Deploy peacekeepers to Palestine, says Arab League

Arab League calls for UN peacekeepers to be posted to occupied territories

Ismaeel Naar and Hadya Al Alawi report:

Arab states have called for the “deployment of international protection and peacekeeping forces affiliated with the United Nations in the occupied Palestinian territory until the two-state solution is implemented”.

It did not clarify from which countries the peacekeepers would be drawn, or when the force would be expected to be sent.

Israel occupies the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and has been fighting a war against Hamas in Gaza since October.

In the final communique of the 33rd annual Arab League summit focused on Gaza, the group confirmed that an international peace conference will be held in Manama in the coming months, to “rebuild international momentum to revive the two-state solution”.

They also stressed that responsibility falls on the UN’s Security Council to “take clear measures to implement the two-state solution” and set a timeline for the political process.

The Arab League has also announced a special communique regarding the latest developments on Gaza.

It has denounced Israeli attacks on humanitarian aid lorries and called for an international investigation and intervention to allow unimpeded access into the besieged strip

Two-state solution must be implemented immediately, says Abbas

Hadya Al Alawi reports from Manama:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday called on the international community to “immediately begin implementing the two-state solution”, during a speech at the Arab League summit in Manama, Bahrain.

Mr Abbas repeated the rejection of the displacement of Palestinians and “a repetition of the tragedy of the Nakba”, adding that “war crimes and genocide in Gaza have been ongoing for seven months under US cover”.

He said the US must stop using its veto against “the international consensus”.

“The US has used its veto four times to prevent stopping the war and Palestine from obtaining its UN membership,” Mr Abbas said, warning that “Hamas’s refusal to end the division is in Israel’s interest”.

He said the military operation carried out by Hamas on October 7 “provided the pretext for Israel to attack and destroy the Gaza Strip”.

Jordanian military says it killed two drug smugglers on Syrian border

Khaled Yacoub Oweis reports from Amman:

Jordanian soldiers on Thursday killed two drug smugglers in a gunfight on the Syrian border, a military official said, in the latest infiltration there.

Official television quoted the official as saying that “a large amount of drugs coming from Syrian territory” were seized in the operation.

“The fight resulted in the killing of two of the smugglers and the wounding of others, and their retreat into the Syrian interior and seizure of a number of weapons,” the official said.

Jordan says that groups supported by Iran and the Syrian military have been behind infiltration attempts into the kingdom, aimed at smuggling drugs and weapons.

The New York Times last month reported Iran has been overseeing weapon-smuggling routes through Jordan and other countries to the occupied West Bank.

It is an issue that has become more sensitive since the war in Gaza broke out on October 7.

Israel pledges to intensify operations in Rafah

Israel pledged on Thursday to “intensify” its ground offensive in Rafah, in defiance of global warnings over the fate of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians sheltering in Gaza’s far-southern city.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said “additional forces will enter” the Rafah area and “this activity will intensify”.

“Hundreds of targets have already been struck and our forces are manoeuvring in the area,” Mr Gallant said after a troop visit on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted on Thursday that the ground assault on Rafah was a “critical” part of the army’s mission to destroy Hamas and prevent any repetition of the October 7 attack that started the war.

“The battle in Rafah is critical … It’s not just the rest of their battalions, it’s also like an oxygen line for them for escape and resupply,” Mr Netanyahu said.

Many of those fleeing Rafah have headed for the coastal area of Al Mawasi, which Israel has declared a “humanitarian zone”.

Satellite images also show a vast new tent city that has sprung up near the main southern city of Khan Younis.

Many of the displaced are “exhausted, they are scared, they don’t have resources”, said Javed Ali, head of emergency response in Gaza for the International Medical Corps.


Israel accuses South Africa of making false claims at ICJ genocide case

Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday said South Africa was “presenting biased and false claims” that “rely on unreliable Hamas sources” in response to a case taken to the UN’s top court accusing Israel of genocide.

“Israel acts in accordance with international law and its humanitarian obligations, while implementing measures to minimise harm to civilians and civilian facilities,” a statement from the Foreign Ministry said.

The ministry called on the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, “to reject South Africa’s appeal and to bring the abuse of the court to an end”.


Canada imposes sanctions on ‘extremist’ Israeli settlers

Canada announced Thursday for the first time sanctions against Israeli settlers accused of committing acts of violence against civilians in the West Bank.

The UK, France, the EU and the US took similar measures in recent months.

“With these measures, we are sending a clear message that acts of extremist settler violence are unacceptable and that perpetrators of such violence will face consequences,” Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement.

The sanctions include a ban on transactions with the settlers and on their entry into Canada.

Among those penalised is David Chai Chasdai, who is accused of starting a riot in the Palestinian town of Huwara, south of Nablus, leading to the death of a Palestinian civilian.

Two others, Zvi Bar Yosef and Moshe Sharvit, also face US sanctions.

And another, Yinon Levi, is accused of leading a group of settlers around the Meitarim outpost in attacks on Palestinian and Bedouin civilians, burning their fields and destroying their property.


Israel says Hamas has bodies of two Thai farm workers killed on October 7

The Israeli military says two Thai farm workers believed to have been taken hostage by Hamas were killed in the October 7 attack.

Admiral Daniel Hagari, the military spokesman, said on Thursday that Sonthaya Oakkharasri and Sudthisak Rinthalak were killed during the attack and their bodies are being held by Hamas.

The Hotline for Migrants and Asylum Seekers, an Israeli organisation, said it had celebrated Mr Oakkharasri’s 31st birthday on Thursday, believing he was alive.

Farming communities in southern Israel employ a large number of Thai workers, who are drawn to the country by higher wages.

Admiral Hagari said 39 Thai citizens were killed during the October 7 attack and 31 were kidnapped.

Twenty-three were released during a ceasefire in November and six remain in captivity.


UN says it doesn’t have enough fuel to distribute aid in Gaza from new US pier

The UN says it does not have fuel to deliver humanitarian aid to more than a million desperate Palestinians in Gaza.

It says that unless it gets regular deliveries it will not be able to distribute food and other supplies entering by land or a new, US-built floating pier.

“Fuel imports have, for all practical purposes, stopped,” UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said on Thursday.

“We desperately need fuel. It doesn’t matter how the aid comes, whether it’s by sea or whether by land — without fuel, aid won’t get to the people.”

Negotiations are continuing about the UN’s involvement in distributing the aid throughout the Gaza Strip, Mr Haq said.

He said the safety of UN staff must be ensured in handling aid and that “community awareness and acceptance is paramount to ensure the safety and security of this operation”.

While expressing gratitude to Cyprus and other countries for operating the maritime corridor to Gaza and thanking the US for the floating dock, Mr Haq repeated that the delivery of aid by land is “the most viable, effective and efficient aid delivery method, which is why we need all crossing points open.

“To stave off the horrors of famine we must use the fastest and most obvious route to reach the people of Gaza. And for that we need access by land now.”


Israel to drop free-trade deal with Turkey

Israel’s Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, has said he will drop a free-deal trade with Turkey and impose a 100 per cent tariff on Turkish imports.

The decision comes in retaliation to a similar move from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Israeli imports.

It requires approval from Israel’s Cabinet.

UAE receives 17th group of Palestinian children and cancer patients

The 17th group of wounded Palestinian children and cancer patients arrives from Gaza to receive treatment in UAE hospitals. Wam

The 17th group of wounded Palestinian children and cancer patients arrived in the UAE on Thursday.

Their arrival is part of a directive from President Sheikh Mohamed to provide medical treatment at UAE hospitals for 1,000 wounded children and 1,000 cancer patients from Gaza.

The group, in urgent need of medical assistance, took off from Egypt’s Al Arish International Airport and landed at Zayed International Airport. They were accompanied by family members.

After landing, medical teams swiftly transferred the wounded and those needing immediate care to hospitals.

Other patients and their companions were taken to Emirates Humanitarian City.

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Full text of the Arab League summit’s Bahrain Declaration

At the link below is the full text of the final communique issued by the Arab League after its summit in Bahrain on Thursday.

The Bahrain Declaration includes a lengthy section on the continuing war in Gaza, in which it calls for an immediate ceasefire, sending peacekeepers to the occupied Palestinian territories and a lasting two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

It also discusses the conflicts in Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, among other points.

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Racism a factor in Israel’s war on Gaza, says Arab League chief

Ismaeel Naar reports:

The head of the Arab League has said racism is an element in Israel’s war on Gaza and the international reaction to the conflict.

“Of course there is a racist factor when it comes to Israel’s war on Gaza, pure and simple,” said the league’s Secretary General, Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

“If this was European blood being spilt then it would have been a different case.

“If what Israel has done happened in Ukraine, or in Bosnia, or in Kosovo, would the world remain silent the way they are doing right now with Gaza?

“This is why I speak with such sadness and anger as the Arab League Secretary General.”

Bahrain and Spain look to host joint conference on two-state solution

Ismaeel Naar reports from Manama:

Bahrain and Spain have expressed interest in holding a joint peace conference on the two-state solution, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit told reporters in Manama.

“While we are still working out the triggering mechanism to get this conference started, it’s important that Bahrain and Spain have expressed interest in holding an international conference to find a solution toward the two-state solution,” said Mr Aboul Gheit.

“This shows there’s an Arab and European joint consensus toward the Palestinian issue.”

The conference will not be a single-day event, said Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Abdullatif Al Zayani. 

“We intend for this to be a serious and genuine process to find a path toward a two-state solution.” 

Palestinians fall ill after drinking dirty water as aid blocked from entering Gaza

Nagham Mohanna and Nada AlTaher report:

Even before the closure of the Rafah border crossing, Gazans were facing an alarming humanitarian crisis, with the UN warning famine is edging ever closer.

Only a fraction of the required aid was being allowed into the besieged Gaza Strip. Now there is even less.

Nine days have passed since Israel seized control of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, a major entry point for aid for the 2.3 million population, and many of Gaza’s residents cannot find clean drinking water.

The UN says at least half of Gaza’s water and sanitation facilities have been either “damaged or destroyed”, and about 70 per cent of the people are now drinking contaminated water.

A doctor, 25, displaced from Rafah to the so-called safe zone of Al Mawasi, posted a video of his struggle merely to wash his hands.

“I hold this contaminated pot, pour contaminated water, and hold it again. It’s like I never washed my hands,” Dr Majed Jaber says in the post.

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Emotional lawyer tells ICJ of children’s suffering in Gaza

South African lawyer Adila Hassim was visibly emotional as she told the International Court of Justice of the suffering of children in Gaza.

Ms Hassim took a moment to compose herself as she told judges that more than 14,000 children have been killed and thousands more injured and bereaved due to Israel’s offensive.

Many are unaccompanied and nearly all of Gaza’s children have been “exposed to traumatic experiences” that will stay with them for life, she said.

“These conditions are a direct result of Israel’s military assault on the besieged enclave, with full knowledge of the destructive consequences of this humanitarian crisis.”

An explicit ruling telling Israel to call off its offensive is “the only order that will clearly protect what is left of Palestinian life in Gaza”, she said.

Israel ‘evacuating’ civilians is performative, South Africa tells ICJ

Palestinians who fled Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip arrive with their belongings in Khan Younis. AFP

Israel’s talk of evacuating civilians and setting up humanitarian zones in Gaza is “purely performative”, the International Court of Justice heard on Thursday.

South African barrister Max du Plessis said many of those sheltering in Rafah are “so starved that they can barely walk” and therefore unable to move elsewhere.

And Israel has “deliberately attacked the very shelters to which it directed Palestinians to flee”, he said.

Mr du Plessis compared Israel’s attack on Rafah to the mass killing of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995, for which Serb commanders were found guilty of genocide by the International Criminal Court.

Borrowing from a UN tribunal’s ruling on Srebrenica, he said destruction of Rafah in the full glare of international scrutiny was “intended by Israel to serve as a potent example to all Palestinians of their vulnerability and their defencelessness”.

Arab League issues ‘Bahrain Declaration’ calling for Middle East peace conference

Ismaeel Naar reports from Manama:

The Arab League has ratified and endorsed the “Bahrain Declaration” after the conclusion of the 33rd annual summit held in the Bahraini capital Manama.

The final communique included eight clauses for the joint Arab action for the coming year, led by the call for an international peace conference to revive the two-state solution and resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The Bahrain Declaration also directs the foreign ministers of the Arab countries to take immediate action and communicate with the foreign ministers of the western world to urge them to quickly recognise a Palestinian state.

South Africa seeks Israeli withdrawal from all of Gaza

South Africa is widening its request to the International Court of Justice to seek an Israeli withdrawal from all of Gaza, it told judges on Thursday.

An urgent request filed by South Africa on May 10 had asked judges to order the Israeli military out of Rafah, in the south of Gaza.

But lawyer John Dugard told the court Israel had since “intensified its offensive in the north and in central Gaza”.

“In these circumstances, we have requested the court to issue (a ruling) that orders Israel to cease its military activities throughout Gaza, and to withdraw from the territory,” Mr Dugard said.

Northern Gaza faces ‘catastrophic’ food shortages, US says, as aid pier is completed

Thomas Watkins reports from Washington:

Food insecurity in northern Gaza has reached “catastrophic” levels and Israel’s closure of the Rafah border crossing in the south has further cut supplies at a critical moment, a US official said on Thursday, as the Pentagon announced the completion of an emergency aid pier.

“Across Gaza, 2.2 million people the entire population is facing acute food insecurity. More than half of the population in the north is at catastrophic levels,” said Sonali Korde, assistant to the administrator of USAid’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.

“In the past two weeks we have seen a vital border crossing close and a supply decline at a time when it is critical … we need to have everything open, all routes open.”

Ms Korde was speaking alongside Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, deputy commander of US Central Command, who said international aid would be delivered on a temporary pier attached to a Gaza beach within days.

“Just a few hours ago, the pier was successfully affixed to the beach in Gaza,” he said.

“As we sit here now, we have about 500 tonnes of humanitarian assistance, loaded on ships,” he added, noting this would be delivered within the “next couple of days”.

Israel seized control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on May 7.

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ICJ hears Rafah attack is ‘endgame’ in Israel’s destruction of Gaza

Israel’s attack on Rafah is part of an “endgame” in which Gaza is “utterly destroyed as an area capable of human habitation”, the International Court of Justice has heard.

“This is the last step in the destruction of Gaza and its Palestinian people,” British lawyer Vaughan Lowe told the court on behalf of South Africa.

An ICJ order in January telling Israel to do everything it can to prevent genocide has not proved effective, Mr Lowe said.

Unless the court toughens its orders, “the possibility of rebuilding a viable Palestinian society in Gaza will be destroyed”, he said.

Mr Lowe said many people, especially in the West, had “appeared unwilling to accept” that allegations against Israel could be true.

He said the prevailing attitude was “how could people who look like us and sound like us possibly engage in anything like genocide? But the evidence has to be faced.”

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