112 killed as Israel forces fire on Gazans rushing for food aid

Update Injured people receive treatment in Gaza City's Al-Shifa hospital, following a reported Israeli strike, that according to Gaza's Health Ministry, killed at least 20 and wounded more than 150 as they waited for humanitarian aid (AFP)
Injured people receive treatment in Gaza City's Al-Shifa hospital, following a reported Israeli strike, that according to Gaza's Health Ministry, killed at least 20 and wounded more than 150 as they waited for humanitarian aid (AFP)
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Updated 29 February 2024
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112 killed as Israel forces fire on Gazans rushing for food aid

112 killed as Israel forces fire on Gazans rushing for food aid
  • Israeli source said troops opened fire at “several people” in crowd who posed threat to them
  • Gaza Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qidra said incident took place at Al-Nabusi roundabout west of Gaza City

RAFAH: Israeli troops fired on a crowd of Palestinians racing to pull food off an aid convoy in Gaza City on Thursday, witnesses said. More than 100 people were killed in the chaos, bringing the death toll since the start of the Israel-Hamas war to more than 30,000, according to health officials.
Israel said many of the dead were trampled in a chaotic stampede for the food aid and that its troops only fired when they felt endangered by the crowd.
The violence was quickly condemned by Arab countries, and US President Joe Biden expressed concern it would add to the difficulty of negotiating a ceasefire in the nearly five-month conflict.
The Gaza City area was among the first targets of Israel’s air, sea and ground offensive, launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into Israel.
While many Palestinians fled the invasion in the north of the enclave, a few hundred thousand are believed to remain in the largely devastated and isolated region. Several deliveries of aid reached the area this week, officials said.
Aid groups say it has become nearly impossible to deliver supplies in most of Gaza because of the difficulty of coordinating with the Israeli military, ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of public order, with crowds of desperate people overwhelming aid convoys. The UN says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians face starvation; around 80 percent have fled their homes.
Military officials said the pre-dawn convoy of 30 trucks driving to northern Gaza were met by huge crowds of people trying to grab the aid they were carrying. Dozens of Palestinians were killed in the stampede and some were run over by the trucks as the drivers tried to get away, said Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesperson.
Israeli troops guarding the area fired warning shots toward the crowd because they felt endangered, he said.
“We didn’t open fire on those seeking aid. Contrary to the accusations, we didn’t open fire on a humanitarian aid convoy, not from the air and not from land. We secured it so it could reach northern Gaza,” he said.
Kamel Abu Nahel, who was being treated for a gunshot wound at Shifa Hospital, said he and others went to the distribution point in the middle of the night because they heard there would be a delivery of food. “We’ve been eating animal feed for two months,” he said.
He said Israeli troops opened fire on the crowd as people pulled boxes of flour and canned goods off the trucks, causing them to scatter, with some hiding under cars. After the shooting stopped, people went back to the trucks, and the soldiers opened fire again. He was shot in the leg and fell over, and then a truck ran over his leg as it sped off, he said.
At least 112 people were killed, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said. The Health Ministry described it as a “massacre.”
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan accused Israel of targeting civilians in the incident. In separate statements, they called for increased safe passages for humanitarian aid. They also urged the international community to take decisive action to pressure Israel to abide by international law and to reach an agreement for an immediate ceasefire.
The UN Security Council scheduled emergency closed consultations on the killings for later Thursday at the request of Algeria, the Arab representative on the 15-nation body.
The increasing alarm over hunger across Gaza has fueled international calls for a ceasefire, and the US, Egypt and Qatar are working to secure a deal between Israel and Hamas for a pause in fighting and the release of some of the hostages Hamas took during its Oct. 7 attack.
Mediators hope to reach an agreement before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan starts around March 10. But so far, Israel and Hamas have remained far apart in public on their demands.
Biden had earlier expressed hope that a deal would be done by Monday. He said Thursday that looked unlikely.
“Hope springs eternal,” Biden told reporters. “I was on the telephone with people from the region. Probably not by Monday, but I’m hopeful.”
When asked if the bloodshed in Gaza City on Thursday would complicate those efforts, he said, “I know it will.”
In a statement condemning Thursday’s attack, Hamas said it would not allow the negotiations “to be a cover for the enemy to continue its crimes.”
Medics arriving at the scene of the bloodshed Thursday found “dozens or hundreds” lying on the ground, according to Fares Afana, the head of the ambulance service at Kamal Adwan Hospital. He said there were not enough ambulances to collect all the dead and wounded and that some were being brought to hospitals in donkey carts.
Another man in the crowd — who gave only his first name, Ahmad, as he was being treated at a hospital for gunshot wounds to the arm and leg — said he waited for two hours before someone with a horse-drawn cart had room to take him to Shifa.
The violence came more than a month after witnesses and health officials in Gaza accused Israeli troops of firing on a previous aid distribution in Gaza City, killing at least 20 people.
Dr. Mohammed Salha, the acting director of the Al-Awda Hospital, said the facility received 161 wounded patients, most of whom appeared to have been shot. He said the hospital can perform only the most essential surgeries because it is running out of fuel to power emergency generators.
The Health Ministry said the Palestinian death toll from the war has climbed to 30,035, with another 70,457 wounded. The agency does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its figures but says women and children make up around two-thirds of those killed.
The ministry, which is part of the Hamas-run government in Gaza, maintains detailed records of casualties. Its counts from previous wars have largely matched those of the UN, independent experts and even Israel’s own tallies.
The Hamas attack into southern Israel that ignited the war killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and the militants seized around 250 hostages. Hamas and other militants are still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of about 30 more, after releasing most of the other captives during a November ceasefire.
Violence has also surged across the West Bank since Oct. 7. An attacker shot and killed two Israelis at a gas station in the settlement of Eli on Thursday, according to the Israeli military. The attacker was killed, the military said.
Meanwhile, UN officials have warned of further mass casualties if Israel follows through on vows to attack the southernmost city of Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million has taken refuge. They also say a Rafah offensive could decimate what remains of aid operations.
Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are believed to remain in northern Gaza despite Israeli orders to evacuate the area in October, and many have been reduced to eating animal fodder to survive. The UN says 1 in 6 children under 2 in the north suffer from acute malnutrition and wasting.
COGAT, the Israeli military body in charge of Palestinian civilian affairs, said around 50 aid trucks entered northern Gaza this week. It was unclear who delivered the aid. Some countries have resorted to airdrops in recent days.
The World Food Program said earlier this month that it was pausing deliveries to the north because of the growing chaos, after desperate Palestinians emptied a convoy while it was en route.
Since launching its assault on Gaza following Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, Israel has barred entry of food, water, medicine and other supplies, except for a trickle of aid entering the south from Egypt at the Rafah crossing and Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing. Despite international calls to allow in more aid, the number of supply trucks is far less than the 500 that came in daily before the war.


International reactions after Israel’s reported attack on Iran

International reactions after Israel’s reported attack on Iran
Updated 2 sec ago
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International reactions after Israel’s reported attack on Iran

International reactions after Israel’s reported attack on Iran
PARIS: Here are some international reactions Friday after Israel’s reported attack on the Iranian province of Isfahan, where it has military bases and nuclear facilities:
RUSSIA
Russia has made clear to Israel that Iran “does not want escalation,” Moscow’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday, after reports Israel had carried out retaliatory strikes against its arch-rival.
“There have been telephone contacts between the leadership of Russia and Iran, our representatives and the Israelis. We made it very clear in these conversations, we told the Israelis that Iran does not want escalation,” Lavrov said in an interview with Russian radio stations.
The United Arab Emirates’ foreign ministry on Friday expressed concern about regional tensions in a statement, calling for ‘utmost restraint’ to avoid serious repercussions.
JORDAN
Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said on Friday Israeli-Iranian retaliations must end, warning against danger of regional escalation.
GERMANY
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for de-escalation following a strike on the Iranian city of Isfahan and said Berlin would work with its partners in this direction.
“De-escalation remains the order of the day in the near future. And we will also talk about this with all our friends and allies, and work together with them in this direction,” Scholz told reporters on Friday.
G7
Group of Seven foreign ministers warned of new sanctions against Iran on Friday for its drone and missile attack on Israel, and urged both sides to avoid an escalation of the conflict.
CHINA
“China opposes any actions that further escalate tensions and will continue to play a constructive role to de-escalate the situation,” said foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian.
IAEA
“IAEA can confirm that there is no damage to Iran’s nuclear sites. Director General Rafael Grossi continues to call for extreme restraint from everybody and reiterates that nuclear facilities should never be a target in military conflicts. IAEA is monitoring the situation very closely,” the International Atomic Energy Agency said on X.
OMAN
“The Sultanate of Oman is following the continuing tension in the region and condemns the Israeli attack this morning on Isfahan,” the foreign ministry said, adding that it also “condemns and denounces Israel’s repeated military attacks in the region.
“Oman once again appeals to the international community to address the causes and roots of tension and conflict through dialogue, diplomacy and political solutions, and to focus on ceasefire efforts in Gaza and resort to international law and United Nations resolutions to reach a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian issue.”
EC PRESIDENT URSULA VON DER LEYEN
“We have to do everything possible (so) that all sides restrain from the escalation in that region ... It is absolutely necessary that the region stays stable and that all sides refrain from further action,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
UK
“We have condemned Iran’s reckless and dangerous barrage of missiles against Israel on Saturday and Israel absolutely has a right to self-defense. But as I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu when I spoke to him (this week) and more generally, significant escalation is not in anyone’s interest, what we want to see is calm heads prevail across the region,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said.
ITALY
“We invite everyone to be cautious to avoid an escalation,” Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani told RAI news on Capri where Italy is hosting a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations.
“This is something we from the government’s side take very seriously and are following very closely,” Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said.
“There has to be an end to the exchange of blows and escalation.”

Gazans cool down in seawater despite nearby Israeli vessels

Gazans cool down in seawater despite nearby Israeli vessels
Updated 49 min 17 sec ago
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Gazans cool down in seawater despite nearby Israeli vessels

Gazans cool down in seawater despite nearby Israeli vessels
  • Soaring temperatures in the embattled Palestinian enclave have prompted Gazan children to resort to the sea

RAFAH: Soaring temperatures in Gaza during the past week have driven thousands in the enclave’s southern city of Rafah to seek respite on beaches.

The proximity to Israeli military vessels did not stop hundreds of war-weary Gazans from bringing their children to enjoy a day of paddling and swimming, according to Arab News’ reporter in the embattled Palestinian enclave.

Many of the 1.4 million displaced Palestinians in Rafah live in makeshift shelters, including tents, on the beach, near the Egyptian border.

Since the Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip broke out on Oct. 7 last year, Gazans have been forced to resort to salty seawater for washing, bathing and even drinking due to the collapse of the water system.


Dubai carrier Emirates suspends check-in for onward connections, flydubai cancels Iran flights

Dubai carrier Emirates suspends check-in for onward connections, flydubai cancels Iran flights
Updated 19 April 2024
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Dubai carrier Emirates suspends check-in for onward connections, flydubai cancels Iran flights

Dubai carrier Emirates suspends check-in for onward connections, flydubai cancels Iran flights
  • Dubai International Airport temporarily limiting the number of arriving flights for 48 hours from 12 p.m. on Friday

DUBAI: Dubai’s flagship airline Emirates is suspending check-in for all customers with onward connections through the city until 2359 GMT on Friday, three days after a record storm swept the United Arab Emirates.

Emirates, one of the world’s biggest international airlines, said customers traveling to Dubai as their final destination may check-in and travel as usual.

The suspension shows the airline and its hub, Dubai International Airport, are still struggling to clear a backlog of flights after the UAE saw its heaviest rains in the 75 years records have been kept, bringing much of the country to a standstill for two days and causing significant damage.

Dubai International airport, one of the world’s busiest, later said it was temporarily limiting the number of arriving flights for 48 hours from 12 p.m. on Friday to speed up recovery operations from rain and flooding.

Thousands of passengers have been affected by flight cancelations this week, Dubai Airports Chief Executive Paul Griffiths told local radio station Dubai Eye on Friday, after the storm flooded taxiways.

The storm, which hit neighboring Oman on Sunday, pounded the UAE on Tuesday, with 20 reported dead in Oman and one in the UAE.

Dubai’s budget carrier flydubai meanwhile canceled flights to Iran on Friday after receiving an official alert, a statement said.

“In line with the issued NOTAM (notice to air missions), our flights to Iran today have been canceled,” said the statement.

One flight which had already departed for Tehran returned to Dubai after the Iranian capital’s airport was closed, it added.

Flights were suspended across swathes of Iran as Iranian state media reported explosions in the central province of Isfahan.

Flight-tracking software showed commercial flights avoiding western Iran, including Isfahan, and skirting Tehran to the north and east.

The main road that connects the UAE’s most populous emirate Dubai with Abu Dhabi remains partially closed, while an alternative route into Dubai requires vehicles to use a road that is entirely covered in floodwater where cars and buses have been abandoned.

In the UAE’s north, including in the emirate of Sharjah, people were reportedly still trapped in their homes, while others there said there had been extensive damage to businesses.

Rains are rare in the UAE and elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula, which is typically known for its dry desert climate where summer air temperatures can soar above 50 degrees Celsius.

The UAE’s National Center of Meteorology said on social platform X that Monday may see light rainfall by late night and forecast “a chance of light to moderate rainfall, might be heavy at times over some areas” for Tuesday, with a fall in temperatures over some coastal areas.


Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes

Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes
Updated 19 April 2024
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Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes

Iran closes air space, commercial flights diverted after apparent Israeli retaliatory strikes
  • Drones shot down over Isfahan, says Iranian state media
  • Israel military refuses to comment on incident

DUBAI/WASHINGTON: Israeli missiles have hit a site in Iran, ABC News reported late on Thursday, citing a US official, while Iranian state media reported an explosion in the center of the country, days after Iran launched a retaliatory drone strike on Israel.

Commercial flights began diverting their routes early Friday morning over western Iran without explanation as one semiofficial news agency in the Islamic Republic claimed there had been “explosions” heard over the city of Isfahan.

Some Emirates and Flydubai flights that were flying over Iran early on Friday made sudden sharp turns away from the airspace, according to flight paths shown on tracking website Flightradar24.

“Flights over Isfahan, Shiraz and Tehran cities have been suspended,” state media reported.

Iranian officials said its air defenses did shot down several drones but there had been “no missile attack for now” on the country.

The state-run IRNA news agency reported that Iran fired air defense batteries early Friday morning across several provinces after reports of explosions near the city of Isfahan.

Several drones “have been successfully shot down by the country’s air defense, there are no reports of a missile attack for now,” Iran’s space agency spokesman Hossein Dalirian says on X.

The Fars news agency said “three explosions” were heard near the Shekari army airbase near Isfahan.

Iran’s local media also reported that nuclear facilities in Isfahan were “completely secure” after explosions were heard near the area.

“Nuclear facilities in Isfahan province are completely secure,” Tasnim news agency reports, quoting “reliable sources.”

Israel had said it would retaliate against Iran’s weekend attack, which involved hundreds of drones and missiles in retaliation for a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria. Most of the Iranian drones and missiles were downed before reaching Israeli territory.

Several Iranian nuclear sites are located in Isfahan province, including Natanz, centerpiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Isfahan, Isome 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Iran’s capital, Tehran, is also home to a major air base for the Iranian military.

Meanwhile in Iraq where a number of Iranian-backed militias are based, residents in Baghdad reported hearing sounds of explosions, but the source of the noise was not immediately clear.

In Syria, a local activist group said strikes hit an army position in the south of the country Friday. 

“There were strikes on a Syrian army radar position,” said Rayan Maarouf, who runs the Suwayda24 anti-government website that covers news from Sweida province in the south.

Iranian military positions in Syria had been frequently targetted by Israeli air strikes over the past years. Early this month, an Israeli strike demolished a consular building annex of the Iranian Embassy in Sydia's capital Damascus, killing 13 people, including two generals of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, triggering the Iranian missiles and drones attack on Israel on April 13.

At the United Nations Security Council on Thursday, Iran urged member nations that Israel “must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our interests” as the UN secretary-general warned that the Middle East was in a “moment of maximum peril.”

Israel had said it was going to retaliate against Iran’s April 13 missile and drone attack.

Analysts and observers have been raising concerns about the risks of the Israel-Gaza war spreading into the rest of the region.

Oil prices and jumped on the reports of the Israeli strike. Brent crude futures rose 2 percent to $88.86 a barrel, the dollar gained broadly, gold rose 1 percent and S&P 500 futures dropped 1 percent.

Israel’s assault on Gaza began after Palestinian Islamist group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel’s military offensive has killed over 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the local health ministry.
Iran-backed groups have declared support for Palestinians, launching attacks from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.


Tehran plays down reported Israeli attacks, signals no further retaliation

Tehran plays down reported Israeli attacks, signals no further retaliation
Updated 19 April 2024
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Tehran plays down reported Israeli attacks, signals no further retaliation

Tehran plays down reported Israeli attacks, signals no further retaliation
  • US media: United States received advance notice of Israel’s reported strike on Iran
  • Countries around the world called on Friday for both sides to avert further escalation

DUBAI/JERUSALEM: Explosions echoed over an Iranian city on Friday in what sources described as an Israeli attack, but Tehran played down the incident and indicated it had no plans for retaliation — a response that appeared gauged toward averting region-wide war.

The limited scale of the attack and Iran’s muted response both appeared to signal a successful effort by diplomats who have been working round the clock to avert all-out war since an Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel last Saturday.

Iranian media and officials described a small number of explosions, which they said resulted from Iran’s air defenses hitting three drones over the city of Isfahan. Notably, they referred to the incident as an attack by “infiltrators,” rather than by Israel, obviating the need for retaliation.

An Iranian official said there were no plans to respond against Israel for the incident.

“The foreign source of the incident has not been confirmed. We have not received any external attack, and the discussion leans more toward infiltration than attack,” the official said.

Israel said nothing about the incident. It had said for days it was planning to retaliate against Iran for Saturday’s strikes, the first ever direct attack on Israel by Iran in decades of shadow war waged by proxies which has escalated throughout the Middle East through six months of battle in Gaza.

The United States received advance notice of Israel’s reported strike on Iran but did not endorse the operation or play any part in its execution, US media quoted officials as saying.

NBC and CNN, citing sources familiar with the matter and a US official, respectively, said Israel had provided Washington with pre-notification of the strike.

Various networks cited officials confirming a strike had taken place inside Iran, with CNN quoting one official as stating the target was not a nuclear facility.

The two longstanding foes had been heading toward direct confrontation since a presumed Israeli airstrike on April 1 that destroyed a building in Iran’s embassy compound in Damascus and killed several Iranian officers including a top general.

Iran’s response, with a direct attack on Israel, was unprecedented but caused no deaths and only minor damage because Israel and its allies shot down hundreds of missiles and drones.

Allies including the United States had since been pressing hard to ensure any further retaliation would be calibrated not to provoke a spiral of hostilities. The British and German foreign ministers visited Jerusalem this week, and Western countries tightened sanctions on Iran to mollify Israel.

In a sign of pressure within Israel’s hard-right government for a stronger response, Itamar Ben Gvir, the far-right national security minister tweeted a single word after Friday’s strikes: “Feeble!.”

Countries around the world called on Friday for both sides to avert further escalation.

“It is absolutely necessary that the region remains stable and that all sides restrain from further action,” EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said. Similar calls came from Beijing and from Arab states in the region.

In financial markets, global shares eased, oil prices surged and US bond yields fell as traders worried about the risks.

NO MENTION OF ISRAEL

Within Iran, news reports on Friday’s incident made no mention of Israel, and state television carried analysts and pundits who appeared dismissive about the scale.

An analyst told state TV that mini drones flown by “infiltrators from inside Iran” had been shot down by air defenses in Isfahan.

Shortly after midnight, “three drones were observed in the sky over Isfahan. The air defense system became active and destroyed these drones in the sky,” Iranian state TV said.

Senior army commander Siavosh Mihandoust was quoted by state TV as saying air defense systems had targeted a “suspicious object.”

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi had warned Israel before Friday’s strike that Tehran would deliver a “severe response” to any attack on its territory.

Iran told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday that Israel “must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our interests” as the UN secretary-general warned that the Middle East was in a “moment of maximum peril.”

By morning, Iran had reopened airports and airspace that were shut during the strikes.

Still, there was alarm over security in Israel and elsewhere. The US Embassy in Jerusalem restricted US government employees from travel outside Jerusalem, greater Tel Aviv and Beersheba “out of an abundance of caution.”

In a statement, the embassy warned US citizens of a “continued need for caution and increased personal security awareness as security incidents often take place without warning.”

Israel’s assault on Gaza began after Hamas Islamists attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s military offensive has killed about 34,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Gazan health ministry.

Iran-backed groups have declared support for Palestinians, carrying out attacks from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq, raising fears the Gaza conflict could grow into a wider regional war.