Israeli defense chief resists pressure to halt Gaza offensive, says campaign will ‘take time’

A picture taken in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 11, 2023, shows Israeli army soldiers keeping position on a hill overlooking northern Gaza, amid continuing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)
A picture taken in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 11, 2023, shows Israeli army soldiers keeping position on a hill overlooking northern Gaza, amid continuing battles between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 12 December 2023
Follow

Israeli defense chief resists pressure to halt Gaza offensive, says campaign will ‘take time’

Israeli defense chief resists pressure to halt Gaza offensive, says campaign will ‘take time’
  • Israel pledged to keep fighting until it removes Hamas from power and dismantles its military capabilities

TEL AVIV, Israel: Israel’s defense minister on Monday pushed back against international calls to wrap up the country’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip, saying the current phase of the operation against the Hamas militant group will “take time.”
Yoav Gallant, a member of Israel’s three-man war cabinet, remained unswayed by a growing chorus of criticism over the widespread damage and heavy civilian death toll caused by the two-month military campaign. The UN secretary-general and leading Arab states have called for an immediate cease-fire. The United States has urged Israel to reduce civilian casualties, though it has provided unwavering diplomatic and military support.
Israel launched the campaign after Hamas militants stormed across its southern border on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people and kidnapping about 240 others.
Two months of airstrikes, coupled with a fierce ground invasion, have resulted in the deaths of over 17,000 Palestinians, according to health officials in the Hamas-run territory. They do not give a breakdown between civilians and combatants but say that roughly two-thirds of the dead have been women and minors. Nearly 85 percent of the territory’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Gallant refused to commit to any firm deadlines, but he signaled that the current phase, characterized by heavy ground fighting backed up by air power, could stretch on for weeks and that further military activity could continue for months.
“We are going to defend ourselves. I am fighting for Israel’s future,” he said.
Gallant said the next phase would be lower-intensity fighting against “pockets of resistance” and would require Israeli troops to maintain their freedom of operation. “That’s a sign the next phase has begun,” he said.
Gallant spoke as Israeli forces battled militants in and around the southern city of Khan Younis, where the military opened a new line of attack last week. Battles were also still underway in parts of Gaza City and the urban Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza, where large areas have been reduced to rubble and many thousands of civilians are still trapped by the fighting.
Israel has pledged to keep fighting until it removes Hamas from power, dismantles its military capabilities and gets back all of the hostages. It says Hamas still has 117 hostages and the remains of 20 people who died in captivity or during the initial attack. More than 100 captives were freed last month during a weeklong truce.
Gallant keeps a framed picture on the desk of his spacious office with pictures of all the children taken hostage. All but two are marked with small hearts, signaling their release from captivity.
HEAVY FIGHTING
In central Gaza, an Israeli airstrike overnight flattened a residential building where some 80 people were staying in the Maghazi refugee camp, residents said.
Ahmed Al-Qarah, a neighbor who was digging through the rubble for survivors, said he knew of only six people who made it out. “The rest are under the building,” he said. At a nearby hospital, family members sobbed over the bodies of several of the dead from the strike.
In Khan Younis, Radwa Abu Frayeh saw heavy Israeli strikes overnight around the European Hospital, where the UN humanitarian office says tens of thousands of people have sought shelter. She said one strike hit a home close to hers late Sunday.
“The building shook,” she said. “We thought it was the end and we would die.”
Gallant blamed Hamas for the heavy civilian death toll, saying that the militant group maintains a network of tunnels underneath schools, streets and hospitals.
He claimed that Israel has inflicted heavy damage on Hamas, killing half of the group’s battalion commanders and destroying many tunnels, command centers and weapons facilities.
Israeli officials have said some 7,000 Hamas militants — roughly one-quarter of the group’s fighting force — have been killed throughout the war and that 500 militants have been detained in Gaza the past month. The claims could not be independently verified. Israel says 104 of its soldiers have been killed in the Gaza ground offensive.
The result, he said, is that in the northern Gaza Strip, Hamas has been reduced to “islands of resistance” acting on the whims of local commanders.
In southern Gaza, he said the situation is different. “They are still organized militarily,” he said.
Gallant also said Israel has recovered “hundreds of terabytes” of information about Hamas from computers its troops have seized.
Despite the reported battlefield setbacks, Hamas on Monday fired a barrage of rockets that set off sirens in Tel Aviv, where Gallant’s office and Israeli military headquarters are located.
One person was lightly wounded, according to the Magen David Adom rescue service. Israel’s Channel 12 television broadcast footage of a cratered road and damage to cars and buildings in a suburb.
HARROWING JOURNEY

The UN humanitarian office, known as OCHA, described a harrowing journey through the battle zone in northern Gaza by a UN and Red Crescent convoy over the weekend that made the first delivery of medical supplies to the north in more than a week. It said an ambulance and UN truck were hit by gunfire on the way to Al-Ahly Hospital to drop off the supplies.
The convoy then evacuated 19 patients but was delayed for inspections by Israeli forces on the way south. OCHA said one patient died, and a paramedic was detained for hours, interrogated and reportedly beaten.
The fighting in Jabaliya has trapped hundreds of staff, patients and displaced people inside hospitals, most of which are unable to function.
Two staff members were killed over the weekend by clashes outside Al-Awda Hospital, OCHA said. Shelling and live ammunition hit Al-Yemen Al-Saeed Hospital, killing an unknown number of displaced people sheltering inside, it said. It did not say which side was behind the fire.
HARSH CONDITIONS IN THE SOUTH
With Israel allowing little aid into Gaza and the UN largely unable to distribute it amid the fighting, Palestinians face severe shortages of food, water and other basic goods.
Israel said it will start conducting inspections of aid trucks Tuesday at its Kerem Shalom crossing, a step meant to increase the amount of relief entering Gaza. Currently, Israel’s Nitzana crossing is the only inspection point in operation. All trucks then enter from Egypt through the Rafah crossing. Aid workers, however, say they are largely unable to distribute aid beyond the Rafah area because of the fighting elsewhere.
Israel has urged people to flee to what it says are safe areas in the south. The fighting in and around Khan Younis has pushed tens of thousands toward the town of Rafah and other areas along the border with Egypt.
Still, airstrikes have continued even in areas to which Palestinians are told to flee.
A strike in Rafah early Monday heavily damaged a residential building, killing at least nine people, all but one of them women, according to Associated Press reporters who saw the bodies at the hospital.
The aid group Doctors Without Borders said people in the south are also falling ill as they pack into crowded shelters or sleep in tents in open areas.
Nicholas Papachrysostomou, the group’s emergency coordinator in Gaza, said “every other patient” at a clinic in Rafah has a respiratory infection after prolonged exposure to cold and rain. In shelters where hundreds share a single toilet, diarrhea is widespread, particularly among children, he said.


flydubai airline cancels flights to Iran: statement

flydubai airline cancels flights to Iran: statement
Updated 8 sec ago
Follow

flydubai airline cancels flights to Iran: statement

flydubai airline cancels flights to Iran: statement
  • Flight-tracking software shows commercial flights avoiding western Iran, including Isfahan, and skirting Tehran to the north and east
DUBAI: Dubai’s flydubai airline canceled flights to Iran on Friday after receiving an official alert, a statement said.
“In line with the issued NOTAM (notice to air missions), our flights to Iran today have been canceled,” said the statement sent to AFP.
One flight which had already departed for Tehran returned to Dubai after the Iranian capital’s airport was closed, it added.
Flights were suspended across swathes of Iran as Iranian state media reported explosions in the central province of Isfahan.
Flight-tracking software showed commercial flights avoiding western Iran, including Isfahan, and skirting Tehran to the north and east.
There was no immediate comment from Dubai’s state-owned Emirates airline, flydubai’s sister carrier, which was operating several of the planes.
Emirates and flydubai have experienced serious disruption this week after record rainfall caused more than 1,000 flight cancelations at Dubai airport, one of the world’s busiest air hubs.

Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes

Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes
Updated 3 min 49 sec ago
Follow

Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes

Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes
  • Drones shot down over Isfahan, says Iranian state media
  • Israel military refuses to comment on incident

DUBAI/WASHINGTON: Israeli missiles have hit a site in Iran, ABC News reported late on Thursday, citing a US official, while Iranian state media reported an explosion in the center of the country, days after Iran launched a retaliatory drone strike on Israel.

Commercial flights began diverting their routes early Friday morning over western Iran without explanation as one semiofficial news agency in the Islamic Republic claimed there had been “explosions” heard over the city of Isfahan.

Some Emirates and Flydubai flights that were flying over Iran early on Friday made sudden sharp turns away from the airspace, according to flight paths shown on tracking website Flightradar24.

“Flights over Isfahan, Shiraz and Tehran cities have been suspended,” state media reported.

Iranian officials said its air defenses did shot down several drones but there had been “no missile attack for now” on the country.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported that Iran fired air defense batteries early Friday morning across several provinces after reports of explosions near the city of Isfahan.

Several drones “have been successfully shot down by the country’s air defense, there are no reports of a missile attack for now,” Iran’s space agency spokesman Hossein Dalirian says on X.

The Fars news agency said “three explosions” were heard near the Shekari army airbase near Isfahan.

Iran’s local media also reported that nuclear facilities in Isfahan were “completely secure” after explosions were heard near the area.

“Nuclear facilities in Isfahan province are completely secure,” Tasnim news agency reports, quoting “reliable sources.”

Israel had said it would retaliate against Iran’s weekend attack, which involved hundreds of drones and missiles in retaliation for a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria. Most of the Iranian drones and missiles were downed before reaching Israeli territory.

Several Iranian nuclear sites are located in Isfahan province, including Natanz, centerpiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Isfahan, Isome 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Iran’s capital, Tehran, is also home to a major air base for the Iranian military.

Meanwhile in Iraq where a number of Iranian-backed militias are based, residents in Baghdad reported hearing sounds of explosions, but the source of the noise was not immediately clear.

In Syria, a local activist group said strikes hit an army position in the south of the country Friday. 

“There were strikes on a Syrian army radar position,” said Rayan Maarouf, who runs the Suwayda24 anti-government website that covers news from Sweida province in the south.

Iranian military positions in Syria had been frequently targetted by Israeli air strikes over the past years. Early this month, an Israeli strike demolished a consular building annex of the Iranian Embassy in Sydia's capital Damascus, killing 13 people, including two generals of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, triggering the Iranian missiles and drones attack on Israel on April 13.

At the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Iran urged member nations that Israel “must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our interests” as the UN secretary-general warned that the Middle East was in a “moment of maximum peril.”

Israel had said it was going to retaliate against Iran’s April 13 missile and drone attack.

Analysts and observers have been raising concerns about the risks of the Israel-Gaza war spreading into the rest of the region.

Oil prices and jumped on the reports of the Israeli strike. Brent crude futures rose 2 percent to $88.86 a barrel, the dollar gained broadly, gold rose 1 percent and S&P 500 futures dropped 1 percent.

Israel’s assault on Gaza began after Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel’s military offensive has killed over 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the local health ministry.
Iran-backed groups have declared support for Palestinians, launching attacks from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.


Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes

Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes
Updated 35 min 14 sec ago
Follow

Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes

Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes
  • Drones shot down over Isfahan: Iranian state television
  • Israel military refuses to comment on incident 

DUBAI/WASHINGTON: Israeli missiles have hit a site in Iran, ABC News reported late on Thursday, citing a US official, while Iranian state media reported an explosion in the center of the country, days after Iran launched a retaliatory drone strike on Israel.

Commercial flights began diverting their routes early Friday morning over western Iran without explanation as one semiofficial news agency in the Islamic Republic claimed there had been “explosions” heard over the city of Isfahan.

Some Emirates and Flydubai flights that were flying over Iran early on Friday made sudden sharp turns away from the airspace, according to flight paths shown on tracking website Flightradar24.

“Flights over Isfahan, Shiraz and Tehran cities have been suspended,” state media reported.

Iranian officials said its air defenses did shot down several drones but there had been “no missile attack for now” on the country.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported that Iran fired air defense batteries early Friday morning across several provinces after reports of explosions near the city of Isfahan.

Several drones “have been successfully shot down by the country’s air defense, there are no reports of a missile attack for now,” Iran’s space agency spokesman Hossein Dalirian says on X.

The Fars news agency said “three explosions” were heard near the Shekari army airbase near Isfahan.

Iran’s local media also reported that nuclear facilities in Isfahan were “completely secure” after explosions were heard near the area.

“Nuclear facilities in Isfahan province are completely secure,” Tasnim news agency reports, quoting “reliable sources.”

Israel had said it would retaliate against Iran’s weekend attack, which involved hundreds of drones and missiles in retaliation for a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria. Most of the Iranian drones and missiles were downed before reaching Israeli territory.

Several Iranian nuclear sites are located in Isfahan province, including Natanz, centerpiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Isfahan, Isome 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Iran’s capital, Tehran, is also home to a major air base for the Iranian military.


Meanwhile in Iraq where a number of Iranian-backed militias are based, residents in Baghdad reported hearing sounds of explosions, but the source of the noise was not immediately clear.

In Syria, a local activist group said strikes hit an army position in the south of the country Friday. 

“There were strikes on a Syrian army radar position,” said Rayan Maarouf, who runs the Suwayda24 anti-government website that covers news from Sweida province in the south.

Iranian military positions in Syria had been frequently targetted by Israeli air strikes over the past years. Early this month, an Israeli strike demolished a consular building annex of the Iranian Embassy in Sydia's capital Damascus, killing 13 people, including two generals of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, triggering the Iranian missiles and drones attack on Israel on April 13.

At the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Iran urged member nations that Israel “must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our interests” as the UN secretary-general warned that the Middle East was in a “moment of maximum peril.”

 

Israel had said it was going to retaliate against Iran’s April 13 missile and drone attack.

Analysts and observers have been raising concerns about the risks of the Israel-Gaza war spreading into the rest of the region.

Oil prices and jumped on the reports of the Israeli strike. Brent crude futures rose 2 percent to $88.86 a barrel, the dollar gained broadly, gold rose 1 percent and S&P 500 futures dropped 1 percent.

Israel’s assault on Gaza began after Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel’s military offensive has killed over 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the local health ministry.
Iran-backed groups have declared support for Palestinians, launching attacks from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.


Hamas slams US veto of Palestinian UN membership bid

Hamas slams US veto of Palestinian UN membership bid
Updated 19 April 2024
Follow

Hamas slams US veto of Palestinian UN membership bid

Hamas slams US veto of Palestinian UN membership bid

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: Palestinian militant group Hamas condemned on Friday the US veto that ended a long-shot Palestinian bid for full United Nations membership.
“Hamas condemns the American veto at the Security Council of the draft resolution granting Palestine full membership in the United Nations,” the Gaza Strip rulers said in a statement, which comes amid growing international concern over the toll inflicted by the war in the besieged Palestinian territory.
The veto by Israel’s main ally and military backer had been expected ahead of the vote, which took place more than six months into Israel’s offensive in Gaza, in retaliation for the deadly October 7 attack by Hamas militants.
Twelve countries voted in favor of the draft resolution, which was introduced by Algeria and “recommends to the General Assembly that the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations.” Britain and Switzerland abstained.


Gazans search for remains after deadly Rafah strike

Gazans search for remains after deadly Rafah strike
Updated 18 April 2024
Follow

Gazans search for remains after deadly Rafah strike

Gazans search for remains after deadly Rafah strike

An Israeli strike hit the home where a displaced Palestinian family was sheltering in the southern city of Rafah, relatives and neighbors told AFP as they scraped at the soil with their hands.

Al-Arja said the blast killed at least 10 people.

“We retrieved the remains of children and women, finding arms and feet. They were all torn to pieces.

“This is horrifying. It’s not normal,” he said, hauling concrete and broken olive branches from the wreckage. “The entire world is complicit.”

Soon after the war began on Oct. 7, Israel told Palestinians living in the north of Gaza to move to “safe zones” in the territory’s south, like Rafah.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since vowed to invade the city, where around 1.5 million people live in shelters, more than half the territory’s population.

“How is Rafah a safe place?” said Zeyad Ayyad, a relative of the victims. He sighed as he cradled a fragment of the remains.

“I heard the bombing last night and then went back to sleep. I did not think it hit my aunt’s house.”

The search for remains was long and painful. The strike left a huge crater and children picked through the rubble while neighbors removed debris, tarpaulin, a pink top.

“We can see them under the rubble and we’re unable to retrieve them,” Al-Arja said. 

“These are people who came from the north because it was said the south is safe.”

“They struck without any warning,” he said.

In a separate strike on the house in Rafah’s Al-Salam neighborhood overnight on Tuesday, rescue crews recovered the corpses of eight family members, including five children and two women, Gaza’s civil defense service said.

“An Israeli rocket hit a house of displaced people,” said resident Sami Nyrab. 

“My sister’s son-in-law, her daughter, and her children were having dinner when an Israeli missile demolished their house over their heads.”