UN tells Israel it will suspend aid operations across Gaza without improved safety

A US Army soldier gestures as trucks loaded with humanitarian aid arrive at the US-built floating pier Trident before reaching the beach on the coast of the Gaza Strip, Tuesday, June 25, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 25 June 2024
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UN tells Israel it will suspend aid operations across Gaza without improved safety

  • UN and other aid officials have complained for months that they have no way to communicate quickly and directly with Israeli forces on the ground

WASHINGTON DC: Senior UN officials have warned Israel that they will suspend the world body’s aid operations across Gaza unless Israel acts urgently to better protect humanitarian workers, two UN officials said Tuesday. The ultimatum is the latest in a series of UN steps demanding Israel do more to safeguard aid operations from strikes by its forces and to curb growing lawlessness hindering humanitarian workers.
A UN letter sent to Israeli officials this month said Israel must provide UN workers with a way to communicate directly with Israeli forces on the ground in Gaza, among other steps, the officials said.
They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations with Israeli officials. The UN officials said there has been no final decision on suspending operations across Gaza and that talks with Israelis were ongoing.
Israeli military officials did not respond to requests for comment. Israel has previously acknowledged some military strikes on humanitarian workers, including an April attack that killed seven workers with the World Central Kitchen, and has denied allegations of others.
Citing security concerns, the UN World Food Program has already suspended aid delivery from a US-built pier designed to bring food and other emergency supplies to Palestinians who are facing starvation amid the eight-month war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
UN and other aid officials have complained for months that they have no way to communicate quickly and directly with Israeli forces on the ground, in contrast with the usual procedures — known as “deconfliction” — employed in conflict zones globally to protect aid workers from attack by combatants.
In its letter to Israeli officials, the UN cited communication and protective equipment for aid workers as among the commitments that it wanted Israel to make good on for its aid operations to continue in Gaza overall, the two UN officials say.
The UN said in April that about 30 humanitarian workers have been killed in the line of duty in Gaza since the war between Israel and Hamas began in October.
The UN and other humanitarian organizations also complain of increasing crime in Gaza and have urged Israel to do more to improve overall security for their operations from attack and theft. The lawlessness has stymied what Israel said was a daily pause in fighting to allow a new safe corridor to deliver aid into southern Gaza, with humanitarian officials saying groups of gunmen are regularly blocking convoys, holding drivers at gunpoint and rifling through their cargo.
On top of that, “missiles hit our premises, despite being deconflicted,” said Steve Taravela, a spokesman for the World Food Program, one of the main organizations working on humanitarian delivery in Gaza. He was not one of those confirming the UN threat to suspend operations across the territory. “WFP warehouses have been caught in the crossfire twice in the past two weeks.”
Humanitarian officials said conditions for civilians and aid workers have worsened further since early May when Israel launched an offensive in the southern city of Rafah, where many aid groups had their base. The operation has crippled what had been a main border crossing for food and other aid.
Aid workers trying to get shipments through the main remaining crossing, Kerem Shalom, face risks from fighting, damaged roads, unexploded ordnance and Israeli restrictions, including spending five or more hours a day waiting at checkpoints, Taravela said.
“Restoring order is crucial for an effective humanitarian response to meet soaring needs. UN agencies and others need a safe environment to be able to access people and scale up,” he said.
Israeli officials say the problems at Kerem Shalom are a matter of poor UN logistics.
Separately, the United Nations has also suspended cooperation with the US-built pier since June 9, a day after the Israeli military used the area around the pier in a hostage rescue that killed more than 270 Palestinians.
While US and Israeli officials said no part of the pier itself was used in the raid that rescued four hostages taken by Hamas, UN officials said any perception in Gaza that the project was used in the Israeli military operation may endanger their aid work.
The UN has finished a security assessment of the pier operation following the raid but has not yet made a decision on resuming any delivery of supplies from the US-built structure, according to a humanitarian official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details that have not yet been released publicly.
Speaking to reporters traveling with a US delegation to a gathering of defense chiefs in Botswana on Tuesday, an official with the US Agency for International Development expressed optimism that aid deliveries from the pier would eventually resume.
“I think it’s a question of when the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) can provide, and the government of Israel can provide, the assurances that the UN is seeking on deconfliction and security right now,” said Isobel Coleman, deputy administrator of USAID, which has been working with the World Food Program on aid distribution from the pier.


US-supplied bombs used in Israeli strike of Gaza ‘safe zone’ — weapons experts

Updated 16 July 2024
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US-supplied bombs used in Israeli strike of Gaza ‘safe zone’ — weapons experts

  • A sliver of munition seen in a video of the blast site circulating online was a tail fin from a US-made Joint Direct Attack Munition
  • Former US Army explosive ordnance disposal technician: ‘it’s 100 percent a JDAM kit’ made in the United States

JERUSALEM: Israel’s deadly strike on Al-Mawasi, one of the bloodiest attacks in more than nine months of war in Gaza, used massive payload bombs provided by the United States, according to weapons experts.
The bombing of the Israeli-declared “safe zone” transformed the tent city on the Mediterranean coast into a charred wasteland, with nearby hospitals overrun with casualties.
According to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory, the barrage killed at least 92 people and wounded more than 300.
The Israeli military said it targeted two “masterminds” of the October 7 attacks by Hamas that triggered the war. It said a top commander, Rafa Salama, was killed in the strike, but uncertainty remains over Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif.
AFP videos of the attack showed a white mushroom cloud billowing over a busy street, leaving behind a huge crater strewn with the wreckage of tents and a building blown to bits.
Here is what we know about the weaponry used in the attack:
Two weapons experts said that a sliver of munition seen in a video of the blast site circulating online was a tail fin from a US-made Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). AFP could not independently verify the video.
The GPS-aided kit converts unguided free-fall bombs — so-called “dumb bombs” — into precision-guided “smart” munitions that can be directed toward single or multiple targets.
The United States developed the kit to improve accuracy in adverse weather after Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
The first JDAMs were delivered in 1997 and, according to the US Air Force, have a 95 percent system reliability.
Trevor Ball, a former US Army explosive ordnance disposal technician, concluded from images of the Al-Mawasi strike “it’s 100 percent a JDAM kit” made in the United States.
He said that given the types of bombs compatible with the guidance system and the size of the fin fragment, the JDAM was most likely used with either a 1,000 or 2,000 pound (450 or 900 kilogram) payload.
He said the fragment could also be compatible with the BLU-109 “bunker buster” warhead, which is designed to penetrate concrete.
Ball said it was not possible to definitively determine where the payload itself was made without “very specific fragments of the bomb body.”
Repeated use of such large bombs in the densely populated Gaza Strip has sparked humanitarian outcry and heaped pressure on US President Joe Biden to reconsider the munitions supplied to Israel.
On July 12, Israel’s main military backer announced it was ending a pause on supplying 500-pound bombs, though Biden said the 2,000-pound type would be withheld.
The White House has repeatedly voiced frustration over the civilian death toll in Gaza as Israel attempts to eradicate Hamas.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told two top Israeli officials on Monday that the civilian toll was “unacceptably high,” his spokesman said.
Israeli officials said their “precise strike” in Al-Mawasi hit an open area that housed a Hamas compound and not a civilian camp.
When contacted by AFP regarding the weapons used, the Israeli military declined to comment.
Based on Israel’s stated target, Wes Bryant, a retired US Air Force master sergeant and strike and joint targeting expert, said it would have been feasible to avoid collateral damage in the surrounding area.
“My assessment is that any civilians killed in this strike were in the compound — not in the surrounding vicinity. So the IDF either failed to assess presence of civilians, or... deemed the risk to civilians proportional to the military advantage of taking out the Hamas leaders.”
The strike left Al-Mawasi a scene of “absolute destruction” with no water, electricity or sewage treatment, the Islamic Relief charity said.
It condemned Israel for its willingness “to kill innocent men, women and children in pursuit of its end goals.”
Hamas said that by arming Israel, the Biden administration is “legally and morally responsible” for spawning a “major humanitarian catastrophe.”
It said US-supplied weapons used by Israel included GPS-guided bombs, dumb bombs, bunker busters and JDAMs.
After repeated high-casualty strikes in recent days, a Hamas official said the group was withdrawing from indirect talks for a truce and hostage release deal with Israel.
The war was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
Israel responded with a military offensive that has killed at least 38,664 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-ruled territory’s health ministry.


Oman says oil tanker capsized off coast, 16 crew missing

Updated 16 July 2024
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Oman says oil tanker capsized off coast, 16 crew missing

  • The vessel was headed for the Yemeni port city of Aden

MUSCAT: A Comorian-flagged oil tanker capsized off Oman on Monday, the sultanate’s Maritime Security Center (MSC) said, adding that a search was under way for its missing crew of 16.
The MSC, which is run by the Omani defense ministry, did not specify the cause of the capsize.
In a post on social media platform X, it said a “Comoros-flagged oil tanker capsized” 25 nautical miles southeast of Ras Madrakah, near the port town of Duqm on Monday.
Search and rescue operations were “initiated with the relevant authorities,” it added, without providing further details.
In a statement on Tuesday, the MSC identified the vessel as Prestige Falcon, saying it had 16 crew on board — 13 Indians and three Sri Lankans.
“The crew of the ship are still missing,” it said, as the search continued.
The vessel was headed for the Yemeni port city of Aden, according to shipping website marinetraffic.com.


Israeli strikes across Gaza kill at least 17, Palestinian health officials say

Updated 16 July 2024
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Israeli strikes across Gaza kill at least 17, Palestinian health officials say

  • Israeli military say troops continue ‘intelligence-based’ activities in Rafah
  • Air strikes had targeted militants, tunnels, and other Hamas military infrastructure

CAIRO/GAZA: Israeli forces battled Hamas-led fighters in several parts of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, and Palestinian health officials said at least 17 people were killed in Israeli bombardments of southern and central areas.

The Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas has accused Israel of stepping up attacks in Gaza to try to derail efforts by Arab mediators and the United States to reach a ceasefire deal. Israel says it is trying to root out Hamas fighters.

In Rafah, a southern border city where Israeli forces have been operating since May, five Palestinians were killed in an airstrike on a house. In nearby Khan Younis, a man, his wife and two children were killed, they said.

In the historic Nuseirat camp in central Gaza, at least four Palestinians were killed in separate shelling and aerial strikes in central Gaza, medics said. An Israeli airstrike killed four in Sheikh Zayed in northern Gaza, they said.

The Israeli military said troops continued “intelligence-based” activities in Rafah, and that airstrikes had targeted militants, tunnels, and other Hamas military infrastructure.

It said the Israeli air force had struck around 40 targets across the enclave, including sniping and observation posts, military structures, and buildings rigged with explosives.

The armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a Hamas ally, said their fighters had attacked Israeli forces in several locations with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs.

Islamic Jihad’s armed wing said it had fired missiles at Sderot in southern Israel. There was no word of any deaths or serious damage.

Israel vowed to eradicate Hamas after its militants killed 1,200 people and took over 250 hostages in an attack on southern Israeli communities last Oct. 7, according to Israeli tallies.

More than 38,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory offensive, according to health authorities in Gaza, much of which has been devastated. Israel also says 326 of its soldiers have been killed in Gaza.

Relatives visited Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza to say farewell to relatives before funerals.

“This is so unfair the number of martyrs (victims), every minute there is a martyr,” elderly Palestinian Sahar Abu Emeira said. “We’re exhausted, we’re devastated, we are extremely tired, our patience is over. Whether Hamas or the others (Israel) they need to agree as soon as possible.”

TALKS PAUSED

Efforts mediated by Egypt and Qatar to end the conflict and release the hostages, as well as Palestinians in Israeli jails, had appeared to be making some progress, negotiators had said.

The talks stalled on Saturday after three days of intense negotiations failed to produce a viable outcome, Egyptian security sources said, and after an Israeli strike targeting Hamas’ top military chief, Mohammed Deif.

The attack in the Khan Younis area killed more than 90 people and wounded hundreds, Gaza health authorities said.

A Palestinian official close to the negotiations told Reuters Hamas was keen not to be seen as halting the talks despite the stepped-up Israeli attacks.

“Hamas wants the war to end, not at any price. It says it has shown the flexibility needed and is pushing the mediators to get Israel to reciprocate,” said the official.

He said Hamas believed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was trying to avoid a deal by adding more conditions that restrict the return of displaced people to northern Gaza and to maintain control over the Rafah border with Egypt,

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Monday that two senior advisers to Netanyahu had said Israel is still committed to reaching a ceasefire.


Weapons experts: US-supplied bombs used in Israeli strike of Gaza ‘safe zone’

Updated 16 July 2024
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Weapons experts: US-supplied bombs used in Israeli strike of Gaza ‘safe zone’

  • A sliver of munition seen in a video of the blast site circulating online was a tail fin from a US-made Joint Direct Attack Munition
  • Former US Army explosive ordnance disposal technician: ‘it’s 100 percent a JDAM kit’ made in the United States

JERUSALEM: Israel’s deadly strike on Al-Mawasi, one of the bloodiest attacks in more than nine months of war in Gaza, used massive payload bombs provided by the United States, according to weapons experts.
The bombing of the Israeli-declared “safe zone” transformed the tent city on the Mediterranean coast into a charred wasteland, with nearby hospitals overrun with casualties.
According to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory, the barrage killed at least 92 people and wounded more than 300.
The Israeli military said it targeted two “masterminds” of the October 7 attacks by Hamas that triggered the war. It said a top commander, Rafa Salama, was killed in the strike, but uncertainty remains over Hamas military chief Mohammed Deif.
AFP videos of the attack showed a white mushroom cloud billowing over a busy street, leaving behind a huge crater strewn with the wreckage of tents and a building blown to bits.
Here is what we know about the weaponry used in the attack:
Two weapons experts said that a sliver of munition seen in a video of the blast site circulating online was a tail fin from a US-made Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). AFP could not independently verify the video.
The GPS-aided kit converts unguided free-fall bombs — so-called “dumb bombs” — into precision-guided “smart” munitions that can be directed toward single or multiple targets.
The United States developed the kit to improve accuracy in adverse weather after Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
The first JDAMs were delivered in 1997 and, according to the US Air Force, have a 95 percent system reliability.
Trevor Ball, a former US Army explosive ordnance disposal technician, concluded from images of the Al-Mawasi strike “it’s 100 percent a JDAM kit” made in the United States.
He said that given the types of bombs compatible with the guidance system and the size of the fin fragment, the JDAM was most likely used with either a 1,000 or 2,000 pound (450 or 900 kilogram) payload.
He said the fragment could also be compatible with the BLU-109 “bunker buster” warhead, which is designed to penetrate concrete.
Ball said it was not possible to definitively determine where the payload itself was made without “very specific fragments of the bomb body.”
Repeated use of such large bombs in the densely populated Gaza Strip has sparked humanitarian outcry and heaped pressure on US President Joe Biden to reconsider the munitions supplied to Israel.
On July 12, Israel’s main military backer announced it was ending a pause on supplying 500-pound bombs, though Biden said the 2,000-pound type would be withheld.
The White House has repeatedly voiced frustration over the civilian death toll in Gaza as Israel attempts to eradicate Hamas.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told two top Israeli officials on Monday that the civilian toll was “unacceptably high,” his spokesman said.
Israeli officials said their “precise strike” in Al-Mawasi hit an open area that housed a Hamas compound and not a civilian camp.
When contacted by AFP regarding the weapons used, the Israeli military declined to comment.
Based on Israel’s stated target, Wes Bryant, a retired US Air Force master sergeant and strike and joint targeting expert, said it would have been feasible to avoid collateral damage in the surrounding area.
“My assessment is that any civilians killed in this strike were in the compound — not in the surrounding vicinity. So the IDF either failed to assess presence of civilians, or... deemed the risk to civilians proportional to the military advantage of taking out the Hamas leaders.”
The strike left Al-Mawasi a scene of “absolute destruction” with no water, electricity or sewage treatment, the Islamic Relief charity said.
It condemned Israel for its willingness “to kill innocent men, women and children in pursuit of its end goals.”
Hamas said that by arming Israel, the Biden administration is “legally and morally responsible” for spawning a “major humanitarian catastrophe.”
It said US-supplied weapons used by Israel included GPS-guided bombs, dumb bombs, bunker busters and JDAMs.
After repeated high-casualty strikes in recent days, a Hamas official said the group was withdrawing from indirect talks for a truce and hostage release deal with Israel.
The war was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
Israel responded with a military offensive that has killed at least 38,664 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-ruled territory’s health ministry.


Israel hits Gaza from land, sea and air as Hamas halts talks

Updated 16 July 2024
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Israel hits Gaza from land, sea and air as Hamas halts talks

  • Relentless bombardments come as prospects have dwindled for a truce and hostage release deal 
  • Israel's military offensive has killed at least 38,584 people in Gaza, according to its health ministry

GAZA STRIP: Israel hammered the Gaza Strip from the air, sea, and land Monday as the war in the Palestinian territory showed no sign of abating, with Hamas saying it was pulling out of truce talks.
Shells rained down on the neighborhoods of Tal Al-Hawa, Sheikh Ajlin, and Al-Sabra in Gaza City, AFP correspondents reported, while eyewitnesses said the Israeli army had shelled the Al-Mughraqa area and the northern outskirts of the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.
Paramedics from the Palestinian Red Crescent said they had retrieved the bodies of five people, including three children, after Israeli air strikes in the Al-Maghazi camp, also in the central Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, eyewitnesses reported Israeli gunship fire east of Khan Yunis, in southern Gaza, and shelling and Apache helicopter attacks in western areas of the southernmost city of Rafah.
The Israeli military said in a statement that it was continuing its activity throughout the coastal territory, and said it had conducted raids in Rafah and central Gaza that killed “a number of” militants, as well as air strikes throughout the strip over the past day.
It also said its naval forces had been firing at targets in Gaza.
The relentless bombardments came as prospects dwindled for a truce and hostage release deal being secured any time soon.
Hamas said on Sunday it was withdrawing from ceasefire talks.
The decision followed an Israeli strike targeting the head of Hamas’s military wing, Mohammed Deif, which the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said killed 92 people.
Deif’s fate remains unknown, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying there was “no certainty” he was dead while a senior Hamas official told AFP that Deif was “well and directly overseeing” operations.
Speaking after the strike on Al-Mawasi, a second senior official from the militant group cited Israeli “massacres” and its attitude to negotiations as a reason for suspending negotiations.
But according to the official, Haniyeh told international mediators Hamas was “ready to resume negotiations” when Israel’s government “demonstrates seriousness in reaching a ceasefire agreement and a prisoner exchange deal.”
Last week, US President Joe Biden had suggested a deal might be close, saying at a NATO summit that both sides had agreed to a framework he had set out in late May.
Hamas on Monday lashed out at the US, accusing it of supporting “genocide” by supplying Israel with “internationally banned” weapons.
“We condemn in the strongest terms the... American disdain for the blood of the children and women of our Palestinian people... by providing all types of prohibited weapons to the ‘Israeli’ occupation,” a statement from the Hamas government media office said.
Talks between the warring parties have been mediated by Qatar and Egypt, with US support, but months of negotiations have failed to bring a breakthrough.
The war was sparked by Hamas’s surprise October 7 attack on southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza including 42 the Israeli military says are dead.
Israel responded with a military offensive that has killed at least 38,584 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data provided by the Gaza health ministry.
The war and accompanying siege have devastated the Palestinian territory, destroying much of its infrastructure, leaving the majority of its 2.4 million residents displaced and causing a dire shortage of food, medicines and other basic goods.
Among the devastated facilities have been multiple schools. On Sunday, Israeli forces struck a UN-run school in Nuseirat camp that was being used as a shelter for displaced people but which the military said “served as a hideout” for militants.
The civil defense agency in Gaza said 15 people were killed in the strike, the fifth attack in just over a week to hit a school used as shelter by displaced Palestinians.