More Palestinians killed in Gaza and the West Bank as Israel threatens to wage war against Lebanon - as it happened

Ahram Online , Wednesday 17 Jan 2024

On the 103rd day of the Israeli War on Gaza, the Palestinian Ministry of Health updated the death toll of the Palestinians killed by Israel to at least 24,448 people, as the strip grapples with relentless bombardments, a dire humanitarian crisis, compounded by a persistent communication blackout.

People inspect the damage following Israeli bombardment in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip, on January 17, 2024 .AFP


23:00 The Houthis announced that they targeted with "a number of appropriate missiles" an American ship, Genco Picardy, in the Gulf of Aden, off Yemen, shortly after they vowed more attacks on Israeli-linked ships to press Israel to halt its war on Gaza, and in retaliation to the US and UK attacks on Yemen

Earlier, a British maritime security agency said WednesdayA drone hit a vessel in the Gulf of Aden

A "vessel has been hit on the port side by an Uncrewed Aerial System", the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said, adding that a fire on board had been extinguished and the "vessel and crew are safe".

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the agency said Wednesday's incident happened 60 nautical miles southeast of the port of Aden, and added: "Vessels are advised to transit with caution and report any suspicious activity to UKMTO."

British maritime risk management company Ambrey said the vessel was a Marshall Islands-flagged bulk carrier.

It said it had been heading "east along the Gulf of Aden when it was struck by a UAV on the port side and on the gangway" which was damaged.

Ambrey said an Indian warship was in contact with the bulk carrier.


23:10 Medicines for Israeli captives, and humanitarian aid entered Gaza, Qatar said. 

"Over the past few hours, medicine and aid entered the Gaza Strip, in implementation of the agreement announced yesterday for the benefit of civilians in the Strip, including the detainees," Qatar's foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari wrote on X.

22:39 Israel's army chief said the likelihood of war breaking out on the country's northern border with Lebanon has become "much higher".

"I don't know when the war in the north is, I can tell you that the likelihood of it happening in the coming months is much higher than it was in the past," Israeli army chief Herzi Halevi said in a statement during a visit to northern Israel.

The Israeli army said earlier it conducted air raids in Lebanon, including against fighters who had fired rockets at the coastal town of Rosh Hanikra in northern Israel.

22:00 Israeli far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said that Israel should start a war against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

“In Lebanon, a preemptive attack against Hezbollah is needed and no political settlement will help,” Ben-Gvir said in an interview with the Israeli TV station Channel 7.

“A war in the north can be the most painful, but we must not leave the task to the next generation of our children,” he added.

21:38 The Israeli army said that the bodies of two captives recovered from Gaza prove that they were not killed in an Israeli air raid.

Israeli media reported that the Israeli military presented the families of Ron Sherman and Nik Beizer with a report stating that their bodies showed no signs of trauma or gunfire.

However, the occupation army did not offer an explanation for their cause of death, which has aroused debate within Israel.

Sherman’s mother, Maayan, has accused the Israeli military of killing her son by filling the tunnel in Jabalia, he was in, with poisonous gas.

20:37 Medical aid deliveries to Israeli captives in Gaza have faced complications due to internal Israeli political strife.

“They [the trucks] were meant to go straight into Gaza, but that’s not what happened because of internal Israeli politics. The trucks had to be taken further south to be checked at Israeli checkpoints,” Al Jazeera correspondent Teresa Bo reported from Tel Aviv.

The medicine eventually reached the Israeli border crossing and underwent inspection by the Israeli army, as reported by the Israeli Jerusalem Post.

According to the newspaper, five trucks carrying medicine and humanitarian equipment for the remaining 136 Israeli prisoners in Gaza arrived at the Karm Abu Salem crossing, where they were inspected by Israeli security forces.

The Jerusalem Post added, "Following initial confirmation by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the army would not be allowed to inspect the medicine, he later retracted his statement."

The medication is expected to be sent back to Egypt before being transferred to Gaza.

19:50 Mohamed AbdulSalam, the spokesperson for the Houthi, dismissed the recent American re-designation of the group as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) entity, stating that it "has no value" and "will not change Yemen’s position in support of Palestine."

"We consider it a badge of honor for Yemen for its support of the Palestinian resistance in Gaza," he said, emphasizing that "the arrogant American policies and their support for the Zionist criminal entity make them the sponsor of real terrorism."

Similarly, Hezam Al-Assad, a member of the Houthi political bureau, affirmed that the Houthi will persist in their attacks on Israeli-linked vessels in the Red and Arabian Seas.

“The operations of our naval forces in the Red and Arabian Seas will continue to target Israeli ships linked to the enemy entity,” he wrote on X.

"Washington is the one engaging in criminal activities worldwide, spreading wars and destruction, and supporting those who commit the worst atrocities against children, women, and civilians. It is not in a position to classify others as terrorists," he added.

19:00 The Israeli occupation forces appear to have withdrawn from the area around the largest hospital in the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, after attacks toward the medical compound late on Tuesday prompted panic among the thousands of people sheltering there.

The cemetery of Khan Younis was severely damaged during the Israeli army operations in the area.  

A video of the cemetery that was geolocated by CNN shows the area bulldozed, with some graves disturbed. 

A satellite image of the cemetery taken by Maxar on Monday shows the cemetery undisturbed, indicating the damage must have happened between then and Wednesday morning, when it was first reported, CNN reported.

18:50 US President Joe Biden's administration re-designated the Houthis as a specially designated global terrorist (SDGT) entity.

Administration officials said the designation is aimed at deterring the Houthis from their ongoing attacks in the Red Sea.

The US administration removed the Houthis’ SDGT designation and de-listed it as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) in February 2021, after it was designated by former President Donald Trump's administration in its final weeks in office.

18:47 Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi warned of the danger of the military escalation in the region on multiple fronts, reiterating the vital need to defuse the current critical situation through an immediate and urgent ceasefire.

During a meeting with the Greek Foreign Minister George Gerapetritis in Cairo, El-Sisi further emphasised the necessity to enforce the delivery of humanitarian aid to mitigate the impact of the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Both sides also agreed on the urgent need to move quickly towards a just and comprehensive settlement for the Palestinian cause.

Gerapetritis said his country is concerned about the current situation in Gaza and the escalation in the Red Sea, where a Greek vessel was hit by the Houthis.

Greece’s FM warned of the global consequence that could arise at the humanitarian and financial level if the hostilities expand in the crucial maritime commercial route.

18:10 The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) Camp in Al-Mwasi, Khan Yunis, has successfully welcomed 190 Gaza families through collaborative efforts by the Palestine and Egyptian Red Crescent Societies.

Together, they have established 300 shelter tents to provide support and refuge, as confirmed by the PRCS.

18:00 The death toll of the Palestinians killed by Israel in today's strikes in the occupied West Bank rose to nine, emergency services and the army said.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said an Israeli strike killed four people inside the Tulkarem refugee camp early in the morning.

A separate Israeli strike near Balata refugee camp, east of the city of Nablus, killed five fighters from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah movement.

17:10 France, once again, is trying to protect Israel, following in the shoes of Germany and the US. The French foreign minister says his country does not back the South African case at the UN’s top court accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza.

“Accusing the Jewish state of genocide crosses a moral threshold. The notion of genocide cannot be exploited for political ends,” Stephane Sejourne told parliament.

South Africa has launched the emergency case at the International Court of Justice, arguing that Israel stands in breach of the UN Genocide Convention signed in 1948 and that Israel's war on Gaza "is genocidal" in character because it is "intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part" of the Palestinian population in the strip.

According to Axios, the Israeli Foreign Ministry is trying to pressure the court and quash South Africa's case. The American website revealed that the Israeli Foreign Ministry has instructed embassies to ask diplomats and politicians in various countries to support Tel Aviv.

"The Israeli Foreign Ministry cable states that Israel's "strategic goal" is for the court to reject the request for an injunction, refrain from determining that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, and recognize that the Israeli occupation army is operating in the Strip according to international law," Axios said.

"We ask for an immediate and unequivocal public statement along the following lines: To publicly and clearly state that YOUR COUNTRY rejects the outragest, absurd and baseless allegations made against Israel," reads the cable, a copy of which was obtained by Axios from three different Israeli officials.

In the cable, the Israeli embassies were instructed to ask diplomats and politicians at the highest level to publicly endorse Israel and to acknowledge that Israel is acting in self-defense.

16:50 Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian that if there is an end to the Israeli war on Gaza, other attacks in the region will also cease.

"If the genocide in Gaza stops, then it will lead to the end of other crises and attacks in the region," the Iranian minister said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Abdollahian said Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah told him that Hezbollah attacks would stop if Israel ceased its attacks on Gaza.

He added that Teheran has detailed information that the place targeted in Iraq was indeed the Mossad headquarters and that no mistake about that.

We will respond forcefully to any action directly claimed by “israel” against the security of the Iranian people, just like they claimed an attack on one of our facilities.

Amir-Abdollahian also said that maritime security and shipping safety in the Red Sea, Gulf of Oman and Persian Gulf are important to oil exporter Iran, adding that Iran has information that the Yemenis and Saudis are nearing "a real substantive peace agreement."

15:30 The deal over medical aid for Israeli captives has sparked another dispute in Israel as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli army traded blame over responsibility for allowing the medicines shipments into Gaza without Israel’s inspections, Israeli media said.

Netanyahu distanced himself from playing any role in arrangements for inspecting medicine shipments to the captives before they enter Gaza.

He instead shifted responsibility to the army, emphasizing their role in approving uninspected shipments.

Netanyahu's office said earlier that "the Prime Minister did not deal with it, the army and the security forces decided."

In response, the occupation army leaders said that they learned about the uninspected deliveries, from senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk. The army underscored their lack of knowledge regarding the deal's details and the absence of any consultation.

Meanwhile, War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz said that the decision over medical shipment for prisoners was made by the cabinet, rebuking the Netanyahu office's earlier statement

Gantz wrote on X on that "The responsibility for the decision as well as for its implementation rests on the political echelon, and only on us."

15:00 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that a "full-fledged confrontation" between Israel and Lebanon would be a "total disaster" amid fears of a wider war.

Addressing the World Economic Forum in the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos, Guterres reiterated his call for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire" in Gaza.

The Lebanese-Israeli border has witnessed a near-daily exchange of fire between Israel's army and Lebanon's movement Hezbollah.

"The spillover that is already taking place, the risk of a full-fledged confrontation in Lebanon, it would be a total disaster. We need to avoid it at all costs," Guterres said.

Yemen's Houthi rebels have also struck what they consider Israeli-linked shipping in the Red Sea in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza since the war started there on 7 October.

The United Nations chief suggested that a ceasefire would help to avoid further chaos.

"What we are seeing in the Red Sea, all this demonstrates that it's not enough. It's very important to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza. It's very important to have a humanitarian ceasefire," he added.

Guterres repeated his call for an independent Palestinian state to be established.

"I believe that the present situation has demonstrated that the two-state solution is an absolutely central way to solve this problem," he said.

14:30 Thirty-five Israeli soldiers were injured in the last 24 hours, seven of them seriously, the Israeli army announced on Wednesday. According to the data, 17 soldiers were injured while fighting in the Gaza Strip, and 18 were injured outside of it.

14:00 The Jordanian army said its military field hospital in Khan Younis in Gaza was badly damaged on Wednesday by Israeli shelling in the vicinity of the building. 

The army said in a statement that it held Israel "fully responsible for a flagrant breach of international law."  

A hospital staff member was injured and would be flown back to Jordan for treatment, while a patient was hit with shrapnel, the Jordanian army noted.  

"The hospital incurred heavy damage. The government will take all the measures necessary as a result of the aggression," the statement added, without elaborating.  

The hospital is one of two that Jordan's armed forces run in Gaza that suffer from acute medical shortages amid the Israeli war on the strip. 

13:45 WAFA news agency reported that Israeli occupation forces conducted for 16 "massacres" in the past 24 hours against civilian families in the Gaza Strip. According to local and medical sources, 163 lives Palestinians have been killed and 350 wounded, in these attacks. 

Israel intensified its attacks on the war-ravaged southern region of Gaza, while a humanitarian aid deal, including the delivery of medicines for captives, was expected to be implemented.

Airstrikes and artillery fire relentlessly targeted Khan Younis throughout the night, marking one of the most challenging and intense periods since the onset of the war, as reported by an AFP correspondent in the southern Gaza Strip's largest city.

"It was the most difficult and intense night in Khan Younis since the start of the war," stated a governmental office in Gaza, as reported by AFP.

13:30 Bassem Naim, a Hamas leader, denounced Germany's intention to provide tank shells to Israel amid the ongoing war on Gaza.

"We denounce in the strongest terms Germany's intention to send about ten thousand tank shells to the Zionist occupation," he said, accusing Germany of becoming a direct partner in the war against the Palestinian people and holding full political and moral responsibility for the war crimes committed by Israel.

Israel had requested approval for the delivery of 10,000 rounds of 120-millimetre precision ammunition from Germany, as reported by Der Spiegel. The German government has reportedly made fundamental agreements behind the scenes to fulfill this request.

This move occurs as Western governments, including the United States, continue to endorse Israel's military attacks in Gaza.

13:15 Four Palestinians have been killed and others injured in an Israeli drone strike on Tulkarm camp, in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian news agency WAFA reported. 

An official at Tulkarm refugee camp has told the AFP that “The camp is besieged by aircraft and heavy numbers of the Israeli army, and tanks.” 

Israeli army raids and settlers' attacks have killed about 350 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, according to an AFP tally. About 6,000 people have been detained by Israel during the same period.

13:00 Egypt remains committed to the Palestinian cause and rejects any attempts to displace the Palestinians, reiterated Minister of Defence and Military Production Mohamed Zaki during his meeting with UN Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza Sigrid Kaag.

12:45 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Israel to help rather than hinder the Palestinian Authority, saying that Israel's long-term security was at stake. 

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Blinken renewed his call for a "pathway to a Palestinian state" even as Washington backs Israel's war on Gaza. 

"You're not going to get the genuine security you need absent that. And, of course, to that end as well, a stronger, reformed Palestinian Authority that can more effectively deliver for its own people has to be part of the equation," Blinken said. 

An effective Palestinian Authority can only operate "with the support, with the help, of Israel, not with its active opposition," Blinken added. 

"Even the most effective Authority is going to have a lot of trouble if it's got the active opposition of any Israeli government," he said.

12:00 The health ministry said Wednesday at least 24,448 people have been killed in the Israeli war on the strip since 7 October.

A ministry statement said 61,504 people have also been wounded in the Palestinian territory during the war.

11:30 Moussa Abu Marzouk, a member of Hamas's political bureau, revealed on Wednesday the details of the medicine for Israeli captives deal brokered by Qatar.

In a post on X, Abu Marzouk said Hamas has set several conditions for accepting the Red Cross's request to provide 140 types of medicine to the Israeli prisoners held by the Palestinian group.

He mentioned the conditions as follows:

- For every pack of medicine, a thousand for our people in Gaza. 

- Providing medicine through a country we trust. 

- The Red Cross places medicine in four hospitals covering all areas of the Gaza Strip, including medicine for Israeli captives. 

- Introducing more aid and food into Gaza.

- Preventing the inspection of medicine shipments by the Israeli army.

Abu Marzouk added that France asked to provide medicine, but Hamas refused because of the group’s "lack of trust in the French government due to its position in support of the Israeli occupation and its stand in the face of our Palestinian aspirations for freedom and return."

“We were the ones who asked our brothers in Qatar to provide medicine because we trusted in them, and they gratefully agreed,” Abu Marzouk said.

“Netanyahu is lying again, and deceiving his people once again. We are the ones who determined the quantity, the mediator, the distribution mechanism, and the delivery of the medicine to northern Gaza despite the Israeli ban and rejection for a hundred days,” he added.

10:00 Deliveries of medicine for Israeli prisoners and Palestinian civilians were expected to start arriving in Gaza on Wednesday under a deal mediated by Qatar and France after a night of deadly bombardments in the territory's south.

Hamas fighters took around 250 prisoners during the 7 October operation, and around 132 are still in Gaza, including at least 27 believed to have been killed under the Israeli attacks.

The fate of those remaining in captivity has gripped Israeli society, while a broader humanitarian crisis in the besieged territory marked by the threat of famine and disease has fuelled international calls for a ceasefire.

In a statement to the official Qatar News Agency (QNA), Doha on Tuesday announced a deal "between Israel and Hamas, where medicine along with other humanitarian aid is to be delivered to civilians in Gaza ... in exchange for delivering medication needed for Israeli captives in Gaza."

Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majid Al-Ansari told QNA the medicine and aid would leave Doha on Wednesday for the Egyptian city of Arish before being transported to the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office confirmed the deal.

Forty-five captives are expected to receive medication under the agreement, according to the French presidency.

After the drugs arrive at a hospital in the southern Gaza border town of Rafah on Wednesday, it said, they will be received by the International Committee of the Red Cross, divided into batches, and immediately transferred to the captives.

Hamas released dozens of captives in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel during a November ceasefire mediated by Qatar, which hosts the group's political office.

US National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday he was "hopeful" that Qatar-brokered talks could lead to another such deal "soon."

09:30 Three Palestinians were killed in an Israeli drone strike targeting a vehicle near Balata refugee camp, east of Nablus, in the occupied West Bank Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

Local and security sources said that an Israeli drone targeted a vehicle near the Barada Junction near Balata camp, completely burning it and resulting immediately in the killing of three men. Israeli forces prevented medical teams from reaching the place.

09:00 Japan's three major shipping firms said they are joining other major companies in suspending routes through the Red Sea over Houthi rebel attacks on vessels in the vital waterway.

"We have suspended navigation through the Red Sea by all ships we operate," a spokesman for Nippon Yusen, also known as NYK Line, told AFP, adding that the decision was to "ensure the safety of crews."

Two other major Japanese shipping firms – Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines – have also suspended navigation through the Red Sea, company spokespersons said.

Since Friday, US and British forces have been bombing scores of targets inside Houthi-controlled Yemen in response to the attacks by the rebels, who say they are targeting Israeli-linked shipping in the Red Sea in solidarity with Gaza.

The situation has heightened fears of the Israeli war on Gaza flaring across the region and disrupted trade in one of the world's key maritime commercial routes. 

In a harrowing overnight period, the occupied West Bank witnessed heightened tensions as Israeli military operations unfolded across several cities. The city of Tulkarem became a focal point, with ongoing raids involving armored bulldozers destroying infrastructure and blocking access to a government hospital.

Reports emerged of an Israeli drone strike in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, targeting a car and resulting in the death of three men. The Israeli army claimed to have "eliminated" Abdullah Abu-Shalal, the purported "head of terrorist infrastructure."

Simultaneous incursions occurred in Hebron, Jericho, Bethlehem, and Ramallah, with a medical center in the El-Bireh area being raided. Witnesses expressed growing concerns about the deteriorating situation in the region.

Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip, which is suffering a communication blackout for the seventh day, faced heavy Israeli bombardments from land, air, and sea, primarily concentrated in the southern parts, particularly Khan Younis and Rafah city. Overnight bombings in Rafah's central area and Shaboura, a small refugee camp, resulted in tragic casualties, including six people killed, four of them children, and over 10 critically injured.

The western side of Khan Younis experienced intense artillery shelling, claiming the lives of 13 people, predominantly children. Notably, this area, previously designated as a "safe zone" for people displaced by Israel, has repeatedly come under attack.

A disturbing pattern emerged around Khan Younis's Nasser Hospital, with intense strikes and the presence of tanks and armored vehicles on the main road leading to the medical facility, heightening concerns about the accessibility of medical care amid the escalating violence. The region remains on edge as the situation continues to unfold.

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