80,000 Palestinians flee Rafah since Israel hiked operation this week: UN agency

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Palestinians travel in a vehicle as they flee Rafah after Israeli forces launched a ground and air operation in the eastern part of the southern Gaza city of Rafah on May 8, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Displaced Palestinians arrive in central Gaza after fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, on May 7, 2024. (AP)
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Displaced Palestinians arrive in central Gaza after fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, on May 7, 2024. (AP)
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Palestinians travel in a truck as they feel Rafah after Israeli forces launched a ground and air operation in the eastern part of the southern Gaza city of Rafah on May 8, 2024. (REUTERS)
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Updated 09 May 2024

80,000 Palestinians flee Rafah since Israel hiked operation this week: UN agency

  • The main hospital has shut down, leaving little care for people suffering from malnutrition, illnesses and wounds
  • Rafah had 250,000 residents before the war. Its population had ballooned to some 1.4 million as people from across Gaza fled there

RAFAH, Gaza Strip: The United Nations agency supporting Palestinian refugees said Thursday that about 80,000 people had fled Rafah in the three days since Israel intensified military operations in the south Gaza city.
“Since Israeli forces military operation intensified on 6 May, around 80,000 people have fled Rafah, seeking refuge elsewhere,” UNRWA said on X, formerly Twitter, warning that “the toll on these families is unbearable. Nowhere is safe.”

The main hospital has shut down, leaving little care for people suffering from malnutrition, illnesses and wounds.
And with fuel and other supplies cut off, aid workers have been scrambling to help a population desperate after seven months of war.
As the possibility of a full-scale invasion looms, Gaza’s overcrowded southernmost city has been thrown into panic and chaos by Israel’s seizure of the nearby border crossing with Egypt.
Families uprooted multiple times by the war were uncertain where to go: to the half-destroyed city of Khan Younis, to points even farther north, or to an Israeli-declared “humanitarian zone” in Gaza already teeming with people with little water or supplies?
The past three days, streams of people on foot or in vehicles have jammed the roads out of Rafah in a confused evacuation, their belongings piled high in cars, trucks and donkey carts. All the while, Israeli bombardment has boomed and raised palls of smoke.
“The war has caught up with us even in schools. There is no safe place at all,” said Nuzhat Jarjer. Her family packed on Wednesday to leave a UN school-turned-shelter in Rafah that was rapidly emptying of the hundreds who had lived there for months.
Rafah had 250,000 residents before the war. Its population had ballooned to some 1.4 million as people from across Gaza fled there. Nearly every empty space was blanketed with tent camps, and families crammed into schools or homes with relatives. Like the rest of Gaza’s population, they have been largely reliant on aid groups for food and other basics of life.
Israel on Monday issued evacuation orders for eastern parts of the city, home to some 100,000. It then sent tanks to seize the nearby Rafah crossing with Egypt, shutting it down.

Israeli army tanks take position in southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on May 7, 2024, ahead of an offensive. (AFP)

It remains uncertain whether Israel will launch an all-out invasion of Rafah as international efforts continue for a ceasefire. Israel has said an assault on Rafah is crucial to its goal of destroying Hamas after the militant group’s Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that left 1,200 dead and 250 as hostages in Gaza.
The United States, which opposes a Rafah invasion, has said Israel has not provided a credible plan for evacuating and protecting civilians. The war has killed over 34,800 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials, and has driven some 80 percent of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million Palestinians from their homes.
For now, confusion has reigned. Fearing a greater assault, Palestinians fled districts other than the eastern areas they were ordered to leave. Tens of thousands are estimated to have left, according to a UN official who spoke on condition of anonymity because agencies were still trying to determine precise figures.
Tent camps in some parts of Rafah have vanished, springing up again further north along main roads. New camps have filled streets, cemeteries and the beach in the central Gaza town of Deir Al-Balah, 15 kilometers (10 miles) north, as people flowed in, said Ghada Alhaddad, who works there with the aid group Oxfam, speaking to a briefing by several humanitarian workers.

Displaced Palestinians arrive in central Gaza after fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, on May 7, 2024. (AP)

Others made their way to Khan Younis, much of which was destroyed in a months-long Israeli ground assault.
Suze van Meegen, head of operations for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Palestine, said the Rafah district where she is based “feels like a ghost town.”
The Israeli military told those evacuating to go to a “humanitarian zone” it declared in Muwasi, a nearby rural area on the Mediterranean coast. The zone is already packed with some 450,000 people, according to the UN Few new facilities appear to be prepared, despite the military’s announcements that tents, medical centers and food would be present.
The ground is covered in many places with sewage and solid waste, since there are few sanitation facilities, aid workers say. Clean water is lacking and dehydration is a major problem, with temperatures some days already reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius).
The water quality is “horrifically bad. We tested some of the water and the fecal content … is incredibly high,” said James Smith, a British emergency doctor volunteering at the European General Hospital in nearby Khan Younis. Acute jaundice is rampant — and probably caused by hepatitis, but there’s no capabilities to test, he said.
The newly arrived struggle to find tents because of an extreme shortage among aid groups.
Before his family left Rafah to the zone, Iyad Al-Masry said he had to sell food received from aid groups to buy a tent for the equivalent of nearly $400.
His family set up their tent in Muwasi, smoothing the dirt ground before setting down a cradle to rock an infant in. Al-Masri said he has been searching for water and can’t afford the three shekels — a little less than $1 — that sellers charge for a gallon of drinking water.
“We want to eat … We are just waiting for God’s mercy,” he said.
Nick Maynard, a surgeon with Medical Aid for Palestinians who left Gaza on Monday, said two teenage girls who had survivable injuries died last week because of complications from malnutrition.
“They get this vicious cycle of malnutrition, infection, wounds breaking down, more infection, more malnutrition,” said Maynard.
The number of children in Rafah who have lost one or more limbs is “staggering,” said Alexandra Saieh from Save The Children. “These people cannot just pick up and relocate.”


Rafah’s main Youssef Al-Najjar Hospital evacuated on Tuesday. Smith said staff and patients rushed out even though they weren’t under evacuation orders because they feared Israeli troops would raid, just as they did hospitals in northern Gaza and Khan Younis, which were left decimated.
Israel claims Hamas used the hospitals for military purposes, an accusation Hamas and Gaza health officials deny.
Israeli tank shells Wednesday hit about 300 meters (yards) from the Kuwaiti Hospital, one of the few facilities still operating, and wounded several children, according to hospital officials.
The closure of Rafah crossing and the nearby Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel has cut off the entry of food, supplies, and fuel for aid trucks and generators. Aid groups warn they have only a few days of fuel before humanitarian operations and hospitals around Gaza begin to shut down.
Israel said Wednesday it reopened Kerem Shalom, which was shut after Hamas mortars killed four Israeli soldiers nearby, but aid groups said no trucks were entering the Gaza side. Trucks let through from Israel must be unloaded and the cargo reloaded onto trucks in Gaza, but no workers in Gaza can get to the facility to do so because it is too dangerous, the UN says.


Palestinian workers trying to reach the border crossing Wednesday were shot at, and several were wounded, the Israeli military said. It did not specify who opened fire but said it was investigating. Hamas also shelled in the area of Kerem Shalom on Wednesday, saying it was targeting nearby troops.
The UN’s World Food Program has been cut off from its Gaza food warehouse near the Rafah crossing, its deputy executive director Carl Skau said. It procured another warehouse in Deir Al-Balah, but it’s empty until crossings reopen, he said.
Van Meegen, of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said without more supplies, “how do we even begin to prioritize the dribble of humanitarian aid we have here when almost every single person is being forced to depend on it?”


Militant groups defiant as Israel rapped for ‘cowardly assassination’ in southern Lebanon

Updated 5 sec ago

Militant groups defiant as Israel rapped for ‘cowardly assassination’ in southern Lebanon

  • Latest Israeli drone attack killed Mohammed Hamed Jabara, a leader in Al-Jama’ah Al-Islamiyah
  • 466 dead, thousands of homes razed in more than 9 months of conflict; value of damage estimated at $1.7 billion

BEIRUT: Israel’s assault on Lebanon extended beyond the southern border area to western Bekaa on Thursday, resulting in at least two deaths in separate attacks.

In the morning, an Israeli drone targeted an SUV on the road to the town of Ghazze in western Bekaa, resulting in the death of its driver.

The target was identified as Mohammed Hamed Jabara, a leader in Al-Jama’ah Al-Islamiyah, or the Islamic Group. He hailed from the town of Qaraoun in western Bekaa.

He was an active militant in the party’s military wing, the Al-Fajr Forces, which is allied with Hezbollah in the confrontation with Israel.

According to a source from his hometown, Jabara had previously been pursued by Israel “due to his resistance activities and had faced multiple threats and assassination attempts, which only succeeded now.”

The Al-Fajr Forces described Jabara as “one of their leaders” in an obituary.

Hamas’ military wing, the Al-Qassam Brigades, also mourned Jabara as “one of their leaders.”

In another incident on Thursday morning, an Israeli drone targeted a vehicle on the road to Jbal El-Botm in the Tyre district in the south.

The driver tried to escape the drone but was pursued and killed by a missile.

He was identified as Hussein Ali Mhanna, a 40-year-old Hezbollah member from Jbal El-Botm.

In a third attack, an Israeli drone targeted a car between Hanniyeh and Zibqin, injuring a Hezbollah member and another passenger.

The Israeli army conducted a sweep with machine guns toward Wazzani and targeted Chihine with a guided missile.

Israeli airstrikes and artillery also hit Aita Al-Shaab, the hills extending between Taoumat Niha and the highlands of Ain Al-Tineh in western Bekaa, without any reported injuries.

The intense Israeli escalation followed Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s threat to “target more settlements if Israel continues targeting civilians.”

The Israeli response was “a message demonstrating the army’s capability to continue killings and its ability to monitor Hezbollah field leaders, and know their identities and type of missions,” said one political observer.

In a statement, the Islamic Group held Israel responsible for Jabara’s “cowardly assassination.”

The attack “will not deter us from performing our role and duty in defending our land and people in the south, nor from supporting our people in Palestine,” the party said.

Hezbollah responded to the Israeli attacks with hostile operations targeting military sites, including “newly installed espionage equipment” on a crane at the Hadab Yarin site.

Israeli jets broke the sound barrier over the south more than four times, causing panic and damage to homes, including the partial collapse a roof in the town of Kfar Tebnit. Residents escaped without injury.

The military escalation has led to increased casualties in southern Lebanon as Israel pursues an aggressive strategy against Hezbollah.

The number of civilian casualties exceeded 107 as of July 14, a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

Total casualties amounted to 466, including Hezbollah-affiliated military personnel.

More than 98,000 people have been internally displaced in southern Lebanon after artillery reached within 12 km of the Blue Line.

Almost 98 percent of the displaced hail from the Bint Jbeil, Marjaayoun and Tyre districts, the OCHA report said.

Israeli airstrikes have also reached deep into the country, extending up to 100 km from the Blue Line.

The OCHA warned of severe damage to southern Lebanon’s water, electricity and telecommunications infrastructure, and roads.

Maintenance and repair workers have been injured or killed while trying to keep services running for the remaining residents, alongside medics and first responders.

“There has also been a noticeable increase in Israeli jets breaking the sound barrier over various Lebanese regions,” the report said, citing the South Council, which is responsible for assessing the damage.

Since Oct. 8 last year, about 3,000 housing units have been partially or entirely destroyed.

Additionally, 12,000 housing units have been severely damaged, and 20,000 units have sustained minor damage.

The report estimated the economic value of the damage at $1.7 billion.

The South Council reported that the agricultural sector lost 17 million sq. meters of land, mainly as a result of Israeli white phosphorus shelling, with effects that will last for years.

Farmers also cannot harvest crops from 12 million sq. meters of land, the council said.

The OCHA report said that at least 13 water infrastructure sites had been damaged due to cross-border hostilities, impacting supply for almost 200,000 people in the south and Nabatieh.

Water fee collection has fallen to almost zero in the southern and Nabatieh governorates, putting the South Lebanon Water Establishment in a challenging situation.

The agricultural sector has been heavily impacted. On July 8, more than 800 farm animals were killed in an Israeli attack on a farm in Jabal Tora, Jezzine.

Lebanon’s Agriculture Ministry condemned the attack and called on international intervention to “make those responsible pay and provide aid to farmers.”

According to the report, on July 11, UNIFIL expressed concern “about the high level of tension seen recently and the potential for miscalculations that could lead to a sudden and wider conflict.”

The OCHA said that 82 percent of the internally displaced live with host families, while 15 percent rent houses.

Another 2 percent have relocated to secondary residences. About 1 percent are housed across 16 shelters.

According to the International Organization for Migration, 19 percent of the displaced live in overcrowded conditions.

About 33 percent are children, while 34 percent are women and 33 percent men.

Amnesty urges ‘end to incommunicado detention of Gazans’

Updated 12 min 36 sec ago

Amnesty urges ‘end to incommunicado detention of Gazans’

  • Amnesty called for the repeal of the Unlawful Combatants Law
  • The law “enables rampant torture”

JERUSALEM: Amnesty International has called on Israel to end the indefinite detention of Gaza Palestinians and what it called “rampant torture” in its prisons.
“Israeli authorities must end their indefinite incommunicado detention of Palestinians from the occupied Gaza Strip, without charge or trial ... (which is) in flagrant violation of international law,” the rights group
said in a statement.
Amnesty called for the repeal of the Unlawful Combatants Law, amended following the beginning of the Gaza war, which allows Israeli forces to hold people without charge or trial for months.
The law “enables rampant torture and, in some circumstances, institutionalizes enforced disappearance,” Amnesty said.
It said the law allows Israeli troops to arrest security suspects “for indefinitely renewable periods without having to produce evidence to substantiate the claims.”
Amnesty said it had documented 27 cases of Palestinians, including five women and a 14-year-old boy, who were detained “for up to four and a half months” without being able to contact their families.
All 27 told of how “they were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment,” the organization said.
The detainees were seized across the Gaza Strip from shelters, homes, hospitals, and checkpoints.
Said Maarouf, a 57-year-old pediatrician detained for 45 days in the Sde Teiman camp in southern Israel, told Amnesty “that detention guards kept him blindfolded and handcuffed for the entire duration of his detention, and described being starved, repeatedly beaten, and forced to sit on his knees for long periods.”
Contacted by AFP this week about similar accusations made by the Palestinian Authority minister for prisoner affairs, the Israeli military said it “rejects outright allegations concerning systematic abuse of detainees in the ‘Sde Teiman’ detention facility, including allegations of sexually abusing
It said that Israel’s detention conditions were within international law.
Under the amended Unlawful Combatants Law, Israel can detain prisoners for 45 days without an administrative process, compared with 96 hours previously.
Prisoners can be held for 75 days without a court hearing, up from 14 days, which can be extended to 180 days.
All of the Palestinians quoted by Amnesty said that during their detention, “Israeli military, intelligence, and police forces subjected them to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”
The Israeli Prison Service told Israeli NGO Hamoked that as of July 1, there were 1,402 Palestinians detained under the law, excluding those held on an initial 45-day period without a formal order.
According to the Prisoners Club, a Palestinian watchdog, about 9,600 Palestinians are currently in Israeli jails, including hundreds under administrative detention.
The NGO estimates that arrests have doubled since Oct. 7 compared to the same period last year.

Turkiye, Niger agree to enhance defense cooperation

Updated 30 min 25 sec ago

Turkiye, Niger agree to enhance defense cooperation

ANKARA: Turkiye and Niger agreed to boost cooperation on energy, mining, intelligence, and defense after the West African nation asked Western military personnel to leave and terminated the mining contracts of many Western countries.
Turkiye’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, along with Defense Minister Yasar Guler, Energy Minister Alparslan Bayraktar, and head of the MIT intelligence agency Ibrahim Kalin visited Niger’s capital Niamey on Wednesday.
As well as their ministerial counterparts, the Turkish delegation met with Niger’s leader Gen. Abdourahmane Tiani, who took power in July last year after the military council he led ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and shifted the country’s allegiances.
The junta kicked out French troops and ordered the US to withdraw its military personnel from the country. It also severed security pacts with the EU.
The Turkish ministers’ visit to Niamey comes two months after Niger’s Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.
On Wednesday, Turkish and Niger officials discussed improving cooperation in defense intelligence, Fidan told reporters after their talks.
A Turkish Defense Ministry official said on Thursday that Guler discussed ways to enhance cooperation between Turkiye and Niger in defense and military training.
The two countries signed a declaration of will to support and encourage Turkish companies to improve oil and natural gas fields in Niger, Turkiye’s Energy Ministry said on Wednesday.
Niger has Africa’s highest-grade uranium ores, and it is also the world’s seventh-biggest producer of uranium.
But Ankara is not seeking to buy uranium from Niger for its first nuclear power plant being built by Russia’s Rosatom at Akkuyu in Turkiye’s Mediterranean region, a Turkish diplomatic source said.

Displaced Sudanese eat dirt to survive, children too tired to cry says US envoy to UN

Updated 18 July 2024

Displaced Sudanese eat dirt to survive, children too tired to cry says US envoy to UN

  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield calls on international donors to honor the pledges of aid for Sudan they made during Paris conference in April
  • She says efforts continue in attempt to reach ceasefire agreement between rival military factions, and to open up access for humanitarian aid

NEW YORK CITY: The US representative to the UN on Thursday painted a dire picture of the situation affecting the people of Sudan, which she said continues to be “the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield lamented the international silence regarding the tragedy that is unfolding in the civil war-ravaged country, and the failure of donors to honor a significant proportion of their financial pledges of aid for Sudan made during an international conference in Paris on April 15.

The conflict in the country erupted in April 2023, between two rival factions of the country’s military government: the Sudanese Armed Forces under Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces led by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, more commonly known as Hemedti.

More than 10 million Sudanese civilians have been displaced by the conflict, including more than 2 million who have fled to neighboring countries in search of safety, Thomas-Greenfield said. The number of refugees from Sudan in Chad alone doubled during the first 12 months of the conflict, with more civilians fleeing there in a single year than during the previous 25 years combined, she added.

About 25. 6 million people now face food insecurity at crisis level or worse, Thomas-Greenfield said. About a third of them are dealing with emergency conditions and 750,000 people, including women, children, the very old and the very young, are at risk of famine and starvation.

Recalling her trip to a refugee camp in Chad last year, she said people were “eating dirt to survive, tree leaves for nutrition,” and children were so weak “they lacked energy to even cry.”

She added: “The room was quiet, totally quiet. That level of suffering is occurring all over Sudan, over and over and over again.

“I’ve said (before that) this is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. And that has not changed. And sadly, the silence I heard that day in Chad has been met with even more silence across the world.”

Three months after the conference Paris, Thomas-Greenfield said, only two-thirds of the pledges have been paid out and only about a quarter of the required response to the crisis has been funded.

She also warned that humanitarian access to the country, which is “already severely restricted by the parties to the conflict, threatens to even further shrink.”

She highlighted in particular continued obstruction by the Sudanese Armed Forces at the Adre crossing on the border between Chad and West Darfur.

“This obstruction is completely unacceptable,” she said. “To make matters worse, experts predict that the rainy season will decrease already severely restricted cross-border access,

all while floodwaters worsen the already dire conditions in IDP (internally displaced persons) camps, putting hundreds of thousands at risk of waterborne diseases.”

Although the scale of the crisis is “overwhelming,” Thomas-Greenfield stressed that “now is not a moment to throw up our hands.”

She announced a further $203 million in humanitarian assistance from the US for the civilians in Sudan, Chad, Egypt and South Sudan who have been affected by “this brutal conflict,” and expressed hope that “this new round of aid serves as a call to action for others to follow suit.”

But she added that “this money is not a panacea,” and vowed her country will continue to urge the warring parties in Sudan to support “an immediate ceasefire and to remove barriers to humanitarian access and delivery of aid.”

Netanyahu blocks minister’s order to build hospital for Gaza children

Palestinian children sit on the balcony of their house which was heavily damaged by Israeli bombardment.
Updated 18 July 2024

Netanyahu blocks minister’s order to build hospital for Gaza children

  • Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced this week that he had ordered the building of a “temporary hospital” in Israel to treat sick children from Gaza
  • PM’s office announced suddenly on Thursday that Netanyahu “does not approve the establishment of a hospital for Gazans within Israeli territory”

JERUSALEM: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday overruled an order by his defense minister to build a field hospital in Israel to treat sick Gaza children, officials said.
The decision was a new sign of divisions within Netanyahu’s ruling coalition over its handling of the war in Gaza in the face of persistent international criticism of the high civilian toll.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced this week that he had ordered the building of a “temporary hospital” in Israel to treat sick children from Gaza.
Gallant discussed the project in a call with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a government statement said Wednesday.
Reports said the hospital would be built close to Israel’s border with Gaza to help children suffering from cancer, diabetes and other illnesses who could not get treatment in the Palestinian territory.
But the prime minister’s office announced suddenly on Thursday that Netanyahu “does not approve the establishment of a hospital for Gazans within Israeli territory — therefore, it will not be established.”
An Israeli official told AFP the defense ministry first asked the prime minister’s office two weeks ago “to speed up the evacuation of patients, especially sick children,” from Gaza.
“No response was received, so the minister issued an order to the army to establish a field hospital within Israeli territory as an immediate solution for sick children.
“The prime minister canceled the order and, for political reasons, blocked a humanitarian solution,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Gallant and Netanyahu are longtime rivals. In March last year, the prime minister sacked his minister, a fomer general, after he spoke out against judicial reforms. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets and Netanyahu revoked his decision.