Allies Urge Israel to Show Restraint after Iranian Attack

France's President Emmanuel Macron addresses the media as France's Minister for the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu listens during a visit to the powders and explosives company Eurenco plant in Bergerac, southwestern France, on April 11, 2024. (Reuters)
France's President Emmanuel Macron addresses the media as France's Minister for the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu listens during a visit to the powders and explosives company Eurenco plant in Bergerac, southwestern France, on April 11, 2024. (Reuters)
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Allies Urge Israel to Show Restraint after Iranian Attack

France's President Emmanuel Macron addresses the media as France's Minister for the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu listens during a visit to the powders and explosives company Eurenco plant in Bergerac, southwestern France, on April 11, 2024. (Reuters)
France's President Emmanuel Macron addresses the media as France's Minister for the Armed Forces Sebastien Lecornu listens during a visit to the powders and explosives company Eurenco plant in Bergerac, southwestern France, on April 11, 2024. (Reuters)

Israel faced growing pressure from allies on Monday to show restraint and avoid an escalation of conflict in the Middle East as it considered how to respond to Iran's weekend missile and drone attack.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned his war cabinet for the second time in less than 24 hours, a government source said. Two top officials signaled on Sunday that retaliation was not imminent and Israel would not act alone, but the results of Monday's talks were not yet known.

Iran's attack has increased fears of open warfare between Israel and Iran, and heightened concerns that violence will spread further in the region. Wary of the dangers, President Joe Biden has told Netanyahu the United States will not take part in any Israeli counter-offensive against Iran.

Since the start of the war in Gaza on Oct. 7, clashes have erupted between Israel and Iran-aligned groups in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq, and Israel said four of its soldiers were wounded hundreds of meters inside Lebanese territory overnight.

It appeared to be the first such incident to become known since the Gaza war erupted, leading to months of exchanges of fire between Israel and Lebanon's armed group Hezbollah.

"We're on the edge of the cliff and we have to move away from it," Josep Borrell, the EU's High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told Spanish radio station Onda Cero. "We have to step on the brakes and reverse gear."

French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron made similar appeals, all echoing calls for restraint by Washington and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Countries including Belgium and Germany summoned the Iranian ambassadors.

Russia has refrained from criticizing its ally Iran in public over the strikes but expressed concern about the risk of escalation on Monday and also called for restraint.

"Further escalation is in no one's interests," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Iran launched the attack over a suspected Israeli airstrike on its embassy compound in Syria on April 1 that killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers including two senior commanders.

The weekend attack, involving more than 300 missiles and drones, caused only modest damage in Israel and no deaths. Most were shot down by Israel's Iron Dome defense system and with help from the US, Britain, France and Jordan.

Italy open to sanctions

Italy, which holds the rotating presidency of the Group of Seven major democracies, raised the possibility of the G7 discussing new sanctions against Iran following the attack.

In an interview with Reuters, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said new sanctions would need the backing of all the G7, which includes Italy, France, Germany, Canada, Japan, Britain and the United States. He suggested any new measures would be focused on individuals rather than whole nations.

"If we need to have more sanctions for people clearly engaged against Israel, supporting for example terrorism, supporting Hamas, it is possible to do it. But we need to be very serious and to work all together," Tajani said.

Asian shares fell and gold prices rose on Monday as risk sentiment took a hit. But oil prices dipped and Israel's shekel rose against the dollar after the comments by two senior Israeli officials - Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and centrist minister Benny Gantz - suggesting an Israeli response was not imminent.

Iran's attack also caused travel disruption, with at least a dozen airlines cancelling or rerouting flights, and Europe's aviation regulator reaffirming advice to airlines to use caution in Israeli and Iranian airspace.

Israel remained on high alert, but authorities lifted some emergency measures that had included a ban on some school activities and caps on large gatherings.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Tehran had informed the United States that the attack on Israel would be limited and for self-defense, and that regional neighbors had been informed of the planned strikes 72 hours in advance.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said on Monday, however, that no pre-arranged agreement was made with any country prior to the weekend attack. US officials said Tehran had not warned Washington.

Iran's attack has drawn applause in Gaza, where Israel began a military campaign against Hamas after the Palestinian group's deadly attack on Israel, killing 1,200 and taking 253 hostages by Israeli tallies. Gaza's health ministry says over 33,000 Palestinians have been killed in the offensive and that the enclave faces a humanitarian catastrophe.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said humanitarian aid getting into the Gaza Strip had increased by a large amount in the last few days, but many Gazans are still displaced by fighting and unable to return home.

"We can live in tents, we just want to return to our homes," displaced Gazan Souad Zayed said the Nuseirat refugee camp. "We're not crying over bricks and mortar, or money or trees or anything, what's important is that they let us return to our homes. There's a lot of people, we're exhausted."



Israel Sends Tanks into Rafah on Raids Amid Gaza-Wide Offensive 

Palestinians fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah during an Israeli ground and air offensive in the city on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (AP)
Palestinians fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah during an Israeli ground and air offensive in the city on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (AP)
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Israel Sends Tanks into Rafah on Raids Amid Gaza-Wide Offensive 

Palestinians fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah during an Israeli ground and air offensive in the city on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (AP)
Palestinians fleeing from the southern Gaza city of Rafah during an Israeli ground and air offensive in the city on Tuesday, May 28, 2024. (AP)

Israeli tanks conducted a second day of probing attacks across Rafah on Wednesday, after Washington said the assault did not amount to a major ground incursion of the southern Gazan city that US officials had told Israel to avoid.

Israeli tanks advanced to the heart of Rafah for the first time on Tuesday after a night of heavy bombardment, defying an appeal from the International Court of Justice to end its attack on the city, one of the last places of refuge in Gaza.

The United States, Israel's closest ally, reiterated its opposition to a major Israeli ground offensive in Rafah but said on Tuesday it did not believe such an operation was under way.

Unlike tactics used in Israel's ground offensive in the rest of the enclave, Rafah residents said Israeli tanks mounted raids into Tel Al-Sultan in western Rafah and Yibna and near Shaboura in the center before retreating to positions near the border with Egypt.

The armed wings of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad said they confronted the invading forces with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs, as well as blowing up previously planted explosive devices.

The Israeli military said three soldiers had been killed and three others badly wounded in combat in southern Gaza on Wednesday, without elaborating. Israel's public broadcaster Kan radio said they were hurt by an explosive device set off in a building in Rafah.

Palestinian health officials said several people were wounded on Wednesday morning by Israeli fire in the eastern area of Rafah, where they also said some stores of aid were set ablaze.

Residents said constant Israeli bombardment overnight destroyed many homes in the area, from where most people have fled after orders by Israel to evacuate.

Some residents reported seeing what they described as unmanned robotic armored vehicles opening fire from machine guns in some parts of the city.

The pro-Hamas Shebab news agency, as well as some residents and journalists, reported internet and mobile communications blackouts in some areas of both east and west amid heavy Israeli air and ground bombardment. The Israeli military said it could not confirm the reports.

In northern Gaza, tanks shelled several Gaza City neighborhoods, and forces thrust deeper in Jabalia, the largest of the enclave's eight biggest historic refugee camps, with residents saying large residential districts were destroyed by the army.

SEVERAL MORE HOSPITALS STOP FUNCTIONING, PALESTINIAN HEALTH MINISTRY SAYS

The health ministry said several hospitals in areas where the army is operating had stopped functioning.

The offensive in the Gaza Strip has killed at least 36,171 Palestinians and wounded 81,420 since Oct. 7, the ministry said on Wednesday. There have been 75 Palestinians killed and 284 injured in the past 24 hours.

Around a million Palestinians took shelter in Rafah at the southern end of the Gaza Strip following Israel's offensives in most of the rest of the enclave during more than seven months of war against the Hamas movement that runs the enclave.

Around that number have now fled Rafah since after Israeli orders to evacuate, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA reported on Tuesday.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said it had evacuated its medical teams from its field hospital in the Al-Mawasi area, a designated civilian evacuation zone.

It cited "the increased threat level from the Israeli occupation, continued artillery and air bombardments in its vicinity, and the complete evacuation of residents from the surrounding area" in its statement, issued late on Tuesday.

In the nearby city of Khan Younis, an Israeli air strike killed three people overnight, including Salama Baraka, a former senior Hamas police officer, medics and Hamas media said on Wednesday.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said one of its staff, Issam Aqel, was killed in an Israeli air strike on his house in the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. It said his death rose to 30 the number of staff killed since Oct 7, at least 17 of them killed on duty.

Israel's military denied striking a tent camp in a designated civilian evacuation zone west of Rafah on Tuesday after Gaza health authorities said Israeli tank shelling had killed at least 21 people there.

Both Hamas and Gaza health officials rejected the Israeli denial, blaming Israel for what they described as a "massacre."

Nearly eight months since the war started, the two sides continued to be far from reaching a deal to cease fire and exchange hostages held captive in Gaza to a number of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Israel delivered its latest ceasefire and hostage release proposal to Qatar, and Qatar was to provide it to Hamas on Tuesday, a person familiar with the issue said. There was no immediate word on Wednesday from Hamas, which has said talks are pointless unless Israel ends its offensive on Rafah.

Israel launched its air and ground war after Hamas-led fighters attacked southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Malnutrition is widespread in Gaza as aid deliveries have slowed to a trickle, with international aid agencies accusing Israel of blocking their distribution attempts and Israel blaming the agencies.

In a further blow to aid efforts, part of a new aid pier put in place by the US military off Gaza's coast broke off, probably due to bad weather, putting it out of operation temporarily, two US officials said on Tuesday.