Gaza: Israel attacks UNRWA convoy as Blinken lands in region for talks

Gaza: Israel attacks UNRWA convoy as Blinken lands in region for talks
The strikes on Deir el-Balah come as fighting persists between Israel and Palestinian fighters in the southern city of Khan Younis.
13 min read
05 February, 2024

Israel's naval forces attacked an UNRWA aid convoy that was waiting to enter northern Gaza according to  the aid agency, although there were no casualties reported from the incident.

The attack comes as an independent review group is appointed to investigate allegations that six UNRWA staff members were involved in the 7 October Hamas attack on Israel.

In addition US Secretary of State has arrived to Saudi Arabia in a bid to secure a ceasefire and hostage exchange between Hamas and Israel.

The arrival of blinken comes as Israeli continues its airstrikes throughout Gaza, hitting the 'safe zone' of Rafah and killing 30 people in Deir el-Balah on the Gaza war's 122th day.

A mosque and homes were destroyed as well as residential homes in the city, with tens of injuries also reported.

Fighting continues in the southern city of Khan Younis, with the Israeli military announcing it has killed dozens of Palestinian fighters over the past 24 hours.

Clashes between Hezbollah and Israel were also reported on the Israel-Lebanon border, with the deaths of three of its members in the cross-border exchange.

Israel's war on Gaza has killed 27,478 Palestinians since 7 October, with a further 66,835 reported wounded according to Gaza's health authorities. 

5:17 PM

The live blog has now ended and will be back at tomorrow 9am GMT. You can read more of The New Arab's coverage of Israel's war on Gaza here.

UNRWA chief visits Gulf countries in bid to plug funding gap
5:07 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The head of the main UN Palestinian relief agency, UNRWA, is visiting three Gulf states this week to drum up support after donors suspended funding following Israeli allegations that some of the agency's staff were involved in the 7 October attack.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said on X he met with the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday to discuss UNRWA's work in "preserving the stability in the region" and delivering aid to two million people in Gaza.

He also said in a post on X that he held discussions with the Prime Minister of Qatar to discuss how to continue supporting the UNRWA.

Spokesperson Juliette Touma told Reuters that Lazzarini would visit Kuwait later this week.

"We are hoping those that paused [funding] will reconsider and others will step forward as well," she said.

Kuwait and Qatar rank 19th and 20th in UNRWA's list of top 20 donors, giving $12 million and $10.5 million respectively in 2022. The United Arab Emirates was not listed.

Iraqi MP threatens to cut off oil to Jordan over US strikes
4:22 PM
William Christou

An Iraqi MP, Mustafa Jabbar Sanad, has proposed cutting off subsidised oil exports to Jordan amid false rumours of the latter's participation in US airstrikes on Iraq on 2 February.

Sanad collected a list of signatures from other Iraqi parliamentarians calling for a vote on a resolution requiring the Ministry of Oil to stop selling oil to Jordan at subsidised prices. Jordan currently receives around 10,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Iraqi oil at subsidised prices under a May 2023 agreement.

"We must use our resources correctly to preserve the dignity of our country and protect the lives of our men, our pride and our national sovereignty," Sanad said.

You can read more about Jordan's alleged involvement in recent US airstrikes here.

Israel shelling north Gaza as fighting reported in Gaza City
4:06 PM
The New Arab Staff

The Israeli military is firing artillery into northern Gaza as clashes are being reported between Palestinian fighters and the Israeli army in different parts of Gaza city.

According to The New Arab's Arabic language service Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, fighting is being reported in the western areas of Gaza City, including around Gaza's universities. 

According to the Times of Israel, the military's 162nd division is increasing its operations in northern Gaza, with it's commander saying it was currently operating in Al-Shati refugee camp.

UNRWA chief: 100,000 killed, injured and missing in Gaza
3:53 PM
The New Arab Staff

The Commissioner-General of UNRWA Philippe Lazzarini has called for a ceasefire in Gaza, saying that in four months of war 100,000 people have been killed, injured or are currently missing in Gaza.

"This represents nearly 5 [percent] of the population. You can easily figure out what this would mean in your city or country," Lazzarini said.

He added that around 17,000 children are unaccompanied and that over 80 percent of the population is displaced.

"A ceasefire is long overdue," he said.


UN names independent panel to assess UNRWA agency in Gaza
3:27 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

An independent review group led by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna will assess the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Monday after Israel accused some UNRWA staff of taking part in the 7 October attack by Hamas militants.


Blinken lands in Saudi on latest Mideast crisis trip: AFP
2:42 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Saudi Arabia on Monday to kick off his latest regional crisis trip aimed at securing a new truce in the Gaza war.

The top US diplomat's plane touched down in Riyadh, said an AFP journalist travelling with him, the first stop on Blinken's fifth tour of the Middle East since October 7.


US Secretary of State Blinken disembarks from the plane upon his arrival in KSA [Getty]
Israeli settler violence 'must stop': French FM
2:40 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said Monday that Israeli "settler violence must stop" against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, following a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Under no circumstances can there be forced displacement of Palestinians, neither out of Gaza nor out of the West Bank," Sejourne said during a Middle East tour aimed at securing a truce between Israel and Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza.

Netanyahu: Gaza victory will deal 'fatal blow' to Hamas
2:37 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that an Israeli victory against Hamas in Gaza will deal a "fatal blow" to the Palestinian group and other Iran-backed groups in the region.

"A complete victory will deal a fatal blow to the axis of evil that is Iran, Hezbollah, the Houthis and of course Hamas," Netanyahu said in an address to army commanders, according to a statement issued by his office.

Gaza death toll rises as 113 killed by Israel in 24 hours
2:08 PM
The New Arab Staff

Gaza's health authorities announced that 113 Palestinians have been killed in the last 24 hours as Israel continues its war on Gaza. A further 205 Palestinians were also injured.

The new figures raise the death toll to 27,478 Palestinians killed with further 66,835 wounded.

Amnesty slams 'shocking' Israeli use of force in West Bank
12:59 PM
The New Arab Staff

Amnesty International has condemned the "shocking spike" in the use of force by Israeli forces during raids in the occupied West Bank.

In a statement released on Monday, Amnesty said "Israeli forces have over the past four months unleashed a brutal wave of violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank".

It added that it had been investigating four "emblematic" incidents of the unlawful use of lethal force which resulted in the deaths of 20 Palestinians. 

Erika Guevara-Rosas, the organisations Director of Global Research, Advocacy and Policy, said that "Israeli forces have unleashed unlawful lethal force against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, carrying out unlawful killings and displaying a chilling disregard for Palestinian lives."

She noted that the killings were illegal under international law and that Israel's authorities were "unwilling to ensure justice for Palestinian victims," adding that the International Criminal Court must investigate the killings.

Iran says wont hesitate to respond to US attack on territory
12:49 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Iran said on Monday it "will not hesitate" to respond in the event of US attacks on its territory after the White House declined to say whether strikes on Iran were ruled out.

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said: "The Islamic Republic has shown that it has always reacted decisively to any threat to its security, territorial integrity and sovereignty."

Iran "will not hesitate to use its capabilities" to respond to any attacks on its soil, he said during his weekly press briefing.

He nonetheless reiterated that Iran "does not seek to aggravate tensions and crises in the region".

His comments come after White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Sunday the US will press on with its retaliation against Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria.

Asked whether the United States would rule out the possibility of striking Iran directly, Sullivan told NBC, "it would not be wise for me to talk about what we're ruling in and ruling out."

"If [Iran] chose to respond directly to the United States, they would be met with a swift and forceful response from us," he said.

Spain to give UNRWA extra $3.8m after donor suspension
12:44 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Spain will send the United Nations' Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA an additional 3.5 million euros ($3.8 million) in aid, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares told lawmakers on Monday.

"UNRWA's situation is desperate and there is a serious risk that its humanitarian activities will be paralysed in Gaza within a few weeks," Albares told lawmakers.

Madrid contributed 18.5 million euros directly to UNRWA in 2023, including 10 million euros approved in December following the decision to triple development and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territories.

On Friday, neighboring Portugal announced additional aid to UNRWA worth one million euros. Foreign Minister Joao Cravinho wrote on social media platform X it was essential "not to turn our backs on the Palestinian population at this difficult time".


UNRWA: Food convoy 'hit by Israeli naval gunfire'
11:35 AM
The New Arab Staff

Director of UNRWA Affairs in Gaza Tomas White has said that a food convoy waiting to move into northern Gaza was attacked by Israeli ships this morning. 

"This morning a food convoy wanting to move into Northern Gaza was hit by Israeli naval gunfire," White said, adding that "thankfully no one was injured."

Israel FM: 'Time running out' for diplomacy in south Lebanon
11:34 AM
The New Arab Staff

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Monday "time is running out" to reach a diplomatic solution in south Lebanon, as tensions flare between the two countries, with daily cross-border fire.

"Israel will act militarily to return the evacuated citizens" to its northern border area if no diplomatic solution is reached to end the violence, Katz told his visiting French counterpart Stephane Sejourne, according to a statement issued by the Israeli foreign ministry.

Israel's El Al won't restart Ireland, Morocco flights
11:16 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

El Al Israel Airlines Ltd will not restart its direct flights to Dublin, the Irish capital, and the Moroccan city of Marrakech for the coming summer season, the flag carrier said on Monday, citing changes in customer demands following Israel's war on Gaza.

The Dublin flights were launched last March and had been due to continue through November, but were curtailed a few weeks after Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October, an El Al statement said. The Marrakech flights were halted in October amid Israeli advisories against travel to Morocco, it added.

(Reuters & The New Arab Staff)

Houthis: Italy will be targeted should it join Yemen strikes
11:09 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Italy will become a target if it takes part in attacks against Yemen, a senior official from Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis said in an interview published on Monday.

Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthi's supreme revolutionary committee, told daily La Repubblica that Italy must be neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and put pressure on Israel to stop attacks on Gaza, adding that would be the only way to achieve peace in the region.

Italy said on Friday it would provide the admiral in command of a European Union Red Sea naval mission it has joined to protect ships from attacks by Yemen's Houthi militia.

The mandate of the mission, which will be launched in mid-February, will be to protect commercial ships and intercept attacks, but not take part in strikes against the Houthis, the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has said. 


Russia to summon Israeli ambassador over interview comments
11:07 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Russia's foreign ministry will summon Israeli ambassador Simona Halperin over "unacceptable comments" she made in an interview, the TASS news agency cited the ministry as saying on Monday.

Halperin, according to the ministry, misrepresented Russia's foreign policy stance in the interview with Russia's Kommersant daily, published on Sunday.

The ministry described her comments as "an extremely unsuccessful start" to her diplomatic posting, which began last December.

In the interview, Halperin criticised Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for playing down the importance of the Holocaust and said Russia was being too friendly with Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.


PRCS: Israel 'summoned' senior personnel of Al-Amal hospital
10:51 AM
The New Arab Staff

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) Israeli forces have "summoned" the General manager of Al-Amal Hospital Dr Haider Al-Qaddura and the Administrative Director Maher Atallah, who are now currently being held in an unknown location.

PRCS said that the incident came following the reported approval of safe passage out of the hospital towards the area of Mawasi by Israel. Hundreds of people have reportedly left the hospital grounds for the area.

EU's Borrell warns against cutting UNRWA funds
9:52 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned on Sunday that moves to suspend the funding of UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA were extremely ill-advised.

"Defunding UNRWA would be both disproportionate and dangerous," Borrell said of the agency which has lost funding from several governments including the US, over the alleged involvement of six employees in the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel.

"While some important donors suspended funding, there is a wide recognition that UNRWA is central to providing vital aid to more than 1.1 million people in Gaza suffering from catastrophic hunger and the outbreak of diseases."

"Defunding the agency would put hundreds of thousands of lives at risk," said Borrell.

He added in a blog article that "the agency has taken immediate steps and launched an investigation," calling the allegations serious and which should not go unpunished if true.

Palestinian Foreign Ministry: Smotrich statements racist
9:19 AM
The New Arab Staff

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry has condemned the remarks of Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich, calling his remarks on new settlements colonial and racist, as well as an "explicit call for escalation."

"Ending the occupation and the Palestinian people's attainment of their national rights is the only way to achieve security and stability on the Palestinian and Israeli sides," the statement said.

"We call for the imposition of deterrent international sanctions on the leaders of the Israeli extreme right for boasting of violating international law and inciting violence," it added.

Japan's Itochu ends cooperation with Israel's Elbit Systems
9:16 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Itochu Corp's aviation unit will end its strategic cooperation with Israeli defence company Elbit Systems Ltd by the end of February over the war in Gaza, the Japanese trading house's executive said on Monday.

Itochu Aviation, Elbit Systems and Nippon Aircraft Supply (NAS) signed the strategic cooperation memorandum of understanding (MoU) in March 2023.

Itochu plans to end the collaboration after the World Court ordered Israel last month to prevent acts of genocide against Palestinians and do more to help civilians, Itochu Chief Financial Officer Tsuyoshi Hachimura said.

"The partnership is based on a request from the Japan's defence ministry for the purpose of importing defence equipment for the Self-Defense Forces necessary for Japan's security, and is not in any way related to the current conflict between Israel and Palestine," Hachimura told an earnings news conference.

"Taking into consideration the International Court of Justice's order on January 26, and that the Japanese government supports the role of the Court, we have already suspended new activities related to the MOU, and plan to end the MOU by the end of February," he said.


US-backed SDF says six killed in drone strike on US base
9:13 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Monday that six of their fighters had been killed in a drone strike that came from areas of Syria's Deir ez-Zor under the control of the Syrian government.

Two local sources said the drone had come from an area where Iranian-backed proxies are active and regularly launch strikes. They said it had struck a military academy in Al-Omar oil field that is located within a US base.

According to Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, at least 20 fighters were also wounded in the attack.

(Reuters & The New Arab Staff)