South African parliament votes to close Israeli embassy
South Africa’s parliament voted by a strong majority to close the Israeli embassy in South Africa, send the Israeli ambassador home, and suspend diplomatic relations with Israel.
The vote comes after Israel announced it was recalling its ambassador Eli Belotserkovsky from South Africa “for consultations”.
The African country has not had an ambassador in Israel since 2018. The vote is also largely symbolic and it would be up to the country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, to implement the deal.
Biden says a hostage deal is “very close” but cautions “nothing is done until it’s done”
US President Joe Biden confirmed on Tuesday that efforts to retrieve a group of civilian hostages held by Hamas in Gaza since October 7 are “now very close” following extensive negotiations over the past six weeks.
“We’re now very close. Very close. And could bring some of these hostages home very soon. I don’t want to get into the details of things because nothing is done until it’s done. When we have more to say, we will. But things are looking good at the moment,” Biden said during a meeting in the White House.
“We’ve been working on this intensively for weeks, as you all know,” Biden added, pointing to his own talks in recent days with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani and US officials on the ground in the region.
Netanyahu on hostages: ‘I hope there will be good news soon’
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Tuesday progress was being made on the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.
“We are making progress. I don’t think it’s worth saying too much, not at even this moment, but I hope there will be good news soon,” he told reservists according to a statement from his office.
Netanyahu did not provide further details.
European Commission say review shows no evidence of funds going to Hamas
The European Commission announced on Tuesday a review of its development aid to Palestinians had found no evidence of funds going to Hamas and its programme would continue without delay.
“The review found no indications of EU money having directly or indirectly benefited the terrorist organisation Hamas,” stated Valdis Dombrovskis, commission executive vice president.
Four doctors killed in Israeli bombing of al-Awda Hospital
The Palestinian Red Crescent announced on Tuesday that Israeli bombing has killed at least four doctors in the al-Awda Hospital in north Gaza.
Dozens of others were wounded in the bombing.
Israel orders evacuation of Jordanian field hospital in Gaza
Jordan announced on Tuesday that Israel had ordered the evacuation of a Jordanian field hospital in Gaza, but added that it would not heed the order.
Prime Minister Bisher al Khasawneh also said Jordan’s army was increasing its presence along the border in view of the developments in Gaza, according to comments in state media.
Chinese President reiterates call for immediate ceasefire in Israel-Hamas war
The Chinese President has again reiterated calls for an immediate ceasefire of all parties in the Israel-Hamas conflict and for the release of detained civilians.
He made the comments while speaking Tuesday to a BRICS extraordinary virtual summit on the Palestinian-Israel issue.
“Under the current situation, it is timely and necessary for BRICS to sound a voice of justice and peace on the Palestine-Israel question,” Xi said, according to a readout from state news agency Xinhua.
Xi also called for all violence and attacks on civilians to be stopped, steps to be taken to ensure the safe and smooth passage of humanitarian relief, the provision of more humanitarian aid to people in Gaza and halting the “collective punishment” on the people of Gaza through forced migration and cutting off water, electricity and oil supplies.
“I have stressed multiple times that the ultimate way to solve the recurring conflicts between Palestine and Israel is the ‘two state solution’,” Xi continued, adding that without a just resolution to the Palestine question, there will be no lasting peace and stability in the Middle East.
Xi also called for a ceasefire and said a two-state solution was the only way out of the Israel-Hamas conflict in mid-October.
At the time he said China is willing to work with Egypt and Arab nations to “promote an comprehensive, just and lasting solution to the Palestinian issue”, according to CCTV.
Saudi crown prince calls on all countries to stop exporting arms to Israel
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince stated on Tuesday that all countries should stop exporting arms to Israel during the Brics summit.
Mohammed bin Salman made the comments at the virtual summit, where he said “The kingdom’s position is constant and firm; there is no way to achieve security and stability in Palestine except through the implementation of international decisions related to the two-state solution.”
He added that Saudi Arabia “rejects the forced displacement of Palestinians,” and that they demand “a serious and comprehensive peace process to solve the Palestinian issue”.
US trying to monopolize mediation efforts in Palestinian-Israeli settlement: Putin
The situation in the Gaza Strip shows that the United States is trying to monopolize the mediation functions in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during an extraordinary BRICS summit on the conflict.
“All these events are, in fact, a direct consequence of the United States’ desire to monopolize the mediation functions in the Palestinian-Israeli settlement and its blocking of the activities of the Middle East Quartet of international mediators,” Putin said, Sputnik reported.
Putin commented on mass displacement of the local population and the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.
“The death of thousands of people [in the Gaza Strip], mass displacements of civilian population and the humanitarian catastrophe that has broken out cause great concern,” Putin told the BRICS extraordinary summit on the situation in the Middle East.
“Participation of colleagues from the Middle East in today’s meeting, who have received the invitation to be full members of BRICS this year, is especially important. I want to use the moment to note their efforts on the normalization of the situation, and in particular I mean the “peace summit” in Egypt and the extraordinary Islamic summit in Saudi Arabia,” Putin also said.
It is important to prevent the geography of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from expanding and to preserve the fragile interfaith peace in the region, Putin said.
“The most urgent task is to achieve a truly long-term and sustainable ceasefire,” Putin added.
Proper humanitarian pauses are required to ensure the safe release of hostages from the Gaza Strip, Putin said.
“I would like to emphasize that such humanitarian pauses, or better, of course, a full-fledged ceasefire, are necessary to continue efforts to release hostages and evacuate civilians and foreign citizens from the Gaza Strip,” Putin stressed.
Due to the sabotage of UN decisions, more than one generation of Palestinians has been brought up with a sense of injustice, Putin added.
“Because of the sabotage of the UN decisions, which clearly provide for the creation and peaceful coexistence of two independent and sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, more than one generation of Palestinians has been brought up in an atmosphere of injustice shown to their people. And the Israelis cannot fully guarantee the security of their state,” Putin said.
Putin commended the urgent convening of the BRICS summit on important international issues, a practice that was introduced by South Africa.
“The new format of emergency online meetings of leaders, proposed by President [of South Africa Cyril] Ramaphosa seems very promising. Moreover, this concerns not only the Middle East settlement, but also other topical issues on the global and regional agenda,” Putin told the BRICS extraordinary summit on the situation in the Middle East.
It is important to prevent the Israel-Palestine conflict from becoming a regional one, Putin said.
Russia will initiate contacts on the Palestine-Israel settlement during its upcoming chairmanship in BRICS, Putin said.
“We consider it extremely useful to continue the discussion within the framework of BRICS on the further development of the Palestinian-Israeli confrontation. If there are no objections, dear colleagues, then during the upcoming Russian presidency in the association next year, we will initiate possible contacts, including via video link, on this issue,” Putin said.
WHO: Plans underway to evacuate three hospitals in Gaza
A World Health Organisation (WHO) spokesperson said on Tuesday that three hospitals in Gaza have requested help with evacuating patients and said that planning was underway.
WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier stated that the three hospitals were Al Shifa, from which a group of babies has already been rescued, Indonesian Hospital and Al Ahli Hospital.
He added such an event was a last resort, as Israeli bombardment and siege has left patients without healthcare and staff unable to assist them.
“It’s robbing the entire population of the north of the means to seek health (care),” he told a Geneva press briefing.
Saudi FM in Moscow calls for ceasefire
Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister reiterated calls for a ceasefire during a meeting with Muslim and Arab League diplomats in Moscow on Tuesday.
“There is no excuse for such atrocities with the claim of self-defence,” Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud said, stating that there must be an “immediate ceasefire and end to the siege”.
“We cannot talk about the future of Gaza until we have a ceasefire and Israel stops the targeting of civilians,” he added.
Representatives from Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan and Palestine are also present at the meeting.
Talks to release captives ‘at closest point’: Qatar
Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari said on Tuesday that negotiations to free captives taken by Hamas are at their “closest point”.
“We are at the closest point we ever have been in reaching an agreement,” he stated.
He added that they are currently at the “final stage”, and that he is “very optimistic and hopeful”.
2,600 patients, civilians, medical staff still inside besieged Indonesia Hospital: Gaza Health Ministry
At least 2,600 people, including patients, displaced civilians and medical staff, are still inside the besieged Indonesia Hospital in northern Gaza Strip.
In a statement, Ashraf al-Qudra, the spokesman of the Gaza-based Health Ministry, said, “400 injured and their attendants are still in the (Indonesia) hospital, in addition to 200 medical personnel and some 2,000 displaced people.”
Al-Qudra also stated that there are 259 injured people, a number of civilians and medical personnel still inside the Al-Shifa Hospital.
The health spokesman added there is no date yet for their evacuation from the Al-Shifa Hospital which is under complete Israeli control.
Al-Qudra confirmed that all hospitals in Gaza City and northern areas of the Gaza Strip are out of service from the Israeli ongoing onslaught against Gaza.
Netanyahu says return of hostages a “sacred and supreme” mission
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the return of Israelis taken hostage by Hamas on October 7 a “sacred and supreme mission”, in a statement on Tuesday as he faces growing anger from family members over the slow pace of progress in securing their release.
“Returning our hostages is a sacred and supreme mission – to which I am committed. We will not let go of the mission to return them, and it is my responsibility as well as the war cabinet’s,” he said.
Netanyahu released the statement after he and his war cabinet had met with the families of the hostages on Monday, saying that they “are always in my heart and guide my actions.”
The prime minister promised he would not stop fighting until the Israeli government brought them home and destroyed Hamas.
Three, including 2 reporters, killed near Israel border: Lebanese state media
At least two journalists and another person have been killed by a rocket strike near Lebanon’s border with Israel, according to the Lebanese state news agency.
The incident took place near the town of Tir Harfa, about 1.6km (1 mile) from the Israeli border, it added.
Later, Lebanon’s Al-Mayadeen television has confirmed two of its staff have been killed.
The state-run National News Agency reported “the death of three citizens – two journalists and another civilian – in enemy bombing” of the Tair Harfa area.
Al-Mayadeen added its “correspondent Farah Omar and cameraman Rabih Maamari were killed by an Israeli attack”.
Israeli army surrounds Jabalia
The Israeli military announced it has completed the encirclement of Jabalia in Gaza and is ready for the next phase.
In a statement, the military said it carried out attacks on 250 Hamas targets in the past day, including three tunnel shafts in the Jabalia area and killed dozens of Palestinian fighters.
Israeli attacks on residential areas and around hospitals are increasing, resulting in the killing of dozens of Palestinians.
Group of Muslim countries to push for Gaza ceasefire
A newly formed group made up of senior officials from several Muslim countries will visit the United Nations Security Council’s five permanent members and others to urge an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, a Turkish foreign ministry source stated on Tuesday.
The group includes foreign ministers and representatives from Turkey, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, the Palestinian Authority, as well as the OIC Secretary General.
The source said the group had started talking with the permanent UN Security Council members – the United States, China, Russia, Britain, and France – with a visit to Beijing on Monday, and would also visit other countries.
“The primary goal of the contact group is for a ceasefire to be announced as soon as possible and for humanitarian aid to be sent to Gaza,” the source added.
All hospitals in north Gaza now out of service
The Palestinian Ministry of Health confirmed on Tuesday that all hospitals in north Gaza are now totally out of service.
“There are no medical services or help to anyone in north Gaza now,” Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesperson for the ministry, stated.
Government media in Gaza: 253 mosques damaged by Israeli strikes so far
According to the government media in Gaza, that as of November 20, a total of 83 mosques were totally destroyed by Israeli strikes across the besieged enclave since the October 7 Hamas attack.
Meanwhile, 170 were also partially damaged, the report added.
Palestinians have accused Israel of deliberately targeting mosques in Gaza for destruction, while Israel advances many unsubstantiated claims that the mosques were being used by Hamas to shield them from strikes.
Israel names 2 more soldiers killed in Gaza, bringing death toll to 68
The Israeli military has released the names of two more soldiers killed fighting in the Gaza Strip, bringing its death toll to 68.
Captain Arnon Moshe Avraham Benvenisti Vaspi, 26 and Staff Sergeant Ilya Senkin, 20, both members of the Givati Brigade were killed fighting in Gaza, the military announced.
The Israeli military added another five soldiers were seriously wounded in fighting.
Hamas claims destruction of 60 Israeli military vehicles in Gaza in past 72 hours
The military wing of Hamas on Monday claimed that its fighters had destroyed 60 Israeli military vehicles in Gaza over the past 72 hours.
In a recorded message, Abu Obeida, the spokesman for the Al-Qassam Brigades, stated that among the targeted Israeli military vehicles, ten troop carriers were included in the attacks over the last three days.
He also noted that “fierce clashes” were taking place with the Israeli forces in several areas across the Gaza Strip.
“We suspect that the enemy [Israeli army] bombed its troops on the ground believing a number of its soldiers were arrested in an operation we had carried out against a troops carrier vehicle in Gaza City,” Obeida added.
At least 66 Israeli soldiers were killed since the start of the Israeli ground operation in Gaza on Oct. 27, according to Israeli media.
More than 1 million Gaza children going to bed hungry: Aid group
The charity Medical Aid for Palestinians announced that after six weeks of Israel’s siege on the territory, food is running out.
“We must stand together to protect Gaza’s children, who will go to bed tonight hungry,” the group said in a social media post, urging an immediate ceasefire.
After six weeks of Israel’s siege, food in Gaza is rapidly running out. There are severe shortages of fuel and clean water for cooking. We must stand together to protect Gaza’s children, who will go to bed tonight hungry.
— Medical Aid for Palestinians (@MedicalAidPal) November 20, 2023
6,000 foreign passport holders, 236 injured crossed from Gaza to Egypt since Oct. 7
Egyptian authorities on Monday said more than 6,000 foreign passport holders had crossed the Rafah border gate from Gaza into Egypt since the start of Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7.
In a statement, the Press Center of the Egyptian State Information Service said 929 Egyptians had also crossed Rafah from Gaza.
It added that the total injured Palestinians who crossed the Rafah gate for medical treatment whether in Egypt or elsewhere has so far reached 236 along with 197 people escorting the injured, including many who have been flown to Turkey for treatment.
UN has ‘grave concerns’ about waterborne diseases
The United Nations announced it had “grave concerns” about dehydration and waterborne diseases particularly in northern Gaza, with more than 1.7 million Palestinians now displaced from their homes.
On average, there is now one shower unit for every 700 people and a single toilet for every 150 people at UN facilities, the office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs said in its latest update.
The UN also noted a sharp increase in Palestinians walking from northern to southern Gaza with injuries as Israel continues to pound the enclave.
One woman who had come from Jabalia refugee camp was seen walking south while pressing a towel against wounds in her abdomen. She attempted to receive treatment at the besieged Indonesian hospital, but was not admitted.
Israeli military reached heart of Gaza City “much earlier than Hamas expected”: IDF spokesperson
The Israeli military reached the heart of Gaza City “much earlier than Hamas had expected” and the forces continue to advance according to the plan, a spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said Monday.
“We carried an offensive move that met the heart of Gaza City, through encirclement. It led to us getting to the city’s heart quickly, much earlier than Hamas had expected,” spokesperson Daniel Hagari stated in his daily briefing.
“The troops continue to advance according to the plan, this takes time,” he said, adding that “the war (operates) in stages.”
The Israeli army is looking for Hamas fighters in Zaytun and Jabalya in northern Gaza and is “currently encircling Jabalya and start dismantling the (Hamas) battalion there as well”, Hagari continued.
The spokesperson added that over the past few days, Israeli forces have been conducting face-to-face battles against the Zaytun battalion — one of the central battalions of Hamas operating in Zaytun in the northern Gaza Strip.
6 Americans serving in Israeli security forces have died since October 7: State Department
Six American citizens who were serving in the Israeli security forces have died in Israel and Gaza since October 7, State Department spokesperson Matt Miller stated Monday.
“There are a total of six American citizens who have died, not from the terrorist attacks on October 7, but in the month-plus since,” said Miller.
Five of them were members of the Israel Defense Forces and the sixth was a border officer, he added.
Four of the Americans serving with the IDF died in the Gaza Strip and a fifth was killed in northern Israel, the spokesperson continued.
50 journalists have been killed in Israel-Hamas war: Committee to Protect Journalists
At least 50 journalists and media workers have been killed since the bloody conflict between Israel and Hamas broke out last month, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday night, in what has been the deadliest month for journalists since the press freedom group began tracking deaths in 1992.
The mounting toll marked a “grim milestone”, and far surpasses the 15 journalists who have been killed in Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine, according to the organization.
The organization has published the names of the slain journalists along with the circumstances of their deaths on its website.
Journalists in Gaza made an appeal on Monday for assistance and solidarity to enable them to persist in their work amid ongoing Israeli attacks.
Palestinian state ‘best guarantee’ of Israel’s security: EU foreign policy chief
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell stated Monday that the establishment of a Palestinian state would be the best way of ensuring Israel’s security.
The EU’s top diplomat told a meeting of foreign ministers from the EU that he had drawn “a fundamental political conclusion” from his discussions across the Middle East.
“I think that the best guarantee for Israel’s security is the creation of a Palestinian state,” Borrell said in a written summary of the EU meeting.
Borrell insisted Israel should not occupy Gaza after the war.
”Despite the huge challenges, we have to advance our reflections on the stabilisation of Gaza and the future Palestinian state,” he continued.
He added that “increased extremists and settlers’ violence against Palestinians” in the occupied West Bank raised the possibility of escalation in fighting outside of the Gaza Strip.
US Democrats urge Biden to pressure Israel over humanitarian aid for Gaza
A group of lawmakers led by Senators Tammy Baldwin, Tim Kaine and Chris Van Hollen wrote a letter to US President Joe Biden to immediately work toward the sustained delivery of water, food, fuel and other basic necessities.
“Eliminating the threat posed by Hamas and protecting civilians are not mutually exclusive aims. Indeed, International Humanitarian Law requires that civilians be protected during armed conflict,” the group wrote in a letter sent on Monday.
The letter also urged reopening the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza as well as the protection of civilians and ensuring civilians’ access to medical attention.
The letter was signed by at least eight other Senate Democrats.
Israel’s attacks on UN schools in Gaza ‘unacceptable’: UN
The UN on Monday reiterated concern over Israel’s attacks on two schools in Gaza, and said it was “unacceptable”.
“The coordinates of the schools have been communicated. The schools didn’t pop up overnight. They’ve been there for a long, long time. It is unacceptable that people seeking shelter under the UN flag be then confronted with these types of bombings,” Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, told a daily press briefing in New York.
The UN has repeatedly called for combatants not to use the UN facilities, and fire to or near the facilities, added Dujarric.
“I have no doubt there will be full investigations done in order to have accountability once this conflict is over,” he said, adding the only focus now in Gaza is the humanitarian situation.
When he was asked whether these schools have Hamas bases or weapons, Dujarric said the schools are there to shelter civilians, adding: “They’re not there to shelter combatants.”
Following Saturday’s Israeli attack on two UNRWA schools in Gaza, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sunday stated he was “deeply shocked”, reaffirming that UN premises are “inviolable”.