UAE, Iran discuss bilateral relations

UAE, Iran discuss bilateral relations
UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed (R) and ran's acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Bagheri Kani. (WAM)
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Updated 16 June 2024
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UAE, Iran discuss bilateral relations

UAE, Iran discuss bilateral relations

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirats Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, had a phone conversation on Saturday with Iran's acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Bagheri Kani, to discuss the bilateral relations between the two countries.

During the call, they exchanged Eid Al-Adha greetings and explored ways to enhance cooperation that would serve the mutual interests of their countries and peoples, contributing to regional security and stability.

They also reviewed several issues of common interest, as well as recent developments in both regional and international arenas.


Hezbollah to hit new Israeli targets if it keeps killing civilians, Nasrallah says

Hezbollah to hit new Israeli targets if it keeps killing civilians, Nasrallah says
Updated 2 sec ago
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Hezbollah to hit new Israeli targets if it keeps killing civilians, Nasrallah says

Hezbollah to hit new Israeli targets if it keeps killing civilians, Nasrallah says
  • Hezbollah refers to all Israeli population centers as settlements and does not recognize Israel
  • Israel and Hezbollah have been trading fire since Hezbollah announced a ‘support front’ with Palestinians
BEIRUT: Hezbollah will hit new targets in Israel if it keeps killing civilians in Lebanon, the group’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Wednesday, noting a spike in the number of non-combatants killed in Lebanon in recent days.
Five civilians, all Syrians and including three children, were killed in Israeli strikes in Lebanon on Tuesday and at least three Lebanese civilians were killed the day before, according to state media and security sources.
“Continuing to target civilians will push the Resistance to launch missiles at settlements that were not previously targeted,” Nasrallah said, in comments made during a televised address to mark the Shiite holy day Ashoura.
Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militant group, refers to all Israeli population centers as settlements and does not recognize Israel.
Israel and Hezbollah have been trading fire since Hezbollah announced a “support front” with Palestinians shortly after its ally Hamas attacked southern Israeli border communities on Oct. 7, triggering Israel’s ensuing military offensive in Gaza.
Iran-aligned groups in the region, including Shiite armed factions in Syria and Iraq and Yemen’s Houthis, have also been firing on Israel since shortly after Oct. 7.
In Lebanon, the fighting has killed more than 100 civilians and more than 300 Hezbollah fighters, according to a Reuters tally, and led to levels of destruction in Lebanese border towns and villages not seen since the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war.
Nasrallah promised that totally or partially destroyed homes would be rebuilt “more beautiful than they were before.”

Israel pounds central Gaza, sends tanks into north of Rafah

Israel pounds central Gaza, sends tanks into north of Rafah
Updated 24 min 18 sec ago
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Israel pounds central Gaza, sends tanks into north of Rafah

Israel pounds central Gaza, sends tanks into north of Rafah
  • Israeli tanks shell eastern areas of Al-Bureij and Al-Maghazi camps in the center of enclave
  • Diplomatic efforts by Arab mediators to halt the hostilities seem to be on hold

CAIRO: Israeli forces pounded areas in the central Gaza Strip on Wednesday, killing at least nine Palestinians, according to health officials, while Israeli tanks carried out a limited advance further into Rafah in the south.
In one Israeli air strike around midnight on a house in Al-Zawyda in the central Gaza Strip, eight people were killed, the health officials said. Another strike killed a man in Nuseirat camp, one of the enclave’s eight refugee camps, where 23 people were killed in an Israeli air strike on a school a day ago.
Israeli tanks also shelled the eastern areas of Al-Bureij and Al-Maghazi camps in the center of enclave, residents said. An air strike destroyed a mosque, residents said.
Meanwhile in Rafah, tanks carried out a raid in the north of the city before retreating, a tactic Israeli forces have used in other areas before mounting deeper incursions. Tanks have operated in most parts of the city since May, although have not gone deep into the northern districts.
Medics said an Israeli strike killed two people in Rafah on Wednesday, while residents said the forces had blown up dozens of homes.
The Israeli military said troops were “continuing precise, intelligence-based operational activity in the Rafah area.” It said it they had eliminated what it called a terrorist cell and a launcher that had been used to fire at troops.
It said airstrikes had struck 25 targets throughout the Gaza Strip during the past day and that troops were continuing to operate in the central area, including to dismantle structures used to observe the soldiers.
Nine months into the war, Palestinian fighters led by the Islamist Hamas group are still able to attack Israeli forces with anti-tank rockets, and mortar bombs and from time to time fire barrages of rockets into Israel.
Israel vowed to eradicate Hamas after its militants killed 1,200 people and took over 250 hostages in an attack on southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies.
On Tuesday, the military said it had eliminated half of the leadership of Hamas’ military wing, with about 14,000 fighters killed or captured since the start of the war.
At least 38,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory offensive since then, Gaza health authorities say. Israel says 326 of its soldiers have been killed in Gaza.
HAMAS DENIES WAR CRIMES
Diplomatic efforts by Arab mediators to halt the hostilities, backed by the United States, seem to be on hold, but officials from all sides have said they are open to more talks, including Israel and Hamas, who have traded blame over the current impasse.
A deal would aim to end the war and release Israeli hostages in Gaza in return for many Palestinians jailed by Israel.
On Wednesday, Israel released 13 Palestinians detained during the military offensive in Gaza, the Palestinian Red Crescent said in a statement. The freed inmates were transferred to a hospital in the central Gaza Strip for treatment.
Many of the hundreds of Palestinians Israel has released in the past months have accused Israeli forces of ill-treatment and torture. The Palestinian Prisoner Association said nearly 20 Palestinians had died in Israeli detention after being detained from Gaza. Israel denies allegations of torture.
Meanwhile, in a report published on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said Hamas’ military wing, the Qassam Brigades, and at least four other Palestinian armed groups “committed numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity against civilians during the Oct. 7, 2023, assault on southern Israel.”
According to its findings, these included “deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian objects; willful killing of persons in custody; cruel and other inhumane treatment; sexual and gender-based violence; hostage taking; mutilation and despoiling of bodies; use of human shields; and pillage and looting.”
In response, Hamas rejected “the lies and blatant bias” toward Israel and demanded Human Rights Watch withdraw its report and apologize.
“The Human Rights Watch report adopted the entire Israeli narrative and moved away from the method of scientific research and the neutral legal position, and became more like an Israeli propaganda document,” Hamas said in a statement.


Israeli settlement threatens Palestinian UNESCO village

Israeli settlement threatens Palestinian UNESCO village
Updated 17 July 2024
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Israeli settlement threatens Palestinian UNESCO village

Israeli settlement threatens Palestinian UNESCO village
  • Palestinians have long battled attempts to settle the land in Battir, a heritage site in the Israeli-occupied West Bank famed for its ancient stone terraces
  • Israeli construction in the West Bank has boomed since the war began in the Gaza Strip, even though all settlements in the territory are considered illegal

BATTIR, Palestinian Territories: On a hillside near Palestinian landowner Olayan Olayan’s olive groves, young Israeli settlers are hammering out a new, illegal outpost in a UNESCO-protected zone.
Olayan and his neighbors have long battled attempts to settle the land in Battir, a heritage site in the Israeli-occupied West Bank famed for its ancient stone terraces.
Israeli construction in the West Bank has boomed since the war began in the Gaza Strip, even though all settlements in the territory are considered illegal under international law.
The new outpost on a Battir hilltop, also not approved by Israel, was served an eviction notice that Olayan’s cousin Ghassan Olayan said has not been enforced because of the Gaza war.
The outpost already has a flagpole, living quarters and a barn for sheep that roam a rocky hill covered by olive trees belonging to Palestinian farmers.
“I plowed the land and planted it until it bore fruit trees,” said Olayan, who at 83 is older than the state of Israel itself.
“Some trees were 50 years old, or even more, and suddenly the settlers came and wanted to devour the land and take it from us,” he added, his voice shaky.
Even more concerning to the Olayans than the encroaching outpost is the adjacent, future settlement of Heletz.
Yonatan Mizrahi of settlement watchdog Peace Now said Heletz was among five settlements “deep in Palestinian territory” approved by the Israeli government on June 27.
“It is a settlement that is going to block Battir and in many ways create tension between the neighbors,” he said.
Heletz and the outpost sit inside the UNESCO protection zone for Battir, one of four listed heritage sites in the West Bank.
The UNESCO classification means the village can get technical, legal, and monetary assistance to preserve sites deemed in danger.
In Battir, children splash in the Roman-era fountain that waters the terraces where tomatoes, corn, aubergines and olive trees grow.
The 2,000-year-old dry stone walls supporting the landscape earned the village its cultural inscription in 2014. But the classification has done little to prevent seizures of the surrounding farmland.
Battir’s inhabitants have beaten in court at least three previous Israeli settlement outpost attempts.
But Ghassan Olayan fears the war since the Hamas attacks of October 7 on Israel will make the new, government-approved Heletz more likely to become reality.
According to Olayan, Heletz is intended to link Jerusalem to Gush Etzion, a cluster of settlements deeper in the West Bank.
If that is achieved, Battir and the nearby Palestinian villages would be cut off from Bethlehem and the rest of the West Bank, a process they fear will fragment a future Palestinian state.
“There will be no (territorial) continuity,” said Olayan, leaving only what some observers describe as an archipelago of Palestinian sovereignty.
Israel’s far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a settler himself, openly states that preventing Palestinian statehood is the objective.
“We will continue to develop the settlements in order to maintain Israel’s security and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state,” he wrote on the X social media platform after the five latest settlements were approved in June.
In recent months, Israeli forces have blocked a road to Battir, nearly doubling the time it takes to reach Jerusalem just 10 kilometers (six miles) north.
When asked about the new outpost in Battir, an Israeli security official acknowledged that “an Israeli farm had been established without proper authorization.”
The official told AFP “the possibility of authorizing the farm will be weighed” as the development of Heletz gets under way.
Battir residents “raised several claims that the land belongs to them” but have “not presented documentation to support their position,” according to the official.
Olayan said documents from Ottoman times prove Battir inhabitants’ ownership of the land.
A UNESCO spokesperson said the UN cultural agency’s world heritage committee had been told about “reports of illegal constructions” and that Battir would be discussed at a session in late July.
Olayan fears that sleepy Battir, with its collective life centered around the Roman fountain’s irrigation system allotting each family a specific time slot to irrigate their crops, faces a difficult future.
“Battir is a peaceful village and the settlement will only bring trouble,” he said.


Hundreds of war crimes committed in October 7 attack: HRW

Hundreds of war crimes committed in October 7 attack: HRW
Updated 17 July 2024
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Hundreds of war crimes committed in October 7 attack: HRW

Hundreds of war crimes committed in October 7 attack: HRW
  • HRW report: ‘It is impossible for us to put a number on the specific instances’
  • The October 7 attack resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians

JERUSALEM: Hamas led other Palestinian armed groups in committing hundreds of war crimes in the surprise October 7 attack on Israel that set off the Gaza war, Human Rights Watch said in a report released Wednesday.
One of the most in-depth international studies on the unprecedented incursion into southern Israel outlined a host of potential war crimes cases.
“It’s impossible for us to put a number on the specific instances,” HRW associate director Belkis Wille told a news conference, adding that “there were obviously hundreds on that day.”
The crimes include “deliberate and indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian objects; willful killing of persons in custody; cruel and other inhumane treatment; sexual and gender-based violence; hostage taking; mutilation and despoiling (robbing) of bodies; use of human shields; and pillage and looting,” said the report.
The report focuses on violations of international humanitarian law, rules mostly rooted in the Geneva Conventions for conduct in war.
Although Palestinian Islamist group Hamas is recognized as the orchestrator of the attack, the report lists other armed groups that committed war crimes on October 7, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
“The reality is that it really wasn’t civilians from Gaza who perpetrated the worst abuses,” said Wille.
“That was a claim made very early on by Hamas to distance itself from the events, and by Israel to justify its retaliation operation.”
Wille pointed to the “incredibly organized and coordinated nature” of the assault on cities, kibbutz communities, and military bases around Gaza.
“Across many attack sites, fighters fired directly at civilians, often at close range, as they tried to flee, and at people who happened to be driving vehicles in the area,” said the report.
“They hurled grenades and shot into safe rooms and other shelters and fired rocket-propelled grenades at homes.
“They set some houses on fire, burning and suffocating people to death, and forcing out others who they then captured or killed.”
HRW said it “found evidence of acts of sexual and gender-based violence by fighters including forced nudity, and the posting without consent of sexualized images on social media.”
The report quoted a team of the UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict who said they interviewed people “who reported witnessing rape and other sexual violence” including “rape and gang rape, in at least three locations.”
But it said the full extent of sexual and gender-based violence “will likely never be fully known” as victims had died, or stigma would stop them talking out, or Israeli first responders “largely” did not collect relevant evidence.
The attack resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza including 42 the military says are dead.
Israel responded with a military offensive that has killed at least 38,664 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data provided by the Gaza health ministry.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas and bring back all hostages.
The report only covered the events of October 7, not the subsequent war.
The International Criminal Court chief prosecutor has asked court judges to issue arrest warrants against Hamas leaders including its political leader Ismail Haniyeh and Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The prosecutor has also sought warrants against Netanyahu and his defense minister, Yoav Gallant, on charges ranging from “starvation of civilians” to “extermination and/or murder” as crimes against humanity.


As Gaza’s doctors struggle to save lives, many lose their own in Israeli airstrikes

As Gaza’s doctors struggle to save lives, many lose their own in Israeli airstrikes
Updated 17 July 2024
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As Gaza’s doctors struggle to save lives, many lose their own in Israeli airstrikes

As Gaza’s doctors struggle to save lives, many lose their own in Israeli airstrikes
  • Israel’s 9-month-old war with Hamas in Gaza has decimated the territory’s medical system
  • One of Gaza’s most prominent fertility doctors, Omar Ferwana, was killed along with his family in a strike on his home in October

BEIRUT: Dr. Hassan Hamdan was one of the few trained plastic surgeons in Gaza, a specialist in wound reconstruction. His skills were vitally needed as Israel’s military onslaught filled hospitals with patients torn by blasts and shrapnel, so the 65-year-old came out of retirement to help.
Earlier this month, an Israeli airstrike killed him along with his wife, son, two daughters, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, six grandchildren and one other person, as his family sheltered in their home in an Israeli-declared “safe zone.”
Israel’s 9-month-old war with Hamas in Gaza has decimated the territory’s medical system. It has not only wreaked physical destruction on hospitals and health facilities, it has devastated Gaza’s medical personnel. More than 500 health care workers have been killed since October, according to the UN.
Among them were many specialists like Hamdan.
Dr. Ahmed Al-Maqadma, also a reconstructive surgeon and a former fellow at UK Royal College, was found shot to death alongside his mother, a general practitioner, on a street outside Gaza City’s Shifa hospital after a two-week raid on the facility by Israeli forces in April.
One of Gaza’s most prominent fertility doctors, Omar Ferwana, was killed along with his family in a strike on his home in October. The territory’s only liver transplant doctor, Hamam Alloh, was killed in a hit on his home in Gaza City.
Israeli strikes in November on a northern Gaza hospital killed two doctors working with Doctors Without Borders. They are among six staffers killed from the international charity, which focuses on reconstructive and orthopedic surgeries, physiotherapy and burn care in Gaza.
Israel has detained doctors and medical staff. At least two have died in Israeli detention, allegedly of ill-treatment: the head of Shifa’s orthopedics department, Adnan Al-Bursh, and the head of a women’s hospital, Iyad Al-Rantisi. Israel has not returned either man’s body. Hundreds of other medical workers have been displaced or left Gaza altogether.
Along with the personal toll, their deaths rob Gaza’s medical system of their skills when they have become crucial.
Since the Hamas attack against Israel on Oct. 7 — which left some 1,200 people dead and 250 kidnapped — Israel’s campaign has killed more than 38,000 people in Gaza and wounded more than 88,000, according to local health officials. Malnutrition and disease have become widespread as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians cram into squalid tent camps.
Dr. Adam Hamawy, a former US Army combat plastic surgeon who volunteered in Gaza in May, said Hamdan’s death “leaves a significant void that will be hard to fill.”
Like many in Gaza, he believes Israel is deliberately destroying the health system, pointing to how Israeli forces have raided hospitals, destroyed medical complexes, fired on medical convoys and hit ambulances. Israel says it is targeting Hamas, which it says uses hospitals as command centers and ambulances for transport. The military has provided limited evidence for its claims.
Twenty-three of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are out of service, and the rest are only partially functioning, according to the latest UN figures. Only five field hospitals out of nine are operational. And more than 60 percent of Gaza’s primary health facilities have shut down.
Hamdan’s death leaves only one other specialist in reconstructive plastic surgery in Gaza. Other doctors have had to learn the skills of repairing major wounds on the job amid relentless daily waves of maimed patients.
Hamawy saw firsthand the need during his work in Gaza as part of an international medical team that came to help the territory’s health workers.
During three weeks at the European General Hospital in Khan Younis, he said he performed 120 surgeries, more than half of them on children, and all but one of them for treatment and reconstruction of war wounds. Two colleagues at the hospital were killed in strikes on their homes while he was there, and he spoke to doctors who had been released from Israeli detention and described being tortured, he said.
Hamawy said a general surgeon at the hospital stepped in to fill the demand for plastic surgeons, but he had no formal training. Five medical students volunteered with him.
They “are doing their best to fill in the gap,” Hamawy said.
On July 2, the European General Hospital evacuated its staff and patients, fearing it would be attacked. That left Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir Al-Balah and a field hospital in Rafah as the only facilities able to offer reconstructive surgery, said Dr. Ahmed Al-Mokhallalati, Gaza’s last reconstructive plastic surgery specialist.
Al-Mokhallalati said he has been rushing between hospitals, at one point overseeing treatment for 400 patients in one and 500 in another. At the Rafah field hospital, he was doing up to 10 surgeries a day.
“It is a very critical situation,” he said.
Hamdan founded the burns and plastic surgery department in Khan Younis’ Nasser Medical complex in 2002, after serving at the territory’s first such unit, at Shifa hospital. He headed the department at Nasser until 2019, when he retired.
When the Israeli army invaded Hamdan’s home city of Khan Younis in December, he returned as a volunteer at Nasser, Gaza’s second largest hospital, said his son Osama Hamdan, an orthopedic surgeon. His colleagues said he was cool under pressure. “The smile never left his face,” said Dr. Mohamad Awad, a surgeon who worked with him.
Soon after, Israeli forces besieged and raided Nasser Hospital, forcing its evacuation. Hamdan was displaced, taking shelter in the home of one of his daughters in Deir Al-Balah, further north.
Troops occupied Nasser hospital for weeks, wreaking extensive damage. After they withdrew, the facility was rehabilitated. In mid-June, Hamdan returned home and was discussing returning to work with hospital officials.
On July 2, Israel ordered another evacuation of Khan Younis. Hamdan and his family fled again, returning to his daughter’s home in Deir Al-Balah.
Only hours after they arrived, an airstrike hit the building on July 3 – “a direct hit with two rockets on my sister’s apartment,” Osama Hamdan said. He said no one in the family was affiliated with militant groups.
The Israeli military did not respond to requests for comment on the strike.
Osama was on duty in the emergency room at Nasser hospital when he received the call. His wife and two sons – 3 and 5 years old – were among those killed.
“I was only able to collect some body parts of my kids and their mother because of how huge the explosion was,” he said.
One of his sisters died days later in the hospital from her wounds. Another sister remains in intensive care.
Osama is feeling partially responsible. “I had pressed him to leave Khan Younis,” he said in a text message, marked with two broken hearts emojis.