Israel and Hamas agree deal on medicine for captives and more aid for Gaza - as it happened

Ahram Online , Tuesday 16 Jan 2024

As the Israeli war on Gaza reaches its 102nd day, intense battles are unfolding in Khan Younis in the south, and the occupation forces continue shelling Jabalia in the north. The Palestinian resistance reported the killing of Israeli soldiers, while Israel killed at least 132 Palestinians in the last 24 hours; the UN said Israel is obstructing access to aid missions, preventing delivery of food and water.

Palestinian girl
A Palestinian girl looks for salvageable items amid the destruction on the southern outskirts of Khan Yunis in the war-battered Gaza Strip on January 16, 2024. AFP


21: 40 Qatar's foreign ministry spokesperson announced on Tuesday the success of a Qatari mediation in cooperation with France in reaching an agreement between Israel and Hamas where medication and humanitarian aid is to be delivered to civilians in Gaza in exchange of delivering medications needed for Israeli captives in Gaza.

Medications and aid will leave Doha tomorrow to the Egyptian city of Arish in preparation to their transport into the Gaza Strip, the foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al Ansari said.

21:00 The U.S. launched a new strike against the Yemen-based Houthis on Tuesday, hitting anti-ship missiles in a third assault on the Iranian-backed group in recent days, a U.S. official said.

The U.S. official said no other details were available yet on the American strike, including the precise location. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the operation had not been made public.

The strike came as the Houthis claimed responsibility for a missile attack against the Malta-flagged bulk carrier Zografia in the Red Sea. No one was injured. The Greek-owned vessel had been heading north to the Suez Canal when it was attacked, the Greek Shipping and Island Policy Ministry said.

This latest exchange suggests there has been no let-up in Houthi attacks on shipping in the region, despite the massive U.S. and British assault on the group Friday, bombing more than 60 targets in 28 locations.

19: 00 The military spokesman for Yemen's Houthi rebels said the group earlier on Tuesday targeted the Malta-flagged, Greek-owned Zografia bulk carrier.

The Zografia was en route to Israel when it was hit, the BBC reported citing Greek shipping ministry sources. The Houthis have said they will target ships heading for Israeli ports in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

The ship sustained material damage but no injuries after it was hit in the Red Sea near the Yemeni port of Saleef, a security firm and two Greek ministry sources said.

18:30 Israeli tanks stormed back into parts of the northern Gaza Strip they had left last week, residents said on Tuesday, which reignited some of the most intense fighting since the New Year when Israel announced it was scaling back its operations there.

Massive explosions could be seen over northern areas of Gaza from across the border with Israel – a rarity over the past two weeks after Israel announced a drawdown of forces in the north as part of a transition to smaller, targeted operations.

The rattle of gunfire reverberated across the border through Monday night. On Tuesday morning, contrails snaked through the sky as Israel's Iron Dome defences shot down rockets fired by militants across the fence, proof they retain the capability to launch them despite more than 100 days of war.

Some of the hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents who fled the north earlier in the war had begun returning last week to bombed-out areas where the Israelis had withdrawn. But residents who spoke to Reuters on Tuesday said the abrupt resurgence of fighting in the north would now halt plans to try to go home.

"We almost planned to return to our house in Nazla, east of Jabalia, but thank God we didn't. This morning people living nearby arrived here and told us the tanks pushed back there," said Abu Khaled, 43, a father of three now living with relatives in severely damaged Gaza City.

"The sounds of bombing from the tanks, from the planes didn't stop all night. It reminded us of the first day of the ground incursion."

17:30 Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Tuesday the kingdom could recognise Israel if a comprehensive agreement were reached that included statehood for the Palestinians.

"We agree that regional peace includes peace for Israel, but that could only happen through peace for the Palestinians through a Palestinian state," Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Asked if Saudi Arabia would then recognize Israel as part of a wider political agreement, he said: "Certainly."

He said securing regional peace through the creation of a Palestinian state was "something we have been indeed working on with the US administration, and it is more relevant in the context of Gaza."

16:30 The European Union said Tuesday that is has put the mastermind behind the 7 Oct attacks on Israel, Hamas leader Yehya Sinwar, on its terrorist list.

The EU says Sinwar “is subject to the freezing of his funds and other financial assets in EU member states. It is also prohibited for EU operators to make funds and economic resources available to him” No further details were provided.

In November, the EU froze the funds and other assets in Europe of Mohammed Deif, the commander general of Hamas’ military wing, and of deputy commander Marwan Issa.

Hamas and its military wing have been on the EU’s terrorist list as organizations for about 20 years.

15:55 The Egyptian authorities facilitated the entry of Wael Al-Dahdou, Al-Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief, on Tuesday Al Qahera News reported.

Al-Dahdouh has experienced immense personal loss during the ongoing war, with several family members, including his wife, som, daughter, were killed by Israeli strikes.

Earlier this month, Al-Dahdouh’s 27-year-old son, Hamza, who was also a journalist at Al Jazeera, tragically lost his life in an Israeli strike. Moreover, Al-Dahdouh suffered the devastating loss of his wife, a 16-year-old son, a seven-year-old daughter, and a grandson during an Israeli shelling incident in October.

15:40 Israel says a barrage of at least 25 rockets was launched on Tuesday from the Gaza Strip toward southern Israel, damaging a store. It was one of the strongest bombardments from Gaza in more than a week.

It came a day after Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said the Israeli army was expanding military control from northern Gaza toward other parts of the strip.

Israeli Channel 12 TV said the rockets on Tuesday were launched from the central Gaza town of Bureij.

15:07 The Egyptian Red Crescent (ERC) delivered 40 trucks on Tuesday to the Palestinian Red Crescent through the Egyptian Rafah border crossing, loaded with humanitarian aid.​

They add to the tally of the aid-loaded trucks that reached 9,000 until Sunday, crossing from the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing to Gaza since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza, according to Egypt's State Information Service Chairman Diaa Rashwan.

Rashwan indicated that Egypt’s private and public contributions comprise 82 percent of total aid delivered to Gaza.

He also stressed that the major hurdle for the swift delivery of aid to Gaza over the past 100 days has been the deliberate delays imposed by Israeli authorities inspecting the aid at border crossings.

15:00 Here are some of the photos coming from Gaza today.

A youth flashes the V for victory sign as people flee south Khan Yunis to Rafah in the southern Gaza. AFP

A donkey cart drives past a collapsed building in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza. AFP

A makeshift tent is set up in a camp for displaced Palestinians near the beach in Rafah by the border with Egypt. AFP

A Palesitinian girl holds her cat as families leave their damaged homes on the southern outskirts of Khan Yunis behind and head to further south. AFP

14:10 Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry received the UN Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza Sigrid Kaag on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip.

Kaag and Shoukry addressed the dire humanitarian conditions in Gaza, focusing on assessments related to the deterioration of service and humanitarian entities' operations in the region, according to the ministry’s statement.

Both sides emphasized the need to increase humanitarian aid flow to Gaza to meet the urgent population needs, emphasizing support for the continuous operation of service facilities, hospitals, and relief agencies to provide services to the Palestinian people. 

Shoukry stressed Israel's responsibility to remove these obstacles and cooperate in expediting aid entry into the strip and ending the deteriorating humanitarian situation

14:00 Slovenia's Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs announced it will participate in the ICJ proceedings initiated by the UN General Assembly against Israel.

“This is a very broad spectrum of alleged violations that have been committed in the region for decades and whose horrific consequences are still visible today. In the light of recent events in Gaza and the West Bank, Slovenia, as one of the few EU countries, has decided to actively participate and present its views in these proceedings before the International Court of Justice,” said Tanja Fajon, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs.

"We draw attention to the serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Gaza. Since 7 October 2023, 23 thousand Palestinians have been killed, 70 percent of them women and children. 1.9 million people have been displaced, representing almost 85 per cent of the total population. We also strongly condemn any intention to expel the Palestinian population from Gaza or the West Bank and to reduce the size of the Palestinian territory," she said.

The court has fixed 19 February for the start of the oral hearing. Slovenia’s turn will come on 23 February. 

13:40 The Israeli occupation army said that 26 soldiers were injured during the past 24 hours, including 22 in ground battles in Gaza.

13:30 Qatar’s prime minister offered stinging criticism of Israel and the international community over the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who also serves as Qatar’s foreign minister, said a two-state solution was required to end the conflict and warned that the Israeli war showed the region could not go back to the way it was before.

“Gaza is not there anymore. I mean, there is nothing over there,” he said, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "It’s carpet bombing everywhere.”

He also brought up the ongoing Israeli violence in the West Bank, which has seen Palestinians killed as well by Israeli security forces, and terrorist settlers.

"We cannot have a two-state solution without having a government and politicians in Israel who believe in coexisting together side by side peacefully and we cannot have all this ongoing without ending this war,” he said.

He warned that recent US-led strikes against the Houthis in Yemen would only deepen regional divides over Israel's war on Gaza.

“What we have right now in the region is a recipe of escalation everywhere,” Sheikh Mohammed added.

Al Thani said that tensions in the Middle East are "affecting everyone," stressing that the primary focus for leaders should be to diffuse Israel's deadly war.

"LNG is... as any other merchant shipments. They will be affected by that," Sheikh Mohammed said.

12:25 Houthi rebels fired a missile that struck a US-owned ship late Monday just off the coast of Yemen in the Gulf of Aden, less than a day after they launched an anti-ship cruise missile toward the Gibraltar Eagle, an American destroyer in the Red Sea.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, which oversees Mideast waters, said Monday's attack happened some 110 miles (177 kilometres) southeast of Aden. It said the ship’s captain reported that the “port side of vessel hit from above by a missile.”

Private security firms Ambrey and Dryad Global told The Associated Press that the vessel was the Eagle Gibraltar, a Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier. The US military's Central Command later acknowledged the strike.

“The ship has reported no injuries or significant damage and is continuing its journey,” Central Command said.

Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree claimed the attack in a recorded television address that aired Monday night.

“The Yemeni armed forces consider all American and British ships and warships participating in the aggression against our country as hostile targets,” he said.

The vessel is owned by Eagle Bulk Shipping, a Stamford, Connecticut-based firm traded on the New York Stock Exchange. In a statement to The Associated Press, the company said the strike caused “limited damage to a cargo hold but (the ship) is stable and is heading out of the area.”

“All seafarers onboard the vessel are confirmed to be uninjured,” the firm said. “The vessel is carrying a cargo of steel products. Eagle Bulk management is in close contact with all relevant authorities concerning this matter.”

Satellite-tracking data analyzed by AP showed the Eagle Gibraltar had been bound for the Suez Canal, but rapidly turned around at the time of the attack.

Central Command said it detected a separate anti-ship ballistic missile launch toward the southern Red Sea on Monday, though it ”failed in flight and impacted on land in Yemen."

11:30 The UNRWA said that Gaza is "hardly recognizable." "Wherever you look, there are little structures covered with plastic, where many are trying to find safety and protection."

Listen to what Juliette Touma, UNRWA Director of Communications, has to say.

11:10 The Palestinian Ministry of Health has announced that the death toll of Palestinians killed by Israel in Gaza has reached 24,285, with 61,154 reported injuries.

10:05 An Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio presenter was terminated from her position after sharing a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on the impact of the Israeli war on Gaza on her personal social media account.

“HRW reporting starvation as a tool of war,” Antoinette Lattouf wrote in an Instagram post in December 2023, mentioning the report.

A hearing will be conducted on Thursday by Australia’s Fair Work Commission to examine the circumstances surrounding Lattouf’s contract termination. Josh Bornstein, her lawyer, said that the Lebanese-Australian broadcaster was dismissed due to her “political views and race.”

09:55 The UN secretary-general said Gaza faces “the long shadow of starvation” and the risk of disease outbreaks because of barriers to delivering vital aid.

Antonio Guterres did not mention Israel by name in his remarks, but blamed the inability to meet Gaza’s growing humanitarian needs on widespread bombardment, barriers to entering the territory, and restrictions on distribution inside of it – all under Israel’s control.

He said he was “deeply troubled by the clear violation of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing.”

Israeli officials have denied hindering aid delivery, saying the UN needs to provide more workers and trucks.

However, Guterres said the UN and its partners “cannot effectively deliver humanitarian aid while Gaza is under such heavy, widespread and unrelenting bombardment.” He pointed to the deaths of 152 UN staffers in Gaza since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza, “the largest single loss of life in the history of our organization.”

09:50 Israel’s defense minister said the intense Israeli military offensive in the southern Gaza Strip will soon be scaled back, but he is ruling out a ceasefire.

Yoav Gallant said Israel recently ended its intensive ground operation in northern Gaza after taking military control of the area. He said he expected similar results in the south as well.

“It will end soon,” he added. “In both places, we will reach the moment for the next stage,” Gallant noted.

He gave no details on timing but ruled out a ceasefire, saying military pressure is the only way to win the release of the more than 100 captives.

09:15 Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) struck, late on Monday, what it said were Mossad “spy headquarters” near the US consulate in the city of Erbil in Kurdish northern Iraq, and targets in northern Syria were linked to the extremist group Islamic State.

Iran promised payback for the killing of three IRGC members in Syria in December 2023, including a senior general, who served as a military adviser there.

“In response to the recent atrocities of the Zionist regime, causing the killing of commanders of the Guards and the Axis of Resistance … one of the main Mossad espionage headquarters in Iraq’s Kurdistan region was destroyed with ballistic missiles,” the IRGC said in a statement.

“We assure our nation the Guards’ offensive operations will continue until avenging the last drops of martyrs’ blood,” they added.

09:00 At least 132 people have been killed by the Israeli occupation forces in Gaza in the past 24 hours, according to the Palestinian news agency WAFA.

During the night, at least 57 Palestinians were killed, and dozens were wounded in the wake of intense Israeli airstrikes targeting various areas in the Gaza Strip, as reported by local and security sources.

In the central part of Gaza City, at least 20 individuals were killed in an Israeli airstrike directed at a house belonging to the Al-Sousi family in the Al-Sabra neighborhood. Dozens of others sustained injuries and were transferred to Al-Shifa Hospital west of the city.

In another attack, the Israeli occupation airforce conducted a fierce airstrike on a house belonging to the Al-Haddad family in the Al-Zaytoun neighborhood, southeast of Gaza City, killing at least 11 people.

An additional 11 Palestinians were killed, with others wounded, in an Israeli airstrike on a house south of the city. The casualties were transported to the Gaza European Hospital, and seven others arrived at Nasser Hospital in the city.

Israeli fighter jets launched intense airstrikes targeting Al-Maghazi and Al-Bureij camps, killing 7 more people and several others sustaining injuries.

Further casualties occurred in an Israeli airstrike targeting a house for the Al-Muznar family in the Al-Saftawi area, north of Gaza City, where one citizen was killed and others were wounded.

Violent Israeli airstrikes targeted the neighborhoods of Tal Al-Hawa, Sheikh Ajlin, Al-Sabra, and Al-Zaytoun, as well as the Jabalia camp in the northern Gaza Strip. The city of Khan Younis also experienced non-stop Israeli bombardment.


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