Washington foresees prolonged Gaza war; Israel kills own captives - as it happened

Ahram Online , Saturday 16 Dec 2023

On the 71st day of the war, Washington conceded the likelihood of prolonged Israeli attacks on Gaza, as the UNRWA expressed deep concern over the increasing dehumanization of Palestinians. The Israeli occupation army killed three Israeli captives in Gaza and heightened assaults on civilians in West Bank.

Smoke rises following an Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel , Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023. Photo: AP


21:00 The Sunday Telegraph reported, citing informed sources, that the US is considering placing an Arab country in charge of maintaining peace in Gaza and rebuilding the besieged strip after the war.

"The White House believes that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is unable to lead the (Palestinian) Authority," the newspaper said, citing US concerns over Abbas's declining popularity.

The paper said that Senior US officials have been mulling plans about how Gaza should be managed after the war, noting that the US sees corruption in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas's increasing popularity in the occupied West Bank as a serious challenge to implementing such plans.

The expose comes as Israel insists that the Gaza Strip can no longer be governed by Hamas militants or the Palestinian Authority.

Meanwhile, Israel is pressing forward with its ground invasion of the strip has killed nearly 19,000 people and pushed the majority of Gazans to the south of the strip.

The forced evacuation toward the south has sparked fears of mass displacement into Egypt's Sinai and neighbouring countries.

20:45 A Christian mother and daughter were shot dead by an Israeli soldier on the grounds of a Catholic church in Gaza City, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said.

"Around noon (1000 GMT) today... a sniper of the IDF (Israeli army) murdered two Christian women inside the Holy Family Parish in Gaza," where Christian families have been sheltering since the Gaza war broke out, the patriarchate said in a statement.

"Nahida and her daughter Samar were shot and killed as they walked to the Sister's Convent. One was killed as she tried to carry the other to safety," it added, without specifying the victims' ages.

Seven more people were wounded by gunfire as they tried to protect others, the statement said.

The Israeli army did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the incident on the grounds of the Gaza Strip's only Catholic church.

The patriarchate said no warning was given before the shooting started, adding: "They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the Parish, where there are no belligerents."

20:30 Two major shipping firms, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and CMA CGM, said on Saturday they were suspending passage through a Red Sea strait vital for global trade, after Yemeni rebel attacks in the area.

The announcement by Italian-Swiss giant MSC and France's CMA CGM follows a similar decision on Friday by two of the world's largest shipping companies, Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd, in response to a warning by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The Houthis, who control much of Yemen but are not recognised internationally, said they were targeting vessels near the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait to pressure Israel over its devastating war on the Gaza Strip.

Forty percent of the world's international trade transits through the strait, which runs between Yemen, on the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, and the African continent.

MSC, one of the world's largest freight shipping lines, said one of its container vessels had been targeted in the Red Sea on Friday and it was halting traffic through the strait until it was safe.

No one on the MSC Palatium III was wounded but the ship suffered fire damage, the company said.

CMA CGM said it had ordered all its vessels to leave the area and stay there until further notice.

"The situation continues to deteriorate and there are increasing security concerns," it said.

20:00 The Israeli army chief of staff  Gen. Herzi Halevi said in his first remarks after his forces killed three Israeli captives in the Gaza Strip on Friday, that he bears responsibility for the fatal mistake, describing the incident as "a difficult and painful event".

"The IDF, and I as its commander, are responsible for what happened, and we will do everything to prevent the recurrence of such cases in the continuation of the fighting," Halevi said in a video statement.

Despite the incident, Halevi said that the fighting (in Gaza) is what will provide opportunities for the return of detainees.

19:30 The Israeli army says a soldier was killed and two others wounded, one in critical condition, during a drone attack earlier today near the northern settlement of Margaliot located along the border with Lebanon in the Upper Galilee.

The latest attack comes amid intensified cross-border strikes between Israeli forces and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters that have prompted the evacuation of several settlements in northern Israel.

19:00 Israeli media announces that another Israeli female detainee, Inbar Haiman, 27, was killed in Gaza.

18:30 The US said one of its warships in the Red Sea destroyed 14 drones fired by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen in what appeared to be an attack en route to Israel.

According to a statement released by The United States Central Command (CENTCOM) on X (formerly Twitter), the USS Carney which was operating in the Red Sea, “successfully engaged 14 unmanned aerial systems launched as a drone wave from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen.”

The announcement comes amid intensified drone attacks by Houthi rebels on Israel since its invasion of Gaza began on 7 October.

“The UAS (unmanned aircraft system) were assessed to be one-way attack drones and were shot down with no damage to ships in the area or reported injuries,” the statement said.

“Regional Red Sea partners were alerted to the threat,” it added.

Earlier today, the military spokesman for the Houthis in Yemen announced on the X (formerly Twitter) that they had "carried out a military operation against sensitive targets in the Umm al-Rashrash area (Eilat) in southern occupied Palestine with a large batch of drones."

The attack was a "victory for the oppression of the Palestinian people," the spokesman added.

17:45 The families of hostages held in Gaza called on Israel to stop fighting and make a deal to secure their release after the army admitted "mistakenly" killing three captives in the Palestinian territory.

"We only receive dead bodies. We want you to stop the fight and start negotiations," Noam Perry, daughter of hostage Haim Perry, said at an event in Tel Aviv organised by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum.

15:00 The Israeli army was investigating the killing of three captives which it said had been mistakenly identified as a threat by soldiers, an incident that sparked protests in Tel Aviv.

The military said Yotam Haim, Alon Shamriz and Samer El-Talalqa -- all in their 20s -- were shot during operations in Gaza City.

They were among about 250 people taken captive during Hamas's October 7 Al-Aqsa Flood operation in Israel.

Army spokesman Daniel Hagari said that during fighting in the Shejaiya district of Gaza City, troops "mistakenly identified three Israeli hostages as a threat and as a result, fired toward them and the hostages were killed".

The military said later it had started "reviewing the incident" and that "immediate lessons from the event have been learned" and passed on to all troops on the ground.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described their deaths as an "unbearable tragedy".

14:06 The three Israeli captives which were killed by the Israeli army in Gaza were all shirtless, with one individual holding a makeshift white flag, according to an Israeli military statement.

The statement disclosed that an initial investigation revealed the captives were fired upon, violating Israel's rules of engagement, as reported in the Israeli media.

As the hostages were spotted, an Israeli soldier shouted "Terrorists!" to other forces, prompting gunfire directed at the men, as explained by the Israeli army.

Upon being fired upon, two hostages were immediately struck and fell, while the third sought refuge in a nearby building.

Despite pleading in Hebrew "Save us", he was also shot and killed.

At least 20 Israeli soldiers have reportedly been killed by friendly fire in Gaza.

13:37 Yemen's Houthi rebels claim to have attacked the Israeli Red Sea resort city of Eilat.

Yahya Sarea, military spokesman for the group, said it launched a barrage of drones at the city today.

12:35 In an interview with BBC News, Juliette Touma, Director of Communications for UNRWA, expressed grave concerns about the organization's inability to reach the most vulnerable populations in Gaza.

She highlighted imposed access restrictions, constrained supplies, and ongoing intense Israeli bombardments that hinder UNRWA's capacity to deliver aid in Gaza.

"You can't deliver aid under a sky full of airstrikes," said Touma.

The UNRWA says families in Gaza are facing unprecedented challenges such as forced displacement, hunger, and an uncertain future. 

11:25 Sixteen more Palestinians have been arrested in the West Bank by the Israeli occupation forces, as reported by the Palestinian Prisoners Club.

This brings the total number of detainees since 7 October to 4,520 Palestinians.

The arrests were carried out across Jericho, Bethlehem, Tulkarm, Ramallah, Hebron, and Jerusalem.

These operations were marked by extensive raids, harassment, physical assaults, and threats targeting both the detainees and their families.

Moreover, there were reports of widespread destruction and sabotage of civilian homes, along with the confiscation of vehicles.

11:00 A flying object crashed into Egyptian territorial waters approximately one and a half kilometres off the coast of Dahab city, as reported by eyewitnesses to Al-Qahera News tv.

Reliable sources speaking to the channel confirmed that the Egyptian Air Defense Forces identified the flying object and successfully intercepted and shot it down.

10:10 A prolonged communications blackout that severed telephone and internet connections compounded the misery Saturday in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Internet and telephone lines went down Thursday evening and were still inaccessible Saturday morning, according to internet access advocacy group NetBlocks.org, hampering aid deliveries and rescue efforts.

“The internet blackout is ongoing, and based on our records it is the longest such incident” in the over-two-month war, said Alp Toker, the group’s director.

The United Nations’ humanitarian affairs department said communications with Gaza were “severely disrupted” due to damage to telecommunications lines in the south.

9:55 The Israeli occupation army faced further setbacks in fighting within the southern region of Gaza. Abu Ubaida, the spokesperson for the Al-Qassam Brigades, said that resistance fighters targeted over 100 Israeli military vehicles in the past five days.

Simultaneously, the Israeli forces persisted in their assaults on civilians, killing dozens in an attack on a school in Khan Younis that sheltered displaced Palestinians.

The Ministry of Health also confirmed that the Israeli occupying forces demolished the southern section of Kamal Adwan Hospital, leaving 12 children trapped inside the hospital's incubators, facing critical conditions.

Furthermore, a Palestinian medical source reported that Israel killed 14 individuals in an airstrike targeting multiple homes along Old Gaza Street in the town of Jabalia, in northern Gaza

9:30 The funeral service for Al Jazeera cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa was held in Gaza. This morning, mourners gathered to pay their respects to Abudaqa, who lost his life in an Israeli airstrike that targeted him and Al Jazeera correspondent Wael Al-Dahdouh near Farhana School in Khan Younis, on Friday.

He remained injured for several hours due to the Israeli bombardment, and Israeli forces prevented ambulance medics from reaching him.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said rescue teams were shot at by the Israeli forces when they tried to reach the UN school to evacuate him. Despite multiple pleas, the shelling did not stop.

The funeral for the civil defense team who lost their lives while attempting to rescue the photojournalist also took place.

Al Jazeera Media Network, one of the few international broadcasters still operating out of Gaza, says it holds Israel accountable for systematically targeting and killing its journalists and their families.

The Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, told a general assembly meeting on the war that Israel "targets those who could document [their] crimes and inform the world, the journalists."

9:00 The aftermath of Israeli strikes devastating houses in the al-Manara neighbourhood of Khan Younis, southern Gaza, has been documented by a Palestinian journalist through shared footage.

Emerging reports indicate a distressing toll, with dozens of casualties reported, encompassing both fatalities and injuries from these strikes.


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