Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Israel-Palestine conflict LIVE: Gaza death toll tops 17,000

Palestinian group, Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, has announced the start of military the operation Al-Aqsa Flood against Israel. Thousands of rockets have been fired from the blockaded enclave towards the occupied territories as far away as Tel Aviv, killing over 1,200 Israelis, including both military and settlers. More than 16,200 Palestinians have been so far killed in an exchange of fire between the two sides.

Gaza death toll surpasses 17,000

The total number of Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks since 7 October is now 17,177, Gaza’s health ministry said on Thursday, with the majority of those killed women and children.

More than 46,000 Palestinians have been wounded, it added.

Only in the last 24 hours at least 350 have been killed by Israeli strikes.

International community ‘complicit’ in destruction of Gaza: Oxfam

Israel’s two-month war on Gaza is “causing destruction, danger, and civilian terror and suffering at such a scale that makes any humanitarian response impossible across the entire enclave”, the charity has announced in a statement.

It also criticised the international community and in particular, Israel’s state supporters, for watching on as the “nightmare” unfolded.

“Our political leaders are failing – in abject weakness – to forge a ceasefire, which is the only possible humanitarian action that now really matters,” stated Marta Valdes Garcia, Oxfam’s humanitarian director.

Israeli strikes on journalist in Lebanon might be a ‘war crime’: Amnesty International

Israeli strikes on a group of seven journalists in south Lebanon on 13 October should be investigated as a “war crime”, Amnesty International announced on Thursday.

The Israeli strike killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and injured six others, and was “likely a direct attack on civilians” said Amnesty International, adding that its findings “indicate that the group was visibly identifiable as journalists and that the Israeli military knew or should have known that they were civilians yet attacked them anyway in two separate strikes 37 seconds apart.

“Those responsible for Issam Abdallah’s unlawful killing and the injuring of six other journalists must be held accountable. No journalist should ever be targeted or killed simply for carrying out their work. Israel must not be allowed to kill and attack journalists with impunity. There must be an independent and impartial investigation into this deadly attack,” noted Amnesty International.

Israel has declared an ‘unrelenting war’ on Gaza’s health system: UN

Tlaleng Mofokeng, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, stated the “practice of medicine is under attack” in Gaza.

“As a practising medical doctor, I cannot fathom what my Gazan colleagues are enduring. They are working while their colleagues and loved ones are under attack. Many have been killed while treating their patients,” Mofokeng said in a statement.

The UN expert also reiterated her calls for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the occupation of Palestinian territory.

“We bear witness to a shameful war on healthcare workers. This war is raging because of a lack of political leadership. End the war on Gaza, and end it now,” Mofokeng added.

Egypt says it will not permit the depopulation of the Gaza Strip

The head of the Egyptian State Information Service, Diaa Rashwan, says his country will never allow the Gaza Strip to be emptied of its population, and stressed Cairo’s continuing cooperation with partners on working to accelerate the transfer of humanitarian and relief aid to the Strip.

In a statement, Rashwan stated that the Rafah border crossing is “permanently opened” by Egypt and that any obstacles at the crossing come from the Israeli side.

Since October 7, the border crossing has seen 3,313 trucks of food, fuel and relief supplies entering the Gaza Strip, and the evacuation of 11,670 foreign nationals and 682 wounded Palestinians.

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators block off multiple UK weapon factories

Protesters in the United Kingdom have blocked entrances at four weapon factories that provide Israel with weapons and supplies, activist group Workers for a Free Palestine said on social media Thursday.

“Over 1000 trade unionists at multiple sites across Britain are blockading arms factories that are supplying arms to Israel!” the group said on social media platform X.
“Today trade unionists have shut down 4 sites in Britain which produce components for the F-35 fighter jet currently being used in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza,” it added.

Dozens of demonstrators with Palestinian flags are staging the blockades at the BAE Systems factory in Glasgow, the L3Harris factory in Brighton and at sites in Bournemouth and Lancashire.

They are also calling for the British government to back a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

The UK is a key supplier for Israel’s military, providing 15% of the components for Israel’s F-35 fighter jets, according to a reported published by UK-based organization Campaign Against Arm Trade (CAAT) on October 17.

The total value of these contracts is estimated to be $422 million (£336 million) since 2016, according to CAAT.

US told Israel not to respond to Houthi drones: Report

The US told Israel not to respond to missile and drone attacks from the Houthis in Yemen, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

Houthi forces have been firing drones and ballistic missiles at Israel for weeks.

The US has told Israel to let the American military respond to the Houthis, instead of risking an Israeli response that could expand the conflict, US and other government officials stated, according to the WSJ.

UK defense minister to visit Israel and West Bank in push for Gaza aid

UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps will visit “Israel and the occupied West Bank” this week in a push for “humanitarian aid” to be delivered quicker to war-torn Gaza, the British government said Thursday.

In a news release, the government added Shapps will discuss delivering aid by sea directly to the strip during upcoming talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

“We are working to find the best way to get aid and support to those in desperate need in the quickest and most direct route. That includes options by land, sea and air,” Shapps stated.

Four Royal Air Force flights carrying more than 74 metric tons of aid for Palestinians have landed in Egypt, the release added.

Shapps is also expected to discuss progress on recovering hostages, including several Britons who were taken by Hamas in the October 7 attack.

Dozens killed in Gaza in early morning Israeli strikes

Dozens of Palestinian civilians, including women and children, have been killed at dawn on Thursday in ongoing Israeli strikes in Gaza.

Reports by Wafa, the Palestinian news agency, said Israel was targeting the Strip by land, sea and air.

An Israeli warplane bombed a mosque in the Al-Daraj neighbourhood in Gaza City, killing at least 12 and leaving dozens of others wounded, added Wafa.

US tells Israel war should end in weeks, not months: Report

On a visit to Israel last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told officials in Israel’s war cabinet that the Joe Biden administration believed the conflict should end in weeks, not months, US officials with knowledge of the discussions told the Wall Street Journal.

Israeli officials made no guarantees but expressed their interest in a return to normal, particularly so that the country doesn’t take a hit economically, according to the WSJ.

US officials also told their Israeli counterparts that the civilian death toll should not be as high as it was in the north, however, no explicit consequences were laid out if just as many civilians were killed.

ICC chief prosecutor says ‘wilfully impeding’ aid to civilians could be war crime

Karim Khan said in a post on X that he has “emphasised the imperative that humanitarian relief be allowed into Gaza immediately and at scale”.

“I wish to reiterate in the clearest terms possible that wilfully impeding relief supplies to civilians may constitute a war crime under the ICC Rome Statute,” he added.

Khan has faced criticism from Palestinian leaders, including United Nations envoy Riyad Mansour, who earlier urged the ICC to hold Israel accountable for crimes committed against Palestinians.

Israel’s security cabinet agreed on Wednesday to allow “minimal” additional fuel into Gaza. Rights groups and UN agencies have stressed deliveries are woefully inadequate, worsening an already dire humanitarian crisis in the enclave.

Israeli military announces deaths of two more soldiers

The Israeli military has said that two more soldiers have been killed in fighting in Gaza, while four more were seriously injured.

One of the soldiers was killed during fighting on Wednesday, while the other was injured in combat on Tuesday and succumbed to his wounds the following day. Both were 22 years old.

The UN has reported that 88 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the start of the ground invasion of Gaza, citing official Israeli sources.

It is not known if the latest deaths are included in that total.

Israel boasts ‘200th cargo plane’ of weapons delivered by US

Israel’s Ministry of Defense announced it has received “the 200th cargo plane carrying military equipment for the Israel Defense Forces [Israeli army]”.

In a post on X, the Israeli ministry said that over 10,000 tonnes of military equipment have been delivered since the beginning of the war, including armoured vehicles, armaments, personal protective equipment and medical supplies.

Israeli bombing of Gaza comparable to WWII devastation: Report

Israel’s “catastrophic” bombing campaign in Gaza “has approached that caused by the years-long carpet-bombing of German cities during the Second World War”, the Financial Times reported.

“Gaza will also go down as a place name denoting one of history’s heaviest conventional bombing campaigns,” according to the report.

Almost 70 percent of all buildings in Gaza have been destroyed in the last two months by Israel with the support of US weaponry.

EU foreign policy chief urges support for Gaza ceasefire at UN security council

The European Union’s foreign policy chief on Wednesday urged EU members of the United Nations Security Council to support UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ call for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

Guterres on Wednesday invoked a rarely used rule to refer the situation in Gaza to the Security Council, urging members to “avert a humanitarian catastrophe.”

“I ask the EU members of the UN Security Council and like-minded partners to support UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s call. The UNSC must act immediately to prevent a full collapse of the humanitarian situation in Gaza,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

Multiple United Nations agencies are warning of the dire situation for residents of war-torn Gaza.

“Too many Palestinian civilians continue to be killed” in Gaza: US State Department spokesperson

The civilian casualties in Gaza is too high, US State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Wednesday.

“Too many Palestinian civilians continue to be killed” in Gaza, Miller stated.

Speaking several days into the renewed offensive by Israeli forces in southern Gaza, Miller added the US wants “to see the civilian death toll lower than it has been.”

“A good component of this is the problem presented by Hamas embedding in civilian sites in Khan Younis just as it did in Gaza City, but that doesn’t lessen the burden that’s on Israel to do everything it can to reduce civilian harm,” he said during a news briefing.

Miller noted the conflict in southern Gaza was “still at an early stage,” and would not say whether the US believes Israeli forces are carrying out this part of their offensive differently than in the north.

Miller added that the State Department had “some very frank conversations with the government of Israel about that when we were there last week”, when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was visiting Israel.

“We continue to have very frank discussions with them about this question, and I think I’ll leave it at that,” he continued.

Last week, Blinken said Israel must prosecute the war differently in the south than it did in the north.

Palestine Red Crescent stopping ambulance operations in northern Gaza

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) is stopping its ambulance operations in northern Gaza after the lack of fuel and the closure of hospitals in the area made it impossible to evacuate civilians, the organization said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Yesterday evening, operations at the PRCS ambulance center in the northern governorate of Gaza came to a halt,” the PRCS added.

“Yesterday evening, operations at the PRCS ambulance center in the northern governorate of Gaza came to a halt,” the PRCS said.

“The depletion of fuel for vehicles and the closure of hospitals operating in the northern region made it impossible to evacuate the wounded and martyrs,” the statement added.

In the northern area of Jabalya, the PCRS’ operations are still ongoing to handle minor and moderate cases, where it receives at least 250 injured patients daily, the organization noted.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Ministry of Health announced at least 80,000 residents in northern Gaza are now without health coverage.

Israeli forces have breached Hamas “defense lines” in Khan Younis in southern Gaza: IDF spokesperson

Israeli forces have breached Hamas “defense lines” in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, where the military has been involved in a fierce battle with Hamas fighters since Tuesday, an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said on Wednesday.

“Over the last 48 hours, these three divisions (98, 36, 162) along with another division in the east, are fighting with high intensity against terrorists. We have breached the defense lines of Jabalya, Shuja’iyya and the Khan Younis area,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari stated during his daily press conference.

It comes after the IDF announced the Israeli military has begun carrying out raids against “Hamas strongholds” in the center of Khan Younis, the territory’s second-largest city.

Within a few hours after the IDF forces surrounded the city, “the soldiers pierced through the defensive lines of the Khan Younis Brigade, encircling it and for the first time began to operate in the heart of the area”, the military claimed.

The Khan Younis Brigade is one of the two most significant brigades of Hamas, according to the Israeli military.

Dead bodies recovered after Israeli strike on Maghazi refugee camp

At least 10 bodies have been recovered by civil defence workers and other rescuers in the refugee camp in central Gaza.

A video captured by Al Jazeera Arabic and posted on X showed several rescuers walking through the rubble of a bombed-out building, retrieving dead bodies and loading them into ambulances.

Many people are believed to remain trapped under the concrete slabs.

UN chief refers situation in Gaza to UN Security Council, invoking Article 99 for first time in his tenure

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has formally referred the situation in Gaza to the UN Security Council, urging its members to “avert a humanitarian catastrophe” in the besieged enclave.

Guterres delivered a letter to the president of the Security Council, José De La Gasca, on Wednesday, invoking Article 99 of the UN Charter, his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a statement.

“This is the first time that António Guterres has done this since he became Secretary-General in 2017,” Dujarric said in the statement.

Article 99 gives the secretary general the remit to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”

In his letter, Guterres stated the conflict has created “appalling human suffering, physical destruction and collective trauma across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

The UN chief highlighted the plight of Gazan civilians, who he said are facing “grave danger” on a daily basis.

“There is no effective protection of civilians. … Nowhere is safe in Gaza,” Guterres added.

“Amid constant bombardment by the Israel Defence Forces, and without shelter or the essentials to survive, I expect public order to break down soon due to the desperate situation, rendering even limited humanitarian assistance impossible,” he continued, warning the situation could worsen if the spread of disease reaches epidemic proportions and mass displacement creates “pressure” on neighboring countries.

In the closing paragraph of his letter, Guterres urged Security Council members to “press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe” and support his call for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is “underground”: Israeli military

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is “underground” in Gaza, the Israeli military on Wednesday asserted, but did not say where they believe he is.

The statement from Israel Defense Forces spokesperson came shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that the IDF had surrounded Sinwar’s house in southern Gaza.

“Sinwar’s house is the area of Khan Younis,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said during a press briefing.

“There is terror infrastructure and headquarters there. Sinwar is not above ground. He’s underground. I do not want to mention where, and what intelligence we acquired.”

“Our role is to reach Sinwar and kill him. We need to do that as soon as possible,” he added.

“Transition period” with Israeli forces in Gaza needed post-combat: US State Dept. spokesperson

The United States understands that there will be a “transition period” in which Israeli forces remain in Gaza after the end of combat operations against Hamas, but that cannot be permanent, State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Wednesday.

It would not be “in anyone’s interest … for Israel to just leave — and leave a security vacuum in place where there could be rampant lawlessness inside Gaza, innocent civilians exploited,” Miller stated at a press briefing.

“We understand there will need to be some transition period at the end of combat operations,” he added.

The US would not accept a reoccupation of Gaza by Israel, nor would it accept a buffer zone established within Gaza because it would violate the principle of no reduction of territory, Miller continued.

Netanyahu says Palestinian Authority will not govern Gaza as long as he’s Israel’s PM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority (PA) assuming power in Gaza will not happen as long as he is prime minister, stressing the difference between the Israeli and US governments about governance of the enclave after the Israel-Hamas war.

“As long as I am Prime Minister — this will not happen. Whoever educates their children for terror, funds terror and supports families of terrorists, could not control Gaza after we eradicate Hamas,” Netanyahu wrote on X, the social media platform formerly called Twitter.

His comment came after Sky News Arabia reported on Wednesday that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the PA, has expressed the body’s readiness to assume power in Gaza and the West Bank.

US President Joe Biden stated last month that the PA should govern the Gaza Strip and the West Bank following the war.

“As we strive for peace, Gaza and the West Bank should be reunited under a single governance structure, ultimately under a revitalized Palestinian Authority, as we all work toward a two-state solution,” Biden said in an op-ed published in the Washington Post.

However, Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected the idea of a PA-led government in Gaza after the war.

“I think that the Palestinian Authority in its current forms is not competent to take responsibility over Gaza,” Netanyahu said at a news conference on November 18.

About 25 percent of Khan Younis city under evacuation orders: UN

The UN’s humanitarian office announced the Khan Younis area now under Israeli orders to evacuate was previously home to about 178,000 residents and another 170,000 displaced Palestinians.

“Two months on, the situation in Gaza is becoming apocalyptic. As hostilities expand, people are forced into increasingly confined areas of the south, and meaningful humanitarian efforts become nearly impossible,” the agency wrote on X.

In its daily report on the situation in Gaza, UNOCHA also reported:

  • Eighty trucks carrying humanitarian supplies and 69,000 litres of fuel entered Gaza from Egypt on Wednesday – well below the daily average of 170 trucks and 110,000 litres entering during the week-long humanitarian pause.
  • Most patients and staff at the Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza’s Jabalia were evacuated due to heavy fighting; 22 patients, unable to be moved due to their condition, remain at the hospital.
  • Only 14 of 36 hospitals in Gaza are functional, with southern Gaza’s two major hospitals operating at three times their bed capacity.
  • The World Health Organization reports 212 attacks on health care in the Gaza Strip as of December 6, affecting 56 facilities.
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