Israel’s bombardment of Jabalia seen as only the latest horror to befall the Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza

Palestinians examine the aftermath of an Israeli strike the previous night in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
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Updated 19 December 2023
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Israel’s bombardment of Jabalia seen as only the latest horror to befall the Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza

  • At least 210 Palestinians were killed in recent IDF strikes on the refugee camp, drawing international condemnation
  • Since it was established by UNRWA in 1948, impoverished, overcrowded Jabalia has seen repeated raids and uprisings

LONDON: Israeli airstrikes on the largest and most densely populated of Gaza’s eight refugee camps, Jabalia, in recent days have killed at least 210 Palestinians, injured hundreds more, and left scores of people buried beneath the rubble of their homes.

Few of the families who live in the overcrowded camp, established by the UN northeast of Gaza City in 1948, have known anything but violence and privations of war. Now, under relentless Israeli bombardment, they have nowhere to run.

On Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, heavy bombardment by the Israel Defense Forces leveled entire housing blocks in the Jabalia camp, killing at least 195 Palestinians and injuring more than 777.

Israel said it was targeting Ibrahim Biari, a key Hamas commander, as part of the IDF’s mission to destroy the Palestinian militant group responsible for the Oct. 7 attacks on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,400 people and the abduction of 240 others.




Israel said it had attacked the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza. (Reuters)

In a briefing after the bombing, IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari claimed Biari had played a key role in planning the Oct. 7 attacks using a network of tunnels burrowed beneath the refugee camp, which Israeli officials have dubbed the “metro.”

The two Israeli attacks on Jabalia were followed by a third major bombardment on Saturday, which killed at least 15 people. According to the health ministry of Gaza, which is governed by Hamas, the death toll in the beleaguered enclave since Oct. 7 has now surpassed 10,000. The actual figure, including both civilians and combatants, is believed to be much higher.

The attacks on Jabalia have sparked widespread condemnation, with Bahrain and Jordan expelling Israeli ambassadors and recalling their own.

Saudi Arabia denounced “in the strongest terms possible” the “inhumane targeting” of the refugee camp, while the UAE said the persistence of the “senseless bombing” will have difficult-to-remedy repercussions for the region.

Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said he was “appalled over the escalating violence in Gaza” and the “Israeli airstrikes in residential areas of the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp.”

US Senator Bernie Sanders described the situation as “one of the more horrific moments in modern history,” calling for the cessation of Israel’s “indiscriminate” killing of civilians in Gaza.

Othman Moqbel, head of the UK-based humanitarian aid agency Action for Humanity, told Arab News his NGO was “horrified and devastated by the news of the Jabalia massacre” in Gaza.




The attacks on Jabalia have sparked widespread condemnation. (AFP)

He said the death toll was expected to rise as rescue teams continued to search through the rubble for survivors and to retrieve bodies.

The 1.4 square-kilometer Jabalia refugee camp is home to 116,000 residents, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency, most of whom are descendants of the Palestinian families who fled their homes in the wake of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

Nadia Naser-Najjab, a senior lecturer in Palestine studies at the UK’s University of Exeter, told Arab News that amid the ongoing Gaza carnage, the residents of Jabalia were “in a state of helplessness, knowing that even if they attempt to flee to southern Gaza, they would be targeted and killed either on the way there or wherever they take shelter.”

Early in the conflict, Israel had urged Gazan civilians to leave their homes and seek sanctuary in the south of the Gaza Strip while the IDF conducted bombing raids and ground operations against Hamas in the north.

However, a recent analysis by BBC Verify found that Israel had bombed areas in Gaza where it had previously directed Palestinian civilians to evacuate for their safety.

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Of course, displacement is not a new experience for Gazans, particularly those in Jabalia and other camps.

“These refugees were expelled from other parts of southern Palestine, such as the cities known today as Ashkelon and Sderot, during the Nakba,” Naser-Najjab said, referring to the mass displacement that followed the 1948 war.

“UNRWA built them eight camps in Gaza to home them and look after them.”

Naser-Najjab pointed out that the refugee issue should have been resolved through a political solution long ago, but the Oslo Accords of 1993 never addressed the matter. “Israel never agreed to solve the refugee problem in a just way,” she added.




At least 210 Palestinians were killed in the attack on the camp. (AFP)

“Instead, Israel suggested relocating a number of refugees to the territories under the Palestinian Authority’s administration.”

The 17-year blockade of the Gaza Strip only compounded the misery of the Jabalia camp population. Issues identified by UNRWA include high rates of unemployment, prolonged power cuts, contaminated water, extreme overcrowding, and a lack of construction materials to expand living spaces or repair the damage caused by previous Israeli attacks.

Jabalia has suffered repeated blows over the 75 years since its establishment, earning it the moniker “the camp of resilience,” Mohammed Solieman, a former history professor at the University of Leeds, in England, told Arab News.

The first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, against Israel began in the Jabalia camp in December 1987. It concluded with the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, which initiated direct talks between the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships.

FASTFACTS

• The Jabalia refugee camp was established by UNRWA in 1948.

• 116,000 people are crammed into the 1.4 sq-km camp.

• Israeli attacks on Jabalia have sparked strong Arab condemnation.

The camp also bore the brunt of an Israeli military offensive in March 2003, when tanks, armored vehicles, fighter jets, and helicopter gunships were deployed, according to media reports at the time. At least 11 Palestinians were reportedly killed and 140 wounded in that offensive.

Another large-scale IDF operation, which took place in September and October 2004, targeted the Jabalia camp as well as the town of Beit Hanoun. Fifteen homes were flattened, according to UNRWA, and international humanitarian staff were prevented from entering Gaza.

During the 2014 Gaza war, Israeli fighter jets bombed a school managed by UNRWA that had been sheltering displaced Palestinians, killing at least 20 and injuring more than 150, according to media reports citing Gaza health officials.




An overview of the Jabalia refugee camp and the destruction in the same camp after it was hit by an Israeli strike. (AFP/Maxar)

Jabalia had been “one of the most prominent educational areas in the Gaza Strip as it is home to UNRWA schools,” Solieman said. According to UNRWA’s figures, the camp has 26 schools, two health centers, and a public library.

Residents have again taken refuge in UNRWA schools, which have not been spared Israeli bombardment. On Saturday, the IDF struck the UNRWA-run Al-Fakhoura School, killing at least 15 people and injuring 54, according to local media.

Naser-Najjab said: “After every war on Gaza, the international community holds conferences and decides to rebuild the Strip.

“What is often offered is humanitarian aid, which is necessary and important, but no political solution.”

She urged the international community to “examine what is happening today within the historical context to find a right and just solution for Gaza’s population.”

Citing events in the early 1970s, when Israel demolished homes in Rafah under the pretext of widening roads, displacing 16,000 Palestinians, Naser-Najjab said she believed the Israelis intended to push the Palestinians of Gaza into Egypt’s Sinai.




Jabalia has suffered repeated blows over the 75 years since its establishment, earning it the moniker “the camp of resilience.” (AFP/Getty Images)

In 1971, many people from the Gaza Strip “were forced into Sinai, where Canada Camp was established,” she added.

After the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, known as the 1978 Camp David Accords, a number of families returned to Gaza from Sinai.

“This is the context of what is happening today. Israel is attempting to drive the people of Gaza into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, offering it as the sole solution to the humanitarian crisis.”

Israeli airstrikes since the launch of the IDF’s military campaign in Gaza have targeted several of the northern enclave’s eight refugee camps, including Al-Shati, Nuseirat, and Al-Maghazi, as well as Jabalia.

An overnight attack on Al-Maghazi camp on Saturday killed at least 47 people and injured more than 100, while many others remain trapped under rubble, according to local media.




Israel attacked the Jabalia refugee camp in Gaza on Oct. 31, 2023. (Reuters)

Humanitarian aid agencies have repeatedly called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza to assist the civilian population, including those trapped in Jabalia.

Action for Humanity’s Moqbel said: “Nearly every day (for weeks now), we have called for a ceasefire, for increased humanitarian access, and for the recognition of international humanitarian law to protect the lives of innocents in this catastrophic conflict.

“We are advocating for the same actions now, and will continue to do so, until all lives are protected.”


Iran condemns Israeli attack on Yemen’s Hodeida port

Updated 6 sec ago
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Iran condemns Israeli attack on Yemen’s Hodeida port

TEHRAN: Iran has condemned Israel’s deadly retaliatory strike on the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeida in Yemen that the rebels say killed six people and wounded dozens more.
Late on Saturday, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani “strongly condemned” the attack saying it was “an expression of the aggressive behavior of the child-killing Israeli regime“
Israeli warplanes on Saturday struck the vital port of Hodeida in response to a deadly drone attack by the Iran-backed Houthis on Tel Aviv, which killed one civilian.
The Houthi rebels have since threatened a “huge” retaliation against Israel.
Kanani added that Israel and its supporters, including the United States, were “directly responsible for the dangerous and unpredictable consequences of the continued crimes in Gaza, as well as the attacks on Yemen.”
Regional tensions have soared since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October, drawing in Iran-backed militant groups in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen.
Yemen’s Houthi rebels, along with the Hezbollah group in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza are part of a Tehran-aligned “axis of resistance” against Israel and its allies.
The Islamic republic has reiterated support for the groups but insisted they were independent in their decision-making and actions.

Iraq to import electricity from Turkiye

Updated 21 July 2024
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Iraq to import electricity from Turkiye

  • PM Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani said the new line is a “strategic” step to link Iraq with neighboring countries

BAGHDAD: Iraq said Sunday a new power line will bring electricity from Turkiye to its northern provinces as authorities aim to diversify the country’s energy sources to ease chronic power outages.
The 115-kilometer (71-mile) line connects to Kisik power plant west of Mosul and will provide 300 megawatts from Turkiye to Iraq’s northern provinces of Nineveh, Salah Al-Din and Kirkuk, according to a statement by the prime minister’s office.
PM Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani said the new line is a “strategic” step to link Iraq with neighboring countries.
“The line started operating today,” Ahmed Moussa, spokesperson for the electricity ministry, told AFP.
Decades of war have left Iraq’s infrastructure in a pitiful state, with power cuts worsening the blistering summer when temperatures often reach 50 Celsius (122 Fahrenheit).
Many households have just a few hours of mains electricity per day, and those who can afford it use private generators to keep fridges and air conditioners running.
Despite its vast oil reserves, Iraq remains dependent on imports to meet its energy needs, especially from neighboring Iran, which regularly cuts supplies.
Sudani has repeatedly stressed the need for Iraq to diversify energy sources to ease the chronic outages.
To reduce its dependence on Iranian gas, Baghdad has been exploring several possibilities including imports from Gulf countries.
In March, a 340-kilometer (210-mile) power line started operating to bring electricity from Jordan to Al-Rutbah in Iraq’s southwest.


Yemen’s Hodeida battles port blaze after deadly Israel strike

Updated 21 July 2024
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Yemen’s Hodeida battles port blaze after deadly Israel strike

  • Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said the militia’s “response to the Israeli aggression against our country is inevitably coming and will be huge.”
  • The strike killed six people and wounded 80, many of them with severe burns

HODEIDA: Firefighting teams on Sunday were still battling a blaze at the Houthi-run port in Yemen’s Hodeida, hours after an Israeli strike on the harbor triggered a massive fire and killed six people, according to the militia.
Saturday’s strike on the vital port, a key entry point for fuel and humanitarian aid, is the first claimed by Israel in the Arabian peninsula’s poorest country, about 2,000 kilometers (1,300 miles) away.
It killed six people and wounded 80, many of them with severe burns, the rebel-run health ministry said in a statement carried by Houthi media.

On Sunday, Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said the militia’s “response to the Israeli aggression against our country is inevitably coming and will be huge.” 

Israel said it carried out the strike in response to a drone attack by the Houthis on Tel Aviv which killed one person on Friday.
More operations against the Houthis would follow “if they dare to attack us,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said.
Following the strike, the Israeli military said Sunday it intercepted a missile fired from Yemen toward the Red Sea resort town of Eilat, noting that “the projectile did not cross into Israeli territory.”
Saree, the Houthi spokesman, said the militia had fired ballistic missiles toward Eilat, the latest in a string of Houthi attempts to hit the port city.
The militia announcement came as firefighters struggled to contain the blaze at the Hodeida port, with thick plumes of black smoke shrouding the sky above the city, said an AFP correspondent in the area.
Fuel storage tanks and a power plant at the port where still ablaze amid “slow” firefighting efforts, said a Hodeida port employee.
The port employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for security concerns, said it could take days to contain the fire, a view echoed by Yemen experts.
“There is concern that the poorly equipped firefighters may not be able to contain the spreading fire, which could continue for days,” said Mohammed Albasha, senior Middle East analyst for the US-based Navanti Group, warning that it could reach food storage facilities at the harbor.
Hodeida port, a vital entry point for fuel imports and international aid for militia-held areas of Yemen, had remained largely untouched through the decade-long war between the Houthis and the internationally recognized government propped up by neighboring Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis control swathes of Yemen, including much of its Red Sea coast, and the war has left millions of Yemenis dependent on aid supplied through the port.
Despite Houthi assurances of sufficient fuel stocks, Saturday’s strike triggered fears of worsening shortages, which war-weary Yemenis are ill-equiped to handle.
The attack is “going to have dire humanitarian effects on the millions of ordinary Yemenis living in Houthi-held Yemen,” Nicholas Brumfield, a Yemen expert, said on social media platform X.
It will drive up prices of fuel but also any goods carried by truck, the analyst said.
Yemen’s internationally-recognized government, which has been battling the Houthis for nearly a decade, condemned the strike, and held Israel responsible for a worsening humanitarian crisis.
A statement carried by the official Saba news agency said the Yemeni government holds “the Zionist entity fully responsible for any repercussions resulting from its air strikes, including the deepening of a humanitarian crises.”
It also warned the huthi militia against dragging the country into “senseless battles that serve the interests of the Iranian regime and its expansionist project in the region.”


‘Deeply concerned’ UN chief calls for restraint after Israel’s attack on Yemen

Updated 21 July 2024
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‘Deeply concerned’ UN chief calls for restraint after Israel’s attack on Yemen

  • The internationally recognised government of Yemen also condemned Israel's airstrikes as a violation of international laws

DUBAI: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed deep concern over Israel’s airstrikes on Saturday in and around the port of Hodeidah in Yemen.

Guterres called on all parties to “avoid attacks that could harm civilians and damage civilian infrastructure.”

In a statement, the secretary-general said that he “remains deeply concerned about the risk of further escalation in the region and continues to urge all to exercise utmost restraint.”

Israel’s stike on Hodeidah, apparently in retaliation for the Houthi drone strike on Tel Aviv earlier this week, left several dead and more than 80 people injured.

Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV reported that Israeli planes struck a power plant and a fuel storage facility.

Meanwhile, the internationally recognised government of Yemen on Sunday condemned Israel's airstrikes as a violation of international laws, holding Israel responsible for worsening the humanitarian crisis and strengthening Houthi militias.

The government, in a statement, urged the Houthis to prioritize national interests and engage in peace, while calling on the international community to support Yemen's authority and implement Resolution 2216.

The government also reiterated support for the Palestinian people and called for an end to Israeli aggression.


Jordan’s army shoots down drone carrying drugs from Syria

Updated 21 July 2024
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Jordan’s army shoots down drone carrying drugs from Syria

AMMAN: Jordanian military authorities foiled an attempt to use a drone to smuggle narcotics into the kingdom from Syria, state news agency Petra reported.

A military official on Saturday said that forces shot down the drone inside Jordanian territory.

“Border guard forces in the eastern military region, in coordination with the security services and the Anti-Narcotics Department, detected an attempt by a drone to cross the border illegally from Syrian territory to Jordanian territory,” the statement read.

The seized items were confiscated and transferred to the relevant authorities.