Food bound for Gaza rots in the sun as Egypt’s Rafah crossing stays shut

Food bound for Gaza rots in the sun as Egypt’s Rafah crossing stays shut
The flow of relief has often been slowed by Israeli inspections and military activity inside Gaza. (File/AFP)
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Updated 24 May 2024
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Food bound for Gaza rots in the sun as Egypt’s Rafah crossing stays shut

Food bound for Gaza rots in the sun as Egypt’s Rafah crossing stays shut
  • Trucks halted since Israel stepped up offensive in Rafah
  • Some supplies stuck for more than two months
  • Health warning issued for some food inside Gaza

AL-ARISH, Egypt: Some of the food supplies waiting to enter the Gaza Strip from Egypt have begun to rot as the Rafah border crossing remains shut to aid deliveries for a third week and people inside the Palestinian enclave face worsening hunger.
Rafah was a main entry point for humanitarian relief as well as some commercial supplies before Israel stepped up its military offensive on the Gazan side of the border on May 6 and took control of the crossing from the Palestinian side.
Egyptian officials and sources say humanitarian operations are at risk from military activity and that Israel needs to hand the crossing back to Palestinians before it starts operating again.
Israel and the United States have called on Egypt, which is also worried about the risk of Palestinians being displaced from Gaza, to allow the border to reopen.
Meanwhile the backlog of aid on the road between the Egyptian side of the crossing and the town of Al-Arish, about 45 km (28 miles) west of Rafah and an arrival point for international aid donations, has been building up.
One truck driver, Mahmoud Hussein, said his goods had been loaded on his vehicle for a month, gradually spoiling in the sun. Some of the foodstuffs are being discarded, others sold of cheap.
“Apples, bananas, chicken and cheese, a lot of things have gone rotten, some stuff has been returned and is being sold for a quarter of its price,” he said, crouching under his truck for shade.
“I’m sorry to say that the onions we’re carrying will at best be eaten by animals because of the worms in them.”
Aid deliveries for Gaza through Rafah began in late October, two weeks after the start of the war between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The flow of relief has often been slowed by Israeli inspections and military activity inside Gaza and the amount reaching the enclave’s 2.3 million residents has been far below needs, aid officials say.
A global hunger monitor has warned of imminent famine in parts of Gaza.
Rotten eggs
Since May 5, no trucks have crossed through Rafah and very few through the nearby Israeli crossing of Kerem Shalom, according to UN data.
The amount of aid waiting in Egypt’s northern Sinai was now very large, and some had been stuck for more than two months, said Khaled Zayed, head of the Egyptian Red Crescent in the area.
“Some aid packages require a certain temperature ... We coordinate on this with specialists who are highly trained in the storage of food and medical supplies,” he said.
“We hope the border will reopen as soon as possible.”
KSrelief, a Saudi-funded charity, has more than 350 trucks carrying items including food and medical supplies waiting to pass through Rafah, but has had to offload flour because of the risk of it rotting, the group’s supervisor general Abdullah Al Rabeeah said.
“We pack and send but also we have to recheck. It is a big burden,” he told Reuters.
Some food has been sold at cut price on the local market in northern Sinai, leading to the confiscation of stocks of rotten eggs, said local officials from Egypt’s ministry of supply.
Inside Gaza, there have also been scares about the quality of delayed food deliveries that made it in before Rafah closed, or through other crossings.
Palestinian medical and police officials that used to check goods coming into Gaza had been unable to do so during Israel’s offensive, said Ismail Al-Thawabta, director of the Hamas-run Gaza government media office.
“There is a big problem as many of the goods that enter the Gaza Strip are unfit for human use and are unhealthy,” he said.
“Therefore, the health ministry issued the warning statement to raise public awareness that people should examine the goods before eating them or sharing them with their families.” (Reporting by Reuters Cairo bureau, Nidal Al-Mughrabi and Emma Farge Writing by Aidan Lewis Editing by Peter Graff)


Turkiye signs deal with US to buy F-16 warplanes

Turkiye signs deal with US to buy F-16 warplanes
Updated 2 sec ago
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Turkiye signs deal with US to buy F-16 warplanes

Turkiye signs deal with US to buy F-16 warplanes
ISTANBUL: Turkiye and the United States have signed a contract for the sale of F-16 warplanes after Washington greenlighted the $23 billion deal following months of negotiations, Turkish defense ministry sources said Thursday.
“The contract was signed and delegations from both sides are negotiating the details,” the ministry sources said.
Under the deal, Turkiye will get 40 new F-16s and upgrades to 79 of the jets in its existing fleet.
The State Department last week hailed “a major step forward” in Turkiye’s purchase of new F-16 fighter jets calling them “the most advanced F-16 ever made available only to closest Allies and partners.”
“Just the latest example of US enduring commitment to security partnership with Turkiye,” it said in a social media post.
As required by law, the State Department notified Congress of the agreement in January, as well as a separate $8.6 billion sale of 40 F-35s to Greece.
The United States did not green light the transaction until Turkiye’s instruments of ratification of Sweden’s membership had arrived in Washington.
Turkiye’s parliament ratified Sweden’s NATO membership in January after more than a year of delays that upset Western to unite in the face of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Erdogan is due to join NATO leaders’ summit in Washington next month.
He had been set for talks with US counterpart Joe Biden last month but what would have been their first White House meeting was postponed over scheduling problems.

Vessel reports being struck 129 NM east of Yemen’s Aden

Vessel reports being struck 129 NM east of Yemen’s Aden
Updated 2 min 56 sec ago
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Vessel reports being struck 129 NM east of Yemen’s Aden

Vessel reports being struck 129 NM east of Yemen’s Aden
  • Ambrey said it assessed the vessel to be aligned with “the Houthi target profile”

ADEN: A merchant vessel issued a distress call reporting a missile impacting the vessel approximately 129 nautical miles east of Yemen’s Aden while on route from Malaysia to Italy’s Venice, British maritime security firm Ambrey said on Thursday.
Ambrey said it assessed the vessel to be aligned with “the Houthi target profile.”
Iran-allied Houthis have attacked international shipping in the Red Sea region since November in solidarity with the Palestinians in the war between Israel and Hamas. They have sunk one ship, seized another vessel, and killed three seafarers in another attack.
The group controls Yemen’s capital and most populous areas.
The Yemeni militants on Wednesday took responsibility for small watercraft and missile attacks that left a Greek-owned cargo ship taking on water and in need of rescue near Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeidah.


US envoy to Yemen demands Houthis free detained international staff

US envoy to Yemen demands Houthis free detained international staff
Updated 58 min 25 sec ago
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US envoy to Yemen demands Houthis free detained international staff

US envoy to Yemen demands Houthis free detained international staff
  • The Houthis have held around 20 Yemeni employees of the US embassy in Sanaa for the past three years.

DUBAI: The United States’ ambassador to Yemen on Thursday called on Yemen’s Houthi group to immediately release the detained staff of international organizations including employees of the US embassy in Sanaa.
The Iran-aligned Houthis detained 11 United Nations personnel in Yemen last week, according to UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.
On Thursday, the US ambassador condemned the detentions and called them “shocking.”
“The Houthis owe all of these Yemenis thanks, not false accusations and imprisonment. The people of Yemen deserve better than fanciful Houthi lies meant to bolster their abusive and autocratic rule,” ambassador Steven Fagin said in a statement.
The staff members — all Yemenis — were swept up by armed Houthi intelligence officials in a series of raids that also resulted in the detention of three employees of the US-funded pro-democracy group National Democratic Institute (NDI) and three employees of a local human rights group.
The Houthis have held around 20 Yemeni employees of the US embassy in Sanaa for the past three years. The embassy suspended operations after Yemen’s civil war erupted in 2014 and Houthis seized control of the capital.
The US mission to Yemen is currently located in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh.
Yemen’s Houthis said on Monday they had targeted an alleged “American-Israeli spy cell” that included former staff of the US embassy in Yemen, according to a television statement from Abdel Hakim Al Khaiwani, the Houthis’ intelligence chief.
“The American-Israeli spy cell carried out espionage and sabotage activities in official and unofficial institutions for decades in favor of the enemy,” he said.
The Houthis, who are aligned with Iran, have attacked shipping in the Red Sea in what they say are acts of solidarity with Palestinians amid the Gaza war, drawing airstrikes from the United States and Britain.


Fire at Iraqi oil refinery injures 10: civil defense

Fire at Iraqi oil refinery injures 10: civil defense
Updated 13 June 2024
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Fire at Iraqi oil refinery injures 10: civil defense

Fire at Iraqi oil refinery injures 10: civil defense
  • Firefighters worked through the night battling to extinguish the flames
  • The fire broke out in an asphalt tank on Wednesday night before spreading to a second refinery on a road southwest of Irbil

Irbil: A massive fire at an oil refinery in Iraqi Kurdistan injured at least 10 people including firefighters battling to control the blaze, which was ongoing Thursday, the civil defense agency reported.
The fire broke out in an asphalt tank on Wednesday night before spreading to a second refinery on a road southwest of Irbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region.
Firefighters worked through the night battling to extinguish the flames, which sent thick plumes of black smoke and balls of orange flame into the sky, an AFP photographer reported.
“More than 10 people were injured, mainly men from the Irbil civil defense,” the agency said in a statement, noting three fire trucks were burned.
The cause of the blaze was still unknown, it said.
“The fire started in one refinery before spreading to another,” the statement said. Four fuel tanks had been affected.
With Iraq experiencing scorching summers, the country has seen multiple fires in recent weeks, affecting shopping centers, warehouses and hospitals.
Iraq is one of the world’s biggest oil producers, and crude oil sales make up 90 percent of Iraqi budget revenues.
But exports from the Kurdistan region have been halted for more than a year in a dispute over legal and technical issues.


Israeli forces thrust deeper into Rafah as diplomacy falters

Israeli forces thrust deeper into Rafah as diplomacy falters
Updated 47 min 54 sec ago
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Israeli forces thrust deeper into Rafah as diplomacy falters

Israeli forces thrust deeper into Rafah as diplomacy falters
  • Israeli military denied in a statement it had launched any strikes inside the Al-Mawasi humanitarian zone
  • Biden will urge G7 leaders to push Hamas to back ceasefire deal

CAIRO: Israeli tanks advanced deeper into the western area of Rafah, amid one of the worst nights of bombardment from air, ground, and sea, forcing many families to flee their homes and tents under darkness, residents said on Thursday.
Residents said the Israeli forces thrust toward the Al-Mawasi area of Rafah near the beach, which is designated as a humanitarian area in all announcements and maps published by the Israeli army since it began its Rafah offensive in May.
The Israeli military denied in a statement it had launched any strikes inside the Al-Mawasi humanitarian zone.
Israel said its assault aimed to wipe out Hamas’ last intact combat units in Rafah, a city which had sheltered more than a million people before the latest advance began. Most of those people have now moved north toward Khan Younis and Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza Strip.
The Israeli military said in a statement it was continuing “intelligence-based, targeted operations” on Rafah, saying forces in the past day had located weapons, and killed Palestinian gunmen in close-range combat.
Over the past day, the military said it had struck 45 targets across the Gaza Strip from the air, including military structures, militant cells, rocket launchers, and tunnel shafts.
Israel has ruled out peace until Hamas is eradicated, and much of Gaza lies in ruins. But Hamas has proven resilient, with militants resurfacing to fight in areas where Israeli forces had previously declared to have defeated them and pulled back.
Ceasefire proposal

US President Joe Biden will urge fellow leaders of Group of Seven nations to support ceasefire negotiations and encourage Hamas to accept a proposal backed by Israel, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of G7 leaders in southern Italy, Sullivan said the world should encourage the Palestinian militant group to accept the proposal and avoid stalemate.
Sullivan said Israel is standing behind a ceasefire proposal for the eight-month-old war in the Gaza Strip, and the goal is to bridge gaps with Hamas and get to a deal soon.
Hamas has welcomed the ceasefire proposal, but insists any agreement must secure an end to the war, a demand Israel still rejects. Israel described Hamas’s response to the new US peace proposal as total rejection.
Since a brief week-long truce in November, repeated attempts to arrange a ceasefire have failed, with Hamas insisting on a permanent end to the war and full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.
Sullivan said Hamas had submitted an amended proposal with some minor changes that could be worked out, as well as others that were not in line with what Biden had laid out or that had been embraced by the UN Security Council.
“Our goal is to figure out how we bridge the remaining gaps and get to a deal,” he said, adding that discussions would continue with Qatar and Egypt, who, in turn, would work with Hamas to reach agreement as quickly as possible.
Sullivan stressed that Israel was standing behind the ceasefire proposal Biden outlined in a May 31 speech, adding that he had heard no Israeli leader challenge the deal.
Hamas precipitated the war when militants from Israeli-blockaded Gaza stormed into southern Israel in a lightning strike last Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking over 250 hostages back to the enclave, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel’s invasion and bombardment of Gaza since then has killed at least 37,000 people, according to the territory’s health ministry. Thousands more are feared dead and buried under rubble, with most of the population of 2.3 million displaced.
Biden was expected to update G7 leaders on the ceasefire negotiations and how their countries could support the process, Sullivan said, underscoring the broader implications for increasing tension between Israel and Lebanon.
Biden would discuss “the increasing intensity and scope of the strikes by Hezbollah deeper into Israel, and including into civilian areas,” Sullivan said, adding that a ceasefire in Gaza would help bring calm to that region as well.
G7 leaders would also compare notes on what he called “the continuing threat posed by Iran, both with respect to its support for proxy forces, and with respect to the Iranian nuclear program, where we continue to have grave concerns.”