Algeria, France Postpone Negotiations Over Gas

Algerian Minister of Energy and Mines Mohamed Arkab and the CEO of the French energy group (ENGIE), Catherine MacGregor (Ministry of Energy)
Algerian Minister of Energy and Mines Mohamed Arkab and the CEO of the French energy group (ENGIE), Catherine MacGregor (Ministry of Energy)
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Algeria, France Postpone Negotiations Over Gas

Algerian Minister of Energy and Mines Mohamed Arkab and the CEO of the French energy group (ENGIE), Catherine MacGregor (Ministry of Energy)
Algerian Minister of Energy and Mines Mohamed Arkab and the CEO of the French energy group (ENGIE), Catherine MacGregor (Ministry of Energy)

Algerian Minister of Energy and Mines Mohamed Arkab has met with the CEO of the French energy group (Engie), Catherine MacGregor, who visited Algiers on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The meeting addressed the current state of the international natural gas market and commercial opportunities and prospects for investment in exporting electricity and renewable energies, especially the development of hydrogen.

They also discussed the postponed negotiations on the supply of an additional share of gas to France. However, it was decided for the two countries’ presidents to discuss it during their talks in Paris in early May.

During the meeting, the two sides also reviewed the relations between Sonatrach and Engie in the natural gas field and ways and prospects for enhancing cooperation between the two companies, according to the Ministry of Energy.

Sources reported that MacGregor asked Algerian officials to revive the talks on the gas supply deal, suspended since last November.

Negotiations faltered after President Emmanuel Macron said in 2021 that Algeria did not exist as a nation before the French invasion in 1830.

The political relations between the two countries deteriorated, and Algeria suspended the deal after France reduced its visa quota. Paris refused to apologize for its colonial crimes.

According to the same sources, the Algerian government was still reluctant to negotiate the issue of gas supplies with France, and the matter was postponed to be addressed during the visit of President Abdelmadjid Tebboune to Paris.

Last year, Sonatrach and Engie reached an agreement for their contract to purchase and sell natural gas through Medgaz.

The two parties have agreed to define the contractual selling price applicable over three years, up to 2024, to take market conditions into account.

Over the past year, Sonatrach has worked to amend contracts with its Italian, Spanish, and Slovenian partners to raise Algerian gas prices to benefit from the record-high prices in the market in the context of the war in Ukraine.

Last October, French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne noted that France does not depend heavily on natural gas but said Paris wants to develop joint projects in the sector with Algeria "to increase the efficiency of its gas production capacity, which will increase its export capacity to Europe."

Borne highlighted that Algerian gas represents nine percent of France's energy imports, and Paris hoped to continue developing its partnership with Algeria in this field, especially in liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Still, at the end of her visit, the Prime Minister could not obtain an Algerian pledge to revive negotiations on increasing energy supplies.



Yellen Concerned about Israel's Threats to Cut off Palestinian Banks

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen attends a press conference at the US Ambassador's residence in Beijing on April 8, 2024. (Photo by Pedro Pardo / AFP)
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen attends a press conference at the US Ambassador's residence in Beijing on April 8, 2024. (Photo by Pedro Pardo / AFP)
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Yellen Concerned about Israel's Threats to Cut off Palestinian Banks

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen attends a press conference at the US Ambassador's residence in Beijing on April 8, 2024. (Photo by Pedro Pardo / AFP)
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen attends a press conference at the US Ambassador's residence in Beijing on April 8, 2024. (Photo by Pedro Pardo / AFP)

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Thursday she was concerned by a threat from Israel to cut off Palestinian banks from their Israeli correspondent banks, a move that would close a critical lifeline for the Palestinian economy.

Yellen told a news conference ahead of a G7 finance ministers meeting beginning on Friday that the US and its partners "need to do everything possible to increase humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in Gaza, to curtail violence in the West Bank, and to stabilize the West Bank's economy."

She said she would bring up the issue at the meeting of the Group of Seven industrial democracies in the lakeside resort town of Stresa in northern Italy. "I expect other countries to express concern about the impact of such a decision on the West Bank economy. I think this would have a very adverse effect also on Israel."

Israel's Finance Minister Belazel Smotrich has said he cannot renew a waiver that expires on July 1 which allows Israeli banks to process shekel payments for services and salaries tied to the Palestinian Authority, Reuters reported.

In a post on the X social media site reacting to Yellen's comments, Smotrich said he could not sign the waiver because Palestinians are still funding "terrorism" and Israeli banks can be sued for violating anti-terrorism financing laws.

"The financial system of the Palestinian Authority is infected with terrorism up to its neck," said Smotrich, a member of a far-right Israeli coalition partner that supports settlements in the West Bank. He called critics of the policy "hypocrites."

Yellen said it was important to keep open the Israeli-Palestinian correspondent banking relationships to allow battered economies in the West Bank and Gaza to function and help ensure security.

"These banking channels are critical for processing transactions that enable almost $8 billion a year in imports from Israel, including electricity, water, fuel, and food, as well as facilitating almost $2 billion a year in exports on which Palestinian livelihoods depend," Yellen said.

She added that Israel's withholding of revenues collected on behalf of the Palestinian authority also threatens the West Bank's economic stability.

"My team and I have also engaged directly with the Israeli government to urge action that would bolster the Palestinian economy and, I believe, Israel's own security," Yellen said.

Financial tensions between Israel and the US have risen over US sanctions imposed on Israeli settlers in the West Bank.


Algerian President Says No ‘Prisoners of Conscience’ in the Country

Tebboune with the Algerian Prime Minister on his right and the Director of the Presidency’s Office on his left during his meeting with the political parties (Photo: The Algerian Presidency)
Tebboune with the Algerian Prime Minister on his right and the Director of the Presidency’s Office on his left during his meeting with the political parties (Photo: The Algerian Presidency)
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Algerian President Says No ‘Prisoners of Conscience’ in the Country

Tebboune with the Algerian Prime Minister on his right and the Director of the Presidency’s Office on his left during his meeting with the political parties (Photo: The Algerian Presidency)
Tebboune with the Algerian Prime Minister on his right and the Director of the Presidency’s Office on his left during his meeting with the political parties (Photo: The Algerian Presidency)

Leaders in Algerian political parties, who met with President Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Tuesday, said that he “does not recognize the presence of prisoners of conscience in the country,” in reference to recent accusations by the opposition that the government has imprisoned 230 activists for expressing their views.
Louisa Hanoune, Secretary-General of the Workers’ Party and Youcef Aouchiche, First Secretary of the Opposition Front of Socialist Forces, called on Tebboune to “use his legal authority to issue orders to release prisoners of conscience.”
But the Algerian president replied: “We do not have prisoners of conscience in the country’s prisons... Tell me their names.”
According to the same politicians who attended Tuesday’s meeting, the discussion touched on the case of seventy-year-old journalist Saad Bouakba, who was convicted last year by the judiciary to six months of imprisonment with a suspended sentence, because of a satirical article he wrote about residents of an area south of the capital.
However, Tebboune refused to deal with this case as “restriction against a journalist because of an opinion article,” stressing that he “insulted the residents of an entire region” and added: “We spared him prison due to his age.”
Participants in the meeting also discussed the imprisonment of distinguished journalist, Ihsan El-Kadi, for 7 years, including 5 effective years, on charges of “receiving money from abroad for the purpose of undermining security.”
The charge led to the closure of his media outlet at the end of 2022, while the defense and colleagues of the sixty-year-old journalist confirmed that his writings, which strongly criticized the president, were the reason for his problems with the authorities and his imprisonment.
But Tebboune stressed, according to the politicians, that El-Kadi’s involvement in foreign financing, which is prohibited by law, has led to his prosecution.
According to leaks from the political dialogue, the president warned of “foreign attempts to harm the country’s stability,” and mentioned a specific country that “is targeting us.”
He also spoke about “the unrest in Mali, Niger, and Libya, and the repercussions of the situation in the neighborhood on our national security.”
Algeria’s relations with countries on the African coast deteriorated suddenly at the beginning of this year.

 

 


UNICEF Spokesman in Sudan: Poor Humanitarian Conditions Threaten Lives of Millions of Children

Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese children have become displaced (UNICEF)
Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese children have become displaced (UNICEF)
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UNICEF Spokesman in Sudan: Poor Humanitarian Conditions Threaten Lives of Millions of Children

Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese children have become displaced (UNICEF)
Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese children have become displaced (UNICEF)

The spokesman for the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in Sudan, Othman Shaibah, pointed to obstacles in the delivery of humanitarian aid to Darfur, Khartoum and Kordofan.
Shaibeh stressed that UNICEF urgently needs $240 million to prevent famine in the next six months and reach 3.5 million children under the age of five, who reside in the country’s most vulnerable areas.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Shaibah said that bureaucratic obstacles, interruptions in telecommunications, looting, in addition to the lack of safe and sustainable movement of humanitarian supplies across front lines and borders, all severely hinder children’s access to life-saving humanitarian services.
He emphasized the importance of simplifying administrative requirements, including inspections and clearance processes, to facilitate cross-line operations and the arrival of humanitarian aid through all crossing points, especially from Chad and South Sudan, in line with the international commitments and pledges made in Jeddah.
“The continuous interruption of communications hinders the ability of humanitarian agencies to respond on a large scale, and restricts families’ access to basic services,” he stated, adding: “An almost complete disruption of communications in Sudan, after the closure of the entire network and the Internet in early February, prevented millions of citizens from communicating with their families, receiving remittances from abroad, and obtaining life-saving aid.”
Shaibah also pointed to the need for additional resources to address the regional impact of the crisis, saying: “If aid is not available, the pressure on already scarce resources in host countries may create tensions between local communities and exacerbate the effects of the conflict beyond Sudan’s borders.”
He revealed that the IPC projections for food security in December 2023 indicated that 17.7 million people faced the third stage of acute food insecurity or higher “crises, emergencies, disasters and famine” in the period between October 2023 and February 2024.
“About 3.6 million children currently suffer from acute malnutrition, and this includes more than 730,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, which is the most life-threatening form of malnutrition and requires urgent medical intervention,” the UNICEF spokesman remarked.
He explained that the organization “has taken all possible measures to ensure that children suffering from acute malnutrition throughout Sudan, and in conflict areas, have access to life-saving therapeutic nutrition supplies.”
Shaibah talked about challenges facing the distribution of vaccines and basic health care in Sudan, saying: “Restrictions on access and lack of security are among the main obstacles hindering the movement of vaccines, in addition to the health system which is on the verge of collapse, and front-line workers not receiving their salaries.”
He continued: “For months, supplies have been exhausted and the infrastructure represented by hospitals and health system workers continues to be under constant attack, including cold chains.”
The UNICEF spokesman warned of the spread of epidemic diseases among children, saying that since the beginning of the war, the organization has distributed emergency health supplies to 7.3 million people, and was able to reach 202,000 vulnerable mothers and children in conflict areas and provide them with emergency aid.

 

 


12 Palestinians Killed in Israel's 2-day West Bank Operation

Palestinian doctors and hospital staff react during the funeral of Dr. Osayd Kamal Jabaren at Jenin Hospital in the West Bank city of Jenin, 23 May 2024. EPA/ALAA BADARNEH
Palestinian doctors and hospital staff react during the funeral of Dr. Osayd Kamal Jabaren at Jenin Hospital in the West Bank city of Jenin, 23 May 2024. EPA/ALAA BADARNEH
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12 Palestinians Killed in Israel's 2-day West Bank Operation

Palestinian doctors and hospital staff react during the funeral of Dr. Osayd Kamal Jabaren at Jenin Hospital in the West Bank city of Jenin, 23 May 2024. EPA/ALAA BADARNEH
Palestinian doctors and hospital staff react during the funeral of Dr. Osayd Kamal Jabaren at Jenin Hospital in the West Bank city of Jenin, 23 May 2024. EPA/ALAA BADARNEH

The Israeli military said Thursday it has completed a two-day operation in the occupied West Bank that the Palestinian Health Ministry says killed 12 Palestinians and wounded 25.
Israel launched the operation Tuesday in the city of Jenin and an adjacent urban refugee camp as part of a crackdown against militants in the area. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group said its fighters battled the Israeli forces.
Militant groups claimed at least eight of the dead as fighters: one from Hamas and seven from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Islamic Jihad group said an unspecified number of its fighters were killed.
Among those killed was a surgeon at a local hospital, according to Wissam Abu Baker, the director of Jenin Governmental Hospital. The surgeon was killed on his way to work, Abu Baker said.
Israel did not immediately disclose additional details about the operation.
Jenin and the adjacent urban refugee camp have long been a bastion of armed struggle against Israel’s occupation, and the frequency of raids by Israeli troops has increased during the war in Gaza.


World Court to Rule Friday on Measures over Israel's Rafah Offensive

A Palestinian woman stands next to a damaged building after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 22, 2024.  (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
A Palestinian woman stands next to a damaged building after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 22, 2024. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
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World Court to Rule Friday on Measures over Israel's Rafah Offensive

A Palestinian woman stands next to a damaged building after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 22, 2024.  (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
A Palestinian woman stands next to a damaged building after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 22, 2024. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)

The International Court of Justice will rule on Friday May 24 on South Africa's request to order a halt to Israel's Rafah offensive in Gaza, it said on Thursday.
In hearings last week South Africa had asked the ICJ, also known as the World Court, to order a halt to Israel's offensive in Gaza, and in Rafah in particular, to ensure the survival of the Palestinian people.
The demand for such an emergency measure is part of a larger case brought by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide.
Israel has denounced South Africa's claim that it is violating the 1948 Genocide Convention, saying it makes a mockery of the crime of genocide. The court has previously rejected Israel's demand to throw out the case and has ordered it to prevent acts of genocide against the Palestinians.

Israeli forces killed 35 Palestinians in aerial and ground bombardments across the Gaza Strip on Thursday and battled in close combat with Hamas-led militants in areas of Rafah, health officials and Hamas media said.
Israeli tanks advanced in Rafah's southeast, edged towards the city's western district of Yibna and continued to operate in three eastern suburbs, residents said.


Ship Off Yemen Reports Missile Strike Nearby, Vessel and Crew Are Safe

Houthi soldiers march during a parade, in Sanaa, Yemen, 22 May 2024. EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
Houthi soldiers march during a parade, in Sanaa, Yemen, 22 May 2024. EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
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Ship Off Yemen Reports Missile Strike Nearby, Vessel and Crew Are Safe

Houthi soldiers march during a parade, in Sanaa, Yemen, 22 May 2024. EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
Houthi soldiers march during a parade, in Sanaa, Yemen, 22 May 2024. EPA/YAHYA ARHAB

A merchant ship off the coast of Yemen reported a missile hitting the water nearby, Britain's sea trade monitoring agency reported on Thursday, adding that vessel and all crew are safe and are proceeding to the next port of call.
The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said it had received a report of the incident 98 nautical miles south of Yemen's port city of Hodeidah. The master of the merchant vessel had reported the missile impacting the water near the ship's port side.
British security firm Ambrey said it received a report that a merchant vessel was suspiciously approached 68 nautical miles southwest of Hodeidah and had undergone what it described as "missile attack."
"No injuries or damages were reported," Ambrey said.

On Wednesday, US Central Command forces successfully engaged four uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) in an Iranian-backed Houthi controlled area of Yemen, USCENTCOM said in a statement.

“It was determined these systems presented an imminent threat to US, coalition forces, and merchant vessels in the region,” it said.

“These actions are taken to protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure for US, coalition, and merchant vessels,” the statement added.


Lebanon: One Person Killed, Three Students Injured in Israeli Drone Strike in Nabatieh

Black smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike on Kafar Hamam, a Lebanese border village with Israel in south Lebanon, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)
Black smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike on Kafar Hamam, a Lebanese border village with Israel in south Lebanon, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)
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Lebanon: One Person Killed, Three Students Injured in Israeli Drone Strike in Nabatieh

Black smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike on Kafar Hamam, a Lebanese border village with Israel in south Lebanon, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)
Black smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike on Kafar Hamam, a Lebanese border village with Israel in south Lebanon, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP Photo/Mohammed Zaatari)

An Israeli drone hit a vehicle on a road in Nabatieh in South Lebanon, killing one person and injuring three students.
The Israeli drone missile hit a vehicle early on Thursday on the Kfar Dajjal road south of Nabatieh, killing one person. The vehicle was up in flames, according to Lebanese media outlets.
The missile hit the vehicle at the same time a bus full of students was passing close to the car, which left three students injured.

Civil Defense and Red Cross rescue teams transported the injured to the nearest hospital for treatment. No further details were reported.

Israeli forces have attacked several Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, including border surveillance outposts, caches of missiles and other weaponry and command centers.

Hezbollah has regularly fired missiles across the border with Israel over the past seven months, particularly since the Israeli incursion into the southern city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip. It has struck deeper inside Israel and introduced new and more advanced weaponry.


Israel's Netanyahu Says Palestinian State Recognition a 'Reward for Terror'

Oded Balilty / File photo by The AP
Oded Balilty / File photo by The AP
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Israel's Netanyahu Says Palestinian State Recognition a 'Reward for Terror'

Oded Balilty / File photo by The AP
Oded Balilty / File photo by The AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said the recognition of the State of Palestine by Spain, Ireland and Norway on Wednesday was a "reward for terror".

"The intention of several European countries to recognize a Palestinian state is a reward for terror," he said in a statement, adding a sovereign State of Palestine would be a "terror state" that would "try to repeatedly carry out the massacre of October 7th".

Also, the White House said Wednesday it opposed "unilateral recognition" of a Palestinian state.

President Joe Biden "has been on the record supporting a two-state solution," his national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, told reporters.

"He has been equally emphatic on the record that that two-state solution should be brought about through direct negotiations through the parties, not through unilateral recognition," he said, AFP reported.

He stopped short of criticizing the decision to formally recognize the State of Palestine by the three European countries, all close allies of the United States.

"Each country is entitled to make its own determinations, but the US position on this is clear," Sullivan said.

For his part, Far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich told Netanyahu that he wants to take retaliatory action including severing an arrangement in which Norway handles funds intended to the Palestinian Authority.

Under peace agreements brokered in part by Norway in the 1990s, Israel collects money for the Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank.

But Israel has blocked transfers since the aftermath of the October 7 attack.

Sullivan said that funds should keep going to the Palestinian Authority which the Biden administration wants to strengthen in hopes it can assume control of Gaza from Hamas.

"I think it's wrong on a strategic basis, because withholding funds destabilizes the West Bank," Sullivan said of Israeli moves to stop funds.

"It undermines the search for security and prosperity for the Palestinian people which is in Israel's interests, and, I think, it's wrong to withhold funds that provide basic goods and services to innocent people," he said.

Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have been pushing Israel to move forward on a timeline for a Palestinian state, in part by dangling the prospect of Saudi Arabia normalizing relations with Israel.

But Washington vetoed a recent UN Security Council bid to recognize the State of Palestine, saying that recognition could only come through negotiations that take into account Israel's security interests.


White House Sees More 'Targeted' Rafah Action but Renews Warning

Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 13, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas militant group. (AFP)
Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 13, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas militant group. (AFP)
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White House Sees More 'Targeted' Rafah Action but Renews Warning

Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 13, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas militant group. (AFP)
Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 13, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas militant group. (AFP)

The White House said Wednesday that Israel has so far been taking more "targeted" action in Rafah but renewed its warning to avoid "a lot of death and destruction" in the southern Gaza city.

President Joe Biden earlier this month warned Israel he would stop supplying some arms -- and his administration halted one shipment including massive bombs -- after he voiced opposition to a major assault on Rafah, where more than one million displaced Palestinians had found shelter.

Jake Sullivan, Biden's national security advisor, said he was told during a visit this week to Israel of "refinements" in its plans for Rafah that would allow it "to achieve its military objectives while taking account of civilian harm."

"What we have seen so far in terms of Israel's military operations in that area has been more targeted and limited, has not involved major military operations into the heart of dense urban areas," Sullivan told reporters, Reuters reported.

But he stopped short of saying that Israel had addressed US concerns, adding that Washington was closely watching ongoing Israeli actions.

"There's no mathematical formula. What we're going to be looking at is whether there is a lot of death and destruction from this operation, or if it is more precise and proportional," he said.

"We will see what will unfold."

During a congressional hearing featuring testimony from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Representative Sara Jacobs praised fellow Democrat Biden for his "red line" on Rafah but said the public might not understand where the line was.


Pentagon Chief Tells Israel of Need to Coordinate Humanitarian, Military Gaza Operations

Packages fall towards northern Gaza, after being dropped from a military aircraft, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, as seen from Israel's border with Gaza in southern Israel March 7, 2024. (Reuters)
Packages fall towards northern Gaza, after being dropped from a military aircraft, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, as seen from Israel's border with Gaza in southern Israel March 7, 2024. (Reuters)
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Pentagon Chief Tells Israel of Need to Coordinate Humanitarian, Military Gaza Operations

Packages fall towards northern Gaza, after being dropped from a military aircraft, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, as seen from Israel's border with Gaza in southern Israel March 7, 2024. (Reuters)
Packages fall towards northern Gaza, after being dropped from a military aircraft, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, as seen from Israel's border with Gaza in southern Israel March 7, 2024. (Reuters)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant in a call on Wednesday of the need for an effective mechanism to coordinate humanitarian and military operations in Gaza, the Pentagon said.

Austin also reiterated the US's "strong objections" to the arrest warrant request issued by the ICC Chief Prosecutor.

The secretary of defense stressed the need to increase humanitarian aid into Gaza and to find an "effective mechanism to deconflict humanitarian and military operations inside Gaza."