Four U.N. peacekeepers wounded in Lebanon; Criticism of U.S. arms transfer to Israel



A convoy of ships carrying nearly 400 tons of aid departed Cyprus on Saturday bound for Gaza, where it is set to meet a dire situation, as international and humanitarian organizations have warned that famine looms and medical care is scantly available.

It is the second shipment of aid to Gaza organized in part by the nonprofit World Central Kitchen, which said in a statement that the convoy is ferrying rice, pasta, flour and canned vegetables, among other food supplies, as well as machinery to offload the aid. It also includes a “special shipment” of dates, which are eaten to break Ramadan fasts, provided by the United Arab Emirates, WCK said. It is enough food to prepare 1 million meals, the organization said.

The shipment by sea comes as deliveries of aid through means such as truck convoys have faced hurdles. Humanitarian groups said in a statement last week that their work in Gaza “has been consistently and arbitrarily denied, restricted, and impeded by the Israeli authorities.” Israel says it is doing its utmost to facilitate aid in the enclave, and has disputed a report this month warning that famine was imminent in northern Gaza.

Medical care is also sparse. Only 10 hospitals in Gaza are functioning, and they are doing so “minimally,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said Saturday.

“Thousands of patients continue to be deprived of health care,” he said, adding that about 9,000 patients “urgently need” to be evacuated from Gaza to receive care for injuries from bombings, cancer and other conditions. More than 3,400 have already been sent abroad, he said, “but many more need to be evacuated.” He called on Israel to move faster in approving such evacuations.

More than 12,800 patients have requested care abroad, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, which said in a report Saturday that 32 hospitals and 53 clinics have been put out of service since the start of the war. Hospital occupancy rates are at 318 percent, the health ministry said.

The health ministry said 28 people in Gaza have died of malnutrition and dehydration since February. Most were less than a year old, it said.

Also on Saturday, four members of a United Nations peacekeeping team were injured in a blast in southern Lebanon, the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said in a statement, adding that “the targeting of peacekeepers is unacceptable.”

UNIFIL said three military observers from the U.N. Truce Supervision Organization and an interpreter were conducting “a foot patrol along the Blue Line” near the Lebanese town of Rmeish “when an explosion occurred near their location,” adding that all four had been evacuated for medical treatment. The Blue Line is a contentious border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel, which is monitored by the U.N.

It was not immediately clear who or what was behind the blast. UNIFIL said it was “investigating the origin of the explosion.”

Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said the military observers were from Australia, Chile and Norway, and said they had been “targeted by an Israeli drone.” Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Manar TV, citing its correspondent, also said there was “preliminary information” that an Israeli drone was behind the attack. Neither provided any evidence for the claim, and the Israel Defense Forces denied any involvement, saying in a statement Saturday: “Contrary to the reports, the IDF did not strike a UNIFIL vehicle in the area of Rmeish this morning.”

Earlier this week, UNIFIL said in a post on X that it was “very concerned over the surge of violence occurring across the Blue Line right now. This escalation has caused a high number of civilian deaths and the destruction of homes and livelihoods.”

Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, hostilities have soared along the Lebanese border in near-daily exchanges of fire between Israel and Hezbollah that have raised the specter of all-out war.

In November, UNIFIL said one of its patrols was hit by Israeli military gunfire in southern Israel in an attack it described as “deeply troubling.” No peacekeepers were injured but the vehicle was damaged, it said.

Here’s what else to know

The Israeli raid of al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza is ongoing, the IDF said Saturday. The IDF said in a statement about its operations at the hospital this week that it raided a building in the hospital complex, finding Hamas militants. “A number” of them were killed outside of the hospital, and in another “encounter,” in the maternity ward, Israeli forces killed two Hamas militants, the IDF said. It added that forces killed militants in “close combat” and found weapons and “intelligence materials” at the complex. The claims could not be independently verified by The Washington Post. The World Health Organization has expressed concern about the raid amid a shortage of medical centers for the sick and wounded in Gaza.

Released hostages demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make a deal in talks in Doha to free those still held captive. Speaking at a rally Saturday evening, freed hostage Aviva Siegel, whose husband is still held in Gaza, said Netanyahu was acting “as if the negotiations are a child’s game.” She added, addressing Netanyahu, “do not dare to bring the delegation back from Qatar without a deal!” Protests on Saturday called for elections to oust Netanyahu, who is beset by potential fallout among his government coalition over plans to let an exemption for ultra-Orthodox Israelis from mandatory military service expire.

A new Biden administration authorization for the transfer of billions of dollars in bombs and fighter jets to Israel has drawn criticism and accusations of hypocrisy, including from some lawmakers. The transfer includes more than 1,800 2,000-pound bombs, the likes of which experts say have been linked to the soaring death toll during Israel’s campaign in the Gaza Strip. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called the move “obscene,” while Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) called the transfer “wrong on every level.” “We have continued to support Israel’s right to defend itself,” a White House official told The Washington Post. “Conditioning aid has not been our policy.”

The Palestine Red Crescent Society said 26 members of its team have been killed since the start of the war in Gaza, including 15 workers it says were targeted while wearing the aid group’s emblem, which is protected by international law.

At least 32,705 people have been killed and 75,190 injured in Gaza since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack and says 254 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operation in Gaza.

Lior Soroka and Alon Rom in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.


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