Israel presses ground offensive in southern Gaza, air strikes intensify

Israel is widening its ground offensive and bombarding targets across the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
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Updated 04 December 2023
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Israel presses ground offensive in southern Gaza, air strikes intensify

  • Intense Israeli air strikes hit the south of the Gaza Strip, killing and wounding dozens of Palestinians
  • Operation has transformed much of the north, including large parts of Gaza City, into a rubble-filled wasteland

ntense Israeli air strikes hit the south of the Gaza Strip on Monday, killing and wounding dozens of Palestinians, including in areas where Israel had told people to seek shelter, residents and journalists on the ground said.
Israeli troops and tanks also pressed the ground campaign against Hamas militants in the south of the enclave after having largely gained control of the now-devastated north.
Early on Monday, Israel ordered Palestinians to leave parts of Gaza’s main southern city, Khan Younis. But residents said that areas which they had been told to go to were also coming under fire.
Israel’s military posted a map on social media platform X with around a quarter of Khan Younis marked off in yellow as territory that must be evacuated at once.
Three arrows pointed south and west, telling people to head toward the Mediterranean coast and toward Rafah, a major town near the Egyptian border.
Desperate Gazans in Khan Younis packed their belongings and headed toward Rafah. Most were on foot, walking past ruined buildings in a solemn and silent procession.
But the head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza (UNRWA), Thomas White, said people in Rafah were themselves being forced to flee.
“People are pleading for advice on where to find safety. We have nothing to tell them,” he said on X.
In the territory’s northern part, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said at least 50 people were killed in an Israeli air strike that hit two schools sheltering displaced people in the Daraj neighborhood of Gaza City.

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The Gaza health ministry could not be reached for comment on the report and it was not immediately possible to verify it independently. A spokesperson for the Israeli army said it was looking into the report.
Separately, the health ministry said at least 15,899 Palestinians, 70 percent of them women or under 18s, have now been killed in Israeli bombardments of the Hamas-ruled enclave in eight weeks of warfare. Thousands more are missing and feared buried in rubble.
Israel launched its assault to wipe out Hamas in retaliation for an Oct. 7 cross-border attack by its gunmen. They killed 1,200 people and seized 240 hostages, according to Israeli tallies — the deadliest single day in Israel’s 75-year history.

BIG CRATER
Bombing at one site in Rafah overnight had torn a crater the size of a basketball court out of the earth. A dead toddler’s bare feet and black trousers poked out from under a pile of rubble. Men struggled with their bare hands to move a chunk of the concrete that had crushed the child.
Later they chanted “God is greatest” and wept as they marched through the ruins carrying the body in a bundle, and that of another small child wrapped in a blanket.
“We were asleep and safe,” said Salah Al-Arja, owner of one of the houses destroyed at the site. “There were children, women and martyrs,” he said. “They tell you it is a safe area, but there is no safe area in all of the Gaza Strip.”
Israel accuses Hamas of putting civilians in danger by operating from civilian areas, including in tunnels which can only be destroyed by large bombs. Hamas denies it does so.
As many as 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes in the Israeli bombing campaign that has reduced much of the crowded coastal strip to a desolate wasteland.
Israeli forces largely captured the northern half of Gaza in November, and since a week-long truce collapsed on Friday they have swiftly pushed deep into the southern half.
Tanks have driven into Gaza from the border fence and cut off the main north-south route, residents say. The Israeli military said the central road out of Khan Younis to the north “constitutes a battlefield” and was now shut.
Hamas said its fighters clashed with Israeli forces in northern Khan Younis overnight.

ISRAEL’S GOALS IN NORTH ALMOST MET
The commander of Israel’s armored corps, Brig.-General Hisham Ibrahim, told Army Radio the military had almost achieved its goals in northern Gaza.
“We are beginning to expand the ground maneuver to other parts of the Strip, with one goal — to topple the Hamas terrorist group,” he said.
The military released footage of troops patrolling in tanks and on foot, in fields and in badly damaged urban areas, and firing from weapons, without specifying the location in Gaza.
Israel says its evacuation orders are aimed at protecting civilians from harm, and called on international organizations to help encourage Gazans to move to the areas labelled safe on Israeli maps.
The United Nations said the areas in the south that Israel has ordered evacuated in the three days since the truce ended had housed over 350,000 people before the war — not counting the hundreds of thousands now sheltering there from other areas.
In Khan Younis, many of those taking flight on Monday were already displaced from other areas. Abu Mohammed told Reuters it was now the third time he had been forced to flee since abandoning his home in Gaza City in the north.
“Why did they eject us from our homes in Gaza (City) if they planned to kill us here?” he said.
Israel’s closest ally the United States has called on it to do more to safeguard civilians in the southern part of Gaza than in last month’s campaign in the north.
But about 900 people have been killed in Israeli air strikes since the truce ended on Friday, Gaza health authorities said.
Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine Director at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters: “All indications and reports suggest that the same pattern – of dropping heavy-duty bombs and using artillery in densely populated areas – is continuing.”


Israeli missiles hit site in Iran, Iran and US media report

Updated 9 min 33 sec ago
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Israeli missiles hit site in Iran, Iran and US media report

DUBAI/WASHINGTON: Israeli missiles have hit a site in Iran, ABC News reported late on Thursday, citing a US official.

Commercial flights began diverting their routes early Friday morning over western Iran without explanation as one semiofficial news agency in the Islamic Republic claimed there had been “explosions” heard over the city of Isfahan.
The incident comes as tensions remain high in the wider Middle East after Iran’s unprecedented missile-and-drone attack on Israel last weekend. Most of the drones and missiles were downed before reaching Israeli territory.

 

 

Dubai-based carriers Emirates and FlyDubai began diverting around western Iran about 4:30 a.m. local time. They offered no explanation, though local warnings to aviators suggested the airspace may have been closed.
The semiofficial Fars news agency reported on the sound of explosions over Isfahan near its international airport. It offered no explanation for the blast. However, Isfahan is home to a major air base for the Iranian military, as well as sites associated with its nuclear program.

“Flights over Isfahan, Shiraz and Tehran cities have been suspended,” state media reported.
Iran’s government offered no immediate comment.
Isfahan is some 350 kilometers (215 miles) south of Iran’s capital, Tehran.
Iran told the United Nations Security Council on Thursday that Israel “must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our interests” as the UN secretary-general warned that the Middle East was in a “moment of maximum peril.”
Israel had said it was going to retaliate against Iran’s April 13 missile and drone attack.


Hamas slams US veto of Palestinian UN membership bid

Updated 19 April 2024
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Hamas slams US veto of Palestinian UN membership bid

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: Palestinian militant group Hamas condemned on Friday the US veto that ended a long-shot Palestinian bid for full United Nations membership.
“Hamas condemns the American veto at the Security Council of the draft resolution granting Palestine full membership in the United Nations,” the Gaza Strip rulers said in a statement, which comes amid growing international concern over the toll inflicted by the war in the besieged Palestinian territory.
The veto by Israel’s main ally and military backer had been expected ahead of the vote, which took place more than six months into Israel’s offensive in Gaza, in retaliation for the deadly October 7 attack by Hamas militants.
Twelve countries voted in favor of the draft resolution, which was introduced by Algeria and “recommends to the General Assembly that the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations.” Britain and Switzerland abstained.


Gazans search for remains after deadly Rafah strike

Updated 18 April 2024
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Gazans search for remains after deadly Rafah strike

An Israeli strike hit the home where a displaced Palestinian family was sheltering in the southern city of Rafah, relatives and neighbors told AFP as they scraped at the soil with their hands.

Al-Arja said the blast killed at least 10 people.

“We retrieved the remains of children and women, finding arms and feet. They were all torn to pieces.

“This is horrifying. It’s not normal,” he said, hauling concrete and broken olive branches from the wreckage. “The entire world is complicit.”

Soon after the war began on Oct. 7, Israel told Palestinians living in the north of Gaza to move to “safe zones” in the territory’s south, like Rafah.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since vowed to invade the city, where around 1.5 million people live in shelters, more than half the territory’s population.

“How is Rafah a safe place?” said Zeyad Ayyad, a relative of the victims. He sighed as he cradled a fragment of the remains.

“I heard the bombing last night and then went back to sleep. I did not think it hit my aunt’s house.”

The search for remains was long and painful. The strike left a huge crater and children picked through the rubble while neighbors removed debris, tarpaulin, a pink top.

“We can see them under the rubble and we’re unable to retrieve them,” Al-Arja said. 

“These are people who came from the north because it was said the south is safe.”

“They struck without any warning,” he said.

In a separate strike on the house in Rafah’s Al-Salam neighborhood overnight on Tuesday, rescue crews recovered the corpses of eight family members, including five children and two women, Gaza’s civil defense service said.

“An Israeli rocket hit a house of displaced people,” said resident Sami Nyrab. 

“My sister’s son-in-law, her daughter, and her children were having dinner when an Israeli missile demolished their house over their heads.”


Dubai clears up after epic rains swamp glitzy city

Updated 18 April 2024
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Dubai clears up after epic rains swamp glitzy city

  • The rains were the heaviest experienced by the UAE in the 75 years that records have been kept

DUBAI: Dubai was busy on Thursday clearing its waterlogged roads and drying out flooded homes two days after a record storm deposited a year’s worth of rainfall in a day.

Dubai International Airport, a major travel hub, struggled to clear a backlog of flights, and many roads were still flooded in the aftermath of Tuesday’s deluge.

The rains were the heaviest experienced by the UAE in the 75 years that records have been kept. 

They brought much of the country to a standstill and caused significant damage.

Flooding trapped residents in traffic, offices, and homes. 

Many reported leaks at their homes, while footage circulated on social media showed malls overrun with water pouring from roofs.

Traffic remained heavily disrupted. 

A highway through Dubai was reduced to a single lane in one direction, while the main road connecting Dubai with Abu Dhabi was closed in the Abu Dhabi direction.

“This was like nothing else. It was like an alien invasion,” said Jonathan Richards, a Dubai resident from Britain.

“I woke up the other morning to people in kayaks, pet dogs, pet cats, and suitcases outside my house.”

Another resident, Rinku Makhecha, said the rain swamped her newly renovated house, which she moved into two weeks ago.

“My entire living room is just like ... all my furniture is floating right now,” she said.

In Dubai’s streets, some vehicles, including buses, could be seen almost entirely submerged in water. 

Long queues formed at petrol stations.

Dubai Airport had not resumed normal operation after the storm flooded taxiways, forcing flight diversions, delays, and cancellations.

Dubai Airport Chief Operating Officer Majed Al Joker told Al Arabiya TV he expected Dubai International Airport to reach 60 to 70 percent capacity by the end of Thursday and full operational capacity within 24 hours.

The airport struggled to get food to stranded passengers, with nearby roads flooded and overcrowding limited access to those who had confirmed bookings.

While some roadways into hard-hit communities remain flooded, delivery services across Dubai, whose residents are used to ordering everything at the click of a mouse, slowly began returning to the streets.

Following Tuesday’s events, questions were raised about whether cloud seeding, a process that the UAE frequently conducts, could have caused the heavy rains.

A UAE government agency overseeing cloud seeding — manipulating clouds to increase rainfall — denied conducting such operations before the storm.

President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said in a statement that he had ordered authorities to assess the damage and support families impacted by the storm.

Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum said on X that the safety of citizens, residents, and visitors was the utmost priority.

“At a meeting with government officials in Dubai, we set directives to prepare comprehensive plans in response to natural crises such as the unexpected current weather conditions,” he said.


Hezbollah says 2 fighters killed in Israeli strikes

Updated 19 April 2024
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Hezbollah says 2 fighters killed in Israeli strikes

  • GPS interference affecting both sides of Lebanese border, source says

BEIRUT: Two Hezbollah fighters were killed on Wednesday as Israel intensified strikes on south Lebanon following an attack by the Iran-backed group that wounded 14 Israeli soldiers.

Israel and Hezbollah have exchanged near-daily cross-border fire since Palestinian militant group Hamas attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, triggering war in the Gaza Strip.

A security source said: “Hezbollah’s complex attack against the Israeli army in Wadi Al-Aramshe early on Wednesday, which led to the injury of 14 Israeli soldiers, including six with serious injuries, was absorbed by the Israeli side after the painful blow it directed at the party by assassinating three of its field officials.”

The Israeli army responded to the Wadi Al-Aramshe operation on Wednesday night by targeting the town of Iaat in the Bekaa Valley, 5 km from Baalbek. A drone strike hit a warehouse belonging to a member of the Al-Zein family, resulting in light wounds to one civilian.

Israel continues to jam GPS around the Lebanese southern border region, especially during military operations.

A security source said: “This interference negatively affects both the Israeli army and Hezbollah in targeting objectives.”

Hezbollah announced a series of operations since dawn on Thursday, targeting Israeli military sites opposite the Lebanese border.

The group targeted an Israeli force attempting to withdraw a military vehicle that was targeted on Wednesday at Metula, opposite the Lebanese town of Kfarkela.

At dawn, Israeli soldiers in Al-Malikiyah, opposite the Lebanese town of Aitaroun, were targeted by Hezbollah using missiles.

The group also targeted Israeli soldiers in Al-Marj.

“After careful monitoring and anticipation of the enemy’s movement at Al-Marj … they were targeted with missile weapons and suffered a direct hit; some died while others were injured,” the group said in a statement.

Hezbollah attacked Israeli soldiers using missiles in the Hanita forest, opposite the Lebanese town of Alma Al-Shaab.

On Thursday, the party mourned two members killed in Wednesday night’s shelling of Kfarkela. Mohammed Jamil Al-Shami from Kfarkela and Ali Ahmed Hamadeh from Doueir were killed in the Israeli operation.

The Israeli army targeted Lebanese towns with heavy shelling until dawn on Thursday. The town of Khiam was a priority target; correspondents in the area counted seven strikes and 128 artillery and phosphorous shells impacting between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m.

A young man from Habboush, Ahmed Hassan Al-Ahmed, was killed in the shelling and mourned by residents of his town.

Jets struck Hezbollah targets in Khiam, including infrastructure and two military buildings, the Israeli army said.

Israeli drones targeted a house on the outskirts of Markaba and in Blida on Thursday, with casualties reported.

The Israeli army also targeted Kfarkela with two missiles from a drone, and with artillery and phosphorous shells. From Metula opposite the border, Israeli soldiers combed the town with heavy machine guns.

The outskirts of Dhayra, Al-Bustan and Aita Al-Shaab were hit by gunfire from the Israeli position in Birkat Risha and other positions adjacent to the Blue Line.

German airline Lufthansa announced on Thursday it had extended the suspension of flights to Beirut and Tehran until April 30.

The decision was taken on the night of the Iranian attack on Israel last weekend.

UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti said that the organization’s peacekeepers “remain in their positions and carry out their duties, as well as our civilian staff.”

He added: “The safety and security of UN staff and their families are our priority.”