Israel says mission in southern city is 'nearly finished' as death toll in Gaza nears 27,000 - as it happened

Ahram Online , Thursday 1 Feb 2024

On the 118th day of the Israeli war on Gaza, the occupation army conducted airstrikes on Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, and its forces also stormed the premises of Al-Amal Hospital west of Khan Younis in the south, while the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades engaged in clashes with the Israeli soldiers using automatic weapons and RPG shells east of Al-Bureij refugee camp.

Palestinians flee from the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza after an Israeli ground and air offensive. AP


22:30 Hamas received the Paris truce proposal for a ceasefire and release of captives in Gaza but did not give a response to any of the parties, the media adviser to the head of the political bureau of the Islamist movement, told Reuters on Thursday.

“We say that the current stage of negotiation is zero and at the same time we cannot say that we have reached an agreement,” Taher al-Nono said.

21: 40 Two anti-ship ballistic missiles were launched from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen, likely towards the M/V KOI ship in the Red Sea, the US Central Command said in a statement on Thursday.

“The missiles impacted in the water without hitting the ship,” it said, adding there were no injuries and no damage reported to the Liberian-flagged, Bermuda-owned cargo M/V KOI, or the coalition ships in the area.

The Houthis said they had targeted a “British merchant vessel” as part of the group’s campaign to disrupt vital shipping lanes.

21:30: A high-ranking security source denied that Egypt made any new security arrangements regarding the Philadelphi Corridor or the Salah Al-Din Corridor, according to Al-Qahera News TV channel.

The source also refuted the claims about an approaching agreement with Israel regarding Rafah and the Philadelphi Corridor.

He also denied the presence of any newly installed technological devices in these areas.

21: 00 Israel’s defense minister says the military has almost completed its operations in the southern city of Khan Younis after inflicting heavy losses on Hamas and is poised to move further south toward the Egyptian border.

The army has focused its offensive in recent weeks on Khan Younis, saying the city is a Hamas stronghold. It says it has killed at least 2,000 Hamas militants there and destroyed several important tunnels in the militant group’s underground network.

“The Khan Younis Brigade boasted that it would stand strong against the Israeli military. Today it is dismantled,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told troops in Khan Younis on Thursday. “We are completing the mission in Khan Younis and we will also reach Rafah and we will kill every terrorist there who tries to harm us.”

Gallant said Hamas is running out of weapons and ammunition and cannot take care of its wounded fighters.

“They have 10,000 dead, terrorists, and another 10,000 wounded who don’t function,” he said. The claims could not be independently verified.

20:00 Hamas has given “initial positive confirmation” to a proposal for the cessation of fighting in Gaza and the release of hostages, Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesman said on Thursday.

“The meeting in Paris succeeded in consolidating the proposals... That proposal has been approved by the Israeli side and now we have an initial positive confirmation from the Hamas’ side,” Majed al-Ansari said referring to meetings between Qatari, US, Israeli and Egyptian officials in the French capital on Sunday.

18: 00 US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday that this was a dangerous moment in the Middle East but the United States would work to avoid a wider conflict.

Austin reiterated that the United States would have a multi-tiered response to the deadly attack in Jordan that killed US troops.

17:15 President Joe Biden is expected to issue an executive order targeting Israeli settlers in the West Bank who have been attacking Palestinians in the occupied territory, according to four people familiar with the matter.

A senior administration official, who like the others was not authorised to comment publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, said the White House was expected to announce the order later Thursday.

Biden has spoken out against retaliatory attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the West Bank. The president has pledged that those responsible for the violence will be held accountable. The executive order is expected to set the ground for imposing sanctions on individuals who have engaged in violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.

Attacks by Israeli settlers have intensified since the war started, and some Palestinians have been killed, according to Palestinian authorities. Rights groups say settlers have torched cars and attacked several small Bedouin communities, forcing evacuations to other areas.

16:10 The UN's agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA warned it could shut down by the end of February if funding remains suspended.

"If funding remains suspended, we will most likely be forced to shut down our operations by the end of February.” 

UNRWA communications director Juliette Touma said a lack of financing means its operations across the whole Middle East, not just Gaza, could cease in a matter of weeks.

13:38 Israel has killed more than 27,000 Palestinians in Gaza since it started its brutal war 118 days ago.

At least 66,139 have been injured in the Israeli attacks, the Palestinian health ministry announced in the most recent toll.

13:30 Israeli right-wing activists and settlers are blocking the exit of Ashdod port to stop trucks, they claim are carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip. Photos by AFP.

13:20 Palestinians in Gaza are enduring dire conditions under the devastating Israeli attacks, exacerbated by the winter weather amplifying the suffering of displaced Gazans.

"Most people displaced by bombing in Gaza now face winter without proper shelter, warm clothes, or enough food and water," Oxfam International said, calling for "an immediate ceasefire."

13:05 The Commission of Detainees’ Affairs and the Palestinian Society Prisoner’s Club said that Israel kidnapped at least 44 citizens from the West Bank in the past 24 hours, including children and former abductees.

Most cases were kidnapped from Bethlehem, where 30 citizens were kidnapped, 18 of whom were children.

Most children were taken as hostages to force family members to give themselves up.

13:00 Palestinian captives, arrested by the Israeli occupation army in Khan Younis and subsequently released in Rafah this morning, recounted harrowing experiences of torture and mistreatment during their captivity by Israel.

Mahmoud al-Nabulsi, an elderly man, detailed to Al Jazeera how the occupation army forcibly entered his home in the Al-Amal neighbourhood. Despite informing them of his sickness and inability to move, he was arrested and transferred to a detention centre in Israel, enduring a 10-day captivity.

"Every day, we endured beatings and torture. I have never experienced such torment in my life," he recounted.

"They interrogated me about tunnels and prisoners, but I did not know. I am 70 years old."

Al-Nabulsi further disclosed that he was deprived of access to water for four days. "They would taunt us by pouring water on the ground in front of us, exacerbating our suffering while we remained thirsty," he told the TV network.

12:40 An incident off the coast of Yemen has been reported by a UK maritime organization.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations stated that the incident occurred 57 nautical miles west of Yemen's Hodeidah port.

Authorities are currently investigating, as mentioned in the UKMTO advisory note.

Vessels have been advised to proceed with caution, the advisory further noted.

10:50 Approximately 14 Palestinian bodies have been recovered by ambulance crews and civilians following a partial retreat of Israeli vehicles from a Khan Younis refugee camp to other areas within the city.

Footage obtained and verified by Al Jazeera depicts the bodies arriving at Nasser Hospital to undergo preparation for burial.

The footage also captures funeral prayers being conducted in the hospital's courtyard, with distraught relatives in attendance.

Israel also killed dozens of Palestinians after striking the western region of Gaza City with missiles, gunfire, and shelling, specifically in the Remal neighbourhood and Tal Al-Hawa.

Ambulances could not reach them and transport the injured to Al-Shifa Hospital, as reported by Al Jazeera.

Several other Palestinians were killed and wounded when Israeli jets bombed two houses in the Zeitoun neighbourhood, southeast of Gaza City.

Israel also killed two Palestinians when the occupation aircraft bombed a residential house in the centre of the Gaza Strip.

One Palestinian was killed and several injured by Israeli bombing in the city of Deir Al-Balah.

09:10 The US military’s Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed reports that it carried out strikes on a "Houthi UAV ground control station" and 10 "one-way UAVs."

The US military said the UAVs "presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and the US Navy ships in the region."

Earlier, the Houthis had claimed an attack on the US merchant ship “KOI” in the Gulf of Aden.

09:05 Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is expected in Cairo today as the Palestinian group reviews a proposal for a six-week truce.

Haniyeh has said that the movement has received a proposal from Paris for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and will study it.

He added in a statement that the movement is open to all ideas that would lead to ending the Israeli military aggression on Gaza.

Egyptian and Qatari-led mediation efforts forged the proposal in Paris last week alongside CIA chief William Burns and the US Special Envoy for the Middle East, Brett McGurk.

The proposal is a three-stage plan that would begin with an initial six-week halt to the fighting and more aid deliveries into Gaza.

Israeli women, children and sick men over 60, detained in Gaza would be released during that stage in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israel, the AFP news agency quoted a source as saying who added that there would also be “negotiations around the withdrawal of Israeli forces” with more phases of prisoner exchanges.

In a video message published on X, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that Israel has “red lines” in its ongoing negotiations attempting to release the Israelis held in Gaza.

“We will not end the war, we will not pull the [Israeli military] out of the Strip, we will not release thousands of terrorists (Palestinians),” Netanyahu said.

09:00 The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that occupation forces stormed its headquarters in Khan Yunis for the third time, initiating heavy gunfire around Al-Amal Hospital before later withdrawing.

The hospital staff handled 18 cases yesterday, which included 12 fatalities, including one staff member and a volunteer of the PRCS. 

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