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MIDDLE EAST CRISIS UPDATE: 18 APRIL 2024

UN seeks $2.5bn in aid for Gaza; G7 nations weigh up new sanctions against Iran Air

UN seeks $2.5bn in aid for Gaza; G7 nations weigh up new sanctions against Iran Air
Destruction in the city of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip following the Israeli army withdrawal from the region, 14 April 2024. (Photo: EPA-EFE / STR)

The United Nations is seeking $2.5bn for humanitarian aid in Gaza through the rest of the year, an exponential increase from six months ago that underscores the deteriorating situation for those caught in the middle of the Israel-Hamas war.

Some Group of Seven (G7) nations were considering fresh sanctions on Iran Air in response to Tehran’s 13 April attack on Israel, a move that would further curb the Iranian carrier’s flights to Europe, said people familiar with the matter.

The Iran-backed group Hezbollah attacked a village in northern Israel with drones and anti-tank missiles, injuring 14 soldiers.

UN seeks $2.5bn for Gaza aid, 10 times more than six months ago

The United Nations (UN) is seeking $2.5-billion for humanitarian aid in Gaza through the rest of the year, an exponential increase from six months ago that underscores the deteriorating situation for those caught in the middle of the Israel-Hamas war.

In total, the UN is appealing to donors for $2.8-billion for Gaza and the West Bank — ten times the amount it said it needed the week after Hamas attacked Israel in October, starting the war. Almost one-third of the funding would go toward food, while about $800-million would go toward meeting shelter and health needs.

The amount sought would be enough to serve about 2.2 million people in Gaza and 400,000 more in the West Bank. But the request still falls short of the $4.1-billion that the UN and its partners say is needed to address the needs of 3.3 million Palestinians.

The appeal reflects “an effort to be realistic about what will be implementable given the current operating context”, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Wednesday. “The magnitude of this response and operational constraints are beyond what has been seen before.”

The UN also laid out steps that it said need to be taken to effectively deliver humanitarian assistance. The world body called for the opening of more land routes into Gaza, improved ability to move within the strip and more visas and permits for UN staff to operate in the Palestinian territories.

The appeal comes as the main UN humanitarian agency operating in Gaza faces a funding drought after Israeli officials accused some of its staff of participating in the 7 October attacks by Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organisation by the US and the European Union. Leading donors including the US have halted funding for the organisation while the UN conducts an investigation into the Israeli claims.

Under the current scenario, the UN estimates UNRWA — the backbone of the humanitarian response in Gaza — has enough funds to operate only until next month. Israel’s war in Gaza has killed more than 32,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run health ministry there, and displaced thousands more.

G7 nations weigh up new Iran Air sanctions after attack on Israel

Some Group of Seven nations were considering fresh sanctions on Iran Air in response to Tehran’s 13 April attack on Israel, a move that would further curb the Iranian carrier’s flights to Europe, people familiar with the matter said.

The sanctions would be part of a broader array of punishments meant to further isolate Iran after the attack, which saw the regime launch some 300 drones and missiles in the first direct attack on Israel. Israeli, US and UK air defences and fighter jets knocked down almost all the incoming weapons.

A decision on the measures to impose on Iran has yet to be finalised, according to the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations. The measure has also been raised as an option should Iran provide missiles to Russia, one of the people said. In the EU, sanctions require the backing of all member states.

On Tuesday, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said the US would impose new sanctions on Iran targeting the country’s missile and drone programme following its weekend attack. Sullivan said the US, in coordination with its allies, would also target entities supporting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran’s defence ministry.

Any impact of those actions is likely to be limited given that Iran Air, the IRGC and Iran’s drone manufacturers are already heavily sanctioned. The IRGC has been labelled a terrorist organisation by the US since 2019, a designation meant to sever the group and anyone associated with it from the global economy.

Those sanctions failed to deny Iran the funding to advance its production of the types of weapons used in last weekend’s barrage against Israel. Even so, allied nations are determined to signal their condemnation of Iran’s attack, which directly targeted Israel for the first time.

Iran Air only serves eight destinations in Europe, including London, Paris and Vienna as well as several cities in Germany and Italy, but not the US, where it is already sanctioned along with swathes of Iran’s civil aviation industry.

US restrictions have made it challenging for Iran-based airlines to acquire new planes and spare parts for existing aircraft. As a result, the country’s aviation industry has struggled to maintain and build out fleets over the years. Iran Air, which also flies to destinations in the Middle East and Asia, has about 30 aircraft comprising Airbus and Boeing jets, some of which are more than 30 years old.

Israel says 14 soldiers hurt in Hezbollah attack on Galilee

The Iran-backed group Hezbollah attacked a village in northern Israel with drones and anti-tank missiles, injuring 14 soldiers.

Israel’s army said six of those were severely wounded in the attack, after which it carried out retaliatory strikes on the source of fire. Israeli fighter jets also struck Hezbollah military compounds in southern Lebanon, where the group is based, the Israel Defense Forces said.

Wednesday’s clashes marked the most forceful strike by Hezbollah since Iran launched hundreds of missiles and drones on Israel last week. Tensions near Israel’s northern border have remained high for months, with the military regularly exchanging fire with Hezbollah.

The fighting raises the risk of a full-blown conflict in the north, at a time when Israel is focused on destroying the leadership of Hamas in Gaza to the south.

The latest attack took place at a community centre in Arab al-Aramshe in Western Galilee, Israel’s Channel 12 said. Hezbollah targeted what it said was an Israeli reconnaissance site, according to a report by the group’s Al-Manar TV.

Foiling Iran’s missile attack probably cost more than $1bn

Israel and its allies won plaudits for mostly fending off Iran’s unprecedented attack on Saturday night.

But the operation, lasting no more than several hours, came with a steep price tag, and points to the sheer expense of air defence as nations such as Iran improve their drone and missile capabilities.

The efforts of Israel and the US, British, French and Jordanian militaries probably cost in the region of $1.1-billion, according to Reem Aminoach, a former brigadier general and chief financial adviser to the head of the Israeli military.

“That is the estimated cost of thwarting an attack of this scope,” he said to Bloomberg. Aminoach, who was also a board member at Israel Aerospace Industries, one of the country’s main defence companies, cited calculations he’d done for the number of interceptor missiles Israel would have had to fire.

Israel was responsible for as much as two-thirds of the interceptions, while its allies did the rest, Zvika Haimovich, a former commander of Israel’s Air Defense Forces, told journalists on Wednesday.

The Israeli military said Iran launched about 170 drones, 30 cruise missiles and 120 ballistic missiles. Only the latter penetrated Israeli airspace and in “very small numbers”, according to the military. The drones and cruise missiles were all intercepted before they got to Israel.

The operation involved coordination between Israel and its allies’ network of radar sites, missile-interceptor launchers, warships and air bases across the Middle East.

The US said it destroyed more than 80 drones and at least six ballistic missiles fired from Iran and Yemen, where the Houthis — a militant group funded by Tehran — are based.

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Some of the defensive missiles the US has cost $2-million apiece and, in certain cases, two or three are fired at each incoming target to increase the chances of it being shot down, James Stavridis, a retired US Navy admiral, said in a Bloomberg column. Israel’s costliest interceptors, known as Arrow 3, cost around $3-million each.

US Congress ‘discussing Iran oil sanctions’

New sanctions on Iran’s oil may be included in a House foreign aid package that House Speaker Mike Johnson has vowed to bring to a vote this week, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said on Wednesday.

“The pot’s boiling right now,” Senator James Risch, an Idaho Republican, said in an interview. There were “discussions in the two Houses to include some of those kinds of things in this package that will hopefully pass out of the House”.

Johnson has told legislators he plans to reveal details of the package providing aid to Ukraine and Israel later on Wednesday. He said he expected to bring the measure to a vote on Saturday, though passage is far from guaranteed amid a revolt by hardline conservatives.

The idea of placing sanctions on importers of Iranian oil has been swiftly gaining momentum in Congress following the nation’s direct attack on Israel, and House and Senate leaders have been in discussions about how to move forward with legislation to do so, Senator Ben Cardin, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in an interview on Tuesday. DM

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  • Luke S says:

    Isn’t it weird how the US wants to sanction buyers of Iranian oil, and Iran for retaliating executions on it’s embassy. Yet if one applies the same conditions for sanctions on North Korea and Iran, Israel should be very heavily sanctioned. yet the opposite is happening – they are being rewarded with weapons, intelligence, politcal bullying of any critics, and vetoes.

  • Luke S says:

    So let me get this straight… Israel bombs a diplomatic embassy of Iran in a foreign country, killing (7 I think of it’s citizens?). They respond with a barrage of weapons, after giving the US notice ahead of time, and nobody is killed. They say this is self-defence. Israel kills more than 30 times the amount of people as a response to 1200 killed on Oct 7, and they call that self-defence. And who is sanctioned? Primary school children would see the hypocrisy here.

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