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Middle East updates: EU debates Gaza humanitarian response

Published April 23, 2024last updated April 23, 2024

The European Parliament is set to discuss the EU's response to the "continuous killing" of civilians in the Gaza Strip in a plenary debate as the Israel-Hamas war crosses its 200th day. DW has the latest.

Many people gathered around aid that was airdropped into northern Gaza Strip, 25 March, 2024
While the death toll in Gaza has climbed to more than 34,000 people, millions others do not have enough food to eatImage: Mahmoud Issa/dpa/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • More than 130 arrested at NYU campus Gaza protests
  • Members of the European Parliament to discuss EU response to high civilian deaths in Gaza
  • German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock calls for release of hostages as conflict marks 200th day 

Here are the latest developments from the Israel-Hamas war and the Middle East region on April 23: 

Skip next section Norway calls on donors to resume funding to UNRWA
April 23, 2024

Norway calls on donors to resume funding to UNRWA

Norway called on international donors to resume payments to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) after a report found that Israel had yet to provide evidence that some UNRWA staff were linked to terrorist groups.

"I am very pleased that countries like Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Japan and Sweden have already reversed their decisions and resumed funding to UNRWA," Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said in a statement.

"I would now like to call on countries that have still frozen their contributions to UNRWA to resume funding," he said.

European commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, also welcomed the report and called on the donors to support UNRWA.

The United States, Britain, Germany and others halted payments to UNRWA after Israel alleged some of the agency staff may have taken part in or helped the Hamas October 7 attacks.

In March, Israel also claimed that some 450 UNRWA workers in Gaza were "terrorists."

The review panel said that Israel had not previously expressed concern over any of the tens of thousands of names on the UNRWA staff lists it has regularly received since 2011. UNRWA employs roughly 32,000 people, 13,000 of them in Gaza.

The independent review headed by French diplomat Catherine Colonna identified "neutrality-related issues" included staff sharing biased political posts on social media and the use of a small number of textbooks with "problematic content" in some UNRWA schools.

The US — UNRWA's biggest donor, giving between $300-$400 million each year — has passed legislation locking in a pause on UNRWA funding until at least March 2025.

Skip next section More than 130 arrests on NYU campus during Gaza protests
April 23, 2024

More than 130 arrests on NYU campus during Gaza protests

Police intervene and arrest students at New York University (NYU)
A NYU spokesperson cited "disorderly, disruptive and antagonizing behavior" of some protestersImage: Fatih Aktas/AA/picture alliance

More than 130 people were arrested overnight during pro-Palestinian protests on the campus of New York University (NYU).

According to the New York Police Department, 133 people were arrested and released after being issued court summons.

As the Jewish religious holiday of Passover began Monday night, police began arresting protesters at an encampment at NYU.

A NYU spokesperson said the decision to call the police came after more protesters, many of whom were not believed to be affiliated with NYU, suddenly broke through barriers erected around the encampment.

This "dramatically changed" the situation, the spokesman said in a statement on the school's website Monday, citing "disorderly, disruptive and antagonizing behavior" along with "intimidated chants and several anti-semitic incidents."

The protests began last week at Columbia University, also in New York, when a large group of demonstrators set up a so-called "Gaza Solidarity Encampment" on the school's campus. There have also been demonstrations at MIT, the University of Michigan, and Yale.

Amid protests, Columbia University announced that its main campus would switch to hybrid learning, giving students the option of attending classes online rather than in person for the remainder of the semester.

US universities hold remote classes due to Gaza protests

Skip next section Hezbollah says it targeted Israeli bases with drones
April 23, 2024

Hezbollah says it targeted Israeli bases with drones

The Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant group said in a statement it launched "a combined air attack using decoy and explosive drones that targeted" two Israeli bases north of Acre, which is one of Israel's northernmost cities.

The Lebanese group added the attack was "in response" to an Israeli drone strike that killed one of its members in south Lebanon earlier in the day.

The Israeli military said it did not know of any of its facilities being hit by Hezbollah, but said it had "successfully intercepted two suspicious aerial targets off the northern coast."

Iran provides money and weapons to Hezbollah, as well as Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups fighting Israel in Gaza. 

Clashes between Israel and Hezbollah along the Israeli-Lebanon border have increased since the war in Gaza began nearly six months ago.  

Many fear Israel-Hamas war could spread across Middle East

Skip next section Death toll in Gaza climbs to 34,183, Health Ministry says
April 23, 2024

Death toll in Gaza climbs to 34,183, Health Ministry says

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said at least 34,183 people have been killed in Gaza, as the war there marked its 200th day on Tuesday.

The tally includes at least 32 deaths in the past 24 hours, the statement said, adding that 77,143 people have been wounded in Gaza since the war began when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel on October 7.

Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by many countries including Israel, US and Germany.

Skip next section Hamas political leadersip will stay in Qatar, Doha says
April 23, 2024

Hamas political leadersip will stay in Qatar, Doha says

Qatar said the Hamas political leadership would stay in Doha as long as their presence remains beneficial to mediation efforts to end the war in Gaza.

"As long as their presence here in Doha, as we have always said, is useful and positive in this mediation effort, they will remain here," Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed Al Ansari said at a press conference.

The emirate has hosted an overseas Hamas political wing since 2012, allowing Qatar to wield some influence over the militant group's decision-makers. 

Qatar has been coordinating with Washington and Egypt for months to secure the release of some 100 Israeli hostages held in Gaza and end the war in Gaza. 

Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar's prime minister and foreign minister said last week there were "limits" to the role of mediator and "limits to the ability to which we can contribute to these negotiations in a constructive manner."

In a news conference with the Turkish foreign minister in Doha, Al Thani said there had been an "abuse" of Qatar's mediation for "narrow political interests." He did not name one side in his remarks.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly criticized Qatar throughout the war and recently threatened to shutter Qatar-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera.

Skip next section German foreign minister calls for release of Israeli hostages
April 23, 2024

German foreign minister calls for release of Israeli hostages

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock pointed out out on Tuesday that hostages taken by Hamas on October 7 have been in captivity for 200 days.

"For 200 days, the world has stood still for their families, they have missed their laughter, their hugs, the jingling of keys in the opening door. As long as the hostages are not free, we will not let up. Only when they are home will peace have a chance," she wrote in a post in German on X, formerly Twitter.

Israel says Hamas militants are still holding around 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by many governments, including Israel, Germany, and the US. 

October 7 in Israel: A day of terror and carnage

Skip next section UN rights chief 'horrified' at devastation of Gaza hospitals
April 23, 2024

UN rights chief 'horrified' at devastation of Gaza hospitals

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, said on Tuesday he was "horrified" by the vast destruction at Nasser hospital in the southern Gazan city of Khan Younis and al-Shifa hospital in Gaza city.

Israeli troops raided both hospitals, saying intelligence had indicated that both facilities housed Hamas militants.

They have since withdrawn from both facilities following raids. 

Israeli forces leave main Gaza hospital after two-week siege

UN reports from observers on the ground outlined the hospitals' destruction, with Palestinian civil defense crews saying Monday they had uncovered a mass grave at the Nasser compound.

"We feel the need to raise the alarm because clearly there have been multiple bodies discovered," said Ravina Shamdasani, the spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"Some of them had their hands tied, which of course indicates serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and these need to be subjected to further investigations." 

Skip next section European Parliament to discuss civilian deaths in Gaza
April 23, 2024

European Parliament to discuss civilian deaths in Gaza

Members of the European Parliament are set to debate the European Union's response to the "continuous killing of civilians in the Gaza Strip," a statement read.

In March, the European Parliament adopted a resolution warning about desperate food insecurity and impending starvation in Gaza.

MEPs deplored the impact of attacks on humanitarian aid deliveries, and called on more crossings to be opened for deliveries. 

The MEPs "reiterate their call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire to address the looming risk of mass starvation in Gaza and to immediately and unconditionally release all hostages," a press release said. 

The March statement added that there was "no prospect of peace, security, stability and prosperity" in Gaza " as long as Hamas and other terrorist groups play any role." 

The war in Gaza was sparked by the October 7 Hamas terror attacks on southern Israel, in which Hamas and other militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted some 240 others.

How does aid get into Gaza?