Israeli protesters block aid convoys bound for Gaza

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Israeli demonstrators gather by the border fence with Egypt at the Nitzana border crossing in southern Israel on February 18, 2024, as they attempt to block humanitarian aid trucks from entering into Israel on their way to the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
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Israeli demonstrators gather by the border fence with Egypt at the Nitzana border crossing in southern Israel on February 18, 2024, as they attempt to block humanitarian aid trucks from entering into Israel on their way to the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
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Israeli demonstrators gather by the border fence with Egypt at the Nitzana border crossing in southern Israel on February 18, 2024, as they attempt to block humanitarian aid trucks from entering into Israel on their way to the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
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Updated 19 February 2024
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Israeli protesters block aid convoys bound for Gaza

  • Protesters reached the terminal where aid from Egypt is checked before the trucks continue toward Gaza
  • As a result, trucks waiting on the Egyptian side were unable to cross into Israel

NITZANA: Even as the threat of famine stalks the war-ravaged Gaza Strip, Israeli protesters have gathered repeatedly to stop desperately needed aid from getting into the Palestinian territory.
“You might say it’s not acceptable to block food and water going in,” said one protester, David Rudman, at the Nitzana border post between Israel and Egypt.
“But, given the situation we’re in, it’s acceptable,” he argued as the Gaza war, siege and hostage crisis have continued into a fifth month.
The latest protest on Sunday came as Hamas threatened to suspend talks to free hostages unless more aid gets in.
Despite those threats, just over 100 people gathered at Nitzana, where the Egyptian Sinai meets Israel’s Negev desert, with some saying they were hoping to pile pressure on in a bid to free the captives.
Rudman, 35, drove three hours from Jerusalem to prevent food, fuel and medicine from getting into Gaza, which Israel has been shelling since Hamas’s October 7 attack.
Undeterred by concrete blocks across the road and armed soldiers on patrol, the protesters reached the terminal where aid from Egypt is checked before the trucks continue toward Gaza.
As a result, trucks waiting on the Egyptian side were unable to cross into Israel.
“Our aim is to get the hostages back,” said Rudman.
“There hasn’t been any progress for weeks, and you’re going to see more and more people coming here,” he predicted.
The war began with Hamas’s attack that resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory campaign in Gaza has killed more than 29,000 people, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.
Some 300,000 people remain in northern Gaza, where increasingly desperate conditions have forced some to grind bird feed for flour.
A first truce at the end of November saw the release of 108 hostages out of the more than 250 kidnapped by Hamas on October 7. Israel says 130 captives are still in Gaza but 30 may be dead.
“One of my best friends is a hostage in Gaza,” said Rudman, without naming the captive. “We hope he’s still alive in Gaza but we don’t know for sure.
“It makes no sense at all. On the one hand we give them water, medicine and food but on the other we don’t even have a list” of who is being held and their condition.
Families of the hostages have taken to the streets every week to push the Israeli government to accept a deal for their release.
This weekend said they would block the terminal at Nitzana or one further north at Kerem Shalom.
But at Nitzana on Sunday only one member of the hostages’ families turned up and refused to talk, out of fear of reprisals for those being held.
A survey for Israel’s Channel 12 television at the end of January suggested 72 percent of Israelis believed Gaza should not receive any aid while hostages are still being held.
The UN says the protests at Nitzana and Kerem Shalom are blocking trucks from going into Gaza, hitting dwindling stocks.
The Palestinian Red Crescent Society on Sunday evening said 123 trucks made it into Gaza via Kerem Shalom, but none had passed through Nitzana because of the protest.
Nili Naouri, head of the far-right group “Israel is Forever,” said that “it’s completely immoral to force Israel to send humanitarian convoys of trucks to people that support Hamas, who are holding our people hostage, and are collaborating with the enemy.”
On Sunday, members of the organization turned up to block aid, calling it “unhumanitarian.”
“Hamas aren’t going to gladly free our hostages if we allow aid trucks in for the civilian population of Gaza,” said Naouri.
Her solution is simple: “Let Gazans leave Gaza” if they want help from the international community.
Hamas, she charged, diverts aid for its own ends.
Some 1.4 million Palestinians have been sheltering in Rafah in the far south of Gaza, many having been displaced several times in a bid to find safety since the start of the war.
With neighboring Egypt repeatedly rejecting the mass displacement of Palestinians, they have nowhere to go as Israel’s planned ground offensive of Rafah looms.
But David Ickowicz, 39, a regular at the aid blockades, is convinced that his “civil disobedience” serves a purpose.
“Hamas’s leaders live in the tunnels. But to live underground and breathe oxygen you need electricity produced by fuel,” he reasoned.
“Cut off fuel supplies and we’ll get them out of the tunnels.”


Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon

Updated 30 sec ago
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Iran-backed Hezbollah downs Israeli drone in southern Lebanon

  • Hezbollah said the drone was an Israeli Hermes 450, a multi-payload drone made by Elbit Systems, an Israel-based weapons manufacturer

AMMAN: Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah said on Sunday it downed an Israeli drone that was on a combat mission in southern Lebanon.
The drone that was brought down above the Al Aishiyeh area in southern Lebanon was “waging its attacks on our steadfast people,” a statement said by the group said.
Israeli forces and Lebanon’s armed group Hezbollah have been exchanging fire for over six months in parallel to the Gaza war, in the most serious hostilities since they fought a major war in 2006.
Hezbollah said the drone was an Israeli Hermes 450, a multi-payload drone made by Elbit Systems, an Israel-based weapons manufacturer.
The fighting has fueled concern about the risk of further escalation.
At least 370 Lebanese, including more than 240 Hezbollah fighters and 68 civilians, have been killed in the fighting according to a Reuters tally. Eighteen Israelis, including soldiers and civilians, have been killed on the Israeli side of the border, according to Israeli tallies.

 


UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king

Updated 22 April 2024
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UK PM discusses Gaza developments with Jordan’s king

  • Sunak told the king that the UK’s ultimate goal is to achieve a workable two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Sunday made a phone call to Jordan’s King Abdullah to discuss developments in the Gaza Strip, 10 Downing Street announced.
During the call, Sunak renewed the UK’s support for Jordan’s security and that of the region, saying a significant escalation is “not in anyone’s interests.”
He added that the UK’s focus remains on finding a solution to the conflict in Gaza.
The UK continues to work toward an immediate humanitarian truce to bring in much larger amounts of aid and return the Israeli hostages held by Hamas safely to their families, “leading to a longer-term sustainable ceasefire,” Sunak said.
The two leaders “discussed joint efforts to significantly step up aid to Gaza, with the UK taking part in Jordanian-led aid drops and a humanitarian land corridor to Gaza, as well as the maritime aid corridor from Cyprus,” Downing Street said.
Sunak told the king that the UK’s ultimate goal is to achieve a workable two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. 
The two leaders “agreed on the importance of supporting a reformed Palestinian authority to deliver stability and prosperity across the Palestinian territories,” Downing Street said.
King Abdullah warned of the danger of regional escalation, which he said threatens international peace and security, Jordan’s official Petra news agency reported.
He renewed his call for the international community to intensify efforts to reach an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza to alleviate the worsening humanitarian catastrophe in the besieged Palestinian territory, and warned of the dangerous consequences of an Israeli assault on Rafah.
The king stressed the need to protect civilians in Gaza and ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid. 
He pointed to the importance of continuing to support the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees to enable it to provide its humanitarian services in accordance with its UN mandate.


Five rockets fired from Mosul toward US military base inside Syria: security sources

Updated 21 April 2024
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Five rockets fired from Mosul toward US military base inside Syria: security sources

  • Attack comes on same day Iraqi PM Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani returned from visit to US

MOSUL: At least five rockets were launched from Iraq’s town of Zummar toward a US military base in northeastern Syria on Sunday, two Iraqi security sources told Reuters.
The attack against US forces is the first since early February when Iranian-backed groups in Iraq stopped their attacks against US troops.
The attack comes on the same day Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani returned from a visit to the US and met with President Joe Biden at the White House.
Two security sources and a senior army officer said a rocket launcher fixed on the back of a small truck had been parked in Zummar border town with Syria.
The military official said the truck caught fire with an explosion from unfired rockets at the same time as warplanes were in the sky.
“We can’t confirm that the truck was bombed by US warplanes unless we investigate it,” said a military official on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the incident.
The attacks came one day after a huge blast at a military base in Iraq early on Saturday killed a member of an Iraqi security force that includes Iran-backed groups. The force commander said it was an attack while the army said it was investigating and there were no warplanes in the sky at the time.


Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

Updated 21 April 2024
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Israel’s brutal tactics blamed for Palestinians’ financial crisis

JERUSALEM: The Gaza war is speeding up Israel’s “annexation” of the Palestinian economy, say analysts, who argue it has been hobbled for decades by agreements that followed the Oslo peace accords.

While the Israel-Hamas war raging since Oct. 7 has devastated swaths of Gaza, it has also hit the public finances and wider economy of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israel is tightening the noose on the Palestinian Authority, which rules parts of the West Bank, by withholding tax revenues it collects on its behalf, said economist Adel Samara.

Palestinian livelihoods have also been hurt by bans on laborers crossing into Israel and by a sharp downturn in tourism in the violence-plagued territory, including a quiet Christmas season in Bethlehem.

Samara said that “technically speaking, there is no Palestinian economy under Israeli occupation — Israel has effectively annexed our economy.”

The Palestinian economy is largely governed by the 1994 Paris Protocol, which granted sole control over the territories’ borders to Israel and, with it, the right to collect import duties and value-added tax for the Palestinian Authority.

Israel has repeatedly leveraged this power to deprive the authority of much-needed revenues.

But the Gaza war has further tightened Israel’s grip, Samara said, with the bulk of customs duties withheld since Hamas sparked the war with the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

“Without these funds, the Palestinian Authority struggles to pay the salaries of its civil servants and its running costs,” said Taher Al-Labadi, a researcher at the French Institute for the Near East.


UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza

Updated 21 April 2024
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UN rapporteur raps Israeli obstruction of field visit to Gaza

  • Shoukry pointed out that the increase in Israeli assaults and illegal settlement practices in the West Bank raises the risk of the conflict erupting in the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territories

CAIRO: Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese discussed the condition of human rights and Israeli practices in the occupied Palestinian territories on Sunday.

Shoukry received Albanese, the UN special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories, in Cairo, where they called for an immediate end to Israeli attacks on Gaza in compliance with international laws and demanded the safe delivery of humanitarian aid.

They also called for a stop to mounting settler violence in the West Bank, demanding accountability of the perpetrators.

Shoukry pointed out that the increase in Israeli assaults and illegal settlement practices in the West Bank raises the risk of the conflict erupting in the entirety of the occupied Palestinian territories.

He warned of the security repercussions of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which undermines the stability of the broader region.

The foreign minister expressed regret over the reluctance of several countries so far to describe Israeli practices as a flagrant violation of international law.

Shoukry and Albanese discussed the status of human rights and the humanitarian condition of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Shoukry reiterated the need to stop Israel from implementing policies of collective punishment, indiscriminately targeting civilians, and displacing Palestinians from their lands.

The UN rapporteur denounced Israel’s refusal to allow her to conduct a field visit to the Gaza Strip and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Albanese expressed her deep concern for the catastrophic humanitarian situation Palestinians are experiencing and called on Israel to comply with its obligations under international law as the occupying power.

She also stressed her keenness to continue discussions with Egypt regarding ways to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians.