Israeli airstrike on Rafah kills 12 Palestinians, Gaza medics say

Smoke rises near a makeshift camp for displaced Palestinians in the area of Tel al-Sultan in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 30, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)
Smoke rises near a makeshift camp for displaced Palestinians in the area of Tel al-Sultan in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 30, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (AFP)
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Updated 30 May 2024
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Israeli airstrike on Rafah kills 12 Palestinians, Gaza medics say

Israeli airstrike on Rafah kills 12 Palestinians, Gaza medics say
  • Officials say Israeli strike occurred as they tried to recover body of civilian in southern Gaza city
  • Israel says more fighting in central, northern and southern Gaza
  • Head of UNRWA calls for end to Israeli attacks on staff and buildings

JERUSALEM: Israeli forces killed at least 12 Palestinians in a dawn airstrike on Rafah in southern Gaza on Thursday and fighting raged in several other areas of the coastal enclave, Gaza medics said.
Israel pressed on with its offensive on Rafah a day after saying its forces had taken control of a buffer zone along the nearby border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, giving it effective authority over Gaza’s entire land frontier.
It said the buffer zone’s capture had cut off a route used by the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas to smuggle arms into Gaza during more than seven months of war, which has laid waste to much of the territory and raised fears of famine.
Gaza medical sources said the 12 Palestinians, whom it said were civilians, had been killed and an unspecified number of others wounded in an Israeli airstrike as they tried to recover the body of a civilian in the center of Rafah.
Another Palestinian civilian was killed in an airstrike on Al-Shati refugee camp west of Gaza City in the north of the densely populated enclave, the medics said.
Israel reported clashes in southern, central and northern Gaza but did not immediately comment on the reported deaths in Rafah, where hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians took refuge earlier in the war.
Israel has kept up raids on Rafah despite an order by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the top UN court, to halt its attacks. Israeli forces say they are trying to root out Hamas fighters and rescue hostages being held there, and the ICJ also called for the release of hostages held in Gaza by Hamas.
More than 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s air and land war in Gaza, with 53 of those killed in the past 24 hours, the Hamas-run enclave’s health ministry said.
Israel launched its offensive after Hamas fighters crossed from Gaza into southern Israel on Oct. 7 last year, killed 1,200 people and abducted more than 250, according to Israeli tallies.
The Israeli military said a soldier had been killed in fighting in northern Gaza, bringing to 292 Israel’s combat losses since its first Gaza ground incursion on Oct. 20.

TUNNELS, ARMS AND EXPLOSIVES
In an overnight call with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant underlined the continuing importance of Israeli operations in the Rafah area “due to concrete information regarding hostages held there.”
“Minister Gallant detailed IDF activities in the Rafah area where 20 terror tunnels have been identified,” the Israeli Defense Ministry said in a statement on the overnight call.
The Israeli military also said in a statement that tunnels used by Hamas for smuggling and moving fighters underground had been discovered during the latest raids, as well as large amounts of arms and explosives.
The Israeli statements did not say where the smuggling tunnels ran from. An Israeli official said on May 15 there were 50 tunnels connecting Rafah to the Sinai in Egypt, and voiced concern that Hamas could use them to smuggle senior operatives or hostages into Egyptian territory. Egypt on Wednesday denied the existence of any such tunnels.
The United States, Israel’s closest ally, reiterated its opposition to a major ground offensive in Rafah on Tuesday but said it did not believe such an operation was under way.
The US has, with Egypt and Qatar, been involved in efforts to mediate indirect talks between Israel and Hamas on arranging a ceasefire and the release of the remaining hostages. Those talks have stalled, with both sides blaming the other for the lack of progress.
As the war drags on, malnutrition has become widespread in Gaza as aid deliveries have slowed to a trickle, and the United Nations has warned of incipient famine.
Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), also called for an end to what he said were Israeli attacks on UNRWA staff and buildings in Gaza.
In article for the New York Times, he said Israeli officials were “delegitimizing UNRWA by effectively characterizing it as a terrorist organization,” and he described a “dangerous precedent of routine targeting of UN staff and premises.”
His comments followed allegations by Israel in January that 12 of UNRWA’s 13,000 staff in Gaza took part in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Israel did not immediately respond to his remarks.
The Gaza war has also stoked violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, another territory where Palestinians seek statehood.
Israel said two soldiers were killed in an overnight hit-and-run by a Palestinian motorist in the West Bank city of Nablus. There was no immediate claim of responsibility from Palestinian factions.


Egyptian president tours Prophet’s biography museum

Egyptian president tours Prophet’s biography museum
Updated 9 sec ago
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Egyptian president tours Prophet’s biography museum

Egyptian president tours Prophet’s biography museum
  • El-Sisi explored the various creative pavilions that illustrate aspects of the Prophet Muhammad’s life

RIYADH: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi visited the International Fair and Museum of the Prophet’s Biography and Islamic Civilization in Madinah, Saudi Press Agency reported on Saturday.

During his tour on Friday, El-Sisi explored the various creative pavilions that illustrate aspects of the Prophet Muhammad’s life.

He viewed the panorama of the prophet’s chamber, which showcases authentic details of its construction and development through to the modern era.

El-Sisi was also introduced to a simulation of the Prophet’s pulpit, displayed through models and smart interactive screens. The exhibition highlighted the Kingdom’s efforts in serving the Qur’an and the Two Holy Mosques.

Expressing his admiration for the exhibition and museum project, El-Sisi extended his gratitude to King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their efforts and hospitality.
 


8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza
Updated 6 min 17 sec ago
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8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza
  • The deaths will likely fuel calls for a ceasefire and heighten Israeli public anger over ultra-Orthodox exemptions from the military
  • In January, 21 Israeli troops were killed in a single attack by Palestinian militants in Gaza

JERUSALEM: Israel’s military said Saturday that eight soldiers were killed in southern Gaza in the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.
The troops were killed in an explosion, the army said, without elaborating. The deaths will likely fuel calls for a ceasefire and heighten Israeli public anger over ultra-Orthodox exemptions from the military.
In January, 21 Israeli troops were killed in a single attack by Palestinian militants in Gaza.
Last month, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered an end to government subsidies for many ultra-Orthodox men who don’t serve in the army. A new draft law hasn’t been passed, but the coalition of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this week voted in favor of extending exemptions for religious men. Although the vote was only procedural, it caused an uproar by being approved during a war in which hundreds of soldiers have died and many others remain inside Gaza or on the front lines against Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.
Yoav Gallant, Israel’s Defense Minister and member of the country’s War Cabinet, has insisted that all sectors of Israeli society should contribute equally during its war against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s coalition government contains a powerful bloc of ultra-Orthodox parties that have been longtime partners of Netanyahu. If these parties leave the government, the country would be forced into new elections, with Netanyahu trailing significantly in the polls amid the war.
In Tel Aviv, anti-government protests have been ongoing for months, with many demonstrators calling for the immediate return of the hostages, along with Netanyahu’s resignation.
Israel’s bombardment and ground offensives in Gaza have killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian health officials, who don’t give the breakdown of civilians and fighters. The war has also driven about 80 percent of the population of 2.3 million from their homes, and Israeli restrictions and ongoing fighting have hindered efforts to bring in humanitarian aid, fueling widespread hunger.
Israel launched its campaign after Hamas and other militants stormed into Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 hostage. More than 100 hostages were released during a weeklong ceasefire last year in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. Hamas is believed to be holding around 80 hostages and the remains of another 40.
Months of ceasefire negotiations have failed to find common ground between Israeli and Hamas. On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Hamas proposed changes to a US-backed plan, some of which he said were “workable” and some not.
Hamas has continually called for a permanent ceasefire and complete Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza as part of any deal that would see the hostages released. While the proposal announced by US President Joe Biden includes these two provisions, Hamas has expressed concern about whether Israel will commit to them.
Violence has flared in the West Bank since the Israel-Hamas war erupted. On Saturday, a 16-year-old Palestinian was shot dead by Israeli forces near the northern city of Nablus, the Ramallah-based Health Ministry said. The Israeli army didn’t immediately respond to request for comment about the shooting.


UNICEF says Israel denied entry to aid convoy for Gaza 

UNICEF says Israel denied entry to aid convoy for Gaza 
Updated 23 min 44 sec ago
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UNICEF says Israel denied entry to aid convoy for Gaza 

UNICEF says Israel denied entry to aid convoy for Gaza 
  • UNICEF spokesman James Elder said such denials are “consistent and relentless,” with hundreds of similar incidents documented

LONDON: UNICEF has reported that one of its aid convoys was denied entry to northern Gaza this week, despite possessing all the necessary documents, in what the organization’s spokesman described as a common occurrence.

In an interview with the BBC’s “Today” program, UNICEF spokesman James Elder, who was in one of the aid lorries attempting to travel from southern to northern Gaza on Wednesday, said that despite having all the required paperwork it took the convoy 13 hours to travel approximately 40 kilometers (30 miles). After spending eight hours at checkpoints, they were ultimately denied entry to northern Gaza, he said, “so 10,000 children who were going to benefit from nutritional supplies, medical supplies, did not.”

Elder said the reasons behind the decision were unclear, but noted that such denials are “consistent and relentless,” with hundreds of similar incidents documented.

The Israeli army responded by claiming that the documentation for the UNICEF vehicle in the convoy was incorrectly filled out and accused Elder of presenting a “partial picture.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by James Elder (@james_unicef)

While waiting at one of the checkpoints, Elder said he witnessed a group of around eight men attempting to catch fish with a single net. “Suddenly we heard a tank coming down, we heard... automatic fire,” he said. “We saw two fishermen fleeing, one was shot in the back, one in the neck.”

The UN spokesman added that the WHO, which had paramedics in the convoy, requested permission from the Israeli Defense Forces to provide medical support to the injured men, but this request was denied. He later saw the fishermen’s wounds when their colleagues were allowed to retrieve their bodies.

Elder, who had last been in Gaza six weeks previously, said the situation is far worse now. “It’s the first time I’ve seen a real level of despondency,” he said. “They’re so despairing, they’re so broken, they’ve lost so many family members. They have nothing left.

“It’s very unsettling to see a child when their parent can’t protect them, it’s heartbreaking when a parent can’t protect their child,” he continued. “Increasingly I’m hearing people say, ‘I just want this over, I’m happy if there’s an airstrike on me tonight.’”
 


UNRWA slams Israeli allegations in Google Ads dispute

UNRWA slams Israeli allegations in Google Ads dispute
Updated 38 min 31 sec ago
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UNRWA slams Israeli allegations in Google Ads dispute

UNRWA slams Israeli allegations in Google Ads dispute
  • Israeli government’s claims appear as “sponsored links” at the top of Google search results for UNRWA

LONDON: The UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees has rejected claims made against it in Israeli advertisements on Google as “unrealistic.”

The Israeli government’s claims appear as “sponsored links” at the top of Google search results for UNRWA, Anadolu Agency reported.

These advertisements from the Tel Aviv administration’s website contain unsubstantiated allegations, including accusations of UNRWA employees’ involvement in the Oct. 7 attacks and that the agency has been infiltrated by Hamas and other groups.

UNRWA spokesman, Jonathan Fowler, said that the allegations of infiltration were baseless. Fowler noted that the agency had conducted repeated investigations and taken corrective actions when allegations of neutrality violations had arisen, both during and before the war in Gaza.

He stressed that there was no evidence linking any of the agency’s employees to the Oct. 7 operation on settlements adjacent to Gaza.

Earlier in April, an independent review headed by the French former foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, found that Israeli authorities had yet to provide any evidence to back up their allegations that a dozen people worked for UNRWA.

The wide-ranging 48-page report, seen by Arab News, also found that Israel had not previously expressed concerns about any individuals named on the agency staffing lists that it had been receiving since 2011.
 


UN experts say Sudan paramilitaries recruiting in Central Africa

UN experts say Sudan paramilitaries recruiting in Central Africa
Updated 15 June 2024
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UN experts say Sudan paramilitaries recruiting in Central Africa

UN experts say Sudan paramilitaries recruiting in Central Africa
  • “The spillover effect of the conflict in the Sudan has significantly affected the situation in the Central African Republic,” said the expert committee
  • This “continues to constitute a security threat to civilians and an impediment to humanitarian activities in the area“

UNITED NATIONS: Sudanese paramilitary forces are using the Central African Republic as a “supply chain,” including for recruitment of fighters, according to a report published Friday by UN experts, who are concerned about a “spillover effect.”
Sudan descended into war in April 2023 when the generals in charge of the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) took up arms against each other in a fight for control, rejecting a plan to integrate.
“The spillover effect of the conflict in the Sudan has significantly affected the situation in the Central African Republic,” said the expert committee, formed by the UN Security Council to monitor sanctions on Central Africa.
They highlighted in particular the humanitarian situation, as the country sees an influx of millions of Sudanese refugees, as well as incursions by the two warring Sudanese parties — plus air raids by the Sudanese army in and around the Umm Dafog border post, where the RSF is present.
This “continues to constitute a security threat to civilians and an impediment to humanitarian activities in the area,” the experts said.
They insist the paramilitaries are also using the Am Dafok area in the Central African Republic on the border “as a key logistical hub.”
Because the RSF can “move between the two countries easily through a long-standing network” they have been able to recruit “from among armed groups in the Central African Republic.”
“Opposition armed groups from the Central African Republic have been reported to have actively recruited for, and sent members of their own groups to fight in, the Sudan under RSF,” the experts said.
They noted in particular fighters in Sudan since as early as August 2023 from the Central African rebel group Popular Front for the Rebirth of Central Africa (FPRC).
The experts said they are aware that this armed group and others “are still able to cross between the Sudan and the Central African Republic at will and use Sudanese territory to launch attacks.”
The experts thus called on Central African authorities to “counteract the surge in arms trafficking from neighboring countries, particularly given the current conflict situation in the Sudan.”
They also asked the leaders to combat “the infiltration of foreign fighters into the Central African Republic, which poses a significant long-term threat to the region.”