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Hamas releases video showing hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin

Hamas releases video showing Israeli-American hostage

Hamas has published a video apparently showing Hersh Goldberg-Polin, 23, an Israeli-American seized during the October 7 attack on Israel and taken hostage into Gaza.

The short, undated video shows Mr Goldberg-Polin alive but missing a lower arm, which was apparently blown off in an attack. He appears pale but otherwise healthy.

In the video which may have been shot under duress he rails against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and criticises his government for failing to free more hostages.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the video “is just another one of their attempts at psychological terrorism”.

The hostage’s mother, Rachel Goldberg-Polin, has campaigned for the release of her son, who was abducted at the Nova music festival.

He is one of more than 130 Israeli hostages thought to remain in captivity after more than 100 were released last year.

Speaking to The National in January, Ms Goldberg-Polin spoke of how her world had been changed by her son’s kidnapping.

But she also stressed her compassion for Gazans who are “innocent and caught in the crossfire of this horrible situation”.

Paris students set up Gaza solidarity encampment

Students at an elite university in Paris have erected a Gaza solidarity encampment, inspired by growing protest movements at US universities.

Palestinian flags and tents have been seen at the Institut D’Etudes Politiques de Paris, better known as Sciences Po, a major social sciences university known for educating most French leaders.

Photos and videos of tents at the Saint Thomas campus in Saint-Germain-des-Pres were shared online.

The encampments have spread across the US, provoking clashes with police at various campuses, most notably Columbia University in New York.

The movement has inspired students internationally, with students at the University of Sydney launching an encampment on Tuesday.

Palestinian boy killed in Ramallah

The Israeli army shot dead a Palestinian boy during a dawn raid on the city of Ramallah, the official Wafa news agency has reported.

Khaled Raed Arouq was shot in the abdomen and died at the Palestine Medical Complex, it said.

It did not give Khaled’s age.

Live ammunition and stun grenades were fired at Ramallah residents during a raid on a home in the Al Bireh neighbourood, the outlet reported, while troops were stationed at the city’s Al Tahta and Al Sariya roundabouts.

At least six killed in dawn strikes on Rafah

Children and women wait to receive treatment at Al Najjar Hospital following an Israeli airstrike that hit their home in Rafah. EPA

At least six Palestinians were killed and several more wounded in dawn Israeli air strikes on Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, the official Wafa news agency has reported.

It comes as the military reportedly readies to launch a full-scale ground invasion of the city, hosting more than 1 million displaced civilians forced to flee other parts of the enclave.

Five people were killed, mostly women and children, in a strike on the Abu Jamal family home in eastern Rafah, Wafa said. Several others were wounded and taken to the Abu Youssef Al Najjar hospital, its vicinity also targeted by Israeli strikes.

One person was also killed and others wounded in a strike on two homes east of Rafah.

Elsewhere in Gaza. strikes were reported on Wadi Gaza as an large offensive continued on Gaza city.

Shelling and strikes were reported across the city, particularly in Jabalia and the Al Zaytoun neighbourhood.

US tells Israel to open crossings and co-operate with UN on Gaza aid delivery

Adla Massoud reports from the UN:

The US on Wednesday called on Israel to take immediate action to open more crossings into northern Gaza and co-operate fully with UN efforts to enable delivery of humanitarian aid.

“As Gaza faces imminent famine, lives hang in the balance and every day matters,” US deputy ambassador Robert Wood told a UN Security Council session on the Middle East.

“Israel has taken some positive steps. But not nearly enough and not quickly enough.

“Distribution at scale is critical as aid access is only as impactful as its system of delivery.”

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Palestine protesters at Columbia face National Guard threats

US House Speaker Mike Johnson near the pro-Palestinian student gathering at Columbia University in New York City on Wednesday. AFP

Patrick deHahn reports from New York:

US House Speaker Mike Johnson visited Columbia University on Wednesday and suggested the National Guard should be called in to clear what he called anti-Semitic protests against Israel’s war in Gaza.“There is an appropriate time for the National Guard,” Mr Johnson said in remarks just steps from a pro-Palestine protest camp, which has been a focal point for a fast-growing anti-war movement at universities across the US.

His comments echo those of Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley, two far-right Republican senators who this week advocated for the National Guard to be sent.

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UAE welcomes independent review of UNRWA

The UAE has welcomed the report of the independent review panel on the performance of the UNRWA.

In a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated the UAE’s “unwavering” support of the agency and its commitment to supporting wider UN humanitarian aid operations in the Gaza Strip.

It also expressed the UAE’s “steadfast commitment” to collaborate with the UN and international partners to intensify efforts to ease suffering in Gaza.

Yemen’s Houthis carry out three military operations

Yemen’s Houthis said they attacked the Maersk Yorktown ship and an American destroyer in the Gulf of Aden.

They also attacked the Israeli ship MSC Veracruz in the Indian Ocean, the group’s military spokesman Yahya Saree said.

“The Yemeni armed forces confirm they will continue to prevent Israeli navigation or any navigation heading to the ports of occupied Palestine in the Red and Arabian Seas, as well as in the Indian Ocean,” Mr Sarea said on Wednesday.

Separately, British maritime security firm Ambrey said earlier that it was aware of an incident southwest of the port city of Aden, an area where the Houthis often target ships they say are linked to Israel or the United States.

The vessel reported an “explosion in the water” approximately 72 nautical miles east-southeast of Djibouti, an updated advisory from Ambrey said.

– Reuters

Netanyahu says more must be done to stop pro-Palestinian protests on US campuses

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday condemned pro-Palestinian student protests on US campuses as “horrific”.

In a recorded statement, Mr Netanyahu said “anti-Semitic mobs” were taking over leading universities and that “more has to be done” to stop them.

“They call for the annihilation of Israel,” he said. “They attack Jewish students. They attack Jewish faculty.

“It’s unconscionable. It has to be stopped.”

Washington has not approved Israeli operation in Rafah, US official says

A camp for internally displaced Palestinians who fled from Rafah and northern Gaza Strip in the west of Deir Al Balah, the southern Gaza Strip . EPA

Willy Lowry reports from Washington DC:

Washington has not approved Israel’s impending military operation in Rafah, a US official said on Wednesday.

“Absolutely not,” said Barbara Leaf, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

“I cannot confirm that we have done any such thing. We have not greenlighted a military operation.”

Reports have circulated that Israel has conducted all of the necessary preparations for an offensive in the city.

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US calls reported Israeli push to legalise West Bank settlements “dangerous and reckless”

The US State Department on Wednesday said Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s reported push to legalise dozens of settler outposts in the occupied West Bank was “dangerous and reckless”.

Deputy spokesman Vedant Patel told a media briefing that Washington was continuing to press the government of Israel for more information on reports of mass graves in Gaza.

Reuters

US official Barbara Leaf discusses Houthi talks claims

The National reported today that the US had offered “incentives” to Yemen’s Houthis in response for the Iran-backed group ceasing attacks on the Red Sea, quoting two Yemeni political sources.

US officials declined to comment on the claims of incentives.

But Barbara Leaf, the US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, has now said that her administration “encouraged the sort of indirect and then direct discussions that led to a two-plus-year of cessation of hostilities”.

“All of that has been a larger project for us, aligned with various Gulf partners starting with the Saudis, but also the Omanis, the Emiratis, and so on,” she said.

Ms Leaf said the US “periodically had occasions to have direct discussions with the Houthis, (but) that has changed quite a bit, of course, since October 7, when the Houthis set themselves to the task of basically holding all commercial shipping transiting the Red Sea in the Bab Al Mandeb hostage to their quest to prove themselves among the so-called Axis of Resistance”.

“I wouldn’t characterise our context as a robust discussion at this point but we are using all sorts of means, some diplomatic, some by shooting down missiles and UAVs, to discourage the Houthis from their ill-considered venture.”

Palestinians search for loved ones among mass graves at Nasser Hospital

People and health workers unearth bodies found at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. AFP

Rakan Abed El Rahman reports:

Gaza’s Nasser Hospital has become a site of desperation and grief as Palestinians search for loved ones among the decomposing bodies recovered from mass graves, with the smell of death lingering in the air.More than 325 bodies have been recovered in and around the hospital in Khan Younis since Israeli troops withdrew from the complex.

Palestinian authorities have said the Israeli army left behind mass graves filled with bodies, many of which they say were found with their hands tied.

One woman told The National from the site that she has been visiting the hospital every day for two weeks in hope of finding her son’s body.

Reem Zeidan said Nabil Mohammad Zeidan was killed on January 22.

“Whenever he heard shelling, he would usually call us and tell us that he’s alive. But that day communications were down. We lost contact,” she said on Wednesday.

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Hezbollah rejects ‘ridiculous’ Israeli claim to have killed half its commanders in south

Hezbollah fighters raise the group’s flags during the funeral of two of its members who were killed in an Israeli strike on April 17. AFP

Nada Maucourant Atallah reports:

Hezbollah, which is engaged in daily cross-border exchanges of fire along the Lebanon-Israel frontier, has denied Israel’s claim to have eliminated half of the militant group’s commanders in southern Lebanon.

The group rejected the “ridiculous words that aim to uplift the morale of the Israeli soldiers who received painful blows in the Arab Al Aramshe and north of Acre”, a Hezbollah source told The National on Wednesday.

Hezbollah has recently escalated attacks against its arch-enemy, amid increased tension in the Middle East after Iran’s assault on Israeli soil.

Last week, a Hezbollah attack on Arab Al Aramshe, a Bedouin border village in northern Israel, injured at least 13 Israeli soldiers, the highest number of casualties in a single attack in the conflict, and killed one.

On Tuesday, the group conducted drone attacks on two Israeli military bases north of the city of Acre.

This was Hezbollah’s deepest attack into Israel since hostilities broke out on October 8.

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No US approval for Israeli offensive on Rafah

Willy Lowry reports from Washington:

Washington’s top Middle East diplomat on Wednesday said the US had yet to sign off on an Israeli operation in Rafah.

“Absolutely not,” said Barbara Leaf, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. “I cannot confirm that we have done any such thing, we have not green-lighted a military operation.”

Ms Leaf’s comments came after reports that Israel has conducted all of its necessary preparations for an invasion of the city in southern Gaza.

Rafah is the last refuge for more than 1 million Palestinians who have already been forced to flee their homes in other parts of the strip.

“We’ve been quite clear publicly and privately that there’s no question of a military operation, major or slightly less than major, being undertaken in circumstances in which you have over a million people crowded into a very small space in the vicinity of Rafah,” Ms Leaf said.

Biden says Israel must allow aid to reach Palestinians without delay

President Joe Biden on Wednesday demanded new humanitarian aid be allowed to reach Palestinians in the Gaza Strip immediately.

“We’re going to immediately secure that aid and surge it … including food, medical supplies, clean water,” Mr Biden said after signing a $95 billion military aid bill mainly for Israel and Ukraine, which included $1 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza.

“Israel must make sure all this aid reaches the Palestinians in Gaza without delay.”

-AFP

President Sheikh Mohamed and King Hamad renew call for Gaza ceasefire

President Sheikh Mohamed receives King Hamad of Bahrain in Abu Dhabi on April 24. Photo: Abdulla Al Neyadi / Presidential Court

President Sheikh Mohamed and Bahrain’s King Hamad issued a renewed plea for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza during talks in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

The two leaders urged the international community to uphold its responsibilities to help bring peace to the war-torn enclave, state news agency Wam reported.

They stressed the importance of preserving civilian lives and ensuring access to crucial humanitarian aid for those in need.

They said global action should be focused on delivering a “just and comprehensive regional peace”, protecting the rights of Palestinians and supporting a two-state solution to the conflict.

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Yemen’s Houthis were offered US incentives to stop Red Sea attacks

Cargo ship Galaxy Leader, co-owned by an Israeli company, was hijacked by Houthi rebels from Yemen in the Red Sea in November. Photo: Anadolu

Mohamad Ali Harisi reports:

Mediators conveyed messages from the US to the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, offering “incentives” including lifting the blockade of Sanaa and Hodeidah and accelerating peace talks in return for the group halting its attacks in the Red Sea, Yemeni political sources have told The National.

Since the start of Israel’s war in Gaza, the Yemeni rebels, who control Sanaa and territories in the north and west, launched dozens of attacks on international shipping in the strategic waters off Yemen.

The group claimed the attacks were being carried out in solidarity with Palestinians and its ally Hamas in the coastal enclave but the most recent rebel attack was two weeks ago.

“In response to the Yemeni group’s attempts to target Israeli ships, the US has not only resorted to military action but also sought to convey proposals that would incentivise the militants to stop their attacks,” a Yemeni political source said.

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Qatar faced US pressure to persuade Hamas to accept a ceasefire proposal

Hamza Hendawi reports:

Qatar faced mounting US pressure to push Hamas into accepting ceasefire proposals drawn up with support from American and Egyptian mediators, sources said on Wednesday.

The two sources told The National that Qatari mediators, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman, had made thinly veiled warnings to the Hamas leaders based in Doha that they would be asked to leave if they did not show flexibility during Gaza truce negotiations.

On other occasions, Qatari mediators had hinted at freezing what the sources said were multimillion-dollar Hamas investments in the hope it would persuade the group to abandon or soften its conditions to secure a ceasefire.

Some of the revenue from such investments is used to help families of Hamas fighters killed or seriously wounded in battle, as well as Palestinians held in Israeli jails, the sources said.

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