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Palestinians brace for Rafah assault; U.N. warns they have ‘no idea where to go’

By 37ci3 Feb10,2024

Shipment of food for Gaza stuck at Israeli port, UNRWA says

A shipment of food for 1.1 million people in Gaza is stuck in an Israeli port due to restrictions from Israeli authorities, said the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

“1,049 containers of rice, flour, chickpeas, sugar & cooking oil are stuck as families in #Gaza face hunger & starvation,” the agency wrote on x.

UNRWA previously said that half of the U.N. requests to deliver aid to Gaza have been denied.

U.S Central Command conducts more strikes on Yemen

The U.S. Central Command (CentCom) conducted a number of strikes against vessels and missiles it says were preparing to launch against ships in the Red Sea yesterday, according to a statement.

CentCom forces struck two mobile unmanned surface vessels, four mobile anti-ship cruise missiles, and one mobile land attack cruise missile, the command said.

The missiles and vessels were identified in “Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen,” the statement said and were thought to present “an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region.”

The fresh strikes follow statements from President Joe Biden in January that military action against the Houthi movement in Yemen would continue, even as he acknowledged that they may not be hindering attacks.

Over 350 attacks on healthcare in Gaza since Oct. 7, says WHO

The World Health Organization has documented 721 attacks on healthcare facilities in the occupied Palestinian territories, of which over 357 were attacks on Gaza, according to the organization’s spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic.

“Health facilities are protected under international humanitarian law, and we keep repeating to all parties involved in the conflict to respect that” Jasarevic added, in a video recorded clip uploaded to X on Friday.

Direct attacks on healthcare in Gaza have resulted in 645 deaths and over 800 injuries, he added.

UNRWA Chief: ‘I am almost becoming wordless’

Phillippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, has described a potential military offensive by Israel in Rafah as a “recipe for disaster.”

The 1.4 million people currently living in Rafah are “completely exposed, vulnerable,” Lazzarini said, adding that he was “almost becoming wordless” about the conditions in the Gaza strip.

A potential Israeli ground invasion of Rafah, announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday, has been condemned by international organizations such as the U.N. and the WHO, who have repeatedly warned that internally displaced people living in the southern city have nowhere to evacuate to.

Relatives were amoung the group that found Hind Rajab’s body, Red Crescent says

TEL AVIV — Some of six-year-old Hind Rajab’s relatives were among a group that found her body 12 days after she was last heard from in a call with an emergency dispatcher, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society spokesperson told NBC News today.

After Israeli troops appeared to leave the Tel Al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City some of her family members entered the area, said Nebal Farsakh. There, they found her body, along with the remains of her aunt, uncle and four cousins, she added.

Farsakh said they also found the remains of first responders Yusuf Zeino and Ahmed Al-Madhoun, who were sent to rescue the little girl, after she made a desperate plea for help on a call with an emergency dispacther, the audio of which was later released by the PRCS.

Photos published online by the PRCS appear to show the ambulance completely destroyed.

Farsakh said the ambulance was attacked after the PRCS had coordinated with the Israeli military through a third party to allow the team to conduct the rescue in a desperate bid to save Hind.

NBC News could not independently verify this claim and has asked the Israel Defense Forces for comment.

Moody’s downgrades Israel’s credit rating

Moody’s is the first major credit agency to downgrade Israel’s credit rating on Friday, citing material, political and financial risks to the country over its prolonged war with Hamas.

Moody’s downgraded Israel’s credit rating from A1 to A2, keeping its credit outlook at “negative,” meaning that a future downgrade is possible. The downgrade implies a higher credit risk of lending to Israel, but the rating is still within the middle of an “investment grade” category, suggesting low credit risk.

“The main driver for the downgrade of Israel’s rating to A2 is Moody’s assessment that the ongoing military conflict with Hamas,” said Moody’s in a statement, adding that the war and its “wider consequences” raise “political risk for Israel as well as weaken its executive and legislative institutions.”

“While fighting in Gaza may diminish in intensity or pause, there is currently no agreement to end the hostilities durably and no agreement on a longer-term plan that would fully restore and eventually strengthen security for Israel,” Moody’s said in a statement Friday. It’s review into Israel’s downgrade began on October 19, the statement added.

Hezbollah and Israel trade fire over Lebanese border

Israel and the Hezbollah militatnt group traded fire over Lebanon’s border today.

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement on Telegram that its fighter jets struck a military compound around a-mile-and-a-half north of the border. It added that it had also hit an observation post in the border town of Markaba.

IDF forces also struck a “command center” and a “military site” used by Hezbollah yesterday, the statement said, although it did not specify the location of the attacks.

Separately, Hezbollah said in a Telegram post today that it had attacked a barracks in northern Israel using rocket fire this afternoon.

NBC News could not independently verify either claim.

Death toll in Gaza tops 28,000

The death toll in Gaza since Oct. 7 has risen to 28,064, the enclave’s health ministry said in a Telegram post today. It added that 117 people were killed in the last 24 hours.

More than 67,000 people have also been injured, the post said.

NBC News cannot independently verify the figures and it is thought that more bodies remain unaccounted for under the rubble of buildings destroyed by Israeli strikes on the Strip.

Palestinians mourn after identifying bodies of relatives

SAID KHATIB / AFP – Getty Images
Fatima Shbair / AP

Palestinians mourn at a hospital in Rafah after identifying the bodies of relatives killed by Israeli strikes on southern Israel.

Hezbollah chief receives Iranian foreign minister in Beirut

The Hezbollah militant group hosted diplomatic talks with representatives from Iran’s foreign ministry, Lebanese media reported today, amid heightening tensions with Israel on Lebanon’s southern border.

Hezbollah’s Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah received Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s minister of foreign affairs, alongside a delegation from the ministry and Iran’s diplomats in Lebanon, according to Al-Manar TV, a broadcaster owned by Hezbollah.

Iran is a key financial and political backer of Hezbollah, co-ordinating training of the group alongside its own Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and supplying it with weapons.

Exchanges of fire between Israel and Hezbollah have increased in recent months. Hezbollah has increased the scale of rocket attacks over the border in support of Hamas and in protest of Israel’s full-scale invasion of the Gaza strip.

Overnight strikes in Rafah kill 28 as Israel prepares ground invasion

Three airstrikes on homes in Rafah killed 28 people overnight, hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli military to prepare to evacuate civilians from the southern city ahead of a ground invasion.

Each strike killed multiple members of three families, a health official told the Associated Press. A total of 10 children, the youngest of whom was three-months-old, the official said.

More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are packed into Rafah, many after being uprooted repeatedly by Israeli evacuation orders that now cover two-thirds of Gaza’s territory. U.S. officials have said an invasion of Rafah without a plan for the civilian population would lead to disaster.

Internally displaced people in Gaza have not thus far have not been allowed to return to their homes by Israeli forces, and many do not have homes to return to. It is not clear where they would be able to evacuate to escape increasing attacks on Rafah.

Israel airstrikes hit near Damascus, Syria says

Israeli strikes hit a number of sites in the countryside around the Syrian capital of Damascus, the country’s ministry of defense said in Facebook post today.

Air defenses had only managed to shoot down “some” of the missiles, the post said, adding that the attacks resulted in “material losses.” It did not expand on what those losses were.

The attack was launched from Golan Heights, the statement said. The area on Syria’s eastern border has been occupied by Israel since it captured them in a 1967 war.

The Israel Defense Forces told NBC News that it did not comment on foreign reports.

Gazan health officials sound alarm over attacks on Nasser Hospital

One person had died and a number of others were injured after “intense shooting” inside the Nasser Medical Complex in southern Gaza, a spokesperson for the enclave’s health ministry said today.

Dr. Ashraf Al-Qudra said that Israeli forces had fired towards the “gates, buildings and courtyards” of the complex, which is the main hospital in Gaza’s second city of Khan Younis.

“Medical teams cannot move between the buildings of Nasser Medical Complex” he said, adding that hundreds of health personnel and wounded individuals, as well as up to 10,000 internally displaced people were sheltering inside the hospital compound.

The targeting of civilian infrastructure such as hospitals is considered a war crime under international humanitarian law, unless significant measures are taken to protect civilian life. Israel has repeatedly claimed that Hamas militants operate from within and around Gaza’s medical facilities, a claim which Hamas has consistently denied.

Six-year-old Hind Rajab found dead 12 days after desperate call with emergency dispatcher.

TEL AVIV — The search for Hind Rajab, a six-year-old girl who was missing in Gaza City for 12 days after she made a desperate plea for first responders to rescue her, has reached a tragic end.  

Both Hind and the two first responders dispatched in a bid to save her have been found dead in Gaza City, the Palestine Red Crescent Society told NBC News today.

The little girl’s body was found “trapped” in the vehicle where she had spoken with an emergency dispatcher for more than three hours as gunfire rang out around her, the PRCS said. First responders Yusuf Zeino and Ahmed Al-Madhoun were also killed, it added.

Palestinian girl Hind who remains trapped amid desperate efforts to recover her safely in Gaza
“Come take me. Please, will you come?” Hind, 6, had said on an emergency call with a dispatcher at the Palestine Red Crescent Society.via PRCS

Hind was traveling with her aunt, uncle and four cousins when their car came under bombardment.

Her 15-year-old cousin Layan called first responders for help, telling the operator that an Israeli tank appeared to be closing in before a burst of gun fire rang out.

After she screamed the line fell dead.

When the dispatchers called back, Hind had answered, saying Layan had been killed.

“Come take me. Please, will you come?” she begged the dispatcher in the call that was released by the medical service.

PRCS spokesperson Nebal Farsakh confirmed today that Hind was “found dead,” along with the ambulance crew.

The PRCS accused Israeli forces of targeting the ambulance after it arrived at the scene despite prior coordination to allow the crew to reach the area. 

NBC News has approached the Israel Defense Forces for comment.

Before her daughter’s body was found, Hind’s mother, Wissam Hamadah, told NBC News of her desperation to be reunited with her daughter. “We want our daughter, she is innocent. It’s a sin what is happening to her,” she said.

Hamadah said the family had fled fighting in the Tel Al-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza City. As the family fled, she said she placed Hind in the vehicle with her relatives, hoping she would be safer there.

Palestinians look at destruction after Israeli airstrike on Rafah

Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah yesterday. More than 1 million people in Gaza’s southernmost city are bracing for attack after Israel said it launch a ground assault against Hamas fighters hiding there.

Fatima Shbair / AP

Palestinians fear time is running out in ‘last stop’ Rafah 

Palestinians in Rafah, the packed city on Gaza’s southern border, were terrified Friday of an impending Israeli ground assault — which the United States and aid groups have warned risks “disaster.”

More than half of the enclave’s 2.3 million people have sought shelter in Rafah, crowding tents in refugee camps stalked by growing hunger, disease and more recently fear that there will be nowhere to escape if troops enter the city.

Washington said it could not support such an operation without proper planning, world leaders voiced growing alarm, and aid officials warned of a “bloodbath.”

In the face of that pressure, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested Friday that civilians would be able to flee before the expected ground assault, which he said was necessary in the campaign against Hamas.

Read the full story here.

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