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The death toll has exceeded 30,000 since the Israel-Hamas conflict broke out on Oct 7.

05:19 2024-06-12
Israeli official says Hamas rejected US-drafted ceasefire deal proposal
Smoke rises following an Israeli air strike, amid the Israel-Hamas conflict, in Nuseirat refugee camp, central Gaza Strip on June 8. [Photo/Agencies]

JERUSALEM -- An Israeli official said on Tuesday that Israel had received Hamas's response to the US-drafted proposal for a ceasefire-hostage release deal and the movement had rejected it, Israel's state-owned Kan TV news reported.

Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad said in a joint statement earlier in the day that they had delivered their response to the proposal to Qatari and Egyptian mediators, expressing a "willingness to deal positively in order to reach an agreement." They emphasized their priority of stopping the war in the Gaza Strip and ensuring the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territory.

Israel has yet to formally announce its position, although both US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had endorsed the proposal.

White House spokesman John Kirby said the US had received Hamas's response and was evaluating it.

09:21 2024-06-11
Pressure mounts on Israel as Gantz quits
Palestinians conduct a search and rescue operation among the rubble after Israeli warplanes targeted a house in the Nuseirat refugee camp area, Gaza, on Sunday. ASHRAF AMRA/GETTY IMAGES

JERUSALEM/GAZA — A key member of Israel's war cabinet quit Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government on Sunday, heaping domestic pressure on the Israeli leader as the conflict in Gaza rages.

Benny Gantz, a former Israeli general and defense minister, announced his resignation from the emergency body after failing to get a postwar plan for Gaza approved by Netanyahu, which he demanded in May.

Although his departure is not expected to bring down the government, it marks the first political blow to Netanyahu eight months into the Gaza assault against Palestinian Hamas militants.

"Netanyahu is preventing us from progressing to a real victory. That is why we are leaving the emergency government today with a heavy heart," Gantz said.

Netanyahu responded within minutes, saying: "Benny, this is not the time to abandon the battle — this is the time to join forces."

It came after Israeli special forces fought gunbattles with Palestinian militants over the weekend in central Gaza's crowded Nuseirat refugee camp area as they swooped in to free the four captives.

The health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said 274 people were killed and 698 wounded, in what it labeled the "Nuseirat massacre".

Among those were at least 64 children, 57 women and 37 elderly people, the ministry said.

"People were screaming — young and old, women and men," said Nuseirat resident Muhannad Thabet, 35.

"Everyone wanted to flee the place, but the bombing was intense and anyone who moved was at risk of being killed due to the heavy bombardment and gunfire."

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday condemned the "horrific massacre" in Nuseirat and insisted that "any agreement reached must include a permanent cessation of aggression, a complete withdrawal from the strip, an exchange deal and reconstruction".

On Monday, Palestinian residents said tanks had been trying to thrust deeper toward the north in the early hours of Monday, edging Shaboura, one of the most densely populated and militant stronghold neighborhoods at the heart of the city.

Israel's retaliatory military offensive has killed at least 37,124 people in Gaza, in response to Hamas' surprise attack on Israel on Oct 7, which has killed about 1,200 people.

Domestic discontent

Adding to the domestic discontent over Netanyahu's handling of the eight-month conflict, a senior military commander, Brigadier General Avi Rosenfeld, also resigned on Sunday over what he called his failure to prevent the Oct 7 attack.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir demanded to join the war cabinet in place of Gantz.

Netanyahu is also under growing pressure from his far-right coalition allies, who have threatened to quit the government if he goes ahead with a hostage release deal outlined by US President Joe Biden last month.

Ben Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich have insisted that the government should not enter into any deal and continue the assault until the end goal of destroying Hamas has been achieved.

A senior Hamas official urged the United States on Monday to pressure Israel to end the conflict in Gaza, ahead of a planned visit on Monday by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the region to push forward cease-fire efforts.

"We call upon the US administration to put pressure on the occupation to stop the war on Gaza and the Hamas movement is ready to deal positively with any initiative that secures an end to the war," senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said.

Blinken arrived in Egypt on Monday at the start of a regional tour to push for a much-awaited Gaza ceasefire. He also aims to ensure the conflict does not expand into Lebanon.

Two members of the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah were killed and three civilians injured on Sunday in Israeli airstrikes on Lebanese villages, Xinhua reported, citing Lebanese military sources.

In his eighth visit to the region since Oct 7, Blinken met Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo before heading to Jerusalem later on Monday to meet Netanyahu.


06:22 2024-06-11
Hamas welcomes UN Security Council resolution calling for Gaza ceasefire

GAZA -- The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) announced on Monday that it welcomes a resolution adopted by the UN Security Council earlier in the day aimed at reaching a comprehensive ceasefire deal to end the war in Gaza.

Hamas expressed in a statement its readiness to cooperate with the mediators to engage in indirect negotiations to implement resolution principles "that are consistent with the demands of our people and resistance," including a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, the full withdrawal of Israeli forces, prisoner-hostage exchange and reconstruction.

The movement reiterated its commitment to continuing its "endeavor and struggle" for the Palestinian people's national rights.

The Palestinian presidency hailed the adoption of the resolution as a step in the right direction to stop the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian News Agency WAFA reported.

The Palestinian presidency also called on all parties to fulfill their responsibilities to implement the resolution.

The UN Security Council on Monday adopted a resolution aimed at reaching a comprehensive ceasefire deal in three phases to end the war in Gaza.

Adopted by a large majority with 14 votes in favor and Russia abstaining, the resolution also urges both parties to the conflict to fully implement the terms of the proposal "without delay and without condition."

07:16 2024-06-10
Israel's rescue raid kills 274 Palestinians
Clockwise from top left: Former hostages Almog Meir Jan, Noa Argamani, Andrey Kozlov and Shlomi Ziv arrive in Ramat Gan, Israel, on Saturday after being rescued. ISRAELI ARMY/REUTERS

GAZA/CAIRO — Israeli forces pounded central Gaza anew on Sunday, a day after killing 274 Palestinians during a hostage rescue raid, and tanks advanced further into areas of Rafah in a bid to seal off part of the southern city, according to residents and Hamas media.

Palestinians remained in shock over Saturday's death toll, the worst over a 24-hour period of the Palestine-Israel conflict for months that included many women and children, Palestinian medics said.

In an update on Sunday, Gaza's Health Ministry said 274 Palestinians were killed and 698 were injured when Israeli special force commandos stormed into the densely populated Nuseirat refugee camp to rescue four hostages held since October by Hamas militants.

"My child was crying, afraid of the sound of the plane firing at us," Hadeel Radwan, 32, said, recounting how they fled the intense combat as she carried her 7-month-old daughter.

"We all felt that we wouldn't survive," she told Agence France-Presse, condemning "this brutal occupation that will not let us live".

Israel's military said a special forces officer was killed in the exchange of fire with militants emerging from cover in residential blocks, and that it knew of "under 100" Palestinians killed, though not knowing how many of them were militants or civilians.

Egypt condemned "with the strongest terms" Israel's attacks on the Nuseirat camp, with its Foreign Ministry calling it a "flagrant violation of all rules of international law".Jordan also condemned it.

The rescued hostages were taken to hospital for medical checks and were in good health, the Israeli military said. They were all kidnapped during the attack by Hamas militants on Israeli towns and villages near Gaza on Oct 7, which precipitated the devastating offensive on Gaza.

Hamas' raid killed some 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities, and Israel's retaliatory bombardment and assault of Gaza has killed at least 37,084 Palestinians, Gaza's Health Ministry said on Sunday.

Abu Ubaida, spokesperson for Hamas' armed al-Qassam Brigades, said some hostages were killed during the rescue operation.

"It's a blatant lie," Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner told CNN, refuting the claim.

On Sunday, three Palestinians were killed and several hurt in an Israeli airstrike on a house in Bureij in the central Gaza Strip, while tanks shelled parts of nearby Maghazi and Nuseirat. All are built-up, historical refugee camps.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators rally near the White House in Washington on Saturday to protest against Israel's military campaign in Gaza. MANDEL NGAN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The Israeli military said in a statement its forces were continuing operations east of Bureij and the city of Deir al-Balah in the center of the coastal enclave, killing several Palestinian gunmen and destroying militant infrastructure.

Israel sent forces into Rafah last month in what it called a mission to wipe out Hamas' last intact combat units after eight months of conflict in which Israeli forces have bombed much of the rest of Gaza to rubble while advancing against fierce resistance.

Israeli tank forces have since seized Gaza's entire border strip with Egypt running through Rafah to the Mediterranean coast and invaded several districts of the city, prompting about 1 million displaced people who had been sheltering in Rafah to flee elsewhere.

On Sunday, tanks advanced into two new districts in an apparent effort to complete the encirclement of the eastern side of Rafah, touching off clashes with dug-in Hamasled armed groups, according to residents trapped in their homes.

Palestinian medics said an Israeli airstrike on a house in Tel Al-Sultan in western Rafah killed two people.

The conflict in Gaza has destabilized the wider Middle East. Four people were killed on Saturday in Israeli airstrikes in southern Lebanon, Lebanese military sources told Xinhua News Agency.

The sources said an Israeli warplane targeted a house in Houla village, killing two Hezbollah members and injuring three civilians. Another Israeli airstrike targeted a commercial market in Aitaroun village with two air-to-surface missiles, killing two civilians and wounding two others.

Hezbollah said it responded to Israel's raids on Saturday with several attacks in the occupied Shebaa Farms and a number of Israeli sites.

In Washington, thousands of protesters held a "red line" rally near the White House on Saturday, voicing anger at what they said is US President Joe Biden's tolerance of Israel's bloody military campaign in the Gaza Strip.

The White House said last month that a deadly Israeli strike on Rafah did not cross a "red line" that Biden had seemingly set two months earlier when asked about a potential invasion of the southern Gazan city.

"I no longer believe any of the words that Joe Biden says," protester Zaid Mahdawi from Virginia, whose parents are Palestinian, told Agence France-Presse.

"This 'red line' in his rhetoric is rubbish... it shows his hypocrisy and his cowardice."

Agencies via Xinhua

20:53 2024-06-09
Death toll in Israeli operation in Nuseirat camp rises to 274
Wounded people are seen after Israeli attacks in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on June 8, 2024. [Photo/Xinhua]

GAZA - The death toll in the Israeli military operation in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on Saturday has risen to 274, with 698 injured, Hamas-run health authorities said in a press statement on Sunday.

The statement noted some victims remained under the rubble amid heavy bombardment and a lack of rescue crews.

During the operation, Israeli forces rescued four hostages from the refugee camp, namely Noa Argamani, 25, Shlomi Ziv, 40, Almog Meir Jan, 21, and Andrey Kozlov, 27, all of them among the about 250 Israelis abducted last October by Hamas while attending the Nova festival, an outdoor music event, in a rural area near the Gaza-Israel fence.

After the Hamas rampage, which killed about 1,200 according to Israeli tallies, Israel launched a retaliatory large-scale offensive in Gaza, which so far has killed 37,084 and injured 84,494 others, according to Gaza's health authorities.

04:44 2024-06-09
Several hostages killed in Israeli attacks on central Gaza: Hamas

GAZA -- During its operation to release four hostages in the central Gaza Strip, the Israeli army had killed several other hostages held there, Hamas armed wing Al-Qassam Brigades said on Saturday.

In a statement, Al-Qassam denounced the Israeli military operation in the Nuseirat area in central Gaza as "a complex war crime," saying "the first to be harmed by it" were Israeli hostages.

"The operation will pose a great danger to the enemy's prisoners and will have a negative impact on their conditions and lives," Abu Obaida, spokesperson for Al-Qassam, said in the statement.

At least 210 Palestinians were killed and more than 400 others injured in Israeli airstrikes on Saturday in central Gaza, where the Israeli forces rescued four hostages kidnapped by Hamas into the strip last October.

The Israeli army, police, and intelligence body Shin Bet said in a joint statement that their fighters had attacked "a terrorist structure" in the region and freed four Israeli hostages.

It noted that the kidnapped persons were rescued alive from two separate areas in the heart of Nuseirat.

Following the rescue of the four, 120 Israeli hostages remain held in Gaza, including 43 feared dead, according to the Israeli army.

Israel's attacks on central Gaza are the latest development of the deadly conflict between Israel and Gaza-ruling Hamas which began on Oct. 7, 2023, after Hamas militants stormed southern Israel from Gaza in a surprise attack, killing around 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostages back to the Palestinian enclave.

04:43 2024-06-09
D-8 countries call for immediate, unconditional ceasefire in Gaza

ISTANBUL -- The extraordinary meeting of foreign ministers of Developing 8 (D-8) countries held in Turkiye's Istanbul called on Saturday for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

"We demand an immediate, permanent, and unconditional ceasefire in Gaza and a halt to Israel's attacks on the Palestinian people," the ministers stated in a declaration after the meeting, Turkiye's state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The declaration noted that D-8 member states would offer unwavering support for Palestine's pursuit of full membership in the United Nations (UN) and its struggle for self-determination.

At a press conference after the meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said D-8 countries will not remain silent in the face of Israeli atrocities in Gaza.

"We will work with all our strength to end the Israeli occupation and achieve the two-state solution," Fidan added.

Advocating for the acceptance of Palestine's UN membership, the minister stressed that "Palestine's full membership in the UN is hindered by the US veto.

As D-8 countries, we demand an immediate end to this injustice." D-8, established in 1997, is an organization for development cooperation among Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkiye. 

22:37 2024-06-08
210 killed by Israeli army in central Gaza: Hamas media office

GAZA -- At least 210 Palestinians were killed and more than 400 others injured on Saturday by Israeli airstrikes in the Nuseirat camp in the central Gaza Strip, the Hamas-run Gaza government media office said.

19:23 2024-06-08
Israeli forces rescue four live hostages from Gaza
Almog Meir Jan, a released hostage reacts, after the military said that Israeli forces have rescued four hostages alive from the central Gaza Strip on Saturday, in Ramat Gan, Israel June 8, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

JERUSALEM -- The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Saturday said that it rescued four Israeli hostages who were kidnapped by Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Oct 7, 2023.

The four, Noa Argamani, Shlomi Ziv, Almog Meir Jan, and Andrey Kozlov, were located in two places in the center of Gaza's Nuseirat refugee camp, in proper medical condition.

The IDF conducted the operation with the Israel Security Agency and a police elite unit.

18:21 2024-06-08
At least 55 Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes on central Gaza: medical sources

GAZA -- At least 55 Palestinians were killed and dozens of others injured on Saturday in Israeli airstrikes on the Nuseirat camp and some other areas in the central Gaza Strip, according to medical sources.

Khalil Al-Dakran, director of Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza, told Xinhua that a large number of wounded Palestinians were sent to the hospital due to the intense Israeli bombing on the Nuseirat camp and the city of Deir Al-Balah, some of whom have been confirmed dead.

Wounded Palestinians were still being sent in, overwhelming the hospital amid a severe shortage of beds, medicines, medical consumables, and fuel to run the main emergency generator, said Al-Dakran.

Palestinian eyewitnesses told Xinhua that Israeli aircraft targeted the area with intensive firepower, and local civil defense and ambulances were unable to reach some injured people in time.

Meanwhile, Palestinian security sources said deadly clashes broke out on the ground between Palestinian militants and Israeli troops raiding the Nuseirat camp under the cover of artillery and aerial bombardment.

The Israeli army, police, and intelligence body Shin Bet said in a joint statement that "our forces are attacking a terrorist structure" in the region and freed four Israeli hostages.

It noted that the kidnapped persons were rescued by Shin Bet fighters and the Special Police Unit from two separate areas in the heart of Nuseirat.

The statement confirmed that the health condition of the hostages was good, and they were transferred for medical examinations to Tel Hashomer Hospital in Israel.

21:39 2024-06-07
Efforts urged to alleviate Gaza food crisis
By JAN YUMUL in Hong Kong
Palestinians make their way as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Jabalia refugee camp, following a raid, in the northern Gaza Strip, May 30, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

International grassroots organizations are calling for more agricultural support to be incorporated into humanitarian work in a bid to strengthen Palestinian food security resilience as attacks on Gaza continue, according to an online forum on Friday.

The global solidarity meeting, conducted by the Silenced Suffering: Stop Bombing Rural Communities platform, came as a response to a call by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Michael Fakhri who had sought inputs on ways to resolve the human rights and starvation problem with an emphasis on the Palestinian people's "food sovereignty".

The meeting was facilitated by the People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty, a network of grassroots groups, with entities from Nepal, Malaysia, Lebanon and Gaza among the participants. The meeting discussed human rights issues in various parts of the world but mostly focused on the situation in Gaza.

Ahmed Sourani, founder and general coordinator of the Gaza Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture Platform, said the root cause of Palestine's food insecurity was "the (Israeli) occupation, (resulting in) wars and conflicts". Hence, having solidarity and strong local, regional and international networks is important, he said.

After eight months of the current conflict in the Gaza Strip, more than 85 percent of Palestinian farmers and peasants "cannot practice work" and "are disconnected from land, resources and agriculture activities", Sourani said.

"They are living in unbearable conditions. Around 60 percent of agricultural lands and projects are not functioning. Only 15 percent (of farmers and peasants) can continue their production or their work. … The West Bank is the same," he said, adding that it is important to bring Palestine and Palestinian voices to global forums.

He noted that in Gaza, 95 percent of the agri-lands are small-scale, and the practices were usually "based on family (team work)". He said there were about 25,000 farmers in Gaza but the majority of them have now been displaced and lost their premises.

"It is really important to help people come back to their lands, but there is a problem of lack of agricultural inputs," said Sourani, calling for more support "to influence policies at the global levels".

"We cannot neglect the high need for support for people, displaced people, and families in all parts of the Gaza strip. (We are) still working with medium capacities, (and) there is always a high need for all types of support," said Sourani. Among other things, there is "need for pressure to open the borders for support", he said.

"In Gaza, 100 percent (of the) agriculture (is) based on family contributions, but this is almost destroyed and non-existent," he added.

Meanwhile, Firoza Mayet of the South Africa Palestine Solidarity Alliance called for more political support to help "stop the genocide", and demanded an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

"After today, we need to look at how to (strengthen) our solidarity for the people of Palestine" and push for an end to Israeli occupation, said Mayet.

In related news, the International Labour Organization, or ILO, said in a new brief report on Friday that eight months of conflict in the Gaza Strip have created massive jobs and livelihood loss.

In the Gaza Strip, almost all private sector establishments "have either completely ceased or significantly reduced production, with the sector losing 85.8 percent of its production value — equivalent to $810 million — during the first four months of the war", according to the ILO.

Further, in the West Bank, the private sector suffered a 27 percent reduction in production value equivalent to $1.5 billion during the same period.

"Our new bulletin shows the grim toll the war in the Gaza Strip has taken on human lives, and the desperate humanitarian situation it has caused, are accompanied by widespread devastation of economic activities and livelihoods. This compounds the suffering of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and further endangers their safety and wellbeing," ILO Regional Director for Arab States Ruba Jaradat said in a statement.

"Restoring people's livelihoods and creating decent jobs is vital to enabling Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to recover from the horrors the war has inflicted on them," Jaradat said.

"This recovery work must take place alongside the ongoing humanitarian response, and the ILO and its constituents and partners are implementing an Emergency Response Plan to this end," she added.

17:12 2024-06-06
Death toll from Israeli bombing on Gaza school rises to 35
Israeli military vehicles manoeuvre inside the Gaza Strip near the Israel-Gaza border, as seen from Israel, June 5, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

GAZA -- At least 35 Palestinians were killed and dozens of others injured in an Israeli air strike targeting a school housing displaced people in the Nuseirat camp in the central Gaza Strip, the Palestinian official news agency WAFA reported on Thursday.

An Israeli fighter jet bombed at least three classrooms with several missiles, medical sources told Xinhua.

Hamas-run media office in Gaza condemned Israel's attack on the school as a "terrible massacre" in a statement, calling it "clear evidence of the crime of genocide committed against civilians."

The office said that Israel and the United States "should bear full responsibility for these crimes that endanger humanity and violate international law."

Israel Defense Forces attacked a Hamas compound inside a school in the Nuseirat area during the night, eliminating many saboteurs who participated in an attack on Oct. 7, 2023, said Avichay Adraee, Israeli military spokesperson, in a statement on Thursday.

04:11 2024-06-05
Israeli army says launches air, ground attack in central Gaza's Bureij camp
Smoke rises following an explosion in the Gaza Strip amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas as seen from Israel on Tuesday. [Photo/Agencies]

GAZA/JERUSALEM -- Israeli fighter jets targeted Hamas positions in the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, with ground forces simultaneously operating in the area based on intelligence, Israeli military spokesperson Avichay Adraee said on Tuesday.

In a separate statement, Adraee reported that Israeli forces conducted a "precise raid operation" in Gaza City's Sabra neighborhood last week, discovering rocket warheads hidden in bags belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The UN agency, which plays a critical role in providing humanitarian aid in Gaza, has not commented on the Israeli claims.

Adraee also announced the completion of the destruction of a 1.5-kilometer-long and 23-meter-deep underground tunnel on Monday. The tunnel, used by Hamas, bypassed areas where Israeli forces are stationed. The exact location of the tunnel was not disclosed.

On May 7, the Israeli military expanded its operations in Rafah, directing over 1.5 million Palestinians to move to Khan Younis and other central Gaza areas. The UNRWA estimates that these areas now shelter approximately 1.7 million people.

Israel has been conducting a large-scale offensive against Hamas in Gaza in retaliation for the group's October assault on southern Israel, which resulted in around 1,200 deaths and over 200 hostages taken.

09:46 2024-06-04
Doubts grow over Gaza truce plan as fighting rages
A medical team conducts health checkups for displaced Palestinians in Deir al-Balah, Gaza, on Sunday. ABED RAHIM KHATIB/GETTY IMAGES

RAFAH/JERUSALEM — Fresh strikes were reported across the Gaza Strip overnight into Monday, as doubts were growing about a plan for a Gaza cease-fire and hostage release deal outlined by the United States.

US President Joe Biden on Friday presented what he labeled an Israeli three-phase plan that would end the conflict, free all hostages and the reconstruction of the devastated Palestinian territory.

Israeli media have questioned to what extent Biden's speech and some crucial details were coordinated with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's team, including how long any truce would hold and how many captives would be freed when.

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir accused Netanyahu on Monday of trying to "whitewash" the deal to wind down the Gaza assault and repeated a threat to quit the government.

Mediators Qatar, Egypt and the United States said they called "on both Hamas and Israel to finalize the agreement".

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Sunday that "we have every expectation that if Hamas agrees to the proposal … that Israel would say yes".

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken "commended" Israel on the plan in a phone call with War Cabinet member Benny Gantz and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, the State Department said.

Hamas has said it "views positively" the deal while the Palestinian National Liberation Movement on Sunday expressed its hope that the proposal will end Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

But the bombardments and combat show no sign of easing, with the conflict soon entering its ninth month.

On Monday, the Israeli military said over the past day its forces had struck "over 50 targets in the Gaza Strip".

Fighting has continued to rock Gaza, with hospitals there reporting at least 19 killed in overnight strikes into Monday morning.

Airstrikes and shelling were reported in Gaza City as well as in Rafah.

Crossing reopening talks

Egyptian state-linked Al-Qahera News said a Sunday meeting in Cairo with Israeli and US officials to discuss reopening the crossing had ended, without saying whether an agreement was reached.

Quoting a senior official, Al-Qahera said Egypt reiterated its demand that "Israel withdraw from the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing so it can resume operations".

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said Sunday that all 36 of its shelters in Rafah "are now empty" after at least a million people fled the city.

Adding to the region's tension, Israeli airstrikes after midnight Monday killed 12 pro-Iranian militias in Syria's northern province of Aleppo, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The attack hit several sites in the countryside of Aleppo. Several explosions were heard across the area.

Meanwhile, the Maldives government will ban Israelis from the Indian Ocean archipelago, the office of the president said on Sunday, announcing a national rally in "solidarity with Palestine".

Israel's Foreign Ministry said in response that the ministry recommends Israelis avoid any travel to the Maldives, including those with foreign passports, and those currently there to consider leaving.

Agencies - Xinhua

04:52 2024-06-04
Five Arab countries urge dealing positively with Gaza ceasefire proposal
Smoke and flames rise during an Israeli air strike in central Gaza Strip on June 3.[Photo/Agencies]

CAIRO -- The foreign ministers of Egypt, Qatar, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday stressed the importance of dealing seriously and positively with the US President's proposal leading to a deal that guarantees a permanent ceasefire and the adequate delivery of aid to the Gaza Strip.

In a joint statement issued after a virtual meeting, the foreign ministers of the five Arab countries said they had discussed developments in the mediation efforts undertaken by Egypt, Qatar, and the United States that will lead to a permanent ceasefire, the release of hostages and detainees, and the adequate entry of aid into Gaza.

The foreign ministers of Jordan, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia affirmed their support for the mediation efforts, according to a statement by the Egyptian foreign ministry.

The ministers also highlighted the need to stop the aggression against Gaza and end the humanitarian catastrophe it has triggered, the return of the displaced to their homes, and the complete withdrawal of the Israeli occupation forces from the Gaza Strip.

They reaffirmed that achieving the two-state solution is the only way to achieve security and peace for the entire region, and to this end, implementing relevant UN Security Council resolutions with clear timelines and binding guarantees.

17:17 2024-06-03
Israel's 'outrageous' move against UNRWA widely condemned
By JAN YUMUL in Hong Kong
Displaced Palestinians wait to receive United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) aid in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip, March 7, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

The international community has slammed Israel's plan to designate the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA, as a "terrorist organization", calling the proposal "outrageous" and warning that it would have "terrible consequences" in worsening the already dire situation in Gaza.

The Knesset, the unicameral parliament of Israel, on May 29 passed a preliminary reading of a bill designating UNRWA a terrorist organization. The bill will abolish immunity and privileges for UNRWA personnel, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Further, if the bill passes the final reading, the Anti-Terrorism Law will also apply to UNRWA, enabling Israel to cease all ties with the UN agency, and leading to closure of the humanitarian agency's operations in Israeli territory.

Mohammad Abualrob, director of the Palestinian Government Communications Center in the West Bank, told China Daily that Israel's allegations against UNRWA "are fundamentally baseless".

"Most donor countries supporting UNRWA have resumed their funding after recognizing the inaccuracy of Israel's claims. However, the Israeli Knesset's vote to designate the UN agency as a 'terrorist organization' will undoubtedly impact its operations in the Palestinian territories," said Abualrob.

This designation, he said, would affect the entry of UNRWA's foreign staff into Palestine, as "their access is controlled through Israeli crossing points".

"It will also hinder the agency's ability to pay salaries to its staff, procure aid, and distribute it to the 2.5 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem who rely on this support," he added.

Christopher Lockyear, secretary general of Medicins Sans Frontieres International (MSF), said in a statement that the bill is an "outrageous attack on humanitarian assistance" and an act of collective punishment against the Palestinian people.

"Not only is humanitarian aid being obstructed, but if the bill passes a final reading, it will also be criminalized under Israel's Anti-Terrorism Law, in contradiction with international humanitarian law," said Lockyear.

He said it would have terrible consequences as it could amount to a "free license" to attack UNRWA facilities and its humanitarian personnel, and would further endanger civilians seeking the protection of the UN agency.

The MSF urged Israel's allies, which "are all members of the UN", to "stop the bloodshed" and "stand against this move to criminalize humanitarian assistance and ensure that UNRWA can continue its essential work".

Saudi Arabia and Qatar condemned the Israeli parliament's move, with the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs saying in a statement that such classification "aims to lift the diplomatic immunity of UNRWA employees who are doing their duty to alleviate the severity of the humanitarian catastrophe that the Palestinian people are going through".

"The Kingdom stresses that Israel, as an occupying state, must abide by international humanitarian law and stop obstructing the work of international organizations," the Saudi ministry said.

Qatar's foreign ministry said in a statement that attempting to classify the UNRWA as a terrorist organization is "an extension of the systematic campaign aimed at dismantling the agency" at a time when the need for its humanitarian services is dire "due to the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip".

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs renews the State of Qatar's call for the international community to stand firmly in the face of Israeli plans aimed at liquidating the agency and depriving millions of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon of its necessary services," the statement said.

Also weighing in was the European Union, which said it was deeply concerned about the terrorist designation and the Israeli Land Authority ordering UNRWA to vacate its East Jerusalem premises within the next 30 days.

"We recall the crucial and irreplaceable role of UNRWA in the humanitarian response in Gaza. UNRWA provides vital services to millions of people in Gaza, the West Bank, as well as across the region, including in Lebanon and Jordan," the EU said in a statement on May 31.

"The EU is a firm supporter of the United Nations, and the multilateral and rules based global governance system, of which UNRWA, as a UN agency, is a part. We urge the Israeli authorities to allow UNRWA to continue carrying out its crucial work in line with its mandate," it added.

Last month, the International Crisis Group designated Gaza as "currently the most dangerous place for aid workers in the world". This was after the Aid Worker Security Database (AWDS) - a platform that tracks attacks on aid workers globally - documented a staggering 308 incidents that targeted aid workers in Gaza, causing 234 deaths since Oct 7 last year.

09:29 2024-06-03
Israel, Hamas urged to accept truce plan
University of Chicago students walk out of the convocation ceremony in Chicago in support of Palestinians on Saturday. VINCENT ALBAN/ASSOCIATED PRESS

RAFAH/JERUSALEM — Qatari, Egyptian and US mediators called on Israel and Hamas on Saturday to "finalize" a truce deal as Israeli forces pounded Rafah in southern Gaza.

Fighting has raged in the besieged Gaza Strip since US President Joe Biden said Israel was offering a new road map toward a full cease-fire.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since insisted his country would pursue the war until it has achieved all its aims.

An aide to Netanyahu said on Sunday that Israel had accepted the proposal, though he called it flawed.

In an interview with Britain's Sunday Times, Ophir Falk, chief foreign policy adviser to Netanyahu, said Biden's proposal was "a deal we agreed to — it's not a good deal but we dearly want the hostages released, all of them".

Hamas said it "views positively" the plan.

In a joint statement, Qatar, the United States and Egypt said that "as mediators in the ongoing discussions to secure a cease-fire in Gaza and the release of hostages and detainees", they "call on both Hamas and Israel to finalize the agreement" based on the principles of the US proposal.

Biden delivered a speech on Friday, in which he revealed a three-phase Israeli proposal that would lead to an end to the Gaza conflict and the release of all hostages.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres "strongly hopes" the latest development "will lead to an agreement by the parties for lasting peace", a spokesman said.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, leaders of the two extreme-right parties in parliament, said they would leave the government if it endorses the truce proposal.

Israel sent tanks and troops into Rafah in early May, ignoring concerns for displaced Palestinian civilians sheltering in the city on the Egyptian border.

On Saturday, residents reported tank fire in the Tal al-Sultan neighborhood in west Rafah, while witnesses in the east and center described intense shelling.

Netanyahu has faced growing domestic and international pressure over the fate of hostages and the dealings in the conflict, with Israelis rallying again on Saturday near military headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Chile's President Gabriel Boric said on Saturday the country was joining South Africa in its case at the International Court of Justice, accusing Israel of "genocide" in the Gaza conflict.

Speaking to the National Congress, Boric decried the "catastrophic humanitarian situation" in Gaza and called for "a firm response from the international community".

Growing protests

Dozens of students protesting the conflict walked out of the University of Chicago's commencement on Saturday as the school withheld the diplomas of four seniors over their involvement with a pro-Palestinian encampment.

US students have walked out of commencements at Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other schools as protest camps have sprung up across the US and in Europe in recent weeks.

The students have demanded their universities stop doing business with Israel or companies they say support the conflict in Gaza.

Israel has launched a large-scale offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, killing at least 36,379 people, in retaliation to Hamas' attack on Oct 7, during which about 1,200 people were killed.

The Palestinian leadership emphasized on Saturday the necessity for the Israeli army to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and to open and hand over all Gaza border crossings to the Palestinian Authority.

It said that opening and handing over the crossings would enable the regular arrival of relief aid and all necessities for the people of Gaza.

Yemen's Houthi group said on Saturday night it had launched fresh attacks on the US aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, another US warship and four commercial cargo vessels in the Red Sea and Arabian Sea.

That marks the group's second strike against Dwight D. Eisenhower in less than 24 hours, Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said.

There was no immediate comment from the US Navy or the targeted shipping companies.

Sarea vowed further attacks until "Israel stops its war and blockade against the Palestinians in Gaza".


04:03 2024-06-02
Qatar, Egypt, US urge Hamas, Israel to reach agreement
Smoke rises following an explosion in Gaza amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, as seen from Israel on May 30. [Photo/Agencies]

DOHA -- Qatar, the United States, and Egypt have jointly called on Hamas and Israel to finalize an agreement based on the principles of a US proposal, according to a statement from the Qatari foreign ministry on Saturday.

The three countries jointly call on both Hamas and Israel to do so "as mediators in the ongoing discussions to secure a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of hostages and detainees."

"These principles brought the demands of all parties together in a deal that serves multiple interests and will bring immediate relief both to the long-suffering people of Gaza as well as the long-suffering hostages and their families," the statement said.

"This deal offers a roadmap for a permanent ceasefire and ending the crisis," it added.

US President Joe Biden delivered a speech on Friday, in which he revealed a three-phase Israeli proposal that would lead to an end to the ongoing Gaza conflict and the release of all hostages.

21:06 2024-06-01
Egypt, Israel, US to meet on reopening Rafah crossing

CAIRO -- Officials from Egypt, Israel and the United States are scheduled to hold a meeting on Sunday in Cairo to discuss the reopening of the Rafah crossing in Gaza, Egypt's Al-Qahera News TV channel reported.

08:44 2024-06-01
China, Arab states call for early Gaza cease-fire
Palestinians make their way as they inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Jabalia refugee camp, following a raid, in the northern Gaza Strip, May 30, 2024. [Photo/Agencies]

China and Arab states have adopted a joint declaration calling for a cease-fire in Gaza as soon as possible as well as a "comprehensive, just and lasting" solution to the Palestine question amid ongoing Israeli military operations in Gaza.

In the joint declaration on the Palestine question released on Friday, one day after the 10th Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum was held in Beijing, both sides condemned Israel's attacks on Gaza.

They also condemned Israel's military offensive in Rafah, a city on the southwestern border of Gaza, days after an Israeli airstrike reportedly killed more than 40 people at a camp for displaced Palestinians in the area.

This round of the Palestine-Israel issue has dragged on for nearly eight months. Gaza has seen as many as 125,000 casualties of Palestinian civilians, most of whom are women and children, according to the joint declaration.

Palestinians in Gaza are subject to "fatal famines and blockades", and Israel is responsible for the humanitarian plight there, it said.

Both China and Arab states said they oppose the implementation of any plan, intention and behavior forcing Palestinian people to move from their land.

They urged the United Nations Security Council to adopt resolutions that are more binding to achieve an immediate, comprehensive and lasting cease-fire, stop the forced migration of Palestinian people and guarantee the provision of rescue supplies to Gaza.

Niu Xinchun, executive director of the China-Arab Research Institute of Ningxia University, said the joint declaration reflects the consistent position shared by China and Arab states over the conflict in Gaza.

The international community has been concerned by the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Niu said, adding that "an unconditional ceasefire is the most important way" to solve the crisis.

"China is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a major country, while the Arab world is among the most influential external forces over the Gaza conflict," Niu said. Such a joint declaration will serve to place "great pressure on Israel", thus helping to promote a cease-fire, he said.

In the declaration, both sides voiced their support for Palestine becoming an official member state of the UN, and condemned the United States for using its veto power to stop it from becoming a UN member state.

They also welcomed the recent trend in which many countries have recognized as the State of Palestine, and urged countries that haven't made the recognition to do so as soon as possible.

Norway, Spain and Ireland formally recognized the State of Palestine on Tuesday, less than three weeks after the UN General Assembly convened an emergency special session and overwhelmingly adopted a resolution urging the Security Council to reconsider Palestine's full UN membership.

The two-state solution is receiving increasingly extensive support in the world, Niu said, adding that more than 140 of the 193 UN member states have recognized Palestine as a sovereign state.

China stands on the side of justice by always calling for an implementation of the two-state solution and decrying all forms of violence against civilians, he said.

The country has played "a leading role" in the international community's efforts to promote an immediate cease-fire in Gaza by making its voice heard at many multilateral and bilateral occasions, including in the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council and BRICS summits, Niu added.

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