With famine looming, aid group halts food delivery in Gaza after Israeli strike kills 7 workers

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United Nations staff members inspect the carcass of a car used by US-based aid group World Central Kitchen, that was hit by an Israeli strike the previous day in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on April 2, 2024, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)
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People gather around the bodies of World Central Kitchen workers at Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, on April 1, 2024, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)
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A Palestinian man rides a bicycle past a damaged vehicle where employees from the World Central Kitchen (WCK), including foreigners, were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Deir Al-Balah, in the central Gaza, Strip April 2, 2024. (REUTERS)
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People gather around the car of the US-based aid group World Central Kitchen that was hit by an Israeli strike the previous day in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on April 2, 2024, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)
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Updated 03 April 2024
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With famine looming, aid group halts food delivery in Gaza after Israeli strike kills 7 workers

  • The dead from Monday night’s strikes included three British citizens, Polish and Australia nationals, a Canadian-American dual national and a Palestinian
  • Israel has killed over 32,705 Palestinians in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip: Some of Israel’s closest allies on Tuesday condemned the deaths of seven aid workers who were killed by airstrikes in Gaza — a loss that prompted multiple charities to suspend food deliveries to Palestinians on the brink of starvation.
The deaths of the World Central Kitchen workers threatened to set back efforts by the US and other countries to open a maritime corridor for aid from Cyprus to help ease the desperate conditions in northern Gaza.
Ships still laden with some 240 tons of aid from the charitable group turned back from Gaza just a day after arriving, according to Cyprus. Other humanitarian aid organizations also suspended operations in Gaza, saying it was too dangerous to offer help. Israel has allowed only a trickle of food and supplies into Gaza’s devastated north, where experts say famine is imminent.
The dead from Monday night’s strikes included three British citizens, Polish and Australia nationals, a Canadian-American dual national and a Palestinian. Those countries have been key backers of Israel’s nearly 6-month-old offensive in Gaza, and several of them denounced the killings.
Israel already faces growing isolation as international criticism of the Gaza assault has mounted. On the same day as the deadly airstrikes, Israel stirred more fears by apparently striking Iran’s consulate in Damascus and killing two Iranian generals. The government also moved to shut down a foreign media outlet — Qatari-owned Al Jazeera television.
The hit on the charity’s convoy also highlighted what critics have called Israel’s indiscriminate bombing and lack of regard for civilian casualties in Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that the military had carried out the “unintended strike ... on innocent people.” He said officials were investigating and would work to ensure it does not happen again.
World Central Kitchen said it had coordinated with the Israeli military over the movement of its cars. Three vehicles moving at large distances apart were hit in succession. They were left incinerated and mangled, indicating multiple targeted strikes.
At least one of the vehicles had the charity’s logo printed across its roof to make it identifiable from the air, and the ordnance punched a large hole through the roof. Footage showed the bodies at a hospital in the central Gaza town of Deir Al-Balah, several of them wearing protective gear with the charity’s logo.
Israeli TV said the initial military investigation found that the army identified the cars carrying World Central Kitchen’s workers arriving at its warehouse in Deir Al-Balah and observed suspected militants nearby. Half an hour later, the vehicles were struck by the air force as they headed south. The reports said it was not clear who ordered the strikes or why.
Throughout the war, Israel has said it seeks to avoid civilian casualties and uses sophisticated intelligence to target Hamas and other militants. Israeli authorities blame them for civilian deaths because they operate in populated areas.
At the same time, Israel has also insisted that no target is off-limits. Israeli forces have repeatedly struck ambulances and vehicles carrying aid, as well as relief organization offices and UN shelters, claiming that armed fighters were in them.
Israeli forces have also shown a readiness to inflict widespread destruction on suspicion of a militant presence or out of tactical need. Homes with Palestinian families sheltering inside are leveled by strikes almost daily with no explanation of the intended target. Videos of strikes released by the military often show them hitting individuals without visible weapons, while identifying them as militants.
More than 32,900 Palestinians have been killed in the war, around two-thirds of them women and children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its count.
Celebrity chef José Andrés, who founded the World Central Kitchen charity, said he was “heartbroken” by the deaths of the staffers.
“The Israeli government needs to stop this indiscriminate killing. It needs to stop restricting humanitarian aid, stop killing civilians and aid workers, and stop using food as a weapon,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
The US, Britain, Poland, Australia and Canada all called on Israel to give answers on the deaths. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant launched an investigation and ordered the opening of a joint situation room enabling coordination between the military and aid groups.
But anger among its allies could put new pressure on Israel.
The British government summoned Israel’s ambassador for a rebuke and called for an immediate humanitarian pause to allow more aid in and the release of hostages.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told Netanyahu that he was “appalled” by the workers’ deaths and described the situation in Gaza as “increasingly intolerable.”
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the US was “outraged” to hear of the strikes. He said the Israeli military “must do much more” to avoid conflict and ensure the safety of aid convoys.
A senior Canadian government official said there will be a joint formal diplomatic rebuke at the foreign ministry in Israel on Wednesday. The official also said a top official with Canada’s Global Affairs department made a formal representation to Israel ambassador’s to Canada on Tuesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
The deaths sent a further chill through UN agencies and other aid groups that have said for months that sending truck convoys around Gaza — particularly in the north — has been extremely difficult because of the military’s failure to either grant permission or ensure safe passage. Israel has barred UNRWA, the main UN agency in Gaza, from making deliveries to the north.
The US and other countries have been working to set up the sea passage from Cyprus to get around the difficulties.
World Central Kitchen was key to the new route. It and the United Arab Emirates sent a pilot shipment last month. Their second delivery of around 400 tons of food and supplies arrived in three ships to Gaza hours before the strikes on the convoy.
Around 100 tons were unloaded before the charity suspended operations, and the rest was being taken back to Cyprus, Cypriot Foreign Ministry spokesman Theodoros Gotsis said.
Still, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said Tuesday that ship deliveries would continue.
Anera, a Washington-based aid group that has been operating in the Palestinian territories for decades, said that in the wake of the strikes it was taking the “unprecedented” step of pausing its own operations in Gaza, where it had been helping to provide around 150,000 meals daily.
“The escalating risks associated with aid delivery leave us with no choice,” it said in a statement.
Jamie McGoldrick, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, said the strikes were “not an isolated incident.” The UN says more than 180 humanitarian workers have been killed in the war.
“This is nearly three times the death toll recorded in any single conflict in a year,” he said.
The war began when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel in a surprise attack on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage. Israel responded with one of the deadliest and most destructive offensives in recent history.
Two other Israeli strikes late Monday killed at least 16 Palestinians, including eight children, in Rafah, where Israel has vowed to expand its ground operation. The city on the Egyptian border is now home to some 1.4 million Palestinians, most of whom have sought refuge from fighting elsewhere.
One strike hit a family home, killing 10 people, including five children, according to hospital records. Another hit a gathering near a mosque, killing at least six people, including three children.

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More aid getting from US pier to people in Gaza, officials say, after troubled launch

Updated 6 sec ago
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More aid getting from US pier to people in Gaza, officials say, after troubled launch

  • Crowds overrun some of the first trucks coming from the new US-led sea route and taking its contents over the weekend, leading to a two-day suspension of aid distribution
  • At maximum capacity, the pier would bring in enough food for 500,000 of Gaza’s people. US officials stressed the need for flow through open land crossings for the remaining 1.8 million

WASHINGTON: A six-day-old US pier project in Gaza is starting to get more aid to Palestinians in need but conditions are challenging, US officials said Thursday. That reflects the larger problems bringing food and other supplies to starving people in the besieged territory.

The floating pier had a troubled launch, with crowds overrunning some of the first trucks coming from the new US-led sea route and taking its contents over the weekend. One man in the crowd was shot dead in still-unexplained circumstances. It led to a two-day suspension of aid distribution.
The US military worked with the UN and Israeli officials to select safer alternate routes for trucks coming from the pier, US Vice Admiral Brad Cooper told reporters Thursday.
As a result, the US pier on Wednesday accounted for 27 of the 70 total trucks of aid that the UN was able to round up from all land and sea crossings into Gaza for distribution to civilians, the United States said.
That’s a fraction of the 150 truckloads of food, emergency nutrition treatment and other supplies that US officials aim to bring in when the sea route is working at maximum capacity.
Plus, Gaza needs 600 trucks entering each day, according to the US Agency for International Development, to curb a famine that the heads of USAID and the UN World Food Program have said has begun in the north and to keep it from spreading south.

Only one of the 54 trucks that came from the pier Tuesday and Wednesday encountered any security issues on their way to aid warehouses and distribution points, US officials said. They called the issues “minor” but gave no details.
A deepening Israeli offensive in the southern city of Rafah has made it impossible for aid shipments to get through the crossing there, which is a key source for fuel and food coming into Gaza. Israel says it is bringing aid in through another border crossing, Kerem Shalom, but humanitarian organizations say Israeli military operations make it difficult for them to retrieve the aid there for distribution.
The Biden administration last week launched the $320 million floating pier for a new maritime aid route into Gaza as the seven-month-old Israel-Hamas war and Israeli restrictions on land crossings have severely limited food deliveries to 2.3 million Palestinians.
For all humanitarian efforts, “the risks are manifold,” Daniel Dieckhaus, USAID’s response director for Gaza, said at a briefing with Cooper. “This is an active conflict with deteriorating conditions.”
Dieckhaus rejected charges from some aid groups that the pier is diverting attention from what the US, UN and relief workers say is the essential need for Israel to allow full access to land crossings for humanitarian shipments.
For instance, Jeremy Konyndyk, a former USAID official now leading Refugees International, tweeted that “the pier is humanitarian theater.”
“I would not call, within a couple of days, getting enough food and other supplies for tens of thousands of people for a month theater,” Dieckhaus said Thursday when asked about the criticism.
At maximum capacity, the pier would bring in enough food for 500,000 of Gaza’s people. US officials stressed the need for flow through open land crossings for the remaining 1.8 million.
 


Three US troops have non-combat injuries during Gaza pier operation

Updated 26 min 35 sec ago
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Three US troops have non-combat injuries during Gaza pier operation

WASHINGTON: Three US troops suffered non-combat injuries in the effort to make a temporary pier off the coast of Gaza into a conduit for humanitarian aid, with one in critical condition at an Israeli hospital, US officials said on Thursday.

The injuries were the first for US forces during the latest operation to bring humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

The pier was announced by US President Joe Biden in March and involved the military assembling the floating structure off the coast. Estimated to cost $320 million for the first 90 days and involve about 1,000 US service members, it went into operation last week.

US Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, the deputy commander of US Central Command, told reporters that two of the troops had a sprained ankle and a minor back injury.

“Two were very minor, routine injuries. Those individuals returned to duty,” Cooper said.

A third service member, injured on a ship at sea, was medically evacuated to a hospital in Israel, he said. A US defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the individual was in critical condition.

US lawmakers have voiced concern about the risks to positioning US troops off the coast of Gaza. Biden has said they will not step foot in the war-torn city itself.

The Pentagon has said it will prioritize the safety of US military personnel.

“We’re clear eyed and we continue to look at force protection all day, every day and as it stands now we assess the operations can continue,” Cooper said.

Social media images showed a US air defense system, known as the Counter Rockets, Artillery and Mortars (CRAM), firing into the sky while on the pier. US officials said troops were testing the system.

Daniel Dieckhaus of the US Agency for International Development said that since the pier opened last week, about 506 metric tons of aid had been handed off to humanitarian groups inside Gaza. About a third of that has not yet been distributed but would be soon, he said.


Medic says Gaza hospital under Israeli siege for fifth day

Updated 23 May 2024
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Medic says Gaza hospital under Israeli siege for fifth day

GAZA STRIP: A senior official at Al-Awda Hospital in northern Gaza said it was under Israeli military siege for a fifth straight day on Thursday after soldiers stormed it the previous day.

“We are still under siege for the fifth day in a row,” said the hospital’s acting director, Dr. Mohammed Saleh.

“Soldiers are present in the hospital’s courtyard and nearby houses,” he said, adding that there was “continuous gunfire and shelling” toward it.

Troops stormed the hospital building on Wednesday evening, he said.

“The hospital was stormed, and staff were forced to leave. I currently have only 13 staff, 11 patients, and two women accompanying wounded children,” Saleh said.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on social media platform X that 140 staff, patients, and accompanying adults were inside the hospital when troops stormed it.

The WHO visited Al-Awda regularly in April to deliver medical supplies and fuel, but on Tuesday Ghebreyesus said snipers were targeting the building and artillery had hit the fifth floor.

On Tuesday, patients and staff were also evacuated from another hospital in northern Gaza, Kamal Adwan, its director, Dr. Hossam Abu Safia, said at the time.

“These are the only two functional hospitals remaining in northern Gaza. Ensuring their ability to deliver health services is imperative,” Ghebreyesus said in Geneva.

Israeli troops have previously raided other medical facilities in Gaza, including Al-Shifa in Gaza City, the territory’s largest hospital, which was reduced to rubble after an operation in March, the WHO said.


Bahrain’s King Hamad says he is looking forward to improved relations with Iran

Russian President Vladimir receives Bahrain's King Hamad at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, May 23, 2024. (BNA)
Updated 23 May 2024
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Bahrain’s King Hamad says he is looking forward to improved relations with Iran

  • King meets Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin 

RIYADH: Bahrain’s King Hamad said his country was looking forward to improving its relations with Iran during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin.
The king added that there was no reason for Bahrain to postpone the resumption of diplomatic relations with Iran, the Bahrain News Agency reported on Thursday.
The king and Putin discussed the war in Gaza, regional and international efforts aimed at reaching a ceasefire, and the release of hostages and detainees. They also focused on providing humanitarian aid without obstacles to the territory’s civilian population.
They highlighted the importance of advancing the course of diplomatic action to settle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and achieving a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. The leaders also said efforts to recognize the Palestinian state and accept it as a permanent member of the UN should be supported.
They also stressed the importance of the UN Security Council assuming its responsibilities toward resolving and ending global conflicts, and working to settle them in accordance with the rules of international law and the UN Charter to maintain international peace and security.
The king informed the Russian president of the outcomes of the Arab Summit held recently in Bahrain, adding that Arab countries appreciated Russia’s sympathy for just Arab causes.
The king and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called for the convening of an international conference at the summit, which would take place under the auspices of the UN, to resolve the Palestinian issue on the basis of a two-state solution.
The king added that he hoped to host the conference and requested Russia’s support for it.


Arab Parliament welcomes move to recognize Palestinian state

Updated 23 May 2024
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Arab Parliament welcomes move to recognize Palestinian state

  • The parliament described the move as a victory for justice and the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state
  • Growing international recognition of a Palestinian state represented a practical response to Israel’s plans to “liquidate the Palestinian cause, which will not succeed”

CAIRO: The Arab Parliament has welcomed a decision by the governments of Spain, Norway and Ireland to recognize the state of Palestine.
The prime ministers of the three countries said on Wednesday that they would formally recognize Palestine as a state on May 28.
All three said they hoped the decision would accelerate efforts toward securing a ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza, now in its eighth month.
The parliament described the move as a victory for justice and the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state.
It said the decision was a “new victory for the Palestinian cause and Palestinian diplomacy,” and an important step toward recognition by many countries worldwide.
The parliament said the recognition supported the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, foremost of which is the establishment of an independent state with the city of Jerusalem as its capital.
It said that the announcements come at a time when Israel is working to destroy the Palestinian cause through “ethnic cleansing and forced displacement against civilians, including children, women, and the elderly, against whom war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed.”
Growing international recognition of a Palestinian state represented a practical response to Israel’s plans to “liquidate the Palestinian cause, which will not succeed,” it added.
The parliament called on countries that have not yet recognized the state of Palestine to take a step toward “ending the historical injustice to which the Palestinian people have been exposed for decades of occupation and per the internationally recognized two-state solution based on international legitimacy resolutions.”
It called on the international community and all countries to stand with the Palestinian people and their just cause.
Ireland has said it will upgrade its representative office in the West Bank to a full embassy, while the Palestinian mission in Ireland will also be offered full embassy status.