Gaza death toll rises to 29,313, Rafah residents killed in strike

A mourner reacts near the bodies of Palestinians, most of whom were killed in Israeli strikes, at Abu Yousef Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah on Feb. 21, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 21 February 2024
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Gaza death toll rises to 29,313, Rafah residents killed in strike

  • Ministry statement: A total of 118 people died in the past 24 hours

RAFAH, Gaza Strip/CAIRO: Israel stepped up its bombardment of the southern city of Rafah, residents said on Wednesday, as the death toll in the war across the devastated Palestinian strip rose to 29,313, according to the Gaza health ministry.

In its daily summary of events in Gaza, the Israeli army said it had intensified its operations in Khan Younis, a city just north of Rafah. It did not mention any attacks on Rafah itself, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

About 1.5 million people are estimated to be crammed into Rafah, on the southernmost fringe of the enclave close to the boundary with Egypt, most of them having fled their homes further north to escape Israel’s military onslaught.

Israel has said it was preparing for a ground assault on Rafah, despite mounting opposition from foreign countries, including its staunch ally the United States, over concern for civilian lives.

Residents said Israeli tanks had advanced west from Khan Younis into Al-Mawasi, previously an area of relative safety where the army had told Palestinians to seek shelter.

The tanks reached the coastal road, effectively cutting off Khan Younis and Rafah from the rest of the strip, though they retreated after a few hours, according to local residents.

Rafah residents reached by text message reported several air strikes and large explosions in the city, as well as naval boats opening fire on beachfront areas.

Reuters video journalists filmed the aftermath of a strike on the home of the Al-Noor family in Rafah, which was reduced to rubble, showing more than a dozen bodies wrapped in white or black shrouds and bereaved relatives at a Rafah hospital.

Abdulrahman Juma said his wife Noor, who was from the Al-Noor family, as well as his one-year-old daughter Kinza, had both been killed in the strike, along with Noor’s parents, brother and other relatives.

Juma was holding Kinza’s body, wrapped in a bloodstained white shroud.

“This one, who is on my lap, took my soul away ... She is one-and-a-half years old,” he said.

ANGER AT UNITED STATES

At the site of the bombed house, neighbors and relatives vented their anger at the United States, which on Tuesday vetoed a draft United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

“Since October 7 and until this moment, the US has been supporting Israel with rockets, aircrafts and tanks. All of these massacres are because of America,” said Youssef Sheikh Al-Eid, whose brother had been living in the bombed house.

Residents of Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza and Khan Younis also reported overnight strikes and deaths, and multiple funerals were taking place on Wednesday morning.

The Israel Defense Forces’ daily summary mentioned a targeted raid in the Zaytun area in northern Gaza, and operations in Khan Younis.

“Troops of the Givati Brigade conducted activities in eastern Khan Younis and killed approximately 20 terrorists in encounters over the past day,” it said.

“IDF Paratroopers expanded activities in western Khan Younis, targeting and killing terrorists with precise sniper fire and striking terror infrastructure. Additionally, two armed terrorists on bicycles approached IDF troops, who responded and killed them.”

Gaza’s health ministry said a total of 69,333 people had been injured in Gaza since the start of the war on Oct. 7, in addition to the 29,313 deaths, with 118 killed in the past 24 hours.

The war was triggered by Hamas militants who attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages, according to Israel.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has responded with an air and ground assault on Gaza that has displaced most of the population of 2.3 million, caused widespread hunger and laid waste to much of the territory.


Red Cross says 22 killed in shelling near Gaza office

Updated 22 June 2024
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Red Cross says 22 killed in shelling near Gaza office

  • “This grave security incident is one of several in recent days,” Red Cross says
  • Humanitarian organization says Gaza office was ‘damaged’ in a shell attack Friday 

GENEVA: The International Committee of the Red Cross said its Gaza office was ‘damaged’ by in a shell attack Friday that killed at least 22 people who had taken shelter around the compound.
The ICRC did not say who fired the “heavy calibre projectiles” but in a statement on the X platform said they “damaged the structure of the ICRC office,” which is surrounded by hundreds of displaced persons living in tents.
It said 22 bodies and 45 wounded had been taken to a nearby Red Cross field hospital after the shelling, and there were “reports of additional casualties.”
“Heavy-calibre projectiles landed within meters of the office and residences of the International Committee of the Red Cross on Friday afternoon,” the statement said.
“Firing so dangerously close to humanitarian structures, of whose locations the parties to the conflict are aware and which are clearly marked with the Red Cross emblem, puts the lives of civilians and Red Cross staff at risk,” said the body.
“This grave security incident is one of several in recent days,” it added.
“Previously stray bullets have reached ICRC structures. We decry these incidents that put the lives of humanitarians and civilians at risk.”

 


Red Cross says 22 killed in shelling near Gaza office

Updated 22 June 2024
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Red Cross says 22 killed in shelling near Gaza office

  • It said 22 bodies and 45 wounded had been taken to a nearby Red Cross field hospital after the shelling, and there were “reports of additional casualties”

GENEVA: The International Committee of the Red Cross said its Gaza office was ‘damaged’ by in a shell attack Friday that killed at least 22 people who had taken shelter around the compound.
The ICRC did not say who fired the “heavy calibre projectiles” but in a statement on the X platform said they “damaged the structure of the ICRC office,” which is surrounded by hundreds of displaced persons living in tents.
It said 22 bodies and 45 wounded had been taken to a nearby Red Cross field hospital after the shelling, and there were “reports of additional casualties.”
“Heavy-calibre projectiles landed within meters of the office and residences of the International Committee of the Red Cross on Friday afternoon,” the statement said.
“Firing so dangerously close to humanitarian structures, of whose locations the parties to the conflict are aware and which are clearly marked with the Red Cross emblem, puts the lives of civilians and Red Cross staff at risk,” said the body.
“This grave security incident is one of several in recent days,” it added.
“Previously stray bullets have reached ICRC structures. We decry these incidents that put the lives of humanitarians and civilians at risk.”

 


Merchant vessel reports explosion in its vicinity off Yemen’s Aden

Updated 22 June 2024
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Merchant vessel reports explosion in its vicinity off Yemen’s Aden

  • The Yemeni militant Houthi group has been launching drone and missile strikes in the key waterway since November in what it says is solidarity with Palestinian militants in Gaza

DUBAI: A merchant vessel reported an explosion in its vicinity 126 nautical miles east of Yemen’s port city of Aden, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said late on Friday.
“The crew are reported safe and the vessel is proceeding to its next port of call,” UKMTO said in an advisory note, without identifying the vessel.
The Yemeni militant Houthi group has been launching drone and missile strikes in the key waterway since November in what it says is solidarity with Palestinian militants in Gaza.
In over 70 attacks, the group has sunk two vessels, seized another and killed at least three seafarers.

 


Qatar working to ‘bridge the gap’ between Israel and Hamas

Updated 22 June 2024
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Qatar working to ‘bridge the gap’ between Israel and Hamas

  • Qatar-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement that the Palestinian Islamist movement was open to “any document or initiative that ensures the foundations of the resistance’s position in ceasefire negotiations”
  • Israel has killed at least 37,431 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry

MADRID: Qatar said Friday it was pursuing efforts to “bridge the gap” between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and release Israeli hostages held there.
The Gulf emirate, the United States and Egypt, have been engaged in months of negotiations for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war that erupted on October 7.
There has been one seven-day pause in November which led to the release of more than 100 hostages. Efforts since have been deadlocked.
“We have continued our efforts without interruption over the last few days,” Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told a news conference in Madrid with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares.
“There have been several meetings with the Hamas leadership to try to bridge the gap between the two parties and reach an agreement that will lead to a ceasefire and the release of the Israeli hostages,” he added.
The talks are based on a plan US President Joe Biden laid out on May 31 calling for an Israeli withdrawal from “major population centers” in Gaza and a six week ceasefire, which could be extended if negotiators need more time to seek a permanent deal.
“Efforts are continuing, but so far we have not reached a formula that we feel is the most appropriate and closest to what has been presented,” the Qatari prime minister said.
“As soon as this is done, we will communicate with the Israeli side to try to bridge the gap and reach an agreement as quickly as possible,” he added.
Qatar-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement that the Palestinian Islamist movement was open to “any document or initiative that ensures the foundations of the resistance’s position in ceasefire negotiations.”
Hamas has insisted on the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and a permanent ceasefire before the release of all hostages sought by Israel. The Israeli goverment has rejected the demands.
Haniyeh said “the priority is to stop the criminal war on our people.”
The Gaza war was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza, including 41 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,431 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
 

 


Lebanon’s FM meets with UN, French and US envoys in bid to prevent full-scale war

Updated 22 June 2024
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Lebanon’s FM meets with UN, French and US envoys in bid to prevent full-scale war

  • Lebanon counts on success of US diplomatic efforts to prevent full-scale war
  • Former ambassador to US tells Arab News: ‘No one has an interest in open war’

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Foreign Affairs Minister Abdallah Bou Habib met with French Ambassador Herva Magro, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, and US Ambassador Lisa Johnson on Friday.

The minister reiterated Lebanon’s call for the full implementation of UN Resolution 1701.

Hennis-Plasschaert said there was “no inevitability (to wider conflict with Israel)” during her visit to UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon.

Also on Friday, it was announced that German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will make shuttle visits to Lebanon, Israel, and the West Bank.

Concerned at the risk of Israel’s war on Gaza spreading across the region, US President Joe Biden sent his special envoy Amos Hochstein to embark on a new round of diplomacy last week. Hochstein called for “urgent” de-escalation during talks with Lebanon and Israel on Tuesday, informing both sides that “the threat of a full-scale war persists and must be avoided.”

It is widely believed in Lebanon that Hochstein convinced Israel to refrain from escalating its military actions against Lebanon for the time being.

In a meeting with visiting Israeli officials including National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer in Washington on Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken underscored the importance of “avoiding further escalation in Lebanon and reaching a diplomatic resolution that allows Israeli and Lebanese families to return to their homes,” according to a statement.

According to his spokesperson, Matthew Miller, Blinken also stressed America’s “unwavering commitment to Israel’s security.”

During his talks in Beirut, Hochstein reportedly reassured Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati that Biden’s proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza was being viewed positively, and that Qatar was working to make it happen.

Hochstein also reportedly told Mikati that “things are under control and positive when it comes to the war between Lebanon and Israel.”

Former Lebanese Ambassador to Washington, Riad Tabbarah, described threats of war as a “mere outburst.”

He told Arab News: “Since military operations began on the southern front about nine months ago, the Lebanese have been hearing that war is coming, but it never arrives.

“During diplomatic negotiations, it is common for both sides to face pressure and threats,” he continued. “It appears that there are numerous and diverse negotiations happening behind the scenes, including discussions between the Americans and Iranians, as well as between the Americans and Hezbollah.”

Tabbarah acknowledged the recklessness of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and said the Israeli leader “has two options — either war or prison. And there is significant pressure on him, especially from the families of the hostages.”

Tabbarah noted that there are limits to what military action can achieve. “We still recall the time when former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon crossed those limits in 1982 when he set the Litani Line as his target. However, he went beyond that and reached Beirut. As a result, international powers united to bring him back to the Litani Line.

“No one has an interest in war,” he continued. “Americans, Europeans, and Iranians are working in the opposite direction. The general trend is to avoid escalating to open war.”

Military operations on the Lebanese front decreased significantly on Friday, although the outskirts of Naqoura in the western sector were targeted by Israeli artillery, causing a fire in a house. In the morning, an Israeli military raid targeted the town of Wazzani.

Hezbollah made a series of announcements about their operations, which were “focused on specific targets within the rules of engagement.”

Hezbollah attacked the sites of Ramtha and Samaka in the occupied Lebanese Kfar Shouba Hills, the Zabadin site in the occupied Lebanese Shebaa Farms, and carried out an air attack using drones on the Ras Al-Naqoura naval site, aiming at locations containing Israeli military personnel.

The Lebanese Ministry of Health said that, up to June 19, it has recorded a total of 1,774 casualties, including 432 fatalities, caused by Israeli attacks.