HomePoliticsBriefingWhat to say when we say Gaza

What to say when we say Gaza

Palestinian youths walk past a budling destroyed in previous Israeli strikes as they collect things rescued from the rubble and wood in Gaza City, on March 25, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement. (Photo by AFP)

Intense Israeli airstrikes hit the Beqaa Valley during the weekend, Three more journalists killed in Gaza as Israel continues its war on information, Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City under ongoing siege, Russia and China vetoed against the US-drafted resolution for an immediate and sustained ceasefire, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet as Qatari mediation failed, Israeli forces killed eight Palestinians and wounded others in an air strike in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin, Hezbollah’s Wafiq Safa left for the UAE to follow up on the case of Lebanese detainees who remain behind bars, Najib Mikati taking significant steps to support the victims of the Israeli attacks in south Lebanon, UNRWA in crisis as US cuts funds until March 2025, Reports denounce presence of dangerous chemicals in Beirut’s Zouk Thermal Electricity Generation Plant, Lebanese Army arrested 31 people accused of involvement in armed clashes in north Lebanon as violence spreads in the region, UN warns Sudan as one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent memory, No Ramadan ceasefire in Sudan unless the RSF withdraws from civilian homes and public facilities, 65 bodies have been discovered in a mass grave in southwest Libya, White Helmets confirmed the Assad regime targeting schools in northern Syria six times since the beginning of 2024, Israel’s war on Gaza increased commodity prices in Syria due to global shipping disruptions

How to say Gaza. With what tone, whether with admiration, condolence or guilt. What to think when we hear: children crying with no more tears; 27 survivors of bombings killed by hunger; 400 survivors of starvation killed while waiting for a sack of flour; 5 survivors of bombings, starvation and waiting – killed by humanitarian aid falling from the sky. How to accuse the world of its complicity – if the US State Department does not see starvation used as a weapon of war. How to say ‘mass death’ without dehumanising every fallen person. What to think when we hear: thirty-two thousand two hundred and twenty-six dead and seventy-four thousand five hundred and eighteen injured. How to free ourselves from the obsessive counting of victims which at the beginning of October seemed to have restored to Palestine the sense of proportion – while,  on the market of carnage, inflation imposed its simple, cruel law: that as the number increases, the value decreases, always. What to answer to posterity who will ask where were you. Which words to select to describe the images that continue to multiply – in the time of the first genocide in history live on screen. How to explain that not faith in justice, but acceptance of death, marks the true fracture between a world made of drones and one of men who continue to walk while their friends are pulverised: knowing that death will hunt them, they will be the next.

What to add to the saturation of information, to the agency news that overlap and contradict each other: temporary truce or definitive ceasefire, release of prisoners but not of those sentenced to life imprisonment, proposal for liberation but with the condition of exile, return of refugees towards cancelled places, through destroyed roads, and amidst enemy troops in disputed retreat.

Don’t add, don’t tell, don’t interpret, don’t look for meaning. Simply record the voice of an anonymous author that the Institute for Palestine Studies, in its ‘Letters from Gaza’ series, published a few days ago: the indestructible archive of an exchange of conversations via WhatsApp, to be read as a historical document produced and preserved live, a photograph of terror to be shown in silence.


December 7, 2023 – Deir el-Balah, Gaza

“The situation is just desperate. Absolute desperation. A gallon of oil is 300 dollars. No salt. No fruits. No vegetables. No water. They buy wood for 20 dollars a day – enough for a meal. It’s cold. They queue to charge their phones. All my mother-in-law wants is to be home. My father-in-law is sick. No doctors. No medicines. They went to buy falafel. Four-hour queue. The shelling from Khan Younis reverberates and can be felt all the way to Maghazy and Deir el-Balah. The kids are wearing wet clothes.”

December 17, 2023, after a period of blackout – Deir el Balah, Gaza 

“We’ve hit a point of complete exhaustion. There’s simply nothing to eat. Even if the war were to stop right now, it almost feels meaningless. Life itself seems meaningless. Just imagine, 1.8 million displaced civilians crammed into the south, an area already densely populated. Our brains can’t process it anymore – the dead bodies, the explosions, it’s too much. Tensions are high; people can’t tolerate each other. We’ve heard horrific reports from the north about people being buried alive, and women and children being detained. We’re like the walking dead, devoid of life. Aid is scarce, and by the time we get any, we’re buying it ourselves.”

“Daily, there are fights for food and water. Crime has surged in this new, chaotic environment. There’s no police, no security. Usually, there would be some order maintained during war, but now there’s only chaos, no law and order. It feels like we’re caught in a complex, unfamiliar game. If they opened Rafah, everyone would flee instantly. There are no words left to describe our plight. Our only pastime has become looking at the stars, when they’re visible, and queuing for aid. The constant buzz of the drones is unbearable. You don’t understand, it eats at my bones.”

January 5, 2024, after forced evacuation from the Maghazi camp in Deir el Balah

“The Israeli army reached us, and we had to go to school. There’s no way out, neither to Deir el-Balah nor Rafah. It’s the First Girls’ primary school in Al-Maghazi. I talked with Saeed, he’s trying to reach someone with a car, but the phone connection is terrible. If we have a chance to move by a donkey cart, we won’t hesitate. The main thing is to get out. We are sitting all day in the square now. We are in school. There’s no way to move. It’s not safe. It’s very tough. Now we are sitting on the stairs with the kids and dad and mom, waiting for dawn. When the army reached Aunt Samia’s house, they separated the women and arrested the men. They didn’t manage to get out. The army didn’t warn them. They took all the young men in the building, Uncle Abu O., his sons, and those staying with them.”


What to juxtapose to these anonymous words to be multiplied for two million other people and 171 days. Another picture: while Gaza dies, starves, fears, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant headed to Washington DC for an official trip at the invitation of his American counterpart, Lloyd Austin; he presented a wish list of weapons, F-35 and F-15 jets, along with the request that delivery be expedited – after Israel has reportedly complained of a slowdown in US weapons deliveries, and Washington promptly answered there was no deliberate delay in shipments. Another image, the shape of different wishes. 

To a world of compartments, manichean, immobile; a world of statues and drones; a self-confident world, which crushes with its stones the backs flayed by the whip – is opposed a chained, fenced-in one. It is the scheme of colonialism. The first thing the native learns, wrote Frantz Fanon in his Wretched of the Earth, is to stay in his place, not to go beyond the limits. Therefore the indigenous dreams are muscular dreams, dreams of action. I dream of jumping, swimming, running, climbing. I dream of bursting out laughing, of crossing the river with a leap, of being chased by packs of cars that never catch me.

The resulting scenario is that of an absurd and unbalanced balance between unequal weapons: no longer the stone thrown against bombs; not only Israel’s military technological superiority against loyalty to the cause of the liberation of Palestine; nor the sense of persecution of one against the zeal of resistance of others, colonial expansion against right to return: but the wish of weapons of war against that of a simple chain of actions. To eat, to drink, to cover with a blanket, to sleep under the uncollapsed roof of one’s house.


In Lebanon

Striking the Beqaa: Three people were injured by Israeli strikes overnight in the Beqaa Valley, an AFP correspondent reported early Sunday, claiming that “the Israeli air force fired five missiles at a two-storey residential building in al-Osseira, on the outskirts of Baalbek.” The strikes targeted an almost empty warehouse that contained some bags of wheat and iron bars, resulting in damage to the warehouse and nearby buildings. However, the Israeli army meanwhile claimed its air force attacked a weapons workshop belonging to Hezbollah in the Baalbeck area.

In response, Hezbollah said in a statement that almost an hour later it had fired more than 60 Katyusha rockets at two Israeli military positions in the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan, including the Kela airbase. The base, located around 16 km away from the closest Lebanese point from the east and 14 km away from the closest Lebanese point from the north, was first struck by the Shiite party on February 9. At that time, the media outlet Almayadeen described the base as a barracks and a training camp for Israeli occupation soldiers. It also said that the 91st Division of the Israeli army commands the base, which is equipped with several anti-air systems deployed to protect troops at the base or who are conducting training exercises there.

During the day on Sunday, an Israeli drone targeted a car on a road in the village of Sawiri, in the Beqaa region, the head of the village confirmed to local correspondents. The driver of the targeted vehicle, a Syrian who lives in Sawiri and owns a supermarket in the village, was injured and was in critical condition, local and security sources said, before succumbing to his wounds. At least 323 people have been killed by Israeli attacks in Lebanon, most of them Hezbollah fighters, but also at least 57 civilians, according to an AFP count.


Empty-handed: Wafiq Safa, the head of Hezbollah’s Liaison and Coordination Unit, left for the United Arab Emirates accompanied by an Emirati mediator on Tuesday to follow up on the case of several detained Lebanese citizens who remain behind bars in the Emirates. Earlier in March last year, the UAE arrested 10 Lebanese nationals, accusing them of establishing contact with the Lebanese party Hezbollah: however, the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed that UAE authorities were planning on releasing them. 

This has been a long-standing issue, as Emirati authorities had previously arrested several groups of Lebanese nationals, releasing eight of them on February 2, 2021. Authorities released the citizens after then General Director of the Lebanese General Security, Abbas Ibrahim, led negotiations with Emirati officials.  At the time, Ibrahim told Reuters that the eight released citizens were “detained in the Emirates for a period ranging from a few months to seven years, while others had completed their sentences.”

Hezbollah’s demands, which Safa conveyed to the UAE, were clear, namely the release of all those arrested, including the four who received life sentences: Abdullah Hani Abdullah (from Khiyam in south Lebanon, arrested in 2013) Ali Hassan Mobader (from Lebanon’s southern city of Sidon, arrested in 2014), Abdel Rahman Talal Shoman (from Kfardounin in the south, arrested in 2018) and Fawzi Muhammad Dakroub (from Beirut, arrested in 2019). The remaining three are Ahmed Ali Makkawi (from the northern city of Tripoli, arrested in 2014) and Ahmed Faour (from Khiyam, arrested in 2019), both sentenced to 15 years in prison, as well as Walid Muhammad Idris (from the eastern governorate of Bekaa), who was arrested in 2020 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

On this basis, negotiations took place between the two parties, with a high-ranking Emirati figure playing the role of mediator between the UAE and Safa, eventually leading to the return of Safa without the detainees, whose release should have been secured on the evening of Wednesday, March 21 – marking a clear slowdown in the case.

Wafiq Safa’s visit was the first public trip by a Hezbollah official to the United Arab Emirates. Heading Hezbollah’s Liaison and Coordination Unit, which has coordinated the group’s security services since Lebanon’s civil war ended in 1990, Safa is considered the movement’s main negotiator on prisoners and hostages. In 2008, Safa helped secure a prisoner swap with Israel. Under the deal, Hezbollah returned the bodies of two Israeli soldiers who were killed during the 2006 war between the movement and Israel. In exchange, Israel released four Hezbollah fighters who were captured during the war in addition to prominent Hezbollah member Samir Kuntar, who had been held in Israel since 1979, and who was later killed in Syria in a 2015 airstrike blamed on Israel. 

Safa’s visit aimed to address several key issues, including the establishment of a lasting political relationship between Hezbollah and Abu Dhabi. This move leverages the perceived thaw in Gulf-Iran relations, potentially impacting Lebanon and Syria. Of particular interest is the discussion surrounding the Lebanese presidential candidacy, with reports suggesting the UAE’s support for George Khoury, known for his ties to Abu Dhabi, and his favorable relations with both the Syrian regime and Hezbollah.


Attempted compensation: The caretaker Lebanese government, led by Prime Minister Najib Mikati, is taking significant steps to support the victims of the Israeli attacks in the south. The commitment to compensating those affected is a substantial move, indicating a focus on relief and reconstruction. Al Jadeed News reported that the financial support – 20,000 dollars for the family of each victim and 40,000 dollars for every completely destroyed housing unit – illustrates a tangible effort to address the immediate needs of those impacted. 

Furthermore, the mention of developing mechanisms for assessing compensation for partial damages shows an understanding that recovery is not only about rebuilding structures but also about supporting the community’s broader needs. The coordination between the Southern Council and the Higher Relief Commission suggests an organized approach to ensure that the aid reaches those who need it most. This initiative not only aims to provide financial relief but also to signal a commitment to rebuilding and healing the affected communities.

However, Hezbollah previously announced its own plans to compensate the victims of the border clashes and surveyed damages during the weeklong truce between Hamas and Israel that extended to Lebanon last November.


UNRWA in crisis: An UNRWA employee in Lebanon has been suspended for “alleged violation” of the rules of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, a source at the organisation confirmed to Lebanese newspaper L’Orient-Le Jour on Saturday. Employees of the Agency accuse the UN of suspending the employee for his political stance on the Gaza war.

In a press release published on Friday, a group of UNRWA employees in Lebanon denounced the punitive measures taken against two of the Agency’s employees in the country, one of whom was allegedly suspended without pay, while the other was deprived of his salary for a month, for reasons linked to their political involvement. UNRWA confirmed the suspension of one of the employees, specifying that it would last “for the duration of the investigation.”

On Friday, UNRWA employees denounced the measures as “unfair, absurd and immoral.” “We call on the agency to immediately reverse these decisions, which punish employees on the basis of their patriotic and humanitarian stances,” the employees’ statement said, warning against “popular escalation.”

On Saturday, the US Congress adopted a text banning all direct funding from the United States for UNRWA, which has been at the heart of a controversy since Israel in January accused 12 of its 13,000 employees in Gaza of involvement in the Hamas-led attack of October 7. The funding bill says US funds “may not be used for a contribution, grant, or other payment” to UNRWA until March 2025. The US has been UNRWA’s largest donor: if passed, the ban would almost certainly lead to a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, where UN experts have said famine is looming as a result of Israel’s blockade of the occupied territory.

The UN dismissed the 12 staff members accused by Israel, while several countries suspended their funding to UNRWA after the Israeli accusations. Since then, some of these countries – Australia, Canada, and Finland – have resumed funding the UN body.

In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees have denounced the catastrophic consequences of the funding freeze for UNRWA, whose budget for 2023 was close to 1.6 billion dollars, according to its website. Since 1949, the Agency has been responsible for providing humanitarian assistance to some 250,000 displaced Palestinians in Lebanon. Operating in the country’s 12 Palestinian camps, it caters for 39,982 pupils in its 64 schools in Lebanon, also providing more than 524,000 medical consultations a year in its 27 primary health centers. In addition, 61,076 people benefit from cash transfers granted to the most disadvantaged, to the tune of 50 dollars per person every three months.


Dangerous chemicals: Head of the Director General of the Public Procurement Authority Jean Ellieh stressed the need to remove dangerous chemicals from the Zouk Thermal Electricity Generation Plant immediately, according to reports published by An-Nahar and Al Markazia newspapers on Friday night and Saturday. According to Al Markazia, there was an uproar around two years ago over the news that the power plant contains “hazardous materials that are not properly preserved, consisting of hydrogen tanks, fuel, and some expired dangerous materials, amid fears that they could lead to an explosion.”

The caretaker Minister of Interior Bassam Mawlawi reportedly submitted a detailed warning report at the time to cabinet demanding immediate action to remove anything that could cause any danger. In turn, the cabinet asked the army to secure a guard post, inspect the materials in the factory, take the necessary measures to prevent any harm that may result from them and work to move or remove them immediately.

Recently, the general manager of Électricité du Liban (EDL) Kamal al-Hayek told Ellieh that he had received a notice from the Public Prosecution to remove the explosive chemicals from the Zouk plant, according to the cited newspapers. Ellieh responded and emphasized the need to start withdrawing the chemicals “immediately without waiting for a tender, citing Article 46 of the public procurement law.”

Dangerous materials were also discovered in the Tripoli oil installations, and the Ministry of Energy and Water launched several unsuccessful tenders to find a company to remove them, whose latest results were expected ten days ago. According to a source familiar with the case, reported by L’Orient-Le Jour, four companies applied but the Public Procurement Authority cancelled the procedure because of violations.


Armed clashes: The Lebanese Army on Wednesday announced the arrest of 31 people accused of involvement in armed clashes in north Lebanon after sprees of violence in the region. The army released a statement saying that “after the latest incidents which took place in the north,” it had set up checkpoints and raided houses belonging to individuals suspected of having been involved in the violence. An investigation was opened with the supervision of the relevant judiciary, the army added.

Similarly-motivated clashes over the past weeks also resulted in escalating violence. On Monday, a dispute between two families in the Beddawi region of northern Lebanon degenerated into armed clashes. There was heavy gunfire and someone threw a grenade, causing a serious explosion. Moreover, several gun fights also erupted in Akkar between members of feuding families: on March 14, a dispute between two families took place in Burj al-Arab, provoking gunfire. The next day, a man died in an armed confrontation and riot in Amara, in a dispute over the cutting down of a lemon tree. 

Disputes have repeatedly escalated into deadly violence, spurred by a rampant presence of unlicensed firearms across the country. A source confirmed to the Nidaa Al-Watan newspaper that “since the beginning of security incidents in Tripoli, the Lebanese army has taken strict measures around the clock, day and night, and numerous arrests have been made to prevent further deterioration,” indicating that the army is working to control the security situation and prevent events from escalating and recurring.


In The Region 

Al-Shifa under siege: The Israeli military has said its deadly siege on al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City will continue for “several more days.” “The fighting continues inside the hospital buildings. There are Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists who are currently barricading themselves in the area of the emergency room,” Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a statement, adding that “we continue to call upon the terrorists in the building to surrender, those who surrender will stay alive,” and that the Israeli military is “evacuating” about 220 patients trapped in the building to another location.

Hagari said the Israeli military has arrested more than 500 suspects in al-Shifa, “358 of which are Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists.” He said that the Israeli military has arrested “very senior officials” who will be named once they are interrogated, identifying one of them as Hamas internal security official Fayq al-Mabhouh, saying that “weapons were located in the room adjacent to where he was eliminated.”

The Israeli army announced earlier on Monday that it had launched an operation on the Gaza City hospital targeting senior Hamas militants. Witnesses reported air strikes and tanks near the sprawling complex crowded with Palestinian patients and displaced people, and AFP images showed black smoke billowing from bombarded areas around the hospital, with Palestinians fleeing along rubble-strewn roads as others treated the wounded in the street.

Hamas authorities accuse the army of having killed “dozens of displaced people, patients and medical staff,” while, in a video published Wednesday, Israeli armed forces spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said “until now, no civilians, doctors, medical teams, none have been hurt.”

Since fighting began in Gaza in October, thousands of people had sought shelter in Al-Shifa hospital, many of whom are still there. Israel has repeatedly said the complex housed an underground Hamas control base, its troops having previously raided Al-Shifa in November, sparking an international outcry. However, Hamas has denied having combatants at al-Shifa or using the hospital as a base. International law states attacking health facilities is a war crime.


Immediate and sustained: The UN Security Council was scheduled to vote on Friday, March 22, on a US-drafted resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza as the EU has called for a “humanitarian pause,” adding to the pressure on Israel to end its five-month-long bombardment of the Palestinian territory. Washington, Israel’s staunchest ally, has been gradually hardening its tone following its early solid support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war in Gaza.

The latest draft resolution marks a further toughening of Washington’s approach amid rising global condemnation of a war in which some 32,000 Palestinians have been killed. UN experts have also warned of an imminent famine as a result of Israel’s blockade. In light of this, the US-drafted text describes an “immediate and sustained ceasefire” as an imperative to protect civilians and allow for the delivery of humanitarian aid. 

Previously, the US has avoided referring to a ceasefire and vetoed UN resolutions that have called for one, most recently in February. Announcing the Friday vote, US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas Greenfield, said US diplomats had been working on a resolution that would “unequivocally support ongoing diplomatic efforts aimed at securing an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as part of a deal which would get hostages released and enable a surge in humanitarian aid.” However, as there was some discomfort at the language used in the US draft, a second resolution has also been drafted with stronger language that demands an immediate ceasefire, gaining the support of eight of the 10 non-permanent members of the 15-member body.

Eleven countries in the 15-member Security Council backed the resolution, while three countries – permanent members Russia and China, as well as rotating member Algeria – voted against. One country, Guyana, abstained.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, said the US draft resolution “contains an effective green light for Israel to mount a military operation in Rafah,” adding that Russia has already stated that it will no longer tolerate “pointless resolutions, which do not contain a call for a ceasefire which lead us to nowhere”.

President Emmanuel Macron has said France will work on a new UN resolution for a ceasefire in Gaza following the Russian and Chinese veto against the resolution proposed by the US. “Following Russia’s and China’s veto, we are going to resume work on the basis of the French draft resolution in the Security Council and work with our American, European and Arab partners to reach an agreement,” Macron said at the end of a European Union leaders’ summit in Brussels.


Jenin, Jenin: Israeli forces killed eight Palestinians and wounded others in an air strike in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin on Wednesday, the Palestine health ministry said, in what Israel’s military said was an operation targeting Palestinian militants. The Israeli military said an aircraft struck four Palestinian fighters in a car in the Jenin area, among them two senior Islamic Jihad members who had led attacks on Israelis.

Mahmoud Ghrayyeb, a resident of the Jenin refugee camp who said he witnessed the incident through a surveillance camera, told Reuters that the strike hit the car around 5:37 pm, when traffic was busy ahead of iftar, the meal that breaks the fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. “We saw limbs flying onto the street,” he said. “A man and his wife were in another car driving past, they were saved by a miracle.”

Footage from Ghrayyeb’s CCTV, shared with Reuters, showed a car on a busy road suddenly engulfed by a flame and veering off. Another car that was seen approaching from the opposite direction then stops and retreats. As night fell, firefighters arrived at the scene and people inspected the car, seen burned down to the frame.

Since the Gaza war broke out in October, Israel has stepped up military raids in the West Bank, where violence had already been surging for over a year. Only on the night of Thursday, local media reported Israeli raids in multiple locations across the occupied West Bank, including the cities of Tubas, Qalqilya, the town of al-Karmil and the village of at-Tuwani, south of Hebron, as well as the towns and villages of Arraba, Yabad, Umm Dar, Jalbun, Fahma and Kafr Ra’i in the Jenin governorate. UN records show that at least 358 Palestinians have been killed there by Israeli forces or settlers since October 7, a quarter of them children.


Silencing Palestinian voices: Three more Palestinian journalists were killed in fresh Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip on Saturday, bringing the death toll to 136 since October 7, 2023, the Gaza government media office said in a statement. The slain journalists were identified as Muhammad al-Rifi, Abdul Rahman Saima, and Mahmoud Imad Issa. In an earlier statement, the office said that “Israel deliberately killed journalists in Gaza in order to silence the voice of Palestinians, to hide the facts, and to prevent information from reaching the regional and international public.”

At the end of February, media organizations around the world held a minute of silence to mark the International Day for Palestinian Journalists, also in honor of those journalists killed since the start of Israel’s genocidal onslaught on the Gaza Strip. Since October 7, “one hundred journalists have been killed in four months, the equivalent of seven per week,” the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) said on its website at the time, adding that “this massacre is a terrible and unjustified tragedy.” The IFJ also said it was “alarmed by the poor international coverage of the conflict, resulting from the world media’s exclusion from the enclave by Israel,” and that “all over the world we deserve to know what is going on in Gaza. This deliberate denial of the right to report is an abuse of media freedom.”


The cabinet of genocide: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet on Friday, the Times of Israel reported, citing an anonymous Israeli official. In his most recent tour of the Middle East, Blinken met with Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on Wednesday, before flying to Cairo to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Arab foreign ministers on Thursday.

Blinken was expected to discuss ceasefire negotiations between Israel and Hamas, after talks’ attempts in Qatar have been halted due to the condition on the release of some of the remaining captives taken by the Palestinian militant group. The main obstacle to the negotiations, though, has been that Hamas says it will release captives only as part of a deal that would end the war, while Israel says it will discuss only a temporary pause.

Meanwhile, Israeli protesters marched on Thursday night near the home of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Caesarea, south of Haifa, demanding the return of captives in Gaza and for national elections to be held early. Footage from the demonstration, published by Al Jazeera Arabic, shows the protesters marching to the sound of drums and horns, waving Israeli flags and holding a sign saying “Bibi – stop killing Israel.”

Israel’s Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant arrived for meetings in Washington, DC, on Sunday with a wish list of US weapons that Tel Aviv wants to receive in an expedited manner, outlet Axios reported, citing two anonymous Israeli and US officials. Gallant reportedly told US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on a phone call that the weapons will include not only short-term requests related to Israel’s war on Gaza, but long-term purchases such as F-35 and F-15 fighter jets. Axios furtherly reported that Israel is concerned the US could “slow-walk” the delivery of weapons in light of mounting scrutiny the Biden administration is facing for arming Israel’s war on Gaza.

On Thursday, Israel submitted written assurances to the State Department that weapons it has received from the US are not being used to violate international law in Gaza, as part of a new national security memorandum issued by Biden in February.


Syria impacted: Thirteen years since the civil war erupted, Syria is still facing some of the worst conflict related violence in years – leading to civilian casualties, displacement, and destruction across the country. In addition, the escalation in Gaza has already had an impact on Syria – multiple attacks in several parts of the country in the past months have claimed lives and damaged civilian facilities.

Israel’s war on Gaza has in fact increased commodity prices in Syria due to global shipping disruptions, and “a significant increase” in Israeli air attacks against targets in the country, according to the United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Adam Abdelmoula.

Israel has launched hundreds of air strikes in Syria since civil war broke out in 2011, targeting Iran-backed forces including Hezbollah as well as Syrian army positions, but attacks have increased since Israel’s war with Hamas, a Hezbollah ally, began on October 7. “The targeting of the airports in Syria” has also affected humanitarian air services, Abdelmoula said, adding that “this past year, we had to cancel 49 humanitarian flights”.

The UN official appealed to the international community for about 4 billion dollars in humanitarian assistance for Syria, warning funding was almost non-existent and that a lack of support would push more Syrians to emigrate.

“With needs at their highest,” Abdelmoula’s statement reads, “the humanitarian community is struggling to reach the most vulnerable communities due to diminishing funding and the damaging effects of the UNRWA funding crisis. The month of Ramadan – a time for reflection and celebration – is instead, for many people in Syria, a month of struggle to find food and make ends meet.”

Despite the efforts of the international community to respond to people’s growing needs, the situation has grown increasingly dire. The crisis continues to wreak havoc on Syria, further exacerbating the humanitarian situation with every passing year and undermining the country’s chances of progress. The level of needs has never been higher, after last year’s destructive earthquakes created a “crisis within a crisis” impacting millions of already vulnerable people, and forcing 16.7 million people to require humanitarian assistance.


Targeting schools: The White Helmets have confirmed that the Assad regime targeted schools in northern Syria six times since the beginning of 2024, aiming to undermine the educational process in a region already grappling with challenging living conditions and a worsening humanitarian crisis, The Syrian Observer reported.

In a recent report, it was revealed that on Tuesday, regime forces targeted the Abdullah bin Abbas school for basic education in the village of Ta’um in the eastern countryside of Idlib. One of the missiles fell within the school campus before the start of classes, avoiding any injuries among students. The White Helmets promptly cleared the area of war remnants, surveyed the entire school, and implemented measures to secure it from further dangers, ensuring the safety of students during their educational pursuits. Additionally, awareness sessions were conducted to educate students on proper behaviour when encountering foreign objects and remnants of war.

This incident marks the sixth direct targeting of a school by regime forces since the beginning of 2024. The ongoing attacks by regime forces and Russia on vital facilities, including schools and educational institutions, in northwestern Syria pose grave threats to civilian lives and disrupt the educational process in an already vulnerable region. 


The Sudanese disaster: After nearly a year of war, Sudan is suffering one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history, the United Nations warned Wednesday, slamming the international community for its lack of action. Fighting between army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his former deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, has since April killed tens of thousands and led to acute food shortages and a looming risk of famine.

“By all measures – the sheer scale of humanitarian needs, the numbers of people displaced and facing hunger – Sudan is one of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent memory,” said Edem Wosornu, Director of operations at the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). “A humanitarian travesty is playing out in Sudan under a veil of international inattention and inaction,” Wosornu told the Security Council on Wednesday on behalf of UNOCHA head Martin Griffiths, adding that “simply put, we are failing the people of Sudan.”

The United States, the top donor for Sudan, later on Wednesday announced another 47 million dollars in humanitarian assistance, as Julieta Valls Noyes, the top US diplomat dealing with refugees, made the announcement in Chad as she met Prime Minister Succes Masra, saying the aid would go to neighboring countries welcoming Sudanese refugees including Chad and South Sudan – themselves among the world’s poorest nations.

According to the UN, the war has seen more than eight million people displaced. The Security Council earlier this month called for an immediate ceasefire during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan and urged better access to humanitarian aid.

In total, more than 18 million Sudanese are facing acute food insecurity – a record during harvest season, and 10 million more than at this time last year – while 730,000 Sudanese children are thought to suffer from severe malnutrition. Additionally, children weakened from hunger are at a higher risk of dying from other preventable causes, as more than 70 percent of the country’s health infrastructure has collapsed. UN World Food Program deputy executive director Carl Skau said Wednesday, “if we are going to prevent Sudan from becoming the world’s largest hunger crisis, coordinated efforts and joined up diplomacy is urgent and critical,” cautioning there is a high risk the country could see famine levels of hunger when the agricultural lean season begins in May.


After Ramadan: The United States hopes for a relaunch of talks aimed at ending the conflict in Sudan and opening up humanitarian access soon after Ramadan ends in mid-April, Washington’s newly appointed envoy said on Thursday, as reported by Reuters news agency. Saudi Arabia and the United States led talks in Jeddah last year to try to reach a truce between Sudan’s Armed Forces (SAF) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), but the negotiations faltered amid competing international peace initiatives.

“We need to restart formal talks. We hope that will happen as soon as Ramadan is over,” Tom Perriello, recently-appointed US special envoy to Sudan, said. “Everybody understands that this crisis is barreling towards a point of no return, and that means everybody needs to put whatever differences aside and be united in finding a solution to this conflict.”

The army, which has recently regained some ground in the capital – having taken control of the state broadcast headquarters in what would be its most significant advance in 11 months of war – shunned an appeal from the UN Security Council for a ceasefire during Ramadan. The statement by Yasser al-Atta, a deputy commander of the army – issued on the army’s official Telegram channel after the SAF claimed advances in Omdurman, part of the wider capital – said there could be no Ramadan ceasefire unless the RSF complied with a commitment made last May at Saudi and US-mediated talks in Jeddah to withdraw from civilian homes and public facilities.

“Every week we wait without a peace deal makes the potential for famine more protracted, and the atrocities that we know that have been documented continue,” US envoy Perriello said, adding that talks could build off efforts in Jeddah, Manama and Cairo and should involve African leaders, regional bodies and Gulf states. “This next round of formal talks should be inclusive. But it also has to be people who are truly serious about ending the war,” he continued, despite the fear that support by regional powers for rival factions in Sudan could furtherly fragment the country, making the war spill over beyond its borders. 

The United Arab Emirates, along with some African players, have backed the RSF, according to United Nations experts, while Perriello was asked about reported Iranian support for the army, which includes Islamist factions that grew strong under Bashir. Despite Sudan’s army having not responded to requests for comment on the alleged Iranian support, it was reported that Sudan’s acting foreign minister Ali Al Sadiq travelled to Tehran in early February to meet with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, marking the first such high-level diplomatic visit in seven years. One of the main reasons behind the meeting was the SAF’s intention to get military assistance: one of the most coveted supplies for the Sudanese military, in fact, are Iranian combat drones, such as the popular Mohajer-6. 

“We are hurtling right now towards a situation where more and more actors appear to be getting involved, where we could see a return of extremist elements that the Sudanese people with great courage and over much time had mostly eradicated from the area,” the US envoy concluded. 


Smuggled through the desert: The bodies of at least 65 people have been discovered in a mass grave in southwest Libya, the United Nations’ migration agency has said. In a statement on Friday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) noted that the circumstances of the people’s deaths and nationalities was unknown “but it is believed that they died in the process of being smuggled through the desert”.

The agency stressed that while Libyan authorities had launched an investigation into the deaths, it is important for them to “ensure a dignified recovery, identification and transfer of the remains of the deceased migrants”, and notify and assist their families. “Each report of a missing migrant or a loss of life represents a grieving family searching for answers about their loved ones or acknowledging the tragedy of the loss,” a spokesperson of the agency said in the statement.

In an unverified message on Facebook on Monday, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ministry of Interior in Tripoli, posted drone footage of a desert area, showing white markings and yellow tape around the remains of bodies with numbers on them, the Reuters news agency reported. The CID said the bodies were found in al-Jahriya Valley in Al-Shuwairf town, about 421 km south of Tripoli. The department added that after taking DNA samples, all the bodies were buried in a cemetery on instructions from the attorney general of the appeals chamber in Gharyan town.

More than a decade of violent instability since the 2011 overthrow and killing of longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising, has helped turn Libya into a fertile ground for human traffickers, who have long been accused of abusing migrants and refugees. The country, which is host to an estimated 600,000 migrants and refugees, is also a transit route for people seeking refuge in Europe across the Mediterranean. Large groups of people are often put into boats that are not big enough to safely move them across the treacherous route: they usually land in Italy before trying to make their way to other countries, particularly in Western Europe. Though, Italy and other European Union governments are trying to quell the number of migrants crossing from North Africa, providing money and resources to countries like Libya and Tunisia to help stop the departures from their shores.

According to the IOM, at least 3,129 deaths and disappearances of migrants were recorded in 2023 along the Mediterranean route, which it described as “the deadliest migratory route.”


What We’re Reading

Agriculture under threat: In the initial stages of the southern front’s activation, attention was primarily directed at the impact on seasonal crops: five months in, the possibility of an open conflict persists, posing a threat of further losses and damage. The combat has led to soil pollution, displacement of farmers, disruption of supply chains, and destruction of infrastructure, which undermines the principles of sustainability and ecological balance that are fundamental to organic farming. Amid economic decline and environmental degradation, NOW’s Maan Barazy took a look at the ongoing conflict’s impact on the south’s agricultural sector.


Impacting Ramadan: Amid Lebanon’s prolonged economic crisis, where the currency has seen a drastic devaluation of around 95 percent, many Muslim families find themselves grappling with added challenges as they strive to secure essential food supplies for iftar, the evening meal marking the end of their fast during Ramadan. With food prices skyrocketing by 208 percent, the festivities have been soured for many struggling Lebanese. Rodayna Raydan interviewed for NOW personalities like Wajih Mhanna, economist and analyst at Beirut Arab University (BAU); Adnan Rammal, representative of the trade sector in the Economic and Social Council; and Maya Terro, co-founder of FoodBlessed, an initiative that aims to tackle hunger and food waste in Lebanon.


A deeply divided nation: Political psychologist Ramzi Abou Ismail analysed the implications of Makram Rabah’s incident to illuminate the stark divisions tearing at the fabric of Lebanese society, with the battlefield often extending to the realm of social media. Beyond a political disagreement between different political rivals, the incident represents an internal struggle among Lebanese themselves, segregated by allegiance to contrasting value sets: values X against values Y. Such a schism, rooted in the very fabric of our societal construct, bears the ominous potential to escalate into civil strife, pave the way for dictatorial usurpation, or precipitate a fractious separation. 


What do you do for a living:  NOW’s managing editor Makram Rabah pondered on the trip of Wafiq Safa, head of Hezbollah’s Liaison and Coordination Unit, to the United Arab Emirates in order to secure the release of Hezbollah members sentenced by UAE courts for terrorism. Commenting on analysts’ scepticism about the declared purpose of this trip, speculating that Iran and Hezbollah were attempting to establish back channels with Israel, Rabah drew a tragic scenario that could mark the end of Lebanon.


Lebanon +

In their last episode of Maabar, ‘Si Tu Ne Vois Plus Le Soleil’ – the penultimate of an ongoing podcast series tracing the modern history of Lebanon through the stories of those who have lived it – Anthony Tawil and Cedric Kayem focused on the reflection of the francophone journalists and their role during the war, the savagery of what the civil war entailed, its futility, lives lost in vain, and the living horror of  those who fought and are left to confront the harsh reality of ‘normal’ life afterward. Cutting across two genres – oral history and documentary – the cascade of stories paints a people-centred, multi-perspective view of what took place and the meanings they carry.