Intensive regional and international diplomacy as Israel continues its war on Gaza for the 96th day - as it happened

Ahram Online , Wednesday 10 Jan 2024

As the Israeli assault on Gaza reached its 96th day, dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed and injured in the ongoing Israeli airstrikes and artillery shelling across different areas of the Gaza Strip.

A picture taken from Rafah on January 10, 2024, shows smoke billowing over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. AFP

23:00 Al Jazeera’s correspondent reports that a number of Palestinians, including at least four children, were killed after the Israeli army hit an agricultural land on which displaced people were sheltering.

The UN Human Rights Office in Occupied Palestinian Territory says it is deeply concerned that Israeli forces “have placed civilian lives at serious risk by ordering residents from various parts of Middle Gaza to relocate to Deir Al-Balah – while continuing to conduct air strikes on the city.”

“The UN Human Rights Office has received reports that during the last ten days, four individual strikes in Deir Al-Balah killed more than 40 Palestinians. It is clear – as the UN has repeatedly stressed – that there is no safe place in Gaza,” it said in a statement.

22:40 Security camera video from a West Bank village shows a young man standing in a central square when he is suddenly shot and drops to the ground. Two others rushing to his aid are also hit, leaving a 17-year-old dead, moments before Israeli military jeeps roll in.

An Associated Press review of the video and interviews with the two wounded survivors showed Israeli soldiers opened fire on the three when they did not appear to pose a threat. One of the wounded Palestinians was shot a second time after he got up and tried to hop away.

The Israeli military said troops entered Beit Rima overnight Thursday into Friday in what it described as a “counter-terrorism operation.” It said troops fired at suspects who threw explosives and firebombs at them.

The video, obtained by the AP from a local smoke shop, does not show anyone throwing explosives.

After reviewing the footage, a military spokesperson said soldiers reported that one of the Palestinians — visible kneeling in front of an object just outside the frame — was igniting a Molotov cocktail when he was shot.

The video, however, shows that the first shot does not hit the kneeling man, but rather another Palestinian man, Nader Rimawi. Nader told the AP that the object was a stack of cardboard boxes and scraps of paper that 17-year-old Osaid Rimawi had gathered and was preparing to light to keep the men warm.

In interviews with the AP, the wounded village residents denied having thrown explosives and said the shootings, about 2 a.m. Friday, were unprovoked.

Check the full story here.

21:00 The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that "Israel is deliberately not letting enough food into Gaza to meet the population’s needs."

“Before the war, the Strip was already in a severe humanitarian crisis and 80 percent of residents relied on humanitarian aid. Without reserves, it is clear why Gaza has now plummeted into a full-blown catastrophe,” B’Tselem said.

“Yet Israel persists in its policy and the horror is growing by the minute. Experts warn that if these conditions continue, there is a real risk of famine throughout Gaza within six months.”

"This must end. Starvation as a method of warfare is prohibited and the parties are legally obliged to allow unimpeded passage of humanitarian aid – including food for survival," the group added.

20:19 Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Abul Gheit expressed unwavering support for South Africa's lawsuit filed at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Israel for genocide against the Palestinians, as the Court in The Hague is set to commence hearings on Thursday.

"I extend my gratitude to South Africa and its government for taking this principled stance, placing ethics and human values above all considerations. The General Secretariat of the Arab League affirms its full support for South Africa's endeavor through all available means," he said.

In a post on X, Aboul Gheit said, "It's natural and logical for the Arab League to fully support South Africa's lawsuit against Israel before the International Court of Justice on charges of committing genocide. We look forward to a just and bold ruling that will stop this aggressive war and put an end to the shedding of Palestinian blood."

He added in his post, "We would have liked the League to be able to join the call, but as an organization, it is not among the parties authorized to do so."

The Arab League’s official spokesperson Gamal Roushdy explained, that "the General Secretariat stands prepared to offer the necessary support to serve the Palestinian cause and bolster the Palestinians’ position."

You can read the full report here.

Palestinians carrying flags and banners have gathered at Nelson Mandela Square in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank to demonstrate in support of the genocide case filed by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

Here is a Palestinian holding a sign that reads “Thank You South Africa” in Arabic, standing by Nelson Mandela monument.

19:57 The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator condemned the attacks on hospitals in Gaza.

Martin Griffiths said in a post on X that attacks on hospitals will slowly lead to the destruction of Gaza’s health sector, and increase the suffering of Palestinians.

"This war need to end," he said.

19:10 Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS) vehemently denied recent “unfounded allegations” claiming that additional fees are being imposed on Palestinians at the Rafah Border Crossing, linking Gaza to Egypt.

Egypt remains resolute in rejecting any economic or financial enticements to compromise the Palestinian cause or force displacement, considering it a matter of national importance, he said.

He also dismissed allegations that any non-official entity was charging fees to cross into Egypt from Gaza.

He urged Palestinian travellers to immediately report any extortion or pressure at the Rafah crossing to Egyptian authorities at the crossing, allowing swift legal action to be taken against them.

19:00 The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) announced that the number of its team members killed in an Israeli forces' attack targeting a PRCS ambulance in Deir Al-Balah has risen to six.

18:40 The WHO said it had to cancel another planned missions bring medical supplies to northern Gaza after failing to receive security guarantees.

It was the sixth time WHO had had to call off a planned mission since 26 December, it said

"Delivering humanitarian aid in Gaza continues to face nearly insurmountable challenges," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus,  Director-General of the WHO said during a virtual press briefing.

“Intense bombardment, restrictions on movement, fuel shortage and interrupted communications make it impossible for WHO and our partners to reach those in need,” he said from Geneva.

"We continue to call for a ceasefire, but even without one, corridors can be established to allow the safe passage of humanitarian aid and workers," he added.

Healthcare must always be protected and respected; it cannot be attacked and it cannot be militarized."

The WHO called on Israel to approve requests by WHO and other partners to deliver humanitarian aid.

18:35 Meeting in Aqaba, the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, and Palestine, categorically rejected any efforts aimed at displacing Palestinians from their lands or separating the connection between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, Abdullah II, and Mahmoud Abbas additionally cautioned against Israel's s establishment of so-called  safe zones in Gaza, warning of the reoccupation of any part of the Strip.

In a statement, they also emphasized the vital importance to continue pushing for a ceasefire and enabling Gaza residents to return to their homes, after Israeli attacks displaced them.

18:30 Footage obtained by Al Jazeera shows what the Al-Qassam Brigades said was an ambush targeting an Israeli occupation forces inside a tunnel in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood, in Gaza.

17:40 Four members of the Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance crews were killed when Israeli forces targeted an ambulance vehicle on Salah Al-Din Street, at the entrance of Deir Al-Balah, the PRCS announced.

16:35 The Israeli army targeted a residential building a few metres away from Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, the principal hospital still operating in the central Gaza Strip, as reported by Al Jazeera.

Israeli attacks on the hospital have killed and injured dozens of Palestinians, who sought refuge in it.

Ahmed Badir, a journalist for the Al-Hadaf media outlet, was among those killed in the Israeli attack.

Ongoing efforts to evacuate victims trapped under the rubbles continue, Al Jazeera correspondent said.

16:30 The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has opened a digital platform to enable people to submit complaints online with evidence of Israeli war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, or aggression.

The ICC is inviting anyone to submit complaints or evidence online, including videos and images.

“You do not necessarily need to be a victim or witness of the alleged crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC listed above. Information can also be submitted collectively or through an organization, as long as there is an identifiable sender,” the office said in a statement.

The ICC confirmed Wednesday it is investigating possible crimes against journalists during the ongoing Israeli war on the besieged Gaza Strip, Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has filed a war crimes complaint with the ICC regarding the deaths of Palestinian journalists killed in the Israeli aggression on the strip.

The office of the ICC prosecutor Karim Khan has also assured that crimes against journalists are included in its investigation into Palestine.

“Today, I confirm the initiation by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court of an investigation respecting the Situation in Palestine. The investigation will cover crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court that are alleged to have been committed in the Situation since 13 June 2014, the date to which reference is made in the Referral of the Situation to my Office,” announced the ICC today.

The ICC is different from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is to investigate the genocide case brought by South Africa against Israel. 

The ICJ is a civil court that hears disputes between countries, while the ICC is a criminal court that prosecutes individuals.

16:10 A new round of talks on a possible swap of captives held by Hamas for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel has started in Egypt, AP cited an Egyptian official as saying.

Egypt and Qatar are trying to reach a deal to release civilian captives held by Hamas and other resistance groups in return for a ceasefire and the release of additional Palestinian prisoners by Israel, the official said on Wednesday.

The two countries helped mediate a week-long ceasefire in November 2023, in which Hamas released over 100 captives in exchange for 240 Palestinian children and women detainees from Israeli jails.

15:14 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday that Washington supports "tangible steps" towards the creation of a Palestinian state.

Blinken reiterated Washington's longstanding position that a Palestinian state must stand alongside Israel, "with both living in peace and security," State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.

Palestinian statehood was anticipated following the Oslo Accords of the 1990s, but talks have been moribund for years.

The Israeli government has shown no interest in reviving negotiations.

15:10 Belgium's outspoken Deputy Prime Minister Petra De Sutter said she will propose the country's government to join a genocide case brought by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

"We must act against the threat of genocide," the deputy prime minister said on X.

"I want Belgium to take action at the International Court of Justice, following the lead of South Africa," she added.

The first hearings in the case filed in December 2023 by South Africa accusing Israel of genocide against Palestinians are scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

The Belgian government will be discussing the proposal before the end of the week.

15:00 London-based news outlet Al-Araby Al-Jadeed announced the release of one of its Palestinian journalists from Israeli detention, saying he faced torture during more than a month in captivity.

Diaa Al-Kahlout, who was among dozens of Palestinians shown taken hostage by Israeli occupation soldiers and stripped to their underwear in north Gaza last month, had been released back into the Palestinian territory, the Qatari-owned website said.

Kahlout told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, that he had faced "indescribably tough and difficult" conditions following his arrest.

The 37-year-old said he had been beaten and tortured.

"The moment I was detained, Israeli soldiers crowded round me... before they gagged me with tape so I couldn't speak."

Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has said following his arrest the journalist was briefly held in Eshel prison in Israel and was subjected to torture, according to several of the organization's sources.

View Kahlout's testimony video below.

14:00 The Palestinian health ministry said at least 23,357 people have been killed in the Israeli strikes on Gaza since 7 October, in its latest update of Palestinian causalities.

The toll includes 147 deaths over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, while 59,410 people have been wounded across the Palestinian territory since the war erupted. A total of 1.9 million people, or nearly 85 percent of the total population of Gaza, are estimated to have been displaced from their homes, with many of them sheltering in desperately overcrowded UN facilities in the south of the territory. 

12:45 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Bahrain Wednesday, a US State Department official said, in the latest leg of a crisis tour of the Middle East.

After meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, Blinken will fly to Bahrain, home base of the US Fifth Fleet, for talks with King Hamad on preventing regional escalation of the Israeli war on Gaza.

The Palestinian president reiterated that the Gaza Strip is an integral part of the Palestinian state, noting that it is impossible to accept or deal with the plans of the occupation authorities to separate it or cut off any part of it.

Abbas also refused the Israeli ministers and officials' calls for the expulsion of the Palestinian people from their land, stressing the complete rejection of the displacement of any Palestinian citizen, whether in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, saying "We will not allow it to happen."

On his fourth visit to the region, since the war began in October, Blinken has met in recent days with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey. He said that he has secured commitments from multiple countries in the region to assist with rebuilding and governing Gaza after the war and that wider Israeli-Arab normalization is still possible, but only if there is "a pathway to a Palestinian state."

12:00 The Times of Israel reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s war cabinet will meet tonight to discuss Israeli plans for the Gaza Strip when the war finishes.

A previous meeting on the subject was called off after the discussions degenerated into a shouting match, as ministers attacked the army Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi over his plans to probe the military failures that led to the 7 October operation by Hamas, the Israeli outlet said.

On Friday, Halevi decided to form a team of former military officials to probe the army’s operational failures in the lead-up to 7 October, triggering vocal criticism from right-wing ministers who criticized the army’s plans to probe its own mistakes.

The feud exposed cracks in the war cabinet since the war broke out in October.

11:00 Israel’s military said that it has again struck at what it described as Hezbollah targets in the area of Labbouneh in southern Lebanon. 

On Tuesday, Lebanese Hezbollah said it targeted a command base in northern Israel in retaliation for the assassination of top Hezbollah commander Wissam Al-Tawil and Hamas deputy leader Saleh Al-Arouri.

Israel confirmed that a "hostile aircraft" had crashed at one of its bases in the north, adding that a "senior in the resistance brigades" was killed.

Hezbollah and Israel have been exchanging near-daily fire across the border since the Israeli war on Gaza broke out on 7 October.

In a meeting on Tuesday with UN chief of peacekeeping operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said his country was "ready for talks to achieve long-term stability in south Lebanon."

The three months of cross-border violence have killed more than 185 people in Lebanon, including 140 Hezbollah fighters and more than 20 civilians including three journalists, according to an AFP tally.

In northern Israel, nine soldiers and at least four civilians have been killed, according to Israeli authorities.

10:00 President Biden's top Middle East adviser Brett McGurk met in Doha on Tuesday with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and discussed regional tensions and efforts to secure the release of captives held in Gaza, AXIOS reported, citing a US source and two other sources familiar with the trip.

The White House and the Qatari government kept the trip very low profile. They neither announced McGurk's visit nor issued a readout of his meeting with the Qatari prime minister, AXIOS said.

Qatar, together with Egypt, is trying to mediate between Israel and Hamas on a new hostage deal. Israel and Hamas have given proposals for a deal, but wide gaps remain.

Negotiations resumed earlier this week after Hamas suspended the talks for several days over Israel's killing of Hamas official Saleh Al-Arouri in Beirut, according to sources briefed on the issue.

09:00 In a major naval engagement, the Houthis launched at least 21 missiles and drones into the south of the Red Sea towards international shipping lanes. The US and British navies shot down the projectiles, according to the US military's Central Command. No injuries or damage were reported in the 26th attack initiated by the Yemen-based group since 19 November.

The US Central Command confirmed that 18 drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles, and one anti-ship ballistic missile were shot down by US and UK forces. The Houthis have vowed to continue attacks until Israel halts the war in Gaza and warned of retaliatory strikes against US warships if the militia group itself was targeted.

The UN Security Council scheduled a vote Wednesday on a resolution that would condemn and demand an immediate halt to attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on merchant and commercial vessels in the Red Sea area.

The assault occurred off the Yemeni port cities of Hodeida and Mokha, according to the private intelligence firm Ambrey. In the Hodeida incident, ships described over radio seeing missiles and drones, with US-allied warships in the area urging vessels to proceed at maximum speed.

The drones and missiles were downed by F-18s from the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and American Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Gravely, USS Laboon, and USS Mason, as well as the United Kingdom’s HMS Diamond. The Houthis have not formally acknowledged launching the attacks.

Amid concerns of a broader conflict, the UK maritime security agency UKMTO reported the deployment of international forces in response to a fresh security incident off the northern Yemeni coast, currently controlled by Houthi rebels. Concurrently, the UN Security Council is set to vote on Wednesday regarding a resolution condemning and demanding an immediate cessation of attacks by Yemen's Houthis on merchant and commercial vessels in the Red Sea area.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to hold talks on Wednesday with the head of the Palestinian Authority as part of his fourth regional tour. During his visit to Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Blinken urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to exercise caution in Gaza, highlighting the disproportionately high toll on civilians, particularly children.

In a contrasting development, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas convened in Aqaba, southern Jordan, to collectively address the ongoing Gaza war and the evolving situation in the occupied West Bank. Simultaneously, the Israeli occupation army conducted a raid on the Palestinian town of Jenin in the north of the West Bank, resulting in numerous injuries and arrests among Palestinians. The occupation's 11-hour incursion into Jenin and its camp inflicted widespread destruction on the city's infrastructure.


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