Gaza fighting rages after Israel vows to intensify Rafah offensive

Gaza fighting rages after Israel vows to intensify Rafah offensive
TOPSHOT - Palestinians who fled Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip arrive with their belongings to Khan Yunis on May 15, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas militant group. (Photo by AFP)
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Updated 17 May 2024
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Gaza fighting rages after Israel vows to intensify Rafah offensive

Gaza fighting rages after Israel vows to intensify Rafah offensive
  • Fierce battles overnight in and around the Jabalia refugee camp in the north of the war-ravaged Gaza Strip
  • Israeli warships launched strikes on Rafah, on the border with Egypt

RAFAH: Fighting raged Friday in Gaza after Israel vowed to intensify its ground offensive in Rafah despite international concerns for the hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians in the southern city.
With Gazans facing hunger, the US military said “trucks carrying humanitarian assistance began moving ashore via a temporary pier” it set up to aid Palestinians in the besieged territory.
Witnesses reported fierce battles overnight in and around the Jabalia refugee camp in the north of the war-ravaged Gaza Strip.
Israeli helicopters carried out heavy strikes around Jabalia while army artillery hit homes near Kamal Adwan hospital in the camp, they said.
The bodies of six people were retrieved and several wounded people were evacuated after an air strike targeted a house in Jabalia, Gaza’s Civil Defense agency said.
Rescue teams were trying to recover people from under the rubble of the Shaaban family home on Al-Faluja Street in the camp, it added.
Witnesses said Israeli warships launched strikes on Rafah, on the border with Egypt, where more than 1.4 million Palestinian civilians have been sheltering.
Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said in a statement that it “targeted enemy forces stationed inside the Rafah border crossing... with mortar shells.”
The war broke out after the October 7 attack on southern Israel which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
Out of 252 people taken hostage that day, 128 are still being held inside Gaza, including 38 who the army says are dead.
Israel vowed in response to crush Hamas and launched a military offensive on Gaza, where at least 35,303 people have been killed since the war erupted, according to data provided by the health ministry of Hamas-run territory.
Intensified ground operations
Israel has vowed to “intensify” its ground offensive in Rafah, in defiance of global warnings over the fate of Palestinians sheltering there.
Israel’s top ally the United States has joined other major powers in appealing for it to hold back from a full ground offensive in Rafah.
But Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday said “additional forces will enter” the Rafah area and “this activity will intensify.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Thursday that the ground assault on Rafah was a “critical” part of the army’s mission to destroy Hamas and prevent any repetition of the October 7 attack.
“The battle in Rafah is critical... It’s not just the rest of their battalions, it’s also like an oxygen line for them for escape and resupply,” he said.
The Israeli siege of Gaza has brought dire shortages of food as well as safe water, medicines and fuel for its 2.4 million people.
The arrival of occasional aid convoys has slowed to a trickle since Israeli forces took control last week of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing.


Some life-saving food assistance entered South Darfur, UN says, but aid groups say more is needed

Some life-saving food assistance entered South Darfur, UN says, but aid groups say more is needed
Updated 6 sec ago
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Some life-saving food assistance entered South Darfur, UN says, but aid groups say more is needed

Some life-saving food assistance entered South Darfur, UN says, but aid groups say more is needed
  • Violence in Sudan quickly extended to the Darfur region in the country’s west, which has seen some of the most brutal attacks since the conflict began

CAIRO: South Darfur saw a slight increase in critical aid when the UN’s World Food Program delivered life-saving food and nutrition to some families across the violence-riddled western Sudanese state, the organization said. But more assistance is needed, humanitarian organizations say.
The WFP mission in Sudan said Tuesday that more than 50,000 people in hunger hotspots across South Darfur are receiving much-needed food assistance in collaboration with relief agency World Vision.
WFP didn’t give a time frame for when the aid was distributed or say how WFP delivered the supplies. Several spokespersons for the organization did not immediately respond to requests for additional information.
Famine looms in parts of Sudan, which has been engulfed by violence since April of last year, when tensions between the Sudanese military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces erupted into intense fighting across the country.
“The number of people in South Darfur that suffer from hunger is vast and on top of that, there is a significant shortage of funds,” Yonas Mesele, deputy country director for Sudan with the French humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Mesele said that of the estimated $581.2 million needed to meet humanitarian needs in Sudan, only 26 percent was secured, citing an announcement at a meeting for the Food Security and Livelihoods Cluster Coordination on June 13.
The fighting in Sudan has displaced over 4.6 million people, according to the UN migration agency, including more than 3.6 million who were internally displaced and over 1 million others who fled to neighboring countries.
Violence in Sudan quickly extended to the Darfur region in the country’s west, which has seen some of the most brutal attacks since the conflict began. The population in the state of South Darfur is at risk of soon dying from hunger, a recent report by a Dutch think-tank warned.
The Clingendael Institute report said last month that around 2.5 million people in Sudan could die from hunger by the end of September 2024, with about 15 percent of the population in the regions of Darfur and Kordofan being likely the worst affected.
“Time is running out to avoid a rapid deterioration of the conflict-induced food insecurity crisis,” Samy Guessabi, country director for Sudan with Action Against Hunger, told the AP. “The international community and the parties to the conflict must take immediate action to alleviate hunger and prevent a catastrophic malnutrition emergency.”
In May, the WFP said in a report that at least 1.7 million people are already experiencing emergency levels of hunger in Darfur, including in Al Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state that is besieged by RSF.
Despite the “devastating levels of hunger” that civilians are facing in the greater Darfur region, deliveries of food assistance have been “intermittent due to fighting and endless bureaucratic hurdles,” WFP said.
In April, the UN said it started distributing food in Darfur for the first time in months.


Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?

Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?
Updated 22 min 38 sec ago
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Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?

Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?
  • International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor is ‘concerned by the ethnically motivated nature’ of the conflict
  • Fourteen months into the conflict, legal experts have criticized the court’s belated appeal for evidence of atrocities

LONDON: The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan has appealed for evidence of atrocities in Sudan, saying his ongoing investigation “seems to disclose an organized, systematic and a profound attack on human dignity.”

However, legal experts who spoke to Arab News have accused the ICC of dragging its feet on the deteriorating situation in Sudan and of focusing too narrowly on the Darfur region while neglecting the wider conflict.

Khan last week said he had become “particularly concerned by the ethnically motivated nature” of the conflict in Sudan after combatants reportedly attacked the main hospital in Al-Fasher, North Darfur, in what likely constituted a war crime.

Doctors from the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres confirmed to Arab News that the attack on the South Hospital on June 8 had forced MSF and its partners in the Sudanese Ministry of Health to suspend all activities and withdraw staff from the facility.

A spokesperson said authorities had already reduced services at the hospital, with many patients having been transferred before the attack owing to the uptick in fighting around the city — the last in Darfur still under the control of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF).

Fighters affiliated with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a breakaway military faction that has seized control of swathes of the country since the conflict began on April 15, 2023, were accused of mounting the attack.

“It’s outrageous that the RSF opened fire inside the hospital,” Michel Lacharite, head of emergencies at MSF, told Arab News. “It is not an isolated incident. Staff and patients have endured attacks on the facility for weeks from all sides, but opening fire inside a hospital crosses a line.

“Warring parties must stop attacking hospitals. One by one, hospitals are damaged and closed. Remaining facilities in Al-Fasher aren’t prepared for mass casualties, we are trying to find solutions, but the responsibility lies with warring parties to spare medical facilities.”

INNUMBERS

• 14,000 Estimated number of people killed in Sudan since the conflict began on April 15, 2023.

• 10 million People displaced, including over 2 million who have crossed into neighboring countries.

The RSF, commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, has previously denied claims that its forces attack civilian infrastructure.

While details about the hospital attack remain sketchy, the MSF spokesperson said “most patients” and “all MSF staff” were able to escape.

As the main referral hospital for treating Al-Fasher’s war-wounded, the only one equipped to manage mass casualty events and one of just two with surgical capacity, the loss of services will have a major impact. In less than a month, the facility had treated some 1,300 people.

The UN Security Council adopted a UK-drafted resolution on June 14 demanding an end to the siege of Al-Fasher.

The measure expressed “grave concern” over the spreading violence and reports that the RSF was carrying out “ethnically motivated violence.”

During the meeting, Mohamed Abushahab, the UAE’s ambassador to the UN, said: “We believe that the Sudanese people deserve justice and peace. They need a ceasefire, a credible political process and unhindered flow of humanitarian aid.”

Rebutting accusations made by the representative of Sudan’s SAF-backed government, he said: “Excuses and finger pointing only prolongs the suffering of civilians.”

Independent ivestigations using videos suggest recent SAF victories were enabled by the deployment of such Iranian-made combat drones as Mohajer-6 and Zajil-3.

According to Wim Zwijnenburg, a drone expert and head of the Humanitarian Disarmament Project at Dutch peace organisation PAX, the videos are “an indication of active Iranian support” for SAF.

“If these drones are equipped with guided munitions, it means they were supplied by Iran because those munitions are not produced in Sudan,” Zwijnenburg told BBC.

Sudan’s SAF-dominated governing council has denied acquiring weapons from Iran.

Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow for the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that although the Al-Fasher hospital assault has been a wake-up call for the ICC, attacks of this kind were “nothing new.”

“The fact of the matter is that this is not the first hospital to be looted or destroyed in this conflict, Hudson told Arab News.

“It is a conflict that has been raging for 14 months and has been fought in much the same way with this attack well within the nature of the conflict.

“What is new is that Sudan’s civilian population’s ability to withstand the shocks of this war has depleted. But while it may feel like a game-changing moment, it is not.”

Referring to the July 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys during the Bosnian War, Hudson said: “Maybe if there was a Srebrenica moment, a move to extermination, that would be game-changing.”

Khan’s comments indicate the ICC has been paying attention to the situation in Sudan. However, Hudson voiced disappointment at the court’s slow response to the conflict.

Contrasting the “alacrity” with which the ICC acted against Russia for its war in Ukraine and Israel for its assault on Gaza — issuing arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin within 12 months and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu within eight — he said it was telling of Sudan’s ranking in international priorities that the court was “only now” investigating.

“Khan’s comments strike me as an admission that the court has not moved at pace and should have been doing more,” said Hudson. “I am not sure what restraints he is operating under but he’s not prioritized Sudan, and, in Darfur, these cases build themselves.

“It is not just the court, this conflict has been neglected more broadly, there need to be moves to build a diplomatic process and to get humanitarian aid because only eight percent of a global appeal has been met, which is shockingly low.

“I would like to see an increase in the cost on this war’s actors as part of a move to bring it to an end, including the use of sanctions, which have not been deployed efficiently, and could have a part to play in bringing actors to the negotiating table.”

Although efforts at brokering a ceasefire between the two sides have so far failed, Saudi aid agency KSrelief has been rolling out health projects intended to support Sudan’s civilian population, with three projects put into action in the last week alone.

With thousands of civilians reportedly killed and thousands more displaced by the fighting across Darfur, the ICC’s machinery has swung into action. Even so, Sudanese international lawyers have expressed skepticism.

One who spoke to Arab News on the condition of anonymity said they were particularly concerned by Khan’s focus on the violence in Darfur when in reality, the violence has spread far beyond the troubled western region.

“The ICC was mandated to investigate crimes in Darfur in 2005, and we have not yet seen any results from that mandate, and now this conflict is happening in other areas,” the lawyer said. “This violence is not all in — nor is it originating from — Darfur.

“What is happening outside Darfur is not lesser than the violence happening within it and yet the ICC, partly as a consequence of Sudan not being a party to the court’s jurisdiction, is drawing attention away from this and making it all about Darfur.”

Despite lacking jurisdiction as a consequence of the Sudanese government failing to ratify the ICC treaty, otherwise known as the Rome Statute, the court had gained jurisdiction for a limited investigation into earlier crimes in Darfur through a UN Security Council referral.

That referral resulted in the ICC’s 2009 decision to issue an arrest warrant for the since-ousted Sudanese President Omar Bashir for multiple charges, including for a genocide that took place in Darfur between 2003 and 2008.

Born out of Arab militias commonly known as Janjaweed, the RSF was mobilized by Bashir against non-Arab tribes in Darfur. At the time, they were accused of mass killings, rapes and other atrocities, and Darfur became synonymous with genocide.

Welcoming Khan’s push for evidence, another Sudan-based legal expert, who spoke to Arab News anonymously, challenged those questioning the focus on Darfur, stressing it made sense given the region’s history.

“Does it make sense to keep looking at cases within the Darfur geographic region? Yes, because all that is happening in Sudan from 2003 up to now can be connected back to Darfur, as that is where this conflict’s root causes lie,” they said.

“There are questions to be asked though in relation to how the ICC is addressing the Darfur case and the role that this, and the coverage of it, will have around the protection of civilians as what is needed is to reduce that risk.”

The war in Sudan has cost the lives of more than 14,000 people and left thousands more wounded while pushing the population to the brink of famine.

The UN warned the warring parties last month that there is a serious risk of widespread starvation in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan if they do not allow humanitarian aid into the region.

The war has also created the world’s largest displacement crisis as more than 10 million people have been forced to flee their homes, including over 2 million people who have crossed into neighboring countries.

Saudi Arabia has played a central role in facilitating talks between the two warring factions, urging them to meet their obligations to protect civilians under both the Jeddah Declaration and the requirements of international humanitarian law.
 

 


Israel army spokesman says Hamas can’t be eliminated

Israel army spokesman says Hamas can’t be eliminated
Updated 42 min 48 sec ago
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Israel army spokesman says Hamas can’t be eliminated

Israel army spokesman says Hamas can’t be eliminated
  • “Hamas is an ideology, we cannot eliminate an ideology,” said Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari
  • PM Netanyahu's office quickly rebuffed the spokesman's statement, saying Hamas has to be defeated

JERUSALEM: Israel’s top army spokesman said Wednesday that Hamas cannot be eliminated, prompting a knee-jerk reaction from the government which quickly reiterated it remains committed to the Palestinian militant group’s destruction.
More than eight months of war, sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, have failed to oust the Islamist militants from Gaza but have brought widespread devastation.
“To say that we are going to make Hamas disappear is to throw sand in people’s eyes. If we don’t provide an alternative, in the end, we will have Hamas,” Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told Israel’s Channel 13 broadcaster.
“Hamas is an ideology, we cannot eliminate an ideology.”
His comments were quickly rebuffed by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose cabinet has stated its Gaza offensive will not end until Hamas is defeated.
“The political and security cabinet headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu defined as one of the goals of the war the destruction of Hamas’ military and governmental capabilities,” his office said in a statement.
“The IDF is of course committed to this.”
In a separate statement on its Telegram channel, the military clarified that Hagari had addressed Hamas “as an ideology... and his statements were clear and explicit.”
“Any other claim is taking the statement out of context.”
The October 7 attack that triggered the war resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages. Of these, 116 remain in Gaza, although the army says 41 are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive aimed at eliminating Hamas has killed at least 37,396 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
 


US army kills senior Daesh official in Syria

US army kills senior Daesh official in Syria
Updated 44 min 53 sec ago
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US army kills senior Daesh official in Syria

US army kills senior Daesh official in Syria
  • Airstrike in Syria kills senior Daesh official and facilitator Usamah Jamal Muhammad Ibrahim Al-Janabi
  • US Central Command: ‘His death will disrupt Daesh’s ability to resource and conduct terror attacks’

CAIRO: The US Central Command said on Wednesday it had conducted an airstrike in Syria that killed a senior Daesh official and facilitator named Usamah Jamal Muhammad Ibrahim Al-Janabi.
“His death will disrupt Daesh’s ability to resource and conduct terror attacks,” it said in a statement on X.
It said: “There is no indication any civilians were harmed in this strike.”


Nine Palestinians killed in Israeli strike on citizens waiting for aid in Gaza: medical sources

Mourners react next to the bodies of Palestinians, killed in Israeli strikes due to a military operation in Rafah.
Mourners react next to the bodies of Palestinians, killed in Israeli strikes due to a military operation in Rafah.
Updated 19 June 2024
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Nine Palestinians killed in Israeli strike on citizens waiting for aid in Gaza: medical sources

Mourners react next to the bodies of Palestinians, killed in Israeli strikes due to a military operation in Rafah.
  • More than eight months of war have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territory and repeated UN warnings of famine

GAZA: Nine Palestinians were killed in an Israeli strike that hit a group of citizens and merchants in the southern Gaza Strip as they waited for convoys of aid trucks carrying goods through the Kerem Shalom crossing, medical sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

Eight people were also killed on Wednesday when Israeli tanks backed by warplanes and drones advanced deeper into the western part of the Gaza Strip city of Rafah, according to residents and Palestinian medics.
Residents said the tanks moved into five neighborhoods after midnight. Heavy shelling and gunfire hit the tents of displaced families in the Al-Mawasi area, further to the west of the coastal enclave, they said.
Some eight months into the war, there has been no sign of let up in the fighting as efforts by international mediators, backed by the United States, have so far failed to persuade Israel and Hamas to agree to a ceasefire.