Israel troops to ‘go into action’ soon at Lebanon border: minister

Israel troops to ‘go into action’ soon at Lebanon border: minister
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. (Reuters)
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Updated 30 January 2024
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Israel troops to ‘go into action’ soon at Lebanon border: minister

Israel troops to ‘go into action’ soon at Lebanon border: minister
  • Since the outbreak of war between Hamas and Israel on October 7, the Lebanese-Israeli border has seen near-daily exchanges of fire between the Israeli army and Hezbollah

JERUSALEM: Israeli troops will “very soon go into action” near the country’s northern border with Lebanon, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Monday, as tensions surge amid the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.
Gallant told troops near the border with the besieged Gaza Strip that others were being deployed to Israel’s north.
“They will very soon go into action... so the forces in the north are reinforced,” Gallant said.
He added that reservists would be gradually released “to prepare and come ready” for future operations.
Since the outbreak of war between Hamas and Israel on October 7, the Lebanese-Israeli border has seen near-daily exchanges of fire between the Israeli army and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, a Hamas ally.
Hezbollah claimed responsibility Monday for at least 12 attacks on Israeli army positions near the border, using Iranian-made Falaq-1 and Burkan missiles.
Later on Monday the Israeli army said it carried out air strikes on Hezbollah targets in Lebanon.
“The targets included Hezbollah’s infrastructure and an observation post located in the southern Lebanese areas of Markaba, Taybeh, and Maroun Al-Ras,” the army said in a statement.
The army also confirmed several projectiles had been launched from Lebanon and said forces “responded by targeting the launch sites and other locations in Lebanon.”
Israel’s army chief Herzi Halevi said earlier this month that the likelihood of war on the northern border has become “much higher.”
“I don’t know when the war in the north is, I can tell you that the likelihood of it happening in the coming months is much higher than it was in the past,” Halevi said.
More than 200 people, most of them Hezbollah members, have been killed in south Lebanon by Israeli fire since October 7, according to an AFP tally.
On the Israeli side of the border, nine soldiers and six civilians have been killed, according to Israeli officials.
Gallant said Monday that Gaza militants were running out of supplies and ammunition, but the war against Hamas “will take months.”


Scuffles erupt between police, protesters demanding return of Israeli hostages still held in Gaza

Scuffles erupt between police, protesters demanding return of Israeli hostages still held in Gaza
Updated 9 sec ago
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Scuffles erupt between police, protesters demanding return of Israeli hostages still held in Gaza

Scuffles erupt between police, protesters demanding return of Israeli hostages still held in Gaza
  • Israel says around 100 hostages are still being held in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more

JERUSALEM: Scuffles between Israeli police and protesters erupted in Tel Aviv on Saturday after thousands gathered to demonstrate against the government and demand that it bring back the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza.
Meanwhile, a small US military vessel and what appeared to be a strip of docking area washed up on a beach near the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, not far from the US-built pier on which the Israeli military said humanitarian aid is moving into the Palestinian territory.
Also on Saturday, Israeli bombardments were reported in northern and central Gaza.
Some protesters in Tel Aviv carried photos of the female soldiers who appeared in a video earlier in the week showing them soon after they were abducted during the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 started the war between Israel and Hamas. Some held banners reading “Stop the war” and “Help.” They called on the government to reach a deal to release the dozens of hostages still in captivity.
The protesters also called for the resignation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and demanded new elections.
“We all saw the video, we could not stay at home after the government abandoned all these people,” said Hilit Sagi, from the group “Women Protest for the Return of All Hostages.”
Divisions among Israelis have deepened over how Netanyahu has handled the war against Hamas after the attack that killed about 1,200 people and saw 250 others taken hostage. Israel says around 100 hostages are still being held in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more.
“Basically they are not doing enough in order for the hostages to come back, either with military force, with (a) hostages’ deal, negotiating. Nothing is being done,” said Snir Dahan, uncle of hostage Carmel Gat, still in captivity in Gaza.
Earlier in the week, the bodies of three hostages killed were recovered from Gaza, Israel’s army said Friday. The army said they were killed on the day of the attack and their bodies were taken to Gaza. The announcement came less than a week after the army said it found the bodies of three other Israeli hostages killed on Oct. 7.
Around half of the 250 hostages taken by Hamas and other militants have been freed, most in swaps for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel during a weeklong ceasefire in November.
Netanyahu’s government has faced increasing pressure, both at home and abroad, to stop the war and allow humanitarian aid into the enclave that is home to 2.3 million Palestinians, almost 80 percent of whom have been displaced.
Also this week, three European countries announced they would recognize a Palestinian state, and the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court requested arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, along with Hamas officials.
On Friday the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to end its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah and to open the nearby border crossing for crucial humanitarian aid. The top United Nations court also said Israel must give war crimes investigators access to Gaza.
However, the judges stopped short of ordering a full ceasefire across the entire Palestinian territory, and Israel is unlikely to comply with the court’s ruling. South Africa accuses Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinians during the war in Gaza, which Israel vehemently denies.
“We were hoping the war would end,” said Islam Abu Kamar, who moved from Gaza City to Rafah following the ground operation launched by Israel after the Hamas attack in October.
In the past two weeks, more than a million Palestinians have fled Rafah as Israeli forces pressed deeper into the city. Israel’s takeover this month of the Rafah border crossing, a key transit point for fuel and supplies for Gaza, has contributed to bringing aid operations to near collapse, the UN and relief groups say.
Israel says it needs to invade Rafah to destroy Hamas’ last stronghold. Egypt said it agreed to send UN humanitarian aid trucks through the Kerem Shalom border crossing, Israel’s main entry point into southern Gaza. But it remains unclear if the trucks will be able to enter because fighting still rages in Rafah.
Israel said aid is moving into the Palestinian territory through northern Gaza and via the US-built pier. On Saturday, a small US military boat and what appeared to be a strip of docking area washed up on a beach near the southern Israeli city of Ashdod.
The US Central Command said four of its vessels supporting the humanitarian aid mission were affected by rough seas with two of them anchoring near the pier off the Gaza coast and another two in Israel.
US officials said no injuries were reported and the US is working with the Israeli army to recover the vessels, Central Command said.
American officials hope the pier at maximum capacity can bring the equivalent of 150 truckloads of aid to Gaza daily. That’s a fraction of the 600 truckloads of food, emergency nutritional treatments and other supplies that USAID says are needed each day to bring people in Gaza back from the brink of famine and address the humanitarian crisis brought on by the 7-month-old Israel-Hamas war.
Israeli bombardments continued in the enclave on Saturday with reports of strikes northern and central Gaza. Witnesses said people were killed in strikes on the cities of Jabaliya and Nuseirat.
More than 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, according to the Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians.


Tunisian president fires interior, social affairs ministers in partial cabinet reshuffle

Tunisian president fires interior, social affairs ministers in partial cabinet reshuffle
Updated 29 min 3 sec ago
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Tunisian president fires interior, social affairs ministers in partial cabinet reshuffle

Tunisian president fires interior, social affairs ministers in partial cabinet reshuffle

TUNIS: Tunisian president Kais Saied dismissed on Saturday the Interior Minister Kamel Feki as part of a partial cabinet reshuffle, the presidency said.

The partial cabinet reshuffle also included replacing the minister of social affairs, Malek Ezzahi.

Saied appointed Khaled Nouri as the new interior minister and Kamal Madouri as minister of social affairs.


At least one Iraqi Sunni fighter killed in attack north of Baghdad

At least one Iraqi Sunni fighter killed in attack north of Baghdad
Updated 26 May 2024
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At least one Iraqi Sunni fighter killed in attack north of Baghdad

At least one Iraqi Sunni fighter killed in attack north of Baghdad

BAGHDAD: At least one pro-Iraqi government Sunni fighter was killed in an explosive device attack at a checkpoint in Khan Beni Saad, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Baghdad, officials and security sources said early on Sunday.
Two fighters with the Iraqi pro-government Sunni tribal force Sahwa were killed and at least six people, including five Iraqi soldiers, were injured in the attack, according to two security sources and a medical source.
The Iraqi Security Media Cell, an official body responsible for disseminating security information, said one person was killed after two explosive devices were detonated near the checkpoint on Saturday evening. It also said in a statement four people had sustained minor injuries.


Hamas says it captured Israeli soldiers in Gaza; Israel denies

Hamas says it captured Israeli soldiers in Gaza; Israel denies
Updated 9 min 25 sec ago
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Hamas says it captured Israeli soldiers in Gaza; Israel denies

Hamas says it captured Israeli soldiers in Gaza; Israel denies
  • An Al Qassam Brigades spokesman said the captives were for dead by a "Zionist force" that were lured into an ambush inside a tunnel in Jabalia
  • Israeli police disperse Tel Aviv demonstrators demanding urgent government action to bring home hostages held in Gaza

CAIRO/TEL AVIV: A spokesman for Hamas’ armed wing said on Sunday its fighters had captured Israeli soldiers during fighting in Jabalia in northern Gaza on Saturday, though the Israeli military denied the claim.

But if true, the new capture could put more pressure on the Netanyahu government as relatives of Israelis still being held hostage by Hamas step up protest actions.

“Our fighters lured a Zionist force into an ambush inside a tunnel ... The fighters withdrew after they left all members of the force dead, wounded, and captured,” Abu Ubaida, the spokesman for Al Qassam Brigades, said in a recorded message broadcast by Al Jazeera early on Sunday. The Hamas armed wing spokesman did not say how many soldiers had been abducted and showed no proof of the claim.

The Palestinian militant group's claim came a day after the Israeli troops retrieved the bodies of three hostages in an overnight operation in Jabalia.

In a statement, the Israeli military on Sunday said: “The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) clarifies that there is no incident in which a soldier was abducted.”
Hamas released a video that appeared to show a bloodied person being dragged along the ground in a tunnel and photos of military fatigue and rifle, although the video could not be independently verified.
The comments by Abu Ubaida came hours after prospects for a resumption of mediated Gaza ceasefire talks grew on Saturday.
An official with knowledge of the matter said a decision had been taken to resume the talks next week after the chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency met the head of the CIA and the prime minister of Qatar.
The source, who declined to be identified by name or nationality, said it had been decided that “in the coming week negotiations will open based on new proposals led by the mediators, Egypt and Qatar and with active US involvement.”
A Hamas official later denied Israeli media reports the talks would resume in Cairo on Tuesday, telling Reuters: “There is no date.”

After more than seven months of war in Gaza, the mediators have struggled to secure a breakthrough, with Israel seeking the release of hostages held by Hamas and Hamas seeking an end to the war and a release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

Israeli police detain a protester during a demonstration in Tel Aviv on May 26, 2024, by relatives and supporters of Israelis taken hostage by Palestinian militants in Gaza in the October 7 attacks. (AFP)

 

Protests in Tel Aviv

In Tel Aviv, thousands of Israelis demonstrators demand urgent government action to bring home hostages held in Gaza on Saturday were dispersed by the police using water canons. A number of protesters were also arrested.

At the start of the rally, protesters observed a minute’s silence in Tel Aviv’s Hostages Square in honor of the captives whose bodies were recovered by Israeli troops this month, an AFP correspondent reported.

The army said on Friday that troops had retrieved the bodies of hostages Chanan Yablonka, Brazilian-Israeli Michel Nisenbaum and French-Mexican Orion Hernandez Radoux. The families of the dead hostages were notified after forensic identification, the military said in a statement.
“In just a few hours, I will bury my 42-year-old brother... I feared this moment,” Yablonka’s sister Avivit said at Saturday’s rally.
“My brother, I promise you that I will continue to shout, support, fight and do everything so that all the hostages return home safely.
“They must be taken out of this hell now.”
The bodies of four other dead hostages — Ron Benjamin, Yitzhak Gelerenter, Shani Louk and Amit Buskila — were recovered last week.
Another protest, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and an early election, was held nearby.
The war in Gaza erupted after Hamas’s October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,903 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

(With Reuters & AFP)


The US government staffers putting principle over paycheck amid Israel’s Gaza assault

The US government staffers putting principle over paycheck amid Israel’s Gaza assault
Updated 59 min 44 sec ago
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The US government staffers putting principle over paycheck amid Israel’s Gaza assault

The US government staffers putting principle over paycheck amid Israel’s Gaza assault
  • Appalled by the death of Palestinians, former staffer says she “could not in good conscience remain in government”
  • Concerned about America’s standing in the Middle East, many want the US to suspend arms sales to Israel

LONDON: Lily Greenberg-Call recently became the latest Biden administration official to step down in protest over the White House’s handling of the war in Gaza, amid a string of resignations from the US Department of State.

Greenberg-Call, who left her position at the Department of the Interior in mid-May, slammed the Biden administration for having “enabled and legitimized” Israel’s onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

In her resignation letter she said she “can no longer in good conscience continue to represent this administration amidst President Biden’s disastrous, continued support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza.”

 

 

Biden’s policy in the Middle East has repeatedly come under fire since the onset of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, particularly over the supply of weapons to the Israel Defense Forces, which rights groups say have been used to harm civilians.

The Israeli military’s bombing campaign in Gaza in retaliation for the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel has killed at least 35,000 Palestinians, razed entire neighborhoods, destroyed the enclave’s infrastructure, and displaced 90 percent of the population.

Israel and senior figures in the Biden administration have said Hamas shares in the blame for the high civilian death toll in Gaza.

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Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, has previously said that Hamas’ tactics have placed “an incredible burden on the IDF, a burden that is unusual for a military in today’s day and age,” by hiding behind civilians as it conducts its war with Israeli forces.  

The day Greenberg-Call resigned, the Biden administration told Congress it planned to send $1 billion in new military aid to Israel, despite the president’s opposition to a full-scale invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza, the Associated Press reported. It will be the US’ first arms shipment to Israel since Biden paused the transfer of 3,500 bombs earlier in the month.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in April that Israeli troops would expand operations into Rafah — Gaza’s southernmost city. On May 6, Israel mounted a limited operation in Rafah, seizing control of its border crossing with Egypt.

Israeli military vehicles operate in the Gazan side of the Rafah Crossing in the southern Gaza Strip, in this handout image released on May 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS)

The US government said it had halted the bomb shipment to prevent Israel from using the munitions in its attack on Rafah, an area densely populated with civilians, most of whom have been displaced multiple times.

However, a lower chamber bill on May 16 condemned Biden for the suspension and voted to override it, with Republicans saying the president should not dictate how Israel uses American weapons in its war against Hamas.

But the US Arms Export Control Act of 1961 gives the President the authority to halt — or even terminate — American arms transfers if he finds that the recipient country “has used such articles for unauthorized purposes,” according to a 2020 report by the Congressional Research Service.

The vote prompted some 30 Congressional staffers to march to the base of the steps of the House of Representatives at the US Capitol, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and protesting the vote.

Thirty congressional staffers marched on the House of Representatives in Washington D.C. on May 16, 2024, to demand a ceasefire in Gaza. (AFP)

After announcing the halt on the bomb shipment, Biden told CNN that US-manufactured weapons had been used to kill civilians in Gaza.

“Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers,” he said on May 8.

“I made it clear that if they go into Rafah — they haven’t gone in Rafah yet — if they go into Rafah, I’m not supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah, to deal with the cities — that deal with that problem.”

According to the Washington Post, the US has made more than 100 weapons sales to Israel since the start of the war in Gaza. The sales reportedly included precision-guided munitions, small-diameter bombs, bunker busters, small arms, and more.

In late April, human-rights monitor Amnesty International submitted a 19-page report to US authorities claiming that US weapons provided to Israel had been “used in serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, and in a manner that is inconsistent with US law and policy.”

The newly revised US Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, released in February last year, stipulates “preventing arms transfers that risk facilitating or otherwise contributing to violations of human rights or international humanitarian law.”

Hala Rharrit, who stepped down as the Arabic-language spokesperson of the US Department of State in April after 18 years of service over the Biden administration’s policy on Gaza, stressed that the government should “abide by our own laws.”

She told Arab News: “We have systems in place within the State Department to ensure that our weaponry is not used to kill civilians, with requirements put in place requiring recipient countries to limit harm to civilians — to include both civilian populations and civilian infrastructure.

“There are multiple laws on the books that we are ignoring as a State Department — willfully ignoring,” she continued. “There’s the Arms Export Control Act, there’s the Foreign Assistance Act, the Leahy Law — there are multiple regulations that would ensure what’s happening now would never happen.”

Hala Rharrit, former Arabic-language spokesperson of the US Department of State. (Supplied)

Urging the government to follow those laws, Rharrit said: “We would automatically have to condition our aid and, most specifically, cut our offensive military assistance to Israel.”

By pausing military assistance to Israel, not only “would we ensure, hopefully, that the IDF does not go into Rafah,” but also “regain credibility amongst Arab states as well — that we’re actually conditioning our aid, we’re standing by our laws, we’re standing by international law.

“And that could provide leverage as well, both on the Israeli side and with Arab states to put pressure on Hamas to reach a ceasefire. We have the ability to use our leverage as the US, but we’re not using it at the moment.”

Asked about her resignation, Rharrit said: “I never anticipated resigning, and I certainly never anticipated resigning in protest of any policy.”

But the human tragedy in Gaza “completely changed that,” she told Arab News. “I could not in good conscience remain in government. After 18 years with the State Department, I decided to finally submit my resignation.”

She added: “I spoke up internally. I made my voice and my concerns heard, not based on my personal opinions, but based on what I was monitoring — and I was monitoring pan-Arab traditional and social media.

“And I was seeing and documenting, and reporting back to Washington, all of the growing anti-Americanism… Nothing was convincing anyone, and we had lost credibility.”

Palestinian children seek refuge at a damaged building in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 16, 2024, after fleeing their homes amid relentless Israeli bombardment. (AFP)

Rharrit, who previously served as a human-rights officer, continued: “It’s one of the things that we (the US) are known for and that we stand for, but every day I would see human-rights violation after human-rights violation. And it was clear that we had a double standard, and I could no longer support the policy or the administration.”

Despite their expertise, Rharrit said she and her colleagues were not being heard. “Our concerns, our feedback, our documentation of everything that was happening in the region was being ignored — and that was intensely frustrating.”

She said that US policy in Gaza “is a failed militaristic policy that has achieved nothing — over 35,000 Palestinians killed, over 15,000 of whom are children, the hostages remain in Gaza with their families in Israel protesting against Netanyahu and demanding a ceasefire.”

She added: “Despite all this unimaginable suffering and countless attempts by many on the inside to shift policy, it became clear to me that the status quo was resolute.

“Knowing that this policy continued to dehumanize and devastate the Palestinians, generating a vicious cycle of violence, hurting all sides involved, while undermining the US for generations left me no choice but to speak out against the policy from outside government.”

Preceding Rharrit in late March was Annelle Sheline, a foreign affairs officer in the department’s human rights bureau, who left after trying to “raise opposition on the inside,” she told ABC News on April 11.

 

 

“Many of my colleagues, people inside the State Department, are devastated by what US policy is enabling Israel to do to Palestinians inside Gaza,” she said. 

“They (the Biden administration) continue to send weapons. We’ve seen announcements of new weapons. It’s really shocking that this has been allowed to go on.”

In January, former Biden appointee Tariq Habash, a Palestinian-American, resigned from the Department of Education, saying the US administration “turns a blind eye to the atrocities committed against innocent Palestinian lives.”

In his resignation letter, which he shared on the social media platform X, Habash said his government “has aided the indiscriminate violence against Palestinians in Gaza.”

 

 

He added: “Despite claims that Israel’s focus is on Hamas, its military actions simultaneously persist across the West Bank, where there is no Hamas governing presence.”

Since Oct. 7, Israeli troops and Jewish settlers have killed at least 502 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Israeli authorities have also arrested more than 7,000 people in the territory, according to prisoners’ affairs groups.

Ten days after Israel began its Gaza offensive, Josh Paul, a former director overseeing US arms transfers, quit the Department of State, citing “a policy disagreement concerning our continued lethal assistance to Israel.”

In a letter he posted on LinkedIn, Paul said his government’s “rushing” to provide arms to Israel was “shortsighted, destructive, unjust, and contradictory to the very values that we publicly espouse.”

He described the Hamas attack on southern Israel as “a monstrosity of monstrosities,” but said he also believed “the response Israel is taking, and with it the American support both for that response and for the status quo of the occupation, will only lead to more and deeper suffering for both the Israeli and the Palestinian people.”

Protests by US administration staffers against its policy in the Middle East have taken various forms besides public resignations. In November, more than 400 of Biden’s employees signed an open letter calling on him to urgently pursue a ceasefire in Gaza.

With the approaching US presidential election complicating Biden’s room for maneuver, the Israeli government committed to continuing its offensive, and with negotiations brokered by Qatar and Egypt making scant headway, such a ceasefire seems unlikely anytime soon.