Palestinians battle death, hunger and the dark as US reaffirms support for Israel war on Gaza - as it happened

Ahram Online , Thursday 14 Dec 2023

Marking the largest loss in one day for the Israeli army since the beginning of its ground operation in Gaza, 10 Israeli soldiers were killed in an ambush carried out by Palestinian resistance fighters, while heavy fighting and Israeli bombardment continue in the strip as the war entered its third month.

Men use flashlights as they cook at night in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 14, 2023. AFP


23:00 During a visit to Tel Aviv, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan reaffirmed to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu that Washington will continue to support Israel in its war in Gaza.

Sullivan also discussed with Netanyahu Israel moving to "low-intensity operations" against Gaza "in the near future," said White House spokesman John Kirby.

Washington wants the Israeli war on Gaza to "end as soon as possible" but does not want to impose a deadline on Tel Aviv, added Kirby. 

21:00 Several members of the US House and Representatives and American union leaders held a press conference outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Israeli war on Gaza.

The speakers included US Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, and Representative Rashida Tlaib (2nd L), Democrat from Michigan.

20:00 Israel’s defense minister said Thursday it will take “more than several months” to destroy Hamas, predicting a drawn-out war even as his country and its top ally, the United States, face increasing international isolation and alarm over the devastation from Israel’s campaign in Gaza.

Yoav Gallant's comments ahead of talks in Tel Aviv with U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan underscored a dynamic that has held between the two allies for weeks.

The Biden administration has shown unease over Israel’s failure to reduce civilian casualties and its plans for the future of Gaza, but it continues to offer wholehearted support for Israel’s campaign with weapons and diplomatic backing.

Israeli leaders have repeatedly said they plan to pursue their military assault until Hamas is crushed, though any hopes of a swift victory have vanished.

19:30 In a statement, Hamas announced that its Qassam Brigade fighters killed at least 36 Israelis in fierce battles in Gaza in the last 72 hours.

It also said Qassam fighters also destroyed at least four Israeli Merkava tanks on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Israel's Channel 12 reported that the commander of the 12th Battalion of the Golani Brigade was seriously injured in fierce battles in south Gaza on Thursday.

19:00 The Israeli army killed 11 people in a multi-day raid in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said Thursday.

The latest death was a 17-year-old boy who the ministry said was shot in the chest by the Israeli army in Jenin.

In addition to 11 killed by Israeli forces, Palestinian health officials said a sick 13-year-old boy also died after Israeli forces prevented him from reaching hospital.

Israeli troops launched their incursion into the northern city of Jenin and its refugee camp early Tuesday and were still present on Thursday afternoon.

The military said Wednesday that Israeli forces had seized dozens of weapons and dismantled multiple bomb-making laboratories.

Four soldiers were wounded in "controlled explosions" or by friendly fire, the army said Wednesday without commenting on the Palestinian casualties.

Speaking Thursday at the site where an Israeli drone strike killed three people, a resident told AFP the trio were unarmed civilians.

At a home damaged during the ongoing raid, a boy said Israeli soldiers stole money, gold and mobile phones.

18:00 Internet and telephone services were cut across the war-torn Gaza Strip on Thursday, the Palestinian telecommunications company Paltel said.

"We regret to announce that all telecom services in the Gaza Strip have been lost due to the ongoing offensive... Gaza is blacked out again," the company said in a statement on Facebook. 

Since the start of the war on 7 October, Israel has cut off phone and internet services in Gaza on more than one occasion as part of its all-out blockade on the strip, leaving the 2.4 million residents in the dark and rendering difficult rescue operations of victims of its bombing even more difficult.

A picture taken from Rafah shows flares lighting the skies over Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli strikes, on December 14, 2023. AFP

17:00 Yemen's Iran-backed Huthis fired a missile at a cargo ship en route to Saudi Arabia on Thursday but missed, a US official and a private intelligence firm said.

No one was hurt in the incident involving the Maersk Gibraltar, which was sailing from Salalah, Oman to Jeddah, said the Danish shipping giant.

"The crew and vessel are reported safe," Maersk said in a statement, adding that the company was "still working to establish the facts of the incident".

A US official said, "We have indications that a missile was fired at the Maersk Gibraltar from a Huthi-controlled area of Yemen and that it hit the water and missed the ship".

16:00 Nearly half of the air-to-ground munitions that Israel used in Gaza since 7 October were unguided; rather, they can be called “dumb bombs,” according to a new US intelligence assessment reported by CNN

The assessment, which is compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and described to CNN by three sources who have seen it, says that about 40-45 percent of the 29,000 air-to-ground munitions that Israel used were unguided, while the rest were precision-guided munitions. 

Unguided munitions are typically less precise and can pose a greater threat to civilians, especially in such a densely populated area like Gaza, CNN said.

US President Joe Biden, whose government has provided Israel with billions of dollars of military aid, on Wednesday gave his sharpest rebuke of the war yet, saying Israel's "indiscriminate bombing" of Gaza was weakening international support. 

Experts told CNN that if Israel is using unguided munitions at the rate the US believes they are, this undercuts the Israeli claim that they are trying to minimize civilian casualties.  

“I’m extremely surprised and concerned,” Brian Castner, a former Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officer who now serves as Amnesty International’s senior crisis adviser on arms and military operations, told CNN.  

“It’s bad enough to use the weapons when they precisely hit their targets. It is a massive civilian harm problem if they do not have that accuracy, and if you can’t even give a benefit of the doubt that that the weapon is landing where the Israeli forces intended to,” Castner added.

Graphic Content: A woman from the Palestinian Ashour family holds the body of a baby who was killed in Israeli bombardment, on December 14, 2023. AFP

15:00 The Israeli occupation army said that 36 of its soldiers have been injured in the last 24 hours, seven of them seriously wounded.

The number of wounded soldiers already published by the army -- which stood at 1,740 since the beginning of the war -- was hence updated to include the 36 soldiers who were wounded yesterday, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

Earlier this week, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot reported that 5,000 Israeli soldiers have been wounded since the start of the war in Gaza, describing the figure as unprecedented in Israeli wars.

An Israeli army self-propelled artillery howitzer fires rounds from a position near the border with the Gaza Strip in southern Israel on December 14, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. AFP

14:45 Mossad director David Barnea has cancelled a planned trip to Qatar to restart talks on a possible second captive release deal, a source familiar with the negotiations confirmed to CNN.

 Israel’s Channel 13 first reported Wednesday that the Israeli war cabinet, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had called off the trip and that senior Israeli officials would not go to Qatar to restart negotiations.

 Formal negotiations have not resumed since a captive-prisoner swap between Israel and Hamas and a truce deal in Gaza broke down earlier this month.

People wave Palestinian flags during a demonstration demanding the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel through an exchange deal for Israeli captives held by Hamas in Gaza, in the West Bank city of Ramallah on December 14, 2023. AFP

14:30: The UK is banning Israeli settlers responsible for violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank from entering Britain, the British Minister of Foreign Affairs David Cameron announced.  

“Extremist settlers, by targeting and killing Palestinian civilians, are undermining security and stability for both Israelis and Palestinians,” Cameron said on X. 

“Israel must take stronger action to stop settler violence and hold the perpetrators accountable,” he added. 

“We are banning those responsible for settler violence from entering the UK to make sure our country cannot be a home for people who commit these intimidating acts,” Cameron affirmed. 

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that he still believes in the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. 

"I’ve said consistently far too many innocent people have lost their lives. Nobody wants this conflict to go on for a moment longer than is necessary,” Sunak told Sky News, expressing incredible concern regarding the massive civilian causalities in Gaza.

14:15 On the occasion of Palestinian Teachers’ Day, the Palestinian Ministry of Education said in a statement that 3,714 students were killed and 5,700 were injured since the start of the Israeli aggression in 7 October on the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. 

The ministry also revealed that more than 200 teachers and educational staff have been killed in Gaza in the 69-day-long Israeli war on the strip. 

In the West Bank, dozens of teachers have been arrested and hundreds were prevented from reaching their schools, not to mention the daily harassment of teachers, especially in Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley, and Masafer Yatta, the ministry added. 

It also pointed out that 278 governmental schools and 65 of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Refugees (UNRWA) were bombed and vandalized in Gaza, while 38 schools in the West Bank were stormed and destroyed.

Teachers of Palestinian elementary students, centre, shout slogans as they attend a sit-in outside the office of the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, to show their solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza, in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023. AP

14:00 President Vladimir Putin described the situation in the Gaza Strip as a "catastrophe" unfolding on a scale that could not be compared to the Ukraine conflict.

"Everybody here and around the world can see and look at the Russian special military operation and at what is happening in Gaza and feel the difference," Putin said during a news conference in Moscow. 

13:30 Israel's parliament approved on Thursday adding an additional 25.9 billion shekels ($7 billion) to the national budget to help cover costs of the Gaza war, such as compensation for military reservists and emergency housing for the internally displaced.

The amendment, ratified by a vote of 59 lawmakers in favour and 45 opposed, increased the 2023 budget to 510 billion shekels ($139 billion), a Knesset spokesperson said. Israel passed the original 2023 budget along with a 2024 budget in May.

12:30 Dozens of Biden administration staffers held a vigil outside the White House on Wednesday night, calling for a ceasefire.

“The temporary ceasefire ended 13 days ago, and we are horrified to see the full resumption of killings, displacement and bombardment of Palestinian civilians in Gaza,” they said in a statement read by Josh Paul, an ex-State Department official who resigned.

“A temporary pause to this violence was never enough. We must move with urgency to save as many lives as possible and achieve an immediate permanent ceasefire agreement and the return of all hostages. We were horrified by the brutal October 7 attacks on Israeli civilians and have been horrified by the disproportionate response by the Israeli government, which has indiscriminately killed thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza and displaced over a million more.”

12:00 The United States wants to form the "broadest possible" maritime coalition to protect ships in the Red Sea and send an "important signal" to Yemen's Houthi rebels that further attacks will not be tolerated, the US envoy for Yemen has said.

The Iran-aligned Houthis have attacked vessels in Red Sea shipping lanes and fired drones and missiles at Israel since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza over two months ago. The group says its attacks are a show of solidarity with Palestinians and has pledged to continue until Israel stops attacking the Gaza Strip.

US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking told Reuters the US wanted the multinational coalition to send "an important signal by the international community that Houthi threats to international shipping won't be tolerated".

The US aims to expand an existing international naval task force into "an international coalition that is putting some resources into protecting freedom of navigation", Lenderking said.

12:00: In an interview with Al-Monitor, senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk said that the group seeks to be part of the Palestine Liberation Organization and respects its commitments, Al-Arabiya reported.

Marzouk added that Hamas is still seeking to establish an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, stressing that only elections will determine who will manage the Gaza Strip.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said on Wednesday that the group is ready for talks that could lead to a "political path that secures the right of the Palestinian people to their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital."

However, he emphasized that "any arrangement in Gaza or the Palestinian cause without Hamas or the resistance factions is a delusion."

Meanwhile, Mahmoud Al-Aloul, deputy head of the Fatah movement led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, said that the Palestinian side will not continue to adhere to agreements that Israel does not abide by.

“The Palestinian people are one. We must all stand together to protect the Palestinian blood, and there is communication with all Palestinians," Al-Aloul wrote on the X platform.

11:30 Israeli occupation warplanes carried out a series of intense raids on large areas in the northern and southern Gaza Strip, specifically on the cities of Khan Younis and Rafah. 

At least 27 Palestinians were killed in an Israeli bombing of homes in the city of Rafah, south of Gaza, Palestinian WAFA news agency said.

The Israeli artillery also bombed the Al-Daraj and Al-Tuffah neighbourhoods east of Gaza City and the town of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip.

An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires a shell from southern Israel towards the Gaza Strip, in a position near the Israel-Gaza border on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023. AP

11:00 The Palestinian Ministry of Health announced that 11 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, as the Israeli military assault on the city and its camp continues for the third day in a row.

The Palestinian Prisoners' Club said that the number of arrests in Jenin since the start of the occupation's aggression on Tuesday has reached more than 500, adding that the numbers are likely to rise as the arrest campaigns continue.

10:00 Nearly half of the air-to-ground munitions that Israel used in Gaza since 7 October were unguided; rather, they can be called “dumb bombs,” according to a new US intelligence assessment reported by CNN

The assessment, which is compiled by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and described to CNN by three sources who have seen it, says that about 40-45 percent of the 29,000 air-to-ground munitions that Israel used were unguided, while the rest were precision-guided munitions. 

Unguided munitions are typically less precise and can pose a greater threat to civilians, especially in such a densely populated area like Gaza, CNN said.

Palestinians salvage belongings after an Israeli strike on residential buildings in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023. AP

09:00 The Palestinian ministry said Israeli airstrikes early Thursday had killed at least 19 people across the Gaza Strip. 

US President Joe Biden, on Wednesday, gave his sharpest rebuke of the war yet, saying Israel's "indiscriminate bombing" of Gaza was weakening international support. 

Biden's National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was due to arrive in Israel with a rift growing over US calls for its ally to exercise restraint.

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