Israel strikes Gaza’s Rafah as truce talks under way

Israel strikes Gaza’s Rafah as truce talks under way
Israel has warned it will expand its ground operations into Rafah, above, if Hamas does not free the remaining hostages held in Gaza by next month’s start of the Muslim holy month Ramadan. (AP)
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Updated 22 February 2024
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Israel strikes Gaza’s Rafah as truce talks under way

Israel strikes Gaza’s Rafah as truce talks under way
  • Global powers trying to navigate a way to end the Israel-Hamas war have so far come up short
  • International concern has in recent weeks centered on Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: Israel launched air strikes Thursday on southern Gaza’s Rafah after threatening to send troops into the city, where around 1.4 million Palestinians have sought shelter from around the territory.
Global powers trying to navigate a way to end the Israel-Hamas war have so far come up short, but a US envoy was expected in Israel on Thursday to try to secure a truce deal.
International concern has spiraled over the high civilian death toll and dire humanitarian crisis in the war sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack against Israel.
More than four months of relentless fighting and air strikes have flattened much of the Hamas-run coastal territory, pushing its population of around 2.4 million to the brink of famine, according to the UN.
International concern has in recent weeks centered on Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where more than 1.4 million people forced to flee their homes elsewhere in the territory are now living in crowded shelters and makeshift tents.
The last city untouched by Israeli ground troops, Rafah also serves as the main entry point via neighboring Egypt for desperately needed relief supplies.
Israel has warned it will expand its ground operations into Rafah if Hamas does not free the remaining hostages held in Gaza by next month’s start of the Muslim holy month Ramadan.
The war started when Hamas launched its attack on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.
Hamas militants also took about 250 hostages — 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 29,313 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by the Hamas-run health ministry in the territory.
War cabinet member Benny Gantz said Israel’s operation in Rafah would begin “after the evacuation of the population,” although his government has not offered any details on where civilians would be evacuated to.
In the early hours of Thursday, AFP reporters heard multiple air strikes on Rafah, particularly in the Al-Shaboura neighborhood.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said early Thursday that 99 people had been killed around Gaza during the night, most of them women, children and elderly people.
Abdel Rahman Mohamed Jumaa said he lost his family in recent strikes on Rafah.
“I found my wife lying in the street,” he said. “Then I saw a man carrying a girl and I ran toward him and.... picked her up, realizing she was really my daughter.”
He was holding a small shrouded corpse in his arms.
Brett McGurk, the White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, was expected to arrive in Israel Thursday — his second stop in the region after Egypt as part of US efforts to advance a hostage deal and broker a truce.
Hamas’s chief Ismail Haniyeh was in Cairo for talks as well, according to the group.
Israel’s Gantz said there were efforts to “promote a new plan for the return of the hostages.”
“We are seeing the first signs that indicate the possibility of progress in this direction.”
Matthew Miller, US State Department spokesman, said Washington was hoping for an “agreement that secures a temporary ceasefire where we can get the hostages out and get humanitarian assistance,” but declined to give details on ongoing negotiations.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted the army will keep fighting until it has destroyed Hamas and freed the remaining hostages.
Israel’s parliament on Wednesday overwhelmingly backed a proposal by Netanyahu to oppose any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.
The vote came days after the Washington Post reported that US President Joe Biden’s administration and a small group of Arab nations were working out a comprehensive plan for long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
It included a firm timeline for the establishment of a Palestinian state, the report said.
Separately, a report by an Israeli group that fights sexual violence said Hamas’s October 7 attack also involved systematic sexual assaults on civilians, based on witness testimonies, public and classified information, and interviews.
The report came the same week UN rights experts called for an independent probe into alleged Israeli abuses against Palestinian women and girls — which Israel rejected as “despicable and unfounded claims.”
Israeli officials have repeatedly alleged the militants committed violent sexual assaults during the attack — something Hamas has denied.
Combat and chaos have stalled sporadic aid deliveries for civilians in Gaza, while in Khan Yunis — a city just north of Rafah — medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said an Israeli tank had fired on a house sheltering their employees and families.
Two relatives of MSF staff were killed and six others injured, it said, condemning the strike in the “strongest possible terms.”
When contacted by AFP about the incident, the Israeli army said its forces had “fired at a building that was identified as a building where terror activity is occurring,” adding that it “regrets” harm to civilians.
In the same town, the Palestinian Red Crescent said another hospital was also hit by “artillery shelling.”
Israel has repeatedly said Hamas militants use civilian infrastructure including hospitals as operational bases — claims that Hamas has denied.


Lebanese army under attack from Israeli machine guns

Lebanese army under attack from Israeli machine guns
Updated 29 May 2024
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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 37 min 33 sec ago
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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
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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.


Arab League chief to attend China-Arab Cooperation Forum in Beijing

Arab League chief to attend China-Arab Cooperation Forum in Beijing
Updated 29 May 2024
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Arab League chief to attend China-Arab Cooperation Forum in Beijing

Arab League chief to attend China-Arab Cooperation Forum in Beijing
  • The event will be attended by China’s President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi
  • The meeting in Beijing aims to provide a platform for the exchange of views on regional and international issues, particularly the Palestinian cause

CAIRO: Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the secretary-general of the Arab League, will on Thursday attend the 10th session of the ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Beijing.
The event will be attended by China’s President Xi Jinping and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, as well as monarchs and political leaders from several Arab countries.
Aboul Gheit’s spokesperson, Gamal Roshdy, said the visit would include a number of meetings with senior Chinese officials, including Wang and Vice President Han Zheng.
The meeting in Beijing — which comes after Aboul Gheit met EU foreign ministers to discuss the Palestinian cause earlier in the week — aims to provide a platform for the exchange of views on regional and international issues, particularly the Palestinian cause, which remains a priority for the Arab League, especially in light of efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, Roshdy said the Arab League had produced a commemorative book that highlighted some of the key milestones in its history.
The forum is a framework for dialogue and cooperation between Arab states and China. Its founding document was signed in September 2004 at the headquarters of the Arab League in Cairo, following a visit by then Chinese President Hu Yintao.
 


Egypt to host Sudan peace conference next month

Egypt to host Sudan peace conference next month
Updated 29 May 2024
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Egypt to host Sudan peace conference next month

Egypt to host Sudan peace conference next month
  • The ministry said it was part of Egypt’s “unremitting efforts and endeavors” to put an end to the ongoing war in Sudan
  • The conference will be held in the presence of relevant regional and international partners

CAIRO: Egypt will next month host representatives of Sudan’s civil and political groups in a bid to bring peace and stability to the country, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said.
The offer to hold the event stemmed from the belief that the “current conflict in Sudan is basically a Sudanese issue and that any future political process should include all national stakeholders on the Sudanese scene, and within the framework of respecting the principles of Sudan’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, non-interference in its internal affairs, and preserving the state and its institutions,” the ministry said.
The conference will be held in the presence of relevant regional and international partners and seek to achieve consensus among Sudanese forces on ways to build a comprehensive and lasting peace.
The ministry said it was part of Egypt’s “unremitting efforts and endeavors” to put an end to the ongoing war in Sudan and within a framework of cooperation and integration with the efforts of regional and international partners, especially Sudan’s neighboring countries, the parties to the Jeddah talks, the UN, African Union, Arab League and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, an eight-country trade bloc in Africa.
Egypt looked forward to the effective participation of all and concerted efforts to ensure the conference succeeded in achieving the aspirations of the Sudanese people, it said.