Gaza sea corridor aid returns to Cyprus after Israel kills NGO workers

Gaza sea corridor aid returns to Cyprus after Israel kills NGO workers
A Cyprus Coast Guard patrol boat approaches the Guinea-Bissau-flagged cargo ship Jennifer, carrying food aid provided by US charity World Central Kitchen (WCK) bound for the Gaza Strip, off the coast of Cyprus’ southern port city of Laranca on Mar. 30, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 03 April 2024
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Gaza sea corridor aid returns to Cyprus after Israel kills NGO workers

Gaza sea corridor aid returns to Cyprus after Israel kills NGO workers
  • The barge was part of a four-vessel flotilla which set sail from Larnaca on March 30
  • “The tragic events must not discourage us,” Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said

NICOSIA: Seaborne aid for Gaza is returning to Cyprus after Israel killed seven aid workers of World Central Kitchen, Cypriot officials said on Tuesday, as the US-based charity said it would pause work in the occupied Palestinian territory.
World Central Kitchen (WCK) staff had just offloaded 100 tons of food aid from a barge which sailed from Cyprus when Israel attacked their vehicle convoy overnight on Monday in an airstrike.
The barge was part of a four-vessel flotilla which set sail from Larnaca, Cyprus, on March 30. Another vessel still loaded with 240 tons of food, the Jennifer, was heading back to Cyprus on Tuesday with the empty barge, a salvage boat and a tugboat after WCK suspended operations.
“They only managed to offload the barge,” a Cypriot official told Reuters. “One third (of the aid cargo) was delivered, and two thirds is coming back.”
Monday’s attack was a serious setback in attempts to expedite aid into Gaza, where international agencies say many are on the verge of famine as a result of the Israeli assault, which has killed more than 32,000 people.
Israel has said the attack was “tragic” and unintended, though WCK said it had coordinated movements with the Israeli military and two armored cars were emblazoned with the charity’s logo.
The United Arab Emirates, which had been the main financier for WCK’s aid efforts through the maritime corridor, said it was pausing humanitarian aid efforts though that channel pending further safety guarantees and a full investigation, a UAE official said.
“The tragic events must not discourage us. We need to double down on efforts to get aid to Gaza,” Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said after a meeting with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.
WCK has been active in Gaza since October, bringing food by land routes and also participating in air drops.
In March it launched an inaugural sea corridor transporting aid to the enclave from Cyprus.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Constantinos Kombos, who said Cypriot authorities had been in touch with WCK, said the strike occurred 12 km (7 miles) from the landing area for aid — a makeshift jetty created by the charity.
The aid workers had just ended a shift halfway through the offloading process, which was supposed to resume early on Tuesday, the Cypriot minister said.
“This is something that has now been frozen and since WCK has made the announcement — they will be leaving the area in order to come back, regroup and see and assess what the next steps are,” Kombos said.
Cyprus had played a pivotal role in establishing a maritime route to Gaza by offering a fast-track on-island security screening process overseen by Israel.
In a joint statement on Tuesday, the UAE and Cyprus expressed “profound condemnation” over Israel’s strike.

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UN says lawlessness in Gaza impedes aid via Kerem Shalom despite Israel’s military pause

UN says lawlessness in Gaza impedes aid via Kerem Shalom despite Israel’s military pause
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UN says lawlessness in Gaza impedes aid via Kerem Shalom despite Israel’s military pause

UN says lawlessness in Gaza impedes aid via Kerem Shalom despite Israel’s military pause
  • The UN welcomed the move, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said on Tuesday

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations said on Tuesday it has been unable to distribute aid in the Gaza Strip from the Israel-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing because of lawlessness and panic among hungry people in the area, despite Israel’s daytime pause in military activity.
Israel’s military said on Sunday there would be a daily pause in its attacks from 0500 GMT until 1600 GMT until further notice along the road that leads from Israel via the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Salah Al-Din Road and northwards in Gaza.
The UN welcomed the move, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said on Tuesday, but added that “this has yet to translate into more aid reaching people in need.” He said the area between Kerem Shalom and the Salah Al-Din road was very dangerous.
“Fighting is not the only reason for being unable to pick up aid ... The lack of any police or rule of law in the area makes it very dangerous to move goods there,” he said.
“But we are ready to engage with all parties to ensure that aid reaches people in Gaza, and we’ll continue to work with the authorities and with security forces, trying to see what can be done to have security conditions,” Haq said.
“When aid gets to a place, people are starving, and they’re worried that this may be the last food that they see,” he said. “They have to be assured that there’s going to be a regular flow of goods so that there’s not a panic when we get to the area.”
The United Nations and aid groups have long complained of the dangers and obstacles to getting aid in and distributing it throughout Gaza, where the UN had warned a famine is looming.
Since the Israel-Hamas war began more than eight months ago, aid for 2.3 million Palestinians has primarily entered through two crossings into southern Gaza — the Rafah crossing from Egypt and the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel.
But deliveries were disrupted when Israel stepped up its military operations in Rafah last month with the stated aim of routing remaining units of Hamas fighters. Egypt closed the Rafah crossing due to the threat posed to humanitarian work and has routed a backlog of aid and fuel via Kerem Shalom.
Haq said on Tuesday that the Rafah crossing remained closed and there was limited access via Kerem Shalom. In Gaza’s north, he said the Erez crossing was not accessible due to an escalation of fighting, while the West Erez and Zikim crossings were operational.


Ship manager calls on Houthis to free Galaxy Leader crew

Ship manager calls on Houthis to free Galaxy Leader crew
Updated 18 June 2024
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Ship manager calls on Houthis to free Galaxy Leader crew

Ship manager calls on Houthis to free Galaxy Leader crew
  • Galaxy Leader management: ‘There is nothing to be gained by the Houthis in keeping the 25 crew members’
  • Houthis hold captive the Bulgarian ship master and chief officer, along with 17 Filipinos and other sailors from Ukraine, Mexico and Romania

Managers of the Galaxy Leader cargo ship on Tuesday renewed calls for the release of the vessel’s 25 crew being held by Yemen’s Houthi militants for seven months.
The militants used helicopters to attack the Bahamas-flagged ship on Nov. 19. They captured the Bulgarian ship master and chief officer, along with 17 Filipinos and other sailors from Ukraine, Mexico and Romania, the ship managers said.
“There is nothing to be gained by the Houthis in keeping the 25 crew members,” said the ship managers, who requested that they be released to their families without further delay.
The Houthis have used drones and missiles to assault ships in the Red Sea, the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the Gulf of Aden since November, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war. Since then, they have sunk one ship, seized another vessel and killed three seafarers in separate attacks.
The International Chamber of Shipping, which represents ship owners, has called the Houthi attacks “unacceptable acts of aggression which threaten the lives of innocent seafarers and the safety of merchant shipping.”
Last week, Houthis notched up direct strikes on two ships — the Liberan-flagged Tutor coal carrier and Palau-flagged Verbena, which was loaded with wood construction material.
Those assaults prompted security experts to note a significant increase in the effectiveness of the Iran-aligned militants’ drone and missile attacks.
Rescuers evacuated crews from the damaged ships due to safety risks. One sailor from the Tutor remains missing. Both ships are now adrift and vulnerable to further attack or sinking.
US and British forces on Monday conducted airstrikes targeting Yemen’s Hodeidah International Airport and Kamaran Island near the port of Salif off the Red Sea.


Israel army says operational plans for Lebanon offensive ‘approved’

Israel army says operational plans for Lebanon offensive ‘approved’
Updated 18 June 2024
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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 18 June 2024
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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 18 June 2024
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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.

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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.