WGaza's ally Israel is considering a highly sensitive military operation in the southern part of the sealed-off coastal enclave, a report said, as the US government vowed to retaliate against a deadly attack by pro-Iranian militias on US soldiers in Jordan. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians seek protection from the fighting there and rely on aid. Controversial UN for Palestine Refugees in the Middle East Meanwhile, Washington is increasing pressure on Jewish extremists in the West Bank through economic sanctions.
In the Gaza war, the Israeli military wants to expand its war against Hamas to Rafah in the southern part of the territory, according to the Times of Israel newspaper. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant said Thursday evening that the army would reach and destroy the Hamas brigade in Rafah, just as it is currently dealing with Hamas forces in the southern city of Khan Younis, the newspaper reported. Now Rafah and its surrounding areas are said to have more than 1.3 million people. This is more than half of the Gaza Strip's total population of 2.2 million. Palestinian civilians seek protection from fighting in the tiniest of places.
Reuters quoted Galant as saying that Israel has killed 10,000 Palestinian fighters since the war began nearly four months ago. Nearly four months after Hamas terror attacks on southern Israel, the military has moved deep into the Gaza Strip to crush Hamas. Egypt's breakaway city of Rafah and the border crossing of the same name, the southern end of which is a sealed stretch of beach, are still out of reach for ground forces.
The Wall Street Journal reported three weeks ago, citing unnamed Israeli and Egyptian sources, that Israeli officials had notified Egypt of a planned military operation along the Gaza border.
US Defense Secretary: A dangerous moment in the Middle East
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke of a “dangerous moment” after a drone strike by pro-Iranian militias in Jordan killed two soldiers and a soldier on Thursday. President Joe Biden will not “tolerate” attacks on American troops, and neither will I. They want to avoid a major conflict in the region. Austin said those responsible for the attacks will be held accountable. He announced a multi-phase response.
The U.S. government blamed the attack on an Iraqi anti-Islamist group, which had previously claimed responsibility. It is a sort of umbrella group for pro-Iranian militias in Iraq that has been operating under this name since October 7. Austin said it was unclear how far in advance Iran knew about the attack. However, Iran funds these groups and provides them with some training. Without this kind of support, such attacks on US bases would not happen, Austin said. But he clarified: “We are not at war with Iran.”
UNRWA: Aid funds will end at the end of February
Regarding allegations against individual staff members of the UN relief agency UNRWA that they were involved in Hamas's October 7 terrorist activities in Israel, Israel's Defense Minister Galant told UN delegates on Thursday: “Funds from countries around the world were channeled through UNRWA and used to strengthen terrorist infrastructure and pay terrorists.” ” The organization has lost its legitimacy.
Several Western countries, including Germany and the United States, have temporarily suspended payments to UNRWA because of the allegations. “It is hard to imagine the people of Gaza surviving this crisis without UNRWA,” warned UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini. If funding is not resumed, there will be a work stoppage not only in Gaza but in the entire region by the end of February.
US bans Jewish settlements amid violence in West Bank
Meanwhile, the US government has imposed sanctions on four Jewish settlers accused of violence against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank. The Finance Ministry on Thursday released the names of four Israelis accused of intimidation and destruction of property. An administration official in Washington said earlier that President Biden has repeatedly expressed concern about the rise in extremist violence. These actions pose a serious threat to peace and security stability in the West Bank, Israel and the Middle East.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sounded a warning about sanctions on Thursday evening. “Israel takes appropriate action against anyone who breaks the law anywhere,” Israeli media quoted him as saying. Hence, “no exceptional measures required”. The “absolute majority” of West Bank settlers are law-abiding citizens, many of whom served in the armed forces to defend Israel, Netanyahu said, according to his office.
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