African Union Head Condemns Israeli ‘Attacks’ In Gaza

Palestinians assess the damage in a building, following Israeli air strikes in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 7, 2022. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)

 

The chairman of the African Union Commission on Sunday condemned Israeli “air strike attacks” in the Gaza Strip as violence escalates in the troubled region, with 31 Palestinians reported dead.

“Moussa Faki Mahamat strongly condemns the continued air strike attacks by Israel on Gaza that have killed more than 30 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children,” an AU statement said.

The “targeting of civilians and the continued illegal occupation by Israeli security forces of the Occupied Territories, are in stark violation of international law, and complicate the search for a just and lasting solution”, the statement said.

The recent fighting is the worst in Gaza since a war last year devastated the impoverished coastal territory, home to some 2.3 million Palestinians, and forced Israelis to seek shelter from rockets.

Israel has stepped up its bombardments of positions of Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed group designated as a terrorist organisation by several Western nations, and the militants have fired over 500 rockets in return.

The relationship with Israel is a rare point of contention for the AU, a body that values consensus, with powerful member states, notably South Africa, loudly protesting a decision by Faki last year to accept Israel’s accreditation to the bloc as an observer.

The decision was a major diplomatic win for Israel, but opposing member nations said it contradicted numerous AU statements -– including from Faki himself –- backing the Palestinian Territories.

In its statement on Sunday, the AU reiterated its support for “the Palestinian people in their legitimate quest for an independent and sovereign State” with East Jerusalem as its capital.

AFP

Dozens Wounded In Clashes At Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound

Taliban fighters and medical staff stand outside the gate of a hospital as they prepare to attend to the casualties after an explosion at Imam Sahib district in Kunduz province on April 22, 2022. AFP

 

Israeli police clashed with Palestinian protesters on Friday in the latest violence at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, as the United Nations voiced deep concern at spiralling unrest.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said that 57 people were wounded, including 14 Palestinians taken to hospital, one of them in a serious condition, after police stormed the compound in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem’s Old City.

The clashes come after a month of deadly violence, as the Jewish festival of Passover overlaps with the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

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The violence has sparked international fears of conflict, one year on since similar unrest led to an 11-day war between Israel and militants in Gaza.

This week, Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip have fired rockets at Israel, which has responded by sending warplanes to strike the blockaded and impoverished territory.

“We are deeply concerned by the escalating violence in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel over the past month,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Israeli police said Palestinians began hurling stones before dawn Friday towards the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray.

“Police forces used crowd dispersal means in order to stop the violence,” said a statement, adding that one officer was wounded.

Tear Gas By Drone

Al-Aqsa is Islam’s third-holiest site, and the most sacred site in Judaism where it is known as the Temple Mount.

Police fired tear gas and rubber-tipped bullets at stone-throwing Palestinian youths, an AFP photographer said.

One Palestinian man suffered a severe head wound during clashes, and was taken to Jerusalem’s Hadassah hospital, where a spokeswoman told AFP he was in “very serious condition”.

Police said the young man, who “threw stones and rioted”, was “seriously injured when he fell” running away from them.

After midday prayers, some worshippers chanted “incitement” and tried to damage a police post, police said. Police used drones to spray tear gas from the air, AFP reporters said.

More than 200 people, mostly Palestinians, have been hurt in clashes in and around Al-Aqsa in the past week.

Palestinians have been outraged by massive Israeli police deployment and repeated visits by Jews to the holy site.

By long-standing convention, Jews are allowed to visit under certain conditions but are not allowed to pray there.

Palestinian worshipper Alaa al-Haddad said Israel was restricting access to Al-Aqsa, and that this had created “tensions that lead to clashes”, with hundreds of people arrested in recent days.

“It’s all because the occupation forces are regularly storming the holy Al-Aqsa mosque,” Haddad said.

On Thursday, Arab ministers meeting in Jordan — custodian of east Jerusalem’s holy sites — denounced “Israeli attacks and violations against worshippers” at Al-Aqsa, branding them “a blatant provocation to the feelings of Muslims everywhere”.

On Friday, the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights demanded a probe into the Israeli police actions.

“The use of force by Israeli police resulting in widespread injuries among worshippers and staff in and around the Al-Aqsa mosque compound must be promptly, impartially, independently and transparently investigated,” Shamdasani said.

But Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, speaking on Thursday after meeting with US acting Assistant Secretary of State Yael Lempert, has contradicted Palestinian claims and insisted that Israel was “preserving and will continue to preserve the status quo on the Temple Mount”.

Gaza rocket fire

The latest spike in violence, including four deadly attacks since March 22 inside Israel carried out by Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, have claimed 14 lives.

Over the same period, 24 Palestinians have been killed, including assailants who targeted Israelis, according to an AFP tally.

Among them is Ibrahim Labdy, 20, from Jenin, who died on Friday from wounds sustained during an Israeli raid on the city last week.

Violence has also surged in the Palestinian coastal enclave of the Gaza Strip, run by the Islamist movement Hamas, where crowds rallied on Friday in solidarity with those in Al-Aqsa.

On Thursday, Gaza militants and Israeli warplanes exchanged fire in the biggest escalation in months.

After a rocket fired by militants hit the garden of a house in southern Israel late Wednesday — the first such attack since January — Israel launched air strikes against Gaza.

The military said it had hit an underground rocket factory, prompting another volley of rockets from Gaza.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the movement was “determined to continue the struggle… no matter the sacrifices”.

The violence has proved a political headache for Israeli Prime Minster Naftali Bennett, who leads an ideologically divided coalition government.

After losing its one-seat majority in parliament earlier this month, the Raam party, drawn from the country’s Arab minority, suspended its support for the coalition over clashes at Al-Aqsa.

Israel Hits Gaza After Rocket Attack As Jerusalem Tensions Spike

A general view shows the remains of the Shorouq building, levelled by an Israeli airstrike during the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Gaza City on April 19, 2022.  AFP

 

Israel carried out its first airstrike on the Gaza Strip in months early Tuesday, in response to a rocket fired from the Palestinian enclave after a weekend of violence around a Jerusalem holy site.

The army also said its special forces had made five arrests overnight in the occupied West Bank, which has seen a string of deadly Israeli raids since several recent fatal attacks against the Jewish state.

The latest tensions have focused on the highly contested Al-Aqsa mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Israeli-annexed Old City.

Palestinian worshippers gathering there for Ramadan prayers have been outraged by visits by religious Jewish under heavy Israeli police protection — as well as restrictions on their own access.

The violence, coinciding with the Jewish Passover festival as well as the Muslim holy month, has sparked fears of a repeat of last year’s events, when similar circumstances sparked an 11-day war that levelled parts of Gaza.

On Monday, warning sirens sounded after a rocket was fired into southern Israel from the blockaded enclave, controlled by the Islamist group Hamas, in the first such incident since early January.

The Israeli military said that the rocket had been intercepted by the Iron Dome air defence system.

Hours later, the Israeli air force said it had hit a Hamas weapons factory in retaliation.

Hamas claimed to have used its “anti-aircraft defences” to counter the raid, which caused no casualties, according to witnesses and security sources in Gaza.

Deadly attacks

No faction in the crowded enclave of 2.3 million inhabitants immediately claimed responsibility for the rocket.

But it comes after weeks of mounting violence, with a total of 23 Palestinians and Arab-Israelis killed, including assailants who targeted Israelis in four deadly attacks.

Those attacks claimed 14 lives, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally.

The rocket fire also followed a weekend of Israeli-Palestinian violence in and around the Al-Aqsa mosque compound that wounded more than 170 people, mostly Palestinian demonstrators.

Diplomatic sources said the United Nations Security Council was to meet Tuesday to discuss the spike in violence.

Israeli police said they had refused to authorise a march Jewish nationalists had planned around the walls of the Old City.

A similar parade last year, following a similar wave of violence, was interrupted by rocket fire from Gaza which in turn triggered the 11-day war.

This month has also seen violence in the West Bank.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said Tuesday it had treated 72 people following a demonstration in the village of Burqa, against a march by Israeli settlers demanding the re-establishment of a nearby settlement evacuated in 2005.

The Red Crescent said four people had been directly hit by tear gas canisters and seven had been hit by rubber-coated bullets.

 Regional Arab disquiet

Incidents at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the holiest site in Judaism and the third-holiest in Islam, have triggered repeated rounds of violence over the past century.

Jews are allowed to visit the site at certain times, but they are prohibited from praying there.

The latest spike in violence has strained Israel’s diplomatic relations with some Muslim countries and drawn wider international concern.

On Tuesday, the United Arab Emirates summoned Israel’s ambassador to convey “strong protest and denunciation” of events at Al-Aqsa, particularly “attacks on civilians” and “incursions” by Israeli security forces.

The UAE only established ties with Israel in 2020. Jordan, custodian of east Jerusalem’s holy sites, had already summoned Israel’s charge d’affaires on Monday.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken called both Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Tuesday.

Blinken’s calls followed State Department spokesman Ned Price announcing the previous day that the US had “urged all sides to preserve the historic status quo” at the Al-Aqsa compound and avoid “provocative” steps.

Abbas stressed his complete rejection of any changes to the legal and historical status quo, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.

Lapid meanwhile said he emphasised to Blinken “Israel’s responsible and measured efforts in the face of riots by hundreds of Islamic extremists.”

Hamas has vowed to defend Al-Aqsa’s status as “a purely Islamic site”.

But analysts have said in recent weeks that the movement does not want a war at present, partly because its military capacities were degraded by the last one.

They say Hamas is also wary that a new conflict could prompt Israel to cancel thousands of work permits lately issued to residents of impoverished Gaza.

But Islamic Jihad, another Palestinian faction that Israel says has thousands of fighters and rockets in the enclave, warned Monday that it will not be forced “into silence” over events in Jerusalem.

AFP

Incendiary Balloons From Gaza Cause Fires In Israel

An elderly Palestinian man raises a national flag as youths shout slogans during a protest along the border fence, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 25, 2021. MAHMUD HAMS / AFP
An elderly Palestinian man raises a national flag as youths shout slogans during a protest along the border fence, east of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 25, 2021. MAHMUD HAMS / AFP

 

Israeli firefighters on Saturday were working to put out blazes sparked by incendiary balloons launched from the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Two wildfires broke out in Israel’s southern Eshkol region near the Palestinian enclave, firefighters said in a statement, adding that experts had concluded that the source was “incendiary balloons”.

Launching the makeshift devices is a common tactic of Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Israel frequently responds with air strikes.

Earlier in the day, Gaza’s health ministry said a 12-year-old Palestinian boy shot last week by Israeli soldiers during clashes along the enclave’s border had died of his wounds.

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The August 21 unrest left around 40 people wounded, according to Gaza’s Hamas rulers, including a 32-year-old Palestinian man who died on Wednesday.

An Israeli police officer was also shot and remains in a critical condition.

Following the clashes, Israel carried out air strikes it said were targeting weapons manufacturing and storage sites of the Islamist group Hamas.

Israel struck Gaza again overnight Monday-Tuesday in response to incendiary balloons that also sparked fires in the Eskhol region.

New clashes took place on the border between Gaza and Israel on Wednesday, but they were less violent than those on August 21.

Further demonstrations were expected on Saturday evening after calls from several Palestinian factions, in particular to protest against Israel’s almost 15-year-long blockade of the territory.

Israel has launched several strikes on Gaza in response to incendiary balloons since a May 21 ceasefire ended 11 days of deadly conflict between the Jewish state and armed groups in the enclave.

 

AFP

Israel Attacks Gaza After Incendiary Balloon Fire

PHOTO USED TO ILLUSTRATE STORY: Flames are seen following an Israeli air strike in the town of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, early on November 22, 2020. (Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)

 

Israel attacked Gaza military targets late Saturday, the army and Palestinian sources said, after incendiary balloons from the Palestinian territory caused fires in Israel in recent days.

The Israeli army said fighter jets had “struck a weapon manufacturing site and a rocket launcher belonging to the Hamas terror organisation”.

According to security sources and witnesses in Gaza, the facilities hit were west of Gaza City and in the northern Strip, with no immediate reports of casualties.

“The strikes were made in response to the arson balloons fired towards Israeli territory,” said a statement from the Israeli army.

Incendiary balloons from Gaza caused fires in southern Israel’s Eshkol region on Saturday and Friday, according to the fire service.

On Thursday, four small fires caused by incendiary balloons from Gaza were extinguished in the Eshkol region.

Israel retaliated early Friday with air strikes, which the army said struck “a weapons manufacturing site” belonging to Gaza’s Hamas Islamist rulers.

Eleven days of deadly fighting between Israel and Hamas, as well as other Palestinian armed groups based in the enclave, ended on May 21 with a ceasefire declaration.

There was no immediate indication as to which Gaza-based group was responsible for the latest balloon launch.

There have been multiple flare-ups since the ceasefire, including a series of balloon launches last month, to which Israel has responded with air strikes.

The May conflict killed 260 Palestinians including some fighters, according to Gaza authorities.

In Israel, 13 people were killed, including a soldier, by projectiles fired from Gaza, the police and army said.

 

AFP

Egypt Sends Convoy To Bombed-Out Gaza

A convoy of trucks loaded with construction equipment provided by Egypt arrives at the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Palestinian Gaza Strip enclave on June 4, 2021/ AFP

 

Egypt on Friday sent an aid convoy to neighbouring Gaza with diggers, trucks and cranes to “prepare the ground for reconstruction” of the bomb-battered Palestinian enclave, the government said.

“Following the directives of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, engineers and technical teams crossed the Rafah border point,” read a statement from the government.

Egypt’s heavily secured Rafah crossing is the Gaza Strip’s only passage to the outside world not controlled by Israel.

Sisi has pledged $500 million to help reconstruction efforts in densely populated Gaza, home to some two million people, and which was pummelled by Israeli airstrikes last month.

Egypt played a pivotal role in negotiating the May 21 ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas, which brought an end to 11 days of deadly fighting.

Photographs released by Egypt showed dozens of construction vehicles emblazoned with the Egyptian flag.

They will be used to “clear the rubble” of debris left after the strikes to “prepare the ground for reconstruction”, the statement added.

Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, health officials said.

Rockets and other fires from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, medics said.

In Gaza, Traumatised Palestinians Tend To Shell-Shocked Pets

Palestinian veterinarian Mutasem Qaddoura examines a cat at a clinic in Gaza City on May 24, 2021. Israel’s latest war on Gaza has killed more 254 Palestinians including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 others, authorities there say.
MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

 

A smashed goldfish bowl, panicked birds in a cage, scores of animals needing treatment. The loss or injury of treasured pets has added to the grief and trauma of Gaza residents after last month’s deadly conflict.

Neriman, a nine-year-old Palestinian girl, clutched a glass jar holding her goldfish Hoor, delighted it had survived after her other one, Hooriya, died in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City.

In the latest war, Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, as well as some fighters, authorities there say.

Fire by Palestinian militants claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child, a teenager, and an Israeli soldier.

Pets also suffered, as well as the children who owned them.

“I was so sad that Hooriya died and I cried when I buried her in the field,” said Neriman, of her first fish, whose name meant “Mermaid” in Arabic.

“But I was so happy that Hoor had survived,” she added of her second fish.

At an animal clinic in Gaza City, Amani Abu Shaaban held a fluffy cat to her chest as they waited to see a vet.

“My cat has been very scared since the war. She refuses to eat, and her hair is falling out,” she said.

“Even the sound of a mobile phone ringing freaks her out.”

Nearby, vet Mutasem Qaddoura examined two cats, one after the other.

One needed an operation for a broken leg, the other was dehydrated and malnourished.

Dozens of pets owners have flocked to his clinic since Gaza’s May 21 ceasefire though supplies to treat them are scarce.

“The state of veterinary medicine is disastrous in Gaza,” Qaddoura said.

“We use X-ray machines intended for humans and platinum screws meant to fix children’s bones to treat the animals.”

 

A worker tends to a dog at the Sulala dog shelter in Gaza City on May 24, 2021, which has received several wounded animals due to the 11-day conflict between Israel and the Islamist Hamas controlling the Palestinian Gaza Strip enclave.
MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

 Pets left behind

Neriman and her family had been forced to flee their home on May 13, after an Israeli officer warned neighbours of an imminent strike on a nearby bank.

In the panic, she left behind her fish, as well as two parakeets, Alloosh and Malloosh, given to her by her father for her sixth birthday.

But soon after, she started worrying.

“I just had to go home with my father to get them,” she said.

When they returned, she found a special outfit she had laid out on her bed for the Eid holidays covered in rubble, the bed collapsed and the windows blown in.

“I heard Alloosh and Malloosh chirping under the rubble, and I found the fishbowl broken,” she said.

Hooriya had died, but they saved Hoor, a scene shown in a video that has since gone viral on social media.

This picture taken on May 24, 2021 shows a general view of the Sulala dog shelter in Gaza City, which has received several wounded animals due to the 11-day conflict between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement currently in control of the Palestinian Gaza Strip enclave.
MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

 

 Desperate dogs

South of Gaza city, 30-year-old Adel al-Wadia said he had tried to feed some of the dogs at the coastal strip’s main dog shelter during the bombing.

“They were howling with fear and hunger and it made me sad, so I risked trying to get as close as possible to give them food,” he said.

The shelter’s founder, Saeed el-Aer, said he returned after the ceasefire to find many of his canine wards scared and famished.

Dozens had panicked and escaped during the 11-day war, and several were wounded, he said.

“At least three dogs need an operation, including one who needs a paw amputated,” he said.

Other animals were even less lucky.

Aer pointed to an area beyond the shelter’s fence.

“Over there, we buried the donkey and the horse after we found they had died from shrapnel wounds,” he said.

-AFP

Thousands Homeless As Palestinians Pick Up Pieces In Ravaged Gaza, After Israel Ceasefire

Palestinians gather at the beach in Gaza city on May 22, 2021, following a ceasefire that ended 11 days of relentless Israeli air strikes on the besieged coastal enclave run by the Hamas group. MAHMUD HAMS / AFP
Palestinians gather at the beach in Gaza city on May 22, 2021, following a ceasefire that ended 11 days of relentless Israeli air strikes on the besieged coastal enclave run by the Hamas group. MAHMUD HAMS / AFP

 

Gazans tried to piece back their lives Saturday after a devastating 11-day conflict with Israel that killed more than 200 people and made thousands homeless in the impoverished Palestinian enclave.

Authorities started distributing tents and mattresses in the Gaza Strip, an AFP reporter said, a day after an Egypt-brokered ceasefire ended deadly Israeli air strikes on the besieged enclave and rocket fire out of it towards Israel.

Attention turned to rebuilding the coastal territory controlled by the Islamist group Hamas as rescue workers searched for bodies or survivors in mounds of rubble, while residents tried to assess what was left of their lives.

The latest round of bombardment killed 248 people in Gaza, including 66 children, and wounded over 1,900 since May 10, the Hamas-run health ministry says.

The United Nations says more than half of those killed, the overwhelming majority in Israeli air strikes, were civilians.

Israel claims it has killed “more than 200 terrorists”, including 25 commanders.

Rockets fired by Palestinian armed groups killed 12 people in Israel including a child, an Israeli soldier, an Indian citizen and two Thai nationals, the police say, and wounded around 357 people.

Thousands homeless

In front of a flattened tower block where she used to rent out apartments, Aisha Mousallem was wearing black.

“Even if I lost no one in my family, I’m in mourning,” she said.

Sarah Muscroft, the head of the UN humanitarian agency (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territories, said the intensity of the bombardment had led to “extensive damage” across Gaza.

“Over 6,000 people have been rendered homeless as a result of the hostilities,” she said.

More than 1,042 housing or commercial units were estimated to have been completely destroyed, and 800,000 people have no regular access to water.

A child wearing a military outfit and brandishing a toy gun takes part along with Lebanese and Palestinians in a rally to celebrate the recent cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, in the capital Beirut's central Martyr's square, on May 22, 2021, after which the two rival sides claimed victory. ANWAR AMRO / AFP
A child wearing a military outfit and brandishing a toy gun takes part along with Lebanese and Palestinians in a rally to celebrate the recent cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, in the capital Beirut’s central Martyr’s square, on May 22, 2021, after which the two rival sides claimed victory.
ANWAR AMRO / AFP

 

“The building effort is going to be really quite profound,” she told AFP.

Earlier on Saturday, shopkeepers assessed the damage, finding many supplies coated in thick layers of dust.

Wael Amin al-Sharafa said he had stocked up his shop with new clothes to sell during the usually busy period of Eid al-Fitr, at the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.

“But now it’s all lost,” he said. “Who will pay for all this? I have no idea.”

‘Two-state solution’

Convoys of lorries bringing much-needed medicine, food and fuel entered Gaza Friday through the Kerem Shalom crossing after Israel reopened it.

The UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund said it had released $18.5 million for humanitarian efforts.

The latest round of Israeli bombardment forced 91,000 people to flee their homes in Gaza, according to OCHA.

An Egyptian security delegation monitoring the ceasefire deal met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Saturday, Palestinian news agency WAFA said.

Both Israel and Hamas were fast to claim victory.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s bombing campaign had been an “exceptional success”.

Hamas’ political chief Ismail Haniyeh said the group had “dealt a painful and severe blow that will leave its deep marks” on Israel, and thanked Iran for “providing funds and weapons”.

An AFP photographer on Saturday saw fighters of Hamas’ armed wing parading in the streets of Gaza city.

The Hamas authorities said government offices would re-open on Sunday.

The international community welcomed the ceasefire and the UN Security Council on Saturday called for “full adherence” to it.

US President Joe Biden on Friday pledged to help organise efforts to rebuild Gaza and said creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel is the “only answer” to the conflict.

“We still need a two-state solution,” he said.

Peace talks have stalled since 2014, including over the key issues of the status of occupied east Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Al-Aqsa clashes

Israeli police on Friday fired stun grenades at worshippers in Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, and Israeli forces beat an AFP photographer who was covering the unrest.

The incident was reminiscent of the tensions in Jerusalem that sparked the latest round of conflict.

Israeli security forces had cracked down on protests against the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes to make way for Jewish settlers in the annexed east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

They had also moved in on worshippers at Al-Aqsa, Islam’s third holiest site, which is revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.

Hamas on May 10 launched rockets from Gaza towards Israel, in “solidarity” with Palestinians in Jerusalem.

The conflict sparked mob violence in Israel, and clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters in the West Bank.

Israeli forces have killed 25 Palestinians, including four under the age of 18, in the West Bank since May 10, authorities in the territory say. Israel claims five tried to attack Israeli forces.

 

AFP

Biden Vows To Help ‘Rebuild’ Gaza, Insists On Two-State Solution

A Palestinian woman walks past a dsetroyed building in the al-Rimal commercial district in Gaza City on May 22, 2021, following a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Israeli-blockaded enclave.  (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

 

President Joe Biden on Friday pledged to help organize efforts to rebuild Gaza and said creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel is the “only answer” to the conflict.

Biden also said he had told the Israelis to stop “intercommunal fighting” in the flashpoint city of Jerusalem.

However he stressed “there is no shift in my commitment, commitment to the security of Israel” and added that until the region “unequivocally” acknowledges Israel’s existence “there will be no peace.”

The idea of a two-state solution — with a sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel and Jerusalem as their shared capital — has been the cornerstone of decades of international diplomacy aimed at ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

US policy under Donald Trump was criticized as being blatantly pro-Israel and ignoring the Palestinians.

A Mideast peace plan devised by Trump’s adviser and son in law Jared Kushner was billed as providing for a two-state solution. But that blueprint envisioned a Palestinian state with only limited sovereignty and Israel maintaining security over that state.

 

A Palestinian inspects the rubble of buildings, destroyed by Israeli strikes, in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on May 21, 2021. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

 

The plan was rejected out of hand by Palestinian leaders.

Biden on Friday insisted on a full-blown two-state remedy.

“There is no shift in my commitment to the security of Israel, period, no shift, not at all,” he said.

“But I tell you what there is a shift in. The shift is that we still need a two-state solution. It is the only answer, the only answer,” Biden stated.

 

A Palestinian policeman walks on the rubble of Arafat City, Gaza’s police headquarters in Gaza City on May 22, 2021, following a ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Israeli-blockaded enclave. – As the ceasefire holds, humanitarian aid began to enter the enclave ravaged by 11 days of bloodshed. While thousands of displaced Palestinians returned to their homes, and Israelis began to resume normal life a day earlier, international focus turned to the reconstruction of the bomb-shattered Gaza Strip. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

Eight New Dead In Gaza, Israel Strikes Toll Rises To 227

Neighbours and relatives assess the damage inside a house in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, on May 19, 2021, where they say a disabled 33-year-old man on a wheelchair, his pregnant wife and their 3-year-old daughter were killed in an Israeli air strike.(Photo by SAID KHATIB / AFP)

 

 

Israeli strikes killed seven people including a disabled man, his pregnant wife and their three-year-old child in the besieged Palestinian enclave of Gaza on Wednesday, the health ministry said.

Another person died of wounds sustained the day before, the ministry in Gaza told AFP, bringing to 227 the number of people killed in Israeli bombardment in the coastal strip since May 10.

 

A partial view shows a damaged house following a rocket attack fired from the Gaza Strip, in the southern Israeli city of Sderot on May 19, 2021. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Egypt Pledges $500 Mn To Rebuild Gaza, Sends Medical Aid

Palestinians look for salvageable items amid the rubbe of the six-storey Kuhail building which was destroyed in an early morning Israeli airstrike on Gaza City on May 18, 2021. – The UN Security Council was due to hold an emergency meeting today amid a flurry of urgent diplomacy aimed at stemming Israel air strikes that have killed more than 200 Palestinians. (Photo by MAHMUD HAMS / AFP)

 

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi pledged Tuesday $500 million to help reconstruction efforts in Gaza, his office said, after a week of Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian enclave.

“Egypt will provide $500 million… for the reconstruction process in the Gaza Strip as a result of recent events, with expert Egyptian construction companies implementing the rebuilding,” the presidency said in a statement.

Cairo has sought to mediate a ceasefire between Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas and Israel since the deadly violence erupted on May 10.

Since then, Israeli air strikes have killed more than 200 Palestinians in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Twelve people have been killed on the Israeli side, according to authorities in the Jewish state.

Sisi is holding talks in Paris with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and Jordan’s King Abdullah II aimed at seeking a rapid truce to the lethal conflict.

Egypt also sent 65 tonnes of medical aid to neighbouring Gaza, its healthy ministry said.

With hospitals in Gaza overwhelmed by patients, the critical surgical supplies include specialist burns treatment as well as “ventilators, oxygen tanks (and) syringes,” Health Minister Hala Zayed said late Monday.

Sisi on Sunday ordered the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt — the enclave’s only border point not controlled by Israel — to open to allow wounded Gazans to be treated in Egyptian hospitals and to deliver aid.

Sources at Rafah on Tuesday said that 26 trucks of food had been sent to Gaza, with 50 ambulances ready to transport the wounded.

Egypt said it would make space in 11 hospitals nationwide at a capacity of over 1,800 beds.

Israel launched its aerial bombing campaign on Gaza after Hamas fired a barrage of rockets in response to unrest in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

The Israeli strikes have killed 213 people, including 61 children, and wounded more than 1,400 in Gaza, according to the health ministry.

The UN says nearly 40,000 Gazans have been displaced and 2,500 have lost their homes.

Strikes have knocked out the only Covid-19 testing laboratory in the blockaded enclave, the health ministry has said.

No Respite From Israel-Gaza Fighting As Diplomatic Efforts Intensify

Palestinian men stand amidst debris near the al-Sharouk tower, which housed the bureau of the Al-Aqsa television channel in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, after it was destroyed by an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City, on May 13, 2021. MOHAMMED ABED / AFP
Palestinian men stand amidst debris near the al-Sharouk tower, which housed the bureau of the Al-Aqsa television channel in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, after it was destroyed by an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City, on May 13, 2021. MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

 

The UN Security Council was to hold an emergency meeting Tuesday amid a diplomatic push to end the devastating conflict between Israel and Gaza’s armed groups that has killed more than 220 people, most of them Palestinians.

Israel maintained its heaviest-ever daily rate of bombardment of the blockaded enclave overnight, sending a fireball and a black plume of smoke into the sky following one heavy strike, an AFP journalist reported.

Despite growing calls for an end to the violence, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late Monday that Israel would “continue striking at the terrorist targets”.

Israel launched its air campaign on the Gaza Strip on May 10 after the enclave’s rulers, the Islamist group Hamas, fired a barrage of rockets in response to unrest in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

Israeli air strikes have killed 213 Palestinians, including 61 children, and wounded more than 1,400 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Palestinian militants have fired around 3,350 rockets toward Israel that have killed 10 people, including a child, Israeli authorities said.

Air raid sirens again wailed in southern Israel through the morning, sending families fleeing into bomb shelters.

The Security Council session, the fourth since the conflict escalated, was called after the United States, a key Israel ally, blocked adoption of a joint statement calling for a halt to the violence on Monday for the third time in a week.

US President Joe Biden, having resisted joining other world leaders and much of his own Democratic party in calling for an immediate end to hostilities, told Netanyahu Monday night he backs a ceasefire, but stopped short of demanding a truce.

– Covid test lab hit –

Israel’s overnight barrage again set the night sky over the densely populated coastal enclave ablaze as multiple strikes crashed into buildings in Gaza City shortly after midnight.

“They destroyed our house but I don’t know why they targeted us,” said Nazmi al-Dahdouh, 70, of western Gaza City, adding he was now homeless after “a terrifying, violent night”.

The Israeli army said on Tuesday it had struck dozens of “targets” inside Gaza since midnight, while Palestinian militants had fired 70 rockets, dozens of which were intercepted by air defences.

A strike late Monday knocked out Gaza’s only Covid-19 testing laboratory, the health ministry said. The Qatari Red Crescent said a strike damaged one of its offices in the enclave.

The rate of positive coronavirus tests in Gaza has been among the highest in the world, at 28 percent.

Hospitals in the poverty-stricken territory, which has been under Israeli blockade for almost 15 years, have been overwhelmed by patients.

Israeli fire has cratered roads and battered crucial infrastructure, causing blackouts and prompting the electricity authority to warn Monday it only had enough fuel left to provide power for another two to three days.

The UN on Tuesday praised Israel’s decision to open the Kerem Shalom crossing so humanitarian goods could enter Gaza.

Israeli authorities told AFP there was no immediate timeframe for the re-opening.

The conflict risks precipitating a humanitarian disaster, with the UN saying nearly 40,000 Palestinians have been displaced and 2,500 have lost their homes.

Fighter jets hit what the Israeli military dubs the “metro”, its term for Hamas’s underground tunnels, which Israel has previously acknowledged run in part through civilian areas.

Rockets have meanwhile also been fired at Israel from Lebanon, where protests against Israel’s Gaza campaign have been held in the border area. The Israeli army said the six rockets did not reach its territory.

– ‘Day of anger’ strike –

Palestinians across the West Bank and in east Jerusalem were Tuesday largely adhering to a general strike called in support of those under bombardment in Gaza.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah movement has called for a “day of anger” and strike, a call echoed in Arab and ethnically mixed towns inside Israel.

All non-essential Palestinian businesses were closed in West Bank cities and east Jerusalem, with large demonstrators planned for the afternoon, including at the flashpoint Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City.

“We are here to raise our voice and stand with the people in Gaza who are being bombed,” Ramallah protester Aya Dabour told AFP.

Israel’s army said it had “neutralised” an assailant attempting to attack soldiers in Hebron on Tuesday. The Palestinian health ministry confirmed the man’s death.

Even as Security Council ceasefire efforts have faltered, Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan said he had spoken to his Israeli counterpart and the Egyptian government — a key intermediary — on Monday, saying that Washington was engaged in “quiet, intensive diplomacy”.

The French and Egyptian presidents, Emmanuel Macron and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, are pushing for a ceasefire deal. Another channel has been opened, via the UN, with the help of Qatar and Egypt.

The military conflict was sparked after clashes broke out at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound — one of Islam’s holiest sites — after Israeli forces clashed with worshippers on May 7.

This followed a crackdown against protests over planned evictions of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of east Jerusalem.

Israel has been trying to contain violence between Jews and Israeli Arabs, as well as unrest in the occupied West Bank, where Palestinian authorities say Israeli forces have killed 21 Palestinians since May 10.

AFP