Meet the European Jews standing against Israel’s war with Hamas

Having suffered throughout history, Jewish peace activists told Euronews Jews should identify with the oppressed and defend their rights – “whoever that oppressor may be.”

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“Only when Palestinians live in freedom and dignity will Israel have security.”

This is the “big message” of Marco. He is the spokesman for Na’amod, a movement of British Jews who oppose what they call Israel’s policies of “occupation and apartheid” in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

But Na’amod is not alone. 

Across Europe, there are a number of Jewish groups that campaign for Palestinian rights and, more recently, an end to the Israel Hamas war.

Wieland Hoban, Chairman of Germany’s Jüdische Stimme (Jewish Voice), tells Euronews such “progressive” Jews often face marginalisation from all sides. 

They can be isolated in left-wing circles, where support for Palestine sometimes veers into disregard for Jewish voices or anti-semitism. 

“Unfortunately, there is a very strong conflation of Jewish people and the state of Israel,” he explains. “It’s difficult for many people to understand why Jews would express opposition to the actions of the Israeli government.”

“But there is no inherent contradiction between being Jewish and supporting Palestinian rights,” Hoban adds. 

‘Traitors’

Yet, perhaps the strongest rejection they can face is from the Jewish community itself.

Accused of “siding with the enemy”, Hoban notes how Jüdische Stimme members have had conflicts with families and friends since fighting began in October. 

“We’re called clueless tokens, useful idiots or self-hating Jews,” he says, though suggests people mostly ignore their group because it “does not fit in with easy narratives.” 

Jewish peace activists also are frequently accused of dishonouring their ancestors who survived the Holocaust. 

However, Marco says this historical tragedy is a significant impetus for him and many other Jews to defend the rights of Palestinians.  

He tells Euronews that after the Holocaust, one reaction many Jews had was: “This shouldn’t happen to us anymore.” Based on this, they have defended Israel’s actions at all costs. 

Marco chose a different perspective, though emphises with this view. 

For him, “this type of oppression should not happen again to anyone,” he tells Euronews. “Because of our experience of oppression and suffering, we should identify with the oppressed and defend their rights – whoever that oppressor may be.” 

In December, South Africa filed a case at the International Criminal Court, alleging that Israel had perpetrated “genocidal acts” in Gaza. Israel denies this allegation. 

Two days after Hamas’ attack, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel was “fighting human animals” in Gaza. 

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Israeli politician Nissim Vaturi from the ruling Likud party previously vowed on X his country had one common goal: “erasing the Gaza Strip from the face of the earth.”

‘This isn’t holy war’

For some – including Israeli, Palestinian and Western officials – the violence in Gaza is framed as a religious war between Jews and Muslims.

But, Marco was quick to challenge the idea that the conflict was sectarian, with groups like his distorting this view. 

“Palestinians rose up against their oppressors,” he says. “Had their oppressor been Japanese, they would have risen up against the Japanese. The fact that they’re oppressed by Israelis means they rose up against Israelis.”

Still, this does not mean the war between Israel and Hamas isn’t fuelling religious hatred.

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Jüdische Stimme chairman Hoban claims the actions of the Israeli state in Gaza were fuelling anti-semitism. 

“Whenever there’s an escalation of violence by Israel, there are more anti-semitic incidents because unfortunately some people on the side of Palestine don’t really separate Israel from Jewishness.”

Anti-semitism in Europe has reached levels unseen in decades amid the latest bout of violence, while Islamophobia has also spiked. 

In this context, groups like Na’amod and Jüdische Stimme have taken a strong stance against anti-semitism. 

“Holding Jews around the world responsible for Israel’s actions is anti-semitic and should be condemned outright,” says Marco. “All people deserve to feel safe wherever they live.”

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Knowing of people killed in Hamas’ 7 October assault and having lived in a kibbutz near the villages where it happened, Marco said he could “deeply empathise” with the trauma felt by Israelis and Jews around the world. 

However, he claimed it was important to contextualise the violence. 

“Palestinians have been under occupation and apartheid for a number of decades. The 7th of October was a big loss of Jewish life and a very tragic and traumatic event… but it didn’t happen in a vacuum.

“Continuing to oppress the [Palestinian] population is not going to deliver security [for Israel] because it’s going to feed a willingness for revenge and violence,” he continues. 

Even before Israel began its military offensive against Hamas, 2023 was one of the deadliest years on record for Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.    

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Over the past year, under the leadership of the most right-wing government in its history, Israel’s military and settlers have led an escalated campaign of displacement, dispossession and violent repression against the population, notes Jewish Voice for Peace, a US-based Group. 

‘The West is complicit in everything Israel has done’

Both Na’amod and Jüdische Stimme are politically active, staging demonstrations and protest actions in the UK and Germany respectively. 

Claiming the “West is complicit in everything Israel has done” in recent decades, Marco says Na’amod wants London to end its support of the country’s war. 

An “important role” his organisation plays in this process is changing the attitudes of Britain’s Jewish community, who exert significant pressure on the government to back Israel. 

And it’s working, in part. 

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Over the decade, Marco claims more space has opened up within the mainstream Jewish community for opinions like his.

Meanwhile, since Israel began its Gaza offensive in response to Hamas’ attack which killed some 1,200 people in southern Israel, Na’amod’s membership and online following have surged.

“It’s obviously sad that it takes a tragedy like this, but we’ve seen in previous attacks on Gaza that this issue becomes much more at the forefront of people’s minds,” says Marco. “For a lot of Jews, their opinions start to shift when they see the harrowing destruction that’s being brought to Gaza.”

Both groups said one of their most important activities was creating spaces for Palestinian and Jewish voices to come together. 

“We shouldn’t let ourselves be fooled by those that say it is in the interests of Jews in Europe to defend the ethnonationalism of the Israeli state. 

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“Because if you agree with the idea that one ethnicity should dominate over others and deprive them of rights, it puts Jews and Muslims in Europe in danger as minorities.”



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Airstrikes are unlikely to deter the Houthis

Jamie Dettmer is opinion editor at POLITICO Europe.

TEL AVIV — In a preemptive bid to warn off Iran and its proxies in the wake of Hamas’ October attacks on southern Israel, United States President Joe Biden had succinctly said: “Don’t.” But his clipped admonition continues to fall on deaf ears.

As Shakespeare’s rueful King Claudius notes, “when sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.” And while exasperated Western powers now try to halt escalation in the Middle East, it is the Iran-directed battalions that are bringing them sorrows.

Raising the stakes at every turn, Tehran is carefully calibrating the aggression of its partners — Hezbollah in Lebanon, Shiite militias in Iraq and Syria, and the Houthis in the Red Sea —ratcheting up to save Hamas from being destroyed by a vengeful Israel. And out of all this needling, it is the Houthis’ more then two dozen attacks in the Red Sea that crossed the line for Western powers — enough to goad the U.S. and the United Kingdom into switching from a defensive posture to launching strikes on dozens of Houthi targets.

As far as Washington and London are concerned, Western retaliation is meant to give teeth to Biden’s October warning, conveying a clear message to Iran: Stop. But why would it?

Privately, the U.S. has reinforced its warning through diplomatic channels. And U.K. Defense Minister Grant Shapps underscored the message publicly, saying the West is “running out of patience,” and the Iranian regime must tell the Houthis and its regional proxies to “cease and desist.”

Nonetheless, it’s highly questionable whether Tehran will heed this advice. There’s nothing in the regime’s DNA to suggest it would back off. Plus, there would be no pain for Iran at the end of it all — the Houthis would be on the receiving end. In fact, Iran has every reason to persist, as it can’t afford to leave Hamas in the lurch. To do so would undermine the confidence of other Iran-backed groups, weakening its disruptive clout in the region.

Also, from Iran’s perspective, its needling strategy of fatiguing and frightening Western powers with the prospect of escalation is working. The specter of a broadening war in the Middle East is terrifying for Washington and European governments, which are beset by other problems. Better for them to press Israel to halt its military campaign in Gaza and preserve the power of Hamas — that’s what Tehran is trying to engineer.

And Iranian mullahs have every reason to think this wager will pay off. Ukraine is becoming a cautionary tale; Western resolve seems to be waning; and the U.S. Congress is mired in partisan squabbling, delaying a crucial aid package for Ukraine — one the Europeans won’t be able to make good on.

So, whose patience will run out first — the West or Iran and its proxies?

Wearing down the Houthis would be no mean feat for the U.S. and the U.K. In 2015, after the resilient Houthis had seized the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, Saudi Arabia thought it could quickly dislodge them with a bombing campaign in northern Yemen. But nearly a decade on, Riyadh is trying to extricate itself, ready to walk away if the Houthis just leave them alone.

The United Arab Emirates was more successful in the country’s south, putting boots on the ground and training local militias in places where the Houthis were already unpopular. But the U.S. and the U.K. aren’t proposing to follow the UAE model — they’ll be following the Saudi one, albeit with the much more limited goal of getting the Houthis to stop harassing commercial traffic in the Red Sea.

Moreover, Western faith in the efficacy of bombing campaigns — especially fitful ones — has proven misplaced before. Bombing campaigns failed to bring Iraq’s Saddam Hussein to heel on their own. And Iran-aligned militias in Iraq and Syria have shrugged off Western airstrikes, seeing them as badges of honor — much like the Houthis, who, ironically, were removed from the U.S. terror list by Biden in 2021. They seem to be relishing their moment in the big leagues.

War-tested, battle-hardened and agile, the Houthis are well-equipped thanks to Iran, and they can expect military replenishment from Tehran. They also have a firm grip on their territory. Like Hamas, the Houthis aren’t bothered by the death and destruction they may bring down on their people, making them particularly difficult to cajole into anything. And if the U.S. is to force the pace, it may well be dragged in deeper, as the only way to stop Iran replenishing the Houthis would be to mount a naval blockade of Yemen.

Few seasoned analysts think the Houthis will cave easily. Tom Sharpe, a former Royal Navy captain and specialist anti-air warfare officer, said he’d suggest “just walk[ing] away.”

“Make going round the Cape the new normal,” he wrote last week, albeit acknowledging he’d expect his advice to be overruled due to the global economic implications. But degrading the Houthis enough to make the Red Sea safe again, he noted, would be “difficult to do without risking a wider regional conflict in which the U.S., U.K. and friends would be seen as fighting on the Israeli side.”

And that is half the problem. Now ensnared in the raging conflict, in the eyes of many in the region, Western powers are seen as enabling the death and destruction being visited on Gaza. And as the civilian death toll in the Palestinian enclave mounts, Israel’s Western supporters are increasingly being criticized for not doing enough to restrain the country, which is determined to ensure Hamas can never repeat what it did on October 7.

Admittedly, Israel is combating a merciless foe that is heedless of the Gazan deaths caused by its actions. The more Palestinians killed, the greater the international outrage Hamas can foment, presenting itself as victim rather than aggressor. But Israel has arguably fallen into Hamas’ trap, with the mounting deaths and burgeoning humanitarian crisis now impacting opinion in the region and more widely.

A recent poll conducted for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy found that 96 percent of the broader Arab world believe Arab nations should now sever ties with Israel. And in Britain, Foreign Secretary David Cameron told a parliamentary panel he feared Israel has “taken action that might be in breach of international law.”

Meanwhile, in addition to issuing warnings to Iran, Hezbollah, and others in the Axis of Resistance to stay out of it, Biden has also cautioned Israeli leaders about wrath — urging the Israeli war Cabinet not to “repeat mistakes” made by the U.S. after 9/11.

However, according to a poll by the Israel Democracy Institute, 75 percent of Jewish Israelis think the country should ignore U.S. demands to shift to a phase of war with reduced heavy bombing in populous areas, and 57 percent support opening a second front in the north and taking the fight to Hezbollah. Additionally, Gallup has found Israelis have lost faith in a two-state solution, with 65 percent of Jewish Israelis opposing an independent Palestinian state.

So, it looks as though Israel is in no mood to relent — and doesn’t believe it can afford to.



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White House says ‘it’s the right time’ for Israel to scale back operations as fighting hits 100 days

The White House said on January 14 that “it’s the right time” for Israel to scale back its military offensive in the Gaza Strip, as Israeli leaders again vowed to press ahead with their operation against the territory’s ruling Hamas militant group.

The comments exposed the growing differences between the close allies on the 100th day of the war.

Israeli warplanes struck targets in Lebanon on Jan. 14 following a Hezbollah missile attack that killed two Israeli civilians — an older woman and her adult son — in northern Israel. The exchange of fire underscored concerns that the Gaza violence could trigger wider fighting across the region.

The war in Gaza, launched by Israel in response to the unprecedented Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, has killed nearly 24,000 Palestinians, devastated vast swaths of Gaza, driven around 85% of the territory’s 2.3 million residents from their homes and pushed a quarter of the population into starvation.

Transition to low-intensity operations: US tells Israel

Speaking on CBS, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. has been speaking to Israel “about a transition to low-intensity operations” in Gaza. “We believe it’s the right time for that transition. And we’re talking to them about doing that,” he said on Face the Nation.

Israel launched the offensive after the Hamas attack killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 250 others hostage. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead until Hamas is destroyed and all of the more than 100 hostages still in captivity are freed.

The war has sent tensions soaring across the region, with Israel trading fire almost daily with Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group and Iranian-backed militias attacking U.S. targets in Syria and Iraq. In addition, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have been targeting international shipping, drawing a wave of U.S. airstrikes last week.

Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, said his group won’t stop until a cease-fire is in place for Gaza. “We are continuing, and our front is inflicting losses on the enemy and putting pressure on displaced people,” Nasrallah said in a speech, referring to the tens of thousands of Israelis who have fled northern border areas.

Protesters mark 100 days of war

In other developments, tens of thousands of people in Europe and West Asia took to the streets on Jan. 14 to mark the 100th day of the war. Opposing demonstrations either demanded the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas or called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

In Israel, supporters of the hostages and their families wrapped up a 24-hour protest in Tel Aviv calling on the government to win their immediate release.

Late on Jan. 14, Hamas released a short video in which three Israeli hostages, presumably speaking under duress, pleaded with their government to end the war and bring them home. It was not clear when the video was taken. At the end of the clip, Hamas said it would provide an update on their fate on Jan. 15.

Hamas has released several videos of this kind, in an apparent effort to pressure Israel to agree to its demand of ending the war ahead of negotiations on a possible release of all hostages in exchange for most or all Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

The unprecedented level of death and destruction in Gaza has led South Africa to lodge allegations of genocide against Israel at the International Court of Justice. Israel denies the accusations and has vowed to press ahead with its offensive even if the court in The Hague issues an interim order for it to stop.

Israel has also been under growing international pressure to end the war in Gaza, but it has so far been shielded by U.S. diplomatic and military support. Israel argues that any cease-fire would hand victory to Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since 2007 and is bent on Israel’s destruction.

“It’s been 100 days, yet we will not stop until we win,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Jan. 14.

But differences with the Americans have begun to emerge. During a visit to the region last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken renewed his calls on Israel to do more to reduce civilian casualties and increase the supplies of desperately needed humanitarian aid entering Gaza.

In recent weeks, Israel has scaled back operations in northern Gaza, the initial target of the offensive, where weeks of airstrikes and ground operations left entire neighborhoods in ruins.

Mr. Kirby, the White House spokesman, acknowledged that Israel had taken some “precursory steps” toward scaling back the offensive. But he said there was more to do. “We’re not saying let your foot up off the gas completely and don’t keep going after Hamas,” he said. “It’s just that we believe the time is coming here very, very soon for a transition to this lower intensity phase.”

Escalation into full-blown war?

The deadly Hezbollah missile strike in northern Israel renewed concerns about a second front erupting into full-blown war. It came shortly after the Israeli army said it killed three Lebanese militants who tried to infiltrate Israel.

Late on Jan. 14, Israeli military said it had struck Lebanon in response to the missile strike. Israeli officials said a woman in her 70s and her son, in his 40s, were killed in the town of Yuval.

The army’s chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, said Israel would not tolerate attacks on civilians. “The price will be extracted not just tonight, but also in the future,” he said.

Yuval is one of more than 40 towns along Israel’s northern border evacuated by the government in October. Israeli media reported that the family stayed in the area because they work in agriculture.

Tensions have also spread to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Palestinian health officials say nearly 350 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in confrontations throughout the war.

On Jan. 14, the Israeli army said troops opened fire after a Palestinian car breached a military roadblock in the southern West Bank and an attacker fired at soldiers. Palestinian health officials said two Palestinians were killed.

Palestinian health officials said two teenage boys were killed by Israeli fire. The army said it shot them after they threw a bomb at an army base.

Israel has launched major operations against the southern city of Khan Younis and built-up refugee camps in central Gaza. “No one is able to move,” said Rami Abu Matouq, who lives in the Maghazi camp. “Warplanes, snipers and gunfire are everywhere.”

In the central town of Deir al-Balah, health officials said at least 15 people were killed in Israeli strikes on Jan. 13.

At the entrance of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, men lined up to pray for the dead, their bodies wrapped in white shrouds. The bodies were put on the back of a pickup truck before they were taken to be buried.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian TV station Al-Ghad said a cameraman was killed in an Israeli airstrike in northern Gaza. The channel said Yazan al-Zwaidi was apparently in a crowd of people at the time. Details were not immediately available, and the Israeli military had no comment.

The internet advocacy group Netblocks said communications in Gaza were still out after a 48-hour outage. The Palestinian telecommunications operator in Gaza, Jawwal, said two of its employees were killed Saturday when they were hit by a shell while fixing lines in Khan Younis.

The Gaza Health Ministry said Sunday that hospitals had received 125 bodies in the last 24 hours, bringing the overall death toll to 23,968. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants but says around two-thirds of the dead are women and minors. It says over 60,000 people have been wounded.

Israel says Hamas is responsible for the high civilian casualties, saying its fighters make use of civilian buildings and launch attacks from densely populated urban areas. The military says 189 soldiers have been killed and 1,099 wounded since the start of the ground offensive.

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More than 30 Palestinians were reported killed in Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip

More than 30 Palestinians, including young children, were killed in two Israeli airstrikes overnight into Saturday in the Gaza Strip, officials said, as concerns continued to grow over a lack of fuel and supplies for overburdened hospitals.

Video provided by Gaza’s Civil Defense department showed rescue workers searching through the twisted rubble of a home in Gaza City by flashlight early Saturday morning after it was hit by an Israeli attack.


Also Read | Israel strikes southern Gaza as Blinken in Egypt for talks

Footage showed them carrying a young girl wrapped in blankets with injuries to her face, and at least two other children who appeared dead. A boy, covered in dust, winced as he was loaded into an ambulance.

The attack on the home in the Daraj neighborhood killed at least 20 people in total, according to Civil Defense spokesperson Mahmoud Bassal.

Another strike near the southern city of Rafah on the Egyptian border killed at least 13 people, including two children. The bodies of those killed, primarily from a displaced family from central Gaza, were taken to the city’s Abu Youssef al-Najjar hospital where they were seen by an Associated Press reporter.

The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Saturday that 135 Palestinians were killed in the last 24 hours, bringing the overall toll of the war to 23,843. The count does not differentiate between combatants and civilians, but the ministry has said about two-thirds of the dead are women and children. The ministry said the total number of war-wounded surpassed 60,000.


Also Read | South Africa accuses Israel of genocide in Palestine, asks U.N. court to step in

Israel has argued Hamas is responsible for the high civilian casualties, saying its fighters make use of civilian buildings and launch attacks from densely populated urban areas.

With the war in Gaza entering its 100th day on Sunday, the World Health Organization has said only 15 of the territories’ 36 hospitals still partially functional, according to OCHA, the United Nations’ humanitarian affairs agency.

The main hospital in central Gaza, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the city of Deir al-Balah, went dark Friday morning after running out of fuel.

Staff were able to keep ventilators and incubators operating with solar-charged batteries during the day, and received a small emergency shipment of fuel from another hospital late Friday.

Fuel was expected to run out again on Saturday unless the WHO is able to deliver a promised shipment, hospital officials said. Aid deliveries were being disrupted by a renewed drop in telecommunications connectivity in much of Gaza, which began late Friday.

Israeli military vehicles drive towards Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as seen from southern Israel, January 13, 2024.
| Photo Credit:
REUTERS

In its Oct. 7 attack that sparked the war, Hamas and other militants killed some 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians. About 250 more were taken hostage, and while some have been released or confirmed dead, more than half are believed to still be in captivity.

Since the start of Israel’s ground operation in late October, 186 Israeli soldiers were killed and another 1,099 injured in Gaza, according to the military. More than 85% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million has been displaced as a result of Israel’s air and ground offensive, and vast swaths of the territory have been leveled.

Recent developments, including U.S. and British military strikes on Houthi-controlled sites in Yemen, have stoked growing fears of the war broadening into a regional conflict.


Also Read | An expanding Gaza war, with no endgame in sight 

The strikes came in response to a Houthi campaign of drone and missile attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea, which they said was in response to Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

Amid already severe shortages of food, clean water and fuel in Gaza, OCHA said in its daily report that Israel’s severe constraints on humanitarian missions and outright denials had increased since the start of the year.

The agency said only 21% of planned deliveries of food, medicine, water and other supplies have been successfully reaching northern Gaza.

“These denials paralyze the ability of humanitarian partners to respond meaningfully, consistently and at-scale to widespread humanitarian needs,” the agency said.

American and other international efforts pushing Israel to do more to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian civilians have met with little success.

At the same time, Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the territory’s main hospital that had been shut down since November, had begun partially functioning again, the WHO said Friday.

Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said his organization has delivered 9,300 liters (2,460 gallons) of fuel to Shifa, allowing a 60-person medical team to begin treating more than 1,000 patients.

The lack of adequate humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza forms part of South Africa’s case that opened this week at the International Court of Justice in The Hague accusing Israel of genocide.


Also Read | Gaza fighting rages after Israel warns war will last all year

In its complaint, South Africa argues Israel has failed to ensure that the medical needs of Palestinians are met, and accuses Israel of “ directly attacking Palestinian hospitals, ambulances and other healthcare facilities in Gaza.”

When the case opened on Thursday, South Africa called for broad provisional measures to be implemented, including asking the court to immediately order Israel to halt its offensive and to provide access to “adequate fuel, shelter, clothes, hygiene and sanitization” as well as medical supplies and assistance.

Israel’s legal team accused Hamas of using hospitals and other civilian facilities to launch attacks and shelter their fighters. Israel has argued that it is doing everything possible to protect civilians and that is has been working with hospitals to provide assistance. Israel called for a dismissal of South Africa’s case.

It was not immediately clear when a decision would be reached.

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Israeli forces bombard central Gaza in apparent move toward expanding ground offensive

Israeli forces bombarded Palestinian refugee camps in central Gaza and issued orders telling residents to evacuate the area on December 26, signs that the military plans to expand its ground offensive into a third section of the besieged territory.

The opening of a potential new battle zone threatens to bring a new wave of destruction and displacement in a war that Israel has said will last for months as it vows to crush Hamas after its October 7 attack. Israeli forces have been engaged in heavy urban fighting in northern Gaza and the southern city of Khan Younis, driving Palestinians into ever-smaller parts of the territory in search of refuge.

Despite international pressure for a cease-fire and U.S. calls for a reduction in civilian casualties, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday warned that the fight “isn’t close to finished.”

Israel’s offensive has been one of the most devastating military campaigns in recent history. More than 20,900 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children, have been killed, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, whose count doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants.

Meanwhile, there were new signs of the Israel-Hamas war enflaming tensions around the region. An Israeli airstrike in Syria killed an Iranian general, bringing vows of revenge from Iran. U.S. warplanes hit Iranian-backed militias in Iraq that had carried out a drone strike that wounded American soldiers there.

Residents of central Gaza on Tuesday described a night of shelling and airstrikes shaking the Nuseirat, Maghazi and Bureij camps. The camps are built-up towns, housing Palestinians driven from their homes in what is now Israel during the 1948 war and their descendants — and now are also crowded with people who fled the north.

“The bombing was very intense,” Radwan Abu Sheitta, a Palestinian teacher said by phone from his home in Bureij. “It seems they are approaching,” he said of Israeli troops.

In the afternoon, the Israeli military issued an order calling on residents to evacuate a belt of territory the width of central Gaza, including Bureij, urging them to move to the nearby town of Deir al-Balah. Hamas’ military arm, the Qassam Brigades, said its fighters struck two Israeli tanks east of Bureij. Its report couldn’t be independently confirmed, but it suggested Israeli forces were moving toward the camp.

Throughout the war, a constellation of Iranian-backed militia groups around the region have stepped up attacks in support of Hamas. So far, all sides have appeared to calibrate the violence to stay short of sparking an all-out conflict, but the fear is that an unexpected escalation could spiral out of control.

Iranian-backed militias in Iraq carried out a drone strike on a U.S. base in Irbil in northern Iraq on Monday, wounding three American servicemembers, one of them critically, according to U.S. officials. It was the latest in more than 100 attacks that militias have carried out on bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.

In response, American warplanes before dawn Tuesday hit three locations in Iraq connected to one of the main militias, Kataib Hezbollah.

The Israeli strike on Monday hit a neighborhood of the Syrian capital, Damascus, killing Gen. Seyed Razi Mousavi, an adviser of the Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. The strike hit as he was entering a farm reportedly used as an office of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah in the district of Sayeda Zeinab on Damascus’ outskirts, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Israel faces a “multi-arena war” from seven different fronts — Gaza and the occupied West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Iran. “We have responded and acted already on six of these fronts,” he told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Almost daily, Hezbollah and Israel exchange volleys of missiles, airstrikes and shelling across the Israeli-Lebanese border. Around 150 people have been killed on the Lebanese side, mostly fighters from Hezbollah and other groups but also 17 civilians. At least nine soldiers and four civilians have been killed on the Israeli side.

In the Red Sea, attacks by Houthi rebels in Yemen against commercial ships have disrupted trade and prompted a U.S.-led multinational naval operation to protect shipping routes.

An Israeli move into central Gaza would further shrink the area into which Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been forced to squeeze to escape the fighting. Already more than 85% of the population has been driven from their homes.

Deir al-Balah and Rafah — in the far south on the Egyptian border — have been overwhelmed with displaced people, even as Israel continues to bombard them. U.N. officials say a quarter of the population is starving under Israel’s siege, which allows only a trickle of food, water, fuel, medicine and other supplies into the territory.

A strike Tuesday hit a family home in Mawasi, a rural area in the province of Khan Younis on Gaza’s southern coastline that Israel declared a safe zone for people to take shelter. One woman was killed, and at least eight other people were wounded, according to a cameraman working for The Associated Press at the nearby hospital. There was no immediate comment by the Israeli military on the strike.

The U.N. Security Council last week called for immediately speeding up aid deliveries to Gaza. But so far there has been little concrete sign of a change in entry of aid, which the U.N. has said it struggles to distribute because many areas are cut off by fighting.

Israel has vowed to continue fighting to eliminate Hamas’ military and governing capabilities in Gaza, after the militants carried out their shock attack into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking some 240 hostage. Israel says it also aims to free the more than 100 hostages who remain in captivity in Gaza.

Israel blames Hamas for the high civilian death toll in Gaza, citing the militants’ use of crowded residential areas and tunnels. Israel says it has killed thousands of Hamas militants, without presenting evidence.

People prepare to bury Palestinians, who were killed by Israeli strikes and fire, after their bodies were released by Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at a mass grave in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on December 26, 2023
| Photo Credit:
Reuters

Israeli troops have been engaged in nearly two months of ground combat with Hamas and other militants in northern Gaza and weeks of urban fighting in Khan Younis. The battles and bombardment have leveled large swaths of both areas.

In the north, troops are focusing on the Gaza City neighborhood of Daraj Tufah, believed to be one of Hamas’ last strongholds in the area, according to reports from Israeli military correspondents, who receive briefings from army commanders.

The reports said the army is aiming to destroy an estimated 70% of Hamas infrastructure, leaving the remainder for further operations during lower intensity phases of fighting.

Still, Hamas fighters have shown a tough resilience. The Israeli military announced the deaths of two more soldiers Tuesday, bringing the total killed in the ground offensive to 158. Militants late Monday launched a barrage of rockets into Israel, triggering air raid sirens in the southern city of Ashkelon. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

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Israel-Hamas war: Hostage talks may resume after ‘mistake’ deaths

The latest developments from the Israel Hamas war.

‘Stop fighting and negotiate’ – families of hostages plead with Israeli government

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Families of hostages held in the Gaza Strip have urged the Israeli government to end the fighting and carry out negotiations for their release, more than two months after the start of the war with Hamas.

“We only recover dead bodies. We want you to stop the fighting and start negotiations, said Noam Perry, the daughter of an Israeli held in Gaza, who was one of a number of speakers at a gathering of hostage families in Tel Aviv.

Israel and Qatar could revive hostage release talks after captive deaths

Three Israeli hostages who were mistakenly shot by Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip had been waving a white flag and were shirtless when they were killed, an Israeli military official said on Saturday.

Anger over the mistaken killings is likely to increase pressure on the Israeli government to renew Qatar-mediated negotiations with Hamas over swapping more captives for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. Hamas has conditioned further releases on Israel halting its punishing air and ground campaign in Gaza, now in its 11th week.

The account of how the hostages died also raised questions about the conduct of Israeli ground troops. Palestinians on several occasions reported that Israeli soldiers opened fire as civilians tried to flee to safety.

The military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to brief reporters in line with military regulations, said it was likely that the hostages had been abandoned by their militant captors or had escaped. The soldiers’ behavior was “against our rules of engagement,” the official said, and was being investigated at the highest level.

The victims are Yotam Haïm, a 28-year-old heavy metal drummer, Samer al-Talalqa, a 25-year-old Bedouin, and Alon Lulu Shamriz, 26, the Israeli army announced, specifying that the bodies had been repatriated to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately regretted “an unbearable tragedy” which plunges “the entire State of Israel into mourning”, while in Washington the White House spoke of a “tragic error”.

Israel and Qatar will try to revive talks over the release of the remaining hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza, according to a new report.

The Wall Street Journal says David Barnea, the director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency is to meet with Qatari prime minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Norway today.

Talks are set to involve discussions on how hostages could be released in return for a ceasefire and the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, the WSJ says.

They reported, however, that the discussions will likely face “significant” roadblocks – not least disputes over the possible terms with Hamas.

As of Saturday, more than 100 hostages are still being held in Gaza.

The nation is mourning the death of the three hostages killed “by mistake” by its own soldiers in the Gaza Strip, where the army is increasing air raids despite pressure from its American ally for more restraint.

Three Israeli hostages who were said to have been “misidentified” as a “threat” were killed by soldiers operating in Shujaiya, in the northern Gaza Strip.

Shortly after the announcement, hostage families and supporters marched with photos of captives in front of the Israeli Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv to demand an immediate agreement for their release.

Hundreds of protesters marched alongside the families as they blocked main roads in the city and spilled red paint in the street – meant to symbolise the blood of hostages.

Protestors screamed “deal, now!” shouted for the release of all the hostages. The protests lasted for several hours.

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IDF to conduct four-hour ‘tactical pause’ in Rafah to allow aid in

The Israeli military – also known as the IDF – is set to conduct “tactical pauses” to allow for the replenishing of supplies in southern Gaza on Saturday.

That’s according to the Israeli office for Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

In a post on X – formerly Twitter – COGAT said the said today’s “pause” would take place in the Tel al Sultan neighborhood in Rafah, between 10am and 2pm local time.

Previous such pauses have taken place in the Al Salam and Al Shabura neighbourhoods in Rafah on Wednesday and Thursday, according to posts on COGAT’s account on X.

Communications blackout and spiralling hunger compound misery in Gaza Strip

A prolonged communications blackout that severed telephone and internet connections compounded the misery Saturday in the besieged Gaza Strip, where a United Nations agency said hunger levels had spiralled in recent days.

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Internet and telephone lines went down on Thursday evening and were still inaccessible on Saturday morning, according to internet access advocacy group NetBlocks.org.

The situation is hampering aid deliveries and rescue efforts as Israel’s war against Gaza’s ruling militant group Hamas stretches into the 11th week.

The ongoing offensive has flattened much of northern Gaza and driven 85% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million from their homes. Displaced people have squeezed into shelters mainly in the south in a spiralling humanitarian crisis.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally, has expressed unease over Israel’s failure to reduce civilian casualties and its plans for the future of Gaza, but the White House continues to offer wholehearted support with weapons shipments and diplomatic backing.

Palestinian media: ‘Dozens killed’ in Jabalia airstrikes

Palestinian media has announced that dozens of people have been killed by Israeli airstrikes in northern Gaza.

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The WAFA news agency said on Saturday that at least 14 Palestinians died after two houses in Jabalia city – some 4km north of Gaza city – were hit.

WAFA added that dozens more had died in a separate airstrike that hit another home in the area, while adding that a number of civilians were trapped under rubble.

It has not yet been possible to independently verify the reports but the claims come following Friday’s meeting between the US and Israel, where the US put pressure on Israel to scale down its war against Hamas in the near future.

Al Jazeera condemns Israel over journalist death

Dozens of journalists have attended the funeral of a cameraman for Al Jazeera.

Samer Abudaqa was killed and another colleague injured in an Israeli strike in the Gaza Strip on Friday, the Qatari-based channel reported.

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“It is with heavy hearts that we share the devastating news of the loss of our dedicated Al Jazeera cameraman, Samer Abudaqa,” Mohamed Moawad, an editor at the channel, wrote.

Al Jazeera previously reported that its Gaza bureau chief, Wael Dahdouh, and Abu Daqa, were injured at a school in Khan Younes “following what is believed to be an attack by Israeli drone”.

In a statement on their website, the broadcaster wrote: “Al Jazeera Media Network condemns in the strongest terms the Israeli drone attack on a Gaza school that resulted in the killing of cameraman Samer Abudaqa.”

“The Network holds Israel accountable for systematically targeting and killing Al Jazeera journalists and their families.”

AbuDaqa’s body was carried through the crowd to Khan Younis, before being buried in a hole dug by colleagues.

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“Working in the press is dangerous,” lamented the journalist’s mother, Oum Maher Abou Daqa, accusing Israel of targeting “journalists, particularly those who work for Al Jazeera.”

Asked by the AFP, the Israeli army assured that it never “deliberately targets journalists” and takes “all possible operational measures to protect civilians and journalists”.

Nevertheless, more than 60 journalists and media workers, mostly Gazans, have died since the start of the war between Hamas and Israel on 7 October, according to the Committee for the Protection of Journalists.

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Israeli military says it mistakenly killed three Israeli hostages in Gaza

Israeli troops on December 15 mistakenly shot to death three hostages in a battle-torn neighborhood of Gaza City, and an Israeli strike killed a Palestinian journalist in the south of besieged territory.

The deaths underscored the ferocity of Israel’s more than two-month-old onslaught in Gaza, as a U.S. envoy was trying to persuade the Israelis to scale back their campaign sooner rather than later.

Editorial | Principled shift: On India’s stand on Gaza 

The hostages were killed in the Gaza City area of Shijaiyah, where troops have been engaged in fierce fighting with Hamas militants in recent days. The soldiers mistakenly identified the three Israelis as a threat and opened fire on them, said the army’s chief spokesman, Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari.

He said it was believed that the three had either fled their captors or been abandoned.

“Perhaps in the last few days, or over the past day, we still don’t know all the details, they reached this area,” Hagari said. He said the army expressed “deep sorrow” and was investigating.

Hamas and other militants abducted more than 240 people in their Oct. 7 attack that triggered the war, and the hostages’ plight has dominated public discourse ever since. Their families have led a powerful public campaign calling on the government to do more to bring them home.

Demonstrations in solidarity with the hostages and their families take place nearly every day. Israeli political and military leaders often say freeing all the hostages is their top aim in the war alongside destroying Hamas.

People use bullhorns as they protest following an announcement by Israel’s military that they had mistakenly killed three Israeli hostages being held in Gaza by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel, on December 15, 2023.
| Photo Credit:
Reuters

Still, in seven weeks since ground troops pushed into northern Gaza, troops have not rescued any hostages, though they freed one early in the conflict and have found the bodies of several. Hamas released over 100 in swaps for Palestinian prisoners last month, and more than 130 are believed to still be in captivity.

The three hostages were identified as three young men who had been abducted from Israeli communities near the Gaza border — 28-year-old Yotam Haim, 25-year-old Samer Al-Talalka and 26-year-old Alon Shamriz.

Mr. Netanyahu called their deaths an “unbearable tragedy” vowing to continue “with a supreme effort to return all the hostages home safely.”

Israeli strike on school kills Al Jazeera cameraman 

In southern Gaza, the Al Jazeera television network said an Israeli strike Friday in the city of Khan Younis killed cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa and wounded its chief correspondent in Gaza, Wael Dahdouh. The two were reporting at a school that had been hit by an earlier airstrike when a drone launched a second strike, the network said.

Speaking from a hospital bed, Mr. Dahdouh told the network that he managed to walk to an ambulance. But Abu Daqqa lay bleeding in the school and died hours later. An ambulance tried to reach the school to evacuate him but had to turn back because roads were blocked by the rubble of destroyed houses, it said.

Mr. Dahdouh, a veteran of covering Israel-Gaza wars whose wife and children were killed by an Israeli strike earlier in the war, was wounded by shrapnel in his right arm.

Before Abu Daqqa’s death, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported at least 63 journalists killed in the war, including 56 Palestinians, four Israelis and three Lebanese.

Israel’s offensive, triggered by the unprecedented Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, has flattened much of northern Gaza and driven 80% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million from their homes. Displaced people have squeezed into shelters mainly in the south in a spiraling humanitarian crisis.

It has killed more than 18,700 Palestinians, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza. Thousands more are missing and feared dead beneath the rubble. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths. Its latest count did not specify how many were women and minors, but they have consistently made up around two-thirds of the dead in previous tallies.

While battered by the Israeli onslaught, Hamas has continued its attacks. On Friday, it fired rockets from Gaza toward central Israel, setting off sirens in Jerusalem for the first time in weeks but causing no injuries. The group’s resilience called into question whether Israel can defeat it without wiping out the entire territory.

Israelis remain strongly supportive of the war and see it as necessary to prevent a repeat of the Hamas attack, in which militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians. A total of 116 soldiers have been killed in the ground offensive, which began Oct. 27.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has expressed unease over Israel’s failure to reduce civilian casualties and its plans for the future of Gaza, but the White House continues to offer wholehearted support for Israel with weapons shipments and diplomatic backing.

Israeli airstrikes and tank shelling continued Friday, including in the city of Khan Younis — the main target of Israel’s ground offensive in the south — and in Rafah, which is part of the shrinking areas of tiny, densely populated Gaza to which Palestinian civilians have been told by Israel to evacuate. Details on many of the strikes could not be confirmed because communications services have been down across Gaza since late Thursday because of fighting.

In meetings with Israeli leaders on Thursday and Friday, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan discussed a timetable for winding down the intense combat phase of the war.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told Sullivan that it would take months to destroy Hamas, but he did not say whether his estimate referred to the current phase of heavy airstrikes and ground battles.

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“There is no contradiction between saying the fight is going to take months and also saying that different phases will take place at different times over those months, including the transition from the high-intensity operations to more targeted operations,” Sullivan said Friday.

Sullivan also met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss Gaza’s postwar future. A senior U.S. official said one idea being floated is to bring back Palestinian security forces driven from their jobs in Gaza by Hamas in its 2007 takeover.

Any role for Palestinian security forces in Gaza is bound to elicit strong opposition from Israel, which seeks to maintain an open-ended security presence there. Netanyahu has said he will not allow a postwar foothold for the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The U.S. has said it eventually wants to see the West Bank and Gaza under a “ revitalized Palestinian Authority “ as a precursor to a Palestinian state — an idea soundly rejected by Netanyahu, who leads a right-wing government that is opposed to Palestinian statehood.

Palestinian officials have said they will consider a postwar role in Gaza only in the context of concrete U.S.-backed steps toward statehood.

In the meeting, Abbas called for an immediate cease-fire and ramped-up aid to Gaza, and emphasized that Gaza is an integral part of the Palestinian state, according to a statement from his office. It made no mention of conversations about postwar scenarios.

The 88-year-old Abbas is deeply unpopular, with a poll published Wednesday indicating close to 90% of Palestinians want him to resign. Meanwhile, Palestinian support for Hamas has tripled in the West Bank, with a small uptick in Gaza, according to the poll. Still, a majority of Palestinians do not back Hamas, according to the survey.

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Israel-Hamas war: UNRWA calls Gaza ‘hell on earth’ as fighting goes on

The latest developments from the Israel-Hamas war.

Hamas: No hostage will leave Gaza ‘alive’ without ‘negotiations’

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Abu Obeida, the spokesperson for Hamas’s Qassam Brigades has announced that Israeli captives, taken during the attack on 7 October, will not be released by military force.

“We tell the Israelis that Netanyahu, Gallant, and others in the war cabinet cannot bring back their captives without negotiations. The latest killing of a captive they tried to take back by force proves that,” he said in a pre-recorded video message.

Gaza health ministry: 18,000 Palestinians killed since start of war

The Hamas-led Gaza health ministry has announced that some 18,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war broke out on 7 October.

That number is up from the figure of 17,700 reported yesterday.

The health ministry recorded a further 297 deaths and more than 550 injuries over the past 24 hours.

The ministry also added a total of 49,500 people have been injured since the start of the conflict.

The figures have not been independently verified. Israeli officials repeatedly say they believe the number to be significantly lower, accusing Hamas of inflating estimates.

Thousands of Moroccans take to the streets to denounce Gaza ‘genocide’

Several thousand of Moroccans have taken to the streets of Rabat, demonstrating to denounce a “genocide” in Gaza and demand a break in relations with Israel.

A large crowd marched in the centre of the capital, behind a large banner declaring “against the Holocaust in Gaza” and for “repealing normalisation”.

Since the end of 2020, the kingdom has established all-out relations with Israel in return for the recognition by the United States of Morocco’s sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

Waving Palestinian flags and wearing keffiyehs, demonstrators marched against “war crimes and genocide” in Gaza at the call of the “national action group for Palestine”, bringing together left-wing groups and the Islamist Party of justice and development.

UN: Food ‘used as weapon of war’ in Gaza

UNRWA’s commissioner general Philippe Lazzarini has claimed that, in Gaza, “humanitarian aid has been made conditional. Humanitarian assistance is withheld or delivered according to political and military agendas to which the United Nations is not privy”.

The head of the UN agency providing relief to Palestinian refugees was writing an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times.

He added that “food, water and fuel are being systematically used as weapons of war in Gaza, as is disinformation”.

“Attacking and trying to discredit humanitarian organisations such as [UNRWA] is yet another means of waging war and compromising the humanitarian response, further weakening the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure,” Lazzarini added.

In the article, he also wrote that “humanitarian aid is a strategic dimension of foreign policy and diplomatic competition – an instrument of power and war.  In Gaza, humanitarian assistance is being manipulated to serve political and military objectives, another breach among many in this war”.

Netanyahu expresses ‘dissatisfaction’ to Putin over Russian vote at UN

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his “dissatisfaction” to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday after Russia voted in favour of a ceasefire between Palestinian Hamas and Israel in Gaza at the UN Security Council.

“The Prime Minister expressed his dissatisfaction with the anti-Israel positions adopted by Russian delegates at the UN and other forums,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said, following a telephone conversation between the two leaders. 

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The statement also added that Netanyahu “strongly criticised the dangerous cooperation between Russia and Iran”.

The comments come as Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, says “Hamas attacks do not justify punishment of Palestinian people”.

Saying it is not acceptable for Israel to use Hamas’s attack on 7 October as justification for the collective punishment of the Palestinian people, he added that the offensive “did not happen in a vacuum”.

He also renewed calls for international monitoring on the ground in Gaza.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has blamed the war between Israel and Hamas on the apparent failure of years of US diplomacy in the Middle East on a frequent basis.

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Experts say he’s keen to position Russia as an important player within the region.

Guterres deplores UN ‘paralysis’ over Gaza

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has deplored the “paralysis” of the United Nations in the face of the war between Israel and Palestinian Hamas in the Gaza Strip, saying he regretted that the Security Council had not voted in favour of a ceasefire.

Speaking at the Doha Forum in Qatar, Guterres said the Security Council was “paralysed by geostrategic divisions”, thus compromising its ability to find solutions to the war.

“The authority and credibility of the Security Council have been seriously compromised” by its late response to the conflict, a damage to its reputation aggravated by the veto opposed Friday by the United States to a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, he said.

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The draft resolution was prepared after the UN Secretary General’s unprecedented invocation of Article 99 of the United Nations Charter, allowing him to draw the attention of the Security Council to a matter which “could endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.

“I reiterated my call to declare a humanitarian ceasefire… unfortunately, the Security Council failed to do so,” Guterres said, adding, “I can promise that I will not give up.”

The Americans, the closest allies of Israel, reiterated their hostility to a cease-fire on Friday.

“We are at serious risk of the collapse of the humanitarian system,” Guterres also warned at the Doha forum.

“The situation is rapidly evolving into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for the Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region.”

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War in Gaza is having ‘catastrophic’ impact on health – WHO boss

The war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas is having a “catastrophic” impact on health, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organisation (WHO), has said.

“The impact of the conflict on health is catastrophic” and health workers are “doing their best in unimaginable conditions”, he said, at the opening of a special WHO meeting on sanitary conditions in the Palestinian territories.

Fighting ramps up further still as US lends support

Heavy fighting raged into Sunday in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, as Israel pressed ahead with its offensive after the US blocked the latest international efforts to halt the fighting and rushed more munitions to its close ally.

Israel has faced rising international outrage and calls for a cease-fire after the killing of thousands of Palestinian civilians and the displacement of nearly 85% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people within the besieged territory, where UN agencies say there is no safe place to flee.

The United States has lent vital support to the offensive once again in recent days, by vetoing United Nations Security Council efforts to end the fighting that enjoyed wide international support. They have also pushed through an emergency sale of over $100 million (€93m) worth of tank ammunition to Israel.

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The US has pledged unwavering support for Israel’s goal of crushing Hamas’ military and governing abilities in order to prevent any repeat of the 7 October attack that triggered the war.

Israeli forces continue to face heavy resistance, even in northern Gaza, where entire neighbourhoods have been flattened by air strikes and where troops have been operating for over six weeks.

In Khan Younis, where ground forces moved in earlier this month, residents said they heard constant gunfire and explosions through the night as warplanes bombarded areas in and around the southern city, Gaza’s second largest.

Situation in Gaza ‘hell on earth’ – UNRWA chief

Speaking at the Doha Forum currently taking place in Qatar, the head of the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has called for an urgent humanitarian ceasefire while decrying the devastating humanitarian toll in Gaza. He also warned that the region is akin to “hell on earth”.

“By any description, it is definitely the worst situation I have ever seen,” Philippe Lazzarini said.

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“People are coming to the UN to seek protection, but even the blue flag is not protected anymore. By any account, the situation has reached a catastrophic nature,” he added.

Lazzarini said the world has failed the Palestinian people, also warning that the UNRWA is on the verge of collapse in Gaza..

Nowhere safe for Gazans to go?

Israel ordered the evacuation of the northern third of the territory, including Gaza City, early in the war, but tens of thousands of people are believed to have remained there, fearing that the south would be no safer or that they would never be allowed to return to their homes.

With the war in its third month, the Palestinian death toll in Gaza has surpassed 17,700, the majority women and children, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for civilian casualties, saying it uses civilians as human shields in dense residential areas. The military says 97 Israeli soldiers have died in the ground offensive. Palestinian militants have also continued firing rockets into Israel.

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Israel says it has provided detailed instructions for civilians to evacuate to safer areas, even as it continues to strike what it says are militant targets in all parts of the territory. Thousands have fled to the southern town of Rafah and other areas along the border with Egypt in recent days – one of the last areas where aid agencies are able to deliver food and water.

Israel has designated a narrow patch of barren southern coastline, Muwasi, as a safe zone. But Palestinians described desperately overcrowded conditions with scant shelter and no toilets. They faced an overnight temperature of around 11 degrees Celsius (52 degrees Fahrenheit).

Alleged antisemitic attack in New York sees Shtreimel stolen from Jewish man

A neighbourhood watch group – Boro Park Shomrim – in New York city has released footage appearing to show a motorcyclist snatching and stealing a shtreimel hat from a Hasidic man in Brooklyn, a district of New York City.

The group alleged the attack was an antisemitic incident and urge anyone with information to get in touch with the local police force.

Detentions of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers increase

In recent days, videos and photos have emerged showing the detention of dozens of men who were stripped to their underwear, bound and blindfolded. The Israeli military says it is detaining people as it searches for remaining pockets of Hamas fighters.

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Israel’s Channel 13 TV broadcast footage showing dozens of detainees stripped to their underwear with their hands in the air. Several held assault rifles above their heads, and one man could be seen slowly walking forward and placing a gun on the ground before returning to the group. Israeli media pointed to such scenes as evidence that Hamas was collapsing in the north.

Men from a separate group of detainees who were released on Saturday told The Associated Press they had been beaten and denied food and water.

Osama Oula said Israeli troops had ordered him and others out of a building in Gaza City before bounding their hands with zip ties, beating them for several days and giving them little water to drink. Ahmad Nimr Salman showed his hands, marked and swollen from the zip ties.

He said the troops asked if they were with Hamas. “We say ‘no,’ then they would slap us or kick us.” He said his 17-year-old son Amjad is still held by the troops.

The group was released after five days and told to walk south. Ten freed detainees arrived at a hospital in Deir al-Balah on Saturday after flagging down an ambulance. The Israeli military had no comment when asked about the alleged abuse.

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Israel-Hamas war: Gaza death toll rises as US ceasefire veto condemned

The latest developments from the Israel-Hamas war.

Gaza death toll rises to 17,700 with a further 48,780 wounded

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The health ministry in Gaza has announced that the death toll in the war-torn region has risen to at least 17,700.

They added that at least another 48,780 people have been wounded in ongoing Israeli attacks.

“The crimes and genocide against the people of Gaza are beyond any description… Ending Palestinian existence with American and European support is inhuman,” the ministry’s spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

UN aid official warns that half of all Gazans are starving

A senior UN aid official has indicated that the food and aid issues are getting significantly worse in Gaza.

Carl Skau, the deputy director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), warned during an interview with Reuters that some nine out of 10 people in the Palestinian territory are not able to eat every day – and added that half the population is starving.

In the interview, Skau explained that nothing had prepared him for the despair, chaos and fear he found when visiting Gaza.

He added that conditions on the ground are making deliveries near impossible and that just a tiny fraction of the food supplies needed are coming into the region.

Tens of thousands take to London’s street to protest war

For the eighth week in a row, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets of the UK, protesting against Israel’s war on Gaza in London and other cities in the nation.

Most are chanting ‘ceasefire now’ and the majority of the grounds are angry with the government, moreso still since they abstain from voting at the UN Security Council on an immediate ceasefire.

Hamas hostage killed – Haaretz report

It has been reported that Hamas hostage Sahar Baruch has been killed.

The 25-year-old was among the hostages kidnapped by the Hamas militant group on 7 October.

In a joint statement issued to Haaretz, Kibbutz Be’eri and the Hostages and Missing Families Forum said: “It is with great sadness and a broken heart that we announce the murder of Sahar Baruch who was kidnapped from his home by Hamas terrorists to Gaza on Black Saturday and murdered there”

“His brother Idan was murdered by Hamas on 7 October. We share in the unbearable grief of his parents, Tami and Roni, his brother, Guy and Niv, his family and all his loved ones,” they added.

“We will demand the return of his body as part of any hostage return deal. We will not stop until everyone is at home.”

The death comes following Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades announcing on Friday via Telegram that a number of its fighters had discovered a special forces unit mounting a rescue attempt and attacked it.

In the process, they say they killed and wounded several soldiers, including one Israeli soldier – named as Sahar Baruch.

Man arrested at pro-Palestine march in London, accused of racially aggravated public order offence

A man has been arrested in London on suspicion of an apparently racially aggravated public order offence during a pro-Palestine march in the capital city.

London’s Metropolitan police force say the man was carrying a placard which made comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany.

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Thousands are expected to attend the march in the city. An exclusion zone has been put in place prohibiting any protesters from assembling around the Israeli embassy.

UN veto: Abbas holds US ‘responsible for bloodshed’ in Gaza

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said that he holds the United States “responsible for the bloodshed” in Gaza, after their veto of a UN resolution for a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel in the Palestinian territory.

The Americans, allies of Israel, reiterated their hostility to a cease-fire on Friday.

Describing the American position as “immoral”, President Abbas said he held Washington “responsible for the bloodshed of Palestinian children, women and elderly people in the Gaza Strip at the hands of Israeli occupying forces.”

According to a statement from his office, the United States is “partners” with Israel in its “crimes of genocide, ethnic cleansing and war”, whether committed in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.

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“This policy is becoming a danger for the world and a threat to international security and peace,” added Mr. Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank, a Palestinian territory occupied since 1967 by Israel.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh had already described the failure at the UN as a “shame” and “a new licence given to the occupying state to massacre, destroy and displace”.

Palestinian death toll rises to 17,487

Gaza’s Hamas-controlled health ministry has announced that the death toll from the start of the conflict on 7 October has risen to 17,487.

In a statement, spokesman Dr Ashraf Al-Qedra said that 70% of those killed were children and women.

Al-Qedra added that in the past 24 hours 71 fatalities had arrived at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.

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Arab-Islamic committee calls on US to step up ceasefire pressure on Israel

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met with the Arab-Islamic Summit Ministerial Committee in Washington DC.

Qatar’s ministry of foreign affairs says the Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani were also in attendance.

“During the session… members of the ministerial committee stressed their call for the United States to play a broader role in pressuring the Israeli occupation for an immediate ceasefire,” the ministry said in a statement on X – formerly Twitter.

It also added that members of the committee also expressed “their disappointment at the failure of the UN Security Council, for the second time, to vote on a resolution for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip for humanitarian reasons, after the United States used its veto power.”

‘Relentless’ bombardments hit Gaza Strip

Israeli warplanes struck parts of the Gaza Strip overnight into Saturday in relentless bombardments, including some of the dwindling slivers of land Palestinians had been told to evacuate to in the territory’s south.

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The latest strikes came a day after the United States vetoed a United Nations resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, despite it being backed by the vast majority of Security Council members and many other nations. The vote in the 15-member council was 13-1, with the United Kingdom abstaining.

“Attacks from air, land and sea are intense, continuous and widespread,” UN

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said before the vote. Gaza residents “are being told to move like human pinballs – ricocheting between ever-smaller slivers of the south, without any of the basics for survival.”

Guterres told the council that Gaza was at “a breaking point” with the humanitarian support system at risk of total collapse, and that he feared “the consequences could be devastating for the security of the entire region.”

In response to the US vetoing the resolution, Hamas branded the nation’s decision ‘inhumane’.

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No escape for many Palestinians

Gaza’s borders with Israel and with Egypt are effectively sealed, leaving Palestinians with no option other than to try to seek refuge within the territory.

The overall death toll in Gaza since the start of the war has surpassed 17,400, the majority of them women and children, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-controlled Gaza, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for civilian casualties, accusing the militants of using civilians as human shields, and says it’s made considerable efforts with its evacuation orders to get civilians out of harm’s way.

On Saturday, Gaza residents reported airstrikes and shelling in the northern part of the strip as well as in the south, including the city of Rafah, which lies near the Egyptian border and where the Israeli army had ordered civilians to evacuate to.

The main hospital in the central city of Deir al-Balah received the bodies of 71 people killed in bombings in the area over the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Saturday morning. The hospital also received 160 wounded, the ministry said. In the southern city of Khan Younis, the bodies of 62 people and another 99 wounded were taken to Nasser Hospital over the past 24 hours, the ministry said.

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Why has there been no ceasefire – or renewed truce agreement?

More than 2,200 Palestinians have been killed since the collapse of the truce on 1 December.

About two-thirds of that number were women and children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

Despite growing international pressure, the Biden administration remains opposed to an open-ended cease-fire, arguing it would enable Hamas to survive and pose a threat to Israel.

Officials have expressed misgivings in recent days about the rising civilian death toll and dire humanitarian crisis, but have not pushed publicly for Israel to wind down the war, now in its third month.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has argued a cease-fire would be a victory for Hamas. “A cease-fire is handing a prize to Hamas, dismissing the hostages held in Gaza, and signalling terror groups everywhere,” he said.

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As fighting resumed after a brief truce more than a week ago, the US urged Israel to do more to protect civilians and allow more aid to besieged Gaza. The appeals came as Israel expanded its blistering air and ground campaign into southern Gaza, especially the southern city of Khan Younis, sending tens of thousands more fleeing.

Airstrikes were reported overnight in the Nuseirat refugee camp, where resident Omar Abu Moghazi said a strike hit a family home, causing casualties.

There were also airstrikes and shelling in Gaza City and other northern parts of the strip.

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Israel Hamas war: Israel widens evacuation orders as strikes intensify

The latest developments from the Israel-Hamas war.

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Israel’s military has ordered more areas in and around Gaza’s second-largest city of Khan Younis to evacuate, as it shifted its offensive to the southern half of the territory where it says many Hamas leaders are hiding.

Heavy bombardments were reported overnight and into Sunday in the area of Khan Younis and the southern city of Rafah, as well as parts of the north that had previously been the focus of Israel’s blistering air and ground campaign.

Many of the territory’s 2.3 million people are crammed into the south after Israeli forces ordered civilians to leave the north in the early days of the 2-month-old war.

With the resumption of fighting, hopes have receded that another temporary truce could be negotiated. A weeklong cease-fire, which expired on Friday, had facilitated the release of dozens of Gaza-held Israeli and foreign hostages and Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

“We will continue the war until we achieve all its goals, and it’s impossible to achieve those goals without the ground operation,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in an address on Saturday night.

UK to carry out flights over Gaza to locate hostages

The United Kingdom will carry out surveillance flights over Israel and Gaza to help locate hostages held by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, the British Ministry of Defence has announced.

“Since the terrorist attacks on Israel on 7 October 2023, the British government has been working with partners across the region to secure the release of hostages, including British nationals, who were kidnapped,” the ministry wrote in a statement.

“The safety of British nationals is our top priority,” it adds.

“To support hostage rescue operations, the UK Ministry of Defense will carry out surveillance flights over the Eastern Mediterranean, including airspace over Israel and Gaza,” the statement said.

These planes “will not be armed” and “will not have a combat role”. Their sole mission will be to locate the hostages. “Only information relating to the release of hostages will be transmitted to the competent authorities responsible for the release of hostages.”

Some 240 people were kidnapped on 7 October during Hamas’ unprecedented deadly attack in southern Israel, then taken to the Gaza Strip.

A seven-day truce allowed the release of around a hundred hostages in the hands of Hamas and 240 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

But nearly 140 people are still detained in the Gaza Strip, according to Israeli authorities.

Evacuation orders step up

On Sunday, the Israeli military widened evacuation orders in and around Khan Younis, asking residents of at least five more areas and neighbourhoods to leave for their safety.

Residents said the Israeli military dropped leaflets ordering residents to move south to Rafah or to a coastal area in the southwest.

“Khan Younis city is a dangerous combat zone,” the leaflets read.

UN monitors said in a report issued before the latest evacuation orders that the residents who were told to leave make up about one-quarter of the territory of Gaza. The report said that these areas were home to nearly 800,000 people before the war.

Ahead of a resumption of fighting, the United States, Israel’s closest ally, had warned Israel to avoid significant new mass displacement.

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New targets hit by IDF

The Israeli military said on Sunday that its fighter jets and helicopters “struck terror targets in the Gaza Strip, including terror tunnel shafts, command centres and weapons storage facilities” overnight, while a drone killed five Hamas fighters.

In northern Gaza, rescue teams with little equipment scrambled Sunday to dig through the rubble of buildings in the Jabaliya refugee camp and other neighbourhoods in Gaza City in search for potential survivors and dead bodies.

“They strike everywhere,” said Amal Radwan, a woman sheltering in Jabaliya, an urban refugee camp. “There is the non-stop sound of explosions around us.”

Mohamed Abu Abed, who lives in the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in Gaza City, also said there were relentless airstrikes and artillery shelling in his neighbourhood and surrounding areas.

“The situation here is imaginable,” he said. “Death is everywhere. One can die in a flash.”

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US Vice President condemns death toll rise

The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said Saturday that the overall death toll in the strip since the 7 October start of the war had surpassed 15,200 – a sharp jump from the previous count of more than 13,300 on 20 November.

The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths, but it said 70% of the dead were women and children. It said more than 40,000 people had been wounded since the war began.

US appeals to protect civilians came after an offensive in the first weeks of the war devastated large areas of northern Gaza.

The territory itself, bordering Israel and Egypt to the south, is sealed, leaving residents with the only option of moving around within Gaza to avoid the bombings.

“Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed. Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering and the images and videos coming from Gaza are devastating,” US Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters on Saturday during the COP28 climate conference in Dubai.

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Mark Regev, a senior adviser to Netanyahu, said Israel was making “maximum effort” to protect civilians and the military has used leaflets, phone calls, and radio and TV broadcasts to urge Gazans to move from specific areas. He added that Israel is considering creating a security buffer zone that would not allow Gazans direct access to the border fence on foot.

Israel say they are targeting Hamas hideouts, allegedly among civilians

Israel says it targets Hamas operatives and blames civilian casualties on the militants, accusing them of operating in residential neighbourhoods. It claims to have killed thousands of militants, without providing evidence. Israel says at least 78 of its soldiers have been killed in the offensive in northern Gaza.

Bombardments on Saturday destroyed a block of about 50 residential buildings in the Shijaiyah neighbourhood of Gaza City and a six-story building in the urban refugee camp of Jabaliya on the northern edge of the city, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

More than 60 people were killed in the Shijaiyah strikes and more than 300 buried under the rubble, the monitors said, citing the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Mahmoud Bassal, a spokesman for Gaza’s Civil Defense, said rescuers lack bulldozers and other equipment to reach those buried under the rubble, confirming the Red Crescent estimate of about 300 people missing. He said the block had housed over 1,000 people.

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“Retrieving the martyrs is extremely difficult,” he said in video comments from the site of the attack.

Meanwhile, Kamala Harris told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in a meeting that “under no circumstances” would the US permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, an ongoing siege of Gaza or the redrawing of its borders, according to a US summary.

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