Motorcyclist killed in Israeli strike near hospital in southern Lebanon

A charred motorbike reportedly hit by an Israeli airstrike is pictured on May 27, 2024 outside the Salah Ghandour Hospital in southern Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil near the border with Israel. (AFP)
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Updated 27 May 2024
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Motorcyclist killed in Israeli strike near hospital in southern Lebanon

  • Health Ministry denounces ‘full-fledged crime’ as health care workers, patients injured in drone attack

BEIRUT: An Israeli strike on Monday outside a hospital in south Lebanon killed one person, the latest deadly raid in the country’s south.

Victim, Ali Wizani, on a motorcycle at the hospital entrance, was heading for medical tests.

Fifteen other people sustained varying injuries, including seven civilians and eight health care workers at Salah Ghandour Hospital in the city of Bint Jbeil.

The hospital security guard, Hassan Jouni, underwent surgery due to severe injuries.

An Israeli combat drone carried out Monday’s attack during a peak time when patients were arriving at the hospital at the start of the week.

For the first time since the hostilities began in the southern Lebanon border area, the Israeli army targeted the vicinity of a hospital on Monday morning.

The Israeli military has increased its efforts in recent days to apprehend individuals using cars or motorcycles on the roads, resulting in the fatalities of Hezbollah members and civilians.

The Lebanese Ministry of Health condemned the brutal Israeli shelling that targeted the hospital.

The hospital “is the only one still operating in this area from which residents have been displaced due to Israeli attacks,“ its director, Dr. Mohammed Sleiman, told Arab News.

“When the drone carried out its attack on the hospital entrance, there were people gathered to enter, which caused injuries.”

He said: “The hospital staff quickly evacuated the patients from the damaged front floors.

“We found that the shells used contained nails or iron fragments that left traces in the hospital building.

“The hospital’s role is humanitarian. The Israelis know the hospital very well, and we follow all required instructions during wars.”

Dr. Sleiman added: “In the July 2006 war, the hospital was subjected to direct shelling, and after today’s attack, we resumed work normally.

“We receive all patients in addition to the wounded from Israeli attacks. We currently have 17 patients besides the war-wounded.

“We receive non-urgent surgeries, and we have a medical team residing in the hospital since the attacks began.

Ambulances operate normally, and the medical staff comes to the hospital as usual. After the attack, doctors and nursing staff who were off-duty came to the hospital to help.

“We do not suffer from any shortages of medicines and equipment, as the Ministry of Health supplies us with what we need.”

The Health Ministry described the hospital attack as a “full-fledged war crime and a new episode in the series of repeated and flagrant violations committed by Israel against health care facilities and health care workers in Lebanon, violating all human rights laws, the Geneva conventions, and all international laws and norms that stipulate the protection and respect of health care workers and the provision of safety for them during armed conflicts.”

Hezbollah retaliated against the Israeli assault on the hospital by “targeting and destroying the newly installed spy equipment at the Miskaf Am site.”

Media outlets in Israel reported that “firefighting crews are working to extinguish a massive fire that broke out in the settlement of Kiryat Shmona after rockets were launched from Lebanon.”

Hezbollah targeted “a building used by enemy soldiers in the Margaliot settlement with appropriate weapons and achieved confirmed casualties.”

The group also “launched an intense fire attack on the Al-Malikiyah position with guided missiles and artillery shells, targeting its garrison, its equipment, and the positions of its soldiers.”

Hezbollah used “attack drones on targets inside the site and hit them accurately” in its retaliation.

The Israeli army said that “a Sky Rider drone fell inside Lebanese territory, and the incident is being investigated.”

The Israeli military said that it bombed a building where Hezbollah members were located in the Yaron border area on Sunday.

Additionally, the air force targeted Hezbollah members in Hula, hitting a weapons storage facility in Mays Al-Jabal and military infrastructure in Khiam.

The Israeli raid on the town of Yaron led to casualties.

The border villages have not been spared from continuous Israeli bombardment, which it is said, aims to destroy homes and properties and burn crops with internationally prohibited phosphorus bombs.

An Israeli army spokesman said, “The Israeli forces have increased their readiness for the war on Lebanon. Over the past weeks, the 146th Division and the 205th Reserve Armored Brigade conducted an exercise at the division and brigade level simulating ground maneuvers in Lebanon.”

The spokesperson said “the exercise simulated combat scenarios on the northern front, the rapid deployment of forces in the field, the role of division and brigade command centers, and the readiness of forces for attack.” 

Also on Monday, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati discussed the security situation in the south with Gen. Aroldo Lazaro, the commander of UNIFIL Forces.

The talks included preparations to submit the periodic report to the UN Security Council about the implementation of Resolution 1701 and the coordination between UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army.


ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’

Updated 6 sec ago
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ICRC official describes Rafah as a ‘ghost town’

  • Desperation among Gaza’s 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid

JERUSALEM: Days after Israel announced a daily pause in fighting on a key route to allow more aid into Gaza, chaos in the besieged Palestinian territory has left vital supplies piled up and undistributed in the searing summer heat.
More than eight months of war have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip and repeated UN warnings of famine.
William Schomburg, International Committee of the Red Cross chief in Rafah, described Rafah City as a “ghost town.”
“It is a ghost town in the sense that you see very few people, high levels of destruction, and just another symbol of the unfolding tragedy that has become Gaza over the last nine months,” he said.
The UN food agency has said its aid convoys have been looted inside Gaza by “desperate people.”
Desperation among Gaza’s 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from agencies that they are unable to deliver aid.
Israel says it has let supplies in and called on agencies to step up deliveries.
“The breakdown of public order and safety is increasingly endangering humanitarian workers and operations in Gaza,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA, said in a briefing.
“Alongside the fighting, criminal activities and the risk of theft and robbery has effectively prevented humanitarian access to critical locations.”
But Israel says it has allowed hundreds of trucks of aid into southern Gaza, trading blame with the UN over why the aid is stacking up.
It shared aerial footage of containers lined up on the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom crossing and more trucks arriving to add to the stockpile.
With civil order breaking down in Gaza, the UN says it has been unable to pick up any supplies from Kerem Shalom since Tuesday, leaving crucial aid in limbo.

 

 


Houthi claims of attack on US aircraft carrier are false, US officials say

Updated 6 min 29 sec ago
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Houthi claims of attack on US aircraft carrier are false, US officials say

  • “That is incorrect,” one of the officials said
  • In more than 70 attacks, the Houthis have sunk two vessels, seized another

WASHINGTON: A claim by Yemen’s Houthi group on Saturday that its forces had attacked the US aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea is false, two US officials told Reuters.
“That is incorrect,” one of the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The Iran-aligned Houthis first launched drone and missile strikes in the key waterway in November in what they say is solidarity with Palestinian militants in Gaza, where Israel has waged a more than eight-month-old war.
In more than 70 attacks, the Houthis have sunk two vessels, seized another and killed at least three seafarers.
Earlier the Houthi group said its forces had attacked the Eisenhower in the Red Sea and the operation had achieved its objectives successfully without elaborating. The group also said it attacked a commercial ship, Transworld Navigator, in the Arabian Sea. It did not say when the attacks took place.
A Houthi statement said the Transworld Navigator took a direct hit from a missile.


Egyptian homes celebrate pilgrims’ return with Hajj murals

Updated 22 June 2024
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Egyptian homes celebrate pilgrims’ return with Hajj murals

  • Worshippers parade through villages on horseback as part of traditional festivities

CAIRO: As Egyptian pilgrims return from their spiritual journey to Saudi Arabia, waiting families have begun plans for celebrations in homes decorated with special murals.

Festive images depict Hajj symbols such as airplanes, the Kaaba, Mount Arafat, and camels, celebrating the fulfillment of the sacred pilgrimage. 

Emad Abdel Latif, a folklore professor at Assiut University, told Arab News that the “deep-rooted tradition begins as soon as the pilgrim departs for the holy lands.”

He said the homes “are initially painted, typically in blue, and then adorned with murals that symbolize aspects of the Hajj, including the Kaaba and the aircraft transporting the pilgrims to Saudi Arabia.”

Abdel Latif added: “This custom also includes inscribing phrases such as ‘Labaik Allahumma Labaik’ (Here I am, O God, here I am), ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is the Greatest), along with wishes for a blessed Hajj and forgiven sins.”

Traditionally, celebrations included a religious ceremony, during which returning pilgrims might parade through their village on horseback, while sweets are distributed among onlookers. 

Said Al-Badri, a mural artist from Giza, described the intricate planning that goes into creating the artworks.

“Depending on the complexity, a single mural can take one to two hours, while a complete home mural might require a full day of work,” he said.

“These murals visually narrate the pilgrim’s journey — boarding the plane, circling the Kaaba, the ritual walk between Safa and Marwa, standing at Mount Arafat, and visiting the Prophet’s tomb. They are enriched with Qur’anic verses and popular phrases of congratulation.”

Al-Badri learnt the art from his father, and has dedicated himself to preserving this cultural tradition.

“Each year, as pilgrims return, I continue this legacy, enhancing our local heritage through these festive decorations,” he said.

Amira Mahmoud’s mother was one of more than 1.8 million people who undertook the Hajj pilgrimage this year. The murals “add to our celebration,” she said.

“Our community deeply values these traditions, which embellish our homes, and reinforce familial and communal bonds.”

Mahmoud highlights the significance of these murals in preserving cultural heritage.

“These artworks are more than decorations. They are a vibrant testament to our rich traditions, inviting every returning pilgrim to the heart of community life.”


Egypt PM orders measures to prevent fraud in Hajj trips

Updated 22 June 2024
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Egypt PM orders measures to prevent fraud in Hajj trips

  • The prime minister presided over a crisis cell meeting initiated by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, focusing on the deaths of Egyptian pilgrims
  • Preliminarily, 16 travel agencies were identified as circumventing regulations and transporting pilgrims without offering proper services

CAIRO: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has ordered 16 tourism companies to be stripped of their licenses and referred their managers to the public prosecutor’s office for illegally facilitating pilgrims’ travel to Makkah.
The prime minister presided over a crisis cell meeting initiated by President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, focusing on the deaths of Egyptian pilgrims.
A report discussed at the meeting highlighted that the rise in the deaths of unregistered Egyptian pilgrims stemmed from some companies that “organized the Hajj programs using a personal visit visa, which prevents its holders from entering Makkah” via official channels.
It emerged that attempts to bypass the official process included trekking through desert paths and the absence of suitable accommodation at other sacred sites, leading to exhaustion among unregistered pilgrims due to severe heat.
Preliminarily, 16 travel agencies were identified as circumventing regulations and transporting pilgrims without offering proper services.
The prime minister ordered the immediate revocation of these companies’ licenses, referred the responsible people to public prosecution, and imposed fines to benefit the bereaved families of the deceased pilgrims.
During the meeting, measures were discussed to prevent such incidents in the future, including enforcing immediate actions against companies or entities that facilitated these irregular pilgrimages.
Madbouly said that although the official Egyptian Hajj delegation comprises more than 50,000 pilgrims, it was difficult to ascertain the number of unregistered travelers due to the absence of recorded data.
An official source, preferring anonymity, told Arab News that high fatality numbers reported might include many who traveled under visit visas — not Hajj visas.
He suggested that those responsible for “these transgressions face severe repercussions, possibly extending beyond license revocation to criminal prosecution.”
The French news agency AFP reported that the death toll among Egyptian pilgrims for this year’s Hajj had risen to 600, indicating the majority were not part of the official delegation.
Regarding legal responsibilities, Egyptian lawyer Ahmed Abul Saud said that travel agencies bear criminal responsibility if they knowingly facilitate these illegal activities.
Conversely, he said that if they were unaware and merely issued visas based on client requests, it would be easier to hold them accountable if it was proven they had explicit knowledge of the pilgrims’ intentions.
Saturday’s discussions also revealed that some companies possibly knew what the unofficial pilgrims planned, while others may have been unaware, issuing visas without knowing the intended misuse.
This situation underscores the complexity of ensuring that all travel facilitators adhere strictly to legal and ethical standards, emphasizing the need for robust oversight and accountability measures to prevent future occurrences.
Officials said that ensuring all travel facilitators adhere to legal and ethical standards required robust oversight and accountability measures.


EU top diplomat demands probe into Gaza Red Cross office shelling

Updated 22 June 2024
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EU top diplomat demands probe into Gaza Red Cross office shelling

  • The EU condemns the shelling which damaged the ICRC office in Gaza

BRUSSELS: EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell on Saturday called for a probe into deadly shelling that damaged an office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Gaza.


“The EU condemns the shelling which damaged the ICRC office in Gaza and led to dozens of casualties. An independent investigation is needed and those responsible must be held accountable,” Borrell wrote on X.