UNRWA says cannot deliver aid in Gaza under fire as Israel targets humanitarian convoys - as it happened

Ahram Online , Monday 5 Feb 2024

A United Nations official has accused Israel’s navy of striking an aid convoy carrying food destined for hard-hit northern Gaza as Israel continues a 4-month genocidal military campaign and blockade against 2.4 million Palestinians in the strip.

A man carries a food donation parcel in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 4, 2024. AFP


22:45  UNRWA says we cannot deliver humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza while under fire.

The UN body responsible for providing aid to millions of Palestinian refugees in Gaza and elsewhere said Safe, sustainable, humanitarian access is urgently needed everywhere in the strip, including in the North of Gaza.

The UNRWA statements came hours after the UN body accused the Israeli navy of striking against a convoy carrying food to Palestinians under a total Israeli siege in northern Gaza since 7 October.

Meanwhile, UNRWA Commissioner Philippe Lazarini said 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza - 5 percent of the 2.4 million population of the strip - have been killed or wounded or gone missing after more than 122 days of relentless Israeli airstrikes and bombardment.

On Monday evening, the health ministry in Gaza said at least 27,478 people have been killed and 66,835 people have been wounded in the territory after nearly four months of the Israeli war on Gaza.

International aid groups have estimated that one-quarter of the Palestinian population in Gaza faces starvation as Israel continues to block the minimum levels of humanitarian aid required to stay alive.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have become homeless and were displaced into a narrow corner in southern Gaza in and around Rafah after Israel destroyed tens of thousands of residential buildings across the strip.

22:20 Israeli police say officers shot and killed a Palestinian boy who allegedly attempted to stab them in the occupied West Bank.

Police said the paramilitary border police were carrying out a routine security check in an area east of Jerusalem when a 14-year-old allegedly pulled out a knife and attempted to stab the officers. The officers opened fire, shooting the teen, and were uninjured, police said.

In security footage of the incident released by police, a person is seen approaching the officers and begins lunging at one of them and making stabbing motions.

As the individual attempts to flee, the officers are seen opening fire and the suspect falls to the ground.

Police released a photo of a kitchen knife they alleged was used in the attempted stabbing.

They said the teen was from east Jerusalem, but his name was not immediately known.

Israel has carried out nightly raids in the West Bank, arresting more than 6,300 and killing at least 380, since 7 October.

22:00 German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call on Monday that a two-state solution with the Palestinians was the only path to lasting peace in the region.

"From the view of the government, only a negotiated two-state solution would open up the prospect of a sustainable solution to the Middle East conflict. This must apply to both Gaza and the West Bank," Scholz said, according to a statement issued by his spokesman.

21:00 President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi praised on Monday the key role of the Egyptian healthcare sector in alleviating the severe humanitarian suffering endured by Palestinians in Gaza amid the ongoing Israeli aggression on the strip

The president made his remarks during a meeting with Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and Minister of Health Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar to discuss the country’s healthcare issues, according to the Egyptian Presidential Spokesman Ahmed Fahmy.

They discussed further extending healthcare support to Gazans, including implementing a plan to treat Palestinians in 47 hospitals in eight governorates.

This is an increase over the 37 hospitals allocated, as of November. 

Since the start of the war on 7 October, Egypt has treated more than 2,200 Palestinians as Israel has destroyed most hospitals and medical facilities in the strip.

Egyptian doctors have performed nearly 1,200 surgeries on Palestinians.

In addition, the Egyptian Red Crescent has led a broad campaign to deliver medical supplies to the strip to alleviate a severe shortage.

20:00 After three years of exceptional sales growth, McDonald's appears to be returning to Earth.

The Chicago burger giant said Monday it expects its same-store sales — or sales at locations open at least a year — to rise 3 percent to 4 percent this year, which is in line with historical averages. That's down from double-digit gains in 2021 and 2022 and 9 percent growth last year.

“I think we are moving into 2024 that’s going to look more like what you would have considered a typical year before COVID and all the things that have gone on,” McDonald's President and CEO Chris Kempczinski said Monday during a conference call with investors.

McDonald's shares dropped 3.5 percent in early trading.

McDonald's got a glimpse of what's to come in the fourth quarter when it lost sales in the Middle East and other markets due to the war in Gaza and saw fewer visits from lower-income consumers in the U.S.

McDonald's global same-store sales rose 3.4 percent in the October-December period, well below the 4.7 percent increase Wall Street was expecting, according to analysts polled by FactSet.

Customers in the Middle East were angered after McDonald’s Israel – which is operated by a local franchisee -- announced in October it was providing free meals to Israeli soldiers. In response, some franchisees, like McDonald’s Oman, announced donations to relief efforts in Gaza. Sales have since dropped in Muslim-majority countries like Malaysia and Indonesia as well as countries with large Muslim populations like France.

“So long as this conflict, this war, is going on... we’re not expecting to see any significant improvement in this,” Kempczinski said. “It’s a human tragedy, what’s going on, and I think that does weigh on brands like ours.”

McDonald’s wasn’t the only US company seeing backlash from the war in recent months. Starbucks said last week that it faced boycotts in the Middle East and elsewhere because of its perceived support for Israel.

19:30 A United Nations official has accused Israel’s navy of striking an aid convoy carrying food destined for hard-hit northern Gaza.

The food convoy was waiting to move into northern Gaza when it was hit by Israeli naval gunfire on Monday morning, Thomas White, the Gaza director of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said in a post on the X platform.

White posted images showing a truck parked on the roadside with damage to its cargo.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military, which said it was looking into the report.

Juliette Touma, head of communications at the agency known as UNRWA, said no one was injured in the strike, which took place north of the area of Wadi al-Balah in central Gaza.

The UN says it has struggled to send aid to war-torn northern Gaza, which Israel pummeled in the first weeks of the war, because of the ongoing fighting and a near-total blockade on the entry of aid to the northern strip.

Israel’s latest allegations against UNRWA have triggered a global backlash but does the intelligence behind them stand up?

In a video report, Al Jazeera's The Listening Post debunked Israeli allegations against the UNRWA and Western governments' complicity in starving the people of Gaza.



19:00 The children and friends of Noor magazine showcased support for the children of Gaza in an art workshop organized at the Cairo International Book Fair.

The participating children expressed their feelings of supporting the children of Gaza who have become deprived of their most important life needs.

The Noor children said they have great hope that rights will return to their rightful owners thanks to the brave sons of Palestine.

The children of Palestine today will bear the banner of freedom, construction, independence, pride, and dignity, added the Noor children.

18:00 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Palestinian militant group Hamas has presented "demands that we will not accept" over captives held in Gaza.

Netanyahu, according to a statement from his Likud party, said the terms for the release of remaining captives "should be similar to the previous agreement", which saw a ratio of captives exchanged for Palestinian prisoners during a November truce

17:30 The UN Secretary-General, in consultation with UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, has appointed an independent Review Group to assess whether the Agency is doing everything within its power to ensure neutrality and to respond to allegations of serious breaches when they are made, according to a UN statement.

The review will be led by Catherine Colonna, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, who will work with three research organizations: the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden, and the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway, and the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

The Review Group will begin its work on 14 February 2024 and is expected to submit an interim report to the Secretary-General in late March 2024, with a final report expected to be completed by late April 2024. The final report will be made public.

This review is in response to a request made by UNRWA Commissioner-General Lazzarini earlier this year.

The Secretary-General notes that these accusations come at a time when UNRWA, the largest UN organization in the region, is working under extremely challenging conditions to deliver life-saving assistance to the 2 million people in the Gaza Strip who depend on it for their survival amidst one of the largest and most complex humanitarian crises in the world.

17:00 Spain’s foreign minister, José Manuel Albares, said his government will give 3.5 million euros ($3.8 million) to the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) to help it maintain its activities in the short term, AP reported.

The UNRWA has had several donor countries suspend their funding after Israel alleged, without providing any evidence, that 12 of its staff were involved in the 7 October Al-Aqsa Flood operation.

UNRWA provides lifeline support to millions of Palestinian refugees in Gaza and elsewhere.

The Spanish government said it is closely following the investigation of Israel's allegations and has urged the European Union to keep funding the agency.

The Spanish government was among the first of a few European governments to call for a ceasefire in the Israeli war on Gaza.

Since 7 October, hundreds of thousands of Spaniards have taken to the streets in Barcelona, Madrid, and other cities in support of the Palestinian cause.

Protestors wave Palestinian and Yemeni flags as they demonstrate in support of the people from Gaza, in the Palestinian territories, in Madrid on January 27, 2024. AFP

16:00 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Saudi Arabia to start a new regional tour to seek ceasefire in Gaza, reports Saudi Al-Arabiya TV.

15:54 French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne said: "Israeli settler violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank must stop" following a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Under no circumstances can there be forced displacement of Palestinians, neither out of Gaza nor out of the West Bank," Sejourne said during a Middle East tour aimed at securing a truce between Israel and Hamas.

On Saturday, a group of leftist French MPs led by Eric Coquerel, a member of parliament representing La France Insoumise (France Rebellious), held a press conference in Rafah on the Egyptian-Gaza border to call for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

MP Eric Coquerel at the press conference in Rafah on 4 February 2024. AFP

15:20 The International Federation of Journalists and the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate organized a sit-in in Brussels in protest against Israel's targeting of journalists in Gaza.

15:18 Hundreds of displaced families are fleeing Al-Amal Hospital and the PRCS's headquarters in Khan Younis, besieged for over two weeks by occupation forces, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.

The atmosphere of terror and panic is exacerbated by ongoing shelling and gunfire, it added.

Earlier, the Red Crescent released footage capturing the aftermath of the devastation at its headquarters in Jabalia, northern Gaza, following the Israeli occupation forces' incursion approximately 45 days ago.

13:50 The UNRWA repeated its appeal for safe and sustainable humanitarian access in Gaza.

It is "urgently needed everywhere including to the North of Gaza," the UN agency said, adding "We cannot deliver humanitarian aid under fire."

A food convoy waiting to move into Northern Gaza was hit by Israeli naval gunfire this morning

13:10 Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said "time is running out" to reach a diplomatic solution in south Lebanon, as tensions flare between the two countries, with daily cross-border fire.

"Israel will act militarily to return the evacuated citizens" to its northern border area if no diplomatic solution is reached to end the violence, Katz told his visiting French counterpart Stephane Sejourne, according to a statement issued by the Israeli foreign ministry.

Israeli aircraft launched today airstrikes on the town of Bayt Lif, southern Lebanon.

12:50 Iran said it "will not hesitate" to respond in the event of US attacks on its territory after the White House declined to say whether strikes on Iran were ruled out.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said Sunday the US will press on with its attacks against Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria.

Asked whether the United States would rule out the possibility of striking Iran directly, Sullivan told NBC: "It would not be wise for me to talk about what we're ruling in and ruling out."

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani hit back on Monday, saying: "The Islamic Republic has shown that it has always reacted decisively to any threat to its security, territorial integrity and sovereignty."

Iran "will not hesitate to use its capabilities" to respond to any attacks on its soil, said Kanani during his weekly press briefing.

He nonetheless reiterated that Iran "does not seek to aggravate tensions and crises in the region."

12:20 The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) reported that the Israeli occupation forces summoned Dr. Haider Al-Qaddura, a member of the Executive Committee of PRCS, along with Maher Atallah, the administrative director of Al-Amal Hospital, to an undisclosed location.

The move came after the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) informed PRCS of the occupation's approval for a safe passage, allowing displaced individuals to leave Al-Amal Hospital and PRCS headquarters for Mawasi in Khan Younis, the Red Crescent said. "Hundreds have begun departing after enduring a two-week siege," it added

12:05 Amnesty International said that Israeli forces have unleashed over the past four months a brutal wave of violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, carrying out unlawful killings, including using lethal force without necessity or disproportionately during protests and arrest raids, and denying medical assistance to those injured.

The organization investigated four emblematic cases where Israeli forces used unlawful lethal force – three incidents in October and one in November – which resulted in the killing of 20 Palestinians, including seven children.

Amnesty’s research also found that Israeli forces have obstructed medical assistance to people with life-threatening wounds and attacked those attempting to assist injured Palestinians, including paramedics.

In this image taken from surveillance video, Israeli forces disguised as civilians and medical workers hold weapons in a hallway at the Ibn Sina Hospital in the occupied West Bank town of Jenin, killing three Palestinians. AP

"These unlawful killings are in blatant violation of international human rights law and are committed with impunity in the context of maintaining Israel’s institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination over Palestinians,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s director of Global Research, Advocacy, and Policy.

At least 507 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank in 2023, including at least 81 children, making it the deadliest year for Palestinians since the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) began recording casualties in 2005.

Amnesty also called on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to investigate these killings and injuries as possible war crimes of wilful killing and wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury.

11:00 The Knesset is set to vote on the impeachment of MK Ofer Cassif on 19 February, for his support of South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice, Times of Israel reported

Cassif, the only Jewish member of the Arab Movement Party, signed a petition backing Pretoria’s case and accused Israeli leaders of committing anti-humanity crimes against the Palestinians.

The move came less than three weeks after the Knesset House Committee overwhelmingly supported a motion to expel the lawmaker.

Despite the widespread backlash against Cassif in Israel, both Deputy Attorney General Avital Sompolinsky and Knesset legal adviser Sagit Afik have stated that the charges against him fall short of “crossing the criminal threshold” necessary for his removal.

10:35 A Palestinian doctor has recounted the torture and abuse inflicted upon him by Israeli forces in Gaza during his detention. He described being subjected to sleep deprivation, constant shackling, and blindfolding for 45 days before being released last week, as reported by Reuters.

Doctor Said Abdulrahman Maarouf was working at Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza City when it was surrounded by Israeli forces in December 2023, according to the Reuters report. 

During his nearly seven-week imprisonment, he endured having his hands cuffed, his legs shackled, and his eyes masked.

Maarouf detailed the harsh conditions of his captivity, including being forced to sleep on pebbles without a mattress, pillow, or cover while loud music blared constantly. He spoke of the severe physical toll, losing over 25 kilograms during his time in Israeli prison.

"The torture was very severe in the Israeli prison. I am a doctor. My weight was 87 kilograms. I lost, in 45 days, more than 25 kilograms. I lost my balance. I lost focus. I lost all feeling," he said.

“However you describe the suffering and the insults in prison you can never know the reality unless you lived through it,” he added.

His arrest was the last moment he had news of his family, and he still does not know if they survived the onslaught as Israeli forces advanced into Gaza City under an intense artillery barrage, Reuters said.

Maarouf held back tears as he described his last phone conversation with his daughter when the Israeli soldiers called on loudspeakers for all doctors and medical staff to leave the hospital building.

10:00 At least 128 people, mostly women and children, were killed in the Israeli strikes overnight to Monday in Gaza, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Israeli bombardments have continued across the centre and southern end of the strip, including near hospitals.

Sources told AFP they could hear artillery shelling in the areas of eastern Rafah and Khan Younis, southern Gaza's main city.

A man carries salvageable items on Al-Mukhabarat street in Gaza City amid the rubble of buildings destroyed during Israeli bombardment, February 2024. AFP

09:50 The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates has condemned Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich's "colonial and racist" statements, denouncing them as an "explicit call for further escalation of violence."

Smotrich, an extremist minister, has sparked outrage with his agenda in the occupied West Bank as he promotes the approval of an extra 7,000 colonial settlements.

In a statement, the Palestinian ministry emphasized that "ending the occupation and settlements is the only way to achieve security and peace for all."

Smotrich seeks also to prevent Israeli banks from complying with US sanctions against terrorist Israeli settlers involved in violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.

Israel's Bank Leumi has recently froze the account of one of the four sanctioned individuals, fearing American legal repercussions if it continues to service him.

Smotrich has reportedly contacted the Bank of Israel, urging the supervisor of the bank to issue a clarification that Israeli law does not oblige banks to freeze sanctioned individuals’ accounts.

The ministry considers these actions "a contempt for international legitimacy" and calls for "imposing deterrent sanctions on the Israeli extremist right-wing leaders who boast about violating international law, incite further violence, and protect terrorist settlers.

09:45 The Israeli occupation forces detained 10 Palestinians, including a woman and a 17-year-old boy, from Ramallah and Al-Bireh Governorate in the occupied West Bank, WAFA reported citing security sources and the Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS).

This comes as the occupation forces raided early on Monday many cities and towns across the West Bank, including Nablus and Tulkarem.

In a large-scale military incursion into Ramin village, east of Tulkarem, the Israeli forces have destroyed the "Martyrs" monument built in memory of slain Palestinians who were killed by Israeli forces fire in the village. 

Sources told WAFA that Israeli troops were deployed throughout Ramin streets, amid the shooting of live gunfire, stun grenades, and tear gas bombs.

09:10 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia on his fifth visit to the region since October 2023.

He is also expected to travel to Egypt, Qatar, Israel, and the West Bank this week, focusing on advancing talks on the release of captives taken in Gaza in exchange for a temporary ceasefire.

09:00 Rescue teams are searching for survivors as local authorities report that 30 people were killed and tens injured in Israeli air attacks on “safe homes” and a mosque in Deir Al-Balah, in central Gaza. 

Thousands of people who were forced to leave the northern part of Gaza City mainly reside in this area previously designated as safe by Israel but has become a target of relentless airstrikes and artillery shelling, for the past few days. 

More to the north of Gaza City, health workers, patients, and displaced Palestinians are trapped inside Al-Shifa Hospital and are “completely terrified,” reports Al Jazeera as videos show Israeli snipers killing at least seven Palestinians nearby. 

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