Biden, Netanyahu speak as pressure mounts over Gaza aid worker deaths

Update Biden, Netanyahu speak as pressure mounts over Gaza aid worker deaths
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Relatives and friends carry the body of World Central Kitchen worker Saif Abu Taha during his funeral in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 2, 2024. He was killed as Israeli strikes hit a convoy of the US-based NGO delivering food aid in Gaza a day earlier. (AFP)
Update Biden, Netanyahu speak as pressure mounts over Gaza aid worker deaths
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Relatives and friends carry the body of World Central Kitchen worker Saif Abu Taha during his funeral in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 2, 2024. He was killed as Israeli strikes hit a convoy of the US-based NGO delivering food aid in Gaza a day earlier. (AFP)
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Updated 04 April 2024
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Biden, Netanyahu speak as pressure mounts over Gaza aid worker deaths

Biden, Netanyahu speak as pressure mounts over Gaza aid worker deaths
  • “President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel today to discuss the latest developments in Israel and Gaza,” a White House official said
  • Biden’s political allies intensified calls for him to use the leverage afforded by the huge military aid that Washington gives Israel

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Thursday amid growing domestic pressure to set conditions on US military support amid domestic outrage over the killing of seven aid workers in Gaza.
In their first call since Monday’s Israeli strike that killed the employees of the US-based World Central Kitchen group, Biden was expected to express anger and urge Israel to do more to protect humanitarian staff and civilians.
“President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel today to discuss the latest developments in Israel and Gaza. A readout of the call will be issued soon,” a White House official said.
As domestic fury over the Gaza war mounts in a US election year, Biden’s political allies intensified calls for him to use the leverage afforded by the huge military aid that Washington gives Israel.
“I think we’re at that point,” Chris Coons, a Biden confidant and Democratic senator from the president’s home state of Delaware, told CNN.
If Israel began its long-threatened full-scale offensive in the southern city of Rafah, without plans for some 1.5 million people sheltering there, “I would vote to condition aid to Israel,” Coons said.
“I’ve never said that before, I’ve never been there before,” he added.
Biden also reportedly faces pressure from even closer to home — from First Lady Jill Biden.
“Stop it, stop it now,” she told the president about the growing toll of civilian casualties in Gaza, according to comments by Biden himself to a guest during a meeting with members of the Muslim community at the White House, and reported by The New York Times.
Biden has supported Israel’s six-month-old war sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack, but has increasingly voiced frustration with Israel’s right-wing premier over the soaring death toll and dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.
In his strongest statement since the war began, Biden said Tuesday that he was “outraged and heartbroken” by Israel’s killing of the seven aid workers, who included a US-Canadian citizen.
Israel has said the deaths were unintentional.
But Biden’s words have not been matched by any concrete steps to limit the billions of dollars in military aid that Washington supplies to its bedrock regional ally.
In a sign of business as usual, Biden’s administration approved the transfer of thousands more bombs to Israel on the same day as the Israeli strikes that killed the seven aid workers, The Washington Post reported on Thursday.
Many Democrats fear the controversy could hurt Biden’s chances of reelection in November against Republican Donald Trump, as Muslim and younger voters express their anger over Gaza.
A former senior aide to Barack Obama — the president under whom Biden served as vice president — called for Biden’s actions to back his words.
“The US government is still supplying 2 thousand pound bombs and ammunition to support Israel’s policy,” Ben Rhodes, a former deputy national security adviser in Obama’s administration, wrote on X.
“Until there are substantive consequences, this outrage does nothing. Bibi (Netanyahu) obviously doesn’t care what the US says, its about what the US does.”
US voters are also increasingly turning against Israel’s Gaza offensive.
A majority of 55 percent now disapprove of Israel’s actions, compared to 36 percent who approve, according to a Gallup poll released on March 27.

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Israeli airstrike on Rafah kills 12 Palestinians, Gaza medics say

Israeli airstrike on Rafah kills 12 Palestinians, Gaza medics say
Updated 7 sec ago
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Israeli airstrike on Rafah kills 12 Palestinians, Gaza medics say

Israeli airstrike on Rafah kills 12 Palestinians, Gaza medics say
  • Israel says more fighting in central, northern and southern Gaza
  • Head of UNRWA calls for end to Israeli attacks on staff and buildings

JERUSALEM: Israeli forces killed at least 12 Palestinians in a dawn airstrike on Rafah in southern Gaza on Thursday and fighting raged in several other areas of the coastal enclave, Gaza medics said.
Israel pressed on with its offensive on Rafah a day after saying its forces had taken control of a buffer zone along the nearby border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, giving it effective authority over Gaza’s entire land frontier.
It said the buffer zone’s capture had cut off a route used by the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas to smuggle arms into Gaza during more than seven months of war, which has laid waste to much of the territory and raised fears of famine.
Gaza medical sources said the 12 Palestinians, whom it said were civilians, had been killed and an unspecified number of others wounded in an Israeli airstrike as they tried to recover the body of a civilian in the center of Rafah.
Another Palestinian civilian was killed in an airstrike on Al-Shati refugee camp west of Gaza City in the north of the densely populated enclave, the medics said.
Israel reported clashes in southern, central and northern Gaza but did not immediately comment on the reported deaths in Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians took refuge earlier in the war.
Israel has kept up raids on Rafah despite an order by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the top UN court, to halt its attacks. Israeli forces say they are trying to root out Hamas fighters and rescue hostages being held there, and the ICJ also called for the release of hostages held in Gaza by Hamas.
More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s air and land war in Gaza, with 53 of those killed in the past 24 hours, the Hamas-run enclave’s health ministry said.
Israel launched its offensive after Hamas fighters crossed from Gaza into southern Israel on Oct. 7 last year, killed 1,200 people and abducted more than 250, according to Israeli tallies.
The Israeli military said a soldier had been killed in fighting in northern Gaza, bringing to 292 Israel’s combat losses since its first Gaza ground incursion on Oct. 20.

TUNNELS, ARMS AND EXPLOSIVES
In an overnight call with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant underlined the continuing importance of Israeli operations in the Rafah area “due to concrete information regarding hostages held there.”
“Minister Gallant detailed IDF activities in the Rafah area where 20 terror tunnels have been identified,” the Israeli Defense Ministry said in a statement on the overnight call.
The Israeli military also said in a statement that tunnels used by Hamas for smuggling and moving fighters underground had been discovered during the latest raids, as well as large amounts of arms and explosives.
The Israeli statements did not say where the smuggling tunnels ran from. An Israeli official said on May 15 there were 50 tunnels connecting Rafah to the Sinai in Egypt, and voiced concern that Hamas could use them to smuggle senior operatives or hostages into Egyptian territory. Egypt on Wednesday denied the existence of any such tunnels.
The United States, Israel’s closest ally, reiterated its opposition to a major ground offensive in Rafah on Tuesday but said it did not believe such an operation was under way.
The US has, with Egypt and Qatar, been involved in efforts to mediate indirect talks between Israel and Hamas on arranging a ceasefire and the release of the remaining hostages. Those talks have stalled, with both sides blaming the other for the lack of progress.
As the war drags on, malnutrition has become widespread in Gaza as aid deliveries have slowed to a trickle, and the United Nations has warned of incipient famine.
Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), also called for an end to what he said were Israeli attacks on UNRWA staff and buildings in Gaza.
In article for the New York Times, he said Israeli officials were “delegitimizing UNRWA by effectively characterizing it as a terrorist organization,” and he described a “dangerous precedent of routine targeting of UN staff and premises.”
His comments followed allegations by Israel in January that 12 of UNRWA’s 13,000 staff in Gaza took part in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Israel did not immediately respond to his remarks.
The Gaza war has also stoked violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, another territory where Palestinians seek statehood.
Israel said two soldiers were killed in an overnight hit-and-run by a Palestinian motorist in the West Bank city of Nablus. There was no immediate claim of responsibility from Palestinian factions.


Aggression against Gaza represents a turning point in history of region: Arab League chief

Arab League chief speaks at a press conference during the 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum
Arab League chief speaks at a press conference during the 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum
Updated 30 May 2024
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Aggression against Gaza represents a turning point in history of region: Arab League chief

Arab League chief speaks at a press conference during the 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum
  • Aboul Gheit said that the Arab League was committed to making all efforts to build a promising future for both Arab and Chinese societies

CAIRO: Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that the aggression against Gaza for more than eight months “marks a turning point in our region’s history.”

He said that there was “a deep sense of frustration over the international community’s inability to halt this massacre.”

Aboul Gheit was speaking at the opening session of the 10th ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum in Beijing.

The forum —  founded in 2004 in Cairo — includes members of the Arab League. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered the keynote address at the opening ceremony.

Leaders from Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia and the UAE were also present.

Aboul Gheit said: We value China’s role and steadfast support for the just cause of the Palestinian people, their right to self-determination and the establishment of their independent state.”

He urged China, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, to play a more significant role in reinforcing the global consensus on the two-state solution, leading to a reliable and irreversible path to establishing an independent Palestinian state along the June 4, 1967, borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Aboul Gheit said that the Arab League and its member states aimed to enhance regional stability by working to contain existing crises, settle them peacefully, and reduce escalation through balanced relations with neighboring countries based on non-interference in internal affairs and mutual respect.

He reaffirmed the league’s support for China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, maintaining a firm commitment to the one-China principle.

Aboul Gheit said that the Arab League was committed to making all efforts to build a promising future for both Arab and Chinese societies.

“We aim to advance the strategic partnership between the Arab countries and China for a better future, strengthening cooperation mechanisms and finding political solutions to issues of mutual concern on regional and international fronts.”

Aboul Gheit said that China had “an illustrious presence in world history that we deeply respect and appreciate. Its profound influence on the world’s present and future is evident and highly valued. Moreover, China’s experience achieving renaissance and progress is greatly admired in our Arab world.”

The Arab League chief said: “Today, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of establishing the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum. 

“This forum marked a significant milestone in the history of relations between the two sides, placing these relations within a comprehensive institutional framework, thus ensuring their development and future potential.

“Since its inception, the forum has become a success story in international multilateral cooperation, evidenced by the various mechanisms, memorandums and frameworks it has produced to facilitate collaboration across political, economic, social and development fields.” 

Aboul Gheit said that the first Arab-Chinese summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 2022 marked a qualitative shift in Arab-Chinese relations.

This summit signaled the beginning of a pivotal phase in the history of relations between the Arab world and China.

“The outcomes and agreements from this summit laid a strong foundation for mutual benefit, and we are committed to continuing efforts to implement them,” Aboul Gheit said.

He called for institutionalizing the Arab-China summit and holding regular sessions to enhance progress and allow for continuous monitoring and development of cooperation programs.


Child malnutrition at ‘emergency levels’ in Sudan: UN

Child malnutrition at ‘emergency levels’ in Sudan: UN
Updated 30 May 2024
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Child malnutrition at ‘emergency levels’ in Sudan: UN

Child malnutrition at ‘emergency levels’ in Sudan: UN
  • “The lives of Sudan’s children are at stake and urgent action is needed to protect an entire generation from malnutrition, disease and death,” the UNICEF, WHO and WFP said
  • “The ongoing hostilities are worsening the drivers of child malnutrition“

ROME: Three UN agencies warned Thursday of a “significant deterioration” in the nutrition situation of children and mothers in war-torn Sudan, calling for “urgent action.”
“The lives of Sudan’s children are at stake and urgent action is needed to protect an entire generation from malnutrition, disease and death,” the United Nations children’s agency (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and World Food Program (WFP) said in a statement.
Sudan has been in the throes of conflict for over a year between the regular army led by de facto ruler Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the RSF led by his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, including up to 15,000 in a single West Darfur town, according to UN experts.
Nearly nine million people have been forced from their homes.
“The ongoing hostilities are worsening the drivers of child malnutrition,” the agencies said.
“These include a lack of access to nutritious food, safe drinking water and sanitation, and increased risk of disease,” they added.
“Sudan is facing an ever-increasing risk of conflict-induced famine that will have catastrophic consequences including the loss of life, especially among young children.”
The agencies said the conflict “is also severely impacting the delivery of humanitarian supplies, leaving countless women and children without access to vital food and nutritional support... (while) growing violence and bureaucratic procedures impede access to conflict affected areas.”
Child malnutrition in Sudan is “at emergency levels,” the statement said.
In Central Darfur, acute malnutrition is estimated to be at 15.6 percent among children under five, while at the Zamzam camp for displaced people in North Darfur state it is close to 30 percent.
“We need immediate and safe access to deliver the humanitarian assistance that they so desperately need,” said WFP head Cindy McCain.
“Millions of lives are at stake and the international community must act now or we risk losing an entire generation of children,” she said.
The agencies warned: “The window to avert the worst is rapidly closing.”


Israeli airstrike on Rafah kills 12 Palestinians, Gaza medics say

Israeli airstrike on Rafah kills 12 Palestinians, Gaza medics say
Updated 30 May 2024
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Israeli airstrike on Rafah kills 12 Palestinians, Gaza medics say

Israeli airstrike on Rafah kills 12 Palestinians, Gaza medics say
  • Officials say Israeli strike occurred as they tried to recover body of civilian in southern Gaza city
  • Israel says more fighting in central, northern and southern Gaza
  • Head of UNRWA calls for end to Israeli attacks on staff and buildings

JERUSALEM: Israeli forces killed at least 12 Palestinians in a dawn airstrike on Rafah in southern Gaza on Thursday and fighting raged in several other areas of the coastal enclave, Gaza medics said.
Israel pressed on with its offensive on Rafah a day after saying its forces had taken control of a buffer zone along the nearby border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, giving it effective authority over Gaza’s entire land frontier.
It said the buffer zone’s capture had cut off a route used by the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas to smuggle arms into Gaza during more than seven months of war, which has laid waste to much of the territory and raised fears of famine.
Gaza medical sources said the 12 Palestinians, whom it said were civilians, had been killed and an unspecified number of others wounded in an Israeli airstrike as they tried to recover the body of a civilian in the center of Rafah.
Another Palestinian civilian was killed in an airstrike on Al-Shati refugee camp west of Gaza City in the north of the densely populated enclave, the medics said.
Israel reported clashes in southern, central and northern Gaza but did not immediately comment on the reported deaths in Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians took refuge earlier in the war.
Israel has kept up raids on Rafah despite an order by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the top UN court, to halt its attacks. Israeli forces say they are trying to root out Hamas fighters and rescue hostages being held there, and the ICJ also called for the release of hostages held in Gaza by Hamas.
More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s air and land war in Gaza, with 53 of those killed in the past 24 hours, the Hamas-run enclave’s health ministry said.
Israel launched its offensive after Hamas fighters crossed from Gaza into southern Israel on Oct. 7 last year, killed 1,200 people and abducted more than 250, according to Israeli tallies.
The Israeli military said a soldier had been killed in fighting in northern Gaza, bringing to 292 Israel’s combat losses since its first Gaza ground incursion on Oct. 20.

TUNNELS, ARMS AND EXPLOSIVES
In an overnight call with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant underlined the continuing importance of Israeli operations in the Rafah area “due to concrete information regarding hostages held there.”
“Minister Gallant detailed IDF activities in the Rafah area where 20 terror tunnels have been identified,” the Israeli Defense Ministry said in a statement on the overnight call.
The Israeli military also said in a statement that tunnels used by Hamas for smuggling and moving fighters underground had been discovered during the latest raids, as well as large amounts of arms and explosives.
The Israeli statements did not say where the smuggling tunnels ran from. An Israeli official said on May 15 there were 50 tunnels connecting Rafah to the Sinai in Egypt, and voiced concern that Hamas could use them to smuggle senior operatives or hostages into Egyptian territory. Egypt on Wednesday denied the existence of any such tunnels.
The United States, Israel’s closest ally, reiterated its opposition to a major ground offensive in Rafah on Tuesday but said it did not believe such an operation was under way.
The US has, with Egypt and Qatar, been involved in efforts to mediate indirect talks between Israel and Hamas on arranging a ceasefire and the release of the remaining hostages. Those talks have stalled, with both sides blaming the other for the lack of progress.
As the war drags on, malnutrition has become widespread in Gaza as aid deliveries have slowed to a trickle, and the United Nations has warned of incipient famine.
Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), also called for an end to what he said were Israeli attacks on UNRWA staff and buildings in Gaza.
In article for the New York Times, he said Israeli officials were “delegitimizing UNRWA by effectively characterizing it as a terrorist organization,” and he described a “dangerous precedent of routine targeting of UN staff and premises.”
His comments followed allegations by Israel in January that 12 of UNRWA’s 13,000 staff in Gaza took part in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Israel did not immediately respond to his remarks.
The Gaza war has also stoked violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, another territory where Palestinians seek statehood.
Israel said two soldiers were killed in an overnight hit-and-run by a Palestinian motorist in the West Bank city of Nablus. There was no immediate claim of responsibility from Palestinian factions.


Israel yet to respond to French Lebanon proposals, French ministry says

Israel yet to respond to French Lebanon proposals, French ministry says
Updated 30 May 2024
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Israel yet to respond to French Lebanon proposals, French ministry says

Israel yet to respond to French Lebanon proposals, French ministry says
  • The written proposal also looks at long-term border issues

PARIS: Israel has not given a response to France on Paris’ proposals to reduce tensions between Israel and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, France’s foreign ministry spokesperson said on Thursday.
Israel and Hezbollah have been engaged in escalating daily cross-border strikes over the past months — in parallel with the war in Gaza — and their increasing range and sophistication has raised fears of a wider regional conflict.
France has historical ties with Lebanon and has proposed written proposals to both sides that would see Hezbollah’s elite unit pull back 10 km (6 miles) from the Israeli border, while Israel would halt strikes in southern Lebanon.
Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne went to both Lebanon and Israel in April to push France’s efforts, and Israel’s foreign minister was in Paris earlier this month. Lebanon’s foreign minister was in Paris for talks on Wednesday.
“We have had a relatively positive response from the Lebanese, but I think we have not had any return from Israel at this point,” Christophe Lemoine told reporters in a daily briefing.
The written proposal also looks at long-term border issues and had been discussed with partners including the United States, which has its own efforts to ease tensions and exerts the most influence on Israel.
The Shiite Muslim Hezbollah has amassed a formidable arsenal since a 2006 war with Israel and since October thousands of people on both sides of the border have been displaced by the clashes.