Iran’s Quds Force Chief in Syria to Oversee Joint Drill

 Iran's Quds Force commander Esmail Qaani. (AFP file photo)
Iran's Quds Force commander Esmail Qaani. (AFP file photo)
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Iran’s Quds Force Chief in Syria to Oversee Joint Drill

 Iran's Quds Force commander Esmail Qaani. (AFP file photo)
Iran's Quds Force commander Esmail Qaani. (AFP file photo)

The head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, Esmail Qaani, has visited Syria to oversee a joint military drill, media outlets in Iran said.

Qaani, appointed Quds Force commander after a US drone strike on Baghdad killed its revered leader Qasem Soleimani in 2020, met senior Syrian officials in Damascus, Tasnim news agency reported late Thursday.

They held discussions on ways to "confront the military and security challenges facing Syria" and supervised a joint Iran-Syria military exercise, Tasnim said.

Qaani also praised Syria and Iran's "brotherly relations" said Iran "will stand by the Syrian people and leadership in facing its challenges", the news agency added.

The Quds Force is the foreign operations arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The United States placed it on its list of "foreign terrorist organizations" in 2019, but Iran insists its activities abroad are an example of regional cooperation aimed at shoring up stability and blocking Western interference.

Iran has been a major ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, providing him economic, political, and military support during Syria's more than 12-year civil war.

Tehran's support helped Damascus claw back most of the territory it lost at the start of the conflict and positioned Iran in a leading role as Assad seeks to focus on reconstruction.

Militias affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards have a heavy presence across Syria, but Tehran denies sending forces to fight in Syria, saying it only has military advisers in the war-ravaged country.

The Syrian conflict has claimed more than 500,000 lives, displaced millions and ravaged the country's infrastructure and industry.

In May, Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi embarked on a landmark visit to Syria, where he called on "resistance forces" to come together to confront Tehran's arch-enemy Israel.

Since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, Israel has carried out hundreds of air strikes against Syrian positions as well as Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah forces, allies of Damascus and arch-foes of Israel.

Israel rarely comments on the strikes on a case-by-case basis, but says it seeks to prevent Iran from establishing a foothold on its doorstep.



Jordan’s King Abdullah Says World Should Condemn Any Attempt to Forcibly Expel Palestinians

Palestinians fleeing the Israeli ground offensive arrive in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. (AP)
Palestinians fleeing the Israeli ground offensive arrive in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. (AP)
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Jordan’s King Abdullah Says World Should Condemn Any Attempt to Forcibly Expel Palestinians

Palestinians fleeing the Israeli ground offensive arrive in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. (AP)
Palestinians fleeing the Israeli ground offensive arrive in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023. (AP)

Jordan's King Abdullah said on Tuesday the world should condemn any attempt by Israel to create conditions that would forcibly displace Palestinians within the war-devastated Gaza Strip or outside its borders.

In remarks carried by state media after a meeting with the Cypriot president in Amman, the monarch again called for an immediate ceasefire and warned that Israel's relentless bombing campaign was leading to a "dangerous deterioration" in the situation.

Talks with Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides focused on the need to increase efforts to deliver humanitarian aid and relief to the embattled civilians living in Gaza.

Abdullah has lobbied Western leaders to pile pressure on Israel to allow an uninterrupted flow of aid and open crossings it controls to bring in sufficient level of aid needed.

Israel now controls the volume and nature of aid entering to over 2.3 million inhabitants under siege, according to UN officials and humanitarian workers.

UNRWA officials say only a trickle of the aid the enclave needs is getting through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt which NGOs and officials say can only handle a fraction of the needs.

Israel started its campaign in retribution for an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas fighters who rampaged through Israeli towns, killing 1,200 people and seizing 240 hostages, according to Israel's tally.

Israeli bombardments have killed nearly 16,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health ministry figures, and driven 80% of the population from their homes.

King Abdullah told Christodoulides there would be dangerous consequences from any attempt to forcibly push Palestinians en masse from their land while it maintained security control, officials said.

Officials also fear wider violence in the West Bank, which Jordan borders, as settler attacks on Palestinian civilians, confiscation of land and Israeli military raids mount.

It could create circumstances that could encourage Israel to forcibly push tens of thousands of Palestinians across the Jordan River.

Officials say the forcible expulsion of Palestinians would amount to a declaration of war and prompt Jordan to suspend its peace treaty with Israel.

On Tuesday, Amman condemned Israel's move to build new settlements in Arab East Jerusalem, the part of the contested city that was seized along with the West Bank in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and the UN considers occupied territory.

"Israel's expansion of Jewish settlement building on land it occupied and the confiscation of territory are a flagrant violation of international law" and dimmed any prospects of peace, said Sufain Qudah, spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry.


Jordan Army Says It Killed Three Drug Smugglers at Syria Border

Some of the drugs confiscated by the army. (Petra News Agency)
Some of the drugs confiscated by the army. (Petra News Agency)
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Jordan Army Says It Killed Three Drug Smugglers at Syria Border

Some of the drugs confiscated by the army. (Petra News Agency)
Some of the drugs confiscated by the army. (Petra News Agency)

The Jordanian army said on Tuesday it killed three drug dealers during an operation that foiled the smuggling of large quantities of drugs across the border from Syria.
About 233,000 captagon pills - a mix of amphetamines - and quantities of hashish were found during the bust, it said.
The army said it had monitored a group of smugglers who had sought to cross the border and applied strict rules of engagement to shoot at first sight.
"We continue to deal with, resolve and force any threat to our borders and any attempt to undermine and destabilize the country's security," the army said in a statement.
Jordan faces a challenging situation on its northern border with Syria, but challenges are also emerging on its eastern border with Iraq after reports that pro-Iranian militia camps are rising there under the pretext of providing help for the "Palestinian resistance" in Gaza.
Jordan has reinforced its security measures on the Western border with the occupied territories amid Israel’s military escalation in the West Bank.


US Sanctions Target 3 Former Sudanese Officials

Sudanese warring parties signing the Jeddah Talks agreement (Reuters)
Sudanese warring parties signing the Jeddah Talks agreement (Reuters)
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US Sanctions Target 3 Former Sudanese Officials

Sudanese warring parties signing the Jeddah Talks agreement (Reuters)
Sudanese warring parties signing the Jeddah Talks agreement (Reuters)

The US Treasury imposed sanctions on three former Sudanese officials for their role in undermining the country's peace, security, and stability.

The US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said the designations support diplomatic efforts by the international community to end the conflict and demonstrate the US commitment to achieve a civilian government and a transition to democracy.

Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson, the Treasury continues its efforts to "identify and take action against individuals contributing to the instability in Sudan and undermining prospects for a peaceful resolution."

"The United States will not tolerate the continuing exploitation of the Sudanese people by those who seek to extend and deepen the conflict."

The sanctions include Taha Osman Ahmed al-Hussein, a former State Minister and Presidential Office Director to former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

Hussein was pivotal in managing the relationship between the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and regional actors to advance the RSF's warfighting efforts.

They also include Salah Abdallah Mohamed Salah, a former high-ranking Sudanese government official who left his position following the fall of the al-Bashir regime and, since that time, has undertaken efforts to destabilize Sudan.

The Treasury also included Mohamed Etta Elmoula Abbas, a former Sudanese Ambassador and leader of Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service under the al-Bashir regime.

Meanwhile, sources revealed new details regarding disputes and mutual accusations between the Sudanese army and the RSF, threatening the second round of negotiations in Jeddah, sponsored by Saudi-US mediation.

The sources explained that negotiations may be resumed later without an official announcement, noting that the army delegation had previously agreed to a proposal submitted by an Intergovernmental Development Organization (IGAD) expert.

The sources reported that the IGAD expert proposed freezing all movements and each force remaining in its area of control, which would be done immediately after signing the cessation of hostilities agreement that both parties approved.

The army later rejected the proposal.

The sources, who asked to remain anonymous, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the army negotiating delegation also rejected another item that called for a comprehensive political dialogue 15 days after agreeing to cease hostilities.

The army also rejected the Joint Center tasked with monitoring the ceasefire. The center includes four countries and is chaired by Saudi Arabia.

The army also insisted on the exit of the RSF from the capital, Khartoum.

- Confidence-building measures

The RSF accused the army of not committing to implementing the "confidence-building" measures agreed upon in the Jeddah Platform.

The Arab World News Agency quoted a source familiar with the course of the negotiations as saying that the Sudanese army's attempts to involve "members of the former regime" were one of the reasons for the failure of the Jeddah talks.

The source, who asked not to be identified, said that the army sought to "fail the negotiating platform" by including two members of the former regime, Ambassador Omar Siddiq and Brigadier General Saleh al-Mubarak.

Both figures were rejected by the RSF, delaying the talks for three days before they agreed to dismiss them and retain them as experts.

- Negotiations suspended without any progress

The source confirmed that the second round of negotiations had faltered, and mediation was suspended without progress, especially in the humanitarian and ceasefire issues.

Last November, the second round of the Jeddah negotiations began with two main items: humanitarian aid and confidence-building measures.

On November 7, the two parties signed commitments to deliver humanitarian aid and confidence-building measures, which included four essential items, namely arresting the Islamists who escaped from prisons.

The source confirmed that the agreement set ten days to arrest the wanted persons.

The Rapid Support delegation handed over a list of wanted persons, and the army delegation requested five days, but it did not implement its pledges even after extending the deadline ten more days.

According to the same source, the army delegation refused to send humanitarian aid to the affected areas in Darfur and other regions around the country.

He also refused to open the airports of Nyala, el-Geneina, and el-Fasher for humanitarian purposes and insisted on delivering aid through Port Sudan airport.

- Controlling the capital

The Rapid Support Forces controlled large areas of the capital, forcing the army to retreat in Darfur and Kordofan.

Last month, the RSF took control of significant army strongholds in Nyala, Zalingei, and el-Geneina in the Darfur region.

The source told the Arab World News Agency that the army delegation asked Doctors Without Borders and the Italian and Norwegian organizations to stop their work in Khartoum, refusing to grant visas to humanitarian and medical workers.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Sudan said on Friday that it was forced to make the difficult decision to reduce the number of employees to the minimum in al-Ban al-Jadeed Hospital.

The organization noted that the measures come from the strict restrictions imposed on employees' movements and the authorities' delay in issuing travel permits.

- Umma Party: Disappointment

The head of the National Umma Party, Fadlallah Burma Nasser, said on Monday that the collapse of the Jeddah negotiations disappointed the Sudanese people.

In a statement, he stated that the National Umma accuses the extremist forces of the negotiations' failure, pointing out that the irresponsible statements and spreading of accusations confirm the lack of national will to reach an agreement.


Yemeni Official: Houthi Attacks Call for More Fleets in the Region

The USS Carney, which responded to Houthi attacks (AP)
The USS Carney, which responded to Houthi attacks (AP)
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Yemeni Official: Houthi Attacks Call for More Fleets in the Region

The USS Carney, which responded to Houthi attacks (AP)
The USS Carney, which responded to Houthi attacks (AP)

A Yemeni military official on Tuesday accused the Houthis of provoking foreign fleets to come to the region through attacks targeting commercial ships in the Red Sea.
Spokesman of Yemen’s National Resistance Forces Brigadier Sadiq Dowied saw the attacks as a service to Iran, stressing that they do not serve the Palestinian cause and undermine the sympathy of international public opinion with the innocents in the Gaza Strip.
Dowied told Asharq Al-Awsat that Yemen condemns Israel’s escalation of its crimes in Gaza, warning that tampering with the security and sovereignty of Yemeni waters and international sea lanes is a service to Iran.
The Yemeni military commander believed the Houthi attacks, most recently the attack on two ships in the southern Red Sea, were a “waste of Yemen’s sovereignty” over its waters, causing chaos and calling for more international forces and fleets in the region.
- Service to Iran
Yemeni author Nabil al-Soufi believes the Houthi attacks on “international trade” in Bab al-Mandab will increase international support for Israel.
He said the recent attacks confirm that northern Yemen has become a “loose” area for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) as a camp.
Soufi noted that Iran’s other affiliates have not recorded any international violations like the Houthis, who strike international trade institutions that governments do not own in the first place.
According to him, the ships attacked belong to multinational companies managed by stock exchanges, insurance and transportation companies, and other institutions.
He said that instead of focusing on peace and using the Hodeidah port to generate profit that benefits the people, Houthis proved fundamentally that they are incapable of putting the interest of the country and the people first.
Meanwhile, researcher Ibrahim Jalal warned that repeated “Houthi adventures” targeting international shipping lines would increase insurance costs, leading to a price hike.
Jalal warned that the attacks and hijacking of ships will lead to the military presence in the Gulf of Aden and the seas associated with it.
The US Central Command (Centcom) had announced that a US destroyer engaged and shot down on Sunday a UAV launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen.
CENTCOM said in a statement that there were four attacks against three separate commercial vessels operating in international waters in the southern Red Sea.
“The Arleigh-Burke Class destroyer USS CARNEY responded to the distress calls from the ships and provided assistance.”
The statement added that the drone was headed toward CARNEY, although its specific target is unclear. “We cannot assess at this time whether the Carney was a target of the UAVs.”


Egypt Warns Against Liquidating Palestinian Cause, Asserts Displacement as 'Red Line'

Displaced Palestinians return to their homes as they walk near houses destroyed in an Israeli strike (Reuters)
Displaced Palestinians return to their homes as they walk near houses destroyed in an Israeli strike (Reuters)
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Egypt Warns Against Liquidating Palestinian Cause, Asserts Displacement as 'Red Line'

Displaced Palestinians return to their homes as they walk near houses destroyed in an Israeli strike (Reuters)
Displaced Palestinians return to their homes as they walk near houses destroyed in an Israeli strike (Reuters)

Egypt renewed its categorical rejection of the forced displacement of Palestinians, stating that this is "a red line," which it will not allow to be crossed.

Egypt's Commander-in-Chief and Minister of Defense Mohamed Zaki warned on Monday that the current escalations in the Gaza Strip aim at "imposing a reality that leads to the liquidating of the Palestinian cause."

Speaking at the Egypt Defense Expo (EDEX 2023) in Cairo, Zaki said peace eventually must have a "power to protect it."

Earlier, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi affirmed his country's rejection of the "forced displacement" of Gazans, stressing that Egypt will not allow the issue to be settled at the expense of neighboring countries.

Last Saturday, Sisi met with US Vice President Kamala Harris in Dubai on the sidelines of the UN Climate Conference (COP28). Egypt and the US categorically rejected the coerced displacement of the Palestinians, the forced transfer from Gaza or the West Bank, and the siege imposed on Gaza.

On Monday, Sisi witnessed the inauguration of EDEX 2023 for defense and military industries and inspected several pavilions in the exhibition.

Minister Zaki said the exhibition is an important global event under the patronage of the President, coinciding with the current conflicts and wars that threaten regional and international security and stability.

Egypt continues to aim to unite efforts and end conflicts seeking to establish peace, said Zaki, noting that the exhibition is a place for exchanged experiences to enhance capabilities and develop relations between countries in defense and military industries.

He also asserted that it aims to protect the pillars of common national security and deepen the partnership and cooperation with friendly countries in all military fields.

The Minister also stressed that the armed forces will remain a guardian of the nation's security and stability, seeking to defeat any aggression against Egypt.

Meanwhile, Egypt's Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg, and its EU and NATO representative, Badr Abdel-Aty, confirmed that Egypt categorically rejects the forced displacement of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip inside or outside its territory, asserting it was a red line that will not be crossed.

Abdel-Aty told the "Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Persons" that Egypt adopted a comprehensive approach to dealing with migrants that includes security, development, economic, and social aspects to address the root causes.

The conference is organized by the European Commission to enhance international cooperation in combating migrant smuggling.

The ambassador said his country hosts about nine million refugees, who enjoy essential services like Egyptian citizens.

Egypt has been receiving hundreds of thousands of Sudanese since the outbreak of the recent crisis.

Last month, Egypt criticized Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who supported a call by two Knesset members, Danny Danon (Likud) and Ram Ben-Barak (Yesh Atid), who wrote in a Wall Street Journal editorial that Western countries should accept Gazan families who expressed a desire to relocate.

Smotrich said it was a voluntary migration plan for the refugees of Gaza.

"I welcome the initiative of the voluntary emigration of Gaza Arabs to countries around the world," Smotrich said in a statement.

"This is the right humanitarian solution for the residents of Gaza and the entire region after 75 years of refugees, poverty, and danger."

He said an area as small as the Gaza Strip without natural resources could not survive alone and added: "The State of Israel will no longer be able to accept the existence of an independent entity in Gaza."

Last Wednesday, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry affirmed that the policy of forced displacement remains a goal for Israel "as it seeks to drive Palestinians from their land by making life in the Gaza Strip impossible."

Shoukry was speaking at the Joint Press Encounter by the Ministerial Committee assigned by the Joint Arab-Islamic Extraordinary Summit as part of a periodic briefing session held by the UNSC on the situation in the Gaza Strip.

The Minister stated that what is happening in the Gaza Strip met with a similar policy in the West Bank that forcibly displaces its residents, whether through unleashing settler violence or demolition operations, evictions, and military incursions into West Bank cities.

He noted that the recent developments were in addition to the annexation of land through systematic settlement operations that cemented the illegitimate occupation.

Furthermore, Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides will visit Egypt and Jordan on Tuesday as part of an initiative to establish a humanitarian aid corridor to Israeli-besieged Gaza, reported Reuters.


15 Rockets Fired from Iraq at US Base in Syria

US forces in Syria (Reuters)
US forces in Syria (Reuters)
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15 Rockets Fired from Iraq at US Base in Syria

US forces in Syria (Reuters)
US forces in Syria (Reuters)

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Monday that around 15 rockets were fired from Iraq at its Rumalyn Landing Zone in Syria, saying there were no injuries to personnel or damage to equipment.

“Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve located the point of origin with uncrewed ISR assets and passed the location to Iraqi Security Forces who moved to and investigated the site,” CENTCOM said in a statement.

It added that a fuel truck modified to launch up to 20 rockets was located at the site.

The United States is leading an international coalition against ISIS in Iraq and Syria under the name “Operation Inherent Resolve.”

On Sunday, Iraqi armed factions announced that they had targeted a base of US forces in Syria, saying the bombing was in response to the resumption of attacks on the Gaza Strip.

In a statement obtained by the Arab World News Agency, the factions said they launched a “barrage of rockets” at the Kharab al-Jeer base in northeastern Syria and hit directly their targets.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights noted the presence of a runway for the US military cargo planes and a helipad in Kharab al-Jeer base.


Yemen: Houthis Intensify Sectarian Mobilization School Programs in Ibb

Students in a school in Sanaa (File photo: Reuters)
Students in a school in Sanaa (File photo: Reuters)
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Yemen: Houthis Intensify Sectarian Mobilization School Programs in Ibb

Students in a school in Sanaa (File photo: Reuters)
Students in a school in Sanaa (File photo: Reuters)

The Houthi group forced public and private schools in Ibb governorate to allocate sectarian programs and activities as part of its programs, in parallel with a massive collection campaign to support the war effort.

Educational sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Houthis committed a new wave of abuse at public schools, including expelling educators and forcing students and professionals to make donations.

Houthi Director of Education in Ibb Mohammad al-Ghazali forced education facilities, directors of education centers and schools, and officials in 22 districts affiliated with the governorate to harness their efforts to celebrate the “Martyr’s Week” anniversary.

He also asked them to hold exhibitions with pictures of the dead and organize collective visits to their graves.

- Threat of punishment

Educational sources reported that Houthi’s Education Minister Yahya al-Houthi issued circulars to education offices in Ibb and the rest of the governorates to organize the events and disseminate new activities.

They threatened punitive measures against educators and schools that refused the instructions.

Educational officials, teachers, school students, and parents rejected the Houthi instructions.

The director of a government school in Ibb, who asked not to be named, revealed that the group forced school principals to mobilize everyone to attend and participate in the group’s activities.

The group asked school principals in Ibb to submit the names of teachers who refused to participate in activities so that punitive measures could be taken against them despite not paying their salaries.

The school director told Asharq Al-Awsat that Houthi supervisors made field visits to educational institutions urging the need to reduce daily classes and intensify Houthi programs and activities.

- Frequent abuses

Regarding the Houthi group’s abuses against educators in Ibb,

Houthi Director of Education Mohammad al-Ghazali stormed the Arwa Girls School in Ibb, accompanied by armed men. He then expelled the school’s principal, Nadia al-Qadi.

The Houthi leader had previously dismissed the Martyr al-Sabahi and al-Thawra school directors after they were accused of carrying strikes with other teachers demanding salaries.

In a previous report, the World Bank highlighted the further deterioration of education in Yemen due to the ongoing conflict.

The World Bank stated that the quality of education worsened drastically across governorates amid increased dropout rates among students.

It pointed out that many Yemeni families send one or two of several children to school as they cannot afford to send them all.

The report revealed that there were main reasons that led to the noticeable deterioration in the quality of education, amid worsening teacher shortages, the lack of printed textbooks, deficiencies in infrastructure, overcrowded classrooms, deteriorating family income, the distance to schools, and the lack of transportation options.


Berlin Urges Israel to Guarantee 'Realistic' Protection to Gaza Civilians

Palestinians walk through destruction in Gaza City on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, as the temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took effect. (AP)
Palestinians walk through destruction in Gaza City on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, as the temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took effect. (AP)
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Berlin Urges Israel to Guarantee 'Realistic' Protection to Gaza Civilians

Palestinians walk through destruction in Gaza City on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, as the temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took effect. (AP)
Palestinians walk through destruction in Gaza City on Friday, Nov. 24, 2023, as the temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took effect. (AP)

Germany urged Israel on Monday to guarantee "realistic" protection to civilians in the Gaza Strip, as Israel moved ground forces into the south of the territory in its war on Hamas.

"Something we expect from Israel is that they not only urge civilians to leave the danger zone, but that they are in a realistic position to find safe shelter elsewhere," foreign ministry spokesman Sebastian Fischer told a regular press briefing, AFP reported.

"Too many civilians have already been killed in this war," he said.


Syrians to Lose WFP Food Assistance in January

Bulent Kilic, AFP | A Syrian Kurdish woman crosses the border between Syria and Türkiye on September 23.
Bulent Kilic, AFP | A Syrian Kurdish woman crosses the border between Syria and Türkiye on September 23.
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Syrians to Lose WFP Food Assistance in January

Bulent Kilic, AFP | A Syrian Kurdish woman crosses the border between Syria and Türkiye on September 23.
Bulent Kilic, AFP | A Syrian Kurdish woman crosses the border between Syria and Türkiye on September 23.

Food assistance across Syria will end in January due to a funding crunch that had already curtailed its aid program in the war devastated country, the World Food Program (WFP)said on Monday.
The organization said a record level of humanitarian needs globally meant its donors are unable to provide the same level of support, Reuters said.
In September, WFP officials had warned that it required $134 million to provide food assistance for the next six months to combat hunger and malnutrition in 3.2 million people in Syria. In previous years, the organization had fed 5.5 million.
The UN food body says over 12 million Syrians were in the grip of hunger in a country that had already significantly cut aid in recent years.
The WFP however said it would continue to support families affected by natural disasters through smaller programs alongside maintaining some child nutrition and livelihood support schemes for farmers.
Over the last 10 years, WFP said it had spent $3 billion on delivering 4.8 million metric tons of food and over $300 million in cash-based assistance and $800 million in goods and services.


Israeli Forces Storm Khan Younis in South Gaza, Killing Scores of Palestinians

Smoke rises above buildings in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, as battles between Israel and Hamas militants continue on December 5, 2023. (AFP)
Smoke rises above buildings in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, as battles between Israel and Hamas militants continue on December 5, 2023. (AFP)
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Israeli Forces Storm Khan Younis in South Gaza, Killing Scores of Palestinians

Smoke rises above buildings in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, as battles between Israel and Hamas militants continue on December 5, 2023. (AFP)
Smoke rises above buildings in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, as battles between Israel and Hamas militants continue on December 5, 2023. (AFP)

Israeli forces stormed southern Gaza's main city on Tuesday in what they called the most intense day of combat in five weeks of ground operations against Hamas militants, and hospitals struggled to cope with scores of Palestinian dead and wounded.

In what appeared to be the biggest ground assault in Gaza since a truce with Hamas unraveled last week, Israel said its forces - which were backed by warplanes - had reached the heart of Khan Younis.

"We are in the most intense day since the beginning of the ground operation," the commander of the Israeli military's Southern Command, General Yaron Finkelman, said in Jerusalem.

He said Israeli forces were also fighting in Jabalia, a large urban refugee camp and Hamas stronghold in northern Gaza next to Gaza City, and in Shuja'iyya, east of the city.

"We are in the heart of Jabalia, in the heart of Shuja'iyya, and now also in the heart of Khan Younis," he said.

Khan Younis residents said Israeli troops and tanks had crossed through the Israeli border fence enclosing the coastal Gaza Strip and closed in on the city from the east.

After days of ordering residents to flee the area, Israeli forces dropped new leaflets on Tuesday with instructions to stay inside shelters during the assault.

"For your safety, stay in the shelters and the hospitals where you are. Don’t get out. Going out is dangerous. You have been warned," said the leaflets, addressed to residents of six districts amounting to around a quarter of Khan Younis.

The Israelis, who largely seized Gaza's northern half last month before pausing for the week-long truce, say they are now extending their ground offensive to the south. They believe Hamas commanders they aim to eliminate are holed up in part of a vast tunnel network in the territory.

"We're moving ahead with the second stage now. A second stage that is going to be difficult militarily," Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy said.

Israel, he added, is open to "constructive feedback" on reducing harm to civilians as long as the advice is consistent with its aim of destroying Gaza's ruling Islamist movement.

Rising death toll

Palestinian health officials said large numbers of people had been killed in a strike on houses in Deir al-Balah, north of Khan Younis. Dr Eyad Al-Jabri, head of the Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital there, told Reuters at least 45 people had been killed.

Reuters was unable to reach the area or confirm the toll.

Israel launched its campaign in retribution for an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas fighters who rampaged through Israeli towns, killing 1,200 people and seizing 240 hostages, according to Israel's tally.

According to Gaza health officials, more than 15,900 Palestinians are confirmed to have been killed by Israeli air and strikes and other actions, with thousands more missing and feared buried under rubble.

Israeli bombardments have driven 80% of Gaza's 2.3 million residents from their homes, most fleeing south. Crowded southern areas are now sheltering triple their usual population.

At Khan Younis' main Nasser hospital, the wounded arrived by ambulance, car, flatbed truck and donkey cart after what survivors described as a strike on a school being used as a shelter for the displaced.

Inside a ward, almost every inch of floor space was taken up by the wounded, medics hurrying from patient to patient while relatives wailed.

A doctor carried the small limp body of a dead boy in a tracksuit and placed him in a corner, arms splayed across the blood-smeared tile. On the floor nearby, surrounded by discarded bandages and rubber gloves, lay a wounded boy and girl, their limbs tangled with the stands holding IV drips in their arms.

Two young girls were being treated, still covered in dust from the collapse of the house that had buried their family.

"My parents are under the rubble," sobbed one. "I want my mum, I want my mum, I want my family."

Gaza health ministry spokesperson Ashra al-Qidra said at least 43 corpses had already reached Nasser hospital that morning and that hospitals in southern Gaza Strip were "totally collapsing".

Washington urges less harm to civilians

The United States has urged close ally Israel to do more to reduce harm to civilians in the war's next phase.  

Israel says the blame falls on Hamas fighters for operating among civilians, including from underground tunnels that can be destroyed only with huge bombs. Hamas denies using human shields.

Since the truce collapsed, Israel has been posting an online map to tell Gazans which parts of the enclave to evacuate. Khan Younis' eastern quarter was marked on Monday, home to hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom took flight on foot.

Gazans say there is no safe place, with remaining towns and shelters already overwhelmed, and Israel continuing to bomb the areas where it is telling people to go.

James Elder, spokesperson for UN children's agency UNICEF, said the few small areas designated "safe" by Israel were merely "tiny patches of barren land", street corners, sidewalks or half-built buildings unsuitable for the hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need of shelter.