Israel won't accept deal leaving Hamas in power after suffering 'heavy blow' with loss of 24 soldiers - as it happened

AFP , Ahram Online , Tuesday 23 Jan 2024

The Israeli army Tuesday said 21 of its soldiers were killed in an attack in central Gaza, while combat raged in Khan Younis in the southern part of the Strip.

Palestinians who flee from Khan Younis from Israeli ground and air offensive on the Gaza Strip arriv
Palestinians who flee from Khan Younis from Israeli ground and air offensive on the Gaza Strip arrive in Rafah, southern Gaza. AP

 

22:50 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday renewed opposition to territorial changes in the Gaza Strip as Israel pounds the territory.

Blinken, on a visit to Nigeria, was responding to repeated suggestions that Israel would create a buffer zone inside the Gaza Strip, a prospect that has stirred anger in the Arab world.

"It is totally appropriate, something that we support, that those people be able to return to their homes and that the necessary security arrangements be in place to give them the confidence to do that," Blinken told reporters in Abuja.

"If there need to be transitional arrangements to enable that to happen, that's one thing," Blinken said.

"But when it comes to the permanent status of Gaza going forward, we have been very clear, we remain clear about not encroaching on its territory," he said.

21:40 Israel's rejection of the idea of a two-state solution with the Palestinians is unacceptable and could prolong the conflict in Gaza, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said.

"Last week's clear and repeated rejection of the two-state solution at the highest levels of the Israeli government is unacceptable," Guterres said in a speech to the Security Council.

20:15 US President Joe Biden's Middle East advisor is holding talks in the region on a new, possibly longer deal for the release of Israeli captives in exchange for a pause in fighting in Gaza, the White House said Tuesday.

Brett McGurk was in Egypt and would visit other countries to discuss "the potential for another hostage deal, which would require a humanitarian pause of some length," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

19:30 Yemen's Houthi rebels have ordered all US and British staff of the United Nations and its agencies to leave the country within a month, a UN official has told AFP.

In a letter dated January 20 and shared on social media, the authorities in the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa told the UN resident coordinator that employees with British and US nationality had one month to "prepare to leave the country".

While they only control a fraction of Yemen's territory, the Houthis hold sway over most of the country's population centres.

A UN official confirmed to AFP that they had received the memo. "The UN and its partners have taken note of this and are waiting to see what are the next steps," said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.

Peter Hawkins, the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, is himself British.

The expulsion followed joint strikes by the United States and Britain against the Houthis aimed at ending the group's attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

16:15 Israel will not agree to a ceasefire deal with Hamas that leaves its captives in Gaza or the Islamist group in power in the enclave, Israeli government spokeperson Eylon Levy has said.

 He added that efforts were ongoing to bring about the release of the hostages but declined to elaborate, saying lives were hanging in the balance.

 Asked about reports of a ceasefire deal in Gaza, Levy said the goals of the war were unchanged:

 "The destruction of Hamas' governing and military capabilities in the Gaza Strip and the return of all the captives. There will be no ceasefire that leaves the captives in Gaza and Hamas in power," he said.

15:30 EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell has said that Israel cannot be allowed to unilaterally block the creation of a Palestinian state after the war in Gaza.  

"One thing is clear -- Israel cannot have the veto right to the self-determination of the Palestinian people," Borrell told a Brussels press conference with his Egyptian counterpart. 

"The United Nations recognises and has recognised many times the self-determination right of the Palestinian people. Nobody can veto it."  

The comments come after Borrell on Monday chaired talks between the EU's 27 foreign ministers and the top diplomats from Israel, the Palestinian Authority and key Arab states. 

Israel's foreign minister sidestepped discussion of a two-state solution at the gathering, opting to

show them aspirational videos of future infrastructure projects, including an envisioned artificial island off the coast of Gaza.

14:30 Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said Tuesday that the loss of 24 soldiers the previous day in the deadliest day of the ground war in Gaza was a "heavy blow".

12:50 Mediation efforts on ending the war in the Gaza Strip are ongoing, Qatar's foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday in a press briefing.

Separately, he added that escalation in the Red Sea represented a "big danger", a day after US and British forces carried out fresh strikes against Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, who have disrupted global shipping in protest over Israel's bombardment of Gaza.

12:20 Lebanese militant group Hezbollah said it targeted the Israeli army's northern command centre Tuesday in response to "recent assassinations and repeated attacks on civilians" in Lebanon and Syria.

It said it had launched a "large number" of missiles at the Mount Meron base in its second such attack since the Israeli war on Gaza.

Its first on 6th January came in response to the killing of Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Aruri in a strike in Beirut widely blamed on Israel.

12: 00 The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday that very little food assistance has made it beyond southern Gaza since the start of the Israel war on the strip and that the risk of having pockets of famine in the Palestinian enclave remained.

"It's difficult to get into the places where we need to get to in Gaza, especially in northern Gaza," said Abeer Etefa, WFP spokesperson for the Middle East.

"Very little assistance has made it beyond the southern part of the Gaza Strip ... I think the risk of having pockets of famine in Gaza is very much still there."

11:45 Israel's army said on Tuesday its troops had surrounded the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, which has been the epicenter of fighting in recent weeks.

11:30 Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israel would push on with fighting in Gaza until "absolute victory" despite suffering one of its toughest days of the military offensive.

"Yesterday we experienced one of the most difficult days since the war erupted," said Netanyahu. "In the name of our heroes, for the sake of our lives, we will not stop fighting until absolute victory."

He said the military was "investigating the tragedy" in which 21 soldiers were killed when buildings exploded in central Gaza.

11:00 The Palestinian health ministry in Gaza said Tuesday at least 25,490 people have been killed in the Palestinian territory in the war between militants and Israel.

The latest toll included 195 fatalities in the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, while at least 63,354 people had been wounded since the war erupted on October 7.

10:45 Military strikes by the United States and Britain will not go "unpunished", Yemen's Houthi rebels warned on Tuesday, detailing 18 raids on their territory overnight.

"These attacks will not go unanswered and unpunished," military spokesman Yahya Saree posted on X, formerly Twitter, listing raids in Sanaa, Hodeida, Taez and Al-Bayda provinces.

10:30 Britain on Tuesday vowed to keep hampering the ability of Yemen's Houthis to attack Red Sea shipping, following the latest joint-US strikes on the Iran-backed rebels.

"What we have done again is send the clearest possible message that we will continue to degrade their ability to carry out these attacks while sending the clearest possible message that we back our words and our warnings with action," Foreign Minister David Cameron told broadcasters.

10:00 Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with his counterparts from Iran, Turkey and Lebanon ahead of the United Nations Security Council meeting on Tuesday to discuss the Middle East, the Russian foreign ministry said.

The bilateral meetings focused on the Gaza Strip, Syria and "the tense situation" in the Red Sea, the ministry said on the Telegram messaging app on Tuesday. The meetings took place in New York on Monday.

The ministry said Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian agreed on the need for a swift ceasefire in Gaza and conditions for providing humanitarian assistance to civilians.

09:00 The Israeli occupation army said Tuesday that 24 soldiers had been killed in Gaza the day before, the biggest single-day toll since the start of its ground operation on October 27.

Twenty-one soldiers were killed when rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) fire hit a tank near two buildings where they were carrying out an operation, military spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a televised statement.

He said the attack occurred at around 4 pm (1400 GMT) on Monday and all those killed were reservists.

The RPG was fired at a tank that was protecting the troops when an explosion erupted in two nearby two-storey buildings, Hagari said.

"The buildings collapsed as a result of this explosion, while most of the force was inside and near it," he said.

The buildings exploded as troops had planted explosives in them after the two structures had been identified as "terrorist infrastructure" in the area, Hagari said.

A medical evacuation team was deployed but it was a "complicated operation, which took place until the last hours," Hagari said, indicating the difficulty in extracting bodies buried under the rubble.

"The dedicated reservists, who stood up for the flag, sacrificed what was dearest to them for the security of the state of Israel so that we can all live here in complete safety," he said.

The army had previously announced the deaths of three other soldiers on Monday, taking the day's overall toll to 24 -- the deadliest since the ground offensive started in Gaza.

 

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