China sends six warships, Israeli military warns of wider conflict

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China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has deployed six warships in the Middle East, including a guided-missile destroyer, in the Middle East amid escalating tensions in the region because of the ongoing war between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas, reports said.


According to the South China Morning Post, these warships, including the Zibo, a Type 052D guided-missile destroyer, the frigate Jingzhou, and the integrated supply ship Qiandaohu, were part of the PLA’s 44th naval escort task force. were part of the PLA’s 44th naval escort task force that recently took part in a joint military exercise with Oman.


The move comes at a time when the US has sent USS Gerald R Ford, its most advanced carrier, along with a battle group to the West Asia region. On the other hand, Israel’s military has warned that Iran-backed Hezbollah risks dragging neighbouring Lebanon into war and said anti-tank missiles were fired from Lebanon Sunday. 


Israel’s military said it would embark on the next phase of the Gaza campaign, without giving a timeframe for its widely expected ground invasion against Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and EU. 


More than 4,300 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. That includes the disputed toll from a hospital explosion.


Syrian state media, meanwhile, reported that Israeli airstrikes have targeted the international airports in the capital, Damascus, and the northern city of Aleppo and a mosque in the occupied West Bank early Sunday allegedly used by militants, as the two-week-old war with Hamas threatened to spiral into a broader conflict. It said the strikes killed one person and damaged the runways, putting them out of service.


The Israeli military said the mosque compound belonged to Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants who had carried out several attacks in recent months and were planning another one.


Israel’s military has said it is striking Hamas members and installations, but does not target civilians. It also confirmed that 212 people are being held hostage in Gaza, adding that Israeli strikes overnight killed dozens of Palestinian fighters, including the deputy chief of Hamas rocket forces.


On the northern front, Israel has been attacking fighters trying to fire missiles in across the Lebanese border and struck a site in Lebanon from where a missile was fired at an Israeli aircraft, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said in a briefing. Sunday’s fatalities brought the death toll in the West Bank to 91 Palestinians since the war broke out on October 7, according to the Health Ministry. Most appear have been killed during fighting with Israeli forces or violent protests.


Hospitals packed with patients and displaced people are running low on medical supplies and fuel for generators, forcing doctors to perform surgeries with sewing needles, using vinegar as disinfectant, and without anaesthesia.


The World Health Organisation says at least 130 premature babies are at “grave risk” because of a shortage of generator fuel under renewed Israeli blockade in the wake of the October 7 deadly Hamas attack in Israel.


About 160 women give birth every day in Gaza, according to the UN Population Fund, which estimates there are 50,000 pregnant women across the territory of 2.3 million people. According to the Aljazeera report. The first batch of 20 trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered Gaza via Rafah crossing with Egypt on Saturday, but Israel continues to block fuel and electricity supplies critical to running hospitals and support several other essential services.

US amplifies military presence

President Joe Biden said the US, which has worked with other mediators to reach an agreement on Rafah, “remains committed to ensuring that civilians in Gaza will continue to have access to food, water, medical care, and other assistance, without diversion by Hamas.” 


The United States is sending a Thaad battery and additional Patriot battalions, two of its most powerful weapons against missiles, to the region, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in a statement on Saturday. He did not specify where or how many battalions would be deployed, nor did he say how many troops would be told to “prepare to deploy.”


Cathay Pacific Airways cancels flights


Citing “the ongoing situation in Israel”, Cathay Pacific Airways has cancelled all flights between Hong Kong and Tel Aviv for the rest of this year.


Customers with tickets between the cities through March 31, 2024 “can rebook, reroute or refund their travel without the usual fees,” the company said in a statement.

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