Gaza: When mothers have to bury at least 7,700 children, very basic principles are challenged - UN women’s rights committee - as it happened

Ahram Online , Saturday 17 Feb 2024

On the 134th day of the Israeli war on Gaza, Tel Aviv continues to threaten to invade Rafah in southern Gaza, arrests up to 100 at Nasser Hospital, while the International Court of Justice warned of a "humanitarian nightmare," and tensions mount across the occupied Palestinian territories.

Gaza Strip
File Photo: A Palestinian family sits near destroyed houses following a strike in Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip. AFP

 

23:00 "The very principles of the Convention protecting women and girls are challenged when mothers in the Gaza Strip have been put in a situation of burying at least 7,729 children in the past four months, and 5,500 women don’t know if they will be able to deliver their children safely within next month," the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) warned.  

On Saturday, the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said 28,858 civilians were killed and 68,677 injured - most of them women and children - since the start of the Israeli aggression on Gaza on 7 October.

“On this 125th day of the war in Gaza, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (the Committee) appeals for an immediate and sustained ceasefire to halt violence and loss of lives, and destruction of infrastructure and property and a return to a constructive peace dialogue to agree on actions to bring about lasting peace and security that involves the leadership and decision-making of both Israeli and Palestinian women," added the CEDAW.

Read the full CEDAW statement calling for a peaceful and lasting resolution to the Gaza war.

 

 

21:30 The White House is sending more air-dropped bombs to Israel amid Tel Aviv's pronounced intentions to carry out a ground assault on Rafah.

The new weapons delivery would comprise thousands of FMU-139 bomb fuzes, KMU-572 JDAM guidance kits, and MK-82 500 lb bombs, according to a report by the WSJ on Saturday. 

The delivery remains a proposal which is subject to internal review before being formally approved by Congress.

The WSJ report comes as the Biden administration remains committed to supporting the declared objectives of the Netanyahu government of destroying Hamas and achieving "total victory" in the Gaza war.

It also comes as Netanyahu and his war cabinet continue to warmongering about intentions to carry out a ground assault on Rafah.

On Saturday, the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said more than 97,000 civilians were killed and injured - most of them women and children - since the start of the Israeli aggression on Gaza on 7 October.

The Israeli military killed 83 civilians and injured 125 others - most of them women and over the last 24 hours, added the ministry.

21:00 Talks between Israel and Hamas to agree to a ceasefire in Gaza were "not really very promising" in recent days, the prime minister of Qatar, a key mediator for the negotiations, said Saturday.

"I believe that we can see a deal happening very soon," Qatar's Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said at the Munich Security Conference.

"Yet the pattern in the last few days is not really very promising. We will always remain optimistic, we will always remain pushing," he added, speaking in English.

"Time is not in our favour," he said, casting forward to the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on 10 March.

Al-Thani did not disclose many details about the highly sensitive talks.

But he did say that if an agreement were found on the "humanitarian side of the agreement," there would be a deal on the "numbers" for an exchange of hostages and prisoners.

A truce between Hamas and Israel should not however depend on a deal to release hostages held by Hamas, Al-Thani said.

"This is the dilemma that we've been in and unfortunately that's been misused by a lot of countries -- that to get a ceasefire, it's conditional to have the hostage deal. It shouldn't be conditioned," he said.

Failure to reach a deal could lead to a wider escalation in the region, he warned.

Israel has faced growing international pressure to agree on a ceasefire with Hamas, as it prepares a ground assault on the crowded southern city of Rafah in Gaza.

Fears have grown for some 1.4 million Palestinians who have taken refuge in the city, close to the border with Egypt.

22:30 Mohamed Abdel-Fadil Shousha, the governor of North Sinai, announced on Saturday that the Egyptian government is establishing a logistics hub in Rafah, Egypt to receive aid provided by Egypt, foreign countries, as well as regional and international organizations.

This hub will be used to store and prepare the aid for delivery while protecting it from inclement weather, the governor revealed during a press conference in Arish.

The hub includes truck waiting areas, secure warehouses, administrative offices, and accommodation for drivers, the governor explained.

It has been equipped with all necessary amenities and electricity to ensure smooth transportation to and from the area, he added. 

The new facilities will relieve the burden on drivers, reduce congestion in Arish and on the roads, and facilitate the work of the Egyptian Red Crescent in delivering aid, the governor said. 

The influx of aid arriving in Arish through air, land, and sea routes necessitates the establishment of a designated hub to receive, organize, and prepare the aid for delivery through the Rafah Border Crossing, he said.

On Thursday, Shousha refuted media reports that Egypt has been building camps to accommodate Palestinians in case they are forced to leave Gaza in statements to Al-Arabiya on Thursday.

These statements were echoed the next day by, Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt’s State Information Service, who insisted that Egypt considers such displacement a war crime and would never be a part of it.

19:30 Israel is waging a concerted campaign aimed at destroying UNRWA, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said in an interview published Saturday.

Philippe Lazzarini said calls for his resignation were part of the Israeli government's push.

"Right now we are dealing with an expanded, concerted campaign by Israel aimed at destroying UNRWA," he told the Swiss newspaper group Tamedia.

"It is a long-term political goal because it is believed that if the aid agency is abolished, the status of the Palestinian refugees will be resolved once and for all -- and with it, the right of return. There is a much larger political goal behind this."

"Just look at the number of actions Israel is taking against UNRWA," the main aid body in the Gaza Strip, he said.

He cited measures in the Israeli parliament, moves to remove the agency's VAT exemption and orders for contractors at Israel's port of Ashdod to "stop handling certain food deliveries for UNRWA".

"And all these demands come from the government."

Furthermore, Lazzarini says more than 150 UNRWA installations sheltering displaced Palestinians have been hit since Israel's war on Gaza began.

He added that $438 million in UNRWA funding  -- the equivalent of more than half of expected income for 2024 -- has been frozen following Israeli allegations that some of its staff participated in the Hamas offensive into Israel on 7 October.

Several countries -- including the United States, Britain, Germany and Japan -- have already suspended funding to UNRWA, despite there being no concrete evidence to support the Israeli allegations, with over a dozen countries following suit.

"If all countries continue to withhold their payments, UNRWA's funding will very quickly be at risk," he said.

18:00 The World Food Programme has warned that Palestinians in north Gaza are inching closer towards famine because aid agencies are unable to get in.

Israel has denied all humanitarian aid convoys into the northern parts of Gaza since the start of its war on the strip on 7 October.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have refused to leave their homes in the north of the strip despite all Israeli carpet bombing of major population centres in Gaza City, Beit Lahia and Jabalia.

Like many in northern Gaza, Shadi Jenina has resorted to desperate measures to stave off hunger for his five children -- grinding up animal feed into flour.

"We're looking for food for birds, animals and livestock... such as barley, corn, wheat and fodder. We grind them and make flour," Jenina, 40, explained.

"The bread is dry and not suitable for humans but we're forced to eat it," he told AFP, adding they struggle to feed their children.

The Gaza Strip was already one of the poorest places in the Middle East even before Israel declared a complete siege on the territory on 7 October.

Though much of Gaza was reliant on food aid, enough of it was entering the territory to largely meet the needs of its 2.4 million inhabitants.

But now, after more than four months of war that has flattened huge swathes of the Strip, Gazans are inching closer towards famine, according to the UN's World Food Programme.

And the situation in the north of the coastal territory is particularly acute, with international aid agencies unable to get in.

Since the start of this year, Israel has only given permission to 12 out of 77 United Nations evaluation missions to assess the needs of people in northern Gaza.

"There are about 300,000 people in the north and I have no idea how they've survived," said Andrea De Domenico, head of the UN humanitarian agency OCHA in the Palestinian territories.

"What we managed to bring up there is absolutely not enough. It is pure misery," he told AFP.

"Repeatedly when we are allowed to cross the checkpoint at Wadi Gaza to deliver food assistance, thousands of people block and unload the trucks at the risk of being shot."

In the last few days, the non-profit organisation World Central Kitchen, which made thousands of meals a day, said it had been forced to leave Gaza City for Rafah in the south.

Rafah, on the border with Egypt, has been turned in recent weeks into a vast camp for some 1.4 million people -- most of them displaced by Israel's relentless bombing.

Israel, though, is preparing a ground invasion of Rafah, prompting fears of a bloodbath.

17:00 French President Emmanuel Macron said: "Recognizing a Palestinian state is not a ‘taboo’" for France after meeting Jordan’s King Abdullah in Paris.

On paper, France and the EU have long supported a two-state solution in the Mideast as part of a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Macron did not elaborate on when and under what conditions Paris could recognize a Palestinian state but France, one of just five permanent members of the UN Security Council, is unlikely to take such a decision unilaterally.

Earlier this month, Britain’s Foreign Minister David Cameron said his country could officially recognize a Palestinian state after a ceasefire in Gaza.

On Saturday, Macron said: “Our partners in the region, notably Jordan, are working on it, we are working on it with them. We are ready to contribute to it, in Europe and the Security Council."

He also called for a ceasefire in Gaza and warned that an Israeli offensive in Rafah on the border with Egypt would lead to a “humanitarian disaster without any precedent.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects Palestinian statehood, and there have been no substantive negotiations on a two-state solution since 2009.

 In December, under increasing domestic pressures, Macron, who has supported Israel’s so-called "right to defend itself," became one of the first Western countries to call for a "lasting ceasefire" in the Gaza war.

On Thursday, Macron expressed France's "firm opposition" to an Israeli offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, in a telephone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Macron told Netanyahu: "It could only lead to a humanitarian disaster of a new magnitude" and create a new risk of regional escalation, according to a statement from the presidential Elysee palace.

The French leader stressed to the Israeli prime minister that a ceasefire agreement should be reached "without further delay," adding such a deal should "guarantee the protection of all civilians and the massive inflow of emergency aid."

14:58 Leaders at the African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa condemned Israel’s war on Gaza and called for its immediate end.

Moussa Faki, the chair of the African Union Commission, said Israel’s war was the "most flagrant" violation of international humanitarian law and accused Israel of having “exterminated” Gaza’s inhabitants.

Faki spoke alongside Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who also addressed the summit.

“Rest assured we strongly condemn these attacks that are unprecedented in the history of mankind,” Faki said to applause from delegates.

“We want to reassure you of our solidarity with the people of Palestine.”

Azali Assoumani, president of the Comoros and the outgoing chairperson of the African Union, praised the case brought by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice while condemning "the genocide Israel is committing in Palestine under our nose."

“The international community cannot close its eyes to the atrocities that are committed, that have not only created chaos in Palestine but also have disastrous consequences in the rest of the world,” Assoumani said.

During last year’s AU summit, an Israeli delegate was unceremoniously removed from the plenary hall amid a row over the country’s observer status at the continental body.

14:41 There is an "extraordinary opportunity" in the months ahead for Israel to be integrated into the Middle East as Arab countries are willing to normalize ties with the country, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday.

Speaking at a panel at the Munich Security Conference, Blinken also highlighted the "urgent" imperative to proceed with a Palestinian state that would also ensure the security of Israel.

The American top diplomat affirmed that Washington remains committed to Israel's security and making sure that the 7 October operation does not happen again. 

Blinken also said that Israel has become now safer and Iran is the biggest threat to Israel's and US security and it should be isolated along with its proxies.

14:05 The Israeli claims of Hamas diverting UN aid in Gaza lack evidence, and its recent targeted killings of Gaza police commanders safeguarding truck convoys have made it “virtually impossible” to distribute the goods safely, a top US envoy said in rare public criticism of Israel.

With the departure of police escorts following Israeli strikes, criminal gangs are increasingly targeting the convoys, said David Satterfield, the Biden administration's special Middle East envoy for humanitarian issues.

He said the lawlessness as well as regular Israeli protests at crossing points by those opposed to aid going into Gaza have disrupted delivery and distribution.

“We are working with the Israeli government, the Israeli army in seeing what solutions can be found here because everyone wants to see the assistance continue,” Satterfield told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Friday. A solution "is going to require some form of security escorts to return.”

Satterfield said that Israeli officials have not presented “specific evidence of diversion or theft” of UN assistance.

14:00 Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China Central Committee Wang Yi called for an acceleration in the founding of an independent Palestinian state when addressing the Munich Security Conference. 

“Generations of Palestinians have been displaced,” Yi added. 

Wang stated that concern over the Israeli war in Gaza proved that  “the question of Palestine is at the heart of the Middle East.”

The Director addressed the need to protect civilians who have so far borne the brunt of the violence, as well as reiterating calls for the two-state solution saying that "co-existence" between Israelis and Palestinians is necessary. 

13:00 In the latest wave of Israeli attacks on Gaza, the death toll has risen to 28,858, most of whom were women and children, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Overnight strikes killed at least 83 Palestinians, while 125 others sustained injuries, bringing the total number of wounded to a staggering 68,677.

The occupation forces have been impeding the efforts of ambulances to reach those in need of urgent medical assistance.

12:36 Al-Quds Brigades released a video showing artillery and missile strikes targeting a supply line for Israeli soldiers east and northeast of Khan Younis.

 

 

12:00 Yemen's Houthis claimed responsibility for a missile attack Friday on the British oil tanker Pollux in the Red Sea.

They emphasized their commitment to ongoing military operations in the Red and Arabian seas to enforce a blockade on Israeli navigation and ships heading to Israel.

These actions are intended to halt the aggression against Yemen and lift the siege on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, the statement explained. 

The Houthis, who control much of war-torn Yemen including the port of Hodeida, began their attacks in November.

US and British forces have responded with strikes against the Houthis, who have since declared the two countries' interests to be legitimate targets as well.

On Thursday, the US military said it struck more drones and missiles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen that had been ready to be launched against Israel-linked ships in the Red Sea.

The Houthi offensive has prompted some shipping companies to detour around southern Africa to avoid the Red Sea, which normally carries about 12 percent of global maritime trade.

 

 

12:37 The Head of Hamas Ismail Haniyeh blamed Israel for a lack of progress in achieving a ceasefire deal in Gaza. 

"The movement deals with the ongoing negotiations in a positive spirit and with high responsibility," he said in a statement. 

He added that Hamas “will not accept anything less than a complete cessation of the aggression, withdrawal of the occupation army from Gaza, and lifting of the unjust siege." 

He also insisted that Israel must free Palestinian prisoners serving long sentences in any upcoming swap deal.

Israeli Channel 13 reported expectations of an Israeli delegation travelling to Qatar next week for discussions on a new prisoner exchange deal.

11:10 A displaced Palestinian couple found love and celebrated their marriage in the makeshift tents that have become their temporary homes.

The couple's union took place in Deir Al-Balah, a city in central Gaza that has been reduced to rubble as a result of Israeli strikes.

As we reported earlier, Palestinians in Rafah, which has been heavily affected by intensified Israeli airstrikes are now moving towards central areas around Deir Al-Balah, located approximately 16 kilometres (10 miles) north of Rafah.

Rafah has become a refuge for an estimated 1.4 million Palestinians, over half of Gaza's population, who have been displaced by the ongoing conflict. Many of them are living in sprawling tent camps, facing severe humanitarian conditions and a lack of essential supplies.

Amid these challenging circumstances, the displaced couple's wedding serves as a reminder of the Palestinian's resilience in the face of Israel's adversity. 

 

 

10:22 Egypt has strongly denied reports that it is constructing displacement camps for Palestinians on its side of the border with Gaza.

Diaa Rashwan, head of the State Information Service, emphasized that Egypt considers the Israeli displacement of the Palestinians a war crime and would never participate in such an act.

Rashwan reiterated Egypt's unwavering opposition to any form of Palestinian displacement, whether "forced or voluntary," especially towards Egyptian territory.

He warned that such actions would not only "liquidate the Palestinian issue" but also pose a direct threat to Egypt's sovereignty and security.

He emphasized this as a "red line" that Egypt possesses the means to address swiftly and effectively.

The SIS chief further clarified that existing border security measures like buffer zones and fences are solely intended to maintain border security and territorial sovereignty.

10:17 Gaza’s largest functioning hospital was under siege on Friday, leaving patients and doctors helpless in the chaos as warplanes struck Rafah, the last refuge for Palestinians in the enclave, Reuters reported.

Israeli forces remained in Nasser hospital in Khan Younis after raiding it early on Thursday. The health ministry said five intensive-care patients died on Friday due to attacks that knocked out power and oxygen.

The Israeli army said on Friday its troops detained more than 20 Palestinians in the hospital, claiming they participated in the 7 October operation and dozens of others were kidnapped for questioning.

Hamas denied there were militants in the hospital, describing the claim as “lies aimed to cover up for destroying hospitals.”

The Gaza health ministry said the hospital lost power and remained without electricity on Friday, jeopardizing patient care. 

Two pregnant women gave birth on Friday with “no water, no food, and no way of warming them up” in cold weather, said ministry spokesperson, Ashraf Al-Qidra.

According to the ministry, Israeli soldiers stopped an aid convoy outside the hospital, preventing them from delivering supplies. The military said it provided aid including baby food and water.

The incursion at the hospital raised alarm about patients, medical workers, and displaced Palestinians sheltering there.

“There are still critically injured and sick patients that are inside the hospital,” said Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO), which said its staff were trying to reach the hospital after the Israeli raid.

“There is an urgent need to deliver fuel to ensure the continuation of the provision of life-saving services.”

09:45 Israel’s defense minister Yoav Gallant on Friday said Israel is “thoroughly planning” a military attack in Rafah, signalling a determination to move ahead despite growing international concerns about the safety of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians seeking refuge there.

US President Joe Biden has urged Israel not to carry out the operation without a “credible” plan to protect civilians and to instead focus on a ceasefire, while Egypt has said an operation could threaten diplomatic relations between the countries. Many other world leaders have issued similar messages of concern.

“We are thoroughly planning future operations in Rafah,” Gallant said. He declined to say when the operation might begin, though Israel has previously said it will first develop a plan to evacuate civilians.

Palestinians and international aid agencies say there is no safe place to go, with Israel also carrying out strikes in areas where it had told civilians to seek shelter, including Rafah.

09:30 UN humanitarian officials say Palestinians in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah are reportedly moving out of that region toward central areas around Deir Al-Balah as intensified Israeli airstrikes continue.

An estimated 1.4 million Palestinians, more than half of Gaza’s population, have crammed into Rafah, most of them displaced by fighting elsewhere in the territory. Hundreds of thousands are living in sprawling tent camps.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters Friday about the reported movements toward Deir Al-Balah, which is roughly 16 kilometres (10 miles) north of Rafah.

He also described the lack of food in Rafah and elsewhere — especially in northern Gaza, the first target of the offensive, where large areas have been destroyed.

“In Rafah, humanitarian conditions have become increasingly severe, with continued reports of people stopping aid trucks to take food,” he said.

“Vulnerable segments of the population include children, the elderly, and people with underlying health conditions, are particularly susceptible to the risk of malnutrition.”

Throughout Gaza, Dujarric said the delivery of aid is hindered by frequent border closures, longstanding import restrictions of goods into Gaza, damage to critical infrastructure, and the security situation.

09:00 The International Court of Justice (ICJ) said that it notes the “perilous” situation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, and said that the most recent developments in the Gaza Strip "would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences, as stated by the United Nations Secretary-General."

The top United Nations court said in a statement on Friday, that the situation in Rafah “demands immediate and effective implementation of the provisional measures indicated by the Court in its Order of 26 January 2024”, when it ordered Israel to take all steps within its power to ensure genocidal acts are not being committed in its war on Gaza.” 

However, the court “does not demand the indication of additional provisional measures,” as requested by South Africa to safeguard the Palestinians threatened by an Israeli ground assault.

It said no new order was necessary because the existing measures “are applicable throughout the Gaza Strip, including in Rafah.”

The World Court added that Israel “remains bound to fully comply with its obligations under the Genocide Convention” and the 26 January ruling ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction, and any acts of genocide in Gaza.

 

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