How Israel’s bombing campaign endangers Gaza’s archaeological treasures

Saint Hilarion, in the center of Gaza, is an ancient Roman necropolis that is emblematic of the coastal enclave’s underdeveloped, archaeological treasures. (AFP/file)
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Updated 28 November 2023

How Israel’s bombing campaign endangers Gaza’s archaeological treasures

  • Latest Israel-Hamas war has not only killed innocent civilians but also damaged sites of ancient and modern history
  • Enclave located close to holy places of Christianity, Islam and Judaism and on ancient Egypt-Levant trade routes

DUBAI: Steeped in more than 5,000 years of history, Gaza has long been an archaeological treasure trove, with workers at construction sites regularly uncovering ancient gems.

Discoveries such as the monastery of Saint Hilarion, and Tel Umm el-Amr, arguably Gaza’s largest archaeological site, are perhaps unsurprising given Gaza’s proximity to holy places of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, three of the world’s biggest religions.

Gaza’s historical significance stems also from its location on ancient trade routes between Egypt and the Levant.

But with the past seven weeks of Israeli bombardment, there is growing concern over the future for both those sites uncovered and the ones yet to be discovered.

French archaeologists, Dominique M. Cabaret and Jean-Baptiste Humbert at the French Palestinian archaeological storage in Gaza City. (File photo by Fadel Al-Utol, 2021)

According to the Gaza-based Endowments and Religious Affairs Ministry, over 31 mosques have been destroyed and more than three churches severely damaged since fighting began in the wake of the deadly Oct. 7 raid by Hamas in southern Israel.

“Human life is more important than artifacts,” Jean-Michel de Tarragon, archivist for The Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, a former professor of history at the Sorbonne and an archaeologist who excavated in Gaza from 1995-2005, told Arab News.

The pause since 2005 has been no coincidence. While the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords had made the work of archaeologists easier, de Tarragon said Hamas’ success in the 2006 Palestinian legislative election led to his team’s departure from the enclave.

(Hamas fighters took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 from Fatah officials of the Palestinian National Authority, which led to the de-facto division of the Occupied Palestinian territories into two entities).

De Tarragon said the current war, which has seen the seashore “heavily bombed, seems to have completely destroyed the Greek Anthedon.”

Located on the Mediterranean coast in northwest Gaza, Anthedon was the region’s first sea port and had been inhabited from 800 BC to 1100AD, housing a variety of cultures from the Babylonian to the early Islamic period.

“From a historical point of view, during the period of late antiquity, Gaza was the sea port of the Nabataean trade network. It was the port of Petra, now Jordan, and also of AlUla, in Saudi Arabia, for ships heading in the direction of Rome and the Roman Empire,” he said.

Gaza-born and Dubai-based artist Hazem Harb, with artwork. (Supplied)

“As the secondary city of Gaza, Anthedon was very important. Another port, called Maioumas, existed in the south. But we did not dig there. We discovered Anthedon, then a beach camp, on the northern edge.”

Such is Anthedon’s rich history that UNESCO had placed it on a tentative list of Palestinian locations to qualify as a World Heritage site.

It is not alone, however, in facing an uncertain postwar fate, with de Tarragon pointing to a fifth-century Byzantine church, Mkheitim, as having been destroyed in the fighting although he noted that the mosaic floor appears to have survived.

“From now on, no archaeological work is envisioned in Gaza, only restoration work,” he said.

The fragility of life in war-prone Gaza and the intensity of the latest conflict have made it impossible to determine how many archaeological sites have been destroyed and the extent of the damage those still standing have suffered.

As to what it will take to bring them back to life remains a question for the future. For now, the sites serve a very different purpose: shelter from war.

Among them is one of the oldest working churches in the Palestinian enclave: Church of Saint Porphyrius.

Struck on the night of Oct. 20, it was reportedly sheltering at least 500 Christians and Muslims, with 16 killed, according to Palestinian officials.

St. Porphyrius Greek Orthodox church in the Old City of Gaza in 1920. (Photo by Father Savignac, Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem.)

In a statement, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem expressed “its strongest condemnation of the Israeli air strike that has struck its church compound in the city of Gaza.”

Witnesses told AFP news agency the strike damaged the facade of the church and caused an adjacent building to collapse.

“Targeting churches and their institutions, along with the shelter they provide to protect innocent citizens, especially children and women who have lost their homes due to Israeli airstrikes on residential areas over the past 13 days, constitutes a war crime that cannot be ignored,” the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem said.

Speaking to Arab News, Gaza-born and Dubai-based artist Hazem Harb said: “Artifacts are just as important as humans because they were made by us.”

His work has long focused on the incorporation of major sites from his Palestinian homeland.

Echoing a line he posted on the social-media site Instagram regarding the war, Harb said: “As I work with archive photography, all my work is supposed to pose history from a different perspective.

“Much of this photography has been denied from history and this is the same that is happening now with the destruction and legacy of these archaeological places.”


• In January this year, French archaeologists discovered 60 ancient graves at a Roman-era cemetery in northern Gaza. 

• The findings, including two sarcophagi made of lead discovered in September, were made during construction of a housing project in Jabaliya.

• Given the rarity of the lead tombs, Palestinian archaeologists suspect social elites are buried at the cemetery.

In a statement on October 25, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) said: “ICOM expresses its deep concern about the current violence affecting Israeli and Palestinian civilians and deplores the significant humanitarian consequences that the conflict has had over the past weeks. ICOM extends its sincerest condolences to those who have lost family, friends, and community due to the violence.

“ICOM stands firm in its commitment to preserving cultural heritage and recalls the imperative of all parties to respect international law and conventions, including the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two protocols.”

It is well known that museums become sites of smuggling and looting amid the destruction and violence of war.

In October, ICOM warned about the potential increase in looting and the destruction of cultural monuments and objects, stressing the international legal obligations that work to prevent the illicit import, export, and transfer of cultural property, such as the 1970 UNESCO Convention and the 1995 Unidroit Convention.

Amid the violence and administrative collapse in Gaza, these obligations do not seem to have been adhered to.

Gaza is home to around 12 museums that contain approximately 12,000 artifacts. Many of these museums have been subjected to bombing and shelling during the ongoing war.

Museums that have allegedly been destroyed, include the Al-Qarara Cultural Museum near Khan Younis.

It was founded in 2016 and presented the archaeology and history of the area, which was collected and preserved by its founders and local community members.

The museum, which was granted a private license by the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, was designed to educate people about Palestinian cultural heritage and contained 3,500 archaeological and historical artifacts from Gaza, dating back to as far as 4,000 BC.

Another institution severely damaged is the Akkad Museum, which presented a permanent archive of archaeological pieces discovered in Palestine. It was established in 1975 and worked for many years, according to its website, in secret “because of the presence of the Israeli occupation.”

Akkad Museum includes about 2,800 artifacts from prehistoric to modern times.

Another important site has reported damage is the Pasha Palace Museum, which was built during the Mamluk era and became a museum in 2010.

Other crucial monuments based in Gaza include St. Hilarion Monastery, which de Tarragon says, citing his sources, has not been destroyed. The enclave’s largest known Christian monument, it is located in an area called Tel Umm Amer in central Gaza.

It is named after Hilarion, the founder of Palestinian monasticism in around 300 AD. There is also the Hammam Al-Sammara, or the Samaritan Bathhouse, located in Gaza City’s old Zaytoun quarter, a Turkish-style bath house named after the Samaritan community, an ancient offshoot of Judaism. Hammam Al-Sammara dates back to 1320 AD.

Gaza old city, around 1910, from the roof of the Latin Parish school. The Old Mosque is on the left. (Photo by Father Savignac, Ecole Biblique, Jerusalem)

De Tarragon pointed out that the archaeological community still does not know about the fate of many of these structures, so only time will tell.

Wars of the past have already destroyed much of Gaza’s once glistening heritage. They are now remembered by the photographs, the articles and the artworks that sustain their memory.

Even as violence continues to claim more and more civilian lives and remaining structures, Gaza’s contribution to world history, like the thousands of lives that have been lost, should not be forgotten.

As Harb said: “My thought is that there is no difference at all between the human being and our homes because our homes are not just stones.”

US calls for ‘diplomatic path’ on Lebanon after Israel warning

Updated 4 sec ago

US calls for ‘diplomatic path’ on Lebanon after Israel warning

WASHINGTON: The United States called Tuesday for a focus on diplomacy to resolve tensions over Lebanon, after Israel warned it would pursue Hezbollah even if it achieves a ceasefire in Gaza.
“We do not want to see either side escalate the conflict in the north,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.
“The government of Israel has said publicly, and they have assured us privately, that they want to achieve a diplomatic path,” he said.
“That’s what we’re going to continue to pursue and, ultimately, that would make military action unnecessary.”
Miller added that Israel faced a “real security threat” with thousands of people who have fled their homes near Lebanon, calling it a “legitimate issue that needs to be addressed.”
Israel and Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite movement which is backed by Iran, have been exchanging fire since October 7, when Palestinian militant group Hamas carried out a major attack inside Israel.
In retaliation, Israel launched a relentless military operation in Hamas-ruled Gaza.
Raising fears of all-out war, Israel this week struck Hezbollah positions deep into Lebanese territory.
On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said there would be no let-up in Israeli action against Hezbollah even if ongoing diplomacy succeeds in reaching a Gaza ceasefire and the release of hostages seized on October 7.
France, with US support, has been pushing a plan in which Hezbollah and allied fighters would withdraw to around 12 kilometers (eight miles) from the border and Israel would halt attacks.

Oil spills pile on pressure for Iraq’s farmers

Updated 35 min 35 sec ago

Oil spills pile on pressure for Iraq’s farmers

AL-MEAIBDI, Iraq: Iraq enjoys tremendous oil wealth but many hard-scrabble farmers in the north say crude spills have contaminated their lands, piling on pressure as they already battle drought.

Amid the hills of Salaheddin province, puddles of the viscous black liquid pollute the otherwise fertile and green fields, rendering vast swaths of farmland barren.

“The oil has damaged all that the land can give,” said one farmer, Abdel Majid Said, 62, who owns six hectares (15 acres) in the village of Al-Meaibdi.

“Every planted seed is ruined. This land has become useless.”

Oil spills in Iraq — a country ravaged by decades of conflict, corruption and decaying infrastructure — have contaminated farmland in the northern province, especially during the winter rains.

Authorities blame the militants of the Daesh group who overran large swaths of Iraq and Syria in 2014 and were only defeated in Iraq three years later.

The group blew up oil pipelines and wells and also dug primitive oil storage pits, causing crude to seep into the ground, from where annual rains wash it out again.

But the local farmers also complain that the state has been too slow to clean up the mess.

In Al-Meaibdi and the nearby hills of Hamrin, authorities are struggling to find a sustainable solution to the problem, which adds to a litany of environmental challenges.

Iraq, also battered by blistering summer heat and severe drought, is ranked by the United Nations as one of the five countries most vulnerable to key impacts of climate change.

In Hamrin, layers of sludge pile up as excavators build up dirt barriers — a temporary measure to stem the flow of contaminated water onto farmland below.

The oil not only damages the soil and crops but can also pollute groundwater in the water-scarce country.

Said, the farmer, said “the soil is no longer fertile — we have not been able to cultivate it since 2016.”

Some other farmers had already abandoned their lands, he added.

He pointed to a green plot of land so far untouched by the spills and said: “Look how the crops have grown there — but not even a grain has sprouted here.”

Oil spills have contaminated 500 hectares of wheat and barley fields in Salaheddin, said Mohamed Hamad from the environment department in the province.

Hamad pointed to the reign of Daesh, which collected revenues from oil production and smuggling by building makeshift refineries and digging primitive oil storage pits.

He said the group blew up the pipelines and wells of the oil fields of Ajil and Alas, causing crude oil to flood and collect in the Hamrin hills’ natural caves.

Earlier this month, due to heavy rain, oil remnants again poured into agricultural lands, Hamad said, and “unfortunately, the leak damaged land and crops.”

Authorities have buried the group’s makeshift storage pits, Amer Al-Meheiri, the head of the oil department in Salaheddin province, told Iraq’s official news agency INA last year.

Yet during the heavy rains, the oil continues to seep out.

Iraq’s crude oil sales make up 90 percent of budget revenues as the country recovers from years of war and political upheaval, leaving it overly reliant on the sector.

The country boasts 145 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, amounting to 96 years’ worth of production at the current rate, according to the World Bank.

But for many farmers, oil has been a scourge.

Abbas Taha, an agriculture official in Salaheddin, said “oil spills have been occurring frequently since 2016.”

“Farmers suffer a great loss because they no longer benefit from the winter season to grow wheat,” he said.

Some farmers have filed complaints against the state demanding compensation, only to find themselves lost in Iraq’s labyrinthine judicial system, tossed from one court to another.

But Taha insists that authorities plan to compensate those affected in a country where agricultural lands are shrinking as farmers are abandoning unprofitable plots hit by drought.

Due to the severe water scarcity, authorities are drastically reducing farm activity to ensure sufficient drinking water for Iraq’s 43 million people.

Hamad said his department had contacted the relevant authorities to remove oil remnants that would eventually seep through the soil to contaminate groundwater and wells.

The soil also needs to be treated by removing the top layer and replacing it, he said.

“We urged the prime minister, the agriculture minister and the oil minister to compensate the farmers suffering from this environmental disaster,” said 53-year-old farmer Ahmed Shalash.

‘I fear the world has failed the test of humanity’ in Gaza, Slovenia’s foreign minister tells Arab News

Updated 2 min 43 sec ago

‘I fear the world has failed the test of humanity’ in Gaza, Slovenia’s foreign minister tells Arab News

  • Tania Fajon urges Washington to use its leverage over Israel to advance two-state solution
  • Fears Israel’s planned military offensive in Rafah will trigger regional unrest

NEW YORK CITY: Tanja Fajon, Slovenia’s minister of foreign and European affairs, has expressed deep disappointment at how the US has repeatedly used its veto power at the UN Security Council to block demands for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

On Feb. 20, the US vetoed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza for the third time. It was the lone vote against the resolution put forward by Algeria. The UK was the sole abstention, with 13 votes in support.

With some 30,000 people killed in Gaza since Israel launched its military offensive last October and some 2 million now at risk of famine, Washington’s continued use of its veto at the security council to prevent censure of Israel has drawn condemnation.

“I fear that the world has failed the test of humanity,” Fajon, whose country is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2024-2025, told Arab News during an interview in New York.

“Seeing so many kids without shelter, without food, without schools, no hospitals. We see the unbearably high death toll among civilians, the violations of international humanitarian laws — this is on us all.”

Washington has sought to justify its veto, saying a ceasefire would jeopardize “sensitive” negotiations, led by the US, Qatar and Egypt, to broker an end to the hostilities in Gaza, the release of hostages held by Hamas, and to allow aid to enter the enclave.

Rather than veto resolutions, Fajon said the US should use its influence over Israel to demand a halt to its military operation in Gaza and commit to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

“It’s no secret that Americans have leverage on Israel,” she said.

“They really have to do everything that’s possible, first to start serious negotiations with Israel, to stop the violations in Gaza, to ensure a ceasefire, to reach an agreement on the release of hostages and political prisoners and really start working for the two-state solution.

“We are doing our part of the job on the European side. But we need everyone at the table.”

Fajon fears the worst could still come if Israel follows through with its threat to launch a new ground offensive against Rafah, the last refuge of more than 1.5 million displaced Palestinians.

“I do expect that also in America they are aware of what might happen after the beginning of Ramadan if Israel makes its threats a reality,” she said. “If nothing happens, if a ceasefire is not urgently (implemented), I don’t know how we can move forward.”

Fajon believes that any large-scale operation in Rafah during Ramadan will provoke massive unrest across the Middle East and beyond.

“The anger is growing against Israel,” she said. “And when you have masses of people being frustrated, it’s always difficult to control and ensure peace. So, we are running the risk of a real escalation of violations in the Middle East.”

Slovenia’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict differs from the EU’s dominant foreign policy position, as mainly represented by large states such as Germany whose defense export approvals to Israel have increased nearly tenfold since Oct. 7, according to Reuters.

Although many European states have called for a ceasefire, they have remained broadly pro-Israel.

“We are a small country,” said Fajon. “I wouldn’t say we are either pro-Israel or pro-Palestinians, but we are for peace.”

She said Slovenians have been saddened by the images of suffering coming out of Gaza.

A large portion of the Slovenian electorate, especially the left, are critical of the foreign policy pursued by the US and Israel, which they view as “neo-colonial.”

Many hold a positive attitude toward the societies of the Global South and are broadly pacifist. Many believe the Slovenian government in Ljubljana is well-placed to act as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.

Some historians believe these attitudes are a legacy of Slovenia’s time as part of Yugoslavia, which had a tradition of offering support to developing countries, and which was committed to non-alignment during the Cold War, backing neither NATO nor the Warsaw Pact.

Fajon recently hosted the foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan in Ljubljana. She said both came “with a message of gratitude because we really try to listen and be supportive in efforts to create viable or feasible peace plans.”

With the Arab ministers, Fajon said she discussed her country’s desire to hold a peace conference, bringing the Americans, Israelis and all other stakeholders to the table to find a peaceful solution to the conflict and discuss the recognition of a Palestinian state.

“That also means the well-being and safety of Israelis and Palestinians living side by side,” she said. “We are not there yet. I know there are still open questions on how to ensure stability in Gaza after the war.”

Slovenia is actively participating in proceedings at the UN’s highest court — the International Court of Justice at The Hague — examining “the ongoing violations by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, from its prolonged occupation, settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967,” as well as policies in occupied East Jerusalem and allegations of “discriminatory legislation” against Palestinians.

The motion is seeking an advisory opinion on whether Israel’s activities have violated international law. The motion was requested by the UN General Assembly in 2022, and so pre-dates South Africa’s genocide allegations heard by the court last month.

“This is a very broad spectrum of alleged violations that have been committed in the region for decades and whose horrific consequences are still visible today,” Fajon said last month.

Speaking to Arab News about the case, Fajon said it was about upholding international law.

“We are using our legal arguments, speaking of an occupying force and its illegal wrongdoings on illegally occupied lands,” she said. “Our expert opinion shows clearly that we try and we always follow international law. And that is our main message at The Hague.”

Slovenia has consistently called for the EU to introduce sanctions against both Hamas and extremist Israeli settlers in the West Bank, whose violence “we are following with great concern,” said Fajon.

The country has also joined efforts by Ireland and Spain to reconsider the EU’s cooperation agreement with Israel, which regulates trade relations and is bound by the provision that it respects human rights.

“We are a part of a like-minded group of six or seven countries in the EU that are really pushing hard to achieve a permanent ceasefire,” said Fajon.

“Yes, there are divisions inside the EU for different historical reasons. But from our perspective, I believe we are just very consistent in our foreign policy, meaning we respect international law (and) international humanitarian law. And we say that what we are seeing in Gaza are violations of international humanitarian law.”

In South Africa’s genocide case against Israel, the ICJ issued provisional measures ordering Israel to prevent and punish the commission or the incitement to commit genocide, to stop the indiscriminate killing of Palestinians, and immediately enable the provision of humanitarian assistance to Gazans.

“We call on Israel to respect the measures from the ICJ Hague,” said Fajon.

“This is extremely important. We respect the work of international tribunals. And that is our clear call to Israel here. I think we don’t have any double standards. We can tell that to Israel, and we tell it to Russia in its war in Ukraine.”

She said both wars, Ukraine and Gaza, are a direct result of “regimes that don’t respect the UN Charter.”

“In the case of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, that’s entering its third year, we fully understand and support Ukrainians’ fight for territorial sovereignty and integrity. Because no one, by force, can take your land away or change internationally recognized borders.

“We run a consistent foreign policy that is based on international law and the UN Charter.”

Slovenia is also one of the leaders of the Mutual Legal Assistance Initiative for the adoption of the Convention on International Cooperation in the Investigation and Prosecution of Genocide, Crimes against Humanity, War Crimes and other International Crimes.

The Ljubljana-The Hague MLA Convention was adopted in May 2023 marking a landmark international treaty aiming to strengthen international legal cooperation to help reduce impunity for perpetrators of crimes and deliver justice to victims of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

“The Ljubljana-The Hague Convention is an important instrument because it somehow narrows the gap in the legislation (so) that the judiciary systems around the world can faster exchange evidence in persecuting, investigating, and punishing the worst war crimes everywhere,” said Fajon.

“So all those countries that are signing this convention will be in a much better position to move faster with the processes. And I hope that many countries will join in signing it.”

Above all, Fajon believes the international community has a responsibility to help those who desire peace — no matter which side they are on — to access the means to achieve it.

“In every country, be it an aggressive regime that runs a war or be it the victim, but especially in the country that has an aggressive regime, be it in Israel or be it in Russia, there are citizens and people that want to have peace.

“And we have to support these people. That is what I mean when I say we are neither pro-Israel nor pro-Palestinians. I mean exactly our support for these people who want to see peace.

“I think this is our role as politicians.”

Israel intentionally starving Palestinians in Gaza: UN official

Updated 28 min 22 sec ago

Israel intentionally starving Palestinians in Gaza: UN official

  • Country guilty of war crimes, special rapporteur on right to food Michael Fakhri says
  • ‘Israel has announced its intention to destroy the Palestinian people,’ he says

LONDON: Israel is intentionally starving the population of Gaza in its battle with Hamas in the enclave and should be held accountable for war crimes and genocide, a UN official said on Tuesday.

Michael Fakhri, special rapporteur on the right to food, told The Guardian newspaper that Israel had been deliberately destroying food supplies and restricting the flow of food to Gaza since the war started in October.

About 2.2 million civilians are facing hunger and severe malnutrition as a result of extreme shortages of basic supplies in the enclave.

Fakhri said that to intentionally deprive civilians of food was a war crime, as per the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which states that depriving people of “objects indispensable to their survival, including willfully impeding relief supplies” falls under that definition.

Human rights groups have repeatedly accused Israel of using starvation in its operations within Gaza, an act which the UN Security Council outlined as a violation of international law and a war crime in 2018.

“There is no reason to intentionally block the passage of humanitarian aid or intentionally obliterate small-scale fishing vessels, greenhouses and orchards in Gaza — other than to deny people access to food,” Fakhri said.

“Israel has announced its intention to destroy the Palestinian people, in whole or in part, simply for being Palestinian.”

The official said that the situation in Gaza was one of “genocide” and that Israel in its entirety, “not just individuals or this government or that person,” was “culpable and should be held accountable.”

“It was already a very fragile situation due to Israel’s chokehold on what goes in and out of Gaza. So when the war started, Israel was very easily able to make everyone go hungry because they had most people on the brink,” Fakhri said.

“We have never seen a civilian population made to go so hungry so quickly and so completely, that is the consensus among starvation experts. Israel is not just targeting civilians, it is trying to damn the future of the Palestinian people by harming their children.”

Fakhri also criticized those countries that cut their funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees following claims made by Israel that 12 of the organization’s workers had links to Hamas and its attack on Israel on Oct. 7, in which 1,200 people were killed.

UNRWA provides food, healthcare, education and other basic services to almost 6 million Palestinian refugees in the Occupied Territories and across the Middle East.

“Ending funding almost instantaneously based on unsubstantiated claims against a small number of people has no other purpose than collective punishment of all Palestinians in multiple countries,” he said.

“The countries that withdrew this lifeline are undoubtedly complicit in the starvation of Palestinians.

“Israel will claim there are exceptions to war crimes. But there is no exception to genocide and there’s no argument as to why Israel is destroying civilian infrastructure, the food system, humanitarian workers and allowing this degree of malnutrition and hunger … The charge of genocide holds a whole state accountable and the remedy of genocide is the issue of self-determination of the Palestinian people.

“The path forward must not just be ending the war but actually peace.”

Egypt, Jordan foreign ministers meet in Geneva to discuss Gaza conflict

Updated 27 February 2024

Egypt, Jordan foreign ministers meet in Geneva to discuss Gaza conflict

  • Sameh Shoukry and Ayman Safadi warned of the consequences of an Israeli military ground operation in Rafah
  • Ministers also discussed the challenges facing UNRWA after several countries suspended their financial contributions

The foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan met in Geneva on Monday to discuss the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip.

Egypt’s Sameh Shoukry and Jordan’s Ayman Safadi, who is also deputy prime minister, reviewed the situation in the war-torn region and warned of the consequences of an Israeli military ground operation in Rafah, according to a statement by Ahmed Abu Zeid, a spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry.

Any such offensive would have “extremely negative repercussions” and exacerbate the humanitarian catastrophe, they said.

The ministers also discussed the challenges facing the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees after several countries suspended their financial contributions to the organization. Any disruption to its mandate would gravely harm refugees, they said.

The pair stressed the importance of continuing to provide humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip and of working together to prevent the conflict worsening and damaging regional security and stability.

Shoukry also expressed his concern at the deterioration of conditions in the West Bank and the increased pace of Israeli military incursions, which he said threatened to exacerbate the situation there.

He also outlined Egypt’s efforts to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, including trying to accelerate the provision of relief consignments.