On Nakba Day, as Palestinians run for their lives, Biden advances $1 billion in arms sales to Israel – Day 221

On Nakba Day, as Palestinians run for their lives, Biden advances $1 billion in arms sales to Israel – Day 221

Palestinians in Gaza can’t seem to run fast enough to keep up with Israeli evacuation orders; can’t dig airstrike victims out of the rubble; Israel reportedly was aware of UN car that it bombed, killing a high-ranking international worker; Israeli police reportedly knew about aid convoy and allowed its destruction; Israel appears ready for a full-scale invasion of Rafah; Ben Gvir calls for expulsion; Palestinian killed in West Bank; Biden seeks approval for another $1 billion in military sales to Israel; campus protest update, more

By IAK staff, from reports

Palestinians mark 76 years of dispossession as a potentially even larger catastrophe unfolds in Gaza

Associated Press reports: Palestinians on Wednesday will mark the 76th year of their mass expulsion from what is now Israel, an event that is at the core of their national struggle. But in many ways, that experience pales in comparison to the calamity now unfolding in Gaza.

Palestinians refer to it as the Nakba, Arabic for catastrophe. Some 700,000 Palestinians — a majority of the prewar population — fled or were driven from their homes before and during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war that followed Israel’s establishment.

After the war, Israel refused to allow them to return because it would have resulted in a Palestinian majority within its borders.

Instead, they became a seemingly permanent refugee community that now numbers some 6 million, with most living in slum-like urban refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

In Gaza, the refugees and their descendants make up around three-quarters of the population.

Now, many Palestinians fear a repeat of their painful history on an even more cataclysmic scale.

All across Gaza, Palestinians in recent days have been loading up cars and donkey carts or setting out on foot to already overcrowded tent camps as Israel expands its offensive. The images from several rounds of mass evacuations throughout the seven-month war are strikingly similar to black-and-white photographs from 1948.

Mustafa al-Gazzar, now 81, still recalls his family’s monthslong flight from their village in what is now central Israel to the southern city of Rafah, when he was 5. At one point they were bombed from the air, at another, they dug holes under a tree to sleep in for warmth.

(Read the full article here.)

Gaza rescue efforts may stop due to lack of fuel, heavy equipment

Al Jazeera reports: Gaza’s civil defense crew is struggling to reach victims trapped under the rubble of bombed buildings. Israeli forces “continue to target and destroy the heavy equipment that helps us recover the victims”, said the spokesperson at a press conference outside Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir el-Balah.

A severe fuel shortage is further straining rescue efforts, which may soon come to “a total halt”, added the spokesperson.

“As we speak, hundreds of victims remain buried under the rubble and our teams are not able to recover them. These numbers are continuing to rise.”

An Israeli attack on the Nuseirat refugee camp targeted a three-story residential building where an estimated 100 people were sheltering. The structure was completely flattened.

Some of those killed were newly displaced people from Rafah.

Search for survivors after Israeli strikes on Nuseirat refugee camp
Search for survivors after Israeli strikes on Nuseirat refugee camp (photo)

Epidemic risk rising as Rafah invasion intensifies lethal cocktail of over-crowding, sewage and hunger

Oxfam reports: Israeli attacks since October has caused at least $210m worth of damage to Gaza’s water and sanitation infrastructure.

The destruction of critical water and sanitation infrastructure by the Israeli forces along with severe over-crowding, malnutrition and heat is pushing Gaza to the brink of a deadly epidemic outbreak, Oxfam warns.

The international aid agency said at least five of its life-saving water and sanitation projects in the Gaza Strip had been severely damaged or destroyed in the Israeli attacks since 7 October.

Oxfam staff in Gaza have described piles of human waste and rivers of sewage in the streets, which people are having to jump between. They also reported people having to drink dirty water and children being bitten by insects swarming around the sewage.

Conditions are ripe for the outbreak of epidemics including Hepatitis A and cholera, which thrive in overcrowded places lacking proper sanitation. Soaring temperatures are also increasing health risks.

(Read the full, disturbing report here.)

Palestinians who take refuge in a tent camp in Rafah face the risk of epidemics due to uncollected rubbish and accumulated sewage water, Friday
Palestinians who take refuge in a tent camp in Rafah face the risk of epidemics due to uncollected rubbish and accumulated sewage water (photo)

Jabalia evacuation centers besieged

UN informed Israel of vehicle fatally hit in Gaza

Al Jazeera reports:: The United Nations says it informed Israeli authorities of the movements of a vehicle carrying UN staff that was hit in southern Gaza, killing an Indian army colonel.

One UN security services member, Colonel Waibhav Kale, was killed and another wounded in the attack on Monday, marking the first death of a UN international employee in the Palestinian territory since the war began more than seven months ago.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Colonel Waibhav Kale, working for the UN Department of Safety and Security [DSS] in Gaza,” UN spokesperson Rolando Gomez told a media briefing.

“The UN informs Israeli authorities of the movement of all of our convoys. That has been the case in any theatre of operation. This is a standard operating procedure. This was the case yesterday morning so we have informed them. And it was a clearly marked UN vehicle.”

When asked about the attack, the Israeli military said it had “not been made aware of the route of the vehicle,” adding, “the incident is under review.”

NOTE: Israel’s self-investigations consistently whitewash its crimes and fail to appropriately punish the perpetrators. Israeli sources, including the government itself, have a long track record of lying (for example, this and this and this.)

‘The police supported them’: Israeli rights activist on aid convoy looting

Al Jazeera reports: Sapir Sluzker Amran, an Israeli human rights lawyer who went to the Tarqumiyah crossing in Hebron to document the looting of a Gaza-bound aid convoy yesterday, has described the scenes to Al Jazeera.

For hours, a group of far-right Israeli activists tore food parcels out of aid trucks and destroyed them, including boxes of rice and noodles headed to desperately hungry people in Gaza.

Police at the scene protected the activists, giving them “full permission to do whatever they wanted”, said Sluzker Amran.

“I didn’t see anyone being arrested. The only one who was asked to leave was me,” she added, noting that the activists also threatened and physically attack her for trying to document the incident.

She said she believes police or security forces fed the activists information on when and where the aid trucks would arrive, with the information being shared openly on social media platforms.

Elsewhere, Al Jazeera adds: Little is being done on the part of the Israeli government to stop this. Israel has an incredibly powerful security force, particularly when it comes to looking at Palestinian protesters. But they’re not doing the same when it comes to these protests.

According to media reports, Itamar Ben-Gvir, the far-right-wing security minister, told the police not to get involved because his ideology is the same as that of protesters. He wants settlements to start again in Gaza, he doesn’t want aid to get in and doesn’t want a ceasefire.

US officials: Israel has amassed enough troops to launch full-scale incursion into Rafah

Netanyahu Ministers Join Israeli Far-right ‘March to Gaza,’ Demand Palestinians’ Expulsion

Ha’aretz reports: Thousands of Israelis joined a far-right Independence Day march on Tuesday in the south, led by Jewish activists advocating for resettling Gaza and forcing Palestinians to leave the enclave.

Itamar Ben Gvir
Itamar Ben Gvir (photo)

The march was supported by lawmakers speaking at the event, including two cabinet members: Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

“First,” he said, “we must return to Gaza now! We are coming home to the Holy Land! And second,” he continued, “we must encourage emigration. Encourage the voluntary emigration of the residents of Gaza. It is moral!” He also called the forced expulsion of Gazans the “true solution.”

NOTE: The Palestinian people have made it clear that they do not want to emigrate to anywhere. Forced transfer of a people group is a crime against humanity – a crime that Israel already committed against the Palestinian people in 1948.

Palestinian young man shot dead by Israeli forces in Ramallah

WAFA reports: A Palestinian young man was Wednesday shot dead by Israeli occupation during confrontations that broke out after an occupied West Bank march commemorating the mass displacement of Palestinians in the Nakba of 1948.

Security sources told WAFA that Ayser Mohammad Safi, 20, a student at Birzeit University, a resident in Jalazoun camp, north of the city of Ramallah, was killed after being seriously injured by Israeli live bullets in the neck.

 Occupation forces had fired poison gas and sound bombs, which led to dozens suffering from suffocation.

Biden advances $1 billion in arms for Israel amid Rafah tensions

The Washington Post reports: The Biden administration informally notified congressional committees Tuesday that it planned to move forward with more than $1 billion in weapons deals for Israel, said U.S. officials familiar with the matter, a major transfer of lethal aid that comes a week after the White House paused a single shipment of bombs due to concerns that a planned assault in southern Gaza could cause immense civilian casualties.

The arms deals allow for the potential transfer of $700 million in tank ammunition, $500 million in tactical vehicles and $60 million in mortar rounds, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

The decision underscores the administration’s reluctance to defy pro-Israel donors in the Democratic Party who criticized Biden’s decision to withhold a shipment last week that included controversial 2,000-pound bombs that have been involved in mass casualty events in Gaza.

Even though the shipments in the latest arms packages would not arrive imminently, critics say advancing the packages sends a message to Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that it can defy U.S. warnings about invading Rafah and not have to worry about the United States replenishing the munitions at a later date.

NOTE: Most Americans are opposed to arms transfers to Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Joe Biden meet in New York on Sept. 20.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Joe Biden meet in New York on Sept. 20, 2023 (photo)

Biden would veto Israel assistance bill if it passes, White House says

Ha’aretz reports: U.S. President Joe Biden would veto a bill on Israel security assistance in Congress if it passes, the White House said on Tuesday.

In an official policy statement, the White House said that the administration “strongly opposes” the bill, saying that it “seeks to limit the President’s discretion to ensure that the delivery of certain defense articles and services aligns with U.S. foreign policy objectives.”

“The bill is a misguided reaction to a deliberate distortion of the Administration’s approach to Israel,” the statement added. “The President has been clear: we will always ensure Israel has what it needs to defend itself. Our commitment to Israel is ironclad.”

The US is wrapping up a pier to bring aid to Gaza by sea. But danger and uncertainty lie ahead

Associated Press reports: In the coming days, the U.S. military in the eastern Mediterranean is expected to jab one end of a hulking metal dock — the length of five U.S. football fields — into a beach in northern Gaza.

And that may be the end of the easy part for the Biden administration’s two-month-long, $320 million effort to open a sea route to get humanitarian aid into Gaza, with dangers and uncertainties ahead for aid delivery teams as fighting surges and the plight of starving Palestinians grows more dire.

For President Joe Biden, the Pentagon’s new floating pier and causeway are a gamble, an attempted workaround to the challenges of getting aid into Gaza from intensifying war and the restrictions its ally Israel has placed at land crossings since Hamas’ deadly attacks on Israel launched the conflict in October.

Relief groups are watching to see if Israeli officials will allow a freer flow of food and other supplies through this sea route than they have by land and follow through on pledges to protect aid workers. They say protections for humanitarian workers have not improved and point to aid already piling up at Gaza’s border crossings, waiting for decisions by Israeli officials to distribute it.

Because land crossings could bring in all the needed aid if Israeli officials allowed, the U.S.-built pier and sea route “is a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Scott Paul, an associate director of the Oxfam humanitarian organization.

In this image provided by the U.S. Army, soldiers assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) and sailors attached to the MV Roy P. Benavidez assemble the Roll-On, Roll-Off Distribution Facility, or floating pier, off the shore of Gaza in the Mediterranean Sea on April 26, 2024
In this image provided by the U.S. Army, soldiers assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary) and sailors attached to the MV Roy P. Benavidez assemble the Roll-On, Roll-Off Distribution Facility, or floating pier, off the shore of Gaza in the Mediterranean Sea on April 26, 2024 (photo)

Travel ban overturned: Major victory for Prof. Ghassan Abu Sittah

International Center of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) reports: Professor Ghassan Abu Sittah has won a major victory over German authorities after a successful legal challenge to overturn his Schengen-area travel ban (the Schengen Area allows people to travel between 27 EU countries without border controls).

Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu-Sittah speaks to reporters outside Al-Ahli Hospital in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu-Sittah speaks to reporters outside Al-Ahli Hospital in the Gaza Strip. (photo)

The successful legal challenge was led by lawyer Alexander Gorski, with support from lawyers from the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP) and European Legal Support Centre (ELSC) on Professor Abu Sittah’s behalf.

Over the past few weeks, Professor Ghassan Abu Sittah has been prevented from traveling abroad to speak about the Israeli war crimes he witnessed during the 43 days that he worked as a war surgeon in Gaza, during Israel’s genocide against Palestinians.

Now a judge has ruled that the travel ban should be overturned. This is a significant victory for freedom of speech and a significant turning point in challenging the chilling environment that many Palestinian human rights advocates have to operate in.

Harvard students end protest as university agrees to discuss Middle East conflict

Associated Press reports: Protesters against the war between Israel and Gaza were voluntarily taking down their tents in Harvard Yard on Tuesday after university officials agreed to discuss their questions about the endowment, bringing a peaceful end to the kinds of demonstrations that were broken up by police on other campuses.

The student protest group Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine said in a statement that the encampment “outlasted its utility with respect to our demands.” Meanwhile, Harvard University interim President Alan Garber agreed to pursue a meeting between protesters and university officials regarding the students’ questions.

The protesters said they worked out an agreement to meet with university officials including the Harvard Management Company, which oversees the world’s largest academic endowment, valued at about $50 billion.

The protesters’ statement said the students will set an agenda including discussions on disclosure, divestment and reinvestment, and the creation of a Center for Palestine Studies. The students also said that Harvard has offered to retract the suspensions of more than 20 students and student workers and back down on disciplinary measures faced by 60 more.

More News:

Al Jazeera: US university ties to weapons contractors under scrutiny amid war in Gaza
Electronic Intifada: Germany eyes new deals with Israel’s merchants of genocide
Middle East Monitor: 10,000 Palestinians left disabled by Israel’s bombing of Gaza
IMEMC Reports

Memorable Quote

[Because land crossings could bring in all the needed aid if Israeli officials allowed, the U.S.-built pier and sea route] is a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.

Like all of the land crossings, it comes down to the consent of the government of Israel [on allowing aid through its screening process and ensuring aid teams are safe to distribute it within Gaza].

If Israel is comfortable with allowing the maritime corridor to function… then it will work in a limited way. And if they don’t, it won’t. Which is why it’s a very, very expensive alternative. ~  Scott Paul, an associate director of the Oxfam humanitarian organization.

NOTE: With a price tag of $320 million, and no guarantee that Israel will allow the pier to be used for humanitarian aid to Gaza, this project is potentially a massive waste of US tax dollars. Even if it is used, it is a waste of taxpayer money because hundreds of truckloads of aid wait just miles from the famine-ridden people, waiting only for Israel to allow them to enter Gaza and distribute it. 

Palestinian death toll from October 7 – May 14: at least 35,743* (35,233 in Gaza* and at least 510 in the West Bank (117 children). This does not include an estimated 7,000 more still buried under rubble (4,900 women and children). Euro-Med Monitor reports 42,510 Palestinian deaths.

At least 42 Palestinians have died in Israeli prisons (27 from Gaza, 14 from West Bank).

At least 31 Palestinian children and several adults have died due to malnutrition**.

About 1.7 million, or 75% of Gaza’s population are currently displaced.

About 1.1 million (out of total population of 2.3 million) are facing Catastrophic levels of food insecurity.

Palestinian injuries from October 7 – May 14: at least 84,141 (including at least 79,141 in Gaza and 5,000 in the West Bank).

It remains unknown how many Americans are among the casualties in Gaza.

Reported Israeli death toll from October 7 – May 14: ~1,426 (~1,139 on October 7, 2023, of which ~32 were Americans, and ~36 were children); 272 military forces since the ground invasion began in Gaza;, 16 in the West Bank) and~8,730 injured.

Times of Israel reports: The IDF also listed 41 soldiers killed due to friendly fire in Gaza and other military-related accidents – nearly 16%.

NOTE: It is unknown at this time how many of the deaths and injuries in Israel on October 7 were caused by Israeli soldiers.

*Previously, IAK did not include 471 Gazans killed in the Al Ahli hospital blast since the source of the projectile was being disputed. However, given that much evidence points to Israel as the culprit, Israel had previously bombed the hospital and has attacked many others, Israel is prohibiting outside experts from investigating the scene, and since the UN and other agencies are including the deaths from the attack in their cumulative totals, if Americans knew is now also doing so.

Women and children make up at least 56 percent of the 35,173 people killed in the Gaza war, the UN says, in a new breakdown, which is the “most comprehensive” to date.

**Euro-Med Monitor reports that Gaza’s elderly are dying at an alarmingly high rate. The majority die at home and are buried either close to their residences or in makeshift graves dispersed across the Strip. There are currently more than 140 such cemeteries. Additionally, according to Euromed, thousands have died from starvation, malnourishment, and inadequate medical care; these are considered indirect victims as they were not registered in hospitals. 

Find previous daily casualty figures and daily news updates here.

Hover over each bar for exact numbers.
Source: IsraelPalestineTimeline.org

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