WHO Sending Medics and Supplies to Türkiye and Syria Earthquake Zone

Members of the Algerian rescue team and Syrian army soldiers search for survivors at the site of a damaged building, in the aftermath of the earthquake in Aleppo, Syria February 8, 2023. (Reuters)
Members of the Algerian rescue team and Syrian army soldiers search for survivors at the site of a damaged building, in the aftermath of the earthquake in Aleppo, Syria February 8, 2023. (Reuters)
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WHO Sending Medics and Supplies to Türkiye and Syria Earthquake Zone

Members of the Algerian rescue team and Syrian army soldiers search for survivors at the site of a damaged building, in the aftermath of the earthquake in Aleppo, Syria February 8, 2023. (Reuters)
Members of the Algerian rescue team and Syrian army soldiers search for survivors at the site of a damaged building, in the aftermath of the earthquake in Aleppo, Syria February 8, 2023. (Reuters)

The World Health Organization is deploying expert teams and flights with medical supplies to Türkiye and Syria after Monday's devastating earthquake.

It will send a high-level delegation to coordinate its response as well as three flights with medical supplies, one of which is already on its way to Istanbul, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a media briefing on Wednesday.

"The health needs are tremendous," said Dr. Iman Shankiti, the WHO representative for Syria.

The combined death toll in the two countries is currently more than 11,000 people. WHO officials have previously estimated that the toll may reach more than 20,000 deaths after the disaster.

Many thousands are also injured, Shankiti said, adding that the Syrian healthcare system was already on its knees after years of war. In Turkey, WHO representative Batyr Berdyklychev said more than 53,000 people were injured and aftershocks are continuing.

As well as trauma kits, WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said that mental health support was also critical for survivors, as well as supporting other ongoing medical needs. WHO has released $3 million for its initial response.

The WHO incident manager for the earthquake, Rob Holden, said that many people need support with the "basics of life", such as clean water and shelter in worsening weather conditions.

"We are in real danger of seeing a secondary disaster which may cause harm to more people than the initial disaster if we don't move with the same intention and intensity as we are doing on the search and rescue side," he said.



Violence Escalates between Israel, Lebanon’s Hezbollah

 Smoke billows across the horizon along the hills in southern Lebanon from Israeli bombardment from a position along the border in northern Israel on December 10, 2023. (AFP)
Smoke billows across the horizon along the hills in southern Lebanon from Israeli bombardment from a position along the border in northern Israel on December 10, 2023. (AFP)
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Violence Escalates between Israel, Lebanon’s Hezbollah

 Smoke billows across the horizon along the hills in southern Lebanon from Israeli bombardment from a position along the border in northern Israel on December 10, 2023. (AFP)
Smoke billows across the horizon along the hills in southern Lebanon from Israeli bombardment from a position along the border in northern Israel on December 10, 2023. (AFP)

Violence escalated at Lebanon's border with Israel on Sunday as Hezbollah launched explosive drones and powerful missiles at Israeli positions and Israeli air strikes rocked several towns and villages in south Lebanon.

Israel and the Iran-backed Hezbollah have been trading fire since the war in Gaza erupted two months ago, in their worst hostilities since a 2006 conflict. The violence has largely been contained to the border area.

Israeli attacks in south Lebanon included air strikes on the town of Aitaroun which destroyed and damaged numerous houses, Lebanon's National News Agency said. It did not say if there were any casualties.

The Israeli army did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Senior Hezbollah politician Hassan Fadlallah, in a statement sent to Reuters, said Israeli air strikes were a "new escalation" to which the group was responding with new types of attacks, be it "in the nature of the weapons (used) or the targeted sites".

The Israeli army earlier said "suspicious aerial targets" had crossed from Lebanon and two were intercepted. Two Israeli soldiers were moderately wounded and a number of others lightly injured from shrapnel and smoke inhalation, it said.

Israeli fighter jets carried out "an extensive series of strikes on Hezbollah terror targets in Lebanese territory", it said. Sirens sounded in Israel at several locations at the border.

In Beirut, residents saw what appeared to be two warplanes streaking across a clear blue sky, leaving vapor trails behind them.

Hezbollah statements say its attacks aim to support Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Senior Hezbollah official Sheikh Ali Damoush said in a speech on Sunday the group would continue in its effort to "exhaust the enemy, and will not stop unless the aggression against Gaza and Lebanon stops".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that Beirut would be turned "into Gaza" if Hezbollah started an all-out war.

In one of several attacks announced by Hezbollah on Sunday, the group said it had launched the explosive drones at an Israeli command position near Ya'ara. In another, Hezbollah said it had fired Burkan (Volcano) missiles, which carry hundreds of kilograms of explosives.

Israeli air strikes were also reported on the outskirts of the Lebanese village of Yaroun, not far from the location of another of the Israeli positions Hezbollah said it had targeted on Sunday.

Those air strikes broke windows of houses, shops and a school in the nearby village of Rmeich, Toni Elias, a priest in Rmeich, told Reuters by phone.

Violence at the border has killed more than 120 people in Lebanon, including 85 Hezbollah fighters and 16 civilians. In Israel, the hostilities have killed seven soldiers and four civilians.


Gaza ‘Catastrophic’ Health Situation Almost Impossible to Improve, Warns WHO

Palestinians carry bags of foodstuff in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 10, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas. (AFP)
Palestinians carry bags of foodstuff in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 10, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas. (AFP)
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Gaza ‘Catastrophic’ Health Situation Almost Impossible to Improve, Warns WHO

Palestinians carry bags of foodstuff in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 10, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas. (AFP)
Palestinians carry bags of foodstuff in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 10, 2023, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian movement Hamas. (AFP)

The World Health Organization chief said on Sunday it will be all but impossible to improve the "catastrophic" health situation in Gaza even as the board passed an emergency WHO motion by consensus to secure more medical access.

The emergency action, proposed by Afghanistan, Qatar, Yemen and Morocco, seeks passage into Gaza for medical personnel and supplies, requires the WHO to document violence against healthcare workers and patients and to secure funding to rebuild hospitals.

"I must be frank with you: these tasks are almost impossible in the current circumstances," WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Tedros told the 34-member board in Geneva that medical needs in Gaza had surged and the risk of disease had grown, yet the health system had been reduced to a third of its pre-conflict capacity.

Gaza hospitals have come under bombardment and some have been besieged or raided as part of Israel's response to Hamas' deadly Oct. 7 attacks. Those that remain open are overwhelmed by the numbers of dead and wounded arriving and sometimes procedures are carried out without anesthetics.

A WHO database shows there have been 449 attacks on healthcare facilities in Palestinian territories since Oct. 7, without assigning blame.

Tedros said that it would be hard to meet the board's requests given the security situation on the ground and said he deeply regretted that the United Nations Security Council could not agree on a ceasefire following a US veto.

"Resupplying health facilities has become extremely difficult and is deeply compromised by the security situation on the ground and inadequate resupply from outside Gaza," he said.

Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila deplored the critical shortages of medicines. "The urgency of the situation cannot be overstated," she told the WHO meeting by video link.

WHO board member the United States signaled in the meeting that it would not oppose the text of the motion which was adopted without a vote later on Sunday.

The motion was criticized by Israel, which has said it puts disproportionate focus on Israel and does not address what it describes as Hamas' use of civilians as human shields, by placing command centers and weapons inside hospitals.

"If this session serves any purpose at all, it will only encourage Hamas' actions," Israeli ambassador Meirav Eilon Shahar told the meeting. Israel is not a WHO board member.

WHO emergency sessions are rare and have occurred during health crises including during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and during West Africa's Ebola epidemic in 2015. Qatar, which has mediated in the Israel-Hamas conflict, chaired the session.


African Mediators Claim Progress in Mediation Efforts to End Sudan’s War

A rainbow is seen over makeshift shelters of Sudanese refugees, who fled the conflict in El Geneina, West Darfur, during sunset in Adre, Chad, July 27, 2023. (Reuters)
A rainbow is seen over makeshift shelters of Sudanese refugees, who fled the conflict in El Geneina, West Darfur, during sunset in Adre, Chad, July 27, 2023. (Reuters)
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African Mediators Claim Progress in Mediation Efforts to End Sudan’s War

A rainbow is seen over makeshift shelters of Sudanese refugees, who fled the conflict in El Geneina, West Darfur, during sunset in Adre, Chad, July 27, 2023. (Reuters)
A rainbow is seen over makeshift shelters of Sudanese refugees, who fled the conflict in El Geneina, West Darfur, during sunset in Adre, Chad, July 27, 2023. (Reuters)

An African regional body involved in efforts to mediate over the war in Sudan says it has secured a commitment from warring parties to implement a ceasefire and to hold a political dialogue aimed at resolving the conflict.

There was no immediate comment from Sudan's army or the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), which have been locked since mid-April in a conflict that has devastated the capital Khartoum and triggered waves of ethnic killings in Darfur despite several diplomatic efforts to halt the fighting.

At talks on Saturday in Djibouti, the current chair of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Sudan's army chief Abdel Fattah al Burhan, agreed to a one-on-one meeting with RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, an IGAD statement said.

In a phone call Dagalo, widely known as Hemedti, also agreed to the ceasefire proposal and a meeting with Burhan, the statement said.

Burhan and Hemedti had "accepted the principle of meeting within 15 days in order to pave the way for a series of confidence-building measures between the two parties that lead to the launch of a political process", said Alexis Mohammed, adviser to Djibouti's president.

Earlier, in an address the Djibouti meeting, Burhan accused the RSF of "barbaric attacks" but said the army had not closed the door on finding a peaceful solution.

Hemedti, whose whereabouts are unknown, addressed the IGAD meeting remotely, blaming the outbreak of the war on loyalists of former president Omar al-Bashir who are powerful within the army. He called for reform of the army and the formation of a civilian government.

The war between the army and the RSF erupted over an internationally backed plan to merge the paramilitary force into the army and launch a transition towards elections.

The army and the RSF had shared power after Bashir was toppled during a popular uprising in 2019. Before they came to blows, they jointly staged a coup in 2021 that upended efforts to steer Sudan towards democracy.

On Friday, the United States said it had formally determined that both sides in the conflict had committed war crimes.

In response, the RSF issued a statement on Sunday denying that it had carried out ethnic cleansing in Darfur or was responsible for sexual violence. The army has also denied the charges against it.

Indirect talks between the army and the RSF brokered by Saudi Arabia and the United States that have stumbled several times faltered again last week as both sides pressed on with their military campaigns.


Abdollahian: No Agreement on Palestine was Reached without Consulting Iran

Abdollahian speaks to a group of Tehran University students on Saturday. (Iranian Foreign Ministry)
Abdollahian speaks to a group of Tehran University students on Saturday. (Iranian Foreign Ministry)
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Abdollahian: No Agreement on Palestine was Reached without Consulting Iran

Abdollahian speaks to a group of Tehran University students on Saturday. (Iranian Foreign Ministry)
Abdollahian speaks to a group of Tehran University students on Saturday. (Iranian Foreign Ministry)

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Abdollahian said that no agreement on Palestine had been reached without consulting Iran, and warned of an “uncontrollable explosion” in the Middle East if the United States continued to support Israel in the war against Hamas in Gaza. This came after Washington used its veto against a draft resolution in the UN Security Council.
 In a phone call with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday, Abdollahian said: “As long as America supports the crimes of the Zionist regime and the continuation of the war… there is a possibility of an uncontrollable explosion in the situation of the region.”
The Iranian Foreign Ministry’s statement came after the United States used its veto, on Friday, against a draft resolution in the UN Security Council calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in the Gaza Strip.
He praised the UN chief’s decision to use Article 99 of the UN Charter, as “brave action to maintain international peace and security.”
In a speech to the students of the University of Tehran on Saturday, Abdollahian said that no agreement had been reached on Palestine without consulting Iran, stressing the close coordination between diplomacy and the field, in reference to the cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Quds Force, which is entrusted with the foreign operations of the Revolutionary Guards.
“We support the resistance groups, and this is within the framework of our values, but they make decisions according to their interests and conditions,” Abdollahian said.
He continued: “The resistance’s decision to attack US bases in the region was because of [US] explicit support [for Israel].”
 The Iranian minister reiterated previous statements about his country receiving messages from the US, saying: “In one of these messages, they asked us to tell the resistance groups, to stop their attacks on [US] bases.”
He added: “Our answer was clear: We will not issue any orders because they are independent, and Iran respects their decisions and continues to support them.”


UN Chief Says He Will Not Give Up Appeals for Ceasefire in Gaza

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting called in response to the Secretary-General invoking Article 99 of the United Nations charter to address the humanitarian crisis being caused by conflict between Israel and Hamas in New York, New York, USA, 08 December 2023. EPA/JUSTIN LANE
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting called in response to the Secretary-General invoking Article 99 of the United Nations charter to address the humanitarian crisis being caused by conflict between Israel and Hamas in New York, New York, USA, 08 December 2023. EPA/JUSTIN LANE
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UN Chief Says He Will Not Give Up Appeals for Ceasefire in Gaza

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting called in response to the Secretary-General invoking Article 99 of the United Nations charter to address the humanitarian crisis being caused by conflict between Israel and Hamas in New York, New York, USA, 08 December 2023. EPA/JUSTIN LANE
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting called in response to the Secretary-General invoking Article 99 of the United Nations charter to address the humanitarian crisis being caused by conflict between Israel and Hamas in New York, New York, USA, 08 December 2023. EPA/JUSTIN LANE

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday he will not give up appealing for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, adding that the war undermined the credibility and authority of the Security Council.
Gueterres was speaking at the Doha Forum conference as Washington vetoed on Friday a proposed UN Security Council demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the war between Israel and Palestinian group Hamas, Reuters said.
"I urged the Security Council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and I reiterated my appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared," Guterres said.
"Regrettably, the Security Council failed to do it, but that does not make it less necessary," he said.
"I will not give up," Guterres added.
Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told the gathering that Doha will continue to pressure Israel and Hamas for a truce despite "narrowing" chances.
Qatar has been leading negotiations between the group and Israel.
Sheikh Mohammed said hostages were released from Gaza because of negotiations and not because of Israel's military actions.
The head of UNRWA, the UN aid agency for Palestinians, said the dehumanization of Palestinians has allowed the international community to tolerate Israel's continued attacks on Gaza.
"There is no doubt that a humanitarian ceasefire is needed if we want to put an end to hell on earth right now in Gaza," UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said.
The United States and Israel oppose a ceasefire because they believe it would only benefit Hamas. Washington instead supports pauses in fighting to protect civilians and allow the release of hostages taken by Hamas in a deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel.


UNRWA Chief Says Dehumanization of Palestinians Enable Israeli Attacks

Palestinian employees of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) take part in a protest against job cuts (Reuters)
Palestinian employees of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) take part in a protest against job cuts (Reuters)
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UNRWA Chief Says Dehumanization of Palestinians Enable Israeli Attacks

Palestinian employees of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) take part in a protest against job cuts (Reuters)
Palestinian employees of United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) take part in a protest against job cuts (Reuters)

The head of UNRWA, the UN aid agency for Palestinians, on Sunday said that dehumanization of Palestinians has allowed the international community to bear continued Israeli attacks in Gaza.

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said the refugee agency is on the verge of collapsing in Gaza, adding that an immediate ceasefire is needed to end “hell on earth” in Gaza.

On Sunday, Israeli forces pushed into southern Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled in search of shelter from bombardments and intense fighting with Hamas.

Aid groups have sounded the alarm on the "apocalyptic" humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territory, warning it is on the brink of being overwhelmed by disease and starvation.

For its part, Hamas said Sunday that Israel had launched a series of "very violent raids" targeting the southern city of Khan Yunis and the road from there to Rafah, near the border with Egypt.


French Frigate Downs Drones Over Red Sea

 A French frigate - File photo by AFP
A French frigate - File photo by AFP
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French Frigate Downs Drones Over Red Sea

 A French frigate - File photo by AFP
A French frigate - File photo by AFP

A French frigate shot down two drones in the Red Sea that were heading towards it from the coast of Yemen, the French military said on Sunday.

"The interception and destruction of these two identified threats" were carried out late Saturday by the frigate Languedoc, which operates in the Red Sea, the general staff said in a press release.

The interceptions happened at 2030 GMT and 2230 GMT, it added, and were 110 km (68 miles) from the Yemeni coast, AFP reported.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis on Saturday threatened to attack any vessels heading to Israeli ports unless food and medicine were allowed into the besieged Gaza Strip.

The latest warning comes amid heightened tensions in the Red Sea and surrounding waters following a series of maritime attacks by Houthis since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7.

An American destroyer shot down three drones last week while providing assistance to commercial ships in the Red Sea targeted by attacks from Yemen, according to Washington, which denounced "a direct threat" to maritime security.


Israeli Army Says Five Soldiers Have Died

Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip next to military vehicles amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in this handout image released December 7, 2023. Israel Army /Handout via REUTERS
Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip next to military vehicles amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in this handout image released December 7, 2023. Israel Army /Handout via REUTERS
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Israeli Army Says Five Soldiers Have Died

Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip next to military vehicles amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in this handout image released December 7, 2023. Israel Army /Handout via REUTERS
Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip next to military vehicles amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in this handout image released December 7, 2023. Israel Army /Handout via REUTERS

The Israeli army said in a statement early on Sunday that five of its soldiers have died in the Gaza War.
Four soldiers were killed in the battle in Southern Gaza, while the fifth succumbed to his wounds after fighting on October 7, according to the Israeli army statement posted on X.


Ben-Gvir Calls On War Cabinet Not to Allow Palestinian Workers Back Into Israel

A Palestinian police officer checks the documents of Palestinian workers as they enter the Beit Hanoon (Erez) crossing to Israel, September 28, 2023 (Reuters)
A Palestinian police officer checks the documents of Palestinian workers as they enter the Beit Hanoon (Erez) crossing to Israel, September 28, 2023 (Reuters)
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Ben-Gvir Calls On War Cabinet Not to Allow Palestinian Workers Back Into Israel

A Palestinian police officer checks the documents of Palestinian workers as they enter the Beit Hanoon (Erez) crossing to Israel, September 28, 2023 (Reuters)
A Palestinian police officer checks the documents of Palestinian workers as they enter the Beit Hanoon (Erez) crossing to Israel, September 28, 2023 (Reuters)

Israeli media outlets said Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has called on the war cabinet not to allow the re-entry of Palestinian workers into Israel from the West Bank, as it deliberates the matter.

“Bringing workers from the Palestinian Authority, who are covered in incitement, into Israel now, is the continuation of the concept and understanding that we did not understand anything from October 7th!” Ben-Gvir wrote in a post on X.

Since the war began on October 7, only 5,000 Palestinian workers out of 100,000 previously given permits to take jobs in Israel and the occupied West Bank, have been allowed to enter Israel after being classified as essential.


Iraq's Kataeb Hezbollah Vows More Attacks on US Forces

FILE PHOTO: Military vehicles of US soldiers are seen at the al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq, January 13, 2020. REUTERS/John Davison/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Military vehicles of US soldiers are seen at the al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq, January 13, 2020. REUTERS/John Davison/File Photo
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Iraq's Kataeb Hezbollah Vows More Attacks on US Forces

FILE PHOTO: Military vehicles of US soldiers are seen at the al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq, January 13, 2020. REUTERS/John Davison/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Military vehicles of US soldiers are seen at the al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq, January 13, 2020. REUTERS/John Davison/File Photo

Attacks by Iraq's Kataeb Hezbollah militia against US interests on Friday are the start of "new rules of engagement," a security official from the group said in a social media post.

The Iran-aligned group, while not claiming responsibility for a rare attack on the US embassy in Baghdad on Friday, claimed the embassy was a forward operating base for planning military operations, Reuters reported.

The attack was condemned by the US and by Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, who said it was an act of terrorism against a diplomatic mission.

But Kataeb Hezbollah (KH) said the facility was a base involved in planning military operations. Those who described it as a diplomatic mission were "subservient" and self-interested, Abu Ali al-Askari, a security official from the group, said in a social media post.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a Friday call with Sudani, singled out KH and another group, Haraket Hezbollah al-Nujaba, for the recent targeting of US personnel and said the US reserved its right to respond.

US officials have reported more than 80 attacks against US interest in Iraq and Syria since mid-October, most claimed by an umbrella-group of Iran-aligned Iraqi militias over Washington's backing of Israel in its war in Gaza.

The group claimed 11 attacks against US forces on Friday, the most in a single day since they began in mid-October.

Sudani has ordered security forces to investigate the embassy attack and on Saturday replaced the regiment in charge of security in Baghdad's highly fortified Green Zone area where the attacks occurred, according to his office.

In an apparent challenge to Sudani, KH said that members of Iraq's security forces that were cooperating with US forces were "accomplices in its crimes".

As well as diplomatic staff in Iraq, the United States has about 2,500 troops in the country on a mission it says aims to advise and assist local forces battling remnants of ISIS, which in 2014 seized large swathes of both Iraq and Syria before being defeated.