Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?

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Sudanese refugees who have fled from the war in Sudan get off a truck loaded with families arriving at a Transit Centre for refugees in Renk, on February 13, 2024. More than 550,000 people have now fled from the war in Sudan to South Sudan since the conflict exploded in April 2023, according to the United Nations. (AFP/File)
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Sudanese refugees who have fled from the war in Sudan get off a truck loaded with families arriving at a Transit Centre for refugees in Renk, on February 13, 2024. More than 550,000 people have now fled from the war in Sudan to South Sudan since the conflict exploded in April 2023, according to the United Nations. (AFP/File)
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Updated 20 June 2024

Will the ICC seek prosecutions in Sudan following Darfur hospital attack?

  • International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor is ‘concerned by the ethnically motivated nature’ of the conflict
  • Fourteen months into the conflict, legal experts have criticized the court’s belated appeal for evidence of atrocities

LONDON: The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan has appealed for evidence of atrocities in Sudan, saying his ongoing investigation “seems to disclose an organized, systematic and a profound attack on human dignity.”

However, legal experts who spoke to Arab News have accused the ICC of dragging its feet on the deteriorating situation in Sudan and of focusing too narrowly on the Darfur region while neglecting the wider conflict.

Khan last week said he had become “particularly concerned by the ethnically motivated nature” of the conflict in Sudan after combatants reportedly attacked the main hospital in Al-Fasher, North Darfur, in what likely constituted a war crime.

El-Fasher South Hospital in Al-Fasher, North Darfur, after it was attacked. (X: Twitter)

Doctors from the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres confirmed to Arab News that the attack on the South Hospital on June 8 had forced MSF and its partners in the Sudanese Ministry of Health to suspend all activities and withdraw staff from the facility.

A spokesperson said authorities had already reduced services at the hospital, with many patients having been transferred before the attack owing to the uptick in fighting around the city — the last in Darfur still under the control of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF).

Fighters affiliated with the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a breakaway military faction that has seized control of swathes of the country since the conflict began on April 15, 2023, were accused of mounting the attack.

Members of Sudan's paramilitary group known as RSS were accused of burning villages in some parts of the country. (AFP/File)

“It’s outrageous that the RSF opened fire inside the hospital,” Michel Lacharite, head of emergencies at MSF, told Arab News. “It is not an isolated incident. Staff and patients have endured attacks on the facility for weeks from all sides, but opening fire inside a hospital crosses a line.

“Warring parties must stop attacking hospitals. One by one, hospitals are damaged and closed. Remaining facilities in Al-Fasher aren’t prepared for mass casualties, we are trying to find solutions, but the responsibility lies with warring parties to spare medical facilities.”


• 14,000 Estimated number of people killed in Sudan since the conflict began on April 15, 2023.

• 10 million People displaced, including over 2 million who have crossed into neighboring countries.

The RSF, commanded by Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti, has previously denied claims that its forces attack civilian infrastructure.

While details about the hospital attack remain sketchy, the MSF spokesperson said “most patients” and “all MSF staff” were able to escape.

Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (C), known as Hemeti, commander of the Rapid Support Forces paramilitary, has denied accusations that his group were committing war crimes. (AFP/File)

As the main referral hospital for treating Al-Fasher’s war-wounded, the only one equipped to manage mass casualty events and one of just two with surgical capacity, the loss of services will have a major impact. In less than a month, the facility had treated some 1,300 people.

The UN Security Council adopted a UK-drafted resolution on June 14 demanding an end to the siege of Al-Fasher.

The measure expressed “grave concern” over the spreading violence and reports that the RSF was carrying out “ethnically motivated violence.”

During the meeting, Mohamed Abushahab, the UAE’s ambassador to the UN, said: “We believe that the Sudanese people deserve justice and peace. They need a ceasefire, a credible political process and unhindered flow of humanitarian aid.”

Rebutting accusations made by the representative of Sudan’s SAF-backed government, he said: “Excuses and finger pointing only prolongs the suffering of civilians.”

Independent ivestigations using videos suggest recent SAF victories were enabled by the deployment of such Iranian-made combat drones as Mohajer-6 and Zajil-3.

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on April 18, 2022 shows an Iranian combat drone on display during a military parade in Tehran. Independent investigations using videos suggest recent SAF victories were enabled by the deployment of such Iranian-made combat drones. (AFP/File)

According to Wim Zwijnenburg, a drone expert and head of the Humanitarian Disarmament Project at Dutch peace organisation PAX, the videos are “an indication of active Iranian support” for SAF.

“If these drones are equipped with guided munitions, it means they were supplied by Iran because those munitions are not produced in Sudan,” Zwijnenburg told BBC.

Sudan’s SAF-dominated governing council has denied acquiring weapons from Iran.

Cameron Hudson, a senior fellow for the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that although the Al-Fasher hospital assault has been a wake-up call for the ICC, attacks of this kind were “nothing new.”

“The fact of the matter is that this is not the first hospital to be looted or destroyed in this conflict,” Hudson told Arab News.

Fire rages in a livestock market area in al-Fasher, the capital of Sudan's North Darfur state, on September 1, 2023, in the aftermath of bombardment by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF). (AFP/File)

“It is a conflict that has been raging for 14 months and has been fought in much the same way with this attack well within the nature of the conflict.

“What is new is that Sudan’s civilian population’s ability to withstand the shocks of this war has depleted. But while it may feel like a game-changing moment, it is not.”

Referring to the July 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys during the Bosnian War, Hudson said: “Maybe if there was a Srebrenica moment, a move to extermination, that would be game-changing.”

Khan’s comments indicate the ICC has been paying attention to the situation in Sudan. However, Hudson voiced disappointment at the court’s slow response to the conflict.

Contrasting the “alacrity” with which the ICC acted against Russia for its war in Ukraine and Israel for its assault on Gaza, he said it was telling of Sudan’s ranking in international priorities that the court was “only now” investigating.

International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Karim Khan (L) visits the Kalma camp for internally displaced people in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, on August 21, 2022. (AFP/File)

“Khan’s comments strike me as an admission that the court has not moved at pace and should have been doing more,” said Hudson. “I am not sure what restraints he is operating under but he’s not prioritized Sudan, and, in Darfur, these cases build themselves.

“It is not just the court, this conflict has been neglected more broadly, there need to be moves to build a diplomatic process and to get humanitarian aid because only eight percent of a global appeal has been met, which is shockingly low.

“I would like to see an increase in the cost on this war’s actors as part of a move to bring it to an end, including the use of sanctions, which have not been deployed efficiently, and could have a part to play in bringing actors to the negotiating table.”

Although efforts at brokering a ceasefire between the two sides have so far failed, Saudi aid agency KSrelief has been rolling out health projects intended to support Sudan’s civilian population, with three projects put into action in the last week alone.

Sudanese villagers receive humanitarian aid from Saudi Arabia at a KSrelief center in Khartoum, Sudan. (SPA/File)

With thousands of civilians reportedly killed and thousands more displaced by the fighting across Darfur, the ICC’s machinery has swung into action. Even so, Sudanese international lawyers have expressed skepticism.

One who spoke to Arab News on the condition of anonymity said they were particularly concerned by Khan’s focus on the violence in Darfur when in reality, the violence has spread far beyond the troubled western region.

“The ICC was mandated to investigate crimes in Darfur in 2005, and we have not yet seen any results from that mandate, and now this conflict is happening in other areas,” the lawyer said. “This violence is not all in — nor is it originating from — Darfur.

“What is happening outside Darfur is not lesser than the violence happening within it and yet the ICC, partly as a consequence of Sudan not being a party to the court’s jurisdiction, is drawing attention away from this and making it all about Darfur.”

Despite lacking jurisdiction as a consequence of the Sudanese government failing to ratify the ICC treaty, otherwise known as the Rome Statute, the court had gained jurisdiction for a limited investigation into earlier crimes in Darfur through a UN Security Council referral.

That referral resulted in the ICC’s 2009 decision to issue an arrest warrant for the since-ousted Sudanese President Omar Bashir for multiple charges, including for a genocide that took place in Darfur between 2003 and 2008.

Sudan's former strongman Omar Bashir (left) was the subject of an arrest warrant issued by the ICC over genocide charges committed in Darfur between 2003 and 2008 allegedly by the RSF led by General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo (right)

Born out of Arab militias commonly known as Janjaweed, the RSF was mobilized by Bashir against non-Arab tribes in Darfur. At the time, they were accused of mass killings, rapes and other atrocities, and Darfur became synonymous with genocide.

Welcoming Khan’s push for evidence, another Sudan-based legal expert, who spoke to Arab News anonymously, challenged those questioning the focus on Darfur, stressing it made sense given the region’s history.

“Does it make sense to keep looking at cases within the Darfur geographic region? Yes, because all that is happening in Sudan from 2003 up to now can be connected back to Darfur, as that is where this conflict’s root causes lie,” they said.

“There are questions to be asked though in relation to how the ICC is addressing the Darfur case and the role that this, and the coverage of it, will have around the protection of civilians as what is needed is to reduce that risk.”

Internally displaced women wait to collect aid from a group at a camp in Gadaref on May 12, 2024. (AFP/File)

The war in Sudan has cost the lives of more than 14,000 people and left thousands more wounded while pushing the population to the brink of famine.

The UN warned the warring parties last month that there is a serious risk of widespread starvation in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan if they do not allow humanitarian aid into the region.

The war has also created the world’s largest displacement crisis as more than 10 million people have been forced to flee their homes, including over 2 million people who have crossed into neighboring countries.

Saudi Arabia has played a central role in facilitating talks between the two warring factions, urging them to meet their obligations to protect civilians under both the Jeddah Declaration and the requirements of international humanitarian law.


Israeli kibbutzim say army returned bodies of two hostages from Gaza

Updated 9 sec ago

Israeli kibbutzim say army returned bodies of two hostages from Gaza

JERUSALEM: Two Israeli kibbutzim announced on Wednesday that the Israeli army had retrieved from Gaza the bodies of two hostages, whose deaths had been previously announced by the military.
The army, in a rescue operation, brought to Israel the bodies of hostages Maya Goren and Oren Goldin, the kibbutzim Nir Oz and Nir Yitzhak said in separate statements.
“Last night, we were informed that in a military rescue operation, the body of the late Maya Goren was recovered,” kibbutz Nir Oz said, adding that her family was updated a few hours ago and that more information would follow.
In December the military had announced the death of Goren, who was abducted and taken to Gaza during the October 7 attack by Hamas militants.
Later in a separate statement kibbutz Nir Yitzhak said the army had returned the body of Goldin.
“This evening, we were informed about the rescue operation for the late Oren Goldin, a member of the kibbutz emergency team, who fell on October 7” during the attack by Hamas militants, Nir Yitzhak said.
On October 7 Hamas militants attacked southern Israeli communities, which resulted in the deaths of 1,197 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Militants also seized 251 hostages, 114 of whom remain in Gaza, including 42 the military says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory military campaign in Gaza has killed at least 39,145 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Diplomats in Lebanon assess magnitude of damages in the south

Updated 24 July 2024

Diplomats in Lebanon assess magnitude of damages in the south

  • Foreign Affairs Committee met with ambassadors from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Britain, and Canada to present the results of the ongoing Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon
  • Hezbollah released a new video recorded by the Hudhud drone within Israel, showcasing footage from inside the Ramat David Air Base

BEIRUT: The head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Lebanese Parliament, MP Fadi Alama, revealed that “the number of attacks on South Lebanon has exceeded 5,736 until July 15, resulting in 538 martyrs, and 1,850 injuries.”

The Foreign Affairs Committee met on Wednesday with several ambassadors from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Britain, and Canada to present the results of the ongoing Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon, as part of preparations for “the government’s work in the post-ceasefire phase.”

MP Alama said that “representatives of diplomatic missions and international organizations were surprised when we talked about 1,800 hectares intentionally burned by the Israeli enemy. They were also surprised by the number of schools that were targeted and the number of students who were unable to complete their education and moved to other places. Additionally, they were informed of the 28,000 new families who have been displaced from areas that are being targeted daily.”

The parliamentarian said there was urgency for the government to develop a plan and a roadmap as soon as possible.

MP Wael Abu Faour, a member of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, stated that “the human, health, urban, agricultural, and environmental losses as a result of Israeli attacks have become enormous. Initial estimates from Lebanese institutions indicate a cost of approximately two $2 billion so far, in addition to other damages and losses.”

Abu Faour said: “This is a new challenge for the Lebanese state that must be dealt with in Lebanon’s Arab and international relations. The state is bankrupt and unable to bear such responsibilities, but at the same time, it cannot abandon its responsibilities towards its citizens regardless of any controversial local political considerations regarding the feasibility of war or its justifications among some parties.”

Hostilities between Hezbollah and the Israeli army continued on Wednesday. According to Israeli media, “43 settlements were evacuated in the north, (and) more than 1,500 buildings, cars, and infrastructure were damaged in the north. Additionally, six industrial zones were affected, and hundreds of businesses were forced to close due to Hezbollah strikes.”

Israel targeted the towns of Kafr Shuba, Tayr Harfa, and Hula on Wednesday with airstrikes and artillery shelling. A raid also targeted a house in the town of Kfar Hammam, leading to its destruction. This small village is located in Hasbaya District on the eastern side of Nabatieh Governorate.

Hezbollah released a new video recorded by the Hudhud drone within Israel, showcasing footage from inside the Ramat David Air Base, located approximately 50 km from the Lebanese border.

According to Hezbollah, “the footage was captured on Tuesday using a drone.”

The new eight-minute video released by Hezbollah showcases several sensitive areas within the base, including aircraft fuel tanks, the headquarters of Squadron 109, an Iron Dome missile defense platform, and ammunition depots. It also reveals the locations of the Squadron 157 and Squadron 105 headquarters. Hezbollah included an image of the base commander’s office, exposing intricate details of the facility.

This is not the first time Hezbollah has employed such tactics. Previously, the group broadcast aerial footage of critical installations captured by similar unmanned aerial vehicles in Haifa and the Golan Heights.

Israeli media reacted strongly, with one outlet stating: “Over eight minutes of Hezbollah video exposing our vulnerability is a disgrace.”

The Israeli military, however, downplayed the incident, claiming the footage was captured by a drone designed solely for photography and did not affect base operations.

A Hezbollah source linked the timing of the video release to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington.

Amid these developments, the Israeli military announced on Wednesday that its “reserve brigade has completed a drill simulating war scenarios in Lebanon.”

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir expressed support for a comprehensive war against Hezbollah, stating: “The sooner, the better.”

However, Israel’s Ambassador to Russia Simona Halperin maintained that while Tel Aviv is prepared for military confrontation with Lebanon, it still prefers a diplomatic solution.

She emphasized that Israel is not interested in a large-scale war. “We cannot dismiss a scenario where Israel might be compelled to engage in a wide-ranging war on the northern front,” she added.

Coinciding with Israel’s war rhetoric, the Canadian Embassy in Lebanon issued a renewed advisory to its citizens.

It called on “Canadians, permanent residents, their spouses, and dependent children to heed travel advisories and leave the country while commercial flights are available.”

The embassy emphasized its focus on assisting individuals in obtaining necessary travel documents and keeping families together during this process.

This escalation comes as thousands of Lebanese expatriates with dual citizenship from Canada, the US, and Europe have arrived in Lebanon for summer vacations.

US destroys 3 Houthi missile launchers in Yemen

US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107) sails in formation with the FS Forbin (D 620).
Updated 24 July 2024

US destroys 3 Houthi missile launchers in Yemen

  • US and UK forces have carried out dozens of attacks since January on Houthi-held areas to prevent attacks by the militia on international shipping
  • Houthis say operations at Hodeidah Port have returned to ‘full capacity’ after fires in fuel tanks, caused by an attack by Israel on Saturday, were extinguished

AL-MUKALLA: The US Central Command said on Wednesday that it destroyed three missile launchers on territory in Yemen held by the Houthi militia.

It was the latest in a series of military operations targeting Houthi sites in response to continuing attacks by the militia on international shipping.

“It was determined these weapons presented an imminent threat to US (and) coalition forces, and merchant vessels in the region,” the US military said in a message posted on social media platform X. It added that by destroying the launchers it was taking preemptive action to prevent Houthi attacks on international shipping and protect freedom of passage.

US and UK forces have carried out dozens of attacks since January on sites in Sanaa, Hodeidah and other Houthi-held parts of Yemen being used to store missile launchers, unmanned aerial vehicles and drone boats, in an effort to prevent threats to international maritime routes off the coast of Yemen.

Meanwhile, the Houthis said operations at Hodeidah Port, on Yemen’s Red Sea coast, have resumed at “full capacity” after fires in fuel tanks, caused by an attack by Israel at the weekend, were extinguished.

Houthi governor Mohammed Quhim reported on Tuesday night that the blazes were under control, and Houthi officials at the port said it was operational and two ships carrying hundreds of cargo containers and thousands of tonnes of steel had docked.

In response to a Houthi drone strike that killed one person and injured at least 10 in Tel Aviv, Israeli warplanes bombed several parts of Hodeidah on Saturday, including the port, a power station and an area on the city’s northern outskirts. The Houthis said six people were killed and more than 80 injured by the attacks, which destroyed dozens of fuel tanks and a crane at the port.

The militia have demanded that foreign organizations operating in regions under their control provide them with the names and jobs of all employees, as the Houthis intensify their crackdown on Yemenis who work with international organizations or at Western embassies, amid accusations of espionage.

In a letter dated July 17 that circulated on social media this week, the Houthi Supreme Council for the Management and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and International Cooperation ordered international organizations active in Yemen to provide staffing structures within a week, including the names of workers, their positions and nationalities, and lists of prospective employees for approval.

The Yemeni government’s information minister, Muammar Al-Eryani, said the demand reflects the growing Houthi pressure on foreign organizations to employ workers loyal to the militia so that they can control the flow of international aid to Yemen.

In a message posted on X, he urged international groups operating in the country to transfer their offices from Houthi-controlled regions to the government-controlled southern port city of Aden, the nation’s temporary capital, to protect their staff from Houthi persecution.

“The terrorist Houthi militia considered the hesitant international positions a green light to continue its crimes and violations, and to further escalate its repressive measures towards international and humanitarian organizations working in the areas under its control,” he added.

The Houthis have abducted more than 60 Yemenis working for international organizations and Western missions in recent months, including more than a dozen employees of the UN. They claim Yemeni workers at such organizations are part of a large Israeli and US spy network.

First ships dock in Yemen harbor after Israel strike: Houthi media

Updated 24 July 2024

First ships dock in Yemen harbor after Israel strike: Houthi media

  • “The port of Hodeida is working normally around the clock” to receive commercial ships, Ahmed Al-Murtada, the deputy director of the container terminal, said
  • Ship tracking website marinetraffic.com confirmed the arrival on Tuesday of Marsa Zenith

HODEIDA, Yemen: Two container ships have docked in Yemen’s Hodeida harbor, the first since a deadly Israeli strike hit fuel storage tanks at the militant-held port, according to Houthi media and ship trackers.
The strikes on Saturday, the first claimed by Israel on Yemen, triggered a massive blaze that burned for days at the dock amid slow firefighting efforts.
It destroyed some cranes and dozens of oil tanks, according to experts. Another tank exploded overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday, reigniting some flames at the harbor, a critical gateway for fuel imports and humanitarian aid into Houthi-held areas.
Despite the ongoing threat, “the port of Hodeida is working normally around the clock” to receive commercial ships, Ahmed Al-Murtada, the deputy director of the container terminal, told the Houthi-run Saba news agency on Tuesday.
The port’s director of maritime operations, Mohamed Al-Sais, told Saba that two ships had docked at the harbor on Tuesday.
He identified them as “Marsa Zenith,” a vessel that carried 514 containers of “various goods,” and “Brother 1,” which was loaded with 22,803 tons of iron, Saba said.
Ship tracking website marinetraffic.com confirmed the arrival on Tuesday of Marsa Zenith, identifying it as a Panama-flagged vessel that departed from the port of Djibouti.
It additionally reported the arrival of the Tanzania-flagged Brother 1, which also sailed from Djibouti, according to the website.
The quays of Hodeida were spared major damage in the Israeli strike that militants say killed nine people and targeted a fuel storage depot owned by the Yemen Petroleum Company as well as a power plant north of the port.
Maritime security firm Ambrey said there were no reports of major damage to vessels in or near the harbor following the strike.
The port, however, is still at risk of another “catastrophe,” said Mwatana for Human Rights, a Yemeni right group which dispatched an assessment team to the dock.
“Based on (the findings of) our field team, the risk of more fuel tanks exploding still remains,” it told AFP in an emailed statement.
“Whenever the firefighting teams tried to extinguish the fires, the explosions and flames reignited,” Mwatana said.
“There are major concerns that the teams may not be able to... prevent another explosion.”

‘Miracle’ baby born in Gaza after airstrike kills heavily pregnant mother

Updated 24 July 2024

‘Miracle’ baby born in Gaza after airstrike kills heavily pregnant mother

  • Mother fell through several floors of bombed family home
  • Families face daily tragedy as Israel battles Hamas in Gaza

GAZA: Nine months pregnant, Ola Al-Kurd could not wait to hold her baby and bring new life to Gaza during a war which has killed over 39,000 fellow Palestinians and razed much of the enclave.
That special moment never came.
An Israeli airstrike smashed into the family home in Al-Nuseirat in central Gaza on July 19, according to her father Adnan Al-Kurd. The blast threw Ola down several floors to her death in the house, whose inhabitants included women, children and the elderly, he said.
Somehow, her baby survived, as did her husband, who was hospitalized.
“It’s a miracle that the fetus stayed alive inside of her when she was martyred (died),” Adnan Al-Kurd said, contemplating a photo of his daughter’s graduation.
The explosion, like many others, killed several members of a single family, a daily tragedy across Gaza since Israel began its offensive in Gaza in response to a devastating cross-border attack by Palestinian Hamas militants on Oct. 7 last year.
Mediators from the United States, Qatar and Egypt have failed in multiple attempts to secure a ceasefire. So it is highly unlikely that Israeli airstrikes and shelling will end anytime soon.
“She wanted to hold her child and fill our home with his presence,” Al-Kurd said. “She would say, ‘Mom, hopefully, this will make up for the loss of my martyred brothers and bring life back to our home’.”
Entirely against the odds, surgeons at Al Awda hospital in Nuseirat — where Ola was first taken after the strike — managed to deliver the newborn, Malek Yassin. He was then transferred to Al Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah, where an aunt touched the baby’s face as he lay in an incubator.
“Thank God, this baby’s life was saved and he is now alive and well,” doctor Khalil Al-Dakran said at the hospital, where many medical facilities have been destroyed in over nine months of war.
Al-Kurd gazes at photos of his three late children killed in the Gaza war. He said baby Yassin is blond like his deceased uncle Omar. “I go visit him everyday. He is a part of me,” he said.
Babies who survive frequent Israeli bombardment get no relief as the conflict inflicts more destruction in the heavily built-up, densely populated Gaza Strip.
“We are in fact facing very great difficulties in the nursery department,” said Al-Dakran, due to a lack of sufficient medication and supplies and fears that the hospital generator could stop at any moment due to fuel shortages.
Hospitals across impoverished Gaza have been demolished or seriously damaged during the war, which began when Hamas-led fighters attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking over 250 hostages according to Israeli tallies.
Israel responded with an air and ground offensive that has killed more than 39,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, and levelled much of the coastal territory.
“What is the fault of this child to start his life under difficult and very bad circumstances, deprived of the most basic necessities of life?” said Dakran.