Israel destroying Gaza’s food system in ‘starvation’ tactic, says UN expert

Israel destroying Gaza’s food system in ‘starvation’ tactic, says UN expert
Youngsters carry kitchen utensils as they walk toward a food distribution point in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday. (AFP)
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Updated 07 March 2024
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Israel destroying Gaza’s food system in ‘starvation’ tactic, says UN expert

Israel destroying Gaza’s food system in ‘starvation’ tactic, says UN expert
  • Aid officials have warned of looming famine five months into the war

GENEVA: A UN expert said on Thursday that Israel was destroying Gaza’s food system as part of a broader “starvation campaign” in its war against Hamas.

Aid officials have warned of looming famine five months into the campaign against the Islamist Palestinian group, while hospitals in the isolated northern part of the enclave say children have started dying from malnutrition.

“Israel is not only denying and restricting the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza. Israel is destroying the food system in Gaza,” Michael Fakhri, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, said in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council.

“Israel has mounted a starvation campaign against the Palestinian people in Gaza,” he added, saying that included targeting small-scale fishermen.

Israel denies restricting relief into Gaza and has since last week begun working with private contractors to deliver aid.

It also denies waging war on civilians, saying its fight is with Hamas. 

Israel participates in Human Rights Council debates as an observer and may address the forum.

Fakhri, a Lebanese-Canadian law professor, is one of dozens of independent human rights experts mandated by the UN to report and advise on specific themes and crises.

He was due to speak about fishing and climate change but used much of the first part of his speech to the 47-member Geneva council to address the Gaza situation.

He alleged that Israel is targeting small-scale fishers by denying them access to the sea and destroying boats and shacks.

Around 80 percent of Gaza’s fishing sector has been destroyed since Oct. 7, he said, adding that every boat had been demolished by Israeli forces in the main port of Gaza City.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel will push on with its offensive against Hamas, including into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, despite growing international pressure to stop.

“There is international pressure, and it’s growing, but particularly when the international pressure rises, we must close ranks. We need to stand together against the attempts to stop the war,” he said.

About 1.5 million people are estimated to be crammed into Rafah, on the southernmost fringe of the enclave close to the border with Egypt, most of them having fled their homes further north to escape Israel’s military onslaught.

Addressing a graduation ceremony at a training school for Israeli army officers, Netanyahu also said Israel must push back against a “calculated attempt” to blame it for Hamas’ crimes.

He added that Israel would operate throughout Gaza, “including Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold.”

“Whoever tells us not to act in Rafah is telling us to lose the war and that will not happen,” Netanyahu said.


War monitor says Israeli strikes kill six pro-Iran fighters in Syria

War monitor says Israeli strikes kill six pro-Iran fighters in Syria
Updated 57 min 42 sec ago
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War monitor says Israeli strikes kill six pro-Iran fighters in Syria

War monitor says Israeli strikes kill six pro-Iran fighters in Syria
  • A Hezbollah source said that at least one fighter from the group was killed in Israeli strikes in the Qusayr area

Beirut: A war monitor said at least six pro-Iran fighters were killed Monday in Israeli strikes in Syria near the Lebanese border, in an area where Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group holds sway.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “Israeli strikes targeted two positions of pro-Iran groups in the Homs region,” including “a Hezbollah site in the Qusayr area” near the border where “six Iran-backed fighters were killed.”
The Observatory did not specify their nationalities.
A Hezbollah source told AFP that at least one fighter from the group was killed in Israeli strikes in the Qusayr area.
Israel rarely comments on individual strikes in Syria but has repeatedly said it will not allow its arch-enemy Iran to expand its presence there.
On Saturday, the Observatory said an Israeli drone strike near the Lebanese border targeted a vehicle carrying “a Hezbollah commander and his companion,” without reporting casualties.
Hezbollah did not announce any deaths among its ranks on Saturday.
On May 9, Israeli strikes on Syria targeted facilities belonging to Iraq’s Al-Nujaba armed movement, the Observatory and the pro-Iran group said, with Damascus saying an unidentified building was attacked.
The Israeli military has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria since the outbreak of the civil war in its northern neighbor in 2011, mainly targeting army positions and Iran-backed fighters including from Lebanon’s Hezbollah group.
But the strikes increased after Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip began on October 7, when the Iran-backed Palestinian militant group launched an unprecedented attack against Israel.
Syria’s war has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions more since it erupted in 2011 after Damascus cracked down on anti-government protests.


ICC prosecutor seeks arrest warrant for Israeli and Hamas leaders, including Netanyahu

ICC prosecutor seeks arrest warrant for Israeli and Hamas leaders, including Netanyahu
Updated 28 min 50 sec ago
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ICC prosecutor seeks arrest warrant for Israeli and Hamas leaders, including Netanyahu

ICC prosecutor seeks arrest warrant for Israeli and Hamas leaders, including Netanyahu
  • Karim Khan believes Benjamin Netanyahu, Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity

THE HAGUE, Netherlands: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said Monday he is seeking arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in connection with their actions during the seven-month war between Israel and Hamas.

Karim Khan said that he believes Netanyahu, his defense minister Yoav Gallant and three Hamas leaders — Yehia Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh — are responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip and Israel.

The prosecutor must request the warrants from a pre-trial panel of three judges, who take on average two months to consider the evidence and determine if the proceedings can move forward.

Israel is not a member of the court, and even if the arrest warrants are issued, Netanyahu and Gallant do not face any immediate risk of prosecution. But Khan’s announcement deepens Israel’s isolation as it presses ahead with its war, and the threat of arrest could make it difficult for the Israeli leaders to travel abroad.

Both Sinwar and Deif are believed to be hiding in Gaza as Israel tries to hunt them down. But Haniyeh, the supreme leader of the Islamic militant group, is based in Qatar and frequently travels across the region.

There was no immediate comment from either side.

Israel launched its war in response to an Oct. 7 cross-border attack by Hamas that killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 250 others hostage. The Israeli offensive has killed over 35,000 Palestinians, at least half of them women and children, according to the latest estimates by Gaza health officials. The Israeli offensive has also triggered a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, displacing roughly 80 percent of the population and leaving hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of starvation, according to UN officials.

Speaking of the Israeli actions, Khan said in a statement that “the effects of the use of starvation as a method of warfare, together with other attacks and collective punishment against the civilian population of Gaza are acute, visible and widely known. ... They include malnutrition, dehydration, profound suffering and an increasing number of deaths among the Palestinian population, including babies, other children, and women.”

The United Nations and other aid agencies have repeatedly accused Israel of hindering aid deliveries throughout the war. Israel denies this, saying there are no restrictions on aid entering Gaza and accusing the United Nations of failing to distribute aid. The UN says aid workers have repeatedly come under Israeli fire, and also says ongoing fighting and a security vacuum have impeded deliveries.

Of the Hamas actions on Oct. 7, Khan, who visited the region in December, said that he saw for himself “the devastating scenes of these attacks and the profound impact of the unconscionable crimes charged in the applications filed today. Speaking with survivors, I heard how the love within a family, the deepest bonds between a parent and a child, were contorted to inflict unfathomable pain through calculated cruelty and extreme callousness. These acts demand accountability.”

After a brief period of international support for its war, Israel has faced increasing criticism as the war has dragged on and the death toll has climbed.

Israel is also facing a South African case in the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide. Israel denies those charges.


Israel intends to broaden Rafah sweep, Defense Minister Gallant tells Washington

Israel intends to broaden Rafah sweep, Defense Minister Gallant tells Washington
Updated 20 May 2024
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Israel intends to broaden Rafah sweep, Defense Minister Gallant tells Washington

Israel intends to broaden Rafah sweep, Defense Minister Gallant tells Washington
  • After weeks of public disagreements with Washington over the Rafah planning, Israel on May 6 ordered Palestinian civilians to evacuate parts of the city and began troop and tank incursions.

JERUSALEM: Israel intends to broaden its military operation in Rafah, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Monday told a senior aide to US President Joe Biden, who has warned against major action in the southern Gazan city that may risk mass civilian casualties.
Israel describes Rafah, which abuts the Gaza Strip’s border with the Egyptian Sinai, as the last stronghold of Hamas Islamists whose governing and combat capabilities it has been trying to dismantle during the more than seven-month-old war.
After weeks of public disagreements with Washington over the Rafah planning, Israel on May 6 ordered Palestinian civilians to evacuate parts of the city and began troop and tank incursions.
“We are committed to broadening the ground operation in Rafah to the end of dismantling Hamas and recovering the hostages,” a statement from Gallant’s office quoted him as telling visiting US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
Israel believes dozens of hostages from the cross-border Hamas rampage on Oct. 7 are being held in Rafah.
Western powers and Egypt have voiced concern for the fate of hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians sheltering there, despite Israeli assurances about humanitarian safeguards.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA said on Monday that it estimated 810,000 people had fled Rafah since May 6 — potentially more than half of the city’s wartime population.
There was no immediate US comment on the Gallant talks.
The statement from Gallant’s office said he “presented to (National Security) Adviser Sullivan the provisions Israel implemented for evacuating the population from the Rafah area and for setting up the appropriate humanitarian response.”
Israel says its forces in Rafah have discovered dozens of tunnels from the Sinai, a potential embarrassment for Cairo. The Egyptian state information service has previously dismissed speculation about cross-border smuggling to Gaza as “lies.”


Ireland’s top diplomat concerned over slow pace of justice in peacekeeper’s killing in Lebanon

Ireland’s top diplomat concerned over slow pace of justice in peacekeeper’s killing in Lebanon
Updated 20 May 2024
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Ireland’s top diplomat concerned over slow pace of justice in peacekeeper’s killing in Lebanon

Ireland’s top diplomat concerned over slow pace of justice in peacekeeper’s killing in Lebanon
  • Lebanon’s military tribunal last June charged four men with the killing of Pvt. Seán Rooney, 24, of Newtown Cunningham, Ireland, following a half-year probe. Rooney was killed on Dec. 14, 2022.

BEIRUT: Ireland’s top diplomat in a visit to Lebanon on Monday expressed his concern over the slow progress in criminal proceedings against several Lebanese men charged with the killing of an Irish peacekeeper in 2022 in the tiny Mediterranean country.
Micheál Martin, Irish foreign and defense minister, said he was “very, very concerned” about the case. He met with Irish peacekeepers in south Lebanon and with Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib and a representative of the Lebanese defense ministry.
Lebanon’s military tribunal last June charged four men with the killing of Pvt. Seán Rooney, 24, of Newtown Cunningham, Ireland, following a half-year probe. Rooney was killed on Dec. 14, 2022.
Only one of the suspects, Mohammed Ayyad, was arrested. However, he was released on bail in November, with officials citing his medical condition. The four others facing charges — Ali Khalifeh, Ali Salman, Hussein Salman, and Mustafa Salman — remain at large.
All five are allegedly linked with the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Hezbollah has repeatedly denied any role in the killing.
On the fatal night, Rooney and several other Irish soldiers from UNIFIL were on their way from their base in southern Lebanon to the Beirut airport. Two UN vehicles apparently took a detour through Al-Aqbiya, which is not part of the area under the peacekeepers’ mandate.
Initial reports said angry residents confronted the peacekeepers, but the indictment concluded that the shooting was a targeted attack. The UN peacekeeper vehicle reportedly took a wrong turn and was surrounded by vehicles and armed men as they tried to make their way back to the main road.
“We want justice to be done” and for the killers to be “brought to justice,” Martin told reporters. “We understand the separation of powers. But we are concerned at the slow pace of the trial. And the Irish people want justice”
UNIFIL was created to oversee the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon after Israel’s 1978 invasion, and its mission was expanded following the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah.
Relative calm prevailed in the border region after that war until the beginning of Israel’s war against Hamas, a Hezbollah ally, in Gaza in October. For more than seven months, Hezbollah and allied groups have clashed near-daily with Israeli forces, with no apparent immediate prospects for a halt to hostilities.


Reactions to the death of Iran’s president in a helicopter crash

Reactions to the death of Iran’s president in a helicopter crash
Updated 20 May 2024
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Reactions to the death of Iran’s president in a helicopter crash

Reactions to the death of Iran’s president in a helicopter crash
  • Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman offer their condolences
  • Pakistan to observe a day of mourning and Pakistani flags to fly at half mast as a mark of respect

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman offered their condolences to Iran the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash which also killed Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, state news agency SPA has reported.

UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed on X said: “I extend my deepest condolences to the Iranian government and people over the passing of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and those accompanying them following a tragic accident. We pray that God grants them eternal rest and we extend our heartfelt sympathies to their families. The UAE stands in solidarity with Iran at this difficult time.”

UAE Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid also posted on X: “Our condolences and sincere sympathies to the brotherly Iranian people and their leadership on the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his Foreign Minister in a painful accident. Our hearts are with you in this difficult time. Our prayers are that God will cover them with His vast mercy and dwell them in His spacious Paradise.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei expressed on Monday his condolences, state media said.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, in a statement said: “Raisi and Abdollahian were known as “true, reliable friends of our country”.

“Their role in strengthening mutually beneficial Russian-Iranian cooperation and trusting partnership is invaluable.

“We sincerely extend our condolences to the families and friends of the victims, as well as to the entire friendly people of Iran. Our thoughts and hearts are with you in this sad hour.”

Russia’s embassy in Tehran also offered condolences over Raisi’s death, state news agency TASS reported.

China’s President Xi Jinping has expressed condolences over Raisi’s death, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Monday expressed his condolences for the death of Raisi and Amirabdollahian, saying Raisi was a “valuable colleague and brother”.

“As a colleague who personally witnessed his efforts for the peace of the Iranian people and our region during his time in power, I remember Mr. Raisi with respect and gratitude,” Erdogan said on social media platform X, adding Turkey stood by Iran in this difficult time.

Turkish foreign minister Hakan Fidan also extended condolences to the Iranian people on the death of Raisi and Amirabdollahian.

The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad on X said: “Sincere condolences to the government and people of the Islamic Republic of Iran on the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdullahian, and the accompanying officials in the painful helicopter accident, asking God Almighty for mercy and forgiveness for them and for their families with patience and solace. We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return.”

Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi on Monday extended his condolences for the deaths of Raisi and Amirabdollahian in a helicopter crash.

“Egypt mourns, with great sadness and grief” the Iranian president and Tehran’s top diplomat, “who passed away on Sunday following a painful accident,” the presidency said in a statement.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani said in a statement: “With great sadness and sorrow, we have received the news of the death of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, along with their companions, in the unfortunate plane crash in northern Iran.”

He added, “We extend our sincere condolences and sympathy to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, Mr. Ali Khamenei, and to the government and people of Iran. We express our solidarity with the brotherly Iranian people and the responsible officials in the Islamic Republic during this painful tragedy.

“We ask God to have mercy on the departed, and may He grant patience and solace to their families and loved ones.”

Syrian President Bashar Assad in a statement also offered condolences to Iran’s Supreme Leader over death of the president and the foreign minister.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Monday he was “deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic demise” of Raisi after Iranian media reported he had died in a helicopter crash.

“My heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Iran,” Modi posted on X, formerly Twitter. “India stands with Iran in this time of sorrow.”

Pakistani prime minister Shehbaz Sharif posted on X: “I along with the government and people of Pakistan extend our deepest condolences and sympathies to the Iranian nation on this terrible loss. May the martyred souls rest in heavenly peace. The great Iranian nation will overcome this tragedy with customary courage.

“Pakistan had the pleasure of hosting President Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on a historic visit, less than a month ago. They were good friends of Pakistan. Pakistan will observe a day of mourning and the flag will fly at half mast as a mark of respect for President Raisi and his companions and in solidarity with Brotherly Iran.”

European Council president Charles Michel posted on X: “The EU expresses its sincere condolences for the death of President Raisi and Foreign Minister Abdollahian, as well as other members of their delegation and crew in a helicopter accident. Our thoughts go to the families.”

A Hamas statement conveyed Hamas’ “deepest condolences and solidarity” to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the Iranian government, and the Iranian people for “this immense loss.”

It praised the deceased Iranian leaders for supporting the Palestinian cause and resistance against Israel and expressed confidence that Iran’s “deep-rooted institutions” will enable it to overcome “the repercussions of this great loss.”

Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, head of Yemen’s Houthi Supreme Revolutionary Committee, posted on X: “Our deepest condolences to the Iranian people, the Iranian leadership, and the families of President Raisi and the accompanying delegation on their reported martyrdom. We ask God to grant their families patience and solace. Verily we belong to Allah and to Him we shall return. The Iranian people will remain adhering to the loyal leaders of their people, by God’s will.”

Lebanon’s Hezbollah expressed condolences to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for the death of President Raisi, a statement said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said he was “deeply saddened” by the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and other officials in a helicopter crash, noting their shared commitment to bolstering ties.

“I am deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and several other officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he said in a statement on social media.