Death toll mounts as Israel expands ground operation to every part of Gaza Strip

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An injured man is carried away after a house was hit by Israeli bombing in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on December 3, 2023. (AFP)
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A picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 3, 2023, shows smoke billowing over the Palestinian enclave during Israeli bombardment. (AFP)
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Updated 03 December 2023
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Death toll mounts as Israel expands ground operation to every part of Gaza Strip

  • Gaza media office reported at least 700 people killed by Israeli bombing overnight
  • Israeli settlers attacked two Palestinian villages in West Bank, killing one man

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip: Israel on Sunday ordered more evacuations in and around Gaza’s second-largest city of Khan Younis, followed by heavy bombardment, as the military’s offensive shifted to the southern half of the territory where Israeli officials assert that leaders of the Hamas militant group are hiding.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip said they were running out of places to go in the sealed-off territory that borders Israel and Egypt. Many of its 2.3 million people are crammed into the south after Israel ordered civilians to leave the north in the early days of the war, which was sparked by the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas and other militants that killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in southern Israel.
The United Nations estimates that 1.8 million Gazans have been displaced.
Heavy bombardment was reported around Khan Younis and the southern city of Rafah, as well as parts of the north that had been the focus of Israel’s shattering air and ground offensive. Juliette Toma, director of communications at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said nearly 958,000 displaced people were in 99 United Nations facilities in the southern Gaza Strip.
UN human rights chief Volker Türk urged an end to the war, saying civilian suffering was “too much to bear.”
The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said the death toll there since Oct. 7 has surpassed 15,500. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths, but said 70 percent of the dead were women and children. It said more than 41,000 people had been wounded.
A Health Ministry spokesman asserted that hundreds of people had been killed or wounded since the cease-fire ended. “The majority of victims are still under the rubble,” Ashraf Al-Qidra said.
Meanwhile, fears of a wider conflict intensified. A US warship and multiple commercial ships came under attack Sunday in the Red Sea, the Pentagon said. Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed attacks on two ships they described as being linked to Israel but did not acknowledge targeting a US Navy vessel.
Hopes for another temporary truce in Gaza were fading. A weeklong cease-fire that expired Friday facilitated the release of dozens of the roughly 240 Gaza-held Israeli and foreign hostages in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. But Israel has called its negotiators home, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the war will continue until “all its goals” are achieved. One is to remove Hamas from power in Gaza.

Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said resuming talks with Israel on further exchanges must be tied to a permanent cease-fire.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the US is working “really hard” for a resumption of negotiations.
Israel’s military widened evacuation orders in and around Khan Younis, telling residents of at least five more areas to leave. Residents said the military dropped leaflets ordering them to move south to the border city of Rafah or to a coastal area in the southwest. “Khan Younis city is a dangerous combat zone,” the leaflets read.
But Halima Abdel-Rahman, a widow and mother of four, said she won’t heed such orders anymore. She fled her home in October to an area outside Khan Younis, where she stays with relatives.
“The occupation tells you to go to this area, then they bomb it,” she said by phone. “The reality is that no place is safe in Gaza. They kill people in the north. They kill people in the south.”
The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has urged Israel to avoid significant new mass displacement and do more to protect civilians. US Vice President Kamala Harris also told Egypt’s president that “under no circumstances” would the US permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, an ongoing siege of Gaza or the redrawing of its borders.
On the ground in Gaza, there was frustration and mourning. Outside a Gaza City hospital, a dust-covered boy named Saaed Khalid Shehta dropped to his knees beside the bloodied body of his little brother Mohammad, one of several bodies laid out after people said their street was hit by airstrikes. He kissed him.
“You bury me with him!” the boy cried. A health worker at Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital said more than 15 children were killed.
Israel’s military said its fighter jets and helicopters struck targets in the Gaza Strip including “tunnel shafts, command centers and weapons storage facilities,” while a drone killed five Hamas fighters. Military officials acknowledged ”extensive aerial attacks in the Khan Younis area.”
The bodies of 31 people killed in Israeli bombardment of central Gaza were taken to the Al-Aqsa hospital in Deir Al-Balah, said Omar Al-Darawi, a hospital administrative employee. One woman wept, cradling a child’s body on her lap. Another carried the body of a baby. Later, hospital workers reported 11 more dead after another airstrike. The bloodied survivors included a child carried in on a mattress.
Outside a morgue in Khan Younis, resident Samy Al-Najeila carried the body of a child. He said his sons had been preparing to evacuate their home, “but the occupation didn’t give us any time. The three-floor building was destroyed completely, the whole block was totally destroyed.” He said six of the bodies were his relatives.
“Five people are still under the rubble,” he said. “God help us.”




A member of the Israeli border police runs during a raid at the Balata camp for Palestinian refugees, east of Nablus in the occupied West Bank on November 23, 2023. (AFP)

During a short trip to the UAE as the top American representative at the UN climate conference, Harris said: “Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed. Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering and the images and videos coming from Gaza are devastating.”
Mark Regev, a senior adviser to Netanyahu, said Israel was making “maximum effort” to protect civilians. In addition to the leaflets, the military has used phone calls and radio and TV broadcasts to urge Gazans to move from specific areas.
Israel says it targets Hamas operatives and blames civilian casualties on the militants, accusing them of operating in residential neighborhoods. It claims to have killed thousands of militants, without providing evidence. Israel says at least 78 of its soldiers have been killed in the offensive in northern Gaza.
The renewed hostilities have heightened concerns for the 137 hostages who the Israeli military believes are still being held by Hamas. During the recent truce, 105 hostages were freed, and Israel released 240 Palestinian prisoners. Most of those released by both sides were women and children.
The families of hostages have called for an urgent meeting with Israel’s Security Cabinet, saying time is “running out to save those still held by Hamas.”
Elsewhere in the region, Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group said it struck Israeli positions near the tense Lebanon-Israel border. Eleven people — eight soldiers and three civilians — were wounded by Hezbollah fire in the area of Beit Hillel, army radio reported. The military said its artillery struck sources of fire from Lebanon. It also said its fighter jets struck other Hezbollah targets.
And Iraqi militants with the Iran-backed umbrella group the Islamic Resistance in Iraq said they struck the Kharab Al-Jir US military base in Syria with rockets. A US military official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations, said rockets hit Rumalyn Landing Zone in Syria but there were no reports of casualties or damage.


Israeli PM Netanyahu says he will fight any sanctions on army battalions

Updated 2 min 43 sec ago
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Israeli PM Netanyahu says he will fight any sanctions on army battalions

  • On Saturday, Axios news site reported that Washington was planning to impose sanctions on Israel’s Netzah Yehuda battalion
  • “If anyone thinks they can impose sanctions on a unit of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) — I will fight it with all my strength,” Netanyahu said

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday he would fight against sanctions being imposed on any Israeli military units after media reported that Washington was planning such a step against a battalion for alleged rights violations.
On Saturday, Axios news site reported that Washington was planning to impose sanctions on Israel’s Netzah Yehuda battalion that has operated in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli military said it was not aware of any measures being taken.
“If anyone thinks they can impose sanctions on a unit of the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) — I will fight it with all my strength,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
The Israeli military said that Netzah Yehuda battalion is an active combat unit that operates according to the principles of international law.
“Following publications about sanctions against the battalion, the IDF is not aware of the issue. If a decision is made on the matter it will be reviewed. The IDF works and will continue to work to investigate any unusual event in a practical manner and according to law,” the military said.


Iran’s Khamenei praises ‘success’ of military after Israel attack

Updated 21 April 2024
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Iran’s Khamenei praises ‘success’ of military after Israel attack

  • Supreme leader: ‘The armed forces showed a good image of their abilities and power and an admirable image of the Iranian nation’

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised the country’s armed forces for their “success” in his first public comments since Tehran launched an unprecedented direct attack on Israel last week.
In a meeting with Iranian military commanders on Sunday, Khamenei praised the armed forces for their “success in recent events,” a week after the country’s first-ever direct attack on Israel from its own territory.
“The armed forces showed a good image of their abilities and power and an admirable image of the Iranian nation,” Khamenei said. “They also proved the emergence of the power of the Iranian nation’s determination at the international level.”
The remarks from Iran’s supreme leader are the first since Iran attacked Israel and since a reported Israeli attack on a military air base in central Isfahan province on Friday.
“The armed forces’ recent achievements have created a sense of splendour and magnificence about Islamic Iran in the eyes of the world,” Khamenei said in quotes posted on his official X account.
The Friday strike, which Khamenei did not mention, was a presumed response to Iran’s unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel which was itself a retaliation for an airstrike on the Iranian consular building in Damascus.
That attack, widely blamed on Israel, levelled the consular annex of the Iranian embassy and killed seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, including two generals.
Israel said it intercepted 99 percent of the more than 300 drones and missiles fired at it, with the aid of the United States and other allies and that those which got through caused only minor damage.
Addressing his country’s attack on Israel, Khamenei said “the issue of the number of missiles fired or the missiles that hit the target” was “secondary.”
“The main issue is the emergence of the willpower of the Iranian nation and the armed forces in the international arena,” he said, according to his official website.
Iran and Israel appeared to have stepped back from the brink of a broader conflict following Friday’s attack, which Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian appeared to downplay to US media on Saturday.
Speaking to NBC News, he dismissed it as “no attack” and said the weapons used were “at the level of toys,” adding that if there was “no new adventure” by Israel then Iran “will have no response.”
The comments helped to dampen fears of an all-out war between the arch-foes which could spread into a wider regional conflict.


Hamas says US military aid to Israel ‘green light’ for Gaza ‘aggression’

Updated 21 April 2024
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Hamas says US military aid to Israel ‘green light’ for Gaza ‘aggression’

  • Condemns US House of Representatives’ approval of billions of dollars in new military aid to Israel

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: Palestinian militant group Hamas on Sunday condemned the US House of Representatives’ approval of billions of dollars in new military aid to Israel, much of which is to strengthen Israeli air defenses.

“This support, which violates international law, is a license and a green light for the Zionist extremist government (Israel) to continue the brutal aggression against our people,” Hamas said in a statement.

“We consider this step a confirmation of the official American complicity and partnership in the war of extermination waged by the fascist occupation army against our Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.”

On Saturday, the US House of Representatives approved $13 billion in military assistance to America’s historic ally Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza.

Washington is already Israel’s largest military supplier.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the “much appreciated aid bill” showed strong support for Israel and “defends Western civilization.”

The US bill said that more than $9 billion will also be earmarked to address “the dire need for humanitarian assistance for Gaza as well as other vulnerable populations around the world.”


Iran president to visit Pakistan, boost ties: Islamabad

Updated 21 April 2024
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Iran president to visit Pakistan, boost ties: Islamabad

  • Ebrahim Raisi will be accompanied by ‘a high-level delegation comprising the foreign minister... as well as a large business delegation’

ISLAMABAD: Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi will travel to Islamabad on Monday to meet his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said, as the two countries seek to mend ties following deadly cross-border attacks this year.
Raisi will be accompanied by “a high-level delegation comprising the foreign minister... as well as a large business delegation,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
The tit-for-tat missile strikes in January in the porous border region of Balochistan — split between the two nations — stoked regional tensions already inflamed by the Israel-Hamas war.
Tehran carried out the strikes against an anti-Iran group in Pakistan the same week it targeted Iraq and Syria.
Pakistan responded with a raid on “militant targets” in Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province, one of the few mainly Sunni Muslim regions in Shiite-dominated Iran.
Both countries have in the past accused each other of sheltering militants.
A visit to Islamabad by Tehran’s foreign minister led to the two sides pledging to improve dialogue and install liaison officers in both countries.
Sistan-Balochistan province has for years faced unrest involving cross-border drug-smuggling gangs and rebels from the Baloch ethnic minority, and Muslim extremists.
Raisi will also visit Lahore and Karachi to meet provincial leaders, according to the statement.
The countries will further strengthen ties and enhance cooperation in “trade, connectivity, energy, agriculture, and people-to-people contacts,” it added.
Pakistan is counting on a joint gas project with Iran to solve a long-running power crisis that has sapped its economic growth.
A $7.5-billion Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline intended to feed Pakistani power plants was inaugurated with great fanfare in March 2013.
But the project immediately stagnated following international sanctions on Iran.
Tehran has built its own section of the 1,800-kilometer (1,100-mile) pipeline, which should eventually link its South Pars gas fields to the Pakistani city of Nawabshah, near Karachi.
In February, Pakistan’s outgoing caretaker government approved the construction of an 80-kilometer section of the pipeline, primarily to avoid the payment of billions of dollars in penalties to Iran due to years of delays.
Washington has warned that Pakistan could face US sanctions, saying it does not support the pipeline going forward.


Emir of Qatar begins Asia tour with state visit to Philippines

Updated 21 April 2024
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Emir of Qatar begins Asia tour with state visit to Philippines

  • During his tour the emir will speak with the countries’ leaders and senior officials

DUBAI: The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad began his state visit to Manila, the Philippine capital, on Sunday as part of his Asia tour, reported the Qatar News Agency.

Sheikh Tamim received a welcome at Maharlika Presidential Airport from a delegation including Rafael Perpetuo Lotilla, minister of energy; Ahmed bin Saad Al-Humaidi, ambassador of Qatar to the Philippines; and Lilibeth Velasco Puno, ambassador of the Philippines to Qatar, along with several senior officials from the Philippine government and members of the Qatari embassy.

Accompanied by an official delegation, Sheikh Tamim’s itinerary includes visits to Bangladesh and Nepal following his time in the Philippines.

During his tour, the emir will speak with the countries’ leaders and senior officials, focusing on ways to enhance cooperation and discussing issues of common interest.

Additionally, agreements and memoranda of understanding are expected to be signed across various fields.