Gaza officials say Israeli fire strikes a crowd waiting for aid, killing at least 20 - as it happened

AP , AFP , Ahram Online , Thursday 25 Jan 2024

Israeli air strikes and ground operations were intensified Thursday on the Gazan city of Khan Yunis, where UN officials said tank shelling hit a U.N. facility sheltering displaced Palestinians, killing at least nine people and wounded 75 others.

Injured people receive treatment in Gaza City s Al-Shifa hospital, following a reported Israeli strike, that according to Gaza s Health Ministry, killed at least 20 and wounded more than 150 as they waited for humanitarian aid, on January 25, 2024. AFP


The deadly incident came after the Israeli army said it had encircled the city, where footage released by the military showed soldiers engaged in urban combat amid ruined buildings.

Hamas's press office also reported fierce clashes in the centre and west of Khan Yunis, while health ministry counted multiple deaths overnight from strikes in the city and elsewhere in the territory.

It said four children were killed in the Nuseirat camp in an early morning bombardment on Thursday.

Wednesday's attack on the UN shelter for displaced people saw the site hit by two tank rounds, killing nine and injuring 75, said Thomas White, the Gaza head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said the number of dead was likely to rise.

"Once again a blatant disregard of basic rules of war," Lazzarini said on the social media platform X, adding that the compound had been clearly marked as a UN facility and its coordinates had been shared with Israeli authorities.

James McGoldrick, interim UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, told reporters that "buildings were ablaze" at the shelter in the aftermath of the strike.

"Many people are trying to flee the scene but unable to do so," he said.

The United States condemned the attack, with State Department spokesman Vedant Patel saying "civilians must be protected and the protected nature of UN facilities must be respected".

'No military solution'

In the southern border town of Rafah on Wednesday, Palestinians inspected the damage after a strike on a mosque, which had been reduced to rubble.

"We headed to Rafah based on Israel instructions that it is a safe zone, only to discover that it is just like other areas," Mohammed Barbakh, who had been displaced from Khan Yunis, told AFP.

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced mounting calls for a ceasefire, with domestic pressure intensifying after 24 soldiers were killed Monday in the army's deadliest single day since it launched ground operations in Gaza.

Citing Israeli officials, the New York Times said 21 of those soldiers were killed in an operation to demolish part of a Palestinian neighbourhood in order to create a "buffer zone" inside Gaza along the Israeli border.

In Tel Aviv, Israeli protesters carried a banner saying "Stop the bloodshed" and blocked a road during a demonstration to demand a deal for the release of the captives held by Hamas.

Netanyahu, however, has been adamant the war will continue, telling parliament on Wednesday that the fighting would persist until the "aggression and evil" of Hamas were destroyed.

"This is a war for our home," he said.

 captives talks

US President Joe Biden's Middle East envoy Brett McGurk was in the region for talks aimed at brokering a new deal to free the remaining captives in exchange for a pause in fighting.

A Palestinian source familiar with the talks said a Hamas delegation had travelled to Cairo on Tuesday to discuss new ceasefire proposals.

Egypt and Qatar have acted as mediators in the conflict, including in November, when a brief truce agreement led to the release of 105 captives.

But Netanyahu was allegedly caught on tape telling captives' families this week that Qatar's mediation was "problematic", blaming it for funding Hamas.

The Gulf state said it was "appalled" at the remarks, which "if validated, are irresponsible and destructive to the efforts to save innocent lives".


22:30 During a rare visit to Moscow, a Houthi delegation on Thursday discussed “the need to increase efforts to pressure” the United States and Israel to end the Gaza war, a spokesman for the Yemeni rebels said.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdel Salam said he and Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov had discussed US and British strikes on the Houthis, affirming that it was more pressing for the United States to “stop the aggression on the Gaza Strip and deliver humanitarian assistance there rather than militarise the Red Sea”.

The Russian foreign ministry meanwhile “strongly condemned” the US and British strikes during the talks with the Houthis, saying they were “capable of destabilising the situation on a regional scale”

21:00 The head of the World Health Organization called for a ceasefire and a "true solution" to the Israel-Palestinian conflict in an emotional plea to the global health body's governing body on Thursday where he described conditions in Gaza as "hellish".

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who lived through war as a child and whose own children hid in a bunker during bombardments in Ethiopia's 1998-2000 border war with Eritrea, became emotional describing conditions in the bombed-out Gaza enclave where more than 25,000 people have been killed.

"I'm a true believer because of my own experience that war doesn't bring solution, except more war, more hatred, more agony, more destruction. So let's choose peace and resolve this issue politically," Tedros told the WHO Executive Board in Geneva during a discussion about the Gaza health emergency.

"I think all of you have said the two-state solution and so on, and hope this war will end and move into a true solution," he said, before breaking down, describing the current situation as "beyond words".

20:15 Hamas said on Thursday that if the International Court of Justice issues a ruling calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian movement will abide by it as long as Israel reciprocates.

Hamas will release all the Israeli captives in Gaza if Israel releases all Palestinians prisoners, senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said at a news conference in Beirut.  

19:30 The directors of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service and the US Central Intelligence Agency will meet Qatar’s prime minister in Europe this weekend to discuss a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and the release of captives an official briefed on the meeting told Reuters on Thursday.

17:00 The United Nations told AFP on Thursday that the Israeli military ordered people taking refuge in their shelter hit with deadly tank fire in southern Khan Yunis to leave by the following afternoon.

A spokeswoman for UNRWA, the agency for Palestinian refugees, confirmed testimony from displaced people in the shelter who said the army gave them until 5:00 pm (1500 GMT) on Friday to flee.

15:45 The United States and Britain will impose new sanctions on leaders of the Iran-aligned Houthi group, which will include at least four senior figures being subject to asset freezes and travel bans, Bloomberg News reported, citing people familiar with the plan.

Senior ministers in the Houthi administration in Yemen would also be sanctioned, with an announcement as early as Thursday, the report added.

15:30 Senior UNRWA senior official Thomas White said that fighting in Khan Younis has isolated the city’s two main hospitals, Nasser and Al-Amal, stranding hundreds of patients and thousands of displaced people inside.

White said a third hospital had also been evacuated overnight and that among the patients who had departed were women who had just undergone cesarean sections.

15:00 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken renewed calls for Israel to protect civilians after a deadly strike on a UN shelter in Gaza that brought rare US condemnation.

On a visit to Angola, Blinken told reporters that the UN shelter "is essential, and it has to be protected".

"We have reaffirmed this with the government of Israel, and it is my understanding that they are, as is necessary and appropriate, looking into this incident," Blinken said, without saying at what level discussions took place.

14:30 Air raid alarms were sounded in Israel on Thursday, marking the first time in almost four days that projectiles were apparently launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, the Times of Israel reported.

Sirens were activated in the evacuated border community of Netiv Ha’asara, with no reports of injuries or damage. The previous alerts near Gaza had sounded on Sunday afternoon, the Israeli media outlet said.

14:00 Palestinian Health Ministry said Israeli shelling hit a crowd of people waiting for humanitarian aid at a roundabout in Gaza City on Thursday, killing at least 20.

Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra says another 150 people were wounded in the attack and that the death toll is likely to rise as dozens of seriously wounded people were brought to the city’s Shifa Hospital.

12:30 Israeli strikes have killed at least 50 Palestinians in Khan Younis in the last 24 hours, Ashraf al-Qidra, the spokesperson for the Palestinian health ministry, said.

This comes as the death toll in an attack on a UN shelter in Gaza housing thousands of displaced people has risen to 12, according to a statement by Thomas White, deputy humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory.

White said Israeli attacks on Khan Younis had forced al-Khair hospital to shut down.

Two other hospitals, al-Amal and Nasser, the largest remaining hospital in Gaza, have now been encircled by heavy fighting, “leaving terrified staff, patients and displaced people trapped inside”, White said.

11:30 Israel has demolished nearly 40 per cent of the 2,824 buildings in Gaza located within a kilometre of the border, according to the Wall Street Journal. This action is part of an Israeli plan to create a buffer zone just inside Gaza, restricting entry for Palestinians. The purpose of the buffer zone is to demilitarise Gaza, providing a clear field of fire for Israeli troops to monitor and prevent anyone approaching the frontier.

This initiative has become a source of increasing frustration for U.S. officials. They caution that transforming the border along the 25-mile-long Gaza Strip into a no man's land could heighten Palestinian concerns about Israel's intentions to occupy all or part of the densely populated enclave. Furthermore, it may complicate efforts to garner support from regional governments for the reconstruction of the devastated territory after the war stops, as reported by WSJ.

The area most affected by the potential buffer zone is near Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza, where Israeli troops have been engaged in operations for over a month

10:00 The British Foreign Minister, David Cameron, held a meeting with the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, in the West Bank. Cameron stated that their discussions centred on his Gaza initiative, aiming to transition from a temporary halt – facilitating humanitarian aid delivery and hostage release – to establishing a durable ceasefire. This, in turn, would pave the way for a comprehensive political resolution encompassing the establishment of a Palestinian state.

09:45 Qatar said it was "appalled" by remarks attributed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was allegedly caught on tape calling the emirate's role as mediator in the Gaza war "problematic".

In a leaked recording of the meeting, Netanyahu told the families that he had intentionally not thanked Qatar for its mediation efforts, claiming it could put more pressure on the Hamas group.

In a statement posted on the social media platform X, Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari said, "These remarks, if validated, are irresponsible and destructive to the efforts to save innocent lives, but are not surprising," the statement said.

Qatar is still involved in talks aimed at securing a new captives deal, and Ansari said Netanyahu's remarks were detrimental to those efforts.

09:00 Israeli occupation forces renewed its assault on the city of Jenin and its camp, arresting several Palestinians and inflicting heavy infrastructure damage, Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

Israeli forces had destroyed monuments to dead Palestinians, and city streets had been torn up by Israeli bulldozers, WAFA said.

Israel has carried out more than 35 incursions into Jenin since the start of its aggression on the Gaza Strip on October 7.

The Israeli military and settlers have killed 360 Palestinians, including 92 children, across the West Bank since the 7 October, according to the UN.

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