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.”


US says Houthis fired ballistic missile over Gulf of Aden

Updated 20 May 2024
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US says Houthis fired ballistic missile over Gulf of Aden

  • “This continued malign and reckless behavior by the Iranian-backed Houthis threatens regional stability and endangers the lives of mariners,” CENTCOM said
  • The Houthis did not claim credit for any fresh assaults on Monday, but they regularly do days later

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s Houthi militia launched a ballistic missile over the Gulf of Aden on Sunday, the US military said.
This comes as the Houthis intensified attacks on Yemeni government soldiers around the country.
The US military said in a statement on Monday morning Yemen time that at about 9:35 p.m. (Sanaa time) on Sunday, the Houthis launched one anti-ship ballistic missile from Yemen over the Gulf of Aden, but neither the US-led coalition nor international commercial ships reported being hit by the missile.
“This continued malign and reckless behavior by the Iranian-backed Houthis threatens regional stability and endangers the lives of mariners across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden,” CENTCOM said.
The Houthis did not claim credit for any fresh assaults on Monday, but they regularly do days later.
The Houthis’ newest missile launch is part of an escalation of missile and drone strikes against commercial and navy ships in international seas near Yemen as well as in the Indian Ocean, which the Houthis claim are in support of Palestine.
The Houthis attacked dozens of ships with hundreds of ballistic missiles, drones and drone boats during their campaign against ships, which started in November.
They also took control of one commercial ship and destroyed another.
The US military said on Saturday that a Greek-owned and operated oil tanker heading toward China in the Red Sea, flying the flag of Panama, barely avoided being struck by a ballistic missile launched by the Houthis.
Meanwhile, four Yemeni government troops were killed on Monday while battling the Houthis in the province of Taiz, bringing the total number of soldiers killed in Houthi attacks to 11 in less than a week.
Local media said that the government’s Nation’s Shield Forces engaged in heavy fighting with the Houthis in the Hayfan area, on the border between Taiz and Lahj provinces, that left four of its soldiers dead.
On Saturday, a soldier from the same Yemeni military unit was killed and another injured while defending their position in Haydan against a Houthi onslaught.
Six more Yemeni soldiers from the government’s Giants Brigades were killed on Saturday in fighting with the Houthis in the Al-Abadia region of Marib’s central province.
On Monday, the Houthis held a military burial procession in Sanaa for two of their troops killed while battling with Yemeni government forces.
The Houthis have organized similar funerals for hundreds of fighters who have died on the front lines ever since the UN-brokered ceasefire came into effect in April 2022.
At the same time, official media said that Yemen’s Defense Minister Lt. Gen. Mohsen Al-Daeri met the UN Yemen envoy’s military adviser, General Antony Hayward, in Aden on Sunday to discuss Houthi attacks on government troops across the country, peace efforts to end the war, and the smuggling of Iranian weapons to the Houthis.
Al-Daeri said that the Houthis had breached agreements with the Yemeni government and would continue to pose a danger to international maritime lines as long as they controlled Yemeni territory on the Red Sea.
He also accused Iran of continuing to supply weapons and military officers to the Houthis through direct journeys from Iran’s Bandar Abbas port to the Houthi-controlled Hodeidah port.
On Monday, UN experts, including Nazila Ghanea, special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, urged the Houthis to release five members of the Bahai religious minority and to stop persecuting religious minorities in regions they control.
“We urge the de facto authorities to release these five individuals immediately and refrain from any further action that may jeopardize their physical and psychological integrity,” the experts said.
Armed Houthis abducted 17 Bahais, including five women, after bursting into a meeting in Sanaa a year ago, and they have refused to release them despite local and international requests.
According to the UN experts, the Houthis released 12 Bahais under “very strict conditions” after signing a written pledge not to communicate with other sect members, avoid religious activities and not leave cities without permission, and that the Houthis continue to hold five who are at risk of mistreatment by their captors.
“We are concerned that they continue to be at serious risk of torture and other human rights violations, including acts tantamount to enforced disappearance,” the UN experts said.


Egypt mourns death of Iran’s president

A person walks past a banner with a picture of the late Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi on a street in Tehran, Iran May 20, 2024.
Updated 20 May 2024
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Egypt mourns death of Iran’s president

  • The Egyptian president expressed Egypt’s solidarity with the leadership and people of Iran during this tragic time

CAIRO: Egypt mourned the deaths of Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Egypt’s presidency said in a statement: “It is with deep grief and sorrow that the Arab Republic of Egypt mourns the death of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and their escorts on Sunday in a tragic crash.

“President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi extends his sincere condolences to the people of Iran, asking Allah to envelop President Raisi and the deceased with his mercy and grant solace and comfort to their families.”

The Egyptian president expressed Egypt’s solidarity with the leadership and people of Iran during this tragic time.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry extended his condolences to the Iranian government and people over the deaths of Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian, according to ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid.

A helicopter carrying Raisi, Amir-Abdollahian, and several other officials crashed in mountainous terrain in the country’s northwest on Sunday. On Monday, Tehran announced the deaths of Raisi, Amir-Abdollahian, and their accompanying delegation in the crash.

 


Israel calls ICC prosecutor’s bid for PM arrest warrant a ‘historical disgrace’

Updated 20 May 2024
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Israel calls ICC prosecutor’s bid for PM arrest warrant a ‘historical disgrace’

  • Katz denounced the move as a “scandalous decision” that amounted to “a frontal attack... on the victims of October 7“
  • The minister added that Israel would establish a special committee to fight the ICC prosecutor’s efforts to secure a warrant

JERUSALEM: Israel on Monday slammed as a “historical disgrace” an application by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court for an arrest warrant for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The prosecutor, Karim Khan, applied for arrest warrants against Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant as well as top Hamas leaders on suspicion of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that Khan “in the same breath mentions the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense of the State of Israel alongside the abominable Nazi monsters of Hamas — a historical disgrace that will be remembered forever.”
The prosecutor said he was seeking warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant for crimes including “wilful killing,” “extermination and/or murder” and “starvation.”
Katz denounced the move as a “scandalous decision” that amounted to “a frontal attack... on the victims of October 7” when Hamas launched their attack on Israel, sparking the Gaza war.
The minister added that Israel would establish a special committee to fight the ICC prosecutor’s efforts to secure a warrant, and also embark on a diplomatic push against it.
Katz said he planned to “speak with foreign ministers in leading countries of the world so that they oppose the prosecutor’s decision and announce that, even if orders are issued, they do not intend to enforce them on the leaders of the State of Israel.”


35,562 Palestinians killed in Gaza offensive since Oct. 7 — health ministry

Updated 20 May 2024
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35,562 Palestinians killed in Gaza offensive since Oct. 7 — health ministry

  • 106 Palestinians were killed and 176 injured in the past 24 hours

DUBAI: More than 35,562 Palestinians have been killed and 79,652 injured in the Israeli military offensive on Gaza since Oct. 7, the Gaza health ministry said in a statement on Monday.
One hundred and six Palestinians were killed and 176 injured in the past 24 hours, the ministry added.


Source close to Hezbollah says 4 dead in Israeli strikes on Lebanon

Updated 20 May 2024
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Source close to Hezbollah says 4 dead in Israeli strikes on Lebanon

  • The source close to Hezbollah told AFP that “at least four Hezbollah fighters were killed in Israeli raids on two different sites in southern Lebanon“
  • The Israeli military said fighter jets struck “a Hezbollah terrorist cell”

BEIRUT: A source close to Hezbollah said four fighters were killed Monday in south Lebanon, with the Iran-backed group announcing two dead and a retaliatory attack, while Israel claimed strikes.
Hezbollah, a Hamas ally, has traded near daily cross-border fire with Israeli forces since the Palestinian group’s October 7 attack on southern Israel that sparked the war in Gaza.
The source close to Hezbollah told AFP that “at least four Hezbollah fighters were killed in Israeli raids on two different sites in southern Lebanon,” identifying the locations as Naqura on the coast and Mais Al-Jabal, a border village to the east.
The Shiite Muslim movement said two of its fighters, both from Naqura, had been killed, without providing further details.
The Israeli military said fighter jets struck “a Hezbollah terrorist cell” and a launch post in the Mais Al-Jabal area, while Israeli army “artillery fired to remove a threat” in the Naqura area.
Hezbollah said it launched a heavy rocket attack at an Israeli army barracks in the country’s north “in retaliation” for the Naqura strike, while also announcing other attacks on Israeli positions.
Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA) reported Israeli strikes on Mais Al-Jabal and Naqura, where it said Israel fired near Hezbollah-affiliated rescue personnel and wounded a civilian.
The fighting has killed at least 423 people in Lebanon, mostly militants but also including 82 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israel says 14 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed on its side of the border.
The violence has raised fears of all-out conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, which went to war in 2006.