aid the people of Gaza. In addition, five automatic bakery machines will be delivered to Gaza from the Egyptian city of Arish.


US senators say it is ‘urgent’ for Hezbollah-Israel war to de-escalate soon

US senators say it is ‘urgent’ for Hezbollah-Israel war to de-escalate soon
Updated 22 February 2024
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US senators say it is ‘urgent’ for Hezbollah-Israel war to de-escalate soon

US senators say it is ‘urgent’ for Hezbollah-Israel war to de-escalate soon
  • Senators Chris Coons and Richard Blumenthal met Lebanese officials on a tour of the region
  • “The next few weeks are a real hinge point — for Gaza, for Israel, for Lebanon, for the Red Sea, for Iraq,” said Coons

BEIRUT: The Israeli military and Hezbollah have a window to de-escalate tensions along Lebanon’s southern border before a possible Israeli military offensive against the Lebanese armed group, two Democratic US senators told Reuters on Wednesday.
Senators Chris Coons and Richard Blumenthal met Lebanese officials on a tour of the region, which has been gripped by conflict following Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which responded with a heavy air, land, and sea assault on Gaza.
In Lebanon, Israeli shelling has killed nearly 190 Hezbollah fighters and 50 civilians. A dozen Israeli troops and five Israeli civilians have been killed in northern Israel, and tens of thousands have been displaced on each side.
“The next few weeks are a real hinge point — for Gaza, for Israel, for Lebanon, for the Red Sea, for Iraq,” said Coons, adding that a ceasefire for Gaza could have “positive consequences” for Lebanon.
“It could create that window of 45 days, quite likely during Ramadan as well, when the next steps can be taken to begin to build the confidence that could lead to a full implementation of (United Nations Security Council resolution) 1701,” he said.
That 2006 resolution ended the last major conflict between Hezbollah and Israel and says no armed factions should be present in a swathe of south Lebanon except the Lebanese army.
France submitted a written proposal to Lebanon earlier this month on a possible diplomatic resolution. US envoy Amos Hochstein has also been working on a plan, which Coons said he hoped was “making steady progress” without sharing further details. He said there was an “urgency” for both sides to de-escalate.
The senators said they told Lebanese Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri, who heads the Hezbollah-allied Amal Movement, that Israel “is not bluffing” about an offensive.
“It’s not just rhetoric. It will act. And we hope that that message was conveyed to Hezbollah,” Blumenthal said.


Israeli mother of Hamas attack victim says UN worker took son’s body

Israeli mother of Hamas attack victim says UN worker took son’s body
Updated 21 February 2024
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Israeli mother of Hamas attack victim says UN worker took son’s body

Israeli mother of Hamas attack victim says UN worker took son’s body
  • Yonatan Samerano escaped the militants’ bloody attack on the Nova music festival in the Negev desert, but was killed at nearby kibbutz Beeri
  • The Israeli government has said a man seen on a video dragging Samerano’s body into a white jeep was a social worker for the UNRWA

TEL AVIV: The mother of a 21-year-old man killed in Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel on Wednesday accused a United Nations worker of taking his body to Gaza.
Yonatan Samerano escaped the militants’ bloody attack on the Nova music festival in the Negev desert, but was killed at nearby kibbutz Beeri.
The Israeli government has said a man seen on a video dragging Samerano’s body into a white jeep was a social worker for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).
Israel last month accused a number of UNRWA workers of taking part in the Hamas attack, prompting several countries to suspend funding to the agency and triggering two separate investigations.
At a news conference in Tel Aviv, Samerano’s mother Ayelet called for the return of her son’s body.
“How can social workers for an organization that claims to promote good in this world do something so cruel and inhuman?” she asked.
“How can the UN pay this man who dragged my son’s slim body on the ground and then picked him as if he was a prize to Gaza?“
Israel last week gave more details about the UNRWA staff members that it alleges were involved in the Hamas attack.
The man said to be in the video — identified as 45-year-old Faisal Ali Mussalem Al-Naami — was described as a social worker for UNRWA but was allegedly also a Hamas commando.
He “was involved in kidnapping a soldier from Beeri (and) coordinated the transfer of weapons and trucks,” the government said.
Others accused of involvement were said to be teachers or other staff members in UNRWA-run schools and health clinics.
Shelly Aviv Yeini, head of the legal team at the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, said the campaign group wanted “a comprehensive and transparent” probe into the claims.
“We seek assurances that the principle of neutrality, so vital to the UN’s mission, is not just upheld, but is actively protected,” she added.
UNRWA provides education and primary health care to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, employing some 30,000 people.
Israel’s initial allegations against UNRWA saw the agency sack all those accused of involvement in the attack, in a bid to protect its wider reputation.
Two separate investigations — one into the collaboration claims, the second about UNRWA’s wider political neutrality — are underway and due to report within weeks.
But since then, Israel has claimed Hamas tunnels were found directly under UNRWA’s Gaza City headquarters, which it was forced to abandon as bombardments intensified in the Palestinian territory.


Hunger grips Gaza as talks resume in Cairo

Hunger grips Gaza as talks resume in Cairo
Updated 21 February 2024
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Hunger grips Gaza as talks resume in Cairo

Hunger grips Gaza as talks resume in Cairo

GAZA STRIP: Heavy fighting rocked besieged Gaza on Wednesday as aid agencies warned of looming famine and new talks were held in Cairo toward an Israel-Hamas ceasefire and hostage release deal.

The White House sent Middle East envoy Brett McGurk for renewed talks involving mediators and Hamas, a day after a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire was blocked by the US.

The UN World Food Programme said it was forced to halt aid deliveries in north Gaza because of “complete chaos and violence” after a truck convoy encountered gunfire and was ransacked by looters. Hamas called the move a “death sentence.”

Colombian President Gustavo Petro accused Israel of “genocide” after Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had compared the Gaza campaign to the Holocaust.

In Syria, state television said an Israeli missile strike killed at least two people in Damascus, a claim Israel refused to comment on.

Violence has also flared in the occupied West Bank where the Israeli army said its troops killed three Palestinian militants during an overnight raid in the northern city of Jenin.


UK and Jordan air drop aid to hospital in northern Gaza

UK and Jordan air drop aid to hospital in northern Gaza
Updated 21 February 2024
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UK and Jordan air drop aid to hospital in northern Gaza

UK and Jordan air drop aid to hospital in northern Gaza
  • The UK-funded aid was delivered by the Jordanian Air Force

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.”