Israel intentionally starving Palestinians in Gaza: UN official

Palestinians line up for a free meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, earlier in February. (AP)
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Updated 27 February 2024
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Israel intentionally starving Palestinians in Gaza: UN official

  • Country guilty of war crimes, special rapporteur on right to food Michael Fakhri says
  • ‘Israel has announced its intention to destroy the Palestinian people,’ he says

LONDON: Israel is intentionally starving the population of Gaza in its battle with Hamas in the enclave and should be held accountable for war crimes and genocide, a UN official said on Tuesday.

Michael Fakhri, special rapporteur on the right to food, told The Guardian newspaper that Israel had been deliberately destroying food supplies and restricting the flow of food to Gaza since the war started in October.

About 2.2 million civilians are facing hunger and severe malnutrition as a result of extreme shortages of basic supplies in the enclave.

Fakhri said that to intentionally deprive civilians of food was a war crime, as per the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which states that depriving people of “objects indispensable to their survival, including willfully impeding relief supplies” falls under that definition.

Human rights groups have repeatedly accused Israel of using starvation in its operations within Gaza, an act which the UN Security Council outlined as a violation of international law and a war crime in 2018.

“There is no reason to intentionally block the passage of humanitarian aid or intentionally obliterate small-scale fishing vessels, greenhouses and orchards in Gaza — other than to deny people access to food,” Fakhri said.

“Israel has announced its intention to destroy the Palestinian people, in whole or in part, simply for being Palestinian.”

The official said that the situation in Gaza was one of “genocide” and that Israel in its entirety, “not just individuals or this government or that person,” was “culpable and should be held accountable.”

“It was already a very fragile situation due to Israel’s chokehold on what goes in and out of Gaza. So when the war started, Israel was very easily able to make everyone go hungry because they had most people on the brink,” Fakhri said.

“We have never seen a civilian population made to go so hungry so quickly and so completely, that is the consensus among starvation experts. Israel is not just targeting civilians, it is trying to damn the future of the Palestinian people by harming their children.”

Fakhri also criticized those countries that cut their funding for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees following claims made by Israel that 12 of the organization’s workers had links to Hamas and its attack on Israel on Oct. 7, in which 1,200 people were killed.

UNRWA provides food, healthcare, education and other basic services to almost 6 million Palestinian refugees in the Occupied Territories and across the Middle East.

“Ending funding almost instantaneously based on unsubstantiated claims against a small number of people has no other purpose than collective punishment of all Palestinians in multiple countries,” he said.

“The countries that withdrew this lifeline are undoubtedly complicit in the starvation of Palestinians.

“Israel will claim there are exceptions to war crimes. But there is no exception to genocide and there’s no argument as to why Israel is destroying civilian infrastructure, the food system, humanitarian workers and allowing this degree of malnutrition and hunger … The charge of genocide holds a whole state accountable and the remedy of genocide is the issue of self-determination of the Palestinian people.

“The path forward must not just be ending the war but actually peace.”


Israeli military says it is unaware of US sanctions against one of its battalions

Updated 5 sec ago
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Israeli military says it is unaware of US sanctions against one of its battalions

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military said on Sunday it was unaware of any US sanctions against one of its combat battalions, after media reported that Washington was planning such a step against the unit for alleged rights violations.
The military said that its “Netzah Yehuda” battalion is an active combat unit that operates according to the principles of international law.
“Following publications about sanctions against the battalion, the IDF is not aware of the issue. If a decision is made on the matter it will be reviewed. The IDF works and will continue to work to investigate any unusual event in a practical manner and according to law,” the military said.

Iran’s Khamenei praises ‘success’ of military after Israel attack

Updated 18 min 6 sec ago
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Iran’s Khamenei praises ‘success’ of military after Israel attack

  • Supreme leader: ‘The armed forces showed a good image of their abilities and power and an admirable image of the Iranian nation’

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised the country’s armed forces for their “success” in his first public comments since Tehran launched an unprecedented direct attack on Israel last week.
In a meeting with Iranian military commanders on Sunday, Khamenei praised the armed forces for their “success in recent events,” a week after the country’s first-ever direct attack on Israel from its own territory.
“The armed forces showed a good image of their abilities and power and an admirable image of the Iranian nation,” Khamenei said. “They also proved the emergence of the power of the Iranian nation’s determination at the international level.”
The remarks from Iran’s supreme leader are the first since Iran attacked Israel and since a reported Israeli attack on a military air base in central Isfahan province on Friday.
“The armed forces’ recent achievements have created a sense of splendour and magnificence about Islamic Iran in the eyes of the world,” Khamenei said in quotes posted on his official X account.
The Friday strike, which Khamenei did not mention, was a presumed response to Iran’s unprecedented drone and missile attack on Israel which was itself a retaliation for an airstrike on the Iranian consular building in Damascus.
That attack, widely blamed on Israel, levelled the consular annex of the Iranian embassy and killed seven members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, including two generals.
Israel said it intercepted 99 percent of the more than 300 drones and missiles fired at it, with the aid of the United States and other allies and that those which got through caused only minor damage.
Addressing his country’s attack on Israel, Khamenei said “the issue of the number of missiles fired or the missiles that hit the target” was “secondary.”
“The main issue is the emergence of the willpower of the Iranian nation and the armed forces in the international arena,” he said, according to his official website.
Iran and Israel appeared to have stepped back from the brink of a broader conflict following Friday’s attack, which Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian appeared to downplay to US media on Saturday.
Speaking to NBC News, he dismissed it as “no attack” and said the weapons used were “at the level of toys,” adding that if there was “no new adventure” by Israel then Iran “will have no response.”
The comments helped to dampen fears of an all-out war between the arch-foes which could spread into a wider regional conflict.


Hamas says US military aid to Israel ‘green light’ for Gaza ‘aggression’

Updated 21 April 2024
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Hamas says US military aid to Israel ‘green light’ for Gaza ‘aggression’

  • Condemns US House of Representatives’ approval of billions of dollars in new military aid to Israel

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: Palestinian militant group Hamas on Sunday condemned the US House of Representatives’ approval of billions of dollars in new military aid to Israel, much of which is to strengthen Israeli air defenses.

“This support, which violates international law, is a license and a green light for the Zionist extremist government (Israel) to continue the brutal aggression against our people,” Hamas said in a statement.

“We consider this step a confirmation of the official American complicity and partnership in the war of extermination waged by the fascist occupation army against our Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.”

On Saturday, the US House of Representatives approved $13 billion in military assistance to America’s historic ally Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza.

Washington is already Israel’s largest military supplier.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the “much appreciated aid bill” showed strong support for Israel and “defends Western civilization.”

The US bill said that more than $9 billion will also be earmarked to address “the dire need for humanitarian assistance for Gaza as well as other vulnerable populations around the world.”


Iran president to visit Pakistan, boost ties: Islamabad

Updated 21 April 2024
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Iran president to visit Pakistan, boost ties: Islamabad

  • Ebrahim Raisi will be accompanied by ‘a high-level delegation comprising the foreign minister... as well as a large business delegation’

ISLAMABAD: Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi will travel to Islamabad on Monday to meet his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said, as the two countries seek to mend ties following deadly cross-border attacks this year.
Raisi will be accompanied by “a high-level delegation comprising the foreign minister... as well as a large business delegation,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
The tit-for-tat missile strikes in January in the porous border region of Balochistan — split between the two nations — stoked regional tensions already inflamed by the Israel-Hamas war.
Tehran carried out the strikes against an anti-Iran group in Pakistan the same week it targeted Iraq and Syria.
Pakistan responded with a raid on “militant targets” in Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province, one of the few mainly Sunni Muslim regions in Shiite-dominated Iran.
Both countries have in the past accused each other of sheltering militants.
A visit to Islamabad by Tehran’s foreign minister led to the two sides pledging to improve dialogue and install liaison officers in both countries.
Sistan-Balochistan province has for years faced unrest involving cross-border drug-smuggling gangs and rebels from the Baloch ethnic minority, and Muslim extremists.
Raisi will also visit Lahore and Karachi to meet provincial leaders, according to the statement.
The countries will further strengthen ties and enhance cooperation in “trade, connectivity, energy, agriculture, and people-to-people contacts,” it added.
Pakistan is counting on a joint gas project with Iran to solve a long-running power crisis that has sapped its economic growth.
A $7.5-billion Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline intended to feed Pakistani power plants was inaugurated with great fanfare in March 2013.
But the project immediately stagnated following international sanctions on Iran.
Tehran has built its own section of the 1,800-kilometer (1,100-mile) pipeline, which should eventually link its South Pars gas fields to the Pakistani city of Nawabshah, near Karachi.
In February, Pakistan’s outgoing caretaker government approved the construction of an 80-kilometer section of the pipeline, primarily to avoid the payment of billions of dollars in penalties to Iran due to years of delays.
Washington has warned that Pakistan could face US sanctions, saying it does not support the pipeline going forward.


Emir of Qatar begins Asia tour with state visit to Philippines

Updated 21 April 2024
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Emir of Qatar begins Asia tour with state visit to Philippines

  • During his tour the emir will speak with the countries’ leaders and senior officials

DUBAI: The Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad began his state visit to Manila, the Philippine capital, on Sunday as part of his Asia tour, reported the Qatar News Agency.

Sheikh Tamim received a welcome at Maharlika Presidential Airport from a delegation including Rafael Perpetuo Lotilla, minister of energy; Ahmed bin Saad Al-Humaidi, ambassador of Qatar to the Philippines; and Lilibeth Velasco Puno, ambassador of the Philippines to Qatar, along with several senior officials from the Philippine government and members of the Qatari embassy.

Accompanied by an official delegation, Sheikh Tamim’s itinerary includes visits to Bangladesh and Nepal following his time in the Philippines.

During his tour, the emir will speak with the countries’ leaders and senior officials, focusing on ways to enhance cooperation and discussing issues of common interest.

Additionally, agreements and memoranda of understanding are expected to be signed across various fields.