Six dead as Israel, ignoring warnings and pleas, blasts Palestinians’ last refuge

Update Six dead as Israel, ignoring warnings and pleas, blasts Palestinians’ last refuge
Israel's military is poised to evacuate Palestinian civilians from Rafah and assault Hamas hold-outs in the southern Gaza Strip city, a senior Israeli defence official said on Wednesday, despite international warnings of humanitarian catastrophe. (AFP/File)
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Updated 26 April 2024
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Six dead as Israel, ignoring warnings and pleas, blasts Palestinians’ last refuge

Six dead as Israel, ignoring warnings and pleas, blasts Palestinians’ last refuge
  • Aid groups warn any invasion would add to already-catastrophic conditions for civilians
  • Government spokesman says Israel ‘moving ahead’ with its operation to go after Hamas in Rafah

GAZA STRIP/RIYADH: Six Palestinians died in airstrikes on Rafah in southern Gaza on Thursday as the Israeli military pounded the city in preparation for an expected ground offensive.

Global concern has mounted over the looming operation against Hamas militants in Rafah, where much of Gaza’s population has sought refuge from more than six months of war in the narrow coastal strip.

More than 1.5 million Palestinian civilians are crammed into the south of the enclave and the latest Israeli bombardment left terrified refugees with nowhere left to flee to.

Israel has threatened to launch an all-out assault on Rafah despite warnings by the US and other Western allies that there would be mass Palestinian civilian  casualties. But even before any ground operation the area has been regularly bombed, including overnight Wednesday-Thursday.

Aid groups warn any invasion would add to already-catastrophic conditions for civilians.

Escalating Israeli warnings about invading Rafah have persuaded some families to leave for the nearby Al-Mawasi coastal area.

But many said the past 200 days of war had taught them that nowhere was genuinely safe.

“We escape from one trap into another, searching for places Israel calls safe before they bomb us there. It is like the rat and trap game,” said Mohammad Nasser, 34, a father of three who left Rafah two weeks ago.

Nasser now lives in a shelter in Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza to avoid being caught by surprise by an Israeli invasion and unable to escape.

“We are trying to adapt to the new reality, hoping it will become better, but I doubt it will,” he said.

At the city’s Al-Najjar Hospital on Thursday, two men knelt in front of a white body bag in grief, among other mourners gathered at the site.

Elsewhere in the city, Palestinians tried to salvage belongings from the rubble of bombarded buildings.

“We are afraid of what will happen in Rafah. The level of alert is very high,” said Ibrahim Khraishi, the Palestinian Ambassador to the UN. “Some are leaving, they are afraid for their families, but where can they go? They are not being allowed to go to the north and so are confined to a very small area.”

Medical staff in southern Gaza said five Israeli airstrikes on Rafah on Thursday hit at least three houses and killed at least six people, including a local journalist. Israeli forces also resumed bombarding northern and central areas of Gaza, and areas east of Khan Younis in the south.

In the north, Israel bombarded Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanoun, Jabalia and Zeitoun, and Hamas militants fought Israeli troops with rockets, mortar bombs and sniper fire.

In nearly seven months of war Israel has killed at least 34,305 Palestinians, mainly women and children, Gaza health authorities said.

It has laid waste to much of the enclave, displacing most of its 2.3 million people and leaving many with little food, water or medical care.

Israeli government spokesman David Mencer said Israel was “moving ahead” with its operation to go after four Hamas battalions in Rafah.

“They will be attacked,” he said.

The war began with an unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of about 1,170 people in Israel, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel vowed to destroy Hamas, with a retaliatory offensive that has killed at least 34,305 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

Thursday’s toll included at least 43 more deaths over the previous day.

During their attack militants seized hostages, 129 of whom Israel estimates remain in Gaza, a figure that includes 34 presumed dead.

Hamas on Wednesday released a video of an Israeli-American man who was one of those captured.

Also on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden signed a law authorizing $13 billion in additional military aid to close ally Israel.

Much of that funding is to support the country’s air defenses, which received an unprecedented test this month with Iran’s first-ever direct strike against its foe.

Iran fired more than 300 drones and missiles toward Israel, the Israeli military said, but most were shot down by that country and its allies.

The Iranian barrage followed what it said was a deadly Israeli strike against Tehran’s embassy consular annex in Syria.

The US legislation also included $1 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza, with Biden demanding it reaches reach Palestinians “without delay.”

The United Nations has warned of imminent famine and “access constraints” on the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Germany said it would resume cooperation with the main aid agency in Gaza, the UN’s agency for Palestine refugees, or UNRWA, after an independent review found Israel had not yet provided evidence for its allegations that its staff belonged to “terrorist” groups.

Regional tensions remain high as the Gaza war has led to violence between Israel and Iran’s proxies and allies.

Israel has struck increasingly deeper into Lebanon, while the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement has stepped up rocket fire and drone attacks on Israeli military bases across the border.

The violence has fueled fears of all-out conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, which last went to war in 2006.

On Thursday Lebanese state media and a Hezbollah source said one person was wounded in an Israeli drone attack on a fuel truck near Baalbek, the latest such incident away from the southern border.

In other regional fallout, US-led coalition forces shot down an anti-ship missile launched by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels, American authorities said on Thursday.

The Israeli military on Thursday said its aircraft had struck more than 30 Hamas targets across Gaza over the previous day.

Witnesses reported clashes between militants and Israeli troops near the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, as the world’s attention is increasingly focused further south, on Rafah.

Netanyahu in early April gave no details but said “there is a date” for the Rafah operation, over which the United States and others have expressed grave concern because of the concentration of civilians there.

Citing Egyptian officials briefed on Israeli plans, The Wall Street Journal has said Israel was planning to move civilians to nearby Khan Yunis over a period of two to three weeks, before gradually sending in troops.

The hostage in the video released on Hamas’s official Telegram account identified himself as Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23.

In the video, the authenticity of which AFP has not been able to independently verify, Goldberg-Polin was missing a hand, a wound he suffered during his capture.

In an apparent reference to Jewish Passover which began this week, Goldberg-Polin, likely speaking under duress, told Israeli government members that “while you sit and have holiday meals with your families, think of us, the hostages, who are still here in hell.”

Hostage supporters and anti-government demonstrators have intensified protests — including again on Wednesday night in Jerusalem — for the government to reach a deal that would free the captives, accusing Netanyahu of prolonging the war.

The European Union, the UN rights office and the White House have called for a probe into mass graves found at Gaza’s two biggest hospitals after Israeli raids.

“We want answers,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Wednesday. “We want to see this thoroughly and transparently investigated.”

Israel has repeatedly targeted hospitals during the war, accusing Hamas of using them as command centers and to hold hostages. Hamas denies the accusations.

Gaza’s Civil Defense agency said nearly 340 bodies were uncovered at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis city.

Israeli army spokesman Major Nadav Shoshani said on X that “the grave in question was dug — by Gazans — a few months ago.”

The Israeli army acknowledged that “corpses buried by Palestinians” had been examined by soldiers searching for hostages, but did not directly address allegations that Israeli troops were behind the killings.

(With AFP)


Israel orders Spain to stop consular services for Palestinians from June 1

Israel orders Spain to stop consular services for Palestinians from June 1
Updated 5 sec ago
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Israel orders Spain to stop consular services for Palestinians from June 1

Israel orders Spain to stop consular services for Palestinians from June 1
  • Israel statement: Spain’s consulate in Jerusalem is ‘authorized to provide consular services to residents of the consular district of Jerusalem only’
JERUSALEM: Israel’s foreign ministry said Monday it had told the Spanish consulate in Jerusalem to stop offering consular services to Palestinians from June 1 over Madrid’s recognition of a Palestinian state.
The ministry said in a statement that Spain’s consulate in Jerusalem is “authorized to provide consular services to residents of the consular district of Jerusalem only, and is not authorized to provide services or perform consular activity vis-a-vis residents of the Palestinian Authority.”

Israel army kills Palestinian teen after West Bank ‘attempted attack’

Israel army kills Palestinian teen after West Bank ‘attempted attack’
Updated 54 min 42 sec ago
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Israel army kills Palestinian teen after West Bank ‘attempted attack’

Israel army kills Palestinian teen after West Bank ‘attempted attack’
  • The deadly incident took place near Hebron in the southern West Bank, the army and the Palestinian ministry said

JERUSALEM: Israel’s military said its troops killed a Palestinian assailant in the occupied West Bank, with the Palestinian health ministry identifying him as a teenager.
Israeli forces “identified a terrorist who came in their direction and attempted to carry out a stabbing attack,” a military statement said.
“The soldiers fired at him and killed him,” it said.
The Palestinian health ministry identified the fatality as Majd Shahir Aramin, 14, and said he had been killed by Israeli forces.
The deadly incident took place near Hebron in the southern West Bank, the army and the Palestinian ministry said.
The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, has seen a surge in violence for more than a year, but especially since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7.
According to Palestinian officials, at least 519 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli troops or settlers since the start of the war in the Gaza Strip.
Attacks by Palestinians have killed at least 12 Israelis in the West Bank over the same period, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.


Israeli police and Jewish pilgrims clash at beleaguered festival site

Israeli police and Jewish pilgrims clash at beleaguered festival site
Updated 27 May 2024
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Israeli police and Jewish pilgrims clash at beleaguered festival site

Israeli police and Jewish pilgrims clash at beleaguered festival site
  • The all-night sessions of prayer, mystical songs and dance had in previous years drawn crowds in the tens of thousands
  • Police limited the number of attendees since the 2021 tragedy in which 45 people died in a crowd rush

JERUSALEM: Clashes erupted on Sunday between police and Jewish pilgrims at a religious festival site in northern Israel where three years ago 45 people died in a crowd crush, and which authorities closed this year due to rocket fire from Lebanon.

Since the 2021 tragedy at the tomb of a 2nd-century sage during the annual Lag B’Omer celebration, police have limited the number of attendees.

The all-night sessions of prayer, mystical songs and dance had in previous years drawn crowds in the tens of thousands.

This year’s festival was canceled since the site at Meron in the Galilee region has been targeted by rocket fire from Lebanon.

Many northern Israeli towns have been evacuated since Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon began firing at them following Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel, which sparked the war in Gaza.

Both sides have traded blows since. Despite the closure, police said they turned away thousands of pilgrims over the weekend, though hundreds managed to reach the site, where things got out of hand.

The visitors damaged property and hurled objects at officers, police said. Nineteen officers were injured.

Israeli media reported that several people among the unauthorized crowd were hurt. At least one officer was suspended for pushing an older man to the ground, and police said it was examining other incidents from the site.


Ten dead, 39 injured in southern Turkiye highway collision

Ten dead, 39 injured in southern Turkiye highway collision
Updated 27 May 2024
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Ten dead, 39 injured in southern Turkiye highway collision

Ten dead, 39 injured in southern Turkiye highway collision

ISTANBUL: Ten people died and 39 others were injured in southern Turkiye on Sunday when an intercity bus collided with three other vehicles on a main highway, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said.
The bus, traveling to Istanbul from Diyarbakir, crashed into a transport truck and two other vehicles in the Tarsus district near the Mediterranean city of Mersin, he said on social media platform X.
The government said an investigation had been launched.

 


Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza hostage deal

Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza hostage deal
Updated 27 May 2024
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Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza hostage deal

Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza hostage deal
  • Hamas eader Izzat Al-Rishq jas accused Netanyahu earlier Sunday of “trying to buy more time to continue the aggression"

RAFAH, Palestinian Territories: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he “strongly opposes” ending the war in Gaza, ahead of his war cabinet convening amid intense diplomacy to forge a truce and hostage release deal.

Meanwhile deadly fighting rocked the Gaza Strip and Hamas militants fired a salvo of rockets at Israel’s commercial hub Tel Aviv for the first time in months, sending people scrambling for shelter.
Netanyahu has long rejected Hamas’s demand in negotiations for a permanent end to the fighting, which was triggered by the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack and has left vast areas of besieged Gaza in ruins.
A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, had earlier told AFP that “the war cabinet is expected to meet... tonight at 9 p.m. (1800 GMT) to discuss a hostage release deal.”
A statement issued by Netanyahu’s office before the meeting said Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya “Sinwar continues to demand the end of the war, the withdrawal of the IDF (army) from the Gaza Strip and leaving Hamas in place, so that it will be able to carry out the atrocities of October 7 again and again,” referring to the attack that triggered the war.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu strongly opposes this,” the statement said.
A member of Hamas’s political leadership, Izzat Al-Rishq, accused Netanyahu earlier Sunday of “trying to buy more time to continue the aggression.”
In Brussels, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told journalists before meeting Palestinian premier Mohammed Mustafa that a strong Palestinian Authority (PA) was in Israel’s interest.
EU members Ireland and Spain, and also Norway, have said they will recognize the State of Palestine from Tuesday, drawing furious Israeli condemnation.
“A functional Palestinian Authority is in Israel’s interest too, because in order to make peace, we need a strong Palestinian Authority, not a weaker one,” Borrell said.
Mustafa, whose government is based in the occupied West Bank, said the “first priority” was to support people in Gaza, especially through a ceasefire, and then “rebuilding the institutions of the Palestinian Authority” there after Hamas seized it from the PA in 2007.
US President Joe Biden has pushed for renewed international efforts to halt the war, now in its eighth month.
The Israeli official had said Saturday that “there is an intention to renew these talks this week” after negotiations involving US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators stalled in early May.
However, Rishq said Sunday that so far, “we have not received anything from the mediators.”
He insisted on Hamas’s long-standing demand for a permanent cessation of hostilities as “the foundation and the starting point for anything.”


Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to destroy Hamas following the October 7 attack, but has also faced growing domestic and international criticism.
The attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,984 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
The military on Sunday announced the death of a soldier in north Gaza, taking to 289 the number of troops killed since Israel began its ground offensive in late October.
As the war ground on, the families of hostages still held by Palestinians militants have piled pressure on Netanyahu to secure a deal to free them.
Washington has also taken a tougher line with its close ally as outrage over the war and US support for Israel has become a major issue for Biden, seeking re-election in a battle against Donald Trump.
With more strikes reported Sunday across Gaza, Israel’s military said that over the past 24 hours it had destroyed “over 50 terror targets.”
Fighting has centered on the far-southern city of Rafah, where Israel launched a ground operation in early May despite widespread opposition over concerns for civilians sheltering there.
Rafah resident Moaz Abu Taha, 29, told AFP of “constant bombardment from land and air, which has destroyed many houses.”
Gaza’s civil defense agency said it had retrieved six bodies after a house was targeted in eastern Rafah.

Hamas’s armed wing said it had targeted Tel Aviv “with a large rocket barrage in response to the Zionist (Israeli) massacres against civilians.”
Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told a televised briefing that “Hamas terrorists in Gaza fired eight rockets at central Israel from Rafah.”
“Hamas launched these rockets from near two mosques in Rafah,” Hagari said. “Hamas is holding our hostages in Rafah, which is why we have been conducting a precise operation” there.
Analyst Neomi Neumann said the militants were not trying to “cause damage to Israel, but to maintain continuity of fire.”
They “shoot relatively few rockets per barrage from their diminishing arsenal, and choose when to concentrate their efforts,” said Neumann, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank.
The UN has warned of looming famine in the besieged territory, where most hospitals are no longer functioning.
Amid the bloodiest ever Gaza war, Israel has faced growing global outcry over the surging civilian death toll, and landmark moves last week at two international courts.
Last Monday, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court announced he was seeking arrest warrants for Netanyahu and his defense minister as well as for three top Hamas figures.
And on Friday, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to halt its Rafah offensive or any other operation there that could bring about “the physical destruction” of the Palestinians.