Israeli protesters block aid convoys bound for Gaza

Israeli demonstrators gather by the border fence with Egypt at the Nitzana border crossing in southern Israel on February 18, 2024, as they attempt to block humanitarian aid trucks from entering into Israel on their way to the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
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Israeli demonstrators gather by the border fence with Egypt at the Nitzana border crossing in southern Israel on February 18, 2024, as they attempt to block humanitarian aid trucks from entering into Israel on their way to the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
Israeli demonstrators gather by the border fence with Egypt at the Nitzana border crossing in southern Israel on February 18, 2024, as they attempt to block humanitarian aid trucks from entering into Israel on their way to the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
2 / 3
Israeli demonstrators gather by the border fence with Egypt at the Nitzana border crossing in southern Israel on February 18, 2024, as they attempt to block humanitarian aid trucks from entering into Israel on their way to the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
Israeli demonstrators gather by the border fence with Egypt at the Nitzana border crossing in southern Israel on February 18, 2024, as they attempt to block humanitarian aid trucks from entering into Israel on their way to the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
3 / 3
Israeli demonstrators gather by the border fence with Egypt at the Nitzana border crossing in southern Israel on February 18, 2024, as they attempt to block humanitarian aid trucks from entering into Israel on their way to the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
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Updated 19 February 2024
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Israeli protesters block aid convoys bound for Gaza

Israeli demonstrators gather by the border fence with Egypt at the Nitzana border crossing in southern Israel.
  • Protesters reached the terminal where aid from Egypt is checked before the trucks continue toward Gaza
  • As a result, trucks waiting on the Egyptian side were unable to cross into Israel

NITZANA: Even as the threat of famine stalks the war-ravaged Gaza Strip, Israeli protesters have gathered repeatedly to stop desperately needed aid from getting into the Palestinian territory.
“You might say it’s not acceptable to block food and water going in,” said one protester, David Rudman, at the Nitzana border post between Israel and Egypt.
“But, given the situation we’re in, it’s acceptable,” he argued as the Gaza war, siege and hostage crisis have continued into a fifth month.
The latest protest on Sunday came as Hamas threatened to suspend talks to free hostages unless more aid gets in.
Despite those threats, just over 100 people gathered at Nitzana, where the Egyptian Sinai meets Israel’s Negev desert, with some saying they were hoping to pile pressure on in a bid to free the captives.
Rudman, 35, drove three hours from Jerusalem to prevent food, fuel and medicine from getting into Gaza, which Israel has been shelling since Hamas’s October 7 attack.
Undeterred by concrete blocks across the road and armed soldiers on patrol, the protesters reached the terminal where aid from Egypt is checked before the trucks continue toward Gaza.
As a result, trucks waiting on the Egyptian side were unable to cross into Israel.
“Our aim is to get the hostages back,” said Rudman.
“There hasn’t been any progress for weeks, and you’re going to see more and more people coming here,” he predicted.
The war began with Hamas’s attack that resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory campaign in Gaza has killed more than 29,000 people, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.
Some 300,000 people remain in northern Gaza, where increasingly desperate conditions have forced some to grind bird feed for flour.
A first truce at the end of November saw the release of 108 hostages out of the more than 250 kidnapped by Hamas on October 7. Israel says 130 captives are still in Gaza but 30 may be dead.
“One of my best friends is a hostage in Gaza,” said Rudman, without naming the captive. “We hope he’s still alive in Gaza but we don’t know for sure.
“It makes no sense at all. On the one hand we give them water, medicine and food but on the other we don’t even have a list” of who is being held and their condition.
Families of the hostages have taken to the streets every week to push the Israeli government to accept a deal for their release.
This weekend said they would block the terminal at Nitzana or one further north at Kerem Shalom.
But at Nitzana on Sunday only one member of the hostages’ families turned up and refused to talk, out of fear of reprisals for those being held.
A survey for Israel’s Channel 12 television at the end of January suggested 72 percent of Israelis believed Gaza should not receive any aid while hostages are still being held.
The UN says the protests at Nitzana and Kerem Shalom are blocking trucks from going into Gaza, hitting dwindling stocks.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society on Sunday evening said 123 trucks made it into Gaza via Kerem Shalom, but none had passed through Nitzana because of the protest.
Nili Naouri, head of the far-right group “Israel is Forever,” said that “it’s completely immoral to force Israel to send humanitarian convoys of trucks to people that support Hamas, who are holding our people hostage, and are collaborating with the enemy.”
On Sunday, members of the organization turned up to block aid, calling it “unhumanitarian.”
“Hamas aren’t going to gladly free our hostages if we allow aid trucks in for the civilian population of Gaza,” said Naouri.
Her solution is simple: “Let Gazans leave Gaza” if they want help from the international community.
Hamas, she charged, diverts aid for its own ends.
Some 1.4 million Palestinians have been sheltering in Rafah in the far south of Gaza, many having been displaced several times in a bid to find safety since the start of the war.
With neighboring Egypt repeatedly rejecting the mass displacement of Palestinians, they have nowhere to go as Israel’s planned ground offensive of Rafah looms.
But David Ickowicz, 39, a regular at the aid blockades, is convinced that his “civil disobedience” serves a purpose.
“Hamas’s leaders live in the tunnels. But to live underground and breathe oxygen you need electricity produced by fuel,” he reasoned.
“Cut off fuel supplies and we’ll get them out of the tunnels.”


Israel puts Golan, Nevatim, Dimona, Eilat residents on impact standby

Israel puts Golan, Nevatim, Dimona, Eilat residents on impact standby
Updated 4 sec ago
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Israel puts Golan, Nevatim, Dimona, Eilat residents on impact standby

Israel puts Golan, Nevatim, Dimona, Eilat residents on impact standby
  • Israel has a nuclear reactor on the outskirts of Dimona

JERUSALEM: Israel’s military put the northern part of the occupied Golan Heights as well as Nevatim, Dimona and Eilat on standby for possible impact from Iranian drone launches early on Sunday, instructing residents to stay close to bomb shelters.
The Golan was captured from Syria in a 1967 war. Nevatim is the site of an Israeli air base. Israel has a nuclear reactor on the outskirts of Dimona. Eilat is Israel’s southern Red Sea port, which has come under repeated attack by Yemen’s Houthis.

 


US shoots down Iranian drone aircraft bound for Israel — US officials

US shoots down Iranian drone aircraft bound for Israel — US officials
Updated 5 min 27 sec ago
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US shoots down Iranian drone aircraft bound for Israel — US officials

US shoots down Iranian drone aircraft bound for Israel — US officials

WASHINGTON: The US military has shot down Iranian drone aircraft headed toward Israel on Saturday, three US officials said, without disclosing how many drones were shot down or the precise locations.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said it launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel in an attack that may trigger a major escalation between the regional archenemies.


Iran’s UN mission: attack on Israel is a conflict between Iran and Israel

Iran’s UN mission: attack on Israel is a conflict between Iran and Israel
Updated 6 min 54 sec ago
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Iran’s UN mission: attack on Israel is a conflict between Iran and Israel

Iran’s UN mission: attack on Israel is a conflict between Iran and Israel
  • ” Iran’s military action was in response to the Zionist regime’s aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus

DUBAI: The United States must stay away from the conflict between Iran and Israel, Iran’s mission to the United Nations said on social media platform X on Sunday, warning Tehran’s response would be more severe if Israel retaliates.
” ... Iran’s military action was in response to the Zionist regime’s aggression against our diplomatic premises in Damascus. The matter can be deemed concluded,” the mission said on X.
“However, should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe. It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the US MUST STAY AWAY!.”

 


23-hour ordeal ends for 175 holidaymakers stranded in Turkiye cable car

23-hour ordeal ends for 175 holidaymakers stranded  in Turkiye cable car
Updated 58 min 19 sec ago
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23-hour ordeal ends for 175 holidaymakers stranded in Turkiye cable car

23-hour ordeal ends for 175 holidaymakers stranded  in Turkiye cable car
  • The stranded people had been stuck on the Tunektepe cable car, just outside the Mediterranean city of Antalya, since 5:30 p.m. on Friday
  • The cable car carries tourists from Konyaalti beach to a restaurant and viewing platform at the summit of the 618-meter Tunektepe peak

ISTANBUL: The last of 174 people stranded in cable cars high above a mountain in southern Turkiye were brought to safety Saturday, nearly 23 hours after one pod hit a pole and burst open, killing one person and injuring seven when they plummeted to the rocks below.

Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya announced the successful completion of the rescue operation on X Saturday afternoon.
A total of 607 search and rescue personnel and 10 helicopters were involved, including teams from Turkiye’s emergency response agency, AFAD, the Coast Guard, firefighting teams and mountain rescue teams from different parts of Turkiye, officials said. Helicopters with night-vision capabilities had continued rescuing people throughout the night.
The stranded people had been stuck on the Tunektepe cable car, just outside the Mediterranean city of Antalya, since 5:30 p.m. on Friday, when the accident occurred.
Istanbul resident Hatice Polat and her family were rescued seven hours into the ordeal. Speaking to the Anadolu agency, she said the power went out and the pod flipped four or five times.
“The night was awful, we were very scared. There were children with us, they passed out,” she said. “It was torture being up there for seven hours. It is swaying every second, you’re constantly in fear. ... It was very traumatic, I don’t know how we’ll get over this trauma.”
State-run Anadolu Agency identified the deceased as a 54-year-old Turkish man. Those injured included two children and were six Turkish citizens and one Kyrgyz national. They were all rescued by Coast Guard helicopters soon after the crash and sent for treatment. Images in Turkish media showed the battered car swaying from dislodged cables on the side of the rocky mountain as medics tended the wounded.
Yerlikaya also announced that 13 people rescued from other cars were also taken to hospitals for checkups.
Friday was the final day of a three-day public holiday in Turkiye marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which sees families flock to coastal resorts.
The cable car carries tourists from Konyaalti beach to a restaurant and viewing platform at the summit of the 618-meter (2,010-foot) Tunektepe peak. It is run by Antalya Metropolitan Municipality. The cable car line was completed in 2017 and receives a major inspection around the beginning of the year, as well as routine inspections throughout the year.
Antalya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation. An expert commission including mechanical and electrical engineers and health and safety experts was assigned to determine the cause of the incident.


Iran launches drones at Israel, airspace closed and defenses poised

Iran launches drones at Israel, airspace closed and defenses poised
Updated 14 April 2024
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Iran launches drones at Israel, airspace closed and defenses poised

Iran launches drones at Israel, airspace closed and defenses poised
  • “Wing of Zion,” Israel’s version of US “Air Force One,” airborne
  • Israeli army spokesman said would take several hours for drones to arrive

JERUSALEM: Iran launched drones toward Israel late Saturday, the Israeli military announced, and Iran’s state-run media reported that dozens had been fired.
The Israeli army’s spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said it would take several hours for the aircraft to arrive and that the country was prepared. Iran had been threatening to attack Israel since an airstrike last week killed two Iranian generals in Syria. Israel has not commented on that attack, but Iran accused it of being behind it.
Israeli aviation authorities said they were closing the country’s airspace to all flights as of 12:30 a.m. local time (5:30 p.m. EDT).
The drone attack late Saturday marked the first time Iran had ever launched a full-scale military assault on Israel, despite decades of enmity dating back to the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
In a statement carried by Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency, the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard acknowledged launching “dozens of drones and missiles toward the occupied territories and positions of the Zionist regime.” The statement did not elaborate.
The White House said it would provide unspecified support for Israel’s defense against the ongoing attack. “The United States will stand with the people of Israel and support their defense against these threats from Iran,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.
President Joe Biden was set to convene a principals meeting of the National Security Council to discuss the unfolding attack, the White House said. Biden had cut short a weekend trip to his beach house in Delaware to return to the White House and monitor the situation.
Earlier Saturday, the Israeli military said it was canceling school and limiting public gatherings to no more than 1,000 people as a precaution.
Hagari said Israel is “prepared and ready” with defensive and offensive actions. He also said there was “tight” cooperation with the US and other partners in the region.
The head of the US Central Command, Gen. Erik Kurilla, has been in Israel in recent days to coordinate with Israel about the Iranian threats.
Israel has a number of layers of air defense capable of intercepting everything from long-range missiles to UAV’s and short-range rockets. Hagari said Israel has an “excellent air defense system” but stressed it is not 100 percent effective and urged the public to listen to safety announcements.
For days, Iranian officials including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have threatened to “slap” Israel for its Syria strike.
Iran has largely avoided directly attacking Israel, despite its targeted killings of nuclear scientists and sabotage campaigns on Iran’s atomic sites. Iran has targeted Israeli or Jewish-linked sites through proxy forces.
Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip has inflamed decade-old tensions in the Middle East, and any new attack threatens to escalate that conflict into a wider regional war.
Flight-tracking data showed the airspace over Jordan empty, while few flights continued on their north-south routes over Iraq. A sole Middle East Airlines flight from Dubai to Beirut remained airborne over Syria.
Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency reported heavy Israeli airstrikes and shelling on multiple locations in south Lebanon following the launch of drones from Iran. The Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah has been clashing with Israeli forces in the border area for more than six months.
Earlier Saturday, commandos from Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard rappelled from a helicopter onto an Israeli-affiliated container ship near the Strait of Hormuz and seized the vessel.
Iran’s state-run IRNA said a special forces unit of the Guard’s navy carried out the attack on the Portuguese-flagged MSC Aries, a container ship associated with London-based Zodiac Maritime.
Zodiac Maritime is part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. Zodiac declined to comment and referred questions to MSC. Geneva-based MSC acknowledged the seizure and said 25 crew members were on the ship.
“We are working closely with the relevant authorities to ensure their wellbeing, and safe return of the vessel,” MSC said.
White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said the crew was made up of Indian, Filipino, Pakistani, Russian and Estonian nationals and urged Iran to release them and the vessel.
IRNA said the Guard would take the vessel into Iranian territorial waters.
A Middle East defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, provided video of the attack to The Associated Press in which Iranian commandos are seen rappelling onto a stack of containers on the vessel’s deck.
The video corresponded with known details of the MSC Aries. The commandos rappelled from what appeared to be a Soviet-era Mil Mi-17 helicopter, which both the Guard and the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen have used before to raid ships.
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called on nations to list the Guard as a terrorist organization. Iran “is a criminal regime that supports Hamas’ crimes and is now conducting a pirate operation in violation of international law,” Katz said.
The US, Israel’s main backer, has stood by the country despite growing concerns over Israel’s war on Gaza killing more than 33,600 Palestinians and wounding over 76,200 more. Israel’s war began after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw some 250 others taken hostage.
The Pentagon said Saturday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Israeli counterpart “to discuss urgent regional threats ... and made clear that Israel could count on full US support to defend Israel against any attacks by Iran and its regional proxies.” National security adviser Jake Sullivan also spoke with his counterpart to reinforce Washington’s “ironclad commitment to the security of Israel.”