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  • Israel’s deadly siege of Gaza Strip enters seventh month after Hamas’ Oct 7 attack

  • UN says half of Gaza population experiencing “catastrophic” hunger as threat of famine looms

  • Israel plans ground operation in overcrammed Rafah refugee camps

  • Concerns of wider conflict grow as Iran strikes Israel following attack on consulate in Syria

Updated 19 Apr, 2024 04:22pm

G7 opposes full-scale Israeli military operation in Gaza’s Rafah

The Group of Seven industrialised nations has said it opposes a “full-scale military operation in Rafah” by Israel as that would have “catastrophic consequences on the civilian population”, AFP reports.

“We reiterate our call for a credible and actionable plan to protect the civilian population there,” the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven nations said in a statement after a meeting on the Italian island of Capri.

Published 19 Apr, 2024 05:30pm

G7 calls on Israel to ‘do more’ to ensure protection of aid workers, Palestinian civilians

The G7 foreign ministers have called on Israel “to do more to ensure protection of international and local humanitarian aid workers, journalists, and Palestinian civilians”.

In a statement, ministers from Italy, the UK, US, France, Germany, Japan and Canada further called on Israel “to improve humanitarian deconfliction, including communications, and to pursue full accountability, as appropriate, for incidents of harm against aid workers and civilians”.

“We call on all parties to allow the unimpeded delivery of aid, including food, water, medical care, electricity, fuel, shelter, as well as facilitate the restoration of basic services and ensure access for humanitarian workers,” the G7 said.

 Palestinians perform Friday noon prayer on April 19 next to the ruins of Al-Farooq Mosque, destroyed during Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. — AFP
Palestinians perform Friday noon prayer on April 19 next to the ruins of Al-Farooq Mosque, destroyed during Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. — AFP

Published 19 Apr, 2024 05:08pm

Pakistan ‘deeply disappointed’ by UNSC dissensus on Palestine’s full UN membership, regrets US veto: FO

Pakistan has expressed its disappointment at the United Nations Security Council’s inability to reach a consensus on Palestine’s full membership of the United Nations, APP reports.

Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch also regretted the US decision to veto the draft resolution.

“Pakistan is deeply disappointed by the result of last night’s debate at UNSC and its inability to reach a consensus and recommend Palestine’s membership to UNGA. We regret the US decision to veto the draft resolution granting full membership of the UN to Palestine,” Baloch said in her weekly press briefing.

Read more here.

Published 19 Apr, 2024 05:00pm

G7 foreign ministers call for ‘sustainable ceasefire’ in Gaza

The Group of Seven industrialised nations has called for an “immediate release of hostages and a sustainable ceasefire” in Gaza.

In a statement, the G7 foreign ministers called for a ceasefire that “allows for a surge of the urgently needed humanitarian assistance to be delivered safely throughout Gaza”.

They further said that “all parties must refrain from unilateral actions that undermine the prospect of a two-state solution” to the Israel-Gaza conflict.

The G7 stressed that the “final territory of a Palestinian state should be defined through negotiations based on 1967-lines”.

Published 19 Apr, 2024 04:35pm

Aid corridors to Gaza must complement, not substitute assistance by land: G7

Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations have said that aid corridors to Gaza “must complement and not be a substitute to expanded and sustained assistance flows by land”.

“We welcome efforts to establish a maritime corridor to further increase the flow of much-needed humanitarian assistance into Gaza, in coordination with the United Nations,” ministers from Italy, the UK, US, France, Germany, Japan and Canada said in a joint statement.

They urged a “rapid implementation of steps announced by the government of Israel, including the commitment to expand flow of aid through existing land crossings, opening new land crossings, and facilitating aid to northern Gaza where humanitarian needs are most acute, including by opening more routes into Gaza”.

Published 19 Apr, 2024 04:15pm

Israel must fully comply with international law: G7

Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven nations have said that “in exerting its right to defend itself, Israel must fully comply with international law, including international humanitarian law”.

Ministers from Italy, the UK, US, France, Germany, Japan and Canada also slammed the “unacceptable number of civilians” killed in Gaza during Israel’s military offensive, according to AFP.

“We deplore all losses of civilian lives,” the G7 ministers said at a meeting on Italy’s island of Capri.

They said they “note with great concern the unacceptable number of civilians, including thousands of women, children and persons in vulnerable situations who have been killed in Gaza”.

Published 19 Apr, 2024 03:15pm

Airlines reroute flights after Israeli attack on Iran

Airlines changed flight paths over Iran, cancelled some flights, diverted others to alternate airports or returned planes to their departure points in response to airspace and airport closures after the attack on Iran, flight tracking data showed, according to Reuters.

Iran closed its airports in Tehran, Shiraz and Isfahan and cleared flights from the western portion of its airspace for a few hours after the attack, according to flight tracking website [FlightRadar24][8]. By 4:45am GMT, the airports and airspace had reopened, and closure notices posted on a US Federal Aviation Administration database had been removed.

Before the airports reopened, Flydubai said it had cancelled its Friday flights to Iran. One of its earlier flights turned back to Dubai, it said. An Iran Air flight from Rome to Tehran was diverted to Ankara, Turkiye, Flightradar 24 showed.

Germany’s Lufthansa cancelled all flights to Tel Aviv and Erbil until Saturday and said it would fly around Iraqi airspace during the same period. “The safety of passengers and crews is always the top priority,” it said.

Emirates, Flydubai, Turkish Air, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi and Belavia were among the carriers continuing to fly over the part of Iran’s airspace that remained open in the initial hours after the attack early on Friday, the tracking website showed.

Published 19 Apr, 2024 02:40pm

Palestinians fearing Rafah invasion ‘don’t know where to go next’

As concerns mount over a potential Israeli military incursion into Rafah, many Palestinians sheltering there are at a loss over where they could turn next, as much of the rest of the enclave is in shambles, reports Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum from Rafah.

Evacuating displaced Palestinians in Rafah to other areas of Gaza, as Israel has proposed, would be especially catastrophic for those who need medical care, which is sparsely available in the rest of the enclave, the report said.

“If people are transferred to other parts of the Gaza Strip, it will be a full collapse of medical services,” said Abu Azzoum.

Published 19 Apr, 2024 02:00pm

Israel targets army position in Syria: ministry

Israeli strikes have targeted a Syrian army position in the country’s south, Syria’s government and a monitor said, as US media reported Israel had hit its arch-rival Iran, according to AFP.

In a statement, Syria’s defence ministry said “the Israeli enemy carried out an attack using missiles… targeting our air defence sites in the southern region” and causing material damage.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said Israel targeted an army radar position in the southern province of Daraa that had detected the entry of Israeli planes into Syria’s airspace.

Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Britain-based Observatory, said the strikes took place “at a time when the Israeli air force was flying intensively over the Daraa region” without Syrian air defences taking any action.

Rayan Maarouf, who runs the Suwayda24 anti-government new website, had earlier told AFP there had been strikes on a Syrian army radar position in Sweida province, without specifying their origin.

Published 19 Apr, 2024 01:30pm

China to play ‘constructive role’ to ease tensions after reported strike on Iran

China said Friday that it will “continue to play a constructive role to de-escalate” tensions in the Middle East after Iranian media reported explosions heard near the city of Isfahan and US media quoted officials saying Israel had carried out retaliatory strikes on its arch-rival, AFP reports.

“China opposes any actions that further escalate tensions and will continue to play a constructive role to de-escalate the situation,” foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian said.

China is a close partner of Iran, its largest trade partner, and a top buyer of its sanctioned oil.

The United States has repeatedly made public appeals for China to use its influence over Tehran to manage tensions in the region, which are currently turbocharged over the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Beijing’s top diplomat Wang Yi held talks with his Iranian counterpart this week, with state media reporting that Tehran had said it was “willing to exercise restraint” after its first-ever attack on Israel’s territory.

Published 19 Apr, 2024 01:15pm

US embassy in Israel tells employees to limit movement

“Out of an abundance of caution following reports that Israel conducted a retaliatory strike inside Iran, US government employees and their family members are restricted from personal travel outside the greater Tel Aviv” area, as well as the Jerusalem and Beersheva areas, “until further notice”, a security advisory issued by the mission on its website has said, Al Jazeera reports.

Due to a “complex” security environment that “can change quickly”, the embassy “may further restrict or prohibit” the concerned people from travelling to parts of Israel, Jerusalem’s Old City and the occupied West Bank, the advisory read.

Published 19 Apr, 2024 12:30pm

Unlikely that Qatar ‘sincere’ in withdrawing from role as Gaza mediator, say experts

Middle East expert James Dorsey said the Qatar Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani’s statements indicated “Qatar punching back rather than seriously considering giving up mediation”, which he called “a key pillar of the country’s soft power”.

He explained to AFP that while Qatar was primarily targeting “Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu and his backers in the US Congress”, there was also “an attempt to pressure the Biden administration to stand up for Qatar”.

Gulf expert Andreas Krieg said Qatar had played an “instrumental role” in securing November’s hostage exchange and the emirate had become “very disgruntled about the way that this isn’t recognised by everyone, particularly not in Israel”.

But he also said it was unlikely that “Qatar is really sincere in trying to withdraw from this mediation effort” after it had “monopolised this relationship in a way that no one else can do what Qatar can do”.

Published 19 Apr, 2024 12:17pm

Will Qatar pull out as Israel-Hamas mediator?

Qatar’s warning that it was reassessing its role as a mediator between Israel and Hamas has raised concerns about the prospects for a ceasefire and the return of hostages, according to AFP.

With months of further negotiations failing to win a truce, and with Qatar facing criticism notably from Israel, Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said on Wednesday it was time for a “complete re-evaluation” of its role.

Qatar has rebuffed Israeli criticism of its mediation, including by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for months.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Qatari embassy in Washington also hit out at Congressman Steny Hoyer, the top-ranking Democrat in the US House of Representatives, who has urged the administration to rethink its relationship with Qatar, and called on Doha to pressure Hamas for a hostage release.

Without naming any individuals, Sheikh Mohammed said Qatar had been the victim of “points-scoring” by “politicians who are trying to conduct election campaigns by slighting the State of Qatar”.

Published 19 Apr, 2024 11:10am

US veto sinks Palestinian UN membership bid in Security Council

The United States on Thursday spoiled a long-shot Palestinian bid for full United Nations membership, vetoing a Security Council measure despite growing international distress over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, AFP reports.

The move by Israel’s key ally had been expected ahead of the vote, taking place more than six months into Israel’s military offensive in the besieged Palestinian territory, in retaliation for the deadly October 7 attack by Hamas militants on southern Israel.

Twelve countries voted in favor of the draft resolution recommending full Palestinian membership. Britain and Switzerland abstained.

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas’s office called the US veto “a blatant aggression… which pushes the region ever further to the edge of the abyss.”

“The fact that this resolution did not pass will not break our will, and it will not defeat our determination,” Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour said, in tears.

“We will not stop in our effort. The state of Palestine is inevitable. It is real.

“Please remember that once this session adjourns, in Palestine there are innocents paying the price with their lives… for the delay in justice, freedom and peace,” he added, as others in the room also cried.

The draft resolution called for recommending to the General Assembly “that the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations” in place of its current “non-member observer state” status, which it has held since 2012.

Despite the US veto, Ambassador Amar Bendjama of Algeria, which introduced the draft, said the resolution’s “overwhelming” support “sends a crystal clear message” that the Palestinians belong as a full member state and that their backers “will return stronger and more vocal.”

Updated 19 Apr, 2024 01:51pm

UN chief says limited, ‘sometimes nil’ impact from Israeli steps on Gaza aid

Israel’s commitments to improve aid access in the Gaza Strip have had limited and sometimes no impact, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday as he pushed for urgent, meaningful and measurable progress to avert famine, Reuters reports.

“To avert imminent famine, and further preventable deaths from disease, we need a quantum leap in humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza. Food is essential; so are clean water, sanitation, and healthcare,” Guterres told the Security Council.

 A Palestinian looks at the damage to a building in the city of Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on April 18. — AFP
A Palestinian looks at the damage to a building in the city of Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on April 18. — AFP

“Apparent progress in one area is often cancelled out by delays and restrictions elsewhere,” said Guterres.

“For example, although the Israeli authorities have cleared more aid convoys, those clearances are often granted when it is too late in the day to make deliveries and return safely,” he said.

“So the impact is limited, and sometimes nil.”

Israel recently reopened the Erez crossing into northern Gaza and allowed the temporary use of Ashdod port in southern Israel after US President Joe Biden demanded steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, saying conditions could be placed on US support for Israel if it did not act.

Published 19 Apr, 2024 09:00am

Pentagon chief Austin discusses Iran, Gaza aid with Israel’s Gallant

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to discuss Iran’s actions in the Middle East, other regional threats and aid into Gaza, the Pentagon said in a statement, Reuters reports.

Austin discussed “the importance of increasing and sustaining” the flow of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza, including via a new route from Ashdod Port in Israel, the Pentagon said.

Israel recently reopened the Erez crossing into northern Gaza and allowed the temporary use of Ashdod port in southern Israel after US President Joe Biden threatened to impose conditions on support for Israel unless it took steps to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The Israeli military said on Wednesday food trucks entered the blockaded Gaza Strip from Ashdod Port for the first time since the government approved the opening of the port to aid shipments.

The Pentagon said Austin and Gallant discussed what it called “destabilizing actions” from Iran in the Middle East. Over the weekend, Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles in a retaliatory strike after a suspected Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Syria.

Published 19 Apr, 2024 08:23am

Over 100 pro-Palestinian protesters arrested from New York’s Columbia campus

More than 100 pro-Palestinian protesters were arrested on Wednesday on the campus of Columbia University after its president authorized New York police to clear an encampment set up by students demonstrating against Israel’s actions in Gaza, Reuters reports.

Columbia University President Nemat Minouche Shafik, who a day earlier came under fire from Republicans at a House of Representatives committee hearing on anti-Semitism on campus, said she had authorized police to clear an encampment of dozens of tents set up by protesters on Wednesday morning.

“Out of an abundance of concern for the safety of Columbias campus, I authorized the New York Police Department to begin clearing the encampment … “ Shafik said in a statement.

Shafik said the protesters had violated the school’s rules and policies against holding unauthorized demonstrations, and were unwilling to engage with administrators.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said police made over 108 arrests without violence or injuries. Police said the arrests were related to trespassing.

Columbia said it had started to suspend students who had participated in the tent encampment, considered an unauthorized protest.

“We are continuing to identify them and will be sending out formal notifications,” a university spokesperson said by email.

At least three students — Isra Hirsi, Maryam Iqbal, and Soph Dinu — have received suspension notices from Barnard College, an affiliate of Columbia, for participating in the encampment, the pro-Palestinian advocacy group Institute for Middle East Understanding said.

Hirsi is the daughter of US Representative Ilhan Omar, who had expressed support for protesters during the hearing at which Shafik testified on Wednesday.

“Those of us in Gaza solidarity encampment will not be intimidated,” Hirsi said on social media after being suspended.

Published 19 Apr, 2024 08:03am

Hamas slams US veto of Palestinian UN membership bid

Palestinian militant group Hamas has condemned the US veto that ended a long-shot Palestinian bid for full United Nations membership, AFP reports.

“Hamas condemns the American veto at the Security Council of the draft resolution granting Palestine full membership in the United Nations,” the Gaza Strip rulers said in a statement, which comes amid growing international concern over the toll of the six-month onslaught in the besieged Palestinian territory.

Published 18 Apr, 2024 11:59pm

US to oppose Palestinian bid for full UN membership in tonight’s UNSC vote

The United States will vote against a Palestinian request for full United Nations membership, a US official has told Reuters, blocking the world body from effectively recognising a Palestinian state.

“It remains the US view that the most expeditious path toward statehood for the Palestinian people is through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority with the support of the United States and other partners,” the US official said.

The 15-member UN Security Council is scheduled to vote on a draft resolution that recommends to the 193-member UN General Assembly that “the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations.”

A council resolution needs at least nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the US, Britain, France, Russia or China to pass. Diplomats say the measure could have the support of up to 13 council members, which would force the US to use its veto.

“We have long been clear that premature actions in New York, even with the best intentions, will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people,” the US official said.

Published 18 Apr, 2024 11:38pm

Iran warns Israel against further military action

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian has said that Israel “must be compelled to stop any further military adventurism against our interests”, Al Jazeera reports.

“In case of any use of force by the Israeli regime and violating our sovereignty, the Islamic Republic of Iran will not hesitate a bit to assert its inherent rights to give a decisive and proper response to it to make the regime regret its actions,” Amir-Abdollahian said at the UNSC.

Published 18 Apr, 2024 11:08pm

Italy hopes any Israeli retaliation on Iran will be targeted: Italian FM

Italy’s Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani has said that Israel will probably retaliate for Iran’s April 13 missile and drone attack, adding that he hoped any response would be targeted and not trigger an escalation, Al Jazeera reports.

“Our appeal is always for prudence and de-escalation,” Tajani told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of Group of Seven (G7) foreign ministers.

“We hope that Israel’s response, which will probably come, will be a targeted response and not something that provokes escalation,” he said.

Published 18 Apr, 2024 10:14pm

Russian FM favors Palestine full UN membership

Russian Foreign Minister Vassily Nebenzia has said that he favoured granting Palestine full membership to the United Nations, Al Jazeera reports.

“Recognising Palestine will help in the long term to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Nebenzia said.

He also slammed a comment by Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan who said Palestinians fail to meet the criteria to become a full UN member, which he outlined as a permanent population, defined territory, government, and capacity to enter relations with other states.

Nebenzia said Israel did not meet those requirements in 1949, yet it was admitted to the UN.

Published 18 Apr, 2024 09:12pm

Yemen rebels say attacked 98 vessels since start of campaign

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have said they have attacked almost 100 vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in months of strikes that have disrupted global shipping, AFP reports.

In a speech broadcast by the rebels’ Al-Masira channel, Houthi leader Abdel Malek al-Huthi announced new attacks against eight ships, adding that “the total number of enemy-linked vessels targeted … has reached 98”.

The attacks on vessels deemed linked to Israel or its allies have had “a massive effect and have been a success”, the rebel leader said.

But Huthi said “no one can stop us from carrying out operations in support of Palestinians in Gaza”.

Published 18 Apr, 2024 07:45pm

Palestine and Israel on the agenda for FIFA Congress

The Palestinian Football Association (PFA) is bringing a motion at the FIFA Congress in May demanding “decisive action” against Israel and its football association (IFA), AFP reports.

The motion, which would require the first debate at a major sports body conference on the bombardment in the Gaza Strip, will be one of the main items on the agenda in Bangkok at the annual meeting, along with the choice of host of the 2027 Women’s World Cup and a plan to combat racism.

The proposal is based on a letter the PFA sent to FIFA in March.

It calls for “appropriate sanctions, with immediate effect, against Israeli teams, including national representative teams and club teams, due to the international law violations committed by the Israeli occupation in Palestine, particularly in Gaza”.

The PFA accuses its Israeli counterpart the IFA of violating FIFA’s statutes by recognising clubs based in occupied territory and for failing to take “decisive action against discrimination and racism, in the areas under its jurisdiction”.

“Only in Israeli football can a club openly block Arabs from joining its ranks, and harsh violence is treated solely as a disciplinary infraction,” the PFA statement said singling out Beitar Jerusalem which, it said, has never signed an Arab player.

The proposal was supported by the Algerian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Syrian and Yemeni football federations — but not by Qatar or Saudi Arabia.

Published 18 Apr, 2024 07:33pm

UN chief warns Mideast on brink of ‘full-scale regional conflict’

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has painted a dark picture of the situation in the Middle East, warning that spiralling tensions over the fighting in Gaza and Iran’s attack on Israel could devolve into a “full-scale regional conflict”, AFP reports.

Guterres also said Israel’s military offensive on Hamas in the Gaza Strip had created a “humanitarian hellscape” for civilians trapped in the besieged Palestinian territory.

“The Middle East is on a precipice. Recent days have seen a perilous escalation — in words and deeds,” Guterres told the Security Council. “One miscalculation, one miscommunication, one mistake, could lead to the unthinkable — a full-scale regional conflict that would be devastating for all involved,” he said, calling on all parties to exercise “maximum restraint”.

“It is high time to end the bloody cycle of retaliation,” he said. “It is high time to stop.” “The international community must work together to prevent any actions that could push the entire Middle East over the edge, with a devastating impact on civilians. Let me be clear: the risks are spiralling on many fronts.”