Iraq’s Kurdistan Region to Hold Election on June 10 

President of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani pays his respects to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, following her death, during her lying in state at Westminster Hall, in Westminster Palace, in London, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP) 
President of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani pays his respects to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, following her death, during her lying in state at Westminster Hall, in Westminster Palace, in London, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP) 
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Iraq’s Kurdistan Region to Hold Election on June 10 

President of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani pays his respects to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, following her death, during her lying in state at Westminster Hall, in Westminster Palace, in London, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP) 
President of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani pays his respects to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, following her death, during her lying in state at Westminster Hall, in Westminster Palace, in London, Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. (AP) 

The semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq will hold parliamentary elections on June 10, the regional presidency said in a statement on Sunday.

Iraqi Kurdistan President Nechirvan Barzani issued a decree on Sunday and approved the date, said the statement.

The vote should elect both a parliament and a president for Kurdish regions which have gained self-rule in 1991.



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.


Hamas Armed Wing Calls for Escalation across All Fronts

 People walk on a road lined with destroyed buildings in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on April 23, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
People walk on a road lined with destroyed buildings in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on April 23, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
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Hamas Armed Wing Calls for Escalation across All Fronts

 People walk on a road lined with destroyed buildings in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on April 23, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)
People walk on a road lined with destroyed buildings in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on April 23, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)

The spokesperson for Hamas' armed al-Qassam Brigades, Abu Ubaida, called on Tuesday for an escalation across all fronts in a televised speech marking 200 days since the start of the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7.

Israel says it is seeking to eradicate Hamas, which controls the enclave, in a war that has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians thus far. The war started when the armed group attacked Israel, killing 1,200 and taking 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

In a video aired by Al Jazeera TV, Abu Ubaida praised Iran's attack on Israel on April 13, saying the direct strikes with explosive drones and missiles "set new rules, drew important equations, and confused the enemy and those behind it."

He also called for an escalation in the West Bank and Jordan calling it "one of the most important Arab fronts."

He said Hamas was sticking to its demands at the ongoing ceasefire talks - that Israel ends its military offensive, pulls out forces from Gaza, allows the displaced to return to northern Gaza, and lifts the blockade.

"The government of the occupation is stalling in reaching a hostages-swap deal and is trying to obstruct efforts by the mediators to reach a ceasefire agreement," Abu Ubaida said.

Qatar and Egypt have been trying to mediate a ceasefire, but Qatar foreign ministry's spokesman said earlier on Tuesday all concerned parties should "show seriousness" in allowing such efforts to succeed.


An Israeli Strike Kills a Hezbollah Air Defense Unit Operative

A photo of the site where an Israeli strike hit a vehicle in the Adloun area (Markazia News Agency)
A photo of the site where an Israeli strike hit a vehicle in the Adloun area (Markazia News Agency)
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An Israeli Strike Kills a Hezbollah Air Defense Unit Operative

A photo of the site where an Israeli strike hit a vehicle in the Adloun area (Markazia News Agency)
A photo of the site where an Israeli strike hit a vehicle in the Adloun area (Markazia News Agency)

An Israeli airstrike on a car in southern Lebanon on Tuesday killed a Hezbollah official.
The Israeli military said in a statement that it had killed Hussein Ali Azqul in the strike and described him as a “significant” operative in Hezbollah’s aerial defense unit. Hezbollah confirmed in a statement that Azqul had been killed.
State media and witnesses said the strike happened in the area of Adloun, between the coastal cities of Sidon and Tyre, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the border with Israel.
The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and allied groups have been clashing with Israeli forces along the border for more than six months against the backdrop of Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Israel has regularly carried out targeted killings of Hezbollah and Hamas members in Lebanon, sometimes in areas far from the border.


Aid Workers Worried over Looming Rafah Invasion

Smoke rises following Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip April 22, 2024. REUTERS/Mahdy Zourob
Smoke rises following Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip April 22, 2024. REUTERS/Mahdy Zourob
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Aid Workers Worried over Looming Rafah Invasion

Smoke rises following Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip April 22, 2024. REUTERS/Mahdy Zourob
Smoke rises following Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip April 22, 2024. REUTERS/Mahdy Zourob

An expected Israeli assault on Rafah has aid groups scrambling for ways to help the 1.5 million civilians sheltering in the south Gaza city but the uncertain timeline poses a logistical nightmare.
"We always are prepared with plans to upscale or downscale but, really, we don't know what to expect," said Bushra Khalidi, head of advocacy at Oxfam.
Oxfam joined 12 other aid groups in a joint call for a ceasefire on April 3, stressing that more than a million civilians, including at least 610,000 children, were "in direct line of fire" in Rafah.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said repeatedly that Israel will press ahead with the threatened assault on Rafah, the last major population center in Gaza that Israeli ground troops have yet to enter.
The hawkish premier has said that the destruction of the remaining Hamas battalions in Rafah is vital to his government's war aim of destroying the Hamas group in Gaza.
But Israel's staunchest ally the United States has said repeatedly that it opposes any operation in Rafah without credible measures to protect civilians.
The Israeli government said it was planning different evacuation scenarios, including the creation of what military spokesman Daniel Hagari dubbed "humanitarian islands".
He said these tent cities would be spared the fighting and would be set up with international support.
The newspaper said Israel planned to send its troops into Rafah gradually, targeting areas where Israel believes Hamas leaders and fighters are hiding, and expected the fighting to last at least six weeks.
But the aid groups AFP spoke with said they had not been briefed on Israel's plans, and the Israeli army was not able to answer AFP questions on its exchanges with humanitarian organizations.
Earlier this month Israeli media reported that the defense ministry had bought 10,000 tents to be set up outside Rafah over the next two weeks, and planned to acquire 30,000 more.
"I have no idea what the plan with the procurement of tents by the Israelis is," said the head of the UN humanitarian office in the occupied Palestinian territories, Andrea de Domenico,.
Operations on hold
Rafah lies hard by the Egyptian border and hosts the main crossing through which aid enters the whole territory.
"We don't exactly know what shape this operation will take, but what is certain is that there will be a decrease of available aid, and that many people are moving around," said Jean-Raphael Poitou, Middle East Director for Action Against Hunger.
Palestinians have limited options in the event of an Israeli ground assault on Rafah.
They could topple the wall and barbed wire separating the city from Egypt, attempt to return to the north of the Gaza Strip, which the army does not currently allow, or flee towards the Mediterranean coast.
"Rafah is tiny, it's like a village, any operation in such a limited and densely populated area, we can only imagine that it would cause mass carnage and further atrocity crimes," Oxfam's Khalidi said.
The aid group fears it will have to put its activities on hold in Rafah, where half of its offices and buildings housing staff are located.
Khalidi said it was difficult to anticipate where services could be moved to when about 60 percent of buildings in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or damaged, and the Palestinian territory is still subject to air strikes and littered with unexploded ordnance (UXOs).
No UN agency involvement
Other organizations fear for the aid distribution network, a subject of tension with Israeli authorities since the beginning of the war.
An operation "means cutting the aid system off from its lifeline, the Rafah crossing," said Ahmed Bayram, media adviser for the Norwegian Refugee Council in the Middle East.
A UN worker in Jerusalem, who asked not to be identified, told AFP that an Israeli ground operation in Rafah would mean "stepping into the abyss".
"If the current conditions do not allow humanitarian operations at the required scale, just imagine what ground fighting in Rafah will bring about," the UN worker said.
De Domenico warned that humanitarian principles prevented UN agencies from getting involved in establishing replacement displaced persons' camps outside Rafah.
"We will not pre-empt movement or attract movement of people by installing camps," the OCHA official said, adding there was in any case "not much space to do so".
The UN worker in Jerusalem said: "The UN does not participate in forced, non-voluntary displacement".


UN Rights Chief 'Horrified' by Mass Grave Reports at Gaza Hospitals

Palestinian paramedics carry away bodies of dead people uncovered in the vicinity of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on April 17, 2024 after the recent Israeli military operation there. (Photo by AFP)
Palestinian paramedics carry away bodies of dead people uncovered in the vicinity of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on April 17, 2024 after the recent Israeli military operation there. (Photo by AFP)
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UN Rights Chief 'Horrified' by Mass Grave Reports at Gaza Hospitals

Palestinian paramedics carry away bodies of dead people uncovered in the vicinity of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on April 17, 2024 after the recent Israeli military operation there. (Photo by AFP)
Palestinian paramedics carry away bodies of dead people uncovered in the vicinity of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on April 17, 2024 after the recent Israeli military operation there. (Photo by AFP)

UN rights chief Volker Turk said on Tuesday he was "horrified" by the destruction of the Nasser and Al-Shifa medical facilities in Gaza and reports of mass graves containing hundreds of bodies there, according to a spokesperson.

Palestinian authorities reported finding hundreds of bodies in mass graves at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis this week after it was abandoned by Israeli troops. Bodies were also reported at the Al-Shifa site following an Israeli special forces operation.

The Israeli military said claims by Palestinian authorities that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had buried bodies were "baseless and unfounded". It said forces searching for Israeli hostages had examined bodies previously buried by Palestinians near Nasser hospital and had returned the bodies to where they were buried after they were examined.

"The examination was conducted in a careful manner and exclusively in places where intelligence indicated the possible presence of hostages. The examination was carried out respectfully while maintaining the dignity of the deceased," it said in a statement.

Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the rights organization was raising the alarm because multiple bodies had been discovered. Turk said he had been horrified by the reported mass grave discoveries and the hospitals' destruction, she said.

"Some of them had their hands tied, which of course indicates serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and these need to be subjected to further investigations," Shamdasani said.

She added that the UN human rights office was working on corroborating Palestinian officials' reports, including one that 30 bodies were found at Al-Shifa. According to those reports, some of the bodies were buried beneath piles of waste and included women and older people.

Reuters reporters on Monday saw emergency workers digging corpses out of the ground in the ruins of Nasser hospital.

Gaza's Hamas-run Civil Emergency Service said on Tuesday a total of 310 bodies had been found at one mass grave at Nasser so far and that two other graves had been identified, but not yet excavated. The Palestinian health ministry repeated the figure.

Turk, who was represented by Shamdasani at a UN press briefing, also decried Israeli strikes on Gaza in recent days, which he said had killed mostly women and children.

He also repeated a warning against a full-scale incursion on Rafah where some 1.2 million civilians are crowded together, saying this could lead to "further atrocity crimes".

Violence has also surged in the occupied West Bank since Israel's war on Hamas began on Oct. 7, sparked by the latter's cross-border attacks on Israel which killed 1,200 people according to Israeli tallies.

Palestinian health authorities said 14 Palestinians had been killed on Saturday in the Nur Shams area in one of the heaviest tolls in the West Bank in months.

Shamdasani said the UN human rights office had received reports that some the victims in Nur Shams had been killed in apparent extrajudicial executions. The Hamas media office has accused Israel of executions but has not shared visual or other evidence. Israel denies carrying out executions.

Israel's military has previously said a number of militants were killed or arrested in the West Bank raid and at least four soldiers wounded.


Ex-Security Official Sparks Tribal Crisis in Eastern Sudan

Naval base soldiers in Port Sudan (AFP)
Naval base soldiers in Port Sudan (AFP)
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Ex-Security Official Sparks Tribal Crisis in Eastern Sudan

Naval base soldiers in Port Sudan (AFP)
Naval base soldiers in Port Sudan (AFP)

Comments by a former high-ranking official in Sudan's security and intelligence service, questioning the legitimacy of certain tribal groups, have stirred tribal tensions in the country’s east.

Social, political, and civil groups have condemned these remarks as racist and accused backers of the former regime, including the Muslim Brotherhood, of trying to stoke unrest in the east amid the country's ongoing conflict.

Badr Al-Din Abdel Hakam, a retired brigadier and director of security in Kassala state, referred to specific tribal groups in eastern Sudan as refugees from a neighboring country, calling for their Sudanese citizenship to be revoked immediately.

These comments have angered social groups with significant populations in the eastern states (Red Sea, Kassala, and Gedaref).

Youth from affected tribes have held rallies in Port Sudan and Kassala, demanding legal action against the current security official, who is abroad, for his remarks questioning their Sudanese identity.

Sources close to the social sphere told Asharq Al-Awsat that the former security official’s remarks are closely tied to recent discussions held in Port Sudan, sponsored by the Sudanese military, regarding foreign presence and the definition of Sudanese identity.

They suggest that some tribes’ reluctance to join the army in its conflict against the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) influenced this stance.

In essence, the official’s comments indirectly mirror the views of army supporters, who have initiated a social media campaign urging for the revocation of citizenship from groups that have shown little enthusiasm for joining the army.

These same sources cautioned that such remarks could reignite past tribal conflicts in the region, leading to casualties among tribal groups.