Gaza health ministry says war deaths exceed 30,000 as famine looms

Displaced Palestinian children wait to receive free food at a tent camp, amid food shortages, as the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip (REUTERS)
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Updated 29 February 2024
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Gaza health ministry says war deaths exceed 30,000 as famine looms

  • Mediators say a truce deal between Israel and Hamas could be just days away
  • Children died “due to malnutrition, dehydration and widespread famine” at Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital

Gaza Strip: The Hamas-run health ministry said Thursday more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the war between the militant group and Israel began nearly five months ago.
While mediators say a truce deal between Israel and Hamas could be just days away, aid agencies have sounded the alarm of a looming famine in Gaza’s north.
Children have died “due to malnutrition, dehydration and widespread famine” at Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital, said the health ministry, whose spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra has called for “immediate action” from international organizations to prevent more of these deaths.
Citing the deteriorating conditions in Gaza, USAID head Samantha Power said Israel needed to open more crossings so that “vitally needed humanitarian assistance can be dramatically surged.”
“This is a matter of life and death,” Power said in a video posted on social media platform X.
The latest overall toll for Palestinians killed in the war came after at least 79 people died overnight across the war-torn Gaza Strip, the health ministry said Thursday.
Mediators from Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been seeking a six-week pause in the war sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which in response vowed to eliminate the Palestinian Islamist group that rules in Gaza.
Negotiators are hoping a truce can begin by the start of Ramadan, the holy Muslim month that kicks off March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.
The proposals reportedly include the release of some Israeli hostages held in Gaza in exchange for several hundred Palestinian detainees held by Israel.
Short of the complete withdrawal Hamas has called for, a source from the group said the deal might see Israeli forces leave “cities and populated areas,” allowing the return of some displaced Palestinians and humanitarian relief.
US President Joe Biden is “pushing all of us to try to get this agreement over the finish line,” said his secretary of state, Antony Blinken.
The crucial southern Gaza city of Rafah is the main entry point for aid crossing the border from neighboring Egypt.
But the World Food Programme said no humanitarian group had been able to deliver aid to the north for more than a month, accusing Israel of blocking access.
Neighbouring Jordan has coordinated efforts to air-drop supplies over southern Gaza.
“If nothing changes, a famine is imminent in northern Gaza,” the World Food Programme’s deputy executive director Carl Skau said.
Israeli officials have denied blocking supplies, and the army on Wednesday said “50 trucks carrying humanitarian aid” had made it to northern Gaza in recent days.
The war was triggered by an unprecedented Hamas attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.
Militants also took about 250 hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 31 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory military campaign in Gaza has left hundreds of thousands displaced, with nearly 1.5 million people now packed in Rafah.
In a sign of growing desperation among Gazans over living conditions, a rare protest was held Wednesday by residents over the soaring prices of commodities.
“Everyone is suffering inside these tents,” said Amal Zaghbar, who was displaced and sheltering in a makeshift camp.
“We’re dying slowly.”
Israel has repeatedly threatened a ground offensive on Rafah, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying a truce would only delay it, as such an operation was needed for “total victory” over Hamas.
Egypt — which borders Rafah — says an assault on the overcrowded city would have “catastrophic repercussions.”
While Israel’s plans for post-war Gaza exclude any mention of the Palestinian Authority, its top ally the United States and other powers have called for a revitalized PA, which governs the occupied West Bank, to take charge of the territory.
Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki said a “technocratic” government without Gaza’s rulers Hamas was needed to “stop this insane war” and facilitate relief operations and reconstruction.
His government, based in the West Bank, resigned this week, with prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh citing the need for change after the war ends.
A government that includes Hamas — longtime rivals of president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party, which controls the PA — would “be boycotted by a number of countries,” Al-Maliki told a news conference in Geneva.
On Thursday, Palestinian factions — including Hamas and Fatah — were expected to arrive in Moscow for a meeting at Russia’s invitation.
“The central goal is how to unite the Palestinian ranks,” Mustafa Barghouti of the Palestinian National Initiative — a civilian political party — told Qatar state TV from Moscow.
In Israel, Netanyahu has come under increasing pressure to bring the hostages home.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant insisted the government was “making every effort.”
A group of 150 Israelis started a four-day march from Reim, near the Gaza border, to Jerusalem, calling for the government to reach a deal.
“No one should be left behind,” said Ronen Neutra, father of captive Omer Neutra, an Israeli soldier who is also a US citizen.


Arab League chief urges wider recognition of Palestinian state

Updated 10 min 55 sec ago
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Arab League chief urges wider recognition of Palestinian state

  • Ahmed Aboul Gheit issued the warning while taking part in a series of Arab League meetings with European foreign ministers
  • The meetings in Brussels on Sunday and Monday discussed practical political solutions to end the fighting

CAIRO: The Arab League secretary-general said in Brussels that Israel’s aggression in the Gaza Strip could undermine any chance for peace and extinguish hopes of achieving a two-state solution, posing significant risks not only for the Middle East but also for international security.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit issued the warning while taking part in a series of Arab League meetings with European foreign ministers and other officials on the Palestinian-Israeli situation in light of the conflict in Gaza.
Hossam Zaki, Abdul Gheit’s assistant, said that the meetings in Brussels on Sunday and Monday discussed practical political solutions to end the fighting and subsequent steps to ensure peace.
During his discussions with European ministers, Aboul Gheit highlighted the need for more European countries to recognize an independent Palestinian state based on the June 4, 1967, borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
This would signal to Palestinian people that their right to independence is respected by Western countries, along with other nations in the world, he said.
Aboul-Gheit thanked the foreign ministers of Ireland, Norway, and Spain for their decision to recognize an independent Palestinian state.
Zaki said that the discussions revealed an increasing inclination toward addressing the situation collectively by convening an international conference to implement the two-state solution.
This approach is seen as the only way to save the region from prolonged and continuous violent conflict, he said.
Aboul Gheit, along with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, and Bahrain, urged European countries to move beyond merely discussing the feasibility of the two-state solution.
They advocated for clear and concrete steps to implement it on the ground, addressing the root causes of the conflict, Zaki said.


After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan to launch modern communication satellite into space on May 30

Updated 25 min 31 sec ago
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After ICUBE-Q, Pakistan to launch modern communication satellite into space on May 30

  • The satellite will help usher in digital era in Pakistan by providing Internet to country’s remote areas, the national space agency says
  • The satellite launch from Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC) will be broadcast live from agency centers in Islamabad, Karachi

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will be launching its latest modern communication satellite, PAKSAT MM1, into the space on May 30, Pakistani state media reported on Tuesday, weeks after it launched ICUBE-Qamar (ICUBE-Q) into the lunar orbit.

Pakistani satellite ICUBE-Q was launched on May 3 aboard China’s Chang’e-6 lunar mission from Hainan, China. A major milestone in Pakistan’s space exploration efforts, the satellite successfully entered the moon’s orbit on May 8, and shortly after began transmitting the first images from lunar orbit.

The Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (Suparco), Pakistan’s national space agency, now plans to launch the communication satellite with Chinese assistance on May 30.

“The satellite PAKSAT MM1 would be launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC), China,” the Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported.

“The SUPARCO MM1 Satellite is a result of the tireless efforts of Pakistani scientists and engineers and it is conceived keeping in sight the growing needs of the country in the broad spectrum of communication and connectivity.’

The satellite would help usher in a digital era in Pakistan by helping provide Internet to remote areas, the report read, citing Suparco officials.

The launch ceremony would be broadcast live from Suparco’s offices in Islamabad and Karachi.

Established in 1961, Suparco manages Pakistan’s space program, enhancing the nation’s capabilities in satellite communications, remote sensing and meteorological science.


KSrelief, WHO sign program to improve water, sanitation services at Yemeni health facilities

Agreement is signed by KSrelief General Supervisor Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah and WHO director-general.
Updated 27 min 4 sec ago
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KSrelief, WHO sign program to improve water, sanitation services at Yemeni health facilities

  • Under the agreement, solar-powered wells complete with pumps, water tanks, and connection pipes will be drilled in 10 health care facilities
  • Potable water supplies will be provided at 60 health care facilities where water quality monitoring and treatment will be carried out

RIYADH: The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center signed a joint executive program with the World Health Organization worth $3,750,000 on Tuesday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The agreement, signed on the sidelines of the 77th WHO Health Assembly in Geneva, aims to improve water and sanitation services at health care facilities and provide sustainable water supplies to the most needy in Yemen.

Under the agreement, solar-powered wells complete with pumps, water tanks, and connection pipes will be drilled in 10 health care facilities.

Potable water supplies will be provided at 60 health care facilities where water quality monitoring and treatment will be carried out.

Training for the operation and maintenance of water supplies will also be carried out and a tower tank in Al-Khawkhah district in Hodeidah will be constructed.

Steps will also be taken to improve water, sanitation and hygiene services in Ma’rib Governorate Hospital and Matnah Hospital in Sanaa.

The agreement was signed by KSrelief General Supervisor Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Rabeeah and WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.


El-Sisi in Beijing to attend China-Arab cooperation forum

Updated 30 min 58 sec ago
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El-Sisi in Beijing to attend China-Arab cooperation forum

  • The visit coincides with the 10th anniversary of relations between Egypt and China
  • El-Sisi is also scheduled to meet the heads of several major Chinese companies

CAIRO: Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi arrived in Beijing on Tuesday on a state visit to China and to attend the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum after an invitation from President Xi Jinping.
El-Sisi will hold talks with Xi and senior Chinese officials focusing on ways to forge closer relations and unlock broader prospects for cooperation in several fields.
The visit coincides with the 10th anniversary of relations between Egypt and China being raised to the level of a comprehensive strategic partnership.
Ahmed Fahmy, spokesman for Egypt’s presidency, said the talks will also focus on regional and international issues of common interest, primarily the war in Gaza and ways to restore stability in the region and achieve the aspirations of its peoples for peace, security, and development.
El-Sisi is also scheduled to meet the heads of several major Chinese companies.
The meetings are expected to explore opportunities to attract more investment to Egypt in light of the state’s orientation toward enhancing mechanisms for the localization of industry and technology transfer.
Egypt is eager to collaborate closely with the private sector and encourage foreign direct investment.
El-Sisi will attend a meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum, to be held on May 30, with the participation of the Chinese president and a number of Arab leaders.
The forum will discuss various aspects of China-Arab relations and ways to further advance them.
Egypt’s government said the forum is a framework for dialogue and cooperation between Arab states and China. Its founding document was signed in September 2004 at the headquarters of the Arab League in Cairo following a visit by the Chinese president.


Mossad chief staged decade-long influence, intimidation campaign against ICC prosecutor

Updated 48 min 13 sec ago
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Mossad chief staged decade-long influence, intimidation campaign against ICC prosecutor

  • Yossi Cohen sought to steer court away from investigating Israeli crimes in Occupied Territories
  • ‘Despicable tactics’ used including ‘keen interest’ in prosecutor’s family, source tells The Guardian

LONDON: A former chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency staged a years-long campaign of intimidation against a former International Criminal Court prosecutor in an attempt to sway war crimes investigations, The Guardian reported on Tuesday.
Fatou Bensouda, the former ICC prosecutor, became a target of Yossi Cohen in the years leading up to her opening a formal investigation into alleged war crimes in the Occupied Territories.
Launched in 2021, the investigation ended with the seeking of an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by Bensouda’s successor Karim Khan.
Israel has long feared the results of the investigation, including the threat of prosecution against its military personnel, which was used as justification for Cohen’s decade-long campaign to undermine the court.
As Mossad director, Cohen, a close ally of Netanyahu at the time, was acting as the prime minister’s “unofficial messenger,” a source told The Guardian.
In total, four sources told the newspaper that Bensouda had briefed top ICC officials about Cohen’s campaign, which one official described as “stalking” and involving intimidation.
On several occasions, Cohen had “put pressure” on Bensouda to avoid opening the Palestine case at the ICC.
“You should help us and let us take care of you. You don’t want to be getting into things that could compromise your security or that of your family,” Cohen told her, according to the account of one ICC official to The Guardian.
As part of the targeted campaign against Bensouda, Cohen used “despicable tactics,” including taking a “keen interest” in her family, one source said.
Mossad obtained secret recording transcripts as well as photographs of Bensouda’s husband, which Cohen personally showed her.
His campaign was helped by the former president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila, in an unlikely alliance that proved crucial to Cohen.
It is unclear why Kabila aided him, but his status as the leader of a country facing ICC investigation helped him set up a “chance” meeting between Bensouda and Cohen.
The ICC prosecutor and Cohen appear to have first met at the Munich Security Conference in 2017, two years after Bensouda opened a preliminary investigation into the Palestinian file.
A year later, Cohen “ambushed” her in a New York City hotel as she was due to meet Kabila to discuss the situation in his country, The Guardian reported. Cohen’s “surprise” appearance was said to have “alarmed” ICC officials at the time.
He had earlier made a series of trips to the DRC, relating to what was described by Israeli broadcaster Kan as an “extremely controversial plan.”
Following the New York meeting, Cohen repeatedly phoned Bensouda to request further talks in an attempt to “build a relationship” and “play good cop,” sources told The Guardian.
But the influence campaign failed when in 2019, Bensouda announced that she had grounds to open a full criminal investigation into war crimes allegations in the Occupied Territories.
She first requested a ruling from the pre-trial chamber of the ICC, confirming the court’s jurisdiction over Palestine.
At this stage, Cohen stepped up his campaign against Bensouda into “threats and manipulation,” fearing the results of an official investigation being launched.
Senior ICC officials had suspicions that Israel had cultivated sources within the court’s office of the prosecutor.
In 2021, the ICC’s pre-trial chamber confirmed that the court had jurisdiction over the Occupied Territories. A month later, Bensouda formally launched the criminal investigation.
She said at the time: “In the end, our central concern must be for the victims of crimes, both Palestinian and Israeli, arising from the long cycle of violence and insecurity that has caused deep suffering and despair on all sides.”
Her successor, Khan, has vowed to prosecute “attempts to impede, intimidate or improperly influence” ICC officials after a warrant for Netanyahu’s arrest was sought.
The recent results of the investigation first launched by Bensouda represent a heavy blow to Israel’s international standing, and mark a failure of Cohen’s decade-long campaign to influence the court.
“The fact they chose the head of Mossad to be the prime minister’s unofficial messenger to (Bensouda) was to intimidate, by definition,” one source told The Guardian.
In response to questioning by the newspaper, a spokesperson for the Israeli prime minister’s office said: “The questions forwarded to us are replete with many false and unfounded allegations meant to hurt the state of Israel.”
Khan’s move last week to seek arrest warrants against Netanyahu marked the first time the ICC has taken action against leaders of a country closely allied with the US and Europe.
Netanyahu’s alleged crimes pertain to the war in Gaza, and include directing attacks on civilians and using starvation as a method of warfare.