3 US soldiers killed as Israel war spreads.
US, 16 other countries cut funding to UN’s Palestinian refugee agency.
3 US soldiers killed as Israel war spreads
Yesterday, three US Army reservists stationed were killed when their sleeping quarters at their base in Jordan (near the Syrian border) was attacked with a drone. The soldiers have been identified as Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, Specialist Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23 and Specialist Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24. All three were from Georgia. At least 40 others were seriously injured.
Since Oct. 17, 2023, there have been over 165 rocket or drone attacks on US bases in Iraq and Syria, most of them by Shia militias with links to Iran. These attacks are retaliation for US military support for Israel’s assault on Gaza, which has killed over 33,000 people, including over 7000 women and 13,000 children.
Prior to this attack, there hadn’t been any publicized strikes against US bases in Jordan. Rivers, Moffett and Sanders are the first known fatalities in these attacks. However, there were 66 reported injuries as of mid-December. Two weeks ago, a similar attack at Al Asad air base in Iraq inflicted what were initially referred to as “minor” injuries on an unknown number of US personnel, though it later came out that at least some of those had suffered traumatic brain injuries.
On Jan. 11, two US Navy Seals were lost at sea in the Gulf of Aden near Somalia and Yemen. They were identified as Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Christopher J. Chambers, 37, and Special Warfare Operator 2nd Class Nathan Gage Ingram, 27.
The White House and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin have said they will take “all necessary actions” to defend US troops in the Middle East. The longer things drag on without a ceasefire in Gaza, the more danger this war will continue to spread and escalate, putting more US troops in danger.
US, 16 other countries cut funding to UN’s Palestinian refugee agency
US and 16 other countries have cut funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the refugee agency which serves Palestinian refugees in Gaza as well as in Jordan and Lebanon. Last Friday, Israel accused 13 of Gaza’s 13,000 UNRWA employees of being involved in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas. So far, news outlets have only been able to cite information from anonymous Israeli officials. All outlets have said that they did not see any of Israel’s evidence for its claims and could not independently verify them. What is known is that the information was allegedly gathered by Israel’s intelligence service and Shin Bet, Israel’s police service, both of which are known to use torture in interrogations.
It’s not clear if any of the countries that have cut funding to UNRWA had been able to view any of Israel’s evidence before deciding to cut funding to UNRWA, or whether they had conducted their own investigation. Several countries that have not yet cut funding are conducting their own investigations.
What is certain is that the sudden loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in funding will place the 2.3 million people in Gaza, most of whom are starving, in even greater peril. UNRWA has also been sheltering many thousands of Gaza’s 1.9 million displaced people since the Israel Defense Forces commenced their assault on Gaza in October. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has warned that unless countries restore funding, UNRWA will have to severely cut back its operations in February.
It’s worth noting the alacrity with which these nations cut funding to a humanitarian organization based on, so far, unsubstantiated allegations. By contrast, the US is not even entertaining the idea of cutting military funding to Israel, even after the International Court of Justice ruled that it was plausible Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.
UNRWA a thorn in Israel’s side for decades
UNRWA’s existence dates back to the 1948 expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from Israel. The agency has been a key reporter of human rights abuses against the Palestinians by Israel. It has also played a key role in preserving Palestinian identity and the connection of refugees to the land. Under international law, those Palestinians who have maintained connections to their homeland are entitled to the right-of-return (or just compensation) as part of the resolution to the conflict.
Israel’s refusal to accept a right-of-return for Palestinian refugees has been a major stumbling block to any meaningful and sustainable resolution to the decades-long conflict. In a Jan. 4 meeting in the Knesset, a former Foreign Ministry official outlined her view that Israel would never win the “war” unless UNRWA is destroyed.