Israel says it seizes key Gaza-Egypt corridor

Israel says it seizes key Gaza-Egypt corridor
An Israeli military official said on Wednesday Israeli forces had achieved tactical control over the Philadelphi Corridor that runs along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. (AFP/File)
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Updated 29 May 2024
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Israel says it seizes key Gaza-Egypt corridor

Israel says it seizes key Gaza-Egypt corridor
  • “Israel is using these allegations to justify continuing the operation on the Palestinian city of Rafah and prolonging the war for political purposes,” Egyptian source said
  • Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said, however, that the war could go on until the year’s end

GAZA: The Israeli army said it took control on Wednesday of a vital Gaza-Egypt corridor suspected of aiding weapons smuggling as it intensified its offensive against Hamas in the border city of Rafah.
The UN Security Council was set to meet for a second day of emergency talks after a strike at the weekend ignited a fire that Gaza officials said killed 45 people and injured about 250.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was among the many leaders to voice revulsion at the bloodshed, demanding that “this horror must stop.”
Israel’s National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said, however, that the war could go on until the year’s end.
“We may have another seven months of fighting to consolidate our success and achieve what we have defined as the destruction of Hamas’s power and military capabilities,” Hanegbi said.
An Israeli military official later told reporters the army had taken “operational control” of the strategic, 14-kilometer (8.5-mile) Philadelphi corridor along the Gaza-Egypt border.
The corridor had served as a buffer between Gaza and Egypt, but since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, there were fears it was being used to channel weapons to armed groups in the Palestinian territory.
Its seizure comes weeks after Israeli forces took the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, which alleged Wednesday Israel was using claims of cross-border tunnels as cover for its Rafah offensive.
“Israel is using these allegations to justify continuing the operation on the Palestinian city of Rafah and prolonging the war for political purposes,” a high-level Egyptian source was quoted as saying by state-linked Al-Qahera News.
In besieged Rafah, witnesses reported escalated fighting with helicopters intensifying attacks, supported by artillery and smoke grenades.
Hamas’s military wing said it was firing rockets at Israeli troops.
AFPTV footage showed Palestinians with bloodied midriffs and bandaged limbs after being wounded in strikes near Khan Yunis, close to Rafah, being taken to the European Hospital on makeshift gurneys.
“The rockets fell directly on us. I was hurled three meters (yards)... I don’t know how I managed to get up on my feet,” said one who did not give his name.
Gaza’s civil defense said three bodies were recovered from a Khan Yunis house after it was shelled.
The United States has been among the countries urging Israel to refrain from a full-scale offensive into Rafah, the last Gaza city to see ground fighting, because of the risk to civilians.
However, the White House said Tuesday that so far it had not seen Israel cross President Joe Biden’s “red lines,” with National Security Council spokesman John Kirby saying: “We have not seen them smash into Rafah.”
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Israel to quickly devise a post-war strategy for Gaza, stressing: “In the absence of a plan for the day after, there won’t be a day after.”
A steady stream of civilians has been fleeing Rafah, the new hotspot in the gruelling war, many carrying belongings on their shoulders, in cars or on donkey-drawn carts.
Before the Rafah offensive began on May 7, the United Nations had warned that up to 1.4 million people were sheltering there. Since then, one million have fled the area, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Sunday’s strike and ensuing fire a “tragic accident.” The army said it had targeted a Hamas compound and killed two senior members of the group.
Israel’s military said it was investigating the strike, and its spokesman Daniel Hagari said on Tuesday that “our munition alone could not have ignited a fire of this size.”
Gaza civil defense agency official Mohammad Al-Mughayyir said 21 more people were killed in a similar strike Tuesday “targeting the tents of displaced people” in western Rafah.
The army denied this, saying it “did not strike in the humanitarian area in Al-Mawasi,” an area it had designated for displaced people from Rafah to shelter.
New fighting also hit other areas of the besieged Palestinian territory of 2.4 million people.
In the north, Israeli military vehicles unleashed intense gunfire east of Gaza City, an AFP reporter said, and residents reported strikes on Jabalia.
The Gaza war was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 36,171 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
Nearly eight months into the deadliest Gaza war, Israel has faced ever louder opposition and cases before two Netherlands-based international courts.
At the UN Security Council, Algeria has presented a draft resolution that “demands an immediate ceasefire respected by all parties” and the release of all hostages.
Algeria’s UN ambassador Amar Bendjama has not specified when he hopes to put the draft to a vote.
Chinese ambassador Fu Cong expressed hope for a vote this week as President Xi Jinping told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Beijing he was “deeply pained” by the situation in Gaza.
French UN ambassador Nicolas de Riviere said “it’s high time for this council to take action. This is a matter of life and death. This is a matter of emergency.”
US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, when asked about the draft resolution, said: “We’re waiting to see it and then we’ll react to it.”
Brazil, whose ties with Israel have soured over the war, on Wednesday recalled its ambassador, further raising tensions between the two.
Meanwhile, the World Central Kitchen nonprofit organization said it was stopping its operations in Rafah because of “ongoing attacks” in the southern city.


Palestinians say Israeli troops kill teen in West Bank

Updated 5 sec ago
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Palestinians say Israeli troops kill teen in West Bank

Palestinians say Israeli troops kill teen in West Bank
Naeem Abdullah Samha, 15, was killed “by occupation (Israeli army) bullets” in the city of Qalqilya
He was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead of his wounds there

JERUSALEM: The Palestinian health ministry said Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian teenager in the occupied West Bank on Thursday, amid escalating violence in the territory since the war in Gaza began on October 7.
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.
Naeem Abdullah Samha, 15, was killed “by occupation (Israeli army) bullets” in the city of Qalqilya, the Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah said in a statement.
The Palestinian official news agency Wafa, citing local sources, reported that Samha was shot in the chest.
He was rushed to hospital but was pronounced dead of his wounds there, the agency said, which gave no reason for the shooting.
The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, has for more than a year experienced a rise in deadly incidents, but particularly since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7.
Israel has carried out near-daily raids in the West Bank in what it says is a bid to thwart militant groups.
At least 547 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli troops or settlers since the Israel-Hamas war broke out, according to Palestinian officials.
Attacks by Palestinians have killed at least 14 Israelis in the West Bank over the same period, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
The West Bank is home to about 490,000 Israeli settlers who live in communities considered illegal under international law.

Netanyahu criticism on US weapons deliveries ‘vexing’: White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. (AFP)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. (AFP)
Updated 13 min 14 sec ago
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Netanyahu criticism on US weapons deliveries ‘vexing’: White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends a cabinet meeting at the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem. (AFP)
  • Netanyahu said that “it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel”

WASHINGTON: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s criticism this week over US weapons deliveries to his country is “vexing,” the White House said on Thursday.
“Those comments were deeply disappointing and certainly vexing to us, given the amount of support that we have and will continue to provide,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists.
In a video statement, Netanyahu said that while he appreciated America’s support during the Gaza war, “it’s inconceivable that in the past few months, the administration has been withholding weapons and ammunitions to Israel.”
The United States however has said that there is only one shipment of 2,000 pound bombs that is under review because of concerns about their use in densely populated areas.
Kirby separately said that US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan is due to meet his Israeli counterpart Tzachi Hanegbi and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer on Thursday.
Washington is Israel’s main military backer, but the White House has voiced frustration over the rising civilian death toll in Gaza, where Israel has conducted more than eight months of operations against Hamas.
The war was triggered by an unprecedented October 7 attack by Palestinian militants on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza has killed at least 37,431 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.


Cyprus rejects Hezbollah claim on Israel and airports

Cyprus rejects Hezbollah claim on Israel and airports
Updated 15 min 54 sec ago
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Cyprus rejects Hezbollah claim on Israel and airports

Cyprus rejects Hezbollah claim on Israel and airports
  • “Cyprus is not involved, nor will it become involved, in any military conflicts,” government spokesperson Konstantinos Letymbiotis said
  • He called Nasrallah’s comments “not pleasant,” adding that “all necessary diplomatic steps will be taken“

NICOSIA: Cyprus on Thursday rejected as “groundless” allegations by the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement that airports on the east Mediterranean island might be used by Israeli warplanes if the Israel-Hamas war spreads.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah in a televised address on Wednesday threatened Cyprus in the event that total war erupts in the region.
“Opening Cypriot airports and bases to the Israeli enemy to target Lebanon would mean that the Cypriot government is part of the war, and the resistance will deal with it as part of the war,” he said, referring to Hezbollah.
The government in Nicosia swiftly denied any Cyprus military involvement in Israel’s war against Hezbollah ally Hamas.
“Cyprus is not involved, nor will it become involved, in any military conflicts,” government spokesperson Konstantinos Letymbiotis told state radio on Thursday.
He called Nasrallah’s comments “not pleasant,” adding that “all necessary diplomatic steps will be taken.”
The island is home to two British military bases, but these are on sovereign UK territory and not controlled by the Cyprus government.
The British Akrotiri air base on the south coast has been used by the Royal Air Force which has joined the US Air Force in targeting Houthi rebels in Yemen who have attacked shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
The Houthis say they are doing so in solidarity with the Palestinian Hamas movement.
Over the past decade, Cyprus has built stronger ties with Israel, particularly in the search for new energy sources and in tourism.
Cyprus is the European Union’s easternmost member, and is less than 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Lebanon.
President Nikos Christodoulides has denied there has been any Cypriot involvement in the Israel-Hamas war except as “part of the solution” as a staging post for humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip via a maritime corridor.
“Cyprus is not part of the problem. As it is widely acknowledged, its diplomatic footprint is part of the solution,” government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis added in a separate written statement on Thursday.
“Any public allegations that refer to an involvement of Cyprus through its infrastructure or its territory in the event of a confrontation that relates to Lebanon are totally groundless,” the statement said.
“Cyprus has never facilitated and will not facilitate any aggressive action or attack against any country.”
On the street, reactions to the Hezbollah leader’s remarks were mixed.
“It’s a very tense moment all over the world,” Brazilian tourist Glaussia, 54, told AFP, not giving her last name.
She added that it was important that “everybody make an effort for peace.”
Nicosia resident Costas stressed that his country’s only involvement in the current conflict was to provide “humanitarian help to the people over there.”
He said the government would not become involved in the war in any military capacity.
“Cyprus is a credible enabler of stability, and an acknowledged regional hub for humanitarian operations, based on excellent relations with all the countries in the region,” government spokesman Letymbiotis said in his statement.


UN experts say firms sending arms to Israel could be complicit in abuses

UN experts say firms sending arms to Israel could be complicit in abuses
Updated 20 June 2024
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UN experts say firms sending arms to Israel could be complicit in abuses

UN experts say firms sending arms to Israel could be complicit in abuses
  • The group of 30 experts, including several UN Special Rapporteurs, said arms manufacturers supplying Israel should halt their transfers of war materiel
  • The UN experts said on Thursday the risk to arms firms had increased since the International Court of Justice ordered Israel last month to halt its military offensive in Rafah

GENEVA/LONDON: A group of United Nations experts on Thursday warned arms and ammunitions manufacturers against taking part in the transfer of weapons to Israel, saying it could make them complicit in human rights abuses and violations of international law.

The group of 30 experts, including several UN Special Rapporteurs, said arms manufacturers supplying Israel should halt their transfers of war materiel, “even if they are executed under existing export licenses.”

“These companies, by sending weapons, parts, components, and ammunition to Israeli forces, risk being complicit in serious violations of international human rights and international humanitarian laws,” the experts said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from Israel which has repeatedly denied carrying out abuses during its Gaza operations, saying it is acting to defend itself and is fighting Hamas militants, not the Palestinian population.

The UN experts said on Thursday the risk to arms firms had increased since the International Court of Justice ordered Israel last month to halt its military offensive in Rafah in the southern tip of the Gaza Strip, in a landmark emergency ruling in South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide.

“In this context, continuing arms transfers to Israel may be seen as knowingly providing assistance for operations that contravene international human rights and international humanitarian laws and may result in profit from such assistance,” the experts said.

Israel has rejected the genocide accusations as false and grossly distorted.

Also on Thursday, British weapons manufacturers were warned that their selling of military equipment to Israel could lead to criminal charges for failing to prevent war crimes amid the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

Four anti-arms trade campaign groups, including the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), highlighted “potential criminal liability for atrocity crimes currently taking place in Gaza” in a letter to 20 UK firms who contribute parts or software used in F-35 fighter jets being used by the Israeli air force to bomb the Hamas-held Palestinian enclave.

The letter cited a section in the 2001 International Criminal Court Act, where it is states it is an offense under English and Welsh law “to engage in ‘conduct ancillary’ to a war crime or a crime against humanity” in foreign jurisdictions.

The firms targeted by the activists include the UK arm of Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman, the Guardian reported.

The UN human rights office said on Wednesday that Israeli forces may have repeatedly violated the laws of war and failed to distinguish between civilians and fighters in the Gaza conflict. Israel dismissed the findings as flawed.

Israel’s air and ground offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory, according to health authorities there.

Israel launched its assault after Hamas fighters stormed across the border into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking more than 250 people hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

* With Reuters


Hezbollah fires rockets at Israel after fighter killed

Hezbollah fires rockets at Israel after fighter killed
Updated 20 June 2024
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Hezbollah fires rockets at Israel after fighter killed

Hezbollah fires rockets at Israel after fighter killed
  • Hezbollah announced that one of its fighters had been killed
  • A source close to the group told AFP he was killed in the Deir Kifa strike

BEIRUT: Hezbollah said it fired “dozens” of rockets into northern Israel Thursday in retaliation for a deadly strike in south Lebanon, a day after a fiery speech from the group’s leader.
Israel and Hezbollah, a powerful Lebanese movement allied with Hamas, have traded near-daily cross-border fire since the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack on Israel which triggered war in the Gaza Strip.
Fears of a regional war rose after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned Wednesday “no place” in Israel would be spared in case of all-out war against his group, and threatened the nearby island nation of Cyprus if it opened its airports to Israel.
Hezbollah on Thursday said that “in response to the assassination that the Israeli enemy carried out in the village of Deir Kifa,” fighters targeted an Israeli barracks “with dozens of Katyusha rockets.”
Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA) had reported one dead after an “enemy drone” struck a vehicle in south Lebanon’s Deir Kifa area.
Hezbollah announced that one of its fighters had been killed. A source close to the group, requesting anonymity, told AFP he was killed in the Deir Kifa strike.
The Israeli military said an air strike “eliminated” a Hezbollah operative in the Deir Kifa area, saying he was “responsible for planning and carrying out terror attacks against Israel and commanding Hezbollah ground forces” in south Lebanon’s Jouaiyya area.
Elsewhere, Israeli fighter jets struck “a Hezbollah surface-to-air missile launcher that posed a threat to aircraft operating over Lebanon,” the army statement added.
The exchanges between the foes, which last went to war in 2006, have escalated in recent weeks, and the Israeli military said Tuesday that “operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were approved and validated.”
After the Hezbollah leader’s threats against Cyprus, Lebanon’s foreign ministry said Thursday that “relations between Lebanon and Cyprus are based on a rich history of diplomatic cooperation.”
Contacts and consultations continue between the two countries “at the highest levels,” a foreign ministry statement said, without making specific reference to Nasrallah’s remarks.
In a conversation with his Cyprus counterpart, Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib expressed “Lebanon’s constant reliance on the positive role that Cyprus plays in supporting regional stability,” the NNA reported.
Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides had denied his country’s involvement in the war and said it was “part of the solution.”
The cross-border violence has killed at least 479 people in Lebanon, most of them fighters but also including 93 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli authorities say at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country’s north.