Israel hits Gaza refugee camps, detains medical staff; UN debates aid access resolution - as it happened

Ahram Online , Monday 18 Dec 2023

As Israel's brutal war on Gaza enters its 73rd day, Israeli forces killed 90 Palestinians in Jabalia and Nuseirat refugee camp and arrested tens of medical personnel across the strip. The UN Security Council may vote on a resolution urging Israel to allow aid access via various routes with UN monitoring.

war on Gaza
A Palestinian medical staff inspects the damage in a hospital room following Israeli bombardment at Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on December, 2023, AFP


22:00 Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi reviewed with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday Egypt's intensive efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and ensure the adequate delivery of humanitarian aid.

During a phone call, El-Sisi warned of the dangers to Gaza and the wider region if the present situation is allowed to persist.

Furthermore, the Egyptian President stressed the necessity for the international community to shoulder its responsibilities, and implement the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the General Assembly. 

El-Sisi commended the efforts of the UN Secretary-General in this regard.

Meanwhile, Guterres praised Egypt's efforts to halt the bloodshed, affirming his commitment to ongoing coordination with Egypt in addressing the current crisis and working towards stability in the region.

20:30 France's Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna met in Beirut with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati and parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a key ally of Hezbollah, calling for a de-escalation of tensions along the Lebanon-Israel border amid near-daily exchanges of fire. This comes a day after Colonna made similar appeals in meetings with Israeli officials.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, left, meets with Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, right, at the government palace in Beirut, Lebanon, AP

Colonna announced a new shipment of 700 tonnes of aid to the war-ravaged Palestinian territory, half of which is set to depart from the French port of Havre on Wednesday.

"The other half will depart next week," she told a news conference, reiterating calls for "a ceasefire... as soon as possible."

In Beirut, Colonna said the objective of Israel's "military operations" was "that Hamas will not be able to repeat such acts."

But "we have reservations and differences in viewpoints" with Israel, she said. "We ask them to act differently, in a more surgical manner."

The top French diplomat also discussed the situation on the ground with the commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, Major General Aroldo Lazaro.

The head of the UN peacekeeping mission told reporters ahead of his meeting with Colonna that the situation on the border was "tense" and "dangerous," as hostilities trigger fears of all-out conflict.

"We are trying to continue with our liaison and coordination role... to avoid miscalculations, misinterpretations that could be another trigger for escalation," Lazaro said.

In Israel on Sunday, Colonna called on all parties to "de-escalate" along the Lebanon-Israel border.

18:30 Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin said the United States will provide more arms and munitions to Israel, as he warned Iran to "stop" supporting Houthi rebels who were attacking vessels in the Red Sea.

"We'll continue to provide Israel with the equipment that you need to defend your country... including critical munitions, tactical vehicles and air defence systems," the US Defense Secretary said, according to a statement from the Israeli prime minister's office.

"In the Red Sea, we're leading a multinational maritime taskforce to uphold the bedrock principle of freedom of navigation. Iran's support for Houthi attacks on commercial vessels must stop," Austin said.

Austin also called on the Lebanese movement Hezbollah to avoid provoking a wider conflict amid near-daily skirmishes along the Israel-Lebanon border since Israel's war on Gaza.

"We call upon Hezbollah to make sure that they don't do things that would provoke a wider conflict," the US Defense Secretary said at a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart.

He also called for more aid for people displaced in the besieged Gaza Strip, saying "We must get more humanitarian assistance in to the nearly two million displaced people in Gaza and we must distribute that aid better." 

17:00  Since the war began, Israel has been targeting the Gaza Strip with an air and ground campaign that reduced large parts of the north of the territory to rubble and killed nearly 19,453 people.

The Palestinian health ministry said that 70% of the dead are women and children.

According to the health ministry, 52,286 people in Gaza have been wounded in more than two months of fighting.


Firefighters and civilians gather at the rubble of a building following Israeli bombardment in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 18, 2023 AFP

14:30 CIA director Bill Burns and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met with Mossad Chief David Barnea in Warsaw, Poland, to discuss the possibility of a new detainee swap deal, Israeli media reported.

The Ynet news site quoted a source involved as saying the talks would be “long, complicated, and more difficult than before.”

Egypt, Qatar, and the United States were key mediators in the first deal that saw 240 Palestinian women and children detainees freed by Israel in exchange for 105 captives.

It is believed that 129 captives remain in Gaza — not all of them alive. Three Israeli captives have already been killed by the Israeli army.

14:20 High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell said, "Far too many civilians have been killed in Gaza."

"Certainly, we are witnessing an appalling lack of distinction in Israel's military operation in Gaza," he posted on X.

"The Holy Family church and the Charity Convent, shelters for displaced people, were attacked. Worshippers, three Israeli hostages, and hundreds of other civilians have died during the most recent military operations," he added in an EU rare criticism towards Israel.

"This must stop - a humanitarian pause is urgently needed."


13:45 A glimpse of today's images emerging from Gaza

Palestinians carry a relative killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, in front of the morgue at the hospital in Deir al Balah, AP

A man sits near the rubble of destroyed houses and buildings in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, AFP

Palestinians evacuate a wounded boy following Israeli strikes on the maternity ward at Nasser Hospital in the town of Khan Younis, AP

Palestinians inspect the rubble of destroyed houses and buildings in Rafah, AFP

13:35 Oil major company British Petroleum (BP), has temporarily paused all transits through the Red Sea, following attacks over the weekend by the Houthi group from Yemen, Reuters reported.

"In light of the deteriorating security situation for shipping in the Red Sea, BP has decided to temporarily pause all transits through the Red Sea," the company said.

The announcement came a few hours after the Cayman Islands-flagged Swan Atlantic tanker was attacked in the crucial shipping route, according to a US military official.

The attack is the latest in a series of assaults on vessels in the Red Sea and the strategic Bab El-Mandeb Strait.

The attacks have been claimed by Houthi rebels, who say they are targeting vessels linked to Israel in support of the Palestinians.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which monitors Middle East shipping lanes, also reported an incident in the Bab El-Mandeb Strait and warned vessels in the area to exercise caution.

13:12 The Al Qassam Brigades released a video showcasing the tunnel that the Israeli army announced it had discovered.

The video, titled "You've Arrived Late," reveals that this tunnel was used during an Al Aqsa Flood operation on 7 October to capture Israeli soldiers.

The group emphasized that the tunnel is currently non-operational. “Mission had already been completed," the video says.


12:40 Osama Hamdan, a senior member of Hamas in Lebanon, said that the group has notified mediators in Qatar and Egypt that halting the Israeli aggression against Gaza must precede any discussions regarding prisoner exchanges.

Hamdan added that the Israeli defense minister's talk about extending the conflict "aims at pacifying the domestic front."

Additionally, he expressed the movement's willingness to embrace any initiatives aimed at unifying the Palestinian people and choosing leadership for them. However, he cautioned that "anyone assuming that arrangements in Palestine can be dictated by external agendas is mistaken."

12:20 The Palestinian Commission of Detainees' Affairs is urging global action and human rights institutions to pressure Israel to "disclose the fate of detainees in Gaza and halt forced disappearance crimes."

The commission asserts that they "have evidence of horrifying torture carried out by the Israeli occupation army against detainees in Gaza."

The Israeli army claims to have taken more than 1,000 Palestinians captive in the war on Gaza.

Israeli Chief of the General Staff Major-General Herzi Halevi said in a video distributed by the army to "have received a lot of intelligence from the captives we have; we already have over a thousand."

12:05 The Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul-Gheit affirmed that “the brutal war waged by the Israeli occupation against civilians in Gaza reflects a clear, diabolical plan, in its goals and objectives.”

Aboul-Gheit said in a speech at the 31st session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia - ESCWA, taking place in the Arab League headquarters, that the Israeli occupation does not aim to eliminate a movement as it claims, but rather to eliminate an entire society, tear apart its fabric, and destroy the possibility of life in the Gaza Strip for a long time. 

 “This diabolical plan has only one goal, which is to liquidate the Palestinian cause by separating the people from their land, either by eliminating the possibility of life on this land... or by forcibly displacing them and deporting them by force of arms... which will never happen," he said.

12:00 US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin landed in Israel, as international pressure for a ceasefire in Gaza intensified.

Austin is due to hold talks with his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to Reuters, a senior US defence official told reporters traveling with Austin that he was expected to discuss Israel's planning for a transition to the next phase of the war.

11:25 The United Nations Security Council will vote Monday on a new resolution, drawn up by the United Arab Emirates, calling for an "urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access in the Gaza Strip."

It also affirms support for a two-state solution in the region and "stresses the importance of unifying the Gaza Strip with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority."

The vote comes days after the United States blocked a previous Security Council resolution that would have called for a "humanitarian ceasefire" in the battered Palestinian territory, where Israel continues its deadly strikes.

11:00 A "possible explosion" struck a key shipping lane off Yemen Monday, two maritime agencies said, the latest incident in the vital waterway threatened by Houthi rebel attacks.

The British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations issued a warning of a potential explosion striking near a vessel passing through the Bab El-Mandeb strait that separates the Arabian Peninsula from the Horn of Africa.

The incident took place as Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin arrived in Bahrain, home base of the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, as part of a Middle East tour that will also take him to Qatar.

In Manama, he is to discuss "US efforts to convene multilateral coalitions to respond to aggression at sea that threatens shipping and the global economy," a Pentagon statement said at the weekend.

The US is to announce the launch of an expanded maritime protection force involving Arab states, The Guardian reports.

10:35 Human Rights Watch on Monday accused the Israeli government of intentionally starving civilians in Gaza as part of its war on the besieged Palestinian territory.

"The Israeli government is using starvation of civilians as a method of warfare in the occupied Gaza Strip, which is a war crime," the New York-based group charged in a report.

"Israeli forces are deliberately blocking the delivery of water, food, and fuel, while wilfully impeding humanitarian assistance, apparently razing agricultural areas, and depriving the civilian population of objects indispensable to their survival," it added.

10:00 The Israeli forces continued bombarding Gaza, killing dozens of Palestinians, predominantly children and women, in the early morning across several areas within the strip.

Journalist Haneen Ali Al-Qashtane and eight members of her family were killed, with numerous others injured, after warplanes bombed their house in Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, as reported by WAFA news agency.

At least 10 individuals were killed in an Israeli airstrike that hit the residence of the Abu Garqud family, west of the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

Health sources confirmed that at least 110 people lost their lives in Israeli massacres in Jabalia, with a similar number trapped under the rubble and at least 20 wounded.

Israeli warplanes launched violent strikes on the northern areas of Khan Younis, in the south of the Strip. Concurrently, heavy artillery shelling targeted the entire city, resulting in the death and injury of dozens of civilians.

9:30 In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces raided several areas, killing, wounding, and arresting a handful of Palestinians. 

Four Palestinians were killed today by Israeli army gunfire in Faraa refugee camp, south of the city of Tubas in the northern Jordan Valley, including a17-year-old, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

Israeli soldiers raided the camp, provoking confrontations with the residents during which soldiers fired on the demonstrators, said sources.

Additionally, the Palestinian Red Crescent revealed that a youth was injured by gunfire and another was arrested in Jericho during an Israeli incursion.

Reports from Al Jazeera said that Israeli forces carried out widespread arrests in the village of Abwein, north of Ramallah; they also raided the Al-Azza and Aida refugee camps in Bethlehem.

Israeli army raids and terrorist settler attacks have intensified in the West Bank since the Gaza war broke out on 7 October, killing at least 297 Palestinians, and making it the deadliest year on record in 18 years.

9:10 The Israeli occupation army declared that four soldiers were killed during recent clashes with Palestinian armed groups in the southern Gaza Strip, bringing their death toll to 126 since ground operations began in the Gaza Strip in late October.

Among them, one soldier succumbed to injuries on Sunday following a skirmish on Thursday, as per an Israeli statement.

Additionally, another soldier was reported injured.

9:00 The Israeli occupation army detained Ahmed Muhanna, the director of Gaza’s Al-Awda Hospital, at an undisclosed location, the hospital said in a statement. 

Other 21 medical staff at the hospital in Jabalia refugee camp were detained, stripped, and interrogated for hours under “inhumane conditions” before being released, Health Ministry Spokesperson Ashraf Al-Qudra said in a statement on Sunday night.

Al-Qudra urgently called on international organizations to intervene and protect the hospital, which he said had also been bombed, along with its staff.

Short link: