Iran’s Rouhani says Western democracy ‘fragile, vulnerable’

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting in Tehran, Iran, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 07 January 2021
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Iran’s Rouhani says Western democracy ‘fragile, vulnerable’

  • Rouhani said he hoped for a change of direction from the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden

TEHRAN: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Thursday that the chaos unleashed on the US Capitol by US counterpart Donald Trump’s supporters exposed the fragility of Western democracy.
“What we saw in the United States yesterday (Wednesday) evening and today shows above all how fragile and vulnerable Western democracy is,” Rouhani said in a speech broadcast by state television.
“We saw that unfortunately the ground is fertile for populism, despite the advances in science and industry.
“A populist has arrived and he has led his country to disaster over these past four years.
“I hope the whole world and the next occupants of the White House will learn from it.”
Rouhani said he hoped for a change of direction from the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden.
He urged the new administration “to make up (for the past) and restore the country to a position worthy of the American nation, because the American nation is a great nation.”
“May they return to reason, legality and their obligations. It’s for their own benefit and the good of the world,” he said.
Despite routine references to the United States as the “Great Satan” in official rhetoric, it is not the first time that an Iranian president has called America a “great nation.”
Rouhani, a relative moderate in Iranian politics, presided over negotiations for a landmark 2015 nuclear agreement with major powers that Trump abandoned in 2018.
He has staked his reputation on a diplomatic opening to the incoming Biden administration to try to rescue the deal.


UAE stages challenging evacuation of Gaza patients as truce ends

Updated 5 sec ago
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UAE stages challenging evacuation of Gaza patients as truce ends

  • UAE medical staff said more Palestinians could have been saved more if the truce was extended

ABU DHABI: At least 120 injured Palestinian children and cancer patients along with their families have been evacuated from Gaza to the UAE for treatment in the first Emirati mission carried out after the week-long truce between Hamas and Israel ended.

However, UAE medical staff, who arrived on a chartered plane at Egypt’s Al-Arish International Airport at 4 p.m. to airlift patients to Abu Dhabi on Friday, said that more Palestinians could have been saved more if the truce was extended.

Dr. Maha Barakat, the UAE assistant minister of foreign affairs for health, told Arab News that the renewed bombardment has complicated the evacuation of Palestinians through the Rafah border crossing.

“We would have had more seats on the plane filled with patients if the ceasefire had continued, but it’s just unfortunate,” said Barakat from the tarmac of Abu Dhabi International Airport, where Palestinian patients arrived to safety early Saturday at 5 a.m. following a complex 14-hour evacuation mission.

The plane, which has transformed into a flying hospital, carried the fourth group of Palestinian patients since the UAE’s evacuation mission started on Nov. 18 with an aim to take in 1,000 injured children and 1,000 cancer patients of all ages for treatment in UAE hospitals.

Arab News was on board the humanitarian mission that took off from Abu Dhabi to Al-Arish airport where patients arrived in Egyptian ambulances from Rafah.

Elderly cancer patients were taken on stretchers and wheelchairs, and delicately transported into the aircraft via hydraulic lifts.

UAE medics assess patients before delicately transporting them into the aircraft via hydraulic lift. (AN Photo: Mohammed Fawzy)

While the first three evacuation flights carried many children with trauma and some with cancer to the UAE, Friday’s flight mainly transported adult and children cancer patients, with only a few cases suffering from trauma injuries.

Weary, sleep-deprived and in pain, many of the patients received painkillers for the first time since the Oct. 7 conflict began, after Israeli bombardment caused a complete collapse of the health system in Gaza and pushed the enclave into a serious humanitarian crisis.

Intense bombing was reported across in Khan Younis and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday, killing hundreds shortly after the humanitarian truce collapsed.

Barakat detailed the long journeys that Gazans take to reach the Rafah crossing with Egypt amid the intense bombardment in the war zone. “Patients arriving today would have left Gaza to the Rafah border at 8:30 a.m. without proper food or drink. Some of them waited for security clearance to get through the border to Egypt until 5:30 p.m.

“By the time they arrived in Al-Arish airport, they were exhausted, and many of them were in pain.”

Elderly cancer patients from Gaza arrived to Al-Arish airport where boarded an aircraft to Abu Dhabi for treatment. (AN Photo: Mohammed Fawzy)

At Al-Arish airport, 50 km away from Rafah, Mohammed Abdel-Fattah, a paramedic from the Egyptian Ambulance Authority receiving Gaza patients for evacuation through the border, told Arab News about the intense bombardment at the Rafah crossing on Friday.

“Buildings on the Egyptian side of Rafah were heavily shaking from the bombardment,” he said.

 

Challenging evacuation process

A team of about 30 doctors, nurses and medics aided patients on board, liaising with another specialist UAE team on the ground in Egypt’s Al-Arish and Rafah. The ground team carries out preliminary assessments on patients arriving through the border.

The UAE has been working with partners like the Egyptian and Palestinian Red Crescents to identify and assess patients who can cross the Rafah border in what Barakat called a “complex and challenging process that takes a long time.”

She added: “Getting information on who can cross Rafah border and when is the most challenging part.”

Asked how people are selected for evacuation, Barakat said that UAE authorities receive a list of patients from the few hospitals still operating inside Gaza. Patients are then asked to head to the Rafah border, where only those who obtain a security clearance from Israeli and Egyptian authorities are allowed to leave Gaza.

 

“I didn’t think we’d survive”

Abdelrahman Hussam Zyada, 31, said he narrowly escaped death twice on his way to Rafah as a companion for his mother, a cancer patient with severe back and knee issues.

“We bid farewell to our relatives on Friday morning before we left for Rafah. By then, the truce had ended, and I asked them to pray for us whether we survive or die. And I don’t know if I will ever see them again,” said Zyada, who has lost more than 50 members of his family since Oct. 7.

Zyada’s planned journey to Rafah was supposed to take 20 to 30 minutes, but intense bombardment blocked several roads, forcing him and his mother to take alternative routes.

“I could not believe we would ever reach the border where we are welcomed by the paramedics and the Egyptian authorities, let alone arrive safely in the UAE,” he said.

His mother was receiving treatment at the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital, Gaza’s only cancer facility, which was damaged by Israeli strikes. She was referred to a hospital in Ramallah, but lacked the means to travel there due to the intensity of the war in Gaza.

The absence of medical care has seen her condition deteriorate, especially after the family was forced to move when their homes were flattened by airstrikes.

Zyada said his mother would not have stood a chance at survival if she was not evacuated for further treatment. “There are no hospitals or medicines. Nowhere is safe in Gaza.”

Abdelrahman Hussam Zyada recounted horrifying journey to Rafah border with his mother, a cancer patient evacuated from Gaza. (AN Photo: Mohammed Fawzy)

Amna Hashem Saeed, a pancreatic cancer patient who was also evacuated, had to bid farewell to her only daughter, who could not get through Rafah as her companion.

“My daughter remained at the border because she couldn’t immediately return home due to the intense bombing. Before I departed, she told me she was left with nothing, that she was only left to die,” Saeed recalled as she sobbed.

Saeed herself had previously failed to cross Rafah for treatment in Turkiye seven times due to the security situation. “Every time I headed to the border, I got sent back,” she said.

Her condition deteriorated when she could not receive chemotherapy, which is supposed to be repeated four times in two months. “I had no appetite to eat or sleep. I lost so much weight,” she added.

Saeed’s departure was filled with conflicted feelings. She felt relief over receiving treatment, but sadness for her husband, children and 23 grandchildren left behind in Gaza. “My husband had a stroke and he insisted I go for treatment and find happiness again. But there’s no happiness without them. I can’t imagine how my life would be without them,” she said.


Lebanon’s Hezbollah says fighter killed in south Lebanon

Updated 02 December 2023
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Lebanon’s Hezbollah says fighter killed in south Lebanon

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s heavily armed Hezbollah said in a statement that one of its fighters was killed in south Lebanon on Saturday, the day after the collapse of a truce between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas led hostilities to flare at the frontier.


Israel intensifies its assault on southern Gaza, causing renewed concern about civilian deaths

Updated 26 min 53 sec ago
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Israel intensifies its assault on southern Gaza, causing renewed concern about civilian deaths

  • First aid trucks enter Rafah crossing to Gaza since truce collapses
  • Hamas said Saturday that 240 people had been killed in the Palestinian territory since a pause in the fighting expired on Friday

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip: The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said the death toll has surpassed 15,200 and that 70 percent of those killed were women and children.
The figure was announced Saturday by ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra, who did not provide further details.
The previous toll given by the ministry was more than 13,300 dead. Al-Qidra did not explain the sharp jump. However, the ministry had only been able to provide sporadic updates since Nov. 11, amid problems with connectivity and major war-related disruptions in hospital operations. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.
More than 40,000 people have been wounded, Al-Qidra said.
Israel intensified a renewed offensive that followed a weeklong truce with Hamas, giving rise to renewed concerns about civilian casualties, even as the United States urged ally Israel to do everything possible to protect civilians.
“This is going to be very important going forward,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday after meetings with Arab foreign ministers in Dubai, wrapping up his third Middle East tour since the war started. “It’s something we’re going to be looking at very closely.”
Many of Israel’s attacks Saturday were focused on the Khan Younis area in southern Gaza, where the military said it had struck more than 50 Hamas targets with airstrikes, tank fire and its navy.
The military dropped leaflets the day before warning residents to leave but, as of late Friday, there had been no reports of large numbers of people leaving, according to the United Nations.
“There is no place to go,” lamented Emad Hajjar, who fled with his wife and three children from the northern town of Beit Lahia a month ago to seek refuge in Khan Younis.
“They expelled us from the north, and now they are pushing us to leave the south.”
Israel’s military said it also carried out strikes in the north, and hit more than 400 targets in all across the Gaza Strip.
Some 2 million people — almost Gaza’s entire population — are crammed into the territory’s south, where Israel urged people to relocate at the war’s start and has since vowed to extend its ground assault. Unable to go into north Gaza or neighboring Egypt, their only escape is to move around within the 220-square-kilometer (85-square-mile) area.
In response to US calls to protect civilians, the Israeli military released an online map, but it has done more to confuse than to help.
It divides the Gaza Strip into hundreds of numbered, haphazardly drawn parcels, sometimes across roads or blocks, and asks residents to learn the number of their location in case of an eventual evacuation.
“The publication does not specify where people should evacuate to,” the UN office for coordinating humanitarian issues in the Palestinian territory noted in its daily report. “It is unclear how those residing in Gaza would access the map without electricity and amid recurrent telecommunications cuts.”
In the first use of the map to order evacuations, Avichay Adraee, the Israeli military’s Arabic spokesperson, specified areas in the north and the south to be cleared out Saturday in posts on X, formerly Twitter.
Adraee listed numbered zones under evacuation order — but the highlighted areas on maps attached to his post did not match the numbered zones.
Egypt has expressed concerns the renewed offensive could cause Palestinians to try and cross into its territory. In a statement late Friday, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the forced transfer of Palestinians “is a red line.”
US Vice President Kamala Harris, who was in Dubai on Saturday for the COP28 climate conference, was expected to outline proposals with regional leaders to “put Palestinian voices at the center” of planning the next steps for the Gaza Strip after the conflict, according to the White House. US President Joe Biden’s administration has been emphasizing the need for an eventual two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian state coexisting.
The renewed hostilities have also heightened concerns for 136 hostages who, according to the Israeli military, are still held captive by Hamas and other militants after 105 were freed during the truce. For families of remaining hostages, the truce’s collapse was a blow to hopes their loved ones could be the next out after days of seeing others freed. The Israeli army said Friday it had confirmed the deaths of four more hostages, bringing the total known dead to seven.
During the truce, Israel freed 240 Palestinians from its prisons. Most of those released from both sides were women and children.
The war began after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas and other militants, who killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in southern Israel and took around 240 people captive.
After the end of the truce, militants in Gaza resumed firing rockets into Israel, and fighting broke out between Israel and Hezbollah militants operating along its northern border with Lebanon.


HUMANITARIAN AID HALT
Hundreds of thousands of people fled northern Gaza to Khan Younis and other parts of the south earlier in the war, part of an extraordinary mass exodus that has left three-quarters of the population displaced and facing widespread shortages of food, water and other supplies.
Since the resumption of hostilities, no aid convoys or fuel deliveries have entered Gaza, and humanitarian operations within Gaza have largely halted, according to the UN
The International Rescue Committee, an aid group operating in Gaza, warned the return of fighting will “wipe out even the minimal relief” provided by the truce and “prove catastrophic for Palestinian civilians.”
Up until the truce began, more than 13,300 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s assault, roughly two-thirds of them women and minors, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.
The toll is likely much higher, as officials have only sporadically updated the count since Nov. 11. The ministry says thousands more people are feared dead under the rubble.
Israel says it is targeting Hamas operatives and blames civilian casualties on the militants, accusing them of operating in residential neighborhoods. Israel says 77 of its soldiers have been killed in the ground offensive in northern Gaza. It claims to have killed thousands of militants, without providing evidence.


UN agency says inaction on Gaza amounts to ‘approval’ of killing children

Updated 02 December 2023
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UN agency says inaction on Gaza amounts to ‘approval’ of killing children

  • Israeli warplanes have resumed bombing Gaza after a week-old truce with Hamas ended
  • UNICEF spokesperson says resumption of war means ‘hell on Earth has returned to Gaza’

GENEVA: UNICEF has appealed for a lasting ceasefire to be implemented in Gaza, describing inaction as “an approval of the killing of children” after a week-old truce between Israel and Hamas collapsed.
“A lasting ceasefire must be implemented,” James Elder, spokesperson for UNICEF, told reporters via video link from Gaza.
“Inaction at its core is an approval of the killing of children.”
The UN described the hostilities as “catastrophic” and urged parties to bring about a lasting ceasefire.
Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN humanitarian office in Geneva, said the resumption of hostilities meant “hell on Earth has returned to Gaza.”
Israeli warplanes resumed bombing Gaza, sending Palestinian civilians fleeing for shelter, after a week-old truce ran out with no deal to extend it.
“The resumption of hostilities in Gaza is catastrophic,” said Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“I urge all parties and states with influence over them to redouble efforts, immediately, to ensure a ceasefire – on humanitarian and human rights grounds.”
In a post on X social media platform, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he regretted the resumption of hostilities and hoped a new pause could be established.
“The return to hostilities only shows how important it is to have a true humanitarian ceasefire,” he said.
Laerke said that the week-long truce had seen significantly larger humanitarian convoys entering densely populated Gaza, even reaching north of Wadi Gaza, which prior to the pause had received almost no supplies.
“With the resumption of war, we fear that the continuation of this (aid) is now in doubt,” he said.
“The Rafah crossing is closed as of now. We need a resumption of a humanitarian pause, not a return to war.”


Libya frees four Hamas members held since 2016: media

Security men guard the entrance to the Interior Ministry in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, on August 30, 2012. (AFP)
Updated 02 December 2023
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Libya frees four Hamas members held since 2016: media

  • Their release on Friday was reported by several Libyan media, which said that the men were freed at the request of the Libyan prosecutor’s office following Turkish mediation

TRIPOLI: Libyan authorities on Friday released four members of the Palestinian militant group Hamas who were arrested in 2016 on charges including trafficking arms to Gaza, according to Libyan media.
The four men — Marwan Al-Ashqar, his son Baraa, Mouayad Abed and Nasib Choubeir — were detained in Tripoli in October 2016.
Their arrest was made public by the Libyan prosecutor’s office a few months later.
In February 2019, they were sentenced by a Tripoli court to terms ranging from 17 to 22 years in prison, according to Libyan media, on charges of arms trafficking and spying.
Their release on Friday was reported by several Libyan media, which said that the men were freed at the request of the Libyan prosecutor’s office following Turkish mediation.
There was no immediate official confirmation of their release, including from the government of Tripoli-based Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah.
Reports said the four men, who were incarcerated in the Mitiga detention center in Tripoli, left for Turkiye then Qatar, which hosts Hamas’s political leadership.
An unverified image, shared on social media, showed three men in what appeared to be a private jet.
Their reported release comes against the backdrop of a nearly eight-week-old war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The fighting was triggered by an unprecedented attack by Hamas on Israel on October 7 during which about 1,200 people were killed, mostly civilians, and around 240 taken hostage, according to Israeli authorities.
The Hamas government in Gaza says Israeli retaliatory strikes have killed more than 15,000 people, also mostly civilians.
Thrown into chaos since the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, Libya is split between Dbeibah’s United Nations-supported government in the west and a rival administration in the east backed by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.