Battle rages at Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital

Palestinians flee the area after Israeli bombardment in central Gaza City on March 18, 2024. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 19 March 2024
Follow

Battle rages at Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital

  • Witnesses reported air strikes and tanks near the complex crowded with thousands of Palestinian patients and displaced people
  • UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said Monday he intended to visit Gaza but had been denied entry by “Israeli authorities”

GAZA STRIP: Fighting raged Monday in and around the besieged Gaza Strip’s largest hospital complex where Israel said its forces killed and arrested Hamas militants, as Palestinians fled by foot under heavy bombardment.
While the army launched the overnight raid at Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital, the Israeli government sent the head of its Mossad spy agency to Qatar for renewed talks toward a ceasefire and hostage release deal.
The devastating war since Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel has left roughly half of Gazans — around 1.1 million people — experiencing “catastrophic” hunger, a UN-backed food security assessment warned.
The expert report is “exhibit A for the need for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” said United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, decrying an “entirely man-made disaster.”
“We must act now to prevent the unthinkable, the unacceptable and the unjustifiable,” he said.
Gaza’s soaring civilian death toll and large-scale destruction have hardened global opposition to Israel’s military operation and siege, including accusations of deliberate starvation of Palestinian civilians.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Israel’s military campaign had turned long-blockaded Gaza from the world’s “greatest open-air prison” into its biggest “open-air graveyard,” and that Israel was using famine as a “weapon of war.”
Foreign Minister Israel Katz replied that “Israel allows extensive humanitarian aid into Gaza” and accused Borrell of “attacking Israel.”
In the latest heavy battle, Israeli forces raided Al-Shifa in an operation the army said targeted senior Hamas militants.
Witnesses reported air strikes and tanks near the complex crowded with thousands of Palestinian patients and displaced people.
AFP images showed black smoke engulfing parts of the city after bombardment, with Palestinians fleeing by foot along rubble-strewn roads as others treated the wounded in the street.
The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said nearby residents had reported dozens of casualties who could not be helped “due to the intensity of gunfire and artillery shelling.”
An AFP journalist witnessed air strikes on buildings in the area around Al-Shifa and reported seeing “hundreds of people, mostly children, women, and the elderly, fleeing their homes.”
The Israeli military, which had asked Gazans to evacuate the area, said 20 militants were killed and dozens of others were detained at the hospital.
The army identified one of the fatalities as Hamas internal security official Fayq Al-Mabhouh, saying that “weapons were located in the room adjacent to where he was eliminated.”
A Gaza police source confirmed his death and said he was a brigadier general in the force. Relatives said he was also the brother of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas’s armed wing slain in Dubai in 2010.
Israeli forces previously raided Al-Shifa in November, when ground operations were focused on northern Gaza. In January Israel said it had “completed the dismantling” of Hamas’s command structure in the area.
Israel has repeatedly said the complex housed an underground Hamas control base, which the militants have denied.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “terribly worried” about the renewed fighting around Al-Shifa which was “endangering health workers, patients and civilians.”
The bloodiest ever Gaza war broke out after Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on October 7 that resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Militants also seized about 250 hostages, of whom Israel believes 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 who are presumed dead.
Israel has carried out a relentless bombing campaign and ground offensive that Gaza’s health ministry says has killed at least 31,726 people, most of them women and children.
As the fighting flared around Al-Shifa, elsewhere in Gaza City a massive crowd gathered at a UN food distribution center to collect bags of flour.
“There’s nothing to eat or drink. Children are dying,” said resident Umm Omar Al-Masharwai.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, which operates the facility and coordinates nearly all aid to Gaza, has faced funding cuts since Israel accused about a dozen of its employees of involvement in the October 7 attack.
UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said Monday he intended to visit Gaza but had been denied entry by “Israeli authorities,” a claim Israel did not immediately comment on.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi accused Israel of “starving children to death” in its siege of the Gaza Strip, and humanitarian charity Oxfam said Israel was “systematically and deliberately” blocking aid.
Global concern has focussed on Gaza’s far-southern city of Rafah, where about 1.5 million Palestinians now live, many of them in crowded shelters and tent cities near the Egyptian border.
Repeated Israeli warnings of a looming ground invasion have raised fears of an even worse humanitarian catastrophe.
Responding to concerns voiced by top ally the United States and other governments, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reiterated that civilians would be evacuated from Rafah before any ground attack, without detailing where to.
Mediation efforts toward a truce were expected to resume, following a week-long ceasefire in November.
A meeting in Qatar between Israel’s Mossad spy chief, David Barnea, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and Egyptian officials “is expected to take place today,” a source close to the talks said.
It follows the latest proposal submitted by Hamas for a six-week truce, vastly more aid into Gaza and the initial release of about 42 hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
During the proposed truce, Israeli forces would withdraw from “all cities and populated areas” in Gaza, according to a Hamas official.
Netanyahu’s office said on Friday that Hamas’s new proposal was “unrealistic” but that Israel would send a delegation to Doha.
The White House said US President Joe Biden and Netanyahu spoke on Monday in their first call for over a month, with tensions rising over the war and its impact on civilians.


Iraq hangs 10 convicted of ‘terrorism’: security and health sources

Under Iraqi law, terrorism and murder offenses are punishable by death, and execution decrees must be signed by the president.
Updated 54 min 18 sec ago
Follow

Iraq hangs 10 convicted of ‘terrorism’: security and health sources

  • Health official said 10 Iraqis “convicted of terrorism crimes and of being members of the Daesh group were executed by hanging” at Al-Hut prison in Nasiriyah

NASIRIYAH: Iraqi authorities on Monday hanged 10 people convicted of “terrorism,” security and health sources said.
Courts have handed down hundreds of death and life imprisonment sentences in recent years to Iraqis convicted of “terrorism.”
Under Iraqi law, terrorism and murder offenses are punishable by death, and execution decrees must be signed by the president.
A health official said 10 Iraqis “convicted of terrorism crimes and of being members of the Daesh group were executed by hanging” at Al-Hut prison in the southern city of Nasiriyah.
A security source confirmed the executions.
They were hanged under Article 4 of the anti-terrorism law and the health department had received their bodies, the health official told AFP.
The sources spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Al-Hut is a notorious prison in Nasiriyah whose Arabic name means “the whale,” because Iraqis believe those jailed there never walk out alive.


Egypt keen to work with partners to find swift solution to Sudan crisis, foreign minister says

Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

Egypt keen to work with partners to find swift solution to Sudan crisis, foreign minister says

  • African Union official praises Cairo during talks in Ghana for its pivotal role in efforts to enhance regional security and stability
  • FM Abdelatty emphasized the need for increased consultation and coordination between member states and the union’s agencies

CAIRO: Egypt earned praise during talks on Monday in Accra, Ghana, for the pivotal role it plays in efforts to enhance security and stability on the African continent.

Bankole Adeoye, the African Union’s commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, said he was keen to continue to coordinate with Cairo on all priority issues related to the bloc.

It came as he held talks with Badr Abdelatty, Egypt’s minister of foreign affairs, emigration and Egyptian expatriates, on the sidelines of the sixth Mid-Year Coordination Meeting of the African Union and the Regional Economic Communities.

They discussed the latest political and security developments in the crisis in Sudan and agreed on the need to unite the country’s civil political forces, preserve national unity and institutions, and coordinate regional and international mediation.

Abdelatty said Egypt was aware of the seriousness of the situation and eager to work with all partners and mechanisms to resolve the crisis swiftly. He stressed the importance of fully involving Sudan in talks about ways to resolve the situation, to preserve “our Sudanese brothers’ ownership of these solutions and proposals.”

The minister welcomed consultations and coordination with the African Union’s commissioner on peace and security in Africa. He said Egypt remains committed to support of the organization and its agencies, and to participation in its Peace and Security Council, in pursuit of peace and stability.

Abdelatty emphasized the need for increased consultation and coordination between member states and the union’s agencies in response to escalating security challenges on the continent, the expanding scope of conflicts and the associated human suffering.

He also outlined Egypt’s agenda and planned activities for its chairmanship of the Peace and Security Council in October. He said its plans prioritize the operationalization of the African Union Center for Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development, an effort that President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has led within the union to support countries facing multiple crises.

Egypt welcomed the approval by the Peace and Security Council of a request from the Somali government to extend the time frame for the third phase of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia, Abdelatty said. He highlighted plans for the deployment of a new mission in the country when the current one expires, and emphasized the need to support the Somali government’s efforts to enhance security and stability.

Adeoye and Abdelatty also discussed other issues of mutual concern, including the Great Lakes issue, the Renaissance Dam, security challenges in the Red Sea, and the situation in the Horn of Africa.


Iran’s Revolutionary Guards intercepted UAE-managed tanker, Ambrey says

Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards intercepted UAE-managed tanker, Ambrey says

  • Vessel had loaded marine gas oil off the coast of Iraq and was destined for Sharjah when it was intercepted on Sunday 61NM southwest of Iran’s port of Bushehr

DUBAI: Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have intercepted a Togo-flagged, UAE-managed products tanker carrying 1,500 tons of marine gas oil, British security firm Ambrey said on Monday.
The vessel had loaded marine gas oil off the coast of Iraq and was destined for UAE’s Sharjah when it was intercepted on Sunday 61 nautical miles southwest of Iran’s port of Bushehr, Ambrey said.
Ambrey added that the incident is unlikely to be politically motivated and is not assessed as a ‘war’ event.
The interception was likely a counter-smuggling operation by the IRGC, as the vessel’s “trading behavior was consistent with previous IRGC target profile,” Ambrey said.
Iran, which has some of the world’s cheapest fuel prices due to heavy subsidies and the plunge in the value of its currency, has been fighting rampant fuel smuggling to neighboring countries.
No further information was provided regarding the fate of the vessel.


UN warns Iraq becoming major regional drug conduit

Iraq’s premier Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani attends an anti-drug conference held with regional officials in Baghdad on July 22, 2024.
Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

UN warns Iraq becoming major regional drug conduit

  • “Iraq appears to be at the nexus of regional trafficking routes for both methamphetamine and captagon,” UNODC said
  • Authorities in Iraq regularly announce large seizures of captagon, much of it moved across the border with Syria

BAGHDAD: Iraqi authorities seized record quantities of the potent stimulant captagon last year, at an estimated value of up to $144 million, with the country increasingly a critical drug conduit, a UN report said Monday.
“Iraq has been experiencing a dramatic surge in drug trafficking and consumption for the past five years,” according to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report.
In 2023 alone, authorities “seized a record-high 24 million captagon tablets,” the equivalent of over 4.1 tons, with an estimated “retail value” of between $84 million and $144 million, it said.
“Iraq appears to be at the nexus of regional trafficking routes for both methamphetamine and captagon,” UNODC said, adding that it is “becoming a critical juncture in the complex trafficking dynamics observed in the Near and Middle East region.”
Captagon seizures in Iraq “reportedly tripled between 2022 and 2023, and overall amounts seized in 2023 are 34 times higher than in 2019.”
An amphetamine derived from a once-legal treatment for narcolepsy and attention disorder, captagon today is trafficked through several Middle Eastern countries, with Syria the main country of origin.
Authorities in conflict-scarred Iraq regularly announce large seizures of captagon, much of it moved across the porous 600-kilometer (370-mile) border with war-torn Syria.
According to UNODC, 82 percent of the captagon seized in the region between 2019 and 2023 originated in Syria, followed by neighboring Lebanon, at 17 percent.
Iraq faces an explosion in domestic drug use, with the repeated crises that have gripped the conflict-ridden country of 43 million people driving up usage.
During an anti-drug conference attended by regional officials, Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al-Sudani called for regional cooperation.
“Coordinating and cooperating to pursue and dismantle drug gangs will serve regional and international security,” he said, adding that “Iraq is open to all cooperation” to fight “cross-border crime.”
“We will support any effort aiming to eliminate drug hubs, manufacturing stations, and cutting off their supply chains.”


UN expert urges probe of Iran ‘genocide’ in 1980s

Updated 22 July 2024
Follow

UN expert urges probe of Iran ‘genocide’ in 1980s

  • UN Special rapporteur says the Iranian regime and its leaders should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their crimes

GENEVA: A United Nations expert called Monday for an international investigation into a range of “atrocity crimes” committed in Iran in connection with a purge of dissidents in the 1980s.
“There should be no impunity for such gross human rights violations, regardless of when they were committed,” said Javaid Rehman, the UN’s independent special rapporteur on the rights situation in Iran, insisting that “the Iranian regime and its leaders should not be allowed to escape the consequences of their crimes against humanity and genocide.”