News / Middle East

    Gaza Fighting Deepens, Flight Ban Holds

    Palestinians take cover during an Israeli air strike on a house in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, July 23, 2014.
    Palestinians take cover during an Israeli air strike on a house in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, July 23, 2014.
    Reuters

    Gaza fighting raged on Wednesday, displacing thousands more Palestinians in the battered territory as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said indirect truce talks between Israel and Hamas had made some progress.

    While pressing a 15-day-old offensive, Israel scrambled to contain economic damage from a halt of flights to Tel Aviv's main airport by U.S. and European airlines spooked by the long-range rocket salvoes of Hamas and other Gaza Strip guerrillas.

    Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
    x
    Click to enlarge
    Click to enlarge

    Adding to pressure on Israel, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said there was "a strong possibility'' that it was committing war crimes in Gaza, where 668 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting.

    Israel denied the suggestion, stepping up the war of words and accusing Hamas of using fellow Gazans as human shields.

    Palestinian fatalities by date, July 8 - 22, 2014Palestinian fatalities by date, July 8 - 22, 2014
    x
    Palestinian fatalities by date, July 8 - 22, 2014
    Palestinian fatalities by date, July 8 - 22, 2014

    Israel launched its offensive on July 8 to halt rocket salvoes by Hamas and its allies, which have struggled under an Israeli-Egyptian economic blockade on Gaza and angered by a crackdown on their supporters in the nearby occupied West Bank.

    After aerial and naval bombardment failed to quell the outgunned guerrillas, Israel poured ground forces into the Gaza Strip last Thursday, looking to knock out Hamas's rocket stores and destroy a vast, underground network of tunnels.

    "We are meeting resistance around the tunnels ... they are constantly trying to attack us around and in the tunnels. That is the trend,'' Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said on Wednesday.

    • Smoke from an Israeli strike rises over Gaza City, July 23, 2014.
    • A Palestinian man, in clothes stained with the blood of his father who medics said was killed by Israeli shelling, mourns at a hospital in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, July 23, 2014.
    • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Jerusalem, July 23, 2014.
    • Israeli airport workers pass a sign pointing to a shelter for refuge in case a warning siren indicates the possibility of an incoming rocket, at Ben Gurion International airport, Tel Aviv, July 23, 2014.
    • An arrivals board displays canceled and delayed flights in Ben Gurion International airport a day after the U.S. FAA imposed a 24-hour restriction on flights after a Hamas rocket landed close to the airport, Tel Aviv, July 23, 2014.
    • An Israeli military helicopter evacuates soldiers, wounded during an offensive in Gaza, near the border with the central Gaza Strip, July 23, 2014.
    • A Palestinian firefighter walks amidst the rubble of a house that witnesses said was hit by an Israeli air strike, Gaza City, July 23, 2014.
    • Palestinian rescue workers inspect the remains of a house that witnesses said was destroyed by an Israeli air strike, in Gaza City July 23, 2014.
    • A video journalist makes his way through rubble of a building destroyed by an Israeli strike in Gaza City, July 23, 2014.
    • A relative of Israeli soldier Jordan Ben-Simon, who also held French citizenship and was killed in fighting in Gaza, mourns over his coffin during his funeral in Ashkelon, Israel, July 22, 2014.
    • Smoke and fire from the explosion of an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City, July 22, 2014.

    Military losses rise

    Hamas and a smaller Gaza faction, Islamic Jihad, said they killed several Israeli soldiers in two separate ambushes on Wednesday. Israel had no immediate comment on those claims.

    Some 29 troops have been confirmed killed so far in the conflagration. Three civilians have died in rocket attacks out of Gaza, including a foreign laborer hit on Wednesday.

    The military says one of its soldiers is also missing and believes he might be dead. Hamas says it has captured him, but has not released a picture of him in their hands.

    Flight ban

    Airlines from the United States and Europe canceled more flights to Israel on Wednesday after rocket fire from Gaza hit near the county's main international airport earlier this week.

    Citing a "potentially hazardous situation" as Israel and Hamas continue to exchange fire, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration renewed a 24-hour ban on U.S. carriers like Delta, American, and United from flying to Israel's Ben Gurion Airport outside Tel Aviv.

    U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf acknowledged Wednesday that Hamas has rockets that could reach Ben Gurion airport, but the accuracy of those weapons is limited.

    "During current fighting Hamas rockets have landed north of the airport although the accuracy of their rockets does remain limited," she said

    The FAA action represented a public relations coup for Hamas, which is anxious to dent Israel's global image. However, the Tel Aviv stock exchange and Shekel were flat, with traders showing little immediate concern about the flight stoppages.

    An Israeli official said Netanyahu had asked Kerry to help restore the U.S. flights. A U.S. official said the Obama administration would not "overrule the FAA'' on a security precaution but noted the ban would be reviewed after 24 hours.

    However, U.S. carrier Delta Air Lines said it would extend its suspension of flights on Wednesday, as did Germany's Lufthansa and Air Berlin as Polish airline LOT.

    Gaza StripGaza Strip
    x
    Gaza Strip
    Gaza Strip

    Clouds of black smoke hung over Gaza, some 65-km (40 miles) south of Ben Gurion, with the regular thud of artillery and tank shells filling the air.

    Mosque attack

    Palestinian medics said two worshippers were killed and 30 wounded in an attack on a mosque in the heart of the densely populated Zeitoun neighborhood in eastern Gaza City.

     In southern Abassan and Khuzaa villages, residents said they were besieged by Israeli snipers who wounded two Palestinians as they tried to emerge from hiding with white flags in hand. Israeli tanks fired shells near ambulances, discouraging their approach to recover casualties, witnesses said.

    PLO

    In a move that could effectively turn Abbas into the main Palestinian point person for any Gaza truce, his umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) on Wednesday formally supported core conditions set by the Hamas-led fighters.

    These demands include the release of hundreds of Hamas supporters recently arrested in the nearby West Bank and an end to the Egyptian-Israeli blockade of Gaza, which has stymied the economy and made it near impossible for anyone to travel abroad.

    Egypt has tried to get both sides to hold fire and then negotiate terms for protracted calm in Gaza, which has been rocked by regular bouts of violence since Israel unilaterally pulled out of the territory in 2005.

    Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist, balked at Cairo's original, barebones offer. The dispute was further complicated by distrust between Egypt under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Hamas.

    Egyptian sources said a unified Palestinian position could help achieve a deal. Unlike Hamas, Abbas and his Western-backed PLO have pursued peacemaking with Israel for two decades.

    Death, destruction

    Gaza's Health Ministry said 49 Palestinians were killed on Wednesday, many of them in the southern town of Khan Younis -- one of the focal points of Israel's recent assault.

    In the far north, residents continued to flee Beit Hanoun as  Israeli tanks thrust deeper into the border town and destroyed nearby orchards in their search for hidden Hamas tunnels.

    "Columns of people are heading west of Beit Hanoun, looking for a safe shelter. This is not war, this is annihilation,'' said 17-year-old Hamed Ayman. "I once dreamt of becoming a doctor. Today I am homeless. They should watch out for what I could become next.''

    Gaza officials said that so far in the 16-day conflict, 475 houses had been totally destroyed by Israeli fire and 2,644 partially damaged. Some 46 schools, 56 mosques and seven hospitals had also suffered varying degrees of destruction.

    "There seems to be a strong possibility that international humanitarian law has been violated, in a manner that could amount to war crimes,'' the U.N.'s Pillay told an emergency session at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

    She also condemned indiscriminate, militant rocket and mortar attacks out of Gaza.

     Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said the U.N. rights council was an "anti-Israel'' body.

    "Israel is acting according to international law. It is acting against terrorism. It is regrettable civilians are killed, but when we call on them to vacate and Hamas calls on them to stay, then that is what happens,'' she told Israel Radio. 

    You May Like

    Native Americans Ask: What About Our Water Supply?

    They say they have been facing a dangerous water contaminant for decades - uranium – but the problem has received far less attention than water contamination by lead in Flint, Michigan

    Pakistan's President Urges Nation Not to Celebrate Valentine's Day

    Mamnoon Hussain criticizes Valentine's Day, which falls on Sunday this year, as a Western import that threatens to undermine the Islamic values of Pakistan

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.