Gaza death toll nears 30,000 as aid groups warn of ‘imminent’ famine

Gaza death toll nears 30,000 as aid groups warn of ‘imminent’ famine
A Palestinian boy cries as he stands amid debris in the Maghazi camp. (AFP)
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Updated 28 February 2024
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Gaza death toll nears 30,000 as aid groups warn of ‘imminent’ famine

Gaza death toll nears 30,000 as aid groups warn of ‘imminent’ famine
  • One in six children under 2 years of age in northern Gaza are suffering from acute malnutrition
  • WFP “is ready to swiftly expand and scale up our operations if there is a ceasefire agreement,” WFP Deputy Executive Director Carl Skau said

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: The Gaza war’s reported Palestinian death toll neared 30,000 Wednesday as fighting raged in the Hamas-run territory despite mediators insisting a truce with Israel could be just days away.
Another 91 people were killed in overnight Israeli bombardment, the health ministry said.
Mediators from Eygpt, Qatar and the United States have been trying to find a path to a ceasefire amid the bitter fighting, with negotiators seeking a six-week pause in the nearly five-month war.
After a flurry of diplomacy, mediators said a deal could finally be within reach — reportedly including the release of some Israeli hostages held in Gaza since Hamas’s October 7 attack in exchange for several hundred Palestinian detainees held by Israel.
“My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire” but “we’re not done yet,” US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday.
Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari said Doha was “hopeful, not necessarily optimistic, that we can announce something” before Thursday.
But he cautioned that “the situation is still fluid on the ground.”
Doha has suggested the pause in fighting would come before the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month which starts on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.
Hamas had been pushing for the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza — a demand rejected outright by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But a Hamas source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the deal might see the Israeli military leave “cities and populated areas,” allowing the return of some displaced Palestinians and humanitarian relief.
Israel’s military campaign in Gaza has killed at least 29,954 people, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.
The war was triggered by an unprecedented Hamas attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.
Militants also took about 250 hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 31 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Since the war began, hundreds of thousands of Gazans have been displaced, with nearly 1.5 million people now packed into the far-southern city of Rafah, where Israel has warned it plans to launch a ground offensive.
Those who remain in northern Gaza have been facing an increasingly desperate situation, aid groups have warned.
“If nothing changes, a famine is imminent in northern Gaza,” the World Food Programme’s deputy executive director Carl Skau told the UN Security Council Tuesday.
His colleague from the UN humanitarian office OCHA, Ramesh Rajasingham, warned of “almost inevitable” widespread starvation.
The WFP said no humanitarian group had been able to deliver aid to the north for more than a month, with aid blocked from entering by Israeli forces.
“I have not eaten for two days,” said Mahmud Khodr, a resident of Jabalia refugee camp in the north, where children roamed with empty pots.
“There is nothing to eat or drink.”
Most aid trucks have been halted, but foreign militaries have air dropped supplies including on Tuesday over Rafah and Gaza’s main southern city Khan Yunis.
What aid does enter Gaza passes through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt, fueling a warning from UN chief Antonio Guterres that any assault on the city would “put the final nail in the coffin” of relief operations in the territory.
Israel has insisted it would move civilians to safety before sending troops into Rafah but it has not released any details.
Egypt has warned that an assault on the city would have “catastrophic repercussions across the region,” with Cairo concerned about an influx of refugees.
Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Tuesday that Israel will “listen to the Egyptians and their interests,” adding that Israel “cannot conduct an operation” with the current large population in Rafah.
Ahead of the threatened ground incursion, the area has been hit repeatedly by Israeli air strikes.
An AFP correspondent reported that overnight several air strikes hit the southern cities of Khan Yunis and Rafah, as well as Zeitun in central Gaza.
The army said it had “killed a number of terrorists and located weapons” in Zeitun.
It said two more soldiers had died in the fighting in Gaza, taking its overall toll to 242 since the start of the ground offensive on October 27.


Lebanon decries violations of its airspace after Iran attack on Israel

Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati. (AFP file photo)
Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati. (AFP file photo)
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Lebanon decries violations of its airspace after Iran attack on Israel

Lebanon's Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati. (AFP file photo)
  • Caretaker PM Mikati warns ‘we cannot remain silent in the face of Israeli aggressions’
  • Hezbollah claims responsibility for attack on Israeli troops who had crossed border

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati, declared on Monday that his country rejected the violation of its airspace by Israel.

“We cannot remain silent in the face of Israeli aggressions,” Mikati said, adding that further violations could not be tolerated.

It was the first official Lebanese statement following the Iranian attacks against Israel on Saturday night, and came as Mikati was addressing a broad ministerial meeting on Monday.

“We call on the international community to carry responsibility for these attacks. We always submit complaints before the (UN) Security Council over this matter,” he said.

Mikati also warned that Israel “is dragging the region into war, and the international community must take note of this and put an end to this war.”

Several Iranian drones flew over Lebanon the night of the attacks against Israel.

Fireballs were seen falling from the sky as the drones were intercepted, and several explosions were heard over Tripoli, northern Bekaa on the Syrian border, the coastal city of Dbayeh, the southern city of Tyre and the capital Beirut.

The Ministry of Public Works announced on the night of the attack “the closure of the Lebanese airspace to all incoming, outgoing, and transit flights over Lebanon, temporarily and as a precaution, from 1 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Sunday.”

Mikati pointed out that “through the contacts we are making, we realize that Lebanon has friends in the world who defend it and make every effort to pressure Israel to stop its aggression and prevent the escalation of confrontations.”

The ministerial meeting recommended to the Cabinet — which will convene in 10 days — “the creation of a committee that would develop a methodology for surveying damage and identifying needs in the southern border region that is subject to Israeli hostilities, in addition to presenting proposals for funding the reconstruction process.”

The meeting called on the relevant ministries to “verify the shortcomings of foodstuffs, supplies, and fuel, as well as the normal and proper availability of the supply chain.”

 Mohammed Abu Haidar, director general of the Ministry of Economy and Trade, said: “Regarding food security, supplies are highly available. Food products are available for (the next) three months. Flour is available for around a month, and a new shipment will arrive in 12 days.”

He added that gasoline and diesel “are available, and there are no issues at the market or supply levels.”

On Monday morning, the southern front witnessed a new development in the course of Hezbollah’s operations against the Israeli military.

Israeli media said four soldiers were injured in an explosion on the border — one of them severely and two moderately.

Hezbollah said that “when a force from the Israeli Golani Brigade crossed the border and reached a site of explosives, one detonated, resulting in deaths and injuries.”

The party said that “after closely monitoring the Israeli forces’ movements, Hezbollah members planted explosive devices in the Tal Ismail area adjacent to the border with Palestine and detonated them when the soldiers reached them.”

Correspondents in the border region said Tal Ismail — located between Dhayra and Alma Al-Shaab — “is a geographically exposed area controlled by the Israeli Army by fire, visibility, and other means of examination.”

Israeli military radio confirmed the explosion, saying it "targeted a force from the Golani unit and the Yahalom engineering unit while they were working on the fence in the western region on the border with Lebanon.”

It said that the explosion took place inside Lebanese territory.

An Israeli Army spokesperson said an Israeli soldier was seriously wounded during an operation in the border area in the north of the country.

Two Israeli soldiers suffered moderate injuries, and an explosion of unknown origin lightly wounded another. The spokesperson added that the incident is being investigated.

Israeli attacks on the border area escalated Monday morning, and warplanes carried out five raids on the outskirts of the towns of Dhayra, Naqoura, and Alma Al-Shaab.

The assault led to the road between Alma Al-Shaab and Dhayra being cut off as a result of a huge crater, which was later filled by the Lebanese Army and UNIFIL.

Israeli warplanes carried out mock raids over villages in the Tyre district and along the coast.

On Sunday night, an Israeli airstrike on a house in the town of Seddiqine destroyed it and caused serious material damage to dozens of surrounding buildings. Nine people were injured in the blast.

 

 


Netanyahu rival Lapid says Israel lost ‘deterrence’ against Iran

Netanyahu rival Lapid says Israel lost ‘deterrence’ against Iran
Updated 15 April 2024
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Netanyahu rival Lapid says Israel lost ‘deterrence’ against Iran

Netanyahu rival Lapid says Israel lost ‘deterrence’ against Iran
  • Former PM says ‘Jewish terrorist violence’ against Palestinians in West Bank was ‘out of control’ under Netanyahu
  • Israeli settlers torched Palestinian homes, cars over weekend in West Bank, where violence has soared since Oct. 7

JERUSALEM: Israel’s opposition leader Yair Lapid on Monday accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government of leading to a “total loss of Israeli deterrence” in the wake of an unprecedented Iranian attack.
In a scathing criticism posted on X, former premier Lapid also said that under Netanyahu, “Jewish terrorist violence” against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank was “out of control.”
Netanyahu, who returned to power in late 2022 at the helm of a coalition with far-right parties, has brought “heaps of destruction from Beeri to Kiryat Shmona,” Lapid said, calling for early elections.
Beeri, a kibbutz community near the Gaza border, came under attack when Hamas militants stormed the area on October 7, triggering the ongoing war, while the northern town of Kiryat Shmona has suffered during months of cross-border fire between Israeli forces and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
Lapid’s remarks came two days after Iran — which backs both Hamas and Hezbollah — launched more than 300 missiles and drones at Israel in retaliation for a deadly strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus.
Israel, the United States and other allies intercepted nearly all launches in the late Saturday aerial attack — the first direct Iranian military action against arch foe Israel.
Netanyahu’s cabinet has weighed Israel’s response to the Iranian attack, but the prime minister has not made any public comments.
In the West Bank, where violence has soared since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, Israeli settlers torched Palestinian homes and cars over the weekend, killing at least two people, after an Israeli teen was “murdered in a suspected terrorist attack,” according to the Israeli military.
Pointing to surging “terrorist” settler attacks, Lapid said: “If we don’t move this government, it will bring destruction upon us.”
The government, which includes hard-line settlers, has prioritized Jewish settlement expansion in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967.
Netanyahu has faced in recent months mass protests over the fate of hostages held in Gaza and pressure from a resurgent anti-government movement.
The prime minister’s Likud party responded to Lapid in a statement stressing Netanyahu’s part in “the global campaign” to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons — which Tehran denies it is seeking.


US destroys about 90 Iranian and Houthi drones, missiles in two days

US destroys about 90 Iranian and Houthi drones, missiles in two days
Updated 15 April 2024
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US destroys about 90 Iranian and Houthi drones, missiles in two days

US destroys about 90 Iranian and Houthi drones, missiles in two days
  • Iran’s ‘continued unprecedented, malign, and reckless behavior endangers regional stability and safety of US and coalition forces,’ CENTCOM says
  • Houthi media said on Sunday that the US and UK had launched strikes on an area under their control in the southern province of Taiz

AL-MUKALLA: More than 90 ballistic missiles and drones fired by Iran and the Houthis in Yemen at Israel and international shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden were intercepted by US military and navy forces, supported by ships from European Command, on Saturday and Sunday, according to two US military statements on Monday.

The US Central Command, or CENTCOM, said in a statement on Monday afternoon that its troops destroyed four drones fired by the Houthis from controlled areas in Yemen between 4:00 a.m. and 9:15 p.m. on Sunday.

On Saturday, the Houthis fired one anti-ship ballistic missile against US Navy and commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden.

“There were no injuries or damage reported by US, coalition, or commercial ships,” CENTCOM said.

In a separate statement issued early on Monday, CENTCOM stated that its forces, backed by US European Command ships, destroyed more than 80 drones and at least six ballistic missiles launched by Iran and the Houthis in Yemen at Israel on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

The intercepted volley of drones and missiles includes a ballistic missile destroyed on its launcher vehicles, as well as seven drones destroyed in Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen before launch.

“Iran’s continued unprecedented, malign, and reckless behavior endangers regional stability and the safety of US and coalition forces,” CENTCOM said.

“CENTCOM remains postured to support Israel’s defense against these dangerous actions by Iran. We will continue to work with all our regional partners to increase regional security,” the military said in the second statement.

Iran blasted hundreds of ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and drones toward Israel on Saturday night in retaliation for a purported Israeli airstrike in Damascus that killed senior Revolutionary Guards leaders.

The Houthis have not formally confirmed their participation in Iran’s retaliatory strike, despite reports from the US Central Command that missiles and drones launched by the Yemeni militia at Israel were intercepted.

Ambrey, a UK marine security company, also said that the Houthis launched drones at Israel during the Iran strike.

Since November, the Houthis have shot hundreds of ballistic missiles and drones toward Israel and ships in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the Gulf of Aden, claiming that their acts are in support of the Palestinian people.

The Houthis claim that they want to put an end to Israel’s heavy shelling of the Palestinian Gaza Strip while also allowing humanitarian aid to reach the territory. 

The US and UK have launched strikes against Houthi sites in Yemen since mid-January, attempting to force the Yemeni group to cease their attacks on ships.

Houthi media said on Sunday that the US and UK had launched strikes on an area under their control in the southern province of Taiz.

Meanwhile, deputy foreign minister Hussein Al-Ezzi has threatened to strike a recently built airport in the Red Sea town of Mokha to prevent what he calls “hostile” countries, such as the US as well as Israel, from using the airport as a platform for operations against them.

“We will not allow any Americans, Israelis or hostile parties to use Mokha Airport,” Al-Ezzi said on X. 

Yemen’s Aviation and Metrology Authority in Aden announced earlier this month that the Mokha Airport in Taiz province was ready for flights into and out of Yemen. 

Sadiq Dwaid, a spokesman for the National Resistance Forces, a military unit commanded by Presidential Leadership Council member Tareq Saleh, refuted the Houthi charges that the airport was open to Americans and Israelis.

“Mokha Airport is a civilian airport built to serve civilians and is not utilized for military operations. Any attempts to target the airport will be met with severe retribution,” Dwaid said on X.


Iraq’s deputy prime minister, in US meeting, calls for regional restraint

Iraq’s deputy prime minister, in US meeting, calls for regional restraint
Updated 15 April 2024
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Iraq’s deputy prime minister, in US meeting, calls for regional restraint

Iraq’s deputy prime minister, in US meeting, calls for regional restraint
  • “The government of Iraq is warning about escalation in the area to be dragged into a wider war," Tamim says

WASHINGTON: Iraq called on all parties to show restraint amid soaring tensions between neighboring Iran and Israel, Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad Ali Tamim said on Monday as he met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“The government of Iraq is warning about escalation in the area to be dragged into a wider war that will threaten international security and safety,” he said at the start of a meeting of the US-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee in Washington.
“And therefore we call on all parties for self restraint and respect the rules of diplomatic works and also international laws.”


Sudden heavy rains in Oman kill at least 17 including schoolchildren

Sudden heavy rains in Oman kill at least 17 including schoolchildren
Updated 15 April 2024
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Sudden heavy rains in Oman kill at least 17 including schoolchildren

Sudden heavy rains in Oman kill at least 17 including schoolchildren
  • Civil defense officials gave the death toll for the rains, which saw Oman’s North Al Sharqiyah province hardest hit
  • Heavy rains also were expected over Dubai in the neighboring UAE and other regions of the Arabian Peninsula

DUBAI: Heavy rainfall caused flash flooding in Oman on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, killing at least 17 people as rescuers searched for survivors, authorities said Monday. In one incident, a group of school children and a driver died when their vehicle was overtaken, authorities said.
Heavy rains also were expected over Dubai in the neighboring United Arab Emirates and other regions of the Arabian Peninsula.
Civil defense officials gave the death toll for the rains, which saw Oman’s North Al Sharqiyah province hardest hit. The Royal Oman Police and the Omani military deployed to the province to transport citizens out of flooded areas, Oman News Agency reported.
Heavy rainfall often causes flash flooding in the sultanate, drawing the curious from their homes to nearby dry riverbeds, known in Arabic as “wadi.” In flooding, they can quickly fill and wash away people and vehicles.
In Dubai, authorities expected heavy rains to begin Monday night and last into Tuesday morning. The Emirates’ National Center of Meteorology warned of thunder, lightning, rain and possibly hail, with winds reaching up to 70 kph (43 mph). Government schools announced they would hold classes remotely Tuesday and Wednesday.