Nicaragua requests ICJ authorization to intervene in Gaza genocide case against Israel - as it happened

Ahram Online , Thursday 8 Feb 2024

On the 125th day of the Israeli war against Gaza, Israel continued relentless bombardment of various sectors of the strip; Blinken was on the second day of his visit to Israel by meeting with war cabinet ministers; and Guterres voiced extreme concern about a looming Israeli ground assault on Rafah.

A girl walks carrying plastic bottles filled with water along a street in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 8, 2024. AFP


22:45 United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a media briefing on Thursday that the UN agency for Palestinian refugees cannot be replaced.

"No other organization has a meaningful presence inside Gaza -- and nothing compared with this situation. So there is no other organization that would be able now to replace it,” he said.

"The costs with UNRWA are much lower than the costs with other agencies for historical reasons. The salaries paid by UNRWA are one-third of the salaries paid by UNICEF or WFP or other UN organizations," Guterres said, singling out the UN's children's fund and its World Food Programme.

"So any attempt of replacement, that is not possible," he stressed.

22:30 An Israeli drone strike on a car in south Lebanon seriously wounded a commander of Iran-backed militant group Hezbollah on Thursday, sources on both sides of the border said.

The commander was "seriously wounded and a companion was also injured" in the strike, a Lebanese security source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The Israeli military said its aircraft struck a "Hezbollah commander" in south Lebanon, claiming he was involved in cross-border rocket attacks.

It claimed the target was "involved in several launches toward Kiryat Shmona and Metula" in northern Israel.

But a military spokesman was unable to say whether those included rocket and missile launches earlier on Thursday.

The strike took place on one of the main roads into the city of Nabatiyeh, some way from the border region that has seen almost daily exchanges of fire since the Israeli aggression on Gaza broke out last October.

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency reported that the vehicle had caught fire after it was hit by a missile fired by an Israeli drone as it entered the city at around 4:15 pm (1415 GMT).

The Lebanese army closed off the main road where the strike took place, an AFP photographer reported.

Earlier, Hezbollah said it had targeted a brigade headquarters in the Israeli border town of Kiryat Shmona in the latest exchanges between the two sides.

It said fighters "targeted the Meron air control base with a Falaq missile" in response to Israeli attacks "on villages and civilians."

The Israeli military said it "successfully intercepted a suspicious aerial target that crossed from Lebanon into northern Israel.

21:45 Israeli bombardment displaced 15-year-old Hussam Mohamed Al-Attar with his family from Beit Lahia to Gaza City to Khan Younis and eventually to a tent in a camp for the displaced in Rafah in southern Gaza.

Hussam's camp lacked electricity amid a near-total Israeli blockade on fuel needed to generate electricity.

So he decided to go to work to insert some light into his family's tent.

Hussam collected some discarded fans and dynamo motors from a nearby scrap market.

He connected wires to batteries he took from his hometown in Beit Lahia.

He put all devices together and built a makeshift windmill that generated some much-needed electricity. 

"Initially, the idea didn’t appeal to my family, who did not understand what I was going to do. But when it succeeded, they were very happy," he told Al Jazeera.

"Even our neighbours in the camp were delighted and started calling me “Newton of Gaza,” a delighted Hussam added.



21:30 Shares in shipping giant Maersk dived on Thursday after it warned of an uncertain 2024 earnings outlook linked to an oversupply of container vessels and Israel's war on Gaza that has seen Yemen Houthis launch an offensive on Israel-linked ships in the Red Sea to pressure Israel to halt its war on the Palestinians.

The downbeat forecast came after its 2023 earnings were hit by overcapacity in the shipping sector, which caused a drop in freight rates.

The group reported a more than sevenfold drop in its net profit last year to $3.8 billion, compared to $29.2 billion in 2022.

Its revenue fell to $51 billion from $81.5 billion the previous year.

Maersk's stock price closed almost 15 percent lower on the Copenhagen stock exchange Thursday, also hurt by the company's announcement it was suspending its share buyback plan.

Freight rates had soared in 2022 due to capacity shortages amid high demand following the end of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

"The high demand eventually started to normalise as congestions eased and consumer demand declined leading to an inventory overhang," Maersk said in its earnings report.

This "correction" resulted "in rapid and steep declines in shipped volumes and rates" starting at the end of the third quarter of 2022, it added.

The "oversupply challenges" in the maritime shipping industry are expected to "materialise fully" throughout 2024, Maersk said.

The group lowered its 2024 forecast for its core profit -- earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation -- to a range of between $1.0 billion and $6.0 billion.

20:45  The International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced that Nicaragua has formally requested authorization to intervene in the case filed by South Africa concerning the Application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in the Gaza Strip.

In late January, the ICJ mandated Israel to take action to prevent the crime of genocide from being committed against the Palestinians in Gaza and ensure the entry of all humanitarian aid to the strip.

The court gave Israel one month to report back on the measures taken to implement the court ruling.

On 1 February,  South Africa’s Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said Israel had ignored the ruling by the ICJ's ruling by killing hundreds more civilians in a matter of days in Gaza.

Pandor added that her country has asked why an arrest warrant for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not been issued in a case South Africa filed at the separate International Criminal Court.



19:15 The Israeli army bombed on Thursday a UNRWA building housing tens of displaced Palestinians in Khan Younis, setting it on fire.

A video obtained by Al Jazeera showed displaced Palestinians who had taken shelter in and around the building from Israeli bombardment and ground operations frantically running with their children, blankets, and measly belongings to safety.

The most recent attack on the UNRWA building comes as Tel Aviv continues to target the UN body for Palestinian refugees with allegations of employing individuals who took part in terror attacks on Israel.

A host of Western countries, led by the US, have suspended funding to the UNRWA, which is the only lifeline for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees facing Israeli bombardment and blockade in Gaza, pending the results of a UN investigation into Israeli allegations.



18:30 Palestinian culture minister Atef Abu Seif was in Gaza on 7 October for a planned ceremony when the Hamas attack on Israel set off the war and left him trapped for 90 days.

During those painful months, Abu Seif said he witnessed unimaginable death and destruction and lost countless relatives and friends in the coastal territory where he was born.

Abu Seif is a Palestinian writer who was born in Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip in 1973 to a refugee family originally from Jaffa in historic Palestine.

He holds a BA from Birzeit University, an MA from the University of Bradford (UK) and a PhD in Political and Social Sciences from the University of Florence, Italy.

Now back in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank after he managed to escape the war zone, Abu Seif, 50, talked to AFP about the traumatic experience.

"Gaza is no longer Gaza," he said. After the war ends, he added, "We will need a new Gaza".

The minister was in the territory on October 7, which marked Palestinian Heritage Day, for a planned ceremony at the Al-Qarara Museum in the southern city of Khan Younis.

"I wanted to celebrate the launch of Palestinian Heritage Day from Gaza for the first time in history," he said.

But it was not to be.

That Saturday saw Hamas launch their unprecedented military operation against Israel that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Hamas also seized around 250 captives. Israel says 132 remain in Gaza, of whom 29 are believed to have been killed from Israeli bombardment of the strip.

Israel, vowing to eliminate Hamas, launched relentless air strikes and a ground offensive that have killed at least 27,840 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Abu Seif said the toll includes many of his friends and "more than 100 relatives, including my sister-in-law and her children".

Read the full interview here

17:45 In the biblical city of Nazareth, the basilica is empty, restaurants and shops that usually thrive on Christian pilgrims are closed, and many hotels have been shut for months.

The Gaza war has plunged the country's tourism industry into a fresh crisis, just as it had started to recover from the Covid pandemic.

"We felt that the influx of tourists was starting to be good at the end of September, the beginning of October," said Marwa Taha Abu Rani, manager of the Fauzi Azar hostel in the Old City.

With the outbreak of war, future bookings were cancelled, she told AFP about her guesthouse, part of the Abraham Hostel group and located in a grand 19th-century home.

"We aren't working at all," she said. "There's no one."

The hostel's tall arched windows overlook the marketplace and the Basilica of the Annunciation, where Catholics believe the Angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to Jesus.

In 2021, Nazareth was the largest Arab-Palestinian city in Israel, with a population of 77,925, roughly 40,000 of whom are Muslim.

The economy of Nazareth, set in the hills of northern Israel, is heavily dependent on Christian pilgrims, making it a bellwether for Israel's tourism industry on the whole.

Even during what is the low season on the annual tourism calendar, the city has been unusually empty.

 Tourism accounts for about three percent of Israel's economy and employs around 200,000 Israelis directly, according to the tourism ministry.

The country had been projected to draw 5.5 million visitors in 2023, a million more than 2019's record high, it added.

October 7 changed all that.

16:45 Israel's reported ongoing destruction of all buildings along the border inside Gaza to create a "buffer zone" is a war crime, the UN rights chief warned on Thursday.

Israel's "extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly, amounts to a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and a war crime," Volker Turk said in a statement.

An Israeli tank and a bulldozer roll near the border with the Gaza Strip, upon returning from a mission there on February 1, 2024. AFP

15:38 The last time UNRWA was allowed to deliver food north or to Wadi Gaza was on 23 January, Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner-general of the UNRWA, said.

Since the beginning of the year, half of our aid mission requests to the north were denied, he added.

"The UN has identified deep pockets of starvation and hunger in northern Gaza where people are believed to be on the verge of famine. At least 300,000 people living in the area depend on our assistance for their survival," he affirmed.

"Preventing access prevents lifesaving humanitarian aid. With the necessary political will, this can be easily reversed," he continued.



"The situation is catastrophic. There is not a single house that was not damaged," the UNRWA said, adding that northern Gaza is unrecognizable. Entire neighbourhoods are gone without a trace. "People are tired, there's nothing to eat," it noted.

14:30 A German navy frigate set sail toward the Red Sea, where Berlin plans to have it take part in a European Union mission to help defend cargo ships from attacks by Yemen's Houthi rebels that are hampering trade.

EU foreign ministers are expected to sign off on the Red Sea mission on 19 February. Officials have said seven countries in the bloc are ready to provide ships or planes.

US and British forces have carried out strikes against the Houthis. But the EU's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the EU mission — dubbed Aspides, from the Greek for “shield” — will not take part in any military strikes and will only operate at sea.

On Wednesday, the US Central Command said that its forces conducted strikes against two Houthi mobile anti-ship cruise missiles as they were prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea.

14:00 Jordan’s King Abdullah II began a tour to the United States, Canada, France, and Germany, aiming to mobilize international support for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the protection of civilians, and the provision of sufficient and sustainable humanitarian aid.

King Abdullah’s tour will also focus on the importance of creating a political horizon that leads to a comprehensive settlement to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, according to Jordan's news agency Petra.

The king, who first visits France and Germany, would also hold talks in the United States with President Joe Biden and senior administration officials, as well as several members of Congress.

13:32 "Without UNRWA there are no supplies, there are no convoys," said Juliette Touma, the UN agency director of communications.

She added that "more food supplies are needed to avert famine in Gaza and those supplies are with UNRWA, but our operations are likely to come to an end in the next few weeks if funding remains suspended."

Footage filmed by Al Jazeera shows Israel's military opening fire at hundreds of civilians who were awaiting aid in Gaza.



13:15 The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) reports ongoing intensive Israeli artillery shelling and heavy gunfire in the vicinity of PRCS Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis.

The Red Crescent has accused Israel of deliberately targeting its team while they were carrying out a coordinated humanitarian mission to evacuate some wounded and humanitarian cases in Gaza, resulting in the killing of a paramedic colleague, Mohammed Al-Omari, and injuring two others.



13:00 The Palestinian health ministry announced that at least 27,840 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since 7 October, the majority of whom were women and children.

A further 67,317 have been injured, it added.

The ministry says 130 Palestinians have been killed in the past 24 hours and 170 injured.

11:50 "For far too long, Israel has been allowed to act with impunity," Mary Lou McDonald, president of the Irish political party Sinn Fein, said.

"This didn't start in October. this is a generational injustice the Palestinians have been enduring."



11:30 Hezbollah announced it targeted the Israeli "Pranit" barracks with missiles, achieving a direct hit.

The Lebanese group also stated it targeted the headquarters of the 769th Eastern Brigade of the 91st Galilee Division in the Kiryat Shmona barracks.

The Israeli military confirmed that a soldier was seriously injured, and two other reservists were slightly injured as a result of strikes from Lebanon.

11:05 Palestine TV correspondent Nafeth Abdel-Jawad and his son were killed in an Israeli airstrike on their home in Deir Al-Balah.



11:00 A Hamas delegation led by Khalil Al-Hayya, the group's deputy leader, arrived in Cairo Thursday morning to discuss a ceasefire deal with mediators.

This comes after Benjamin Netanyahu last night rejected the ceasefire deal put forward by the group, citing "outlandish terms."

Egypt will host a new round of ceasefire talks on Thursday, as reported by Al-Qahera News TV, citing an Egyptian official source.

The talks, sponsored by Egypt and Qatar, will primarily focus on pursuing a truce in the war-torn strip and facilitating a swap deal of captives, according to the Egyptian source.

He added that "Egypt has urged all parties involved in the ongoing talks to show flexibility" to de-escalate the situation.  

10:50 On the second day of his visit to Israel, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed a truce deal in Gaza with the Israeli war cabinet a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Hamas' demands.

Blinken met in Tel Aviv with Benny Gantz and Gabi Eisenkot, two former military chiefs who joined Netanyahu's war cabinet since the war erupted.

In mid-January, NBC News reported that US President Joe Biden is becoming increasingly frustrated with Netanyahu and his rejection of most of the administration's recent requests related to the war on Gaza.

US officials told NBC that the Biden administration is trying to lay the groundwork with other Israeli and civil society leaders in anticipation of an eventual post-Netanyahu government.

In an attempt to work around Netanyahu, Blinken in his January visit to Israel met individually with members of his war cabinet and other Israeli leaders, including opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

The former US secretary of state and presidential candidate has said that Netanyahu “absolutely needs to go” for his handling of the war.

“Netanyahu should go. He is not a trustworthy leader. It was on his watch that the [7 October] attack happened,” Clinton told MSNBC.

“He needs to go, and if he’s an obstacle to a ceasefire, if he’s an obstacle to exploring what’s to be done the day after, he needs to go,” he added.

Clinton, however, defended Israel’s conduct in its war on Gaza.

10:00 In the harshest critique of the Israeli offensive on Gaza, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Israel cannot use 7 October as a "license to dehumanize others,” Israeli media reported.

"The overwhelming majority of people in Gaza had nothing to do with the attacks of October 7," Blinken said.

"The families in Gaza whose survival depends on deliveries of aid from Israel are just like our families. They’re mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, who want to earn a decent living, send their kids to school, and have a normal life. That’s who they are. That’s what they want," he added.

US top diplomat also stressed that Israel "must ensure that the delivery of life-saving assistance to Gaza is not blocked for any reason, by anyone," alluding to Israeli protests at the Karm Abu Salem crossing and attacks on aid convoys heading towards Gaza.

He also for the first time publicly called on Israel to re-open its Erez crossing, which would allow aid to reach northern Gaza more directly.

Blinken stopped short of calling on Israel not to move on Rafah, only voicing concern at the new push, saying any "military operation that Israel undertakes needs to put civilians first and foremost."

09:55 The UN chief Antonio Guterres warned an Israeli army push into Rafah "would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare."

"Their living conditions are abysmal they lack the necessities to survive, stalked by hunger, disease, and death," UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said in a statement.

"As the war encroaches further into Rafah, I am extremely concerned about the safety and well-being of families that have endured the unthinkable in search of safety," he added.

09:45 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered the occupation troops to prepare to enter the overcrowded Gazan city of Rafah.

Concerns were mounting, meanwhile, for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have sought refuge in Rafah along the Egyptian border.

More than half of Gaza's 2.4 million people are estimated to have sought safety in the city.

Netanyahu announced the order after rejecting Hamas' response to a ceasefire proposal in the middle of intense recent diplomatic efforts, though visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted on Wednesday that he still saw "space for agreement to be reached."

Blinken, who is on yet another trip to the region to press for a truce, told reporters in Tel Aviv that Hamas' counter-proposal at least offered an opportunity "to pursue negotiations."

"While there are some clear non-starters in Hamas' response, we do think it creates space for agreement to be reached, and we will work at that relentlessly until we get there," Blinken said, hours after meeting Netanyahu. 

09:10 "As four months of brutal war and displacement persist, over 2 million people in Gaza rely on UNRWA for survival," the UN agency that supports Palestinian refugees said.

Meanwhile, CBC reported that the Canadian government suspended funding to UNRWA without evidence supporting Israel's claim that UNRWA staffers were involved in the Hamas operation on 7 October.

Government sources confirm that Israel has not shared evidence with Canada.

Israel declined to provide intelligence supporting its allegations to either UNRWA or the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), the UN body assigned to investigate, claiming that "this would reveal sources in the operation."

Canada, along with 16 countries, suspended funding to a UN agency that supports Palestinians in Gaza and employs about 13,000 people there, as well as another 17,000 in Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, Lebanon, and other places, in response to Israeli allegations that some of its staff played a role in Al-Aqsa Flood operation, yet without seeing any evidence.

Britain's Channel 4 News earlier this week obtained a copy of a dossier that the government of Israel shared with the UK government, which also cut funding to UNRWA.

Channel 4 reported that the dossier was only six pages long, rehashing long-standing Israeli government complaints about UNRWA, but "provides no evidence" to back up Israel's allegations against the agency.

Norway announced the transfer of $26 million to UNRWA, emphasizing its crucial role in humanitarian efforts.

"UNRWA is the backbone of humanitarian efforts in Gaza. Its services are critical for millions of people in extreme need," stated Espen Barth Eide, Norwegian minister of foreign affairs.



09:00 The Israeli army targeted a water distribution tank, killing 13 Palestinians, including seven children, Quds News Network just reported.

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