Fatah Gives Deadline for Handover of General’s Killers amid Fragile Truce in Lebanon Refugee Camp

Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of Fatah's central committee and of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Palestinian embassy, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (AP)
Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of Fatah's central committee and of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Palestinian embassy, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (AP)
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Fatah Gives Deadline for Handover of General’s Killers amid Fragile Truce in Lebanon Refugee Camp

Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of Fatah's central committee and of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Palestinian embassy, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (AP)
Azzam Al-Ahmad, a member of Fatah's central committee and of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Palestinian embassy, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023. (AP)

A top official with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah group said Sunday that Palestinian and Lebanese officials have given militant Islamist groups in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp until the end of the month to hand over the accused killers of a Fatah general.

A fragile calm has largely prevailed in the Ain el-Hilweh camp since Thursday night after the warring sides reached the latest in a series of cease-fire agreements. It followed a week of intense fighting that killed at least 18 people and wounded and displaced hundreds.

Top officials from rival Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas had traveled to Lebanon in an attempt to negotiate an end to the clashes.

Azzam al-Ahmad, a member of Fatah’s central committee and of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday that he is “optimistic about reaching a solution” but that if the accused are not handed over by the end of the month, “all possibilities are open.”

Al-Ahmad said Fatah is not opposed to the Lebanese army entering the camp to conduct an operation against the Islamist groups should they not turn over the men accused of killing Fatah military general Mohammad “Abu Ashraf” al-Armoushi.

By tradition, Lebanese soldiers do not enter the Palestinian camps, which are controlled by a network of Palestinian factions. The last time the Lebanese army intervened in one of the camps was in 2007, when it battled extremists in the Nahr al-Bared camp in north Lebanon, razing most of it in the process.

Hamas, which rules Gaza, has officially stood on the sidelines in the clashes between Fatah and a number of extreme Islamist groups in the camp, but al-Ahmad accused Hamas members of taking up arms against Fatah “in some areas of fighting,” an accusation that Hamas has denied.

Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk, who last week met Lebanese officials and representatives from the Palestinian factions to try and reach a settlement to end the clashes, said in a message via the WhatsApp messaging application that “we were not involved in the shooting at all” and that “there have been continuous efforts” by Hamas to broker a “ceasefire agreement in any form.”

“It is clear that clashes do not make anyone hand over anyone,” he said. “... No one is willing to give himself up in the shadow of war.”

Hamas spokesman in Lebanon Walid Kilani denied that a specific deadline had been set for handing over the killers.

“What was agreed upon there will be the formation of a joint security force that includes all Palestinian factions” to implement the handover of people “wanted by both sides,” he said.

Both Fatah and Hamas have accused external forces of stoking the violence in the camp, which is home to more than 50,000 people, in an attempt to weaken the Palestinian cause. Marzouk described it as part of a “conspiracy against the Palestinian diaspora,” while al-Ahmad said the killing of Armoushi was “not only an assassination case, but a case of attempted removal of the Ain el-Hilweh camp.”

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said Friday that 18 people had been killed and 140 injured in the latest round of clashes, which broke out on Sept. 7.

Nearly 1,000 people displaced by the fighting were staying in emergency shelters set up by UNRWA while hundreds more were sheltering in at other sites, including a nearby mosque and in the courtyard of the municipality building of the city of Sidon, which is adjacent to the camp, or with relatives.

Earlier this summer, there were several days of street battles in the Ain el-Hilweh camp between Fatah and Islamist groups after Fatah accused the Islamists of gunning down Armoushi and four of his companions on July 30.

The assassination was apparently an act of retaliation after an unknown gunman shot at Islamist militant Mahmoud Khalil, killing a companion of his instead.

Those street battles left at least 13 dead and dozens wounded, and forced hundreds to flee from their homes.



Israel Widens Evacuation Orders, Shifts Offensive to Southern Gaza amid Heavy Bombardments

 A wounded person lies on the floor at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, 03 December 2023, following an Israeli air strike. EPA/HAITHAM IMAD
A wounded person lies on the floor at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, 03 December 2023, following an Israeli air strike. EPA/HAITHAM IMAD
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Israel Widens Evacuation Orders, Shifts Offensive to Southern Gaza amid Heavy Bombardments

 A wounded person lies on the floor at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, 03 December 2023, following an Israeli air strike. EPA/HAITHAM IMAD
A wounded person lies on the floor at Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza Strip, 03 December 2023, following an Israeli air strike. EPA/HAITHAM IMAD

Israel's military on Sunday ordered more areas in and around Gaza's second-largest city of Khan Younis to evacuate, as it shifted its offensive to the southern half of the territory where it says many Hamas leaders are hiding.

Heavy bombardments were reported overnight and into Sunday in the area of Khan Younis and the southern city of Rafah, as well as parts of the north that had been the focus of Israel's blistering air and ground campaign.

Many of the territory’s 2.3 million people are crammed in the south after Israeli forces ordered civilians to leave the north in the early days of the 2-month-old war, sparked by an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas and other militants.

With the resumption of fighting, hopes receded that another temporary truce could be negotiated. A weeklong cease-fire, which expired Friday, had facilitated the release of dozens of Gaza-held Israeli and foreign hostages and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

“We will continue the war until we achieve all its goals, and it’s impossible to achieve those goals without the ground operation,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an address Saturday night, The Associated Press reported.

Since the cease-fire collapsed, Hamas has fired scores of rockets into Israel, setting off air raid sirens across southern and central areas. Most rockets are intercepted or fall in open areas, but the fire continues to disrupt life across wide swaths of Israel. Over 200,000 Israelis have been evacuated from their homes along the Gaza and Lebanon borders due to rocket fire since Oct 7.

On Sunday, the Israeli military widened evacuation orders in and around Khan Younis, telling residents of at least five more areas and neighborhoods to leave for their safety. Several hundred thousand Palestinians have received evacuation orders since the fighting resumed but they have few places to go.

Residents said the Israeli military dropped leaflets ordering them to move south to Rafah or to a coastal area in the southwest. “Khan Younis city is a dangerous combat zone,” the leaflets read.

UN monitors said in a report issued before the latest evacuation orders that those who were told to leave make up about one-quarter of the territory of Gaza — home to nearly 800,000 people before the war.

Much of Gaza’s population is now packed into the territory’s southern half. The territory itself, bordering Israel and Egypt to the south, is sealed, leaving residents with the only option of moving around within Gaza to avoid the bombings.

There are nearly 958,000 displaced people in 99 United Nations facilities in the southern Gaza Strip, including 34 in Khan Younis, according to Juliette Toma, director of communications at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

The average number of displaced people in UN shelters is 9,500, more than four times their usual capacity, according to the agency’s report on Nov. 30. The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has warned Israel to avoid significant new mass displacement.

The main hospital in Khan Younis received at least three dead and dozens wounded Sunday morning from an Israeli strike that hit a residential building in the eastern part of the city, according to an Associated Press journalist at the hospital.

Mohamed Abu Abed, who lives in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood in Gaza City, said there were relentless airstrikes and shelling in his neighborhood and surrounding areas.

“The situation here is unimaginable,” he said. “Death is everywhere. One can die in a flash.”

The Health Ministry in Gaza said Saturday that the overall death toll in the strip since the Oct. 7 start of the war had surpassed 15,200, a sharp jump from the previous count of more than 13,300 on Nov. 20. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths, but it said 70% of the dead were women and children. It said more than 40,000 people had been wounded since the war began.


UN Security Council Discusses Bathily's Mediation Efforts in Libya

UN Envoy Abdoulaye Bathily (UNSMIL)
UN Envoy Abdoulaye Bathily (UNSMIL)
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UN Security Council Discusses Bathily's Mediation Efforts in Libya

UN Envoy Abdoulaye Bathily (UNSMIL)
UN Envoy Abdoulaye Bathily (UNSMIL)

The UN Security Council will hold its bi-monthly briefing on the situation in Libya, during which UN Envoy Abdoulaye Bathily will brief the Security Council on the recent political, security, and humanitarian developments.

The session will also address the Secretary-General's latest report on the UN Mission in Libya (UNSMIL).

The Security Council Report website, which follows UN news, stated that the goal of the Security Council is to support the political momentum and UN-led mediation efforts towards national elections and forming a unified government.

The Council's objectives related to Libya also focus on helping foster common political ground between the country's rival legislatures to agree on electoral law, a goal that Bathily has repeatedly urged Council members to support by wielding their influence on national stakeholders.

At December's meeting, members may reiterate their call on Libyan actors to engage in good-faith negotiations to achieve consensus on outstanding political issues.

The rival governments had initially expressed their intent to finalize legislation to hold elections by the end of the year.

Furthermore, some members may welcome Bathily's proposed meeting of institutional stakeholders and urge them to participate in these discussions productively.


West Bank: Palestinian Man Killed in Israeli Settler Raid

Palestinian security forces during a visit by President Mahmoud Abbas to the Jenin refugee camp on July 12. (AFP)
Palestinian security forces during a visit by President Mahmoud Abbas to the Jenin refugee camp on July 12. (AFP)
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West Bank: Palestinian Man Killed in Israeli Settler Raid

Palestinian security forces during a visit by President Mahmoud Abbas to the Jenin refugee camp on July 12. (AFP)
Palestinian security forces during a visit by President Mahmoud Abbas to the Jenin refugee camp on July 12. (AFP)

Israeli settlers attacked two Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank late on Saturday, killing one man and torching a car, Palestinian authorities said.

The Palestinian ambulance service said a 38-year-old man in the town of Qarawat Bani Hassan, in the northern West Bank, was shot in the chest and died as residents confronted settlers and Israeli soldiers, Reuters reported.

The Israeli military said soldiers arrived at the scene and used riot dispersal means and live fire to break up the confrontation between residents and settlers. It said Palestinians shot fireworks in response and an Israeli and four Palestinians were injured. The incident was being examined and had been handed over to police, it said.

In another incident, Wajih Al-Qat, head of the local council of the village of Madama near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, said a group of about 15 settlers burned the car and broke the windows of a house with stones.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military on the incident.

The attacks are the latest in a series of similar incidents involving settlers.

The West Bank, which the Palestinians want as part of a future independent state, has seen a surge of violence in recent months as Jewish settlements have continued to expand and US-backed peacemaking efforts have stalled for nearly a decade.

The violence, at a more-than-15-year high this year, surged further after Israel launched an invasion of the separate enclave of Gaza in response to the attack by Palestinian militant group Hamas in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Yesh Din, a human rights group that monitors settler violence, said there had been at least 225 incidents of settler violence in 93 Palestinian communities since the war started.

Prior to Saturday's incident, it said at least nine Palestinians had been killed in such attacks.

In a separate incident near Nablus, Palestinian authorities said a 14-year-old boy died of his wounds after he was shot during an incident in which the Israeli military said he brandished a knife at soldiers on a checkpoint.


UN Ending Sudan Mission Evokes Mixed Sentiments

The end of UNITAMS has provoked different reactions from different parties in Sudan - File Photo
The end of UNITAMS has provoked different reactions from different parties in Sudan - File Photo
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UN Ending Sudan Mission Evokes Mixed Sentiments

The end of UNITAMS has provoked different reactions from different parties in Sudan - File Photo
The end of UNITAMS has provoked different reactions from different parties in Sudan - File Photo

The UN Security Council on Friday decided to terminate the mandate of the UN Integrated Transitional Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS).

Adopting resolution 2715 (2023) by 14 votes in favor and one abstention (Russia), the UNSC requested UNITAMS “immediately start on 4 December 2023, the cessation of its operations and the process of the transfer of its tasks, where appropriate and to the extent feasible, to UN agencies, funds and programmes, with the objective of completing this by 29 February 2024.”

The end of UNITAMS has provoked different reactions from different parties in Sudan. Some supported the resolution while others opposed it.

Sudan’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the resolution, viewing it as a triumph of its diplomacy and a response to its request.

It considered UNITAMS a “disappointment” and applauded the decision to terminate its mandate, advocating for the redistribution of its responsibilities among other UN agencies based on their respective competencies.

However, others perceive this resolution as a diplomatic trap set for Sudan. They argue that it establishes a stronger international guardianship than existed before the cancellation of the mandate of the UN political mission in Sudan.

The relationship between UNITAMS and Sudan has been strained since the outbreak of the war between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the Rapid Support Forces, a paramilitary group. The UN secretary-general's special representative and head of UNITAMS at the time, Volker Perthes, was declared persona non grata by the Sudanese authorities in June.

Perthes resigned in September, approximately three months after the replacement request.

Subsequently, the situation escalated to a demand for the termination of UNITAMS’ mandate on November 17, following its perceived failure to fulfill its mission and its “disappointing” performance.

UNITAMS, established by the Security Council in June 2020, was tasked to help Sudan with its political transition after the ouster of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir in 2019.


Iran Says Israeli Strike in Syria Killed 2 Guard Members

FILE - Syrians walk through destruction in the town of Douma, the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack, near Damascus, Syria, on April 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
FILE - Syrians walk through destruction in the town of Douma, the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack, near Damascus, Syria, on April 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
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Iran Says Israeli Strike in Syria Killed 2 Guard Members

FILE - Syrians walk through destruction in the town of Douma, the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack, near Damascus, Syria, on April 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)
FILE - Syrians walk through destruction in the town of Douma, the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack, near Damascus, Syria, on April 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar, File)

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard stated through its website that two of its forces stationed in Syria were killed in an Israeli airstrike Saturday.
The report on the Guard's news portal identified the two members as Mohammad Ali Ataei Shourcheh and Panah Taghizadeh, and said they were carrying out an advisory mission in Syria. It did not elaborate on their rank, or the area where they were killed.
Syrian state media, quoting an unnamed military official, said Israeli airstrikes hit several areas on the outskirts of the capital Damascus early Saturday. The strikes resulted in only “material losses,” the report added.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the strikes hit the southern Damascus suburb of Sayyida Zeinab, where “there are military forces working with the Lebanese Hezbollah.” It said the strike killed two Syrian citizens and two foreigners and wounded five others.


US Says Will Not Permit Displacement of Palestinians

US Vice President Kamala Harris at COP 28 (Reuters)
US Vice President Kamala Harris at COP 28 (Reuters)
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US Says Will Not Permit Displacement of Palestinians

US Vice President Kamala Harris at COP 28 (Reuters)
US Vice President Kamala Harris at COP 28 (Reuters)

The war on the Gaza Strip was heavily discussed on the sidelines of the Dubai Climate Conference (COP28), amid remarkable US statements that outline the vision for Gaza in the post-conflict between Israel and Hamas.

US Vice President Kamala Harris said that many Palestinians are being killed in Gaza, urging Israel to do more to protect them.

In a press conference on the sidelines of COP28, Harris said Israel has a legitimate right to conduct military operations against Hamas militants, who launched attacks from Gaza on Oct. 7 in which more than 1,200 people in southern Israel were killed.

"As Israel defends itself, it matters how. The United States is unequivocal: International humanitarian law must be respected. Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed," Harris said, according to Reuters.

Harris held talks with some regional leaders while attending the climate summit in Dubai after being asked by US President Joe Biden to take his seat at the table as he focuses on the Israel-Hamas war.

In another message directed at Israel, Harris said the United States would not permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, the besieging of Gaza, or the redrawing of Gaza's borders.

"The international community must dedicate significant resources to support short- and long-term recovery in Gaza, for example, rebuilding hospitals and housing, restoring electricity and clean water, and ensuring that bakeries can reopen and be restocked," she said.

The VP said the Palestinian Authority (PA) should be bolstered to the point that it can govern both the West Bank and Gaza. Hamas can no longer run Gaza.

"There must be security arrangements that are acceptable to Israel, the people of Gaza, the Authority, and the international partners," she said, adding that the PA security forces must be strengthened to assume security responsibilities in Gaza.

"We want to see a unified Gaza and West Bank under the Authority, and Palestinian voices and aspirations must be at the center of this work," she indicated.

Once the war ends, efforts to rebuild should be pursued with a view toward the goal of a two-state solution in which Israel and the Palestinians live in peace, Harris said.

The recent developments in Gaza shaped the discussions of President Abdulfattah el-Sisi on the sidelines of the COP28 summit.

Sisi met with Harris in Dubai, and the two agreed on the gravity of the current situation while stressing the urgent need to prevent an expansion of the cycle of the conflict and protect the civilians.

Egypt and the US categorically rejected the coerced displacement of the Palestinians.

Sisi underscored the aggravating humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, which necessitates immediate action by the international community to provide urgent humanitarian relief to the people in the Strip to alleviate their suffering.

The President reiterated the crucial need to restore calm and ceasefire, emphasizing Egypt's rejection of exposing innocent people to the policies of collective punishment in violation of international commitments under international humanitarian law.

He reaffirmed Egypt's unequivocal and firm position about the settlement of the Palestinian issue through a just and comprehensive solution, safeguarding the rights of the Palestinian people and the establishment of their independent Palestinian State, following the references of international legitimacy.

Earlier, the White House issued a statement announcing Harris's meeting with Sisi, noting that the VP discussed US ideas for post-conflict planning in Gaza, including reconstruction, security, and governance efforts.

She emphasized that these efforts can only succeed if they are pursued in the context of a clear political horizon for the Palestinian people towards a state of their own led by a revitalized Authority and have significant support from the international community and the regional countries.

The VP reiterated that under no circumstances will the US permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, the besiegement of Gaza, or the redrawing of the borders of Gaza.

Also in Dubai, Harris met the Jordanian King, Abdullah II, who warned against prolonging the war on Gaza, noting that it would further increase violence.

The King affirmed the necessity for the US to play a leadership role in advancing a political solution for the Palestinian Cause and achieve peace based on a two-state solution.

The monarch also cautioned against any attempt to separate the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, considering both an integral part of a unified Palestinian state.


Palestinian President Urges ICC to Speed Up Prosecution of ‘Israeli War Criminals’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, in Ramallah in the West Bank (AFP)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, in Ramallah in the West Bank (AFP)
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Palestinian President Urges ICC to Speed Up Prosecution of ‘Israeli War Criminals’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, in Ramallah in the West Bank (AFP)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan, in Ramallah in the West Bank (AFP)

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to expedite investigations and pursue legal action against Israeli war criminals responsible for war crimes committed in the Palestinian territories.

Abbas met in Ramallah on Saturday with the Chief Prosecutor of the ICC, Karim Khan, and asserted the need to launch investigations into Israel's targeting of civilians, especially children, women, and the elderly.

He briefed the Prosecutor on Israel's violation of the sanctity of hospitals and shelters, the demolition of homes with civilians inside, the crimes of settler-colonial expansion, ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and various other violations of international law and international humanitarian law.

- Cases handover

In 2014, the Palestinian Authority (PA) handed over files to the ICC on multiple Israeli crimes during the war on Gaza.

A year later, the Court opened a preliminary investigation, and in 2021, it approved an inquiry into the commission of "Israeli war crimes" in the Palestinian territories.

Palestine presented three cases at the ICC, including the aggression against Gaza in 2014, during which Israel used excessive force, prohibited weapons, and ordered massacres and killing of civilians.

Another case concerns the Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli prisons and includes ill-treatment of captives and their families and medical neglect that led to the death of some of them.

Furthermore, there is the case against Israeli settlement, including illegal construction on Palestinian land and settlers' terrorism, which led to the killing of Palestinian civilians.

The Palestinians will now submit new files about the current war.

- Delayed justice

For years, the Palestinians have been documenting Israeli crimes in the Palestinian territories.

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said during his meeting with Khan on Saturday that delaying justice is an absence of justice itself.

Shtayyeh added that the ICC should be for sentencing and deterrence, asserting that for 75 years now, Israel has been acting like it is above the law.

He explained that the responsibility of the Criminal Court is not a moral issue but a legal one.

The Authority wants the Criminal Court to investigate the ongoing war in Gaza and previous wars and inspect all other violations in the West Bank.

- Comprehensive war

The Authority considers that the Israeli war on the Palestinians is comprehensive and not only in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli displacement policy targets Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank as part of an attempt to liquidate the Palestinian issue.

Since Oct. 7, the West Bank witnessed an escalation in Israeli aggression, which included shutting down the West Bank governorates, deploying more military barriers, and launching massive incursions, whether during the day or the night, into most areas.

Israel began using drones to target Palestinians. It also killed and arrested dozens of them, demolished infrastructure, and attacked civilians in their homes.

On Saturday, Israel killed a Palestinian near the town of Tal, west of Nablus.

The Ministry of Health announced on Saturday that Israel shot and killed a civilian in Nablus at the al-Murabbaa checkpoint. The Israeli forces prevented a Palestinian ambulance from reaching him before arresting him while he was injured.

- Israel arrests 3,415 Palestinians

Since Oct. 7, Israel has killed about 250 Palestinians and arrested more than 3,400 in the West Bank. The apprehensions included various areas of Nablus, Tubas, Jenin, Hebron, and Qalqilya and were accompanied by widespread sabotage and home destruction.

The Commission of Detainees' Affairs and the Palestinian Society Prisoner's Club said that the Israeli occupation forces arrested at least 12 Palestinians, including a girl from Tulkarm, on her way back from Jordan.


Grim Cycle of Death at a Hospital in Gaza

Bodies are moved at the Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis, in a file picture taken on November 14 - AFP
Bodies are moved at the Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis, in a file picture taken on November 14 - AFP
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Grim Cycle of Death at a Hospital in Gaza

Bodies are moved at the Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis, in a file picture taken on November 14 - AFP
Bodies are moved at the Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis, in a file picture taken on November 14 - AFP

A middle-aged man with a blank, shattered expression walked slowly down a ramp at the hospital, gently cradling in his arms a tiny body wrapped in a white shroud.

After the collapse of a week-long truce between Israel and Hamas, the Nasser hospital's morgue in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza, was full once again on Saturday.

A handful of women wept for their own children, while a group of men nearby prayed for the dead.

"My son Mohammed tried to get the women and children out of our tent" at a makeshift camp where they had sheltered inside a school, Jumana Murad said of the 19-year-old.

"But a piece of shrapnel hit him in the head... I saw his brains," she told AFP, before bursting into tears.

The family had left their home in Gaza City after the Israeli army told around 1.1 million people in the north of the Palestinian territory to move to avoid the fighting following Hamas militants' unprecedented October 7 attacks on Israel.

"They tossed out leaflets to tell us 'you will be safe in the south', so we went there," she said.

"My son is dead, my son Mohammed, who was a nice boy, and who listened to me whenever I needed to get something off my chest."

At her side, her daughter Joelle Murad shook in her red embroidered dressing gown, screaming out to God and to anyone in earshot.

"Why was my brother, who had nothing to do with militant groups, killed?" she cried. "What did we do? They want Hamas? What does that have to do with us?"

Men at Nasser hospital -- doctors, medical technicians, victims' loved ones -- brought out the corpses in white body bags.

Families gathered for one last look at the dead, caressing their hair, touching their hands or kissing their faces, sometimes still stained with blood.

To Gazans, the dead are "martyrs", so their bodies are not given the traditional Muslim funeral cleansing.

The bodies are carried out on stretchers, or on long metal trays from the morgue's cold rooms -- where electricity supplies are intermittent to non-existent.

Funerals are carried out quickly, and family members cannot always be reached, but the small crowd in the courtyard paused and gathered before all the bodies, reciting prayers for the dead.

The wrapped remains were loaded into ill-suited civilian vehicles -- ambulances are only for the living -- and taken away to rapidly filling cemeteries.

Behind them, more bodies were coming out of the morgue, one more mother cried for her son and the crowd readied for another funeral prayer.


US Defense Chief: Israel Must Shield Civilians to Win in Gaza

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon on November 22, 2023 - AFP
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon on November 22, 2023 - AFP
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US Defense Chief: Israel Must Shield Civilians to Win in Gaza

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon on November 22, 2023 - AFP
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks at the Pentagon on November 22, 2023 - AFP

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday urged Israel to protect civilians as it battles Hamas in Gaza, saying that shielding noncombatants is necessary for victory in the urban fight against the Palestinian group.

Fighting between Israel and Hamas resumed the day before after a week-long truce between the two sides collapsed, with both sides blaming the other for the breakdown of the deal and the resumption of violence.

Austin told the Reagan National Defense Forum in California that he had "learned a thing or two about urban warfare" while fighting in Iraq and leading the campaign against ISIS, AFP reported.

"Like Hamas, ISIS was deeply embedded in urban areas. And the international coalition against ISIS worked hard to protect civilians and create humanitarian corridors, even during the toughest battles," Austin said.

"The lesson is not that you can win in urban warfare by protecting civilians. The lesson is that you can only win in urban warfare by protecting civilians," he said.

"In this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat."


Palestinian Rights Groups Snub ICC Prosecutor

Palestinians carry their belongings following Israeli strikes on residential buildings at the Qatari-funded Hamad City, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip December 2, 2023. (Reuters)
Palestinians carry their belongings following Israeli strikes on residential buildings at the Qatari-funded Hamad City, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip December 2, 2023. (Reuters)
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Palestinian Rights Groups Snub ICC Prosecutor

Palestinians carry their belongings following Israeli strikes on residential buildings at the Qatari-funded Hamad City, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip December 2, 2023. (Reuters)
Palestinians carry their belongings following Israeli strikes on residential buildings at the Qatari-funded Hamad City, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip December 2, 2023. (Reuters)

Palestinian human rights groups refused to meet the International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan on Saturday, accusing him of favoring Israeli accusations of rights abuses over longstanding Palestinian charges.

Khan has been visiting Israel and the occupied West Bank following a request by a group representing families of victims of the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas gunmen, but he was also due to meet Palestinian officials in Ramallah.

However Palestinian activists said they would refuse to see him because of their objections to what they saw as unequal treatment of Israeli and Palestinian cases.

"As Palestinian human rights organizations, we decided not to meet him," said Ammar Al-Dwaik, director general of the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR).

"I think the way this visit has been handled shows that Mr. Khan is not handling his work in an independent and professional manner," he said.

Accusations of war crimes and human rights abuses have been made on both sides since Oct. 7, when Hamas gunmen overran several Israeli communities around the Gaza Strip, killing more than 1,200 Israelis and seizing around 240 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

In response, Israel has launched weeks of air strikes against Gaza as well as an invasion by tanks and ground troops, killing more than 15,000 Gazans, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Khan was in Israel following an invitation from families of the Israeli hostages. He was scheduled to meet lawyers for the families' group as well as members of the families themselves.

On Saturday, he also met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. The official Palestinian news agency WAFA said Abbas had urged Karim to investigate Israeli operations in Gaza as well as the occupied West Bank.