Israel kills 29 in Rafah; UN pushes for ceasefire despite US backing to Tel Aviv - as it happened

Ahram Online , Tuesday 19 Dec 2023

On the 74th day of the war, Israel's attacks persisted in the bloodiest-ever war on the Palestinians, killing at least 29 in Rafah as the death toll rises to nearly 20,000; the UN Security Council is poised to vote on a resolution urging a Gaza ceasefire for urgent civilian aid, despite US vows to continue arming Israel.

war on Gaza
Firefighters spray water on the rubble of a building following Israeli bombardment of residential homes in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, AFP


22:50 Israeli president Isaac Herzog said during a briefing Tuesday with foreign ambassadors that Israel is “ready for another humanitarian pause and additional humanitarian aid in order to enable the release of hostages.”

Herzog stressed that “the responsibility lies fully with Sinwar and the leadership of Hamas,” referring to Yehya Sinwar, Hamas’ top leader inside the Gaza Strip.

Hamas and other militants are still holding an estimated 129 captives. Hamas officials have said they would refuse anything less than a permanent end to Israel’s military offensive in Gaza and the release of all Palestinians detained by Israel in exchange for any release of captives.

This year, instead of the president's traditional New Years reception, Herzog held a briefing with ambassadors and diplomatic representatives of more than 80 countries. The presidency is largely a ceremonial role, meant to be seen as a unifying figure in Israel.

21:30 A group of US Congress members who are veterans urged President Joe Biden on Monday to use “all our leverage” to pressure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to change his military strategy in Gaza, which has killed many thousands of civilians.

“The mounting civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis are unacceptable and not in line with American interests; nor do they advance the cause of security for our ally Israel,” six lawmakers, all Democratic representatives, said in an open letter to Biden.

The six are Jason Crow, a Bronze Star recipient and former Army Ranger; Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy pilot; Chrissy Houlahan, a former Air Force officer; Seth Moulton, a former Marine; and Elissa Slotkin and Abigail Spanberger, former CIA officers.

The letter adds to pressure from Biden’s own party in Congress to push Netanyahu to rein in his massive air and ground campaign. The lawmakers sit on armed services, intelligence, and foreign affairs committees in Congress.

“Some of us also spent years fighting America’s war on terror. We know from personal and often painful experience that you can’t destroy a terror ideology with military force alone,” the lawmakers wrote. “Accordingly, we urge you to continue to use all our leverage to achieve an immediate and significant shift of military strategy and tactics in Gaza.”

19:15 The Israeli occupation army said Tuesday it is investigating the deaths of Palestinian detainees who were arrested during military operations across the Gaza Strip.

"We know of deaths of Palestinian detainees in military detention centres and they are under investigation," a spokesman told AFP without providing details regarding how many detainees had died or the circumstances of their deaths.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been held in detention centres since the war erupted on 7 October.

On Tuesday Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that "several of them have died" in these detention facilities. The report said the prisoners died at the Sde Teiman base near the city of Beersheva.

The detainees held at this facility are "blindfolded and handcuffed for most of the day and the lights are on at the facility throughout the night," the report said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Israeli occupation army announced the suspension of a group of soldiers recorded smoking a water pipe and joking in front of Palestinians who were detained and blindfolded.

The video, which was uploaded to social media and has garnered millions of views in the past two days, shows soldiers laughing and eating snacks as at least seven Palestinians are sitting blindfolded in the same room in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Jenin.

The IDF spokesperson said, "After a disciplinary hearing, the reserve duty soldiers were suspended until further notice."

16:25 A UNICEF spokesperson said Tuesday that Gaza is "the most dangerous place in the world" for a child, expressing his rage after returning from the Palestinian territory.

"I'm furious that those with power shrug at the humanitarian nightmares unleashed on a million children," James Elder told a press briefing after spending nearly two weeks in Gaza.

He spoke of children who had undergone amputations and were then "killed in those hospitals" by Israeli bombardment.

"I'm furious that there are more children hiding as we speak who will no doubt be hit and have amputations in the coming days," he said.

He said the Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza's main city Khan Younis  the largest facility still functioning  "was shelled twice" in the last 48 hours.

This hospital "not only shelters large numbers of children who had already been badly injured in attacks on their homes but hundreds of women and children seeking safety," he added.

14:30 Israel has killed at least 19,667 Palestinians in Gaza since 7 October, the health ministry announced.

According to the ministry, 52,586 people in Gaza have been wounded in more than two months of war.

13:00 Israeli forces arrested 23 Palestinians across the occupied West Bank on Tuesday.

The Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that the arrests included eight from Hebron, three from Ramallah and Jerusalem, five from Salfit, four from Qalqilya, and three from Nablus and Jericho.

WAFA had previously indicated that "the total number of arrests in the West Bank since 7 October amounted to more than 3,640, and includes Palestinians arrested from homes, military checkpoints, those forced to surrender under pressure, and those who were held hostage by Israeli soldiers.

12:55  Greek Foreign Minister Georgios Gerapetritis said that negotiations to establish a sea corridor to transport essential goods to Gaza are making progress towards reaching an agreement soon.

On Tuesday, Bloomberg News Agency quoted Gerapetritis as saying in an interview conducted in Athens: “We expect developments regarding this issue in the coming days.”

He added that Greece, which is in talks with France, Cyprus, and other countries, will "provide humanitarian aid primarily through its commercial fleet."

The Greek Foreign Minister explained that, if necessary, his country is ready to send aid through military means, as it did last November when it sent a C-130 plane loaded with pharmaceutical and medical supplies to Gaza via Egypt.

12:50 France is to sanction certain extremist Israeli settlers, Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said on Tuesday, denouncing "unacceptable" violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

France "has decided to take measures... against certain extremist Israeli settlers," Colonna said at a joint press conference with her British counterpart David Cameron after she traveled to Israel and the West Bank.

"I was able to see for myself the violence committed by certain of these extremist settlers. It's unacceptable."

The European Union is studying the prospect of sanctions against terrorist Israeli settlers.

According to Israeli figures, nearly 15 percent of the settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories are French citizens or French-Israeli dual nationals.

The number of French national soldiers fighting in Gaza is estimated at 4,185, according to an investigation conducted by Europe 1 in Israel.

This constitutes the second-largest contingent of foreign soldiers, following that of the United States, operating within the Israeli army.

12:10 Yemen's Houthi rebels said they would not halt attacks on Red Sea shipping despite the announcement by the United States of a new maritime protection force.

"Even if America succeeds in mobilizing the entire world, our military operations will not stop... no matter the sacrifices it costs us," senior Houthi official Mohammed Al-Bukhaiti said on X, formerly Twitter.

Al-Bukhaiti said they would only halt their attacks if Israel's "crimes in Gaza stop and food, medicines, and fuel are allowed to reach its besieged population."

He spoke after Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin announced a 10-nation coalition on Monday to quell Houthi missile and drone attacks on shipping passing through the Red Sea, with Britain, France, and Italy among countries joining the "multinational security initiative."

12:00 The death toll from the Israeli attack on Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza has risen to at least 13, Spokesperson for the Health Ministry Ashraf al-Qudra said.

At least 75 have been injured, many of whom are critical, he added.

10:57 After more than two months of the war, Israel’s unrelenting, indiscriminate strikes on Gaza have turned the north of the strip into a pile of rubble and are now pounding the middle and south of the strip with increasing brutality, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said in its most recent report.

"The suffering of Palestinians trapped in Gaza can no longer be put into words."

In Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, in the south of Gaza, where MSF works, "the dead and wounded have been arriving en masse almost every day since the end of the short-lived truce on 1 December."

“The emergency department at Nasser Hospital is full and new patients are being treated on the floor,” said Chris Hook, MSF medical team leader in Gaza. 

“Doctors are stepping over bodies of dead children to treat other children who will die anyway,” he says. 

In Al Aqsa hospital, in Gaza’s middle, MSF said: "From 1 December to 11 December, approximately one in three patients (640 over 2,058) have been announced dead on arrival. "

"On 6 December, the number of people killed arriving at Al-Aqsa hospital surpassed the number of injured."


10:40 Israeli occupation forces raided the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City overnight and into Tuesday, according to the church that operates it, destroying a wall at its front entrance and detaining most of its staff.

Also known as the Baptist Hospital, it was the scene of an explosion early in the war that killed dozens of Palestinians.

Don Binder, a pastor at St. George’s Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem, which runs the hospital, said the raid left just two doctors, four nurses, and two janitors to tend to over 100 seriously wounded patients, with no running water or electricity.

“It has been a great mercy for the many wounded in Gaza City that we were able to keep our Ahli Anglican Hospital open for so long,” Binder wrote in a Facebook post late Monday. “That ended today.”

He said an Israeli tank was parked on the rubble at the hospital's entrance, blocking anyone from entering or leaving.

On Saturday, an Israeli soldier killed a Christian woman and her daughter in cold blood in Gaza's Holy Family Church. 

Pope Francis on Monday condemned the killing as "terrorism."

10:25 Hamas posted on Monday night a video of three Israeli captives pleading for their immediate release.

The Al-Qassam Brigades released the one-minute video, titled: "Don’t Let Us Grow Old Here," on its Telegram account.

In the video, one of the men, seated between the two others, said in Hebrew that he was being held along with other elderly hostages with chronic illnesses and that their conditions were harsh.

“We are the generation who built the foundation for the creation of Israel. We are the ones who started the IDF military. We do not understand why we have been abandoned here,” he said, referring to the Israeli armed forces.

“You have to release us from here. It does not matter at what cost. We do not want to be casualties as a direct result of the IDF military air strikes. Release us with no conditions,” he added.

10:00 Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes on a residential area of Jabalia camp.

Harsh scenes are emerging from what journalists from Gaza report as new massacres, with bodies of displaced Palestinians strewn across the area, some discovered under carts. The devastating impact spared not even the donkeys.


9:05 The UN Security Council has delayed a vote on an Arab-sponsored resolution calling for a halt to the Israeli war in Gaza to try to avoid another veto by the United States.

The council said Monday’s 5pm vote was pushed back until Tuesday morning, and diplomats said negotiations were taking place to get the United States, Israel’s closest ally, to abstain or vote for the resolution.

The draft resolution on the table Monday morning called for an “urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities,” to allow unhindered access to deliver humanitarian aid to the massive number of civilians in need of food, water, and medicine.

But this language is expected to be watered down to a “suspension” of hostilities or similar language to get US support, the diplomats said.

The importance of a Security Council resolution is that it is legally binding, but in practice, Israel has always chosen to ignore the council’s requests for action. 

The US vetoed a Security Council resolution backed by almost all council members and dozens of other nations demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. 

9:00 At least 29 Palestinians, including a baby, were killed in overnight Israeli attacks on residential buildings in Rafah city.

Three residential buildings in one area were destroyed. Initially, the reported death toll was nine, but as rescuers continued to pull people from the rubble, the number of casualties rose.


"Nowhere, and no-one, is safe in Gaza. The killing of thousands of children cannot be collateral damage," the UNRWA said again.

Describing a school-turned-shelter in the Gaza Strip, it said: "Children used to learn and laugh in this school. Today, they're hungry. Their cries go unheard."

According to the UNRWA: "Gaza is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child." Around one million children have been forcibly displaced from their homes and families have been torn apart, it stated. A total of 1.9 million Palestinians have been displaced since the war started.

Here are some of the photos illustrating the living conditions of the displaced Palestinians.

A man sits with children by a fire outside one of the tents housing Palestinians displaced, in Rafah, AFP

The sun sets in Egypt across the border from the southern Gaza Strip near tents housing Palestinians displaced by the Israeli war, AFP

Youths play volleyball in the yard of a school used to house sheltering forcibly Palestinians displaced by Israel to Rafah, AFP


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