US delays bomb shipment to Israel as battles rage in Rafah

A girl carries a baby as she mourns Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 8, 2024. (Reuters)
A girl carries a baby as she mourns Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 8, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 09 May 2024
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US delays bomb shipment to Israel as battles rage in Rafah

A girl carries a baby as she mourns Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 8, 2024.
  • No attack without protecting civilians, Pentagon chief says, but heavy fighting erupted on outskirts of city
  • US said it believes a revised Hamas ceasefire proposal may lead to a breakthrough in an impasse in negotiations

JEDDAH: The US on Wednesday delayed delivery of a shipment of 3,500 powerful bombs to Israel amid heavy fighting on the outskirts of Rafah in southern Gaza.

The decision to hold up delivery of the munitions was taken because Israel appeared to be continuing with a ground offensive on the city, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the US Senate.

“We’ve been very clear ... from the very beginning that Israel shouldn’t launch a major attack into Rafah without accounting for and protecting the civilians that are in that battle space,” Austin said.

“And again, as we have assessed the situation, we have paused one shipment of high payload munitions. We’ve not made a final determination on how to proceed with that shipment.”

 

 

The United States, which aims to stave off a full Israeli invasion of Rafah, said it believes a revised Hamas ceasefire proposal may lead to a breakthrough in an impasse in negotiations, with talks resuming in Cairo on Wednesday.

But Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters battled with Israeli troops on the outskirts of Rafah on Wednesday a day after Israeli tanks closed the nearby border crossing with Egypt, cutting off deliveries of food, fuel and other humanitarian aid. 

Israeli tanks rolled into Gaza at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Tuesday, cutting off a vital aid route and the only exit for the evacuation of wounded patients.

A UN official said no fuel or aid had entered the Gaza Strip due to the military operation, a situation “disastrous for the humanitarian response” in Gaza where more than half the population is suffering catastrophic hunger.

Hospitals in southern Gaza have only three days of fuel, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Israel has threatened a major assault on Rafah to defeat thousands of Hamas fighters it says are holed up there.

But the city is also a refuge for up to 1.5 million Palestinians who have fled Israeli attacks further north.

They have crammed into tented camps and makeshift shelters, suffering from shortages of food, water and medicine. Rafah’s main maternity hospital, where nearly half of Gaza’s births take place, has stopped admitting patients, the United Nations Population Fund told Reuters on Wednesday.

“The streets of the city echo with the cries of innocent lives lost, families torn apart, and homes reduced to rubble,” Rafah’s Mayor Ahmed Al-Sofi said in an appeal to the international community to intervene. 

“We stand on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe of unprecedented proportions.”

One refugee in Rafah, Aref, 35, said: “Some streets look like a ghost town now. We don’t fear death but we have kids to care for and live for another day when this war ends and we rebuild the city.”

Heavy bombs withheld

A senior US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington had carefully reviewed the delivery of weapons that might be used in Rafah and as a result paused a shipment consisting of 1,800 2,000-pound (907-kg) bombs and 1,700 500-pound bombs.

This would be the first such delay since the Biden administration, offered its “ironclad” support to Israel after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack. Washington is Israel’s closest ally and main weapons supplier.

Israel’s UN ambassador, Gilad Erdan, called Washington’s decision “very disappointing” although he did not believe the US would stop supplying arms to Israel.

US President Joe Biden “can’t say he is our partner in the goal to destroy Hamas while on the other hand delay the means meant to destroy Hamas,” Erdan told Israel’s Channel 12 News.

An Israeli government spokesperson said he had nothing to add to the reports.

While Israel has stated its intention to destroy Hamas entirely, it is unclear how they would do so and experts doubt that is even possible.

The Israeli military said it troops had discovered Hamas infrastructure in several places in eastern Rafah and were conducting targeted raids on the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing and airstrikes across the Gaza Strip.

It has told civilians, many of whom have been uprooted several times already, to go to an “expanded humanitarian zone” in Al-Mawasi, some 20 km (12 miles) away. The mayor said the coastal area lacked all “the necessities of life.”

Around 10,000 Palestinians have left Rafah since Monday, said Juliette Touma, spokesperson for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. The Hamas-run Gaza government media office put the number at tens of thousands.

“Some streets look like a ghost town now,” Aref, 35, told Reuters via a chat app. “We don’t fear death and martyrdom but we have kids to care for and live for another day when this war ends and we rebuild the city.”

Armed groups of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah said in separate statements that gunfights continued in the central Gaza Strip, while residents of northern Gaza reported heavy Israeli tank shelling against eastern areas of Gaza City.

Israel’s offensive has killed 34,844 Palestinians in seven months of war in Gaza, most of them civilians, the Gaza health ministry said.

The war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and abducting 252 others, of whom 128 remain hostage in Gaza and 36 have been declared dead, according to the latest Israeli figures.

Cease-fire talks
In Cairo, delegations to negotiations from Hamas, Israel, the US, Egypt and Qatar reacted positively to their resumption on Tuesday, two Egyptian sources said.

“The talks are ongoing,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said.

CIA Director William Burns traveled from Cairo to Israel on Wednesday and met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an Israeli official said.

Israel on Monday declared that a three-phase proposal approved by Hamas was unacceptable because terms had been watered down. White House spokesperson John Kirby said a new text presented by Hamas suggests gaps could be closed.

The proposal included a first phase with a six-week ceasefire, an influx of aid to Gaza, the return of 33 Israeli hostages, alive or dead, and the release by Israel of 30 detained Palestinian children and women for each released Israeli hostage, according to several sources.

UNRWA said no aid was getting into Gaza, despite desperate need. Israel said it was reopening the other crossing in southern Gaza, Kerem Shalom, but two Red Crescent sources said aid was still waiting on the Egyptian side of the border on Wednesday afternoon.

(With Reuters)


Israel hits Gaza from land, sea and air as Hamas halts talks

Israel hits Gaza from land, sea and air as Hamas halts talks
Updated 18 sec ago
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Israel hits Gaza from land, sea and air as Hamas halts talks

Israel hits Gaza from land, sea and air as Hamas halts talks
  • Relentless bombardments come as prospects have dwindled for a truce and hostage release deal 
  • Israel's military offensive has killed at least 38,584 people in Gaza, according to its health ministry

GAZA STRIP: Israel hammered the Gaza Strip from the air, sea, and land Monday as the war in the Palestinian territory showed no sign of abating, with Hamas saying it was pulling out of truce talks.
Shells rained down on the neighborhoods of Tal Al-Hawa, Sheikh Ajlin, and Al-Sabra in Gaza City, AFP correspondents reported, while eyewitnesses said the Israeli army had shelled the Al-Mughraqa area and the northern outskirts of the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.
Paramedics from the Palestinian Red Crescent said they had retrieved the bodies of five people, including three children, after Israeli air strikes in the Al-Maghazi camp, also in the central Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, eyewitnesses reported Israeli gunship fire east of Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza, and shelling and Apache helicopter attacks in western areas of the southernmost city of Rafah.
The Israeli military said in a statement that it was continuing its activity throughout the coastal territory, and said it had conducted raids in Rafah and central Gaza that killed “a number of” militants, as well as air strikes throughout the strip over the past day.
It also said its naval forces had been firing at targets in Gaza.
The relentless bombardments came as prospects dwindled for a truce and hostage release deal being secured any time soon.
Hamas said on Sunday it was withdrawing from ceasefire talks.
The decision followed an Israeli strike targeting the head of Hamas’s military wing, Mohammed Deif, which the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said killed 92 people.
Deif’s fate remains unknown, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying there was “no certainty” he was dead while a senior Hamas official told AFP that Deif was “well and directly overseeing” operations.
Speaking after the strike on Al-Mawasi, a second senior official from the militant group cited Israeli “massacres” and its attitude to negotiations as a reason for suspending negotiations.
But according to the official, Haniyeh told international mediators Hamas was “ready to resume negotiations” when Israel’s government “demonstrates seriousness in reaching a ceasefire agreement and a prisoner exchange deal.”
Last week, US President Joe Biden had suggested a deal might be close, saying at a NATO summit that both sides had agreed to a framework he had set out in late May.
Hamas on Monday lashed out at the US, accusing it of supporting “genocide” by supplying Israel with “internationally banned” weapons.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the... American disdain for the blood of the children and women of our Palestinian people... by providing all types of prohibited weapons to the ‘Israeli’ occupation,” a statement from the Hamas government media office said.
Talks between the warring parties have been mediated by Qatar and Egypt, with US support, but months of negotiations have failed to bring a breakthrough.
The war was sparked by Hamas’s surprise October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza including 42 the Israeli military says are dead.
Israel responded with a military offensive that has killed at least 38,584 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data provided by the Gaza health ministry.
The war and accompanying siege have devastated the Palestinian territory, destroying much of its infrastructure, leaving the majority of its 2.4 million residents displaced and causing a dire shortage of food, medicines and other basic goods.
Among the devastated facilities have been multiple schools. On Sunday, Israeli forces struck a UN-run school in Nuseirat camp that was being used as a shelter for displaced people but which the military said “served as a hideout” for militants.
The civil defense agency in Gaza said 15 people were killed in the strike, the fifth attack in just over a week to hit a school used as shelter by displaced Palestinians.


Four killed, several wounded by gunfire near mosque in Oman: local police 

Four killed, several wounded by gunfire near mosque in Oman: local police 
Updated 16 July 2024
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Four killed, several wounded by gunfire near mosque in Oman: local police 

Four killed, several wounded by gunfire near mosque in Oman: local police 

RIYADH: Four people were killed and several wounded by gunfire in the vicinity of a mosque in Oman’s Wadi Al-Kabir, the Omani Police said on X early Tuesday.

“All security measures have been taken to deal with the situation. Evidence-gathering and investigation procedures will continue,” the police said.

The omani force expressed condolences to the families of the victims and wished the injured a speedy recovery. 


US military confirms Houthi attacks on vessels in Red Sea

US military confirms Houthi attacks on vessels in Red Sea
Updated 16 July 2024
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US military confirms Houthi attacks on vessels in Red Sea

US military confirms Houthi attacks on vessels in Red Sea

WASHINGTON: Houthis launched multiple attacks in the Red Sea against MT Bentley I, which was carrying vegetable oil from Russia to China, and also attacked the Chios Lion tanker ship, the U.S. military said on X on Monday.
 

 


Israeli drone strike along Lebanon-Syria border kills Syrian businessman close to the government

Vehicles drive along a road, on the day of the parliamentary elections, in Damascus, Syria July 15, 2024. (REUTERS)
Vehicles drive along a road, on the day of the parliamentary elections, in Damascus, Syria July 15, 2024. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 July 2024
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Israeli drone strike along Lebanon-Syria border kills Syrian businessman close to the government

Vehicles drive along a road, on the day of the parliamentary elections, in Damascus, Syria July 15, 2024. (REUTERS)
  • Israel, which has vowed to stop Iranian entrenchment in its northern neighbor, has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets in government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years, but it rarely acknowledges them

BEIRUT: An Israeli drone strike on a car Monday near the Lebanon-Syria border killed a prominent Syrian businessman who was sanctioned by the United States and had close ties to the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to pro-government media and an official from an Iran-backed group.
Mohammed Baraa Katerji was killed when a drone strike hit his car near the area of Saboura, a few kilometers or miles inside Syria after apparently crossing from Lebanon. Israel’s air force has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in recent years, mainly targeting members of Iran-backed groups and Syria’s military. But it has been rare to hit personalities from within the government.
The strike also came as Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group have been exchanging fire on an almost daily basis since early October, after the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
An official from an Iran-backed group said that Katerji was killed instantly while in his SUV on the highway linking Lebanon with Syria. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.
The pro-government Al-Watan daily quoted unnamed “sources” as saying that Katerji, 48, was killed in a “Zionist drone strike on his car.” It gave no further details.
Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Britain-based opposition war monitor Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said that Katerji was killed while in a car with Lebanese license plates, adding that he was apparently targeted because he used to fund the “Syrian resistance” against Israel in the Golan Heights, as well as his links to Iran-backed groups in Syria.
Israel, which has vowed to stop Iranian entrenchment in its northern neighbor, has carried out hundreds of strikes on targets in government-controlled parts of Syria in recent years, but it rarely acknowledges them.
The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC, sanctioned Katerji in 2018 as Assad’s middleman to trade oil with the Daesh group and for facilitating weapons shipments from Iraq to Syria.
The US Treasury declined Associated Press requests for comment. The sanctions imposed on Katerji were authorized under an Obama-era executive order issued in 2011 that prohibits certain transactions with Syria. A search of the OFAC database indicates that the sanctions were still in effect against Katerji and his firm at the time of his death.
OFAC said in 2018 that Katerji was responsible for import and export activities in Syria and assisted with transporting weapons and ammunition under the pretext of importing and exporting food items. These shipments were overseen by the US­ designated Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, according to OFAC.
It added that the Syria-based Katerji Company is a trucking company that has also shipped weapons from Iraq to Syria. Additionally, in a 2016 trade deal between the government of Syria and IS, the Katerji Company was identified as the exclusive agent for providing supplies to IS-controlled areas, including oil and other commodities.
Katerji and his brother, Hussam — widely referred to in Syria as the “Katerji brothers” — got involved in oil business a few years after the country’s conflict began in March 2011. Hussam Katerji is a former member of Syria’s parliament.
 

 


Israel waging ‘war of revenge’ on Palestinian prisoners: PA minister

Israel waging ‘war of revenge’ on Palestinian prisoners: PA minister
Updated 16 July 2024
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Israel waging ‘war of revenge’ on Palestinian prisoners: PA minister

Israel waging ‘war of revenge’ on Palestinian prisoners: PA minister
  • Accounts of alleged mistreatment including torture, rape and other sexual abuses in Israeli jails have all been denied by Israeli authorities

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian Authority’s prisoners affairs minister on Monday accused Israel of waging an abusive “war of revenge” against Palestinian detainees since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
Accounts of alleged mistreatment including torture, rape and other sexual abuses in Israeli jails have all been denied by Israeli authorities.
“Israel has been waging a war of revenge against prisoners within the walls of prisons and detention centers since the first day of the decision to go to war against Gaza,” said the PA’s Prisoners’ Affairs Authority head Qadura Fares.
Speaking at a press conference in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, he added that Palestinian prisoners were treated as “hostages” and the mistreatment was part of the “pressure.”
The authority’s lawyer Khaled MaHajjna denounced abuses which he said he had been told of when he visited detained Gaza journalists Mohammed Arab and Tariq Abed at the Ofer detention center near Ramallah.
MaHajjna said he was told how guards forced one prisoner to “lay on his stomach naked and then a fire extinguisher tube was inserted into his buttocks and the fire extinguisher was turned on.”
He said he was told how other inmates had “electric prods” used on their bodies.
In parallel to increasing complaints by Palestinians, some Israeli rights groups are fighting for a court order to close Sde Teiman, a desert detention camp just for detainees during Israel’s war with militant group Hamas.
The Israeli military said it “rejects outright allegations concerning systematic abuse of detainees in the ‘Sde Teiman’ detention facility, including allegations of sexually abusing detainees.” It also said that it acts within international law.
The lawyer said prisoners were handcuffed when they ate and that meals consisted of 100 grams (3.5 ounces) of bread or tomatoes with some milk.
MaHajjna quoted Arab as saying that he saw one handcuffed prisoner die after being beaten for demanding medical treatment. He said about 100 detainees had diseases and wounds in desperate need of treatment.
He alleged that some prisoners had their hands bound before dogs were then set upon them.
Five Israeli rights groups have gone to court over conditions at Sde Teiman.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), one of the five, said that the high court on Monday ordered the government to respond within three days to the original petition filed in May.
ACRI, Physicians for Human Rights, HaMoked, the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Gisha have demanded the closure of Sde Teiman, saying that “severe violations of detainees’ rights” make imprisonment at the facility “unconstitutional and untenable.”
The government has not commented on the case.
According to the Palestinian Prisoners Club, around 9,600 Palestinians are in Israeli jails, including hundreds under administrative detention which allows the military to keep detainees for long periods without being charged or produced in court.
The war started with Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza including 42 the Israeli military says are dead.
Israel’s military retaliation has killed at least 38,664 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.