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Half of Gaza’s population is starving, warns UN

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Young children take shelter inside Nasser hospital in Khan Younis

A senior UN aid official has warned that half of Gaza’s population is starving, as fighting there continues.

Carl Skau, deputy director of the UN World Food Programme, said only a fraction of supplies needed have been able to enter the Strip – and nine out of 10 people cannot eat everyday.

Conditions in Gaza have made deliveries “almost impossible”, Mr Skau said.

Israel says it must continue air strikes on Gaza to eliminate Hamas and bring Israeli hostages home.

Israel Defence Forces spokesman Lt Col Richard Hecht told the BBC on Saturday that “any death and pain to a civilian is painful, but we don’t have an alternative”.

“We are doing everything we can to get as much as possible inside the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Herzi Halevi, chief of staff of the IDF, was filmed telling soldiers the army has to “press harder” because “we’re seeing terrorists surrendering… a sign their network is collapsing”.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has used an emergency law to bypass Congress and authorise the sale of some 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition worth more than $106m (£85m) to Israel.

Movement in and out of Gaza has been heavily restricted since 7 October, when Hamas fighters broke through Israel’s heavily-guarded perimeter fence – killing 1,200 people and taking 240 hostages.

In response, Israel closed its borders with Gaza and began launching air strikes on the territory, restricting aid deliveries which Gazans heavily relied on.

The Hamas-run health ministry says Israel has killed more than 17,700 Gazans in its retaliatory campaign, including more than 7,000 children.

Only the Rafah crossing bordering Egypt has been open, allowing limited quantities of aid to reach Gaza. This week Israel agreed to open the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel into Gaza in the next few days – but only for the inspection of aid lorries. The trucks would then go to Rafah to cross into Gaza.

Mr Skau said nothing had prepared him for the “fear, the chaos, and the despair” he and his WFP team encountered during their trip to Gaza this week.

They witnessed “confusion at warehouses, distribution points with thousands of desperate hungry people, supermarkets with bare shelves, and overcrowded shelters with bursting bathrooms,” he said.

International pressure and a temporary seven-day ceasefire last month had allowed some badly-needed aid to enter the Gaza Strip, but the WFP insists a second border crossing is now needed to meet demand.

Nine out of 10 families in some areas are spending “a full day and night without any food at all”, according to Mr Skau.

People in Khan Younis in the south of Gaza, a city now surrounded on two fronts by Israeli tanks, say the situation there is dire.

Dr Ahmed Moghrabi, head of the plastic surgery and burns unit in the city’s only remaining health facility, Nasser hospital, fought back tears as he spoke to the BBC about the lack of food.

“I have a daughter, three years old, always she ask me (for) some sweets, some apple, some fruits. I can’t provide. I feel helpless,” he said.

“There is not enough food, there is not enough food, only rice, only rice can you believe? We eat once, once a day, only.”

Dr Ahmed Moghrabi told the BBC there’s a scarcity of food, water, medicine and he cannot operate on patients

Khan Younis has been the focus of heavy air strikes in recent days and the boss of Nasser hospital there said his team had “lost control” over the numbers of dead and wounded arriving at the facility.

Israel says Hamas leaders are hiding in Khan Younis, possibly in an underground network of tunnels, and that it is fighting house to house and “shaft to shaft” to destroy the group’s military capabilities.

Speaking on Saturday, the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, accused the United States of being complicit in war crimes, after it vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Out of 15 of the Security Council members, 13 countries voted in favour of the resolution calling for a ceasefire. The UK abstained from the vote and the US was the only country to vote against the resolution.

Mr Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, said he held Washington responsible for “the bloodshed of Palestinian children, women, and elderly in Gaza at the hands of [Israeli] occupation forces”.

The US ambassador to the UN, Robert Wood, defended the veto, and said the resolution was calling for an “unsustainable ceasefire” which “would leave Hamas in place able to repeat what it did on October 7”.

Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Saturday he appreciated the “correct stance” the US had taken at the security council.

A seven-day temporary ceasefire ended just over a week ago. Under the truce, 78 hostages were released by Hamas in exchange for 180 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

There are still more than 100 hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza.

On Saturday, it was confirmed that Israeli hostage Sahar Baruch, 25, had been killed, his kibbutz and a hostages’ group said in a statement.

It comes after the armed wing of Hamas released a video on Friday which it said showed the bloody aftermath of a failed IDF operation to free an Israeli hostage.

BBC

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Additional Health Secy. to Court

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Additional Secretary to the Ministry of Health Dr. Saman Rathnayake who was arrested and remanded over the medicine procurement scandal was escorted to the Maligakanda Magistrate’s Court, to provide a confidential or In Camera statement.

Saman Ratnayake, who was interrogated for over seven hours, was arrested at the Criminal Investigation Department last Friday.

He was presented before the Maligakanda court last Saturday.

When the case was called, the magistrate remanded the suspect until March 14, considering the facts presented by the Deputy Solicitor General Lakmini Girihagama.

The suspect thereafter informed court via counsel of his willingness to provide a statement In Camera.

Therefore, the magistrate ordered the suspect to appear before the court on March 4, today, to deliver the confidential statement.

(News 1st)

(Except for the headline, this story, originally published by News 1st has not been edited by SLM staff)

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Electricity, petroleum supply, declared essential services

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An Extraordinary Gazette has been issued declaring all activities related to the supply of electricity and petroleum products as essential services.

The relevant gazette has been issued by the Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake on Sunday (03) by order of the President Ranil Wickremesinghe.

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Fuel price revision likely tonight?

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A fuel price revision is likely to take place tonight (04), as per sources.

The Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) stated that although the fuel price was slated to be revised at the end of February, the price revision will possibly take place today.

The CPC amends the fuel prices monthly as per the pricing formula. Accordingly, the prices were last revised on January 31, where the prices of octane 92 petrol, octane 95 petrol, super diesel and kerosene were increased.

Against this backdrop, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has issued an Extraordinary Gazette declaring all services connected to the supply of electricity and the supply or distribution of petroleum products and fuel as essential services with effect from 03 March 2024. 

Accordingly, the proclamation states that the services specified have been declared as Essential Public Service considering it necessary that the services provided by any Public Corporation or Government Department or Local Authority or Co-operative Society or any branch thereof being a Department or Corporation or Local Authority or Co-operative Society, which is engaged in provision of the services specified, is essential to the life of the community and is likely to be impeded or interrupted.

In the meantime, the Fuel Distributors’ Association alleges that the CPC has taken steps to incur a usage fee of 35% of the monthly rebate amount received by the fuel distributors. President of the association Shelton Fernando claimed that through this action, it will not be possible for them to even meet the daily expenses for the distribution activities.(adaderana.lk)

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