Biden says working to get Israel 'significantly' out of Gaza; Israeli army announces largest injury count in one day since war start - as it happened

Ahram Online , Monday 8 Jan 2024

The Israeli army says it is changing tact in its war in Gaza; deadly Israeli airstrikes against civilian targets in the strip continue; Biden says working "quietly" with Israel to reduce presence in Gaza "significantly; fierce battles in the strip everywhere as Israel announces largest number of injured in one 24-hour period since 7 October.

Protesters at the All Denmark on the Streets for Palestine - Ceasefire Now demonstration organized by a broad gathering of solidarity groups and activists are seen on their way from Frederiksberg City Hall to Copenhagen City Hall, in Denmark, on January 7, 2024. AFP


23:00  Israeli sources reported the killing of 9 officers and soldiers and the injury of others in two separate attacks in battles in Gaza during the past 24 hours. 

The sources say that one of the attacks was an explosion of ammunition in a truck and the other was the bombing of a building where soldiers took shelter, confirming that today is the harshest attack on the Israeli army since the beginning of the war, according to Al Jazeera.

Earlier on Monday, the Israeli military announced that at least 103 soldiers were wounded in fighting in Gaza in the last 24 hours - with at least 2 were in serious condition.

This was the highest figure announced by the army of soldiers injured in battles in Gaza since the start of the war on the strip on 7 October.

22:00 The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said 250 were killed and hundreds wounded in 17 separate massacres in the last 24 hours after Israel launched a series of intense airstrikes across the strip in the last 24 hours.

The mounting death toll among Palestinian civilians in Gaza due to Israeli airstrikes comes despite the Israeli army's recent announcements indicating a possible shift in military strategy from carpet bombing and use of overwhelming power on the ground to a new, less intense and more targeted operation in the strip

On Monday evening also, the Israeli army killed three Palestinian fighters in clashes in Kataba near Tulkarem in the occupied West Bank, according to Al Jazeera.

Meanwhile, on Monday evening, Qassam brigades launched a barrage of rockets against Tel Aviv, saying they came as a response to the Israel massacres against Palestinian civilians.

21:00 US President Joe Biden said Monday he was working to get Israel to cut its military presence in Gaza after protesters calling for a ceasefire disrupted him during a campaign speech.

"I've been quietly working with the Israeli government to get them to reduce and significantly get out of Gaza," Biden said at a church in Charleston, South Carolina where a white supremacist shot dead nine Black parishioners in 2015.

As the protesters chanted "ceasefire now," Biden said: "I understand their passion."

The congregation at the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Church then drowned out the noise of the demonstration by chanting "four more years" to back Biden's campaign for a second term in office.

Biden has firmly backed Israel's months-long war on Gaza, drawing several protests at recent public events and anger from parts of his Democratic party.

He has increasingly called on Israel to "avoid civilian casualties," warning in December that it risked losing global support by "indiscriminate" bombing.

Biden's comments came as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was shuttling between various capitals in the Middle East to discuss the developments of the Israeli war on Gaza and the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in the strip with Arab and Israeli leaders.

20:00  In New York City, tens of protesters marched on the Wall Street area in Lower Manhattan in support of Palestine and calling for a ceasefire.

Protesters called for an end to the Israeli genocide in Gaza and an end to US aid to Israel.

"Hey Biden What Do You Say: How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?" protesters chanted in a throwback to chants against the late President Johnson during anti-war demonstrations in the Vietnam War era.

In acts of civil disobedience, protesters locked themselves to tires, chairs and each other on the Brooklyn Bridge, which links the borough of the same name with the Manhattan financial district.

"It's important because we need a ceasefire. It's important to disrupt day-to-day activity to show how important this is, to end the siege in Gaza," said protester Olivia Levine, 31, an actor and writer.

"Hopefully actions scale up. Day-to-day activity needs to be scaled up to secure a ceasefire and the end of occupation. This is just the start."

Dozens of police, some wielding bolt cutters and white plastic cable ties, encircled a group of detained protesters who were lined up on the bridge for processing.

A crowd who gathered in support of those who blocked the bridge's Brooklyn-bound lanes chanted "Free, free Palestine," while some filmed police working to cut activists out of the devices used to anchor themselves to the road.

Dozens of protesters were detained for blocking traffic at the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, which connects New York to neighbouring New Jersey, an AFP correspondent saw.

Similar actions were staged at the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges that link Manhattan Island to Brooklyn.

The protests came shortly after the morning rush hour and caused backed-up traffic across the city.

Police said the protests lasted just over an hour and had been cleared after 11 am (1600 GMT), but did not confirm the number of arrests.

18:30 In a statement to The New York Times on Monday, Israeli army spokesperson Daniel Hagari confirmed that the Israeli military has entered a new and less intense phase of its invasion of Gaza.

Hagari noted: "The war shifted a stage," indicating a strategic adjustment in the ongoing conflict."

This shift follows weeks of pressure from the United States and other allies urging Israel to scale back an offensive that has resulted in widespread devastation and civilian deaths.

Details about the specifics of this new phase are limited, as Hagari did not delve into the intricacies of the strategic shift.

However, he mentioned that the Israeli campaign had already initiated the transition to involve fewer ground troops and airstrikes.

He emphasized that the transition would not be marked by any ceremony, stating: “It’s not about dramatic announcements.”

Hagari revealed that Israel would continue reducing the number of troops in Gaza, a process initiated this month. Hagari also mentioned that the intensity of operations in the north of Gaza had started to decrease. The Israeli military is now focusing on conducting more targeted raids in northern Gaza instead of wide-scale manoeuvres, he said. 

The spokesperson outlined that Israel's attention would now concentrate on the group’s southern and central strongholds, particularly around the cities of Khan Younis and Deir Al-Balah.

He said Israel was also aiming to allow more humanitarian aid, including tents to house displaced people, into Gaza.

Hagari’s statements came hours before Top US diplomat Antony Blinken was due in Israel on Monday for difficult talks on the war in Gaza as fears grow that the conflict could engulf the wider region.

Speaking in Qatar on Sunday, Blinken said that Palestinians displaced by the now four-month-old war must be allowed to "return home" while warning that the violence could "easily metastasize" into a regional conflict

17:30  The Israeli military said on Monday that at least 103 soldiers were wounded fighting in Gaza in the last 24 hours - with at least 2 were in serious condition.

This was the highest figure announced by the army of soldiers injured in battles in Gaza since the start of the war on the strip on 7 October.

The army also said 510 Israeli soldiers were killed and 2438 others injured in Gaza since the start of the war on 7 October.

On Friday, Israel's Yediot Ahronoth newspaper revealed that at least 12,500 Israeli soldiers have been recognised as disabled due to the fighting in Gaza, according to a "conservative and cautious estimate."

The actual number of cases requesting disability recognition could reach 20,000, the paper indicated, adding that the number of wounded Israeli soldiers since the start of the war is expected to rise by around 20 percent, Ynet,  Yediot Ahronoth's English-language website, reported.

Yediot Ahronoth added that the Israeli Defence Ministry rehabilitation division is currently treating 60,000 disabled Israeli soldiers - at least 3,400 admitted since 7 October - highlighting the heavy financial and logistical toll the Gaza war is taking on hospitals and other facilities.

Accordingly, the report stressed the need to expand the work of the heavily criticized rehabilitation division's workforce and medical staff, charging that there is a dire need for increased medical equipment and prosthetics to meet the requirements of the thousands of injured soldiers coming in.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army medical authority said that 9,000 soldiers who fought in Gaza have undergone psychological rehabilitation since the start of the war, adding that 25 percent of them did not return to combat.

Ynet noted that such figures point to discrepancies between hospital figures and the official injury tally provided by the Israeli army throughout the war.

Palestinian factions and independent military observers have noted that the Israeli army deliberately underreports its casualties during wars to avoid harming morale among the soldiers and negatively affecting public support for the war effort.

Members of Unit 669 of the Israeli Air Force prepare an Israeli soldier for evacuation at a beach in the Gaza Strip on January 4, 2024. AF

16:30 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to meet Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday before heading to Israel as part of efforts to stop the Israeli war on Gaza from spiralling into a regional conflict.

Blinken, who arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday from the UAE, will also hold talks on Red Sea attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen and touch on a potential normalization of ties with Israel after initial discussions were put on hold by the Gaza crisis, a senior official said.

In Aby Dhabi, Blinken "emphasised the importance of preventing further spread of the conflict", during talks with United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a US summary of the meeting said.

Financial and in-kind support from the UAE and Saudi Arabia will be essential to the success of any such plan and US officials said Blinken on his fourth trip to the region since the war began in October hoped to overcome initial Arab resistance to considering “day after” scenarios for Gaza.

Arab countries have been pressing for an immediate cease-fire and an end to civilian deaths before discussing such plans.

After his talks with Blinken, Mohamed bin Zayed reiterated his country's call for an immediate cease-fire, saying the constant images of death and destruction in Gaza are de-sensitizing people to the horrors of what is happening.

“This is a big test for our humanity,” he said. “We are looking for a sustainable future. However, the focus is now on stopping the fighting.”

"This is a conflict that could easily metastasise, causing even more insecurity and even more suffering," Blinken said on Sunday in Qatar after meeting with the Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

From Saudi Arabia, Blinken will travel to Israel, the West Bank and Egypt on Tuesday and Wednesday before returning to Washington.

15:35 Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi discussed with Ahmed Aboul-Gheit, the Secretary-General of the Arab League, efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza, deliver humanitarian aid, and activate the two-state solution process.

El-Sisi and Aboul-Gheit emphasized that the ultimate goal is to secure the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and establish their independent Palestinian state as per the internationally recognized frameworks, according to a statement by the Egyptian presidency.

14:05 The Palestinian Health Ministry has updated the death toll of Palestinians killed by Israel in Gaza to at least 23,084 people, while a total of 58,926 people have been wounded since 7 October.

The ministry said in a statement that it had recorded 249 deaths in the past 24 hours, alone.

13:47 Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Cairo to discuss ways of ending the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza.

Abbas briefed his Egyptian counterpart on the latest developments in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in the Gaza Strip, as reported by the Wafa news agency.

He emphasized the necessity of collaborating with all parties to halt the ongoing Israeli war and aggression against the Palestinian people.

Abbas reaffirmed the rejection of Israeli plans to forcibly displace Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, or Jerusalem.

He underscored that the sole resolution to the escalating situation in the region lies in a political solution that ends the Israeli occupation and creates a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

13:45 At least three Palestinians were killed and others were injured when an Israeli drone bombed a vehicle west of Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip, Wafa reported.

Others were also killed in an Israeli strike on the home of the Zuraid family, in the Nuseirat camp in the centre of the strip.

13:30 Scores of Israeli settlers broke into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied Jerusalem under heavy protection from the Israeli police, according to witnesses, speaking to Wafa news agency.

The settlers raided the holy mosque from the Moroccan Gate and performed provocative tours in the compounds.

Meanwhile, under protection from the Israeli army, Israeli settlers attacked Palestinians’ lands in Arab Al-Malihat, west of Jericho.

The supervisor of the Al-Baidar Organization for Defending Bedouin Rights, Hassan Mlihat, told Wafa that the settlers erected metal barriers to expand their control over the area.

He noted that these assaults are part of the ongoing policy of the occupation, aiming to expand settlements at the expense of Palestinian land.

13:10 Medics, patients, and displaced people are fleeing from the main hospital in central Gaza as the fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters draws closer, witnesses told AP. 

Doctors Without Borders and other aid groups withdrew from Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir Al-Balah in recent days, saying it is too dangerous. That spread panic among people sheltering there, causing many to join the hundreds of thousands who have fled to the south of the besieged territory.

Tens of thousands of people have sought shelter in Gaza's hospitals, which are also struggling to treat dozens of people wounded each day in Israeli strikes. Only 13 of Gaza's 36 hospitals are even partially functioning, according to the UN humanitarian office.

Omar Al-Darawi, an employee at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, said the facility has been struck multiple times in recent days. He said thousands of people left after the aid groups pulled out, and that patients have been concentrated on one floor so the remaining doctors can tend to them more easily.

“We have large numbers of wounded who can’t move,” he said. “They need special care, which is unavailable.”

World Health Organization staff who visited Sunday saw “sickening scenes of people of all ages being treated on blood-streaked floors and in chaotic corridors,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the UN agency, said in a statement. “The bloodbath in Gaza must end.”

The situation is even more dire in northern Gaza, which Israeli forces cut off from the rest of the territory in late October.

13:25 Here are some of the most recent photos from Gaza today.

Palestinian men evacuate the body of a victim after an Israeli bombardment hit a car in Rafah. AFP

A Palestinian youth carries containers at a market in Rafah refugee camp. AFP

Palestinian onlookers gather around a car wreck following an Israeli bombardment in Rafah. AFP

Palestinians look from the windows of a minibus at a market in Rafah refugee camp. AFP

Palestinian men carry their shopping at a market in Rafah refugee camp. AFP

13:00 Israel killed a top commander of Hezbollah, Wissam al-Tawil, in a strike on south Lebanon, a security source told AFP.

The commander "had a leading role in managing Hezbollah's operations in the south," the security official said requesting anonymity for security concerns, adding he "was killed in an Israeli raid targeting his car in the south".

12:50 An official Egyptian source denied any cooperation between Egypt and Israel in the Philadelphia corridor, a narrow passage between Egypt and Gaza, as reported by some media outlets.

In a comment to Egyptian news outlet Al-Qahera News on Monday, the source dismissed such reports as "completely false."

12:29 The people of Gaza face a humanitarian catastrophe, the UN women's agency said.

"They are hungry, starving, and face serious risk of famine," it added.

"While needs are escalating, the healthcare system has collapsed. We continue to call for unhindered access to life-saving aid."

12:15 Israel must protect Palestinians in the West Bank, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in Ramallah.

Her comments came after Israeli forces killed eight Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

On her visit to Israel on Sunday, Baerbock urged Israel to act with restraint in its war on Gaza.

"The suffering of many innocent people cannot continue in this way," she said. "We need a less intensive operation." 

The minister warned against any expulsion of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip.

"It is irrevocable: Gaza belongs to the Palestinians," she said.

12:05 An online petition demanding the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador to the UK Tzipi Hotovely for calling to  “destroy Gaza” has garnered over 100,000 signatures.

The petition initiated less than a month ago, argues that political envoys should nurture positive relationships between nations and face consequences when their actions achieve the opposite effect.

Hotovely made a series of racist statements suggesting that a significant portion, if not all, of Gaza, should be “razed to the ground.”

“Do you have another solution to destroy the underground tunnel city? This is the place where the terrorists hide, where they have all their ammunition,” she responded on a UK radio programme when asked if she supports “destroying the whole of Gaza, every single building in it?”

11:35 The Egyptian Journalists Syndicate granted the 2024 Freedom of Press award to the renowned Palestinian journalist Wael Al-Dahdouh, the bureau chief of Al Jazeera in Gaza, for his role during the ongoing Israeli war against Gaza.​

The award serves as a symbolic tribute to Al-Dahdouh and all Palestinian journalists who have faced the risk of losing their lives in pursuit of truth, the syndicate said in a statement.

Al-Dahdouh's son Hamza – also a journalist at Al Jazeera was killed in an Israeli strike on Sunday.

Hamza Wael Dahdouh and Mustafa Thuria, who also worked as a video stringer for AFP and other news organizations, were killed while they were “on their way to carry out their duty” for the channel in the Gaza Strip.

A third freelance journalist traveling with them, Hazem Rajab, was seriously injured.

Hamza's killing comes only a few weeks after Al-Dahdouh's other son, daughter, wife, and one-and-a-half-month-old grandson were killed in an Israeli bombardment.

The Palestinian journalists have exposed the Israeli genocidal crimes against the Palestinian people, confronted the false Zionist narratives, and debunked the lies disseminated by the Western media, the statement added.

Israel has killed 110 journalists and media workers, targeted dozens of their family members, destroyed more than 65 Palestinian media outlets, and arrested 18 journalists since 7 October, the syndicate noted.

Israel has attempted to obliterate the truth but the courage of Palestinian journalists has become a shield against these challenges, read the statement.

The syndicate warned that Israel will continue killing journalists as long as they remain unaccountable.

10:07 Israeli Defence Minister, Yoav Gallant told The Wall Street Journal that Israel will move away from the "intense manoeuvring phase of the war" in Gaza towards "different types of special operations."

The war cabinet minister says the next chapter of the war "will last for a longer time."

He also threatened Hezbollah, saying Israel is ready to engage in a destructive war with the Lebanese armed group as well.

"We are willing to sacrifice. They see what is happening in Gaza. They know we can copy-paste to Beirut."

10:00 Dozens of Israeli activists protested outside the Knesset, calling on the government of Benjamin Netanyahu to quit and call for new elections, Israeli media reported.

Police officers forcefully evicted protesters who blocked the entrance to the Knesset, calling for "elections now.”

One of the protesters was arrested. 

“Any hopes that the government would rise to the occasion of this time of emergency have been shattered by their failed actions, expressed by their dysfunction, the abandonment of the hostages, the fatal damage to Israel’s international reputation, their continued incitement and divisiveness and the diversion of budgets in favor of personal interests at the expense of the public as a whole,” organizers said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu called for ministers and key attendees in high-level meetings to undergo polygraph tests, citing concerns about widespread leaks infiltrating his cabinet.

Expressing frustration over the ongoing situation, he said that "everyone participating in cabinet and security discussions" should undergo this procedure, emphasizing the need for a new law to enforce this measure.

Internal discord among Israeli officials has intensified, with three ministers from the opposition National Unity Party, including party leader Benny Gantz, declining to participate in Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting.

This boycott follows a heated security cabinet session on Thursday regarding the future of Gaza, where disagreements between right-wing ministers and military officials escalated into a shouting match.

9:48 The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA says its facilities have been attacked 220 times since the start of the Israeli war, including 63 direct hits.

It says, only five out of 22 UNRWA health centres are still operational in the central and southern areas of the strip.

9:40 In his fourth tour of the Middle East since 7 October, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to visit the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia on Monday where he’ll speak with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

He’ll then head to Israel to hold talks there Tuesday.

Before leaving Doha in Qatar, Antony Blinken said that the Palestinians in Gaza must be able to return home as soon as conditions allow.

He also warned that the Israeli war on Gaza could spread across the region.

“This is a conflict that could easily metastasize, causing even more insecurity and suffering,” Blinken said.

9:35 Hezbollah struck an air traffic control base on Mount Meron in northern Israel, the Israeli military said.

Israel said the air defences were not affected because backup systems were in place. It said that no soldiers were hurt and all damage would be repaired.

Nonetheless, it was one of the most serious attacks by Hezbollah in the months of fighting that has accompanied Israel's war in Gaza and forced tens of thousands of Israelis and Lebanese to evacuate communities near the borders.

Hezbollah described its rocket barrage as an “initial response” to the assassination, by Israel, of a top Hamas leader in Beirut last week.

Israeli Military Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said the army pressure on Hezbollah was rising and it would either be effective “or we will get to another war.” Military Spokesman Daniel Hagari asserted that Israel’s focus on Hezbollah’s elite Radwan force was pushing it away from the border.

9:05 Israeli occupation forces stormed the town of Beit Ummar north of Hebron and arrested several Palestinians.

Israeli forces also stormed the city of Ramallah from its northern axis, raided the Beitunia and Al-Tireh neighborhoods, and deployed their vehicles on Al-Irsal Street, the Palestinian news agency reported.

Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said they targeted with heavy gunfire, Israeli soldiers stationed at the Anab checkpoint in the Nour Shams camp, in Tulkarm in the occupied West Bank.

9:00 Israeli warplanes launched a series of airstrikes on the Maghazi camp in central Gaza, while an Israeli drone fired shots at the European Hospital in Khan Younis in the south.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said that 73 martyrs and 99 wounded arrived at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central part of the Strip in the past 24 hours.

Israeli forces pushed deeper into the central city of Deir al-Balah, where residents in several neighbourhoods were warned that they must evacuate.

The international medical charity Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), said it was evacuating its medical staff from Deir Al-Balah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Hospital.

After days of artillery fighting in Gaza's Middle Area and following late morning evacuation order flyers dropped by Israeli forces for neighborhoods around Al-Aqsa hospital where MSF works, MSF took the difficult decision to evacuate staff and their families from the area, the organization said on X.
“It is with a heavy conscience that we have to evacuate while patients, hospital staff, and many people seeking safety remain in the hospital premises,” says Carolina Lopez, the group’s emergency coordinator at Al-Aqsa Hospital.

A bullet penetrated a wall of the hospital’s intensive care unit on Friday, and Israeli drone attacks and sniper fire were just a few hundred meters from the hospital over the past couple of days, Lopez said. 

She said the hospital received between 150 and 200 wounded people daily in recent weeks.

Tens of thousands of people have sought shelter in Gaza's hospitals, which are also struggling to treat dozens of people wounded each day in Israeli strikes. Only 13 of Gaza's 36 hospitals are even partially functioning, according to the U.N. humanitarian office.

Meanwhile, the International Rescue Committee and Medical Aid for Palestinians said they also were forced to withdraw from the hospital. “The amount of injuries being brought in over the last few days has been horrific,” surgeon Nick Maynard with the IRC medical team said

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