UNRWA slams Israel plans to transfer Palestinians from Rafah to 'humanitarian islands' as 'catastrophic' - as it happened

Ahram Online , Thursday 14 Mar 2024

Ahram Online provided coverage of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip on its 160th day.

A displaced Palestinian woman and children wait at the entrance of a makeshift tent at a camp beside a street in Rafah on March 13, 2024. AFP


23:00 A Canadian government source told Reuters on Thursday that Canada has paused non-lethal military exports to Israel since January because of the rapidly evolving situation on the ground in Gaza.

The source, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, did not give more details to Reuters. 

The freeze was first reported by the Toronto Star.

The reported development comes just days after Canada resumed funding of the United Nations agency charged with delivering aid to Palestinians after issuing a temporary pause in January following allegations that staff members may have been involved in the 7 October attacks in Israel.

In late February, under growing domestic opposition to Canada's support to the Israeli war on Gaza, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a joint statement with the leaders of Australia and New Zealand calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza war.

21:00 UNRWA has condemned the Israeli so-called plan to transfer  1.4 million Palestinians in Rafah to what it calls "humanitarian islands' in central Gaza to make way for an all-out ground assault on Hamas in the city as "catastrophic."

"Where will these people be evacuated to? There is no safe place anywhere in Gaza. People have had enough! Any more escalation will be horrifying," said UNRWA.

20:30 President Mahmoud Abbas asked Mohamed Mostafa to form the 19th Palestinian government, according to WAFA.

Mostafa is a seasoned Palestinian economist, Chairman of the Board of the Palestine Investment Fund (PIF), senior economic adviser to President Mahmoud Abbas, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

In Late February, Prime Minister Mohamed Shtayyeh submitted the resignation of his cabinet to Abbas.

19:30 Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, the US Senate Majority Leader, called Thursday for Israel to hold new elections and said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was a "major obstacle" to peace, in the most strident criticism yet by a senior American official of the Israeli PM's handling of the war on Gaza.

The remarks from Schumer, a staunch supporter of Israel and its war on Gaza, came amid increased pressure from President Joe Biden over the mounting toll of Palestinians killed by Israel in Gaza.

"As a democracy, Israel has the right to choose its own leaders, and we should let the chips fall where they may. But the important thing is that Israelis are given a choice," said Schumer, the head of the chamber's Democratic majority, without suggesting a timeline for a vote.

"There needs to be a fresh debate about the future of Israel after October 7."

Schumer said Netanyahu was one of four "major obstacles" to a two-state solution and peace, alongside Hamas and its Palestinian supporters, radical right-wing Israelis and the Palestinian Authority's leader Mahmoud Abbas.

He accused the Israeli leader of surrounding himself with right-wing extremists and being "too willing to tolerate the civilian toll in Gaza, which is pushing support for Israel worldwide to historic lows."

"Israel cannot survive if it becomes a pariah," Schumer, an outspoken ally of the Israeli government who visited the country in October, told colleagues on the Senate floor.

He warned that if Netanyahu's coalition continued to pursue "dangerous and inflammatory" policies after the war, the United States would look at playing "a more active role in shaping Israeli policy by using our leverage to change the present course."

19:00 This exclusive footage obtained by Al Jazeera shows the extent of the destruction due to five months of Israeli airstrikes and bombardment of a residential area in the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in the northwest of Gaza City.



In tandem, Quds News Network posted a shocking image which shows Hamad City in Khan Younis before and after months of Israeli bombardment.

Most of the apartment complexes were now uninhabitable.



PHOTO GALLERY: People lived here - The homes Israel destroyed in Gaza - view here


18:00 Quds News Network posted a video of Palestinian children visiting their mother's grave in one of the streets of Gaza.

The Israeli targeting of cemeteries in the strip has forced Gazans to bury their loved ones in makeshift graves - anywhere they can.



The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza revealed last week that nearly 9,000 Palestinian women have been killed in Israel's war on the strip.

Adding to the gravity of the situation, health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra revealed that some 60,000 pregnant women in Gaza, are grappling with malnutrition, dehydration, and insufficient access to healthcare.

In yet another alarming statistic, UNRWA reported last week that an average of 63 women are killed daily in the Gaza Strip, underscoring the immense toll of human suffering exacted by Israel’s war on the Palestinian territory.

"Of the 63 women who are killed per day “37 are mothers who leave behind their families,” UNRWA noted.

At the same time, Gaza’s government media office released figures on Friday confirming the Gaza health ministry tally, while adding that some 23,000 women have been wounded and 2,100 reported missing since early October.

Meanwhile, UNICEF revealed that 17,000 children in Gaza are currently unaccompanied or separated from their families, noting that the figure represents one percent of the 1.7 million Palestinians displaced by Israel's relentless bombardment of Gaza.

On 9 March, UNICEF warned: "There are 600,000 children in Rafah, terrified of what’s next. From displacement and the threat of bombings to starvation and disease, so many are suffering the unimaginable, and now they are trapped in an overcrowded space with death getting closer.”

17:00 Ahead of Israel's planned offensive into Gaza's southernmost town of Rafah, the Israeli military said Wednesday it plans to direct a significant portion of the 1.4 million displaced Palestinians trapped in Rafah toward “humanitarian islands” in the centre of the territory.

The fate of those in Rafah has been a major area of concern for Israel’s allies. Humanitarian groups have warned a Rafah offensive would be a catastrophe.

Israel’s chief military spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said moving those in Rafah to the designated areas, which he said would be done in coordination with international actors, was a key part of the military’s preparations for its anticipated invasion of Rafah, where Israel says Hamas maintains four battalions it wants to destroy.

Hagari said those islands would provide temporary housing, food, water and other necessities to evacuated Palestinians.

He did not say when Rafah’s evacuation would occur, nor when the Rafah offensive would begin.

At the start of the war, Israel directed evacuees to a slice of undeveloped land along Gaza’s Mediterranean coast that it designated as a safe zone.

But aid groups said there were no real plans in place to receive large numbers of displaced there.

Israeli strikes also targeted the area.


A man finds his way amid the rubble of the Palestinian al-Atrash family home after it was destroyed in an Israeli strike in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip. AFP


16:00 The Palestinian Prisoners' Affairs Authority stated that 320 Palestinian detainees in the Israeli prison of Gilboa are currently 'living in a deadly hell’ due to the racist Israeli policies and major changes that occurred after 7 October, which "turned Israeli prisons into real slaughterhouses, where torture and beatings in their worst forms are practised."  

A Palestinian from Tulkarm governorate who was sentenced to life imprisonment conveyed horrific details of what he endured in the prison over the last few months. 

He stated, "On 8 October, the prison was stormed provocatively, we were tied up and all subjected to brutal beatings with batons, helmets, and legs all over the body. They seized all our personal and public belongings and disregarded the health condition of sick detainees and the elderly. They have turned the prison rooms into cells, prevented us from going to the prison yard, and isolated us from the outside world." 

"We have no clothes or blankets, and we are deprived of shaving machines and cleaning materials. Sanctions and fines are imposed on us, organizational representation has been cancelled, and we are rarely allowed to go to the prison clinic to get medication. The reality is harsher than anything we have experienced before," the detainee added.

15:00 An Israeli tank killed Reuters reporter Issam Abdallah in Lebanon last year by firing two 120 mm rounds at a group of "clearly identifiable journalists" in violation of international law, a U.N. investigation into the 13 Oct. incident has found as reported by Reuters. 

The investigation by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), summarized in a report seen by Reuters, said its personnel did not record any exchange of fire across the border between Israel and Lebanon for more than 40 minutes before the Israeli Merkava tank opened fire. 


Issam Abdallah


"The firing at civilians, in this instance clearly identifiable journalists, constitutes a violation of UNSCR 1701 (2006) and international law," the UNIFIL report said, referring to Security Council resolution 1701. 

The seven-page report dated 27 Feb. said further: "It is assessed that there was no exchange of fire across the Blue Line at the time of the incident. The reason for the strikes on the journalists is not known."

14:30 Egypt and Spain affirmed their rejection of the military escalation in the Gaza Strip, warning against the “dire humanitarian consequences” of any Israeli operations in Palestine's densely populated city of Rafah. 

This came during a meeting between Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares, who is on a visit to Egypt.

Both sides voiced their rejection of measures that could lead to the liquidation of the Palestinian cause, including the forced displacement of Palestinians, read a statement by the Egyptian presidency.



14:00 Yemen's Houthi rebels claim to have a new, hypersonic missile in their arsenal, Russia's state media reported Thursday, potentially raising the stakes in their ongoing attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and surrounding waterways against the backdrop of Israel's war on  Gaza.

“The group’s missile forces have successfully tested a missile that is capable of reaching speeds of up to Mach 8 and runs on solid fuel," a military official close to the Houthis said, according to the state-run RIA Novosti report. The Houthis “intend to begin manufacturing it for use during attacks in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, as well as against targets in Israel.” 

Mach 8 is eight times the speed of sound. 

The Houthis have, for weeks, hinted about “surprises” they plan for the battles at sea to counter the United States and its allies.

13:30 Israeli settlers fired live bullets at Palestinian citizens’ homes and a school in the village of Jalboun, northeast of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, WAFA reported.

The head of the village council, Ibrahim Abu Al-Rub, told WAFA that for the second day in a row, the colonists from the Merav settlement fired heavily at a school, while the students were still in class, terrorizing them.

Meanwhile, another group of settlers attacked a park in the town of Huwwara, south of Nablus.

Local sources said that some Yitzhar colonial settlers attacked with fired bullets at the park's gate and threatened in loud voices to fire bullets at anyone who tried to approach the place.

13:15 Senior US officials have told their Israeli counterparts the Biden administration would support Israel's attack on Rafah as long as Israel avoids a large-scale invasion, according to Politico.

In private conversations, top administration officials have signalled to Israel that they could support a plan more akin to counterterrorism operations than all-out war, four US officials said. That, the administration officials argue, would minimize civilian casualties, decimate Hamas’ ranks, and avoid scenes that have led to souring public opinion on Israel’s campaign and Biden’s handling of the war.

13:00 A senior official at the European Commission said there are already pockets of famine happening in Gaza, Reuters reported. 

Janez Lenarčič, the European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management, told the media that famine could spread to the whole region. 

He urged Israel to open more road routes to deliver aid to Gaza, saying that airdrops and sea routes could not make up for opening more land routes for aid. He also appealed for a surge in funding.

12:30 An Israeli general leading troops in Gaza has delivered rare public criticism of Israel's political leadership, demanding it "be worthy" of the soldiers. 

Brigadier General Dan Goldfus, head of the 98th division deployed in Gaza's main southern city of Khan Younis, also appeared to enter into a row over exempting ultra-Orthodox Jews from military service. 

He was subsequently summoned by the military leadership for his comments, which breached a long-standing taboo on uniformed officers publicly wading into politics. 

"You must be worthy of us," Goldfus said of his country's leaders, in comments broadcast on Israeli television on Wednesday. 

He called for Israeli politicians "to push aside the extreme and adopt togetherness" in the Gaza war. 

Addressing Israel's political leaders, Goldfus called on them to ensure that "everyone takes part" in enlisting in the armed forces, in an apparent reference to ultra-Orthodox Israeli men being exempt from national service a contentious political issue. 

Most Jewish men are required by law to serve in the Israeli military, but members of the ultra-Orthodox minority known in Hebrew as Haredim — have long been given sweeping exemptions.

12:00 The Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli security forces prevented ambulances from reaching sick or wounded people 95 times in the Israeli-occupied West Bank since 7 October.  

It said on X that they have “endangered lives in violation of international humanitarian law.”



On Wednesday, a  Palestinian child and a young man were killed, and three others were injured, as Israeli occupation forces opened fire on them near the town of Al-Jib, northwest of occupied Jerusalem. 

Eyewitnesses said that the occupation forces left the child to bleed until he died and barred any first aid given to him, WAFA reported. 
At least 427 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since the war on Gaza started on 7 October.

11:30 The health ministry in Gaza said Thursday that at least 31,341 people have been killed in the territory during more than five months of the Israeli war on the strip.

The latest toll includes at least 69 deaths in the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, adding that 73,134 people have been wounded in Gaza since the war began on 7 October.

10:30 The US Joe Biden administration is expected to impose new sanctions as soon as Thursday on two illegal outposts in the occupied West Bank that were used as a base for attacks by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians, three US officials told Axios.

It would be the first time US sanctions are imposed against entire outposts and not just against individuals.

The second round of sanctions by the Biden administration against settler violence will also include sanctions against three Israeli settlers, the US officials said. 

The sanctions would freeze assets that the three settlers and two outposts might have in the US, ban them from getting a visa to enter the US, and block them from using the US financial system, Axios said.

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