Aid agencies decry ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in Gaza as Jordan hosts emergency summit

Special Aid agencies decry ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in Gaza as Jordan hosts emergency summit
Displaced Palestinian children line up to receive food in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 19, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 11 June 2024
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Aid agencies decry ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in Gaza as Jordan hosts emergency summit

Aid agencies decry ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in Gaza as Jordan hosts emergency summit
  • Israeli bombardment and closure of border crossings have compounded disaster, say aid workers 
  • Dead Sea conference aims to bolster the international community’s collective, coordinated response

DUBAI: Eight months after the war in Gaza began, the Palestinian population is in the grips of an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe, deprived of sufficient food, water, shelter, sanitation and health services while under constant Israeli bombardment.

Israel’s military offensive has killed at least 36,654 Palestinians and injured 83,309 since Oct. 7, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health. The UN’s World Food Programme describes the situation in northern Gaza as a “full-blown famine.”

In response to the deepening crisis, Jordan is hosting an emergency international conference today to assess the humanitarian response. The event, at the King Hussein bin Talal Convention Center near the Dead Sea, is co-hosted by Egypt and the UN.

Jordan’s Royal Court said the aim of the meeting is “to identify ways to bolster the international community’s response to the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip” and seek “commitment for a collective coordinated response to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza.”




A man, woman, and children ride in the back of a tricycle loaded with belongings and other items as they flee bound for Khan Yunis, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 11, 2024. (AFP)

The crisis has dramatically worsened since the start of the Israeli ground offensive in Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah on May 6, Guillemette Thomas, the Medecins Sans Frontieres medical coordinator for Palestine, told Arab News.

She described conditions in Gaza as “catastrophic,” as she outlined the immense challenges international aid agencies face in distributing food, water, fuel and medical supplies to the population.

“Since the ground operations started, we’ve seen almost 1 million people leaving the area, and moving from one place to another with very few things, living already in dire conditions,” Thomas said.

The majority of the people who had been sheltering in Rafah, having already been displaced from elsewhere in Gaza, have now been forced to evacuate to Deir Al-Balah and Khan Younis, where there are no facilities in place to support them.




Palestinians flee with their belongings as smoke rises in the background, in the area of Tel Al-Sultan in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 30, 2024. (AFP)

“Intensified hostilities and military operations in Rafah have so far forced the displacement of approximately 1 million people,” a UN spokesperson told Arab News. “This has deepened the humanitarian crisis and significantly destabilized humanitarian aid. 

“Less than 100,000 people are estimated to have remained in Rafah governorate. At present, there are no functioning hospitals and no functioning bakeries inside Rafah. According to UNICEF, nine of every ten children in Gaza are experiencing severe food poverty, surviving on two or fewer food groups per day. 

“Deir Al-Balah and Khan Younis, where almost a million people have fled, are very crowded; people face dire shortages of food, clean water, medical supplies and healthcare services. Partners are currently providing hot meals in the area. 

“In northern Gaza, aid, primarily food, that has arrived via the northern crossings since May 1 has provided some relief, but lack of access to clean water, nutritious foods, health care and sanitation continue to devastate the area.”




A UN spokesperson said that intensified hostilities and military operations in Rafah have so far forced the displacement of approximately 1 million people. (AFP)

Gazan authorities have said about 3,500 children are at imminent risk of starvation because of severe shortages of milk, food, nutritional supplements and vaccines. Females are considered especially vulnerable.

“When it comes to women and girls, they are living in terrible conditions,” said Thomas. “There is no privacy, no hygiene and no access to basic necessities like showers or toilets.”

She said pregnant women are in an impossible situation, unable to give birth in humane conditions because of limited access to health facilities, which are overwhelmed by the scale of needs and a lack of supplies.

In the past eight months, at least 20,000 women have given birth in Gaza under extremely challenging conditions, said Dr. Hafeez ur Rahman of the nongovernmental organization Alkhidmat Foundation Pakistan.

“These newborn babies are also at high risk of malnutrition because their mothers do not intake enough nutrients in order to be able to feed them,” he told Arab News.

Rahman said most relief operations have been halted, including the provision of hot meals and clean drinking water, because of the ongoing fighting.




According to UNICEF, nine of every ten children in Gaza are experiencing severe food poverty, surviving on two or fewer food groups per day. (AFP)

Thomas said she fears the closure last month of the Rafah border crossing, through which much of the aid provided to Gazans had been arriving via Egypt, and restrictions placed on aid trucks at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, could make matters even worse. Kerem Shalom, which had been closed for several weeks, recently reopened but strict Israeli security checks remain in place.

“The number of trucks that used to enter before the closure was about 150 trucks per day,” said Thomas. “This is the number of trucks entering Kerem Shalom per week, now.”

The World Food Programme said that ongoing attacks have blocked access to its main warehouse in Rafah, and the quantity of aid entering Gaza fell by 67 percent to a daily average of 58 trucks between May 7 and May 28. The UN previously reported that 500 aid trucks entered Gaza each day on average in the months before Oct. 7.

“The incursion into Rafah has further choked off aid entering Gaza,” the spokesperson for the UN told Arab News. “The closure of Rafah has also reduced fuel supplies, affecting trucks, hospitals, sewage systems, desalination operations and bakeries.

“We need meaningful reassurances that our convoys and our facilities are not targeted. This means ensuring that the movement of aid movements within Gaza, including through checkpoints, is predictable and expedited. 

“It also means all roads are operational because land routes are the most viable, effective and efficient aid delivery method for the passage of life-saving humanitarian assistance and fuel into Gaza.”

While Israeli officials have insisted there is no limit on the amount of aid that can enter Gaza, the UN has accused authorities of imposing “unlawful restrictions” on relief operations, including blocked land routes, communications blackouts and air strikes.

According to Thomas, the biggest challenges currently facing Medecins Sans Frontieres in Gaza are gaining access to the population and having the means to safely distribute the limited supplies of hygiene kits, medications and food.

“Insecurity in Kerem Shalom and around the border is making our work extremely difficult as it is difficult to get the supplies across the border safely, to reach the warehouse safely, and then to be distributed to the population,” she said.

Because supplies are so limited, food prices have surged. There has also been an increase in reports of looting of the few aid trucks permitted to enter in recent weeks.

“For many people, they are just totally desperate,” Thomas said. “They have no food, hey have nothing, and at some point you just need to survive and get food for your kids.”




The World Food Programme said that the quantity of aid entering Gaza fell by 67 percent to a daily average of 58 trucks between May 7 and May 28. (AFP)

Since the closure of the Rafah crossing, aid agencies have been exploring other access routes. At the Western Erez crossing in Zikim, approximately 50 to 60 trucks are now able to enter the territory each day. While this remains insufficient, it is providing some relief to the population.

“Recently, a new route has been used by these NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) to deliver aid to Gaza, which starts from Jordan and goes through Israel and the West Bank,” said Rahman, whose Alkhidmat Foundation Pakistan has used this route to deliver aid in partnership with the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization.

However, all of these routes are fully controlled by Israeli forces and every consignment is subject to approval by authorities, aid officials say, adding that as a result, truckloads of humanitarian relief have been left queuing at the border, unable to enter.

“There is a dire need to create pressure on Israel by the neighboring countries and the UN,” said Rahman. “The upcoming conference could prove to be beneficial for convincing the international community and Israel to allow aid into Gaza.”




Humanitarian aid dropped on Khan Yunis falls near tents sheltering Palestinians displaced by conflict in the southern Gaza Strip on June 4, 2024. (AFP)

Meanwhile, the few hospitals still functioning have been completely overwhelmed by the number of wounded and the lack of basic medical supplies they need to treat casualties.

An Israeli hostage-rescue operation on Saturday in the Nuseirat refugee camp and areas around Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir Al-Balah resulted in more than 200 deaths and at least 400 injuries, according to Gaza health officials.

“Within the last few days, we have been receiving many mass-casualty incidents in Al-Aqsa Hospital, where more than 300 wounded patients arrived in 24 hours,” said Thomas. “Seventy of them were dead on arrival due to the bombing and the shelling in crowded areas.”

The majority of the casualties were women and children, many of whom suffered burns covering more than 40 percent of their bodies. Others sustained complex fractures and required traumatic amputations, she added.

“Unfortunately, many of them will die following these kinds of injuries because we are simply unable to provide the necessary care for them,” said Thomas.

“When it comes to supplies, the level of violence is extremely high and the entry of medical supplies has almost stopped, which leaves us in a very critical situation now.”




The few hospitals still functioning have been completely overwhelmed by the number of wounded and the lack of basic medical supplies they need to treat casualties. (AFP)

Thomas said only three hospitals are still functioning in southern Gaza: Nasser Hospital, Gaza European Hospital, and Al-Aqsa Hospital. A few field hospitals have been set up in Al-Mawasi and other areas, managed by NGOs such as UK-MED and International Medical Corps.

“It is very important to understand that we cannot replace a hospital with a field hospital,” said Thomas. “We are doing what we can in these kinds of facilities but it is really not enough.”

The conditions for patients in field hospitals are far from ideal, she explained, adding: “They are under tents, it’s extremely hot and it’s unsafe. Any shrapnel that enters the hospital area leaves everyone unprotected. It’s not safe for the patients or the health workers.”




Palestinians walk on a ravaged road in front of Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on May 2, 2024. (AFP)

Doctors are also witnessing a rise in diseases that were unseen before the war, including numerous cases of acute diarrhea leading to dehydration, and skin diseases resulting from poor hygiene.

“Many diseases we’re seeing at primary health centers are directly related to living conditions: the lack of access to clean water, proper shelter and basic sanitation systems,” said Thomas.

“We need a ceasefire, we need this war to end. There is no other solution to be able to help this population. We need full access to the population. This is the message we want to send today.”

 


Hamas slams Israel PM for ‘misleading’ speech to US Congress

Hamas slams Israel PM for ‘misleading’ speech to US Congress
Updated 25 July 2024
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Hamas slams Israel PM for ‘misleading’ speech to US Congress

Hamas slams Israel PM for ‘misleading’ speech to US Congress

Hamas said Wednesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “misleading” the international community after he addressed the US Congress and called for expedited military aid to his country.

“Netanyahu’s talk about intensified efforts to return the hostages is a complete lie and misleading Israeli, American and international public opinion, while he is the one who thwarted all efforts aimed at ending the war and concluding a deal to release the prisoners, despite the continuous efforts of mediators from our brothers in Egypt and Qatar,” the Palestinian militant group said in a statement.


Israeli kibbutzim say army returned bodies of two hostages from Gaza

Israeli kibbutzim say army returned bodies of two hostages from Gaza
Updated 25 July 2024
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Israeli kibbutzim say army returned bodies of two hostages from Gaza

Israeli kibbutzim say army returned bodies of two hostages from Gaza
  • The army, in a rescue operation, brought to Israel the bodies of hostages Maya Goren and Oren Goldin, the kibbutzim Nir Oz and Nir Yitzhak said in separate statements

JERUSALEM: Two Israeli kibbutzim announced on Wednesday that the Israeli army had retrieved from Gaza the bodies of two hostages, whose deaths had been previously announced by the military.
The army, in a rescue operation, brought to Israel the bodies of hostages Maya Goren and Oren Goldin, the kibbutzim Nir Oz and Nir Yitzhak said in separate statements.
“Last night, we were informed that in a military rescue operation, the body of the late Maya Goren was recovered,” kibbutz Nir Oz said, adding that her family was updated a few hours ago and that more information would follow.
In December the military had announced the death of Goren, who was abducted and taken to Gaza during the October 7 attack by Hamas militants.
Later in a separate statement kibbutz Nir Yitzhak said the army had returned the body of Goldin.
“This evening, we were informed about the rescue operation for the late Oren Goldin, a member of the kibbutz emergency team, who fell on October 7” during the attack by Hamas militants, Nir Yitzhak said.
On October 7 Hamas militants attacked southern Israeli communities, which resulted in the deaths of 1,197 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Militants also seized 251 hostages, 114 of whom remain in Gaza, including 42 the military says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory military campaign in Gaza has killed at least 39,145 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.


Diplomats in Lebanon assess magnitude of damages in the south

Diplomats in Lebanon assess magnitude of damages in the south
Updated 24 July 2024
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Diplomats in Lebanon assess magnitude of damages in the south

Diplomats in Lebanon assess magnitude of damages in the south
  • Foreign Affairs Committee met with ambassadors from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Britain, and Canada to present the results of the ongoing Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon
  • Hezbollah released a new video recorded by the Hudhud drone within Israel, showcasing footage from inside the Ramat David Air Base

BEIRUT: The head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Lebanese Parliament, MP Fadi Alama, revealed that “the number of attacks on South Lebanon has exceeded 5,736 until July 15, resulting in 538 martyrs, and 1,850 injuries.”

The Foreign Affairs Committee met on Wednesday with several ambassadors from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Britain, and Canada to present the results of the ongoing Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon, as part of preparations for “the government’s work in the post-ceasefire phase.”

MP Alama said that “representatives of diplomatic missions and international organizations were surprised when we talked about 1,800 hectares intentionally burned by the Israeli enemy. They were also surprised by the number of schools that were targeted and the number of students who were unable to complete their education and moved to other places. Additionally, they were informed of the 28,000 new families who have been displaced from areas that are being targeted daily.”

The parliamentarian said there was urgency for the government to develop a plan and a roadmap as soon as possible.

MP Wael Abu Faour, a member of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, stated that “the human, health, urban, agricultural, and environmental losses as a result of Israeli attacks have become enormous. Initial estimates from Lebanese institutions indicate a cost of approximately two $2 billion so far, in addition to other damages and losses.”

Abu Faour said: “This is a new challenge for the Lebanese state that must be dealt with in Lebanon’s Arab and international relations. The state is bankrupt and unable to bear such responsibilities, but at the same time, it cannot abandon its responsibilities towards its citizens regardless of any controversial local political considerations regarding the feasibility of war or its justifications among some parties.”

Hostilities between Hezbollah and the Israeli army continued on Wednesday. According to Israeli media, “43 settlements were evacuated in the north, (and) more than 1,500 buildings, cars, and infrastructure were damaged in the north. Additionally, six industrial zones were affected, and hundreds of businesses were forced to close due to Hezbollah strikes.”

Israel targeted the towns of Kafr Shuba, Tayr Harfa, and Hula on Wednesday with airstrikes and artillery shelling. A raid also targeted a house in the town of Kfar Hammam, leading to its destruction. This small village is located in Hasbaya District on the eastern side of Nabatieh Governorate.

Hezbollah released a new video recorded by the Hudhud drone within Israel, showcasing footage from inside the Ramat David Air Base, located approximately 50 km from the Lebanese border.

According to Hezbollah, “the footage was captured on Tuesday using a drone.”

The new eight-minute video released by Hezbollah showcases several sensitive areas within the base, including aircraft fuel tanks, the headquarters of Squadron 109, an Iron Dome missile defense platform, and ammunition depots. It also reveals the locations of the Squadron 157 and Squadron 105 headquarters. Hezbollah included an image of the base commander’s office, exposing intricate details of the facility.

This is not the first time Hezbollah has employed such tactics. Previously, the group broadcast aerial footage of critical installations captured by similar unmanned aerial vehicles in Haifa and the Golan Heights.

Israeli media reacted strongly, with one outlet stating: “Over eight minutes of Hezbollah video exposing our vulnerability is a disgrace.”

The Israeli military, however, downplayed the incident, claiming the footage was captured by a drone designed solely for photography and did not affect base operations.

A Hezbollah source linked the timing of the video release to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington.

Amid these developments, the Israeli military announced on Wednesday that its “reserve brigade has completed a drill simulating war scenarios in Lebanon.”

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir expressed support for a comprehensive war against Hezbollah, stating: “The sooner, the better.”

However, Israel’s Ambassador to Russia Simona Halperin maintained that while Tel Aviv is prepared for military confrontation with Lebanon, it still prefers a diplomatic solution.

She emphasized that Israel is not interested in a large-scale war. “We cannot dismiss a scenario where Israel might be compelled to engage in a wide-ranging war on the northern front,” she added.

Coinciding with Israel’s war rhetoric, the Canadian Embassy in Lebanon issued a renewed advisory to its citizens.

It called on “Canadians, permanent residents, their spouses, and dependent children to heed travel advisories and leave the country while commercial flights are available.”

The embassy emphasized its focus on assisting individuals in obtaining necessary travel documents and keeping families together during this process.

This escalation comes as thousands of Lebanese expatriates with dual citizenship from Canada, the US, and Europe have arrived in Lebanon for summer vacations.


US destroys 3 Houthi missile launchers in Yemen

US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107) sails in formation with the FS Forbin (D 620).
US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107) sails in formation with the FS Forbin (D 620).
Updated 24 July 2024
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US destroys 3 Houthi missile launchers in Yemen

US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107) sails in formation with the FS Forbin (D 620).
  • US and UK forces have carried out dozens of attacks since January on Houthi-held areas to prevent attacks by the militia on international shipping
  • Houthis say operations at Hodeidah Port have returned to ‘full capacity’ after fires in fuel tanks, caused by an attack by Israel on Saturday, were extinguished

AL-MUKALLA: The US Central Command said on Wednesday that it destroyed three missile launchers on territory in Yemen held by the Houthi militia.

It was the latest in a series of military operations targeting Houthi sites in response to continuing attacks by the militia on international shipping.

“It was determined these weapons presented an imminent threat to US (and) coalition forces, and merchant vessels in the region,” the US military said in a message posted on social media platform X. It added that by destroying the launchers it was taking preemptive action to prevent Houthi attacks on international shipping and protect freedom of passage.

US and UK forces have carried out dozens of attacks since January on sites in Sanaa, Hodeidah and other Houthi-held parts of Yemen being used to store missile launchers, unmanned aerial vehicles and drone boats, in an effort to prevent threats to international maritime routes off the coast of Yemen.

Meanwhile, the Houthis said operations at Hodeidah Port, on Yemen’s Red Sea coast, have resumed at “full capacity” after fires in fuel tanks, caused by an attack by Israel at the weekend, were extinguished.

Houthi governor Mohammed Quhim reported on Tuesday night that the blazes were under control, and Houthi officials at the port said it was operational and two ships carrying hundreds of cargo containers and thousands of tonnes of steel had docked.

In response to a Houthi drone strike that killed one person and injured at least 10 in Tel Aviv, Israeli warplanes bombed several parts of Hodeidah on Saturday, including the port, a power station and an area on the city’s northern outskirts. The Houthis said six people were killed and more than 80 injured by the attacks, which destroyed dozens of fuel tanks and a crane at the port.

The militia have demanded that foreign organizations operating in regions under their control provide them with the names and jobs of all employees, as the Houthis intensify their crackdown on Yemenis who work with international organizations or at Western embassies, amid accusations of espionage.

In a letter dated July 17 that circulated on social media this week, the Houthi Supreme Council for the Management and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and International Cooperation ordered international organizations active in Yemen to provide staffing structures within a week, including the names of workers, their positions and nationalities, and lists of prospective employees for approval.

The Yemeni government’s information minister, Muammar Al-Eryani, said the demand reflects the growing Houthi pressure on foreign organizations to employ workers loyal to the militia so that they can control the flow of international aid to Yemen.

In a message posted on X, he urged international groups operating in the country to transfer their offices from Houthi-controlled regions to the government-controlled southern port city of Aden, the nation’s temporary capital, to protect their staff from Houthi persecution.

“The terrorist Houthi militia considered the hesitant international positions a green light to continue its crimes and violations, and to further escalate its repressive measures towards international and humanitarian organizations working in the areas under its control,” he added.

The Houthis have abducted more than 60 Yemenis working for international organizations and Western missions in recent months, including more than a dozen employees of the UN. They claim Yemeni workers at such organizations are part of a large Israeli and US spy network.


First ships dock in Yemen harbor after Israel strike: Houthi media

First ships dock in Yemen harbor after Israel strike: Houthi media
Updated 24 July 2024
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First ships dock in Yemen harbor after Israel strike: Houthi media

First ships dock in Yemen harbor after Israel strike: Houthi media
  • “The port of Hodeida is working normally around the clock” to receive commercial ships, Ahmed Al-Murtada, the deputy director of the container terminal, said
  • Ship tracking website marinetraffic.com confirmed the arrival on Tuesday of Marsa Zenith

HODEIDA, Yemen: Two container ships have docked in Yemen’s Hodeida harbor, the first since a deadly Israeli strike hit fuel storage tanks at the militant-held port, according to Houthi media and ship trackers.
The strikes on Saturday, the first claimed by Israel on Yemen, triggered a massive blaze that burned for days at the dock amid slow firefighting efforts.
It destroyed some cranes and dozens of oil tanks, according to experts. Another tank exploded overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday, reigniting some flames at the harbor, a critical gateway for fuel imports and humanitarian aid into Houthi-held areas.
Despite the ongoing threat, “the port of Hodeida is working normally around the clock” to receive commercial ships, Ahmed Al-Murtada, the deputy director of the container terminal, told the Houthi-run Saba news agency on Tuesday.
The port’s director of maritime operations, Mohamed Al-Sais, told Saba that two ships had docked at the harbor on Tuesday.
He identified them as “Marsa Zenith,” a vessel that carried 514 containers of “various goods,” and “Brother 1,” which was loaded with 22,803 tons of iron, Saba said.
Ship tracking website marinetraffic.com confirmed the arrival on Tuesday of Marsa Zenith, identifying it as a Panama-flagged vessel that departed from the port of Djibouti.
It additionally reported the arrival of the Tanzania-flagged Brother 1, which also sailed from Djibouti, according to the website.
The quays of Hodeida were spared major damage in the Israeli strike that militants say killed nine people and targeted a fuel storage depot owned by the Yemen Petroleum Company as well as a power plant north of the port.
Maritime security firm Ambrey said there were no reports of major damage to vessels in or near the harbor following the strike.
The port, however, is still at risk of another “catastrophe,” said Mwatana for Human Rights, a Yemeni right group which dispatched an assessment team to the dock.
“Based on (the findings of) our field team, the risk of more fuel tanks exploding still remains,” it told AFP in an emailed statement.
“Whenever the firefighting teams tried to extinguish the fires, the explosions and flames reignited,” Mwatana said.
“There are major concerns that the teams may not be able to... prevent another explosion.”