Coptic Pope Tawadros decries Israel brutality against Palestinians in Gaza & occupied territories; calls for ceasefire - as it happened

Ahram Online , Saturday 6 Jan 2024

Pro-Palestine marches returned strongly to various European capitals on the first weekend of the new year - with protesters blocking the Westminister Bridge in London; Pope Tawadros II had harsh words to say against the brutality of the Israeli war on the Palestinians as the war entered its fourth month.

Pro-Palestinian supporters shout slogans and wave Palestinian flags during a demonstration in central London on January 6, 2024, calling for a ceasefire now in the war in Gaza. AFP


23:00 Pope Tawadros II, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church, said: The news of what is happening on the land of Palestine is extremely painful" and "a departure from humanity," calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza war.

"The attacks are brutal, harsh and regrettable," he said in an interview with the Cabinet's Information and Decision Support Centre (IDSC) on the eve of the Coptic Christmas.

"What we're seeing in the occupied Palestinian territories is a departure from humanity,” he asserted. "The children have suffered a great deal and they will grow up traumatized," he added.

"Even animals do not do this. Animals do not torture each other like this," said the Pope.

The pontiff criticized "the international community which postures about progress and technological advancement and always speaks on issues of human rights with lofty words but does not move an iota in the face of the disturbing images we are seeing." 

He also expressed his hope that a complete ceasefire would be reached and the reconstruction of Gaza would start soon in the new year.

22:00 Pro-Palestine protesters hit the streets of London and Paris on Saturday, in the biggest demonstrations since the start of the new year, calling for an immediate ceasefire in Israel's deadly war on Gaza.

In London, hundreds of protesters blocked roads outside the British Parliament and staged a sit-in at Westminster Bridge, to demand an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

Saturday's protests also called for the UK to stop selling arms to Israel and demanded an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

In France, Pro-Palestine protesters marched in the streets of Paris, calling for an immediate end to the ongoing Israeli genocide in Gaza

19:00 Nine-year-old Lama Abu Jamous has carried her mic to conduct interviews with other children, documenting the daily struggle to sustain a semblance of normality in refugee camps in the Gaza Strip.

In the besieged Gaza Strip, Lama has taken on the role of a journalist becoming a beacon of hope, capturing the attention of global audiences with almost a million followers on Instagram with her poignant storytelling.

After the start of the Israeli bombing campaign against civilian targets in the strip in October, Lama fled from Gaza City in northern Gaza to Khan Younis in the centre and again to Rafah in the deep southern strip.

Throughout her trip to escape from the hell rained on Palestinian women and children, Lama documented the lives of herself and other children in Gaza.

Children in Gaza make up more than 50 percent of the 2.4 million population in the strip and nearly 50 percent of the nearly 23,000 civilians killed by Israel since 7 October.

Lama's journey began when she started using her mother's smartphone to record videos of her surroundings.

Witnessing the hardships faced by her community, she felt compelled to shed light on the realities faced by other children in Gaza.

The nine-year-old interviews other children to document their experiences, hoping to raise awareness and bring about positive change.

Through her videos, Lama provides a unique perspective, offering a glimpse into life in Gaza from a child's point of view.

She fearlessly navigates the war-torn streets, capturing poignant moments of resilience, sorrow, and hope

Read the full report here

20:0 The Palestinian Football Association (PFA) announced on Saturday that Hani Al-Mossader, coach of the Palestinian Olympic team, lost his life in an Israeli strike on Gaza.

Since 7 October, 88 Palestinian athletes from across the spectrum of sports were killed in Israeli airstrikes against civilian targets in the Gaza Strip.

"88 athletes in team and individual sports, including 67 football players were killed. Additionally, 24 officials from managerial and technical staff also lost their lives due to Israel's strikes on Gaza," read a statement released on the official website of the PFA.

In Late December, a prominent Palestinian footballer, Ahmed Daraghmeh, 24, was killed by Israeli forces when Israeli occupation troops entered the city of Nablus to escort Jewish worshippers to a site known as the biblical Joseph's Tomb in the Palestinian city.

18:00 Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry urged France as the president of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to push for the implementation of UNSC Resolution 2720, which stipulated the creation of a mechanism to speed up the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

This came during a phone call with his French counterpart Catherine Colonna where they discussed on Saturday the latest developments in the war in Gaza as well as in Lebanon and the increasing threats to navigation in the Red Sea.

The two top diplomats agreed on the great dangers of expanding the conflict and its threats to regional international peace and security.

Shoukry and Colonna also discussed the tragic humanitarian situation in Gaza, agreeing on the need to ensure sufficient and continuous entry of relief to the strip.

He called on his French counterpart to work during her country’s month-long presidency of the UNSC in January to follow up on the implementation of UNSC Resolution 2720.

The Egyptian foreign minister reaffirmed Cairo's categorical rejection of any Israeli measures or statements that call on the Palestinians to "emigrate from their lands."

He stressed the need for the end of what he described as the irresponsible statements which are repeatedly issued by some Israeli officials in this regard.

Moreover, Shoukry stressed the need for international parties to assume their responsibilities towards reaching a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in Gaza to put an end to the tragic humanitarian situation and the increasing Israeli violence and violations in the West Bank.

17:00 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Turkey on Friday at the start of a trip that includes planned visits to Israel and the occupied West Bank as well as several Gulf states.

Blinken met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the latest developments in the Gaza war.

The US State Department said Blinken "emphasised the need to prevent the conflict from spreading" during more than an hour of talks with President Erdogan.

Blinken stressed the need to "work toward broader, lasting regional peace that ensures Israel's security and advances the establishment of a Palestinian state," the State Department said.

A Turkish diplomatic source said Foreign Minister Hakan Fiden pressed Blinken during a separate meeting for an "immediate ceasefire" that could ensure the smooth delivery of aid

President Erdogan has been an outspoken opponent of the Israeli war on Gaza

Turkey has withdrawn its envoy and embassy staff from Tel Aviv to protest the war.

In November, Erdogan said Israel was behaving as "a war criminal" in its military campaign against the Palestinians and extended support to Hamas as "a national liberation movement."

A senior US administration official told AFP, that the secretary of state will press Israel to move to a new, more targeted phase of the war that would allow Palestinian refugees to move out of densely-packed refugee camps.

Blinken will also urge Benjamin Netanyahu to increase the flow of aid into the enclave, the US official added.

He is expected to hold talks with Arab leaders on how Gaza will be governed after the war, said the official.

This is the top US diplomat's fourth crisis tour of various concerned capitals in the Middle East since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza on 7 October.

Blinken is expected to travel to Greece, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, the West Bank and Egypt before returning home on Thursday.

15:10 Under the shadow of the Israeli Defence Ministry censorship, CNN's Jerusalem bureau dictates coverage of the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza, The Intercept news website revealed. 

"Whether reporting from the Middle East, the United States, or anywhere else across the globe, every CNN journalist covering Israel and Palestine must submit their work for review by the news organization’s bureau in Jerusalem prior to publication, under a long-standing CNN policy," the nonprofit news organization said.

The Intercept quoted a member of CNN’s staff who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of professional reprisal who said: "Every single Israel-Palestine-related line for reporting must seek approval from the [Jerusalem] bureau — or, when the bureau is not staffed, from a select few handpicked by the bureau and senior management — from which lines are most often edited with a very specific nuance.”

The CNN staff member described to The Intercept how the policy works in practice. “‘War crime’ and ‘genocide’ are taboo words,” the person said. “Israeli bombings in Gaza will be reported as ‘blasts’ attributed to nobody until the Israeli military weighs in to either accept or deny responsibility. Quotes and information provided by the Israeli army and government officials tend to be approved quickly, while those from Palestinians tend to be heavily scrutinized and slowly processed.”

The network also hired a former soldier from the Israeli army’s Military Spokesperson Unit to serve as a reporter at the onset of the war, said The Intercept. 

Tamar Michaelis’s first byline appeared on 17 October, and since then, her name has appeared in dozens of stories citing the Israeli Defence Ministry spokesperson and relaying information about the Israeli army’s operations in the Gaza Strip. 

This "long-standing" policy means that the CNN coverage of the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza has been shaped in the shadow of the Israeli military censor, more than what the US prominent media outlet says the policy object is "to ensure accuracy in reporting on a polarizing subject."

14:40 The Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati discussed the situation in southern Lebanon, the Israeli war on Gaza, and the situation in Syria with the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell. 

Mikati warned that any significant explosion of the situation in southern Lebanon could trigger a broader explosion in the region

He called for "working towards establishing a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian cause by granting Palestinians their fair rights."

"It is imperative to avoid regional escalation in the Middle East. It is absolutely necessary to avoid Lebanon being dragged into a regional conflict," Borrell said during a press conference in Beirut with Lebanon's foreign minister.

"I am sending this message to Israel too: nobody will win from a regional conflict," he added.

Borrell said that "the only solution that achieves peace and security for Israel is the two-state solution" and that "Gaza will be part of a future Palestinian state and cannot be isolated from the West Bank."

The EU foreign policy chief also announced that he will visit Saudi Arabia on Sunday to discuss steps towards peace in the region.

13:05 Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has called on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to use his current Middle East tour to end Israel's "aggression" as war rages in Gaza

In a video message posted late Friday on Hamas's social media channels, Haniyeh said he hoped Blinken had "learned the lessons of the last three months" during which Israel has relentlessly bombarded Gaza, killing at least 22,700 Palestinians.

The US's "blind support" for Israel's military campaign "has caused unprecedented massacres and war crimes against our people in Gaza," Haniyeh said.

"We... hope that he will be more focused this time on ending the aggression" as well as "the occupation of all Palestinian lands," the Hamas chief added.

Haniyeh also urged regional leaders due to meet Blinken to tell him that stability and security in the Middle East are "closely linked to our Palestinian cause which cannot be overlooked, and that the occupation cannot persist indefinitely."

The United States is Israel's chief military and political backer and has repeatedly refused to support calls for a ceasefire and vetoed all UN resolutions in this regard.

12:50 The Al-Qassam Brigades reported a successful ambush on an Israeli infantry unit of eight soldiers at close distance in the Bani Suhaila area, east of Khan Younis.

Meanwhile, the Al-Quds Brigades have confirmed engaging in fierce battles with the Israeli enemy soldiers within Khan Younis city.

12:25 The number of Palestinians killed by Israeli strikes since dawn in Khan Younis has risen to 22, Al Jazeera reported.

The health ministry recorded 122 deaths over the past 24 hours in Gaza.

12:22 Israel has killed at least 22,722 people in Gaza since the war erupted on 7 October, the health ministry said.

The ministry added that a total of 58,166 Palestinians had been wounded in the three months of fighting.

11:35 After "three long months of a brutal war, almost 90 percent of Gaza population have been forcibly displaced and lack everything," the UNRWA said.

"Families search for safety where there is none, as famine looms," it added saying that a ceasefire is critically needed to provide urgent aid and end this forced, continuous displacement.

11:30 Here are some of the most recent photos coming from Gaza.

Palestinians load the bodies of their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip on a truck in Deir al Balah. AP

Relatives of 12-year-old Mohamed Awad, who was killed along with his immediate family by an Israeli bombardment. AFP

A relative mourns Palestinian journalist Akram Al-Shafi'i, killed in the Israeli bombardment. AP 

11:00 Israeli forces had excavated nearly 1,100 graves in the Tuffah neighborhood cemetery (east of Gaza City), Gaza Media Office said. 

"They exhumed the bodies of martyrs and deceased individuals, disrespecting their dignity by bulldozing and tampering with the graves, without any regard for the sanctity of the deceased or the burial grounds," the office said in a statement.

The soldiers took around 150 bodies to an undisclosed location, it added.

The statement pointed out that the Israeli army has repeatedly committed such crimes, referencing another incident in which 80 bodies were stolen from Gaza.

The bodies were mishandled and disfigured; the army has refused to provide any information about them. Clear alterations to the appearance of these bodies indicated the blatant theft of vital organs from the martyrs' bodies by the occupation.

Moreover, according to the official statement, it was noted that the army had previously excavated graves in Jabalia and stolen bodies.

New satellite imagery provided by Earth-imaging company Planet Labs shows two graveyards in Gaza that have recently been destroyed. In some cases, Israel appears to be using other recently cleared cemeteries as bases to stage heavy vehicles.

10:34 Two more Palestinians were killed by an Israeli airstrike in the Asdaa area in Khan Younis, as reported by Al Jazeera.

10:12 Noga Arbell, a former Israeli foreign ministry official, called for the "destruction" of the UN agency providing relief to Palestinian refugees.

In footage shared by Israeli media, she was seen stating: "It will not be possible to win the war if we do not destroy UNRWA. And this destruction must begin immediately."

Her comments align with an Israeli parliamentary group lobbying to cease global funding for UNRWA, alleging it serves as a tool for Hamas, as reported by the Israel Hayom newspaper.

UNRWA remains the largest functioning aid group in the besieged Gaza Strip, where 1.9 million displaced Palestinians are in desperate need of food, water, and medical assistance

10:12 At least six Palestinians were injured after being shot by Israeli occupation forces, who stormed the towns of Beita, Ainabta, and Qatanna in the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said.

Earlier, PRCS medics were rushed to provide treatment to injured Palestinians in Tulkarem.

09:50 Lebanese Hezbollah says it hit an Israeli observation post early on Saturday with 62 rockets as a “preliminary response” to the assassination of Hamas’s deputy chief last week.

"As part of the initial response to the crime of assassinating the great leader Sheikh Saleh al-Arouri... the Islamic resistance (Hezbollah) targeted the Meron air control base with 62 various types of missiles," the resistance group said in a statement.

9:34 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Istanbul for the first leg of a trip that includes visits to both Israel and the occupied West Bank.

Blinken's fourth tour since the start of the war three months ago comes with fears mounting that the conflict will engulf swathes of the Middle East.

A senior US administration official said Blinken will press Israel to increase aid to Palestinians and move to a phase of combat that allows the displaced to start returning to their homes.

The official added that much of the discussions with Arab leaders will focus on containing the violence and looking at how the region can be governed once the fighting ends.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has harshly criticized the scale of death and destruction happening in Gaza, and Washington's support for Israel.

He has compared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler and accused the United States of sponsoring the "genocide" of Palestinians.

He has also rebuffed US pressure to cut off the suspected flow of funding through Turkey to Hamas and defended the group as legitimately elected "liberators" fighting for their land.

The US State Department on Friday announced $10 million rewards for information about five alleged Hamas foreign operatives -- three of them believed to be based in Turkey -- thought to be helping finance the Iran-backed group.

Turkey this week countered by detaining 34 people suspected of planning attacks against Palestinians and spying for Israel's Mossad intelligence agency.

9:10 Two Palestinians were shot and injured by Israeli forces and several others were arrested following a military raid into the town of Qatana, northwest of occupied Jerusalem, according to local sources, reported by Wafa news agency.

Israeli forces conducted multiple raids on homes in the town, searching them thoroughly before detaining several young men.

09:05 UN Humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths said that Gaza’s 2.3 million people face “daily threats to their very existence” while the world just watches.

He said tens of thousands of people, mostly women and children, have been killed or injured, families are sleeping in the open as temperatures plummet and areas where Palestinians were told to relocate have been bombed.

Griffiths said: “People are facing the highest levels of food insecurity ever recorded [and] famine is around the corner.”

The few partly functioning hospitals are overwhelmed and critically short of supplies, medical facilities are under relentless attack, infectious diseases are spreading and amid the chaos about 180 Palestinian women are giving birth every day.

 “Gaza has simply become uninhabitable,” the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs said.

09:00 Israel struck the southern city of Rafah in Gaza early on Saturday, where hundreds of thousands of people have sought shelter from the ongoing fighting.

Occupation aircraft also targeted homes in the Al-Hikr area of Deir al-Balah and the Nusairat refugee camp in central Gaza.

At least 18 Palestinians have been killed, and several others were seriously injured and transported to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.

Short link: