U.S. President Joe Biden will head to Israel on Wednesday as a United Nations body warns the country’s evacuation order in Gaza could breach international law.
Biden’s trip to the nation comes ahead of an expected Israeli ground offensive in the Gaza Strip that Israeli officials have suggested would aim to eliminate Hamas – the militant group that carried out a deadly surprise attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7.
Since then, Israel has retaliated with relentless airstrikes in Gaza and ordered the population in the region’s northern half – some one million people – to leave, a move the UN’s high commissioner for human rights warned Wednesday could breach international law.
Here is what you need to know this Tuesday.
Biden goes to Israel as fears of wider conflict grow
Biden will visit not only Israel but Jordan as well to meet with King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas – who has long been opposed to Hamas and whose organization has limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Biden is expected to show support for Israel as concerns grow that the conflict could expand into a larger regional one.
Israel’s military said Tuesday that it killed four people who it said had tried to cross the fence bordering Lebanon and plant an explosive device.
In the most serious escalation at the Lebanese-Israeli frontier in 17 years, the Iran-backed Lebanese militant group Hezbollah and Israeli forces have been trading fire on an almost daily basis since Hamas’s attack.
Meanwhile, Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Tuesday the office has concerns about Israel’s siege of Gaza and its northern evacuation order.
“International law requires that any lawful temporary evacuation by Israel, as the occupying power, of an area on the basis of the security of the population or imperative military reasons must be accompanied by the provision of proper accommodation for all evacuees, undertaken under satisfactory conditions of hygiene, health, safety and nutrition,” she said in the statement.
“There appears to have been no attempt by Israel to ensure this for the 1.1 million civilians ordered to move.
“We are concerned that this order, combined with the imposition of a complete siege of Gaza, may not be considered as lawful temporary evacuation and would therefore amount to a forcible transfer of civilians in breach of international law.”
The term “forcible transfer” describes the forced relocation of civilian populations and it is a crime against humanity punishable by the International Criminal Court.
Dr. Richard Peeperkorn, WHO representative for the West Bank and Gaza, said Tuesday that some 2,800 people have died and 11,000 have been injured in Gaza since Israeli air strikes started.
About half of them were believed to be women and children.
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Israeli officials have said Hamas killed roughly 1,300 people during its Oct. 7 attack and took roughly 200 hostages into Gaza.
More than one million people – almost half the population of Gaza – have been displaced within the enclave, the UN has said. The territory’s 2.3 million residents have been left without power, pushing health and water services to the brink of collapse, with fuel for hospital generators running low.
Aid remains stalled at Rafah Gate
International eyes have been on the Rafah Gate border crossing between Gaza and Egypt where thousands – both Palestinians and foreign nationals, including Canadians – are trying to flee from the region’s south.
Trucks carrying supplies continue to head toward the crossing, which is the only access point to Gaza outside of Israel’s control, though it was not certain whether they would be able to cross. Plans on Saturday to open the crossing did not go ahead, with Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly citing violence in the area.
After nine hours of negotiations, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said early on Tuesday he had agreed with Israel “to develop a plan” to get aid into Gaza.
The World Food Program has said it had more than 300 tons of food waiting to cross into Gaza.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged for the opening of a humanitarian corridor during a speech in the House of Commons on Monday. Joly has said work on establishing a humanitarian corridor into Gaza is a primary focus for Canada.
“Canada is calling for unimpeded humanitarian access and an unimpeded humanitarian corridor, so that essential aid like food, fuel and water can be delivered to civilians in Gaza,” Trudeau said.
“It is imperative that this happens.”
— with files from The Associated Press and Reuters
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