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Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, on Monday, indicted banks as being linked to about 70 per cent of the financial crimes in Nigeria.

EFCC’s Chairman, Ola Olukayode, disclosed this while speaking in Abuja at the 2023 Annual Retreat and General Meeting of the Association of Chief Audit Executives of Banks in Nigeria.

He pointed out that the banking sector was increasingly becoming a cesspool of fraudulent activities and this had been raising considerable challenges and concerns to the commission.

Olukayode who was represented by the Director, Internal Audit, EFCC, Idowu  Apejoye, said there was a need for concerted effort by relevant authorities and professionals, especially audit executives to prevent and tackle issues of fraudulent practices in the sector.

He said, “Broadly speaking, banking fraud in Nigeria is both inside and outside related. The inside related fraud comprises outright stealing of customers’ deposits, authorising loan facilities, forgery and several other kinds of unhealthy and criminal practices.

“The outsider related ones include hacking, ATM fraud, conspiracy, among others. And then the absurd one is when both collaborate, that is collaboration among the bankers and the outsider.

“That one is the one that is really absurd because when you do that, that means you are selling out the system. It is estimated that about 70 per cent of financial crimes in Nigeria are traceable to the banking sector, this scenario is disturbing and unacceptable.”

Olukayode stated that in order to curb the anomalies, ACAEBIN should ensure proper reconciliation of accounts every month in accordance with accounting requirements.

He charged the association to monitor the financial activities of banks, comparing actual and budgeted revenue with expenses, carry out periodical review, checks, among others.

Chairman, ACAEBIN, Akamadu, said the association would work towards achieving some of the recommendations provided by the EFCC boss.

He also stated that the association was fully committed to fixing the foreign exchange challenges in Nigeria, which was one of the issues that the retreat aimed to achieve.

“That is part of the reason why we are having this retreat, to ask ourselves, to do an introspection and ask ourselves, given our position in the banking industry, or the executives of banks in Nigeria, are we doing enough?

“Have we done enough? What more can we do to help in sanitising the system? Are there things the banks could do to help in sanitising the FX in this country?”

“By the end of this retreat, we are expected to come up with a communique and we hope to address some of the issues, one way or the other, that will address the role of banks in FX  challenges in this industry,”

Akamadu further explained that banks were not resting on their oars to curb fraudulent activities, as they were putting efforts in the Know Your Customer mechanism.

“I will tell you something, I’m not aware of any institution, any sector that has done more in the area of KYC than the banking industry. But it truly goes beyond the banks.

“And I can tell you truly again that even at the bankers committee level, and even at the typical details of banks in Nigeria, these are areas we are actually looking at to see where there are leakages and to begin to block them,” he stated.

He stated that the association was working tirelessly to address these concerns and assured the EFCC boss that there would be more positive results going forward.

 

Punch

Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, has criticised policies recently introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), saying they cannot support the economic growth of the country.

The governor said the interest rates that are raised would hinder small business owners from getting loans to expand their businesses which are detrimental to the growth of the country.

Obaseki made this known at an event organised by the Edo Zone of Bankers’ Committee in Benin City, the state capital.

According to the governor, Nigeria needs not to worry over interest rates but to create an enabling atmosphere for Nigerians to produce the goods and services we consume and reduce reliance on imported goods.

He said, “Policies that have just been rolled out by the central bank, unfortunately, will not support the growth of our economy. Interest rates are already very high, and jacking up interest rates clearly will not allow small borrowers, small businesses to have access to credit at the price to help them grow their businesses. When an economy is in this state, it meets all the push and support.”

The governor said the motive behind increasing the monetary policy rate (MPR) cannot support economic growth, stressing that the exchange rate is not a remedy to the nation’s economic upheavals.

He empahsised that there should be job creation for the teeming Nigerian youths to transform the country into a productive economy.

“I understand the monetary rationale for increasing MPR fundamentally and fiscally, it is not going to lead to growth in our economy. We must focus on the fundamentals which are increasing production, making sure our citizens produce goods and services we consume, and depend less on imports.

“Our economic policy and monetary policy cannot be determined by exchange rate alone, so the issue of increasing cash reserves in the bid to tighten the liquidity is going to be detrimental to our economy.

“I understand the challenge the monetary authorities face, but unfortunately, you cannot clap with one hand. The economy is about fiscal and monetary policies – both must work hand-in-hand and when they don’t as they don’t in Nigeria, there can be a crisis.

“We should focus on fiscal issues so that we can grow our economy out of the challenges we had. We should not panic too much because of foreign exchange. We must focus on how we can do things within our economy, and how we can grow our economy and earn more foreign exchange if foreign exchange is our problem, but I believe creating jobs for young people should be more of a priority for us as people at this time,” Obaseki stated.

 

Daily Trust

Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest and Development Law has sued the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, over the issuance of the Central Motor Information System for vehicle owners across the country.

The police had in December 2023, unveiled CMRIS as one of the means to help the police have essential details of vehicle owners in its database.

However, according to the NBA-SPIDEL, obtaining the certificate from the Nigeria Police Force costs N6,000.

In a letter dated January 29, the NBA-SPIDEL Chairman, John Aikpokpo-Martins, and Secretary, Funmi Adeogun, described the issuance of the certificate illegal and issued a seven-day ultimatum on the IG  to discontinue its issuance.

Following the failure of the IG to oblige to their request, the NBA-SPIDEL chair and secretary filed an application seeking to stop the IG and the Nigeria Police Force from issuing the certificate.

The plaintiffs contended that no provisions under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Police Act, or any other law gave the Nigeria Police Force, under the command and authority of the IG, the right, power, or authority to maintain a motor registry or issue certificates of identification or proof/evidence of ownership called the Central Motor Registry Information System Certificate (or in any other name called) to Nigerians.

They also held that the Nigeria Police Force was not a revenue-generating agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria and as such, lacked the right to fix and collect fees for the issuance of the Central Motor Registry Information System Certificate from Nigerians.

 

Vanguard

UN envoy says 'reasonable grounds' to believe Hamas committed sexual violence on Oct. 7

The U.N. envoy focusing on sexual violence in conflict said in a new report Monday that there are “reasonable grounds” to believe Hamas committed rape, “sexualized torture,” and other cruel and inhumane treatment of women during its surprise attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7.

There are also “reasonable grounds to believe that such violence may be ongoing,” said Pramila Patten, who visited Israel and the West Bank from Jan. 29 to Feb. 14 with a nine-member technical team.

Based on first-hand accounts of released hostages, she said the team “found clear and convincing information” that some women and children during their captivity were subjected to the same conflict-related sexual violence including rape and “sexualized torture.”

The report comes nearly five months after the Oct. 7 attacks, which left about 1,200 people dead and some 250 others taken hostage. Israel’s war against Hamas has since laid waste to the Gaza Strip, killing more than 30,000 people, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. The U.N. says a quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million people face starvation.

Hamas has rejected earlier allegations that its fighters committed sexual assault.

Patten stressed at a press conference launching the report that the team’s visit was not to investigate allegations of sexual violence but to gather, analyze and verify information for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ annual report on sexual violence in conflict and for the U.N. Security Council.

Her key recommendation is to encourage Israel to grant access to the U.N. human rights chief and the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Palestinian territories and Israel “to carry out full-fledged investigations into the alleged violations” — and she expressed hope the Security Council would do this.

Patten said the team was not able to meet with any victims of sexual violence “despite concerted efforts to encourage them to come forward.” While the number of victims remains unknown, she said, “a small number of those who are undergoing treatment are reportedly experiencing severe mental distress and trauma.”

However, team members held 33 meetings with Israeli institutions and conducted interviews with 34 people including survivors and witnesses of the Oct. 7 attacks, released hostages, health providers and others.

Based on the information it gathered, Patten said, “there are reasonable grounds to believe that conflict-related sexual violence occurred during the 7 October attacks in multiple locations across Gaza periphery, including rape and gang rape, in at least three locations.”

Across various locations, she said, the team found “that several fully naked or partially naked bodies from the waist down were recovered – mostly women – with hands tied and shot multiple times, often in the head.”

While this is circumstantial, she said the pattern of undressing and restraining victims “may be indicative of some forms of sexual violence.”

At the Nova music festival and its surroundings, Patten said, “there are reasonable grounds to believe that multiple incidents of sexual violence took place with victims being subjected to rape and/or gang rape and then killed or killed while being raped.”

“There are further accounts of individuals who witnessed at least two incidents of rape of corpses of women,” Patten said. “Other credible sources at the Nova music festival site described seeing multiple murdered individuals, mostly women, whose bodies were found naked from the waist down, some totally naked,” some shot in the head, some tied to trees or poles with their hands bound.

On Road 232 — the road to leave the festival — “credible information based on witness accounts describe an incident of the rape of two women by armed elements,” Patten said. Other reported rapes and gang rapes couldn’t be verified and require investigation.

“Along this road, several bodies were found with genital injuries, along with injuries to other body parts,” she said. “Discernible patterns of genital mutilation could not be verified at this time but warrant future investigation.”

She said “the mission team also found a pattern of bound naked or partially naked bodies from the waist down, in some cases tied to structures including trees and poles, along Road 232.”

People fleeing the Nova music festival also attempted to escape south and sought shelter in and around kibbutz Reim where Patten said there are “reasonable grounds” to believe sexual violence occurred.

The mission team verified the rape of a woman outside a bomb shelter and heard of other allegations of rape that could not yet be verified.

At Kibbutz Be’eri, Patten said, her team “was able to determine that at least two allegations of sexual violence widely repeated in the media, were unfounded due to either new superseding information or inconsistency in the facts gathered.”

These included a highly publicized allegation that a pregnant woman’s womb was reportedly ripped open before being killed with her fetus stabbed inside her, Patten said.

Another was “the interpretation initially made of the body of a girl found separated from the rest of her family, naked from the waist down,” she said. “It was determined by the mission team that the crime scene had been altered by a bomb squad and the bodies moved, explaining the separation of the body of the girl from the rest of her family.”

Patten said further investigation is needed of allegations, including of bodies found naked and in one case gagged, at kibbutz Be’eri to determine if sexual violence occurred.

At Kibbutz Kfar Aza, Patten said, verification of sexual violence was not possible. But she said “available circumstantial information – notably the recurring pattern of female victims found undressed, bound, and shot – indicates that sexual violence, including potential sexualized torture, or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, may have occurred.”

Patten stressed that “the true prevalence of sexual violence during the Oct. 7 attacks and their aftermath may take months or years to emerge and may never be fully known.”

Patten said the team, which also visited the West Bank, received information from institutional and civil society sources as well as through interviews “about some forms of sexual violence against Palestinian men and women in detention settings, during house raids and at checkpoints.”

The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees on Monday said hundreds of Palestinians detained by Israel after Oct. 7 attacks have reported a broad range of ill-treatment from having pictures taken of them naked to being threatened with electrocution.

Phillipe Lazzarini told a news conference his agency, known as UNRWA, had put together an unpublished internal report based on information from detainees returning to Gaza “completely traumatized by the ordeal.”

He said some had been detained for a couple of weeks, some for several months.

“We heard stories of people not only having been systematically humiliated,” the UNRWA commissioner general said. “People have been being obliged to be pictured naked.”

 

AP

RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Medvedev says 'Ukraine certainly is Russia'

Ukraine certainly is Russia, regardless of what Ukrainian politicians say, Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said.

"One of the former Ukrainian leaders said once that Ukraine was not Russia. This concept must disappear forever. Ukraine certainly is Russia," he pointed out in a lecture at the Knowledge First educational marathon.

Medvedev noted that there must be no more attempts to ignore Russian public opinion. "It rightfully regards Ukraine and its population as part of our all-Russian civilization. Had Ukraine escaped the stupidest trap set by the United States and its allies in order to counter our country with Ukraine’s assistance and use this very ‘anti-Russia entity,’ things might have been different," he emphasized.

According to the Russian Security Council deputy chairman, had there been no "jeering thieves, political doormats and blushful neo-Nazis" in the Ukrainian leadership, history could have gone a different way. "Had the Kiev ringleaders fulfilled the realistic conditions of the Minsk Agreements at some point, then, perhaps, there would have been no need for the special military operation, as our president has rightly observed," Medvedev emphasized.

 

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Ukraine's military: Russian forces stopped near Avdiivka, but reinforcing elsewhere

Ukraine's military said on Monday its forces had contained a Russian advance outside the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka captured last month, but Moscow's troops were regrouping in an area further south.

The capture of Avdiivka last month provided Russia with a security cushion for the regional centre of Donetsk 20 km (12 miles) to the east and prompted Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin to pledge that Moscow's forces would make further advances.

Russia's defence ministry last week said its forces had captured new villages outside Avdiivka.

Ukrainian military spokesperson Dmytro Lykhoviy, speaking on national television, acknowledged that Russian forces were in partial control of two more villages -- but their advance had been halted.

"At the same time, we are saying that in this hottest sector of the direct Russian assault, we are managing to stabilise the situation and the enemy's advance has been halted," he said.

Speaking to U.S.-funded Radio Liberty, Lykhoviy said Russian forces were focusing on an area further south, around the village of Novomykhailivka, where they were "transferring reinforcements from the depths of Russia".

The area had sustained 30 assaults on Sunday, compared to 20 near Avdiivka, the radio quoted him as saying.

"But our defence is holding," he said. "The enemy is expending tremendous efforts but making no headway at all."

An account of the fighting by the Russian defence ministry said Moscow's forces had "as a result of coordinated action continued to occupy more advantageous positions" near Avdiivka. It made no mention of the area near Novomykhailivka.

Reuters could not verify accounts from either side.

Russian forces have focused on securing control of eastern Ukraine in the two-year-old war after their initial attempt to advance on Kyiv failed.

The capture of Avdiivka after months of fighting was their biggest gain in nine months, though the front lines have undergone only limited movement in that time. A Ukrainian counteroffensive has made little headway.

Ukraine's Emergency Services reported that two firefighters had been killed near the eastern Ukrainian town of Kramatorsk -- north of Avdiivka -- when they came under Russian shelling while battling a blaze.

 

Tass/Reuters

 

 

Hiring the wrong person is costly on every front: money, time, energy, and the well-being of your employees. Even if you hire the right people 90% of the time, one in ten new hires being the right people can create a ton of disastrous misalignment--especially at the senior level.

Brad Jacobs is a CEO and serial entrepreneur who has founded and led seven billion-dollar companies. In his book, How To Make a Few Billion Dollars, Jacobs explains the characteristics he looks for when hiring into world-class organizations, and what all leaders should look for when building their own teams.

"When I hire key people, I'm trying to achieve a two-part goal: accomplish big things and have fun doing it," Jacobs says. "There's nothing contradictory about this when you have the right people in place--and if you can do it at scale, you'll have an organization that can pursue big goals."

Jacobs explains that CEOs tend to get credit for the accomplishments of the teams they lead, but in reality, the most important thing a CEO does is recruit superlative people who have a specific combination of impressive traits, in addition to mastery over the skills required for their role. The four qualities Jacobs requires of each new hire, no matter their role, include:

Intelligence

Intelligence is a must-have, especially in multidimensional, evolving industries. Intelligent people look at problems as opportunities for improvement and are likelier to possess the creativity required to solve complex problems. Additionally, truly smart people are humble and open to learning from others. Rigid thinkers, at any level of intelligence, are less valuable to the team because they're mired in their own points of view. You want people who can think dialectically, which means they can think from multiple perspectives and reconcile streams of information that seem to flow in different directions.

Hunger

Hungry people have tenacity and are motivated by big projects that require whatever it takes to succeed. They're resilient and don't give up when problems emerge. "My companies have always looked to hire people who actively enjoy an intense, results-oriented workplace culture, and aren't merely resigned to working hard," Jacobs says. "They want to work with us because we're giving them the chance to run hard at ambitious goals and reap significant rewards. One way I try to 'hire for hunger' is by assessing whether a potential employee has what it takes to thrive in a lean workplace. Slightly understaffed teams are generally more focused and spend less time doing redundant busywork. Those who have the right kind of hunger can do well in a high-performing environment."

Integrity

The success of any company depends on its people doing what they say they'll do. The whole machine works better when a company's culture is defined by teamwork, which takes trust. Hiring trustworthy people makes it easy for those around them to focus on their jobs instead of constantly looking over their shoulders. It only takes one integrity-impaired person to disrupt a workplace, so it's far more efficient to filter that person out in the hiring process. "Most reputations for integrity come from the cumulative effect of someone doing what they say they'll do, and being straightforward in how they speak," Jacobs says. "These are the kinds of cues we look for as someone moves through the hiring process."

Collegiality

For Jacobs, it's a big deal that the people on his teams like one another. Work becomes more fun and more productive when it's with people who "bring up the vibe." Jacobs says that requiring collegiality from his teams is partly good business and it's partly selfish. "I want to make sure that the people around me are healthy influences in every sense of the word," Jacobs says. 

When hiring is done right, the effect on individual employees is powerful-- everywhere they turn, there's a teammate who makes them feel better about who they are and what they're doing. Everyone is happier, more energized, and the entire organization is more productive.

 

Inc

Companies that breach the new Expatriate Employment Levy policy will pay N3m for each offence.

The offences are not submitting EEL, not registering an employee, a corporate entity not renewing EEL within 30 days, and providing false information on EEL.

The Expatriate Employment Levy is a financial contribution imposed on employers who hire foreign workers.

The levy, which is mostly on the offshore earnings of expatriates working in Nigeria, aims to balance economic growth and workforce development by ensuring equitable contributions from expatriate employment.

President Bola Tinubu launched the policy on February 28, 2024.

He stated that the EEL would close the wage gaps between expatriates and the Nigerian labour force while increasing employment opportunities for qualified Nigerians in foreign companies operating in the country.

However, the handbook sighted by our correspondent on Sunday said offences such as inaccurate or incomplete information could lead to penalties.

“Failure of a corporate entity to file EEL within 30 days is liable to a fine of N3,000,000.

“Failure to register an employee within 30 days will attract a fine of N3,000,000.

“Falsification of information on EEL is liable to a fine of N3,000,000.

“Failure of a corporate entity to renew EEL within 30 days attracts N3,000,000 fine.”

Also,  according to the handbook, companies are expected to pay $15,000 for expatriates employed as directors, and $10,000 for other categories.

“Employers of expatriates covered by the EEL are required to pay $15,000 for directors and $10,000 for other categories of expatriates,” it added.

The Ministry of Interior in a notice on its website stated that the EEL card is a mandatory document like a passport.

It added that it would be required for any expatriate to leave and enter the country.

The ministry, however,  fixed April 15 for compliance with the policy.

The notice partly read, “For further details and registration of your company and expatriates working with you, kindly go through the Handbook and User Manual available on the portal.

“The last date of compliance with EEL is Monday, April 15, 2024.

“An EEL card is a mandatory document like a passport, and will be required at the time of lawful exit and entry into the country.”

 

Punch

Oil prices rose on Monday after OPEC+ members agreed to extend voluntary oil output cuts of 2.2 million barrels per day into the second quarter, largely in line with market expectations.

Brent futures was 28 cents, or 0.3% higher, at $83.83 a barrel at 0134 GMT, while the U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) rose 20 cents, or 0.3%, to $80.17 a barrel.

The output cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies (OPEC+) are expected to cushion the market amid global economic concerns and rising output outside the group, with Russia's announcement surprising some analysts.

Russia will cut its oil output and exports by an additional 471,000 barrels per day (bpd) in the second quarter, in coordination with some OPEC+ participating countries, its Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Sunday.

"Signs of tightness in the physical market continue to push crude oil higher. Output cuts by the OPEC+ alliance continue to reduce supply as the market worries about the renewed tensions in the Middle East," ANZ analysts said in a note on Monday.

Rising geopolitical tensions due to the Israel-Hamas conflict and Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping have supported oil prices in 2024, although concern about economic growth has weighed.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis vowed on Sunday to continue targeting British ships in the Gulf of Aden following the sinking of UK-owned vessel Rubymar.

In some of the strongest comments by a senior U.S. leader, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Sunday demanded Palestinian militant group Hamas agree to an immediate six-week ceasefire while forcefully urging Israel to do more to boost aid deliveries into Gaza.

Washington has insisted the ceasefire deal is close and has been pushing to put in place a truce by the start of Ramadan, a week away. A U.S. official on Saturday said Israel has agreed on a framework deal.

 

Reuters

National Emergency Management Agency

(NEMA) has declared that the warehouse looted in Abuja on Sunday did not belong to it.

Residents broke into a storage facility in the Gwagwa area of Abuja on Sunday and looted stored food items.

Residents of the area said youths broke into the warehouse located around the Tasha area of the community in the early hours of Sunday and looted bags of maize and other grains.

“This is to clarify that the looted warehouse does not belong to NEMA.

“However, the agency sympathises with owners of the looted facility,’’ NEMA’s spokesperson, Manzo Ezekiel, stated on Sunday in Abuja.

“The Director-General, Mustapha Ahmed, has directed Zonal Directors and Heads of Operations, to strengthen security in and around NEMA offices and warehouses nationwide.

“The directive is to forestall any security breach at NEMA’s facilities across the country,’’ Ezekiel added.

 

NAN

VP Harris urges Hamas to agree to an immediate ceasefire, pushes Israel on aid to Gaza

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Sunday demanded Palestinian militant group Hamas agree to an immediate six-week ceasefire while forcefully urging Israel to do more to boost aid deliveries into Gaza, where she said innocent people were suffering a "humanitarian catastrophe."

In some of the strongest comments by a senior leader of the U.S. government to date on the issue, Harris pressed the Israeli government and outlined specific ways on how more aid can flow into the densely-populated enclave where hundreds of thousands of people are facing famine, following five months of Israel's military campaign.

"Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire," Harris said at an event in Selma, Alabama. "There is a deal on the table, and as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal. Let's get a ceasefire."

"People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane and our common humanity compels us to act...The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses," she said.

On Sunday, a Hamas delegation had arrived in Cairo for the latest round of ceasefire talks, billed by many as the final possible hurdle for a truce, but it was unclear if any progress was made. Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth's online version reported that Israel boycotted the talks after Hamas rejected its demand for a complete list naming hostages who are still alive.

Washington has insisted the ceasefire deal is close and has been pushing to put in place a truce by the start of Ramadan, a week away. A U.S. official on Saturday said Israel has agreed on a framework deal.

An agreement would bring the first extended truce of the war, which has raged for five months so far with just a week-long pause in November. Dozens of hostages held by Hamas militants would be freed in return for hundreds of Palestinian detainees.

One source briefed on the talks had said on Saturday that Israel could stay away from Cairo unless Hamas first presented its full list of hostages who are still alive. A Palestinian source told Reuters that Hamas had so far rejected that demand.

After the Hamas delegation arrived, a Palestinian official told Reuters the deal was "not yet there". There was no official comment from Israel.

In past negotiations Hamas has sought to avoid discussing the wellbeing of individual hostages until after terms for their release are set.

In other diplomatic moves, Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz will meet Harris at the White House on Monday and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on Tuesday. U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein will visit Beirut on Monday to pursue efforts to de-escalate the conflict across the Lebanese-Israeli border.

"GUNFIRE AND CHAOS"

The death last week of more than 100 Palestinians approaching an aid truck in Gaza has captured the severe humanitarian crisis in the densely-populated enclave, an incident Harris recalled during her speech.

"We saw hungry, desperate people approach aid trucks simply trying to secure food their family after weeks of barely no aid reaching northern Gaza and they were met with gunfire and chaos," Harris said.

Israel said on Sunday its initial review of the incident had found that most of those killed or wounded had died in a stampede. Military spokesman Daniel Hagari said Israeli troops at the scene initially fired only warning shots, though they later shot at some "looters" who "approached our forces and posed an immediate threat".

Muatasem Salah, a member of the Emergency Committee at the Ministry of Health in Gaza, told Reuters the Israeli account was contradicted by machine gun wounds.

In her comments, Harris laid out specific ways on how the Israeli government can allow more aid into Gaza. "They must open new border crossings. They must not impose any unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of aid. They must ensure humanitarian personnel, sites and convoys are not targeted, and they must work to restore basic services and promote order in Gaza, so more food, water and fuel can reach those in need."

Under pressure at home and abroad, the Biden administration on Saturday carried out its first airdrop of aid into the coastal enclave, with a U.S. military transport plane dropping 38,000 meals along Gaza's Mediterranean coastline.

Critics of airdrops say they have only a limited impact on the suffering, and that it is nearly impossible to ensure supplies do not end up in the hands of militants.

The United States will continue these airdrops, Harris said and added that Washington was working on a new route by sea to also send aid.

The war was unleashed in October after Hamas fighters stormed through Israeli towns killing 1,200 people and capturing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Since then, Israeli forces have killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities.

Swathes of the Gaza Strip have been laid to waste, nearly the entire population has been made homeless, and the United Nations estimates a quarter of Gazans are on the verge of famine.

At a morgue outside a Rafah hospital on Sunday morning, women wept and wailed beside rows of bodies of the Abu Anza family, 14 of whom Gaza health authorities say were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah overnight.

The youngest of the family who were killed were infant twins Wesam and Naaem, the first children of their mother after 11 years of marriage. They were born a few weeks into the Gaza war.

"My heart is gone," wailed Rania Abu Anza, who also lost her husband in the attack. "I haven't had enough time with them."

 

Reuters

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