Israeli tanks advance deeper into Gaza districts, 12 weeks into war

Update Israeli tanks advance deeper into Gaza districts, 12 weeks into war
Israel says it is determined to pursue its unprecedented air and ground offensive until it has dismantled Hamas, a goal viewed by some as unattainable because of the militant group’s deep roots in Palestinian society. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 30 December 2023
Follow

Israeli tanks advance deeper into Gaza districts, 12 weeks into war

Israeli tanks advance deeper into Gaza districts, 12 weeks into war
  • Saturday’s bombardment came hours after Biden administration approved weapons sale to Israel
  • Aid officials say conditions in Gaza worse week after UNSC call for unhindered aid deliveries

DEIR AL-BALAH: Israeli warplanes struck two urban refugee camps in central Gaza on Saturday, as the Biden administration approved a new emergency weapons sale to Israel despite persistent international cease-fire calls over mounting civilian deaths, hunger and mass displacement in the enclave.

Israel says it is determined to pursue its unprecedented air and ground offensive until it has dismantled Hamas, a goal viewed by some as unattainable because of the militant group’s deep roots in Palestinian society. The United States has shielded Israel diplomatically and has continued to supply weapons.

Israel argues that ending the war now would mean victory for Hamas, a stance shared by the Biden administration which at the same time urged Israel to do more to avoid harm to Palestinian civilians.

The war, triggered by the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, has displaced some 85 percent of the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million residents, sending swells of people seeking shelter in Israeli-designated safe areas that the military has nevertheless also bombed. That has left Palestinians with a harrowing sense that nowhere is safe in the tiny enclave.
Residents in the urban refugee camps of Nuseirat and Bureij, two recent hot spots of combat, reported Israeli airstrikes overnight and into Saturday.
Nuseirat resident Mustafa Abu Wawee said a strike hit the home of one of his relatives, killing two people.
“The (Israeli) occupation is doing everything to force people to leave,” he said over the phone while searching along with others for four people missing under the rubble. “They want to break our spirit and will but they will fail. We are here to stay.”
A second strike late Friday in Nuseirat targeted the home of a journalist for Al-Quds TV, a channel linked to the group Islamic Jihad whose militants also participated in the Oct. 7 attack. The channel said the journalist, Jaber Abu Hadros and six members of his family were killed.
Bureij resident Rami Abu Mosab said sounds of gunfire echoed across the camp overnight, followed by heavy airstrikes Saturday.
With Israeli forces pushing deeper into Khan Younis and the camps of central Gaza, tens of thousands of Palestinians streamed into the already crowded city of Rafah at the southernmost end of Gaza in recent days.
Drone footage showed a vast camp of thousands of tents and makeshift shacks set up on what had been empty land on Rafah’s western outskirts next to UN warehouses. People arrived in Rafah in trucks, in carts and on foot. Those who did not find space in the already overwhelmed shelters put up tents on roadsides slick with mud from winter rains.
The State Department said Friday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress he approved a $147.5 million sale for equipment, including fuses, charges and primers, that is needed for 155 mm shells Israel bought previously.
It marked the second time this month that the Biden administration is bypassing Congress to approve an emergency weapons sale to Israel.
The department cited the “urgency of Israel’s defensive needs” as a reason for the approval, and argued that “it is vital to US national interests to ensure Israel is able to defend itself against the threats it faces.”
The emergency determination means the purchase will bypass the congressional review requirement for foreign military sales. Such determinations are rare, but not unprecedented, when administrations see an urgent need for weapons to be delivered without waiting for lawmakers’ approval.
Blinken made a similar decision on Dec. 9 to approve the sale to Israel of nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition worth more than $106 million.
Both moves have come as President Joe Biden’s request for a nearly $106 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other national security needs remains stalled in Congress, caught up in a debate over US immigration policy and border security. Some Democratic lawmakers have spoken of making the proposed $14.3 billion in American assistance to its Mideast ally contingent on concrete steps by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza during the war with Hamas.
More than a week after a UN Security Council resolution called for the unhindered delivery of aid at scale across besieged Gaza, conditions have only worsened, UN agencies warned.
Aid officials said the aid entering Gaza remains woefully inadequate. Distributing goods is hampered by long delays at two border crossings, ongoing fighting, Israeli airstrikes, repeated cuts in Internet and phone services and a breakdown of law and order that makes it difficult to secure aid convoys, they said.
Nearly the entire population is fully dependent on outside humanitarian aid, said Philippe Lazzarini, head of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. A quarter of the population is starving because too few trucks enter with food, medicine, fuel and other supplies — sometimes fewer than 100 trucks a day, according to UN daily reports.
UN monitors said operations at the Israeli-run Kerem Shalom crossing halted for four days this week because of security incidents, such as a drone strike and the seizing of aid by desperate Gaza residents.
They said the crossing reopened Friday, and that a total of 81 aid trucks entered Gaza through Kerem Shalom and the Rafah crossing on the Egyptian border — a fraction of the typical prewar volume of 500 trucks a day.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization warned that the spread of disease is accelerating, particularly in southern Gaza, where hundreds of thousands have crammed into an ever-shrinking area to flee airstrikes and advancing Israeli ground forces. The agency reported more cases of upper respiratory infections, diarrhea, lice, scabies, chickenpox, skin rashes and meningitis.
100 Palestinians killed and 158 wounded in Israeli strikes in central Gaza during the past 24 hours, a senior health official said.
The war has already killed over 21,500 Palestinians, most of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. Its count does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. Israel holds Hamas responsible for civilian deaths and injuries, saying the militants embed themselves within civilian infrastructure.
Israeli officials, meanwhile, have vowed to bring back more than 100 hostages still held by the militants after their Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that triggered the war. The assault killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians.
The military says 168 of its soldiers have been killed since the ground offensive began.


Hezbollah’s attack on Israeli military command center injures 14

Hezbollah’s attack on Israeli military command center injures 14
Updated 22 min 57 sec ago
Follow

Hezbollah’s attack on Israeli military command center injures 14

Hezbollah’s attack on Israeli military command center injures 14
  • Iran-backed group takes confrontations to new level, directly targets soldiers
  • Hezbollah said operation was a ‘response to the killing of several resistance fighters in Ain Baal and Shehabiya in southern Lebanon’

BEIRUT: The Iran-backed Hezbollah launched on Wednesday “a combined attack with guided missiles and explosive drones on a military reconnaissance command center in Arab Al-Aramshe,” as it targeted the Israeli army south of the border with Lebanon.

The group claimed responsibility for the operation, saying that “it is in response to the killing of several resistance fighters in Ain Baal and Shehabiya in southern Lebanon.”

Israeli media outlets announced that “a kamikaze drone struck an Israeli army gathering in Arab Al-Aramshe, western Galilee, resulting in six casualties, at least.”

They added: “An Israeli army helicopter was hit while rescuing the injured in Arab Al-Aramshe.”

The Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya said that it had received 14 injured people.

Hezbollah has adopted new tactics of late. According to a security source, these “were seen last week, when it (Hezbollah) detonated explosive devices targeting Israeli soldiers on the border, injuring four Golani Brigade members.”

The source added that Hezbollah “has taken the confrontations to another level by directly targeting Israeli soldiers.”

Israeli forces launched immediate retaliation by bombing and targeting phosphorus bombs on the border area.

This region included the outskirts of Rachaya Al-Fekhar, Fardis, Al-Habbariyeh, Alma Al-Shaab, Dhahira, Marwahin, and Yarin, as well as the city of Nabatieh, where a house belonging to the Sayyed family was destroyed.

No casualties were reported in the incidents, but the border region has witnessed the Israeli military’s dramatic targeting and killing of two key figures.

Hezbollah is mourning the death of Ismail Youssef Baz, a senior commander of the organization, while the Amal Movement — an ally of Hezbollah — has been coming to terms with the death of Hussein Qasim Karsht.

Israeli media reported that Baz, who was killed in his car following a drone attack, was “the commander of Hezbollah’s coastal sector.”

It added: “He was working on promoting and planning the launching of rockets and anti-tank missiles toward Israel from the Lebanese coastline. During this ongoing war, he organized and planned to carry out various plans against Israel.”

The children in Israel’s prisons
Ongoing hostage-for-prisoners exchange opens the world’s eyes to arrests, interrogations, and even abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities
Enter
keywords

Israel accused of stepping up work on illegal settlements since start of Gaza war

Israel accused of stepping up work on illegal settlements since start of Gaza war
Updated 17 April 2024
Follow

Israel accused of stepping up work on illegal settlements since start of Gaza war

Israel accused of stepping up work on illegal settlements since start of Gaza war
  • Building plans in East Jerusalem being fast-tracked at ‘unprecedented speed,’ rights organization says

LONDON: Israel’s government has stepped up the building of settlements across East Jerusalem, with over 20 projects involving thousands of housing units advanced since it launched its war on Gaza six months ago, according to planning documents seen by the Guardian.
While many government bodies were shuttered or had limited operation following Oct. 7, planning authorities continued to advance plans at “unprecedented speed,” Sari Kronish, from the Israeli rights organization Bimkom — Planners for Planning Rights, told the Guardian.
“The fast-tracking of these plans has been unparalleled in the last six months,” Kronish added
Significantly, two new settlements were approved in East Jerusalem, the first such approvals in over a decade. One development involves the expansion of Kidmat Zion, a high-security settlement in the Palestinian neighborhood of Ras Al-Amud, which was decided on two days after the Oct. 7 attacks.
In the Palestinian community of Beit Safafa, encircled by these developments, work has also resumed on the Givat Hamatos and new Givat Shaked projects.
Givat Hamatos was shut down for a decade after international opposition. Work resumed in 2020, and last month the site was bustling with workers, heavy machinery, and trucks.
Givat Shaked, which received full planning permission on Jan. 4, will be built on the northwestern side of Beit Safafa.
It entails high-rise buildings with 700 housing units on the only land in Beit Safafa where the 17,000-strong Muslim majority could expand to accommodate young people. Palestinians are unable to build larger homes in the neighborhood, as well as elsewhere, due to bureaucratic and other restrictions.
The Givat Shaked project has faced significant opposition due to potential threats to the Oslo peace accords, leading to international criticism and a temporary halt urged by the US.
Despite this, the project gained momentum two years ago, endorsed by then Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.
He rejected any claims of Palestinian control over Jerusalem’s east, and said it was “unthinkable to prevent development and construction in this area, or anywhere else in the city.”
“Our family has been here for 250 years … Now I have a black hole in my heart because I can’t see how my children and grandchildren can spend their lives here,” Ahmed Salman, the chair of Beit Safafa’s community council, told the Guardian.
“We had good relations with the municipality once, but not in recent years. Since the war, life goes on, but they approved the plan and dismissed all our objections. We are appealing, but I’m not optimistic,” the 71-year-old said.
Another contentious project, the Lower Aqueduct, was fully approved on Dec. 29. This settlement is planned adjacent to a Palestinian neighborhood, further complicating the demographic and political landscape.
“Many of the settlement plans are strategically designated for areas along the southern perimeter of East Jerusalem,” Amy Cohen, of Israeli human rights NGO Ir Amim, said.
Cohen added: “If constructed, they would further fracture the Palestinian space … and create a ‘sealing-off’ effect of East Jerusalem from Bethlehem and the southern West Bank.
“Such moves directly undermine conditions necessary for a viable independent Palestinian state with a contiguous capital in East Jerusalem. All this while bringing planning and building for Palestinians in the city to a complete stop.”
The surge in settlement activity aligns with the goals of the Israeli settler movement, supported by Israel’s current government, which is described by a UN report as the most right-wing in the nation’s history.
Palestinians account for roughly 40 percent of Jerusalem’s population of around 1 million. Successive Israeli governments have sought to maintain the city’s Jewish majority.
Israel captured East Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move that was not recognized by the majority of the international community. International law prohibits the permanent settlement of militarily occupied territory.
This expansion challenges the possibility of a Palestinian state and strains Israel’s relations with the international community, including the Biden administration.

The children in Israel’s prisons
Ongoing hostage-for-prisoners exchange opens the world’s eyes to arrests, interrogations, and even abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities
Enter
keywords

El-Sisi hosts Russian spy chief in Cairo

El-Sisi hosts Russian spy chief in Cairo
Updated 17 April 2024
Follow

El-Sisi hosts Russian spy chief in Cairo

El-Sisi hosts Russian spy chief in Cairo
  • Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi met with Russia’s spy chief Sergei Naryshkin, and his accompanying delegation, in Cairo
  • Talks focused on the situation in the Middle East and ways to achieve regional stability amid the crisis in the Gaza Strip and escalating regional tensions

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi hosted Russian spy chief Sergei Naryshkin and his accompanying delegation in Cairo.

The meeting was attended by the director of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service, Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel.

Talks focused on the situation in the Middle East and ways to achieve regional stability amid the crisis in the Gaza Strip and escalating regional tensions.

Ahmed Fahmy, presidential spokesman, said that El-Sisi and Naryshkin also discussed a number of African issues, counterterrorism efforts and the latest developments in the international arena, especially in Ukraine and Afghanistan.

They reviewed Egypt’s efforts to quell regional tensions. El-Sisi highlighted Egypt’s vision regarding the urgent need for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the unimpeded flow of humanitarian aid into the enclave. The Egyptian leader called for fundamental steps to defuse regional tensions.

Egypt also supports a just and comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian issue, and the establishment of the Palestinian state, along the June 4, 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, El-Sisi said.

The two sides reiterated their commitment to coordination based on longstanding historical ties.

On April 11, El-Sisi spoke to Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer via telephone.

The Egyptian leader highlighted the importance of the international community preventing military escalation in Gaza and a humanitarian catastrophe.

He warned of the “extreme danger” of regional escalation, which “threatens the security and stability” of the Middle East.

The children in Israel’s prisons
Ongoing hostage-for-prisoners exchange opens the world’s eyes to arrests, interrogations, and even abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities
Enter
keywords

US destroys two Houthi Red Sea drones

US destroys two Houthi Red Sea drones
Updated 17 April 2024
Follow

US destroys two Houthi Red Sea drones

US destroys two Houthi Red Sea drones
  • Houthis fired two drones at US Navy and commercial ships in the Red Sea, but they were intercepted by US Navy forces before reaching their objectives
  • Houthis said that the US and UK launched two airstrikes on Bajil District in the western province of Hodeidah

AL-MUKALLA: The US Central Command said its forces destroyed on Tuesday two drones fired by Yemen’s Houthi militia, the latest round of skirmishes between the US-led marine coalition and the Houthis in the Red Sea.

On Tuesday morning, the Houthis fired two drones at US Navy and commercial ships in the Red Sea, but they were intercepted by US Navy forces before reaching their objectives. “There were no injuries or damage reported by U.S., coalition, or commercial ships. It was determined the UAVs presented an imminent threat to U.S., coalition, and merchant vessels in the region,” CENTCOM said in a statement on X on Wednesday morning.

The Houthis said that the US and UK launched two airstrikes on Bajil District in the western province of Hodeidah on Tuesday but provided no information about the targeted locations or if they caused any human or property damage.

Since November, the Houthis have launched hundreds of ballistic missiles and drones at commercial and navy ships in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab Strait, and Gulf of Aden, claiming to be acting in sympathy with Palestinians. In response to the Houthi attacks, the US formed a coalition of marine forces to defend the Red Sea and launched hundreds of airstrikes on Houthi targets in Sanaa, Saada, and other Yemeni areas under Houthi control.

The children in Israel’s prisons
Ongoing hostage-for-prisoners exchange opens the world’s eyes to arrests, interrogations, and even abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities
Enter
keywords

Qatar re-evaluating its role as mediator in Gaza ceasefire talks

Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Doha on April 17, 2024. (AFP)
Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Doha on April 17, 2024. (AFP)
Updated 28 min 28 sec ago
Follow

Qatar re-evaluating its role as mediator in Gaza ceasefire talks

Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Doha on April 17, 2024. (AFP)
  • Sheikh Mohammed underscored on Wednesday that the role of mediator has limits: “(Mediators) cannot provide things that the parties themselves refrain from (offering)”
  • Qatari PM said talks on Gaza ceasefire and a release of hostages were at a “delicate phase”

DOHA: Qatar is re-evaluating its role as mediator in ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas, citing concerns that its efforts are being undermined by politicians seeking to score points, its prime minister said on Wednesday.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who is also foreign minister, said there was a “misuse of this mediation for narrow political interests, and this necessitated Qatar to undertake a full evaluation of this role.”
Sheikh Mohammed did not identify any politicians by name.
Qatar’s embassy in Washington on Tuesday criticized comments made by US Democratic congressman Steny Hoyer, in which he called on the US to “reevaluate” its relationship with Qatar.
Hoyer said on Monday that Qatar must threaten Hamas with “repercussions” if the militant Palestinian group “continues to block progress toward releasing the hostages and establishing a temporary ceasefire.”
Some other US lawmakers have suggested in recent months that Qatar supports Hamas, an accusation rejected by the Gulf state, which hosts some 10,000 US troops, the largest US military presence in the Middle East.
Sheikh Mohammed underscored on Wednesday that the role of mediator has limits: “(Mediators) cannot provide things that the parties themselves refrain from (offering).”
Earlier on Wednesday Sheikh Mohammed said the talks on a Gaza ceasefire and a release of hostages were at a “delicate phase.”
“We are trying as much as possible to address this stumbling block,” he added, without giving further details.
Qatar’s premier also condemned what he described as a policy of “collective punishment” being pursued by Israel in its war in Gaza against Hamas as well as the latest escalation of violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The ceasefire discussions, mediated by Qatar and Egypt, are being held against the backdrop of a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, where Palestinians are suffering severe shortages of food, medicine and other essentials.
The war was triggered when Hamas attacked southern Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages into the enclave, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel has retaliated by pounding Gaza in an air and ground offensive which has killed almost 34,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities. 

The children in Israel’s prisons
Ongoing hostage-for-prisoners exchange opens the world’s eyes to arrests, interrogations, and even abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities
Enter
keywords