Israel gifts death to Gaza as Pope Francis calls for end to war on Christmas Day - as it happened

Ahram Online , Monday 25 Dec 2023

The Palestinians had nothing to celebrate this Christmas. Santa could not deliver any presents to thousands of children in Gaza because they were killed by Israeli bombs. In a message of peace, Pope Francis called for an end to the war and the suffering of 2.4 million civilians.

Demonstrators protest Israel s continued attacks on the Gaza Strip, in downtown Toronto, Saturday, Dec. 23, 2023. AP


23:00 Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry discussed on Monday the latest developments in Gaza as well as the Egyptian efforts to achieve a comprehensive ceasefire with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said. 

According to the Egyptian foreign ministry, Shoukry emphasized in the telephone call that he received from his Iranian counterpart the necessity of full implementation of Security Council Resolution 2720.

He stressed the importance of ensuring full and sustained access to humanitarian aid to Gaza, underscoring the need for complete implementation of the recent Security Council resolution regarding the establishment of a UN mechanism to facilitate the entry and monitoring of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

The UN Security Council resolution 2720 calls for taking urgent steps to immediately allow the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip.

The resolution demands parties to the conflict “allow, facilitate and enable the immediate, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance” at scale, to the Palestinian population of Gaza. It also calls for the “urgent suspension of hostilities” to allow safe and unhindered access

21:00 Indiscriminate Israeli airstrikes on anything that does not move and everyone who moves in the Gaza Strip has forced Palestinians to bury the dead anywhere they can before the next round of bombardment arrives.

Palestinians in Jabalia in northern, who have lived through massacre after massacre since 7 October, survivors bury the dead in school yards and hospital grounds and any place they can find to ensure some decency for lost ones as thousands leave us for a better place

This video, posted on Al Jazeera, depicts displaced Palestinians camping around a makeshift cemetery on the grounds of the Al-Yamen Al-Saeed (Happy Yemen) Hospital in Jabalia

Some of those buried were victims of Israeli bombardment of the hospital.

Displaced civilians improvised a fence with water jerrycans all around the area of the head tombs to mark where life ended and where life continues.

There is nothing happy about the hospital anymore - except the perseverance of the medical staff inside the facility and the survivors around it.



18:30 On Monday, more than 90 Palestinians were killed in Israeli airstrikes and bombardment on areas in central Gaza and Khan Younis in the southern part of the strip on Christmas day, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The health ministry said on Monday that the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip since early October has killed at least 20,674 people, 70 percent of them children and women.

The ministry also added that 54,536 people have been wounded since the start of the war

On the other side, the Israeli army said 17 of its officers and soldiers were killed in fierce battles in Gaza in the last 48 hours.

18:00 Families of captives taken by Gaza militants booed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday as he addressed parliament, vowing to bring the captives home but saying "more time" was needed.

"Now! Now!" the families chanted from the gallery when Netanyahu said Israeli forces first needed to increase military pressure on Hamas.

"We wouldn't be able to secure the release of hostages without military pressure," he said.

Netanyahu said he spoke to Israeli field commanders who said they needed "more time" to finish the mission.

"We won't stop until victory," Netanyahu said over the cries of protesters.

17:00 Egypt has put forward an ambitious, initial proposal to end the Israeli war on Gaza with a cease-fire, a phased detainees exchange and the creation of a Palestinian government of experts who would administer the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank, a senior Egyptian official and a European diplomat told AP on Monday.

The proposal worked out with Qatar and has been presented to Israel, Hamas, the United States, and European governments but still appeared preliminary.

It does not meet Israel’s goal of outright crushing Hamas nor meet Israel’s insistence on keeping military control over Gaza for an extended period after the war.

16:30 Francesca Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur OPT, says national justice systems should be urged to investigate and prosecute their citizens who may have committed atrocity crimes abroad, including in the occupied Palestinian territory

16:00 The death toll of Palestinians killed by Israel in Gaza has reached 20,674, the health ministry announced.

Palestinians mourn their relatives, killed in an overnight Israeli strike on the Al-Maghazi refugee camp, during a mass funeral at the Al-Aqsa hospital in Deir Al-Balah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on December 25, 2023. AFP

15:00 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he visited Gaza and vows to intensify fighting. 

"I just came back from Gaza... we're not stopping, we're continuing to fight and we're intensifying the fighting in the coming days," he told members of his Likud party according to a statement.

"It's going to be a long war that's not close to ending.

14:00 Liverpool's Mo Salah took to X to share a poignant Christmas message, urging not to forget the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza or become desensitized to the suffering of its people.

"Christmas is a time when families get together and celebrate. With the brutal war going on in the Middle East, especially the death and destruction in Gaza, this year we get to Christmas with very heavy hearts and we share the pain of those families who are grieving the loss of their loved ones," he posted.

"Please do not forget them and do not get used to their suffering. Merry Christmas."

13:30 Pope Francis deplored the desperate humanitarian situation of Palestinians in Gaza and called for an immediate ceasefire in his Christmas message.

"I plead for an end to the military operations with their appalling harvest of innocent civilian victims, and call for a solution to the desperate humanitarian situation by an opening to the provision of humanitarian aid," he told thousands of faithful gathered in Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

12:00 An unusual silence fell over the streets of Zababdeh, a Palestinian village that is home to one of the biggest Christian communities in the occupied West Bank.

On any other Christmas Day, Palestinian Christians would have flocked from surrounding towns to enjoy the fairy lights and a festive market in the village of some 5,000 people.

But as the war rages in Gaza and violence also surges in the West Bank, the Christian community here is in no mood to celebrate Christmas on Monday.

This year its members are praying for peace and mourning the dead, worried too about violence even closer to home.

Early on Christmas Day, AFP journalists heard gunfire and sirens in nearby Jenin, the city that has seen near-daily raids by Israeli forces.

"How can we celebrate?" said Nazeria Yousef Deabis, 76, who has lived in Zababdeh all her life and never known the atmosphere so sombre.

There is no Christmas tree in her house.

"People don't feel festive -- they've lost friends and relatives in Gaza," she said. "The occupation is destroying Jenin and children are being brutally killed."

In Zababdeh's hushed streets, Gabi Khadar's Christmas decoration shop is crammed with unsold festive stock -- tinsel, boxloads of baubles and more than 20 plastic Christmas trees.

Not a single tree has been bought this year.

Amid the Israeli conflict in the Gaza Strip, where the Christian community and churches have also been targeted by Israel, Christians in the occupied Jerusalem and West Bank are experiencing an increasing wave of Israeli violence and harassment, particularly from Israeli settlers.

Video of ultra-Orthodox Jews spitting on the ground beside Christian worshippers, including foreigners has ignited intense outrage and a flurry of condemnation.

Elisha Yered, an ultranationalist settler leader and former adviser to a lawmaker in Netanyahu’s governing coalition, defended the spitters, arguing that spitting at Christian clergy and churches was an “ancient Jewish custom”.

According to the Palestinian Information Center, Israel unleashes its rabid settlers to torch and damage Christian property in occupied Palestinian territories.

Anti-Christian graffiti is a radical Israeli habit, especially in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, the centre says.

11:20 Iran's foreign ministry rejected Monday as "worthless" Washington's claims that a drone attack targeting a tanker off the coast of India was "fired from Iran".

Saturday's targeting of a Japanese-owned chemical tanker came amid a flurry of drone and missile attacks by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the Red Sea in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, where Israel is battling Hamas militants.

The Pentagon later openly accused Tehran of the attack.

"We declare these claims as completely rejected and worthless," said foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani when asked about the US accusations.

"Such claims are aimed at projecting, distracting public attention, and covering up for the full support of the American government for the crimes of the Zionist regime (Israel) in Gaza," he added.

11:15 The spokesperson for the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital reported that the death toll of Palestinians killed in the Israeli strikes targeting the Al-Maghazi refugee camp has risen to 95.

10:20 The OMS says it is alarmed by the number of hungry patients its teams encountered in several Gaza hospitals over the weekend.

9:47 The Israeli army announces the deaths of two soldiers during battles with the Palestinian resistance groups in the northern Gaza Strip, raising the ground offensive toll to 156.

It also recovered the bodies of 5 detainees, including 3 soldiers.

9:10 A 17-year-old Palestinian was struck in the neck by live ammunition during an Israeli forces' raid in the town of Aqaba, north of Tubas, as reported by WAFA news agency. 

Additionally, Israeli forces arrested a resident of Tubas before withdrawing from the area. 

In separate operations, Israeli occupation forces conducted raids in various areas, including the Jenin refugee camp, the City of Jenin, the Deir Ammar refugee camp in Ramallah, Aqabat Jabr refugee camp in Jericho, and Al-Jalama village northeast of Jenin in the occupied West Bank.

Several Palestinians were arrested, and wounded during these operations.

9:00 Israel intensified overnight devastation in the central Gaza Strip, primarily striking the Al-Maghazi area, killing at least 70 individuals, including at least 12 women and seven children.

Associated Press journalists at a nearby hospital watched frantic Palestinians carry the dead, including a baby, and wounded following the strike on the Maghazi refugee camp east of Deir al-Balah. One bloodied young girl looked stunned while her body was checked for broken bones.

“What is happening at the Maghazi camp is a massacre that is being committed on a crowded residential square,” the Palestinian health ministry spokesperson, Ashraf al-Qidra, said, adding that the death toll was likely to climb.

Israeli strikes severely affected the main roads between Maghazi, Bureij, and Nuseirat refugee camps, impeding ambulance and paramedic crews' ability to reach and rescue the injured.

An Israeli strike overnight also hit a house in a refugee camp west of the city of Rafah, on Gaza’s border with Egypt. At least two men were killed, according to Associated Press journalists in the hospital where the bodies were taken.

At least two people were killed and six others wounded when a missile struck a building in the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.

The Ministry of Health said early in the morning that Israeli strikes had killed at least 18 people in the southern city of Khan Yunis, the centre of recent fighting.

Dozens of bodies were transported to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, while reports from the Al Jazeera team in Khan Younis indicate an increase in casualties, predominantly women and children.

And Palestinians reported heavy Israeli bombardment and gunfire in Jabaliya, an area north of Gaza City that Israel had claimed to control.

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