Heavy Fighting in Gaza Halts Most Aid Delivery, Leaves Civilians with Few Places to Seek Safety

A picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 6, 2023, shows smoke billowing during Israeli bombardment in Gaza. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
A picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 6, 2023, shows smoke billowing during Israeli bombardment in Gaza. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
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Heavy Fighting in Gaza Halts Most Aid Delivery, Leaves Civilians with Few Places to Seek Safety

A picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 6, 2023, shows smoke billowing during Israeli bombardment in Gaza. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)
A picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 6, 2023, shows smoke billowing during Israeli bombardment in Gaza. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Intense fighting blocked relief workers from distributing food, water and medicine across most of the Gaza Strip, deepening the humanitarian crisis as Israeli forces battled Hamas militants Wednesday in a ground offensive that has brought some of the devastation and mass displacement seen in the north to the south.

As the focus of the offensive moves down the Gaza Strip and into the second-largest city of Khan Younis, it is further shrinking the area where Palestinians can seek safety and pushing large numbers of people, many of whom have been forced to flee multiple times, toward the sealed-off border with Egypt.

On the Gaza side of the border, makeshift shelters and family homes are already overflowing and many people are sleeping in the streets. On the other side, Egypt has refused any mass influx of refugees, saying it believes Israel will not let them back into Gaza and that the two countries' decades-old peace treaty would be undermined.

The UN says some 1.87 million people — over 80% of the population of 2.3 million — have already fled their homes. Many Palestinians fear they will not be allowed to return.

Much of the north, including large parts of Gaza City, has been completely destroyed, and Palestinians worry the rest of Gaza could suffer a similar fate as Israel tries to dismantle Hamas, which has deep roots in the territory it has ruled for 16 years.

Two months of Israeli bombardment and ground assaults have killed more than 16,200 people in Gaza — most of them women and children — and wounded more than 42,000, the territory’s Health Ministry said late Tuesday. It has said many are also trapped under rubble. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

Israel has vowed to fight on, saying it can no longer accept Hamas rule or the group's military presence in Gaza after the Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war. Hamas and other militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took captive some 240 men, women and children in that attack.

An estimated 138 hostages remain in Gaza after more than 100 were freed during a ceasefire last week. Their plight, and accounts of rape and other atrocities committed during the rampage, have deepened Israel’s outrage and further galvanized support for the war.

PUSHED TO THE EDGE The war has been an unprecedented catastrophe for Palestinian civilians, eclipsing all four previous wars between Israel and Hamas, and their suffering is set to worsen as the offensive grinds on.

For the past three days, aid distribution — mainly just supplies of flour and water — has been possible only in and around Rafah, on the border with Egypt, because of fighting and road closures by Israeli forces, the UN’s humanitarian aid office said.

It said tens of thousands of people have fled into Rafah from Khan Younis and other areas, overwhelming already overcrowded shelters.

“You find displaced people in the streets, in schools, in mosques, in hospitals … everywhere,” said Hamza Abu Mustafa, a teacher who lives near a school-turned-shelter in Rafah and is hosting three families himself.

“The situation is extremely dire,” he said.

A Palestinian woman who identified herself as Umm Ahmed said the harsh conditions and limited access to toilets are especially difficult for women who are pregnant or menstruating. Some have taken to social media to request menstrual pads, which are increasingly hard to find.

“For women and girls, the suffering is double,” Umm Ahmed said. “It’s more humiliation.”

The humanitarian crisis gets even worse farther north, where aid supplies can no longer reach.

People in UN-run shelters in Khan Younis are fighting over food, said Nawraz Abu Libdeh, who is living in a shelter after being displaced six times. “The hunger war has started,” he said. “This is the worst of all wars.”

The World Food Program warned that the renewed fighting “will only intensify the catastrophic hunger crisis that already threatens to overwhelm the civilian population.”

In the central town of Deir al-Balah, the aid group Doctors Without Borders said fuel and medical supplies have reached “critically low levels” at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital. Up to 200 wounded people have been brought in every day since Dec. 1, when the weeklong truce expired, it said.

“Without electricity, ventilators would cease to function, blood donations would have to stop, the sterilization of surgical instruments would be impossible,” said Marie-Aure Perreaut Revial, the aid group’s emergency coordinator in Gaza. She said they are also running low on surgical supplies and equipment to stabilize broken bones.

Israel has barred entry of food, water, medicine, fuel and other supplies into Gaza, except for a trickle of aid from Egypt. Gaza has been without electricity since the first week of the war, and several hospitals have been forced to shut down for lack of fuel to operate emergency generators.

NO END IN SIGHT The Gaza Health Ministry’s death toll for Palestinians tracks with a figure released this week by the Israeli military, which said about 5,000 of the dead were militants, without saying how it arrived at its count.

The military says 88 of its soldiers have been killed in the Gaza ground offensive.

It accuses Hamas of using civilians as human shields when the militants operate in residential areas. But Israel has not given detailed accounts of individual strikes, some of which have leveled entire city blocks.

The Israeli military said Tuesday that its troops were “in the heart” of Khan Younis after what it described as “the most intense day” of fighting since the start of the ground operation five weeks ago, with heavy battles in the north as well.

Hamas’ continuing ability to fight in areas where Israel entered with overwhelming force weeks ago signals that eradicating the group without causing further mass casualties and displacement — as Israel’s top ally, the US, has requested — could prove elusive.

Even after weeks of bombardment, Hamas’ top leader in Gaza, Yehya Sinwar — whose location is unknown — was able to conduct complex ceasefire negotiations and orchestrate the release of scores of hostages last week. Palestinian militants have also kept up their rocket fire into Israel.



Yemeni Military: Iran Controls Houthi Naval Attacks

Houthi attacks threaten an environmental disaster on Yemeni shores (State TV)
Houthi attacks threaten an environmental disaster on Yemeni shores (State TV)
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Yemeni Military: Iran Controls Houthi Naval Attacks

Houthi attacks threaten an environmental disaster on Yemeni shores (State TV)
Houthi attacks threaten an environmental disaster on Yemeni shores (State TV)

An Iranian Revolutionary Guard unit is directing Houthi military operations, including attacks on Red Sea navigation, Yemeni military sources told Asharq Al-Awsat, affirming that the Houthis have used up most of their missile stockpile.
The sources, speaking under the condition of anonymity, confirm that most of the weapons currently used to target ships are from Iran, modified and assembled in Sanaa and other centers in Saada province.
Members of the Revolutionary Guard have been entering Yemen, revealed the sources, adding that some of them were smuggled across land borders into Saada province by professional smugglers.
Others arrived by sea, particularly along the coasts of Hajjah province facing the Red Sea, sources added.
The sources also affirmed that a team of members from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the Lebanese Hezbollah militant group oversee every aspect of the military and political activities of the Houthis.
This includes assembling missiles and drones, preparing unmanned boats and submarines, and even controlling the release of military information and videos of operations.
They also influence the content of speeches made by the Houthi leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.
The sources confirmed that the Red Sea situation is linked to military actions against Yemeni government forces and their coalition backers.
Houthi fighters, trained in Iranian Revolutionary Guard camps, have limited involvement in launching basic short-range drones. Advanced weaponry remains solely under Iranian control.
Moreover, Yemeni intelligence suggests that a key Iranian Revolutionary Guard figure, Abdul Reza Shahlai, is likely leading all Houthi military operations.
So far, US airstrikes have hit Houthi weaponry hard, especially missiles and drones, thanks to advanced surveillance tech.
To counter this, Iranian experts advised the Houthis to dig large trenches in mountainous areas overlooking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, hiding missile platforms and drones.


Deaths at Aid Delivery Site in Gaza Draw Worldwide Condemnation

The body of a Palestinian killed in an early morning incident when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds rushing at an aid distribution point in Gaza City, is carried in the back of a donkey cart on February 29, 2024. © AFP
The body of a Palestinian killed in an early morning incident when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds rushing at an aid distribution point in Gaza City, is carried in the back of a donkey cart on February 29, 2024. © AFP
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Deaths at Aid Delivery Site in Gaza Draw Worldwide Condemnation

The body of a Palestinian killed in an early morning incident when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds rushing at an aid distribution point in Gaza City, is carried in the back of a donkey cart on February 29, 2024. © AFP
The body of a Palestinian killed in an early morning incident when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds rushing at an aid distribution point in Gaza City, is carried in the back of a donkey cart on February 29, 2024. © AFP

Israeli troops in the northern Gaza Strip opened fire on Palestinians scrambling for food aid on Thursday in a chaotic incident that the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said killed more than 100 people.

Though there were conflicting reports on how the pre-dawn incident unfolded, the Israeli military said a "stampede" occurred when thousands of Gazans surrounded a convoy of 38 aid trucks, leading to dozens of deaths and injuries, including some people being run over.

An Israeli source said troops had opened fire on the crowd, believing it "posed a threat".

The Gaza health ministry condemned the "massacre" in Gaza City, saying 112 people were killed and more than 750 wounded.

Reactions to the deaths have poured in from around the world.

Saudi Arabia's foreign ministry condemned the deaths and reiterated "the need to reach an immediate ceasefire".

It also renewed its "demands to the international community to take a firm position to oblige Israel to respect international humanitarian law, immediately open safe humanitarian corridors, allow the evacuation of the injured, and enable the delivery of relief aid".

US President Joe Biden said the incident would complicate delicate ceasefire negotiations in the almost five-month-old war, with the White House calling the deaths "tremendously alarming".

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters the United States was "urgently seeking additional information on exactly what took place".

Washington will be monitoring an upcoming investigation closely and "pressing for answers", he said, AFP reported.

France's foreign ministry said "the fire by Israeli soldiers against civilians trying to access food is unjustifiable".

The "tragic event" came as an "increasing and unbearable number of Palestinian civilians" were suffering from hunger and disease, it added, saying Israel must abide by international law and protect aid deliveries to civilians.

Writing on the social media platform X that Palestinian "civilians have been targeted by Israeli soldiers", French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his "strongest condemnation" of the killings.

Türkiye accused Israel of committing "another crime against humanity" and condemning Gazans to "famine" as civilians scavenge for dwindling supplies of food.

"The fact that Israel... this time targets innocent civilians in a queue for humanitarian aid, is evidence that (Israel) aims consciously and collectively to destroy the Palestinian people", the Turkish foreign ministry said.

Colombia's President Gustavo Petro denounced what he called a "genocide" of the Palestinian people and suspended purchases of weapons from Israel, a key supplier of his country's security forces.

"Asking for food, more than 100 Palestinians were killed by (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu. This is called genocide and recalls the Holocaust," Petro wrote on X.

"The world must block Netanyahu."

"The unacceptable nature of what happened in Gaza, with dozens of Palestinian civilians dead as they were waiting for food, underlines the urgency of a ceasefire," Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares wrote on X.

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani called for an "immediate ceasefire" in Gaza and urged Israel to protect the Palestinian population after the "tragic deaths".

"We strongly urge Israel to protect the people in Gaza and to rigorously ascertain facts and responsibilities," he said on X.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her "deep dismay and concern" over the violence.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the incident and was "appalled by the tragic human toll of the conflict", his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

"The desperate civilians in Gaza need urgent help, including those in the besieged north where the United Nations has not been able to deliver aid in more than a week," Dujarric said.

European Union foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell denounced the deaths as "totally unacceptable".

"I am horrified by news of yet another carnage among civilians in Gaza desperate for humanitarian aid," he said on X.

Qatar's foreign ministry condemned "in the strongest terms the heinous massacre committed by the Israeli occupation", calling for "urgent international action" to halt the fighting in Gaza.

It went on to warn that Israel's "disregard for Palestinian lives... will ultimately undermine international efforts aimed at implementing the two-state solution, and thus pave the way for the expansion of the cycle of violence in the region".


Media Outlets Call For Protection of Gaza Journalists

A mourner reacts as Palestinians attend the funeral of Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa, who according to the Arabic broadcaster was killed by an Israeli drone strike while reporting on bombing of a school sheltering displaced people. (Reuters)
A mourner reacts as Palestinians attend the funeral of Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa, who according to the Arabic broadcaster was killed by an Israeli drone strike while reporting on bombing of a school sheltering displaced people. (Reuters)
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Media Outlets Call For Protection of Gaza Journalists

A mourner reacts as Palestinians attend the funeral of Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa, who according to the Arabic broadcaster was killed by an Israeli drone strike while reporting on bombing of a school sheltering displaced people. (Reuters)
A mourner reacts as Palestinians attend the funeral of Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa, who according to the Arabic broadcaster was killed by an Israeli drone strike while reporting on bombing of a school sheltering displaced people. (Reuters)

More than 30 news organizations signed an open letter Thursday expressing solidarity with journalists working in Gaza and calling for their protection and freedom to report.

The letter, coordinated by the Committee to Protect Journalists, was signed by global news agencies AFP, AP and Reuters, as well as other leading media outlets including the New York Times, BBC News and Israel's Haaretz.

"For nearly five months, journalists and media workers in Gaza -- overwhelmingly, the sole source of on-the-ground reporting from within the Palestinian territory -- have been working in unprecedented conditions," the letter said.

It noted that at least 89 journalists and media workers in Gaza have been killed in the war, according to the CPJ.

The Israel-Hamas war began following an unprecedented Hamas attack on Israel that resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Israel's retaliatory military campaign has killed 30,035 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

"Journalists are civilians and Israeli authorities must protect journalists as noncombatants according to international law," said the letter, also signed by the Association for International Broadcasters and the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

"Those responsible for any violations of that longstanding protection should be held accountable,"

AFP has had a bureau and staff in Gaza for several decades.

Before the start of the war, the agency had a full bureau in Gaza City of 10 people, including text, photo and video reporters as well as administrative and technical staff.

The staff were all evacuated with their families to southern Gaza in early October when the Israeli army ordered Gaza City residents to move south. The office was subsequently damaged by an Israeli strike.

Several staff still remain in southern Gaza in precarious conditions.


Two PKK-linked Fighters Killed In Iraq Strike Blamed On Türkiye

A member of the PKK carries an automatic rifle on a road in Iraq's Qandil Mountains in 2018. (AFP)
A member of the PKK carries an automatic rifle on a road in Iraq's Qandil Mountains in 2018. (AFP)
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Two PKK-linked Fighters Killed In Iraq Strike Blamed On Türkiye

A member of the PKK carries an automatic rifle on a road in Iraq's Qandil Mountains in 2018. (AFP)
A member of the PKK carries an automatic rifle on a road in Iraq's Qandil Mountains in 2018. (AFP)

A Turkish drone strike in northwestern Iraq killed two members of a group affiliated to Türkiye's outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) Thursday, said Kurdish authorities.

The fighters were members of the Sinjar Resistance Units, a group founded among the district's Yazidi community in response to a brutal occupation by the ISIS group nearly a decade ago.

There was no immediate word from the Turkish military, which has conducted deadly strikes against PKK targets in Iraq and neighbouring Syria but rarely comments on individual strikes, AFP reported.

"A Turkish army drone targeted a vehicle of the Sinjar Resistance Units in the region of Wardiya in southern Sinjar, killing an official and a fighter who was escorting him," the counterterrorism services of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region said in a statement.

Another fighter was injured.

Sinjar and its adjacent mountains are one of the heartlands of Iraq's Yazidi community.

The Sinjar Resistance Units were formed in 2014 with help from fellow Kurds of the PKK, which Ankara and its Western allies consider a "terrorist" organization.

Türkiye frequently carries out ground and air offensives on positions of the PKK -- which has waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state -- in northern Iraq.

It also has over the past 25 years operated several dozen military bases in northern Iraq in its war against the PKK.


Libya Repatriates 144 Irregular Migrants to Bangladesh

Libya repatriated a group of 144 irregular migrants from Libya to Bangladesh (International Organization for Migration)
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Libya Repatriates 144 Irregular Migrants to Bangladesh

Libya repatriated a group of 144 irregular migrants from Libya to Bangladesh (International Organization for Migration)

Libya repatriated a group of 144 irregular migrants to Bangladesh via the UN-sponsored voluntary return program, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

The IOM Libya office said in a press release on Thursday “144 vulnerable migrants in need were able to return home safely form Benghazi, Libya to Dhaka, Bangladesh with support from IOM Libya’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return Assistance program.”

In Dhaka, the migrants will continue to receive reintegration assistance, the release said.

Amid the frequent return of irregular migrants from Libya to their home countries via the UN Voluntary Return Program, experts question whether their deportation contributes to the reduction of their numbers in Libyan cities.

Last week, the IOM said that in 2024, it assisted over 9,300 migrants for safe, voluntary returns home, including counseling, medical care, and protection upon departure.

However, Libyan human rights observers say that the mechanism adopted by IOM to repatriate the irregular migrants remains not sufficient to address the migration file, which constitutes a challenge for most successive Libyan governments.

Meanwhile, a report conducted by Frontex, responsible for coordinating Europe's border guards, showed that from 2009 to 2023, at least 70,906 Bangladeshis have entered Europe via the Central Mediterranean route from Libya.

The secretary-general of the National Organization for Human Rights (NOHR), Abdel Moneim El-Hor, acknowledges that the IOM Libya’s Voluntary Humanitarian Return Assistance program, which finances and manages the repatriation of irregular migrants, helps the Libyan State to address this file.

However, he said, the IOM efforts “target only a specific category of migrants, who are present in official detention centers.” He explained that this category constitutes only a small part of the total number of irregular migrants residing in Libya.

El-Hor said there are 29 detention centers for irregular migrants in Libya while the IOM estimates the presence of around 700,000 migrants across the country.

Also, while thousands of migrants have been repatriated from Libya to their home countries, a source from the irregular migration service in Tripoli, told Asharq Al-Awsat that based on numbers published by the Italian news agency Agenzia Nova, a total of 51,700 irregular migrants were capable to land on the Italian coast last year.

The same source defended the efforts of the anti-migration agencies in Libya, saying that they already arrested dozens of human trafficking rings.


Deaths in Gaza Pass 30,000, Witnesses Say Israeli Forces Fire on Crowd Waiting for Aid

People mourn following an early morning incident when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds rushing at an aid distribution point in Gaza City on February 29, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
People mourn following an early morning incident when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds rushing at an aid distribution point in Gaza City on February 29, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
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Deaths in Gaza Pass 30,000, Witnesses Say Israeli Forces Fire on Crowd Waiting for Aid

People mourn following an early morning incident when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds rushing at an aid distribution point in Gaza City on February 29, 2024. (Photo by AFP)
People mourn following an early morning incident when Israeli forces opened fire on crowds rushing at an aid distribution point in Gaza City on February 29, 2024. (Photo by AFP)

Israeli troops fired on a large crowd of Palestinians racing to pull food off an aid convoy in Gaza City on Thursday, witnesses said. More than 100 people were killed, bringing the death toll since the start of the Israel-Hamas war to more than 30,000, according to health officials.

Israeli officials acknowledged that troops opened fire, saying they did so after the crowd approached in a threatening way. The officials insisted on anonymity to give details about what happened, after the military said in a statement that “dozens were killed and injured from pushing, trampling and being run over by the trucks.”

Gaza City and the surrounding areas in the enclave's north were the first targets of Israel’s air, sea and ground offensive, launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

While many Palestinians fled the Israeli invasion in the north, a few hundred thousand are believed to remain in the area, which has suffered widespread devastation and has been largely isolated during the conflict.

Trucks carrying food reached northern Gaza this week, the first major aid delivery to the area in a month, officials said Wednesday.

Aid groups say it has become nearly impossible to deliver humanitarian assistance in most of Gaza because of the difficulty of coordinating with the Israeli military, ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of public order, with crowds of desperate people overwhelming aid convoys. The UN says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians face starvation; around 80% have fled their homes.

Kamel Abu Nahel, who was being treated for a gunshot wound at Shifa Hospital, said he and others went to the distribution point in the middle of the night because they heard there would be a delivery of food. “We've been eating animal feed for two months,” he said.

He said Israeli troops opened fire on the crowd as people pulled boxes of flour and canned goods off the trucks, causing them to scatter, with some hiding under cars. After the shooting stopped, people went back to the trucks, and the soldiers opened fire again. He was shot in the leg and fell over, and then a truck ran over his leg as it sped off, he said.

Alaa Abu Daiya, a witness to the violence, said Israeli troops opened fire and also that a tank fired a shell.

Medics arriving at the scene on Thursday found “dozens or hundreds” lying on the ground, according to Fares Afana, the head of the ambulance service at Kamal Adwan Hospital. He said there were not enough ambulances to collect all the dead and wounded and that some were being brought to hospitals in donkey carts.

Another man in the crowd — who gave only his first name, Ahmad, as he was being treated at a hospital for gunshot wounds to the arm and leg — said he waited for two hours before someone with a horse-pulled cart had room to take him to Shifa.

Dr. Mohammed Salha, the acting director of the Al-Awda Hospital, said the facility received 161 wounded patients, most of whom appeared to have been shot. He said the hospital can perform only the most essential surgeries because it is running out of fuel to power emergency generators.
In addition to at least 104 people killed, around 760 were wounded, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said. The Health Ministry described it as a “massacre.”
Separately, the Health Ministry said the Palestinian death toll from the war has climbed to 30,035, with another 70,457 wounded.


Austrian FM Urges Israel, Hezbollah Against Escalating the Conflict

Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib, right, meets with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib, right, meets with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
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Austrian FM Urges Israel, Hezbollah Against Escalating the Conflict

Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib, right, meets with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)
Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib, right, meets with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Austria’s foreign minister on Thursday urged Israel and Hezbollah against escalating the conflict along the Israel-Lebanon border.
The Middle East has witnessed enough devastation and cruelty, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said after meeting his Lebanese counterpart in Beirut.
Schallenberg said he came to Lebanon after visiting Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Since the Israel-Hamas war started on Oct. 7, Hezbollah started attacking Israeli posts, drawing return fire from Israel in daily exchanges. More than 210 Hezbollah fighters and nearly 40 civilians have been killed since then on the Lebanese side.
In Israel, nine soldiers and nine civilians have been killed in Hezbollah attacks since Oct. 7.
“Everybody is asked not to escalate and it always takes two sides,” Schallenberg said.
“The region has accounted enough devastation, enough cruelty and we should try to solve the problems and not create further problems,” he added.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bouhabib called for a deal for a disputed stretch of the Israel-Lebanon border, similar to the deal reached through US mediation in 2022 over the two countries' disputed maritime border. He said the problem can be solved when Israel withdraws from disputed areas, including Shebaa Farms, which Israel captured from Syria in 1967.
“Israel would return all the Lebanese land to us and then the problem of Hezbollah and Israel will be at least partly solved,” Bouhabib said.


Israeli Strike Hits Hezbollah Truck Near Lebanese-Syrian Border, Kills at Least One Fighter

A damaged building following a missile strike in Damascus, Syria, 21 February 2024. EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI
A damaged building following a missile strike in Damascus, Syria, 21 February 2024. EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI
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Israeli Strike Hits Hezbollah Truck Near Lebanese-Syrian Border, Kills at Least One Fighter

A damaged building following a missile strike in Damascus, Syria, 21 February 2024. EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI
A damaged building following a missile strike in Damascus, Syria, 21 February 2024. EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI

An Israeli strike hit a Hezbollah truck near the Lebanese-Syrian border on Thursday killing at least one fighter, a security source familiar with the Iran-aligned group told Reuters.

Israel has been carrying out an unprecedented wave of deadly strikes in Syria targeting cargo trucks, infrastructure and people involved in Iran's weapons lifeline to its proxies in the region, sources with direct knowledge of the matter had previously told Reuters.

The sources said Israel had shifted strategies following the Oct. 7 rampage by Hamas fighters into Israeli territory and the ensuing Israeli bombing campaigns in Gaza and Lebanon.


Israel Says it's Still Reviewing Access to Al Aqsa During Ramadan

A Muslim woman uses her phone to take a picture of the Dome of the Rock shrine, at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
A Muslim woman uses her phone to take a picture of the Dome of the Rock shrine, at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
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Israel Says it's Still Reviewing Access to Al Aqsa During Ramadan

A Muslim woman uses her phone to take a picture of the Dome of the Rock shrine, at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
A Muslim woman uses her phone to take a picture of the Dome of the Rock shrine, at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of Jerusalem, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Israel is reviewing possible curbs on access to Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem over the upcoming Ramadan fasting month, a government spokesperson said after media reports that the far-right minister for police might be overruled on the issue.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said last week there would be a quota for members of Israel's 18% Muslim minority who wish to take part in peace prayers at Al Aqsa.

That would compound the clampdown Israel has already placed on Palestinians since the Hamas' cross-border rampage from the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7, codenamed "Al Aqsa Flood", which triggered the ongoing Gaza war.

But Israel's top-rated Channel 12 TV reported on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would overrule Ben-Gvir.

"The specific issue of prayer on the Temple Mount, in Al Aqsa, is currently still under discussion by the cabinet," government spokesperson Avi Hyman said in a briefing on Thursday.

He added that a final decision would take security and public health, as well as the freedom of worship, into account.

A Ben-Gvir spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment. On Wednesday, Ben-Gvir posted on X that any attempt to override his authority would amount to a "capitulation to terror", and urged Netanyahu to deny the Channel 12 report.


US Concerns Rising of an Israeli Ground Incursion into Lebanon

Smoke rises from a site hit by an airstrike after, what Lebanon's state media said, was a series of Israeli strikes, near the town of Ghaziyeh on Lebanon's coast around 60 km north of the border with Israel, Lebanon February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Hassan Hankir
Smoke rises from a site hit by an airstrike after, what Lebanon's state media said, was a series of Israeli strikes, near the town of Ghaziyeh on Lebanon's coast around 60 km north of the border with Israel, Lebanon February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Hassan Hankir
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US Concerns Rising of an Israeli Ground Incursion into Lebanon

Smoke rises from a site hit by an airstrike after, what Lebanon's state media said, was a series of Israeli strikes, near the town of Ghaziyeh on Lebanon's coast around 60 km north of the border with Israel, Lebanon February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Hassan Hankir
Smoke rises from a site hit by an airstrike after, what Lebanon's state media said, was a series of Israeli strikes, near the town of Ghaziyeh on Lebanon's coast around 60 km north of the border with Israel, Lebanon February 19, 2024. REUTERS/Hassan Hankir

Officials in the US administration and intelligence voiced concerns over a possible Israeli plan to carry out a land inclusion into Lebanon in the late spring or early summer if diplomatic efforts with Hezbollah fail to make it retreat from Israel’s north border.
CNN quoted a senior Biden administration official as saying: “We are operating on the assumption that an Israeli military operation is in the coming months. Not necessarily imminently in the next few weeks but perhaps later this spring. An Israeli military operation is a distinct possibility”, he said.
“I think what Israel is doing is they are raising this threat in the hope that there will be a negotiated agreement,” said the senior official, who has heard differing opinions within the Israeli government about the need to go into Lebanon.
“Some Israeli officials suggest that it is more of an effort at creating a threat that they can utilize. Others speak of it more as a military necessity that’s going to happen,” the official said.
Another senior official in the Biden administration said some officials in the Israeli government and army support a ground incursion into Lebanon.
Since October, around 80 thousand Israelis have been displaced from North Israel.
“The State of Israel will not return to the pre-war status quo in which Hezbollah poses a direct and immediate military threat to its security along the Israel-Lebanon border”, the Israeli embassy in Washington wrote.
Another person familiar with the US intelligence said: “There are fears this will grow to an expansive air campaign reaching much further north into populated areas of Lebanon and eventually grow to a ground component as well”.
Israel‘s top general Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi visited the northern border Tuesday and said that Hezbollah “must pay a heavy price” for its actions since October 7.