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MIDDLE EAST CRISIS UPDATE: 16 NOVEMBER 2023

Israeli troops press on against Hamas despite hospital raid criticism; fuel shipment to Gaza far from sufficient – UN

Israeli troops press on against Hamas despite hospital raid criticism; fuel shipment to Gaza far from sufficient – UN
An Israeli tank manoeuvres along the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip on 15 November 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Atef Safadi)

Israel’s military continued to go after Hamas in Gaza, even after criticism of its raid on a key hospital, and launched a strike on a Hezbollah post in Lebanon.

The United Nations and Jordan joined others in condemning Israeli troops for storming Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital, with Jordan’s foreign ministry saying it violated human rights laws. Israel said the raid at the hospital was a “precise and targeted operation”, and would not mark an end to the campaign against Hamas.

The EU was moving to hasten efforts to help Egypt address the fallout from the crisis amid increased refugee flows into the North African country.

Latest developments

EU hastens plan to help Egypt address Israel-Hamas fallout

The European Union is moving to speed up efforts to help Egypt address the fallout from the Israel-Hamas war on its border.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen plans to visit Cairo soon to advance efforts to support Egypt’s economic development and cushion the impact of the ongoing crisis, people familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity because the discussions are private.

The EU, already exploring a partnership, wants to accelerate the push, given Cairo’s significance and concerns about increasing refugee flows. In addition, the EU will propose an investment plan that would aim to mobilise €9-billion in sectors such as digital, energy, agriculture and transport.

Read more: EU speeds up plan to bolster Egypt amid Israel-Gaza crisis

Israel strikes Hezbollah post amid launches from Lebanon 

The Israeli military said its tanks struck a Hezbollah observation post in Lebanon and reported multiple launches from its northern neighbour. Earlier, Iran-backed Hezbollah said it fired missiles at Israeli barracks and attacked another site, the militant’s group Al-Manar TV reported. The Israeli army reported no injuries from the launches.

Fuel shipment to Gaza far from sufficient, says UN agency

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) received around 23,000 litres of fuel from Egypt, or what amounts to half a tanker, its affairs director in Gaza, Thomas White, said in a post on social media platform X.

“This is only 9% of what we need daily to sustain lifesaving activities,” he said.

Turkish President Erdoğan calls Israel a ‘terrorist state’  

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called Israel “a terrorist state” in a speech addressing members of the ruling AK Party in Ankara.

“Hamas is a political party that entered and won elections in Palestine and you seized its rights after it won the election,” he said “Who did? Again Israel, together with the US.”

Gaza data centres hampered by lack of fuel  

Data centres in the Gaza Strip were gradually shutting down because of a lack of fuel, according to Paltel, the main telecom provider in the territory. They were relying on batteries, which “will lead to a complete telecom blackout in coming hours”, Paltel said in a post on X.

The humanitarian organisation Mercy Corps said it was concerned about losing contact with nearly 70 staff and their families inside Gaza soon.

Iran foreign minister in Geneva to discuss Gaza

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was in Geneva on Wednesday to discuss the situation in Gaza with the UN’s head of humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, Martin Griffiths, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported. Amir-Abdollahian was also scheduled to meet Red Cross officials.

Jordan condemns ‘storming’ of Gaza hospital

Jordan’s foreign ministry condemned Israeli forces “storming” al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza and called it a “violation of international humanitarian law”, state-run agency Petra reported. The ministry said it would hold Israel accountable for the safety of civilians and medical workers at the hospital, according to the report.

Shifa operation won’t end campaign, says Israel

Entry into Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital compound by Israeli troops will not mark an end to military operations against Hamas, with many difficult days still to come in the conflict, an Israeli government spokesperson said.

Eylon Levy told Bloomberg Radio in an interview on Wednesday that Israeli troops had entered the hospital and begun to deliver medical aid, including incubators for dozens of premature babies in need of urgent care. US intelligence has backed Israeli claims that Hamas is operating from the hospital.

“It would be a very serious blow to Hamas,” Levy said. “But it’s not the end and we know that the days ahead are going to be long and they are going to be difficult.”

UN trucks to be refuelled, says Israel

After UNRWA said its trucks ran out of fuel and the US administration requested the situation be rectified, Israel’s military agreed the vehicles could be refuelled at the Rafah crossing, the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (Cogat) said in a post on social media platform X.

Israel was coordinating with relevant authorities, Cogat said.

UN cites deaths at al-Shifa before army entered 

The UN said 40 patients died in al-Shifa Hospital on 14 November, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza, before Israel said it had entered the hospital compound. The causes of death were not given by the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in its flash update.

Only one hospital in northern Gaza was reportedly still operational at a minimum level, the UN said, after the World Health Organization warned that requiring the evacuation of medical facilities in the north could be a “death sentence” for some patients, since there is nowhere for them to be taken.

“Hospitals and medical personnel are specifically protected under international humanitarian law and all parties to the conflict must ensure their protection,” the UN said. DM

Read more in Daily Maverick: Israel-Palestine War

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