Israel is 'moving ahead' with Rafah invasion as south Lebanon hit with multiple strikes

Israel is 'moving ahead' with Rafah invasion as south Lebanon hit with multiple strikes
Israel said it is making preparations to invade Rafah, including relocating two battalions to the south and purchasing thousands of tents for civilians
15 min read
24 April, 2024

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Israel said on Wednesday that it is "moving ahead" with its anticipated ground invasion into Gaza's southern city of Rafah, despite international concerns for the safety of the million civilians sheltering there.

"The four battalions which remain in Rafah cannot be shielded from Israel. They will be attacked," government spokesman David Mencer told a press briefing.

The military is reportedly organising a mass movement of the civilians into tents in Khan Younis, which is against advice of humanitarians who have warned that conditions are not suitable for living amid a collapse in sanitation and destruction of buildings.

The comments came as more dead bodies were discovered at a mass grave the Nasser Hospital complex in Khan Younis, bringing the total to over 400. Elderly people, women and children, have been found among the dead, aid sources have said.

Meanwhile, Israel pummelled south Lebanon in a round of heavy airstrikes throughout Wednesday near the border village of Aita al-Shaab, following a tit-for-tat exchanges with Hezbollah. The Israeli military said it struck "40 Hezbollah targets" in the area, including "storage facilities" and "weaponry".

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The New Arab Staff

This live blog on Israel's war on Gaza has concluded. Thank you for following.

Sullivan expects to travel to Saudi Arabia in next few weeks
9:39 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Wednesday he expects to travel to Saudi Arabia in the next few weeks after postponing the trip due to a cracked rib.

Sullivan told reporters he was feeling much better after the rib injury and that he was about 80% recovered. He is to discuss with Saudi officials whether a deal to normalise relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia can be reached.

Houthis carry out 3 operations in Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean
9:38 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Yemen's Houthis said they targeted the Maersk Yorktown ship and an American warship destroyer in the Gulf of Aden as well as targeting the Israeli ship MSC Veracruz in the Indian Ocean, the Iran-aligned group's military spokesman Yahya Sarea said in a televised speech on Wednesday.

Germany to resume working with UN agency for Palestinians
8:42 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Germany said Wednesday it will resume cooperation with the UN agency for Palestinian refugees after a review found Israel had not yet provided evidence backing its claim that hundreds of staff were members of terrorist groups.

"Germany will coordinate closely with its closest international partners to disburse further funds," said the German foreign and development ministries in a joint statement.

Germany said it was aiming to support "UNRWA's vital and currently irreplaceable role in providing for the people in Gaza".

UNRWA and other UN agencies must be able to carry out their jobs of distributing aid in the territory, which was "more important than ever in light of the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza," the statement said.

The Israeli foreign ministry called Germany's decision "regrettable and disappointing".

White House wants 'answers' from Israel on Gaza mass grave
8:10 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The White House said Wednesday that it wanted "answers" from Israeli authorities after the discovery of mass graves at the two main hospitals in the Gaza Strip.

"We want answers," National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters. "We want to see this thoroughly and transparently investigated."

Rafah offensive needs 'serious credible plan': State Dept
7:34 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

On Israel's potential Rafah offensive, US State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said Washington's concerns have not yet been fully addressed.

"When it comes to military operation in Rafah, there needs to be a serious credible plan," he said.

Israel's military is poised to evacuate Palestinian civilians from Rafah and assault what it calls Hamas hold-outs in the southern Gaza Strip city, a senior Israeli defense official said on Wednesday, despite international warnings of humanitarian catastrophe.

US calls Israeli settlement push 'dangerous and reckless'
7:32 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Legalising settler outposts in the Israeli-occupied West Bank would be "dangerous and reckless," the U.S. State Department said on Wednesday in response to reports Israel's Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich was pushing to do so.

"These reports about directives to support illegal outposts in the West Bank, we believe that to be dangerous and reckless," State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a daily briefing.

The U.S. opposes the settlements and believes they violate international law, he said. Washington "will continue to urge Israeli officials to refrain from taking actions to fund outposts that have long been illegal under Israeli law," the State Department spokesperson said.

Netanyahu calls Gaza protests on US campuses 'horrific'
7:27 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday condemned pro-Palestinian student protests in US universities as "horrific," saying the demonstrations "have to be stopped".

"What's happening in America's college campuses is horrific," Netanyahu said in a statement, claiming that, "anti-Semitic mobs have taken over leading universities."

"It's unconscionable. It has to be stopped."

Turkey accuses US of double standards on human rights
6:58 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Turkey on Wednesday accused the United States of having a policy of double standards on human rights, saying Washington's annual rights report failed to reflect Israel's assaults in Gaza.

Turkey's foreign ministry said in a statement it was deeply concerned that the U.S. report did not "duly reflect the ongoing inhumane attacks in Gaza".

The report was prepared with "political motives, far from impartiality and objectivity", it said, calling on Washington to cease its "double-standard policy on human rights".

In its report, the U.S. State Department said Israel's war against Hamas had a "significant negative impact" on the human rights situation in Israel.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken rejected suggestions that Washington might have double standards over Israel's record.

Israel must allow aid to Palestinians 'without delay': Biden
6:31 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

President Joe Biden on Wednesday demanded that new humanitarian aid be allowed to immediately reach Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

"We're going to immediately secure that aid and surge it... including food, medical supplies, clean water," Biden said after signing a massive military aid bill for Israel and Ukraine, which also included $1 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza.

"Israel must make sure all this aid reaches the Palestinians in Gaza without delay," he said.

"This bill significantly - significantly - increases humanitarian assistance we're sending to the innocent people of Gaza who are suffering badly," Biden said.

"They're suffering the consequences of this war that Hamas started, and we've been working intently for months to get as much aid to Gaza as possible."

US to name former UN official as new Gaza aid envoy
5:30 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

US Gaza aid envoy David Satterfield is set to step down shortly and will be replaced by former senior United Nations official Lise Grande, two sources familiar with the issue told Reuters on Wednesday.

Satterfield was appointed six months ago as the US special envoy for Middle East humanitarian issues with a specific focus on leading the US response to the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Grande is currently head of the independent US Institute of Peace. She previously worked for the United Nations for more than 25 years, a career that included running aid operations in Yemen, Iraq and South Sudan.

Jordan sets Sept 10 date for parliamentary election
5:24 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Jordan's independent electoral commission on Wednesday set Sept. 10 as the date for a parliamentary election after King Abdullah said earlier he hoped the polls would deliver long promised political reforms, state media reported.

The monarch, who visited the electoral commission before the announcement, said the polls would be a major milestone towards trying to modernise the country's political system under revamped laws that encourage licensed parties to run in multi-party elections.

The election comes as the country is reeling from the impact of the war in Gaza that has hit tourism, a main pillar of the economy, and affected businesses.

Passions run high among Jordanians, many of whom are of Palestinian origin, and the kingdom has witnessed some of the biggest anti-Israel protests in the region.

Read more about the war's impact on Jordan in The New Arab's analysis here.

Israel says 'moving ahead' with Rafah operation in Gaza
4:52 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel said Wednesday it is "moving ahead" with its planned operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, despite international outcry over fears for the 1.5 million Palestinians sheltering there.

"Israel is moving ahead with our operation to target Hamas in Rafah," government spokesman David Mencer told a press briefing.

"The four battalions which remain in Rafah cannot be shielded from Israel. They will be attacked."

Countries including Israel's top ally the United States have warned Israel against sending troops into Rafah, fearing huge civilian casualties.

"A full-scale military invasion of Rafah would have an enormously harmful effect" on civilians trapped there and "would ultimately hurt Israel's security", US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said earlier this month.

Google fires more workers who protested its deal with Israel
4:21 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Google fired at least 20 more workers in the aftermath of protests over technology the company is supplying the Israeli government amid the Gaza war, bringing the total number of terminated staff to more than 50, a group representing the workers said.

It's the latest sign of internal turmoil at the tech giant centered on 'Project Nimbus', a $1.2 billion contract signed in 2021 for Google and Amazon to provide the Israeli government with cloud computing and artificial intelligence services.

Workers held sit-in protests last week at Google offices in New York and Sunnyvale, California. The company responded by calling the police, who made arrests.

The group organizing the protests, No Tech For Apartheid, said the company fired 30 workers last week — higher than the initial 28 they had announced.

Then, on Tuesday night, Google fired "over 20" more staffers, "including non-participating bystanders during last week's protests," said Jane Chung, a spokeswoman for No Tech For Apartheid, without providing a more specific number.

Hamas releases video of Israeli-American hostage in Gaza
4:17 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Hamas released on Wednesday a video of an Israeli-American man held hostage in Gaza and seen alive in the footage.

Israeli media identified him as Hersh Goldberg-Polin, who was abducted from the Nova music festival in southern Israel during the Hamas attack on 7 October.

"I went to hang out with my friends, and instead, I found myself fighting for my life with severe injuries all over my body," he says in the video, the authenticity and timing of which AFP has not been able to independently verify.

The video was posted on Hamas's official Telegram account.

Israel estimates 129 of the roughly 250 people abducted, including 34 who the military says are dead.

Israeli military poised to take Rafah, awaits gov't approval
3:25 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel's military has conducted all necessary preparations to take Rafah, which it deems the last Hamas bastion in the Gaza Strip, and can launch an operation the moment it gets government approval, a senior defence official told Reuters on Wednesday.

Over one million Palestinians are currently in Gaza's border city of Rafah, having fled homes in the north and centre of the Strip throughout the months of fighting. The city is currently considered the last safe place, although it has not been exempt from frequent air strikes.

The international community has warned Israel not to invade, considering the threat to civilians sheltering there.

Half of Hezbollah's south Lebanon commanders killed: Gallant
3:05 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Wednesday Israeli military strikes had killed half of Hezbollah's commanders in southern Lebanon during the cross-border fighting that has flared up in parallel to the Gaza war since October.


PEN America calls off event amid criticism over Israel-Gaza
2:34 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Facing widespread unhappiness over its response to the Israel-Hamas war, the writers’ group PEN America has called off its annual awards ceremony. Dozens of nominees had dropped out of the event, which was to have taken place next week.

PEN, a literary and free expression organization, hands out hundreds of thousands of dollars in prizes each year, including $75,000 for the PEN/Jean Stein Award for best book. But with nine of the 10 Jean Stein finalists withdrawing, along with nominees in categories ranging from translation to poetry, continuing with the ceremony at The Town Hall in Manhattan proved unworkable.

“This is a beloved event and an enormous amount of work goes into it, so we all regret this outcome but ultimately concluded it was not possible to carry out a celebration in the way we had hoped and planned,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement Monday.

Disease and infections surging: Gaza health ministry
1:55 PM
The New Arab Staff

Gaza's health ministry has warned that infections like hepatitis and meningitis are spreading in Gaza amid the collapsing sanitation.

Sewage is overflowing and rubbish is piling up in the streets amid a lack of clean water has created severely unsanitary conditions, health officials have said.

The ministry appealed for support from "all relevant national, international and humanitarian institutions".

NGOs and medics have expressed concern about the health conditions in the Strip for the nearly 2 million Palestinians displaced.

UNRWA seeks $1 billion emergency funding for Gaza, West Bank
1:35 PM
The New Arab Staff

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said on Wednesday it has issued an emergency call for funding, as humanitarian needs in Gaza and the West Bank soar.

UNRWA is seeking $1.21 billion to address the crisis in Gaza and the West Bank until the end of 2023 for the 1.7 million Palestinians in need.

NRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said: "The scars of war are seen on a massive scale in Gaza. Meanwhile violence is increasing in the West Bank. It is critical to support UNRWA in providing lifesaving humanitarian assistance and development services in health and education. The past months proved that there is no replacement or alternative to UNRWA".

UK lawmaker presses government on Gaza mass graves
1:06 PM
The New Arab Staff

Scottish National Party MP Mhairi Black asked the deputy prime minister why the UK has not stopped arms sales to Israel considering the concern that it could be committing war crimes in Gaza with the discovery of mass graves during a parliament session on Wednesday.

"Three hundred bodies including the elderly and the injured... the UK's own arms policy states that even if there's a risk that war crimes might be taking place then that is reason enough to halt the sale of arms. Given all we know, why then is the prime minister yet to do so?" Black asked.

Dowden, who represents the Conservative Party, said that the UK "continues to urge any allegations of misconduct" and added that "we an trust the Israeli government, a democratically elected government to properly investigate".

The comments come as the UK's foreign secretary David Cameron said that UK is not revoking license exports to Israel based on advice drawn from "open-source evidence, intelligence, accounts of diplomatic and ministerial engagements and correspondence with the relevant country".

Cameron was responding to questions raised by Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Alicia Kearns who requested 'clarity' on UK arms exports.

Gaza health ministry: 79 deaths and 86 injuries in past day
12:18 PM
The New Arab Staff

Gaza's health ministry has published their daily update which reports that 79 people have been killed and 86 injured from Israeli attacks over the past day.

The statement added that six families had been killed and it called on people to register deaths with the ministry so it can keep track.

The total death toll in over six months of war has risen to 34,262 people alongside 77,229 wounded since October.

EU urges probe into mass graves at Gaza hospitals
12:12 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The European Union on Wednesday called for an independent probe into the reported discovery of mass graves at two Gaza hospitals destroyed in Israeli sieges.

"This is something that forces us to call for an independent investigation of all the suspicions and all the circumstances, because indeed it creates the impression that there might have been violations of international human rights committed," EU spokesman Peter Stano said.

Gaza's civil defence said on Wednesday that at least 300 bodies had been discovered at the Nasser Medical Complex near the city of Khan Younis in the past day.

Gaza could surpass famine thresholds in six weeks: WFP
11:45 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The Gaza Strip could surpass famine thresholds of food insecurity, malnutrition and mortality in six weeks, an official from the World Food Programme said on Wednesday.

"We are getting closer by the day to a famine situation," said Gian Caro Cirri, Geneva director of the World Food Programme (WFP).

"There is reasonable evidence that all three famine thresholds -- food insecurity, malnutrition and mortality -- will be passed in the next six weeks."

Cirri was speaking at the launch of a report by the Global Network Against Food Crises, an alliance of humanitarian and development actors including United Nations agencies, the World Bank, the European Union and the United States.

'Multiple' strikes heard in Lebanon
11:10 AM
The New Arab Staff

Residents in south Lebanon said Israel had conducted a large-scale air strike around the area of Aita al-Shaab on Wednesday, dropping several bombs in succession, according to local media reports.

One report said Israel had struck more than 14 times on the outskirts of the towns of Aita al-Shaab and Ramyah, a significant escalation in the size of Israel's typical air attacks which usually constitute single striles.

Israeli military striking south Lebanon
10:41 AM
The New Arab Staff

The Israeli army said its planes were striking south Lebanon on Wednesday against "Hezbollah targets" in an unusual statement.

The army statement did not provide further details, but the strikes come amid hours of attacks between the two warring parties. Israel typically issues statements on its operations after they have finished.

A Lebanese woman and her young niece were killed by an Israeli strike on their home in Hanine yesterday while a drone strike north of Tyre killed Hezbollah member Hussein Ali Azqoul.

In response, Hezbollah launched a drone attack some 15 kilometres into Israel, marking a significant distance compared to previous hits.

Jamaica announces recognition of state of Palestine
10:09 AM
The New Arab Staff

Jamaica announced on Wednesday that it would recognise Palestine as a state, which comes a week after the US vetoed a motion at the UN Security Council which would have paved the way for full UN membership for Palestine.

Jamaica's foreign ministry said on Wednesday that the decision is aligned with the country's "strong commitment" to the principles of the UN Charter which "engender mutual respect and peaceful co-existence among states, as well as the recognition of the right of people to self-determination".

It joins 140 UN member states which recognise Palestine and eleven other Caribbean countries which includes Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados and Belize.

Israel deploying two reserve brigades to south Gaza
9:30 AM
The New Arab Staff

The Israeli army said on Wednesday that it was calling up two reserve brigades for training to be deployed in south Gaza, amid preparations for the army's incursion into Rafah

The two brigades have been operating in northern Gaza and will be redeployed to the south following preparations and practising "battle techniques", the army said in a statement.

Israel's prime minister has said the military will press ahead with an invasion into the border city of Rafah, despite major international concerns for the wellbeing of the one million Palestinians sheltering there.

The army has reportedly bought tens of thousands of tents to move the already displaced people in advance of an invasion, Israeli media has reported.

Germany to resume cooperation with UNRWA
9:05 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The German government plans to resume cooperation with UNRWA in Gaza, the foreign and development ministries said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

The decision follows an investigation by the former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna into whether some UNRWA employees were involved in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.

The Colonna-led review of the agency's neutrality on Monday concluded Israel had yet to back up its accusations that hundreds of UNRWA staff were operatives in Gaza terrorist groups.

The German ministries urged UNRWA to swiftly implement the report's recommendations, including strengthening its internal audit function and improving external oversight of project management.

"In support of these reforms, the German government will soon continue its cooperation with UNRWA in Gaza, as Australia, Canada, Sweden and Japan, among others, have already done," said the ministries in the statement.

Israel: US military aid sends 'strong message' to enemies
8:45 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel said Wednesday the US Senate approval of $13 billion in military aid sent a "strong message" to its enemies.

Israel's foreign minister on Wednesday thanked the US Senate for approving the military aid package hot on the heels of the House of Representatives.

"The Israel aid package that now passed both houses of Congress is a clear testament to the strength of our alliance and sends a strong message to all our enemies," Israel Katz posted on social media site X.

Hezbollah fires rockets into northern Israel
8:35 AM
The New Arab Staff

Lebanon's Hezbollah group said that it fired "dozens of Katyusha rockets" into northern Israel on Wednesday morning in retaliation for an attack which killed two civilians in their home in south Lebanon the day before.

In a statement on its Telegram channel, the group said it hit the "occupied Lebanese town of Tarbikha", also known as Moshav Shomera in north Israel.

On Tuesday, a woman and her ten year old niece were killed by an Israeli strike on their home in Hanine, which also wounded four family members.

Hezbollah and Israel have been engaged in near-daily fighting across the border since the outbreak of the Gaza war in October.