Gaza: Israel threatens assault on Rafah in Muslim fasting month of Ramadan

Gaza: Israel threatens assault on Rafah in Muslim fasting month of Ramadan
Day 136 of Israel's war on Gaza: Amid global warnings, Israel has threatened to invade the Gaza Strip's southernmost city of Rafah by the start of Ramadan.
9 min read
19 February, 2024

This live blog on day 136 of Israel's war on Gaza has concluded. Make sure to follow us for the latest news on FacebookX, and Instagram.

Israel has threatened to invade Gaza's Rafah by the start of Muslim fasting month of Ramadan if Hamas does not return the remaining hostages by then, despite international pressure to protect Palestinian civilians sheltering in the southern city.

With prospects for truce talks dimmed, the United States and other governments, as well as the United Nations, have issued increasingly urgent appeals to Israel to call off its planned offensive on Rafah.

The Israeli government claims the city on the Egypt border is the last remaining stronghold in Gaza of the Palestinian group Hamas.

But it is also where three-quarters of the displaced Palestinian population has fled, taking shelter in sprawling tent encampments without access to adequate food, water or medicine.

Thanks for following!
5:56 PM
The New Arab Staff

This blog on the Israeli war on Gaza has concluded for today. Thanks for following.

Brazil president recalls ambassador in Israel for talks
5:49 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has recalled his ambassador to Israel for consultations, according to a column in newspaper Folha de S. Paulo published on Monday.

The Brazilian ambassador had previously been summoned by Israel's foreign minister for a reprimand following comments by Lula likening the war in Gaza to the Nazi genocide during World War II.

26/27 EU countries call for "immediate humanitarian pause"
5:47 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

26 of the 27 EU countries call for "an immediate humanitarian pause that would lead to a sustainable ceasefire" in Gaza, EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters on Monday.

Borrell added that the 26 agreed to "require an immediate humanitarian pause that would lead to a sustainable ceasefire, to the unconditional release of hostages, and to the provision of humanitarian assistance".

Borrell did not say which EU country did not agree to the statement but diplomats say Hungary blocked a similar statement a few days ago.

UN experts urge probe of alleged Israeli abuses of women
4:59 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

UN rights experts called Monday for an independent probe into alleged Israeli abuses against Palestinian women and girls, including killings, rapes and sexual assault.

The statement by the seven independent UN experts prompted an angry reaction from Israel, which rejected the "despicable and unfounded claims".

The experts voiced alarm at "credible allegations of egregious human rights violations" targeting women and girls in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

US proposes UN resolution for temporary Gaza ceasefire
4:54 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The United States has proposed a rival draft United Nations Security Council resolution that would underscore the body's "support for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable," according to the text seen by Reuters on Monday.

The draft text also "determines that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries."

It said such a move "would have serious implications for regional peace and security, and therefore underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances."

It was not immediately clear when or if the draft resolution would be put to a vote. The United States put forward the text after Algeria requested the 15-member council vote on Tuesday on its draft resolution, which would demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the war.

Houthi attacks cut Suez Canal revenue by 40-50%: Sisi
4:08 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Monday that revenues from the Suez Canal had "decreased by 40 to 50 percent" so far this year due to attacks on shipping by Yemen's Huthi rebels.

The canal is one of the main sources of foreign currency for Egypt which is gripped by a severe financial crisis.

"See what is happening at our borders... with Gaza, you see the Suez Canal, which used to bring Egypt nearly $10 billion per year, (these revenues) have decreased by 40 to 50 percent and Egypt must continue to pay companies and partners," Sisi said during a conference with oil companies.

Israeli strikes hit near south Lebanon city of Sidon
3:26 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

At least two Israeli airstrikes hit close to Ghaziyeh on Monday, a town next to the southern Lebanese coastal city of Sidon.

It lies about 60 km north of the Israeli border where cross-border clashes with Hezbollah continue.

"Israeli warplanes carried out... strikes on the town of Ghaziyeh," the state-run National News Agency (NNA) said Monday, adding that a vehicle was targeted and ambulances rushed to the scene, without providing further details.

One of the strikes appeared to have targeted a hangar close to the main coastal highway.

The NNA had earlier in the afternoon reported an "enemy drone" at low altitude over the Sidon area.

Video circulating on social media showed large plumes of smoke arising from at least two strikes.

Lebanese army sources told Al Araby TV that the airstrikes resulted in eight light injuries.

Israel's Army Radio claimed the strikes targeted weapon depots belonging to Hezbollah in response to an attack earlier in the day.

Israeli protesters block aid convoys bound for Gaza
2:44 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Even as the threat of famine stalks the war-ravaged Gaza Strip, Israeli protesters have gathered repeatedly to stop desperately needed aid from getting into the Palestinian territory.

"You might say it's not acceptable to block food and water going in," said one protester, David Rudman, at the Nitzana border post between Israel and Egypt.

"But, given the situation we're in, it's acceptable," he argued as the Gaza war, siege and hostage crisis have continued into a fifth month.

The latest protest on Sunday came as Hamas threatened to suspend talks to free hostages unless more aid gets in.

Gaza doctor denies being arrested, says still in hospital
1:31 PM
The New Arab Staff

A Gaza doctor who was reported to have been arrested by Israeli forces says he is still at the besieged Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis.

"I am still in Nasser Hospital among my patients but many of my colleagues were arrested. In short, I lived 3 days in hell with my patients. What happened to the people here is unbelievable even in your worst nightmares," Dr Khaled Alserr said in a statement.

Spain could impose sanctions on violent Israeli settlers
1:28 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Spain will impose sanctions on violent Israeli settlers in the West Bank unilaterally if its European Union partners fail to reach an agreement on the issue, Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said on Monday.

He said Spain, which has also been critical of Israel's military offensive in Gaza, will push for the approval of such sanctions during a meeting of EU's foreign ministers held in Brussels on Monday.

"If there's no agreement, Spain will proceed individually with these sanctions against the violent settlers," Albares told reporters before the meeting.

ICJ releases Israel statement on court verdict on OPT
1:24 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The International Court of Justice on Monday released a statement by Israel from June 2023 which warned that an advisory opinion by the court on the Palestinian territories would be harmful to any negotiated resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Qatar criticises Netanyahu over pressure on hostages release
11:23 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Conflict mediator Qatar on Monday criticised comments from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which it said he asked the Gulf state to pressure Hamas into freeing Israeli hostages, describing them as a new attempt to prolong the Gaza war.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said at the weekend that the pattern of negotiations for a framework ceasefire deal for the war in Gaza was "not very promising" in recent days.

"The Israeli Prime Minister's recent statements in which he calls on Qatar to pressure Hamas into releasing the (Israeli) hostages are nothing but a new attempt by him to delay and prolong the war for reasons that have become clear to everyone," Qatar's foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari posted in a statement on social media platform X.

It was unclear what comments from Netanyahu the Qatari statement was referring to.

14 patients evacuated from Nasser Hospital: ministry
11:18 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Fourteen patients were evacuated from a Gaza hospital that has been raided by Israeli troops, the Gaza health ministry said on Monday.

The ministry said the evacuated patients, including five who required kidney dialysis and three intensive care cases, were moved from the hospital to others in southern Gaza thanks to efforts by the World Health Organization.

The ministry later added that 25 medical staff and 136 patients were without electricity, food, water, oxygen or the necessary medical capabilities.

29,092 killed, over 69,000 wounded in Gaza: health ministry
10:45 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

More than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in the territory since the start of the Israel's war on Gaza, the enclave's health ministry said Monday.

The ministry said 107 bodies were brought to hospitals in the last 24 hours. That brings the total number of fatalities to 29,092 since the start of the war.

Qatar minister urges Gaza truce to end Red Sea insecurity
9:46 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Qatar's Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi on Monday called for a ceasefire in Gaza to end insecurity in the Red Sea which has disrupted hydrocarbon deliveries in the vital shipping route.

The minister, who is also the chief executive of state-owned hydrocarbon giant QatarEnergy, said the "root of the problem" in the Red Sea, where Iran-backed Houthi rebels have targeted commercial vessels, "is the Israeli invasion of Gaza".

"Hopefully there is a ceasefire soon that will stop that so that the economic impact on the entire world stops," he told a news conference at a ground breaking ceremony for a mega petrochemical plant on Qatar's northeast coast.

Israeli occupation must come to unconditional end: Al-Maliki
9:31 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

We call on the ICJ to announce the illegality of the Israeli occupation. This occupation should come to an unconditional end: Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki

Al-Maliki implores ICJ not to forget Palestinian people
9:29 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki implored on the ICJ today not to forget the Palestinian people during a hearing at The Hague.

Israel defying ICJ order to stop genocidal acts: Al-Maliki
9:23 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel is defying the ICJ's order to stop genocidal acts in Gaza with impunity: Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki

Yemen's Houthis say Rubymar cargo ship targeted, could sink
9:10 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Yemen’s Houthis targeted the Rubymar cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden and it is now at risk of sinking, the group’s military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said in a statement on Monday.

The ship is British and the crew are safe, he said, adding the Houthis had also shot down a U.S drone in Hodeidah.

A Belize-flagged, UK-registered and Lebanese-operated open hatch general cargo ship came under attack in the Bab al-Mandab Strait off Yemen on Sunday, British maritime security firm Ambrey said.

The UK Maritime Trade Operations agency reported the crew had abandoned a ship off Yemen after an explosion.

Norway to facilitate transfer of funds to PA
8:47 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Norway has agreed to help facilitate the transfer of frozen tax funds earmarked for the Palestinian Authority (PA) that were collected by Israel, the Norwegian government said on Sunday, providing vital funding to the Western-backed entity.

The temporary solution will allow payments to resume and prevent a financial collapse for the PA, enabling it to pay salaries and provide essential services such as schools and healthcare, Norway said.

"This is critical to promoting stability in the region and for the Palestinian Authority to have legitimacy among its people," Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said.

Under the solution agreed with Israel and Palestinian officials, Norway will serve as an intermediary for holding revenues that Israel has withheld since October 7.

"The Palestinian Authority is then willing to accept the other funds," Norway said.

Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in occupied West Bank
8:45 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Two Palestinian men, including a member of an armed group, were killed Sunday in an Israeli raid, while a third was shot at a checkpoint, in the latest violence in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian health ministry said the two, aged 19 and 36, were pronounced dead from gunshot wounds after the raid in the Tulkarm refugee camp, which the United Nations says houses over 27,000 Palestinian refugees.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, identified the elder of the pair as a local commander. His brother also called him "a member of the resistance".

ICJ to open hearings into Israeli occupation
8:42 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Historic hearings are opening on Monday at the United Nations' top court into the legality of Israel’s 57-year occupation of lands sought for a Palestinian state.

Palestinian representatives will speak first as the International Court of Justice begins hearing legal arguments following a request submitted by the U.N. General Assembly for a non-binding advisory opinion into Israel's policies in the occupied territories.