Egypt threatens to suspend key peace treaty if Israel pushes into Gaza border town, officials say

Egypt threatens to suspend key peace treaty if Israel pushes into Gaza border town, officials say
People ferry water at a makeshift tent camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah near the border with Egypt in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 24, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas (AFP)
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Updated 11 February 2024
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Egypt threatens to suspend key peace treaty if Israel pushes into Gaza border town, officials say

Egypt threatens to suspend key peace treaty if Israel pushes into Gaza border town, officials say
  • Threat is to suspend the Camp David Accords, a cornerstone of regional stability for nearly a half-century
  • Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other countries have also warned of severe repercussions if Israel goes into Rafah.

RAFAH: Egypt is threatening to suspend its peace treaty with Israel if Israeli troops are sent into the densely populated Gaza border town of Rafah, and says fighting there could force the closure of the territory’s main aid supply route, two Egyptian officials and a Western diplomat said Sunday.
The threat to suspend the Camp David Accords, a cornerstone of regional stability for nearly a half-century, came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said sending troops into Rafah was necessary to win the four-month-old war against the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Over half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have fled to Rafah to escape fighting in other areas, and are packed into sprawling tent camps and UN-run shelters near the border. Egypt fears a mass influx of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees who may never be allowed to return.
The stand-off between Israel and Egypt, two close US allies, comes as aid groups warn that an offensive in Rafah would worsen the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza, where around 80 percent of residents have fled their homes and where the UN says a quarter of the population faces starvation.
Unclear where civilians would go
Netanyahu, in an interview with ABC News “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” suggested civilians in Rafah could flee north, saying there are “plenty of areas” that have been cleared by the army. He said Israel is developing a “detailed plan” to relocate them.
But the offensive has caused widespread destruction, particularly in northern Gaza, and heavy fighting is still taking place in central Gaza and the southern city of Khan Younis. A ground operation in Rafah could also force the closure of its crossing, cutting off one of the only avenues for delivering badly needed food and medical supplies.
All three officials confirmed Egypt’s threats, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters on the sensitive negotiations. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other countries have also warned of severe repercussions if Israel goes into Rafah.
“An Israeli offensive on Rafah would lead to an unspeakable humanitarian catastrophe and grave tensions with Egypt,” European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell wrote on X.
Israel and Egypt had fought five wars before signing the Camp David Accords, a landmark peace treaty brokered by then-US President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s. The treaty includes several provisions governing the deployment of forces on both sides of the border.
Egypt has heavily fortified its border with Gaza, carving out a 5-kilometer (3-mile) buffer zone and erecting concrete walls above and below ground. It has denied Israeli allegations that Hamas still operates smuggling tunnels beneath the border, saying Egyptian forces have full control on their side.
But Egyptian officials fear that if the border is breached, the military would be unable to stop a tide of people fleeing into the Sinai Peninsula.
The United Nations says Rafah, which is normally home to less than 300,000 people, now hosts 1.4 million more who fled fighting elsewhere and is “severely overcrowded.”
Netanayahu said Hamas still has four battalions there. “Those who say that under no circumstances should we enter Rafah are basically saying lose the war, keep Hamas there,” he told ABC News.
Palestinian toll mounts
Israel has ordered much of Gaza’s population to flee south with evacuation orders covering two-thirds of the territory, even as it regularly carries out airstrikes in all areas, including Rafah. Airstrikes on the town in recent days have killed dozens of Palestinians, including women and children.
Gaza’s Health Ministry said Sunday that the bodies of 112 people killed across the territory have been brought to hospitals in the past 24 hours, as well as 173 wounded people. The fatalities brought the death toll in the strip to 28,176 since the start of the war. The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and fighters but says most of those killed were women and children.
The war began with Hamas’ attack into southern Israel on Oct. 7, when Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250. Over 100 hostages were released in November during a weeklong ceasefire in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.
Hamas has said it won’t release any more unless Israel ends its offensive and withdraws from the territory. It has also demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including senior militants serving life sentences.
Netanyahu has vehemently ruled out both demands, saying Israel will fight on until “total victory” and the return of all the captives.


Israel on board with Gaza peace deal, as US airdrops begin

Israel on board with Gaza peace deal, as US airdrops begin
Updated 03 March 2024
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Israel on board with Gaza peace deal, as US airdrops begin

Israel on board with Gaza peace deal, as US airdrops begin
  • International mediators have been working for weeks to broker a deal to pause fighting
  • Ball is in Hamas’ camp now, says senior US administration official on Gaza peace deal

WASHINGTON DC: Israel has broadly accepted a ceasefire deal with Hamas, a senior US official said Saturday, as the first American air drops of humanitarian aid were carried out over war-ravaged Gaza.
The framework agreement envisages a six-week cessation of hostilities, which could begin immediately if the Palestinian militant group signs off on the release of the most vulnerable hostages it holds, the official told reporters on a call.
“The Israelis have more or less accepted it,” the administration official said. “Right now, the ball is in the camp of Hamas.”
The announcement came hours after US military cargo planes began airdropping humanitarian aid into the besieged Gaza Strip.
The United Nations has warned of famine in Gaza, and more than 100 people were left dead earlier this week in a frenzied scramble for food from a truck convoy delivering aid, with Israeli forces opening fire on the crowd.
Saturday’s drop, which included 38,000 meals, was conducted “to provide essential relief to civilians affected by the ongoing conflict,” the US Central Command said.
A CENTCOM official told AFP that the meals were made up of US military rations that did not contain pork, the consumption of which is prohibited by Islam.
Negotiators from regional powers have been working around the clock to secure a Gaza truce by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in about one week.
“It will be a six-week ceasefire in Gaza starting today if Hamas agrees to release the defined category of vulnerable hostages... the sick, the wounded, elderly and women,” the administration official said.
Hamas militants took about 250 hostages during their unprecedented cross-border attack on Israel on October 7, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 31 that Israel says are presumed dead. It was unclear how many of the remaining hostages are deemed vulnerable.
The United States hopes any truce would create space for a more enduring peace. A Hamas delegation was expected to fly to Cairo on Saturday for talks on a truce, a source close to the group told AFP.
The administration official said a ceasefire would also allow a “significant surge” in humanitarian aid to Gaza, with airdrops not seen as a replacement for full-scale relief convoys.
“None of these — maritime corridors, airdrops — are an alternative to the fundamental need to move assistance through as many land crossings as possible. That’s the most efficient way to get aid in at scale,” a second US official told reporters.
The brutal October 7 attack by Hamas resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, according to official figures.
Israel responded with a relentless assault on Hamas-controlled Gaza that has taken a devastating toll on civilians trapped there, killing more than 30,000 people, according to the territory’s health ministry.
The amount of aid brought into Gaza by truck has plummeted during nearly five months of war, and Gazans are facing dire shortages of food, water and medicines.
Some foreign militaries have airdropped supplies to Gaza, sending long lines of aid pallets floating down into the war-torn territory on parachutes.
Jordan has been conducting many of the operations with the support of countries including Britain, France and the Netherlands, while Egypt sent several military planes on an air drop Thursday together with the United Arab Emirates.
Biden has pushed Israel to reduce civilian casualties and allow aid in, while at the same time he has maintained military assistance for the key US ally.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby described the airdrops as a “tough military operation” that required careful planning by the Pentagon for the safety of both Gazan civilians and US military personnel.


Palestinian Scout Association members volunteer to assist the displaced in war-ravaged Gaza

Palestinian Scout Association members volunteer to assist the displaced in war-ravaged Gaza
Updated 03 March 2024
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Palestinian Scout Association members volunteer to assist the displaced in war-ravaged Gaza

Palestinian Scout Association members volunteer to assist the displaced in war-ravaged Gaza
  • PSA stepped in and commissioned tens of its members as volunteers to support and assist people cope with life in the wild nature and makeshift shelters
  • “We as PSA members have a duty and obligation towards the people of Gaza. We are committed to supporting them as much as possible,” scout leader Sahar Abu-Zaid tells Arab News

BEIRUT: Over 150 scout members of the Palestinian Scout Association have been risking their own lives and volunteering to aid and support children, women and displaced families in war-ravaged Gaza.

Basic life necessities such as food, water, homes, electricity, healthcare, education and others have vanished since Israel launched its unprecedented war against Gaza following the Hamas Oct. 7 attacks.

As nearly 2 million Gazans were displaced and took refuge at shelters and makeshift tents not being able to eat, drink, wash, sleep and live normally, that was when the Palestinian Scout Association stepped in and commissioned tens of its members as volunteers to support and assist people cope with life in the wild nature and makeshift shelters.

One of those PSA members is scout group leader Sahar Jamal Abu-Zaid who along tens of her fellow scout-mates put their own lives at risk and rush to ‘help and support displaced people and traumatized kids because it is our duty and obligation to do so’.

Palestinian Scout Association leader Sahar Abu-Zaid during a group session activity with women of Gaza inside a classroom at one of the shelters. (Supplied)

Describing the situation from Gaza as ‘difficult, disastrous and extremely dangerous’ she told Arab News on Saturday: “We as PSA members have a duty and obligation towards the people of Gaza … our people! We are committed to supporting them as much as possible, despite the deep wounds and scars that the war has inflicted on them.”

A scout is an expert in wildlife and knows, according to Abu-Zaid, how to survive in outside nature while dealing with tents, wood, fireplaces, ropes and cooking.

“We have been helping the displaced people through applying our scouting skills by teaching them how to use ropes to make laundry lines, setting up tents for sleeping, making fireplaces to stay warm and building makeshift ovens to cook as well,” she elaborated.

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They have also been volunteering with Sharek Youth Forum (SYF), an NGO that operates in Gaza and the West Bank, through providing psychological support to disturbed children and troubled adults who were displaced from their homes and took refuge at different shelters.

She also revealed that scout volunteers are managing a major kitchen in cooperation with World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit NGO devoted to providing meals in the wake of natural disasters.

“Scout members are cooking huge meals, as they used to do in camps. We package the food meals and distribute them. We also have a bread project, whereby we bake bread on woodfire and distribute them along with the meals. So far we have been able to provide over 10,000 meals,” Abu-Zaid told the newspaper.

As part of the efforts of Qatar’s Education Above All Foundation and the United Nations Population Fund in responding to the Gaza crisis, scout members have also been volunteering in different support activities and programs provided to assist the refugees, especially children.

Palestinian Scout Association volunteers during a clean up campaign in a Gaza makeshift camp for refugees. (Supplied)

There are more than 150 PSA members volunteering, working nonstop and exerting ‘extraordinarily tremendous efforts’ [amid a life-threatening and hazardous situation] to assist refugees, the displaced, women, children and elderlies across all parts of Gaza, she said.

The 31-year-old accounting graduate said she and all her fellow scout-mates participate in a campaign titled ‘Participate with your People’ that was launched by SYF and aims at organising individual and group activities for children and supporting women and parents in how to identify and manage children’s trauma symptoms.

Driven by the curiosity to learn about scouting life and the aim to develop new life-skills and enjoying wildlife and outside activities, Abu-Zaid joined PSA in 2017 at the age of 25.

“Today, we are living minute by minute, and we are at risk of getting killed by an Israeli airstrike at any moment. Yet, we have to keep moving forward … we are committed to drawing smiles on the faces of traumatized children by involving them in different fun activities and games that we learnt at scouts. We are also involving grownups, mainly women, in group discussions and other activities that could help them learn how to survive amid this warzone,” she said.

alestinian Scout Association volunteers teaching refugees how to build up laundry lines at a makeshift camp in Gaza. (Supplied)

An accounting graduate, Abu-Zaid called on for an immediate ceasefire saying: “It is only an immediate ceasefire that would save our lives. We are surrounded by nonstop massacres … the latest was that of Al-Rasheed streets when 10s were killed by Israeli fire while waiting to collect aid materials and food support. People die every minute and this has got to stop instantly with an instant ceasefire.”  

In a news report published in the Guardian earlier this week, Mai al-Afifi, a volunteer herself displaced from Gaza City to Deir al-Balah, was quoted as saying: “We do see the games and singing make a difference … for just a little while, the children can relieve their psychological stress.”

Nader al-Raqab, PSA’s leader in Khan Younis, was apprehended by Israelis a few weeks back and has not been heard from since.


Houthi leader says UK’s Sunak has chance to recover Rubymar by letting aid into Gaza

This satellite image taken by Maxar Technologies shows the Belize-flagged ship Rubymar in the Red Sea on Friday, March 1, 2024.
This satellite image taken by Maxar Technologies shows the Belize-flagged ship Rubymar in the Red Sea on Friday, March 1, 2024.
Updated 03 March 2024
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Houthi leader says UK’s Sunak has chance to recover Rubymar by letting aid into Gaza

This satellite image taken by Maxar Technologies shows the Belize-flagged ship Rubymar in the Red Sea on Friday, March 1, 2024.
  • The Houthis insist their attacks will continue until Israel stops its combat operations in the Gaza Strip, which have enraged the wider Arab world and seen the Houthis gain international recognition

CAIRO: A senior Houthi leader said on Saturday he held British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his government responsible for the sinking of the UK-owned Rubymar.
Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, head of Yemen’s Houthi supreme revolutionary committee, also said on X: “Sunak has a chance to recover the Rubymar by allowing aid trucks into Gaza.”
Yemen’s internationally recognized government said earlier on Saturday that the Rubymar, which was attacked by Houthi militants last month, had sunk in the Red Sea and warned of an “environmental catastrophe” from the ship’s cargo of fertilizer.

 


Tunisian authorities investigate a fire at a synagogue, question a suspect in custody

Tunisian forces secure an area near the Ghriba synagogue following a shootout on the resort island of Djerba on May 10, 2023.
Tunisian forces secure an area near the Ghriba synagogue following a shootout on the resort island of Djerba on May 10, 2023.
Updated 03 March 2024
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Tunisian authorities investigate a fire at a synagogue, question a suspect in custody

Tunisian forces secure an area near the Ghriba synagogue following a shootout on the resort island of Djerba on May 10, 2023.
  • In May, five people were killed in a shooting attack on the historic Ghriba synagogue on Tunisia’s island of Djerba

TUNIS, Tunisia: A man believed to have started a fire in a garden at a synagogue in the east of Tunisia is in custody and under investigation for targeting a Jewish house of worship, officials said Saturday.
Hichem ben Ayad, the public prosecutor in the eastern port city of Sfax, told The Associated Press that a garden in the courtyard of the city’s synagogue was set on fire last Sunday. An investigation was opened and a suspect was arrested, he said.
The suspect is a public official his late 40s, ben Ayad said. He is being questioned to establish if the fire — which the prosecutor said was “a criminal act” — was premediated and deliberately targeted the Jewish house of worship.
There were no casualties in the fire that was extinguished the same day, ben Ayad said. He added that the blaze did not cause significant damage to the building. The synagogue appeared to be empty at the time, he said.
In May, five people were killed in a shooting attack on the historic Ghriba synagogue on Tunisia’s island of Djerba. Authorities said a Tunisian national guardsman was behind the attack.
The assailant intentionally targeted the ancient synagogue on the Mediterranean island in a premeditated act, Tunisian officials said.

 


Kuwait calls on voters to elect members of the national assembly on April 4

Kuwait calls on voters to elect members of the national assembly on April 4
Updated 03 March 2024
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Kuwait calls on voters to elect members of the national assembly on April 4

Kuwait calls on voters to elect members of the national assembly on April 4
  • Last month, Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah issued a decree to dissolve parliament

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait called on Saturday for voters to elect members of the national assembly on April 4, Kuwait News Agency said.

On Wednesday, government spokesman Amer Al-Ajmi said the Kuwaiti Cabinet had approved a draft emiri decree inviting voters to elect the National Assembly and added that registration of candidates would begin on March 4.

Last month, Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah issued a decree to dissolve the parliament.

The decree was based on the national assembly’s “violation of the constitutional principles,” KUNA added.

The assembly was elected in June 2023 following a proposal by the prime minister that was approved by the cabinet.