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Gaza death toll nears 30,000 as aid groups warn of ‘imminent’ famine

Gaza death toll nears 30,000 as aid groups warn of ‘imminent’ famine
A Palestinian boy cries as he stands amid debris in the Maghazi camp. (AFP)
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Updated 28 February 2024

Gaza death toll nears 30,000 as aid groups warn of ‘imminent’ famine

Gaza death toll nears 30,000 as aid groups warn of ‘imminent’ famine
  • One in six children under 2 years of age in northern Gaza are suffering from acute malnutrition
  • WFP “is ready to swiftly expand and scale up our operations if there is a ceasefire agreement,” WFP Deputy Executive Director Carl Skau said

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: The Gaza war’s reported Palestinian death toll neared 30,000 Wednesday as fighting raged in the Hamas-run territory despite mediators insisting a truce with Israel could be just days away.
Another 91 people were killed in overnight Israeli bombardment, the health ministry said.
Mediators from Eygpt, Qatar and the United States have been trying to find a path to a ceasefire amid the bitter fighting, with negotiators seeking a six-week pause in the nearly five-month war.
After a flurry of diplomacy, mediators said a deal could finally be within reach — reportedly including the release of some Israeli hostages held in Gaza since Hamas’s October 7 attack in exchange for several hundred Palestinian detainees held by Israel.
“My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire” but “we’re not done yet,” US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday.
Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari said Doha was “hopeful, not necessarily optimistic, that we can announce something” before Thursday.
But he cautioned that “the situation is still fluid on the ground.”
Doha has suggested the pause in fighting would come before the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month which starts on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.
Hamas had been pushing for the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza — a demand rejected outright by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But a Hamas source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the deal might see the Israeli military leave “cities and populated areas,” allowing the return of some displaced Palestinians and humanitarian relief.
Israel’s military campaign in Gaza has killed at least 29,954 people, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.
The war was triggered by an unprecedented Hamas attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.
Militants also took about 250 hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 31 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Since the war began, hundreds of thousands of Gazans have been displaced, with nearly 1.5 million people now packed into the far-southern city of Rafah, where Israel has warned it plans to launch a ground offensive.
Those who remain in northern Gaza have been facing an increasingly desperate situation, aid groups have warned.
“If nothing changes, a famine is imminent in northern Gaza,” the World Food Programme’s deputy executive director Carl Skau told the UN Security Council Tuesday.
His colleague from the UN humanitarian office OCHA, Ramesh Rajasingham, warned of “almost inevitable” widespread starvation.
The WFP said no humanitarian group had been able to deliver aid to the north for more than a month, with aid blocked from entering by Israeli forces.
“I have not eaten for two days,” said Mahmud Khodr, a resident of Jabalia refugee camp in the north, where children roamed with empty pots.
“There is nothing to eat or drink.”
Most aid trucks have been halted, but foreign militaries have air dropped supplies including on Tuesday over Rafah and Gaza’s main southern city Khan Yunis.
What aid does enter Gaza passes through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt, fueling a warning from UN chief Antonio Guterres that any assault on the city would “put the final nail in the coffin” of relief operations in the territory.
Israel has insisted it would move civilians to safety before sending troops into Rafah but it has not released any details.
Egypt has warned that an assault on the city would have “catastrophic repercussions across the region,” with Cairo concerned about an influx of refugees.
Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Tuesday that Israel will “listen to the Egyptians and their interests,” adding that Israel “cannot conduct an operation” with the current large population in Rafah.
Ahead of the threatened ground incursion, the area has been hit repeatedly by Israeli air strikes.
An AFP correspondent reported that overnight several air strikes hit the southern cities of Khan Yunis and Rafah, as well as Zeitun in central Gaza.
The army said it had “killed a number of terrorists and located weapons” in Zeitun.
It said two more soldiers had died in the fighting in Gaza, taking its overall toll to 242 since the start of the ground offensive on October 27.


UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza

 UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza
Updated 40 min 25 sec ago

UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza

 UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza
  • Shoukry pointed out that the increase in Israeli assaults and illegal settlement practices in the West Bank raises the risk of the conflict erupting in the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territories

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese discussed the condition of human rights and Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territories on Sunday.

Shoukry received Albanese, the UN special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, in Cairo, where they called for an immediate end to Israeli attacks on Gaza in compliance with international laws and demanded the safe delivery of humanitarian aid.

They also called for a stop to mounting settler violence in the West Bank, demanding accountability of the perpetrators.

Shoukry pointed out that the increase in Israeli assaults and illegal settlement practices in the West Bank raises the risk of the conflict erupting in the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territories.

He warned of the security repercussions of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which undermines the stability of the broader region.

The foreign minister expressed regret over the reluctance of several countries so far to describe Israeli practices as a flagrant violation of international law.

Shoukry and Albanese discussed the status of human rights and the humanitarian condition of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Shoukry reiterated the need to stop Israel from implementing policies of collective punishment, indiscriminately targeting civilians, and displacing Palestinians from their lands.

The UN rapporteur denounced Israel’s refusal to allow her to conduct a field visit to the Gaza Strip and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Albanese expressed her deep concern for the catastrophic humanitarian situation Palestinians are experiencing and called on Israel to comply with its obligations under international law as the occupying power.

She also stressed her keenness to continue discussions with Egypt regarding ways to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians.

 


Arab League, UN cooperating on women’s security 

Arab League, UN cooperating on women’s security 
Updated 21 April 2024

Arab League, UN cooperating on women’s security 

Arab League, UN cooperating on women’s security 
  • Agreement will develop the Arab Women’s Strategy for Security and Peace

RIYADH: The Arab League and United Nations Women Regional Office for Arab States signed a cooperation agreement, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

It was signed by Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Haifa Abu Ghazaleh and Susanne Mikhail Eldhagen, regional director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.

Abu Ghazaleh highlighted the significance of cooperation in the “Women, Security and Peace” program. It will develop the Arab Women’s Strategy for Security and Peace as well as various national strategies across Arab countries, she added.

Eldhagen highlighted the challenges faced by women in conflict zones, including in Gaza. She hailed progress in women’s rights through cooperation between the UN and Arab League.
 


190 bodies found in mass grave in Gaza’s Nasser Medical Complex

190 bodies found in mass grave in Gaza’s Nasser Medical Complex
Updated 21 April 2024

190 bodies found in mass grave in Gaza’s Nasser Medical Complex

190 bodies found in mass grave in Gaza’s Nasser Medical Complex
  • Civil defense department alleges claimed that some of those killed had been tortured by the Israeli military

LONDON: A mass grave containing 190 bodies has been discovered by Palestinian civil defense teams at the Nasser Medical Complex in the Gazan city of Khan Younis, Jordan News Agency reported on Sunday.

The civil defense department said the deceased were victims of an Israeli attack on the facility.

Mahmud Bassal, spokesman for the department, claimed that some of those killed had been tortured.

“There were no clothes on some bodies, which certainly indicates (the victims) faced torture and abuse,” Bassal told AFP

Search efforts are ongoing, with officials saying a significant number of victims remain buried at the site.

The department estimates that around 700 individuals have been killed and buried in mass graves within the complex since the Gaza conflict broke out on Oct. 7.

The discovery was made following the withdrawal of Israeli military forces from Khan Younis on April 7. 

Israel has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians since the conflict began, at least two-thirds of them children and women, according to the enclave’s Health Ministry.

It says the real toll is likely higher as many bodies are stuck beneath rubble or are in areas that are unreachable.


Houthis launch ‘indoctrination’ summer camps

Abdul Malik Al-Houthi announced the opening of the annual summer camps on Saturday. (File/AFP)
Abdul Malik Al-Houthi announced the opening of the annual summer camps on Saturday. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 April 2024

Houthis launch ‘indoctrination’ summer camps

Abdul Malik Al-Houthi announced the opening of the annual summer camps on Saturday. (File/AFP)
  • Children in Houthi camps taught how to make models for military equipment, sectarian ideas that inspire hatred, violence, says analyst 

AL-MUKALLA: The leader of the Houthi militia has called on families in regions under his control in Yemen to encourage their children to join summer camps, a move that has renewed accusations against the militia of child soldiering.

Abdul Malik Al-Houthi announced the opening of the annual summer camps on Saturday, saying they would fill in the free time of the country’s children during the summer and teach ideas rooted in the “faith identity” of Yemen, which would allegedly protect them from foreign ideas and also motivate them to confront their enemies. 

“The enemies are disturbed by the summer courses, and their media outlets usually start organized campaigns attacking the courses and those responsible for them,” Al-Houthi said, urging his supporters not to listen to critics. 

After their leader’s speech, Houthi officials in Sanaa, Hajjah, Hodeidah, and other areas controlled by the militia launched summer camps in their cities and encouraged parents to send their children. 

Similarly to summer camps in previous years, the Houthis have faced accusations from Yemeni government officials, journalists, activists, and human rights organizations that they exploit schools, mosques, and other facilities used for these camps to indoctrinate, recruit, and train children for military purposes against the government.

“The Houthi militia has converted these summer camps into mobilization camps before conscription. This is the initial step in the recruitment process,” Ali Al-Fakih, editor of Al-Masdar Online, told ż.

Instead of teaching children peace, human values, music, and sketching, Al-Fakih said, children in Houthi camps are taught sectarian ideas that inspire hatred, violence, and killing, as well as how to make models for military equipment.

“Unfortunately, all of the ideologies taught in these camps promote sectarianism, instigate hatred and violence, and create time bombs,” he said.

Videos from Houthi summer camps in recent years have shown Houthi figures instructing youngsters how to wield weapons while some children were taken on a tour of the graves of deceased Houthi warriors.

Other children were observed screaming Houthi slogans, professing allegiance to the militia leader, vowing to battle militia opponents such as Israel and America, and participating in mock military parades. 

Critics have warned families living in Houthi-controlled areas not to listen to the militia’s calls to join summer camps, noting that many graduates of those camps have turned their guns on their own families.  

“To parents in areas controlled by the terrorist Houthi militia, boycott Houthi summer camps to save your children’s lives. Beware of clerics, charlatans, and deceptive phrases,” said Saleh Al-Qutaibi, a Yemeni army officer in the central city of Marib.

In their most recent report to the UN Security Council, released late last year, the UN Panel of Experts accused the Houthis of committing the majority of human rights violations in Yemen, including child soldiering.

It said that Houthi summer camps exist in three forms: open summer camps for boys and girls, model summer camps for children, and closed residential summer camps where boys aged 13 to 17 spend at least a month without seeing anyone, including their families. The report said that the latter camps provide boys with military training.

To get youngsters into their camps, the Houthis offer incentives such as waiving their registration costs for the following school year. Families that refuse to send their children to the camps are penalized by being denied humanitarian help and having their children abducted and sent to the conflict. 

Al-Fakih said this year that Houthis in the province of Ibb would not release students’ school year results if they did not attend summer camps. 

“They tied the submission of results for the last school year to the student’s attendance at summer centers,” Al-Fakih said.


Baby in Gaza saved from womb of mother killed in Israeli strike

Baby in Gaza saved from womb of mother killed in Israeli strike
Updated 21 April 2024

Baby in Gaza saved from womb of mother killed in Israeli strike

Baby in Gaza saved from womb of mother killed in Israeli strike
  • Baby, weighing 1.4 kg and delivered in an emergency C-section

RAFAH: A baby girl was delivered from the womb of a Palestinian killed along with her husband and daughter by an Israeli attack in the Gaza city of Rafah, where 19 people died overnight in intensified strikes, Palestinian health officials said.
The dead, killed in hits on two houses, included 13 children from one family, they said.
The baby, weighing 1.4 kg and delivered in an emergency C-section, was stable and improving gradually, said Mohammed Salama, a doctor caring for her.
Her mother, Sabreen Al-Sakani, had been 30 weeks pregnant.
The baby was placed in an incubator in a Rafah hospital alongside another infant, with the words “The baby of the martyr Sabreen Al-Sakani” written on tape across her chest.
Sakani’s young daughter Malak, who was killed in the strike, had wanted to name her new sister Rouh, meaning spirit in Arabic, said her uncle Rami Al-Sheikh. “The little girl Malak was happy that her sister was coming to the world,” he said.
The baby would stay in hospital for three to four weeks, said Salama, the doctor. “After that we will see about her leaving, and where this child will go, to the family, to the aunt or uncle or grandparents. Here is the biggest tragedy. Even if this child survives, she was born an orphan,” he said.
The 13 children were killed in a strike on the second home, belonging to the Abdel Aal family, according to Palestinian health officials. Two women were also killed in that strike.
Asked about the casualties in Rafah, an Israeli military spokesperson said various militant targets were struck in Gaza including military compounds, launch posts and armed people.
“Did you see one man in all of those killed?” said Saqr Abdel Aal, a Palestinian man whose family were among the dead, grieving over the body of a child in a white shroud.
“All are women and children,” he said. “My entire identity has been wiped out, with my wife, children and everyone.”
Mohammad Al-Behairi said his daughter and grandchild were still under the rubble. “It’s a feeling of sadness, depression, we have nothing left in this life to cry for, what feeling shall we have? When you lose your children, when you lose the closest of your loved ones, how will your feeling be?” he said.

’WE ARE TRAPPED’
Over half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have crowded into Rafah, seeking shelter from the Israeli offensive that has laid waste to much of the Gaza Strip over the last six months.
Israel is threatening a ground offensive into the area, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said fighters from the militant group Hamas must be eliminated to ensure Israel’s victory in the war.
President Joe Biden has urged Israel not to launch a large-scale offensive in Rafah to avoid more Palestinian civilian casualties.
Palestinian health authorities say more than 34,000 people have been killed in Israel’s assault, which began after Hamas fighters attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people and abducting another 253, according to Israeli tallies.
The Palestinian health ministry said on Sunday that Israeli military strikes killed 48 Palestinians and wounded 79 others across Gaza Strip in the past 24 hours.
In the larger of the two Palestinian territories, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Israel said its soldiers shot two Palestinians who tried to shoot and stab them on Sunday. The Palestinian health ministry said both men had died.
Abu Jehad, a Gaza City resident sheltering in Rafah with his family, said he was afraid the Israelis would invade Rafah unless a ceasefire is reached, and he would have to flee once again. “We are trapped and everyone awaits his turn to die,” said Abu Jehad, who was reached by phone.