Palestinians say Israeli soldiers summarily executed 11 unarmed men in Gaza City on 19 December- as it happened

Ahram Online , Thursday 21 Dec 2023

Two key European leaders stress rejection of Israeli indiscriminate bombing of civilians in Gaza, reiterating calls for a truce and ceasefire in the war as Israel continues pounding the strip.

Palestinian women cry where a relative is believed to be trapped in debris following Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 21, 2023. AFP


21:45 The Palestinian telecoms provider Paltel said Thursday evening that communications were gradually returning to the central and southern areas of Gaza, after a two-day blackout.

Landline connections, mobile networks and internet connections were all disrupted during the day Wednesday. Paltel blamed the outage on the current conflict, without providing details.

There have been at least four communication blackouts in besieged Gaza since the war began on Oct. 7.

20:00 Nebal Farsakh, the spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent, said Thursday that the communications blackout across Gaza means that they can only contact staff at the group's main base in Khan Younis by using VHF radio waves.

More worrying, she said, is the effect the blackout is having on The Red Crescent’s emergency response work

“This means civilians can’t call the 101 emergency line to get ambulances,” she told The Associated Press by phone. Our staff “are just following the sounds of bombardments”

Farsakh said her team has resorted to stationing ambulances at all the major working hospitals, so that when the first casualties arrive, they can find out the location of the strike.

There have been at least three communication blackouts in Gaza since the conflict erupted on Oct. 7.

According to Paltel, the Palestinian telecoms provider, the current disruptions started Wednesday.

18:55 An interagency U.N. and NGO report finds that a staggering half a million people in Gaza — one quarter of the population — are starving due “woefully insufficient” quantities of food entering the territory since the outbreak of hostilities on Oct. 7.

“It is a situation where pretty much everybody in Gaza is hungry. More than 500,000 people, half a million people, are starving. That means that one in every four people is starving in Gaza as we speak,’’ said World Food Program chief economist Arif Husain.

He warned that if the war continues at the same levels and food deliveries are not restored that the population could face “a full-fledged famine within the next six months” with widespread outbreaks of disease.

The report released Thursday by 23 U.N and nongovernmental agencies found that the entire population of 2.2 million Gazans are in a food crisis or worse: 478,000 are at crisis levels, 1.17 million are at emergency levels and 576,600 are at catastrophic — that is starvation — levels.

“It doesn’t get any worse,’’ Hasain said. “I have never seen something at the scale that is happening in Gaza. And at this speed. How quickly it has happened, in just a matter of two months.”

17:30 Israeli strikes killed a woman in her eighties in a south Lebanon village on Thursday, Lebanese media and rescuers said.

Lebanon's official National News Agency (NNA) said that Israeli "bombing on the town of Maroun al-Ras this morning killed a woman and wounded her husband".

Artillery shells struck "residential neighbourhoods" in the town, hitting the house of the couple in their eighties, the agency added.

Rescuers who transported the pair to hospital confirmed her death to AFP, also blaming Israel for the strike.

16:00 Palestinians described to Al Jazeera the grisly details of how the Israeli army summarily executed 11 unarmed Palestinian men in the Rimal neighbourhood in Gaza City in the early evening hours on 19 December.

On Wednesday, The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights - Occupied Palestinian Territory (OHCHR - OPT) in Ramallah said it had received reports that Israeli troops "summarily executed" at least 11 unarmed Palestinians in a possible war crime in Gaza.

According to the OHCHR statement: "On 19 December 2023, between 2000 and 2300 hours, IDF reportedly surrounded and raided Al Awda building, also known as the “Annan building," in Al Remal neighbourhood, Gaza City, where three related families were sheltering in addition to Annan family."

"According to witness accounts circulated by media sources and Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, while in control of the building and the civilians sheltering there, the IDF allegedly separated the men from the women and children, and then shot and killed at least 11 of the men, mostly aged in their late 20’s and early 30’s, in front of their family members, " continued the statement.

"The IDF then allegedly ordered the women and children into a room, and either shot at them or threw a grenade into the room, reportedly seriously injuring some of them, including an infant and a child. OHCHR has confirmed the killings at Al-Awda building, although the details and circumstances of the killings are still under verification. IDF has not released any information on the incident," added the OHCHR.

15:00 The Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, pelted Tel Aviv with a barrage of rockets on Thursday afternoon, in what it described as a response to "the Zionist massacres against Palestinian civilians in Gaza," according to Al Jazeera.

As warning sirens blared, residents in Israel's largest city left cars in the middle of the street and ran to hide in bomb shelters.

Israeli sources estimated that at least 35 rockets targeted the city.

It was not clear how many rockets Israeli air defences intercepted.

14:30 Al Qahera News reported on Thursday that Colonel Bassam Ghaben, the head of the Palestinian side of the Karm Abu Salem crossing, was killed in an Israeli strike targeting the crossing's facilities inside Gaza.

Three other people were also killed in the attack, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Last week, under international pressure, Israel agreed to open the Karm Abu Salem crossing - between Egypt, Gaza and Israel, to speed up the process of the entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza. 

14:00 Belgian International Cooperation Minister Caroline Gennez reaffirmed her country's rejection of the indiscriminate bombing of civilians in the Gaza Strip and reasserted its call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the Israeli war in Gaza.

In remarks to Al Jazeera, Gennez called for the unconditional release of Israeli captives and the unconditional entry of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

In contrast to other European leaders who pushed the idea that the current conflict started on 7 October, Gennez noted: " 2023, before 7 October, was already the deadliest year in the West Bank with more than 390 Palestinians killed till now - with too many children."

"We voted in the UNGA for an immediate ceasefire and we call on the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution for an immediate ceasefire," Gennez added.



13:00 Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry urged the United Nations Security Council to bear its responsibility regarding the destruction in Gaza and the number of victims in the Israeli war on the strip.

This came during a press conference with UK Foreign Minister David Cameron in Cairo. 

In his remarks, Cameron acknowledged that there is "a major humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where people are facing hunger and sickness."

He stressed that Israel must adhere to international law and take action to reduce the number of civilian victims.

In early December, under increasing domestic opposition to the war in Gaza, the UK, a staunch supporter of Israel, abstained in the vote on a resolution in the UN Security Council calling for an immediate ceasefire in the war.

12:00 Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said that it is his country's responsibility to assume the task of recognizing the State of Palestine during his term as president of the European Union before the end of the year.

In a speech  before the Spanish Parliament, Sánchez said: “I call on the Europeans to speak clearly and with one voice about the brutal Israeli attacks on Gaza - not because the world is watching us or because history will judge us but because human beings are suffering.”

He added: “Young children of Gaza are suffering and losing their lives.”

Amid strong applause, Sánchez stressed the need for Spanish politicians to seek out the recognition of a Palestinian state.

“The European Union must recognize the State of Palestine.”

“The bombing must stop immediately,” Sánchez stated.

He added: “Humanitarian aid must be able to reach people suffering from cold, hunger, and pain.”

Last month, PM Sanchez angered Israeli officials with his outspoken condemnation of Israel's indiscriminate bombing of Palestinian civilians.

Also on Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated his country's rejection of the Israeli military indiscriminate bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip.

"We cannot let the idea take root that an efficient fight against terrorism implies to flatten Gaza or attack civilian populations indiscriminately," Macron told the France 5 broadcaster.

He called on Israel "to stop such response because it is not appropriate since all lives are worth the same and we defend them."

"We call for a truce that leads to a ceasefire," Macron stressed.

The French president is facing increasing domestic pressure to speak out against the atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinians in Gaza.

In early December, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, France voted for a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the war. This resolution failed to pass per a US veto.

As Israel carries out a genocidal campaign in Gaza, millions around the world continue demonstrations calling for a ceasefire and in solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

An account on Twitter compiled scenes of people raising the Palestinian flag around the globe!

11:00  Israeli strikes killed a woman in her eighties in a south Lebanon village early Thursday morning, Lebanese state media said, with rescuers confirming the death to AFP.

"Hostile bombing in the town of Maroun al-Ras this morning killed a woman and wounded her husband," Lebanon's official National News Agency (NNA) said.

Israeli artillery shells struck "residential neighbourhoods" in the town, hitting the house of the couple in their eighties, the agency added.

Meanwhile, several sites in southern Lebanon were targeted by heavy Israeli artillery after sirens were sounded in the Upper Galilee northern Israeli settlements, Al-Arabiya reported.

Around the same time, the Israeli army said it launched air strikes targeting Hezbollah sites in Lebanon.

This comes after Hezbollah said early Thursday that it had carried out an attack using Katyusha missiles on the northern Israel town of Kiryat Shmona near the Lebanese border.

According to an AFP tally, more than 140 people have been killed by Israeli strikes in Lebanon, mostly Hezbollah fighters but also a Lebanese soldier and 19 civilians, including three journalists.

On the Israeli side, four civilians and seven soldiers have been killed, according to officials.

10:00 Israel has ordered more "evacuations" in southern Gaza's main city as it continues in attempts to displace the civilian population further south toward Rafah.

The United Nations said Israel had issued evacuation orders on Wednesday for large areas of Khan Younis, where more than 140,000 displaced people were sheltering.

Palestinian Radio reported Thursday that 55 people were killed in Israeli bombardment on Khan Younis within the last 24 hours.

Al Arabiya reported that Israeli warships were bombing Rafah and Khan Younis.

Israel's war on the Gaza Strip has so far killed at least 20,000 people, mainly women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The ministry said 8,000 children and 6,200 women were among the dead.

UN relief chief Martin Griffiths deemed it a "tragic and shameful milestone."

"That such a brutal conflict has been allowed to continue and for this long – despite the widespread condemnation, the physical and mental toll and the massive destruction – is an indelible stain on our collective conscience," Griffiths wrote on his X account.

Meanwhile, in north Gaza, Israel launched a series of airstrikes on Jabalia and Gaza City.

The Israeli army announced that two of its officers and one soldier were killed in fierce fighting in southern Gaza.

09:00 Diplomats pressed on with efforts to secure a pause in the war.

A UN Security Council vote on a much-delayed resolution calling for a pause to Israel's Gaza war was postponed again Wednesday as members wrangled over wording while the civilian death toll in Gaza mounts.

Also on Wednesday, Russia and the Arab League called jointly for a UN ceasefire resolution in the Gaza Strip during the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum in Marrakesh, Morocco.

"We hope that the Security Council will raise its voice for a mature resolution (calling for a ceasefire)," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during the meeting.

Meanwhile, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Egypt on Wednesday for talks with the country's intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

Haniyeh also met Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian but no details were released.

A Hamas official told AFP that "a total ceasefire and a retreat of the Israeli occupation army from the Gaza Strip are a precondition for any serious negotiation" on a captive-prisoner swap.

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