Lenderking Returns to Region to Tackle Ending Houthi Red Sea Attacks

The Houthis launched a campaign of drone and missile attacks on shipping in the Red Sea in November. (AFP)
The Houthis launched a campaign of drone and missile attacks on shipping in the Red Sea in November. (AFP)
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Lenderking Returns to Region to Tackle Ending Houthi Red Sea Attacks

The Houthis launched a campaign of drone and missile attacks on shipping in the Red Sea in November. (AFP)
The Houthis launched a campaign of drone and missile attacks on shipping in the Red Sea in November. (AFP)

US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking will travel to the region this week for a new round of talks aimed at pressuring the Iran-backed Houthi militias to end their attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

Lenderking will travel “to Saudi Arabia and Oman this week to meet with partners to discuss the need for an immediate cessation of Houthi attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, which are undermining progress on the Yemen peace process and the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Yemen and other countries in need,” said a US State Department statement on Monday.

“The United States remains firmly committed to supporting a durable peace in Yemen and alleviating the complex humanitarian and economic crises harming the Yemeni people. The United States supports a return to UN-led peace efforts once the Houthis halt their indiscriminate attacks,” it added.

“Lenderking will meet with regional counterparts to discuss the steps to de-escalate the current situation and renew focus on securing a durable peace for the Yemeni people,” it said.

The US military said Sunday its forces destroyed one unmanned aerial vehicle in a Houthi-held area of Yemen and another over a crucial shipping route in the Red Sea. It was the latest development in months of tension between the militias and the US.

The drones, which were destroyed Saturday morning, posed a threat to US and coalition forces and merchant vessels in the region, said the US Central Command.

It said that one done was destroyed over the Red Sea, while the second was destroyed on the ground as it was prepared to launch.

“These actions are necessary to protect our forces, ensure freedom of navigation, and make international waters safer and more secure for US, coalition, and merchant vessels,” CENTCOM said.

The Houthis launched a campaign of drone and missile attacks on shipping in the Red Sea in November. They have also fired missiles toward Israel, although those have largely fallen short or been intercepted.

The militias have described their campaign as an effort to pressure Israel to end its war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The ships targeted by the Houthis, however, largely have had little or no connection to Israel, the US or other nations involved in the war.

The Houthis have kept up their campaign of attacks despite more than two months of US-led airstrikes.

Earlier this month, CENTCOM said its forces also destroyed four unmanned aerial vehicles in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. It also said Houthis fired four anti-ship ballistic missiles toward the Red Sea, but no injuries or damages were reported by US, coalition or commercial ships.

The escalation in the Red Sea and the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza impacted the UN-led efforts to relaunch political talks to end Yemen’s yearslong conflict, according to the UN envoy for Yemen.

Hans Grundberg told the UN Security Council in mid-March that he had hoped to reach an agreement on a nationwide ceasefire in Yemen by the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began early in March.

He warned that Yemen could be propelled back into war, saying that “the longer the escalatory environment (in the region) continues, the more challenging Yemen’s mediation space will become.”

Fighting has decreased markedly in Yemen since a truce in April 2022, but there are still hotspots in the country.



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.


Israeli Media Predict Offensive in Gaza's Rafah Soon

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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Israeli Media Predict Offensive in Gaza's Rafah Soon

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 is poised to send troops into Rafah, the Gazan city it sees as the last bastion of Hamas, Israeli media reported on Wednesday, saying preparations were under way to evacuate war-displaced Palestinian civilians who have been sheltering there.

The Rafah sweep, postponed for several weeks amid disputes with Washington, will happen "very soon," the mass-circulation Israel Hayom newspaper said, citing a decision by the Israeli government after ceasefire talks with Hamas stalled.

According to Reuters, several other Israeli media outlets carried similar reports. Some noted footage on social media that appeared to show the erection of a tent city for Rafah evacuees.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office and the Israeli military spokesperson's office had no immediate comment.

Abutting the Egyptian border, Rafah's population has been swollen by more than a million Palestinians who fled other parts of the Gaza Strip during the more than half-year-old war.

Their fate worries Western powers as well as Cairo, which has ruled out any influx of refugees into Egyptian Sinai. Israel, under pressure given the war's spiraling humanitarian toll, has pledged to take measures to safeguard Rafah civilians.

The Netanyahu government says Rafah is home to four intact Hamas combat battalions which, it says, have been reinforced by thousands of the group's retreating fighters.

In a speech on Tuesday marking the 200th day of the war, Hamas armed wing spokesperson Abu Ubaida said Israel has achieved only "humiliation and defeat" in a campaign that Gaza medical officials say has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians.


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.


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.