Iran-Israel tensions threaten to draw in US amid Gaza war - as it happened

Ahram Online , Thursday 11 Apr 2024

Ahram Online provided coverage of the Israeli war on Gaza on its 188th day.

An injured Palestinian man holds a napkin to his head wound following Israeli bombardment on the Firas market area in Gaza City on April 11, 2024. AFP


19:00 US officials indicated the possibility of intervening to assist Israel in defending itself against a potential Iranian missile attack, potentially escalating tensions not only between Iran and Israel but also involving the US, Al Jazeera said.

US officials briefed the Qatar-based broadcaster that the US believes an Iranian attack in retaliation for the Israeli attack on Iran's consulate in Damascus will be conducted by Iran itself rather than proxy forces. 

Additionally, US officials stated that they had urged regional foreign ministers to exert pressure on Iran to exercise restraint.

18:19 The Committee to Protect Journalists is urging for an independent investigation into the Israeli attack on Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, which resulted in the injury of at least eight journalists who were on assignment.

The incident occurred on 31 March, when an Israeli strike targeted a tent encampment outside the hospital in Deir Al-Balah, central Gaza, the CPJ said. 

"According to multiple media reports, Palestinian press freedom group MADA, and firsthand accounts from sources who spoke to CPJ, including two of the injured journalists, another who witnessed the attack, and one who visited the site afterwards, the attack resulted in the deaths of four people and injuries to 17 others," it explained.

"The explosion, caused by a drone strike, occurred outside the hospital near a journalists’ tent provided by the Turkish Anadolu news agency."

"Israel’s attack on a hospital compound where journalists were sheltering and working must be independently investigated,” said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martínez de la Serna in New York.

"With the Israeli destruction of media offices, journalists are increasingly turning to hospitals as venues from which to report and regroup, but the attack on Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital and the March 18 attack on Al-Shifa hospital, in which journalists were arrested and assaulted, have made even hospitals unsafe for the press, in addition to doctors, patients, and other civilians," he added.

"Assaults on hospitals have made it so the press have even fewer places to work safely.”  

"The Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Medical Complex and its environs, the consequences of which are still unfolding almost two weeks later, demonstrates that the army committed," Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor field said.

Euro-Med Monitor documented "horrific scenes of body parts strewn on the ground as well as human remains inside a large pit dug by Israeli forces in the courtyard of one of Al-Shifa’s hospitals."

According to ongoing Euro-Med Monitor investigations, which include dozens of testimonies documented during and after Israel’s operation, "the Israeli army committed many crimes against every Palestinian in the vicinity, including the murder and execution of hundreds of civilians."

"The Israeli army later bulldozed the medical facility’s courtyards, destroyed all of its rooms and departments, and set fire to most of its buildings, which were already on the verge of collapse, forcing the medical facility out of service."

"The fate of dozens of missing individuals is still unknown today," it added.

Read the full report here.

17:51 Children across Gaza are exhibiting alarming signs of distress, the UNRWA stressed.

In response, specialized psychosocial teams have been implementing activities aimed at helping children cope with the devastation surrounding them amidst the ongoing Israeli war, which has claimed the lives of at least 13,000 children so far.

The UN agency launched the Smile of Hope initiative to bring joy to displaced children, particularly in Rafah in the South.

"Children in Gaza deserve to smile."

"A sustained ceasefire is critical for their safety, well-being, and right to childhood," emphasized UNRWA.



17:16 Iran said it would not need to retaliate for the Israeli strike on its embassy compound in Damascus if the UN had condemned the attack.

"Had the UN Security Council condemned the Zionist regime’s reprehensible act of aggression on our diplomatic premises in Damascus and subsequently brought to justice its perpetrators, the imperative for Iran to punish this rogue regime might have been obviated," Tehran's mission to the UN said on the social media platform X.

The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth claimed that Iran postponed an attack against Israel at the last minute due to American warnings, but it is still expected.



17:00 The UN Security Council on Thursday acknowledged Israel's pledge to open more entry points to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza but said "more should be done" to help civilians in the besieged Palestinian territory.

In a statement, council members "took note of the announcement by Israel to open the Erez (border) crossing and allow the use of the Ashdod port for aid deliveries into Gaza.

They, however, stressed that "more should be done to bring the required relief given the scale of needs in Gaza."

Humanitarian actors continue to report extensive Israeli impediments to deliveries imposed at the borders, including arbitrary denials, refusal of entry, and arbitrary blocks of critical humanitarian items.

A spokesman for the United Nations' humanitarian agency pointed on Wednesday to statistics from March showing that it was much more difficult to get clearance for delivering food than other aid in the war-ravaged Palestinian territory.

"Food convoys that should be going particularly to the north, where 70 percent of people face famine conditions, are ... three times more likely to be denied than any other humanitarian convoys with other kinds of material," Jens Laerke told reporters in Geneva.

Laerke stressed that "the obligation is on the warring parties, and in particular... on Israel as the occupying power of Gaza, to facilitate and ensure humanitarian access does not stop at the border."

"It also pertains to movements inside Gaza."

There has been no apparent work done yet on increasing aid to Gaza by opening an additional border crossing from Israel and accepting shipments at a nearby Israeli port.

Israel said last week that it would reopen the Erez crossing between Israel and northern Gaza for aid delivery.

Yet, satellite imagery taken on Tuesday showed that the road leading to Erez on the Gaza side was blocked by rubble from a destroyed building, a crater and other damage that was also visible in images from last week and last month, New York Times reported.

"Both humanitarian and commercial supplies are needed for Gaza because the entire population is now dependent on handouts, which is not sustainable," Juliette Touma, UNRWA's communications Director said.



15:47 Head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power emphasized during a congressional testimony on Wednesday that famine is already devastating the Gaza Strip.

"In northern Gaza, the rate of malnutrition prior to October 7th was almost zero, and it is now one in three—one in three kids,” Power stated.

During her testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Power stressed the severity of the crisis, asserting that "nearly the entire population" of Gaza is "living under the threat of famine." 

Power is the first official to publicly acknowledge that famine is already occurring, as Israel has been imposing severe restrictions on humanitarian aid entering Gaza.

"Food has not flowed in sufficient quantities to avoid this imminent famine in the south and these conditions that are giving rise already to child deaths in the north," she explained.

Power was asked about an assessment from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) and whether it “is plausible or likely that parts of Gaza, and particularly northern Gaza, are already experiencing famine."

Power explained that she finds their assessment plausible. 

“So there’s – famine is already occurring there?” the administrator was asked by Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro.

"That is – yes," she replied.

An IPC analysis from mid-March warned that the "latest evidence confirms that famine is imminent in the northern governorates of the Gaza Strip and projected to occur anytime between mid-March and May 2024."

The US Foreign Assistance Act bars assistance to any country that "prohibits or otherwise restricts, directly or indirectly, the transport or delivery of United States humanitarian assistance."

US Secretary Antony Blinken has already acknowledged that "100 percent of the population in Gaza is experiencing acute levels of food insecurity and is in need of humanitarian assistance."


15:30 US Central Command Chief Michael Kurilla arrived in Israel on Thursday, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

He is expected to meet senior officials including the occupation army Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi.

15:26 Israeli drones struck Palestinian civilians, killing at least eight and injuring dozens more in Gaza City, Palestinian media reported.

The Israeli army launched attacks on central Gaza overnight, entering the Nuseirat refugee camp after their air force targeted infrastructure in the area.

"The Israeli Navy assisted the forces, conducting several targeted strikes along central Gaza’s coastline," Israeli officials said.

15:00 Israeli settlers set a Palestinian home and vehicle on fire in a village near the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank.

Security sources told WAFA news agency that several colonists broke into the Al-Mughayyir village and set fire to a vehicle belonging to a citizen before being forced out of the area by the local villagers.

At least one Palestinian was injured in the settler attack.

At least 459 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and colonists and 4,750 others wounded in the occupied territory since the war on Gaza started.

14:15 The International Court of Justice (ICJ) fixed 28 October 2024 and 28 July 2025 as the respective time limits for the filing of the Memorial of South Africa and the Counter-Memorial of Israel in the case of South Africa against Israel.

In its application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip, South Africa asked the court to consider whether Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

The preliminary ruling by the court case accusing Israel of genocide in Gaza ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide against Palestinians in the territory but stopped short of ordering a cease-fire.

South Africa petitioned the ICJ to impose fresh emergency measures on Israel over the "widespread starvation," and asked the court to order that Israel take "immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address famine and starvation" in Gaza.



13:39 The Kremlin on Thursday called for all countries in the Middle East to show restraint and prevent the region from slipping into chaos.

"It is very important for everybody to exercise restraint in order not to destabilize the region, which is already not gifted with stability or predictability," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Peskov said the Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus was a violation of all the principles of international law.

Tehran has issued fresh threats against Israel over a strike earlier this month that killed two Iranian generals, triggering US President Joe Biden to pledge "iron-clad" support for Israel.​

Russia also advised against travel to the Middle East. 

According to Reuters, Russia’s foreign ministry told citizens they should refrain from travelling to the Middle East, especially to Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

“We strongly recommend that Russian citizens refrain from travelling to the region, especially to Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, except in cases of extreme necessity,” it said.

“The tense situation in the Middle East region persists,” said the foreign ministry.

13:00 Israel has killed at least 33,545 people and injured 76,094 in Gaza since the war began, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. The majority of the casualties have been women and children.

The toll includes at least 63 deaths over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, adding that 76,094 people have been wounded.

12:45 Spain awarded Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), its Grand Cross of Isabella the Catholic to show it “supports this indispensable organization,” Foreign Affairs Minister José Manuel Albares said.

"Because of its trajectory, because UNRWA's work is vital for the food, education and health of six million Palestinian refugees because Spain supports this indispensable organization," Albares added.



12:36 Iran's foreign minister has spoken with his counterparts in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the UAE by phone, the Iranian foreign ministry said.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian spoke with each counterpart individually and stressed the importance of cooperation regarding the situation in Gaza, the ministry said.

Iran's foreign minister also called Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, the Iranian foreign ministry said Thursday. 

12:28 US President Joe Biden promised "ironclad" support for Israel as Iran threatens to retaliate over a strike that levelled an Iranian consulate building in Damascus and killed two generals.​

Iran is "threatening to launch a significant attack on Israel," Biden told a news conference.

"As I told Prime Minister Netanyahu, our commitment to Israel's security against these threats from Iran and its proxies is ironclad," Biden said.

"Let me say it again, ironclad. We're going to do all we can to protect Israel's security," said Biden, who was speaking next to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

US officials have voiced alarm over the prospect of an imminent strike against Israeli interests after Israel on 1 April killed seven members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, including two generals.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned in a speech Wednesday that the "evil regime" of Israel "must be punished and will be punished."

According to The Intercept, the White House is worried that Iran might strike a US target as part of a potential retaliation, according to notes from a meeting involving National Security Council officials earlier this week.

New concern about a potential Iranian strike comes even though the Biden administration has sought to distance itself from the Israeli airstrike, stressing that it had no advance knowledge of the operation.

“I don’t have anything more to say about the strike in Damascus, except that we weren’t involved in any way whatsoever,” NSC spokesperson John Kirby said. 

On Monday night, Iran conveyed to the Biden administration that if it involved itself in defending Israel were Tehran to undertake a retaliatory strike, it would consider the United States a viable target as well.

The issue was discussed at a Tuesday NSC meeting, according to notes reviewed by The Intercept. 

At the Tuesday meeting, an NSC official conveyed high-level concerns that the administration did not want to publicly appear to be in any official dialogue with Tehran, with whom the US does not have formal diplomatic relations.

12:08 The Israeli occupation forces did not consult senior commanders or Benjamin Netanyahu before killing three sons of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, according to Israeli media.

Neither Netanyahu nor Defence Minister Yoav Gallant were told in advance of the strike, which was coordinated by the Israeli military and the Shin Bet intelligence service, senior Israeli officials told Walla news agency.

They said his sons were targeted as fighters and not because they were relatives of the political leader.

However, the Israeli army did not comment on the fact that four of Haniyeh's young grandchildren, Mona, Amal, Khalid and Razan, were also killed in the attack.

Haniyeh’s sons, Amir, Mohammad, and Hazem, as well as his grandchildren were killed as they were visiting the Al-Shati refugee camp (Beach Camp) northwest of Gaza City for Eid.

"The enemy will be delusional if it thinks that targeting my sons, at the climax of the negotiations and before the movement sends its response, will push Hamas to change its position," Haniyeh said on Wednesday.



12:00 The UN children’s agency UNICEF said one of its vehicles “was hit by live ammunition” while waiting to enter northern Gaza.

“Unless humanitarian workers are protected, in accordance with international humanitarian law, humanitarian assistance will not be able to reach the people in need,” the organization said in a statement on X.


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