Israel strikes southern Gaza hospital; accounts of executions and abuse of Palestinians revealed - as it happened

Ahram Online , Saturday 20 Jan 2024

Israel's war on Gaza enters its 106th day, with drones targeting a hospital in the south, as 142 Palestinians were killed within the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll of the Israeli killing to 24,762. Al Jazeera footage reveals Israeli forces conducting summary executions and abuse of Palestinians released from Israeli detention.

Palestinians inspect the rubble of destroyed buildings following Israeli airstrikes on the town of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip. Photo: AFP

21:00 Belgium would endorse the decision of International Court of Justice (ICJ) for a ceasefire in Gaza and a full humanitarian access in the war-torn strip.

The Minister of Development Cooperation, Caroline Gennez, said in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that: “Belgium reaffirms full support for the International Court of Justice in this case. If the International Court of Justice calls on Israel to cease its military campaign in Gaza, our country will fully support it."

She also stressed that her country will continue to strive, within the European Union and at the international level, for a permanent ceasefire, full humanitarian access, the unconditional release of hostages, respect for international law, and a two-state solution "as a structural solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Along these lines, the Belgian minister stressed her country's responsibility toward “human rights and humanitarian law,” emphasizing that Belgium remains "committed at all levels to making full humanitarian access to Gaza a reality as soon as possible."

This comes after the core federal cabinet of the Belgian Government agreed to send one ship to the Red Sea to protect shipments transiting through the region, Belgium's Belga News Agency reported on Friday.

"Today, the Belgian Government is speaking out in favor of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid and support for the ICJ. Belgium will take part in EU Red Sea mission," said Belgian Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder (PS) on Friday.

The Louise-Marie frigate ship, however, will not actively attack Houthi rebels, the government said, while stressing that all Israeli captives held in Gaza must be "unconditionally" released.

20:30 The right of the Palestinian people to build their own state "must be recognised by all", UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Uganda on Saturday.

"The refusal to accept a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, and the denial of the right to statehood for the Palestinian people, are unacceptable," the UN leader insisted in the Ugandan capital Kampala.

19:30 Palestinian Presidency spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said it was high time for the United States to recognize the State of Palestine, and not just talk about a two-state solution, in what appeared to be a response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent statements rejecting the establishment of a Palestinian state.

"The Israeli government is not interested in peace and stability,” the Palestinian spokesperson said stressing that Israel continues to deny the reality that peace between Palestinians and Israelis can only be achieved through Palestinian statehood.

“Peace will not be achieved without the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with East Jerusalem as its capital, based on the 1967 borders," Abu Rudeineh said in a press statement released by the Palestinian presidency, adding in the statement that the Palestinian state has already been recognized by the United Nations and currently holds the status of an observer state in the international body.

“The flag of Palestine has been raised alongside those of other nations that have recognized it," he said.

Abu Rudeineh concluded the statement by stressing that "the Palestinian people will not compromise their legitimate rights, including [their right to] Jerusalem and its holy sites, and their right to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, no matter how much time passes."

18:20 Palestinian news agency WAFA, citing local and medical sources, reported that over a dozen Palestinian civilians were killed in Gaza on Saturday as Israeli occupation forces intensified their airstrikes and artillery bombardment on various areas across the besieged strip.

WAFA citing medical sources reported that four civilians were killed in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, in an Israeli airstrike that struck the car they were occupying.

Moreover, Israeli artillery shelling and airstrikes on Khan Younis killed 11 people and injured many more, medical sources confirmed to WAFA. 

Not far, three people were killed in Israeli shelling targeting several areas in Abasan Al-Kabira town, east of Khan Younis, as civil defense teams recovered the bodies and transported them to the European Hospital in the southern city.

At the same time, Israeli aircraft are currently targeting several positions surrounding the Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis with a series of airstrikes and intense artillery bombardment, WAFA reported.

Toward the center of the strip, medical sources told WAFA that four people were killed in Israeli shelling targeting a residential apartment in the Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

Elsewhere, local sources reported the killing of two Palestinians in artillery shelling on the Al-Zaytoun neighborhood, south of Gaza City.

Meanwhile, three other civilians were killed in an Israeli airstrike, further north, which targeted the Al-Salatin area west of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza

Earlier on Saturday, WAFA reported that the Israeli army blew up several homes in the town of Al-Qarara, northeast of Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip.

WAFA said several people were killed during the demolitions and several others were injured.

Not far, medical sources announced that a civilian was killed after being directly targeted by an Israeli spy plane in Khan Younis.

So far, 24,927 Palestinians have been killed and 62,388 people injured, mostly women and children, since the Israeli war on Gaza began on 7 October, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The ministry said in a statement that at least 165 people have been killed over the previous 24 hours, more than double Friday's figure.

17:30  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes any form of Palestinian sovereignty in post-war Gaza, his office said Saturday, appearing to rebuff U.S. President Joe Biden’s suggestion that creative solutions could bridge wide gaps between the two leaders' views on Palestinian statehood.

In a sign of the pressures Netanyahu’s government is facing at home and abroad over the war, a protest outside the prime minister’s home grew as more people joined a group representing families of the more than 100 remaining captives held by Hamas and other militant groups.

15:37 A Hamas official dismissed comments by US President Joe Biden about the possibility of Israel agreeing to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

"The illusion that Biden is preaching about a state of Palestine and its characteristics does not fool our people," Izzat Al-Rishq, a member of Hamas's political bureau, said in a statement.

"Biden is a full partner in the genocidal war and our people do not expect any good from him."

Biden said Friday it was still possible that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could agree to some form of a Palestinian state after the two leaders spoke by phone for the first time in nearly a month, while Israel's war in Gaza grinds on.

He said after the call that it was possible that Netanyahu could become open to some form of the two-state solution raised for decades to end tensions in the Middle East.

15:00 Residents reached by AP reported heavy bombardment and fighting between militants and Israeli troops in and around the southern city of Khan Younis and the urban refugee camp of Jabaliya in the north.

Israeli warplanes and shelling hammered areas in and east of Khan Younis, with gun battles raging overnight into the early morning in Bani Suheila, a town on the city's outskirts, residents said. 

Halima Abdel-Rahman, a woman displaced from northern Gaza who has sheltered in Bani Suheila since November 2023, said Israeli airstrikes hit several buildings in the town over the last couple of days and that bombing was intense overnight into Saturday.

In Jabaliya, “the heavy bombing returned,” with Israeli warplanes striking buildings and open areas, local fisherman Assad Abu Radwan said.

14:32 Iran confirmed that four members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have been killed in an Israeli airstrike on Damascus, along with several members of the Syrian armed forces.

“Once more the criminal Zionist regime has moved to violate the city of Damascus, the Syrian capital, and during an airstrike by the fighter jets of the invading and occupying regime a number of Syrian forces and four military advisers of the Islamic Republic of Iran were martyred,” the IRGC noted in a brief statement, saying more information will be published later.

Iranian state television called it a “terrorist” attack by Israel.

14:12 Here are some of the photos coming in today.

Pro-Palestinian supporters hold Palestinian flags and placards as they chant slogans while taking part in a "Day of Action for Palestine" demonstration outside the British multinational arms, security and aerospace company BAE Systems, in London. AFP

Pro-Palestinian supporters hold Palestinian flags and placards as they chant slogans while taking part in a "Day of Action for Palestine" demonstration, in London. AFP

Relatives carry the body of 17-year-old Tawfiq Ajaq, a dual Palestinian-American citizen, during his funeral in Al-Mazra'a ash-Sharqiya, West Bank. AP

The body of 17-year-old Palestinian Tawfeek Ajaq, who, according to reports holds a US citizenship, and was killed a day earlier in the village of al-Mazraa al-Sharqiya in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. AFP

14:07 The Palestinian Red Crescent reports that the Israeli occupation targets the vicinity of PRCS Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis with a series of airstrikes and artillery shelling.

13:47 An Israeli strike on southern Lebanon on Saturday killed two members of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas as they were traveling in a car, three security sources in Lebanon told Reuters.

12:46 The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Friday accused Israel of detaining thousands of Palestinians in secret locations in Gaza and the West Bank and subjecting them to mistreatment that could amount to torture, and with no access to their families, lawyers, or effective judicial protection.

Addressing journalists in Geneva by video link from Gaza, Ajith Sunghay, OHCHR representative in the occupied Palestinian territory, said he met “a number” of released detainees who said they had been held by the Israeli army,  in unknown locations, for between 30 and 55 days.

“They described being beaten, humiliated, subjected to ill-treatment, and to what may amount to torture. They reported being blindfolded for long periods – some of them for several consecutive days.”

One man said he had access to a shower only once during his 55-day detention.

There are reports of men who were subsequently released – but only in diapers, without any adequate clothing in this cold weather, the OHCHR added.

“The families of detainees – believed to number in the thousands – have not been provided with information on the fate or location of their loved ones,” he said.

He demanded that Israel take urgent steps to ensure that all those arrested or detained are treated in line with international human rights and international humanitarian law norms and standards, notably with full respect for their due process rights, WAFA reported.

“Unless Israel can demonstrate imperative security grounds for each person remaining in detention, they must be charged or released.”

OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said that her agency had been in touch with Israeli authorities regarding allegations of abuse.

“We have raised our concerns with the Israeli authorities about ill-treatment, which would amount to torture of detainees in the occupied Palestinian territory repeatedly before October 7 and since then," she said.

“Unfortunately, we have not received any response,” she added.

12:40 The Commission of Detainees’ Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoners' Club reported that Israeli forces kidnapped at least 22 citizens from the occupied West Bank on Friday, including one woman and several children.

This brings the total number of Palestinian detainees since 7 October to 6,115.

11:35 Israel has killed at least 24,927 Palestinians since the onset of the war in Gaza, according to the most recent toll released by the health ministry.

The ministry's statement reveals that within the past 24 hours alone, 165 people were killed, while an additional 62,388 individuals have been wounded since the beginning of the war.

10:13 Palestinians in Gaza have provided harrowing testimonies of alleged summary executions carried out by Israeli forces.

Al Jazeera obtained both footage and witness accounts, particularly from members of one family, revealing that at least 19 civilians were executed by Israeli soldiers, on 19 December in Gaza City.

“Tanks and bulldozers surrounded the building. Shells had been hitting the building for days. The situation was desperate,” said Um Odai Salem, mother of one of those killed.

“On December 19, Israeli soldiers entered the building. They banged on our door. My husband opened it and told them we are all civilians. They took him to another apartment. I followed them, pleading with them to let him go because we are civilians. They beat me and my daughters up. The soldiers put women in one place and threatened us with guns and knives. They made us strip. They searched us, insulting us using the most terrible words," she added.

“My husband was one of the 19 men killed in this building. They ordered them to bend down and executed them. They killed them all,” she said.

Um Odai’s daughter said after the men were killed, shells started hitting the building again.

“The soldiers came in and separated the women and children from the men. They kept us in the sitting room while executing the men outside,” she added.

“I was holding my sister in my arms. Then the shelling resumed. Nada was hit. She made some soft sounds. She asked for some water. I thought she was crying. But she was dying. Shrapnel had entered her head, eyes, and neck. My sister tried to carry her body but she fell from her arms at the door,” she said.

9:47 More accounts of abuse from Palestinians released from Israeli detention emerge. Mohammad Abu Samra, recently released, shared with Al Jazeera the harsh conditions he and fellow detainees endured. 

He said they were blindfolded and beaten up after being accused of carrying and using weapons.

"They transferred us to an army camp in Israel. They let dogs urinate on us and shoved sand on us. They threatened to shoot us," he said.

"After two hours of being half-naked in such conditions, they moved us a few metres and told us to get ready for our execution,” he recounted.

"We’ve gone through collective punishment day in, day out. I feel very sorry for the Palestinian men, the detained teenagers who are 15,16 years old, for the torture they’ve gone through,” Abdel-Qader Tafesh, another former prisoner, told the network. 

Abdel Qader Tafesh, another former prisoner, told the network, "We’ve gone through collective punishment day in, day out. I feel very sorry for the Palestinian men, the detained teenagers who are 15,16 years old, for the torture they’ve gone through.”

09:35 The United Nations is reporting that water supplies in Gaza have dropped significantly, posing health and environmental threats and leading to 152,000 cases of diarrhea. More than half of those affected are children under the age of five.

According to the UN’s humanitarian partners, municipal wells that produce substandard, salty water are currently producing just one-tenth of what they did before the Israeli war on Gaza began, the UN said, which is more than 21,000 cubic metres a day compared to 255,000 cubic metres.

The UN humanitarian office says Israel shut down one water line in Gaza and another one was damaged in the war, leaving only one functional water line.

The water shortage has also severely impacted sanitation.

The World Health Organization reports that, on average, 500 people share one toilet, and more than 2,000 people sometimes are forced to use one single shower, while some shelters have none, UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

“Lack of toilets and sanitation services has forced people to resort to open-air defecation, increasing concerns over disease outbreaks,” he added.

People have returned to primitive methods for general hygiene, the Palestinian Red Crescent says.


09:08 The Israeli war on Gaza has killed an estimated 16,000 women and children including about two mothers every hour since 7 October, the United Nations agency promoting gender equality said.

UN Women also estimated that at least 3,000 women may have become widows and heads of households during the more than 100-day war, and at least 10,000 children may have lost their fathers.

In a report released Friday on “The Gendered Impact of the Crisis in Gaza,” UN Women pointed to gender inequality and the burden on women fleeing the fighting and being frequently displaced.

Of the territory’s 2.3 million population, it said, 1.9 million were displaced, and “close to one million are women and girls” seeking shelter and safety in a territory where no place is safe.

UN Women’s Executive Director Sima Bahous said there is a need for much more aid to get to Gaza, especially to women and children, and for an end to the war. 

09:00 The Palestinian Red Crescent (PRCS) said Israel's drones fired at Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis.

The PRCS said displaced people were injured "due to intense gunfire from the Israeli drones targeting citizens and the rescue base. 

Israeli tanks were also approaching Gaza's biggest remaining functioning hospital, Nasser, where people reported hearing shellfire from the west. Residents also reported fierce gun battles to the south, Reuters said.

In the north, where Israel says it has started pulling out troops and shifting to smaller-scale operations, 12 people were killed in Israeli strikes on a residential building near the largely non-functioning Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

An Israeli strike on a house in Al-Nusseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip killed five Palestinians.

The health ministry said Israel killed 142 Palestinians and injured 278 in Gaza in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll of more than three months of war to 24,762.

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