Israel destroys media building in Gaza as conflict rages on, death toll rises

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Smoke billows as a bomb is dropped on the Jala Tower during an Israeli airstrike in Gaza city controlled by the Palestinian Hamas movement, on May 15, 2021. (AFP)
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Smoke billows above buildings after an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City in the Gaza Strip early on May 15, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 15 May 2021
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Israel destroys media building in Gaza as conflict rages on, death toll rises

  • The strike came nearly an hour after the military ordered people to evacuate the building
  • In east Jerusalem, video showed young Jewish nationalists firing pistols at Palestinians

GAZA: An Israeli airstrike destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza City that housed offices of The Associated Press and other media outlets on Saturday, the latest step by the military to silence reporting from the territory amid its battle with the militant group Hamas.
The strike came nearly an hour after the military ordered people to evacuate the building, which also housed Al-Jazeera, other offices and residential apartments. The strike brought the entire 12-story building down, collapsing with a gigantic cloud of dust. There was no immediate explanation for why it was attacked.
The strike came hours after another Israeli air raid on a densely populated refugee camp in Gaza City killed at least 10 Palestinians from an extended family, mostly children, in the deadliest single strike of the current conflict. Both sides pressed for an advantage as cease-fire efforts gathered strength.
The latest outburst of violence began in Jerusalem and has spread across the region, with Jewish-Arab clashes and rioting in mixed cities of Israel. There were also widespread Palestinian protests Friday in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot and killed 11 people.


The spiraling violence has raised fears of a new Palestinian “intifada,” or uprising at a time when there have been no peace talks in years. Palestinians on Saturday were marking Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, when they commemorate the estimated 700,000 people who were expelled from or fled their homes in what was now Israel during the 1948 war surrounding its creation. That raised the possibility of even more unrest.
US diplomat Hady Amr arrived Friday as part of Washington’s efforts to de-escalate the conflict, and the U.N. Security Council was set to meet Sunday. But Israel turned down an Egyptian proposal for a one-year truce that Hamas rulers had accepted, an Egyptian official said Friday on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations.
Since Monday night, Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, which has pounded the Gaza Strip with strikes. In Gaza, at least 139 people have been killed, including 39 children and 22 women; in Israel, eight people have been killed, including the death Saturday of a man killed by a rocket that hit in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv.
The strike on the building housing media offices came in the afternoon, after the building's owner received a call from the Israeli military warning that it would be hit. AP's staff and others in the building evacuated immediately.
Al-Jazeera, the news network funded by Qatar’s government, broadcast the airstrikes live as the building collapsed.
“This channel will not be silence. Al-Jazeera will not be silenced,” an on-air anchorwoman said, her voice thick with emotion. “We can guarantee you that right now.”
Earlier Saturday, an airstrike hit a three-story house in Gaza City’s Shati refugee camp, killing eight children and two women from an extended family.
Mohammed Hadidi told reporters his wife and five children had gone to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday with relatives. She and three of the children, aged 6 to 14, were killed, while an 11-year-old is missing. Only his 5-month-old son Omar is known to have survived.


Children’s toys and a Monopoly board game could be seen among the rubble, as well as plates of uneaten food from the holiday gathering.
“There was no warning,” said Jamal Al-Naji, a neighbor living in the same building. “You filmed people eating and then you bombed them?” he said, addressing Israel. “Why are you confronting us? Go and confront the strong people!”
The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Hamas said it fired a salvo of rockets at southern Israel in response to the airstrike.
A furious Israeli barrage early Friday killed a family of six in their house and sent thousands fleeing to UN-run shelters. The military said the operation involved 160 warplanes dropping some 80 tons of explosives over the course of 40 minutes and succeeded in destroying a vast tunnel network used by Hamas.


Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, said the military aims to minimize collateral damage in striking military targets. But measures it takes in other strikes, such as warning shots to get civilians to leave, were not “feasible this time.”
Israeli media said the military believed dozens of militants were killed inside the tunnels. The Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups have confirmed 20 deaths in their ranks, but the military said the real number is far higher.
Gaza’s infrastructure, already in widespread disrepair because of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after Hamas seized power in 2007, showed signs of breaking down further, compounding residents’ misery. The territory’s sole power plant is at risk of running out of fuel in the coming days.
The UN said Gazans are already enduring daily power cuts of 8-12 hours and at least 230,000 have limited access to tap water. The impoverished and densely populated territory is home to 2 million Palestinians, most of them the descendants of refugees from what is now Israel.
The conflict has reverberated widely. Israeli cities with mixed Arab and Jewish populations have seen nightly violence, with mobs from each community fighting in the streets and trashing each other’s property.
Late on Friday, someone threw a firebomb at an Arab family’s home in the Ajami neighborhood of Tel Aviv, striking two children. A 12-year-old boy was in moderate condition with burns on his upper body and a 10-year-old girl was treated for a head injury, according to the Magen David Adom rescue service.
In the occupied West Bank, on the outskirts of Ramallah, Nablus and other towns and cities, hundreds of Palestinians protested the Gaza campaign and Israeli actions in Jerusalem. Waving Palestinian flags, they trucked in tires that they set up in burning barricades and hurled stones at Israeli soldiers. At least 10 protesters were shot and killed by soldiers. An 11th Palestinian was killed when he tried to stab a soldier at a military position.


In east Jerusalem, online video showed young Jewish nationalists firing pistols as they traded volleys of stones with Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, which became a flashpoint for tensions over attempts by settlers to forcibly evict a number of Palestinian families from their homes.
On Israel’s northern border, troops opened fire when a group of Lebanese and Palestinian protesters on the other side cut through the border fence and briefly crossed. One Lebanese was killed. Three rockets were fired toward Israel from neighboring Syria without causing any casualties or damage. It was not immediately known who fired them.
The tensions began in east Jerusalem earlier this month, with Palestinian protests against the Sheikh Jarrah evictions and Israeli police measures at Al-Aqsa Mosque, a frequent flashpoint located on a mount in the Old City revered by Muslims and Jews.
Hamas fired rockets toward Jerusalem late Monday, in an apparent attempt to present itself as the champion of the protesters.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that Hamas will “pay a very heavy price” for its rocket attacks as Israel has massed troops at the frontier. U.S. President Joe Biden has expressed support for Israel while saying he hopes to bring the violence under control.
Hamas has fired some 2,000 rockets toward Israel since Monday, according to the Israeli military. Most have been intercepted by anti-missile defenses, but they have brought life to a standstill in southern Israeli cities, caused disruptions at airports and have set off air raid sirens in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.


US envoy due in Beirut to continue de-escalation talks

Updated 12 sec ago
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US envoy due in Beirut to continue de-escalation talks

BEIRUT: US envoy Amos Hochstein will visit Beirut on Monday to continue diplomatic efforts aimed at de-escalating the conflict across the Lebanese-Israeli border and bringing stability, a senior Lebanese official and a White House official said on Sunday.
The Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah and Israel have been locked in hostilities for months in parallel to the Gaza war. It has marked the worst conflict between the heavily armed adversaries since a 2006 war, fueling fears of an even bigger confrontation.
Lebanon deputy parliament speaker Elias Bou Saab, one of the officials due to meet Hochstein, told Reuters he believed the timing of his visit pointed to progress in efforts to secure a Gaza truce “within the next few hours or days.”
“If this happens, I believe that Hochstein’s visit this time will be of great importance to follow up on the truce on our southern borders and to discuss what is needed for stability and ending the possibility of the expansion of the war with Lebanon,” he said.
The White House official did not offer further details about the visit.
Washington has said a ceasefire deal in the Gaza war is close and is aiming to have it be in effect by the start of Ramadan, a week away.
Israel however boycotted talks in Cairo on Sunday after Hamas rejected its demand for a complete list of hostages that are still alive, an Israeli newspaper reported.
Hezbollah has publicly indicated that it would halt its attacks on Israel from Lebanon when the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip stops, but that it was also ready to keep on fighting if Israel continued hostilities.
Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati told Reuters on Thursday that a halt to fighting in the Gaza Strip as early as this week would trigger indirect talks to end hostilities along Lebanon’s southern border with Israel.
Bou Saab said Hochstein had “serious ideas that may provide the beginning of a sustainable solution, stability, and banishing the spectre of war that will not be in anyone’s interest.”
Hochstein, who visited Beirut in January, previously brokered a rare diplomatic deal between Lebanon and Israel in 2022 to delineate their maritime border.
Designated a terrorist group by the United States, Hezbollah has not been a direct party to his diplomatic efforts. Instead his ideas have been passed on by Lebanese mediators. The group wields significant influence over the Lebanese state.
The Gaza war began when Hamas stormed Israel on Oct. 7, in an attack that killed 1,200 people and resulted in another 253 being abducted, according to Israeli tallies.
More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip in the Israeli offensive launched in response, according to Gaza health authorities.

Abbas to discuss intra-Palestinian dialogue in Ankara

Updated 22 min 43 sec ago
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Abbas to discuss intra-Palestinian dialogue in Ankara

  • The Israeli military said on Sunday it intensified operations in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, destroying dozens of militant targets in a blitz of air and artillery strikes

ANKARA: Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas will visit Turkiye on Tuesday for talks about the Gaza war and reconciliation efforts between Palestinian factions, the Turkish foreign minister said.
The visit comes as intensive diplomacy is underway to pause the fighting in the almost five-month-old war between Israel and Hamas sparked by the Oct. 7 attacks.
Turkiye’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said: “There is a serious desire and effort to reach a ceasefire before Ramadan,” in closing remarks to an annual diplomacy forum in the Mediterranean holiday resort of Antalya.
Fidan confirmed that Abbas would visit Ankara on Tuesday at the invitation of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a vocal advocate of the Palestinian cause.
Both leaders would discuss “the developments in Palestine, the current course of the war as well as the intra-Palestinian dialogue, Fidan said.
Hamas is a rival of Abbas’s Fatah faction that rules the semi-autonomous Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank.
It ousted Fatah from Gaza in 2007 following its landslide victory in the previous Palestinian parliamentary elections.
Erdogan has become one of the harshest critics of Israel’s war in Gaza.
He has branded Israel a “terrorist state” and compared Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler while calling Hamas “a liberation group.”
The Israeli military said on Sunday it intensified operations in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, destroying dozens of militant targets in a blitz of air and artillery strikes.
The air force and artillery hit about 50 targets within six minutes, it said, in a bid to “intensify operational achievements in the area.”
“During the strikes, the troops destroyed terrorist infrastructure and eliminated Hamas terrorists who were operating from civilian facilities in urban areas,” it said.
Residents in the area said they were surprised by the swift advancement of Israeli tanks, which sparked fresh battles with gunmen.
In one housing project some families took to social media, saying they were unable to leave their homes with the tanks in the streets.
Islamic Jihad said it attacked two tanks with rockets and blew up a building where soldiers had entered.
Khan Younis has been a focus of Israel’s military offensive in recent weeks.

 


Maintaining GCC-Egypt diplomatic links vital to regional security: Egyptian foreign minister

Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry speaks in Riyadh.
Updated 03 March 2024
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Maintaining GCC-Egypt diplomatic links vital to regional security: Egyptian foreign minister

  • Gulf ministers briefed on breakdown in talks over Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

CAIRO: Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry on Sunday highlighted the importance of Cairo maintaining its strong links with Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

His comments came as he took part in a joint consultative meeting of Egypt and GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh.

In a speech, Shoukry noted the increased significance of political consultation in tackling key issues of mutual concern and the shared social and economic strategic interests of Egypt and council member nations.

He also pointed out that solid relations between the parties were vital in working toward stability in the region and dealing with the ongoing crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Ahmed Abu Zeid, spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that during the meeting in the Saudi capital, Shoukry warned of the disastrous humanitarian repercussions of any ground military operation by Israel in the city of Rafah and the threat such action would pose to regional security.

And he called on Israel to stop obstructing the access of humanitarian aid to the Strip.

The Egyptian minister also discussed with his GCC counterparts continued Iran-backed Houthi attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea, along with the latest situations in Libya, Sudan, Syria, and Somalia.

Regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Shoukry highlighted what he described as Ethiopia’s uncompromising approach to tackling project issues with its neighbors, a stance that had led Cairo to withdraw from negotiations.

GCC Secretary-General Jasem Al-Budaiwi said it was crucial that Arab nations cooperated in dealing with regional challenges including bringing about a Gaza ceasefire and ensuring Nile water security for Egypt and Sudan.


Egyptian envoy highlights support for Lebanon stability efforts

Alaa Moussa participates in a meeting of ambassadors of five-nation group in Lebanon with caretaker PM Najib Mikati.
Updated 03 March 2024
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Egyptian envoy highlights support for Lebanon stability efforts

  • The ambassador emphasized Egypt’s support for electing a new president for Lebanon 16 months after the position became vacant
  • He also stressed the urgency of completing this process due to the regional situation

CAIRO: Alaa Moussa, Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon, participated in a meeting of the ambassadors of the five-nation group in Lebanon with caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and ambassadors from Saudi Arabia, France, the US, and Qatar.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cairo said Egypt participated in the meeting to support Lebanon and promote its stability.

The ambassador emphasized Egypt’s support for electing a new president for Lebanon 16 months after the position became vacant.

He also stressed the urgency of completing this process due to the regional situation.

Moussa and other ambassadors emphasized the five-nation group’s role: to assist Lebanese parties in reaching a fair and transparent agreement on electing the president through dialogue or consultation.

The five-nation group will not interfere with the appointment of the next Lebanese president, which is the exclusive role of the Lebanese parliament.

Mikati said he appreciated the five countries’ efforts to support Lebanon in facing its current challenges.

He also said electing a new president is crucial in completing Lebanon’s state institutions and implementing necessary political and economic reforms to overcome the current crises.

The Arab and international community launched the coordination framework last year to support Lebanon, which has been without a president since the end of former President Michel Aoun’s term in October 2022.


Houthis vow to sink more UK ships in the Red Sea 

UK-owned vessel Rubymar, which had sunk in the Red Sea after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile fired by Houthis.
Updated 03 March 2024
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Houthis vow to sink more UK ships in the Red Sea 

  • The US military confirmed on Saturday that the UK-owned vessel Rubymar had sunk after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia vowed on Sunday to target more UK ships in the Red Sea, despite growing worldwide outrage over the sinking of a vessel carrying thousands of tonnes of fertilizer. 

Hussein Al-Ezzi, the group’s deputy foreign minister, said that its forces would continue sinking ships in the Red Sea, even if it meant causing an ecological disaster off Yemen’s coasts. He also blamed the UK for participating in US-led strikes against Houthi areas, as well as supporting Israel’s war in the Gaza Strip.

Al-Ezzi said in a post on X: “Yemen will continue to sink more British ships, and any repercussions or other damage will be added to Britain’s bill, as it is a rogue state that attacks Yemen and partners with America in sponsoring the ongoing crime against civilians in Gaza.”

The Houthi threats came a day after the Yemeni government and the US Central Command announced that the Belize-flagged Rubymar, which was hit by the militia’s missiles last month, sank with a cargo of more than 21,000 tonnes of fertilizer, raising concerns about possible environmental disaster for Red Sea coral reefs, along with shipping using the route.

The Houthis said that the ship was owned by the UK and was targeted in retribution for the country’s strikes on Yemen, as well as its backing for Israel’s blockade and bombing of Gaza.

The Houthis have seized the commercial ship Galaxy Leader and launched hundreds of drones and missile strikes against commercial and naval vessels in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab, and the Gulf of Aden, since November.

The group says it has banned any Israel-bound ships from passing across the Red Sea in order to force Israel to allow humanitarian assistance into the besieged Gaza Strip.

Yemen’s Minister of Transport Abdul Salam Humaid said in a statement on Saturday that he had asked the Regional Organization for the Conservation of the Environment of the Red Sea & Gulf of Aden, based in Jeddah, and other marine conservation bodies for assistance in containing any pollution from the ship, as well as help in forming a legal commission to force the ship’s owners to remove the vessel and its cargo.

The US Central Command said on Sunday that the ship’s cargo of ammonium phosphate sulfate fertilizer constituted a hazard to nautical life, and that the sinking ship was also a risk to other vessels passing through the Red Sea.

The US military said in a statement: “As the ship sinks, it also presents a subsurface impact risk to other ships transiting the busy shipping lanes of the waterway. The Houthis pose a heightened threat to global maritime activities.”

Despite worldwide condemnation and warnings about the consequences of its actions, the Houthis have renewed threats to obstruct a rescue mission for the ship prior to humanitarian aid arriving in Gaza.

Yemen’s Houthi leader Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi blamed the sinking of the Rubymar on UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his government, saying on Saturday that his group would only let the world rescue the ship if Israel lifted its siege of Gaza.

Al-Houthi said on X: “We say to Sunak, you and your government are responsible for the (sinking of the) ship MV Rubymar, as well as for supporting genocide and the blockade of Gaza.”

The militia has said it would release the crew of the Galaxy Leader if requested to do so by Hamas.

Nasr Al-Din Amer, a Houthi media official, said: “Given that the crew was operating on a ship related to Israel, their governments may make a request to the brothers in the Hamas organization, and if they accept, we have no objections.”