Gaza deaths soar as Israel says war to last ‘many more months’

Gaza deaths soar as Israel says war to last ‘many more months’
A displaced Palestinian man and child are pictured in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Dec. 27, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 28 December 2023
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Gaza deaths soar as Israel says war to last ‘many more months’

Gaza deaths soar as Israel says war to last ‘many more months’
  • A strike hit a house near Al-Amal hospital in Khan Yunis, killing 22 people and wounding 34, the Gaza health ministry said
  • Heavy firefights also raged again around Gaza City in the north, while an air strike wounded 11 people near Rafah

GAZA STRIP: The Hamas-run Gaza Strip’s health ministry said Wednesday the death toll from the war with Israel now tops 21,000, with a spokesman reporting 195 deaths over 24 hours.
Israel again pounded Gaza with air strikes and shelling after its military chief warned the war raging with Hamas since the Palestinian group’s October 7 attacks will last “many more months.”
Explosions lit up the sky over the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis — a focus of heavy urban combat since the Israeli army said it had largely gained control over Gaza’s north.
A strike hit a house near Al-Amal hospital in Khan Yunis, killing 22 people and wounding 34, the Gaza health ministry said.
Heavy firefights also raged again around Gaza City in the north, while an air strike wounded 11 people near Rafah, a far-southern city crowded with internally displaced people, witnesses said.
Gaza’s spiralling humanitarian crisis has amplified calls for an end to the hostilities.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to keep up the campaign to destroy Hamas, a group blacklisted as a “terrorist” organization by the United States and the European Union.
“This war’s objectives are essential and not simple to achieve,” armed forces chief Herzi Halevi said Tuesday. “Therefore, the war will continue for many more months.”
The conflict erupted when Hamas gunmen attacked southern Israel, resulting in the deaths of about 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
Palestinian militants also took around 250 hostages, 129 of whom remain in captivity, Israel says.
Israel retaliated with a relentless bombardment and a siege of Gaza followed by a ground invasion from October 27.
The campaign has killed at least 21,110 people, according to the latest toll issued by Gaza’s health ministry, about two thirds of them women and children.
Israel’s army blames Hamas and its allied armed groups for the high civilian death toll, charging that fighters hide in schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure, or in tunnels below them.
The army said the number of Israeli soldiers killed inside Gaza had risen to 164.
Israel on Tuesday returned the bodies of 80 Palestinians killed in Gaza, after checking there were no hostages among them, via the Red Cross, sources in the health ministry said.
An AFP photographer witnessed a digger lowering the human remains in blue body bags into a mass grave in Rafah.
Gaza’s 2.4 million people have suffered severe shortages of water, food, fuel and medicines, with only limited aid entering the territory.
An estimated 1.9 million Gazans have been displaced, the UN says.
AFPTV footage showed Palestinians who had been sheltering in a UN-run school in central Gaza’s Nuseirat refugee camp fleeing south, seeking safety from the bombardment.
Displaced Gazans “don’t know where to go,” said one of them, declining to be named. “First, we’re displaced to Nuseirat, then to Rafah.”
Even schools “are no longer safe” in Gaza, said the man.
“A solution must be reached... Implement a ceasefire instead of bringing in aid.”
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, in an interview on Egyptian television, charged that the Gaza war “goes beyond a catastrophe and a genocide.”
“Netanyahu’s plan is to get rid of the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority,” said Abbas, who is based in the occupied West Bank.
The UN Security Council, in a resolution last week, called for the “safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale.”
The resolution, which did not call for an immediate end to the fighting, effectively leaves Israel with operational oversight of aid deliveries.
In Rafah, hundreds turned up at the Abdul Salam Yassin water company carrying baskets, pulling handcarts and even pushing a wheelchair stacked with bottles to queue for clean water.
“This was my father’s cart,” said Rafah resident Amir Al-Zahhar. “He was martyred during the war. He used it to transport and sell fish, and now we are using it to transport fresh water.”
Elsewhere in Rafah, people split logs and stacked kindling as the lack of fuel forced them to burn wood for cooking and to keep warm.
Internet and telephone services that were cut on Tuesday were gradually being restored in central and southern areas of Gaza, the Palestinian telecommunications company Paltel said on X, formerly Twitter.
Violence has also flared across the West Bank, with more than 310 Palestinians killed by Israeli troops or settlers since October 7, the health ministry there said.
An Israeli operation in a refugee camp in the northern West Bank killed six people early Wednesday, it said, with the army saying it had struck the Nur Shams camp from the air.
The war has reverberated across the Middle East, drawing in armed groups backed by Israel’s arch foe Iran in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
An Israeli air strike on a Lebanon border town killed a Hezbollah fighter, the group said Wednesday, with state media reporting two of his relatives were also killed.
Hezbollah later Wednesday said it launched a barrage of 30 rockets toward northern Israel “in response to the enemy’s repeated crimes.”
In Syria, an Israeli strike Monday killed Iranian general Razi Moussavi, a senior commander in the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Iran has vowed to avenge the death of Moussavi, whose body was due to be repatriated for burial after memorial prayers at the Shiite holy sites in Iraq on Wednesday.
Yemen’s Houthis have repeatedly fired at Israel and at passing cargo ships in the Red Sea in attacks in solidarity with Hamas.
US military forces shot down more than a dozen Houthi attack drones and several missiles, the Pentagon said, reporting no casualties or damage.
Israel’s military said Tuesday a fighter jet over the Red Sea had intercepted “a hostile aerial target that was on its way to Israeli territory.”


Arab League chief urges wider recognition of Palestinian state

Arab League chief urges wider recognition of Palestinian state
Updated 7 sec ago
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Arab League chief urges wider recognition of Palestinian state

Arab League chief urges wider recognition of Palestinian state
  • Ahmed Aboul Gheit issued the warning while taking part in a series of Arab League meetings with European foreign ministers
  • The meetings in Brussels on Sunday and Monday discussed practical political solutions to end the fighting

CAIRO: The Arab League secretary-general said in Brussels that Israel’s aggression in the Gaza Strip could undermine any chance for peace and extinguish hopes of achieving a two-state solution, posing significant risks not only for the Middle East but also for international security.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit issued the warning while taking part in a series of Arab League meetings with European foreign ministers and other officials on the Palestinian-Israeli situation in light of the conflict in Gaza.
Hossam Zaki, Abdul Gheit’s assistant, said that the meetings in Brussels on Sunday and Monday discussed practical political solutions to end the fighting and subsequent steps to ensure peace.
During his discussions with European ministers, Aboul Gheit highlighted the need for more European countries to recognize an independent Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
This would signal to Palestinian people that their right to independence is respected by Western countries, along with other nations in the world, he said.
Aboul-Gheit thanked the foreign ministers of Ireland, Norway, and Spain for their decision to recognize an independent Palestinian state.
Zaki said that the discussions revealed an increasing inclination toward addressing the situation collectively by convening an international conference to implement the two-state solution.
This approach is seen as the only way to save the region from prolonged and continuous violent conflict, he said.
Aboul Gheit, along with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, and Bahrain, urged European countries to move beyond merely discussing the feasibility of the two-state solution.
They advocated for clear and concrete steps to implement it on the ground, addressing the root causes of the conflict, Zaki said.


El-Sisi in Beijing to attend China-Arab cooperation forum

El-Sisi in Beijing to attend China-Arab cooperation forum
Updated 20 min 10 sec ago
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El-Sisi in Beijing to attend China-Arab cooperation forum

El-Sisi in Beijing to attend China-Arab cooperation forum
  • The visit coincides with the 10th anniversary of relations between Egypt and China
  • El-Sisi is also scheduled to meet the heads of several major Chinese companies

CAIRO: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi arrived in Beijing on Tuesday on a state visit to China and to attend the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum after an invitation from President Xi Jinping.
El-Sisi will hold talks with Xi and senior Chinese officials focusing on ways to forge closer relations and unlock broader prospects for cooperation in several fields.
The visit coincides with the 10th anniversary of relations between Egypt and China being raised to the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership.
Ahmed Fahmy, spokesman for Egypt’s presidency, said the talks will also focus on regional and international issues of common interest, primarily the war in Gaza and ways to restore stability in the region and achieve the aspirations of its peoples for peace, security, and development.
El-Sisi is also scheduled to meet the heads of several major Chinese companies.
The meetings are expected to explore opportunities to attract more investment to Egypt in light of the state’s orientation toward enhancing mechanisms for the localization of industry and technology transfer.
Egypt is eager to collaborate closely with the private sector and encourage foreign direct investment.
El-Sisi will attend a meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, to be held on May 30, with the participation of the Chinese president and a number of Arab leaders.
The forum will discuss various aspects of China-Arab relations and ways to further advance them.
Egypt’s government said the forum is a framework for dialogue and cooperation between Arab states and China. Its founding document was signed in September 2004 at the headquarters of the Arab League in Cairo following a visit by the Chinese president.


Mossad chief staged decade-long influence, intimidation campaign against ICC prosecutor

Mossad chief staged decade-long influence, intimidation campaign against ICC prosecutor
Updated 37 min 25 sec ago
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Mossad chief staged decade-long influence, intimidation campaign against ICC prosecutor

Mossad chief staged decade-long influence, intimidation campaign against ICC prosecutor
  • Yossi Cohen sought to steer court away from investigating Israeli crimes in Occupied Territories
  • ‘Despicable tactics’ used including ‘keen interest’ in prosecutor’s family, source tells The Guardian

LONDON: A former chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency staged a years-long campaign of intimidation against a former International Criminal Court prosecutor in an attempt to sway war crimes investigations, The Guardian reported on Tuesday.
Fatou Bensouda, the former ICC prosecutor, became a target of Yossi Cohen in the years leading up to her opening a formal investigation into alleged war crimes in the Occupied Territories.
Launched in 2021, the investigation ended with the seeking of an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by Bensouda’s successor Karim Khan.
Israel has long feared the results of the investigation, including the threat of prosecution against its military personnel, which was used as justification for Cohen’s decade-long campaign to undermine the court.
As Mossad director, Cohen, a close ally of Netanyahu at the time, was acting as the prime minister’s “unofficial messenger,” a source told The Guardian.
In total, four sources told the newspaper that Bensouda had briefed top ICC officials about Cohen’s campaign, which one official described as “stalking” and involving intimidation.
On several occasions, Cohen had “put pressure” on Bensouda to avoid opening the Palestine case at the ICC.
“You should help us and let us take care of you. You don’t want to be getting into things that could compromise your security or that of your family,” Cohen told her, according to the account of one ICC official to The Guardian.
As part of the targeted campaign against Bensouda, Cohen used “despicable tactics,” including taking a “keen interest” in her family, one source said.
Mossad obtained secret recording transcripts as well as photographs of Bensouda’s husband, which Cohen personally showed her.
His campaign was helped by the former president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, in an unlikely alliance that proved crucial to Cohen.
It is unclear why Kabila aided him, but his status as the leader of a country facing ICC investigation helped him set up a “chance” meeting between Bensouda and Cohen.
The ICC prosecutor and Cohen appear to have first met at the Munich Security Conference in 2017, two years after Bensouda opened a preliminary investigation into the Palestinian file.
A year later, Cohen “ambushed” her in a New York City hotel as she was due to meet Kabila to discuss the situation in his country, The Guardian reported. Cohen’s “surprise” appearance was said to have “alarmed” ICC officials at the time.
He had earlier made a series of trips to the DRC, relating to what was described by Israeli broadcaster Kan as an “extremely controversial plan.”
Following the New York meeting, Cohen repeatedly phoned Bensouda to request further talks in an attempt to “build a relationship” and “play good cop,” sources told The Guardian.
But the influence campaign failed when in 2019, Bensouda announced that she had grounds to open a full criminal investigation into war crimes allegations in the Occupied Territories.
She first requested a ruling from the pre-trial chamber of the ICC, confirming the court’s jurisdiction over Palestine.
At this stage, Cohen stepped up his campaign against Bensouda into “threats and manipulation,” fearing the results of an official investigation being launched.
Senior ICC officials had suspicions that Israel had cultivated sources within the court’s office of the prosecutor.
In 2021, the ICC’s pre-trial chamber confirmed that the court had jurisdiction over the Occupied Territories. A month later, Bensouda formally launched the criminal investigation.
She said at the time: “In the end, our central concern must be for the victims of crimes, both Palestinian and Israeli, arising from the long cycle of violence and insecurity that has caused deep suffering and despair on all sides.”
Her successor, Khan, has vowed to prosecute “attempts to impede, intimidate or improperly influence” ICC officials after a warrant for Netanyahu’s arrest was sought.
The recent results of the investigation first launched by Bensouda represent a heavy blow to Israel’s international standing, and mark a failure of Cohen’s decade-long campaign to influence the court.
“The fact they chose the head of Mossad to be the prime minister’s unofficial messenger to (Bensouda) was to intimidate, by definition,” one source told The Guardian.
In response to questioning by the newspaper, a spokesperson for the Israeli prime minister’s office said: “The questions forwarded to us are replete with many false and unfounded allegations meant to hurt the state of Israel.”
Khan’s move last week to seek arrest warrants against Netanyahu marked the first time the ICC has taken action against leaders of a country closely allied with the US and Europe.
Netanyahu’s alleged crimes pertain to the war in Gaza, and include directing attacks on civilians and using starvation as a method of warfare.


Lebanon deputy looks to push Syria on refugee return

Lebanon deputy looks to push Syria on refugee return
Updated 56 min 40 sec ago
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Lebanon deputy looks to push Syria on refugee return

Lebanon deputy looks to push Syria on refugee return
  • Lebanese deputy leader Saadeh Al-Shami will head the committee
  • Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that for the first time Lebanon has a “clear and specific action plan” on the Syrian refugee issue

BEIRUT: Lebanon has stepped up its push to have Syrian refugees returned to their homeland with the announcement of a Cabinet committee to negotiate directly with the Syrian government on the issue.
Lebanese deputy leader Saadeh Al-Shami will head the committee, which was set up during a Cabinet session on Tuesday with their aim of speeding up the repatriation process.
Speaking following a conference in Brussels on Monday on the future of Syria and the region, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that for the first time Lebanon has a “clear and specific action plan” on the Syrian refugee issue.
Mikati said that Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib, who represented Lebanon at the Brussels forum, had called for safe areas to be found in Syria so the return process could get underway as soon as possible.
Arab ministers from countries hosting Syrian refugees, including Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt, were urged to agree on a united plan to communicate with the Syrian government and “support early recovery in Syria.”
“During the conference, Lebanon emphasized the need for support and aid to encourage the Syrians to return to their country,” Mikati said.
In his speech, Bou Habib highlighted Lebanon’s continued cooperation, not confrontation, with international organizations affiliated with the UN.
International donors, led by the EU, pledged at the end of the conference to provide $5.4 billion to Syrians inside Syria and refugees in the region, in addition to more than $2.5 billion in soft loans to host countries.
Lebanon estimates there are at least 2 million Syrian refugees in the country, including those registered with UNHCR, workers, legal residents, and those who entered illegally.
Hostility toward Syrian refugees in Lebanon worsened after the abduction and murder of Pascal Suleiman, a local official in the Lebanese Forces Party.
Over the past two months, hate speech against Syrian refugees has escalated and work restrictions have been placed on them to hasten their return.
Lebanon is pushing ahead with plans to repatriate Syrians who entered the country illegally, and has organized voluntary return trips, but participation remains low, with only 225 people joining a convoy two weeks ago.
At the opening of the Brussels conference, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell rejected any discussion of refugees’ return to Syria.
“We consider that there is no safe, voluntary, and dignified return for refugees to Syria at present,” he said.
“Voluntary return must be voluntary; refugees should not be coerced. The situation in Syria today is more perilous than a year ago, humanitarian needs have never been greater, and efforts toward a political solution remain deadlocked.”
Meanwhile, Lebanese security forces are continuing to evict Syrian families living in illegal settlements across towns and villages in Mount Lebanon and the north as part of a crackdown.
On Tuesday, about 1,000 Syrians in Koubba in the Batroun region of northern Lebanon were evicted on orders from Ramzi Nohra, the North Lebanon governor.
Ahead of the Brussels conference, Amnesty International urged those attending to “ensure that any funds pledged to support Syrian refugees in Lebanon do not contribute to human rights violations, including forced deportation to Syria.”
The rights group quoted refugees in Lebanon saying they “live in fear, avoid leaving their homes, going to work, or sending their children to school.”
Dozens of municipalities have imposed curfews on Syrian refugees, and shuttered scores of small businesses and shops employing or run by Syrians nationwide.
Lebanon’s General Directorate of General Security has suspended procedures for granting or renewing residency permits through lease contracts, Lebanese sponsorship, or financial guarantees. It has also cautioned people against employing, hosting, or providing accommodation to undocumented Syrian refugees.


Jordanian minister receives American delegation in bid to boost foreign investment

Jordanian minister receives American delegation in bid to boost foreign investment
Updated 28 May 2024
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Jordanian minister receives American delegation in bid to boost foreign investment

Jordanian minister receives American delegation in bid to boost foreign investment
  • Saqqaf highlighted Jordan’s extensive network of trade agreements with numerous economic blocs

AMMAN: Jordan’s Minister of Investment Kholoud Saqqaf on Tuesday welcomed a high-level delegation of executive directors and representatives from prominent American companies, who are visiting Jordan to explore investment opportunities, Jordan News Agency reported.

During the meeting, Saqqaf highlighted Jordan’s extensive network of trade agreements with numerous economic blocs, which have enabled Jordanian exports to reach non-traditional markets and more than 1.5 billion consumers worldwide.

The visit of the US delegation, organized in coordination with the New York-based Business Council for International Understanding, will include meetings with various Jordanian ministries and public and private sector institutions.

The BCIU is a non-partisan organization comprising 200 major US companies, which works to expand international trade, provide essential services to facilitate global growth opportunities, and foster mutually beneficial relationships between business and government leaders worldwide.

Saqqaf emphasized the importance of strengthening economic and investment relations between Jordan and the US, noting that the free trade agreement between the two countries had significantly increased trade volume and encouraged new investments in Jordan.

She outlined key reforms undertaken by Jordan, including the approval of the investment environment law, the initiation of public-private partnership projects, and the launch of an investment promotion strategy targeting various countries, with a particular focus on the American market.

Saqqaf also highlighted improvements in Jordan’s national economy, citing satisfactory economic growth rates, low inflation compared with regional and global levels, and robust foreign currency reserves.

She pointed to Moody’s recent upgrade of Jordan’s credit rating from B1 to BA3, with a stable outlook, as further evidence of Jordan’s attractiveness as an investment destination.

Encouraging the American businesses to invest in Jordan, Saqqaf assured the delegation of the country’s supportive environment for their ventures. She highlighted various investment opportunities available through the Invest in Jordan platform (invest.jo) and reaffirmed Jordan’s openness to business and investment.

Representatives from the BCIU praised Jordan’s stable and secure environment, as well as the reforms aimed at improving the business landscape.

They expressed their commitment to promoting Jordan’s investment environment to their members and other American companies.