Latest: Yemen-based Houthis claim drone attacks on Israel as Netanyahu rebuffs ceasefire calls
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Smoke and dust rise following an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on October 30, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and Palestine. — AFP

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels fired drones towards Israel on Tuesday as Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza in retaliation for its war against Hamas, a senior official from the group told AFP.

Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza Tuesday, driving tanks and armoured bulldozers through the rubble of shattered buildings and hunting for Hamas fighters who carried out the worst attack in Israel’s history.

Army footage showed soldiers, who are also seeking to free at least 240 hostages, advancing through a devastated landscape, with buildings reduced to a mangled mess of stone and twisted metal by weeks of relentless Israeli bombing.

However, on Tuesday, Israeli forces reported that a “hostile aircraft intrusion” set off warning sirens in the area of Eilat, a resort town on the Red Sea.

Soon, Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed the drone attack that the Israeli forces reported.

“These drones belong to the state of Yemen,” Abdelaziz bin Habtour, prime minister of the Houthi government, said when asked about the launch towards Eilat in southern Israel.

The Houthis, who seized Yemen’s capital Sanaa in 2014 and control large swathes of the country, are “part of the axis of resistance” against Israel and are fighting with “words and drones”, he added.

Israel blamed the Houthis for a similar drone attack on Friday in which its aircraft intercepted “hostile targets” headed for southern Israel.

“There is no threat in this region and no danger,” Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari told a separate televised briefing.

‘420 children martyred or injured in Gaza every day’

UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell briefed the UN Security Council (UNSC) about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, urging them to adopt a resolution calling for a ceasefire while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out a ceasefire in Israel’s war against Hamas, as ground forces entered Gaza and freed one hostage.

Russell during a UNSC meeting on Monday asserted that the “true cost of this latest escalation will be measured in children’s lives — those lost to the violence and those forever changed by it.”

Meanwhile, Netanyahu slapped aside demands from UN agencies for a truce, saying: “Calls for a ceasefire are calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas, to surrender to terrorism.”

“This will not happen,” the premier told foreign media, vowing Israel would “fight until this battle is won”.

Hamas fighters attacked southern Israel on October 7 killing over 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taking over 200 hostages, according to Israeli reports.

Russell quoted the Palestinian health ministry revealing that more than 8,300 Palestinians have been martyred in Gaza, including over 3,400 children, with over 6,300 children injured.

She added: “This means that more than 420 children are being killed or injured in Gaza every day — a number which should shake each of us to our core.”

She further called for the UNSC to “immediately adopt a resolution that reminds parties of their obligations under international law, calls for a ceasefire, demands that parties allow safe and unimpeded humanitarian access, demands the immediate and safe release of all abducted children, and urges parties to afford children the special protection to which they are entitled.”

As the Israel-Palestine war enters its 25th day, the humanitarian crisis has worsened even more despite the entry of aid into the region which the chief of the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) has termed as “nothing but crumbs”.

Russell emphasised: “All parties must stop violence, and prevent any grave violations committed against children.”

The UNICEF chief also demanded “humanitarian access through all crossings into the Gaza Strip, through safe and efficient supply routes.”

She added: “And parties must ensure the safe and unimpeded movement of humanitarian supplies and personnel throughout the Gaza Strip for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including — but not limited to — food, water, medicines, fuel, and electricity.”

‘I found them all’

Israel on Monday said it hit 600 targets in 24 hours, one of the most intense periods of bombing to date, and that a missing woman soldier was rescued from Hamas inside Gaza.

The release of Private Ori Megidish was “secured during a ground operation” inside Gaza the army said, adding she was in Israel, reunited with family and was “doing well”.

Israeli soldier Ori Megidish is seen in this handout picture obtained by Reuters on October 30, 2023, after the Israeli army said she was freed from Hamas during a militarys ground operation. — Israel Security Agency via X.
Israeli soldier Ori Megidish is seen in this handout picture obtained by Reuters on October 30, 2023, after the Israeli army said she was freed from Hamas during a military’s ground operation. — Israel Security Agency via X.

Israel’s campaign has flattened thousands of buildings and Gaza’s 2.4 million residents are under near continuous bombardment, with little access to water, food, fuel and other essentials.

The United Nations has repeatedly called for a humanitarian truce in the violence.

On Monday, the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees UNRWA said the limited number of aid trucks entering the besieged territory was insufficient to meet the “unprecedented humanitarian needs” there.

“Nearly 70 per cent of those reported killed are children and women,” said Philippe Lazzarini, who heads UNRWA. “This cannot be ‘collateral damage.'”

Rizk Abu Rok, a 24-year-old paramedic with the Palestinian Red Crescent, told AFP that transporting those martyred and wounded had become a daily routine. But a recent strike on the Rio Cafe in Khan Yunis added his father and several other relatives to the growing toll.

“I found them all, one after the other,” he said.

A Palestinian man reacts after a home was hit in an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on October 30, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and Palestine. — AFP
A Palestinian man reacts after a home was hit in an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on October 30, 2023, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and Palestine. — AFP

Israel has accused Hamas of using hospitals as military headquarters and using civilians as “human shields”. However, even Israel’s staunchest allies have voiced concern about the dire humanitarian situation inside the territory.

In Washington, the White House has ruled out a permanent ceasefire — fearing it would only give Hamas time to restock and regroup. But National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said “pauses” to allow aid into Gaza should be considered.

Limited aid has entered Gaza from Egypt under a US-brokered deal, but its volume has fallen far short of the hundreds of trucks a day aid agencies say are needed.

Israel said it is inspecting cargo to make sure weapons are not being smuggled in and is monitoring to guarantee supplies are not seized by Hamas.

‘Unfathomable horrors’

More than three weeks on, Israelis are still trying to comprehend the events of October 7.

Still little is known about the fate of the 230-plus hostages — aged between a few months and over 80 years old — who are believed to be held in a network of Hamas tunnels under Gaza.

Hamas recently released a video of what it claimed were three women hostages, seated against a tile wall.

The time and place of the recording could not be verified, but one of the women called for Israel to agree to Hamas’ demand to exchange the hostages for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Netanyahu in a statement decried the clip as “cruel psychological propaganda”.

And even as Israel continues to be struck by daily rocket attacks from Gaza and Lebanon, Israelis have yet to account for all their missing and dead.

On Monday, authorities said the remains had been found of 23-year-old German-Israeli, Shani Louk who was abducted at a music festival in the Israeli desert.

Axis of terror

While Netanyahu has claimed Israel is “fighting Hamas” and an “Iranian axis of terror” that includes groups in Lebanon and Yemen, Washington has expressed fears of a regional war.

The White House has warned Israel’s enemies — in particular Iran-allied groups — not to become more involved.

Lebanese caretaker prime minister Najib Mikati said it was his “duty to prevent Lebanon from entering the war”.

All the while, Israel’s military has struck targets in Syria and traded cross-border fire with Hezbollah in Lebanon — insisting Israel has a duty to defend civilians.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, health officials say about 120 Palestinians have been martyred by Israeli fire and in settler attacks since the Gaza war started.

A video posted on X (formerly known as Twitter) shows a wounded young Palestinian after he was shot by Israeli soldiers in the town of Qabatiya, located south of the Jenin refugee camp in northern West Bank.

Amid the violence, anti-Israel anger has flared across the region and beyond.

In Russia’s Muslim-majority Dagestan, police said they had arrested 60 people after a crowd stormed an airport on Sunday to attack passengers arriving from Tel Aviv

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