‘Pattern’ of Israeli attacks on hospitals either intentional or ‘reckless incompetence,’ MSF chief tells UNSC

This picture shows damaged Hamad Hospital in Gaza City on February 3, 2024, in the aftermath of Israeli bombardment. (AFP/File)
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Updated 23 February 2024
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‘Pattern’ of Israeli attacks on hospitals either intentional or ‘reckless incompetence,’ MSF chief tells UNSC

  • Christopher Lockyear says a resolution calling for anything short of a ceasefire is ‘gross negligence’
  • He paints an apocalyptic picture of health facilities, staff and patients in Gaza, where the focus is on mere survival amid complete erosion of humanitarian laws
  • Children as young as 5 are expressing their desire to die rather than live with injuries and trauma

NEW YORK: In one of the most powerful speeches delivered at the UN Security Council since beginning of the war in Gaza, the secretary-general of the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) on Thursday called for the UN body to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and ensure protection of health facilities, workers and patients.

He said the world is watching council members “deliberate and delay while civilians die,” and expressed outrage at the recent US veto that prevented the adoption of “the most evident of resolutions, one demanding an immediate and sustained ceasefire.”

Christopher Lockyear said: “Three times this council has had an opportunity to vote for the ceasefire that is so desperately needed. And three times the United States has used its veto power.”

He said the draft resolution tabled by the US last week to rival the Algerian draft it vetoed and “ostensibly” calling for a ceasefire is “misleading at best.”

Although the draft in question does support a call for a ceasefire, it refers to it as a temporary measure that needs to be enacted “as soon as practicable,” which many have understood as leaving the decision for its implementation to the Israelis.

Lockyear called on the council to reject “any resolution that further hampers humanitarian efforts on the ground and leads this council to tacitly endorse the continued violence and mass atrocities in Gaza.”

He added: “The people of Gaza need a ceasefire, not when practicable, but now. They need a sustained ceasefire, not a temporary period of calm. Anything short of this is gross negligence. The protection of civilians in Gaza cannot be contingent on resolutions from this council which instrumentalize humanitarianism to blur political objectives.”

Lockyear painted an apocalyptic picture of the situation in Rafah, the last refuge for Gazans, where over 1 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering and which is now being engulfed with fear of a ground invasion.

Over four months of war have killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians in Israel’s constant bombing and attacks, according to MSF.

More than 1.7 million are estimated to have been forcibly displaced and facing infected wounds and disease, as the organization says providing healthcare is becoming “virtually impossible” in Gaza, where medical facilities have not been safe from military attacks.

“Our patients have catastrophic injuries, amputations, crushed limbs and severe burns,” Lockyear said.

“They need sophisticated care. They need long and intensive rehabilitation. Medics cannot treat these injuries on a battlefield or in the ashes of destroyed hospitals. Our surgeons are running out of basic gauze to stop their patients from bleeding out. They use it once, squeeze out the blood, wash it, sterilize it, and reuse it for the next patient.

“The humanitarian crisis in Gaza has left pregnant women without medical care for months. Women in labor cannot reach functional delivery rooms. They are giving birth in plastic tents and public buildings.

“Medical teams have added a new acronym to their vocabulary, WCNSF: Wounded child, no surviving family.

“Children who do survive this war will not only bear the visible wounds of traumas and injuries, but the invisible ones to those of repeated displacements, constant fear and witnessing family members being literally dismembered before their eyes. These psychological injuries have led children as young as 5 to tell us that they would prefer to die.”

On Feb. 20, a MSF staff member’s wife and daughter-in-law were killed and six other people were injured when an Israeli tank fired on a clearly marked MSF staff shelter in Al-Mawasi in Khan Younis.

Israeli forces last week evacuated then raided Nasser Hospital, the largest remaining medical facility in southern Gaza. Those who were forced out have nowhere to go, said MSF. They cannot move back to the now largely destroyed north, and in Rafah they live amid constant Israeli airstrikes and the fear of an extensive ground incursion.

Since the beginning of the war in Gaza, MSF medical teams and patients have been forced to evacuate nine different healthcare facilities in the Gaza Strip. Five MSF workers have been killed. Today’s MSF efforts to help are “entirely inadequate,” said Lockyear.

He added: “For 138 days we have witnessed the unimaginable suffering of the people of Gaza. For 138 days we have watched the systematic obliteration of a health system we have supported for decades. We have watched our patients and our colleagues be killed and maimed. This situation is the combination of a war Israel is waging on the entire population of the Gaza Strip; a war of collective punishment, a war without rules, a war at all costs.

“The laws and the principles we collectively depend on to enable humanitarian assistance are now eroded to the point of becoming meaningless.

“The humanitarian response in Gaza today is an illusion. A convenient illusion that perpetuates a narrative that this war is being waged in line with international laws. Calls for humanitarian assistance have echoed across this chamber. Yet in Gaza, we have less and less every day: less space, less medicine, less food, less water, less safety. We no longer speak of a humanitarian scale up. We speak of how to survive even without the bare minimum.”

Lockyear said the Israeli attacks against medical facilities and staff have become now “all too familiar.”

He said: “Israeli forces have attacked our convoys, detained our staff, bulldozed our vehicles. Hospitals have been bombed and raided.

“This pattern of attacks is either intentional or indicative of reckless incompetence. Our colleagues in Gaza are fearful that as I speak to you today, they will be punished tomorrow.”

Lockyear cautioned against casting international humanitarian law to the wind as that “will reverberate well beyond Gaza. It will be an enduring burden on our collective conscience. This is not just political inaction: It has become political complicity.”

The humanitarian official demanded from the Security Council “the protections promised under international humanitarian law,” and a ceasefire from both parties.

Lockyear asked council members: “We demand the space to turn the illusion of aid to meaningful assistance. What will you do to make this happen?”


Thousands of Lebanese mourn slain Christian political official

Updated 17 sec ago
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Thousands of Lebanese mourn slain Christian political official

The army said that Sleiman was killed in a carjacking by Syrian gang members who then took his body across the border
His party said it would consider Sleiman’s death a “political assassination until proven otherwise“

BYBLOS, Lebanon: Thousands of Lebanese on Friday mourned a slain Christian political official authorities said was killed by a Syrian gang, with supporters pointing the finger at Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group.
Pascal Sleiman was a coordinator in the Byblos (Jbeil) area north of Beirut for the Lebanese Forces (LF) Christian party, which opposes the government in neighboring Syria and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.
On Monday, the army said that Sleiman, who had gone missing the day before, was killed in a carjacking by Syrian gang members who then took his body across the border.
His party said it would consider Sleiman’s death a “political assassination until proven otherwise.”
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah has denied that his party was involved.
Speaking after Sleiman’s funeral, LF leader Samir Geagea called for the “failed, corrupt” authorities in Lebanon to be changed.
Geagea blamed their failure, among other things, on “illegal weapons” — a barely veiled reference to Hezbollah.
The Iran-backed group is the only party in Lebanon that has kept its weapons arsenal after the end of the 1975-1990 civil war, and it wields great influence on the country’s political life.
Since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on October 7, Hezbollah has traded near-daily cross-border fire with Israeli forces in actions opposed by the LF and other parties.
“We don’t want to wake up one day, as we did now, and find ourselves involved in a never-ending war,” Geagea said Friday.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai, spiritual leader of Lebanon’s largest Christian sect, held back tears as he presided over Sleiman’s funeral in Byblos.
Outside the St. Georges church, LF supporters waved the party’s white flag with its cedar tree — the symbol of Lebanon — circled in red.
Mourners told AFP they were unconvinced by the army’s version that car thieves killed Sleiman.
“This story never convinced me. It is not coherent at all,” said Jean Habshi, 50, who came to pay his respects.
“Enough with Hezbollah, enough with the illegal weapons,” Roba Hajjal, 24, told AFP outside the church.
“If they (Hezbollah) did not kill him, at the very least they allowed the Syrians in. We are all at risk of meeting Pascal’s fate,” she said.
Lebanon has a long history of political assassinations that have taken place with impunity.
Years of economic meltdown have further strained a weak judiciary that has been widely accused of succumbing to political interference.
Ziad Hawat, an LF lawmaker from Byblos, on Friday called for a “serious, transparent” probe into Sleiman’s murder, adding that the party had concerns “based on past experiences.”
“We do not want the killer to be known to all,” he added, while “remaining unknown to the judiciary.”
On Tuesday, Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi vowed to get tough on Syrians after several were arrested on suspicion of involvement in Sleiman’s killing.

Dozens of Palestinians killed in Gaza as Hamas official vows to ‘break’ Israel

Updated 21 min 58 sec ago
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Dozens of Palestinians killed in Gaza as Hamas official vows to ‘break’ Israel

  • Residents of Al-Nusseirat camp in central Gaza said dozens were dead or wounded after Israeli bombardment from air, land and sea
  • Meshaal said: “It is an important round on the path of liberating Palestine and defeating the Zionist project“

GAZA: Israeli forces fought Palestinian militants in the north and center of the Gaza Strip on Friday as Khaled Meshaal, a senior official in Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement, said its six-month-old battle with Israel would “break the enemy soon.”
Most Israeli troops have been pulled out of Gaza in preparation for an assault on the southern city of Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians are sheltering, but fighting has continued in various areas.
Residents of Al-Nusseirat camp in central Gaza said dozens were dead or wounded after Israeli bombardment from air, land and sea that had followed a surprise ground offensive on Thursday, and that houses and two mosques had been destroyed.
Health officials said earlier that six people had been killed in strikes on the camp, and around 70 wounded, including three Palestinian journalists.
In Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said at least 25 people had been killed and several wounded in an Israeli air strike on a house in Al-Daraj neighborhood. Gaza’s health ministry said 89 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli military strikes in the space of 24 hours.
The Israel military (IDF) said it was pursuing “a precise intelligence-based operation” against militants and their infrastructure in central Gaza.
“Over the past day, IDF fighter jets struck over 60 terror targets in the Gaza Strip, including underground launch posts, military infrastructure and sites in which armed terrorists operated,” a military statement said. “In parallel, IDF artillery struck terrorist infrastructure in the central Gaza Strip.”
Meshaal spoke at an event in Doha, Qatar, to mourn members of Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh’s family killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza on Wednesday.
“This is not the final round,” he said. “It is an important round on the path of liberating Palestine and defeating the Zionist project.”
At least 33,545 Palestinians have now been killed since the Israeli offensive began, Gaza’s health ministry said, with most of the 2.3 million population displaced and much of the enclave laid to waste.
The war began when Hamas led an attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage. Around 130 are still being held incommunicado in Gaza, Israel says.


France urges no travel to Iran, Lebanon, Israel and Palestinian territories

Updated 54 min 7 sec ago
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France urges no travel to Iran, Lebanon, Israel and Palestinian territories

  • Iran has threatened reprisals against Israel over a strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria
  • France’s Foreign Minister asked that family members of French diplomats in Iran be evacuated

PARIS: France on Friday warned its citizens to “imperatively refrain from travel in the coming days to Iran, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories,” the foreign minister’s entourage told AFP.
Iran has threatened reprisals against Israel over a strike on the Iranian consulate in Syria on April 1 that killed seven Revolutionary Guards including two generals, sparking fears of an escalation of violence in the Middle East.
France’s Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne at a crisis meeting also asked that family members of French diplomats in Iran be evacuated, and no French civil servants be sent on missions to the listed countries.
Israel has bombarded the Gaza Strip since an unprecedented attack by Palestinian militant group Hamas against Israel on October 7. It has also stepped up strikes against Iranian personnel and allies in Syria and Lebanon.
Israel has traded near-daily cross-border fire with Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah since the start of the latest Gaza conflict.


Israeli forces kill two Palestinians including Hamas gunman

Updated 12 April 2024
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Israeli forces kill two Palestinians including Hamas gunman

  • Hamas confirms Mohammad Omar Daraghmeh’s death and his membership of its armed Al-Qassem Brigades

RAMALLAH: Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians, including a member of the armed wing of Hamas, near Tubas in the occupied West Bank on Friday following a raid on the town earlier in the morning, the military said.
It said Mohammad Omar Daraghmeh, whom it described as the head of Hamas infrastructure in the Tubas area of the Jordan valley was killed during an exchange of fire with security forces. It said a number of weapons and military-style equipment, including automatic rifles were found in his vehicle.
Hamas confirmed Daraghmeh’s death and his membership of its armed Al-Qassem Brigades.
The official Palestinian news agency WAFA said another man was killed by Israeli forces conducting a raid in the Al-Fara refugee camp in Tubas. Hamas said it mourned the man’s death but did not claim him as a member.
The military said forces carrying out the operation opened fire on Palestinians who threw explosive devices and killed one man it said was attempting to attack them.
The incident was the latest in a wave of confrontations in the West Bank between Israeli security forces and Palestinians, including both armed militants and unarmed protesters, since the start of the war in Gaza last October.
Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces, most of them armed fighters but some of them unarmed civilians, and thousands have been arrested or detained. In the same period more than a dozen Israelis have been killed by Palestinian attackers.


US does not expect to be drawn into war but predicts attack by Iran against Israel

The North Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 12 April 2024
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US does not expect to be drawn into war but predicts attack by Iran against Israel

  • The White House said it warned Iran to not use that attack as a pretext to escalate further in the region

WASHINGTON: The United States expects an attack by Iran against Israel but one that would not be big enough to draw Washington into war, a US official said late on Thursday.
The White House said earlier Washington did not want conflict to spread in the Middle East and the US had told Iran it was not involved in an air strike against a top Iranian military commander in Damascus.
The White House added it warned Iran to not use that attack as a pretext to escalate further in the region.
Suspected Israeli warplanes bombed Iran’s embassy in Damascus on Monday in a strike for which Iran has vowed revenge and in which a top Iranian general and six other Iranian military officers were killed, ratcheting up tension in a region already strained by the Gaza war.
Iranian sources told Reuters Tehran has signalled to Washington that it will respond to Israel’s attack on its Syrian embassy in a way that aims to avoid major escalation and it will not act hastily, as Tehran presses demands including a Gaza truce.
The United States has been on high alert about possible retaliatory strikes from Iran and US envoys have been working to lower tensions.
Palestinian group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s military assault on Hamas-governed Gaza has since killed over 33,000 according to the local health ministry, displaced nearly all of Gaza’s 2.3 million population, caused a humanitarian crisis and led to genocide allegations that Israeli denies.
Iran-backed groups have declared support for Palestinians, waging attacks from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq. Tehran has avoided direct confrontation with Israel or the United States, while declaring support for its allies.

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