Israel denies strike on camp near Rafah that Gaza officials say killed 21 people

Update A woman sits with a child in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 28, 2024. (Reuters)
A woman sits with a child in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 28, 2024. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 28 May 2024
Follow

Israel denies strike on camp near Rafah that Gaza officials say killed 21 people

A woman sits with a child in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 28, 2024. (Reuters)
  • Two days after an Israeli airstrike on another camp stirred global condemnation, Gaza emergency services said four tank shells hit a cluster of tents in Al-Mawasi
  • Al-Mawasi is a coastal area that Israel had advised civilians in Rafah to move to for safety

RAFAH: Israel’s military denied striking a tent camp west of the city of Rafah on Tuesday after Gaza health authorities said Israeli tank shelling had killed at least 21 people there, in what Israel has designated a civilian evacuation zone.
Earlier, defying an appeal from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Israeli tanks advanced to the heart of Rafah for the first time after a night of heavy bombardment, while Spain, Ireland and Norway officially recognized a Palestinian state, a move that further deepened Israel’s international isolation.
The United States, Israel’s closest ally, reiterated its opposition to a major Israeli ground offensive in Rafah but said it did not believe such an operation was underway.
Two days after an Israeli airstrike on another camp stirred global condemnation, Gaza emergency services said four tank shells hit a cluster of tents in Al-Mawasi, a coastal strip that Israel had advised civilians in Rafah to move to for safety.
At least 12 of the dead were women, according to medical officials in the Hamas militant-run Palestinian enclave.
But Israel’s military later said in a statement: “Contrary to the reports from the last few hours, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) did not strike in the Humanitarian Area in Al-Mawasi.”
Tuesday’s incident in Al-Mawasi occurred in an area designated by Israel as an expanded humanitarian zone. Israel had urged Palestinian civilians in Rafah, including around one million displaced by the almost eight-month-old war, to evacuate there when it launched its incursion in early May.
In central Rafah, tanks and armored vehicles mounted with machine guns were spotted near Al-Awda mosque, a city landmark, witnesses told Reuters. The Israeli military said its forces continued to operate in the Rafah area, without commenting on reported advances into the city center.

OUTRAGE
International unease over Israel’s three-week-old Rafah offensive has turned to outrage after an attack on Sunday set off a blaze in a tent camp in a western district of the city, killing at least 45 people.
Israel said it had targeted two senior Hamas operatives and had not intended to cause civilian casualties.
Global leaders voiced horror at the fire in a designated “humanitarian zone” of Rafah where families uprooted by fighting elsewhere had sought shelter, and urged the implementation of a World Court order last week for a halt to Israel’s assault.
The Israeli military said it was investigating the possibility that munitions stored near a compound targeted by Sunday’s airstrike may have ignited and touched off the blaze.
Residents said Rafah’s Tel Al-Sultan neighborhood, the scene of Sunday’s night-time strike in which tents and shelters were set ablaze as families settled down to sleep, was still being bombarded.
“Tank shells are falling everywhere in Tel Al-Sultan. Many families have fled their houses in western Rafah under fire throughout the night,” one resident told Reuters via a chat app.
The Biden administration said on Tuesday it was closely monitoring the probe into Sunday’s air strike. US Vice President Kamala Harris said: “The word tragic doesn’t even begin to describe” what happened on Sunday.
But White House spokesman John Kirby said there was nothing in the incidents on Sunday or on Tuesday that would prompt the United States to halt its military aid to Israel.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres added his voice to the chorus of condemnation of Sunday’s strike and again urged Israel to allow “the immediate, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need.”
In a further blow to aid efforts, a part of the US military’s pier off Gaza’s coast has broken off, probably due to bad weather, rendering it temporarily inoperable, two US officials said. The United Nations has transported 137 trucks of aid from the pier since it began operations two weeks ago.
Spain, Norway and Ireland said they hoped their decision to recognize a Palestinian state would speed up efforts toward securing a ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas militants, which has reduced much of the densely populated territory to rubble.
Egypt is again trying in tandem with Qatar and the US to revive talks on a ceasefire and the release of hostages held by Hamas, but efforts have been hampered by Israel’s assault on Rafah, Cairo’s state-affiliated Al-Qahera News TV channel said on Tuesday, citing a senior official.
Around one million people — many repeatedly uprooted by shifting waves of the war — have fled the Israeli offensive in Rafah since early May, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) reported on Tuesday.

TANKS
Israel seized control of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt three weeks ago. Its tanks then entered some eastern districts of the city but had previously not rumbled into the center in full force.
On Tuesday, witnesses also reported gunbattles between Israeli troops and Hamas-led fighters in the area of the Zurub hilltop in western Rafah.
More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive, Gaza’s health ministry says. Israel launched its air and ground war after Hamas-led militants attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
Israel says it wants to root out the last major intact formations of Hamas fighters hunkered down in Rafah and rescue hostages it says are being held in the area.


ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’

ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’
Updated 22 June 2024
Follow

ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’

ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’
  • Desperation among Gaza’s 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid

JERUSALEM: Days after Israel announced a daily pause in fighting on a key route to allow more aid into Gaza, chaos in the besieged Palestinian territory has left vital supplies piled up and undistributed in the searing summer heat.
More than eight months of war have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip and repeated UN warnings of famine.
William Schomburg, International Committee of the Red Cross chief in Rafah, described Rafah City as a “ghost town.”
“It is a ghost town in the sense that you see very few people, high levels of destruction, and just another symbol of the unfolding tragedy that has become Gaza over the last nine months,” he said.
The UN food agency has said its aid convoys have been looted inside Gaza by “desperate people.”
Desperation among Gaza’s 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid.
Israel says it has let supplies in and called on agencies to step up deliveries.
“The breakdown of public order and safety is increasingly endangering humanitarian workers and operations in Gaza,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, said in a briefing.
“Alongside the fighting, criminal activities and the risk of theft and robbery has effectively prevented humanitarian access to critical locations.”
But Israel says it has allowed hundreds of trucks of aid into southern Gaza, trading blame with the UN over why the aid is stacking up.
It shared aerial footage of containers lined up on the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom crossing and more trucks arriving to add to the stockpile.
With civil order breaking down in Gaza, the UN says it has been unable to pick up any supplies from Kerem Shalom since Tuesday, leaving crucial aid in limbo.

 

 


Houthi claims of attack on US aircraft carrier are false, US officials say

Houthi claims of attack on US aircraft carrier are false, US officials say
Updated 22 June 2024
Follow

Houthi claims of attack on US aircraft carrier are false, US officials say

Houthi claims of attack on US aircraft carrier are false, US officials say
  • “That is incorrect,” one of the officials said
  • In more than 70 attacks, the Houthis have sunk two vessels, seized another

WASHINGTON: A claim by Yemen’s Houthi group on Saturday that its forces had attacked the US aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea is false, two US officials told Reuters.
“That is incorrect,” one of the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Iran-aligned Houthis first launched drone and missile strikes in the key waterway in November in what they say is solidarity with Palestinian militants in Gaza, where Israel has waged a more than eight-month-old war.
In more than 70 attacks, the Houthis have sunk two vessels, seized another and killed at least three seafarers.
Earlier the Houthi group said its forces had attacked the Eisenhower in the Red Sea and the operation had achieved its objectives successfully without elaborating. The group also said it attacked a commercial ship, Transworld Navigator, in the Arabian Sea. It did not say when the attacks took place.
A Houthi statement said the Transworld Navigator took a direct hit from a missile.


Egyptian homes celebrate pilgrims’ return with Hajj murals

Egyptian homes celebrate pilgrims’ return with Hajj murals
Updated 22 June 2024
Follow

Egyptian homes celebrate pilgrims’ return with Hajj murals

Egyptian homes celebrate pilgrims’ return with Hajj murals
  • Worshippers parade through villages on horseback as part of traditional festivities

CAIRO: As Egyptian pilgrims return from their spiritual journey to Saudi Arabia, waiting families have begun plans for celebrations in homes decorated with special murals.

Festive images depict Hajj symbols such as airplanes, the Kaaba, Mount Arafat, and camels, celebrating the fulfillment of the sacred pilgrimage. 

Emad Abdel Latif, a folklore professor at Assiut University, told Arab News that the “deep-rooted tradition begins as soon as the pilgrim departs for the holy lands.”

He said the homes “are initially painted, typically in blue, and then adorned with murals that symbolize aspects of the Hajj, including the Kaaba and the aircraft transporting the pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.”

Abdel Latif added: “This custom also includes inscribing phrases such as ‘Labaik Allahumma Labaik’ (Here I am, O God, here I am), ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is the Greatest), along with wishes for a blessed Hajj and forgiven sins.”

Traditionally, celebrations included a religious ceremony, during which returning pilgrims might parade through their village on horseback, while sweets are distributed among onlookers. 

Said Al-Badri, a mural artist from Giza, described the intricate planning that goes into creating the artworks.

“Depending on the complexity, a single mural can take one to two hours, while a complete home mural might require a full day of work,” he said.

“These murals visually narrate the pilgrim’s journey — boarding the plane, circling the Kaaba, the ritual walk between Safa and Marwa, standing at Mount Arafat, and visiting the Prophet’s tomb. They are enriched with Qur’anic verses and popular phrases of congratulation.”

Al-Badri learnt the art from his father, and has dedicated himself to preserving this cultural tradition.

“Each year, as pilgrims return, I continue this legacy, enhancing our local heritage through these festive decorations,” he said.

Amira Mahmoud’s mother was one of more than 1.8 million people who undertook the Hajj pilgrimage this year. The murals “add to our celebration,” she said.

“Our community deeply values these traditions, which embellish our homes, and reinforce familial and communal bonds.”

Mahmoud highlights the significance of these murals in preserving cultural heritage.

“These artworks are more than decorations. They are a vibrant testament to our rich traditions, inviting every returning pilgrim to the heart of community life.”


Egypt PM orders measures to prevent fraud in Hajj trips

Egypt PM orders measures to prevent fraud in Hajj trips
Updated 22 June 2024
Follow

Egypt PM orders measures to prevent fraud in Hajj trips

Egypt PM orders measures to prevent fraud in Hajj trips
  • The prime minister presided over a crisis cell meeting initiated by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, focusing on the deaths of Egyptian pilgrims
  • Preliminarily, 16 travel agencies were identified as circumventing regulations and transporting pilgrims without offering proper services

CAIRO: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has ordered 16 tourism companies to be stripped of their licenses and referred their managers to the public prosecutor’s office for illegally facilitating pilgrims’ travel to Makkah.
The prime minister presided over a crisis cell meeting initiated by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, focusing on the deaths of Egyptian pilgrims.
A report discussed at the meeting highlighted that the rise in the deaths of unregistered Egyptian pilgrims stemmed from some companies that “organized the Hajj programs using a personal visit visa, which prevents its holders from entering Makkah” via official channels.
It emerged that attempts to bypass the official process included trekking through desert paths and the absence of suitable accommodation at other sacred sites, leading to exhaustion among unregistered pilgrims due to severe heat.
Preliminarily, 16 travel agencies were identified as circumventing regulations and transporting pilgrims without offering proper services.
The prime minister ordered the immediate revocation of these companies’ licenses, referred the responsible people to public prosecution, and imposed fines to benefit the bereaved families of the deceased pilgrims.
During the meeting, measures were discussed to prevent such incidents in the future, including enforcing immediate actions against companies or entities that facilitated these irregular pilgrimages.
Madbouly said that although the official Egyptian Hajj delegation comprises more than 50,000 pilgrims, it was difficult to ascertain the number of unregistered travelers due to the absence of recorded data.
An official source, preferring anonymity, told Arab News that high fatality numbers reported might include many who traveled under visit visas — not Hajj visas.
He suggested that those responsible for “these transgressions face severe repercussions, possibly extending beyond license revocation to criminal prosecution.”
The French news agency AFP reported that the death toll among Egyptian pilgrims for this year’s Hajj had risen to 600, indicating the majority were not part of the official delegation.
Regarding legal responsibilities, Egyptian lawyer Ahmed Abul Saud said that travel agencies bear criminal responsibility if they knowingly facilitate these illegal activities.
Conversely, he said that if they were unaware and merely issued visas based on client requests, it would be easier to hold them accountable if it was proven they had explicit knowledge of the pilgrims’ intentions.
Saturday’s discussions also revealed that some companies possibly knew what the unofficial pilgrims planned, while others may have been unaware, issuing visas without knowing the intended misuse.
This situation underscores the complexity of ensuring that all travel facilitators adhere strictly to legal and ethical standards, emphasizing the need for robust oversight and accountability measures to prevent future occurrences.
Officials said that ensuring all travel facilitators adhere to legal and ethical standards required robust oversight and accountability measures.


EU top diplomat demands probe into Gaza Red Cross office shelling

EU top diplomat demands probe into Gaza Red Cross office shelling
Updated 22 June 2024
Follow

EU top diplomat demands probe into Gaza Red Cross office shelling

EU top diplomat demands probe into Gaza Red Cross office shelling
  • The EU condemns the shelling which damaged the ICRC office in Gaza

BRUSSELS: EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on Saturday called for a probe into deadly shelling that damaged an office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Gaza.


“The EU condemns the shelling which damaged the ICRC office in Gaza and led to dozens of casualties. An independent investigation is needed and those responsible must be held accountable,” Borrell wrote on X.