Israel deploys thousands of troops to West Bank ahead of Ramadan - as it happened

Ahram Online , Sunday 10 Mar 2024

On the 156th day of the Israeli war on Gaza, Israeli security forces deployed en masse to the occupied West Bank ahead of Ramadan. The Al-Aqsa Mosque in east Jerusalem, where thousands are expected to pray each day during the Muslim holy month, has the potential to be a major flash point amid the ongoing war.

In this picture taken from Israel s southern border with the Gaza Strip shows humanitarian aid being airdropped over the Palestinian territory on March 10, 2024. AFP


23:00 This year's Ramadan comes as the Middle East remains inflamed by the ongoing Israel war in the Gaza Strip. That has raised fears that the war may spark unrest far beyond the current borders of the war.

The Israeli war in Gaza, which is supported by the United States, has displaced most of the territory's 2.3 million people and led to critical shortages of food, water and medicine.

The Gaza health ministry said at least 23 children have died from malnutrition and dehydration.

The Israeli military has killed at least 30,000 Palestinians since the war began, according to the health ministry. 

20:00 Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said the Palestinian resistance group was still open to talks with Israel after mediators have so far failed to secure a Ramadan truce in the Gaza war.

"I say clearly that the one who bears responsibility for not reaching an agreement is the occupation (Israel) ... However, I say that we are open to continuing negotiations," Haniyeh said in a televised speech as Muslim nations announced the start of the fasting month.

18:00 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday rejected US President Joe Biden's comment that Israel's approach to the war in Gaza was "hurting Israel more than helping Israel."

"If he meant by that that I'm pursuing private policies against the majority, the wish of the majority of Israelis, and that this is hurting the interests of Israel, then he's wrong on both counts," Netanyahu said in an interview with Politico.

17:00 Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz said on Sunday the international community must assume its responsibilities to halt what he called "brutal crimes" against Palestinians in Gaza.

In a speech read on his behalf by Saudi Minister of Media Salman Al-Dosari to mark the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the king also said the international community must help provide safe humanitarian passages in the territory.

15:52 Israel is deploying 24 battalions, 20 border police companies, and two special units to the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem ahead of Ramadan, Al Jazeera cited Israeli army radio as saying.

On top of the 5,000 reservists already stationed there, the deployment will bring the total strength of Israeli forces in the West Bank to 15,000.

Thousands of police have been deployed around the narrow streets of the Old City in Jerusalem, where tens of thousands of worshippers are expected every day of the Muslim holy month at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, according to Reuters.

After some confusion last month when hard-right security minister Itamar Ben Gvir said he wanted restrictions on worshippers at Al-Aqsa, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the numbers admitted would be similar to last year.

“This is our mosque and we must take care of it,” said Azzam Al-Khatib, director-general of the Jerusalem Waqf, the religious foundation that oversees Al-Aqsa. “We must protect the presence of Muslims at this mosque, who should be able to enter in big numbers peacefully and safely.”

Last Ramadan, violence broke out in the Old City, as Israeli police stormed the mosque and used force to remove dozens of Palestinian worshippers. Over the next days, Israeli settlers guarded by police broke into the compound, leading to more clashes.

While the mosque's compound is administered by the Jerusalem Waqf, Israel controls access and maintains security.

Under a longstanding status quo, non-Muslims can visit the site at specific times but are not allowed to pray there.

15:38 Demonstrators angry at Israel's bloody war on Gaza protested against Israeli President Isaac Herzog who was attending the opening of the Netherlands's Holocaust museum in Amsterdam.

The protests took place less than a kilometre away from the museum and were organized by, among others, Jewish groups urging an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

"There's only one place for him here and that's the ICC," Estelle Jilissen, a 25-year-old consultant, told AFP, referring to the International Criminal Court that tries suspected war criminals.

Protesters had hung signs on lampposts reading: "Detour to International Criminal Court" along the route.

"A lot of Jewish people are against his arrival here as well because the pain of their ancestors, the suffering of their ancestors, is being smeared by this president's arrival," said Jilissen.



15:00 There are no dates yet for negotiators to return to Cairo to resume talks over reaching a ceasefire in Gaza, a member of Hamas' political bureau told CNN. 

“There is nothing new,” Hossam Badran told CNN, saying that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to respond to fair Palestinian demands regarding Gaza’s basic needs.

He listed “stopping the killing, withdrawal, providing relief and the return of the displaced people without conditions” as factors to be considered.

A Hamas delegation left Cairo on 7 March following days of talks without an obvious breakthrough, after Israel boycotted the talks.

However, Al Qahera News, citing a senior source, said the delegation had left to consult on the proposals, adding negotiations would resume this week.

The Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv rebutted Israeli intelligence claims that Hamas is holding up a captives exchange deal, citing a top security source, instead blaming internal discord within the Israeli leadership.

 Netanyahu rejected requests from relevant authorities and security agencies to expand the mandate given to the Israeli delegation tasked with conducting talks for a deal with Hamas, official Israeli radio reported.

Reporting by Israel’s Channel 12 attributes the stalled negotiations to differences in positions between government officials and leaders in the security agencies, based on leaked information about discussions between the war and security cabinets. 

Meanwhile, Hossam Badran told the WSJ that Netanyahu is to blame for the failure of the talks so far.

“The only complication in the negotiations is Netanyahu’s stance, who refuses to deal with anything on the table,” he said. 

“Netanyahu is the most dangerous person for the stability of this region. He is the fire starter.”

“We didn’t declare negotiations have been stopped. We are the party most keen to stop this war,” he said.

14:32 A road being built by the Israeli army splitting Gaza in two has reached the Mediterranean coast, a CNN analysis of satellite imagery shows. It’s part of an Israeli plan to control the Palestinian territory for months and possibly years to come, Israeli officials have said.

A satellite image from 6 March reveals that the east-west road, which has been under construction for weeks, now stretches from the Gaza-Israeli border area across the entire roughly 6.5-kilometre-wide (about 4-mile-wide) strip, dividing northern Gaza, including Gaza City, from the south of the enclave. About two kilometres (1.2 miles) includes an existing road, while the rest is new, according to CNN’s analysis.

The Israeli army told CNN they were using the route to “establish (an) operational foothold in the area” and allow “the passage of forces as well as logistical equipment.”

14:00 Israeli authorities have stopped issuing new visas or renewing old ones for foreign employees of international NGOs, most of whom occupy senior positions, AFP reported according to three senior humanitarian officials and a body representing more than 80 groups.

As of Thursday, 57 aid workers' visas had expired since the war broke out, while 42 more "will expire in the coming few weeks", said Faris Arouri, director of the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), whose members work in the Palestinian territories.

At least 50 requests for new visas -- for staffers ramping up the response to worsening humanitarian conditions in Gaza and the West Bank -- have gone nowhere, Arouri said.

"The total is close to 150 positions that we urgently need as of two months ago, not tomorrow," Arouri said.

"We see it as part and parcel of a larger-scale Israeli blockade on aid operations and humanitarian aid both in the West Bank and Gaza."

The United Nations has also been affected, with scores of visa applications currently "unanswered," a UN official told AFP.

Work visas for international NGOs require a recommendation letter from Israel's Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs, which has not issued any since August, three senior humanitarian officials told AFP.

13:12 Palestinian prisoners and detainees from the Gaza Strip who are being held by the Israeli army are being subjected to premeditated murder and arbitrary execution outside the purview of the law and the judiciary, Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor said in a statement issued Saturday.

According to Euro-Med Monitor, Israeli prisons and detention centres have become more brutal replicas of Guantanamo. Ill-treatment and degrading disregard of human dignity, deprivation of the most basic rights, and horrible forms of torture including those that result in murder.

The rights group expressed horror and shock at the ongoing reports of intentional killings of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, while others were tortured to death in the Sde Teman camp and other Israeli detention centres and military facilities.

It cited reports published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz two days ago regarding the deaths of 27 Gaza Strip detainees since 7 October during questioning and detention in Israeli military facilities following severe torture and mistreatment.

According to the paper, the detainees died while being held at the Sde Teman base near Beersheba, southern Israel, and the Anatot base near occupied Jerusalem, or while being investigated in other Israeli facilities. The army has not released any information about their deaths.

Euro-Med Monitor warned that "the Israeli army continues to commit the crime of forced disappearances of prisoners and detainees from the Gaza Strip by withholding lists of their names and information about their whereabouts, and depriving them of legal protections they should be accorded for detentions over extended periods."

"While many of them were subjected to physical and psychological torture, sexual violence, and threats from the moment of arrest until the moment of their release, some detainees were subjected to bargaining and blackmail attempts demanding cooperation with the Israeli army and Shin Bet in exchange for alleviating their torture or obtaining certain ‘privileges’ and their release," it added.

Euro-Med Monitor highlighted testimonies it received from ex-prisoners saying they were purposefully deprived of food, water, and sleep in addition to suffering from severe abuse and torture.

43-year-old Jihad Yassin told the Euro-Med Monitor team that he was detained by the Israeli army for eleven days in January, subjected to "brutal and frightening" conditions of confinement, including electric shocks, severe beatings, and being shackled. He also said that he and the other detainees had been sprayed with strange and inappropriate materials, leaving them exposed to insects and freezing weather.

"We were served distressing food that showed signs of mould. Not only did we endure severe beatings, but we were also made to take drugs that made people hallucinate. I still experience the side effects of those drugs, like headaches and lightheadedness."

Radwan Katkat, a 44-year-old Palestinian Authority employee who lives in the northern Gaza Strip, said that after being taken from a shelter close to Kamal Adwan Hospital on 11 December, he was detained by the Israeli army for 32 days.

He clarified that he was put through a series of interrogation sessions, the first of which took place in a secluded part of the northern Gaza Strip after he was stripped of all of his clothes and tied by his hands and feet.

He was then taken to another nearby location and endured severe physical and psychological abuse, including beatings, before being brought to an Israeli detention camp along with his son and other family members.

12:45 Egypt and Jordan have conducted joint airdrops of humanitarian aid on northern Gaza, Egyptian Armed Forces Spokesman Gharib Abdel-Hafez said in a statement on Sunday.

“The Egyptian Air Forces in cooperation with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and some friendly and brotherly countries have flown some [aircraft] within the international coalition to provide urgent humanitarian and relief aid through airdrops on the affected areas in the northern Gaza Strip,” read the statement.

The step comes to implement President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi's directives to persistently participate in providing all forms of support to alleviate the burden of basic needs shortage for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Abdel-Hafez said.

The new airdrops coincide with the Egyptian-UAE aerial bridge to execute airdrops with large quantities of food aid and emergency relief materials in the northern Gaza Strip, he added.

On Saturday, President El-Sisi said the aid has been airdropped due to "the challenges associated with its entry by land," referring to the restrictions imposed by Israel delaying the delivery of aid.​



11:46 A letter signed by 189 UK-based scholars, many of whom are fellows of the British Academy, expressed solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, including academics and researchers, according to The Guardian.

The signatories said they were"shocked and saddened" by the "immense" loss of civilian life, denouncing the demolition of higher education institutions in the Gaza Strip as a "clear violation" of international law.

"We stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza and its community of students and researchers, who are experiencing this attack on their basic rights to survival. We extend our support and friendship to all academics, researchers, and students in the Gaza Strip and occupied Palestinian territories, for whom the safety to learn, teach, and research is no longer guaranteed," the statement read.

11:33 Israel killed at least 31,045 Palestinians and wounded  72,654 since it started its genocidal war on the strip, the Palestinian health ministry said.

The latest toll includes 85 fatalities over the past 24 hours, the ministry statement said.

Meanwhile, hunger is everywhere in Gaza, the UNRWA said. "The situation in the north is tragic, where aid via land is denied despite repeated calls. Ramadan is approaching and the death toll continues to rise," the UN agency added.



Gaza's Civil Defense said that the use of aid drops in Gaza has not "limited the famine crisis" but rather "increased the number of victims" and led to casualties and injuries.

"We stress the need to ensure that such assistance is delivered through the Gaza Strip's outlets and delivered safely to all citizens trapped to avoid further casualties," the civil defence spokesperson Mahmoud Basal said.

At least five people died after an airdrop fell on people and homes of citizens northwest of Gaza City.

It is not clear who was delivering the aid.

10:54 Al Jazeera obtained images from the camera of an Israeli drone shot down in Gaza, exposing the killing of a Palestinian boy.

The photographs captured the boy being sniped during an incursion by occupation forces near Al-Fakhoura School in Jabalia Camp last December.

It shows the defenceless Palestinian boy then covered in his blood after being shot, with the Israeli drone zooming in to take a close-up picture of the scene.



10:37 The Municipality of Gaza launched an urgent appeal for humanitarian aid before the month of Ramadan, voicing alarm on the severe water shortage.

A member of the Emergency Committee in Gaza Municipality told Al Jazeera that the groundwater reserve is in danger, adding that the per capita share of water in the municipality is now two litres per day.

He warned that people would die due to thirst in the Israeli-bombarded strip.

“Gaza is facing a humanitarian crisis due to relentless Israeli aggression, with essential services such as water and sanitation, significantly affected,” the Gaza Municipality said on X.

It called for international aid in supplying fuel for basic services, electricity generators for water wells, and heavy machinery for infrastructure repair and waste management.



10:10 The Israeli army said that 37 rockets were fired from Lebanon at the Mount Meron area of northern Israel.

It added that in the first barrage of 30 rockets, one projectile was intercepted by the Iron Dome air defence system.

Hezbollah claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it fired dozens of rockets at the settlement of Meron.

It said the barrage is a response to the deaths of civilians in the Israeli strike on southern Lebanon’s Khirbet Selm last night.

09:55 The US Central Command said a US Army ship left Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia on Saturday carrying the "first equipment to establish a temporary pier" to receive aid off war-ravaged Gaza.

The Pentagon said Friday it would take up to 60 days to set up the temporary pier, which US President Joe Biden announced the previous night.

Meanwhile, a boat laden with food for Palestinians in Gaza was "ready" to set sail from Cyprus, an NGO said.

Spanish charity Open Arms said its boat, which docked three weeks ago in Cyprus's Larnaca port, was "ready" to embark but awaits final authorization.

It would be the first shipment along a maritime corridor from Cyprus -- the closest European Union country to Gaza -- that the EU Commission hopes will open on Sunday.

Open Arms Spokeswoman Laura Lanuza told AFP that Israel inspected the cargo of "200 tons of basic foodstuffs, rice and flour, cans of tuna."

US charity World Central Kitchen, which has partnered with Open Arms, has teams in the Israeli-bombarded Gaza Strip who were "constructing a dock" to unload the shipment, Lanuza said.

09:26 Half a year into the full-scale Israeli invasion of Gaza, children are now succumbing to hunger and half a million others face starvation.

Amid ongoing Israeli bombardment and the tight restriction of life-saving aid, the United Nations grapples with mounting challenges in its response.

A poignant photo story by the United Nations sheds light on Gaza's children, many teetering on the brink of famine.

“Children who survived bombardment may not survive a famine,” said WHO’s chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, reporting that one in six youngsters in Gaza is currently dangerously malnourished.

Due to ongoing aid restrictions, newborns are extremely vulnerable to malnutrition, as their mothers do not consume enough food to be able to breastfeed their infants. At Al-Helal Al-Emirate Maternity Hospital in Rafah, 77 infants share 20 incubators, the UN said.

At least 20 children have succumbed to starvation in the bombarded enclave, including most recently a 14-day-old baby.

Many children in Gaza are showing signs of severe acute malnutrition and drastic weight loss, according to UNICEF.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) was forced to pause lifesaving aid deliveries to northern Gaza on 20 February due to a lack of security. A WFP 14-truck convoy tried to deliver aid on 5 March, but was turned away by the Israeli army, the UN announced. 



09:05 At least five people were killed Saturday, including four from the same family, and nine wounded in an Israeli strike on a house in southern Lebanon, the country's official National News Agency reported.

"The attack against a house in the Khirbet Selm area killed a family of four," a couple and their two children, and one other person, the NNA said, adding that the mother was also pregnant.

The strike demolished the house, wounding at least nine others who lived nearby, it said.

Lebanese Hezbollah and Israel have traded deadly cross-border fire on a near-daily basis since the Israeli war on Gaza broke out.

The fighting is mainly along border regions but fears have grown of a broader conflict in Lebanon.

Last Tuesday, a Lebanese couple and their son were killed in an Israeli strike on a house in the southern border village of Hula.

09:02 Joe Biden said Benjamin Netanyahu's approach to the war in Gaza was "hurting Israel more than helping Israel" in an interview aired Saturday, as the US leader's impatience with his Israeli counterpart grows increasingly visible.

With Gaza's humanitarian crisis growing more dire and Biden's left flank in uproar, the US president made contradictory remarks as to the question of a "red line" over Israel's threatened offensive on Rafah in southern Gaza.

Netanyahu "has a right to defend Israel, a right to continue to pursue Hamas," Biden said, but added that "he must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost as a consequence of the actions taken."

"In my view, he is hurting Israel more than helping Israel," he said.

As to Israel's potential invasion of Rafah, where some 1.5 million of the territory's 2.4 million residents are now crammed, Biden was ambiguous.

"It is a red line," the 81-year-old Democrat said, immediately adding: "I am never going to leave Israel. The defence of Israel is still critical.

"There is no red line (in which) I want to cut off all weapons so they don't have the Iron Dome (air defence system) to protect them."

He then once again countered that there were in fact "red lines... You cannot have 30,000 more Palestinians dead."

After Biden's State of the Union address Thursday, he was caught on a hot mic stating that he had told Netanyahu they would need to have a "come to Jesus" meeting, an American expression that refers to a dramatic realization that one must correct course.

Despite Biden's shift in tone, his administration has given short shrift to activist calls to cut the billions of dollars in military aid the United States sends to Israel.

09:00 Israeli forces intensified attacks across the Gaza Strip. Strikes targeted displaced Palestinians in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

At least 15 people were killed in Khan Younis when Israeli rockets struck several tents in the Al-Mawasi neighbourhood.

The injured were taken to Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah for treatment.

At least 13 women and children in the Nuseirat refugee camp in the centre have also been killed.

The Civil Defence Department said at least nine Palestinians, including children, were killed in an Israeli airstrike on a house in Gaza City late Saturday.

Footage shared by the civil defence showed first responders pulling out the dead and injured trapped in the collapsed house. One rescuer was seen holding a dead infant, before placing the limp body on a sofa amid the wreckage.

More airstrikes on residential buildings have also been reported in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza. Several Palestinians were also killed there. The exact figures were not announced yet.


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