Blinken says US supports the return of displaced Palestinians in Gaza to their homes - as it happened

Ahram Online , Tuesday 9 Jan 2024

As the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip nears 100 days, Blinken had some "tough" words for Israel did not pressure Tel Aviv to end its war; German FM visited Cairo and Rafah and called for more access points to deliver aid to Palestinians facing near-starvation conditions in the strip.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken addresses a press conference in Tel Aviv on January 9, 2024. AFP


22:30 The International Court of Justice begins two-day hearings this week of South Africa’s case against Israel, accused of violating the Genocide Convention.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) will begin two days of hearings on 11 and 12 January in The Hague in response to an emergency request by South Africa for its intervention to stop Israel’s three-month-old war on Gaza.

The request was submitted in the form of an 84-page application by the government of South Africa accusing Israel of committing genocidal acts against the Palestinian people in Gaza.

The hearings will begin at 10:00 am and continue for two hours on Thursday and Friday this week. South Africa’s legal team will make its oral arguments on 11 January, followed the next day by Israel’s.

The hearings are open to the public, diplomats, and the press and will be transmitted live in the two official languages of the court, English and French, including on the court’s Website and on UN Web TV.

The ICJ’s 15-judge panel will be expanded by an additional ad-hoc judge from each side.

According to the local press, Israel’s Foreign Ministry has informed its embassies worldwide to prompt its allies to reject the case and emphasise that it has provided, contrary to assertions by all UN and international humanitarian agencies, for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.

Both South Africa and Israel are signatories to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which allows state parties to institute proceedings against each other for alleged violations.

While cases brought to the ICJ can take years to resolve, South Africa’s case includes a list of provisional measures or restraining orders that it is asking the court’s president to adopt in order to halt Israel’s military assault on Gaza.

The ICJ’s rulings and opinions are binding, but the court does not have the means to enforce them. Any ruling against Israel and the actions of its occupation forces could seriously impact its reputation

Read the full report here

21:00 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US supports the return of displaced Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to their homes.

Speaking at a press conference after meeting with top Israeli officials in Tel Aviv, Blinken said the US will not entertain any proposals that include the forced displacement of the Palestinians from Gaza.

Blinken said Israel has agreed on a plan for a UN mission to assess the situation in northern Gaza to enable the safe return of displaced Palestinians.

"As Israel's campaign moves to a lower intensity phase in northern Gaza and as the IDF (Israel army) scales down its forces there, we agreed today on a plan for the UN to carry out an assessment mission," he explained.

"It will determine what needs to be done to allow displaced Palestinians to return safely to the north."

Blinken said more food, water and medicine needed to get into Gaza as war grinds on between Israel and the Palestinian territory's Hamas rulers.

"More food, more water, more medicine, and other essential goods need to get into Gaza. And then once they're in Gaza, they need to get more effectively to the people who need them," he added.

20:00 The World Health Organization warned on Tuesday its ability to provide aid and support struggling hospitals in war-ravaged Gaza was "shrinking", despite international demands for more aid to be allowed in.

WHO staff described desperate scenes of seriously injured patients, including young children, begging for food in hospitals, which have seen most of their health workers flee for their safety.

"We're seeing this humanitarian catastrophe unfold before our eyes," Sean Casey, a WHO emergency medical teams coordinator, told reporters in Geneva via video link from the Gaza Strip.

"We're seeing the health system collapse at a very rapid pace," he warned.

The Israeli army has claimed the war is entering a new phase, involving troop reductions and more targeted operations in the territory's centre and south.

But Casey said that on the ground, he had "not seen the lowering of the intensification."

"What we are still seeing... is a huge number of casualties related to hostilities, so shrapnel injuries, gunshot wounds, crush injuries from buildings that collapse. That's still happening every single day.

Read the full report here

19:00 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday that his forces must avoid inflicting further harm on civilians in Gaza, the State Department said.

 Blinken has been visiting countries across the Middle East to calm regional tension over the conflict, now into its fourth month, and talk to Israeli leaders about their handling of the war.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Blinken had reaffirmed "US support for Israel's attempts to stop any repeat of the Hamas attack of October 7."

Miller said Blinken then "stressed the importance of avoiding further civilian harm and protecting civilian infrastructure in Gaza"

17:30 The Israeli army announced the loss of four soldiers and officers in battles in the Gaza Strip in the last 24 hours.

In related news, a preliminary investigation by the Israeli army, reported by the Israeli website Walla, revealed that the deadly explosion in an Israeli vehicle carrying a large quantity of explosives and ammunition in the Al-Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza on Monday, which killed six army personnel and injured 30 others, was caused by gunfire from an Israeli tank.

In earlier reports, the Israeli military said that 20 percent of its fatalities in the Gaza war were the result of friendly fire.

16:30 Germany's Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Al-Arish and the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip to follow up on delivering humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.

Earlier in the day, in a press conference with her Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry in Cairo, Baerbock expressed her country's appreciation to Egypt for its pivotal role in the Gaza Strip, stressing her country's full rejection of Palestinian displacement from Gaza or the West Bank and affirming the importance of preserving their rights.

During the presser, Shoukry reiterated Egypt’s total rejection of any measures taken to forcibly displace the Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, during a press conference with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock in Cairo.

Shoukry said that Egypt is exerting huge efforts to transfer humanitarian aid to the strip, amid the difficulties placed by Israel regarding the entry of humanitarian aid to the besieged strip through the Egyptian Red Crescent.

"We look forward to the United Nations coordinator establishing mechanisms for the entry of aid and facilitating its access to the displaced people inside the Gaza Strip to alleviate their suffering," Shoukry added.

Shoukry said the Palestinian people are currently subjected to forced displacement from north to south, noting that civilians are even being bombed in the south.

Before the presser, both sides held an extensive consultation session, focusing on the devastating situation and the ongoing war in the strip, where they emphasized the imperative nature of achieving a ceasefire and ensuring the sustaining delivery of aid to Gaza.

During the meeting, which touched on bilateral relations and regional and international issues of mutual concern, Shoukry lauded the depth of Egyptian-German distinguished ties in different domains and coordination between both countries.

The two top diplomats also addressed the security of Red Sea navigation.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (C-L) visits the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, on January 9, 2024. AFP

15:50 The UNRWA said that Rafah in southern Gaza, initially with a population of 280,000, now accommodates well over 1 million displaced individuals.

The overcrowded streets have led to an alarming spread of disease.

"Overcrowded streets witness the alarming spread of disease. Our colleagues continue to provide healthcare in UNRWA shelters and health centres, but are overwhelmed by the ever-increasing need," the UN agency said on X.

13:27 The Palestinian Red Crescent Society released footage showing teams recovering the bodies of two Palestinians killed in the Maghazi refugee camp.

Their deaths come in the wake of Israeli air raids and artillery shelling in and around the central Gaza camp.

12:49 The Israeli occupation army radio says 5 more soldiers were killed due to an explosive device in central Gaza, bringing its total war losses there to 187.

Earlier, the army said four soldiers had been killed.

12:00 Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry reiterated Cairo's complete rejection of any measures to forcibly displace the Palestinian people from Gaza, during a meeting with his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock in Cairo.

"We haven't seen genuine efforts to prevent the displacement of Palestinians. On the contrary, the measures being taken are exacerbating the push for displacement and two million citizens cannot be left trapped in an area in southern Gaza in such a way," Shoukry said.

According to the Egyptian ministry's official statement, both sides exchanged views on the war on Gaza, emphasizing the imperative of achieving a ceasefire, ensuring sustainable delivery of aid, and addressing regional developments and security in Red Sea navigation.

11:55 Here are some of the photos coming from the occupied West Bank following the Israeli raids.

Relatives mourn over the body of a man killed during an overnight Israeli raid on the Tulkarem refugee camp. AFP

People inspect the damage following an overnight Israeli raid on the Tulkarm refugee camp. AFP

People inspect the damage following an overnight Israeli raid on the Tulkarm refugee camp. AFP

11:45 Hezbollah announced in a statement it targeted the northern command HQ of the Israeli military with drones.

11:25 The death toll of the Palestinians killed by Israel in Gaza rose to 23,210, with another 59,167 injured, according to the most recent figures by the Palestinian Health Ministry. 

At least 57 people killed in Israeli attacks were brought to Al-Aqsa Hospital, in central Gaza, in the last 24 hours, the ministry said.

Another 62 wounded Palestinians were also brought to the health facility.

11:00 This is how Tulkarem looks in the aftermath of the Israeli raid.

Israeli forces cause damage to vehicles and infrastructure during their raid on Tulkarm camp, early this morning.

— Quds News Network (@QudsNen) January 9, 2024

10:54 Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said that the 7 October Al-Aqsa Flood operation "came after an attempt to marginalize the Palestinian cause."

"Despite the heavy price, the massacres, and the war of genocide, it (Israel) failed to achieve any of its goals," he added.

He said that Israel will not secure the release of its captives from Gaza unless it frees all Palestinians detained in Israeli jails.

“We see countries of the world pouring weapons into the occupation [Israel]… The time has come to support the resistance with weapons because this is… not the battle of the Palestinian people alone,” said Haniyeh.

10:35 US Secretary of State Blinken announced that five major countries: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, the Emirates, and Turkey have agreed to begin planning for the reconstruction and administration of the Gaza Strip after the war, AP reported.

He said he would present the "Arab commitments" to Netanyahu, his war council, and the Palestinian president before presenting them to the Egyptian president.

More details here

09:47 A car has been hit by an apparent Israeli drone strike in Lebanon, killing three people on board, as reported by Al Jazeera.

The strike happened in the village of Ghandouriyeh, which is about 10km outside of the battlefield on the border between Lebanon and Israel.

A Hezbollah commander was killed in a similar attack on Monday. His funeral will take place in the next few hours.

09:30 Video has emerged from Tulkarem in the West Bank showing Israeli soldiers shooting three Palestinian men at close range.

It also shows soldiers shooting at an injured Palestinian lying on the ground and an Israeli vehicle running over one of the corpses and dragging it for several metres.

The city, along with much of the West Bank, has been subject to repeated Israeli raids. Fresh raids occurred overnight and into the morning in Qalqilya, Nablus, and Ramallah.

According to the UN, Israeli forces and settlers have killed a total of 329 Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including 84 children, since 7 October.

More than 4,000 Palestinians, including more than 600 children, have been injured.

09:00 Israel continues bombing attacks in southern and central Gaza, amid reports of strikes in the vicinity of Al-Aqsa Hospital.

Additionally, constant Israeli artillery shelling persists, particularly concentrated in the southern part of Khan Younis, where Israel’s army says it has expanded its ground operation.

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