PALESTINIANS look for survivors in the rubble of a building hit during Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis, on the southern Gaza Strip, on Thursday; and, (right) a woman consoles another as she reacts in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes in Rafah city.—AFP
PALESTINIANS look for survivors in the rubble of a building hit during Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis, on the southern Gaza Strip, on Thursday; and, (right) a woman consoles another as she reacts in the aftermath of Israeli air strikes in Rafah city.—AFP

• Sunak visits Tel Aviv, extends support
• Israeli army hits Syrian military base
• US citizens alerted worldwide
• Rafah crossing likely to open today
• FO dismisses Netanyahu’s assertion Pakistan is a ‘major threat’ to Israel

RAMALLAH: The Israeli forces on Thursday extended atrocities to the occupied West Bank, killing 12 Palestinians and pounded a military base in Syria as calls for humanitarian aid swelled for the helpless people of Gaza Strip.

At least 78 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops or settlers in the West Bank since the Hamas raid on Oct 7, the Palestinian health ministry said, as the death toll in Gaza soared to 3,785.

The deaths occurred during an Israeli attack on Nur Shams refugee camp, the Palestinian Authority (PA) said.

The Wafa news agency reported that seven of the dead had been transported to hospital, while five others were in a mosque inside the camp.

The authority said it had been informed of “other martyrs who could not be transferred by ambulance to hospital”.

In separate clashes earlier in the day, Israeli forces shot dead a 17-year-old in Dheisheh refugee camp, near Bethlehem, and a 32-year-old in Budrus, to the west of Ramallah.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 war and its forces regularly carry out incursions into Palestinian towns and cities.

The Israeli military has mounted a sweeping arrest campaign since Oct 7, detai­ning hundreds of people.

Palestinians across the West Bank have been holding rallies in solidarity with Gaza’s 2.4 million people since Oct 7.

Rafah crossing

The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the targeted Gaza Strip “will open tomorrow” (Friday), Egypt’s state-linked television channel Al Qahera News reported, as calls mounted for aid to reach besieged residents.

Hundreds of trucks full of supplies are still waiting on the Egyptian side of the border, after US President Joe Biden struck a deal with Egypt and Israel to allow relief into Gaza, under withering bombardment by Israel.

The crossing is the only route into or out of Gaza not controlled by Israel.

Syrian position hit

The Israeli government struck a Syrian military position in the country’s south, a war monitoring NGO said.

“Sounds of explosions rang out in the province of Quneitra after an Israeli strike against a Syrian army position,” said the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which claims to have a vast network of sources in the country.

The sound of explosions also rang out in the Golan Heights, the NGO said.

The strike in Quneitra caused material damage, the organisation said. The strike in Syria coincided with an announcement by the Israeli army on X of attacks against Hezbollah in Lebanon, which borders Golan.

Clashes along the Israel-Lebanon border have left 18 people dead on the Lebanese side. The dead include two journalists.

The worsening situation on the Israel-Lebanon border is stoking fears of a potential second front.

As tensions mounted, the United States, Britain and Germany advised their citizens to leave Lebanon while flights were still available.

Aid trucks held up Palestinians in Gaza eagerly await the arrival of aid trucks promised in a deal struck by President Biden, as Israel’s military kept up its bombardment of targets in the Hamas-run enclave.

More than 100 trucks carrying aid have been queuing for days on the Egyptian side of the border, with the United Nations and others calling for urgent help for besieged civilians.

On a visit to Cairo, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said there needed to be “rapid, unimpeded humanitarian access” after dire warnings about the impact of the Israeli blockade.

“We need food, water, medicine and fuel now. We need it at scale and we need it to be sustained, it is not one small operation that is required,” he added.

The emergencies director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Michael Ryan, said aid needed to get in “every day”, calling an initial 20 trucks — the deal struck by Biden with Israel and Egypt — “a drop in the ocean of need right now”.

Israeli strikes since Oct 7 have so far claimed the lives of 3,785 Palestinians.

Entire city blocks have been levelled, displacing more than one million of the 2.4m population, the UN has said.

“The pace of death, of suffering, of destruction… cannot be exaggerated,” said UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths.

There are fears of worse to come if Israel launches an anticipated ground invasion of Gaza.

President Biden, on a flying visit to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, reiterated US support for its ally, but also stressed the need to address the plight of Palestinians.

On the Gaza side, people were again waiting, desperate to flee but careful to keep at least 100 metres away in case of Israeli bombardment.

“We’re ready with our bags,” said one man who gave his name only as Mohammed, 40, and said he works for a European institution.

He said he had been waiting “for three days with my family, in a house 10 minutes away from the crossing”, but had received no information so far.

Majed, 43, who said he works with a German organisation, said: “I came on my own this morning (Thursday) and, in case the crossing opens, I’d get my wife and children — they’re ready.”

Biden’s ‘blunt’ talk

The US president announced an aid deal for Israel after “blunt” talks in Tel Aviv on Wednesday and a phone call with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi.

Israel consented to the deal while pressing on with its military action.

Its army reported on Thursday that it had destroyed hundreds more targets.

Biden backed Israel, but warned it not to overreact, cautioning that Washington made mistakes as it sought to avenge 9/11.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak became the latest foreign leader on Thursday to make a solidarity visit to Israel, meeting Netanyahu and President Isaac Hertzog.

He backed Israeli action, but also stressed the need to get aid into Gaza, before jetting to Saudi Arabia for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

United in anger

The Arab world has been united in anger and condemnation of Israel since a deadly strike hit a Gaza hospital compound on Tuesday.

The strike left scores of bodies and charred cars at the Ahli Arab hospital compound in northern Gaza.

Hamas has put the death toll at 471.

FO hails OIC communique

In Islamabad, a Foreign Office spokesperson, while responding to questions at a presser, said Pakistan welcomes the joint communique which was released after the OIC executive committee meeting on Palestine.

The OIC meeting reflected the consensus of the OIC countries and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities, the lifting of siege and for establishment of humanitarian corridors for the people of Gaza.

Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said: “We are naturally disappointed with the results of the debate at the United Nations Security Council. We believe that the United Nations Security Council should play its designated role in bringing an immediate end to the ongoing situation, the bombardment in Gaza and the continuing blockade that is creating a humanitarian catastrophe for the Palestinian people.”

Asked to comment on the “guarantor mechanism” idea put forward by Turkiye, she said: “Pakistan welcomes all initiatives that can contribute to our ultimate objective of immediate ceasefire and lifting of blockade and provision of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza.”

The Turkish foreign minister said a few days ago that “guarantor states” should assume the responsibility of contacting Israel, Hamas and Fatah.

The spokesperson asserted as baseless an assertion by Israeli prime minister that Pakistan was a major threat for Israel.

She said the entire world knows that Pakistan has a peaceful posture. “It has always called for peace and dialogue with all countries, including our neighbouring countries. Pakistan has never initiated a war against any country.”

In reply to a question whether Pakistan would like to threaten Israel, she said “Pakistan believes in peace and dialogue and we believe in the supremacy of international law.

“That is our position with respect to our behaviour internationally. I think, therefore, this is not really a valid question.”

Asked if Pakistan, being the only Muslim nuclear power, can send its Army under any mandate to protect Palestinians, she said: “We have no such plans.”

Advice to US citizens

An advisory by the US State Department said on Thursday: “Due to increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against US citizens and interests, the Department of State advises US citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.

Published in Dawn, October 20th, 2023

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