Israel intensifies assault on 'encircled' Khan Younis as UN warns of 'catastrophic food insecurity' in Gaza - as it happened

Wednesday 24 Jan 2024

Israel kept up its heavy assault on the "encircled" Gazan city of Khan Younis, as the UN humanitarian agency OCHA reported that Israeli forces had issued fresh evacuation orders for a section of Khan Younis housing an estimated half a million residents and displaced people.

Palestinians wounded during the Israeli air and ground offensive in Khan Younis are brought to a hospital in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Jan.2024. AP


22:30 Egyptian and U.S. officials confirmed this week that they are actively pursuing ways to halt the Israeli war on Gaza that has raged for over 110 days. An Egyptian official said that Israel has presented a proposal for a pause in fighting, while the White House said it dispatched a senior envoy to the region for consultations with Egypt and Qatar.

20:50 The United Nations’ top court will issue a decision Friday on South Africa’s request for interim orders in a genocide case against Israel, including that Israel halt its offensive in Gaza.

The decision is a preliminary stage of a case filed by South Africa at the International Court of Justice alleging that Israel’s military action in its war with Hamas in Gaza amounts to genocide. Israel strongly rejects the accusation and has asked the court to throw out the case.

The court announced the timing of the interim ruling on Wednesday.

Israel often boycotts international tribunals and U.N. investigations, saying they are unfair and biased. But the country’s leaders sent a high-level legal team to two days of hearings earlier this month — a sign of how seriously they regard the case and and an indication of likely concerns that any court order to halt operations would be a major blow to the country’s international standing.

If the court grants some or all of South Africa’s eight requests for so-called provisional measures, it is unclear if Israel will comply.

19:00 Danish shipping giant Maersk said Wednesday that two ships belonging to its US subsidiary transiting the Bab el-Mandeb strait towards the Red Sea had turned back after explosions nearby.

The ships were being escorted by US Navy ships and “enroute, both ships reported seeing explosions close by and the US Navy accompaniment also intercepted multiple projectiles... The US Navy has turned both ships around and is escorting them back to the Gulf of Aden,” Maersk said in a statement adding that both crews and the cargo were unharmed. 

18:00 Sixteen international humanitarian and rights organisations on Wednesday called for a halt to weapons transfers to Israel and Palestinian groups in a bid to end the war in  Gaza.

In a joint statement they urged United Nations member states to stop sending weapons, parts and ammunition to "stop the crisis in Gaza and avert further humanitarian catastrophe and loss of civilian life.

"Israel's bombardment and siege are depriving the civilian population of the basics to survive and rendering Gaza uninhabitable," the statement added.

"The civilian population in Gaza faces a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented severity and scale."

The 16 signatories include Amnesty International, Christian Aid, Medecins du Monde International Network, Norwegian People's Aid, Oxfam and Save the Children.

They call for all transfers of arms to be stopped immediately while there was a risk "they are used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian or human rights law.

"Captive-taking and indiscriminate aggression are violations of international humanitarian law and must end immediately," it added.

According to the organisations, Israeli military activity has destroyed a "substantial portion of Gaza's homes, schools, hospitals, water infrastructure, shelters, and refugee camps".

Not a single medical facility in Gaza was fully operational and those still able to function had been overwhelmed with trauma cases and shortages of both doctors and medical supplies, the statement added.

17:30 Tank shelling on a UN shelter killed at least nine people in Gaza's main southern city of Khan Yunis, said the Gaza head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

"Two tank rounds hit building that shelters 800 people, reports now 9 dead and 75 injured," Thomas White, UNRWA's Gaza director, said on X, formerly Twitter.

15:30 Qatar's liquefied natural gas (LNG) deliveries may be delayed by attacks in the Red Sea, QatarEnergy warned on Wednesday, stressing that production had not been impacted.

The state-owned giant confirmed in a statement that "Qatar's LNG production continues uninterrupted, and our commitment to ensuring the reliable supply of LNG to our customers remains unwavering".

"While the ongoing developments in the Red Sea area may impact the scheduling of some deliveries as they take alternative routes, LNG shipments from Qatar are being managed with our valued buyers," it added.

15:00 Greenpeace activists unveiled an illustration depicting a Palestinian child crying for help, outside the Reina Sofía museum in Madrid, Spain, the Guardian reported.
The illustration was created by the US artist Shepard Fairey, also known as ‘Obey’, and was based on a photograph by Gaza photojournalist Belal Khaled. Activists also tied a yellow banner reading: ‘Ceasefire now’ to the building.
The action by Greenpeace and Unmute Gaza was to “denounce the situation in Gaza” and “like the vast majority of civil society, call for an immediate ceasefire”, the two organizations said in a statement.



12:35 The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said at least 25,700 people have been killed, while another 63,740 have been wounded in the Palestinian territory since the Israeli war on Gaza broke out on 7 October.

A ministry statement said at least 210 people were killed and nearly 400 were injured over the past 24 hours.

11:45 Doctors Without Borders has reported that its personnel are currently stranded at Nasser Hospital, the primary medical facility in Khan Younis. Approximately 850 patients and thousands of displaced individuals are also inside the hospital, as the surrounding roads have become either impassable or too hazardous due to intense fighting in the vicinity.

In a separate incident, Al Jazeera has confirmed that a school in Khan Younis, providing shelter to hundreds of displaced Palestinians, was targeted by Israeli forces. This attack has resulted in at least eight people sustaining critical injuries.

11:00 The United States has urged China to help in curbing the Red Sea attacks carried out by Iran-backed Houthis rebels in Yemen, Financial Times reported citing US officials.

The US has repeatedly raised the matter with top Chinese officials in the past three months, the report said.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and his deputy, Jon Finer, discussed the issue in meetings this month in Washington with Liu Jianchao, head of the international liaison department of China’s Communist party, the newspaper said.

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also raised the issue with his Chinese counterpart, the report said, adding US officials believe there was little evidence that China had put any pressure on Iran to restrain Yemen’s Houthis beyond a mild statement that Beijing issued last week.

The reports come as the US military carried out fresh strikes in Yemen, destroying two Houthi anti-ship missiles that the US said were aimed at the Red Sea and were preparing to launch.

10:00 US strikes, which targeted sites used by Iranian-backed militants in Iraq early Wednesday, "do not help bring calm," a senior Iraqi official said, adding they were also a "flagrant violation of Iraq's sovereignty."

"The US side should pile on the pressure for a halt to the Israeli offensive in Gaza rather than targeting and bombing the bases of an Iraqi national body," National Security Adviser Qassem al-Aaraji said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

He was referring to the Hashed Al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Force), an alliance of Iran-backed former paramilitary groups now integrated into the regular armed forces.

09:00: The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that 507 Palestinians were killed in the occupied West Bank in 2023, describing the toll as “the highest” since OCHA started recording casualties in 2005.

“Since 7 October 2023 and as of 23 January 2024, 360 Palestinians have been killed, including 92 children, across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” OCHA said in its latest report on the violence in the occupied territories.

“Of these 360 fatalities, 350 were killed by Israeli forces, eight by Israeli settlers, and two by either Israeli forces or settlers,” it added.

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