Khan Younis pullout ‘to prepare for Rafah attack,’ says Israeli defense chief

Khan Younis pullout ‘to prepare for Rafah attack,’ says Israeli defense chief
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Israeli army vehicles move in an area along the border with the Gaza Strip and southern Israel on April 4, 2024. On Sunday, most of Israel's troops pulled out of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Stirop after six months of war. (AFP)
Khan Younis pullout ‘to prepare for Rafah attack,’ says Israeli defense chief
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Palestinians who had taken refuge in Rafah in leave the city to return to Khan Younis after Israel pulled its ground forces out of the southern Gaza Strip, on April 7, 2024, six months into the devastating war sparked by the October 7 attacks. (AFP)
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Updated 08 April 2024
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Khan Younis pullout ‘to prepare for Rafah attack,’ says Israeli defense chief

Khan Younis pullout ‘to prepare for Rafah attack,’ says Israeli defense chief
  • Minister Yoav Gallant claims Hamas ceased to exist as ‘military framework’
  • Netanyahu said Israel was “one step away from victory,” but his military chief said "we are far from stopping"

JEDDAH:  Israeli troops pulled out of Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Sunday after months of fierce fighting half a year into the war sparked by the attack against Israel by Hamas militants on October 7.

Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the withdrawal was because “Hamas ceased to exist as a military framework” in Khan Younis, just north of Rafah, where more than 1.5 million Palestinians are sheltering. He also said the pullout was “to prepare for future missions, including ... in Rafah.”

Israel said it had withdrawn more soldiers from southern Gaza, leaving just one brigade, as it and Hamas sent teams to Egypt for fresh talks on a potential ceasefire in the six-month conflict.

After troops left areas in and around the largely destroyed city of Khan Yunis, a stream of displaced Palestinians walked there, hoping to return to their homes from temporary shelters in Rafah, a little further south.




Israeli army vehicles move in an area along the border with the Gaza Strip and southern Israel on April 4, 2024. On Sunday, most of Israel's troops pulled out of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Stirop after six months of war. (AFP)

Khan Yunis is the hometown of Hamas’s Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar, whom Israel accuses of being the mastermind of the October 7 attacks.

The Israeli army said a “significant force” would stay on elsewhere in the besieged territory as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was “one step away from victory.”

“Israel is ready for a deal. Israel is not ready to surrender,” Netanyahu said to his Cabinet in a speech to mark six months since Hamas’s attack that resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, Israeli figures show.

On a day when talks toward a truce deal were set to resume in Cairo, Netanyahu also stressed that “there will be no ceasefire without the return of hostages.”

He is facing intense pressure at home from families and supporters of captives seized by the militants as well as from a resurgent anti-government protest movement.

“The war in Gaza continues, and we are far from stopping,” said Israel’s military Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi. “This is a long war, with varying intensity.”

Growing global opposition

World leaders have expressed alarm at the prospect of an invasion of the city, near the Egyptian border, where most of Gaza’s population has taken shelter.

The UN and international aid organizations decried the devastating toll of the war, warning that the Palestinian territory had become “beyond catastrophic.”

“Six months is an awful milestone,” the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said, warning that “humanity has been all but abandoned.”

The war broke out on Oct. 7 with an attack by Hamas militants that resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people. Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants also took more than 250 hostages — 129 of whom remain in Gaza, including 34 who the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,175 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas Health Ministry.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the “terrible” war “must end.” He said in a statement: “We continue to stand by Israel’s right to defeat the threat from Hamas terrorists and defend their security. But the whole of the UK is shocked by the bloodshed.
“This terrible conflict must end. The hostages must be released. The aid — which we have been straining every sinew to deliver by land, air and sea — must be flooded in.”

The outcry intensified after an Israeli drone strike killed seven aid workers — most of them Westerners — for the US-based food charity World Central Kitchen on April 1.

Vast areas of Gaza have been turned into a rubble-strewn wasteland with damage estimated at $18.5 billion to critical infrastructure, mostly housing, a World Bank report said.




Palestinians inspect destroyed residential buildings in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, after the Israeli military withdrew most of its ground troops on April 7, 2024. (REUTERS)

Charities have accused Israel of blocking aid, but Israel has defended its efforts and blamed shortages on aid organizations’ inability to distribute assistance once it gets in.

“The denial of basic needs — food, fuel, sanitation, shelter, security and health care — is inhumane and intolerable,” World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Israeli security expert Omer Dostri predicted that, as more displaced Palestinians leave densely crowded Rafah, “within two months there will be a move in Rafah to destroy the remaining Hamas brigades.”

The partial withdrawal came as talks toward a truce and hostage release deal were expected to resume in Cairo, including United States, Qatari and Egyptian mediators.

United States President Joe Biden told Netanyahu on Thursday he wants a ceasefire and hostage release deal and ramped-up aid deliveries.

After the deaths of the seven aid workers, Biden — whose government is Israel’s top arms supplier and political backer — also hinted at making US support for Israel conditional on curtailing the killing of civilians and improving humanitarian conditions.

Hours after Biden’s comments, Netanyahu said Israel would allow “temporary” aid flow through Erez and Ashdod.




A man gestures from a vehicle moving past destroyed buildings along a road in Khan Yunis on April 7, 2024 after Israel pulled its ground forces out of the southern Gaza Strip, six months into the devastating war sparked by the October 7 attacks. (AFP)

Maha Thaer, a mother of four returning to Khan Yunis, said she would move back into her badly damaged apartment, “even though it is not suitable for living, but it is better than tents.”

Muhammad Yunis, 51, a Palestinian in northern Gaza, sees nothing but loss.

“Isn’t the bombing, death and destruction enough?” he asked. “There are bodies still under the rubble. We can smell the stench.”

(With AFP)

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Gaza civil defense says 15 killed in Israel strike on Gaza school

Gaza civil defense says 15 killed in Israel strike on Gaza school
Updated 15 July 2024
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Gaza civil defense says 15 killed in Israel strike on Gaza school

Gaza civil defense says 15 killed in Israel strike on Gaza school
  • The Abu Araban school was housing “thousands of displaced people,” civil defense agency spokesman Mahmud Bassal told AFP, adding that most of the dead were women and children

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: The civil defense agency in Hamas-run Gaza said Sunday that 15 people were killed in a strike on a school sheltering war displaced where the Israeli military said it had targeted “terrorists.”
The strike on the UN-run Abu Araban site in central Gaza’s Nuseirat camp was the fifth on a school-turned-shelter in eight days.
The Abu Araban school was housing “thousands of displaced people,” civil defense agency spokesman Mahmud Bassal told AFP, adding that most of the dead were women and children.
Schools in Nuseirat were the target for two of the earlier school strikes as Israel keeps up its offensive against Hamas Palestinian militants who triggered the war with their October 7 attack on Israel.
The Israeli military said its air force “struck a number of terrorists who were operating in the area of UNRWA’s Abu Araban school building in Nuseirat.”
It said the building had “served as a hideout” and base for “attacks” on Israeli troops.
AFPTV images showed the three-story complex standing, with clothes and bedding airing out over its railings. A wall bearing the UN logo had been blown out, and rooms inside were damaged.
On July 6, Israeli aircraft hit Al-Jawni school, also run by the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), in Nuseirat. UNRWA said about 2,000 people were sheltering there at the time.
The following day, four people died in a strike on the church-run Holy Family school in Gaza City, in the territory’s north, according to the Civil Defense agency.
On Monday, Israel hit another Nuseirat school, again saying it was targeting “terrorists.”
The next day, a hospital source said at least 29 people died in a strike at the entrance to Al-Awda school in the Khan Yunis area, southern Gaza.
Israel says Hamas uses schools, hospitals and other public infrastructure for military purposes. Hamas denies the accusation.
France and Germany on Wednesday called for an investigation into the school strikes.
After the Al-Jawni strike, UNRWA spokesperson Juliette Touma told AFP that when the war began “we closed the schools and they became shelters.”
UNRWA is the main relief agency in Gaza but more than half, or 190, of its facilities have been hit — “some more than once” — in the military response to the October 7 Hamas attacks, she said.
 

 


As war rages, Palestinian culture stifled in Israel

As war rages, Palestinian culture stifled in Israel
Updated 14 July 2024
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As war rages, Palestinian culture stifled in Israel

As war rages, Palestinian culture stifled in Israel
  • About 20 percent of Israel’s 9.5 million inhabitants are Arab, and many of them identify as Palestinian

TEL AVIV: Comedian Ayman Nahas said he has kept a “low profile” since Oct. 7, fearing reprisals as an Arab artist in Israel while the country wages war in the Gaza Strip.
He is one of many Arab artists in Israel or annexed East Jerusalem who describe facing increasing hostility and harassment and fearing looming funding cuts or arrests.
“You never know where your place is, and that is not the right atmosphere to perform,” said Nahas, the artistic director at the Arabic-language Sard theater in Haifa, in Israel’s north.
He said that his theater depends on government subsidies “like 99 percent of cultural spaces” in Israel.
But he fears the money could be cut, as happened in 2015 to Al-Midan, another theater in the mixed Arab-Jewish city of Haifa, after it put on a play inspired by the story of a prisoner jailed by Israel over an attack on troops.
One 25-year-old performer, who asked to use the pseudonym Elias to avoid a backlash, said he has put acting aside and became a swimming pool attendant because he was fed up with only getting stereotyped roles.
Other Arab actors say that since the war, they can no longer find work in Israel. Elias has finally found a role in Berlin.
“I have had to go into exile to practice my art,” he said in a Tel Aviv cafe.
“I don’t wear my ‘Free Palestine’ bracelet anymore, and I take care of what I put on social media. I have friends who the police have visited.”
Nonprofit group Mossawa has documented an increase in human rights violations against Israel’s Arab minority since October, including arrests, discrimination at work, and harassment at schools, as well as curbs on the right to protest.
Singer Dalal Abu Amneh, who is also a neuroscientist, was detained for 48 hours for a social media post after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack that said “the only victor is God.”
Abu Amneh later said she had been harassed in her Jewish-majority hometown of Afula in northern Israel. Her lawyer said she had received hundreds of “death threats.”
About 20 percent of Israel’s 9.5 million inhabitants are Arab, and many of them identify as Palestinian.
They say they are frequently the targets of discrimination by the Jewish majority, and those complaints have grown through more than nine months of war between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.
Huda Imam, who promotes Palestinian cultural sites in Jerusalem, said that “a cultural silence has taken hold since Oct. 7.”
“There has been a shock, an inability to produce out of fear and respect” for the war’s victims, she added.
“There was a Palestinian cultural life before the war, especially in east Jerusalem,” Imam said, referring to the sector Israel captured in 1967 and later annexed in a move never recognized by most of the international community.
“Now people don’t go out.”
And it is primarily exiles “who give a voice to Palestine,” said Imam, highlighting the rapper Saint Levant, who played at the Coachella music festival in the US in April, and the European-based singer and flute player Nai Barghouti.
Palestinians still express themselves through their “living heritage, like drinking coffee or dancing dabkeh,” a traditional dance, said artist Hani Amra.
Some artists wondered about the relevance of their work now.
“You turn on the television, and you see the war live. The reality is more powerful than any artistic work,” Amer Khalil, the director of east Jerusalem’s Al-Hakawati, also known as the Palestinian National Theater.
The theater, founded in 1984, “has been closed more than 200 times in 40 years” and is again in the crosshairs of Israeli authorities, said Khalil.
“Running a theater is always difficult, but after Oct. 7 things became even more complicated,” he said, adding that Al-Hakawati was preparing a play about that day.
“It is a game, like censorship. It comes and goes.”

 


UAE delivers medical aid to Gaza after Israeli attack on refugee camps

UAE delivers medical aid to Gaza after Israeli attack on refugee camps
Updated 14 July 2024
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UAE delivers medical aid to Gaza after Israeli attack on refugee camps

UAE delivers medical aid to Gaza after Israeli attack on refugee camps
  • The initiative follows Israel’s targeting of displaced Palestinians at camps in Khan Younis on Saturday
  • The aid includes supplies for hospitals facing shortages, medicines for various injuries and insulin

DUBAI: The UAE delivered three tonnes of medical supplies and a range of medicines to support the healthcare sector and hospitals still operating in the Gaza Strip, the UAE state news agency reported on Sunday.

The initiative follows Israel’s targeting of displaced Palestinians at camps in Khan Younis on Saturday.

The medical aid includes medical supplies for hospitals facing shortages, medicines for various injuries, insulin for diabetic patients, and other solutions to bolster the healthcare sector during the crisis.

The UAE on Sunday condemned Israel’s attack on refugee camps in Khan Younis, which claimed the lives of 100 people.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday expressed its strongest condemnation and denunciation of what it termed “continued genocidal massacres against the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli war machine.”


Kuwait says government spending must be fixed to control budget growth

Kuwait says government spending must be fixed to control budget growth
Updated 14 July 2024
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Kuwait says government spending must be fixed to control budget growth

Kuwait says government spending must be fixed to control budget growth
  • Its statement added expenses were estimated at 24.5 billion dinars and revenues at 18.9 billion dinars

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait's budget is projected to show a deficit of 5.6 billion dinars ($18.33 billion) for the 2024-2025 fiscal year, the Kuwait News Agency reported on Sunday citing the Ministry of Finance. 

Its statement added expenses were estimated at 24.5 billion dinars and revenues at 18.9 billion dinars.

Government spending must be fixed at 24.5 billion Kuwaiti dinars in the 2027-2028 budget to control budget growth, the ministry also said.

The liquidity of the General Reserve Fund, from which the budget deficit is financed, decreased to 2 billion dinars last March from 33.6 billion ten years ago due to increasing withdrawals, it added.


Egypt condemns Israeli airstrikes on Al-Mawasi area west of Khan Younis

Egypt condemns Israeli airstrikes on Al-Mawasi area west of Khan Younis
Updated 14 July 2024
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Egypt condemns Israeli airstrikes on Al-Mawasi area west of Khan Younis

Egypt condemns Israeli airstrikes on Al-Mawasi area west of Khan Younis
  • Egypt called on Israel to cease its disregard for the lives of unarmed civilians and to adhere to international humanitarian law

CAIRO: Egypt has condemned the Israeli airstrikes on the Al-Mawasi area west of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip.

The deaths in Al-Mawasi, an Israeli-designated “safe zone” where aid groups said hundreds of thousands of people were sheltering, drew condemnation from governments across the region.

The Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip said at least 92 people had been killed, more than half of them women and children, and 300 wounded in Saturday’s strike

In a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Emigration and Egyptian Expatriates, Egypt condemned in the strongest terms the Israeli bombing of Al-Mawasi, which is crowded with displaced people, resulting in the death and injury of dozens of innocent Palestinian civilians.

Egypt called on Israel to cease its disregard for the lives of unarmed civilians and to adhere to international humanitarian law.

It also stressed that such crimes would not be subject to a statute of limitations and could not be justified under any pretext.

Egypt emphasized that these continuous violations against Palestinian civilians add serious complications to the current efforts aimed at reaching de-escalation and a ceasefire and exacerbate their suffering amid disgraceful international silence and inaction.