Amnesty urges probe into Israel 'disappearing Palestinians' in Gaza as Hamas leader in Egypt for talks - as it happened

Ahram Online , Thursday 21 Dec 2023

As the war reaches its 75th day, Israeli attacks in Gaza killed about 100 Palestinians and injured many. Intense assaults struck Khan Younis, with airstrikes near Deir Al-Balah and shelling in northern the strip. Further injuries and arrests occurred in the West Bank, while the UN Security Council's vote to halt the war has been delayed to Wednesday.

Smoke billows after an Israeli strike over Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on December 20, 2023. Photo: AFP


23:15 Amnesty International called for an urgent probe into Israel's "forced disappearance" of Palestinian detainees from Gaza, following reports of deaths in military detention centres.

Hundreds of Palestinians are being held in detention centres in southern Israel, having been arrested in military operations across the Gaza Strip since the beginning of Israel's war on 7 October.

"The Israeli military must urgently disclose the fate and whereabouts of everyone that it has detained since 7 October," Heba Morayef, Amnesty's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

"Israeli forces must specify the grounds of arrest for those detained and make every effort to provide families of those in its custody with information, particularly in light of the telecommunications blackouts that have cut off Gazans."

Amnesty demanded an investigation into the "inhumane treatment and enforced disappearance" of the detainees from Gaza.

The Israeli army on Tuesday said it was investigating the deaths of detainees arrested in Gaza.

It did not provide details regarding how many detainees had died or the circumstances of their deaths.

On Tuesday Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that "several of them have died" in these detention facilities.

The report said the prisoners died at the Sde Teiman base near the city of Beersheva.

The detainees held at this facility are "blindfolded and handcuffed for most of the day and the lights are on at the facility throughout the night", the report said.

Concerns for the fate of detainees from Gaza heightened last week after Israeli television showed scores of stripped Palestinian men sitting on a Gaza street in military custody.

One clip showed the arm of a soldier in the foreground, suggesting it was filmed by a member of the military.

In another clip, a group of blindfolded men are seen sitting with their hands tied behind their backs as Israeli soldiers watch them.

Earlier this month the army announced that more than "500 terrorists" had been arrested in Gaza.

Israel's war on Gaza has so far killed at least 20,000 people, the majority of them children and women, according to the Hamas government.

23:00 French President Emmanuel Macron said that fighting terrorism did not mean "to flatten Gaza", referring to Israel's relentless bombardment and ground invasion of the Palestinian territory.

"We cannot let the idea take root that an efficient fight against terrorism implies to flatten Gaza or attack civilian populations indiscriminately," Macron told the France 5 broadcaster.

He called on Israel "to stop this response because it is not appropriate, because all lives are worth the same and we defend them".

While acknowledging "Israel's right to defend itself and fight terror", Macron said France called for the protection of civilians and "a truce leading to a humanitarian ceasefire".

21:00 A UN Security Council vote on a much-delayed resolution calling for a pause to the Israeli war on Gaza was postponed again as members wrangled over wording.

The debate at the UN's Manhattan headquarters came against a backdrop of deteriorating conditions in Gaza, with a senior UN official saying Israel's steps to allow in aid were "far short" of mounting need.

"The Security Council has agreed to continue negotiations today to allow for additional time for diplomacy. And the presidency will reschedule the adoption for tomorrow (Thursday) morning," said Ecuador's Jose Javier De La Gasca Lopez-Dominguez, who holds the council's rotating presidency.

Members of the council have been grappling for days to find common ground on the resolution, a vote on which was pushed back several times throughout Tuesday, after being postponed Monday. 

Israel, backed by its ally the United States, a veto-wielding permanent Security Council member, has opposed the use of the term "ceasefire."

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday there would be no ceasefire in Gaza until the "elimination" of Hamas.

But Russia and the Arab League stepped up diplomatic pressure on Israel to bring fighting to a close, using the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum in Morocco to call for a ceasefire.

Richard Gowan, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, said ahead of the latest postponement that "everyone is basically stuck waiting to see what the US will decide to do."

"It looks like even US diplomats do not know how this saga will end," he added.

This week's back and forth comes after an impasse earlier this month when the United States, despite unprecedented pressure from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, blocked the adoption of a Security Council resolution on the war. 

That resolution had called for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire" in the Gaza Strip, where Israel continues its deadly war on Gaza.

20:30 Russia and the Arab League called jointly for a UN ceasefire resolution in the Gaza Strip during the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum in Marrakesh, Morocco.

The forum, which usually focuses on diplomatic and economic ties, was dominated by talks on Israel's war on Gaza, as it presses forward with its invasion of the territory.

"We hope that the Security Council will raise its voice for a mature resolution (calling for a ceasefire)," said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov during the meeting. "We have agreed to continue coordination within the United Nations."

The UN Security Council was set to vote later today on a resolution calling for a pause in Israel's war on the strip, diplomatic sources told AFP.

Chaired by Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita, the meeting was attended by Lavrov and diplomats from the 22-member Arab League.

"We hope that the Security Council can adopt this resolution and that there will not be a veto from a permanent member, notably the United States," said Hossam Zaki, assistant secretary general of the league.

"The Arab hope is that the United States understands that international patience is exhausted in the face of Israel's practices."

Speaking via videoconference, Arab League Chief Ahmed Aboul Gheit called for an "immediate ceasefire," adding that "anyone who opposes an immediate ceasefire in Gaza has the blood of innocents on their hands".

"The occupation is the heart of the problem and the origin of the cause," Aboul Gheit said, advocating for a two-state solution and calling for the "creation as quickly as possible of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders".

Lavrov also said it was "urgent to create a Palestinian state" and even "accelerate the process," because "some sources say that our Western partners are trying to develop hidden projects to separate the West Bank from Gaza".

On December 8, the US vetoed a ceasefire resolution.

Wednesday's vote on a new resolution comes after two votes were delayed on Monday with members wrangling over wording, sources told AFP.

The text's latest version calls for a "suspension" of the conflict, said the sources.

20:00 Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen expressed support during his visit to Cyprus for plans to send humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip from the Mediterranean island.

Cyprus has proposed establishing a corridor to collect, inspect, and store aid on the island before shipping it to Gaza.

Cohen, after talks with his Cypriot counterpart Constantinos Kombos, emphasised the need for an "organised and well-inspected" transfer of aid.

"We aim to create a fast track for humanitarian aid to Gaza through this corridor," he told reporters.

The ministers visited a search and rescue coordination centre in Larnaca, discussing logistical details for the plan. Cohen also inspected facilities at Larnaca port, the departure point for aid shipments.

Cyprus was ready to deliver large quantities of aid through this "maritime lifeline" expected to provide "a sustained flow of high-volume humanitarian assistance to the civilians" in Gaza, Kombos said.

"We look forward to your green light for the first voyage," he told Cohen.

Under the plan, the aid would checked in Cyprus by a joint committee, including representatives from Israel.

Israel is facing mounting international pressure that could speed up the dispatch of much-needed aid to Gaza, subjected to months of sustained Israeli bombardment.

Cypriot President Nicos Christodoulides has promoted his Gaza initiative among fellow EU leaders and friendly Arab states, and Larnaca was chosen due to its proximity to the Middle East.

The city is also home to the island's international airport, expected to receive aid from other countries.

19:00 Negotiations to secure another truce and captives release deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza war are "very serious", the White House said.

"These are very serious discussions and negotiations and we hope that they lead somewhere," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters aboard Air Force One.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed hope that the United States would be able to support a new UN Security Council resolution on Gaza.

"We've been working this intensely. I've been on the phones about this for the last couple of days," Blinken said.

"I hope we can get to a good place," he said.

18:00 Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced guarded hope that the United States would be able to support a new UN Security Council resolution on Gaza, with a sticking point on access for aid.

The United States, Israel's critical ally, has vetoed two resolutions at the Security Council as it rejected calls on Israel to end its deadly war on Gaza as the death toll among Palestinians nears 20,000.

Blinken, addressing reporters in Washington, said that the United States was engaging "in very good faith" with other countries, after fury in the Arab world over the previous vetoes.

"We've been working this intensely. I've been on the phones about this for the last couple of days," Blinken said.

"I hope we can get to a good place," he said.

The latest version of the draft resolution, led by the United Arab Emirates, stops short of using the word ceasefire and focuses instead on humanitarian access into the beleaguered Gaza Strip.

Blinken indicated that the humanitarian issue was the sticking point, with Israel insisting on full control of supplies that enter the blockaded Palestinian territory.

"The purpose of the resolution as stated by the countries that put it forward is to facilitate and help expand humanitarian assistance that's getting into Gaza. And we fully support that," Blinken said.

"We want to make sure that the resolution in what it calls for and requires actually advances that effort and doesn't do anything that could actually hurt the delivery of humanitarian assistance make it more complicated," he said.

Blinken argued that the United States, which has exerted pressure behind the scenes, has succeeded in recent days in making progress, including through the arrival of commercial trucks and the opening of a second crossing into Gaza.

17:00 Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who have launched missiles and drones at cargo ships in the Red Sea, warned that they would strike back if attacked by US forces.

"We [Houthis] are not the kind of people who are afraid of war," said rebel leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi.

"If the Americans intend to escalate further, get more involved and commit foolishness by targeting our country... we will target them," he said in a speech broadcast on the rebel's Al-Masirah television.

"We will make American battleships, American interests and American navigation a target for our missiles and drones," al-Houthi asserted.

His comments came after the United States said it was building up a multinational naval task force to protect vessels transitting the Red Sea from Houthi attacks carried out in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

The US aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has entered the Gulf of Aden, according to a US Navy spokesperson.

The rebels have launched more than 100 drone and missile attacks, targeting 10 merchant vessels, according to the Pentagon, from the Arabian Peninsula's poorest country.

The Houthis say their strikes on passing container ships are in support of Palestinians in Gaza as Israel presses forward with its war on the Israeli-besieged strip.

In his latest speech, the Houthi leader condemned the US's unwavering support for Israel saying: “America contributes and participates in what is happening in Gaza and has transferred all its bases in the region to support Israel, in addition to providing political support and objecting to any UN decision for a ceasefire.”

He also warned states against joining the new taskforce, saying it would threaten their interests in the Red Sea.

"When you involve yourselves with the Americans in the service of Israel, you are implicating your people in every sense of the word," he said.

Earlier on Tuesday, a top Houthi official warned that any nation that acts against the Yemeni rebels will have its ships targeted.

"Any country that moves against us will have its ships targeted in the Red Sea," Mohammed Ali al-Houthi said in a televised interview with Iran's Al-Alam television.

15:35 Yemen's Ansar Allah (Houthi) Movement Leader Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi said that their operations in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab, Gulf of Aden, and Arabian Sea do not disrupt international commercial and marine navigation unaffiliated with Israel.

He emphasized that hundreds of ships continue to move safely in these regions, unaffected by their actions, despite recent attacks.

"Our actions are not directed at international vessels. Our sole focus is on Israeli-affiliated or Israeli-owned ships. We target vessels owned by Israelis, partially connected to them, or heading to ports in occupied Palestine, providing resources to the Zionist enemy," he said.

He further warned of potential retaliation against American warships and interests if the United States increases involvement in the area or targets Yemen. 

Since 19 November, the Yemeni rebels stepped up attacks on vessels in the Red Sea to show support for the Palestinians as Israel's brutal war in Gaza continues.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, on a visit this week to Bahrain, home to the US Navy's headquarters in the Middle East, launched an international task force for maritime security to counter Houthi attacks.

The group will conduct joint patrols in the southern Red Sea and the adjacent Gulf of Aden.

Shipping companies remain in the dark over the new international coalition, sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

The sources, who include shipping and maritime security officials, say few practical details are known about the initiative.

"There are still a number of unknowns with the coalition. We don't know exactly how many warships will be involved, how long it will take those vessels to get to the region, or their rules of engagement and the actual protection scheme that will be put in place," said Corey Ranslem, chief executive of British maritime risk advisory and security company Dryad Global.

"Globally this is a fairly small area, however providing protection to commercial vessels in this region could be a major undertaking depending on the number of vessels along with any changes to the Houthi tactics."

15:12 The Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah said six of its fighters have been killed in the past 24 hours in Israeli attacks across the borders. In the past week, Hezbollah lost 17 fighters. Since the conflict began along the border weeks ago, the group has lost 113. 

15:00 The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said it had delivered food into Gaza through the Israeli Karm Abou Salem border crossing in the first direct aid convoy from Jordan.

The arrival of the 46-truck convoy came after "weeks of coordination with all parties," the WFP said, adding that it was a "crucial first step (that) could pave the way for a more sustainable aid corridor through Jordan and allow for the delivery of more aid at scale."

14:35 An Israeli airstrike has, again, hit Rafah killing at least four people and injuring dozens. Smoke rises from different points of the city as Israeli attacks continue.

"People are running from the site of the explosion, right near the vicinity of the Kuwaiti Hospital," Al Jazeera’s reporter says. "We are hearing from people running, multiple residential homes have been completely destroyed, and were full of people."

13:58 The International Labour Organization (ILO) published a report looking at how Israel’s war on Gaza has affected the labour market and livelihoods of those living in the occupied Palestinian territories.

At least 66 percent of jobs, equivalent to 192,000 jobs, have been lost in Gaza since the Israeli war erupted in October, the ILO says, warning that employment losses could continue to increase in the enclave.

The ILO also said that the spillover effect on the West Bank’s economy has been significant, with a one-third reduction in employment – equivalent to 276,000 jobs.

The bulletin projects the unemployment rate in the OPT to increase from 24 percent in the 4th quarter of 2022 to a staggering 46.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2023, which is set to compound the already devastating humanitarian and economic situation, especially in Gaza.

13:36 "Water and sanitation services are at the point of collapse with large-scale disease outbreaks looming," UNICEF warns.

Recently displaced children in the southern Gaza Strip are accessing only 1.5 to 2 litres of water each day, well below the recommended requirements just for survival, according to UNICEF estimates.

According to humanitarian standards, the minimum amount of water needed in an emergency is 15 litres, which includes water for drinking, washing and cooking. For survival alone, the estimated minimum is 3 litres per day, the UNICEF explains in today's report.

“Children and their families are having to use water from unsafe sources that are highly salinated or polluted. Without safe water, many more children will die from deprivation and disease in the coming days.”

Read the entire report here.

When UNICEF featured 12-year-old Dina on its X post and Instagram feed, she said she would “become a lawyer so that I can enjoy my rights and the rights of all children.”

She was injured and later her right leg was amputated when her house in Khan Yunis was destroyed by Israel's airstrikes. She lost both of her parents, her brother, and her sister and is now accompanied by her aunt at Nasser Hospital.

The following day UNICEF said she was killed when Israeli forces struck a maternity ward at Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza.



13:10 Director-General of the Ministry of Health Muneer Al-Bursh said that 46 killed Palestinians and 110 wounded were brought to Jabalia Medical Centre in northern Gaza since morning.

He noted in a post on X that dozens are still trapped under the rubble of buildings bombed by Israeli occupation forces.

Yesterday, over a dozen people were killed in an Israeli attack on Jabalia refugee camp, one of the most intense since 7 October.

13:00 Francesca Albanese, UN special rapporteur for the occupied Palestinian territories, urged US President Joe Biden to intervene and stop "the senseless carnage of innocent civilians in Gaza."

In a post on X, she said: "Every additional day the international community doesn't act to stop Israel's extermination campaign is another nail in the coffin of humanity and the international law based order."

12:39 12 individuals, including members of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) teams and displaced Palestinians, were injured in Israeli airstrikes near the Al-Amal Hospital and the PRCS headquarters in Khan Younis.

These sites are currently providing shelter for approximately 14,000 people.

12:00 At least 25 Palestinians were arrested today in the occupied West Bank by Israeli forces.

The figures have been on a steady rise, with approximately 4,630 Palestinians detained by Israeli forces since 7 October,

Statistics from the start of the year until the end of November revealed a staggering total of 9,410 arrests, including 2,221 individuals placed under administrative detention, a contentious practice involving imprisonment without formal charges or trial proceedings.

As of the latest available data, the number of imprisoned Palestinians in Israeli jails currently stands at over 7,820. 

11:55 IN PHOTOS: Khan Younis mourns families killed by Israel

11:40 The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory reported overnight that only "nine of Gaza's 36 hospitals are operational, though partially, all in the south.

"They are functioning at triple their bed capacity, grappling with no electricity and little fuel for generators, and confronting critical scarcities of supplies," the OCHA added.

According to WHO, four hospitals in the north are providing extremely limited services to patients who have already been admitted. These hospitals are not accessible and are unable to admit new patients, Israeli tanks and troops are surrounding their vicinities, and the hospitals do not have electricity or supplies. 

On Tuesday, Israeli forces raided the premises of Al-Ahli Hospital in the east of Gaza City, destroying the main entrance and reportedly arresting several medical staff and patients.  


11:22 The Israeli occupation forces have "surrounded and besieged" the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulance centre in Jabalia from all directions, the PRCS said in a post on X.

The PRCS says that there are 127 people inside the center, including workers, displaced, and wounded individuals.

11:05 A report from Israel's Channel 12 News revealed more details about Hamas' Operation Al-Aqsa Flood on 7 October.

A video from a police helicopter shows that an Israeli tank opened fire on a house, killing 13 Israeli captives and Hamas fighters.

The video corroborates earlier testimony from 44-year-old Yasmin Porat, who was held with them in the same house before managing to escape.

The video adds to the growing evidence suggesting that Israeli forces themselves killed many of the 1,200 Israeli soldiers and civilians who died on 7 October during the Hamas attack.

According to an investigation conducted by the French newspaper Liberation, some of the crucial details of Israel’s narrative claiming Hamas committed mass atrocities on 7 October were simply false and a result of Israel's desire to obtain public and international support for violent retaliation against Gaza.

The newspaper’s investigation published on 12 December stated: “No heads were cut off, no children were placed in ovens, no pregnant women’s stomachs were cut open, and no children’s hands were tied behind their backs,” but pointed out that “only one infant was killed out of 40 minors killed in the attack."

Earlier, an Israeli security assessment admitted that the Israeli army targeted its own civilians participating in the Nova music festival during Hamas' operation, refuting another Israeli allegation of what had happened on 7 October.

The investigation also indicated that an Israeli army combat helicopter, which arrived at the scene from the Ramat David Airbase and fired at Hamas members there, apparently also hit some of the festival participants, according to a police source, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

10:36 Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh arrived in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials regarding a ceasefire in Gaza and a potential prisoner exchange with Israel, the Palestinian group said in a statement.

This is his second visit to Egypt since the start of the war, following a trip in early November.

Before his trip to Cairo, Haniyeh met Tuesday night in Doha with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian.

According to Nasser Kanaani, spokesman of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Haniyeh said Hamas was ready for a lasting ceasefire but negotiations were not possible under continuing Israeli attacks in Gaza.

“Iran agrees with the government of Qatar regarding the need to immediately stop Israel’s war against the people of Gaza, and good joint efforts have been made in this regard,” Kanaani said.

10:00 NetBlocks reports a new collapse in Gaza internet connectivity. 
It says the incident has affected areas in southern Gaza, “where telecoms had been restored over the last few days.”

Gaza has experienced several internet blackouts and communications cut by Israel since the war began in October.

Humanitarian agencies have warned that blackouts severely disrupt their work in the besieged enclave.


9:35 Malaysia banned on Wednesday Israeli-flagged cargo ships from docking at its ports in response to Israel's war on Gaza.

​Ships on their way to Israel will also be immediately barred from loading cargo at any port, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said in a statement.

"The Malaysian government decided to block and disallow the Israeli-based shipping company ZIM from docking at any Malaysian port," Anwar said.

"These sanctions are a response to Israel's actions that ignore basic humanitarian principles and violate international law through the ongoing massacre and brutality against Palestinians."

Malaysia "also decided to no longer accept ships using the Israeli flag to dock in the country" and ban "any ship on its way to Israel from loading cargo in Malaysian ports."

9:05 Israeli aircraft struck areas west of Deir Al-Balah, while another airstrike killed a child, Mahdi Omar Radi, and wounded many others in the Japanese neighborhood in Khan Younis, southern Gaza.

A video shared on Instagram and confirmed by Al Jazeera's fact-checking unit, Sanad, depicted the arrival of an injured Palestinian to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis after an Israeli strike on a home in Al-Shaboura refugee camp in Rafah.

According to Abdallah Al-Attar, a photojournalist who captured the footage, the airstrike hit the Mansour family's residence in central Rafah.

Simultaneously, several firebombs hit the north of Gaza alongside Israeli artillery shelling around the Sheikh Radwan and Jabalia neighbourhoods.

9:00 The Israeli army announced the death of an officer during clashes in the southern Gaza Strip.

This brings the overall count of Israeli soldiers and officers killed since 7 October to 465, with 133 killed during the ground incursion.


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