Gaza war: Dozens wounded in Israeli attack on UNRWA hub

Gaza war: Dozens wounded in Israeli attack on UNRWA hub
The Palestinian UN agency has confirmed the attack on the aid centre that has led to the killing of at least five staffers and wounding several others.
20 min read
13 March, 2024

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Wednesday said a number of its staff members were killed in an Israeli strike struck a food distribution centre in war-hit Gaza.

A statement issued by the agency said "another 22 were injured when Israeli forces hit a food distribution centre in the eastern part of Rafah" in southern Gaza.

It came as donor nations, aid agencies and charities pushed on with efforts to rush food to the impoverished territory.

A Spanish charity vessel, the Open Arms, was on its way to Gaza from Cyprus, after setting sail a day earlier towing a barge with 200 tonnes of aid, in a first voyage meant to open a maritime corridor.

Israeli forces have also continued carrying out raids across the occupied West Bank, as overnight attacks have left multiple Palestinians dead. 

A 13-year-old Palestinian boy from a refugee camp on the outskirts of Jerusalem was also shot dead by Israeli forces on Tuesday, Palestinian health officials said.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said it treated five people wounded by Israeli fire.

Over the past 24 hours, Israeli airstrikes have additionally killed and wounded dozens of civilians, including four children in Gaza City’s Daraj neighbourhood, according to the Palestinian news agency Wafa.

11:59 PM

The New Arab's live coverage of the latest events relating to the war on Gaza has come to an end today. Join us again tomorrow at 0800 GMT for the latest updates.

S. Africa says citizens fighting in Israel will be arrested
9:42 PM

South Africa's foreign minister says her country's citizens who fight in the Israeli armed forces or alongside them in Gaza will be arrested when they return home, deepening the rift between the nations after South Africa laid accusations of genocide against Israel at the United Nations' top court.

Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor made the comment earlier this week at a Palestinian solidarity event attended by officials from South Africa's ruling African National Congress party.

She also encouraged people to protest outside the embassies of what she called the “five primary supporters” of Israel and its military action in Gaza .

She didn’t name them but almost certainly was referring to the United States, the UK and Germany among others.

“I have already issued a statement alerting those who are South African and are fighting alongside or in the Israeli Defense Forces: We are ready. When you come home, we are going to arrest you,” Pandor said, to rapturous applause from the audience.

EU Council president calls for pause in Gaza fighting
8:39 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Charles Michel says a humanitarian pause is urgently needed, as well as the release of all captives.

“The EU will continue to insist on increasing urgently [needed] humanitarian aid, protection of all civilians and respect of international humanitarian law,” he said in a post on X.

Israel’s war on Gaza, raging since October 7, has caused mass civilian deaths, reduced vast areas to a rubble-strewn wasteland and sparked warnings of looming famine in the Palestinian territory of 2.3 million people.

EU calls on Israel to open additional crossings
7:28 PM
The New Arab Staff

The EU has called on Israel to open additional crossings besides the Cyprus maritime corridor so that more aid can reach Gaza.

"While supporting the Cyprus maritime corridor, we call on Israel to open additional crossings so more aid can reach Gaza, including the North, and to ease overall customs restrictions", EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said on social media platform X.

The statement came after Lenarcic virtually met with Cypriot Foreign Affairs Minister Constantinos Kombos, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, British Foreign Minister David Cameron, UAE Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Qatari Foreign Affairs Minister Abdulrahman Al Thani and UN Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza Sigrid Kaag.

US working to get maritime corridor into Gaza up and running
7:03 PM

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he held a video conference with officials from Cyprus, Britain, the UAE, Qatar, the European Union and the United Nations to discuss getting a new maritime corridor for getting humanitarian aid into Gaza up and running.

Blinken said the corridor, once established, would enable the distribution of up to 2 million meals in Gaza, where aid agencies say Israel's five-month-long war on the besieged strip has driven much of the population to the brink of famine.

UN agency says Israel struck Gaza warehouse
6:42 PM
The New Arab Staff

The main UN aid agency in war-ravaged Gaza said an Israeli strike hit one of its warehouses, killing an employee, as calls intensified for land routes to bring food into the besieged territory.

"At least one UNRWA staff member was killed and another 22 were injured when Israeli forces hit a food distribution centre in the eastern part of Rafah" in southern Gaza, the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees said in a statement.

The agency's chief, Philippe Lazzarini, said the "attack on one of the very few remaining UNRWA distribution centres in the Gaza Strip comes as food supplies are running out, hunger is widespread and, in some areas, turning into famine".

UN: Israeli tank strike killed Reuters reporter
6:06 PM
The New Arab Staff

An Israeli tank killed Reuters reporter Issam Abdallah in Lebanon in October by firing two 120mm rounds at a group of “clearly identifiable journalists” in violation of international law, a UN probe has found.

The investigation by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon – summarised in a report seen by the Reuters news agency – said its personnel had not recorded any exchange of fire across the border between Israel and Lebanon for more than 40 minutes before the Israeli Merkava tank opened fire.

“It is assessed that there was no exchange of fire across the Blue Line at the time of the incident. The reason for the strikes on the journalists is not known,” the report said.

Besides killing Abdallah, the two tank rounds also wounded six other journalists at the scene.

“The [Israeli military] deplores any injury to uninvolved parties and does not deliberately shoot at civilians, including journalists,” army spokesperson Nir Dinar said. “The [Israeli military] considers the freedom of the press to be of utmost importance while clarifying that being in a warzone is dangerous.”

MSF condemns Jenin hospital attacks
5:46 PM
The New Arab Staff

The international medical charity Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) says Israel’s attack was just the “latest act of appalling violence” at the facility.

“In the last months, our team has witnessed bullets and tear gas grenades being fired at the facility, a minor being killed, ambulances being obstructed, and healthcare professionals being targeted,” Samuel Johann, MSF project coordinator in Jenin, said in a series of posts on X.

“Shooting people in a hospital, or any act of violence in a healthcare facility, is completely unacceptable. We unequivocally condemn the continued attacks on healthcare facilities.”

‘Stop Arming Israel’ protesters block San Francisco airport
5:33 PM
The New Arab Staff

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters have shut down part of the San Francisco International Airport to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the end of all US military assistance to Israel.

Demonstrators chanted “Free, free Palestine” while holding a banner that read “Stop Arming Israel” as they blocked access to security gates inside the international terminal in northern California.

Protesters also halted traffic outside the departure entrance, blocking all lanes while marching in a circle with Palestinian flags.

Israel’s war on Gaza has sparked mass demonstrations in major cities across the United States and led to repeated interruptions at US President Joe Biden’s campaign events.



Dutch PM Rutte urges Netanyahu to increase Gaza aid
5:12 PM
The New Arab Staff

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte urged his Israeli counterpart to “drastically reduce the level of force” unleashed on the coastal enclave.

“Further escalation must be prevented and an Israeli offensive in Rafah would cause a humanitarian disaster,” he added.

Gaza aid port plans 'sign of international weakness'
4:50 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Efforts to deliver aid to war-torn Gaza by constructing a seaport or through airdrops are a sign of international powerlessness to tend the conflict, the head of Amnesty International said Wednesday.

Agnes Callamard, Amnesty's secretary general, said nobody was holding Israel to account over the delays to deliveries by land.

"The international community must be prepared to hold Israel to account... We're not holding the stick that will allow for those violations to stop," she said in Madrid.

"So the airdrops, the construction of a port, are a sign of powerlessness and weakness on the part of the international community."

Callamard said it was a "huge concern" that the international community seemed to have accepted that the deadly conflict would drag on for another two months.

"A huge concern is that the proposed investment into building a port and transporting humanitarian assistance via sea appears to indicate that the international community... are expecting the situation to last. Why are you making an investment that is going to take two months?" she said.

"That is extremely worrisome. More than 30,000 people have died."

Israeli tank strike killed 'clearly identifiable' reporter
4:08 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

 An Israeli tank killed Reuters reporter Issam Abdallah in Lebanon last year by firing two 120 mm rounds at a group of "clearly identifiable journalists" in violation of international law, a UN investigation into the October 13 incident has found.

The investigation by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said its personnel did not record any exchange of fire across the border between Israel and Lebanon for more than 40 minutes before the Israeli Merkava tank opened fire.

"The firing at civilians, in this instance clearly identifiable journalists, constitutes a violation of UNSCR 1701 (2006) and international law," the UNIFIL report said, referring to Security Council resolution 1701.

The seven-page report dated February 27 said further: "It is assessed that there was no exchange of fire across the Blue Line at the time of the incident. The reason for the strikes on the journalists is not known."

Under resolution 1701, adopted in 2006 to bring an end to the war between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, UN peacekeepers were deployed to monitor a ceasefire along the 120 km (75 mile) demarcation line, or Blue Line, between Israel and Lebanon.

As part of their mission, UN troops record violations of the ceasefire and investigate the most egregious cases.

Besides killing Abdallah, the two tank rounds also wounded six other journalists at the scene.

UK defence secretary Shapps to prevent dropping aid to Gaza
4:05 PM
The New Arab Staff

UK defence secretary Grant Shapps has said that he is set to block to Britain’s humanitarian air drops on Gaza, according to a report by Bloomberg.

According to the news publication, his decision was over the concern of any harm could potentially cause onto civilians. 

This comes after five Palestinians were killed by failed air drops last weeks, as videos surfaced of children who were attempting to reach aid that was dropped from high altitudes that could risk danger. 

Netanyahu tells Rutte that military operation is needed
3:24 PM
The New Arab Staff

Israeli media outlets have reported Israeli prime minister having told his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte during a meeting in Jerusalem that a military operation in Rafah is needed to win the win and emphasised that Israel will continue its offensive. 

Netanyahu reportedly thanked Rutte for his country backing the decision to suspend funds to the UN Palestinian refugee agency- as well claiming that Israel would replace the agency.

The Israeli prime minister also reaffirmed his position in opposing a Palestinian state- which he argued would be a win for Hamas.

Israeli forces strike UNRWA warehouse in Rafah
2:30 PM
The New Arab Staff

An warehouse by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Rafah that was used as a humanitarian centre has been targeted in the latest Israeli strike- which has led to several casualties.

UNRWA has since confirmed that one of its aid warehouses was "hit", with "scores" of people injured as a result.

"We can confirm that an UNRWA warehouse/distribution centre in Rafah has been hit," UNRWA spokeswoman Juliette Touma told news agency AFP, and also said there were "scores injured."

Gaza's health ministry reported that at least five people were killed in the "bombing of the warehouse."

PRCS extracts six bodies after Deir al Balah attack
1:37 PM
The New Arab Staff

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has released a video that showed one of its teams receiving a phone call from a Palestinian family whose relatives were stuck under the rubble of their destroyed home in Deir el-Balah by Israeli shelling.

The organisation stated that its teams had so far retrieved six bodies, as well as rescuing nine injured people from under the rubble.

Australia reportedly axes visas of evacuated Gazan families
1:01 PM
The New Arab Staff

Australian news outlet SBS News reports that the Australian government has cancelled a number of visitor visas issued to families fleeing Gaza, as they were boarding on their flights.

According to SBS, advocacy group Palestine Australia Relief and Action (PARA) had expressed its concern and identified several cases where Palestinians were issued their Australian visas, and had taken security checks, travelled through the Rafah border into Egypt and took flights to Australia.

"This whole uncertainty and not knowing what's going on is causing significant distress and significant concern amongst the community and the family members in [Australia]," PARA co-founder Rasha Abbas told SBS News.

"We're really asking the government to show some compassion towards the Australian family members and their family members who've left the horrors of Gaza."

"But during their transit period between flights, they received notification that their once-approved visas had been cancelled. SBS News has seen a number of these visa cancellation notices," the report said.

"The delegate considered you never intended a genuine stay temporarily in Australia and therefore the visa was granted based on circumstances which never existed," the notices read.

According to SBS, these are the same types of visitor visa arrangements issued to Ukrainians when they were able to relocate to Australia.

Israel’s attorney general warns Ben-Gvir on intervening case
12:43 PM
The New Arab Staff

Israeli attorney general Gali Baharav-Miara has written a letter telling far-right national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to avoid intervening a case of an Israeli police officer who is being questioned over the shooting of 13-year-old Palestinian teen Rami El Halhuli, according to Israeli news publication The Times of Israel.

The retaliation came after Ben-Gvir made a surprise appearance at the Department of Internal Police Investigations (DIPI) to show solidarity with the police officer who allegedly shot the teenager while he was playing with fireworks.

“It is outrageous to me that DIPI even dared to invite the fighter here for questioning, it is shameful and disgraceful,” Ben-Gvir was quoted by The Times of Israel as saying in a video posted on social media platform X.

 Baharav-Miara said in a direct address to Ben-Gvir that "criminal investigations, including those of police officers, are conducted with complete independence."

"Any intervention by you, directly or indirectly, violates the law … this should be stopped immediately," Baharav-Miara said.

Turkey: Aid drops, maritime plan positive but not solutions
12:39 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Turkey views the airdrop of humanitarian aid to Gaza and a plan to deliver aid via a maritime route as positive developments, but thinks they fall short of resolving the core problem, the foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Oncu Keceli told reporters at a briefing in Ankara that Turkey had sent 9,000 tons of medical equipment and aid for infants, as well as many parachutes to Jordan for the air drops, but added these were not enough to alleviate the struggle of Gazans.

"We view the United States searching for a solution to the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza as the result of the pressure imposed on it by the global public. On the other hand, we say that the real source of the problem needs to be solved," he said.

"Attempting to send aid via air, sea is admirable in a way. But focusing on such palliative solutions rather than focusing on the real issue seems, to us, as seeking to escape from the root of the issue," he said, adding that Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan and his delegation conveyed this to US officials during talks in Washington last week.

Keceli said sending in aid by ground was easier, cheaper and more effective.

The United Nations has warned that widespread famine in the Gaza Strip is "almost inevitable" without urgent action. A formal conclusion that famine has arrived in the coastal enclave of 2.3 million people could come this week. 

Israeli forces kill 2 Palestinians at West Bank hospital
12:14 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinian men at a hospital in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, an official said, the latest in a spate of killings in the occupied territory since the war in Gaza began.

The killings before dawn took place on the compound of the government hospital in Jenin, in the north of the West Bank, the hospital's director, Wissam Bakr, told French news agency AFP.

"It is true that shots were fired at a group of young men" near the entrance to the emergency department, "and there were no confrontations or anything," Bakr said.

"Snipers started shooting at them after which the two men entered the emergency department where they were martyred."

Bakr added that four other people were injured in the incident.

Asked about the reported deaths, the Israeli military said soldiers "fired toward armed suspects identified in the area" and that "hits were identified", but did not confirm fatalities.

Anglican head: UK's new extremism definition risks division
12:04 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, head of the global Anglican communion, warned on Wednesday that a new definition of extremism set to be unveiled by the UK government risks stoking division.

Welby and his de facto deputy in the Church of England, Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell, said in a joint statement on Tuesday that the new definition "risks disproportionately targeting Muslim communities, who are already experiencing rising levels of hate and abuse."

Senior minister Michael Gove is expected to produce the new official definition later this week, following on from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's warning earlier this month of a "shocking increase in extremist disruption and criminality".

Sunak's comments, made in a Downing Street address to the nation, targeted regular pro-Palestinian protests in London.

Welby told BBC radio on Wednesday that leaks and press reports of the new definition suggested it "has a danger of hollowing out the centre... and driving people to one extreme or the other", which he said was "very, very dangerous".

In their joint statement on Tuesday, Welby and Cottrell warned that it could end up "labelling a multi-faceted problem as hateful extremism" and "may instead vilify the wrong people".

It could also threaten freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest, they said.

"We join calls for the government to reconsider its approach," added the senior clerics.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby attends the 100th Diocesan Synod in Portugal [Getty]
Israel parliament set to approve amended Gaza war budget
11:58 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli lawmakers were set to give their final approval on Wednesday to an amended 2024 state budget that adds tens of billions of shekels to fund Israel's war in Gaza.

The amended budget envisages more spending on defence and compensation to households and businesses hurt by the conflict, which is now approaching 160 days of the conflict.

Members of the Knesset, or parliament, have resumed debate on the spending package of 584 billion shekels ($160 billion), or 724 billion including debt repayment. The plan also includes higher allocations for health, education, police and welfare.

The budget requires three rounds of voting to become law. The Knesset gave its initial approval a month ago and the second and third rounds are expected on Wednesday or early on Thursday, depending on the length of the debate, which is often rowdy.

The budget envisages a deficit of 6.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2024, revised from a pre-war level of 2.25%.

In February, the deficit rose to 5.6% over the previous 12 months from 4.8% in January.

Israel last year approved a two-year budget for 2023 and 2024, but the Gaza war has shaken up government finances, requiring budget changes and additional spending.

The budget has become politically charged, in particular over payments Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed under a 2022 coalition accord with Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and the heads of other religious parties.

Despite calls by the central bank and opposition lawmakers to cut spending not related to the war, most of the so-called coalition funds will still be allocated. However, there will be some tax hikes this year on cigarettes and tobacco products and on bank profits.

Moody's last month downgraded Israel's credit rating to A2, citing material political and fiscal risks for the country stemming from the war. It was the first time that Israel's rating has ever been cut.

Israeli military says it killed 'significant' Hamas member
11:55 AM
The New Arab Staff

The Israeli military has confirmed the killing of Hamas member Hadi Ali Mustafa in southern Lebanon on Wednesday.

It said Mustafa, who was struck in the Lebanese city of Tyre, was said to be a "significant" Hamas operative who was responsible for attacks against Israel.

Palestinian teen accused of stabbing attack pronounced dead
10:51 AM
The New Arab Staff

A Palestinian teenage boy who was accused of carrying out a stabbing attack against two Israelis at a Jerusalem checkpoint has died after being shot by Israeli forces, according to Israeli police.

The boy, aged 15, allegedly stabbed a security guard and military police soldier at the checkpoint, before being shot by a military official.

Health ministry in Gaza says death toll at 31,272
10:30 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The health ministry in Gaza said Wednesday that at least 31,272 people have been killed in the territory during more than five months of war in the besieged territory. 

The latest toll includes at least 88 deaths over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, adding that 73,024 people have been wounded in Gaza since the war began.

Hamas says member was killed in Israeli attack near Tyre
9:58 AM
The New Arab Staff

Hamas has issued a statement announcing that its member Hani Mustafa, based in the Rashidieh Palestinian refugee camp near Tyre, was one of those killed during an Israeli drone attack on a car he was travelling in, as cited by Lebanon 24 news outlet. 

The attack targeted the car as it drove down al-Hosh road, south of Tyre and near the Rashidieh camp.

Lebanon24 also reported that a Syrian man who was travelling with Mustafa was killed in the attack, while a third person was injured.

Israel strike on car in south Lebanon kills at least one
9:33 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

At least one person was killed and three others wounded in an Israeli strike on a car in southern Lebanon on Wednesday, the official National News Agency reported.

The identity of the person killed was not immediately known.

On Tuesday, Israeli strikes on eastern Lebanon killed two Hezbollah members, after a strike in the same region deep inside the country on Monday killed one person.

Hezbollah early Tuesday said it launched "more than 100 Katyusha rockets" at two military bases in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights "in response to Israeli attacks... most recently near the city of Baalbek", a bastion of the group in the east.

Since hostilities began, at least 320 people, mainly Hezbollah fighters but also 54 civilians, have been killed in Lebanon.

In Israel, at least 10 soldiers and seven civilians have been killed in the cross-border hostilities.

Firefighters douse a burning car after it was hit in a reported Israeli attack [Getty]
Germany joins operation to airdrop aid into Gaza
9:03 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Germany said Wednesday it was joining an air bridge operation along with several other countries to drop desperately needed humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.

The operation, initiated by Jordan, already has the participation of several other countries including France and the United States.

The defence ministry said it would deploy the German part of a joint German-French air transport squadron to participate in the mission.

The team is equipped with C-130J Hercules transport planes, said the ministry, adding that Germany's operation could begin as soon as the end of this week.

"The people in Gaza are lacking the most basic necessities. We want to do our part to ensure that they get access to food and medicine," said Defence Minister Boris Pistorius.

After one parachuted airdrop turned lethal on March 8, the minister sought to allay fears.

"The truth is that airdrops are not without danger. The crews responsible are trained for the relevant procedures and highly experienced," he said.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius looks on during his visit to Helsinki [Getty]
Greek military ship takes down drones in Red Sea
8:09 AM
The New Arab Staff

A Greek military frigate has shot down two drones, according to a Greek defence official, in order to set them back.

The military ship was part of the EU-led naval mission, named Aspides, which was first announced in February to help defend cargo ships against attacks by Houthis in Yemen that are hampering trade and driving up prices,

The U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM)also  said on Tuesday the Houthis fired on Tuesday one close-range ballistic missile from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen toward USS Laboon in the Red Sea, but it did not hit the vessel and there were no injuries or damage reported.

Israeli forces continue overnight raid in occupied West Bank
8:03 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli forces killed at least three Palestinians in two separate deadly raids overnight, including 13-year-old Rami Hamdan al-Halhuli, who had hurled fireworks at the paramilitary Border Police in retaliation.

The Palestinian Authority said he was shot dead late Tuesday in the Shuafat refugee camp on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

The Border Police also said they opened fire at five Palestinians who were hurling firebombs at vehicles on a highway near Jerusalem late Tuesday. It says they were arrested and transferred for medical treatment.

The Palestinian Health Ministry says Israeli forces killed two Palestinians, ages 16 and 23, and wounded three in the village of al-Jib, near Jerusalem. It says they were brought to a hospital in the nearby city of Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority is headquartered.

Pilot project for direct aid delivery to north Gaza begins
8:00 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Six aid trucks crossed from Israel directly into northern Gaza on Tuesday as part of a pilot project for ensuring the delivery of supplies into the area, the Israeli army announced.

Aid groups have been warning of the risk of famine in besieged Gaza for weeks, and the United Nations has reported particular difficulty in accessing the territory's north for deliveries of food and other humanitarian supplies.

According to the army, six World Food Programme (WFP) aid trucks "entered the northern Gaza Strip via the '96th' gate on the security fence" on Tuesday.

Israel has maintained strict control over aid entering the Gaza Strip since the outbreak of its war.

The cumbersome screenings are a major reason current shortages are so glaring, aid workers say, and the shipments struggle to reach northern Gaza.