Israel pushes into southern Gaza amid ‘apocalyptic’ humanitarian situation - as it happened

Ahram Online , Sunday 10 Dec 2023

On the 65th day of its war Israel continued to push into southern Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled in search of shelter from bombardments and intense fighting with Hamas fighters. Aid groups have sounded the alarm on the "apocalyptic" humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territory, warning it is on the brink of being overwhelmed by disease and starvation.

A picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip shows Israeli armoured vehicles returning from the Palestinian territory on December 10, 2023, amid ongoing battles with the Palestinian Hamas group. Photo: AFP


23:00 The Palestinians who were recently arrested by the Israeli occupation army and pictured semi-naked turned out not to belong to Hamas, according to a report by the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot.

Most of the Palestinian detainees who were pictured in underwear were released after being questioned, the newspaper reported, citing the Israeli occupation army.

Many of the detainees were released after screenings showed they were not Hamas fighters but civilians who were unconnected to terrorist organisations, the Israeli newspaper added.

Israel was strongly criticised after the dissemination of footage and pictures of cuffed men dressed in underwear in Jabaliya and other areas where the Israeli occupation army operates.

Army Spokesman Daniel Hagari claimed in a statement that on identifying groups, like the one that was shown in the footage, the army takes off their clothes for fear of hidden explosive belts and then investigates whether they are Hamas members before allowing them to put their clothes back on.

Hagari also noted that the photos do not belong to the Israeli army, which, he said, manages its footage and pictures and decides what to show.

For his part, Israeli government media spokesman for foreign media Ilon Levy said in an interview with CNN that "the people who appear in all the photos are all suspected of terrorism. When we find men of military age in areas where we have been calling for evacuation for more than a month -- these areas being Hamas strongholds where we fiercely fought in a built-up area -- we need to make arrests to identify the terrorists. If we find that those arrested do not belong to terrorist organisations, we naturally release them."

22:30 A senior politician in the Lebanese group Hezbollah said on Sunday that Israeli air strikes in south Lebanon marked a “new escalation” to which the group was responding with new types of attacks.

Hassan Fadlallah, in a statement sent to Reuters, said the escalation would “not deter the resistance in Lebanon from continuing to defend its country and supporting Gaza”.

Hezbollah was responding to the escalation with new types of attacks, be it “in the nature of the weapons (used) or the targeted sites”, he added.

21:00 France said Sunday that one of its warships in the Red Sea was targeted by two drones coming from Yemen. Both were intercepted and shot down, AP reported.

A short statement from the Armies Ministry did not say who fired the drones at the French Navy frigate Languedoc on Saturday night.

Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have vowed to target ships operating in the Red Sea. The Houthis are staunch foes of Israel. They have claimed a series of maritime attacks since the beginning of the Israeli war on Gaza.

France's Armies Ministry said the drones “came straight at” the Languedoc two hours apart from the direction of Yemen. The warship destroyed them both about 110 kilometres (70 miles) off the Red Sea port of Al Hudaydah on the Yemeni coast, it said.

The statement did not say what weaponry the Languedoc used to bring down the drones. The frigate is on a French Navy mission in the Red Sea.

19:00 Several thousand Moroccans demonstrated on Sunday in Rabat to condemn "genocide" in the Gaza Strip and demand the end of diplomatic relations with Israel, AFP journalists reported.

They marched through the city behind a huge banner denouncing "the Holocaust in Gaza" and calling for ties with Israel to be repealed.

Morocco and Israel established full relations in 2020 in exchange for the United States recognising Moroccan sovereignty over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

On Sunday, demonstrators waving Palestinian flags and wearing keffiyeh scarves marched against "war crimes and genocide" in Gaza and calling for an end to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

The demonstration was organised by the "National Action Group for Palestine", a coalition of leftist parties and Islamists.

Protester Saoussane, 41, said she was there "to express support for the Palestinian people, and for the children they are killing who have nothing to do with Hamas".

"How can we talk about collateral damage with 17,000 dead?" she asked. "It is genocide -- it is not even a war any more."

According to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza, 17,997 people have been killed by Israel's relentless air strikes and ground invasion, mostly women and children.

Since the war began, huge demonstrations across Morocco have called for an end to the North African country's diplomatic normalisation with Israel, whereas before October 7, opposition to normalisation was limited.

"Gaza, under siege for 17 years, is experiencing the worst genocide with the blessing of the United Nations, which is unable to take firm decisions to stop it, with the participation of the United States and Western countries", said another demonstrator, Halima Chouika.

At the end of November, Morocco's King Mohammed VI condemned Israel's "flagrant violation of international law and humanitarian values" in its reprisals against Hamas.

He said he rejected Israel's "policy of collective punishment, forced displacement and any attempt to impose new facts on the ground" in a message addressed to the United Nations.

18:45 The UN Secretary-General on Sunday pledged that he would “not give up” on appealing for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, adding that inaction on the Security Council was undermining its credibility.

“The preeminent forum for the peaceful resolution of international disputes is paralysed by geostrategic divisions”, António Guterres told the Doha Forum taking place in Qatar, following Friday’s meeting in New York during which the United States vetoed a resolution demanding that Israel end the war on Gaza which erupted on 7 October with the Hamas attacks.

“I urged the Security Council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and I reiterated my appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared”, said the UN chief.

“Regrettably, the Security Council failed to do it, but that does not make it less necessary. So, I can promise I will not give up”, he told delegates to the global platform in Qatar, which brings world leaders together to discuss collective security and other challenges.

He said a sclerotic Security Council where splits between the permanent members, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the US have produced only one resolution narrowly focused on aid delivery, needed reform.

“We need a serious effort to bring global structures up to date, rooted in equality and solidarity and based on the United Nations Charter and international law”, he said, noting that the Council’s divisions were “undermining solutions from Ukraine to Myanmar and the Middle East.”

18:30 The World Health Organization's executive board on Sunday adopted a resolution by consensus for combatting the worsening health situation in the Gaza Strip.

After the UN Security Council declined to demand a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas militant group, the 34 countries on the WHO's executive board adopted by consensus a resolution calling for the "immediate, sustained and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief" into Gaza.

18:20 Speaking to FRANCE 24, Secretary General of Amnesty International Agnes Callamard said the United States' use of its veto power to block a UN Security Council resolution to end the Iareli war on Gaza on Friday was "morally corrupt".

"There cannot be any justification for continuing to block a Security Council resolution on a ceasefire like the United States did on Friday," says Callamard. "It's undefendable that the US used its veto on Friday. It's morally corrupt."

17:45 About 18,000 Palestinians have been killed and 49,500 injured in the Israeli war on Gaza, the Palestinian health ministry in the strip spokesman said on Sunday.

The spokesman, Ashraf Al-Qidra, also told Al Jazeera television in a telephone interview that the toll included 297 people killed and more than 550 wounded in the last 24 hours.

17:00 Hamas’ armed wing said on Sunday Israel will not be able to recover any of its hostages unless it engages in talks over conditional swap deals.

Abu Ubaida, the spokesman for the al-Qassam Brigades, said in an audio speech broadcast by Al Jazeera television that Israel would not be able to recover the captives by force, citing what he described as a failed operation to free one of them.

16:00 US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said on Sunday it is “imperative” that Israeli military operations in Gaza protect Palestinian civilians, adding that the fighting should be followed by a durable peace leading to a Palestinian state.

15:00 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was not acceptable for Israel to use Hamas' operation on Oct. 7 as justification for the collective punishment of the Palestinian people, and called for international monitoring on the ground in Gaza.

Russia to continue exerting political pressure to achieve a humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, Lavrov said addressing the Doha Forum via the online format.

Meanwhile, the Israeli Prime Minister expressed during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir his dissatisfaction with the anti-Israel stance on the war on Gaza that has been presented by Moscow’s officials at the UN and in other forums, Israeli media reported.

In a statement, the premier’s office said he voiced “resolute criticism of the cooperation between Russia and Iran.”

11:41 A security source told Al-Arabiya that Israeli warplanes flew over parts of Lebanon, including Beirut, Mount Lebanon, the north, and the Bekaa.

Earlier, the Israeli Air Force carried out airstrikes in southern Lebanon, according to Lebanese media.

Footage posted to social media shows massive blasts in the area.

The bombing comes amid rocket and drone sirens sounding in the Western Galilee. 

On Saturday, a United Nations peacekeeping position in southern Lebanon was hit without causing casualties, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said.

Lebanon's National News Agency (NNA) reported that an Israeli tank targeted the UN position near the border across from Metula in northern Israel.

Since the Israeli war on Gaza began, the frontier between Lebanon and Israel has seen intensifying exchanges of fire, mainly between the Israeli army and Hezbollah, raising fears of a broader conflagration.

11:30 The World Health Organization warned that the situation in Gaza creating “ideal conditions” for the spread of diseases, as the impact of conflict on the health sector is “catastrophic.”

The UN health agency called a special session of its executive board to discuss the health conditions in the Palestinian territories, with WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus describing a collapsing system with medics facing an "impossible" job.

"As more and more people move to a smaller and smaller area, overcrowding, combined with the lack of adequate food, water, shelter and sanitation, are creating the ideal conditions for disease to spread," Tedros said in his opening remarks to the meeting in Geneva.


"Gaza's health system is on its knees and collapsing," Tedros said, with only 14 out of 36 hospitals functioning with any capacity at all, and of them, only two are in the north of the coastal territory.

Only 1,400 hospital beds out of an original 3,500 are still available, while the two major hospitals in southern Gaza are operating at three times their bed capacity, running out of supplies and sheltering thousands of displaced people, Tedros added.

11:00 The head of UNRWA, the UN aid agency for Palestinians, said that the dehumanization of Palestinians has allowed the international community to bear continued Israeli attacks in Gaza.

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said the refugee agency is on the verge of collapsing in Gaza, adding that an immediate ceasefire is needed to end “hell on earth” in Gaza.



10:30 Mediation efforts to secure a new Gaza ceasefire and release more captives are continuing despite continued Israeli bombardment which is "narrowing the window" for a successful outcome, Qatar's prime minister said.

"Our efforts as the state of Qatar along with our partners are continuing. We are not going to give up," Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told the Doha Forum, adding that "the continuation of the bombardment is just narrowing this window for us".



9:55 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he regrets the Security Council's failure to demand a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, condemning the divisions that have "paralysed" the world body.

The Council's "authority and credibility were severely undermined" by its delayed response to the conflict, Guterres said addressing Qatar's Doha Forum.

"I reiterated my appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared," he told the forum, two days after a US veto prevented a resolution calling for a Gaza ceasefire.

"Regrettably, the Security Council failed to do it," he added.

"I can promise, I will not give up."

The secretary-general deployed the rarely-used Article 99 of the United Nations Charter to bring to the council's attention "any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security".

The rule had not previously been invoked by a UN chief in decades.

"We are facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system," Guterres told the Doha Forum.

"The situation is fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region."

9:45 Israeli officials told Israeli broadcast that "according to the current estimates" the war on Gaza will last up to two more months.

9:30 The Washington Post reported that the Biden administration approved, on Saturday, the $106.5 million sale of nearly 14,000 tank shells and related equipment to Israel, invoking an emergency declaration to bypass a congressional review period for weapons sales.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken used the emergency declaration to expedite the sale claiming that “it is vital to US national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defence capability,” the Defense Department said in a news release.

While the administration has previously used the measure to send weapons to Ukraine, this is the first time it has been invoked in the Middle East. The move angered some congressional overseers because the administration did not initially declare an emergency when the full request was submitted for review, only later when it had become clear it would not receive immediate approval, The Washington Post reported.

The United States is under increasing pressure over sales of arms to Israel as the death toll in Gaza climbs. The Biden administration’s rules for arming foreign nations indicate that weapons transfers must not take place when the US government assesses that violations of international law are “more likely than not” to occur.

In the first month and a half of the war, Israel dropped more than 22,000 guided and unguided bombs on Gaza that were supplied by Washington, according to previously undisclosed US intelligence, The Post reported.

US officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive internal discussions, also acknowledge that the United States is not conducting real-time assessments of Israel’s adherence to the laws of war.

9:00 Hamas said that Israel had launched a series of "very violent raids" targeting the southern city of Khan Yunis and the road from there to Rafah, near the border with Egypt.

A source close to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad told AFP both groups were involved in "fierce clashes" with Israeli forces on Sunday near Khan Yunis. An AFP journalist reported strikes in the area.

Young boys push a loaded tolley in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 10, 2023 AFP

At least 17,700 people, mostly women and children, have died in two months of fighting in the narrow strip of territory, according to the latest figures from Gaza's health ministry.



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