Israeli Military Proposes ‘Plan for Evacuating’ Gaza Civilians 

A child standing inside a damaged building, stares at the Al-Faruq mosque, levelled by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on a foggy day on February 25, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)
A child standing inside a damaged building, stares at the Al-Faruq mosque, levelled by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on a foggy day on February 25, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)
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Israeli Military Proposes ‘Plan for Evacuating’ Gaza Civilians 

A child standing inside a damaged building, stares at the Al-Faruq mosque, levelled by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on a foggy day on February 25, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)
A child standing inside a damaged building, stares at the Al-Faruq mosque, levelled by Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on a foggy day on February 25, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)

Israel's military proposed a plan for evacuating civilians from "areas of fighting" in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office announced Monday, after he said a ground invasion of the Palestinian territory's southern city Rafah was necessary.

Foreign governments and aid organizations have repeatedly expressed fears that an invasion of Rafah would inflict mass civilian casualties.

More than 1.4 million Palestinians -- most of them displaced from elsewhere -- have converged on the last Gazan city untouched by Israel's ground troops.

It is also the entry point for desperately needed aid, brought in via neighboring Egypt.

Israel's military "presented the War Cabinet with a plan for evacuating the population from areas of fighting in the Gaza Strip, and with the upcoming operational plan", a statement in Hebrew from Netanyahu's office said Monday.

The statement did not give any details about how or where the civilians would be moved.

The announcement comes after Egyptian, Qatari and US "experts" met in Doha for talks also attended by Israeli and Hamas representatives, state-linked Egyptian media reported, the latest effort to secure a truce before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Israel's ally the United States said ongoing mediation efforts produced "an understanding" towards a ceasefire and hostage release, while a Hamas source said the group insisted on the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

But Netanyahu -- who has dismissed the withdrawal demand as "delusional" -- said a ground invasion of Rafah would put Israel within weeks of "total victory" over Hamas, whose October 7 attack triggered the war.

"If we have a (truce) deal, it will be delayed somewhat, but it will happen," he said of the ground invasion in an interview with CBS Sunday.

"It has to be done because total victory is our goal and total victory is within reach -- not months away, weeks away, once we begin the operation."

Amid a spiraling humanitarian crisis, the main UN aid agency for Palestinians urged political action to avert famine in Gaza.

Dire food shortages in northern Gaza are "a man-made disaster" that can be mitigated, said Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

"Famine can still be avoided through genuine political will to grant access and protection to meaningful assistance."

The UN has said it faces restrictions, particularly on aid deliveries to northern Gaza.

'No aid'

Nearly five months into the war, desperate families in Gaza's north have been forced to scavenge for something to eat.

"We have no food or drink for ourselves or our children," Omar al-Kahlout told AFP, as he waited near Gaza City for aid trucks to arrive.

"We are trapped in the north and there is no aid reaching us -- the situation is extremely difficult."

Hundreds of Palestinians headed south whichever way they could, walking down garbage-strewn roads between the blackened shells of bombed-out buildings, said an AFP correspondent.

Israeli forces have continued striking targets across the Palestinian territory, with the Hamas-run health ministry saying early Monday that 92 people were killed overnight.

Israel's military campaign has killed at least 29,692 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

The war broke out after Hamas's unprecedented attack, which killed about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

'Expanding the conflict'

Militants also took about 250 Israeli and foreign hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 31 presumed dead, according to Israel.

Israel's army confirmed Sunday the death of soldier Oz Daniel, 19, whose "body is still held captive", according to the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which said he was killed on the day of Hamas's attack.

Mediators have voiced hope that a temporary truce and a hostage-prisoner exchange can be secured before the start of Ramadan on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.

Jordan's King Abdullah II warned fighting during the holy month "will increase the threat of expanding the conflict", according to a royal statement.

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, whose country hosts Hamas leaders and had helped broker a one-week truce in November, is due in Paris this week, the French presidency said.

Media reports suggest the warring parties are weighing a six-week halt to fighting and the initial exchange of dozens of females, underage and ill hostages for several hundred Palestinian detainees held by Israel.

Hezbollah threat

Inside Israel, pressure has grown on Netanyahu from families of hostages demanding swifter action, and resurgent anti-government protests.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said there would be no let-up in action against Hamas's Lebanese ally Hezbollah, whose militants have traded near-daily fire with Israeli forces since early October.

Both Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Israel's enemy Iran.

"If anyone thinks that when we reach a deal (with Hamas)... it will ease what is happening here -- they are wrong," he said.



Hamas Issues Video Showing Israeli-American Hostage Goldberg-Polin

 Relatives and supporters of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas militants hold a portrait of US-Israeli Hersh Golgberg-Polin during a demonstration calling for the release of those taken near the residence of the Israeli prime minister in Jerusalem on April 20, 2024. (AFP)
Relatives and supporters of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas militants hold a portrait of US-Israeli Hersh Golgberg-Polin during a demonstration calling for the release of those taken near the residence of the Israeli prime minister in Jerusalem on April 20, 2024. (AFP)
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Hamas Issues Video Showing Israeli-American Hostage Goldberg-Polin

 Relatives and supporters of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas militants hold a portrait of US-Israeli Hersh Golgberg-Polin during a demonstration calling for the release of those taken near the residence of the Israeli prime minister in Jerusalem on April 20, 2024. (AFP)
Relatives and supporters of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas militants hold a portrait of US-Israeli Hersh Golgberg-Polin during a demonstration calling for the release of those taken near the residence of the Israeli prime minister in Jerusalem on April 20, 2024. (AFP)

The Palestinian movement Hamas released a video on Wednesday apparently showing Hersh Goldberg-Polin, an Israeli-American seized during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel and taken hostage into Gaza, alive.

The short video, which is undated, showed the 23-year-old missing his lower arm, which was blown off during the Hamas-led attack in October, but otherwise apparently healthy.

His mother Rachel Goldberg-Polin has been campaigning actively for the release of her son, who was abducted at the Nova music festival that was attacked by Hamas gunmen early on Oct. 7 and is one of 133 Israeli hostages still in captivity after more than 100 were released last year.

Around 250 Israelis and foreigners were taken hostage by the gunmen, who killed some 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies, in the deadliest attack in Israel's history.

In response, Israel launched an assault on Gaza, pledging to destroy Hamas and bring the hostages home. The assault has so far killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, according to Gaza health authorities.


Israeli Strikes Hit Southern Lebanon as Cross-Border Fire Escalates

This picture taken from an Israeli position along the border with southern Lebanon shows smoke billowing above the Lebanese village of Odaisseh during Israeli bombardment on April 22, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. (AFP)
This picture taken from an Israeli position along the border with southern Lebanon shows smoke billowing above the Lebanese village of Odaisseh during Israeli bombardment on April 22, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. (AFP)
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Israeli Strikes Hit Southern Lebanon as Cross-Border Fire Escalates

This picture taken from an Israeli position along the border with southern Lebanon shows smoke billowing above the Lebanese village of Odaisseh during Israeli bombardment on April 22, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. (AFP)
This picture taken from an Israeli position along the border with southern Lebanon shows smoke billowing above the Lebanese village of Odaisseh during Israeli bombardment on April 22, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. (AFP)

The Israeli military said artillery and fighter jet strikes had hit around 40 targets in southern Lebanon on Wednesday as the intense fighting of recent days continued to escalate, with Hezbollah firing dozens of rockets at an Israeli border village.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel have been waging their worst hostilities in nearly two decades since war erupted in Gaza last October, stirring concern about the risk of a wider and more destructive conflict between the heavily armed foes.

The Israeli military said the strikes in the area of Ayta al-Shaab, about 3 km (1.6 miles) inside the Lebanese border, had hit infrastructure including storage facilities and weapons in an area it said was used extensively by Hezbollah forces.

"There is continuous offensive action by IDF forces in all of southern Lebanon as well as in other parts of Lebanon. The operational results are very impressive," Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a statement following an operational meeting at the military's Northern Command.

He said half of Hezbollah's commanders in southern Lebanon had been killed by Israeli forces.

A Hezbollah official dismissed the assertion as "completely worthless" and aimed only to boost Israeli morale. He said the group regularly published pictures and biographical details of fighters killed in the fighting.

On Wednesday, the movement held a funeral for a senior commander, Hussein Azkoul, killed earlier this week by Israel.

Speaking at the funeral, senior Hezbollah politician Hassan Fadlallah indicated that Azkoul had played a role in developing Hezbollah's drone and missile capabilities, taking the battle with Israel into "a new phase".

The Israeli strikes came a day after Hezbollah launched a drone attack on Israeli military bases north of the Israeli coastal city of Acre, its deepest strike yet in the hostilities that have flared in parallel to the Gaza war.

The attack appeared to be one of the most complicated announced by Hezbollah during the last six months, using drones designed to keep Israeli air defenses busy while others laden with explosives were flown at the Israeli targets.

On Wednesday, Hezbollah fired Katyusha rockets on the community of Shomera in response to Israeli strikes on Lebanese villages including one the day before on Hanin, which killed at least two people including an 11-year-old girl.

Though the latest hostilities have been the worst in years, the violence has largely been confined to areas at or near the Israeli-Lebanese border, with Israel occasionally striking deeper into the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon's east.

Israeli strikes have killed some 250 Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon since Oct. 7, in addition to a further 30 killed in Israeli strikes in neighboring Syria. Overall, this exceeds Hezbollah's losses in the 2006 war with Israel.

More than 70 civilians have been killed in Lebanon.

In Israel, 18 people - including soldiers and civilians - have been killed.


Germany to Resume Cooperation with Palestinian UNRWA Agency 

19 April 2024, Palestinian Territories, Khan Younis: A destroyed United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) school seen after the Israeli army withdrew from the town of Abasan, east of the city of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (dpa)
19 April 2024, Palestinian Territories, Khan Younis: A destroyed United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) school seen after the Israeli army withdrew from the town of Abasan, east of the city of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (dpa)
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Germany to Resume Cooperation with Palestinian UNRWA Agency 

19 April 2024, Palestinian Territories, Khan Younis: A destroyed United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) school seen after the Israeli army withdrew from the town of Abasan, east of the city of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (dpa)
19 April 2024, Palestinian Territories, Khan Younis: A destroyed United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) school seen after the Israeli army withdrew from the town of Abasan, east of the city of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (dpa)

The German government plans to resume cooperation with the UN agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) in Gaza, the foreign and development ministries said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

The decision follows an investigation by the former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna into whether some UNRWA employees were involved in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas.

The Colonna-led review of the agency's neutrality on Monday concluded Israel had yet to back up its accusations that hundreds of UNRWA staff were operatives in Gaza terrorist groups.

The German ministries urged UNRWA to swiftly implement the report's recommendations, including strengthening its internal audit function and improving external oversight of project management.

"In support of these reforms, the German government will soon continue its cooperation with UNRWA in Gaza, as Australia, Canada, Sweden and Japan, among others, have already done," said the ministries in the statement.


Israel Says It Is Poised to Move on Rafah

A woman and a girl search for items through the rubble of a collapsed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 24, 2024 following reported Israeli air strikes overnight. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
A woman and a girl search for items through the rubble of a collapsed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 24, 2024 following reported Israeli air strikes overnight. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
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Israel Says It Is Poised to Move on Rafah

A woman and a girl search for items through the rubble of a collapsed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 24, 2024 following reported Israeli air strikes overnight. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)
A woman and a girl search for items through the rubble of a collapsed building in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 24, 2024 following reported Israeli air strikes overnight. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Israel's military is poised to evacuate Palestinian civilians from Rafah and assault Hamas hold-outs in the southern Gaza Strip city, a senior Israeli defense official said on Wednesday, despite international warnings of humanitarian catastrophe.

A spokesperson for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government said Israel was "moving ahead" with a ground operation, but gave no timeline.

The defense official said Israel's Defense Ministry had bought 40,000 tents, each with the capacity for 10 to 12 people, to house Palestinians relocated from Rafah in advance of an assault.

Video circulating online appeared to show rows of square white tents going up in Khan Younis, a city some 5 km (3 miles) from Rafah. Reuters could not verify the video but reviewed images from satellite company Maxar Technologies which showed tent camps on Khan Younis land that had been vacant weeks ago.

An Israeli government source said Netanyahu's war cabinet planned to meet in the coming two weeks to authorize civilian evacuations, expected to take around a month.

The defense official, who requested anonymity, told Reuters that the military could go into action immediately but was awaiting a green light from Netanyahu.

Rafah, which abuts the Egyptian border, is sheltering more than a million Palestinians who fled the half-year-old Israeli offensive through the rest of Gaza, and say the prospect of fleeing yet again is terrifying.

"I have to make a decision whether to leave Rafah because my mother and I are afraid an invasion could happen suddenly and we won't get time to escape," said Aya, 30, who has been living temporarily in the city with her family in a school.

She said that some families recently moved to a refugee camp in coastal Al-Mawasi, but their tents caught fire when tank shells landed nearby. "Where do we go?"

HITTING HARD

Israel, which launched its war to annihilate Hamas after the group's Oct. 7 attacks on Israeli towns, says Rafah is home to four Hamas combat battalions reinforced by thousands of retreating fighters, and it must defeat them to achieve victory.

"Hamas was hit hard in the northern sector. It was also hit hard in the center of the Strip. And soon it will be hit hard in Rafah, too," Brigadier-General Itzik Cohen, commander of Israel's 162nd Division operating in Gaza, told Kan public TV.

But Israel's closest ally Washington has called on it to set aside plans for an assault, and says Israel can combat Hamas fighters there by other means.

"We could not support a Rafah ground operation without an appropriate, credible, executable humanitarian plan precisely because of the complications for delivery of assistance," David Satterfield, US special envoy for Middle East humanitarian issued, told reporters on Tuesday.

"We continue discussions with Israel on what we believe are alternate ways of addressing a challenge which we recognize, which is Hamas military present in Rafah."

Egypt says it will not allow Gazans to be pushed across the border onto its territory. Cairo had warned Israel against moving on Rafah, which "would lead to massive human massacres, losses (and) widespread destruction", its State Information Service said.

Israel has withdrawn most of its ground troops from southern Gaza this month but kept up air strikes and conducted raids into areas its troops abandoned. Efforts by the United States, Egypt and Qatar to broker an extended ceasefire in time to head off an assault on Rafah have so far failed.

Gaza medical officials say than 34,000 people have been killed in Israel's military campaign, with thousands more bodies feared buried under rubble.

Hamas killed 1,200 people and abducted 253 on Oct 7, according to Israeli tallies. Of those hostages, 129 remain in Gaza, Israeli officials say. More than 260 Israeli troops have been killed in ground fighting since Oct 20, the military says.

H. A. Hellyer, a senior associate fellow in international security studies at the Royal United Services Institute, said he expected the assault on Rafah "sooner rather than later" because Netanyahu is under pressure to meet his stated objectives of rescuing hostages and killing all the Hamas leaders.

"The invasion of Rafah is unavoidable because of the way he has framed all of this," he said. But it will not be possible for everyone to leave the city, so "if he sends the military into Rafah, there are going to be a lot of casualties". 


Mystery Still Surrounds Who Carried out Attack on Iraq’s Kalso Base 

A general view shows the Kalso military base after it was hit by a huge explosion on late Friday, in Babil province, Iraq April 20, 2024. (Reuters)
A general view shows the Kalso military base after it was hit by a huge explosion on late Friday, in Babil province, Iraq April 20, 2024. (Reuters)
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Mystery Still Surrounds Who Carried out Attack on Iraq’s Kalso Base 

A general view shows the Kalso military base after it was hit by a huge explosion on late Friday, in Babil province, Iraq April 20, 2024. (Reuters)
A general view shows the Kalso military base after it was hit by a huge explosion on late Friday, in Babil province, Iraq April 20, 2024. (Reuters)

An Iraqi military investigations committee announced on Tuesday that the attack on the Kalso base on Saturday was not carried out by jets or drones.

It said the attack in the southern Babil province was carried out by a rocket and that the base held three types of material that are used in manufacturing explosives.

One member of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and eight others were wounded in the strike.

The committee said it found the fragments of five rockets 150 meters from the attack site. The size of the crater at the scene indicates that a very large explosion caused by weapons and very flammable material had taken place.

The committee noted a report from the air defense command that said it detected no fighter jets or drones in Babil before, during or after the explosion took place.

The United States often claims attacks that it carries out against pro-Iran armed factions or the PMF in Iraq, but it didn’t this time.

When the US doesn’t claim an attack, then that leaves no one but Israel responsible, Iraqi politicians told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The attack on Kalso took place hours after Israel fired two rockets at an air base in Iran’s city of Isfahan.

The Iraqi committee added that the extent of the blast indicates that the attack could not have been carried out by a rocket or several rockets that were launched from the air.

Tests on the soil and the rocket fragments proved the presence of three materials used in the manufacture of explosives and rockets. It identified the material as TNT, ammonium nitrate and dibutyl phthalate.

Truce holds

The phrasing of the report may be viewed as an attempt to calm the air between the armed factions and Americans, especially in wake of a visit concluded by Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani to the US last week where he met with President Joe Biden.

Trusted political sources said leading members in the pro-Iran Coordination Framework, notably former PM Nouri al-Maliki and head of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq Kais Khazali, were leaning towards maintaining the “truce” between the armed factions and the US.

In contrast, leaders of the Nujaba movement and Kataib Hezbollah were leaning towards ending the calm.

The sources said the outcomes of the military investigation reflect a desire by the government and a powerful party within the Framework to maintain the truce.

News of the explosion emerged no sooner had Sudani’s plane departed the US. Initial reports said the attack was carried out by the US, which would have been a signal that his visit was a failure, but those claims were quickly ruled out.

Hours later, reports emerged that Israel had carried out the attack and that it falls within the “rules of engagement between the Iranians and the Israelis, and also between the factions and the Israelis,” said an Iraqi politician.

Hours after the Kalso attack, five rockets were fired from Iraq’s Mosul at an American military base in Syria’s Hasakeh in what was seen as a test of force between the pro-Iran Iraqi factions and the Iraqi government.

The government described the attack as “an act carried out by outlaws.” Conflicting reports emerged from the armed factions, including Kataib Hezbollah, in claiming and distancing themselves from the attack.

The American base in Syria’s Ain al-Asad also came under attack hours later.

Who carried out the attack?

The Washington Institute for Near East Policy said the Iraqi factions were likely behind both attacks in Syria, signifying the end of the truce.

It said the attack by the Iran-backed factions was “carefully executed with no US casualties and no inferred claims of responsibility—indeed, a denial of involvement.”

“Efforts were thus made to avoid escalation that might draw Kataib Hezbollah and Iran into danger,” it added.


Türkiye's Erdogan Says Iraq Sees Need to Eliminate Kurdish PKK

A handout photo made available by the Turkish Presidential press office shows Former President of Iraqi Kurdistan Region and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Masoud Barzani (R) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) posing for the media before their meeting in Erbil, northern Iraq, 22 April 2024. (EPA/Murat Cetin Muhurdar/Turkish Presidential Press Office/Handout)
A handout photo made available by the Turkish Presidential press office shows Former President of Iraqi Kurdistan Region and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Masoud Barzani (R) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) posing for the media before their meeting in Erbil, northern Iraq, 22 April 2024. (EPA/Murat Cetin Muhurdar/Turkish Presidential Press Office/Handout)
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Türkiye's Erdogan Says Iraq Sees Need to Eliminate Kurdish PKK

A handout photo made available by the Turkish Presidential press office shows Former President of Iraqi Kurdistan Region and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Masoud Barzani (R) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) posing for the media before their meeting in Erbil, northern Iraq, 22 April 2024. (EPA/Murat Cetin Muhurdar/Turkish Presidential Press Office/Handout)
A handout photo made available by the Turkish Presidential press office shows Former President of Iraqi Kurdistan Region and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Masoud Barzani (R) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) posing for the media before their meeting in Erbil, northern Iraq, 22 April 2024. (EPA/Murat Cetin Muhurdar/Turkish Presidential Press Office/Handout)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in remarks published on Tuesday he believed Iraq saw the need to eliminate the Kurdish Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and had the will to do so, adding Ankara wanted Baghdad's support in that battle.

Erdogan was speaking after talks in Baghdad and Erbil on Monday, the first visit by a Turkish leader to Iraq since 2011, following years of tensions as Ankara carried out cross-border attacks on PKK militants based in northern Iraq.

Ties between the neighbors are entering a new phase, Erdogan said, after they agreed to cooperate against militants, boost economic relations via a new corridor and consider Iraq's needs for access to scarce water.

Speaking to reporters on his flight back from Iraq, Erdogan said Türkiye's battle with terrorism would continue in line with international law, and added he hoped to see concrete results of Baghdad labeling the PKK a "banned organization" last month.

The PKK, designated a terrorist group by Türkiye, the US and the European Union, took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the insurgency since then.

The conflict was long fought mainly in rural areas of southeastern Türkiye but is now more focused on the mountains of northern Iraq's mountainous, semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

"One would hope that our neighbors put the necessary stance forward against the threats directed at us from their lands, and we continue this battle jointly," Erdogan said, according to a text of the in-flight comments published by his office.

"Eliminating this threat is also to the benefit of Iraq. I believe they see this reality and they will now put forth a will for this issue to be removed," he said, adding he also discussed steps against the PKK during talks in Erbil.

Later on Tuesday, Turkish Defense Minister Yasar Guler said Türkiye and Iraq had agreed on forming a joint military operations center, an issue the two sides have long been discussing over Ankara's cross-border raids, and added Ankara and Baghdad would work together on "what we can do".

"Then, the responsibilities of the joint operations center will be determined. For now, the two sides have just taken the decision on its formation," Guler was cited by broadcaster NTV as telling reporters in parliament.

Asked about Iraq's needs for access to water, Erdogan said Türkiye was not a country with abundant water resources and also had to manage its own needs. He said plans taking into account "changing climate conditions" are needed for the sustainable use of water.

"Therefore, we need to take cautious steps. With evaluations to be held in that direction, it may be possible to find common ground," he said.

On Monday, the two countries agreed to a strategic framework agreement overseeing security, trade and energy as well as a 10-year deal on the management of water resources that would take Iraqi needs into account.


Palestinian Prime Minister Announces New Reform Package

 Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa speaks to journalists in the West Bank town of Tulkarem, during his visit to the area in the aftermath of a deadly raid by Israeli forces in the nearby Nur Shams refugee camp, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP)
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa speaks to journalists in the West Bank town of Tulkarem, during his visit to the area in the aftermath of a deadly raid by Israeli forces in the nearby Nur Shams refugee camp, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP)
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Palestinian Prime Minister Announces New Reform Package

 Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa speaks to journalists in the West Bank town of Tulkarem, during his visit to the area in the aftermath of a deadly raid by Israeli forces in the nearby Nur Shams refugee camp, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP)
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa speaks to journalists in the West Bank town of Tulkarem, during his visit to the area in the aftermath of a deadly raid by Israeli forces in the nearby Nur Shams refugee camp, Monday, April 22, 2024. (AP)

Newly installed Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa announced a package of reforms on Tuesday aimed at strengthening the Palestinian Authority (PA) amid increased global pressure for a revival of political dialogue with Israel.

Mustafa, appointed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas earlier this year, said his government would introduce measures to improve transparency and fight corruption, overhaul the justice system and security sectors and improve public sector efficiency.

In addition, he said the health and education system would be improved, public finances strengthened and economic reforms implemented.

The reform pledges largely match promises previously made by his predecessor Mohammed Shtayyeh, who announced his resignation in February as the PA looked to build support for an expanded role amid Israel's war against the group Hamas in Gaza.

The United States and other international partners have pressed the PA to implement sweeping reforms to restore confidence among Palestinians who have become deeply disillusioned with the body set up under the interim Oslo Peace Accords more than 30 years ago.

The urgency to make reforms has increased as attention has turned towards the governance of Gaza, once Israel winds up its military campaign against Hamas following the Oct. 7 attack on Israel led by fighters from the movement.

Despite resistance from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Washington and its allies say the PA must be involved in administering the enclave once Israeli troops pull out.

The United States and most Western countries say only a two-state solution, entailing an independent Palestinian state next to Israel, can offer the chance of a peaceful resolution to decades of conflict.

However, Abbas reacted angrily last week when Washington vetoed a Palestinian request for full United Nations membership, saying the PA would reconsider bilateral ties with the United States following the decision.

The PA has been grappling with a severe financial crisis which has left most public sector employees receiving only part of their normal salary for the past two years.

The crisis has worsened since the start of the war in Gaza as Israel has cut off some of the tax revenues it collects on the PA's behalf, accusing the Authority of supporting Hamas.


Norway Calls on Donors to Resume Funding to Palestinian UNRWA Agency

10 February 2024, Palestinian Territories, Gaza City: Palestinians examine the damage to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) buildings on their way back to their homes in the wake of the Israeli army withdrew from North of Gaza City. (dpa)
10 February 2024, Palestinian Territories, Gaza City: Palestinians examine the damage to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) buildings on their way back to their homes in the wake of the Israeli army withdrew from North of Gaza City. (dpa)
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Norway Calls on Donors to Resume Funding to Palestinian UNRWA Agency

10 February 2024, Palestinian Territories, Gaza City: Palestinians examine the damage to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) buildings on their way back to their homes in the wake of the Israeli army withdrew from North of Gaza City. (dpa)
10 February 2024, Palestinian Territories, Gaza City: Palestinians examine the damage to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) buildings on their way back to their homes in the wake of the Israeli army withdrew from North of Gaza City. (dpa)

Norway called on international donors on Tuesday to resume payments to the UN agency for Palestinians refugees (UNRWA) after a report found Israel had yet to provide evidence that some UNRWA staff were linked to terrorist groups.

The United States, Britain and others earlier this year paused payments to UNRWA following Israel's claims, while Norway, also a major donor to the organization, argued that funding cuts put the population of Gaza at risk.

A review of the agency's neutrality led by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna on Monday concluded Israel had yet to back up its accusations that hundreds of UNRWA staff were operatives in Gaza terrorist groups.

"I would now like to call on countries that have still frozen their contributions to UNRWA to resume funding," Norway's foreign minister Espen Barth Eide said in a statement.

A separate investigation by internal UN investigators is looking into Israeli allegations that 12 UNRWA staff took part in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks which triggered the Gaza war.

"Norway has emphasized that it is unacceptable to punish an entire organization, with 30,000 employees, and all Palestine refugees for the alleged misdeeds of a small number of the organization's employees," Barth Eide said.

While 10 countries have since ended their suspensions, the United States, Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria and Lithuania have not. A UN spokesperson on Monday said UNRWA currently had enough funding to pay for operations until June.


Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Man During West Bank Raid

Mother of Palestinian Shadi Jalaita, 44, cries upon the arrival of her son's body at the family house for the last look during his funeral in the West Bank city of Jericho Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (AP)
Mother of Palestinian Shadi Jalaita, 44, cries upon the arrival of her son's body at the family house for the last look during his funeral in the West Bank city of Jericho Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (AP)
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Israeli Forces Kill Palestinian Man During West Bank Raid

Mother of Palestinian Shadi Jalaita, 44, cries upon the arrival of her son's body at the family house for the last look during his funeral in the West Bank city of Jericho Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (AP)
Mother of Palestinian Shadi Jalaita, 44, cries upon the arrival of her son's body at the family house for the last look during his funeral in the West Bank city of Jericho Tuesday, April 23, 2024. (AP)

Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man and wounded two people including a child during raids in the occupied West Bank city of Jericho and adjacent refugee camps, Palestinian health authorities said on Tuesday.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military on the incident, the latest in a series during a surge in violence in the West Bank since the start of the war in Gaza, with frequent raids by Israeli forces, as well as rampages by violent Jewish settlers and street attacks by Palestinians on Israelis.

The dead man, identified as 44-year-old Shadi Issa Jalaita, had been standing outside his house in Jericho city, watching troops as they carried out a raid but had not been involved in the events his uncle, Shafiq Jalaita, said.

"He was standing at the door, watching. My son asked him to go inside but he told him that he is far from what's happening," he told Reuters. "A sniper shot him from above, in his chest, they shot three bullets but only one hit him, and he died on the spot, he didn't do anything, nothing."

The Palestinian news agency WAFA said the two wounded, including a child, were hit by bullets during a separate incident in the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp, just outside Jericho, where local residents said youths threw stones at the soldiers and there was a limited exchange of fire.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces since the start of the war in Gaza last October. Most have been armed fighters but stone throwing youths and uninvolved civilians have also been killed.


Israel Intensifies Strikes across Gaza, Orders New Evacuations in North

Destroyed buildings in the northern Gaza Strip, seen from the southern Gaza Strip, 23 April 2024. (EPA)
Destroyed buildings in the northern Gaza Strip, seen from the southern Gaza Strip, 23 April 2024. (EPA)
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Israel Intensifies Strikes across Gaza, Orders New Evacuations in North

Destroyed buildings in the northern Gaza Strip, seen from the southern Gaza Strip, 23 April 2024. (EPA)
Destroyed buildings in the northern Gaza Strip, seen from the southern Gaza Strip, 23 April 2024. (EPA)

Israeli strikes intensified across Gaza on Tuesday in some of the heaviest shelling in weeks, residents said, and the army ordered fresh evacuations in the north of the strip, warning civilians they were in a "dangerous combat zone".

Strikes by air and shelling from tanks on the ground were also reported in central and southern areas in what residents said were almost non-stop bombardments.

In a post on social media platform X, Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adraee urged residents of four zones in Beit Lahiya on Gaza's northern edge to move to shelter in two designated areas.

He said the military "will work with extreme force against terrorist infrastructure and subversive elements" in the region.

The renewed shelling and bombing of northern Gaza comes almost four months after the Israeli army announced it was drawing down its troops there, saying Hamas no longer controlled those areas.

This month, Israel also drew down most of its forces in southern Gaza. But efforts to reach a ceasefire have failed, and Israeli bombardment and raids on territory where its troops have withdrawn are making it difficult for displaced Gazans to return to abandoned homes.

Overnight, tanks made a new incursion east of Beit Hanoun on the northern edge of the Gaza Strip, though they did not penetrate far into the city, residents and Hamas media said. Gunfire reached some schools causing panic amongst displaced residents sheltering there.

Tuesday's bombardment came after incoming rocket alerts sounded in two southern Israeli border towns, although no casualties were reported.

The armed wing of Islamic Jihad, a group allied to Hamas, claimed responsibility for the attacks on Sderot and Nir Am, indicating fighters were still able to launch rockets almost 200 days into the war, which has flattened large swathes of the enclave and displaced almost all of its 2.3 million people.

Hamas said Israel had achieved only "humiliation and defeat" 200 days into its offensive.

Speaking in a video aired by Al Jazeera television, Abu Ubaida, the spokesman for Hamas's armed wing, called for an escalation in conflict across all fronts and praised Iran for its first direct attack against Israel earlier this month.

He also said Hamas was sticking to its demands in ceasefire talks for Israel to permanently end its war, pull all of its troops out of Gaza and allow the displaced to return to the north.

Israel has baulked at a permanent ceasefire, saying that would only allow Hamas to regroup.

Thick black smoke could be seen rising in northern Gaza from across the southern Israeli border. Shelling was intense east of Beit Hanoun and Jabalia and continued on Tuesday in areas such as Zeitoun, one of Gaza City's oldest suburbs, with residents reporting at least 10 strikes in a matter of seconds along the main road.

'NIGHT OF HORROR'

"It was one of those nights of horror that we have lived in at the start of the war. The bombing from tanks and planes didn't stop," said Um Mohammad, 53, a mother-of-six living 700 meters from Zeitoun.

"I had to gather with my children and my sisters who came to shelter with me in one place and pray for our lives as the house kept shaking," she told Reuters via a chat app.

Just west of Beit Hanoun in Beit Lahiya an air strike hit a mosque, killing a boy and injuring several others, while a medic was killed in shelling near the town stadium, medics said.

A separate strike in Beit Lahiya hit a crowd gathering on the coastal road to collect aid dropped from the air, medics said. Reuters could not immediately confirm that target, or whether there were casualties there.

Elsewhere in the enclave, shelling hit the east of the main southern city Khan Younis a day after tanks raided the area, and in the central district four bodies were recovered from a house hit overnight in the Al-Nusseirat refugee camp.

The Israeli army said rockets launched overnight into Israel had come from northern Gaza. It had struck rocket launchers and killed several militants, in what it called "targeted and precise" strikes.

"Over the past day, IAF fighter jets and additional aircraft struck approximately 25 terror targets throughout the Gaza Strip, including military infrastructure, observation posts, terrorists, launch posts," it said in a statement.

Israel says it is seeking to eradicate Hamas, which controls the enclave, following an attack by the armed group on Oct. 7 killing 1,200 and taking 253 hostages by Israeli tallies.

Palestinian health authorities say more than 34,000 people have been confirmed killed in the seven-month war, with thousands more bodies as yet unrecovered.

In Nasser Hospital, southern Gaza's main health facility, authorities recovered a further 35 bodies in the past day from what they say is one of at least three mass graves found at the site, taking the total found there to 310 in the past week.

Palestinians say Israeli troops buried corpses there with bulldozers to cover up crimes. The Israeli military said its troops had dug up some bodies at the site and reburied them after testing to make sure no hostages were among them.

Israel says it was forced to battle inside hospitals because Hamas fighters operated there, which medical staff and Hamas deny.