Israel to attend new ceasefire talks as UN says Gaza hunger crisis worsens

Israel to attend new ceasefire talks as UN says Gaza hunger crisis worsens
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Displaced Palestinians queue to receive food donated by a charity organisation ahead of the fast-breaking "iftar" meal during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 16, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)
Israel to attend new ceasefire talks as UN says Gaza hunger crisis worsens
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Police officers extinguish a fire at a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government and for the release of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 attack on Israel by the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas from Gaza, in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 16, 2024. (REUTERS)
Palestinians inspect the rubble of a building, after it was destroyed in an Israeli strike the night before, in the Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza City on March 16, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. (AFP)
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Palestinians inspect the rubble of a building, after it was destroyed in an Israeli strike the night before, in the Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza City on March 16, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. (AFP)
A Palestinian woman holds a child as they mourn their relatives killed in Israeli bombardment in front of the morgue of the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on March 15, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. (AFP)
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A Palestinian woman holds a child as they mourn their relatives killed in Israeli bombardment in front of the morgue of the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on March 15, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. (AFP)
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Updated 17 March 2024
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Israel to attend new ceasefire talks as UN says Gaza hunger crisis worsens

Israel to attend new ceasefire talks as UN says Gaza hunger crisis worsens
  • At least 61 Palestinians were killed in overnight Israeli bombardment
  • Efforts failed repeatedly to secure a temporary ceasefire before Ramadan started a week ago

DOHA/JERUSALEM: At least 61 Palestinians were killed in overnight Israeli bombardment, the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Sunday, as Israel was preparing to send negotiators to new truce talks in Qatar.

Israel’s security cabinet and the smaller war cabinet were to meet to “decide on the mandate of the delegation in charge of the negotiations before its departure for Doha,” the prime minister’s office said.

Its statement did not specify when the delegation would leave for the latest round of talks which comes after Hamas submitted a new proposal for a pause in fighting and hostage release.

More than five months of war and an Israeli siege have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip, where the United Nations has repeatedly warned of looming famine for the coastal territory’s 2.4 million people.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said one in three children under the age of two in northern Gaza is now acutely malnourished, putting more pressure on Israel over the looming famine.

On Friday, Israel said it would send a delegation to Qatar for more talks with mediators after its enemy Hamas presented a new proposal for a ceasefire with an exchange of hostages and prisoners.

The delegation will be led by the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, David Barnea, a source familiar with the talks said, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeking to convene the security cabinet to discuss the proposal before the talks start. Netanyahu’s office has said the Hamas offer was still based on “unrealistic demands.”

Efforts failed repeatedly to secure a temporary ceasefire before Islam’s holy month of Ramadan started a week ago, with Israel saying it plans to launch a new offensive in Rafah, the last relatively safe city in tiny, crowded Gaza after five months of war.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, starting a two-day visit to the region, voiced concern about an assault on Rafah, saying there was a danger it would result “in many terrible civilian casualties.”

On Friday, Netanyahu’s office said he had approved an attack plan on Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are sheltering, and that the civilian population would be evacuated. It gave no time frame and there was no immediate evidence of extra preparations on the ground.

The Hamas offer, reviewed by Reuters, foresees dozens of Israeli hostages freed in return for hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli jails, during a weeks-long ceasefire that would let more aid into Gaza. Hamas also called for talks in a later stage on ending the war, but Israel has said it is only willing to negotiate a temporary truce.

Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan told Arabic broadcaster Al Jazeera the group’s proposal is so realistic that “no one can object to it” and claimed that mediators had reacted positively.

He said it consists of two stages, with a complete “cessation of aggression” at the start of the second one — something Israel has rejected, vowing to resume its goal of destroying Hamas once any temporary truce expires.

Families of Israeli hostages and their supporters again gathered in Tel Aviv, urging a deal for their release.

At the same time, anti-government protesters, estimated by Israeli media at a few thousand, called for new elections and blocked streets in Tel Aviv.

HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

The war began on Oct. 7 when Hamas sent fighters into Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seizing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel’s ground and air campaign has killed more than 31,500 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. Israel says it has killed at least 13,000 Hamas members in the Gaza fighting.

The assault has also devastated the enclave, forcing nearly all the inhabitants from their homes, leaving much of the territory in rubble and triggering a massive hunger crisis.

“Children’s malnutrition is spreading fast and reaching unprecedented levels in Gaza,” UNRWA said in a social media post. Hospitals in Gaza have reported some children dying of malnutrition and dehydration.

Western countries have called on Israel to do more to allow in aid, with the UN saying it faced “overwhelming obstacles” including crossing closures, onerous vetting, restrictions on movement and unrest inside Gaza.

Israel says it puts no limit on humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza and blames slow aid delivery on incapacity or inefficiency among UN agencies.

Air and sea relief deliveries into Gaza have started.

A first delivery into Gaza by the World Central Kitchen, pioneering a new sea route via Cyprus, arrived on Friday and was off-loaded, the charity said.

On Saturday, a second cargo of food aid was ready to depart by sea from Cyprus, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said, while the US and Jordan said they carried out an air drop of humanitarian aid.

Queen Rania of Jordan, in a CNN interview, called the airdrops “literally just drops in the ocean of unmet needs” and accused Israel of “cutting off everything that is required to sustain a human life: food, fuel, medicine, water.”


Israel army says operational plans for Lebanon offensive 'approved'

Israel army says operational plans for Lebanon offensive 'approved'
Updated 14 sec ago
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Israel army says operational plans for Lebanon offensive 'approved'

Israel army says operational plans for Lebanon offensive 'approved'
“As part of the situational assessment, operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were approved and validated," the military said
"Decisions were taken on the continuation of increasing the readiness of troops in the field"

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military said Tuesday operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were "approved and validated", as Israeli forces and the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement engaged in cross-border exchanges of fire.
Senior Israeli military officials "held a joint situational assessment in the Northern Command. As part of the situational assessment, operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were approved and validated," the military said in a statement.
"Decisions were taken on the continuation of increasing the readiness of troops in the field."
Lebanon's Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, and Israel have been trading near-daily fire since the Gaza war was trigged by the Palestinian militant group's October 7 attack on southern Israel.
The sign-off came as Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz earlier warned Hezbollah that it would be destroyed in the event of a "total war" between the two.
"We are very close to the moment when we will decide to change the rules of the game against Hezbollah and Lebanon. In a total war, Hezbollah will be destroyed and Lebanon will be hit hard," Katz said, according to a statement from his office.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this month that the military was ready for an intense operation in Lebanon if necessary, pledging to restore security to the country's northern border.
US special envoy Amos Hochstein was in Lebanon on Tuesday a day after meeting Israeli leaders, seeking "urgent" de-escalation on the Israel-Lebanon border.

Iran slaps one-year prison term on Nobel winner Mohammadi

Narges Mohammadi. (Supplied)
Narges Mohammadi. (Supplied)
Updated 25 min 55 sec ago
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Iran slaps one-year prison term on Nobel winner Mohammadi

Narges Mohammadi. (Supplied)
  • Mohammadi refused to attend a trial session in Tehran earlier this month, and in March shared an audio message from prison in which she decried a ‘full-scale war against women’ in Iran

TEHRAN: An Iranian court has sentenced Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi to a year in prison for “propaganda against the state,” the jailed activist’s lawyer said on Tuesday.
Mohammadi, 52, has been jailed since November 2021 over several past convictions relating to her advocacy against the obligatory hijab for women and capital punishment in Iran.
Lawyer Mostafa Nili said on X that “Mohammadi was sentenced to one year in prison for propaganda against the system.”
Nili said “the reasons for issuing this sentence” include calls to boycott parliamentary elections, letters to Swedish and Norwegian lawmakers and “comments about Mrs.Dina Ghalibaf.”
Rights groups have said that Ghalibaf, a journalist and student, had been taken into custody after accusing security forces on social media of putting her in handcuffs and sexually assaulting her during a previous arrest at a metro station. Ghalibaf has since been released.
The Iranian judiciary’s Mizan Online website said on April 22 that Ghalibaf “had not been raped” and that she was being prosecuted for making a “false statement.”
Iranian police  have intensified enforcement of the country’s dress code for women.

 


Gaza conflict has caused major environmental damage: UN

Palestinian residents search the rubble of a family home destroyed in Israeli strikes in the central Gaza Strip on Tuesday. (AFP
Palestinian residents search the rubble of a family home destroyed in Israeli strikes in the central Gaza Strip on Tuesday. (AFP
Updated 28 min 29 sec ago
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Gaza conflict has caused major environmental damage: UN

Palestinian residents search the rubble of a family home destroyed in Israeli strikes in the central Gaza Strip on Tuesday. (AFP
  • Latest assessment adds to concerns about humanitarian crisis and environmental costs of war

GENEVA: The conflict in Gaza has created unprecedented soil, water, and air pollution in the region, destroying sanitation systems and leaving tonnes of debris from explosive devices, a UN report on the environmental impact of the war said on Tuesday.

The war between Israel and Hamas has swiftly reversed limited progress in improving the region’s water desalination and wastewater treatment facilities, restoring the Wadi Gaza coastal wetland, and investments in solar power installations, according to a preliminary assessment from the UN Environment Programme, or UNEP.
Explosive weapons have generated some 39 million tonnes of debris, the report said.

FASTFACT

UNEP is mandated to assist countries with pollution mitigation and control in areas affected by armed conflict or terrorism.

Each square meter of the Gaza Strip is now littered with more than 107 kg of debris. The report said that is more than five times the debris generated during the battle for Mosul, Iraq, in 2017.
“All of this is deeply harming people’s health, food security, and Gaza’s resilience,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.
Gaza’s environment was already suffering from recurring conflicts, rapid urban growth, and high population density before the most recent conflict began on Oct. 7. The UN assessment adds to concerns about the unfolding humanitarian crisis and the environmental costs of war, with Ukraine also recording widespread ecological damage over the past two years.
“Understanding the environmental impacts of war is a grand challenge of our time,” said Eoghan Darbyshire, a senior researcher at the UK-based nonprofit Conflict and Environment Observatory.
“The impacts will not only be felt locally where the fighting is taking place but may be displaced or even felt at the global scale via greenhouse gas emissions.”
The UN assessment stems from a December 2023 request from the Palestinian Environment Quality Authority for UNEP to take stock of environmental damages. UNEP is mandated to assist countries with pollution mitigation and control in areas affected by armed conflict or terrorism.
Due to security concerns and access restrictions, the UN used remote sensing surveys, data from Palestinian technical entities, and damage assessments from the World Bank in their report.
Ground measurements, however, would be critical to understanding the extent of soil and water pollution, Darbyshire said.
The report found that the water, sanitation, and hygiene systems are almost entirely defunct, with Gaza’s five wastewater treatment plants shut down. Israel’s long-term occupation had already posed major environmental challenges in the Palestinian territories about water quality and availability, according to a 2020 report by the UN Development Program.
Over 92 percent of water in the Gaza Strip was then deemed unfit for human consumption.
The Gaza Strip had one of the highest densities of rooftop solar panels in the world, with the US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies estimating 2023 some 12,400 rooftop solar systems.
But Israel has since destroyed a large proportion of Gaza’s burgeoning solar infrastructure, and broken panels can leak lead and heavy metal contaminants into the soil.
Since a week-long truce in November, repeated attempts to arrange a ceasefire have failed.
Looking at the scale of environmental destruction, “it is my opinion that large areas of Gaza will not be recovered to a safe state within a generation, even with limitless finance and will,” said Darbyshire.

 


Quake kills four, injures 120 in northeastern Iran: state media

Quake kills four, injures 120 in northeastern Iran: state media
Updated 18 June 2024
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Quake kills four, injures 120 in northeastern Iran: state media

Quake kills four, injures 120 in northeastern Iran: state media
  • The US Geological Survey said it hit at a depth of 10 kilometers

TEHRAN: At least four people were killed and 120 injured Tuesday in a 4.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Iran’s northeastern city of Kashmar, state media reported.
The quake struck at 1:24 p.m. (0954 GMT), state television and the local governor said, while the US Geological Survey said it hit at a depth of 10 kilometers (six miles).


Israeli forces deepen Rafah invasion, kill 17 in central camps

Israeli forces deepen Rafah invasion, kill 17 in central camps
Updated 18 June 2024
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Israeli forces deepen Rafah invasion, kill 17 in central camps

Israeli forces deepen Rafah invasion, kill 17 in central camps
  • Residents reported heavy bombardments from tanks and planes in several areas of Rafah
  • Israeli tanks were operating inside Tel Al-Sultan, Al-Izba, and Zurub areas in Rafah’s west, as well as Shaboura at the heart of the city

CAIRO: Israeli airstrikes on Tuesday killed at least 17 Palestinians in two of the Gaza Strip’s historic refugee camps and Israeli tanks pushed deeper into the enclave’s southern city of Rafah, residents and medics said.
Residents reported heavy bombardments from tanks and planes in several areas of Rafah, where more than a million people had taken refuge before May. Most of the population has fled northwards since then as Israeli forces invaded the city.
“Rafah is being bombed without any intervention from the world, the occupation (Israel) is acting freely here,” a Rafah resident and father of six told Reuters via a chat app.
Israeli tanks were operating inside Tel Al-Sultan, Al-Izba, and Zurub areas in Rafah’s west, as well as Shaboura at the heart of the city. They also continued to occupy the eastern neighborhoods and outskirts as well as the border with Egypt and the vital Rafah border crossing.
“There are Israeli forces in most areas, there is heavy resistance too and they are making them pay dearly but the occupation is not ethical and they are destroying the city and the refugee camp,” the resident said.
Palestinian health officials said one man was killed in the morning by Israeli fire on the eastern side of Rafah. Medics said they believed many others had been killed in the past days and weeks but rescue teams could not reach them.

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The Israeli military said it was continuing “precise, intelligence-based activity” in Rafah, killing many Palestinian gunmen over the past day in close-range combat and seized weapons. The air force struck dozens of targets across the Gaza Strip in the past day, it added.
In the central Gaza Strip, two separate Israeli air strikes on two houses killed 17 Palestinians in Al-Nuseirat and Al-Bureij, two designated refugee camps that are home to families and descendants of people who fled to Gaza in the 1948 war around the creation of Israel, medics said.
“Every more hour of delay, Israel kills more people, we want a ceasefire now,” said Khalil, 45, a teacher from Gaza, now displaced with his family in Deir Al-Balah city in the central Gaza Strip.
“Enough of our blood, I say it to Israel, America, and our leaders too. The war must stop,” he told Reuters via a chat app.
The Israeli military statement did not comment directly on the 17 deaths but said forces continued to operate against militant factions in central Gaza areas.
The commander of an Islamic Jihad sniper cell was killed by an Israeli warplane, and troops also “eliminated” a militant cell, it said.
The armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said fighters confronted Israeli forces in combat zones with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs, and have in some areas detonated pre-planted explosive devices against army units.
Israel’s ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
The offensive has left Gaza in ruins, killing more than 37,400 people, according to its health authorities, and left much of the population homeless and destitute.
Since a week-long truce in November, repeated attempts to arrange a ceasefire have failed, with Hamas insisting on a permanent end to the war and full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Netanyahu refuses to end the war before Hamas is eradicated and the hostages are freed.