Israel continue to bomb southern Gaza as Netanyahu rejects calls for post-war Palestinian state - as it happened

Ahram Online , Friday 19 Jan 2024

On the 105th day of the Israeli War on Gaza, Israel bombarded southern Gaza after it publicly sparred with its main ally the United States over the possibility of a Palestinian state, the creation of which Washington sees as the only pathway to a lasting peace.

This picture taken from Rafah shows smoke billowing over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment AFP


20:00 Internet services are starting to return to the besieged Gaza Strip after a week-long blackout, telecom operator Paltel said.

"We announce the gradual return of communication services in various areas of the Gaza Strip," the firm said in a statement.

19:00 US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about Gaza, in their first conversation for nearly a month amid reports of tensions between the leaders, AFP reported.

The call came a day after Netanyahu said he had told Washington that he opposes allowing Palestinian statehood after the conflict with Hamas, putting him at odds with long-standing US policy.

"President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to discuss the latest developments in Israel and Gaza. A readout of the call will be issued soon," the White House said in a statement.

The pair last spoke on December 23 and the silence since has led to repeated questions about a rift between Biden and Netanyahu over Israel's offensive in Gaza and future plans.

Democrat Biden and right-winger Netanyahu have had a notoriously complicated relationship in the past but the US president has stood firmly behind Israel since Hamas's October 7 Al-Aqsa flood operation.

18:00 The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a speech that Israel financed the creation of Hamas in a bid to weaken the Palestinian Authority. Benjamin Netanyahu has previously denied accusations by his opponents in Israel and some global media that his government spent years actively boosting Hamas in Gaza. 

"Yes, Hamas was financed by the government of Israel in an attempt to weaken the Palestinian Authority led by Fatah," Mr Borrell said in a speech in the University of Valladolid in Spain, without elaborating further on such alleged financing. 

Meanwhile, the EU is also set to adopt a dedicated sanctions regime targeting Palestinian militant group Hamas, with an official saying the first measures would target six people involved in the financing of Hamas. 

"What we are doing now - it has been done today and I think it will be announced in the coming hours - [is that] we have adopted a dedicated regime for Hamas. We have listed six people" the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said. 

The official added the six people were all from Arab or African countries.


17:00 Russia  urged Hamas to release all captives during talks with the Palestinian group in Moscow, saying the humanitarian situation in Israel's war on Gaza had reached "catastrophic" levels.

Hamas fighters seized about 250 captives in an October offensive on Israel, around 132 of whom Israel says remain in Gaza.

Russian diplomat Mikhail Bogdanov "stressed the need for the speedy release of civilians captured during the attacks of 7 October" in talks with Hamas senior official Musa Abu Marzouk, the foreign ministry said.

The Palestinian resistance group said in a statement that the talks were "to clarify the movement's position and policies for dealing with the file of prisoners" it was holding.

The statement added that they had also discussed securing a ceasefire in the besieged territory and Bogdanov had expressed Russia's "support of the rights of the Palestinian people".

16:00 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank held funerals on Friday and assessed the damage of days-long Israeli raids.

Residents gathered beside seven bodies in a hospital in Tulkarem as the father of one of the dead wept in the corner, an AFP photographer said.

Israeli forces withdrew Friday after raiding the Tulkarem area for almost two days, during which the military claimed troops killed "at least eight terrorists".

Mourners threw flowers over those killed and Palestinian fighters fired in the air as the funeral procession made its way through Tulkarem refugee camp.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 and its troops regularly carry out army raids into Palestinian communities.

The raids have escalated since the Israeli war on Gaza began more than three months ago, increasingly lasting days and accompanied by air strikes.

Israel's military said they searched around 1,000 buildings around Tulkarem and interrogated hundreds of people, arresting dozens of them.

The Palestinian Prisoners' Club advocacy group reported Thursday that some of those detained were severely beaten by Israeli forces.

An army statement said one soldier was seriously wounded in the raid.

Since Israel's Gaza war began on 7 October, Israeli troops and settlers have killed more than 360 people in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Over the same period, Israeli forces have arrested more than 6,000 Palestinians, according to the Prisoners' Club.

15:00 The United Nations said that thousands of babies had been born in conditions "beyond belief" in Gaza since the Israeli war there erupted more than three months ago.

UNICEF spokeswoman Tess Ingram, back from a recent visit to the Gaza Strip, described mothers bleeding to death and one nurse who had performed emergency caesareans on six dead women.

Nearly 20,000 babies have been born into the war that began after the Hamas attacks inside Israel on October 7, according to UNICEF, the UN children's agency.

"That's a baby born into this horrendous war every 10 minutes," Ingram told reporters in Geneva via videolink from Oman.

"Becoming a mother should be a time for celebration. In Gaza, it's another child delivered into hell," she said, emphasizing a need for urgent international action.

"Seeing newborn babies suffer, while some mothers bleed to death, should keep us all awake at night," she said.

Ingram described "heartbreaking" meetings with women caught up in the chaos.

14:00 Mexico and Chile on Thursday joined calls for an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into Israel's Gaza war that has left thousands of people dead.

The referral "is due to the growing concern over the latest escalation of violence, particularly against civilian targets, and the alleged continued commission of crimes under the court's jurisdiction, specifically since the October 7, 2023 attack carried out by Hamas militants and the subsequent hostilities in Gaza," Mexico's foreign ministry said.

The Palestinian Health Ministry says more than 24,400 Palestinians have died during Israel's siege and invasion of Gaza, and the United Nations says a quarter of the 2.3 million people trapped in Gaza are starving.

Chile supports "the investigation of any possible war crime... whether they are war crimes committed by Israelis or by Palestinians," Foreign Minister Alberto van Klaveren said at a news conference in Santiago.

The Palestinian foreign ministry warmly welcomed Chile and Mexico’s referral of the situation in the Palestinian territories to the ICC.

Israel, which has refused to sign the Rome Convention to join the ICC, claims that because Palestine is not a sovereign state, the tribunal lacks the jurisdiction to investigate the conflict -- a position largely backed by the US.

The ICC is a court of last resort set up to prosecute war crimes when local courts cannot or will not take action.

Any ICC proceedings would be separate from South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide at the UN world court, a charge that Israel denies.

13:00 A UN human rights official has called for an end to Israel's ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees in Gaza, Sky News reported.

Ajith Sunghay told reporters by video link from Gaza that he had met men who had been held for weeks, beaten and blindfolded, with some released in diapers.

"These are men who were detained by the Israeli security forces in unknown locations for between 30 to 55 days," he said. 

"There are reports of men who are subsequently released, but only in diapers without any adequate clothing in this cold weather."

12:00 Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed another attack on a US ship early Friday after the United States launched fresh strikes on rebel targets over their aggression toward Israeli-linked ships in and around the Red Sea.

While the Houthis maintained they had struck the commercial vessel in the Gulf of Aden, the US military later said the group's missiles had missed their mark.

The Houthis said that their "naval forces... carried out a targeting operation against an American ship" -- identified as the Chem Ranger -- "with several appropriate naval missiles, resulting in direct hits," Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree said Thursday in a statement on X (formerly Twitter).

The spokesman added that Yemen's armed forces "confirm that navigation traffic in the Arab and Red Seas will continue to all destinations around the world except for the ports of occupied Palestine," while vowing to continue blocking "Israeli navigation" and ships "heading to the ports of occupied Palestine" until a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip is achieved.

The US military's Central Command, which is responsible for the Middle East, said the Houthis "launched two anti-ship ballistic missiles at M/V Chem Ranger, a Marshall Island-flagged, US-Owned, Greek-operated tanker" on Thursday night.

"The crew observed the missiles impact the water near the ship. There were no reported injuries or damage to the ship," the command said on social media platform X.

11:00 Witnesses reported gunfire and air strikes early in Khan Younis, the main city in the south of the Gaza Strip. 

The Palestinian Red Crescent reported "intense" artillery fire near the Al-Amal hospital, while the Palestinian Health Ministry said 77 people were killed and dozens injured overnight.

The Israeli military said its Givati Brigade was fighting as far south as its troops had reached so far in the campaign.

10:00 Netanyahu rejected on Thursday the US call for a pathway to a Palestinian state.

"Israel must have security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River," he said. "This is a necessary condition, which contradicts the idea of (Palestinian) sovereignty."

Netanyahu maintained that "a prime minister in Israel should be able to say no, even to our best friends."

Washington believes that the creation and recognition of a viable Palestinian state is necessary to achieve security for Israel.

"We obviously see things differently," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said when asked about Netanyahu's comments.

Responding to Netanyahu's remarks, the official spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, said that without an independent Palestinian state, "there will be no security and stability in the region."

"The entire region is on the verge of a volcanic eruption due to the aggressive policies pursued by the Israeli occupation authorities against the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights," Nabil Abu Rudeineh said, according to the official WAFA news agency.

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