Israel bombards southern Gaza as Egypt says campaign to make strip 'uninhabitable' must stop - as it happened

Ahram Online , Thursday 28 Mar 2024

The southern Gaza Strip came under intense Israeli bombardment overnight, despite international pressure for an immediate ceasefire in the Palestinian territory where famine is looming.

Gaza City
People shop from vendors in an open-air market amidst destruction in Gaza City on March 27, 2024. AFP

 

22:30 Francesca Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the West Bank and Gaza, says that despite receiving threats, she is determined to expose that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza.

This week, Albanese, who is based in Ramallah, presented a damning report entitled "Anatomy of a Genocide" to the UN Human Rights Council.

In the report, the 47-year-old renowned human rights lawyer said there were reasonable grounds to believe Israel was "committing the crime of genocide against the Palestinians as a group in Gaza."

Israel has denounced Albanese for her opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and violence against the Palestinians.

Immediately after it was issued, Israel denounced the report and pro-Israeli groups called for her to step down from her UN position.

 

 

Asked about the blowback at a news conference in Geneva, she acknowledged that "it has been a difficult time," according to AFP.

Albanese, an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in 2022, said she had "been attacked since the very beginning of [her] mandate."

"I do receive threats," she acknowledged, adding that she had nonetheless received nothing that calls for taking extra precautions.

The pressure, she said, "pisses me off, of course it does. But it ... creates even more pressure not to step back," according to AFP.

Read the full profile.

21:00 Exhibiting a bizarre sense of perseverance despite six months of Israeli bombardment and starvation policies, Palestinians in the north of the strip sell and buy necessities at a flea market in Gaza City!


A street vendor sells perfumes, lotions, toothbrushes, and haircare accessories at a stall along an open-air market in Gaza City on March 27, 2024. AFP

20:00 Israel wants to reschedule talks in Washington to discuss a possible offensive in the Gaza city of Rafah, days after it canceled the trip in protest at a UN ceasefire resolution, a US official said Wednesday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu angrily scrapped the visit on Monday after the United States abstained from the UN Security Council vote calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, allowing it to pass, as the territory besieged by Israel inches further toward famine.

But Israel backtracked after the White House said it was "perplexed" by the move.

"The prime minister's office has said they'd like to reschedule the meeting dedicated to Rafah. We are now working with them to set a convenient date," the senior administration official told AFP, speaking anonymously.

19:00 Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry reiterated Egypt's call for putting an end to Israeli practices that make the Gaza Strip “uninhabitable" through indiscriminate targeting, starvation, and collective punishment against Palestinian civilians.

Shoukry made his remarks during a phone call with his UK counterpart David Cameron on Wednesday.

The Egyptian top diplomat reiterated Egypt’s rejection of the forced displacement of Palestinians outside their lands, and any attempts to “liquidate the Palestinian cause,” according to a statement by the foreign ministry.

He also reaffirmed Egypt's categorical rejection of any ground military operation in the Palestinian city of Rafah, warning of its grave humanitarian repercussions and its potential security effects on the stability of the region.

The two ministers exchanged assessments on the deteriorating humanitarian and security conditions in Gaza, where Israel – since 7 October – has killed and injured more than 100,000 Palestinians and imposed a full blockade putting the strip’s population at risk of famine.

Shoukry and Cameron stressed the necessity of implementing Security Council Resolution 2728 passed this week and called on all sides to commit to a ceasefire.

They called for building on the recent UNSC resolution to reach a complete and sustainable ceasefire to end the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, according to the statement.

18:00 President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has discussed with a US congressional delegation the latest development in the Gaza Strip, stressing that the two-state solution is the guarantor to restore regional security and stability.

In a meeting in Cairo on Wednesday, both sides confirmed that “the two-state solution is the guarantor and the only way to restore and consolidate security and stability in the region,” read a presidency statement.

They also warned of the gravity of expanding the conflict in the region on regional and international peace and security.

Israel ignores the UN Security Council resolution passed this week calling on all sides to commit to a ceasefire, continuing its intense bombardment on Gaza, especially the southern areas.

During the meeting, President El-Sisi reviewed Egypt’s intensified efforts for an immediate ceasefire and the entry of relief aid to save more than two million Palestinians from the enormous human suffering.

El-Sisi urged the international community to assume its responsibilities in pressing for an immediate and sustainable ceasefire and preventing the escalation of military operations in the Palestinian city of Rafah.

He also renewed the country’s complete rejection of any attempts aimed at displacing the Palestinians from their lands, the statement added.

17:00 Twelve hungry Gazans drowned trying to fish food packages from the sea on Monday and six more were killed in stampedes as Israel continues to block aid deliveries into the Palestinian territory deliberately.

Others have been crushed by the crates after parachutes malfunctioned, with five killed and 10 injured earlier this month when crates fell "like rockets" on the Al-Shati refugee camp.

Despite the deaths and the risks, Palestinians like mechanic Ahmed Al-Rifi were back the day after the latest tragedy waiting for the next drop, on the same beaches where the 18 were killed.

"Every day people get hurt or even killed fighting to get flour, water, lentils, and beans," he said.

Taxi driver Uday Nasser said it was "deeply humiliating."

"The strong take from the weaker ones. Sometimes they use knives or even shoot," he said.

UNICEF's James Elder, who is in Gaza, said: "Typically food aid is delivered from the air because people are cut off and it's the only way to reach them."

"Here the lifesaving aid they need is a matter of kilometres away. We need to use the roads," he said.

 


Parachutes of humanitarian aid dropping over the besieged Palestinian territory on March 27, 2024. AFP

 

16:20 Hamas leader abroad Khaled Mashaal said the group will not release Israeli captives until Israel stops the aggression, withdraws its troops from Gaza, allows displaced civilians to return to their homes, and ends its blockade on the strip.

Speaking at a women’s event in Jordan, Mashaal said Hamas is conducting a negotiation battle no less fierce than the battle on the ground, adding that Hamas will win on the ground and in the negotiations.

Mashaal said Hamas will keep on fighting on the ground, urging Muslims around the world to support the struggle so that “their blood will mix with the blood of the people of Palestine.” He also called for financial donations for the people of Gaza.

16:00 At least 32,490 Palestinians have been killed and 74,889 injured in Israel's war on Gaza since 7 October, the health ministry in Gaza said on Wednesday.

There have been 76 Palestinians killed and 102 injured in the past 24 hours, the ministry statement added.

15:00 Israel is gearing up for an invasion of Rafah after Eid Al-Fitr or in early May at the latest, according to Egyptian sources, quoted by the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper.

The ground operation inside Rafah would last between four and eight weeks. It would be accompanied by an evacuation of the 1.5 million civilians sheltering in Rafah to the centre of the strip, according to the sources.

From its side, Cairo expresses its deep concerns over an Israeli operation in Rafah, noting that it could lead to a further escalation not only in Gaza but in the whole region, Al-Akhbar said. 

Israel reportedly vowed to notify the Egyptians in advance of an incursion into the Philadelphi corridor, which runs west of Rafah along the border between Gaza and Egypt.

The Lebanese paper also reported that Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi refused a request by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a direct line of communication.

Additionally, it said that negotiations are underway under UAE mediation to bring medication to Israeli captives in exchange for large amounts of medicines to be allowed into the strip.

 


Smoke billows over buildings following Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 27, 2024. AFP

 

14:00 The Israeli war cabinet will convene on Wednesday evening to discuss captives’ release negotiations after the Israeli delegation to the talks returned from Qatar, Israeli Ynet reported.

Hamas said on Monday that it will hold onto the captives until Israel agrees to a more permanent cease-fire, withdraws its forces from Gaza, and releases hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including top militants.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamen Netanyahu responded in a statement saying that:” “Israel will not surrender to Hamas’ delusional demands and will continue to act to achieve all the goals of the war: releasing all the hostages, destroying Hamas’ military and governing capabilities and ensuring that Gaza will never again be a threat to Israel.”

12:30 Three Palestinians were killed and seven others were injured in an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, WAFA reported.

The Ministry of Health said that Hamza Arrawi, 27, and Mohammad Nasser Al-Sabti, 19, from the Jenin camp, were killed after an Israeli drone bombed a group of young men in front of a house in the Al-Damj neighbourhood. In addition,  Ayman Youssef Azouqa, 19, was shot dead in Jenin.

 


Two men carry an injured man outside the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City on March 27, 2024. AFP

 

12:00 Parliamentary pressure is building on the UK government to ban arms sales to Israel, as Israel ignores the UN Security Council resolution passed this week calling on all sides to commit to a ceasefire, the Guardian reported.

A letter signed by more than 130 parliamentarians to the foreign secretary, David Cameron, highlights action taken by other countries, most recently Canada, which last week announced it would halt all arms exports to Israel.

The letter argues that “business as usual” for UK arms exports to Israel is “totally unacceptable.” It says UK-made arms are being used in Gaza, noting a recent UN investigation that found an F-16 fighter jet made with UK parts was probably responsible for the bombing of British doctors in Gaza.

11:30 A Lebanese organization closely linked to Hamas said Wednesday that seven people were killed in an overnight strike in south Lebanon.

Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, a Jamaa Islamiya official said "seven rescuers" were killed in a strike on an emergency centre in Habariyeh near the Israeli border.

Several groups in Lebanon operate health centres and emergency response operations.

Jamaa Islamiya's emergency responders said in a statement that "a number" of people had been killed, and called the strike a "heinous crime."

Another official from Jamaa Islamiya, also requesting anonymity, said a dozen rescue workers were in the emergency centre at the time of the strike, adding that bodies were being pulled from the rubble.

11:15 Lebanon's Hezbollah fired a barrage of rockets into northern Israel Wednesday, killing a civilian, after Israel carried out a deadly strike in south Lebanon.

Hezbollah, an ally of  Hamas, has exchanged near-daily cross-border fire with the Israeli army since Hamas's Al-Aqsa Flood operation against Israel on 7 October.

Israeli rescue teams searching a building that had been hit in the border town of Kiryat Shmona "found a 25-year-old who was unconscious, with no pulse and not breathing" and pronounced him dead at the scene, the Magen David Adom emergency service said.

Hezbollah said they fired "dozens of rockets" at Kiryat Shmona in retaliation for what it called "the massacre committed by the Zionist enemy (Israel)" in the south Lebanon village of Habariyeh.

Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to the media, a Jamaa Islamiya official said the seven dead were "rescuers" who were killed when an emergency centre in the village was hit.

Another Jamaa Islamiya official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said a dozen first responders were in the centre at the time of the strike, adding that bodies were being pulled from the rubble.

The Israeli military said the target of the strike was "a military compound" and those killed were Jamaa Islamiya "terrorists."

It said a "significant terrorist operative" and other members of the group were planning attacks against Israel at the time of the strike.

Cross-border fire since October has killed at least 338 people in Lebanon, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also including at least 57 civilians, according to an AFP count.

At least 10 soldiers and eight civilians have been killed in Israel, according to the Israeli military.

11:00 The health ministry in Gaza said early Wednesday that 66 people had been killed overnight, including three killed in Israeli air strikes in and around Rafah.

The fighting went on unabated two days after the UN Security Council passed its first resolution calling for an "immediate ceasefire" and urging the release of the roughly 130 hostages Israel says remain in Gaza, including 34 captives who are presumed dead.

Israeli forces have also surrounded two hospitals in Khan Younis, where the health ministry said 12 people, including some children, were killed in an Israeli strike on a camp for the displaced.

The Palestinian Red Crescent has warned that thousands were trapped in the Nasser hospital in Khan Younis and "their lives are in danger."

Underscoring the desperation of civilians trapped by the fighting, Hamas has asked donor countries to stop their airdrops after 12 people drowned trying to recover parachuted food aid from the sea off Gaza's Mediterranean coast.

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