Thousands march in UK, Italy and France demanding ceasefire in Israel war on Gaza - as it happened

Ahram Online , Saturday 9 Mar 2024

Ahram Online provided coverage of the Israeli war on Gaza on its 155th day.

London
Pro-Palestinian activists and supporters wave flags and carry placards on a march through London, during a National Day of Action for Palestine on March 9, 2024. AFP

 

22:30 The US military airdropped more than 41,000 meals to Gaza on Saturday, in Washington's fifth operation this month to deliver urgently needed aid to the coastal territory.

Israel has imposed a siege on Gaza that has halted aid deliveries on the ground, leading the United States and other countries to turn to airdropping assistance in addition to planning for maritime deliveries.

A US military cargo plane "dropped over 41,400 US meal equivalents and 23,000 bottles of water into Northern Gaza, an area of great need, allowing for civilian access to the critical aid," the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said of the joint operation.

US Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington State, said the US airdropping several thousand aid packages to Gaza is not sufficient when 500,000 people are going hungry.

Jayapal, who is among a growing number of Democrats voicing alarm over the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip, told CNN on Saturday: The US needs to utilize its leverage as the largest funder of military aid to Israel to get an immediate and permanent ceasefire to allow sufficient humanitarian aid into Gaza and secure the release of the hostages.

21:30 Israel said on Saturday its spy chief had met with his US counterpart as part of efforts to secure the release of Israeli captives still held in Gaza.

"The head of the Mossad, David Barnea, met yesterday (Friday) with the head of the CIA, Bill Burns, as part of the ceaseless efforts to advance another hostage release deal," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement on behalf of the Mossad.

The statement came as mediators scrambled to secure a new truce in Israel's five-month-old war on Gaza before Ramadan, which could begin as early as Sunday, depending on the lunar calendar.

Israel did not send a delegation to the latest round of truce talks in Cairo, and Hamas left on Thursday after expressing frustration with Israel's positions, heading to Qatar for consultation with the movement's leadership.

The Israeli statement did not specify where Friday's meeting between Barnea and Burns took place.

US President Joe Biden warned late last week that without a truce before Ramadan "Israel and Jerusalem could be very, very dangerous."

20:00 Thousands of protesters marched in central London on Saturday to call for a ceasefire in Gaza amid ongoing bombardment by Israel that has sparked a humanitarian crisis and reduced most of the territory to rubble.

The march, from Hyde Park Corner to the US Embassy, was the fifth major demonstration of the year so far in the capital.

"We will continue to protest until a ceasefire is called, and until there is an end to all UK complicity with Israel's decades-long oppression of the Palestinian people," march organiser Ben Jamal said ahead of the protest.

Last week Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called for the police to take tougher action against the protesters, saying the events "had descended into intimidation, threats and planned acts of violence."

The prime minister said that "police have a tough job in policing the protests" but that "we must draw a line."

"I say this to the police, we will back you when you take action," he added.

On Friday a pro-Palestinian UK protest group said one of its activists had "ruined" a portrait on display of Arthur Balfour, the British politician whose declaration helped lead to Israel's creation.

Police confirmed officers had received an online report of damage to a painting at the University of Cambridge's Trinity College, in south-eastern England.

Palestine Action,  a pro-Palestinian protest network, posted video footage online of the activist spraying the artwork with red paint from a canister and then slashing the surface of the framed painting multiple times.

The Balfour Declaration was a 67-word letter in 1917 from Britain's then-foreign secretary to Lionel Rothschild, a prominent British Zionist, supporting the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

The document is credited with eventually helping to spur the creation of Israel in 1948, which also led to the forced expulsion of around 750,000 Palestinians and decades of Israeli occupation and violence against Palestinians.

Thousands also joined pro-Palestine protests in Italy and France.

 


A demonstrator holds a placard reading "Stop genocide in Gaza" during a national peace demonstration in Rome on March 9, 2024. AFP

 

People hold flags and banners as they attend a march in support of the Palestinian people in Gaza, in Lyon, France, Saturday, March 9, 2024. AP

 

19:30 More than 200 Palestinian Arab and left-wing Israeli activists marched in the Palestinian city of Umm Al-Fahm in Israel on Saturday against the war on Gaza, demanding an immediate ceasefire.

During the first days of the war in October, police violently broke up a similar demonstration in the city, arresting at least 12 people.

One of those arrested was the prominent human rights lawyer Ahmad Khalifa, who was only released in February after 110 days in prison.

In November, the Israeli High Court enforced a ban on protests in the city, even as they allowed predominantly Jewish protests against the war elsewhere in the country.

Umm Al-Fahm is located in the Haifa District in north Israel, with the majority of the nearly 60,000 population being Palestinian citizens of Israel (PCIs), sometimes called Arab-Israelis.

According to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, there were more than two million PCIs in 2023, comprising 21 percent of the population.

PCIs are Palestinians and their descendants who were not expelled by Zionist militias during the 1948 war.

They endure systemic discrimination inside Israel, including access to jobs, housing, and education.

Since the beginning of the Israeli war on Gaza, PCIs have faced increased hostility and violence in Israel.

Those who dare voice their anger at Israeli war crimes in Gaza have been accused of treason, subjected to death threats, and forced into arbitrary detention.

“Some of these arrests were carried out with brutal force in the middle of the night and without proper legal justification. During detention, PCI are facing severe conditions, including verbal abuse, physical aggression, and threats of sexual violence.” Adalah, an organization for Arab minority rights reported.

Since 7 October, Israeli universities have taken disciplinary actions against dozens of PCI students, suspending or expelling them for social media posts on personal accounts.

Adalah reported monitoring 110 cases involving 91 Palestinian students in 32 institutions as of 14 November.

Dozens of PCIs have also been dismissed or suspended from their jobs for expressing solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

 

 

17:30 A Spanish boat laden with food for Palestinians in war-ravaged Gaza was "ready" to set sail from Cyprus, an NGO said Saturday, as fighting raged between Israeli and Hamas troops ahead of Ramadan.

The sea route aims to counter aid access restrictions, which humanitarian groups and foreign governments have blamed on Israel, more than five months into the war which has left Gaza's 2.4 million people struggling to survive.

The United Nations has repeatedly warned of looming famine, particularly in the Palestinian territory's north where no overland border crossings are open.

Spanish charity Open Arms said its boat, which docked three weeks ago in Cyprus's Larnaca port, "will be ready" to embark later on Saturday 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 Israeli authorities, which have welcomed the Cypriot sea corridor initiative, were inspecting 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 besieged Gaza Strip who were "constructing a dock" to unload the shipment, Lanuza said.

With ground access limited, countries have also turned to airdropping aid, although a parachute malfunction turned one delivery on Friday deadly.

The Palestinian health ministry said three more children had died from malnutrition and dehydration, with the total number of such deaths now 23.

Another 82 people were killed in strikes over the previous day, the ministry said, bringing the number of fatalities in Israel's bombardment and ground offensive of Gaza to 30,960, mostly women and children.

 

 

15:40 Israeli forces struck one of the largest residential towers in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

The 12-storey building, located about 500 meters from the border with Egypt, sustained damage in the strike. Dozens of families were made homeless, although no casualties were reported, according to residents.

One of the tower's 300 residents told Reuters that Israel issued a 30-minute warning to evacuate the building at night.

"People were startled, running down the stairs. Some fell, it was chaos. People left their belongings and money," said Mohammad Al Nabrees, adding that among those who stumbled down the stairs during the evacuation was a friend's pregnant wife.

15:23 "The war in Gaza has destroyed all sense of shared humanity, after the flagrant and repeated violation of international humanitarian law, which constitutes the border between humanity and barbarism," the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said five months after the war began.

"The situation in the Gaza Strip is deteriorating by the hour. There is no safe place to go," the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Mirjana Spoljaric said in a statement, calling for "a cessation of hostilities" to facilitate the work of humanitarians.

15:17 The UN Palestinian refugee agency is at “risk of death” after a string of donors suspended their funding, UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said.

"The agency is at risk of death, it is risking dismantlement," Lazzarini told Swiss broadcaster RTS.

"What is at stake is the fate of the Palestinians today in Gaza in the short term who are going through an unprecedented humanitarian crisis."

15:00 The Palestinian Ministry of Health said three more children have died from malnutrition and dehydration, bringing the total of such deaths to 23.

A boat carrying desperately needed aid is prepared to sail from Cyprus to counter access restrictions imposed by Israel.

A US charity, World Central Kitchen, said it was loading aid onto a boat in Cyprus -- the closest European Union country to Gaza -- in the first shipment along a maritime corridor the EU Commission hopes will open on Sunday.

"Our tugboat stands prepared to embark at a moment's notice," said Open Arms, an NGO partner in the effort.

13:40 Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi affirmed that Cairo is "keen for the Rafah crossing to remain open 24 hours to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza and we will never close it."

However, he added: "We resort to dropping aid by air due to the challenges associated with its entry by land," referring to the restrictions imposed by Israel that have delayed the delivery of aid.

Several countries, including Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, and the US, have airdropped humanitarian aid to the strip, including the northern part.

He reiterated Egypt’s rejection of the displacement of the Palestinians into Sinai, and expressed his astonishment, saying, "Do you think we can betray them (the Palestinians), their blood or what?"

“There are no arrangements. The land is ours … and we are all responsible to protect it. As it has been for thousands of years, these are its borders, and no one will abandon it,” he noted.

"I have requested institutions to assess the cost of rebuilding Gaza, and we have found that the cost exceeds $90 billion for Gaza to return to its basic structure and be livable once again," he added.

El-Sisi also emphasized that Egypt "will not hesitate to continue working towards achieving a ceasefire, delivering aid, and providing relief to the afflicted from this immense catastrophe."

"Egypt will not cease its efforts, regardless of the cost, to ensure that the Palestinian people obtain their legitimate rights in their independent state," he said.

"Today, we address the entire Palestinian people, those steadfast on their land, and resilient upon their soil, with a salute of appreciation and reverence, and we say to them, 'Your pain is our pain, and your anguish is ours.'"

The president made his remarks while speaking at the 39th Armed Forces Cultural Symposium on the occasion of the Armed Forces celebration of Martyrs and Veteran's Day.

12:02 Turkish President Recep Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Ankara "firmly backs" Hamas.

"No one can make us qualify Hamas as a terrorist organization," he said in a speech in Istanbul.

"Turkey is a country that speaks openly with Hamas leaders and firmly backs them."

Erdogan has been one of the most virulent critics of Israel since the start of the war in Gaza. He has called Israel a "terrorist state," accused it of conducting a "genocide" in Gaza, and said Netanyahu was no different from Adolf Hitler and likened Israel's attacks on Gaza to the treatment by the Nazis.

He again stressed that "Netanyahu and his administration earns their place alongside Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin as Nazis of our time."

 

 

11:43 Israel distributed leaflets to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, wishing them a happy Ramadan while simultaneously issuing threats.

The leaflets warned against "attempting, thinking, inciting, or writing anything against Israel, or taking part in protests or events."

Additionally, they ordered the Palestinians "not to mention anything" about the resistance, Hamas, or Jihad, or even "pray for them," threatening them that failure to comply would result in their families being denied permits.

 

 

11:15 Israel has killed at least 30,960 people and wounded 72,524 in Gaza during more than five months of its genocidal war on Gaza.

The latest toll includes 82 killed over the past 24 hours, according to the most recent toll.

11:10 Israeli forces raided the town of Silat Al-Dhahr and the village of Al-Fandakumiya, south of Jenin, in the occupied West Bank, according to local and security sources.

They reported that a large army contingent launched extensive search and detention campaigns in the two areas and escalated their military presence for the second consecutive day, per WAFA news agency.

Additionally, they established a flying military checkpoint on the main street of the mentioned village and town.

The forces also apprehended Abdul Rahman Al-Nabulsi, the brother of Ibrahim Al-Nabulsi (aka the Lion of Nablus), from his home in Kroum Ashour in Nablus. Furthermore, they kidnapped two other Palestinians, Ihab Shreim, and a sanitation worker named Muhammad Enaya, as he was on his way to work in the city of Qalqilya.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners' Club, Israeli forces assassinated former captive Muhammad Adel Al-Shalabi, 39, in his home in Jenin.

The forces seized the body of Shalabi, a lawyer and father of three children.

11:05 The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the terrorist attacks perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the occupied territory.

In a statement, the ministry highlighted the most recent attack aimed at forcibly displacing Palestinians from their homes in the West Bank. It attributed these actions to the extremist Israeli government's exploitation of the Gaza war as cover for extending its colonial plans in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The ministry called upon the international community and the United States to translate consensus on the two-state solution into tangible actions, emphasizing the need for protection against settlement expansion, and urged for the dismantlement of illegal settlements and the disarmament of settlers.

Furthermore, the attainment of full membership for the State of Palestine in the United Nations was emphasized as pivotal in safeguarding the two-state solution.

 

 

10:21 Sweden said it was resuming aid to the cash-strapped UNRWA with an initial disbursement of $20 million after receiving assurances of extra checks on its spending and personnel.

Like some other countries, Sweden suspended aid to UNRWA in October after Israel alleged that about a dozen of its employees were involved in the 7 October Al-Aqsa Flood operation.

"The government has allocated 400 million kronor to UNRWA for the year 2024. Today's decision concerns a first payment of 200 million kronor," the Swedish government said in a statement.

It said that to unblock the aid, UNRWA had agreed to "allow controls, independent audits, to strengthen internal supervision and extra controls of personnel."

The Swedish move came after the European Commission earlier this month said it would release 50 million euros in UNRWA funding.

10:05 Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry reiterated, in a phone call with his US counterpart Antony Blinken, Egypt’s warning against any military operation in Rafah city.

Shoukry also asserted Egypt’s rejection of any attempts to displace Palestinian people out of their territories as well as attempts to liquidate the Palestinian cause, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

10:00 Abu Obaida, the spokesperson for the Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas movement, stated in a televised message last night that the famine casting its shadow over all of Gaza is also affecting Israeli prisoners held by the Palestinian resistance, with some of their lives now threatened by illness, food shortages, and lack of medicine.

During a speech broadcasted by Al-Jazeera, Abu Obaida emphasized that “the sick and terrorist mentality of the occupation has surpassed the cruelty of the Nazis, turning into a deliberate war of starvation. In this war, the world witnesses the killing of fathers seeking to provide for their children, the starvation and death of children, marking an unprecedented and atrocious war crime.”

Regarding the negotiations for a ceasefire, Abu Obaida said that the Israeli government “uses deceit and evasion in negotiations, characterized by confusion and disarray.” He affirmed that “the highest priority for the resistance to accomplish a prisoner exchange is the complete cessation of aggression, including the withdrawal of occupation forces, the return of the displaced, and the initiation of reconstruction.”

Addressing the families of Israeli occupation detainees in Gaza, Abu Obaida conveyed that “if they care about the lives of their loved ones, they must be aware that their government and the war cabinet manipulate the lives of their sons.” He added, “The ball is in their court to save those who can be saved from them.”

Abu Obaida also pointed out that the “lamentations of the US administration” over the Israeli occupation detainees, while ignoring "the genocide and holocaust" that the Palestinians endure, as well as "the neglect of thousands of their sons imprisoned, confirms the double standards and lack of concern for human rights or any alleged international law."

The Al-Qassam spokesperson said that the Israeli occupation forces had planned its “barbaric” aggression in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem before 7 October, based on an alleged Torah legacy that openly calls for burning other nations.

He added that the Palestinian people are facing an “unprecedented Zionist-American aggression in history."

09:36 The Houthis said that their navy and drone forces "conducted two special military operations in response to the American-British aggression on Yemen and in defence of the oppressed Palestinian people." 

Houthi spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree said that the first operation targeted the American ship Propel Fortune bulk carrier in the Gulf of Aden with several missiles, while the second operation targeted American warships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden with 37 drones.

"Both operations achieved their goals successfully," he added.

The United States military's Central Command confirmed the attack but said the carrier continued on its way.

“The missiles did not impact the vessel,” Central Command said. “There were no injuries or damages reported.”

โ€‹Early Saturday, the US Navy, allied warships, and aircraft shot down 15 bomb-carrying Houthi drones in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, American officials said.

 

 

09:32 A UN expert on Friday criticized US efforts to boost humanitarian aid to Gaza, such as plans for a temporary port and recent airdrops, which he said were "absurd" and "cynical" methods.

Michael Fakhri, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, said such methods made little sense while Washington continues to provide military support to Israel.

Airdrops in particular "will do very little to alleviate hunger, malnutrition, and do nothing to slow down famine," he told reporters in Geneva.

"That's more than allyship. That's a marriage ... It's almost incomprehensible," he said of America's support to Israel, calling the recent aid measures a "performance to try to meet a domestic audience with (US presidential) elections around the corner."

"That's the only rational coherent interpretation (for these aid announcements) because ...from a humanitarian perspective, from an international perspective, from a human rights perspective, it is absurd in a dark, cynical way," he said.

He warned of chaos as starving people compete for supplies. As for the port, he said no one had asked for it. He called the port and airdrops methods of "last resort."

"The time when countries use airdrops, and these maritime piers, is usually if not always, in situations when you want to deliver humanitarian aid into enemy territory," he said.

Aid groups say Israel's near-total blockade of Gaza and the army attacks have made it nearly impossible to deliver aid in most of the territory.

Many of the estimated 300,000 people still living in northern Gaza have been reduced to eating animal fodder to survive.

Humanitarian groups echoed the UN expert's concerns. "While we welcome efforts to provide more aid to Gaza, temporary ports and airdrops are a distraction from the critical solution to saving children’s lives in Gaza," Save the Children International said.

"Children in Gaza dying from starvation and disease cannot wait for the time it may take to build a temporary port off the strip, or for the hope that aid dropped out of planes will reach them."

The charity agency deemed such measures "inefficient."

 

 

The US army said it will deploy about 1,000 troops to transport and build a floating pier on the Gaza shore to get critically needed food and aid delivered to citizens there.

Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, told reporters on Friday that it will take weeks for this to come together, but that Washington is working as quickly as possible to get troops and equipment deployed and the pier constructed.

There will not be any US forces on the ground in Israel, Ryder said, adding that details about who will be taking the supplies ashore from the causeway are still being worked out.

โ€‹09:16  The US army confirmed early Saturday that humanitarian airdrops into the Gaza Strip by, what it claimed, were other countries killed civilians.

The military’s Central Command, which oversees the Mideast, stated X, formerly Twitter.

It did not identify the countries involved.

“We are aware of reports of civilians killed as a result of humanitarian airdrops,” the statement read. “We express sympathies to the families of those who were killed. Contrary to some reports, this was not the result of US airdrops.”

The American army airdropped food Friday from a US C-130, the equivalent of 11,500 meals donated by Jordan, into the northern part of the Gaza Strip.

Earlier, Palestinian officials said five people were killed and several others injured when airdrops malfunctioned and landed on homes.

09:00 The UN says virtually all of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are struggling to find food and more than a half-million currently face starvation. Many people have been reduced to eating animal fodder to survive.

Delivering food, medical supplies and other aid has been difficult, if not impossible at times, due to the ongoing hostilities and struggles to coordinate with the Israeli army, which has blocked routes and slowed deliveries due to inspections.

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid have to drive from the Rafah crossing with Egypt or the Karm Abou Salem crossing with Israel, both on the southern edge of Gaza, through the conflict zone to reach the largely cut-off areas in the north.

11:10 Israeli occupation forces today raided the town of Silat Al-Dhahr and the village of Al-Fandakumiya, south of Jenin, according to local and security sources.

They said that a large military army launched massive search and detention campaigns in Silat Al-Dhahr and Al-Fandakumiya and intensified their military presence for the second day in a row, said WAFA.

The occupation forces further set up a flying military checkpoint on the main street of the said village and town.

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