UN agency for Palestinians says barred from North Gaza aid deliveries

UN agency for Palestinians says barred from North Gaza aid deliveries
Displaced Palestinians wait to receive United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) aid, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. (REUTERS)
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Updated 25 March 2024
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UN agency for Palestinians says barred from North Gaza aid deliveries

UN agency for Palestinians says barred from North Gaza aid deliveries
  • UNRWA has not been able to deliver food to the north since January 29
  • Gaza faces dire humanitarian conditions as a result of Israel’s war against Hamas that began nearly six months ago

Gaza Strip: The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees has said that Israel had definitively barred it from making aid deliveries in northern Gaza, where the threat of famine is highest.
“Despite the tragedy unfolding under our watch, the Israeli Authorities informed the UN that they will no longer approve any @UNRWA food convoys to the north,” Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the agency, said Sunday on X.
“This is outrageous & makes it intentional to obstruct lifesaving assistance during a man made famine.”
Israel fired back, saying on Monday that UNRWA “has long forsaken its role in facilitating aid to northern Gaza. While we’ve been working with aid orgs and other UN agencies to facilitate large amounts of aid to the north.”
COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, said Israel “goes to great lengths to facilitate aid to northern Gaza, including by opening a new crossing in northern Gaza.”
UNRWA director of communications Juliette Touma told AFP the decision not to approve deliveries to the north had been relayed in a meeting with Israeli military officials on Sunday.
It followed two denials in writing for convoy deliveries to the north last week. No reason for the decision was given, Touma said.
Gaza faces dire humanitarian conditions as a result of Israel’s war against Hamas that began nearly six months ago, triggered by Hamas’s unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7.
Last week a UN-backed food security assessment warned that famine was projected to hit the north of Gaza by May unless there was urgent intervention.
UNRWA has not been able to deliver food to the north since January 29, Touma said.
“The latest decision is another nail in the coffin” for efforts to get desperately needed aid to Gazans reeling from war, Touma said.
Martin Griffiths, head of the UN humanitarian coordination office, said on X on Sunday that UNRWA “is the beating heart of the humanitarian response in Gaza.”
“The decision to block its food convoys to the north only pushes thousands closer to famine. It must be revoked,” he added.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, said on X that blocking UNRWA aid deliveries was “in fact denying starving people the ability to survive.”
Earlier Sunday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged an end to the “non-stop nightmare” endured by Gaza’s 2.4 million people in the territory’s worst-ever war.
Israel has accused UNRWA staff members of participating in the October 7 attack and called the agency “a front for Hamas.”
Touma said Israeli authorities on Sunday also rejected a UN request to send a team to Al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza, where fighting has flared for almost a week, “to evacuate people who are injured.”
The October 7 attack resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.
Israel’s military campaign to eliminate Hamas has killed at least 32,226 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.


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

Updated 5 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 asks for arrest warant against Israeli prime minister Netanyahu

ICC asks for arrest warant against Israeli prime minister Netanyahu
Updated 5 min 5 sec ago
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ICC asks for arrest warant against Israeli prime minister Netanyahu

ICC asks for arrest warant against Israeli prime minister Netanyahu
  • Arrest warrants are against Israeli prime minister Netanyahu and Israeli defense minister gallant

International criminal court asks for arrest warrant against Israeli prime minister Netanyahu and Israeli defense minister gallant for alleged war crimes.

ICC prosecutor said there are reasonable grounds to believe Israeli prime minister Netanyahu bears criminal responsibility for war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

According to a statment by court the prosecutors also applied for arrest warrants for three Hamas leaders.


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.