Israel pounds Gaza after evacuation order

Israeli forces carried out deadly strikes on Tuesday on southern Gaza and battled militants after issuing an evacuation order which a UN agency said would impact 2,50,000 Palestinians.

Witnesses reported intense bombing and shelling around Khan Younis, southern Gaza’s main city, from which Israeli troops withdrew in early April after a devastating months-long battle.

A hospital source in the city said shelling killed eight persons and wounded more than 30 others.

The bombardment came after a rocket barrage at southern Israel on Monday morning claimed by the militant group Islamic Jihad, which has fought alongside Hamas.

This was followed by an order to evacuate most areas east of Khan Younis and in Rafah along the borders with Israel and Egypt.

The UN agency supporting Palestinian refugees estimated Tuesday that a quarter of a million people had been impacted since Israel’s army issued a new evacuation order for parts of southern Gaza a day earlier.

“We’ve seen people moving, families moving, people starting to pack up their belongings and try to leave this area,” UNRWA spokeswoman Louise Wateridge told reporters in Geneva via video-link from Gaza.

The agency “estimates that around 250,000 people have been impacted by these orders”, she said, adding: “We expect these numbers to grow”.

Her comments came after the Israeli army Monday issued a new evacuation order for parts of Khan Yunis and Rafah in southern Gaza.

An AFP photographer saw Palestinians leave eastern Khan Yunis on foot, in cars and on horse or donkey carts, carrying their belongings with them.

Some displaced people with nowhere to go were sleeping on the streets, witnesses said.

Ahmad Najjar, a resident of the town of Bani Suhaila, said the Israeli evacuation order had caused “a large displacement of residents” and spurred “fear and extreme anxiety”.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees estimates that “around 2,50,000 people have been impacted by these orders”, said UNRWA spokeswoman Louise Wateridge.

“We expect that almost all of these people will move from this area,” she said.

Six consecutive days of intense battles followed a similar evacuation order issued last week for the Gaza City district of Shujaiya.

An AFP correspondent reported artillery shelling in the northern area on Tuesday, and witnesses said gun battles raged on.

The military said its forces were operating in Shujaiya, central Gaza and Rafah, where aircraft carried out strikes and troops “ambushed an armed terrorist squad” in a car and killed them.

Strikes a ‘daily routine’

Over the past day, the Israeli air force “struck approximately 30 terror targets” across Gaza, said a military statement.

In Shujaiya, Palestinian militants “were eliminated and dozens of terrorist infrastructure sites above and below ground were dismantled, including tunnel shafts”, it added.

In central Gaza, witnesses said strikes hit the Nuseirat refugee camp where the Palestinian Red Crescent reported at least one dead, a child.

Mohamed al-Jalees, displaced from Shujaiya to Nuseirat, helped clear the rubble and search for survivors.

“A missile struck our neighbours’ house,” he told AFP. “We rushed to check on them, and some were rescued alive (but) we found a martyred child.”

“I have been displaced here for nine months… This is our daily routine.”

Other parts of the Gaza Strip were reeling from continued fighting nearly nine months into the war, which was sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and has led to a dire humanitarian crisis.

Months of on-and-off talks towards a truce and hostage release deal have made little progress, even after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared more than a week ago that the “intense phase” of the war was winding down.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday that “we’ve heard the Israelis talk about a significant downshift in their operations in Gaza”.

“It remains to be seen.”

The latest order to leave parts of southern Gaza follows an evacuation of Rafah nearly two months ago which had signalled the start of a long-feared Israeli offensive that has uprooted many Palestinians and blocked a key aid route.

‘Failure’

Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel that triggered the war resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza including 42 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive aimed at eradicating the Palestinians militants in Gaza has killed at least 37,925 people, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

The military announced two soldiers were killed in central Gaza, taking to 319 its death toll since ground operations began in late October.

Israeli authorities on Monday released Mohammed Abu Salmiya, director of Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital — the territory’s largest medical complex, ravaged by Israeli raids — along with dozens of other detainees returned to Gaza for treatment.

Abu Salmiya said he had suffered “severe torture” during his detention.

“Several inmates died in interrogation centres and were deprived of food and medicine,” he said after his release.

Israel has accused Hamas of using Al-Shifa and other hospitals as a cover for military operations, claims Gaza militants have rejected.

Netanyahu said the release had been made without his knowledge, and that Abu Salmiya belongs “in prison” because Israeli hostages were “murdered and held” in the hospital.

The director’s return to Gaza was “a serious mistake and a moral failure”, Netanyahu said.

According to Abu Salmiya, Israel brought no charges against him during his seven-month detention.

Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security agency said the release was “to free up places in detention centres”.

Those sent back to Gaza “represent a lesser danger” and were not directly involved in attacks on Israeli civilians, it said.

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Netanyahu has everything to lose and nothing to gain from deescalating

By Shlomo Roiter Jesner, President, Co-founder, Cambridge Middle East and North Africa Forum

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

Once known as Mr Security, Netanyahu has made a career out of the persona he built for himself: the self-proclaimed “King Bibi” who can save Israel. Now, he’ll do anything to ensure self-preservation, Shlomo Roiter Jesner writes.

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The statement by Israel Defence Forces Spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari earlier this week took many by surprise, considering the severity of the picture he painted of the ongoing escalation on Israel’s northern border.

Warning that “Hezbollah’s increasing aggression is bringing us to the brink of what could be a wider escalation”, his statement was followed by Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz, not known to skimp on words, warning that the country was ready for an “all-out war” that would “change the rules of the game”.

What inspired statements as strong as these coming from Israel’s military and political leadership was the most violent week so far on the border with Lebanon — that is, since the recent escalation began following Hamas’s 7 October attack.

A similar escalation in rhetoric has been seen from Hezbollah’s side, which, for the first time in a number of days, took direct responsibility for UAV attacks near the Israeli city of Metullah.

Considering the death of the most senior Hezbollah official thus far, commander Taleb Abdullah, coupled with Hezbollah launching what has been some of its heaviest rocket barrages to date, in addition to overt threats from Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to attack Israeli critical infrastructure using footage filmed by the terror organisation’s reconnaissance drones, the threat of escalation is very real.

Spats with Washington are not helping

With Amos Hochstein, US President Joe Biden’s senior aide, who has been serving as Biden’s mediator since the conflict began, visiting the region with an eye towards preventing further escalation, the question begging to be asked is what the US administration can practically do.

The state of relations between the United States and Israel is currently at an all-time low, rivalled only by the end of President Barack Obama’s time in office when Washington, in a rare move, abstained from a controversial UN Security Council resolution demanding an end to settlements.

Relations between Biden and Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu reached their own low this week when Netanyahu, in an English-language social media video, accused the Biden administration of withholding military aid to Israel, the single largest recipient of American military aid globally.

The spat led to the rare cancellation of a strategic dialogue on Iran only a day before it was meant to take place in Washington with members of the Israeli delegation, including Israel’s National Security Advisor, already en route. “This decision makes it clear that there are consequences for pulling such stunts,” a US official, referring to Netanyahu’s clip, said.

And while Washington tries to reign in Israel’s prime minister, setting demands regarding Israeli operations in Rafah and cancelling the discussed meeting, what the Biden administration is missing is that they are dealing with a man who quite literally has nothing to lose.

Mr Security’s fall from grace

Israel’s longest-serving PM, once known as Mr Security, lacks the vast public support he once had, finding himself fourth out of six Israeli politicians, with only 42% support in a poll conducted in March.

He was followed only by Israel’s hard-right leaders, Bezalel Smotritch and Itamar Ben Gvir (with 37% and 33%, respectively).

The 7 October massacre and the intelligence and military failures that will forever be associated with that day saw all preconceived notions of Netanyahu as the only one who could ensure the safety and security which Israeli citizens so desperately seek shattered.

Indeed, calls for accountability are only getting stronger. Just this week, tens of thousands of protesters from all walks of Israeli society demanded a commission of inquiry, something that Netanyahu has been blocking State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman from putting together.

Despite his 17 years in power, shockingly, not one commission of inquiry has ever been formed, making “the likelihood of an inquiry very, very low,” according to professor of public policy at Hebrew University Raanan Sulitzeanu-Kenan.

On a personal level, it cannot be forgotten that Netanyahu is still facing an ongoing corruption trial, which resumed this December despite the war in Gaza.

Charged with fraud, bribery and breach of trust in three separate cases, it is obvious what Netanyahu has to gain by prolonging, if not escalating, Israel’s security situation.

In this light, only three months ago, Netanyahu’s lawyers petitioned the Jerusalem District Court to postpone testimonies “as long as there is no substantial change in the security situation in the country”.

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Vast arsenal of tools for self-preservation

With Netanyahu in a position where he exemplifies what James Baldwin called “the most dangerous creation in any society, the man who has nothing to lose”, Biden and the US must tread carefully when calling for deescalation.

Commonly known by his favourite nickname, Bibi, he has made a career out of the persona he built for himself: the self-proclaimed “King Bibi” who can save Israel.

Vilifying the US Democrats in an election year and perhaps subtly doing everything in his power to ensure an administration change are only some of the tools in his vast arsenal of self-preservation.

President Biden himself is also limited in this regard, needing to ensure the pro-Israel vote while painting a picture of someone who also cares about the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

Netanyahu easily takes advantage of this delicate balance, portraying every action by Washington as calling into question US’ unwavering support for the Jewish state.

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Although Hezbollah does not see a severe escalation with Israel to be in its strategic interest, it may nevertheless take advantage of Netanyahu’s desperate need for an ongoing security crisis, coupled with what it perceives to be a lull in the US-Israel relationship, to score a much-needed win on the security front.

Nasrallah is even less restrained than Netanyahu, with little regard for the future of Lebanon.

Who will shoot first?

Hezbollah will win in the eyes of the Lebanese public if it is seen as keeping Israel’s military at bay and will win the battle for hearts and minds if an escalation occurs, too.

This is due to the military losses that Israel would undoubtedly suffer, including on the home front and during an eventual reconstruction process in Lebanon.

Although Hezbollah would be responsible for the country’s destruction, it would also play an important role in its rebuilding, given the virtual non-existence of a central government in Lebanon.

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However, with recent polling in Israel showing 60% support attacking Hezbollah with full force and 36% wanting to see this in the immediate term, it is impossible to know which side the US has little to no control over will be the first to escalate.

Shlomo Roiter Jesner is President and Co-founder of the Cambridge Middle East and North Africa Forum. He is also CEO of London-based F&R Strategy Group, a geopolitical consultancy at the intersection of politics and business.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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U.S. aircraft carrier captain playfully counters Houthi’s false online claims of hitting his ship

The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower may be one of the oldest aircraft carriers in the U.S. Navy, but it’s still fighting — despite repeated false claims by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The Houthis and social media accounts supporting them repeatedly have falsely claimed they hit or even sank the carrier in the Red Sea. The carrier leads the U.S. response to the rebels’ targeting of commercial vessels and warships in the crucial waterway — attacks the Houthis say are aimed at bringing an end to the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

The Eisenhower’s leader, Capt. Christopher “Chowdah” Hill, is creatively striking back on social media to counter the misinformation — and boost the morale of the ship’s 5,000 personnel — as the Navy faces its most intense combat since World War II.

“I think it’s been about two or three times in the past six months we’ve allegedly been sunk, which we have not been,” Captain Hill told The Associated Press during a recent visit to the carrier. “It is almost comical at this point. They’re attempting to maybe inspire themselves through misinformation, but it doesn’t work on us.”

The visit by two AP journalists and others to the Eisenhower represents part of the effort the Navy has made to try to counter the Houthi claims. While on board for about a day and a half, journalists escorted by sailors crisscrossed the nuclear-powered ship’s 1,092-foot (332-meter) length. AP journalists also repeatedly circled the Eisenhower from the air in a Seahawk helicopter.

Other than rust on its side from the hot, humid Red Sea air and water apparently leaking from a pipe in a dining room, the ship appeared no worse for wear. Its flight deck bore no blast damage or gaping holes, just the stink of jet fuel, pooled puddles of oily water and the scream of engines before its F/A-18 fighter jets took flight.

The other half of the information warfare effort has been Captain Hill himself, a native of Quincy, Massachusetts, something noticeable immediately in his South Boston accent. While even the secretive leader of the Houthis, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, has name-dropped the carrier in speeches while making false claims about the vessel, Captain Hill has offered ceaselessly positive messages online about his sailors on board.

Countering Houthi disinformation

Videos of flight operations from the bridge and images of sailors eating cookies in the captain’s chair are constant staple. After one false Houthi claim, Captain Hill responded by posting images of cinnamon rolls and muffins in the bakery on board the Eisenhower — a subtle jab at the claims.

“The whole intent of the social media outreach was to connect with families, to bring them closer to the ship,” Captain Hill said. “So if I can post pictures of sons and daughters, husbands and wives out here, or even fathers and mothers, get it out there, it just kind of brings the family closer to us. And again, that’s our support network. But it also took on another role because everyone else was watching to see what we’re doing.”

Then there’s the “Star Wars” memes and images of Captain Demo, the Labrador-golden retriever mix who roams the ship as a support animal for sailors. And as far as the Houthi forces watching his postings, Captain Hill takes special pleasure in writing about “Taco Tuesday” on the ship.

“We’re going to celebrate ‘Taco Tuesdays’ because it’s my absolute favorite day of the week. That will never end,” the captain said. “If you call that an information warfare campaign, you can. It’s just who I am, you know, at the end of the day.”

Maintaining morale amid prolonged deployment:

But morale remains a deep concern for Captain Hill and other leaders on board the ship. The Eisenhower and its allied ships have gotten just one short port call during the eight-month rotation so far to Greece. The carrier also has been the most-deployed carrier among the entire U.S. fleet over the last five years, according to an analysis by the U.S. Naval Institute’s news service.

One sailor, Lt. Joseph Hirl from Raleigh, North Carolina, wore a patch reading: “Go Navy, Beat Houthis.” While that’s a play on the classic call for the annual Army-Navy football game, the naval flight officer stressed that he knew the combat was deadly serious.

“It’s pretty much the day-in, day-out stress of knowing that we are being shot at definitely gives a realism to the whole experience that this is not a normal deployment,” Captain Hill said.

Munitions and combat readiness

Secretary of the Navy Carlos del Toro speaks during a naturalization ceremony aboard the USS Bataan during Fleet Week Miami at Port Miami on  May 7, 2024, in Miami.

Secretary of the Navy Carlos del Toro speaks during a naturalization ceremony aboard the USS Bataan during Fleet Week Miami at Port Miami on May 7, 2024, in Miami.
| Photo Credit:
AP

Meanwhile, munitions also remain a concern. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro told the U.S. Senate‘s Armed Services Committee in May the Navy had spent at least $1 billion in armaments to fight in the Red Sea. Every leader on board the Eisenhower that the AP spoke to acknowledged the Navy was trying to use the right weapon against the Houthis, whose asymmetrical warfare sees them use far cheaper munitions.

“My sailors, my ships are priceless — that’s not a calculus I want a captain to have,” said Capt. David Wroe, the commodore overseeing the guided missile destroyers escorting the Eisenhower. “Now, using the appropriate effect weapon system on the appropriate threat to preserve magazine depth, to have more missiles, is certainly a germane tactical question.”

For now, the Eisenhower continues its patrol along with the , a cruiser, and two destroyers, the USS Gravely and the USS Mason. It’s been extended twice already and there’s always the chance it could happen again. But Captain Hill said his sailors remained ready to fight and he remained ready to continue to captain in his style.

“I came to a revelation at some point in my career that, one of the things that all humans require is to be loved and valued,” Captain Hill said. “So I shouldn’t be afraid, as a leader, to try to love and value everybody, and also to expect other leaders that I’m responsible for to love and value their sailors.”

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Watch | Israel’s Rafah invasion | Explained

The pre-war population of Rafah, the southernmost city of the Gaza strip sharing a border with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, was 1,70,000. Today, seven months after Israel launched its war on Gaza, as many as 1.5 million people are living in Rafah. Many of them are camped on the streets and beaches, while others are cramped into filthy, overcrowded makeshift shelters.

Rafah is now a “gigantic refugee camp”, says the Norwegian Refugee Council. According to a doctor who served in Rafah, the city is a “closed jail”. Medics are struggling to supply even basic aid and prevent the outbreak and spread of diseases. According to Action Aid, every single person in Gaza “is now hungry and people have just 1.5 to 2 litres of unsafe water per day to meet all their needs”. A majority of Gaza’s population is now jammed in Rafah. It is in this Rafah, Israel is carrying out its latest offensive.

Rafah has always been a flashpoint in the Israel-Palestine conflict, given its territorial proximity to Egypt. After the 1948 Arab-Israel war, Rafah came under Egyptian rule along with other parts of the Gaza Strip. Tens of thousands of Palestinians who were displaced from their homes when Israel was created were settled in Gaza.

During the Suez Crisis, Rafah came under attack when the Israeli troops were marching towards Sinai through Gaza. On November 12, 1956, the IDF raided a refugee camp in Rafah, killing at least 111 Palestinians, which came to be known as the Rafah massacre.

After the Six-Day War of 1967, the entire Gaza, including Rafah, came under Israel’s direct military occupation. Israel would retain its direct control over the enclave until 2005.

After the latest war began on October 7, 2023, Israel ordered over 1 million Palestinians living in the northern Gaza to evacuate. Most of them fled their homes and moved to southern cities such as Khan Younis and Rafah. When Khan Younis was attacked, there was another flight of refugees towards the south. Today, the lion’s share of Rafah’s population are internally displaced Palestinians.

Before Israel launched the Rafah offensive, there were dramatic developments. The U.S. had warned Israel against launching a full-scale invasion of Rafah, arguing that such an attack would kill more Palestinian civilians. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed that Israel would go ahead with the plan to invade Rafah, defying international pressure, warnings and pleas. But Mr. Netanyahu is also under pressure to bring the remaining hostages back. Israel says 128 hostages abducted on October 7 are still in Hamas’s captivity, though many of them are feared dead. There are growing protests in Israel, asking the government to strike a deal with Hamas to bring the hostages back. Israel and Hamas, helped by mediators such as the U.S., Egypt and Qatar, had held multiple rounds of talks in Cairo for a ceasefire deal.

While the fine details of the ceasefire proposal were not made public yet, reports in Egyptian and Saudi media suggested that the mediators had proposed a three-phase deal that would see the release of all hostages and Palestinian prisoners and eventually bring the war to an end. In the first phase, Israel was expected to cease fire for 40 days and free Palestinian prisoners in return for the release of 33 hostages.

In the second phase, the ceasefire would be extended by 42 more days, while all the remaining living hostages would be released.

The third phase proposals were the most contentious. Israel wanted Hamas to release the bodies of all hostages and Hamas wanted a comprehensive, lasting ceasefire and full withdrawal from Gaza.

Israel says no to both Hamas demands. Israeli troops have been deployed in northern and central Gaza, effectively carving the northern tip of the strip as a buffer zone between Israel proper and Gaza’s population. If the Israeli troops withdraw from Gaza, Israeli officials say, Palestinians as well as Hamas militants would return to the areas close to the Israeli border. And if Israel agrees to a lasting ceasefire, the remaining Hamas battalions would survive.

When Israel launched the war on October 7, it made its twin objectives public: dismantle Hamas and release the hostages. Seven months after the war, in which roughly 35,000 Palestinians have been killed, Israel has not met either of the objectives. One practical solution to the hostage crisis is to strike a deal with Hamas. But Hamas would release the hostages only in return for a ceasefire. And if Israel agrees for a ceasefire, Hamas would survive. This is the dilemma Mr. Netanyahu is facing.

Earlier, Biden administration officials had said Hamas was the major stumbling block for a ceasefire. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated on May 4 that “the only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas”. But on May 6, Hamas’s Doha-based leader Ismail Haniyeh said the group accepted the ceasefire proposal suggested by the mediators in Cairo. The Hamas announcement came hours after the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) ordered at least 100,000 Palestinians to evacuate from Rafah. Mr. Netanyahu’s government immediately rejected the Hamas offer, saying it did not meet Israel’s core demands. The Prime Minister later said Israel would never agree to end the war in Gaza as part of a deal with Hamas.

Mr. Netanyahu’s tough line on Rafah has created tensions in Israel’s ties with the U.S. Earlier President Biden had said a full-scale attack on Rafah without a proper plan to protect civilians would be a redline for him. The United Nations has repeatedly warned that any attack on the overcrowded Rafah would lead to a humanitarian catastrophe. If he abandons the plan to attack Rafah and cuts a deal with Hamas for hostages, Netanyahu’s government could fall as his far-right allies such as Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich have already warned against such a move. If he goes ahead with the plan to invade Rafah, more Palestinian civilians would be killed, Israel would further be isolated globally and tensions would rise in ties with the U.S. But Mr. Netanyahu doesn’t seem to bother.

“If Israel has to stand alone, it will stand alone,” he said on May 10, less than a month after American, British, French and Jordanian defence systems, along with the IDF, shot down most of the drones and cruise and ballistic missiles launched by Iran towards Israel.

Read more: Rafah | Opening the gates of hell

Read more: Israel’s ‘limited’ military operation in Rafah | Explained

Script and presentation: Stanly Johny

Video: Thamodharan B.

Production: Ravichandran N.

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Anatomy of a scroll: Inside TikTok’s AI-powered algorithms

This article is part of a series, Bots and ballots: How artificial intelligence is reshaping elections worldwide, presented by Luminate.

When Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, many sought updates from their main source for news: social media. 

But unlike previous global conflicts, where the digital discourse was dominated by Facebook and X (formerly Twitter), the ongoing Middle East crisis has seen people flock to TikTok, in their millions, to relate news and express opinions.

Even as the video-sharing app’s popularity has ballooned, the inner workings of its complex, artificial intelligence-powered algorithms remain a mystery.

Individuals see only a fraction of what is posted daily on TikTok. And what they do see is highly curated by the company’s automated systems designed to keep people glued to their smartphones. Using AI technology known as machine learning and so-called recommender systems, these systems determine, within milliseconds, what content to display to social media users.

POLITICO set out to shed light on how TikTok’s algorithms work, and to root out which side in the war in the Middle East — Israeli or Palestinian — was winning hearts and minds on the social network now heavily favored by young people. 

That’s become a hot political question after pro-Israeli groups and some Western lawmakers accused TikTok — owned by Beijing-based ByteDance — of unfairly promoting pro-Palestinian content for potential political impact. TikTok denies the accusations.

The conflict’s political effects are already evident in partisan clashes across Western democracies as people pick sides in the war — and decide how to vote. U.S. President Joe Biden’s support for Israel has drawn criticism from Arab-Americans, and it could eventually cost him the November election. In the United Kingdom, the populist independent candidate George Galloway harnessed pro-Palestinian sentiment to win a seat in the British parliament in March. University campus protests have erupted on both sides of the Atlantic. 

TikTok’s algorithms are crucial to how all kinds of political content reaches social media feeds. Examining the company’s algorithms is a good proxy for how artificial intelligence is now a key player in determining what we see online.

POLITICO teamed up with Laura Edelson, a researcher at Northeastern University in Boston, to track pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli TikTok content over four months between Oct. 7, 2023, and Jan. 29, 2024. 

That involved creating a list of 50 popular hashtags like #IStandWithIsrael or #SavePalestine that could be directly associated with either side. More apolitical hashtags, like #Gaza or #Israel, were used to collect data on posts that did not have a specific leaning.

In total, Edelson analyzed 350,000 TikTok posts from the United States.

To make the data more digestible, she broke down the posts into three-day windows around specific events. That includes the initial Hamas attacks (Oct. 7-9); Israel’s invasion of Gaza (Oct. 27-29); and the release of the first Israeli hostages (Nov. 24-27.) As a control for bias, she also included Nov. 6-8 in the analysis, as a proxy for periods when no major events took place.

“TikTok, like other social media platforms, amplifies some content more than others,” said Edelson. “That can have a distorting effect on what people see in their feeds.”

What emerged was evidence of TikTok grappling with its role — in real-time — as one of the main global digital town squares where people gather to express their opinions and, often, disagree. 

Over the four-month period, Edelson’s research found approximately 20 times more pro-Palestinian content produced, based on the hashtags analyzed, compared with pro-Israeli material. Yet that didn’t necessarily equate to more pro-Palestininan posts winding up in the average person’s TikTok feed.

Instead, Edelson found three distinct times when the likelihood of people seeing pro-Israeli or pro-Palestinian content in their TikTok feeds changed markedly — no matter how much overall material was being produced by either side. 

TikTok did not respond to specific requests for comment about the Northeastern University research. In a blog post in April, the company said it had removed more than 3.1 million videos and suspended more than 140,000 livestreams in Israel and Palestine for violating its terms of service.

Much about how these social media algorithms work is unknown. It is unclear who within companies — engineers, policy officials or top executives — determines how they function. It’s also difficult to determine when changes are made, although regulatory efforts by the European Union and the United States are trying to shine a larger spotlight on these practices. 

What follows below is an example of how, when you dig into the numbers, much of what users see on social media relies heavily on complex algorithms that are regularly tweaked with little — if any — oversight. 

The TikTok posts were collected separately via Junkipedia, a repository of social media content managed by the National Conference on Citizenship, a nonprofit organization. They represent the most viewed partisan posts over each time period.

Oct. 7 – Oct. 27: Pro-Palestinian content dominates

Oct. 27 – Dec. 15: Pro-Israel material takes the lead

Dec. 15 – Jan. 29: Both sides lose their audience

The TikTok effect

Many — especially those above the age of 30 — see the video-sharing network as fluff, mostly dance crazes and digital fads with nothing to do with politics. 

They’re mistaken. 

Edelson said that TikTok was similar to other social media giants in that its algorithms were designed to promote what is popular. The reasoning: to serve up what people want to see so they stick around as long as possible.

That’s OK when it’s viral videos of dogs or cute babies. It’s something completely different when it’s highly charged political content about a geopolitical hotspot where people are dying every day. Such events leave social networks like TikTok and their automated curation models in the unenviable position of determining what is popular — at the risk of crowding out minority opinions.

“When it comes to politics, like anything else, the discourse of social media prioritizes the majority,” added Edelson. “We should think very seriously about what that means.”

This article is part of a series, Bots and ballots: How artificial intelligence is reshaping elections worldwide, presented by Luminate. The article is produced with full editorial independence by POLITICO reporters and editors. Learn more about editorial content presented by outside advertisers.



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Columbia University suspends students, refuses to divest from Israel as protests persist

New York’s Columbia University on Monday, April 29, began suspending students who refused to leave a ‘Gaza Solidarity Encampment’ after negotiations with protesters failed and the students decided to ignore a warning that remaining would lead to their suspension and eviction.

Columbia said the nearly two-week-long protest violated university policies, created an unwelcoming and “intolerable” environment for Jewish students and that “external actors” have contributed to a “hostile environment” around university gates and it had become a “noisy distraction” for students.

‘Free Palestine’

Tensions have escalated at universities across the U.S. with Columbia under the spotlight since its leadership called the New York Police Department to break up anti-war protesters’ encampments. Encampments and sit-ins at universities across the country expanded following the arrests at Columbia earlier this month. Police have arrested students at top American universities including Harvard, Yale, New York University, and Columbia amid widespread protests in solidarity with Palestine amid Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza.


ALSO READ | Why are students protesting across U.S. campuses? | Explained

Meanwhile the University of Southern California cancelled its main commencement ceremony, citing safety concerns amid the protests. On Monday, chaos erupted at the University of Texas in Austin as law enforcement moved in to make arrests and forcibly dismantle a pro-Palestine protest encampment amid chants of “Free Palestine”.

On Monday morning, around 10 a.m., Columbia University administrators distributed a notice to the encampment stating that negotiations with student protest leaders were at an impasse.

‘Disclose! Divest’

The notices, viewed by this correspondent, asked protesters to identify themselves to a university official and sign a form agreeing to an alternative resolution for the university policy violations that the encampment posed. The university had told student demonstrators to vacate by 2 p.m. or else “be suspended pending further investigation” and barred from completing the spring semester.

Students continue to protest at an encampment supporting Palestinians at Columbia University, despite an afternoon deadline issued by university officials to disband or face suspension, during the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in New York City, U.S., April 29, 2024.
| Photo Credit:
Reuters

At the encampment, now in its second week, students voted nearly unanimously to stay put as participants chanted: “The more you try to silence us, the louder we will be.”

Students at the encampment, accompanied by numerous supporters comprising fellow students, staff, and faculty, spent a tense afternoon gathering around the location in a display of solidarity aimed at preventing the forceful removal of the tents. Around 2:45 p.m. — after the 2 p.m. warning time to leave — protesters marched around the encampment and chanted “Disclose! Divest! We will not slow, we will not rest!’” and “Free Palestine.”


ALSO READ | Nemat ‘Minouche’ Shafik: Columbia University president under fire

Just outside the encampment, about a dozen faculty in yellow and orange safety vests also stayed behind, with several saying they planned to remain overnight to make sure their students’ right to protest was respected. As the 2 p.m. deadline neared, faculty members stood in front of the encampment linking their arms.

Jennifer Lena, an Associate Professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College, said she came to ensure that the students were safe from threats of eviction. “I am here to ensure that our students can speak their minds safely on campus… and I am here to make sure that they can continue to do that as safely as possible.”

On April 18, University president Minouche Shafik’s decision to authorise the NYPD’s sweep of the “Gaza Solidarity Encampment,” which led to the mass arrest of over 100 protesters, had left many community members stunned. Over 100 faculty members from the University on April 22 gathered on the campus for a walkout to condemn the suspension and arrests of students and call for amnesty and protection of academic freedom.

File picture of president of Columbia University Nemat Shafik

File picture of president of Columbia University Nemat Shafik
| Photo Credit:
AP

However, by 4 p.m., as uncertainty loomed while there were no signs of police intervention, majority of protesters started to scatter while some students and approximately 80 tents remained within the encampment. Around 5:30 p.m. Columbia University began suspending students who defied orders to vacate their pro-Palestinian protest by 2 p.m.

“We have begun suspending students,” Ben Chang, vice president for communications and a spokesperson for the university, said about three hours after the deadline passed. The university did not say how many students were suspended.

Mass arrests

Over the past two weeks hundreds of students have been arrested across U.S. for taking part in anti-war protests. The protesters at Columbia have inspired similar demonstrations on campuses across the country.

Columbia University doubled down on its stance regarding Israel making its position clear it ‘won’t’ divest from Israel’—a key demand of the students protesting in the encampment.

State troopers arrest a pro-Palestinian protester at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, Monday, April 29, 2024.

State troopers arrest a pro-Palestinian protester at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas, Monday, April 29, 2024.
| Photo Credit:
AP

Sueda Polat, a student organiser with the encampment, said the university had not made significant concessions to the protesters’ main demand: divestment from companies with links to the Israeli occupation of Gaza. Columbia had also stopped negotiating. As a result, she said, the students inside the encampment “will not be moved unless by force.”

Ms. Polat said university officials “have shown a clear disregard” for the protesters’ demands.

The university has been trying to avoid calling back the police, whose intervention on April 18 at the request of administrators came under heavy criticism and attracted a wave of angry protests.

“We called on NYPD to clear an encampment once,” Ms. Shafik, the University president, wrote in a statement to the community last Friday co-signed by the co-chairs of Columbia’s board of trustees. “But we all share the view, based on discussions within our community and with outside experts, that to bring back the NYPD at this time would be counterproductive, further inflaming what is happening on campus.”

Though Columbia had previously suspended approximately 50 students for participating in the initial encampment on an adjacent lawn, the action did not dissuade a broader coalition of protesters from establishing the current encampment.

Joseph Howley, Associate Professor at Columbia University, said, “first, for six months, the university has capitulated to the extremist ideological position that political speech about Palestine, on behalf of Palestine is anti-Semitic. It’s not true and is an extreme position and the university leadership keeps adopting it over and over again for no good reason.”

Mr. Howley was part of the faculty who joined members in encircling the encampment to protect the students on Monday.

“Second, the only thing that has increased in terms of anti-Semitism and other form of prejudicial harassment on and around this campus has been the university, calling the police last week making the campus a flashpoint attracting bad actors and radicals from all over the city. We have had ugly things said outside campus… while on campus, the encampment has been peaceful and calm, and orderly and on message. So if there’s a problem here, it’s being created by the university leadership and NYPD and political pressure from outside,” Mr. Howley added.

‘Intimidation tactic’

Mahmoud Khalil, a graduate student and the lead negotiator on behalf of Columbia University Apartheid Divest, the student coalition that has organised the encampment, called the deadline “just another intimidation tactic from the university”.

Columbia was the first institution struck by protests in support of the Palestinian cause, with students demanding that the school divest from investments that support weapons manufacturing and Israel amid the backdrop of the war on Gaza, in which more than 34,000 Palestinians have been killed.

Columbia University Apartheid Divest, the coalition organising the encampment protest, said in a statement on Monday: “These repulsive scare tactics mean nothing compared to the deaths of over 34,000 Palestinians. We will not move until Columbia meets our demands or we are moved by force.”

The group criticised the university’s “threat to mass suspend, evict and possibly expel students” with just hours’ notice as a violation of the school’s rules.

“We have paused negotiations until Columbia comes to the table in good faith, without the threat of violence. If the university does not come forward with real, concrete proposals that address our demands, we will have no choice but to escalate the intensity of protest on campus,” the group said.

Columbia University spokesperson did not respond to queries on whether the administration will allow NYPD on the campus again to disperse the students from the encampment.

Anisha Dutta is a freelance journalist based in New York.

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Watch | Israel-Iran strikes | Can India escape being caught in conflict?

News breaking now of multiple strikes by Israel on bases and nuclear facilities in Iran are further driving up tensions in the region- while the two countries have had a shadow war between them for 45 years, we have not seen such openly direct strikes on each other thus far. Up ahead we will look at how this new turn will change the west Asian landscape, and seven ways India is impacted.

We have been covering everything that has happened since October 7- terror attacks by Hamas, Israel’s pounding of Gaza, but here’s is how the scene is shifting now.

On April 1: Israel launched strikes on Iran’s Embassy in Damascus, killing 7 military diplomats, including a senior General . Iran protested this was a violation of UN conventions, the Vienna conventions- many saw this as Israel’s attempt at broadening the war as its war on Gaza has gone into an impasse, and no progress of freeing Hamas-held hostages

Amir Abdollahian: No member state will remain silent on such an attack…diplomatic agents

April 12: Iran seized an Israel-linked ship MSC Aries- 17 crew members were Indian. While 1 has been sent back to India, the fate of the other 16 remains unclear.

On April 13: Iran launched 300-350 drones and missiles directly on Israel, the first time it has openly done so. The missiles, which were slow moving, were mostly repelled by Israel’s Iron Dome, but also with help from the US, Jordan, and reportedly with intelligence support from some Gulf States. Iran said it had 3 objectives: to deter Israel from further action, to showcase Iran’s missile capabilities and to demonstrate its ability to target vital Israeli military bases at will.

Netanyahu: We will take our own decisions, and the state of Israel will do what it needs to defend itself

On April 19: Israel has reportedly launched strikes on several targets inside Iran- believed to be bases, nuclear facilities and other strategic locations. This despite US President Biden expressly asking PM Netanyahu not to respond to Iran’s strikes.

India has also called on both sides to show restraint- External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar spoke to both Iranian FM Amir Abdollahaian and Israel FM Israel Katz, but both sides have high expectations from India

You can read more in this interview with Iranian Ambassador to India Iraj Elahi

On the diplomatic front, we have seen some major moves as well:

UN Security Council met over the escalating tensions, but did not come up with a resolution
US, UK and others imposed new sanctions on Iran- targeting its drone capabilities
12 UNSC members voted in favour of making Palestine a full member state- the US vetoed it however, and Israel debated against it

Israel Amb: Granting the perpetrators full recognition is the vilest reward for the vilest crime

What’s next?

How will Iran respond to the Israeli strikes?

Will Iran now consolidate actions along with its proxies in the Gulf region

Hezbollah in Lebanon

Houthis in Yemen

Hamas in Gaza

Other militia

What is on the escalation ladder for Israel?
Thus far Israel conducts covert targeted assassinations on Iranian officials and nuclear scientists- will the Damascus attack pave the way for more such open strikes
Big worry over nuclear confrontation- neither country is a declared nuclear weapons power, yet the worry is that with this conflict deepening one or both might reveal their nuclear capabilities, further driving the crisis

Impact on India

1. Geopolitical impact- India has strong strategic ties with both countries, and this escalation makes it more difficult to maintain those ties. In its statements about Iran and Israel action, MEA has taken care to criticise neither side, to much disappointment in both capitals

2. Strategic impact: India’s connectivity projects with both Israel- under I2U2 and the proposed IMEEC are already in jeopardy, now the connectivity through Chabahar port and the INSTC corridor to Central Asia will be in trouble too

3. Oil impact- Even as elections get under way in India, the West Asia conflict will no doubt drive up the price of oil- already under strain with the Russia- Ukraine war- will India be forced to restart oil imports from Iran which it gave up in 2018 under threat from the US

4. Economic Impact- inflation of prices, jittery markets, interest rates are likely to be kept high

5. Trade impact- Cargo trade through the Red Sea and Hormuz is already under attack from Houthi groups, now shippers and insurers are likely to take longer routes around the region, given clouds of conflict

6. Travel impact: Flights will need to take longer detours as well, this will affect air ticket prices and travel times this summer. Air India has already suspended flights to Tel Aviv.

7. Labour Impact: While other Gulf countries account for about 8 million Indian labour and expatriate workers- Israel has only about 18,000 and Iran between 10-15,000 including a large number of merchant navy crew and personnel- caught in the crossfire right now- 6,000 Indian workers recruited for jobs in Israel are unable to leave, and questions about Indian crew on board various ships- with about 2.5 lakhs merchant navy personnel Indian, Indians rank 3rd in numbers

WV Take:

Given the numbers of Indians living and working in West Asia, a conflict between Israel and Iran, that bookend the region is a conflict in India’s immediate neighbourhood, and New Delhi cannot be immune to the escalation in tensions and on the ground- the immediate casualty, could also be India’s grand plans for connectivity which depend on both Iran and Israel as hubs for trade routes to the West.

WV Reading Recommendations:

1. Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Rivalry That Unravelled the Middle East by Kim Ghattas

2. Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States by Trita Parsi

3. Cold War In The Islamic World by Dilip Hiro

4. Target Tehran: How Israel Is Using Sabotage, Cyberwarfare, Assassination – and Secret Diplomacy – to Stop a Nuclear Iran and Create a New Middle East by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar

5. The Making of the Modern Middle East: A Personal History Paperback – 14 September 2023 by Jeremy Bowen

Script and Presentation: Suhasini Haidar

Production: Gayatri Menon and Shibu Narayan

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‘Iran is in for the long haul’ with oil tanker hijacks, expert says, as U.S. considers more sanctions

Iranian soldiers take part in an annual military drill in the coast of the Gulf of Oman and near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

Anadolu | Anadolu | Getty Images

The containership MSC Aries seized by Iran over the weekend marked at least the sixth vessel hijacked by Iran and its proxies in response to the Israel-Gaza war, and it’s adding to the challenges to longstanding freedom of navigation principles that maritime shipping relies on.

Before this weekend’s tanker seizure, the last vessel Iran hijacked was the St. Nikolas on January 1. According to U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, that brought the total number of vessels being held to five, and over 90 crew members hostage. Previous to that, the Iranian-backed Houthis hijacked The Galaxy Leader on November 19.

The latest development has shipping and energy experts bracing for a long-term timeline of uncertainty.

“Iran is in this for the long haul,” said Samir Madani, co-founder of Tankertrackers.com, an independent online service that tracks and reports crude oil shipments in several geographical and geopolitical points of interest.

The MSC Aries was identified by Iran as having a link to Israel. The containership has a carrying capacity of 15,000-TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent containers). MSC leases the Aries from Gortal Shipping, an affiliate of Zodiac Maritime, which is partly owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer.

MSC declined to comment directly to CNBC.

In a statement released by MSC on Wednesday, it said the crew members were safe and discussions with Iranian authorities were underway to secure their earliest release and to have the cargo discharged.

Madani said he does not expect a quick release. “They will hold the MSC Aries for a long period. Iran has been holding some tankers for about a year, if not longer now,” he said.

According to Tankertracker information, Madani said the vessel is being held in the Khuran Straits, not too far from three other tankers Iran hijacked: the Advantage Sweet, Niovi, and St. Nikolas.

A Planet Labs satellite image of the location of the MSC Aries and other tankers recently hijacked by Iran.

Planet Labs PBC

As the U.S. considers more sanctions against Iran in response to its recent attack on Israel, Iran has been using the hijacked ships as a means of sanctions retaliation.

“Iran has already seized the Kuwaiti oil that was onboard the Advantage Sweet and has been loaded onto their VLCC supertanker the Navarz. Iran chose to do this as a way to compensate for sanctions,” Madani said.

While the Niovi was empty at the time of the seizure, the St. Nikolas is filled with a million barrels of Iraqi oil.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Tuesday that the government may do more to prevent Iran’s ability to export oil despite U.S. sanctions. China’s purchases of Iranian oil in recent years have allowed Iran to keep a positive trade balance.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, China, the world’s largest importer of crude oil, imported 11.3 million barrels per day of crude oil in 2023, 10% more than in 2022. Iran ranked second in oil exports to China behind Russia. Customs data indicates that China imported 54% more crude oil (1.1 million b/d) from Malaysia in 2023 than in 2022, with industry analysts speculating that much of the oil shipped from Iran to China was relabeled as originating from countries such as Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman to avoid U.S. sanctions.

The markets continues to assess the risk of further escalation in the military tensions between Israel and Iran, which could lead to a disruption in the Strait of Hormuz, through which about 30% of the world’s seaborne oil passes, according to JPMorgan. On Tuesday, oil edged higher amid talk of sanctions.

An Iranian blockade would supercharge oil prices, but the risk is low given that the strait has never been closed off despite many threats by Tehran to do so over the past four decades, according to JPMorgan.

“They can’t close the Strait of Hormuz, but they can do significant damage to energy infrastructure, to vessels in the region,” RBC’s head of global commodity strategy and Middle East and North Africa research, Helima Croft, told CNBC on Monday, referring to Iran’s capabilities.

“While I can’t imagine Iran would want to fill up their anchorage with vessels, they want to keep the waters in a constant state of chaos,” Madani said. But with a closure, he said, “They would shoot themselves in the foot since their biggest client is China.”

Andy Lipow, president of Lipow Oil Associates, says the closure of the Strait of Hormuz would result in a spike of Brent crude oil prices to the $120 to $130 range. “This would strain ties with China and India who purchase a significant amount of Persian Gulf oil to meet much of their energy demand.”

Lipow also said Iran might be reluctant to shut the waterway for fear of antagonizing Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq, who depend on the strait being open for most of their oil exports. The bigger immediate fear in the oil market, he said, is that the attack by Iran on Israeli territory leading to a counterattack by Israel on Iran damaging oil-producing and exporting facilities.

Kevin Book, managing director of ClearView Energy Partners, says the markets need to keep an eye on sanctions from both the US and UN potentially.

In a note to clients, ClearView highlighted that the House of Representatives added several Iran sanctions bills to its calendar for consideration this week, under suspension rules, including new sanctions on Iranian oil exports to China. Book said the House was considering 11 bills in all in response to Iran’s attack on Israel.

“We think most if not all bills could garner (notionally) veto-proof bipartisan support,” the note said. “Passage requires a two-thirds majority of all members present and voting.”

Israel has also asked the U.N. to reinstate multilateral sanctions lifted by the Iran nuclear deal, but for this to happen, France, Germany and the U.K., parties to the nuclear deal, would have to agree. “There are many risks unfolding. The forest is on fire,” Book said.

Sen. Dean Sullivan talks impact of Iran's strikes on Israel and what it means for crude oil prices

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View from Israel: ‘Gutteres wants Israel to lose, but he will fail’

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

Hamas understands that it can not win on the battlefield, so it tries to win in the court of global public opinion. Gutteres, unfortunately, appears to be the poster boy for these efforts, Middle East Forum Israel’s Nave Dromi writes.

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In 2017, shortly after becoming Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres said: “Israel needs to be treated like any other UN member state”.

It was a solid start for someone who promised equality for the one Jewish State. Even in his personal manifesto, released as part of the election process, 

Guterres specifically related to the need to eliminate antisemitism in one of the issues of his five-point plan toward the UN’s engagement in a culture of preventing crises.

Unfortunately, Gutteres’ real colours were demonstrated in the days after the massacre that took place on 7 October, when Hamas mass murder and rape squads infiltrated Israel to murder over 1,200 people, injure thousands and kidnap 250 Israelis and people of other nationalities, in the worst single day of bloodshed for the Jewish people since the end of the Holocaust.

Before the blood of Israelis was even dry, and weeks before a single boot of the Israel Defense Forces was in Gaza, Guterres could find little to no sympathy for the beleaguered Jewish State.

Loosened lips and real views on display

The UN Secretary-General said the mass murder “did not happen in a vacuum,” because Palestinians have been subjected to 56 years of “suffocating occupation”. He also said that he is “deeply concerned about clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing in Gaza.”

These are the types of expressions or reactions that Gutteres has not used on any other conflict on Earth. Even more startlingly, he was shocked when there was pushback from many Europeans and Americans over his remarks.

However, it appears these comments are not unique, they just received more attention than equally scurrilous remarks, seemingly justifying terrorism, he made in the past.

In June 2022, Guterres spoke at a conference of countries that donate to UNRWA. He said then: “Imagine yourself in this situation, imagine what you would feel and imagine what would happen when someone from ISIS came to you and said, ‘What are you doing, persevering in hope, why don’t you join us and try to do whatever you want’, you know, the things that happen more and more with terrorist organizations around the world.”

It is clear that now Gutteres is in his second and final term, and at the age of 74 with few political pretensions, his lips have been loosened and his real views are on display.

Why adopt Hamas’ lies?

Worse than his initial heartless comments, Gutteres appears to be on a mission to ensure that the State of Israel loses in its war against Hamas, a terrorist organization whose charter aspires to the genocide of Jews all over the world, and other Islamic Republic of Iran proxies.

Chapter VII, Article 51 of the United Nations Charter reads: “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.”

Gutteres, in word and deed — ever since Israel started its war of self-defence against terrorists who say openly they would commit the 7 October massacre “again and again” — has tried to bar Israel from prosecuting the war successfully and defeating its enemies, in direct opposition to his own charter.

In the over six months since the attack, Israel has made impressive gains against Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It has already killed around 15,000 terrorists and is moving quickly towards their full defeat.

Even if we take the notoriously faked and unreliable numbers of the Hamas-run Health Ministry as fact, the ratio of combatant to civilian is around one-to-one. The international average is one combatant to nine civilians, so Israel is acting nine times better than any other nation at war in recent years.

These are the facts, but one would not know it from Gutteres and many of the bodies under his control, who systematically ignore Israel’s unprecedented warning system to civilians to leave arenas of conflict, and accept and adopt the Hamas lies that only civilians are targeted by the IDF.

Our collective better future is at stake

Gutteres has been quick to accept these lies even when they have been proven untrue, like the now infamous Al-Ahli hospital explosion which was initially blamed on Israel but was in fact caused by an errant Islamic Jihad missile aimed at Israeli civilians, the unfortunate deaths due to a stampede attacking humanitarian aid trucks and the accusations of mass rape of Palestinian women at Shifa Hospital. 

The latter was the result of one woman’s claims that she herself has now admitted were lies to gain international sympathy.

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Hamas understands that it can not win on the battlefield, so it tries to win in the media, in the court of global public opinion, and in international institutions where it can weaken Israel’s ability to win in its war against genocidal terrorism.

Gutteres, unfortunately, appears to be the poster boy for these efforts. He accepts every Hamas statistic, every Jihadi lie and clears the way for any attack against the Jewish State in the international forums under his control.

It is now clear that Gutteres used sympathy for Israel’s uniquely isolated position at the UN to gain his position and win over friends in Europe and the US, who pay a disproportionate amount of his organization’s budget. However, now he has no need for it; he has shown his only goal appears to be a defeated and weakened Israel.

Thankfully, this doesn’t appear to be working and Israel is on course for victory over terrorism, which can then be turned into peace, security and stability for the people of the region.

If Israel wins, the Palestinian people will be free of their authoritarian Islamist leaders, pragmatic Sunni states in the Middle East and beyond who have common cause with Israel against Iran will sign normalization agreements, and there will be historic peace in the region.

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This is the better future that is at stake in this war. It is one that Israel desperately seeks, and one the UN Secretary-General tries desperately to prevent.

Nave Dromi is the director of the Middle East Forum Israel office.

At Euronews, we believe all views matter. Contact us at [email protected] to send pitches or submissions and be part of the conversation.

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Israel bombs Gaza as UN chief calls for end to ‘horror and starvation’

Air and artillery strikes pounded targets in Gaza Sunday as UN chief Antonio Guterres called for a surge of aid into the besieged territory he said was stalked by “horror and starvation”.

Other world leaders added their voices to that of Guterres in appealing for an immediate ceasefire and a halt to Israeli plans to send in troops against militants in Gaza‘s crowded southern city of Rafah.

Talks aimed at a deal for a truce and release of hostages were taking place in Qatar but the heads of the Israeli and US spy agencies involved in the negotiations have now left the Gulf emirate for consultations, an informed source told AFP.

The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said Sunday that another 84 people had been killed over the previous 24 hours, raising the total death toll in the territory during nearly six months of war to 32,226, most of them women and children.


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking to reporters at El-Arish International Airport in Egypt, visited the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing and urged an end to Gaza’s ‘nightmare’ © Khaled DESOUKI / AFP

The Gaza war began with an unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 that resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Israel has vowed to destroy the militants, who also seized about 250 hostages, of whom Israel believes around 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 presumed dead.

Palestinian children, some with heads bandaged, others more severely wounded in the latest bombardments, were rescued from the rubble of collapsed buildings and rushed to Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah.

Guterres, on a visit to Egypt, urged an end to the “non-stop nightmare” endured by Gaza’s 2.4 million people in the territory’s worst-ever war.

“Looking at Gaza, it almost appears that the four horsemen of war, famine, conquest and death are galloping across it,” the UN secretary-general said, visiting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

People sit together for a mass 'iftar' (fast-breaking) meal organised by members of the Barbara refugee camp during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Rafah
People sit together for a mass ‘iftar’ (fast-breaking) meal organised by members of the Barbara refugee camp during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Rafah © MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

“The whole world recognises that it’s past time to silence the guns and ensure an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”

With the United Nations warning of imminent famine in Gaza, Guterres urged Israel to allow in more humanitarian aid via the Rafah border crossing whose Egyptian side he visited, saying trucks were “blocked”.

On social media, Israel’s military responded that the UN should scale up its logistics and “stop blaming Israel for its own failures”.

‘Extreme danger’

Combat has flared for almost a week in and around Gaza’s biggest hospital complex, Gaza City’s Al-Shifa.

The UN on Friday had reported “intensive exchanges of fire” involving Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups in the area.

An Israeli tank moving along the border with the Gaza Strip
An Israeli tank moving along the border with the Gaza Strip © JACK GUEZ / AFP/File

The Hamas government media office said 190 people had been killed in the Al-Shifa operation, and 30 nearby buildings destroyed.

The army said its forces had killed more than 170 militants and detained about 480 militants affiliated with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which is fighting alongside Hamas.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said Sunday that Israeli forces were also besieging Nasser and Al-Amal hospitals in southern Gaza’s Khan Yunis city.

The Red Crescent said messages broadcast from drones demanded that everyone in Al-Amal leave naked, while forces blocked the gates of the hospital with dirt barriers.

“All of our crews are currently under extreme danger and cannot move at all,” the Red Crescent added.

In response to AFP’s request for comment, the military said it was operating in the Al-Amal area but “not currently… in the hospitals”.

A Palestinian boy sits between a blood-stained mattress and body bags at Rafah's Al-Najjar hospital
A Palestinian boy sits between a blood-stained mattress and body bags at Rafah’s Al-Najjar hospital © MOHAMMED ABED / AFP

The military said the operation began with air force strikes on about 40 targets, including military compounds and tunnels.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II stressed in a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron the need for “an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and protecting innocent civilians”, the palace said.

He also called for more aid to reach Gaza as his country’s planes again airdropped relief supplies with aircraft from the United States, Egypt, Germany and Singapore.

Munitions

Tensions have grown between Israel and Washington, which provides billions of dollars in military aid to Israel but has become increasingly vocal about the war’s impact on civilians.

Prior to taking off for an official visit to the United States, Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said his focus will include “preserving the qualitative military edge” and “our ability to obtain platforms and munitions”.

Northern Gaza Strip and Al-Shifa hospital
Northern Gaza Strip and Al-Shifa hospital © Nalini LEPETIT-CHELLA, Jean-Michel CORNU, Hervé BOUILLY / AFP

He is set to meet Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and other senior US officials.

A source of tension between the two countries is Israel’s plan to extend its ground invasion into Rafah city on the Egyptian border, where around 1.5 million Palestinians have sought refuge, mostly in overcrowded shelters.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a major ground operation in Rafah was not necessary to deal with Hamas, and “there is no place” for civilians there to get out of harm’s way.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who leads a coalition including religious and ultra-nationalist parties, has vowed to go ahead with a Rafah invasion even without Washington’s support.

Macron, in a phone call with Netanyahu on Sunday, repeated his opposition to any Israeli military operation against Hamas in Rafah and said forced transfer of Rafah’s population would be “a war crime”.

Israeli settlers dressed in Purim costumes on Al-Shuhada Street, which is largely closed to Palestinians in the divided city of Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank during celebrations of the Jewish holiday of Purim
Israeli settlers dressed in Purim costumes on Al-Shuhada Street, which is largely closed to Palestinians in the divided city of Hebron, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank during celebrations of the Jewish holiday of Purim © HAZEM BADER / AFP

Macron urged Israel to open all crossing points into Gaza, which could help the aid flow, and said he intended to bring a draft resolution to the UN Security Council calling for “an immediate and lasting ceasefire”.

Russia and China on Friday vetoed a US-led draft resolution for the Council to support “the imperative” of a ceasefire.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was on Sunday to begin a visit to Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories. Before leaving Germany she appealed for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire”.

The latest negotiations had “focused on details and a ratio for the exchange of hostages and prisoners”, a source briefed on the talks said, adding that technical teams remained in Qatar.

(AFP)

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