Palestinian aid agency can’t be replaced, UN says, warning of ‘collapse’

Palestinian aid agency can’t be replaced, UN says, warning of ‘collapse’
Trucks of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) carrying fuel arrive at the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip on November 22, 2023. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 31 January 2024
Follow

Palestinian aid agency can’t be replaced, UN says, warning of ‘collapse’

Palestinian aid agency can’t be replaced, UN says, warning of ‘collapse’

UNITED NATIONS: Nothing can “replace or substitute” the UN Palestinian refugee agency, whose staff were implicated in the Hamas attacks on Israel, the UN’s coordinator for Gaza aid said Tuesday even as Israel made new claims against it.

Several countries, including the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan, have suspended funding to the UNRWA agency, and the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was holding crunch talks with donor countries.

Agency chiefs in the UN’s highest-level humanitarian coordination forum, including the heads of the WHO, the UN rights office, UNICEF and the World Food Programme, warned defunding UNRWA risked a “catastrophic” humanitarian collapse in Gaza.

“Withdrawing funds from UNRWA is perilous and would result in the collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, with far-reaching humanitarian and human rights consequences in the occupied Palestinian territory and across the region,” said the statement from heads of organizations that form the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee.

The dispute intensified Tuesday after Israel accused the UNRWA of allowing Hamas to use agency infrastructure in Gaza for military activity.

UNRWA said it has acted promptly over allegations by Israel that 12 of its staff were involved in the Hamas attacks, adding that cuts in funding will affect ordinary Palestinians.

The UN agency has long been under scrutiny by Israel, which accuses it of systematically going against the country’s interests.

Israel has vowed to stop the agency’s work in Gaza after the war and doubled down on Tuesday when government spokesman Eylon Levy said UNRWA “has been fundamentally compromised.”

He accused it of “hiring terrorists on a massive scale, letting its infrastructure be used for Hamas military activity and relying on Hamas for aid distribution in the Gaza Strip.”

UN Gaza aid coordinator Sigrid Kaag said earlier Tuesday “there is no way that any organization can replace or substitute (the) tremendous capacity, the fabric of UNRWA — (their) ability and their knowledge of the population in Gaza.”

Washington, which said it was the largest donor to the agency having given $131 million to UNRWA since October, said it “very much supported” its work.

“There is no other humanitarian player in Gaza who can provide food and water and medicine at the scale that UNRWA does,” said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

“We want to see that work continued, which is why it is so important that the United Nations take this matter seriously, that they investigate, that there is accountability for anyone who is found to have engaged in wrongdoing.”

The unprecedented October 7 Hamas attack resulted in about 1,140 deaths, mostly civilians, in southern Israel, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

Militants also seized 250 hostages, of whom Israel says around 132 remain in Gaza, including the bodies of at least 28.

Israel responded with a relentless military offensive that has killed at least 26,751 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the health ministry in the territory.


Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US MQ-9 drone in Yemen’s Maareb

Updated 8 sec ago
Follow

Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US MQ-9 drone in Yemen’s Maareb

Yemen’s Houthis say they downed US MQ-9 drone in Yemen’s Maareb
Houthis’s spokesman Yahya Sarea said that this drone “is the sixth UAV that has been shot down so far“

CAIRO: Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis said they downed a US MQ-9 drone in Yemen’s southeastern province of Maareb, the group’s military spokesman said in a televised speech on Wednesday.
Houthis’s spokesman Yahya Sarea said that this drone “is the sixth UAV that has been shot down so far.”
On May 21, Houthis shot down another drone over Al-Bayda province in Southern Yemen.
The group, which controls Yemen’s capital and most populous areas of the Arabian Peninsula state, has attacked international shipping in the Red Sea since November in solidarity with the Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas militants, drawing US and British retaliatory strikes since February.

Israel has tactical control of Gaza-Egypt border corridor, military official says

Israel has tactical control of Gaza-Egypt border corridor, military official says
Updated 9 min 34 sec ago
Follow

Israel has tactical control of Gaza-Egypt border corridor, military official says

Israel has tactical control of Gaza-Egypt border corridor, military official says
  • The Israeli military’s operation in the Rafah area has in 10 days discovered 20 tunnels that cross into Egypt

JERUSALEM: An Israeli military official said on Wednesday Israeli forces had achieved tactical control over the Philadelphi Corridor that runs along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
“It doesn’t mean that we have boots on the ground across all of the corridor but it means we can control, and we have the ability to cut off the oxygen line that Hamas has used for replenishing and movement in and around that area,” the official said, referring to the Palestinian Islamist militant group.
The official said that the Israeli military’s operation in the Rafah area has in 10 days discovered 20 tunnels that cross into Egypt and that this information was passed on to Egypt.


Lebanese army under attack from Israeli machine guns

Lebanese army under attack from Israeli machine guns
Updated 29 May 2024
Follow

Lebanese army under attack from Israeli machine guns

Lebanese army under attack from Israeli machine guns
  • UNIFIL commander: ‘Death and destruction are heartbreaking’
  • Hezbollah said they had attacked “the newly installed espionage equipment at the Al-Raheb site, hitting it directly and destroying it”

BEIRUT: A Lebanese army site on the outskirts of the border town of Alma Al-Shaab came under machine gun fire from the Israeli army on Wednesday. Nobody was injured in the incident.
Israeli artillery also targeted the outskirts of Mays Al-Jabal, Wazzani, Jebbayn, Chihine and Kfarkela.
A statement from Hezbollah said it in turn had attacked “the newly installed espionage equipment at the Al-Raheb site, hitting it directly and destroying it.”
Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adraee said air defenses had intercepted a “suspicious aerial object” in the Ras Naqoura area without activating any sirens.
“Warplanes attacked a military building containing Hezbollah members in the Naqoura area. The planes also attacked Hezbollah buildings in Ramyah and Al-Tiri in southern Lebanon,” he said. A raid on the town of Naqoura caused minor injuries to several citizens.
The head of the United Nations Interim Force in southern Lebanon, Gen. Aroldo Lazaro, urged all parties to cease their fire, recommit to Resolution 1701, and begin the work toward a political and diplomatic solution, which he said was the only way to resolve the situation.
The security situation in the area meant UNIFIL did not hold any celebrations to mark the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers on Wednesday.
In a statement, Gen. Lazaro said: “The death and destruction we have seen on both sides of the Blue Line is heartbreaking. Too many lives have been lost and disrupted. Thousands of people remain displaced and have lost their homes and their livelihoods. As peacekeepers, we recommit each day to our work to restore stability.”
Peacekeepers from 49 nations are currently in the south and report regularly to the Security Council.
Yesterday, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French president’s special envoy to Lebanon, met with the head of Hezbollah’s Loyalty to Resistance parliamentary bloc, MP Mohammad Raad, at its office in Beirut.
He arrived on Tuesday evening on his sixth mission to discuss developments in the country with Lebanese officials.
Le Drian met with several officials, including caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri, along with other heads of opposition Christian parties and the National Moderation bloc made up of mostly Sunni deputies.
According to the leaked information, the French official insisted on the need for consultation among Lebanese powers to name a president.
Le Drian warned: “Lebanon’s political feature will be gone if the crisis remains and if the presidential vacuum persists. Lebanon will save nothing but its geographical feature.”
Berri assured Le Drian that he would “be adhering to calling for unconditional consultations focused on the presidential election and moving to the parliament to conduct successive voting rounds with a list of candidates until a new president of the republic is elected.”


World Central Kitchen stops work in Rafah after ‘attacks’

World Central Kitchen stops work in Rafah after ‘attacks’
Updated 47 min 45 sec ago
Follow

World Central Kitchen stops work in Rafah after ‘attacks’

World Central Kitchen stops work in Rafah after ‘attacks’
  • “In the face of Israeli operations in Rafah, countless families are being forced to flee once again,” the charity said on X
  • The charity had recently resumed its work in Gaza after suspending operations in April

RAFAH, Palestinian Territories: The World Central Kitchen nonprofit, which provides meals in war-torn Gaza, said it had stopped its operations in the Palestinian territory’s southern city of Rafah due to “ongoing attacks” in the area.
The US-based charity was founded by celebrity Spanish-American chef Jose Andres to provide food to communities facing humanitarian crises and disasters.
“In the face of Israeli operations in Rafah, countless families are being forced to flee once again,” the charity said on social media platform X late on Tuesday.
“Ongoing attacks have forced us to pause work at our main kitchen in Rafah and relocate many of our community kitchens further north.”
The charity had recently resumed its work in Gaza after suspending operations in April following the killing of seven of its workers in three air strikes by an Israeli drone.
The deaths — of an Australian, three Britons, a North American, a Palestinian and a Pole — had triggered a global outrage over Israel’s military operations.
An internal Israeli military inquiry found that the drone team had made an “operational misjudgment” after spotting a suspected Hamas gunman shooting from the top of an aid truck.
In recent weeks, fighting in Rafah has intensified after the Israeli military began its ground assault there on May 7 after seizing control of the crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
Gaza officials said an Israeli strike on Sunday set ablaze a crowded camp for displaced people in Rafah, killing 45 and wounding dozens.
Israel’s military said it has launched an investigation into the strike but insisted its munitions alone “could not” have caused the deadly blaze.
Since the start of the Rafah assault, delivering aid into Gaza has become more difficult, aid agencies say.
Even when medical and other aid makes it into Gaza, it remains “very challenging” to transport and deliver the goods both in the south and to the north, Rik Peeperkorn, the World Health Organization’s representative in the Palestinian territories, told AFP on Tuesday.


Houthis claim second ship attack in Mediterranean

Houthis claim second ship attack in Mediterranean
Updated 29 May 2024
Follow

Houthis claim second ship attack in Mediterranean

Houthis claim second ship attack in Mediterranean
  • The missile and drone forces hit a Greece-flagged oil and chemical ship, Minerva Antonia, in the Mediterranean,
  • Those ships were targeted because they breached a ban on sailing to Israel

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s Houthi militia on Wednesday said that they had attacked another commercial ship in the Mediterranean as part of the fourth phase of their missile and drone campaign against ships in support of the Palestinian people.
Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said that the missile and drone forces hit a Greece-flagged oil and chemical ship, Minerva Antonia, in the Mediterranean, the second such claim in less than a week.
He also said the militia had attacked the Marshall Island-flagged bulk ship Laax and the Malta-flagged bulk carriers Morea and Sealady in the Red Sea.
Those ships were targeted because they breached a ban on sailing to Israel.
The Houthi official said that they launched cruise missiles against two American ships, Alba and Maersk Hartford, in the Arabian Sea.
Last week, the Houthis claimed their first strike on a ship in the Mediterranean, as they extended their missile and drone operations into new waters.
Since November, the Houthis have seized one commercial ship, sunk another, and fired hundreds of ballistic missiles, drones and remotely controlled and explosives-laden boats at commercial and naval ships in international waters off Yemen, as well as in the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean.
The Houthis say they want to put pressure on Israel to end its war on Gaza while also targeting US and UK ships for backing Israel and bombing Yemen.
The Houthis’ announcement of new attacks came hours after the US Central Command reported that the Houthis fired five ballistic missiles from areas under their control at international ships in the Red Sea on Tuesday, three of which struck the bulk carrier Laax.
According to the US military, the ship’s crew is safe and sailing to its destination and that neither the US-led marine coalition nor any other international ship reported being hit by the other Houthi missiles.
Five drones fired by the Houthis over the Red Sea on Tuesday morning failed to reach their target after being destroyed by CENTCOM forces.
Two UK maritime agencies reported on Tuesday that a commercial ship in the Red Sea was damaged after being struck by three missiles off Hodeida in Yemen.
At the same time, Houthi media said on Tuesday that US and UK aircraft carried out two raids on the Al-Jabanah area in the western province of Hodeida, but provided no specifics about the targets.
The US and the UK have conducted airstrikes on Houthi-controlled Yemen, saying they are targeting drone and missile launchers as well as storage sites.