legal

Middle East crisis live: Italy, US, Canada and Australia suspend support for UN agency for Palestinian refugees


Italy suspends financing of UNRWA

Italy has followed the US, Australia and Canada in suspending financing of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), reports Reuters.

Antonio Tajani, Italy’s foreign minister said on Saturday, via a post on X: “The Italian government has suspended financing of the UNRWA after the atrocious attack on Israel on 7 October.”

Tajani added that some of Italy’s allies had already taken the same decision. It follows allegations that some of UNRWA’s staff were involved in the 7 October attack in Israel carried out by Hamas, though Tajani made no direct reference to those suspicions.

Updated at 

Key events

Al Jazeera has been told by Hezbollah sources that four of its members were killed in a separate shelling attack in Bayt Lif in southern Lebanon. The news organisation said the Israeli army confirmed that they did use their air force to hit targets in southern Lebanon.

According to Al Jazeera, Hezbollah has responded with rockets within the last two hours, hitting the central Galilee. Hezbollah said there will be no negotiations with Israel until there is a complete end to the war in Gaza.

The Guardian has been unable to independently verify the facts.

Updated at 

174 Palestinians killed in Israeli strikes in the past 24 hours, says health ministry

The latest figures from the Gaza health ministry, which is run by Hamas, said 174 Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes and 310 were injured in the past 24 hours.

According to the statement, at least 26,257 Palestinians have been killed and 64,797 have been injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza since 7 October.

The ministry does not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants.

Italy suspends financing of UNRWA

Italy has followed the US, Australia and Canada in suspending financing of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), reports Reuters.

Antonio Tajani, Italy’s foreign minister said on Saturday, via a post on X: “The Italian government has suspended financing of the UNRWA after the atrocious attack on Israel on 7 October.”

Tajani added that some of Italy’s allies had already taken the same decision. It follows allegations that some of UNRWA’s staff were involved in the 7 October attack in Israel carried out by Hamas, though Tajani made no direct reference to those suspicions.

Updated at 

Israel on a ‘campaign of incitement’ against UN agencies delivering aid in Gaza, say Hamas

Hamas have accused Israel of a ‘campaign of incitement’ against UN agencies that delivering aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA

Hamas said in a statement that Israel is on a “campaign of incitement” against UN agencies delivering aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, reports Al Jazeera.

The news organisation said the statement highlighted an Israeli accusation of “collusion” between the World Health Organization (WHO) and Hamas, which the UN agency rejected on Friday.

The statement also referenced recent allegations that UNRWA staff participated in the 7 October Hamas attack, which led the US, Canada, Australia and Italy to cut their funding for UNRWA.

“We stress the importance of the role of these agencies in providing relief to our people and documenting the crimes of the occupation,” it said.

Updated at 

Australia and Canada suspend UNRWA funding after Israeli allegations

Australia and Canada suspended their funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), after Israel accused several employees of involvement in Hamas’s 7 October attack, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Penny Wong, Australia’s foreign minister, said on Saturday she was “deeply concerned” by the allegations against UNRWA. “We are speaking with partners and will temporarily pause disbursement of recent funding,” she wrote on social media platform X.

Allegations UNRWA staff were involved in the abhorrent October 7 terror attacks are deeply concerning.

Australia welcomes UNRWA’s swift response and will engage closely on investigations.

We are speaking with partners and will temporarily pause disbursement of recent funding. pic.twitter.com/Havwserjh3

— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) January 27, 2024

“We welcome UNRWA’s immediate response, including terminating contracts and launching an investigation, as well as its recent announcement of a full investigation into allegations against the organization,” she added.

Wong also noted in her statement UNRWA’s “vital, life-saving work”, adding it “is providing essential services in Gaza directly to those who need it, with more than 1.4 million Palestinians currently sheltering in its facilities”.

Canada’s international development minister, Ahmed Hussen, on Friday announced that Ottawa had “temporarily paused any additional funding to UNRWA while it undertakes a thorough investigation into these allegations”.

“Canada is taking these reports extremely seriously and is engaging closely with UNRWA and other donors on this issue,” he wrote on X.

Canada unequivocally condemns the October 7th attack on Israel. I am deeply troubled by the allegations relating to some UNRWA employees. I have instructed Global Affairs Canada to pause all additional funding to UNRWA pending the outcome of the investigation. Read my statement: pic.twitter.com/YfEbwhKvzx

— Ahmed Hussen (@HonAhmedHussen) January 26, 2024

“Should the allegations prove to be accurate, Canada expects UNRWA to immediately act against those determined to have been involved in Hamas’s terrorist attacks.”

The moves come after the US halted its funding to UNRWA on Friday, saying the allegations were against 12 employees who “may have been involved” in the Hamas attack that triggered the war in Gaza.

UNRWA said on Friday it had severed ties with the staff members accused by Israel of involvement in the 7 October Hamas attack.

The head of the agency, Philippe Lazzarini, vowed to hold “accountable, including through criminal prosecution” any UNRWA employee found to have been involved in “acts of terror”.

The UN chief, António Guterres, has pledged to conduct an “urgent and comprehensive independent review of UNRWA”.

Updated at 

An immediate ceasefire ‘only way’ to implement ICJ ruling, says Palestinian foreign ministry

The Palestinian foreign ministry said an immediate ceasefire is “the only way” to implement Friday’s ICJ interim ruling.

According to Al Jazeera, the Palestinian foreign ministry condemned the “continuation of the ongoing genocidal war against our people” in a statement. It said it showed “Israeli determination to complete the destruction of the Gaza Strip”.

The statement also drew to attention the fact that not a single high-ranking Israeli official promised to abide by the ruling, and top officials, including the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, promised to continue the war, effectively undermining the ruling.

On Friday, the ICJ stopped short of ordering a ceasefire in Gaza but demanded Israel attempted to try to contain death and damage in its military offensive.

Updated at 

Trafigura, the commodities group that operated the Marlin Luanda, said on Saturday that no casualties or injuries were reported onboard the fuel tanker after a missile struck the vessel as it transited the Gulf of Aden on Friday.

It also said that crew were continuing efforts to control the fire in one of the Marlin Luanda’s cargo tanks with support from military vessels, reports Reuters.

More now on the ongoing battles in Khan Younis, where as reported below there were more overnight strikes.

The Israeli military said on Saturday that its military aircraft, tanks and infantry troops killed at least 11 Palestinians over the past 24 hours in battles in Khan Younis.

The military claimed to target militants who were trying to plant explosives near troops and others firing rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at soldiers, according to a statement from the Israeli military, Reuters reports.

Updated at 

Australia joins US and Canada in pausing UN agency funding during investigation

More now on the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) launching an investigation into several employees accused of taking part in Hamas’s 7 October attacks in Israel.

Australia’s foreign minister, Penny Wong, on Saturday said Australia will join its likeminded partners in the US and Canada in pausing the funding. She said Australia was deeply concerned about the allegations.

“We welcome UNRWA’s immediate response, including terminating contracts and launching an investigation, as well its recent announcement of a full investigation into allegations against the organisation,” Wong said in a statement.

You can read our full story here:

Updated at 

Below are some of the latest images coming in around the world from global news agencies relating to the crisis:

Houthi supporters hold up placards including ‘Boycott US and Israeli goods’ during a protest against recent US-UK actions against Houthis over shipping attacks, in Sana’a, Yemen. Photograph: Yahya Arhab/EPA
People link arms during a protest in support of Palestinians, in Brussels, Belgium. Photograph: Frederic Sierakowski/EPA
Protest outside of a federal court building, in Oakland for a lawsuit filed seeking an emergency order halting US support for Israel’s attacks in Gaza. Photograph: Carlos Barría/Reuters

Thousands of civilians were trapped in southern Gaza by bombardment and fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas fighters on Saturday, Agence France-Presse reports.

Growing alarm has focused on Khan Younis, the biggest city in Gaza’s south, where the two main hospitals were barely functioning under the weight of the relentless bombardment and the press of thousands in need.

Witnesses reported more overnight strikes on Khan Yunis, the current epicentre of Israel’s assault on Gaza, and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said some of the dead and wounded had been taken to the city’s barely functioning Al-Amal hospital.

Displaced Palestinians walk past Israeli army tanks after the Israeli army asked residents of Khan Yunis camp to leave their homes and go to Rafah camps near the Egyptian border,. Photograph: Haitham Imad/EPA

Updated at 

US confirms oil tanker attack and destroys Houthi anti-ship missile

The US military says it has destroyed a Houthi anti-ship missile that was aimed into the Red Sea and ready to launch. The missile “presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and the US Navy ships in the region,” US central command said in a statement on X.

U.S. Conducts Self-Defense Strike Against Houthi Anti-Ship Missile

On Jan. 27 at approximately 3:45 a.m. (Sanaa time), U.S. Central Command Forces conducted a strike against a Houthi anti-ship missile aimed into the Red Sea and which was prepared to launch. U.S. Forces… pic.twitter.com/UcHqDiyT1I

— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) January 27, 2024

The missile strike came eight hours after after an oil tanker was struck and set alight off coast of Yemen. The oil tanker attack prompted the UK government to say Britain and its allies “reserve the right to respond appropriately”.

Yemen’s Houthi rebels claimed their naval forces carried out an operation targeting what they described as the “British oil tanker Marlin Luanda” in the Gulf of Aden. Shipping data suggests the vessel sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands.

The US military has also confirmed the attack, posting a statement on X saying “Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists fired one anti-ship ballistic missile from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and struck the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker”.

Houthis Strike M/V Marlin Luanda Operating in the Gulf of Aden

On Jan. 26, at approximately 7:45 p.m. (Sanaa time), Iranian-backed Houthi terrorists fired one anti-ship ballistic missile from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and struck the Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker M/V… pic.twitter.com/Mw3Mg138cy

— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) January 27, 2024

Read our full story here:

Welcome and opening summary

It’s just past 9am in Gaza and Tel Aviv. Welcome to our latest Middle East crisis blog. I’m Christine Kearney and I’ll be with you for the next while.

The US military has confirmed a Houthi attack on an oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden after it was struck and set alight off the coast of Yemen. About eight hours after the attack, the US says it destroyed a Houthi anti-ship missile that was aimed into the Red Sea and was ready to launch.

The missile “presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and the US Navy ships in the region,” US central command said in a statement.

More on that in a moment but first, here’s a summary of the latest so far:

  • At least 26,083 Palestinians have been killed and 64,487 have been injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza since 7 October, according to the latest figures from the Gaza health ministry on Friday. Those figures include 183 Palestinians killed and 377 injured in the past 24 hours.

  • Vital medical services at Gaza’s largest functioning health facility have collapsed amid ongoing intense fighting and bombing in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, leaving people with no options to go for treatment, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has warned. Most of the staff at Nasser hospital, along with thousands of displaced people sheltering in the hospital, fled in the days leading up to the evacuation order by Israel Defense Forces (IDF), while the European Gaza hospital is “unreachable” for medical staff because its neighbouring areas are under evacuation order, it said. Nasser hospital in Khan Younis in southern Gaza has experienced a complete power outage, according to reports.

  • The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have said “intensive battles” continued to rage in the heart of the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, as it said dozens of Hamas targets were destroyed.

  • The ​UN’s international court of justice (ICJ) has ordered Israel to ensure its forces do not commit acts of genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. In an interim judgment delivered on Friday, the court stopped short of granting South Africa’s request to order an immediate ceasefire to the war. The ruling is not the final word from the court on whether Israel’s actions amount to genocide, but it provides a strong indication that the judges believe there is a credible risk to Palestinians under the genocide convention.

  • South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has said he expects Israel to abide by the international court of justice’s ruling that it take measures to prevent genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. “Some have told us we should mind our own business … and yet it is very much our place as the people who know too well the pain of dispossession, discrimination, state sponsored violence,” Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation. South Africa hailed a “decisive victory” for international rule of law after the court’s ruling.

  • Israeli officials have accused the international court of justice of antisemitic bias and expressed dismay that the case was not thrown out altogether. Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said in response to the ruling that his country was committed to upholding international law, as well as defending its people. Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defence minister, who was cited by the court president for calling Palestinians “human animals” at the start of the Israeli offensive, said the court had gone “above and beyond” in granting South Africa’s “antisemitic” request.

  • Hamas has welcomed the international court of justice’s ruling on South Africa’s request to impose emergency measures against Israel over its war in Gaza. The Palestinian militant group also called on the international community to require Israel to implement the court’s decisions and stop what it called the continuing “genocide” against Palestinians. A senior Hamas official called for Israel to be forced to implement the court’s decisions. The Palestinian foreign ministry also welcomed orders by the ICJ, calling it an “important reminder that no state is above the law”.

  • The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has said he hopes Israel will comply with the international court of justice’s ruling. In a statement from Stéphane Dujarric, the UN chief’s spokesperson, Guterres noted that decisions of the ICJ were binding and that he “trusts that all parties will duly comply with the order from the court.”

  • International reactions to the top UN court’s ruling were split along the lines of the war raging in the Palestinian territory. The ICJ ruling was welcomed by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Egypt and Spain. The EU said it expects Israel and Hamas to fully comply with the ICJ rulings. Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, said Israel “must adhere” to the ruling but that Hamas also needs to release its remaining hostages. Iran’s foreign minister called for Israeli authorities to face justice. The US continues to believe that allegations of genocide against Israel are “unfounded”, a state department spokesperson said.

  • The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has launched an investigation into several employees accused of taking part in Hamas’s 7 October attacks in Israel, and has severed ties with those staff members, its head said on Friday. The US state department said it would provide no additional funding to the agency until the allegations were addressed.

  • The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has denied Israel’s accusation that it is “colluding” with Hamas by ignoring Israeli evidence of the “military use” of hospitals in the Gaza Strip. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that the claims, made by Israel’s ambassador to the UN on Thursday, could endanger its staff “who are risking their lives” on the ground in Gaza.

  • Joe Biden spoke on Friday with his Egyptian and Qatari counterparts ahead of a trip to Europe by the CIA director, William Burns, to seek a deal to secure the release of more hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Burns and his Israeli counterpart, the Mossad head, David Barnea, will meet Qatari officials in coming days for talks on a second potential Gaza hostage deal and pause in fighting, according to reports. The US and Israeli intelligence chiefs have previously met Qatari and Egyptian officials, helping to broker a short-lived truce in November in which more than 100 hostages were freed. Burns’ trip comes after a visit to the region by White House senior envoy Brett McGurk this week. The White House said however that there are no “imminent developments” on an agreement over a hostage release.

  • Hamas has released a video showing three Israeli women held hostage in Gaza. Two of the women in the video said they were Israeli soldiers, Daniela Gilboa, 19, and Karina Ariev, 19. A third, Doron Steinbrecher, 33, said she was a civilian.

  • The Palestinian photojournalist Motaz Azaiza, a key chronicler of the war in Gaza, has been evacuated from the strip and found refuge in Qatar. “I had to evacuate for a lot of reasons … I left with a broken heart,” Azaiza wrote. At least 76 journalists have been killed in Gaza in the three-month-old war, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Updated at 





READ SOURCE