80,000 Palestinians flee Rafah since Israel hiked operation this week: UN agency

Update 80,000 Palestinians flee Rafah since Israel hiked operation this week: UN agency
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Palestinians travel in a vehicle as they flee Rafah after Israeli forces launched a ground and air operation in the eastern part of the southern Gaza city of Rafah on May 8, 2024. (REUTERS)
Update 80,000 Palestinians flee Rafah since Israel hiked operation this week: UN agency
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Displaced Palestinians arrive in central Gaza after fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, on May 7, 2024. (AP)
Update 80,000 Palestinians flee Rafah since Israel hiked operation this week: UN agency
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Displaced Palestinians arrive in central Gaza after fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, on May 7, 2024. (AP)
Update 80,000 Palestinians flee Rafah since Israel hiked operation this week: UN agency
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Palestinians travel in a truck as they feel Rafah after Israeli forces launched a ground and air operation in the eastern part of the southern Gaza city of Rafah on May 8, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 09 May 2024
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80,000 Palestinians flee Rafah since Israel hiked operation this week: UN agency

80,000 Palestinians flee Rafah since Israel hiked operation this week: UN agency
  • The main hospital has shut down, leaving little care for people suffering from malnutrition, illnesses and wounds
  • Rafah had 250,000 residents before the war. Its population had ballooned to some 1.4 million as people from across Gaza fled there

RAFAH, Gaza Strip: The United Nations agency supporting Palestinian refugees said Thursday that about 80,000 people had fled Rafah in the three days since Israel intensified military operations in the south Gaza city.
“Since Israeli forces military operation intensified on 6 May, around 80,000 people have fled Rafah, seeking refuge elsewhere,” UNRWA said on X, formerly Twitter, warning that “the toll on these families is unbearable. Nowhere is safe.”

The main hospital has shut down, leaving little care for people suffering from malnutrition, illnesses and wounds.
And with fuel and other supplies cut off, aid workers have been scrambling to help a population desperate after seven months of war.
As the possibility of a full-scale invasion looms, Gaza’s overcrowded southernmost city has been thrown into panic and chaos by Israel’s seizure of the nearby border crossing with Egypt.
Families uprooted multiple times by the war were uncertain where to go: to the half-destroyed city of Khan Younis, to points even farther north, or to an Israeli-declared “humanitarian zone” in Gaza already teeming with people with little water or supplies?
The past three days, streams of people on foot or in vehicles have jammed the roads out of Rafah in a confused evacuation, their belongings piled high in cars, trucks and donkey carts. All the while, Israeli bombardment has boomed and raised palls of smoke.
“The war has caught up with us even in schools. There is no safe place at all,” said Nuzhat Jarjer. Her family packed on Wednesday to leave a UN school-turned-shelter in Rafah that was rapidly emptying of the hundreds who had lived there for months.
Rafah had 250,000 residents before the war. Its population had ballooned to some 1.4 million as people from across Gaza fled there. Nearly every empty space was blanketed with tent camps, and families crammed into schools or homes with relatives. Like the rest of Gaza’s population, they have been largely reliant on aid groups for food and other basics of life.
Israel on Monday issued evacuation orders for eastern parts of the city, home to some 100,000. It then sent tanks to seize the nearby Rafah crossing with Egypt, shutting it down.




Israeli army tanks take position in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on May 7, 2024, ahead of an offensive. (AFP)

It remains uncertain whether Israel will launch an all-out invasion of Rafah as international efforts continue for a ceasefire. Israel has said an assault on Rafah is crucial to its goal of destroying Hamas after the militant group’s Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that left 1,200 dead and 250 as hostages in Gaza.
The United States, which opposes a Rafah invasion, has said Israel has not provided a credible plan for evacuating and protecting civilians. The war has killed over 34,800 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials, and has driven some 80 percent of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million Palestinians from their homes.
For now, confusion has reigned. Fearing a greater assault, Palestinians fled districts other than the eastern areas they were ordered to leave. Tens of thousands are estimated to have left, according to a UN official who spoke on condition of anonymity because agencies were still trying to determine precise figures.
Tent camps in some parts of Rafah have vanished, springing up again further north along main roads. New camps have filled streets, cemeteries and the beach in the central Gaza town of Deir Al-Balah, 15 kilometers (10 miles) north, as people flowed in, said Ghada Alhaddad, who works there with the aid group Oxfam, speaking to a briefing by several humanitarian workers.




Displaced Palestinians arrive in central Gaza after fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, on May 7, 2024. (AP)

Others made their way to Khan Younis, much of which was destroyed in a months-long Israeli ground assault.
Suze van Meegen, head of operations for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Palestine, said the Rafah district where she is based “feels like a ghost town.”
The Israeli military told those evacuating to go to a “humanitarian zone” it declared in Muwasi, a nearby rural area on the Mediterranean coast. The zone is already packed with some 450,000 people, according to the UN Few new facilities appear to be prepared, despite the military’s announcements that tents, medical centers and food would be present.
The ground is covered in many places with sewage and solid waste, since there are few sanitation facilities, aid workers say. Clean water is lacking and dehydration is a major problem, with temperatures some days already reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius).
The water quality is “horrifically bad. We tested some of the water and the fecal content … is incredibly high,” said James Smith, a British emergency doctor volunteering at the European General Hospital in nearby Khan Younis. Acute jaundice is rampant — and probably caused by hepatitis, but there’s no capabilities to test, he said.
The newly arrived struggle to find tents because of an extreme shortage among aid groups.
Before his family left Rafah to the zone, Iyad Al-Masry said he had to sell food received from aid groups to buy a tent for the equivalent of nearly $400.
His family set up their tent in Muwasi, smoothing the dirt ground before setting down a cradle to rock an infant in. Al-Masri said he has been searching for water and can’t afford the three shekels — a little less than $1 — that sellers charge for a gallon of drinking water.
“We want to eat … We are just waiting for God’s mercy,” he said.
Nick Maynard, a surgeon with Medical Aid for Palestinians who left Gaza on Monday, said two teenage girls who had survivable injuries died last week because of complications from malnutrition.
“They get this vicious cycle of malnutrition, infection, wounds breaking down, more infection, more malnutrition,” said Maynard.
The number of children in Rafah who have lost one or more limbs is “staggering,” said Alexandra Saieh from Save The Children. “These people cannot just pick up and relocate.”

 

Rafah’s main Youssef Al-Najjar Hospital evacuated on Tuesday. Smith said staff and patients rushed out even though they weren’t under evacuation orders because they feared Israeli troops would raid, just as they did hospitals in northern Gaza and Khan Younis, which were left decimated.
Israel claims Hamas used the hospitals for military purposes, an accusation Hamas and Gaza health officials deny.
Israeli tank shells Wednesday hit about 300 meters (yards) from the Kuwaiti Hospital, one of the few facilities still operating, and wounded several children, according to hospital officials.
The closure of Rafah crossing and the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel has cut off the entry of food, supplies, and fuel for aid trucks and generators. Aid groups warn they have only a few days of fuel before humanitarian operations and hospitals around Gaza begin to shut down.
Israel said Wednesday it reopened Kerem Shalom, which was shut after Hamas mortars killed four Israeli soldiers nearby, but aid groups said no trucks were entering the Gaza side. Trucks let through from Israel must be unloaded and the cargo reloaded onto trucks in Gaza, but no workers in Gaza can get to the facility to do so because it is too dangerous, the UN says.

 


Palestinian workers trying to reach the border crossing Wednesday were shot at, and several were wounded, the Israeli military said. It did not specify who opened fire but said it was investigating. Hamas also shelled in the area of Kerem Shalom on Wednesday, saying it was targeting nearby troops.
The UN’s World Food Program has been cut off from its Gaza food warehouse near the Rafah crossing, its deputy executive director Carl Skau said. It procured another warehouse in Deir Al-Balah, but it’s empty until crossings reopen, he said.
Van Meegen, of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said without more supplies, “how do we even begin to prioritize the dribble of humanitarian aid we have here when almost every single person is being forced to depend on it?”
 

 


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.