Israel continues to shell Rafah as Biden threatens arms suspension

Israel continues to shell Rafah as Biden threatens arms suspension
The US has threatened to stop supplying weapons to Israel if it goes ahead with an assault on Rafah, where 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering.
26 min read

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Israel shelled Rafah on Thursday as US President Joe Biden offered his starkest warning yet over the conduct of its war on Gaza, vowing to cut off arms transfers if an offensive into the southern Gaza city goes ahead.

Israel has already defied international objections by sending in tanks and conducting "targeted raids" in the border city, where an estimated 1.4 million displaced Palestinian civilians.

Israel on Thursday called the threat "very disappointing."

Biden told CNN that, "If they go into Rafah, I'm not supplying the weapons that have been used... to deal with the cities." He added: "We're not gonna supply the weapons and the artillery shells that have been used."

Israel early Tuesday seized Rafah's border crossing into Egypt, which has served as the main entry point for aid into besieged Gaza.

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12:24 AM
The New Arab Staff

This live blog on Israel's war on Gaza has now ended. Thanks for following.

US hold on arms for Israel sends 'wrong message': ambassador
10:26 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

It was "unacceptable" that the U.S. decision to withhold some weapons from Israel became public while the two governments still were discussing Israel's planned offensive into the Gaza city of Rafah, the Israeli envoy to Washington said on Thursday.

The U.S. pause on some arms supplies to Israel "sends the wrong message to Hamas and to our enemies in the region," Israeli Ambassador Michael Herzog told a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace webinar a day after U.S. President Joe Biden warned Israel for the first time that Washington would withhold weapons if Israeli forces launch a major offensive into Rafah.

US opposes forcing Palestinians from Gaza: Blinken to Egypt
10:18 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Egyptian counterpart on Thursday that the United States opposes forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza, after Israel seized the border crossing at Rafah.

In a telephone call with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Blinken reaffirmed President Joe Biden's "clear position that the United States does not support a major military operation in Rafah and the United States' rejection of any forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Blinken "also expressed the United States' support for the reopening of Rafah crossing and the continued flow of urgently needed humanitarian assistance," Miller said.

UNRWA closing E.Jerusalem HQ after 'Israeli extremist' arson
8:35 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said Thursday it was temporarily shuttering its east Jerusalem headquarters after "Israeli extremists" set fire to the perimeter following weeks of repeated attacks.

"This evening, Israeli residents set fire twice to the perimeter of the UNRWA headquarters in occupied east Jerusalem," agency chief Philippe Lazzarini said on X, formerly Twitter, lamenting that it was the second attack on the compound in a matter of days.

He described how "a crowd accompanied by armed men were witnessed outside the compound chanting 'Burn down the United Nations'."

UNRWA and staff from other UN agencies at the time were on the compound, which has on its grounds petrol and diesel stations for a fleet of UN cars.

"While there were no casualties among our staff, the fire caused extensive damage to the outdoor areas," Lazzarini said, adding that UNRWA staff had put out the fire themselves.

Spain universities say ready to suspend Israel ties
8:32 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Spanish universities expressed willingness Thursday to suspend ties with any Israeli educational institution that failed to express "a clear commitment to peace" as the war rages in Gaza.

In a statement, the university chancellors' governing board (CRUE) denounced the violence and threw its support behind the protests that have recently popped on Spanish campuses.

Demanding an immediate end to Israel's war on Gaza, they pledged "to review ties and if necessary, suspend collaboration with Israeli universities and research centres that haven't expressed a firm commitment to peace and respect for international humanitarian law."

British commander says air drops a lifesaver for Gazans
8:27 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Air drops through Jordan by a coalition of Western and Arab states are a lifesaver for starving Palestinians in Gaza struggling to get aid due to Israel closing crossings and insufficient access, the commander of British forces in Cyprus said on Thursday.

Air Vice-Marshal Peter Squires said the 11th airdrop by the Royal Air Force, which reached a cumulative total of 110 metric tons of aid on Thursday, remained an important part of the wider effort to deliver humanitarian and life-saving goods to the war-torn Gaza Strip.

"We just need to keep getting aid by land, sea and air and all methods, because every bit is precious to Palestinians," Squires told Reuters before departing on a military flight over Gaza.

"It's a great logistical effort," Squires said. "There are a number of locations we use to spread out to make certain the aid gets to the population who need it the most."

Arizona scholar on leave after verbally attacking woman
7:29 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Arizona State University officials say a postdoctoral research scholar remains on leave as the school investigates his videotaped verbal attack of a hijab-wearing woman at a pro-Israel rally last weekend.

Sunday’s event was held near the university’s Tempe campus and attended by Jonathan Yudelman, a scholar at ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.

A statement posted Wednesday on the school’s media relations webpage said Yudelman was placed on leave Monday pending the outcome of an investigation into the video. It also said he’s not permitted to go on campus, teach classes or interact with students or employees.

University officials said they referred the matter to the Tempe Police Department for a criminal investigation since it took place on a city sidewalk.

Israel ready to 'stand alone' after US warning: Netanyahu
7:23 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday that Israel was prepared to "stand alone" in its war in Gaza, after Washington vowed to stop supplying some weapons if a threatened assault on Rafah goes ahead.

"If we have to stand alone, we will stand alone," Netanyahu said in a statement.

Netanyahu did not mention the US threat, but stressed in comments delivered on the eve of when Israel was created that back then "we were few against many".

"Today we are much stronger. We are determined and we are united in order to defeat our enemies and those who want to destroy us," he insisted.

"We will fight with our fingernails. But we have much more than fingernails and with that same strength of spirit, with God's help, together we will win."

Rafah operation would weaken Israel's position in talks: US
7:04 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The United States believes a major military operation in Rafah would weaken Israel's position in hostage talks with Palestinian group Hamas, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Thursday.

Washington continues to engage with Israel on amendments to a ceasefire proposal submitted by Hamas, Miller said, adding work was ongoing to finalize the text of an agreement but that work was "incredibly difficult."

Israel army says three troops hurt in Rafah tunnel blast
6:42 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The Israeli military said three soldiers were wounded in an explosion Thursday in a "booby-trapped shaft" in Rafah, the south Gaza city where troops launched an incursion earlier this week.

"Earlier today (Thursday), three army soldiers were moderately injured as a result of the explosion of a booby-trapped shaft in eastern Rafah," the military said in a statement.

"The soldiers were evacuated to the hospital to receive medical treatment," it added.

Sisi, Guterres discuss consequences of Rafah operation
6:38 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi received a phone call from United Nations chief Antonio Guterres where they discussed Gaza truce talks and the "huge humanitarian consequences" of an Israeli military operation in Rafah, the Egyptian presidency said on Thursday.

Israeli military has enough munitions for Rafah op: Hagari
6:36 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari stressed late Thursday that the army had "enough weaponry to complete our mission in Rafah".

"The United States has helped us in an unprecedented manner since the start of the war," he said in a televised address.

"We have our own interests and we are sensitive to the US interests," he added.

Hamas urges halt to airdrops of aid in Gaza after two killed
6:33 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Hamas on Thursday called for an end to airdrops of aid after two Palestinians were killed in northern Gaza when a aid pallet crashed into a warehouse after its parachute failed to open.

"We reiterate that airdrops pose a real danger to the lives of citizens and do not provide a real solution to alleviate the food crisis plaguing northern Gaza," Salama Marouf, head of the government's media office in Gaza, said in a statement.

"We call for an immediate halt to the delivery of aid in this ineffective and erroneous manner, and we call for the full activation of the land crossings to deliver humanitarian aid to northern Gaza."


Israel closure of Gaza crossings 'completely crippling' aid
6:29 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel's closure of key crossings into Gaza has cut off the main entry point for aid, and particularly fuel, rendering humanitarian operations all but impossible, a senior UN official warned Thursday.

"We lost the main entry point for all humanitarian aid," said Andrea De Domenico, who heads the United Nations humanitarian office, OCHA, in the occupied Palestinian territories.

In an interview with AFP, De Domenico said that although Israel says it reopened Kerem Shalom on Wednesday, getting aid through remains extremely tricky.

And the Rafah crossing, through which all fuel into Gaza passes, remains closed, meaning no fuel is getting in.

"In Gaza there are no stocks" of fuel, De Domenico said, adding that "means no movement. It is completely crippling the humanitarian operations."

Major Rafah operation will not defeat Hamas: White House
5:51 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel undertaking a major Rafah operation will not advance the objective of both Washington and Tel Aviv of defeating the Hamas Palestinian group in Gaza, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said.

"Smashing into Rafah, in his view, will not advance that objective," Kirby said in a briefing with reporters.

Cairo talks over, Rafah operation to proceed: official
5:47 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel has submitted Gaza truce mediators with its reservations about a Hamas proposal for a hostage-release deal, and deems this round of negotiations in Cairo to have ended, a senior Israeli official said on Thursday.

The Israeli delegation is returning from the Egyptian capital and Israel will proceed with its operation in Rafah and other parts of the Gaza Strip as planned, the official added.

Trump accuses Biden of siding with Hamas
4:47 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Donald Trump accused Joe Biden Thursday of siding with Hamas when he threatened to stop sending US weapons to Israel as it wages war on Gaza, calling the president's stance "disgraceful."

Biden warned Wednesday of halting weapons supplies if Israel pushes ahead with its long-threatened Rafah ground offensive, his most direct warning yet over the civilian impact of the war.

"Crooked Joe is taking the side of these terrorists, just like he has sided with the Radical Mobs taking over our college campuses," Trump posted on his Truth Social network, referring to the protests against the war that have spread across US universities.

Speaking later to reporters outside the courtroom before entering his hush money trial in New York, Trump said that "what Biden is doing with respect to Israel is disgraceful."

"He's totally abandoned Israel and nobody can believe it," the presumptive Republican presidential nominee who will challenge Biden in the November election, said.

Former US president Donald Trump [Getty]
Pro-Palestinian protesters march in Malmo against Eurovision
4:36 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators protested in the Swedish port city of Malmo on Thursday against Israel’s participation in the pan-continental pop competition.

Protesters waving green, white and red Palestinian flags packed the historic Stortorget square near Malmo’s 16th-century town hall before a planned march through the city for a rally in a park several miles (kilometers) from the Eurovision venue.

Chanting “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!” and “Israel is a terror state,” the demonstrators set off smoke flares in the Palestinian colors during a noisy, peaceful rally to criticize Israel and call for a cease-fire. There was a large police presence , with a hovering helicopter, and officers on rooftops with binoculars.

Palestinian flags fly from windows and balconies along a pedestrianized thoroughfare that has been temporarily renamed “Eurovision street.”

Pro-Palestinian groups plan to march again on Saturday, the day of the Eurovision final.

Contest organizers, who try to keep Eurovision a non-political event, have rejected calls to bar Israel over the conduct of its war on Gaza.

But they told Israel to change the lyrics of its entry, originally titled “October Rain” in apparent reference to Hamas’ cross-border Oct. 7 attack that killed some 1,200 Israelis.

The song was renamed 'Hurricane' and Israeli singer Eden Golan was allowed to remain in the contest.

She will compete in Thursday’s semi-final. Some audience members attending a dress rehearsal on Wednesday could be heard to boo during Golan’s performance.

Critics of the decision to let Israel compete point out that Russia was kicked out of Eurovision in 2022 after its full-scale invasion of Ukraine , and Belarus was ejected a year earlier over its government’s crackdown on dissent.

People attend a rally in Malmo in protest against Israel Eurovision participation [Getty]
Slovenia to recognise Palestinian state by mid-June
4:32 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

 The Slovenian government on Thursday initiated the procedure for the recognition of a Palestinian state as a form of leverage to end the conflict in Gaza, a move it announced in March, Prime Minister Robert Golob said.

"The horrors we see every day in Gaza are inadmissible and must stop," Golob was quoted as saying on the government X platform. "I call on Israel to put an immediate end to its attacks on Gaza and to use the negotiating table."

Golob said he would like his country´s recognition to be "an incentive for these negotiations to proceed more quickly" and speed up the dialogue in the United Nations on an immediate ceasefire, the release of hostages and the security and existence of Israel through a two-state solution.

The announcement came as Ireland, Spain and a number of other European Union member states are reportedly considering recognising a Palestinian state on May 21, according to a report by Ireland's national broadcaster.

The date of Slovenia's recognition will depend on the success of the progress in peace talks, with June 13 at the latest, Golob said. If progress is accelerated, Slovenia will complete the recognition procedure faster.

He said the decision to initiate the recognition procedures contained expectations for all those involved in the conflict - the progress in peace talks, release of hostages and in the reform of the Palestinian Authority.

The ruling coalition agreed unanimously on this decision, Golob said, expressing hope that the recognition would inspire other countries to follow in Slovenia's steps.

Spain, Ireland, Malta and Slovenia said in March they had agreed to take the first steps towards recognising a Palestinian state.

The countries reportedly have been waiting for a vote by the United Nations General Assembly on May 10 which could lead to the recognition of the Palestinians as qualified for full UN membership.

Slovenian Prime Minister, chairman of the Freedom Movement Robert Golob [Getty]
UK's Cameron calls for Israel to produce Rafah 'clear plan'
3:29 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Foreign Secretary David Cameron on Thursday said that the UK would not support a major Israeli operation in Rafah "unless there was a very clear plan for how to protect people and save lives".

"We have not seen that plan, so in the circumstances we will not support a major operation in Rafah," he added.

Cameron's comments came after he made a major address advocating for a more muscular approach to Western foreign policy.

The former UK prime minister said countries need to take more assertive action to protect their interests from emerging threats, including from Russia and Iran.

"We are in a battle of wills. We all must prove our adversaries wrong: Britain, and our allies and partners around the world," he added.

Cameron used the speech at the National Cyber Security Centre in central London to call for NATO countries to boost defence spending above a two percent of gross domestic product target agreed 10 years ago.

He called on countries in the 32-member Western defence alliance to "out-compete, out-cooperate and out-innovate" adversaries.

Hamas, Israel teams leave Cairo, mediation efforts 'ongoing'
3:25 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Hamas and Israeli negotiators left Cairo Thursday "after a two-day round of negotiations" for a truce in the seven-month war in Gaza, Egypt's state-linked Al-Qahera News reported.

Efforts by Egyptian, Qatari and US mediators "are ongoing to bring the two sides' points of view closer," the media outlet reported, citing a high-level Egyptian source.

Gallant tells 'friends and enemies' Israel will achieve war
3:20 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant told Israel's "enemies and friends" on Wednesday that it would do whatever necessary to achieve its war aims in Gaza and the north, in an apparent response to US pressure to halt its operation in Rafah.

The comments, at a ceremony to commemorate Israel's war dead, followed US President Joe Biden's warning that the United States would halt weapons supplies if Israel moved into Rafah, the southern Gaza city where more than a million displaced Palestinians are sheltering.

"I turn to Israel's enemies as well as to our best of friends and say - the State of Israel cannot be subdued," he said, according to remarks released by his office.

"We will stand strong, we will achieve our goals - we will hit Hamas, we will hit Hezbollah, and we will achieve security."

The comments, from one of the war cabinet ministers considered to be most sensitive to the risk of alienating the United States, underlined the scale of the standoff between the Biden administration and the Israeli government.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant [Getty]
Houthis chief: Group will target any ships related to Israel
3:17 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The leader of Yemen's Houthis, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, said on Thursday the group would target ships of any company related to supplying or transporting goods to Israel regardless of their destination.

He said this was a fourth stage of escalation in retaliation to "the Israeli aggression on Rafah" in the southern Gaza Strip.

"From now on, we are also thinking about the fifth stage and the sixth stage, and we have very important, sensitive and influential choices on the enemies," he added.

Months of Houthi attacks in the Red Sea have disrupted global shipping, forcing firms to re-route to longer and more expensive journeys around southern Africa, and stoked fears that the war on Gaza could spread to destabilise the wider Middle East.

The United States and Britain have carried out strikes against Houthi targets in response to the attacks on shipping.

Iran frees seven crew from Portuguese ship seized in Gulf
3:15 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Iran on Thursday freed seven of the 25 crew on a Portuguese-flagged ship seized in the Gulf on April 13, Portugal's foreign ministry said.

Five Indians, a Filipino and an Estonian from the MSC Aries "have been freed today", the ministry said in a statement. Another Indian crew member had already been released.

Portugal welcomed the action but demanded the "immediate release" of the remaining 17 crew and the MSC Aries, which was seized near the Strait of Hormuz amid mounting tensions between Iran and Israel.

Iran said the container ship had Israeli links when it was taken, in parallel to Iranian forces launching a retaliatory mass drone attack against Israel.

That unprecedented attack followed a deadly Israeli strike against an Iranian diplomatic building in Damascus in which seven Iranian military officers were killed.

Iran accused the ship's owners of having links to Israel. "It is certain that this ship belongs to the Zionist regime," an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said at the time.

Portugal summoned Iran's ambassador on April 16 to demand the release of the vessel and its crew. Iran announced on April 27 that it was considering freeing more crew members.

Foreign ministers from the two countries spoke by telephone 10 days ago.

UK to provide grant for 'pro-Israel' chaplaincy services
2:57 PM
The New Arab Staff

The British government is set to fund £500,000 to a Jewish university chaplaincy service that was said to require its chaplains to be pro- Israel advocates, following new measures announced on Thursday to tackle antisemitism on university campuses.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's office issued the announcement after Sunak and university leaders met for discussions.

This comes as UK student activists intensify their solidarity work in opposition of the war on Gaza- by holding demonstrations and setting up protest emcampments. 

"Universities should be places of rigorous debate but also bastions of tolerance and respect for every member of their community," Sunak said in a statement.

"A vocal minority on our campuses are disrupting the lives and studies of their fellow students and, in some cases, propagating outright harassment and antisemitic abuse. That has to stop."

UK news outlets such Middle East Eye previously reported that the criteria to apply for chaplaincy posts in cities such as Brighton and Bristol were listed as being a "pro-active Israel advocate" in job descriptions. 

Flags and banners hang from one tents and infrastructure at Manchester University [Getty]
Hamas: Israel move on Rafah aims to 'obstruct' truce talks
1:48 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

A Hamas official on Thursday accused Israel of carrying out incursions in Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah to block talks seeking a truce in the seven-month war in the Palestinian territory.

Israel's military operations in Rafah and its border crossing "aim to obstruct the efforts of the mediators", Ezzat al-Rishq said in a statement, adding Hamas had sent a delegation to the talks in Cairo and that it was still committed to accepting a ceasefire proposal presented by mediators.

Turkey not easing Israel export ban, government source says
1:30 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Relaxing Turkey's ban on exports to Israel is "out of the question" though companies have three months to fulfill existing orders via third countries, a Turkish trade ministry source said on Thursday.

In a document seen by news agency Reuters, the Trade Ministry outlined the three-month reprieve for companies exporting to Israel. Ankara introduced the trade ban with Israel last week.

Separately, Israel's foreign minister said on Thursday that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan had retreated on his earlier position and lifted many of the trade restrictions he imposed on Israel. 

1 killed after Israeli targeting of motocycle in Rafah: PRCS
1:09 PM
The New Arab Staff

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has released a series of photos on X which documented how medical workers evacuated the body of  "a martyr following the targeting of a motorcycle at the Abu Halawa junction in Rafah."

Israel's FM: Turkey has lifted many trade restrictions
1:07 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has retreated on his earlier position and lifted many of the trade restrictions he imposed on Israel, Israel's foreign minister said on Thursday, adding the lesson to draw was not to succumb to threats "of a dictator".

Cameron: UK system of arms exports to Israel not like US
12:45 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Foreign Secretary David Cameron described Britain's system and scale of arms exports to Israel as completely different from those in the United States, saying the sales it licences were relatively small and policed by strict procedures.

Cameron was responding to a question on whether Britain would follow the US after it warned that it would withhold weapons from Israel in case of a major invasion of Rafah.

"There's a very fundamental difference between the US situation and the UK situation," Cameron said after a speech.

"The US is a massive state supplier of weapons to Israel ... we do not have a UK Government supply of weapons to Israel, we have a number of licences, and I think our defence exports to Israel are responsible for significantly less than 1% of their total."

80,000 Palestinians fled Rafah following Israel attacks: UN
11:26 AM
The New Arab Staff

Around 80,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah following the start of Israel's assault on Rafah on May 6, according to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) on Thursday.

"People are facing yet another forced displacement in the Gaza Strip," UNRWA said in a statement.

"The toll on these families is unbearable. Nowhere is safe. We need a cease-fire now."

Israeli forces target neighbourhoods in south, east Gaza
11:17 AM
The New Arab Staff

News publication Arabi21 the latest range of attacks conducted by the Israeli army as it also continues to advance into Rafah.

According to the news outlet, the Israeli incursion saw several homes demolished by artillery shelling and airstrikes in south and east of Gaza City.

According to the Israeli army, it stated that it was currently targeting Hamas bases in central Gaza- however did not add further details. 

Israeli forces have since intensified its bombardment in the southern and eastern neighborhoods of Gaza City, including Al-Zaytoun, Al-Sabra and Tal-al-Hawa neighbourhoods.

Israeli troops were also seen targeting by heavy gunfire within the vicinity of the Al-Musalba area in the Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood.

Israeli airstrike kills 8 people, including 4 children
11:13 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

An Israeli airstrike on a residential building killed eight people including four children late Wednesday, according to hospital records. The strike hit a residential building in Tel al-Sultan in western Rafah.

Israel’s military took control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing early Tuesday after issuing evacuation orders for eastern parts of the city, home to some 100,000.

It then sent tanks to seize the nearby Rafah crossing with Egypt, shutting it down.

According to news sources, sporadic explosions and gunfire were heard in the area of the Rafah crossing overnight Tuesday, including two large blasts early Wednesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, hospital records showed at least 25 people were wounded when Israeli artillery fire struck part of central Rafah, an area that Israel did not tell Palestinians to evacuate ahead of its operation. The military had no immediate comment.

Israel's National Security Minister says Hamas loves Biden
11:10 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Far-right Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir posted “Hamas loves Biden” on X, formerly called Twitter, a day after US President Joe Biden said he would not supply offensive weapons that Israel could use to launch an all-out assault on Rafah .

Biden, in an interview with CNN on Wednesday, said the US was still committed to Israel’s defense and would supply Iron Dome rocket interceptors and other defensive arms, but that if Israel goes into Rafah, “we’re not going to supply the weapons and artillery shells used.”

There is widespread concern over the well-being of the more than 1 million civilians sheltering in Rafah.

Ben Gvir, who used a heart emoji in his tweet regarding Biden and Hamas, has pushed for a punishing military response and has threatened to leave the government if Israel does not carry out a wide-ranging military operation in Rafah.

"Hamas’ exercises and games have only one answer: an immediate order to occupy Rafah!" he wrote on X on Monday.

Israeli far right minister Itamar Ben-Gvir [Getty]
Riot police, protesters clash at Amsterdam Gaza demo
10:58 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Dutch riot police clashed on Wednesday with pro-Palestinian protesters as officers moved in to clear barricades at the University of Amsterdam, scene of upheaval since Monday.

Local television images showed dozens of police dressed in riot gear exchanging blows with a group of protesters as officers cleared out an area in front of the Binnengasthuis building in Amsterdam's city centre.

Police said the protesters then blocked a major local road called the Rokin where violence also broke out, adding demonstrators "threw ammonia at riot police".

Students are demanding that the University of Amsterdam (UvA) sever ties with Israel over the war in Gaza and are inspired by ongoing demonstrations at US campuses.

A little before midnight, Amsterdam police said on X that the situation was "calm" and most of the protesters had left the area.

They had previously said the clearance "operation has been authorised by the mayor" after the UvA laid charges including disturbing the peace and destruction of property.

Images on the local AT5 channel showed police arresting several demonstrators, numbering a few hundred, roughly pulling one off a front-end loader.

Another protester tried to stop a loader before jumping into a canal to evade arrest.

Images also showed police surrounding and dragging away a small but vocal group of protesters remaining on the campus, while a front-end loader was pushing material used to put up the barricades into a canal.

Protesters waved placards saying "Free Palestine" and shouting "Shame on you" at police.

Police say the protesters were not just students, but also included people "who were not affiliated to the university and were deliberately seeking conflict with the police".

Representatives of the protesters and UvA management were in talks on Wednesday, but protesters told the NOS public broadcaster discussions had led to nothing.

The protests started at the university on Monday. At least 169 people have been arrested.

The Amsterdam city council is due to have an emergency debate about the ongoing demonstrations on Friday.

Protesters were also gathering elsewhere in the Netherlands, including at the Utrecht University campus, reports said.

Police forcefully intervene, arrest & assaulting others in Pro-Palestinian protest [Getty]
Vessel carrying aid to US-built pier off Gaza leaves Cyprus
10:46 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

 A vessel carrying aid to a pier built by the US off Gaza set sail from Cyprus on Thursday, marine tracking websites showed.

The US flagged Sagamore left the port of Larnaca on Thursday morning. US officials have said the vessel will be used to offload supplies onto a floating pier built to expedite aid into the besieged enclave.

There was no immediate comment from Cypriot authorities, which had earlier said the ship would sail as soon as the floating platform was in place, subject to weather conditions.

Cyprus opened a sea corridor in March to ship aid directly to Gaza, where deliveries via land have been severely disrupted by border closures and Israel's military operations.

US-based charity World Food Kitchen used the route twice before seven of its workers were killed in an Israeli air strike on April 1. 

Syria shoots down Israeli missiles fired from Golan Heights
10:33 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Syrian air defences on Thursday shot down Israeli missiles fired from the Golan Heights towards Damascus' outskirts targeting a building in the countryside, Syria's defence ministry said.

Israel has been carrying out strikes against Iran-linked targets in Syria for years but has ramped up such raids since the Oct. 7 attack by Palestinian group Hamas on Israeli territory.

On April 1, an Israeli strike targeted the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus, killing a senior commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps as well as other military officers, triggering Iran’s first direct attack onto Israeli territory.

Israel has also been trading fire across its northern border with Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Ireland, Spain could recognise Palestinian statehood: report
10:05 AM
The New Arab Staff

 Irish national broadcaster RTE News reported that Ireland, Spain and a number of other European Union member states such as Malta and Slovenia may consider formally are considering recognising a Palestinian state on May 21.

RTE News said on Wednesday evening that Ireland and Spain have increased meetings- as well as Slovenia and Malta-  in jointly recognising Palestinian statehood.

According to the report, the countries are withholding the announcement until the UN vote on Friday, which could lead to the recognition of Palestine as qualified to become a full UN member.

Spain, Ireland, Malta and Slovenia said in a statement earlier this year in March that they agreed to take the first steps towards recognising the Palestinian state.

Strategic Agenda meeting in Warsaw, Poland on April 11, 2024. [Getty]
Israeli strike on Lebanon kills four Hezbollah fighters
9:50 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

An Israeli air strike on a car in southern Lebanon killed four people on Thursday, according to Lebanon's civil defence, with security sources saying those killed were members of armed group Hezbollah.

The Israeli military did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Thursday's strikes.

Lebanon's civil defence rescue force said it had pulled four bodies out of a car that had been scorched by an Israeli strike. Two security sources told news agency Reuters the four killed were members of Hezbollah.

Monitor, Iraqi group say Israel hits facilities in Syria
9:47 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli strikes on Syria early Thursday targeted facilities belonging to Iraq's Al-Nujaba armed movement, a war monitor and the pro-Iran group said, with Damascus saying an unidentified building was attacked.

Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria since the outbreak of the civil war in its northern neighbour in 2011, mainly against army positions and Iran-backed fighters.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said "Israeli air strikes targeted a cultural centre" and a "training facility" of the Iraqi Al-Nujaba movement in the Sayyida Zeinab area south of Damascus.

Three members of the group were wounded according to the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of sources inside Syria.

A source within the Iraqi faction, requesting anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media, confirmed that a "cultural centre" belonging to the group was destroyed in the "Israeli" attack, but reported no casualties.

Al-Nujaba does "not have a declared military base in Syria", the source added.

Syria's defence ministry said that "at around 3:20 am today, the Israeli enemy launched an air attack from the direction of the occupied Syria Golan Heights targeting a building in the Damascus countryside".

The attack caused "some material damage", said the statement carried by state media, adding that air defence systems shot down some of the missiles.

34,904 Palestinians killed in Israel's offensive in Gaza
8:50 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

At least 34,904 Palestinians have been killed and 78,514 injured in Israel's military offensive in Gaza since October 7, Gaza's health ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Israel says Biden threat to stop arms 'very disappointing'
8:18 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel's ambassador to the United Nations expressed disappointment Thursday at US President Joe Biden's threat to stop certain arms supplies to Israel if it invades the crowded Gaza city of Rafah.

"This is a difficult and very disappointing statement to hear from a president to whom we have been grateful since the beginning of the war," Gilad Erdan told Israeli public broadcaster Kan radio, in Israel's first reaction to Biden's warning.

Israel has defied international objections by sending in tanks and conducting "targeted raids" in the border city -- as it is crowded with displaced Palestinian civilians.

"If they go into Rafah, I'm not supplying the weapons that have been used... to deal with the cities," Biden said in an interview with CNN, in his starkest warning to Israel since the start of the war.

"Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs," Biden said. "It's just wrong."

Erdan responded that Biden's comments would be interpreted by Israel's foes Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah as "something that gives them hope to succeed".

Yemen's Houthis claim 2 attacks in Gulf of Aden
8:16 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

 Yemen's Houthi group on Thursday claimed two missile attacks in the Gulf of Aden on two Panama-flagged container ships that caused no damage, while also saying they targeted a ship in the Indian Ocean in a previously unreported assault.

The claims by Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree come as the tempo of the rebel attacks have waned in recent weeks as they've been targeted by repeated airstrikes launched by a US-led coalition warship in waterways crucial to international trade.

Saree in a prerecorded statement claimed attacks on the MSC Diego and MSC Gina. The Joint Maritime Information Center, a US -led coalition of nations operating in the Mideast, said those two missile attacks happened early Tuesday.

"Neither were hit and all crew on board are safe," the center said. "The vessels were last reported proceeding to next port of call."

The center added that the vessels were "likely targeted due to perceived Israeli affiliation."

Both vessels were operating for Geneva-based Mediterranean Shipping Co., which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Saree did not say why it took the rebels two day to claim the attacks. He also claimed the Houthis targeted the MSC Vittoria, another container ship, in the Indian Ocean. An attack on that vessel, however, has not been acknowledged by any authorities.

Former defense official: Israel can manage without US arms
8:15 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel's former head of defense production and procurement on Thursday rejected the claim the country could manage without American arms, saying Israel would be forced to source arms elsewhere, according to Israeli public radio.