Israel intensifies war on Gaza, tension spills over Middle East - as it happened

Ahram Online , Tuesday 26 Dec 2023

Israel said it was intensifying its war on Gaza, where relentless strikes exacerbated the dire conditions for civilians in the war's 12th week. The war has heightened tensions across the Middle East where Israel killed a senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards general in Syria.

Smoke billowing over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment on December 26, 2023 AFP


22:10 In his first TV interview with Egyptian satellite TV channel ON, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says: “Our people never witnessed such a war even in the 1948 Nakba [catastrophe]. What is happening is bigger than a new Nakba [catastrophe]."

21:10 Israeli forces expanded their ground offensive into urban refugee camps in central Gaza after bombarding the crowded Palestinian communities and ordering residents to evacuate. Gaza's main telecom provider announced another “complete interruption” of services in the besieged territory.

The military's announcement of the new battle zone threatens further destruction in a war that Israel says will last for “many months”.

19:40 Israel says it will no longer grant automatic visas to U.N. employees, accusing the United Nations of being “complicit partners” in Hamas’ tactics.

The move ratchets up tensions between the United Nations and Israel, which has long claimed the world body directs unfair and disproportionate criticism at it.

Government spokesman Eylon Levy said Tuesday that Israel would consider visa requests from U.N. employees on a case by case basis rather than automatically.


18:30 The Israeli war on the Palestinian resistance group Hamas in Gaza will last "for many more months," Israel's army chief Herzi Halevi said on Tuesday.

The war "will continue for many more months, and we will work with different methods so that our achievements are preserved for a long time," Halevi said at a televised press conference.

16:30 Internet and telephone services were cut again across the war-torn Gaza Strip on Tuesday, the Palestinian telecommunications company Paltel said.

"We regret to announce a complete breakdown of fixed telecommunications and internet services in the Gaza Strip due to the ongoing offensive," the company said, announcing the fourth such breakdown since the war began on October 7.

16:00 The United Nations said it was "gravely concerned" by Israel's continued bombardment of the central Gaza Strip and urged Israeli forces to take all available measures to protect civilians.

"We are gravely concerned about the continued bombardment of middle Gaza by Israeli forces... all attacks must strictly adhere to the principles of international humanitarian law, including the distinction, proportionality, and precaution," UN Human Rights Office Spokesman Seif Magango said in a statement.

15:30 The health ministry in the Gaza Strip said at least 20,915 people have been killed in the Palestinian territory since Israel launched its war on 7 October.

The ministry said another 54,918 people have been wounded in more than 11 weeks of Israeli bombardment.

15:00 Explosions were heard and missiles were sighted near a vessel transiting the Red Sea, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said.

"Explosions heard, missiles were sighted" near the port of Hodeida on Yemen's west coast, UKMTO said, adding that the ship and its crew are safe.

It followed two other explosions earlier Tuesday that struck near a vessel also off Hodeida, according to the British maritime authority.

The ship later continued its voyage, without reporting any major damage or crew injuries, UKMTO said.

There was no immediate claim for Tuesday's attacks.

14:00 A flying object was downed approximately two kilometres off the coast of the Egyptian city of Dahab, according to Al-Qahera News, citing several eyewitnesses who confirmed hearing explosions in Dahab.

This is not the first time a drone has been downed in the Egyptian coastal cities across the Red Sea since the start of the Gaza war crisis in early October.

On 27 October, two drones coming from south of the Red Sea crashed in Taba and Nuweiba: one of the drones was targeted outside Egypt’s airspace in the Gulf of Aqaba, resulting in some debris falling into an uninhabited area in Nuweiba, while the other one fell in Taba.

Moreover, on 16 December, the Egyptian Air Defense Forces intercepted a flying object, which crashed into the Egyptian territorial waters approximately one and a half kilometres off the coast of Dahab.



Last week, Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry affirmed, during a presser with his British counterpart, that Egypt is currently coordinating with the countries bordering the Red Sea to secure maritime navigation, as Houthi attacks against ships passing the Red Sea continue, leading to the establishment of an international US-led coalition.

The Houthis, who control much of Yemen but are not recognized internationally, said previously they were targeting Israeli ships near the strategic Bab Al-Mandeb strait to pressure Israel over its deadly war on the Gaza Strip.

12:00 The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said that its headquarters in Khan Younis, in the south of Gaza, are being shelled by the Israeli army.

Several people were injured in the attack on its headquarters, where thousands are sheltering, the PRCS said in a tweet.


11:00 Two Palestinians were killed by gunfire from the Israeli army, and two others were injured during confrontations in Fawar refugee camp, south of Hebron in the occupied West Bank, according to medical and local sources.

Ahmad Yousef Yaghi, 17, and Ibrahim Majed Al-Titi, 31, were killed, the health ministry said. 

The soldiers also fired sound grenades, according to local sources.



10:45  The southern Gaza Strip has become overcrowded, and there are no longer enough places for new displaced people, said Gemma Connell, an official at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Connell, who has been in Gaza for weeks, described the strip as a “human chessboard,” where thousands of people have been displaced several times from one place to another.

"There is no guarantee that there are safe areas in Gaza," the UN official points out.

This picture released by the Israeli army shows troops on the ground in the Gaza Strip on December 7, 2023. AFP

Connell, who visited the Deir Al-Balah area in the central Gaza Strip on Monday, said that she saw "displaced people carrying luggage heading south in an attempt to find a safe place."

She noted that she spoke to many people heading to the city of Rafah, who expressed their fear that there would be no place for them in the city.

For weeks, the United States has been pressing Israel to take further measures to reduce harm to civilians, including identifying safe areas and opening humanitarian roads for displaced people.

Clothes are hung to dry at a temporary camp for the internally displaced Palestinians in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on December 24, 2023  AFP

10:15 Iraq denounced US air strikes in the country as a "hostile act" after the Pentagon said it had targeted three sites used by pro-Iran forces after coming under fire, AFP reported. 

The government said the strikes that killed one member of the security forces and wounded 18 other people, including civilians, were an "unacceptable attack on Iraqi sovereignty" that damaged bilateral relations.

10:00 One member of pro-Iranian forces in Iraq was killed and 24 people were wounded in strikes after the United States said it had conducted retaliatory strikes in the country, an Iraqi security source said.

An Iraqi interior ministry official said the strikes targeted a Hashed Al-Shaabi site in the central city of Hilla, one of two locations targeted in Babylon province.

One person was killed and 20 wounded, while four others were wounded in another strike in the southern province of Wassit, the official said. Two security sources in Babylon and Wassit provinces gave the same information.

9:30 Israeli forces bombarded Palestinian refugee camps in central Gaza in apparent preparation to expand their ground offensive into a third section of the besieged territory.

Residents of central Gaza described a night of shelling and airstrikes shaking the Nuseirat, Maghazi and Bureij camps. The camps are built-up towns, housing Palestinians driven from their homes in what is now Israel during the 1948 war and their descendants –- and now also crowded with people who fled from the north.

“The bombing was very intense,” Radwan Abu Sheitta, a Palestinian teacher said by phone from his home in Bureij. “It seems they are approaching,” he said of the Israeli troops.

The Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military arm, said its fighters struck an Israeli tank east of Bureij in suggestion that Israeli forces might be moving toward the camp.

Warplanes and artillery also hammered areas east of Nuseirat camp. “We couldn’t sleep because of the bombing,” said Ezzel-Din Mohammed Abdallah al-Masry, a Palestinian fisherman who was displaced to the area from northern Gaza with his five children and another family. “The children are terrified. We are terrified.”

9:00 President Joe Biden ordered the US military to carry out retaliatory airstrikes against Iranian-backed militia groups after three US servicemembers were injured in a drone attack in northern Iraq. The US strikes were carried out at about 4:45am on Tuesday in Iraq. According to US Central Command, the retaliatory strikes on the three sites, "destroyed the targeted facilities and likely killed a number of Kataib Hezbollah militants.”


Short link: