ISRAEL BOOSTS GROUND OPERATION, CUTS OFF COMMUNICATIONS

UN approves Gaza truce resolution

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Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 28, (Agencies): The U.N. General Assembly approved a non-binding resolution Friday calling for a “humanitarian truce” in Gaza leading to a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, the first United Nations response to the war. The 193-member world body adopted the resolution by a vote of 120-14 with 45 abstentions after rejecting a Canadian amendment backed by the United States. It would have unequivocally condemned the Oct. 7 “terrorist attacks” by Hamas and demanded the immediate release of hostages taken by Hamas, which is not mentioned in the Arab-drafted resolution.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, called the General Assembly “more courageous, more principled” than the divided U.N. Security Council, which failed in four attempts during the past two weeks to reach agreement on a resolution. Two were vetoed and two failed to get the minimum nine “yes” votes required for approval. Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan called it “a day that will go down in infamy,” saying after the vote: “Israel will not stop the operation until Hamas terror capabilities are destroyed and our hostages are returned. … And the only way to destroy Hamas is root them out of their tunnels and subterranean city of terror.” Frustrated Arab nations went to the General Assembly, where there are no vetoes – just as Ukraine did after Russia’s February 2022 invasion because of Moscow’s Security Council veto power – to press for a U.N. response. And the United Arab Emirates Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, the Arab representative on the Security Council, expressed delight at the result. “120 votes in this kind of geopolitical environment is a very, very high signal of the support for international law, for proportionate use of force, and it is a rejection of the status quo that is currently happening on the ground,” she said. The State of Kuwait has underlined that the Israeli occupation’s war crimes against Palestinians under the pretext of “self-defense” show disregard for the relevant UN resolutions and the international law.

War crimes The international community must immediately intervene and hold the Israeli occupation accountable for its blatant war crimes and continued violations of international law, said Diplomatic Attache Reem Al-Sharhan, of Kuwait’s Permanent Delegation to the UN, at the UN General Assembly’s First Committee meeting on Disarmament Machinery. She slammed the occupying entity for its “lies and continuous denial of war crimes”. Al-Sharhan expressed Kuwait’s deep concern about the ongoing escalation in the Gaza Strip “which claimed the lives of more than 6,000 Palestinian civilians, including more than 2,000 children.” She reiterated her country’s respect for international agreements, especially those related to disarmament, international security and peace. “Despite Kuwait’s commitment, we express our concern due to the lack of tangible progress in terms of disarmament and the implementation of the relevant obligations,” Al- Sharhan regretted. She criticized the international community double standards on disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. It is quick to condemn some countries but remains silent towards others, she said. The 14 countries that voted against the resolution include Israel and its closest ally, the United States, five Pacific island nations and four European countries – Austria, Croatia, Czechia and Hungary, all European Union members. Eight EU members voted in favor. France’s U.N. Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere said his country supported the resolution “because nothing could justify the suffering of civilians,” and he urged collective efforts to establish a humanitarian truce. Mansour said the European votes indicate they can be “very helpful” in pursuing a Security Council resolution “or in maximizing pressure in Israel to stop this war.” The Arab Parliament affirmed that the UN General Assembly’s approval of an Arab draft law on an immediate ceasefire, protecting civilians and opening humanitarian passages, must be followed by serious measures to pressure Israel to abide by the resolution.

In a statement on Saturday, parliament’s President Adel Al-Asoomi said that the UN must make haste in enforcing the resolution, making sure it doesn’t stay only on papers. Israeli occupation’s war criminals will not stop their acts of terror against Palestinians if the international community does not step in and take responsibility to end the attacks.

world’s silence on the genocide of Palestinians is a completely unethical support of Israeli occupation force’s crimes, he said. Al-Asoomi noted that this silence reveals the ugly face of countries who defend the international humanitarian law in every event, and neglect it when it’s urgently needed to protect the lives of innocent civilians.

Meanwhile, Israel on Saturday expanded its ground operation in Gaza, sending in tanks and infantry backed by massive strikes from the air and sea. Israel’s defense minister said that “the ground shook in Gaza” and that the war against the territory’s Hamas rulers entered a new stage. The bombardment, described by Gaza residents as the most intense of the war, also knocked out most communications in Gaza. This largely cut off the besieged enclave’s 2.3 million people from the world, while enabling the Israeli military to control the narrative in a new stage of fighting.

The military released grainy images Saturday showing tank columns moving slowly in open areas of Gaza, many apparently near the border, and said warplanes bombed dozens of Hamas tunnels and underground bunkers. The underground sites are a key target in Israel’s campaign to crush the territory’s ruling group after its bloody incursion in Israel three weeks ago. “We moved to the next stage in the war,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in remarks broadcast Saturday. “Last evening, the ground shook in Gaza. We attacked above ground and underground. … The instructions to the forces are clear. The campaign will continue until further notice.” His comments signaled the gradual ramping up toward what is expected to evolve into an all-out ground offensive in northern Gaza. Early in the war, Israel had already amassed hundreds of thousands of troops along the border. Until now, troops had conducted brief nightly ground incursions before returning to Israel. The Palestinian death toll in Gaza on Saturday rose to just over 7,700 people since Oct. 7, with 377 deaths reported since late Friday, according to the territory’s Health Ministry. A majority of those killed have been women and minors, the ministry said.

Ministry spokesman Ashraf al- Qidra told reporters that the disruption of communications has “totally paralyzed” the health network. Residents had no way of calling ambulances, and emergency teams were chasing the sounds of artillery barrages and airstrikes to search for people in need. Some civilians were using their bare hands to pull injured people from the rubble and loading them into personal cars or donkey carts to rush them to the hospital. In a video posted by local media, Palestinians were sprinting down a ravaged street with a wounded man covered in the dust of a building’s collapse while he winced, eyes clenched shut, on a stretcher. “Ambulance! Ambulance!” the men shouted as they shoved the stretcher into the back of a pick-up truck and shouted at the driver, “Go! Go!” Other residents traveled by foot or car to check on their relatives and friends.

“The bombs were everywhere, the building was shaking,” said Hind al-Khudary, a journalist in central Gaza and one of a few people with cell phone service. “We can’t reach anyone or contact anyone. I do not know where my family is.” Israel says its strikes target Hamas fighters and infrastructure and that the militants operate from among civilians, putting them in danger. Across Gaza, terrified civilians were huddling in homes and shelters with food and water supplies running out. Electricity was knocked out by Israel in the early stages of the war. More than 1.4 million people have fled their homes, nearly half crowding into U.N. schools and shelters. Aid workers say the trickle of aid Israel has allowed to enter from Egypt the past week is a tiny fraction of what is needed.

Gaza hospitals have been scrounging for fuel to run emergency generators that power incubators and other life-saving equipment. The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, which runs an extensive network of shelters and schools for nearly half the displaced Gaza residents, has lost contact with most of its staff, spokeswoman Juliette Touma said Saturday. She said that coordinating aid efforts was now “extremely challenging.” The intensified air and ground campaign also raised new concerns about dozens of hostages dragged into Gaza on Oct. 7. On Saturday, hundreds of relatives of hostages gathered in a square in downtown Tel Aviv, demanding to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallat.

Some in the group demanded that Israel push for the release of all hostages before proceeding with the campaign against Hamas. Protesters wore shirts emblazoned with the faces of their missing relatives under the word “kidnapped” and the words “Bring them back.” The families “feel like they’re they’re left behind and no one is really caring about them,” said Miki Haimovitz, a former lawmaker and spokeswoman for the group. “No one is talking to them. No one is explaining what’s going on.” Gallant later said he would meet with the families on Sunday. In Cairo, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi said his government was working to de-escalate the conflict through its talks with the warring parties to release prisoners and hostages. He didn’t provide further details.

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