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The Latest | Israel says it will reopen border crossing with hard-hit northern Gaza – Metro US

The Latest | Israel says it will reopen border crossing with hard-hit northern Gaza

Israel Palestinians
Members of the Abu Draz family hold the bodies of their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, at their house in Rafah, southern Gaza, Thursday, April 4, 2024. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

Israel says it’s taking steps to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, including reopening a key border crossing into hard-hit northern Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced the plans early Friday, just hours after President Joe Biden told him that future U.S. support for the war in Gaza depends on Israel taking more action to protect civilians and aid workers. The announcement did not elaborate on quantities or types of items to be let in.

Still, despite their differences, the Biden administration has continued to provide Israel crucial military aid and diplomatic support for Israel’s six-month war against Hamas. Israel faces growing international isolation after its forces killed seven aid workers helping deliver food in Gaza.

The Palestinian death toll soared above 33,000 people on Thursday, with another 75,600 wounded, Gaza’s Health Ministry said. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its tally, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

The United Nations says much of the population in northern Gaza is on the brink of starvation. The top United Nations court has concluded there is a “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza — a charge Israel strongly denies — and the U.N. Security Council has issued a legally binding demand for a cease-fire.

The war began on Oct. 7, when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 people hostage.

Currently:

— Rights group says Israeli strike on Gaza building killed 106 in apparent war crime.

Diplomatic crisis between Poland and Israel erupts after Polish aid worker killed in Gaza.

— Senior U.K. jurists have joined calls to stop arms sales to Israel . Other allies face similar pressure.

— Jewish group launches Holocaust survivor speakers bureau to fight increasing antisemitism worldwide.

Family and friends recall dedication of World Central Kitchen aid workers killed in Gaza.

U.S. braces for retaliation after attack on Iran consulate — even as it says it wasn’t involved.

— Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

Here’s the latest:

JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says his Security Cabinet has approved a series of “immediate steps” to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza, including the reopening of a key crossing into hard-hit northern Gaza that was destroyed in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

A statement early Friday said the Erez crossing would be temporarily reopened for the first time since the Hamas attack. It also said Israel would allow its port in Ashdod to process aid shipments bound for Gaza, and to increase Jordanian aid shipments through another land crossing.

“This increased aid will prevent a humanitarian crisis and is necessary to ensure the continuation of the fighting and to achieve the goals of the war,” Netanyahu’s office said.

The announcement did not elaborate on quantities or types of items to be let in.

The decision came after U.S. President Joe Biden called on Israel, in a phone conversation with Netanyahu, to take steps “to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering and the safety of aid workers.”

The United Nations says much of the population in northern Gaza is on the brink of starvation.

The heavily fortified Erez crossing served for years as the only passenger terminal for people to move in and out of the territory. It was heavily damaged when Hamas militants stormed the facility on Oct. 7 and has remained closed ever since.

UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting about attacks on humanitarian workers in Gaza and the risk of famine in the conflict-torn territory.

The meeting for Friday was requested by Algeria, the Arab representative on the council, joined by Guyana, Slovenia and Switzerland. Israeli airstrikes earlier this week killed seven aid workers from the charity World Central Kitchen, which has demanded an independent investigation.

A U.N. aid convoy is scheduled to head out Thursday night after the U.N. paused night operations for 48 hours, said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric. He told reporters the convoy “will hopefully make it to the north.”

“Because of what happened to World Central Kitchen, we had to pause … and regroup and reassess all sorts of factors,” he said.

Speaking more broadly, Dujarric said, “We have seen a disregard in this war for international humanitarian law. We have seen hospitals used as points of combat. We have seen humanitarian sites, which were clearly notified, being either taken over or destroyed.”

He said the current notification system for humanitarian aid deliveries goes through a Civilian Liaison Unit, then it involves COGAT, the Israeli military body in charge of Palestinian civilian affairs, and then it goes to the Israeli military’s Southern Command.

Dujarric said the U.N. would like “to have more direct contact with the military as opposed to going through a number of layers of military-civilian coordination as it does now.”

On the health front, Dujarric said, the World Health Organization reached two hospitals in Gaza City — Al Sahaba and Al Ahil — and delivered supplies and carried out assessments.

But he said Israel has still not given WHO permission to visit Shifa Hospital, and has not provided a reason. The hospital was devastated by a two-week Israeli raid, which saw heavy fighting with militants, and an earlier raid in November.

The WHO team spoke with patients who were able to leave Shifa after Israel’s recent military operation there ended, he said.

”They described dire conditions during the siege, with no food, water or medicine available,” Dujarric said. “One patient said that doctors there resorted to putting salt and vinegar on people’s wounds in place of antiseptics, which are non-existent.”

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military is on schedule to build a pier off the Gaza coast to expand humanitarian aid deliveries, the Defense Department said Thursday, even as other agencies have pulled back after Israel killed several aid workers.

The pier will be on line by the end of the month or early May, said Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary.

“Everything is on track, on schedule at this point,” Ryder said. He said Israel has agreed to provide security on the shore as aid is transferred and distributed, but details are still being worked out.

On Thursday, several of the Army boats carrying soldiers and equipment for the pier construction were docked in the Canary Islands for fuel and maintenance and are expected to continue on into the Mediterranean Sea. And a ship operated by the Military Sealift Command, the USNS Benavidez is in the Mediterranean Sea, near Crete, carrying some of the larger equipment for the project.

WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump offered a tough message to Israel in its war against Hamas on Thursday, urging the country to “Get it over with.”

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Trump said Israel is “absolutely losing the PR war” and called for a swift resolution to the bloodshed.

“Get it over with and let’s get back to peace and stop killing people. And that’s a very simple statement,” Trump said. “They have to get it done. Get it over with and get it over with fast because we have to — you have to get back to normalcy and peace.”

The presumptive GOP nominee, who has criticized President Joe Biden for being insufficiently supportive of Israel, appeared to question the tactics of the Israeli military as the civilian death toll in Gaza continues to mount. Trump’s comments also demonstrated the similarities between his and Biden’s positions.

JERUSALEM — A group of elder statesmen called on the U.S. and other nations to stop providing arms to Israel, saying Thursday the country is committing “systematic violations” of international law in its offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The group, which calls itself the Elders and was founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007, said a halt in weapons transfers was needed to prevent a planned Israeli assault on Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah. The group includes former world leaders and former high-ranking U.N. officials.

“Countries providing arms to Israel cannot legitimately claim that violations of international humanitarian law are not taking place, or that they supplied arms without this knowledge,” it said in a statement.

It said the United States, Israel’s closest ally, should lead the charge, adding, “We are deeply concerned that the Biden administration continues to approve arms transfers, appearing to accept Israel’s assurances” that it is complying with international law.

In a statement, the group said Israel was unlawfully obstructing humanitarian aid and causing hunger in Gaza.

Israel says it has waged its offensive in Gaza in accordance with international law and that it places no limit on the amount of food and other supplies entering the territory.

However, it has allowed entry of aid to only through two main crossings, and aid groups say it has become nearly impossible to distribute aid inside Gaza because of Israeli restrictions and airstrikes. On Monday, Israeli airstrikes killed seven aid workers in a convoy returning from distributing food in northern Gaza.

Critics also say Israel’s bombardment and ground assaults in Gaza use indiscriminate fire with little regard for civilian casualties. Israel’s offensive, launched in response to the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants, has now killed over 33,000 Palestinians. Israel says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames their deaths on Hamas because the militants operate in dense, residential areas.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has told Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that future U.S. support for Gaza war depends on new steps to protect civilians and aid workers.

Biden and Netanyahu spoke Thursday by phone days after Israeli airstrikes killed seven food aid workers in Gaza. In the call, Biden also told Netanyahu that an “immediate cease-fire is essential” and urged Israel to reach a deal “without delay,” according to the White House.

“He made clear the need for Israel to announce and implement a series of specific, concrete, and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers,” the White House said in a statement following the call. “He made clear that U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by our assessment of Israel’s immediate action on these steps.”

The White House has said the U.S. has no plans to conduct its own investigation into the killings.

LARNACA, Cyprus — Open Arms, a Spanish charity normally focused on rescuing migrants from the Mediterranean Sea, says it’s ending its mission to deliver food by sea to Gaza after an Israeli airstrike killed seven workers from a related charity.

The Spanish foundation had provided one of its ships, the Open Arms, to transport food aid in two trips sponsored by World Central Kitchen, a U.S. charity that has accused Israel of deliberately targeting its workers.

Open Arms blamed the Israeli military for the deaths in a statement Thursday, adding that Monday’s attack “marks a painful turning point in our efforts to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.”

Open Arms made the first sea delivery of 200 tons of food aid on March 15 and it took part again in a three-ship flotilla that reached Gaza last weekend with 400 tons of food.

The charities said that the second shipment would make one million meals. However nearly 300 tons have returned to Cyprus aboard the ships following the death of six World Central Kitchen foreign workers and their Palestinian driver.

Open Arms’ founder, Oscar Camps, said that Gaza had become “a dystopian laboratory where people’s blood flows while war technologies are tested and perfected, directed by increasingly automated algorithms that allow human responsibility to be diluted, using technology and trivializing evil.”

“What else needs to happen for global society to react? How much more humanity must be lost in this genocide?” Camps wrote in the statement.

TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he “takes issue” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s assertion that the killing of seven aid workers in Gaza was part of the cost of war.

“I have to directly take issue with what Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday when he said ‘Well, this just happens in conflicts and in war time,’” Trudeau said. “No! It doesn’t just happen and it shouldn’t just happen.”

Aid workers are risking their lives to help people in Gaza, Trudeau said, and “that is not OK that they get hit by targeted missiles like this.”

Netanyahu’s comments were: “Unfortunately over the last day there was a tragic incident of an unintended strike of our forces on innocent people in the Gaza Strip. This happens in war.”

Canadian army veteran Jacob Flickinger was among those killed while delivering food aid for World Central Kitchen.

Trudeau called for a fully transparent and rapid investigation into what happened, speaking to reporters in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

World Central Kitchen is demanding an independent investigation on the strikes, which the group says were no accident since Israel was well aware of the aid workers’ location.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by phone Thursday, days after an Israeli air strike killed seven aid workers in Gaza and further complicated the leaders’ increasingly strained relationship.

That’s according to a person familiar with the leaders’ conversation and who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly.

The leaders conversation comes as the charity World Central Kitchen called for an independent investigation into the Israeli strikes that killed the group’s staff members, including an American citizen.

The White House has said the U.S. has no plans to conduct its own investigation even as they called on Israel to do more to prevent the killing and wounding innocent civilians and aid workers as it carries out its operations in Gaza.

Biden and Netanyahu last spoke on March 18.

Biden was expected to reiterate his concerns about Netanyahu’s plan to carry out an operation in the southern city of Rafah, where about 1.5 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering, as Israel looks to eliminate Hamas following the militant group’s deadly Oct. 7 attack.

Despite their differences, the Biden administration has continued to provide Israel crucial military aid and diplomatic support.


Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed.

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military says it has beefed up forces and heightened the readiness of its troops.

Thursday’s announcement came as Iran vows revenge for an alleged Israeli airstrike that killed two Iranian generals in Syria’s capital earlier this week. Israel has not commented on the airstrike.

“We have strengthened the readiness of our combat forces as required wherever necessary,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief army spokesman, told reporters. “We strengthened our defense systems. We have warplanes ready to defend and ready to strike in a variety of scenarios.”

Hagari also said that Israel has disrupted local GPS systems to “neutralize threats” from abroad. He acknowledged the move, which has affected traffic navigation systems, had caused inconveniences for the public.

Despite the new threats, Israel’s Home Front Command has not ordered any changes in the public’s routine.

WARSAW, Poland — A new diplomatic crisis between Poland and Israel has erupted after Israel killed a Polish aid worker in Gaza.

Polish President Andrzej Duda on Thursday called the comment “outrageous” and described the ambassador as “the biggest problem for the state of Israel in relations with Poland.” The Foreign Ministry in Warsaw said it was summoning him for a meeting.

Amid shock in Poland over the death of the charity worker, Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Yacov Livne, pushed back at what he said were attempts by the “extreme right and left in Poland” to accuse Israel of “intentional murder in the attack.”

The Israeli ambassador said “anti-Semites will always remain anti-Semites,” in a post on social media Tuesday.

Polish and Israeli relations have recently been on the mend after several difficult years.

Ties were badly damaged due to disputes over how to remember Polish behavior during the Holocaust, when Nazi Germany occupied Poland and carried out the mass murder of Jews.

For eight years until December, Poland had a nationalist government that played down Polish participation in the German killings of Jews and focused largely on Polish aid to Jews. Israel’s government believed that approach amounted to historical distortion.

CAIRO — The United States’ military says its forces shot down an anti-ship ballistic missile and two aerial drones launched by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

U.S. Central Command said Thursday that the target of the attack was the USS Gravely destroyer, which is patrolling the Red Sea. The military said it destroyed a mobile surface-to-air missile system in Houthi-held territory in response to the attack early Wednesday.

The Houthis have repeatedly targeted international shipping and U.S. forces in the Red Sea in recent months in what they portray as a blockade of Israel in response to the war in Gaza. They have attacked several ships with no known connection to Israel.

The U.S. and its allies have responded with strikes on Houthi military targets in Yemen.

The latest confrontation came as tensions are high across the Middle East following an apparent Israeli airstrike in Syria’s capital, Damascus, that destroyed the Iranian Consulate and killed two Iranian generals. Iran has vowed to respond to the attack.

WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s leaders have called on Israel to pay compensation to the family of the Polish aid worker Damian Soból, who was killed along with six other workers of the World Central Kitchen charity in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza on Monday.

President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Donald Tusk said it was a matter of responsibility and decency to pay compensation to the family of Soból, 35, who was bringing aid to the needy. They also demanded from Israel a detailed explanation of what happened and why.

“I have no doubt at all that Israel should pay compensation to the family of our killed citizen. It should be an appropriate compensation,” Duda said. “I hope such a compensation will be paid in a just and honest way.”

Tusk said it was a “senseless and unnecessary death” and that Israel should apologize and provide detailed information about the circumstances of the deaths.

Israel has taken responsibility for the airstrike, but has argued it was a mistake. However, charity organizations in Poland insist that humanitarian convoys are clearly marked and are also given security guarantees when operating in war zones.

TEL AVIV — Israel’s police and internal security agency say they have uncovered a plot by Palestinians to assassinate an Israeli government minister.

They said Thursday that 14 Palestinians were arrested in connection with the alleged plot to assassinate National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. They said the suspects also planned to attack Israel’s main airport, a sports stadium, army bases and government buildings.

The statements did not provide any evidence, and said the plot was in its early stages.

It said three of the suspects, from east Jerusalem, had started learning how to make explosives. It said the others, from southern Israel and the occupied West Bank, had been in contact with Hamas in Gaza.

Ben Gvir, a far-right government minister, is known for his extreme rhetoric and positions toward the Palestinians.

The war in Gaza has stoked tensions across Israel and the occupied West Bank. More than 450 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since the start of the war, mostly during near-nightly Israeli military raids and violent protests.

There have also been a series of stabbing, ramming and other attacks against Israelis, especially after Hamas called on Palestinians to rise up during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began last month and continues until mid-April.

JERUSALEM — Human Rights Watch says an Israeli attack on a Gaza apartment building in October killed at least 106 civilians, including 54 children.

The New York-based rights group says its investigation into the attack, published Thursday, found no evidence of any military target, making it a war crime.

The attack was one of the deadliest since the start of the war nearly six months ago.

Human Rights Watch says four separate strikes collapsed the Engineer’s Building in central Gaza, which was housing some 350 people, around a third of whom had fled their homes elsewhere in the territory.

Those killed included children playing soccer outside and residents charging phones in the first-floor grocery store.

The rights group says it interviewed 16 people, including relatives of those killed in the Oct. 31 attack, and analyzed satellite imagery, 35 photographs and 45 videos of the aftermath. It was unable to visit the site because Israel heavily restricts access to Gaza.

Witnesses told the rights group there was no warning ahead of the attack. Human Rights Watch says Israeli authorities have not published any information about the purported target and did not respond to its own requests for information.

The military did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press on Thursday.

Israel says it tries to avoid harming civilians and blames their deaths on Hamas because the militants operate in dense, residential areas. But the military rarely comments on individual strikes that kill dozens of people every day, including women and children.

Israel has faced mounting international criticism over its wartime conduct after its strikes killed seven aid workers earlier this week.

LONDON — More than 600 British jurists, including three retired judges from the U.K. Supreme Court, are calling on the government to suspend arms sales to Israel.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, they said the U.K. could be complicit in “grave breaches of international law” if it continues to ship weapons.

Signatories, including former Supreme Court President Brenda Hale, said Britain is legally obliged to heed the International Court of Justice’s conclusion that there is a “plausible risk of genocide” in Gaza.

The letter said the “sale of weapons and weapons systems to Israel … falls significantly short of your government’s obligations under international law.”

Britain is a staunch ally of Israel, but relations have been tested by the mounting death toll of the almost six-month war. Calls for a halt to arms sales have grown since Israel killed seven aid workers with World Central Kitchen, three of them British.

The U.K.’s main opposition parties have all said the Conservative government should halt weapons sales to Israel if the country has broken international law in Gaza.

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — The Palestinian death toll from the Israel-Hamas war has passed 33,000, Gaza’s Health Ministry says.

The ministry said Thursday that 33,037 people have been killed and 75,668 wounded since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched a surprise attack into Israel. Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people that day, mostly civilians, and took another 250 hostage.

The ministry says hospitals in Gaza received 62 bodies and 91 wounded people in the last 24 hours.

The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its count but says women and children have made up around two-thirds of those killed. The ministry is part of the Hamas-run government. It maintains detailed records, and its counts from previous wars have largely matched those of independent experts and the United Nations.

Apparent Israeli airstrikes hit two houses in the southern Gaza city of Rafah late Wednesday, killing three children, two women and an unidentified individual, according to hospital records.

The children were 16, 1 and 2 years old. An Associated Press reporter saw the bodies at a local hospital.

Israel regularly carries out strikes in Rafah and has threatened a full-scale ground invasion of the city, which it says is the last major Hamas stronghold in Gaza.

Rafah is packed with some 1.4 million Palestinians — over half of Gaza’s population — most of whom have fled fighting elsewhere. The city on the border with Egypt is also a main gateway for the entry of humanitarian aid.

NICOSIA, Cyprus — World Central Kitchen is calling for an independent investigation into the Israeli strikes that killed seven of its aid workers in Gaza.

In a statement issued Thursday, the international food charity says it has asked Australia, Canada, Poland, the United States and the United Kingdom, whose citizens were killed, to join them in demanding “an independent, third-party investigation into these attacks.”

“We asked the Israeli government to immediately preserve all documents, communications, video and/or audio recordings, and any other materials potentially relevant to the April 1 strikes,” the statement said.

Israel says it carried out the strikes by mistake and that it has launched its own investigation into the attack.

The military carried out multiple strikes on a convoy of three cars, at least one of which was clearly marked with the charity’s logo. World Central Kitchen says it coordinated the team’s movements with the army, which was “aware of their itinerary, route and humanitarian mission.”

The workers were delivering aid that had arrived by sea in a recently opened maritime corridor aimed at getting food to hundreds of thousands of starving Palestinians in northern Gaza, which has been largely isolated by Israeli forces for months.

The attack interrupted those efforts, as World Central Kitchen and other charities suspended operations over the deteriorating security situation. The ships returned to Cyprus with an estimated 240 tons of undelivered humanitarian aid.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. defense secretary said the Israeli strikes that killed seven aid workers this week “reinforce” concerns about Israel’s plans to expand its ground offensive to the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Lloyd Austin “expressed his outrage” over the strikes in a phone call with his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, late Wednesday, according to a Pentagon readout of the call.

Austin “stressed the need to immediately take concrete steps to protect aid workers and Palestinian civilians in Gaza after repeated coordination failures with foreign aid groups.” He also reiterated U.S. calls for an independent investigation into Monday’s deadly strikes.

“This tragedy reinforced the expressed concern over a potential Israeli military operation in Rafah, specifically focusing on the need to ensure the evacuation of Palestinian civilians and the flow of humanitarian aid,” Austin said.

Israel has said the multiple strikes on the aid workers’ convoy was a mistake and that it has launched an independent investigation.

The U.S. has provided crucial military aid and diplomatic support for Israel’s nearly six-month offensive, which was launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

Israel has vowed to expand ground operations to Rafah, where some 1.4 million Palestinians — over half of Gaza’s population — have sought refuge. Rafah is also a key gateway for the delivery of humanitarian aid. Israel says it is the last major stronghold for thousands of Hamas fighters.

The U.S. has said a full-scale invasion of Rafah would be a mistake, urging Israel to instead carry out more precise operations focused on Hamas.

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations children’s agency says one-third of the children under age 2 in northern Gaza were suffering from acute malnutrition in March, adding that the figure “has more than doubled in the last two months.”

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Ted Chaiban told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that “dozens of children in the northern Gaza Strip have reportedly died from malnutrition and dehydration in recent weeks, and half the population is facing catastrophic food insecurity.”

Chaiban said he saw “a staggering decline in the conditions of children” during his second visit to Gaza in January.

He pointed to widespread destruction of infrastructure, “a quasi-blockade” on the north, repeated denials or delays in getting Israeli approval for humanitarian convoys, and fuel shortages and electricity and telecommunications blackouts which have been “devastating for children.”

Virginia Gamba, the U.N. special envoy for children in conflict, told the council that the latest U.N. report issued last year verified 3,941 cases where youngsters were prevented from getting food and other assistance. The highest figures, she said, were in Gaza and the West Bank, Yemen, Afghanistan and Mali.

Gamba said data gathered for the next report in June “shows we are on target to witness a shocking increase of the incidents of the denial of humanitarian access globally.” In addition to the Palestinian territories, she pointed to Haiti where there are “high levels of arbitrary impediments and/or outright denial of humanitarian access to children.”

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said doctors in Gaza have reported being horrified at treating children suffering from war wounds and watching children die from acute malnutrition.

She said that “humanitarian assistance is desperately needed now, and it must be facilitated to mitigate the impact of an impending famine.”

Thomas-Greenfield said that food and other aid is also urgently needed for children in Congo, Afghanistan, Sudan and Africa’s Sahel region and for Rohingya Muslim youngsters in Myanmar.