US tells staff in Israel not to travel outside cities amid Iran threat

The US embassy in Jerusalem. (REUTERS file photo)
The US embassy in Jerusalem. (REUTERS file photo)
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Updated 12 April 2024
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US tells staff in Israel not to travel outside cities amid Iran threat

The US embassy in Jerusalem. (REUTERS file photo)
  • Israel has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory
  • US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday Iran was threatening to launch a “significant attack in Israel,” and that the US remained committed to its ally’s security

WASHINGTON: The United States said on Thursday it had restricted its employees in Israel and their family members from personal travel outside the greater Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Be’er Sheva areas amid Iran’s threats to retaliate against its regional adversary.
Iran has vowed revenge for the April 1 airstrike on its embassy compound in Damascus, ratcheting up tension in a region already strained by the Gaza war.
“Out of an abundance of caution, US government employees and their family members are restricted from personal travel outside the greater Tel Aviv (including Herzliya, Netanya, and Even Yehuda), Jerusalem, and Be’er Sheva areas until further notice,” the US embassy said in a security alert on its website on Thursday. “US government personnel are authorized to transit between these three areas for personal travel.”
Washington has a policy of informing all American citizens via such warnings when it updates security measures for its personnel in a country.
US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday Iran was threatening to launch a “significant attack in Israel,” and that the US remained committed to its ally’s security.
Asked about the security alert, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller noted that Iran had been making public threats toward Israel.
“We conduct ongoing assessments all the time about the situation on the ground,” Miller said at a press briefing. “I’m not going to speak to the specific assessments that led to us to restrict our employees’ and family members’ personal travel, but clearly we are monitoring the threat environment in the Middle East and specifically in Israel.”

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Dubai ruler announces $8bn stormwater runoff system after record floods in April

Dubai ruler announces $8bn stormwater runoff system after record floods in April
Updated 5 sec ago
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Dubai ruler announces $8bn stormwater runoff system after record floods in April

Dubai ruler announces $8bn stormwater runoff system after record floods in April
DUBAI: Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum on Monday announced an $8 billion plan for a stormwater runoff system, two months after an unprecedented deluge and widespread flooding.
The rainwater drainage network announced by Sheikh Mohammed on social media platform X is set to be completed by 2033 with construction to start immediately.
“It will cover all areas of Dubai and will absorb more than 20 million cubic meters of water per day,” Sheikh Mohammed said of the plan.
It “will increase the capacity of rainwater drainage in the emirate by 700 percent and enhance the emirate’s readiness to face future climate challenges,” he said, calling it the region’s largest such network.
Record rains lashed the UAE on April 16, flooding homes and turning streets into rivers. The downpour, worsened by a lack of storm drains, caused delays at Dubai airport, the world’s busiest for international passengers.
The rainfall was the UAE’s heaviest since records began 75 years ago.Without drainage for excess water, authorities relied on trucks to pump up the water with giant hoses and drive it away.
The World Weather Attribution group said global warming caused by fossil fuel emissions “most likely” exacerbated the intense rains that also hit the neighboring sultanate of Oman, where 21 people died.
The UAE government announced $544 million to repair homes of Emirati families impacted by the flooding.
“We learned great lessons in dealing with severe rains,” said Sheikh Mohammed after a cabinet meeting in April, adding that ministers approved “two billion dirhams to deal with damage to the homes of citizens.”
* With AFP

Foreign diplomats tour Beirut airport after weapons claims

Foreign diplomats tour Beirut airport after weapons claims
Updated 31 min 5 sec ago
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Foreign diplomats tour Beirut airport after weapons claims

Foreign diplomats tour Beirut airport after weapons claims
  • On Sunday, British daily The Telegraph reported that Hezbollah was storing missiles and rockets at Beirut airport
  • “The airport adheres to international standards,” said Transport Minister Ali Hamieh, who led the visit
BEIRUT: Senior Lebanese officials on Monday defended procedures at Beirut airport during a tour for journalists and diplomats, a day after a British daily alleged Hezbollah was storing weapons at the facility.
The accusations came during escalating exchanges of fire and bellicose rhetoric between Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and Israeli forces, which have engaged in near-daily fire since war in Gaza began.
Hezbollah has been acting in support of its Palestinian ally Hamas since the militant group’s October 7 attack on Israel that sparked the Gaza war.
On Sunday, British daily The Telegraph reported that Hezbollah was storing missiles and rockets at Beirut airport, where “whistleblowers” had reported the arrival of “unusually big boxes” from Iran.
Hezbollah has not made any official comment.
“The airport adheres to international standards,” said Transport Minister Ali Hamieh, who led the visit together with Lebanon’s ministers for foreign affairs, tourism and information.
Representatives from foreign missions including Egypt, Germany and the European Union delegation joined the tour of the airport’s warehouse facilities.
Hamieh on Sunday held a press conference to reject The Telegraph report as false and “to say that there are no weapons entering or leaving Beirut.” He invited ambassadors and reporters for the tour.
At the airport, Hamieh described The Telegraph report as part of “psychological war” on Lebanon and said it was a “distortion of the reputation” of Lebanon’s only international airport.
The tour “included an import and export center... that accounts for 20 percent of the import traffic and is concerned with services for Iranian planes which were the subject of The Telegraph report,” Hamieh said.
Another warehouse accounted for the remaining 80 percent of imports and exports, he told a press conference.
Israel has for years accused Hezbollah of keeping weapons in installations throughout Lebanon, including near Beirut airport, an accusation Hezbollah has denied.
Israel bombed Beirut airport when it last went to war with Hezbollah in 2006.
Beirut airport manager Fadi El-Hassan said all aircraft arriving at the facility, including Iranian planes, “are subject to the same customs procedures.”
Egyptian ambassador Alaa Moussa said that while diplomats were not responsible for inspecting the airport for prohibited items, “our presence (at the tour) is a message of support” to Lebanon and “a message to all parties that what is needed... is calm.”
More than eight months of exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israeli forces have left at least 481 people dead in Lebanon, mostly fighters, but also including 94 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli authorities say at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country’s north.

Medics aim to screen thousands of Gaza children for malnutrition

A malnourished Palestinian boy receives treatment at the International Medical Corps field hospital in Deir Al-Balah.
A malnourished Palestinian boy receives treatment at the International Medical Corps field hospital in Deir Al-Balah.
Updated 24 June 2024
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Medics aim to screen thousands of Gaza children for malnutrition

A malnourished Palestinian boy receives treatment at the International Medical Corps field hospital in Deir Al-Balah.
  • IMC and partners are planning to reach more than 200,000 children under 5 years old as part of a ‘Find and Treat’ campaign

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip: Medics in Gaza said on Monday they were working to step up screening of young children for severe malnutrition amid fears that hunger is spreading as people flee to new areas.
Aid group International Medical Corps (IMC) and partners are planning to reach more than 200,000 children under 5 years old as part of a ‘Find and Treat’ campaign, one of its doctors, Mumawwar Said, told Reuters by phone.
“With the displacement, communities are settling in new locations that do not have access to clean water, or there is not adequate access to food,” he said. “We fear there are more cases being missed.”
Over the weekend, families were already coming into an IMC clinic in the central city of Deir Al-Balah, opened after the agency said it had to shut down two centers in the southern city of Rafah due to insecurity.
Five-year-old Jana Ayad had weighed just 9 kilograms when she arrived, suffering from diarrhea and vomiting, Nutrition Officer Raghda Ibrahim Qeshta told Reuters as she carefully held the child.
“My daughter was dying in front of me,” said Nasma Ayad as she sat next to the bed. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Jana had started putting on some weight after treatment, medics said, but she was still painfully thin with her ribs showing as she lay listlessly in her bunny pyjamas.
Staff can gauge nutrition levels by measuring the circumference of children’s arms. During a Reuters cameraman’s short visit at least two of the measurements were in the yellow band, indicating a risk of malnutrition.
A group of UN-led aid agencies estimates that around 7 percent of Gazan children may be acutely malnourished, compared with 0.8 percent before the Israel-Hamas conflict began on Oct. 7.
Until now the worst of severe hunger has been in the north, with a UN-backed report warning of imminent famine in March.
But aid workers worry it could spread to central and southern areas due to the upheaval around Rafah that has displaced more than 1 million people and constrained supply flows through southern corridors.
Israel launched its military operation in Gaza after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage, according to Israeli tallies.
It says it has expanded efforts to facilitate aid flows into Gaza and blames international aid agencies for distribution problems inside the enclave.


UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency

UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency
Updated 24 June 2024
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UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency

UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency
  • UNRWA’s Philippe Lazzarini: ‘If we do not push back, other UN entities and international organizations will be next, further undermining our multilateral system’
  • Several countries halted their funding to UNRWA following accusations by Israel that some of the agency’s staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack

GENEVA: The head of the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) on Monday called on partners to fight back against efforts by Israel to have the organization disbanded as it provides humanitarian assistance to Gaza and across the region.
“Israel has long been critical of the agency’s mandate. But it now seeks to end UNRWA’s operations, dismissing the agency’s status as a United Nations entity supported by an overwhelming majority of member states,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said at a meeting of the agency’s advisory commission in Geneva.
“If we do not push back, other UN entities and international organizations will be next, further undermining our multilateral system.”
The Israeli diplomatic mission in Geneva had no immediate comment.
Lazzarini said the agency, which has provided essential aid to Gazans throughout Israel’s offensive, was “staggering under the weight of relentless attacks.”
“In Gaza, the agency has paid a terrible price: 193 UNRWA personnel have been killed,” he said.
“More than 180 installations have been damaged or destroyed, killing at least 500 people seeking United Nations protection...Our premises have been used for military purposes by Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.”
Lazzarini said the agency was being subjected to a “concerted effort” to dismantle it, including through legislative initiatives threatening to evict the agency from its compound and labelling UNRWA as a terrorist organization.
Several countries halted their funding to UNRWA following accusations by Israel that some of the agency’s staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that triggered the Gaza war. Most donors have since resumed their funding.
Lazzarini said that UNRWA still lacked the necessary resources to fulfil its mandate.
“The agency’s ability to operate beyond August will depend on member states disbursing planned funds and providing new contributions to the core budget,” he said.
Established in 1949 following the first Arab-Israeli war, UNRWA provides services including schooling, primary health care and humanitarian aid in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.


Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say

Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say
Updated 24 June 2024
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Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say

Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say
  • Fatah and Hamas officials had previously said the meeting would take place in mid-June.

CAIRO: Reconciliation talks between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah due to be held in China this month have been delayed and no new date has been set, Hamas and Fatah officials told Reuters on Monday.
After hosting a meeting of Palestinian factions in April, China said Fatah — which is led by President Mahmoud Abbas — and Hamas had expressed the will to seek reconciliation through unity talks in Beijing. Fatah and Hamas officials had previously said the meeting would take place in mid-June.