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Lessons from Gaza

In this picture taken from Israel's southern border with the Gaza Strip shows humanitarian aid being airdropped over the Palestinian territory on March 10, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (Photo by Menahem KAHANA / AFP)

Five people killed in Gaza City by airdropped aid boxes due to malfunctioning parachutes highlights the deadly consequences of Israeli restrictions, Growing criticism defines Biden’s plan to build a temporary pier on Gaza’s coastline to allow aid to enter as mere distraction, European Union announces the establishment of a maritime corridor delivering aid from Cyprus to the besieged Strip, Ceasefire negotiations in Cairo stalled a few days before Ramadan, US Envoy Hochstein arrives in Beirut as Hezbollah announces Israeli infiltration attempts, Raising death toll as cross-border tensions escalate in south Lebanon, Israeli settlements expand by record amount in the occupied West Bank, Lebanese depositors demonstrate against money withdrawal freezing, US strikes in Yemen cause rapid escalation in the Red Sea, UN Security Council calls for ceasefire in Sudan during Ramadan, Nearly 160 Iraqi families have been repatriated from Syria's al-Hol camp, Libyan leaders agree to form new unified government, Quintet ambassadors reiterate their support for holding Lebanese presidential elections soon, French-funded-and-assisted plan to rehabilitate the port of Beirut to be unveiled on Wednesday amid ongoing calls for accountability, World Bank delegation estimate cost of Syrian refugeehood in Lebanon around 1.5 billion dollars

Suffocated, oppressed, decimated. Gaza continues to shout at the world to be silent. Not to commemorate the dead: what’s the point, one might wonder, if we are all complicit in their fate of massive, ongoing loss. Rather, to humbly listen to its teachings.

Suffocated, oppressed, decimated – Gaza is teaching the world that hunger can kill in other ways than mere food shortages. Starving a population to the point of death can be equivalent to feeding it – to the point of death. The flour massacre showed it to the witnessing world when, on Thursday, February 29, Israeli troops fired on crowds of Palestinians gathered to collect flour in the south-west of Gaza City, murdering 118 people and injuring 760 others, who had been waiting for food for weeks.

And while the media channels sugarcoated the massacre as a chaotic aid distribution – the genocide as a crisis – and continue to dehumanize a population of survivors like an undefined hungry crowd, to the point of animalization, yet another catastrophe unfolded, masked behind the colonial rhetoric of aid raining from the sky. Last Friday’s attempt, coordinated by the Jordanian and the United States’ air forces, to airdrop humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip ended in tragedy – with a non functional parachute killing five people, and leaving several others injured. Five more victims – for a handful of food. And if they try to say that killing was not deliberated, then you’ll answer: starving surely is. 

Hungry, thirsty, but never greedy, Gaza unmasks the illusion of humanitarian aid as the extreme attempt at colonial dependence. The mirage of American support in the Strip does not only come from the paradox of continuing to sell weapons to Israel to silently embracing its genocidal war on a helpless population: Washington’s ally in the region is embarking in its plan of ethnic cleansing of yet another portion of the scattered Palestinian territory, willing to divide the Strip in two, starving its population until submission. Knowing that airdrops, as well as proposed temporary seaports, are not realistic or lasting solutions to stave off looming famine and sustain life for more than two million people; that aid trucks entering by land would allow the delivery of sustenance for a larger portion of the Strip’s population; and that the blockage of  Gaza’s land crossings – barring the entry of food, water, medicine and other supplies – did not start on October 7. Since 1967, Israel has exercised full control of Gaza’s coastline and territorial waters, blocking ships from reaching the strip. Since 2007, it has shut almost all of Gaza’s border crossings, and its port has been under Israeli naval blockade, making it the only seaport in the Mediterranean closed to shipping – an unreachable island of misery. More recently, only a trickle of aid through the crossings of Karem Abu Salem and Rafah were allowed, facing the obstruction of demobilized reservists, families of hostages and settlers – the ‘Tsav 9’ movement – who protest to prevent aid convoys to access. Surrounded by enemies, Gaza shows, in silence, what the colonizer is able to do. To what extent hatred and genocidal violence can be embodied for the achievement of the longest settler colonial project of history. And if agreeing to deliver food from the sky, for the American and the Jordanian forces, is nothing but another way to support the Zionist strategy of isolation and starvation-until-surrender – then, Gaza is the brutal lesson and the shining example for enemies and friends alike.

Without a roof under which to consume its iftar – without a date to break its unbearable fast – a fast more than five months long – Gaza judges our greed. What is the meaning of Ramadan, in times of mass genocide, of hunger used as a weapon of war.

More ugly, impoverished, miserable, and vicious in the eyes of enemies as it is; the most capable of disturbing their mood and comfort; Gaza, the Israeli nightmare and the Palestinian dream, equals the history of an entire homeland, the poet Mahmoud Darwish once wrote in his open letter, ‘Silence for Gaza.’ And while the colonizer keeps on fostering a dehumanizing narrative of humans turned into animals, pushed to hit against each other for a bloody sack of flour, Gaza, its mined fruits, children without a childhood, youngsters without youth, old men without age, defeats the attempts to be glorified, just to stay alive – and to defend its right to die. As myths never do. 

Death has crossed into Gaza, it has penetrated it to an epistemological depth such that it will not stop with the cessation of the bombings. Death, in Gaza, has accumulated in a series of collateral risks that two million survivors are already dealing with. This is why a humanitarian aid convoy dropped from the sky can kill. This is why walking on the remains of a destroyed building can mean suffocating the cry of those who remained lost under the rubble. Gaza teaches the world that in dying, it stays alive. Refusing to succumb to idealization, it endures as a human body – and, as such, it continues to die.


In Lebanon

Strike for dignity: Hundreds of contract professors at the Lebanese University protested outside the Ministry of Education to demand promotions to temporary full-time employment, citing the stark difference in salary a change in status would imply. The professors, with wages as low as $2 per hour, some of whom earned $100 for an entire year of employment and haven’t even received last year’s salaries, threatened to go on an open-ended strike if their demands were not met. Currently, 1,760 contract teachers employed by Lebanon’s only public university are eligible for the promotion, but the need to maintain religious balance is reportedly causing the hold-up in making the temporary jobs permanent.

Meanwhile, after weeks of protests, on Friday public employees were finally promised to withdraw their February salaries, the Finance Ministry announced as reported by L’Orient-Le Jour, following a strike by the institution’s employees to demand improved pay and the restoration of suspended bonuses delayed disbursal. The salaries available for withdrawal, transferred to the Central Bank, had been delayed over the last ten days while government employees were on strike: specifically, empty desks in the Ministry of Finance meant that the processing of payments was suspended. The ministry last Sunday urged its employees to enable public salary payments through their gradual return to work after the civil servants walked out a week prior to protest the government’s reneging on temporary bonus payments. Last week, in response to intensified protests spearheaded by Lebanese Army retirees citing unfairness in compensation and abysmal wages, the caretaker government increased public sector salaries.

However, on the same day, dozens of angry depositors demonstrated in front of the headquarters of the Banque du Liban (BDL), in Hamra, asking for the restitution of the deposits that have been freezed since October 2019. Demonstrators denounced the blocking of their accounts by the banks, which have heavily and illegally restricted withdrawals, in a context of multifaceted crisis and collapse of the Lebanese pound. While the dollar was trading at 1,500 Lebanese pounds before the crisis, in fact, it is now worth 89,500 on the parallel market.


Hochstein in Beirut: A truce in Gaza “will not systematically extend to Lebanon,” US envoy Amos Hochstein said on Monday after a meeting with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. Amid an international scramble to align Israel and Hamas’ terms for a ceasefire deal, Hochstein’s comments reaffirm the rift between Hezbollah’s vow to cease cross-border attacks in tandem with the Gaza truce – as was the case last November – and Israel’s refusal to do the same before guaranteeing the safe return of its displaced northern residents. 

Hochstein said the US was working “with international partners to promote a peaceful solution in Lebanon,” one form of which was suggested in a February proposal by France pre-conditioning Lebanese-Israeli land border dispute negotiations with Hezbollah’s withdrawal 10 kilometers from the border.

Meant to be presenting a written document containing the results of recent meetings with Lebanese and Israeli officials, Hochastein’s proposal would aim to resolve the conflict at the Israel-Lebanon border. This visit, his latest in a long string of diplomatic trips to Lebanon, was expected to involve presenting the document – coming in fact in the midst of Gaza truce negotiations reportedly progressing toward a deal for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, beginning today. In southern Lebanon, tensions between Hezbollah and Israel are testing new limits as both sides have engaged in clashes well beyond the rules of engagement.

“We are working with international partners to promote a peaceful solution in Lebanon,” said Hochstein, who is a senior adviser to US President Joe Biden, adding that “escalation is dangerous. There is no such thing as a limited war.” According to him, “an escalation will not help either the Lebanese or the Israelis to return to their homes.” Tens of thousands of residents have been in fact evacuated since early October 2023, on both sides of the border. In Lebanon, over 80,000 have been displaced, but many remain as their only source of income depends on being able to continue farming on the land.


Infiltration attempts: Early Monday morning, Hezbollah announced that at 11:45 pm on Sunday, March 3, its fighters had targeted an Israeli force trying to “cross into Lebanon,” in the area of Wadi Qatmoun, opposite the Lebanese village of Rmaish, in the Bint Jbeil district. ⁠Hezbollah also said that it detonated a large explosive device half an hour later targeting a group of Israeli Golani Brigade soldiers that were also trying to “cross into Lebanon,” in the area of Khirbet Zarit, opposite to the Lebanese village of Ramyah, also in the district of Bint Jbeil.

This would be the first time that Israeli troops attempted to enter Lebanon since the beginning of cross-border clashes between Israel and Hezbollah in the wake of Hamas’ October 7 operation. However, neither Israeli media nor officials made any comment regarding the alleged infiltration attempt. 

Again on Thursday night, Hezbollah claimed to have stopped two Israeli military units separately attempting to infiltrate into Lebanon. The Iran-backed group said it foiled the first attempt with a rocket strike and thwarted the second by detonating an explosive device. 

Since October 8, Israel has announced the interception of several border crossers, many of whom it killed in the process. The Al-Quds Brigades of the Islamic Jihad reportedly claimed responsibility for the infiltration attempt flagged by Israeli forces on the third day of the war that left several of its members dead, while, on the other side, US officials have recently told CNN they are working under the assumption that Israel is planning a ground incursion into Lebanon within months if no diplomatic solution to the border clashes is reached.


No sign of end: Clashes over the last week were particularly violent, with Israeli strikes killing several members of Hezbollah and causing significant material destruction in the border towns of Houla and Blida. On Tuesday, an Israeli attack on a Hezbollah-affiliated health organization center killed three people in Adaisseh, Marjeyoun, after an unclaimed anti-tank missile launch from Lebanon killed an Indian national working on a plantation in Margaliot and injured several others, Israeli news source Haaretz reported

The three Lebanese victims were members of the Islamic Health Association, whose Adaisseh centre was completely destroyed, according to security and medical sources. It is the third attack on civil defence centres in Lebanon since October 8, the organisation said, after two other attacks in February and January that jointly killed four people. 

The attack on Adaisseh came amid several Israeli strikes reported across southern Lebanon. On Thursday, the Civil Defense uncovered the remains of a civilian killed by an Israeli strike on his home in Dhairah, Sour, raising the number of civilian victims to 51, while nearly 240 members of Hezbollah have been killed since clashes began. At least ten Israeli soldiers and six Israeli civilians have also been killed, though Hezbollah claims the casualty figure is more significant. Hamas – which two weeks ago announced its first attack from Lebanon in months, the Amal Movement, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, al-Jamaa al-Islamiya, and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, have all reportedly participated in Hezbollah’s “support front” for Gaza.


The presidential saga: After their third monthly meeting this year, the French, US, Qatari, Saudi, and Egyptian Ambassadors to Lebanon reiterated their support for holding presidential elections as soon as possible. Representatives from the five states have regularly attempted to expedite the election process, which has failed after a dozen Parliamentary sessions and countless meetings to name Aoun’s successor after the end of his term in October 2022.

The latest meeting of the Quintet’s ambassadors came amid an attempt by the National Moderation bloc, former-Future Movement, to rally parliamentarians’ support for consecutive, open-ended electoral sessions – after the first dozen ended with a first round during which candidates need two-thirds of MPs to vote in their favor rather than the simple majority required in subsequent ballots.  The initiative led by the National Moderation bloc consists of holding parliamentary consultations on the presidential election at Place de l’Etoile, after which the deputies will call for an open electoral session, with successive rounds, until a president is elected – an option of which Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and the Quintet members are in favor.

Hezbollah Parliamentary bloc chief Mohammad Raad reaffirmed his party’s alliance with the Free Patriotic Movement on Thursday with a visit to founder and former President Michel Aoun’s home, while Lebanese Forces party leader, Samir Geagea, on Wednesday criticized recent presidential initiatives, saying they exposed the opposition’s true intentions. Geagea accused the Resistance bloc of shunning dialogue and aiming solely to fragment those opposing their candidate, former Minister Sleiman Frangieh, arguing that this stance obstructed attempts by the national moderate coalition and others to end the presidential vacuum. He lamented the bloc’s failure to secure the necessary votes for their presidential candidate for over a year and four months, resulting in continued electoral obstruction.

On the other side, the Lebanese Forces’ chief also criticized the National Moderation initiative, alleging it ensnared the Resistance axis into echoing its known rhetoric across various media outlets, finally urging Berri to fulfil his constitutional duties by convening consecutive parliamentary sessions until a new president is elected.

However, according to sources in the National Moderation bloc, quoted by MTV, Berri is in favor of pursuing this initiative, “perhaps because he is beginning to be convinced, as is Hezbollah, of the need for a third candidate, even if Hezbollah and Berri are not openly declaring it.” After meeting with Berri on Saturday, the bloc is preparing a written proposal to start on Tuesday a new round of meetings aiming to break the presidential election deadlock. 


The price of refugeehood: Caretaker Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, on Wednesday welcomed World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa, Ferid Belhaj, along with the Regional Director for the Middle East at the World Bank, Jean-Christophe Carret, the National News Agency (NNA) reported. Belhaj stated that the meeting, marking his latest official visit to Lebanon, “provided an opportunity to discuss regional issues, particularly economic, social, and security conditions. We discussed upcoming projects to be reviewed by the Cabinet and Parliament for their approval and implementation.” 

Among the topics discussed, the World Bank delegation presented a study  conducted by the group on the economic and social impact of Syrian refugee influx into Lebanon. A similar study was conducted ten years ago, presented to the Security Council, which rallied support for Lebanon. This new study, however, shall evaluate the economic and social repercussions of Syrian migration in the country, and will be presented to donors and the Lebanese public to understand the budgetary pressures, economic, and social contractions in Lebanon, as Belhaj explained, arguing that the cost for Lebanon amounted to approximately 1.5 billion dollars, and that it was imperative for all stakeholders or donors to contribute significantly, as the country alone couldn’t bear this cost.


Planning rehabilitation: Lebanese Public Works and Transport Minister Ali Hamieh, during his visit to France, confirmed on Thursday that specifications are currently being prepared as part of the tenders set to initiate the rehabilitation of Beirut’s port. The Minister is expected to unveil next Wednesday a French-funded-and-assisted plan to rehabilitate the port of Beirut after it was ravaged by the August 4, 2020 blast, the NNA reported, saying that the plan aligns with a “strategic vision to develop the Lebanese port sector so it can fulfil its role in the Eastern Mediterranean region.” 

The rehabilitation project was devised by French engineering firms Egis and Artelia along with France’s national electricity company Électricité de France (EDF). Two years after the blast, the last of the damaged northern block silos collapsed while relatives of the more than 220 people killed in the explosion protested plans to demolish the remaining structures at least until the investigation into the tragedy concludes. The probe remains paralyzed due to judicial vacancies preventing rulings on requests to dismiss chief investigator Judge Tarek Bitar. Blast victims’ relatives held their monthly commemorative vigil on Monday, March 4, as every fourth day of the month, marking this time 1308 days since the disaster.

Meanwhile, as of February 27, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) has begun physical rehabilitation works on an initial batch of four residential buildings of heritage value that were severely damaged by the blast. This activity is part of the Beirut Housing Rehabilitation and Cultural and Creative Industries Recovery project, also known as BERYT, funded by the Lebanon Financing Facility, a multi-donor trust fund administered by the World Bank. The residential buildings to undergo rehabilitation were selected based on an extensive multifaceted selection process, assessing the level of structural damage and heritage value; the housing, land and property ownership status; and future usage plans of owners once the building is rehabilitated. The selection also takes into consideration the socioeconomic vulnerabilities of the building residents and households. Under the project, 15 additional buildings are expected to be contracted for renovation until June 2025, which are now undergoing final verifications and assessments. 


In The Region 

Homicidal help: Five people were killed and several injured in Al-Shati camp in Gaza City, in the northern Strip, by an US-Jordanian combined humanitarian airdrop on Friday, as parachutes failed to properly deploy the aid. Among the victims, two children were tragically killed.

“US Central Command and the Royal Jordanian Air Force conducted a combined humanitarian assistance airdrop into Northern Gaza on March 8, 2024, at approximately 1:30 pm to provide essential relief to civilians in Gaza affected by the ongoing conflict. The combined, joint operation included Jordanian provided meals and a US Air Force C-130 aircraft. A US C-130 dropped over 11,500 meal equivalents, providing life-saving humanitarian assistance in Northern Gaza, to enable civilian access to critical aid. The DoD humanitarian airdrops contribute to ongoing US and partner-nation government efforts to alleviate human suffering. These airdrops are part of a sustained effort, and we continue to plan follow on aerial deliveries,” CENTCOM posted on X before the news of the catastrophe spread, after which it added that “we are aware of reports of civilians killed as a result of humanitarian airdrops. We express sympathies to the families of those who were killed. Contrary to some reports, this was not the result of US airdrops.”

The government media office in Gaza confirmed the casualties after the incident on Friday, lambasting the “useless” airdrops as “flashy propaganda rather than a humanitarian service” and calling for food to be allowed through land crossings. “We previously warned it poses a threat to the lives of citizens in the Gaza Strip and this is what happened today when the parcels fell on the citizens’ heads,” it said in a statement, as quoted by Al-Jazeera’s coverage.

As famine stalks in the enclave, aid workarounds are criticized as a distraction from Israel’s blocking of aid through land routes. The deaths in fact occurred as hunger decimated the enclave’s scattered population, with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reporting last month that at least half a million, or one in four people in Gaza, face famine – highlighting the problem of getting desperately needed humanitarian relief into the Strip amid Israeli restrictions. UNRWA, the largest UN Agency in Gaza and for Palestinian refugees all over the region, said Israeli authorities have not allowed it to deliver supplies to the north of the strip since January 23 – while the World Food Programme (WFP), which had paused deliveries in Gaza because of security concerns, said the military forced its first convoy to the north in two weeks to turn back on Tuesday.


Distracting: In response to growing famine in Gaza, as at least 23 people have already died from malnutrition and dehydration, according to enclave Health Ministry figures cited by AFP, a number of countries – including the United States, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt – have conducted airdrops, which have been criticized by aid agencies as a costly and ineffective way of delivering food and medical supplies. On Wednesday, the WFP said that the controversial and failing – when not deadly – method should be considered “a last resort,” and, by way of contrast, it claimed that the week’s airdrops had only delivered six tones of food, while a 14-truck convoy would have brought 200 tones of food to people.

Friday’s disaster struck only a day after US President Joe Biden announced a complicated workaround to build a temporary pier off Gaza’s coast to deliver aid, a move criticized as an attempt to divert attention from the looming famine and Israel’s consistent blocking of assistance to the enclave. Biden said in his State of the Union speech on Thursday that he was directing the US military to lead an emergency mission to set up a pier off Gaza’s Mediterranean coast to receive ships carrying food, water, medicine and temporary shelters: initially to be based on Cyprus, the operation does not envision the deployment of US military personnel in the Palestinian territory.

While the port’s plan would ideally make it possible to bring in the equivalent of hundreds of truckloads of aid, as a White House official said, it would take weeks to set up, regardless of the gravity of a 2 million-people population on the brink of famine.

Meanwhile, a maritime corridor delivering aid from Cyprus to the besieged enclave – a collaboration of a number of partners, including European countries, the US, and the UAE – could be established as soon as this week, according to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The vessel, belonging to the Spanish charity Open Arms, will be ferrying food aid collected by the US charity World Central Kitchen, as the EU and its partners attempt to open up a new avenue for getting urgently needed assistance to the Strip.

The head of the European Commission said a test run of food aid collected by a charity group and supported by the United Arab Emirates could have left Cyprus as early as Friday. “We are launching this Cyprus maritime corridor together, the European Union, the United Arab Emirates and the United States,” she said after visiting facilities in Larnaca, Cyprus. “We are now very close to opening this corridor, hopefully this Saturday, Sunday, and I’m very glad to see an initial pilot will be launched today.” She gave no details on where the aid would be delivered in Gaza and made no reference to Biden’s announcement about the “temporary pier” on the Gaza coast.

However, specific time of departure can’t be disclosed for security reasons, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said, yet ensuring that the ship carrying aid for Gaza would leave Cyprus in the next 24 hours on a trial run along a new humanitarian sea corridor. Nevertheless, analysts noticed that, even if this pilot run is successful, the sea corridor won’t become operational until the planned temporary dock is constructed by the US – which the American military estimates will take two months.


Stalled: On Thursday, Hamas left the Gaza ceasefire talks in Cairo, where there was no sign of progress, while the US said the onus was on the Palestinian militant group to strike a deal on Israeli hostages, since Hamas didn’t agree to release sick and elderly hostages, Reuters’ news agency reported. Israel and Hamas blamed each other for the lack of agreement after four days of talks mediated by Qatar and Egypt about a 40-day ceasefire amid fears violence could escalate during the Muslim fasting month.

While Israel has said any ceasefire must be temporary and that its goal remains the destruction of Hamas, the Palestinian group stated it will release its hostages only as part of a deal that ends the war. According to Hamas officials’ statements, in fact, a ceasefire must be in place before the hostages are freed, Israeli forces must leave Gaza and all Gazans must be able to return to homes they have fled – adding it can’t provide a list of the hostages who are still alive without a ceasefire as the hostages are scattered across the war zone.

Therefore, negotiations on a possible ceasefire remained deadlocked in Cairo, with time running out to reach a truce in time for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, begun on Monday, March 11. Egyptian security sources previously told Reuters that talks, taking place without an Israeli delegation, would have resumed on Sunday, amid fears that violence could escalate across the region during the Muslim holy month – especially around the site of Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.


Expanding colonialism: Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories have expanded by a record amount and risk eliminating any practical possibility of a Palestinian state, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said on Friday, adding that the growth of Israeli settlements amounted to the transfer by Israel of its own population, which he reiterated is a war crime under international law. Last month, the US Biden administration claimed the settlements were “inconsistent” with international law after Israel announced new housing plans in the occupied West Bank.

“Settler violence and settlement-related violations have reached shocking new levels, and risk eliminating any practical possibility of establishing a viable Palestinian State,” Turk warned in a statement accompanying the report which will be presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in late March. The 16-page report, based on the UN’s own monitoring as well as other sources, documented 24,300 new Israeli housing units in the occupied West Bank during a one-year period through to end-October 2023, which it said was the highest on record since monitoring began in 2017.

It also warned there had been a dramatic increase in the intensity, severity and regularity of both Israeli settler and state violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, documenting that, since October 7, more than 400 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces or by settlers in the Palestinian territory – and nearly 600, including 282 children, have been displaced after their homes were demolished due to the lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which are almost impossible to obtain.

While Israel’s diplomatic mission in Geneva accused the report of ignoring the deaths of 36 Israelis in 2023, Türk’s report noted that the policies of Israel’s government – which is the most right-wing in the country’s history and includes religious nationalists with close ties to settlers, such as Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir – appeared aligned to an “unprecedented extent” with the goals of the Israeli settler movement.

Withdozens of documented cases of settlers wearing full or partial Israeli army uniforms and carrying army rifles while harassing or attacking Palestinians, settler violence reportedly includes the declared intent to forcibly transfer Palestinians from their land.


Striking Yemen: US Central Command said it conducted self-defense strikes on Thursday against four mobile Houthi anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) and one Houthi unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.  “At approximately 3:55 pm (Sanaa time), Houthi terrorists fired two anti-ship ballistic missiles from Yemen into the Gulf of Aden at M/V Propel Fortune, a Singapore-flagged, owned, and operated vessel,” CENTCOM said in a post on X, adding that there were no injuries or damage reported.

A US-led naval coalition has been operating in the waters since December 2023 trying to counter the Houthi attacks, along with deadly strikes carried out by US and British air forces on what they say are Houthi weapons sites in Yemen, including hitting truck-mounted anti-ship missiles. However, despite a series of air raids by US and British forces on Houthi targets, the group that controls the most populous parts of Yemen and whose popular support has been rapidly increasing in the past months, has remained capable of launching significant attacks. Those have included last month’s strike on a Lebanese-operated cargo ship carrying fertiliser, the Rubymar, which sank on Saturday after drifting for several days, and the downing of a US drone worth tens of millions of dollars.

Later on Friday, the US military released images showing a fire aboard the Liberian-owned, Barbados-flagged bulk carrier True Confidence after a missile attack conducted by the group, killing three seafarers and thus marking the first deaths reported since the Yemeni group began attacks against shipping in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes over Israel’s war on Gaza. In response, US navy’s ships and aircrafts shot down 15 drones fired by the Houthis, announcing that the naval coalition was responding to a large-scale attack by “Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists” launched into the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden in the early hours of Saturday morning. The uncrewed aerial vehicles, the post reads, presented “an imminent threat to merchant vessels, US Navy and coalition ships in the region,” the military said on X, adding that “these actions are taken to protect freedom of navigation and make international waters safer and more secure.”

The Houthis military spokesperson, Yahya Saree, said on Saturday that the group had carried out two military operations, the first of which targeted US bulk carrier Propel Fortune in the Gulf of Aden. In the second operation, Saree claimed that several US military destroyers in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden were targeted “by 37 drones.”


Urging ceasefire in Sudan: The United Nations Security Council has called for a ceasefire in Sudan to coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and allow aid to get to 25 million people in desperate need of food, with the humanitarian response at breaking point. Fourteen countries on the 15-member council on Friday backed the resolution proposed by the United Kingdom, with only Russia abstaining on the vote that called on “all parties to the conflict to seek a sustainable resolution to the conflict through dialogue”.

Britain’s deputy UN ambassador, James Kariuki, urged the warring sides “to act on this united international call for peace and to silence the guns.” The resolution called on all parties to adopt an immediate “cessation of hostilities” ahead of Ramadan, a time for fasting, prayer and reflection for Muslims worldwide – urging them to allow “unhindered” humanitarian access across borders and battlelines. 

However, abstained-Russia said Britain’s initiative was hypocritical since the UNSC had failed to call for an immediate ceasefire in Israel’s war on Gaza, due to the United States repeatedly wielding its veto to block resolutions. “We have no illusions as to the true intentions of Western countries. However, the double standards look particularly glaring given that those same countries are dragging out the adoption of a document on a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, where a genuine massacre is taking place,” said Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, Anna Evstigneeva.

In this regard, Malaysia has urged for the elimination of the veto held by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. The country emphasized this change is crucial, especially in situations involving “mass atrocity crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.”

With intense fighting having forcibly displaced more than eight million people – with millions more in need of food and humanitarian aid -, war has been raging in Sudan since April 15, 2023, putting the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) army of General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Hemedti. Tens of thousands of people have since been killed, 8.3 million have been forcibly displaced and the fighting has additionally destroyed infrastructure and crippled the economy.

While al-Burhan reportedly welcomed the UN chief’s appeal, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Friday that set conditions for a ceasefire to be effective which included the RSF withdrawing from provinces they have taken control of. There has been no response from the RSF.


Repatriated: Nearly 160 Iraqi families have been repatriated from Syria’s al-Hol camp, home to tens of thousands of people including family members of suspected militants, an Iraqi government spokesman said on Sunday. More than 43,000 Syrians, Iraqis, and foreigners from at least 45 countries are held in the squalid and overcrowded camp in Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria – which houses relatives of suspected Islamic State (IS) group militants alongside refugees.

Ali Abbas, spokesman for Iraq’s Migration Ministry, told AFP that “157 families, or 625 people” had returned to Iraq from al-Hol on Saturday in the latest repatriation effort, after more than 1,920 families have already been transferred to al-Jadaa camp in Mosul so far, national security adviser Qassem al-Araji said on 2 March, as reported by Middle East Eye, explaining that upon arrival in Iraq, authorities usually keep returnees from al-Hol for weeks or even months at what officials describe as a “psychological rehabilitation” facility in al-Jadaa, south of Mosul, where they also undergo security checks.

Repatriation of family members of suspected IS members has stirred controversy in Iraq, where the militant group had seized large areas of land before being defeated in late 2017: some Iraqis have in fact resisted the repatriation efforts. Still, Baghdad regularly repatriates its citizens from al-Hol, a policy commended by the United Nations and the United States.


Leading Libya towards elections: Three key Libyan leaders said on Sunday they had agreed on the necessity of forming a new unified government that would supervise long-delayed elections, after a political process to resolve more than a decade of conflict in Libya has been stalled since an election scheduled for December 2021 collapsed amid disputes over the eligibility of the main candidates.

The leaders are the president of the Presidential Council (PC) Mohamed Menfi and the head of the High State Council (HSC) Mohamed Takala, who are both based in Tripoli, and Aguila Saleh, speaker of the House of Representatives (HoR) in Benghazi. The House of Representatives was elected in 2014, while the High State Council was formed as part of a 2015 political agreement and drawn from a parliament elected in 2012.

Meeting in Cairo at the invitation of Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, in a joint statement, the three leaders also called on the UN mission in Libya and the international community to support their proposals, announcing they had agreed to form a technical committee to “look into controversial points.” 

“The measures that were agreed upon today, we believe, are a very important beginning. They are results that live up to the ambition of Libyans to hold elections,” Menfi told the media after the meeting. Come to power when the Government of National Unity (GNU) under Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah was installed through a UN-backed process in 2021, the parliament no longer recognizes Menfi’s legitimacy.

Ever since the fall of the late leader Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, Libya has been struggling to make a democratic transition amid escalating violence and unrest, and it split in 2014 between eastern and western factions, with rival administrations governing in each area. International diplomacy to resolve the conflict in the country has focused on pushing for parliamentary and presidential elections to replace the interim political institutions, including the HoR, HSC and GNU. However, while all major political players in the country have called for elections – including UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Abdoulaye Bathily -, many Libyans doubt they genuinely seek a vote that could remove most of them from power.


What We’re Reading

Killing the deposits scheme: In light of Lebanon’s struggle with political interference and banking reform – along with the failure of the government project for deposits’ scheme restructuration, economist Maan Barazy took a deep dive into the economic turmoil and the contentious path towards restructuring the country’s financial sector.

The collapse of mental health: Over the past three years, the COVID-19 pandemic, worsening economic conditions, and the trauma from the Beirut blast have dramatically increased the demand for mental health support, making the incorporation of mental healthcare services into Lebanon’s primary healthcare system essential. To tackle this issue, NOW’s Rodayna Raydan reached out to Sandra Arbid, a Beirut-based psychologist who partners with organizations like UNICEF to increase access to mental healthcare and promote awareness of mental health resources among vulnerable populations throughout various regions of Lebanon, as well as to Dr. Joseph Khoury, President of the Lebanese Psychiatric Society and founder of a mental health clinic. 

Towards large-scale war: Amid the growing tensions in southern Lebanon and global diplomatic activities, concerns over a major conflict heighten in the Middle East. Political psychologist Ramzi Abou Ismail analized for NOW the visit of US special envoy Amos Hochstein to Lebanon has further highlighted these complexities, intensifying worries about the area’s instability and reflecting the unease surrounding Hezbollah’s position and its hesitation to retreat to the Litani River, as well as accentuating Israeli fears of a steadfast adversarial presence on their doorstep.

A Ramadan like no other: Dana Hourany collected for NOW the voice of Fatima Ajami, from Tyre, and Mariam Khattar, from Sidon, reflecting on the meaning of hope, charity, and familiar warmth as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approaches. 


Lebanon +

In their last episode of Maabar, an ongoing podcast series tracing the modern history of Lebanon through the stories of those who have lived it, Anthony Tawil and Cedric Kayem heard first hand about journalists bursting the ‘rock and roll’ image of war to expose its harsh and brutal reality where people act like vicious monsters. Packed with gripping tales and profound reflections on what the Lebanese Civil War meant in the grand scheme of things, the interviewees closed in on their experience of a messy, bloody, gruesome, gut-wrenching, horrific reality. Cutting across two genres – oral history and documentary – the cascade of stories paints a people-centered, multi-perspective view of what took place and the meanings they carry. In their last release ‘It Catches Up With You’ they immersed their audience in the post-war scenario, into what happened to journalists when there was no war to cover, and they were asked to go back to their life, lost between relief and accumulated traumas.