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Heavy fighting surrounds another Gaza hospital after babies evacuated from Al-Shifa

Heavy fighting surrounds another Gaza hospital after babies evacuated from Al-Shifa
Some 1.7 million people, nearly three quarters of Gaza’s population, have been displaced, with 900,000 packing into crowded UN-run shelters. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 20 November 2023

Heavy fighting surrounds another Gaza hospital after babies evacuated from Al-Shifa

Heavy fighting surrounds another Gaza hospital after babies evacuated from Al-Shifa
  • Advance on Indonesian Hospital came day after WHO evacuated 31 premature babies from Al-Shifa Hospital
  • Plight of Gaza’s hospitals focus of battle of narratives over war’s brutal toll on Palestinian civilians

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip: Heavy fighting erupted Monday around a hospital in northern Gaza where thousands of patients and displaced people have been sheltering for weeks, as Israeli forces focus on clearing out medical facilities that they say Hamas militants use for cover.
The advance on the Indonesian Hospital came a day after the World Health Organization evacuated 31 premature babies from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the territory’s largest, where they were among more than 250 critically ill or wounded patients stranded there days after Israeli forces entered the compound.
The plight of Gaza’s hospitals is at the focus of a battle of narratives over the war’s brutal toll on Palestinian civilians, thousands of whom have been killed or buried in rubble since the six-week-old war was sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 rampage into southern Israel.
Israel says Hamas uses civilians as human shields, while critics say Israel’s siege and relentless aerial bombardment amount to collective punishment of the territory’s 2.3 million Palestinians.
Marwan Abdallah, a medical worker at the Indonesian Hospital, said Israeli tanks were visible from the windows. “You can see them moving around and firing,” he said. “Women and children are terrified. There are constant sounds of explosions and gunfire.”
Al-Jazeera television aired footage apparently shot from inside the hospital showing tanks firing just outside the facility.
Abdallah said the hospital had received dozens of dead and wounded in airstrikes and shelling overnight. He said medical staff and displaced people fear Israel will besiege the hospital and force its evacuation.
The Israeli military, which rarely publicizes troop movements, had no immediate comment.
Babies evacuated
UN bodies were able to safely evacuate the babies, who were in critical condition, from Shifa to a hospital in southern Gaza, and plan to transport them to a hospital in neighboring Egypt. Four other babies died in the two days before the evacuation, according to Mohamed Zaqout, the director of Gaza hospitals.
Over 250 patients with severely infected wounds and other urgent conditions remain in Shifa, which could no longer provide most treatment after it ran out of water, medical supplies and fuel for emergency generators amid a territory-wide blackout. Israeli forces battled Palestinian militants outside its gates for days before entering the facility last Wednesday.
Israel’s army said it had strong evidence supporting its claims that Hamas maintained a sprawling command post inside and under the hospital’s 20-acre complex, which includes several buildings, garages and a plaza.
The military released a video showing what it said was a tunnel discovered at the hospital, 55-meter (60-yard) long and about 10 meters (33 feet) below ground. It said the tunnel included a staircase and a firing hole that could be used by gunmen, and ended at a blast-proof door that troops have not yet opened.
The Associated Press couldn’t independently verify Israel’s findings, which included security camera video showing what the military said were two foreign hostages, one Thai and one Nepalese, who were captured by Hamas in the Oct. 7 attack and taken to the hospital.
The army also said an investigation had determined that Israeli army Cpl. Noa Marciano, another captive whose body was recovered in Gaza, had been injured in an Israeli strike on Nov. 9 that killed her captor, but was then killed by a Hamas militant in Shifa.
Hamas and hospital staff have denied the allegations of a command post under Shifa. Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan dismissed the latest announcement, saying “the Israelis said there was a command and control center, which means that the matter is greater than just a tunnel.”
3 in 4 people displaced
Israel has repeatedly ordered Palestinians to leave northern Gaza and seek refuge in the south, which has also been under aerial bombardment since the start of the war. Some 1.7 million people, nearly three quarters of Gaza’s population, have been displaced, with 900,000 packing into crowded UN-run shelters, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Their misery has worsened in recent days because of cold winds and driving rain.
More than 11,500 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to Palestinian health authorities. Another 2,700 have been reported missing, believed buried in rubble. The count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants, and Israel says it has killed thousands of militants.
About 1,200 people have been killed on the Israeli side, mainly civilians during the Oct. 7 attack, in which Hamas dragged some 240 captives back into Gaza. The military says 63 Israeli soldiers have been killed.
Hamas has released four hostages, Israel has rescued one, and the bodies of two were found near Shifa.
Israel, the United States and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas, have been negotiating a much larger hostage release for weeks. Israel’s three-member war cabinet is to meet with representatives of the hostages’ families on Monday evening.


Injuries after Israeli forces target Lebanese army center

Injuries after Israeli forces target Lebanese army center
Updated 25 sec ago

Injuries after Israeli forces target Lebanese army center

Injuries after Israeli forces target Lebanese army center
  • Israeli army targeted a Lebanese army center on Al-Awaida hill near the border town of Odaisseh, wounding four Lebanese soldiers
  • Negative response to Hamas’ appeal for resistance fighters

BEIRUT: Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel have continued their hostilities on the front in southern Lebanon following the end of the truce in the region on Friday.

The Israeli army targeted a Lebanese army center on Al-Awaida hill near the border town of Odaisseh, wounding four Lebanese soldiers.

Hezbollah targeted Israeli soldiers at the Ruwaisat Al-Assi site and the Al-Tayhat Triangle, as well as Zabdin in the Shebaa Farms, and Bayyad Blida.

An Israeli drone attacked Lebanese border towns. Artillery was used to target the outskirts of villages and towns, from which most residents had been displaced at the start of military operations.

The Israelis fired flares over the sea coast south of Tyre and over the Blue Line in the western and central sectors. The towns of the Marjayoun district also experienced an Israeli bombardment with heavy artillery shells, flares, and phosphorus bombs causing damage to shops and homes.

Meanwhile, the announcement from Hamas militants in Lebanon of the establishment of “Vanguards of Al-Aqsa Flood” has been met by a negative reaction.

A media report on Tuesday said: “Hamas’ announcement was met with discontent … in southern Lebanon for fear of repeating the 1970s experience of Palestinian armed action from the south.”

Hamas in Lebanon had called on “the brave youth and men (to) join the vanguards of the resistance fighters and participate in the liberation of Jerusalem and the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, in affirmation of the role of the Palestinian people, wherever they may be, in resisting the occupation by all available and legitimate means, and in continuation of what the Al-Aqsa flood operation has achieved.”

Gebran Bassil, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, said on social media: “We absolutely reject Hamas’ announcement.

“We also consider that any armed action launched from Lebanese territory is an assault on national sovereignty. We recall what the Lebanese agreed upon since 1990 in the Taif Agreement — weapons should be taken away from Palestinians inside and outside of the camps — as well as the agreement upon the cancellation of the Cairo Agreement.

“History has taught us not to become a bargaining chip in times of war, when we can impose our conditions on the table in times of negotiations.”

Former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora was “surprised” by the statement of Hamas in Lebanon, and added: “The mere idea of bringing back Palestinian armed action from Lebanon is unacceptable and rejected.”

Hesham Dibsi, a Palestinian researcher and director at the Tatwir Center for Studies, told ż: “The step is an … attempt to popularize the Oct. 7 operation (and) say that the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon’s camps are with Hamas, and this is not true.”

Former Justice Minister Maj. Gen. Ashraf Rifi said: “Establishing the ‘Vanguards of Al-Aqsa Flood’ in Lebanon is a grave mistake.

“It harms the Palestinian cause for the benefit of the axis of resistance that trades with it.”

Independent MP Mark Daou said: “Lebanon is a state, not an arena, and Hamas has no right to violate Lebanon.

“We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, but we will not accept that the cause be used as an excuse to violate Lebanon and organize non-Lebanese armed forces. Hamas leaders must immediately reconsider this step, or we will consider this a hostile act against the Lebanese and a violation of their security.”

Camille Chamoun, the head of the National Liberal Party, said: “The establishment of the ‘Vanguards of Al-Aqsa Flood’ constitutes a danger and a pretext for a new Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, the destruction of the remaining institutions and infrastructure, and additional tragedies for the Lebanese people.”

Hamas official Ayman Shanaa said in a statement: “We respect the sovereignty of the Lebanese state, and Hamas operates under the umbrella of Lebanese law. Even in resistance actions from the south, we are under the umbrella of the Lebanese resistance.”


Egyptian-Cypriot presidential talks urge Gaza ceasefire, aid push

Egyptian-Cypriot presidential talks urge Gaza ceasefire, aid push
Updated 53 min 41 sec ago

Egyptian-Cypriot presidential talks urge Gaza ceasefire, aid push

Egyptian-Cypriot presidential talks urge Gaza ceasefire, aid push
  • Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides highlighted the requirement for immediate action on Gaza
  • Discussions also centered around ways to further strengthen cooperation between Egypt and Cyprus in several fields, particularly energy

CAIRO: The presidents of Egypt and Cyprus have agreed on the urgent need for the international community to push for a permanent ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides highlighted the requirement for immediate action during talks at the Ittihadiya Palace in Cairo.

Discussions also centered around ways to further strengthen cooperation between Egypt and Cyprus in several fields, particularly energy, while exploring opportunities to consolidate relations not only between the two countries, but Greece too.

But it was the situation in Gaza that dominated their meeting.

Spokesman for the Egyptian presidency, Ahmed Fahmy, said El-Sisi briefed Christodoulides on Egypt’s efforts to broker a permanent end to fighting in the Gaza Strip while ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

Christodoulides noted that his country was keen to work with Egypt on both fronts and El-Sisi pointed out the need for a global consensus on bringing about a two-state solution to the conflict. This, he said, would involve the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Earlier, in a call from Christodoulides to El-Sisi, the latest developments in Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip were reviewed.

The two presidents agreed that international and regional efforts to stop an escalation of the fighting were the top priority.


UN experts name Houthi official who tortured captives

UN experts name Houthi official who tortured captives
Updated 05 December 2023

UN experts name Houthi official who tortured captives

UN experts name Houthi official who tortured captives
  • Abdulkader Al-Murtada is the head of the Houthi National Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs and the Iran-backed militia’s negotiator in UN-brokered prisoner swap talks
  • Experts’ judgment has confirmed previous claims made against Al-Murtada by former captives

AL-MUKALLA: A UN panel of experts has named top official Abdulkader Al-Murtada as an abuser of inmates in Houthi detention.

Al-Murtada is the head of the Houthi National Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs and the Iran-backed militia’s negotiator in UN-brokered prisoner swap talks.

The experts’ judgment has confirmed previous claims made against Al-Murtada by former captives.

In its 305-page report on Yemen, the panel accused Al-Murtada and other unnamed Houthis of severely abusing captives within the Central Security Camp prison in Sanaa, which is controlled by Al-Murtada. The treatment had resulted in the death of some detainees, and lasting injuries.

The experts said: “Prisoners are systematically subjected to torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, or punishment perpetrated by the prison’s staff.

“Based on the multiple reports received by the panel, various members of the prison’s management were and still are torturing the prisoners, including Abdulkader Al-Murtada.”

They added that prisoners were subjected to systematic psychological and physical torture inside the Al-Murtada-operated detention facility. Measures included forcing captives to stand for long periods, hitting their heads against the wall, dragging them, beating them with metal or electric wires, and banning doctors from performing lifesaving surgeries on tortured prisoners.

If the detainees asked for medicines, their Houthi captors sold them at exorbitant rates, although these had been received free from relief groups.

The panel also gathered evidence of extortion. Prisoners and their families were forced to pay high amounts to make brief phone calls or to meet, the report said, adding that the phone calls were often allowed “for the sole purpose of requesting families to transfer additional money, which will be administered by the prison’s management on behalf of each prisoner.”

Many former Houthi captives freed as part of prisoner exchange deals between the Yemeni government and the militia have said that Al-Murtada personally tortured them, or that they saw him and his colleagues mistreat inmates.

Citing the case of the kidnapped young Yemeni model and actor Entesar Al-Hammadi, along with other women, the experts said they were subjected to harsh mistreatment by their Houthi captors, with some of the women sexually assaulted and others put on trial.

The report added: “Women in detention are also sexually assaulted, in some cases subjected to virginity tests, and are often prevented from gaining access to essential goods, including feminine hygiene products.”

The report stated that the Houthis had also subjected more than 1 million Yemeni children to indoctrination and brainwashing. The youngsters had joined Houthi summer camps in 2023.

It added: “The panel documented that children as young as 10 years old are exposed to military training. The Houthis are also giving monetary incentives to promote a higher attendance rate in the summer camps by waiving the registration fees for the next school year.”

Hamzah Al-Jubaihi, a Yemeni journalist who suffered at the hands of Al-Murtada before his release in late 2021, thanked UN experts for naming and shaming the Houthi figure and urged the international community to sanction him.

Al-Jubaihi told ż: “This person personally tortures the detainees, both physically and psychologically, and he has a terrorist and sadistic mindset, as well as an inferiority problem.

“He was tormenting the inmates in front of me and stamping on their faces with his shoe.”


UN says ‘not possible’ to create ‘safe zones’ in Gaza

UN says ‘not possible’ to create ‘safe zones’ in Gaza
Updated 05 December 2023

UN says ‘not possible’ to create ‘safe zones’ in Gaza

UN says ‘not possible’ to create ‘safe zones’ in Gaza
  • ‘The so-called safe zones... are not scientific, they are not rational, they are not possible, and I think the authorities are aware of this’

GENEVA: The United Nations warned Tuesday that it was impossible to create so-called safe zones for civilians to flee to inside the Gaza Strip amid Israel’s bombing campaign.
Israel had initially focused its offensive on the north of the territory, but the army has now also dropped leaflets on parts of the south, telling Palestinian civilians there to flee to other areas.
“The so-called safe zones... are not scientific, they are not rational, they are not possible, and I think the authorities are aware of this,” James Elder, spokesman for the UN children’s agency UNICEF, told reporters in Geneva via video-link from Cairo.
His comments came as Israeli troops battled Hamas militants in the southern Gaza Strip after expanding their offensive deeper into the besieged area.
Israel said it was at war with Hamas after the militant group’s October 7 attacks that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and which saw around 240 hostages taken, according to Israeli authorities.
In retaliation for the worst attack in its history, Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas and secure the release of all the hostages held in Gaza.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says the war has killed nearly 15,900 people in the territory, around 70 percent of them women and children.
As Israel’s offensive pushes deeper into Gaza, international aid organizations have warned that civilians in the densely-populated territory are running out of places to flee to.
Elder insisted that the safe zones declared by Israel “cannot be safe nor humanitarian when unilaterally declared.”
The pretense that there is somewhere safe for people to flee to is “callous,” he said.
He stressed that in a proper safe zone, “you can guarantee the conditions of food, water, medicine and shelter.”
Elder, who spent the past week or so in Gaza, stressed that none of that is assured in the areas designated as safe zones.
“These are entirely, entirely absent. You cannot overstate this. These are tiny patches of barren land, or they are street corners, they are sidewalks,” he said.
“There is no water, no facilities, no shelter from the cold and the rain (and) there’s no sanitation.”
Elder pointed out that in the overcrowded shelters that most of the displaced in Gaza have flocked to there had been around one toilet for every 400 people.
“Now remove those people and put them in... the so called safe places. It’s tens of thousands of people without a single toilet — not one — no clean water, nothing to drink,” he said.
“Without water, without sanitation, without shelter the so called safe zones risks becoming zones of disease.”


WHO: Situation in Gaza ‘getting worse by the hour’

WHO: Situation in Gaza ‘getting worse by the hour’
Updated 05 December 2023

WHO: Situation in Gaza ‘getting worse by the hour’

WHO: Situation in Gaza ‘getting worse by the hour’
  • WHO representative in Gaza: Humanitarian aid reaching Gaza ‘way too little’
  • WHO deeply concerned about the vulnerability of the health system in the enclave

GENEVA: A World Health Organization official in Gaza said on Tuesday the situation was deteriorating by the hour as Israeli bombing has intensified in the south of the Palestinian enclave around the cities of Khan Younis and Rafah.
“The situation is getting worse by the hour,” Richard Peeperkorn, WHO representative in Gaza, told reporters via video link. “There’s intensified bombing going on all around, including here in the southern areas, Khan Younis and even in Rafah.”
Peeperkorn said the humanitarian aid reaching Gaza was “way too little” and said the WHO was deeply concerned about the vulnerability of the health system in the densely populated enclave as more people move further south to escape the bombing.
“I want to make this point very clear that we are looking at an increasing humanitarian disaster,” he said.
Peeperkorn said WHO had complied with an Israeli order to remove supplies from warehouses in Khan Younis. He said WHO had been told the area would “most likely become an area of active combat in the coming days.”
“We want to make sure that we can actually deliver essential medical supplies,” he said.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday appealed to Israel to withdraw the order. Israel denied asking for the evacuation of warehouses.