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ConflictsMiddle East

Israel-Hamas war: UN suspends Rafah food aid

Published May 21, 2024last updated May 22, 2024

The UN has said it has halted food distribution due to lack of supplies and insecurity as Israeli forces continue an assault on the southern Gazan city. DW has more.

Bags of UNRWA aid
The UN has expressed concern about Gaza's humanitarian situation as fighting continues in Rafah Image: Mohammed Salem/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • UN's World Food Program says 'humanitarian operations in Gaza are near collapse'
  • Seven killed in West Bank raid, according to Palestinian health authorities
  • Over 569 metric tons of Gaza aid delivered via US-built pier, CENTCOM says

  • France has voiced support for ICC 'independence' following a decision to pursue arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Gallant and Hamas leaders

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Skip next section Biden administration could work with Congress on ICC sanctions — Blinken
May 22, 2024

Biden administration could work with Congress on ICC sanctions — Blinken

US President Joe Biden's administration is willing to work with Congress to potentially impose sanctions on the International Criminal Court (ICC), Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday.

The comments come after ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan requested that the court issue warrants for the arrest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as for three leaders of the Hamas militant group.

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham asked of Blinken during a congressional hearing: "Will you support bipartisan effort to sanction the ICC, not only for the outrage against Israel but to protect in the future our own interest?"

In response, Blinken said: "I welcome working with you on that."

At an earlier hearing, Blinken called Khan's decision "profoundly wrong-headed" and denounced what he considered to be "a shameful equivalence implied between Hamas and the leadership of Israel."

He argued that arrest warrants would make it more difficult to reach a cease-fire and a hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas.

US President Joe Biden has also criticized the prosecutor's announcement, calling it "outrageous."

UN says aid warehouses in Rafah 'inaccessible'

Khan said in his announcement that he had reasonable grounds to believe that Netanyahu and Gallant "bear criminal responsibility" for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Gaza Strip.

Skip next section UN says Rafah food distribution suspended
May 21, 2024

UN says Rafah food distribution suspended

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said Tuesday that it suspended food distribution in Rafah as supplies collapse and the security situation remains precarious. 

UNRWA announced the suspension on X, formerly Twitter, without elaborating. 

Abeer Etefa, a spokesperson for the UN's World Food Program (WFP) warned Tuesday that "humanitarian operations in Gaza are near collapse."

Etefeh added the WFP had also stopped distribution in Rafah after exhausting its stocks.

"Limited distributions" of reduced food parcels are ongoing in central Gaza but "food parcel stocks will run out within days," she said.

The UN has said no aid deliveries via a floating pier set up by the US have arrived over the past two days, the Associated Press reported. The UN said Tuesday it is planning new routes to distribute aid from the pier as the trucks have been intercepted by crowds of needy residents. 

If food and other supplies don't resume entering Gaza in "in massive quantities, famine-like conditions will spread," said Etefeh. 

The Israeli government said in a update Tuesday that 403 aid trucks "were inspected and transferred to the Gaza Strip, yesterday" and added that 26 bakeries "are currently operation in Gaza, providing close to 5 million breads, rolls and pita breads daily."      

Earlier in May, Israel launched a military operation into Rafah, a city that had housed over a million refugees, vowing to root out remaining Hamas fighters. The UN has not specified how many refugees remain in Rafah since Israel launched its operation there. 

International aid deliveries have been cut off since Israel closed the Rafah border crossing to Egypt's Sinai peninsula, which had been a primary entry point. 

No end to civilian suffering as Gaza fighting intensifies

Skip next section Germany criticizes comparison of Israel and Hamas amid ICC warrant push
May 21, 2024

Germany criticizes comparison of Israel and Hamas amid ICC warrant push

A spokesperson for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz remarked on the ICC's chief prosecutor's arrest warrant push for both Israeli and Hamas leaders.

"The German government rejects any semblance of comparability in the strongest possible terms," a Scholz spokesperson told the Wednesday edition of Germany's Bild newspaper, with the comments seen in advance by German news agency dpa.

The warrant seeks the arrest of both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, along with Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Ismail Haniyeh and Mohammed Deif.

Although the German government is critical of arrest warrants for Israeli leaders, the spokesman suggested that arrest warrants for Hamas leaders were "only logical" due to the atrocities of the October 7 terror attacks. 

"The German government has always emphasized that Israel has the right to defend itself against the murderous attacks by Hamas in accordance with international law," the spokesperson said in regards of warrants against Netanyahu and Gallant. "Against this background, the accusation of the chief prosecutor are serious and must be substantiated."

"Germany assumes the fact that Israel is a democratic state governed by the rule of law with a strong, independent judiciary will be taken into account."        

Berlin rejects claim Germany aids Gaza “genocide”

Skip next section Israel urges countries to condemn ICC seeking leaders' arrest
May 21, 2024

Israel urges countries to condemn ICC seeking leaders' arrest

Israel on Tuesday urged "civilized nations" to condemn the ICC chief prosecutor's request for an arrest warrant targeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. 

"We call on the nations of the civilized, free world — nations who despise terrorists and anyone who supports them — to stand by Israel. You should outright condemn this step," Israeli government spokesperson Tal Heinrich said.  

"Make sure the ICC understands where you stand. Oppose the prosecutor's decision and declare that, even if warrants are issued, you do not intend to enforce them. Because this is not about our leaders. It's about our survival."    

Heinrich defended Israeli military actions in Gaza, saying Israel is operating against "blood thirsty terrorists" of Hamas.

The ICC push for warrants is also targeting three Hamas leaders, most notably Gaza chief Yahya Sinwar and Qatar-based political head Ismail Haniyeh. 

Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the US, Germany and other governments.  

ICC prosecutor's arrest bid may pressure Israel's Netanyahu

Skip next section France says supports 'independence' of ICC
May 21, 2024

France says supports 'independence' of ICC

 France has said it backs the independence of the International Criminal Court (ICC) after the court's prosecutor requested arrest warrants for leaders from Israel, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Islamist, Palestinian militant movement Hamas.

"France supports the International Criminal Court, its independence, and the fight against impunity in all situations," the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

In its statement, the ministry "condemned the antisemitic massacres perpetrated by Hamas" during the group's attack on Israel on October 7, while also saying it had warned Israel "of the need for strict compliance with international humanitarian law" in its Gaza offensive.

France's expression of support comes following vehement condemnation from Israel, Hamas and the US of the move by ICC prosecutor Karim Khan.

Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the US, Germany, as well as other countries.

Israel's Netanyahu denounces ICC prosecutor's arrest bid

Skip next section Over 569 metric tons of Gaza aid delivered via pier, US says
May 21, 2024

Over 569 metric tons of Gaza aid delivered via pier, US says

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) says that more than 569 metric tons (627 US tons) of humanitarian aid has entered Gaza so far via a US-built temporary floating pier.

"The pier is a temporary solution to surge humanitarian assistance to Gaza to meet the urgent needs of the Palestinian people," the US CENTCOM said on X, formerly Twitter. It added that the aid received so far has been donated by the United States, the United Kingdom, the UAE, the European Union, and other partners.

Aid deliveries began arriving at the US-built pier on Friday.

The UN said that 10 truckloads of food aid were delivered on Friday to a World Food Programme warehouse in Deir El Balah in Gaza. 

However, just five truckloads from altogether 16 reached the warehouse on Saturday, after 11 trucks were emptied by Palestinians who waylaid them en route, an unnamed UN official told the Reuters news agency.

US officials have said 90 trucks a day could initially pass over the pier, but that that number could go up to 150.

The UN has said at least 500 trucks a day are needed to supply sufficient aid to Gaza, which aid agencies say is threatened by widespread famine.

The UN did not receive any aid from the pier on Sunday or Monday.

Gaza aid deliveries begin at floating pier

Skip next section Italy says ICC comparing Israel to Hamas 'absurd'
May 21, 2024

Italy says ICC comparing Israel to Hamas 'absurd'

Italy joined Germany in criticizing what it sees as an "absurd" comparison between Israel and Hamas, after the ICC applied for arrest warrants for Israel and Hamas leaders.

"It is completely unacceptable that Hamas and Israel are put on the same level," Italian foreign minister Antonio Tajani said in an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper: "The leaders of the terrorist group that started the war in Gaza by massacring innocent citizens and the leaders of the government elected by the people of Israel."

Tajani, whose country currently holds the rotating annual presidency of the G7, warned: "Be careful not to legitimize anti-Israeli positions that can fuel antisemitic phenomena."

Skip next section Lawyer Amal Clooney among experts consulted by ICC over war crimes arrest warrants
May 21, 2024

Lawyer Amal Clooney among experts consulted by ICC over war crimes arrest warrants

The prominent international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney has confirmed that she was part of a panel of legal experts that the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, tasked with evaluating evidence of suspected war crimes committed during the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamasin the Gaza Strip.

"I served on this panel because I believe in the rule of law and the need to protect civilian lives," she wrote in a statement published on the website of the Clooney Foundation for Justice, which she founded with her husband, actor George Clooney.

"As a human rights lawyer, I will never accept that one child's life has less value than another's," she continued. "I do not accept that any conflict should be beyond the reach of the law, nor that any perpetrator should be above the law."

Clooney said that the panel was "unanimous" in its conclusions that there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In conclusion, the British-Lebanese barrister said she supported the "historic step … to bring justice to victims of atrocities in Israel and Palestine" and that she hoped that "justice will prevail in a region that has already suffered too much."

Skip next section Gallant calls ICC move 'despicable'
May 21, 2024

Gallant calls ICC move 'despicable'

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant described as "despicable" the International Criminal Court's (ICC)application for arrest warrants for top Israeli and Hamas leaders, including himself, over alleged war crimes.

"The attempt by Prosecutor Karim Khan to deny the State of Israel the right to self-defense and to free its hostages must be rejected out of hand," Gallant said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

He said that Israel does not recognize the court's authority, stressing that any parallels "drawn between the Hamas terrorist organization and the State of Israel is despicable."

Skip next section Yemen's Houthis claim US drone shot down
May 21, 2024

Yemen's Houthis claim US drone shot down

The Iran-backed Houthi rebel group in Yemen claimed on Tuesday to have shot down an American MQ-9 "Reaper" drone over the southern province of Bayda.

In a televised statement, Houthi military spokesman Brigadier General Yahya Saree alleged the drone had been "carrying out hostile missions" over Yemen and claimed it had been shot down with a locally made surface-to-air missile.

If confirmed, it would be the second "Reaper" drone downed by the Houthis in the space of a few days after the rebels claimed on Friday to have shot one down over the western province of Marib.

Yemen's Houthis have been launching attacks on international shipping in the Red Sea, claiming their campaign is in solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza. Since February, a US and UK-led coalition has been stationed in the region to protect shipping and carry out retaliatory strikes.

Skip next section Seven killed in West Bank raid, Palestinian health ministry says
May 21, 2024

Seven killed in West Bank raid, Palestinian health ministry says

Palestinian health officials said that seven people, including a doctor, were killed on Tuesday during a raid by Israeli troops in the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.

According to officials, a surgeon, a teacher and a pupil were among those killed.

The Palestinian health ministry in Ramallah said that at least nine more people had been injured, at least two of whom are said to be in critical condition.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) issued a statement stating that soldiers had conducted a "counterterrorism operation in Jenin."

The city of Jenin, in the north of the West Bank, is considered a stronghold for Palestinian militant groups and is regularly raided by Israeli troops.

The West Bank is among the Palestinian territories seized by Israel in 1967 and occupied since. The current war in Gaza has also seen an increase in violence in the West Bank, where some 500 Palestinians have been killed since October 2023, according to Palestinian officials.

At least 12 Israelis have also been killed in attacks by Palestinians in the region since, according to the AFP news agency, citing official Israeli figures.

mf/rmt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)