Palestinian fighters battle Israeli forces around Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital

Five patients had died since the Israeli raid began Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital due to shortages of food, water and medical care. (Israel Defense Forces via Reuters)
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Updated 28 March 2024
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Palestinian fighters battle Israeli forces around Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital

  • Israeli army continues to operate around the hospital complex in Gaza City after storming it more than a week ago

CAIRO: Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters battled in close combat around Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital on Thursday, where the armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they attacked Israeli soldiers and tanks with rockets and mortar fire
The Israeli army said it continued to operate around the hospital complex in Gaza City after storming it more than a week ago. Its forces had killed around 200 gunmen since the start of the operation “while preventing harm to civilians, patients, medical teams, and medical equipment,” it said.
Gaza’s health ministry said wounded people and patients were being held inside an administration building in Al-Shifa that was not equipped to provide them with health care. Five patients had died since the Israeli raid began due to shortages of food, water and medical care, the Hamas-run ministry said.
Al-Shifa, the Gaza Strip’s biggest hospital before the war, had been one of the few health care facilities even partially operational in north Gaza before the latest fighting. It had also been housing displaced civilians.
Unverified footage on social media showed its surgery unit blackened by flames and nearby apartments on fire or destroyed.
The armed wings of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad militant groups said in a statement they “bombed, with a barrage of mortar shells, gatherings of Israeli soldiers in the vicinity of the Al-Shifa Complex” in a joint operation.
Islamic Jihad targeted an Israeli tank with an anti-tank rocket outside the hospital, it said in another statement. The Israeli military said militants fired at its troops from inside and outside the ER building.
Israel says it is targeting Hamas militants who use civilian buildings, including apartment blocks and hospitals, for cover. Hamas denies doing so.
At least 32,552 Palestinians have been killed and 74,980 wounded in Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7, the territory’s health ministry said on Thursday.
Thousands more dead are believed to be buried under rubble and over 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million population is displaced, many at risk of famine.
The war erupted after Hamas militants broke through the border and rampaged through communities in southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and abducting 253 hostages according to Israeli tallies.
TWO MORE HOSPITALS BESIEGED
Israeli forces continued to blockade Al-Amal and Nasser hospitals in Khan Younis, while several other areas in the southern Gaza city came under Israeli fire, residents said.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said seven people working for the organization arrested in a raid on Al-Amal hospital on Feb. 9 had been released after 47 days in Israeli prisons.
Among them was the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Gaza Strip, Mohammed Abu Musabeh. Eight members of the association were still being detained, it said in a statement.
Israel said soldiers from its Commando Brigade had arrested dozens of Palestinian militants in the Al-Amal area and discovered explosives and dozens of Kalashnikov-type weapons.
The World Health Organization said Al-Amal Hospital had ceased to function due to fighting, leaving just 10 of 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip partially operational.
“Once more, WHO demands an immediate end to attacks on hospitals in Gaza, and calls for protection of health staff, patients, and civilians,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on X on Thursday.
In Rafah, where over a million people have been sheltering, health officials said an Israeli airstrike on a house killed eight people and wounded others.
Israel says it plans a ground offensive into Rafah, where it believes most Hamas fighters are now sheltering. Its closest ally and main arms supplier the United States opposes such an assault, arguing it would cause too much harm to civilians who have sought refuge there.


Afghan Taliban government says to attend third round of UN-hosted Doha talks

Updated 16 June 2024
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Afghan Taliban government says to attend third round of UN-hosted Doha talks

  • Mujahid told local media on Sunday the decision had been made to send a delegation, the members of which would be announced later, because it was deemed “beneficial to Afghanistan”

KABUL: Taliban authorities will attend the third round of United Nations-hosted talks on Afghanistan in the Qatari capital, a government spokesman told AFP on Sunday, after snubbing an invitation to the previous round.
“A delegation of the Islamic Emirate will participate in the coming Doha conference. They will represent Afghanistan there and express Afghanistan’s position,” Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said of the talks, which are scheduled to start June 30.
The participation of the Taliban authorities in the two-day conference of special envoys on Afghanistan had been in doubt after they were not included in the first round and then refused an invitation to the second round in February.
Mujahid told local media on Sunday the decision had been made to send a delegation, the members of which would be announced later, because it was deemed “beneficial to Afghanistan”.


Hamas response to Gaza ceasefire proposal ‘consistent’ with principles of US plan, leader says

Updated 16 June 2024
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Hamas response to Gaza ceasefire proposal ‘consistent’ with principles of US plan, leader says

  • Egypt and Qatar said on June 11 that they had received a response from the Palestinian groups to the US plan

CAIRO: Hamas’ response to the latest Gaza ceasefire proposal is consistent with the principles put forward in US President Joe Biden’s plan, the group’s Qatar-based leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a televised speech on the occasion of the Islamic Eid Al-Adha on Sunday.
“Hamas and the (Palestinian) groups are ready for a comprehensive deal which entails a ceasefire, withdrawal from the strip, the reconstruction of what was destroyed and a comprehensive swap deal,” Haniyeh said, referring to the exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners.
On May 31, Biden laid out what he called a “three-phase” Israeli proposal that would include negotiations for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza as well as phased exchanges of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.
Egypt and Qatar — which along with the United States have been mediating between Hamas and Israel — said on June 11 that they had received a response from the Palestinian groups to the US plan, without giving further details.
While Israel said Hamas rejected key elements of the US plan, a senior Hamas leader said that the changes the group requested were “not significant”.


Red Sea crisis intensifies economic strain on Yemenis ahead of Eid

Updated 16 June 2024
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Red Sea crisis intensifies economic strain on Yemenis ahead of Eid

  • Sales have decreased by 80 percent
  • Over 1.2 million civil servants have not received salaries in eight years, and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs

DUBAI: Yemen, suffering from nearly a decade of civil war, now faces an additional challenge: a crippled economy further strained by the escalating crisis in the Red Sea.

Market vendors in Sanaa’s Old City, the Al-Melh, claim that sales have decreased by 80 percent, according to a report by Chinese news agency Xinhua.

Shopkeepers attribute this decline to recent increases in sea shipping costs, which have driven up wholesale prices.

This situation reflects the broader economic crisis in Yemen, where rising sea shipping costs have increased prices across the board, making basic Eid essentials unaffordable for many. 

To help ease financial strain, an exhibition was organized in Al-Sabeen Park, where families were able to sell homemade goods. 

Despite these efforts, Yemen’s economic problems persist. According to the UN, the decade-long war has pushed millions into poverty. Over 1.2 million civil servants have not received salaries in eight years, and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs. The Norwegian Refugee Council reports that four out of five Yemenis face poverty, and over 18 million people urgently need humanitarian aid.


Water crisis batters war-torn Sudan as temperatures soar

Updated 16 June 2024
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Water crisis batters war-torn Sudan as temperatures soar

  • The country at large, despite its many water sources including the mighty Nile River, is no stranger to water scarcity
  • This summer, the mercury is expected to continue rising until the rainy season hits in August

PORT SUDAN, Sudan: War, climate change and man-made shortages have brought Sudan — a nation already facing a litany of horrors — to the shores of a water crisis.
“Since the war began, two of my children have walked 14 kilometers (nine miles) every day to get water for the family,” Issa, a father of seven, said from North Darfur state.
In the blistering sun, as temperatures climb past 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), Issa’s family — along with 65,000 other residents of the Sortoni displacement camp — suffer the weight of the war between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
When the first shots rang out more than a year ago, most foreign aid groups — including the one operating Sortoni’s local water station — could no longer operate. Residents were left to fend for themselves.
The country at large, despite its many water sources including the mighty Nile River, is no stranger to water scarcity.
Even before the war, a quarter of the population had to walk more than 50 minutes to fetch water, according to the United Nations.
Now, from the western deserts of Darfur, through the fertile Nile Valley and all the way to the Red Sea coast, a water crisis has hit 48 million war-weary Sudanese who the US ambassador to the United Nations on Friday said are already facing “the largest humanitarian crisis on the face of the planet.”
Around 110 kilometers east of Sortoni, deadly clashes in North Darfur’s capital of El-Fasher, besieged by RSF, threaten water access for more than 800,000 civilians.
Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Friday said fighting in El-Fasher had killed at least 226.
Just outside the city, fighting over the Golo water reservoir “risks cutting off safe and adequate water for about 270,000 people,” the UN children’s agency UNICEF has warned.
Access to water and other scarce resources has long been a source of conflict in Sudan.
The UN Security Council on Thursday demanded that the siege of El-Fasher end.
If it goes on, hundreds of thousands more people who rely on the area’s groundwater will go without.
“The water is there, but it’s more than 60 meters (66 yards) deep, deeper than a hand-pump can go,” according to a European diplomat with years of experience in Sudan’s water sector.
“If the RSF doesn’t allow fuel to go in, the water stations will stop working,” he said, requesting anonymity because the diplomat was not authorized to speak to media.
“For a large part of the population, there will simply be no water.”
Already in the nearby village of Shaqra, where 40,000 people have sought shelter, “people stand in lines 300 meters long to get drinking water,” said Adam Rijal, spokesperson for the civilian-led General Coordination for Displaced Persons and Refugees in Darfur.
In photos he sent to AFP, some women and children can be seen huddled under the shade of lonely acacia trees, while most swelter in the blazing sun, waiting their turn.
Sudan is hard-hit by climate change, and “you see it most clearly in the increase in temperature and rainfall intensity,” the diplomat said.
This summer, the mercury is expected to continue rising until the rainy season hits in August, bringing with it torrential floods that kill dozens every year.
The capital Khartoum sits at the legendary meeting point of the Blue Nile and White Nile rivers — yet its people are parched.
The Soba water station, which supplies water to much of the capital, “has been out of service since the war began,” said a volunteer from the local resistance committee, one of hundreds of grassroots groups coordinating wartime aid.
People have since been buying untreated “water off of animal-drawn carts, which they can hardly afford and exposes them to diseases,” he said, requesting anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Entire neighborhoods of Khartoum North “have gone without drinking water for a year,” another local volunteer said, requesting to be identified only by his first name, Salah.
“People wanted to stay in their homes, even through the fighting, but they couldn’t last without water,” Salah said.
Hundreds of thousands have fled the fighting eastward, many to the de facto capital of Port Sudan on the Red Sea — itself facing a “huge water issue” that will only get “worse in the summer months,” resident Al-Sadek Hussein worries.
The city depends on only one inadequate reservoir for its water supply.
Here, too, citizens rely on horse- and donkey-drawn carts to deliver water, using “tools that need to be monitored and controlled to prevent contamination,” public health expert Taha Taher said.
“But with all the displacement, of course this doesn’t happen,” he said.
Between April 2023 and March 2024, the health ministry recorded nearly 11,000 cases of cholera — a disease endemic to Sudan, “but not like this” when it has become “year-round,” the European diplomat said.
The outbreak comes with the majority of Sudan’s hospitals shut down and the United States warning on Friday that a famine of historic global proportions could unfold without urgent action.
“Health care has collapsed, people are drinking dirty water, they are hungry and will get hungrier, which will kill many, many more,” the diplomat said.


UAE, Iran discuss bilateral relations

Updated 16 June 2024
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UAE, Iran discuss bilateral relations

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirats Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, had a phone conversation on Saturday with Iran's acting Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Bagheri Kani, to discuss the bilateral relations between the two countries.

During the call, they exchanged Eid Al-Adha greetings and explored ways to enhance cooperation that would serve the mutual interests of their countries and peoples, contributing to regional security and stability.

They also reviewed several issues of common interest, as well as recent developments in both regional and international arenas.