Millions in Sudan ‘one step away from famine’ amid year-long conflict, UN humanitarian official says

Update Millions in Sudan ‘one step away from famine’ amid year-long conflict, UN humanitarian official says
People queue to refill donkey-drawn water tanks during a water crisis in Port Sudan in the Red Sea State of war-torn Sudan on Apr. 9, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 12 April 2024
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Millions in Sudan ‘one step away from famine’ amid year-long conflict, UN humanitarian official says

Millions in Sudan ‘one step away from famine’ amid year-long conflict, UN humanitarian official says
  • Time running out to avoid catastrophe, with more than $4bn needed in emergency funding, aid officials warn
  • More than 18m people face food insecurity as ‘forgotten conflict’ plunges country into crisis

LONDON: At least 5 million people in Sudan are “one step away from famine,” the head of office at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan said on Friday.

Justin Brady told a media briefing that an added 18 million people across the country were facing acute food insecurity amid the ongoing battle between the Sudanese Armed Forces and units from the Rapid Support Forces.

Thousands have been killed and a humanitarian crisis has unfolded since the conflict erupted 12 months ago on Monday.

More than 8.5 million people have fled their homes, with nearly 1.8 million escaping across the country’s borders.

Brady called on both the SAF and RSF to protect civilians and allow desperately needed humanitarian aid into the country, adding he was “particularly worried” about the situation in the Darfur region.

Michael Dunford, regional director for East Africa at the World Food Programme, said there was a “very real risk” of the situation in Sudan becoming the “largest hunger crisis anywhere in the world.”

He added that the emergency could also spill into neighboring countries, such as Chad and South Sudan, unless there was an immediate end to the fighting.

France is hosting a pledging conference in Paris on Monday to help Sudan and its neighbors cope with the fallout from the civil war.

The UN has said $4.1 billion is needed to meet the humanitarian needs, and both Brady and Dunford said it was “essential” that countries donated the required funds. They criticized the lack of access for international journalists to cover events in Sudan, which they said had led it to becoming a “forgotten conflict.”

Also on Friday, World Health Organization spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters in Geneva that time was running out to avoid a catastrophe in Sudan.

He warned of Sudan’s collapsing health system, with acute shortages of staff, medicines, vaccines, equipment and supplies, and said 70 to 80 percent of Sudanese hospitals and clinics were not functioning due to the conflict.

“Without a stop to the fighting and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian aid, Sudan’s crisis will dramatically worsen in the months to come and could impact the whole region” in terms of more refugees, the spread of disease and food insecurity.

“We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” he added.

Thair Shraideh, the UN Development Pogramme’s resident representative in Sudan, said the country was plunging into “an accelerating food security crisis.”

He continued: “The study warns that a famine in Sudan is expected in 2024, particularly in the states of Khartoum, Al-Jazira, and in the Darfur and Kordofan regions.”

The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, on Thursday pledged US funding for Sudan, and also called on donor countries to dig deep at the Paris event on Monday as she bemoaned the severe lack of funding so far.

“To date, just 5 percent of the UN’s humanitarian appeal for Sudan has been met. Already, the WFP has had to cut assistance to over 7 million people in Chad and South Sudan, and that includes 1.2 million refugees, people who were already struggling to feed themselves and their families,” she said.

“This is a matter of life and death. Experts warn that the coming weeks and months, over 200,000 more children could die of starvation. The US, for our part, plans on significantly increasing our funding in the days to come,” she added.

Thomas-Greenfield also agreed that Sudan and its crisis was being forgotten.

“Just five years after a revolution that offered a glimpse at a free, peaceful, democratic Sudan, people are losing hope. Aid workers have begun calling this conflict the forgotten war,” she said.

“Sudanese children are asking why the world has forgotten them. And let’s be clear: I don’t believe the dearth of attention is because people are ignorant or unfeeling, in fact, I believe it’s the opposite. I believe it’s because there are so many terrible crises, so much violence and pain, that people don’t quite know which way to turn.”


Palestinian leader Abbas to visit Moscow, Russian agencies report

Updated 13 sec ago
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Palestinian leader Abbas to visit Moscow, Russian agencies report

Palestinian leader Abbas to visit Moscow, Russian agencies report
  • TASS said Ushakov did not disclose the timing but said the dates had been agreed
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will visit Russia, Russian news agencies reported on Tuesday, citing Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov.
TASS said Ushakov did not disclose the timing but said the dates had been agreed. Another state agency, RIA, said Abbas had planned to come to Russia in November last year, but the visit was postponed at the request of the Palestinian side.
Russia says it wants to help resolve the conflict in the Middle East and that peace will not be possible without the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Jordan bans 10 people from traveling, charges 28 others with human trafficking and fraud in pilgrims case

Jordan bans 10 people from traveling, charges 28 others with human trafficking and fraud in pilgrims case
Updated 1 min 8 sec ago
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Jordan bans 10 people from traveling, charges 28 others with human trafficking and fraud in pilgrims case

Jordan bans 10 people from traveling, charges 28 others with human trafficking and fraud in pilgrims case

Blinken emphasized to Israel’s Gallant the need for post-war Gaza plan

Blinken emphasized to Israel’s Gallant the need for post-war Gaza plan
Updated 25 June 2024
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Blinken emphasized to Israel’s Gallant the need for post-war Gaza plan

Blinken emphasized to Israel’s Gallant the need for post-war Gaza plan
  • The Middle East remains on edge as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that a coming end to the intense phase of fighting in Gaza would allow Israel to deploy more forces along the northern border with Lebanon
  • Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2006 after Israeli soldiers and settlers withdrew in 2005, but the enclave is still deemed as Israeli-occupied territory by the United Nations

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday pressed Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on the need for Israel to swiftly develop a robust post-war plan for Gaza and ensure the tensions with Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border do not escalate further.
“He (Blinken) updated Minister Gallant on ongoing diplomatic efforts to advance security, governance, and reconstruction in Gaza during a post-conflict period and emphasized the importance of that work to Israel’s security,” a State Department statement following the meeting said.
Washington has repeatedly urged Israel to craft a realistic post-war plan for Gaza and warned that the absence of it could trigger lawlessness and chaos as well as a comeback by Hamas in the Palestinian territory. Palestinians have previously said only an end to Israeli occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state will bring peace.
“He also underscored the importance of avoiding further escalation of the conflict and reaching a diplomatic resolution that allows both Israeli and Lebanese families to return to their homes,” the State Department added.
The Middle East remains on edge as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that a coming end to the intense phase of fighting in Gaza would allow Israel to deploy more forces along the northern border with Lebanon.
Earlier in June, Hezbollah targeted Israeli towns and military sites with the largest volleys of rockets and drones in the hostilities so far, after an Israeli strike killed the most senior Hezbollah commander yet.
Gallant has been on a trip to Washington, D.C., and has also met Amos Hochstein and Brett McGurk, top aides to President Joe Biden, as well as CIA Director Bill Burns. He is set to meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday.
A small group of protesters chanted slogans while holding a Palestinian flag as Gallant, for whom the International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan is seeking an arrest warrant, entered the Department building.
The Israeli minister described his meetings in Washington, including the one with Blinken, as “critical,” according to comments released by his office.
“The meetings we are holding are extremely important and impactful on the future of the war in Gaza and our ability to achieve the goals of the war, on developments on the northern border, and other areas,” Gallant said.
Earlier at a news briefing, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters Washington hoped to make progress in its talks with Gallant, although said there was still no agreement with Israel on a post-war Gaza plan even as Israel was getting close to ending major combat operations in Rafah.
“We have been quite consistent that for there to be an enduring defeat of Hamas, there needs to be a plan for what replaces them and what replaces that needs to be Palestinian-led governance, needs to be realistic security plans,” Miller said.
“We do not want to see them reoccupy Gaza, which is why we continue to push for an alternative to that,” Miller said.
Hamas came to power in Gaza in 2006 after Israeli soldiers and settlers withdrew in 2005, but the enclave is still deemed as Israeli-occupied territory by the United Nations. Israel controls access to Gaza. Hamas has been gaining popularity among Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in recent months.
The war started when Palestinian Hamas militants burst over the border and attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 others hostage, according to Israeli tallies.
The Israeli offensive in retaliation has killed almost 37,600 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and has left Gaza in ruins.

 


Few civilians left in Rafah ‘trapped’ by the fighting

Few civilians left in Rafah ‘trapped’ by the fighting
Updated 25 June 2024
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Few civilians left in Rafah ‘trapped’ by the fighting

Few civilians left in Rafah ‘trapped’ by the fighting
  • There is “almost no one left” in Rafah, Abu Taha said, barring a handful of people who refused to leave their homes or who also came back later
  • The distress of the 2.4 million people in the narrow strip of land that is Gaza, already impoverished before the war, has increased with the fighting

RAFAH, Palestinian Territories: Rafah city center in Gaza lies deserted after most residents fled weeks of fighting between the Israeli military and Palestinian armed groups led by Hamas that punctuated daily life there.
Those who are left in the city feel trapped.
Israeli officials have described Rafah as the last Hamas stronghold in the Gaza Strip.
In early May troops entered the city in the south of the Palestinian territory, bombarding areas near the border with Egypt and forcing tens of thousands of residents to leave.
“There is no more water or food. We are totally trapped,” said Haitham Abu Taha.
He is one of the few Palestinians who returned to Rafah with his family after Israel’s army recently announced a daily pause on a southern route.
“It was better than staying in tents or with relatives because we were separated from each other,” he remembered thinking, before returning to find that soldiers “had not really withdrawn.”
There is “almost no one left” in Rafah, Abu Taha said, barring a handful of people who refused to leave their homes or who also came back later.
Over the desolate city’s sea of rubble, Palestinians say Israeli drones fly precise maneuvers at low altitudes.
Almost silent, they offer a detailed view of the terrain and have been used, Palestinians say, to carry out precision strikes since the Israel-Hamas war began more than eight months ago.

Abu Taha, 30, spoke of the “danger of quadcopter drones which mercilessly target anyone walking” in the streets.
“Many people were killed” by the quadcopters, 22-year-old Ismail Abu Shaar told AFP, claiming to have stayed at home to “protect” the area.
“The artillery, the shooting and the clashes” never stop, he said.
The Israeli military said on Monday it was “continuing intelligence-based targeted operations” in and around Rafah, adding that it had found “large amounts of weapons.”
“We are clearly approaching the point where we can say we have dismantled the Rafah Brigade (of Hamas), that it is defeated not in the sense that there are no more terrorists, but in the sense that it can no longer function as a fighting unit,” army chief Herzi Halevi said in a statement after touring Rafah late on Sunday.
However, Palestinian armed groups, notably Hamas armed wing the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, say they regularly operate in the area.
William Schomburg, representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Rafah, told journalists on Saturday that the city is now a “ghost town.”
“We see very few people, very significant destruction,” he said.
The distress of the 2.4 million people in the narrow strip of land that is Gaza, already impoverished before the war, has increased with the fighting.

International organizations have said for months they face extreme difficulties in providing humanitarian aid to civilians, while the Israeli authorities say they have allowed the aid in but it has not been collected for distribution.
Plumes of smoke rise regularly above Rafah, to which Egypt partly controlled access until the war changed the situation on the ground.
Before the Israeli ground offensive on the city began in early May, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians took refuge there, displaced from across the territory as the fighting intensified.
Many have left homes where they had lived for years or apartments they had rented at high prices after the war began — or tents erected in haste as the war tightened its grip on the city.
At the end of May, AFP correspondents saw hundreds of Palestinians fleeing Tal Al-Sultan, a district of Rafah which had just been hit by an Israeli strike that left 45 dead, according to the local authorities in the Hamas-run territory.
After strikes last week killed dozens, the east and center of the city are becoming even more empty as the people flee.
On flatbed vans and donkey carts, families piled patched-up solar panels, foam mattresses covered with flowers, wooden planks and plastic pipes.
A young boy pushed sheets of metal on an office chair.
Many say they simply do not have the means to embark on a new move, as the war closes in on the few who remain behind with them.
“We’re afraid to move because we fear being killed,” said Abu Taha.
 

 


Israeli military confirms death of hostage held in Gaza

Israeli military confirms death of hostage held in Gaza
Updated 25 June 2024
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Israeli military confirms death of hostage held in Gaza

Israeli military confirms death of hostage held in Gaza
  • Israeli authorities had previously confirmed Alatrash, a sergeant major in the Israeli military’s Bedouin Trackers Unit, was taken hostage on October 7

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military on Monday confirmed the death of a soldier held hostage by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip for nearly nine months since Hamas’s October 7 attack.
In a separate statement the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said that Mohammad Alatrash was killed during the October attack on southern Israel and his body taken captive by Hamas militants.
Israeli authorities had previously confirmed Alatrash, a sergeant major in the Israeli military’s Bedouin Trackers Unit, was taken hostage on October 7.
Alatrash, 39, is survived by two wives and 13 children, the forum said in a statement.
“The Families Forum will continue to support and stand by the family during this difficult time and until his remains are returned to Israel,” it said.
The Hostages and Missing Families Forum meanwhile released a video showing the kidnapping of three other hostages on the day of the Hamas attack.
It showed Hersh Goldberg-Polin, Or Levy and Eliya Cohen being seized, loaded in a pick-up truck and driven away to Gaza by armed militants, some chanting “Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest).”
Goldberg-Polin is seen drenched in blood after part of his left arm was blown off in the attack.
In April, he appeared in a proof-of-life video released by Hamas in which he said the captives were living “in hell.” His left arm had been amputated below the elbow.
“The shocking abduction video of Hersh, Or and Eliya breaks all of our hearts and re-emphasizes the brutality of the enemy whom we have sworn to eliminate,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement after the release of the latest footage.
“We will not end the war until we return all ... of our loved ones home.”
Alatrash’s death raises the toll from Hamas’s attack to 1,195, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Palestinian militants also took 251 people hostage in the attack, 116 of whom remain captive in the Gaza Strip, according to Israel.
Of those, the military says 42 are dead, including at least nine soldiers.
Israel’s retaliatory invasion and bombardment of the Gaza Strip has resulted in the deaths of at least 37,626 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.