Libyan National Army Prepares for Air Battle by Downing 7 Turkish Drones

A destroyed and burnt tank is seen in Gharyan south of Tripoli Libya June 27, 2019. (Reuters)
A destroyed and burnt tank is seen in Gharyan south of Tripoli Libya June 27, 2019. (Reuters)
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Libyan National Army Prepares for Air Battle by Downing 7 Turkish Drones

A destroyed and burnt tank is seen in Gharyan south of Tripoli Libya June 27, 2019. (Reuters)
A destroyed and burnt tank is seen in Gharyan south of Tripoli Libya June 27, 2019. (Reuters)

The Libyan National Army (LNA), commanded by Khalifa Haftar, announced on Friday the downing of seven Turkish drones, in what was interpreted as a response to Ankara’s warning to the military of “grave consequences” if its interests in Libya were attacked.

Hours after Ankara’s threat, the LNA announced that its air defenses shot down seven Turkish drones in various regions in less than six hours.

The LNA said drones of the “Turkish invaders” were downed in the Qaryat and Abou al-Gharib regions south of Bani Walid and Tarhuna cities. Another aircraft was shot down over Wishka.

This takes to 90 the number of drones downed by the LNA since it launched its operation to liberate Tripoli in April 2019.

The LNA also announced the destruction of 20 Government of National Accord (GNA) armored vehicles in an airstrike in Gharyan city.

Politically, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the flow of weapons to Libya.

Pompeo placed a phone call to GNA chief Fayez al-Sarraj to "reiterate US opposition to the continued level of weapons and munitions being brought into the country," the State Department said.

The statement was seen as a jab at Turkey that has been backing the GNA with weapons.

Pompeo and Sarraj "emphasized the importance of an immediate halt to the fighting and return to political dialogue," a statement said.

Fighting on Thursday centered around al-Asbiah, some 120 kilometers west of Tripoli. LNA spokesman Ahmed al-Mismari said the military carried out a series of airstrikes against Turkish President Recep Tayyip “Erdogan’s takfiri militias” in Asbiah and the surrounding regions.

Mismari said four warplanes have become newly available after they were out of service for a long time. He added that LNA teams succeeded in refurbishing them, without specifying the type of aircraft, but promising “excellent results” from them.

“The time has come for them to be used at their maximum fire power,” he stressed.

The GNA, meanwhile, did not announce any new accomplishment on the ground, with a spokesman calling on the residents of Tarhuna, Wishka, Mizdah and Sirte to steer clear of LNA positions. The GNA will provide safe passage for trapped civilians.

In Tarhuna, after days of military buildup, the GNA said it was blocking the coastal road stretching from Castelverde to al-Qoaah, claiming it was protecting civilians from the LNA’s arbitrary shelling.

The GNA had recently launched an attack in an attempt to recapture Tarhuna from the LNA.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya, meanwhile, expressed its concern over the latest fighting in the country.

In a terse statement, it said it “is following with great concern the military developments and mobilization around the city of Tarhuna. UNSMIL reminds all parties of their obligations in accordance with international humanitarian law and warns against any acts of retribution, including attacks against civilians, extrajudicial punishments, looting, robberies and torching of public and private properties. UNSMIL calls on all parties to refrain from military escalation and resort to peaceful means.”



Israeli War Cabinet Member Gantz Says ‘Promising Early Signs’ on New Hostage Deal

 An Israeli tank fires into the Gaza Strip from Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as seen from Israel, February 21, 2024. (Reuters)
An Israeli tank fires into the Gaza Strip from Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as seen from Israel, February 21, 2024. (Reuters)
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Israeli War Cabinet Member Gantz Says ‘Promising Early Signs’ on New Hostage Deal

 An Israeli tank fires into the Gaza Strip from Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as seen from Israel, February 21, 2024. (Reuters)
An Israeli tank fires into the Gaza Strip from Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as seen from Israel, February 21, 2024. (Reuters)

Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz said on Wednesday there were "promising early signs of progress" on a new deal to release hostages from Gaza amid regional talks to secure a pause in the war.

"There are ongoing attempts to promote a new hostage deal and there are promising early signs of possible progress," Gantz said in a televised press briefing.

"We will not stop looking for a way and we will not miss any opportunity to bring our girls and boys home."

But he added that if no new deal were struck, the Israeli military would keep fighting in Gaza even into the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins next month.

"If a new hostage deal is not achieved, we will continue operating also during Ramadan," he said.


Israeli Parliament Backs Netanyahu’s Rejection of ‘Unilateral’ Recognition of Palestinian State

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the voting session for the impeachment of Hadash-Ta’al party MP Ofer Cassif in Jerusalem, 19 February 2024. (EPA)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the voting session for the impeachment of Hadash-Ta’al party MP Ofer Cassif in Jerusalem, 19 February 2024. (EPA)
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Israeli Parliament Backs Netanyahu’s Rejection of ‘Unilateral’ Recognition of Palestinian State

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the voting session for the impeachment of Hadash-Ta’al party MP Ofer Cassif in Jerusalem, 19 February 2024. (EPA)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during the voting session for the impeachment of Hadash-Ta’al party MP Ofer Cassif in Jerusalem, 19 February 2024. (EPA)

Israeli lawmakers voted on Wednesday to back Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rejection of any "unilateral" recognition of a Palestinian state as international calls have grown for the revival of Palestinian statehood negotiations.

Issued amid the war in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian group Hamas, the symbolic declaration also received backing from members of the opposition, with 99 of 120 lawmakers voting in support, the Knesset spokesperson said.

The Israeli position says that any permanent accord with the Palestinians must be reached through direct negotiations between the sides and not by international dictates.

"The Knesset came together in an overwhelming majority against the attempt to impose on us the establishment of a Palestinian state, which would not only fail to bring peace but would endanger the state of Israel," said Netanyahu.

The vote drew condemnation from the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, which accused Israel of holding the rights of the Palestinian people hostage by forceful occupation of territories where Palestinians seek to establish a state.

"The ministry reaffirms that the State of Palestine's full membership in the United Nations and its recognition by other nations does not require permission from Netanyahu," it said in a statement.

Little progress has been made towards achieving a two-state solution - a Palestinian state in the occupied West Bank and in Gaza alongside Israel - since the signing of the interim Oslo Accords in the early 1990s.

Among the obstacles impeding Palestinian statehood are expanding Israeli settlements in territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. Most countries regard the settlements, which in many areas cut Palestinian communities off from each other, as a violation of international law.

The two-state solution has long been a core Western policy in the region. Since the outbreak in October of the Gaza war, the United States has been trying to promote steps toward the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a broader Middle East deal that would include other Arab states officially normalizing relations with Israel.


Israeli Strike Kills Woman and Child in South Lebanon

Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of Khiam near the border with Israel on February 21, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)
Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of Khiam near the border with Israel on February 21, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)
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Israeli Strike Kills Woman and Child in South Lebanon

Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of Khiam near the border with Israel on February 21, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)
Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike on the southern Lebanese village of Khiam near the border with Israel on February 21, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)

An Israeli air strike killed a woman and a child in south Lebanon on Wednesday, sources in Lebanon said, days after Hezbollah said it would inflict a price on Israel for killing civilians in the conflict across the Israeli-Lebanese border.

The woman and girl were killed in the strike near Majdal Zoun, a village some 6 km (4 miles) from the border, according to two security sources and a medical source.

The father of the six-year-old girl killed said she had asked to visit her village, which they had fled from after the eruption of hostilities last year, in comments broadcast by al-Akhbar newspaper.

The Iran-backed Hezbollah movement has been trading fire with Israel since the Oct. 7 attack by its Palestinian ally Hamas on southern Israel in a campaign Hezbollah says aims to support Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army said its warplanes had struck three Hezbollah operational command centers in southern Lebanon.

It said Israeli army artillery had also fired "to remove a threat" in the areas of Alma al-Shaab and Dhayra, both villages at the border.

The Israeli army did not respond to a request for comment about reports of the strike in Majdal Zoun.

Hezbollah signaled on Friday it would escalate attacks on Israel in response to the deaths of 10 Lebanese civilians in Israeli attacks last week.

Hezbollah announced more than half a dozen attacks on Israeli positions on Wednesday.

Israeli strikes since Oct. 8 have killed some 50 civilians in Lebanon, in addition to nearly 200 Hezbollah fighters.

Attacks from Lebanon into Israel have killed a dozen Israeli soldiers and five civilians.

The violence has uprooted tens of thousands of people on both sides of the border.


Israeli Airstrike Kills Two People in Damascus, Says Syrian TV

Workers and people stand near a damaged building after, according to Syrian state media reports, several Israeli missiles hit a residential building in the Kafr Sousa district, Damascus, Syria  February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Firas Makdesi
Workers and people stand near a damaged building after, according to Syrian state media reports, several Israeli missiles hit a residential building in the Kafr Sousa district, Damascus, Syria February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Firas Makdesi
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Israeli Airstrike Kills Two People in Damascus, Says Syrian TV

Workers and people stand near a damaged building after, according to Syrian state media reports, several Israeli missiles hit a residential building in the Kafr Sousa district, Damascus, Syria  February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Firas Makdesi
Workers and people stand near a damaged building after, according to Syrian state media reports, several Israeli missiles hit a residential building in the Kafr Sousa district, Damascus, Syria February 21, 2024. REUTERS/Firas Makdesi

An Israeli airstrike hit a residential building in the Kafr Sousa district in Syria's capital Damascus on Wednesday, killing two people, Syrian state media and a security source said.

A military source cited by Syrian state TV said the strike at about 9:40 a.m. (0640 GMT) wounded a number of other people, identifying the dead as civilians.

Images published by Syrian state media showed the charred side of a multi-storey building. The security source said the "attack did not achieve its aims".

The neighborhood hosts residential buildings, schools and Iranian cultural centers, and lies near a large, heavily-guarded complex used by security agencies. The district was struck in an Israeli attack in February 2023 that killed Iranian military experts.

Witnesses heard several back-to-back explosions. The blasts scared children at a nearby school and ambulances rushed to the area, the witnesses told Reuters.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

Iran's semi-official Student News Network said no Iranian citizens were killed in the strike.

On Wednesday afternoon, a Reuters witness heard another large blast in the capital that shook the windows of homes. Local Syrian outlet Sham FM said several explosions were heard in the capital without specifying the cause.

Iran has been a major backer of President Bashar al-Assad during Syria's nearly 12-year-old conflict. Its support for Damascus and the Lebanese group Hezbollah has drawn regular Israeli air strikes meant to curb Tehran's extraterritorial military power.

Those strikes have ramped up in line with flaring regional tensions since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, with more than half a dozen Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers killed in suspected Israeli strikes on Syria since December.

As a result, the Guards have scaled back deployment of their senior officers in Syria and have planned to rely more on allied Shiite militia to preserve their sway there, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this month.

Iran, a backer of Hamas, has sought to stay out of the conflict itself even as it supports groups that have entered the fray from Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Syria - the so-called "Axis of Resistance" that is hostile to Israeli and US interests. 


Sudanese Army Strikes Hemedti’s Hometown as Fighting Erupt Again in Khartoum 

Damage is seen following an army attack in El Daein. (Social media)
Damage is seen following an army attack in El Daein. (Social media)
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Sudanese Army Strikes Hemedti’s Hometown as Fighting Erupt Again in Khartoum 

Damage is seen following an army attack in El Daein. (Social media)
Damage is seen following an army attack in El Daein. (Social media)

The Rapid Support Forces (RSF) said on Tuesday that at least 11 people were killed and dozens wounded in Sudanese army air raids on the city of El Daein, the capital of the East Darfur state and hometown of RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti.

The army confirmed that it carried out strikes on military targets in El Daein, saying it “hit and completely destroyed a weapons depot belonging to a terrorist militia”

The army’s WhatsApp channel said several “field commanders and Dagalo terrorist mercenaries” were killed in the attack.

In a post on the X platform, the RSF said nine of the victims were members of the same family and included women and children. Dozens of innocent civilians were wounded and hundreds of homes were damaged in the attack.

It accused the army of targeting the “al-Neem” refugee camp, a hospital and water plant in El Daein.

The city is the hometown of the Rizeigat tribe, whose members make up the majority of the RSF commanders and fighters.

The RSF accused the army of repeatedly attacking civilians with explosive bombs in “deliberate cowardly criminal acts.”

“The attack is the latest in the series of crimes committed by [army commander Abdul Fattah al-Burhan's] militia and remnants of the former regime,” it added.

It called on international rights and human rights groups to “condemn these barbaric extremist acts against innocent people.”

The RSF captured El Daein after the army retreated from it in November.

Activists on Facebook said the army’s strikes on Tuesday targeted residential areas, while others said they hit RSF positions, causing losses in lives and damaging military equipment.

Separately, witnesses said clashes erupted again in the capital Khartoum. They said the RSF shelled army positions with heavy artillery in the general command area.


Israel Pounds Gaza as US Vetoes UN Truce Resolution

Israel kept up its deadly bombardment of war-torn Gaza as Washington vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire in the Palestinian territory. SAID KHATIB / AFP
Israel kept up its deadly bombardment of war-torn Gaza as Washington vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire in the Palestinian territory. SAID KHATIB / AFP
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Israel Pounds Gaza as US Vetoes UN Truce Resolution

Israel kept up its deadly bombardment of war-torn Gaza as Washington vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire in the Palestinian territory. SAID KHATIB / AFP
Israel kept up its deadly bombardment of war-torn Gaza as Washington vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire in the Palestinian territory. SAID KHATIB / AFP

Israel kept up its deadly bombardment of war-torn Gaza as Washington vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire in the Palestinian territory.
Global powers trying to navigate a way out of the spiraling crisis have so far come up short, and mediation efforts have so far failed to secure a truce to halt the fighting, AFP said.
Adding to Gaza's woes, the UN's food agency said Tuesday that it had to stop desperately-needed deliveries to the north of the territory after facing "complete chaos and violence" there -- a decision condemned by Hamas.
The World Food Programme had only just resumed deliveries Sunday but said its convoy was met with gunfire, violence and looting, while a truck driver was beaten.
"We are shocked about this decision by the World Food Programme to suspend the delivery of food aid in northern Gaza, which means a death sentence and death for three-quarters of a million people," the Hamas government media office said Tuesday night.
Calling on the agency to "immediately reverse its disastrous decision", it said "we hold the United Nations and the international community responsible".
Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, Gaza has been plunged into a food crisis, with outside aid severely restricted.
The UN has repeatedly sounded the alarm over the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, warning that food shortages could lead to an "explosion" of preventable child deaths.
More than four months of relentless fighting have flattened much of the coastal territory, pushing 2.2 million people to the brink of famine and displacing three-quarters of the population, according to UN estimates.
"We can't take it anymore. We do not have flour, we don't even know where to go in this cold weather," said Ahmad, a resident of Gaza city, where streets are strewn with rubble from destroyed buildings and garbage.
"We demand a ceasefire. We want to live," he said.
Ceasefire veto
But in New York, Washington vetoed a UN Security Council resolution drafted by Algeria, which demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the "unconditional" release of all hostages kidnapped in the October 7 attacks.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Washington's ambassador to the UN, called the vote "wishful and irresponsible" as it could put negotiations to free hostages in Gaza "in jeopardy".
The veto provoked criticism from countries including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and even close US allies France and Slovenia.
Hamas said the US veto equalled "a green light for the occupation to commit more massacres".
As world powers voted, Israeli strikes pounded Gaza early Wednesday as fighting on the ground raged on, leaving 103 people dead, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the territory.
Witnesses reported heavy fire in areas around Gaza, including the south of the territory's main city Khan Yunis and Rafah near the Egyptian border, where around 1.4 million displaced Palestinians have sought shelter.
'Graveyard'
Rafah, Gaza's last city to face a ground invasion by Israeli ground troops, is also the main entry point for desperately needed relief supplies via Egypt.
Qatar, which has played a key role in mediation efforts between Hamas and Israel, said Tuesday that medicines sent into Gaza under a deal co-negotiated by France had reached the hostages held by Hamas, in exchange for a shipment of humanitarian aid.
But overall, negotiation efforts have failed to secure a longterm truce and despite international pressure, Israel has insisted that a ground operation Rafah is essential to destroy Hamas.
The war started when Hamas launched its unprecedented attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.
Hamas also took about 250 hostages -- 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel's retaliatory campaign has killed at least 29,195 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by the territory's health ministry.

Leaders of global humanitarian groups said a ground offensive could turn the Rafah into a "graveyard", warning of the "truly unimaginable" consequences of a full-scale assault.
Israel has said that unless all the hostages are freed by the start of Ramadan on March 10 or 11, it will push on with its offensive during the Muslim holy month, including in Rafah.
G20 firestorm
On Wednesday, Brett McGurk, the White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa -- is expected to land in Egypt and then head to Israel Thursday to advance a hostage deal.
McGurk will also reiterate US President Joe Biden's concerns about an Israeli operation in Rafah, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.
Adding to the international chorus of criticism of Israel, Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Tuesday accused Israel of committing a "genocide" of the Palestinians in Gaza -- echoing comments made by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Lula sparked a diplomatic firestorm with his comments ahead of the G20 summit in Rio de Janeiro opening Wednesday, and Israel have declared him "persona non grata".


Aoun Continues to Break from Hezbollah: We Are Not Bound to Gaza by Defense Treaty

This picture taken from an Israeli position along the border with southern Lebanon shows smoke billowing from a site between the Lebanese villages of Odaisseh and Markaba during Israeli bombardment on February 19, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)
This picture taken from an Israeli position along the border with southern Lebanon shows smoke billowing from a site between the Lebanese villages of Odaisseh and Markaba during Israeli bombardment on February 19, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)
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Aoun Continues to Break from Hezbollah: We Are Not Bound to Gaza by Defense Treaty

This picture taken from an Israeli position along the border with southern Lebanon shows smoke billowing from a site between the Lebanese villages of Odaisseh and Markaba during Israeli bombardment on February 19, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)
This picture taken from an Israeli position along the border with southern Lebanon shows smoke billowing from a site between the Lebanese villages of Odaisseh and Markaba during Israeli bombardment on February 19, 2024, amid ongoing cross-border tensions as fighting continues between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. (AFP)

Lebanese former President Michel Aoun continued to break away from his ally Hezbollah by openly criticizing the party for opening the southern front to wage clashes with Israel in solidarity with Gaza.

He said: “We are not bound to Gaza with a defense treaty.”

He is the latest Christian figure that has been calling for keeping Lebanon away from the war in Gaza.

In a televised interview to his Free Patriotic Movement-affiliated OTV, Aoun said Lebanon was not bound by a defense treaty to Gaza. “However, one segment of the Lebanese people has taken this choice, while the government is incapable of taking a position. A victory would be for the nation, not a portion of it,” he added.

Moreover, he dismissed claims that the decision to go to war was aimed at preempting an Israeli attack on Lebanon. “Getting involved in a confrontation doesn’t lessen the danger, but increases it,” he stressed.

Furthermore, he also dismissed efforts to tie the developments in Gaza and the South to a deal over the Lebanese presidency.

Lebanon has been without a president since Aoun’s term ended in October 2022. Bickering between political parties has thwarted the election of a successor.

The dispute over the presidency is another issue that has driven a wedge between the FPM and Hezbollah. The party backs the nomination of Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh, while the FPM does not. Its current leader, Gebran Bassil, has presidential aspirations even though he has not declared his candidacy.

Tensions deepened between the allies over Hezbollah’s participation in government sessions that approved various state appointments and its MPs’ participation in a parliament meeting that approved the extension of the term of the army commander.

The Christian Kataeb party has been another vocal critic of Hezbollah’s fighting against Israel in the South.

Following a meeting of its political bureau, headed by Kataeb leader MP Sami Gemayel, it slammed the “proliferation of destructive weapons in villages and residential areas and the phenomenon of tunnels that threaten to drag everyone and everything in the country to war that Lebanon and the Lebanese people don’t want.”

The only reasonable option available is for the Lebanese army to seize control of the situation, said the Kataeb in a statement. “Only the army has the authority before the people and international community to defend Lebanon and protect its borders” in cooperation with the United Nations peacekeeping force.

“Deterring attacks should not be entrusted to a militia that has usurped the state. Rather, it is the responsibility of legitimate institutions that operate according to the constitution and laws, and through active and effective diplomacy that supports the Lebanese army, demands a ceasefire and prevents the spillover of the war,” it stressed.

Hezbollah, meanwhile, refuses to discuss any issues related to the war before the conflict in Gaza is over.

Deputy party leader Sheikh Naim Qassem said in recent days: “Let it be clear, we have three ‘nos’: No backing down from supporting Gaza as long as the [Israeli] aggression continues. No to succumbing to Israeli or western threats, because we believe that defense is a duty and without it there can be no stability.”

“And no to any discussion about the future of southern Lebanon, both on the Lebanese and Palestinian side of the border, before the end of the aggression on Gaza,” he added.


UN Aid Agency Says Israel Hasn’t Shown Evidence Its Workers Joined Rampage

Palestinians who fled from the northern Gaza Strip and Rafah town, outside their shelters in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 20 February 2024. (EPA)
Palestinians who fled from the northern Gaza Strip and Rafah town, outside their shelters in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 20 February 2024. (EPA)
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UN Aid Agency Says Israel Hasn’t Shown Evidence Its Workers Joined Rampage

Palestinians who fled from the northern Gaza Strip and Rafah town, outside their shelters in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 20 February 2024. (EPA)
Palestinians who fled from the northern Gaza Strip and Rafah town, outside their shelters in Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 20 February 2024. (EPA)

The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees says the United Nations still has not received any evidence from Israel supporting its claims that 12 of the agency’s employees participated in the Oct. 7 rampage that sparked the war.

Israel released a document last month identifying the 12 workers along with the allegations against them, and accusing some of participating in kidnappings. But it has released little of the evidence collected against the workers.

The allegations prompted key donors, including the United States, to suspend funding to UNRWA. The agency, the main provider of aid in Gaza, has warned it will have to halt its operations if funding is not soon restored.

Philippe Lazzarini, the director of UNRWA, has dismissed the 10 surviving workers; the agency says the other two were killed in fighting. The UN has also opened two investigations into UNRWA’s operations.

In a podcast Tuesday, Lazzarini said Israel still has not presented formal evidence to the UN.

“The UN has never, never, ever received any written dossier, despite our repeated call for cooperation from the Israeli authorities,” he said. He added that agency investigators are looking into the allegations and called on anyone with evidence to share it with the investigation team.

Israel has long accused UNRWA of tolerating Hamas activities in and around UN facilities and in some cases even cooperating with the militant group. Lazzarini has denied this and says his agency has safeguards in place to discipline any employee who violates the UN ideals of neutrality.


Lebanese Warehouse Hit in Israeli Strike Burns for the Second Day Ghazieh

Firefighters extinguish a fire at a destroyed warehouse that was targeted on Monday by Israeli airstrikes, at an industrial district in the southern coastal town of Ghazieh, Lebanon, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP)
Firefighters extinguish a fire at a destroyed warehouse that was targeted on Monday by Israeli airstrikes, at an industrial district in the southern coastal town of Ghazieh, Lebanon, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP)
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Lebanese Warehouse Hit in Israeli Strike Burns for the Second Day Ghazieh

Firefighters extinguish a fire at a destroyed warehouse that was targeted on Monday by Israeli airstrikes, at an industrial district in the southern coastal town of Ghazieh, Lebanon, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP)
Firefighters extinguish a fire at a destroyed warehouse that was targeted on Monday by Israeli airstrikes, at an industrial district in the southern coastal town of Ghazieh, Lebanon, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (AP)

Firefighters in southern Lebanon were battling a diesel fuel fire in a warehouse that was struck by Israeli jets for a second day Tuesday.

The Israeli military’s Arabic spokesperson Avichay Adraee said the attack Monday targeted a weapons warehouse that belonged to the militant group Hezbollah.

The strike that wounded 14 people was one of the largest near a major Lebanese city since clashes between the Israeli military and Hezbollah along the Lebanese-Israeli border erupted after the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7.

Mohamad Khalifa, the owner of the warehouse, denied allegations that the facility belonged to Hezbollah.

“This is a company registered for 11 years that works with electricity generators, open from morning until night, receiving customers all day,” he told The Associated Press. “There is nothing hidden here. The claim that this has weapons is a lie.”

The airstrike reduced the warehouse to scraps, with fuel fires slowly burning.


US Again Vetoes UN Action in Israel-Hamas War, Blocks Ceasefire Call

 Palestinian children wait to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen amid shortages of food supplies, as the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas continues, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, February 20, 2024. (Reuters)
Palestinian children wait to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen amid shortages of food supplies, as the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas continues, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, February 20, 2024. (Reuters)
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US Again Vetoes UN Action in Israel-Hamas War, Blocks Ceasefire Call

 Palestinian children wait to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen amid shortages of food supplies, as the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas continues, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, February 20, 2024. (Reuters)
Palestinian children wait to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen amid shortages of food supplies, as the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas continues, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, February 20, 2024. (Reuters)

The United States on Tuesday again vetoed a draft United Nations Security Council resolution on the Israel-Hamas war, blocking a demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire as it instead pushes the 15-member body to call for a temporary ceasefire linked to the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Thirteen council members voted in favor of the Algerian-drafted text, while Britain abstained. It was the third such US veto since the start of the current fighting on Oct. 7.

"A vote in favor of this draft resolution is support to the Palestinians right to life. Conversely, voting against it implies an endorsement of the brutal violence and collective punishment inflicted upon them," Algeria's UN Ambassador Amar Bendjama told the council before the vote.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield signaled on Saturday that the US would veto the draft resolution over concerns it could jeopardize talks between the US, Egypt, Israel and Qatar that seek to broker a pause in the war and the release of hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

"Demanding an immediate, unconditional ceasefire without an agreement requiring Hamas to release the hostages will not bring about a durable peace. Instead, it could extend the fighting between Hamas and Israel," Thomas-Greenfield told the council ahead of the vote.

The Algerian-drafted resolution vetoed by the US did not link a ceasefire to the release of hostages. It separately demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.

"Simply calling for a ceasefire - as this resolution does - will not make it happen," Britain's UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward told the council after the vote. "The way to stop the fighting, and potentially stop it from restarting, is to begin with a pause to get hostages out and aid in."

Temporary ceasefire

The US has now proposed a rival draft resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war and opposing a major ground offensive by its ally Israel in Rafah, according to the text seen by Reuters on Monday. It said it plans to allow time for negotiations and will not rush to a vote.

Until now, Washington has been averse to the word ceasefire in any UN action on the Israel-Hamas war, but the US text echoes language that President Joe Biden said he used last week in conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The US draft resolution would see the Security Council "underscore its support for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released, and calls for lifting all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale."

This is the second time since Oct. 7 that Washington has proposed a Security Council resolution on Gaza. Russia and China vetoed its first attempt in late October.

Washington traditionally shields Israel from UN action. But it has also abstained twice, allowing the council to adopt resolutions that aimed to boost aid to Gaza and called for extended pauses in fighting.

The war began when fighters from the Hamas militant group that runs Gaza attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and capturing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. In retaliation, Israel launched a military assault on Gaza that health authorities say has killed nearly 29,000 Palestinians with thousands more bodies feared lost amid the ruins.

In December, more than three-quarters of the 193-member UN General Assembly voted to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. General Assembly resolutions are not binding but carry political weight, reflecting a global view on the war.