Displaying items by tag: Middle East

Thursday, 30 November 2023 21:39

Gaza: ceasefire extended

On 30 November Israel and Hamas struck a last-minute agreement to extend their ceasefire for a seventh day. Both sides agreed to extend the truce, with Hamas releasing more hostages and Israel receiving a list of those to be freed. So far, 97 hostages have been released by Hamas and 180 prisoners by Israel: however, there are reports that israel has been arresting more Palestinians. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/11/28/arrests Washington hoped the truce could be extended further to free more hostages and let more aid reach Gaza. The ceasefire has allowed 220 lorries a day to bring in humanitarian aid to the strip, but two-thirds of its residents are homeless and more than 15,000 have been killed during the Israeli campaign. The USA has urged Israel to specify safe zones for Palestinian civilians if and when its offensive resumes. Meanwhile, soon after the agreement three people have been killed and six injured by Hamas gunmen in Jerusalem: see

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Friday, 24 November 2023 09:09

Israel / Gaza: hostage deal, four-day pause

Israel and Hamas have struck a deal to exchange fifty hostages in Gaza for a four-day ceasefire. This agreement also includes the release of 150 Palestinian women and teenagers held in Israeli prisons and an increase in humanitarian aid for Gaza. The four-day pause came into effect on 24 November, with Israel offering to extend it even further if Hamas agreed to release more hostages. Joe Biden has welcomed the deal, hoping it will end the suffering of the hostages and alleviate the plight of innocent Palestinian families. Until the ceasefire, Israel continued the conflict, with at least 300 airstrikes within 24 hours: see Israel remains committed to its mission to eliminate Hamas and secure the release of over 200 hostages captured in October. Hamas sees this agreement as an opportunity for Palestinians to recover after enduring an intense Israeli military operation. 

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In Gaza, a significant number of Muslim men have recently converted to Christianity after reportedly seeing visions of Jesus in their dreams, an event described as miraculous by underground Christian communities in the area. This phenomenon was first reported online by Michael Licona, a Christian apologist and professor at Houston Christian University. The report by the underground Christian ministries detailed their efforts to aid hundreds of fathers who had lost their children in the war. These men were moved to safety, fed, clothed, and introduced to the Bible, which led to over 200 of them experiencing visions of Jesus in their dreams. Licona, while expressing his stance on the Israel-Hamas conflict, highlighted the importance of this event for Christians worldwide. He noted the small Christian population in Gaza, which is less than 1% and potentially as low as 1,000 individuals.

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Israel claims it discovered an operational command center, along with guns and ammunition belonging to Hamas, at Gaza's largest hospital, Al-Shifa. This discovery reportedly includes weapons found inside the hospital's MRI building. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) have long maintained that Hamas uses hospitals as cover for its fighters, with Al-Shifa alleged to house their main command. Both Hamas and Al-Shifa staff refute these allegations. About two and a half weeks after Israeli forces entered northern Gaza, they accessed the hospital. The IDF states they found technological assets and military equipment in the hospital, transferring these items for further examination. During this operation, IDF soldiers reportedly engaged and killed a number of Hamas militants. Footage from Al-Shifa shows soldiers carrying boxes and equipment from the hospital. Mohammed Zaqout, director of hospitals in Gaza, noted that Israeli tanks were inside the medical compound, and soldiers had entered key departments including emergency and surgery, which contain intensive care units. Al-Shifa hospital has become a symbol of Palestinian civilian suffering during the Israel-Hamas conflict, which escalated following a surprise attack into southern Israel on October 7.

Published in Worldwide
Thursday, 09 November 2023 21:38

Latest news from Gaza

Israel will begin to implement four-hour ’humanitarian pauses’ in northern Gaza each day to allow people to flee, the White House has said. A spokesman called the move a step in the right direction, and said the USA wanted the pauses to continue as long as they are needed. Israel has committed to announcing each window at least three hours in advance. The US still does not support a ceasefire in Gaza at this time, but aims to see at least 150 humanitarian trucks entering the strip each day. Fierce fighting has continued, and the health ministry in Gaza (controlled by Hamas) says that the number of Palestinians killed is now more than 10,000. Meanwhile, Islamic Jihad has released a video of two hostages, and offered to release them if certain conditions were met. The hostages criticised Benjamin Netanyahu; it was not certain if they were reading from a script. A humanitarian conference in Paris today called for a total ceasefire: see

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On 2 November Israeli soldiers advanced on war-torn Gaza City, meeting fierce resistance from Hamas militants, as hundreds of foreign nationals waited to cross the border into Egypt. Battles were reported to be raging in five different areas of the Strip. Footage has emerged of Hamas fighters using guerrilla-style tactics, emerging from underground tunnels to fire at Israeli tanks, then disappearing back into the tunnels. Benjamin Natanyahu has said, ‘We are at the height of the battle’, and claimed ‘impressive successes’: for up-to-date news, see Meanwhile, the Rafah border crossing into Egypt was opened on 1 November for the first time, allowing over 500 foreign nationals to leave: its foreign ministry has said Egypt would ultimately assist in evacuating about 7,000 foreigners, representing more than sixty nationalities. Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Egyptian official said that some ambulances carrying wounded Palestinians were also allowed to leave Gaza.

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Prime minister Rishi Sunak is on a two-day trip to Israel and other Middle East countries, planning to urge leaders in the region to prevent further escalation of conflict. On 19 October he met prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and then flew on to Saudi Arabia. This trip, following on from Joe Biden’s visit, comes after the recent missile strike on Al Ahli Hospital, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians. The UK is also pushing for the opening of the route into Gaza to allow humanitarian aid and the safe passage of British nationals out of Gaza. Meanwhile, foreign secretary James Cleverly travelled to Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar to seek humanitarian access to Gaza and the release of British hostages. The UK government has announced a £10 million aid package to support vulnerable civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, with half of the funding going to the UN to address critical needs in Gaza. Defence secretary Grant Shapps also met with his US counterpart to coordinate responses to the crisis.

Published in British Isles
Thursday, 19 October 2023 22:00

Israel / Gaza: Al Ahli hospital’s Christian ethic

Founded by CMS, Al Ahli hospital was run by the Baptist Church until 1982 when it became part of the Episcopal diocese of Jerusalem, offering care to all, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or political affiliation. The hospital is a partner of Embrace the Middle East, who described the hospital’s deaths as ‘utterly heartbreaking: not only the immediate loss of innocent lives but also the loss of a vital institution that provides healthcare for the people of Gaza regardless of background. It is a Christian Anglican hospital that has no connection whatsoever with Hamas. This is the destruction of the very institutions that maintain a vestige of hope for people in desperate need. The Christian population in Gaza is tiny. We, and for sure, they, have every reason to fear for its very survival.’ The hospital’s aim is to ‘plant hope in the heart of the people of Gaza’.

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Thursday, 19 October 2023 21:56

Egypt: hopes of reopening border crossing to Gaza

Machinery to repair roads has been sent through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt into the Gaza Strip in preparation for the delivery of some of the aid stockpiled in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, two security sources said on Thursday. Rafah is the only crossing not controlled by Israel but has been out of operation since the first days of the conflict in Gaza following Israeli bombardments on the Palestinian side of the border. The USA and Egypt have been pushing for a deal with Israel to get aid delivered to Gaza, and on 18 October the White House said that it had been agreed for up to 20 trucks to pass through, with hopes for more later. Most of Gaza's 2.3 million residents depended on aid before the current conflict started on 7 October, and about 100 trucks daily were providing humanitarian relief to the enclave, according to the UN. At least that number are waiting close to the crossing, though it was not expected that aid would enter before 20 October. More aid is being held in the Egyptian city of Al Arish, some 45 km away. Benjamin Netanyahu's office has said Israel would not block aid for civilians entering Gaza from Egypt, as long as those supplies do not reach Hamas.

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Thursday, 12 October 2023 20:32

Israel / Hamas conflict: ongoing war

On 12 October, Israel said there would be no humanitarian break to its ‘total siege’ of the Gaza Strip until all its hostages were freed, even though the Red Cross pleaded for fuel to be allowed in to prevent overwhelmed hospitals from ‘turning into morgues’. Israel has vowed to annihilate the Hamas movement which rules Gaza, in retribution for the deadly attack on 7 October, when hundreds of gunmen poured across the barrier fence and rampaged through Israeli towns. The death toll in Israel is at least 1,300, with more than 2,700 injured and about 150 taken hostage: in Gaza it is at least 1,400, with over 5,600 wounded. The only power station in the enclave has run out of fuel, and already some 340,000 have been made homeless by Israel’s bombing campaign. Hamas militants holding Israeli soldiers and civilians hostage have threatened to execute a captive for each home in Gaza hit without warning. Meanwhile, Israel has shelled towns in southern Lebanon in response to a fresh rocket attack by Hezbollah: see

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