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ConflictsMiddle East

Middle East updates: Biden calls for 'order' amid protests

Published May 2, 2024last updated May 3, 2024

The US president stressed "order must prevail," after police faced off with pro-Palestinian protesters at UCLA. Meanwhile, the UN says rebuilding homes in the Gaza Strip could take up to 80 years. DW has the latest.

A police arrests a women after clearing a protest camp at UCLA
Police arrested more than 100 people in their operation to clear a pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLAImage: Mario Tama/AFP/Getty Images
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • US President Joe Biden said his position on the war had not been swayed by nationwide campus protests
  • Police in riot gear clear protesters from an encampment at UCLA 
  • Hamas leadership is reportedly skeptical of the most recent cease-fire deal proposal

A look at the latest developments in the Israel-Hamas war and the wider Middle East on Thursday, May 2.

Skip next section UNESCO awards press freedom prize to Palestinian journalists in Gaza
May 3, 2024

UNESCO awards press freedom prize to Palestinian journalists in Gaza

The UN's cultural and scientific body, UNESCO, awarded its World Press Freedom prize to all Palestinian journalists covering the war in Gaza.

"In these times of darkness and hopelessness, we wish to share a strong message of solidarity and recognition to those Palestinian journalists who are covering this crisis in such dramatic circumstances," jury chair Mauricio Weibel said. 

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize paid tribute to the courage of journalists in difficult and dangerous circumstances.

"Once again this year, the prize reminds us of the importance of collective action to ensure that journalists around the world can continue to carry out their essential work to inform and investigate."

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 97 members of the press have been killed in Gaza since October, 92 of whom were Palestinians.

It's World Press Freedom Day this Friday.

Skip next section More than 300 arrested in latest student protests on US campuses
May 3, 2024

More than 300 arrested in latest student protests on US campuses

Over 2,000 people have been arrested at college campuses across the United States during weeks of pro-Palestinian protests, according to a count by the Associated Press news agency. 

That includes the more than 300 demonstrators arrested nationwide on Wednesday into Thursday on college campuses

More than 200 of those arrests were at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where police cleared a large encampment early Thursday.

AP has tallied arrests at 35 education facilities since a tent encampment began at Columbia University in New York on April 17.

Students say they are protesting against academic and government support for Israel amid its ground offensive in Gaza.

Israel has pointed to the protests as examples of antisemitism at American universities — an accusation that student groups have rejected.

Some protests have led to agreements with administrators to consider the protesters' demands, but more frequently, they have led to arrests after demonstrators refused to disperse or vandalized campus property. 

Skip next section Surgeon recounts dire humanitarian situation in Gaza clinics
May 2, 2024

Surgeon recounts dire humanitarian situation in Gaza clinics

The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire despite the opening of the Erez border crossing to aid convoys in recent days. 

Khaled Dawas, a British surgeon who has just returned from his second trip to Gaza since the war started, told DW on Thursday that he witnessed "a myriad of tragedy" at clinics in the besieged territory.

"I think the pictures are always a little bit sanitized," he said. "The real picture is very difficult to see live or recorded."

Israeli forces leave main Gaza hospital after two-week siege

Dawas worked at medical facilities as part of teams from the International Rescue Committee and from Medical Aid for Palestinians.

"I did not have all the equipment that I would normally have in my practice in the UK, but I'm a surgeon who deals with the abdomen, the guts, the chest and I can make do with things," he said.

"But is it ideal? No it's not. As a consequence, all the patients that we had had wound infections after the surgery without exception. And these wound infections are awful. They can affect your survival."

Dawas described how medical teams had to make limited supplies stretch.

"We were reusing equipment that was designed for single use, equipment that was donated in some cases by other other teams that come in and we were using them 10 or 20 times, and these were designed for single use," he said.

"And they were not being sterilized because the sterilization facilities are not up to scratch and not working in the way they should do."

Skip next section Biden condemns violence at campus protests
May 2, 2024

Biden condemns violence at campus protests

US President Joe Biden said that pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses across the country have not prompted him to reconsider his position on Israel's military offensive in Gaza.

He also condemned violence that had erupted at a number of the protests, but added that he did not support calls to send in the National Guard.

"Dissent is essential for democracy," Biden said at the White House on Thursday. "But dissent must never lead to disorder." 

"We are not an authoritarian nation where we silence people or squash dissent," he added. "But neither are we a lawless country. We're a civil society, and order must prevail."

Biden demands order amid US campus protest chaos

Biden also addressed accusations of antisemitism against some protesters, which student groups have rejected.

"There should be no place on any campus, no place in America for antisemitism, or threats of violence against Jewish students," the president said.

"There is no place for hate speech or violence of any kind, whether it's antisemitism, Islamophobia, or discrimination against Arab Americans or Palestinian Americans," he said.

Tensions spill over at US university protests

Skip next section Hamas to send delegation to Cairo to continue cease-fire talks
May 2, 2024

Hamas to send delegation to Cairo to continue cease-fire talks

Hamas said it would send a delegation to the Egyptian capital, Cairo, as soon as possible for further truce talks in the Gaza war. 

In a statement, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said he spoke with Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel and "stressed the positive spirit of the movement in studying the cease-fire proposal." 

The Hamas statement did not say when the delegation would travel, but added that the negotiations aim to "mature a deal that achieves the demands of our people and ends the aggression."

On Saturday, the militant Islamist group said it had received Israel's latest position and would study it before responding.

Hamas, which rules in Gaza, is recognized as a terrorist organization by the German government, the EU, the US and some Arab states.

Skip next section Israeli president says US universities 'contaminated by antisemitism'
May 2, 2024

Israeli president says US universities 'contaminated by antisemitism'

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has issued a message of support to Jewish communities, addressing a "dramatic resurgence in antisemitism and following the hostilities and intimidation against Jewish students on campuses across the US in particular."

"The people of Israel are with you. We hear you. We see the shameless hostility and threats. We feel the insult, the breach of faith and breach of friendship. We share the apprehension and concern," he said in a video published on X, formerly Twitter.

Herzog criticized US universities for the ongoing student protests over Israel's war in Gaza.

"We see prominent academic institutions, halls of history, culture, and education contaminated by hatred and antisemitism fueled by arrogance and ignorance," he said. 

"We watch in horror as the atrocities of October 7th against Israel are celebrated and justified," Herzog added.

His comments came as hundreds of police and protesters were in a tense stand-off at the University of California, Los Angeles, and as unrest over the war continued at other colleges across the US.

Skip next section Israeli war cabinet to discuss hostage deal, Rafah plan
May 2, 2024

Israeli war cabinet to discuss hostage deal, Rafah plan

Top Israeli ministers are due to meet later Thursday afternoon to discuss the next steps in negotiating a hostage deal with Hamas, according to a government source cited by The Times of Israel and Reuters.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's war cabinet was expected to meet at 6:30 p.m. local time (15:30 GMT), the source said.

Besides the proposed truce deal, the ministers were also set to discuss prospects for an army sweep of Rafah in southern Gaza, Reuters cited the source as saying.

The meeting was expected to be followed by a gathering of the broader security cabinet.

Israel is awaiting a response from Hamas to the latest cease-fire offer put forward by Egyptian mediators. The proposed deal would see the exchange of dozens of hostages, taken by the militant group during its October 7 attack that sparked the Gaza war, for many more Palestinian prisoners. 

Where do things stand in cease-fire negotiations?

Skip next section UN says rebuilding Gaza homes could take decades
May 2, 2024

UN says rebuilding Gaza homes could take decades

Rebuilding homes in the Gaza Strip could take up to 80 years if the pace of reconstruction follows the trend of previous conflicts, according to a UN report.

In a best-case scenario, where building materials are delivered five times faster than during the last crisis in 2021, the mammoth task could be done by 2040, the report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said.

The UNDP also estimates that rebuilding the Hamas-run territory will cost $30 billion to $40 billion (€28 billion to €37 billion).

"The scale of the destruction is huge and unprecedented ... this is a mission that the global community has not dealt with since World War II," said UN assistant secretary-general Abdallah al-Dardari.

Nearly seven months of Israeli bombardment have reduced many of the crowded strip's high-rise concrete buildings to piles of rubble, with one UN official describing it as a "moonscape" of destruction.

Palestinians say some 80,000 homes have been destroyed in the conflict, which was sparked by deadly terror attacks carried out by Hamas militants on southern Israel on October 7. Since then, Israeli strikes have killed tens of thousands of people in Gaza.

Skip next section Police begin dismantling UCLA student protest barricade
May 2, 2024

Police begin dismantling UCLA student protest barricade

Hundreds of police officers in riot gear have begun to move in on a pro-Palestinian protest camp set up by students at the University of California, Los Angeles. Authorities said they detained several people.

The police operations began in the middle of the night after large numbers of police had gathered at the university campus, informing protesters they risked arrest if they did not leave their encampment. 

Hundreds of people joined the protest camp, which has been barricaded, with more supporters outside the camp. Flashbangs could be heard as police started to take apart the barricades.

The police action came a day after masked rioters attacked the camp. Police came under criticism for failing to intervene as the rioters attacked protesters.

Police dismantled a similar protest camp at Columbia University in New York City.

Students have been holding protests at university campuses across the United States, calling for their educational institutions to divest from Israel amid its war in Gaza that has left more than 34,000 people dead, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.

Pro-Palestinian student protests spread across US

Skip next section Germany's Scholz speaks to Netanyahu in phone call
May 2, 2024

Germany's Scholz speaks to Netanyahu in phone call

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Thursday, according to a statement released by the German government.

"They spoke about efforts to release all hostages held by Hamas and about a cease-fire. Further improvements to humanitarian aid for the people in the Gaza Strip were also discussed," the statement said.

Germany has been one of Israel's biggest supporters internationally, but it has also joined calls against Israel's plans to conduct a military offensive on the border town of Rafah, where over 1 million Palestinians have taken shelter.

Skip next section Iran imposes sanctions on US, UK companies over war in Gaza
May 2, 2024

Iran imposes sanctions on US, UK companies over war in Gaza

The Iranian government announced sanctions against a number of US and UK companies and institutions for supporting Israel's military operations in Gaza.

Defense giants Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics as well as oil company Chevron were among the targeted companies, according to a statement from the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

The ministry said the sanctions were being imposed for "the support and financing of Israel's terrorist acts, the glorification and support of terrorism and the violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people, especially in the Gaza Strip."

The British Air Force based in Cyprus and the Royal Navy's HMS Diamond, which is deployed in the Red Sea, were also on the list of sanctions, along with several individuals, including UK Defense Minister Grant Schapps.

The sanctions include confiscating properties, blocking bank accounts in Iran and barring entry for those affected.

The move by the Iranian government comes shortly after the US, UK and Canada extended sanctions against Iran's drone industry following several waves of attacks by Iran against Israel in response to the killing of senior Iranian military figures in Damascus. 

Who do sanctions hurt really?

Skip next section Hamas leadership skeptical of cease-fire deal proposal
May 2, 2024

Hamas leadership skeptical of cease-fire deal proposal

The leader of Hamas fighters in Gaza, Yehya Sinwar, has a reportedly "negative" view of the most recent proposal for a cease-fire put forward by Egyptian intermediaries.

Osama Hamdan, a Hamas representative close to Sinwar who is in hiding in Lebanon, said on the Al-Manar TV channel run by the Shia militia Hezbollah, that "our position on the current proposal is negative," according to Israeli newspaper the Times of Israel.

The French AFP news agency also reported it spoke to Hamdan about the group's skepticism of the proposal.

However, Saher Jabarin, a member of the Hamas negotiation team, said that a final decision had not yet been made, according to AFP.

The proposal, if accepted, would see a 40-day cease-fire along with the exchange of "possibly thousands of Palestinian prisoners" — according to UK Foreign Minister David Cameron — for the remaining Israeli hostages being held in Gaza.

Israeli officials estimate that Hamas is still holding about 100 hostages and the bodies of about 30 who have died since being taken into captivity during Hamas' attacks on southern Israel on October 7 that killed about 1,200 people.

US Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken has urged Hamas to accept the deal, saying that the militant group is responsible for the cease-fire being blocked. 

Duration of cease-fire 'sticking point' of current proposal: DW's Rebecca Ritters

Skip next section Israel calls Colombian president 'antisemitic' over plan to cut ties
May 2, 2024

Israel calls Colombian president 'antisemitic' over plan to cut ties

Israel has labeled Colombian President Gustavo Petro "antisemitic and hateful" after he announced his country would cut diplomatic ties with Israel over the ongoing war against Hamas.

Petro, who has been critical of Israel's military operations in the Palestinian territories, said during a May Day rally in Bogota on Wednesday that "diplomatic relations with Israel will be severed" Thursday. He also called Israeli Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu "genocidal."

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz responded on social media, calling Petro "antisemitic" and saying the decision to cut ties amounted to a reward for Hamas.

"The Colombian president has promised to reward Hamas murderers and rapists — and today he delivered," Katz wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Hamas, a militant Palestinian group designated a terror group by the United States, Israel and Germany, among others, called Colombia's decision a "victory."

"We greatly appreciate the position of Colombian President Gustavo Petro ... which we consider a victory for the sacrifices of our people and their just cause," the group said.

The Confederation of Jewish Communities of Colombia urged in a statement that ties "be maintained, leaving open channels of dialogue" for "the good of both peoples."

Bolivia, Belize and South Africa have already severed or suspended their diplomatic ties with Israel over the war in Gaza.

Skip next section Pro-Palestinian student protest camps spread in the UK
May 2, 2024

Pro-Palestinian student protest camps spread in the UK

As police in the United States moved in on protest camps set up by students at numerous universities, students in the UK have been setting up their own camps.

The UK-based Palestinian Solidarity Campaign said on Wednesday that, "Today, students from Leeds, Newcastle, Bristol and Sheffield have joined Warwick — demanding that our universities stop investing in Israel's genocide!"

The statement on social media platform X showed pictures of tents pitched at various universities.


ab/sms (AP, AFP, DPA, Reuters)