Israel deadly assaults on Rafah sparks international alarm as Gaza faces near-famine conditions - as it happened

Ahram Online , Monday 12 Feb 2024

The humanitarian situation in Gaza worsened on the 129th day of the Israeli war on the strip as international alarm intensifies over a planned Israeli ground invasion of Rafah where 1.4 million Palestinians seeked refuge from Israeli bombardment since 7 October; Israel killed at least 100 Palestinians during an operation to free two Israeli captives in south Gaza.

A Palestinian woman holds her injured daughter as they ride on a donkey-drawn cart towards a clinic in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. AFP


22:34 "What is happening in Gaza now is funded with US taxpayer dollars. These are our bombs, we are complicit," US Senator Bernie Sanders said.

He told Congress the US's military aid to Israel makes Washington directly complicit in the Gaza war and called for an investigation into the Israeli government's bombing of Palestinian civilians.

Speaking at the Center of the International Policy, Sanders said: "This election cycle, the billionaire-backed AIPAC Super PAC is expected to spend $100 million to unseat progressive members of Congress who dare to speak out about the horrific disaster in Gaza."

"Their message is clear: If you criticize Netanyahu, you will be targeted."



21:57 Protests are ongoing outside Downing Street in London and in Manchester against the UK government's complicity in Israel's genocide in Gaza and the bombing of Rafah by Israel.



Protests supporting Palestine and condemning Israeli war crimes in Gaza are also taking place in Canada.



20:32 More than 9,000 Palestinian detainees in Israeli occupation prisons have been subjected to unprecedented retaliatory and punitive measures since 7 October, according to a joint statement issued today by the Detainees Affairs Authority and the Palestinian Prisoner's Society (PPS).

The two organizations pointed out that over the past period, the pace of measures imposed on the Palestinian detainees, mainly involving systematic torture and abuse, has remained consistent, adding that these actions aim at dehumanizing them and depriving the prisoners of their basic rights, WAFA news agency reported.

The Israeli Prison Service has further stripped the detainees of basic tools and means of communication with the outside world, such as television and family visits, according to the statement. Moreover, radios were confiscated in many prisons, leaving lawyer visits as the only means of communication for the detainees.

In the Damoun prison, where the majority of female detainees are held, the prison administration recently transferred them to another section within the same prison. This new section serves as a compounded model of the isolation policy compared to the previous one.

Female detainees are now completely isolated from each other, with windows covered with soundproof and vision-blocking plastic, reinforced with tiny openings that obstruct visibility, the two organizations said.

The Detainees Affairs Authority and PPS revealed that the administration of the Israeli Jalboua prison has implemented a new measure by placing a blue line in front of Palestinian detainees' cells, prohibiting them from approaching or crossing it. Those who breach this line face harassment and physical assault.

Through this measure, according to the statement, the prison administration aims to further isolate the detainees and deprive them of sound communication between cells or during their recreational time, preventing them from interacting with each other

19:50 Israel announced a visa ban on the UN special rapporteur for the occupied Palestinian territories over recent comments on the 7 October Al-Aqsa Flood operation.

UN-appointed independent expert, Francesca Albanese, last week said she disagreed with French President Emmanuel Macron's description of the attack, as "the biggest anti-Semitic massacre of our century".

"No", Albanese wrote in French on social media platform X. "The victims of 7/10 were not killed because of their Jewishness but in response to Israeli oppression. France and the international community did nothing to prevent it. My respects to the victims."

Israel's Foreign Minister Israel Katz and Interior Minister Moshe Arbel called her online remark "outrageous" and said in a statement she was now "denied entry to the State of Israel".

Israel's ties with several UN bodies and representatives have soured since the start of the Israeli war.

Albanese responded by saying: "Israel's denying me entry is not news: Israel has denied entry to ALL Special Rapporteurs/oPt since 2008!"

This must not become a distraction from Israel's atrocities in Gaza, which are taking a new level of horror with the bombing of people in 'safe areas' in Rahaf," she added on X.



19:37 The spokesperson of Al-Qassam Brigades, Abu Obeida, announced that three of the eight Israeli captives who were reported to be seriously injured in Israeli raids on Sunday have died.

"We will postpone the announcement of the names and images of the dead for the coming days until the fate of the remaining wounded becomes clear," he added.

19:17 A high-ranking source informed Al-Qahira News channel that Egypt is closely monitoring the situation in Rafah and is prepared to handle all possible scenarios.

19:06 Egypt slammed Israeli Finance Minister, Smotrich, once again. "It is unfortunate and disgraceful that Smotrich continues to make irresponsible and inflammatory statements, which only reveal a hunger for killing and destruction, and sabotage any attempt to contain the crisis in the Gaza Strip," the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.

The Israeli extremist minister claimed that Egypt "bears responsibility for what happened on 7 October because Hamas was armed through it."

"These statements are completely unacceptable," the spokesperson Ahmed Abou Zeid added, "as Egypt fully controls its territory and does not allow any party to involve Egypt's name in any failed attempt to justify its shortcomings."

Following the U.K.'s sanctions on four terrorist Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank, Smotrich claimed there is a "joint American, British, and Arab effort to establish a terrorist state" next to Israel.



19:00 Israel's National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir demanded that the Israeli army should shoot women and children in Gaza for "Israel's security".

According to Israeli media reports, during a meeting with Israeli lieutenants in Gaza, the minister stated: "There cannot be a situation in which children and women approach us from the wall. Anyone who approaches to harm security must receive a bullet."

18:36 The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor voiced deep concern about a possible Israeli ground offensive into Rafah in Gaza and warned that anyone breaching international law would be held accountable.

Karim Khan said in a statement published on X, that his office's investigation into events in Gaza is "being taken forward as a matter of the utmost urgency".

"I am deeply concerned by the reported bombardment and potential ground incursion by Israeli forces in Rafah," he said.

"All wars have rules and the laws applicable to armed conflict cannot be interpreted to render them hollow or devoid of meaning," he said.

"This has been my consistent message, including from Ramallah last year. Since that time, I have not seen any discernible change in conduct by Israel," he said.



18:13 European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has made a thinly-veiled call for allies of Israel -- primarily the United States -- to stop military aid to Israel due to the high number of civilians it killed in Gaza.

Borrell recalled that US President Joe Biden said last week that Israel’s onslaught on Gaza had been “over the top” and US officials had repeatedly said that too many civilians were being killed in the besieged Palestinian strip.

"Well, if you believe that too many people are being killed, maybe you should provide fewer arms to prevent so many people from being killed," Borrell said.

"Is (it) not logical?" he asked, in a Brussels news conference alongside Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN's agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA.

"How many times have you heard the most prominent leaders and foreign ministers around the world saying too many people are being killed?" Borrell asked.

The chief EU diplomat also slammed an order by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the more than one million Palestinians sheltering in the Gaza city of Rafah need to be "evacuated" ahead of a planned Israeli military operation there.

“Netanyahu doesn’t listen to anyone. [He says] they are going to evacuate [the people]. Where? To the moon? Where are they going to evacuate these people to? Borrell asked.

“In 2006 the world, the US already took this decision. They already decided to halt the supply of arms to Israel because Israel didn’t want to stop the war. The same thing happens today. Everybody goes to Tel Aviv begging ‘Please, don’t do that, protect civilians; don’t kill so many. How many is too many?”

18:00 The Palestinian Health Ministry said that Israel killed more than 12,300 Palestinian children and 8,400 women in Gaza since it started the war on the Palestinian territory.

Children made up about 43 per cent of the total number of 28,340 Palestinians killed so far. Women and children together make up 73 percent of those killed in the war, according to the ministry’s figures.

In its report, the ministry said more than 7,000 people are missing and presumed dead. It said 67,984 people had been wounded in the war. It said that over the past day, the bodies of 164 people have been brought to hospitals around war-torn Gaza.

17:50 The population of the Gaza Strip is suffering "unprecedented" levels of "near famine-like conditions" as the Israeli war on the Palestinian territory drags on, the UN's agriculture agency said.

Some 550,000 people are now likely facing catastrophic food insecurity levels, while the whole population is in crisis mode, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

"There are unprecedented levels of acute food insecurity, hunger, and near famine-like conditions in Gaza," FAO Deputy Director General Beth Bechdol said in an interview published by the Rome-based agency.

"We are seeing more and more people essentially on the brink of and moving into famine-like conditions daily," she said.

All people in Gaza are in the top three hunger categories, from level three, which is considered an emergency, to level five or catastrophe, she said.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) rates hunger levels from one to five.

17:00 "I have no concept of what constitutes a 'safe place' in Gaza," stated Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of UNRWA.

"People have been moved from one place to another. Each time they were told to go to a given place, being told it would be a safer place, it has been proven the place was not safe," he added.



16:57 Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry promised that Egypt would adhere to the 1979 peace treaty as long it remains reciprocal, dismissing reports from unofficial sources it was considering suspending the agreement over developments in Gaza.

Shoukry made his remarks on Monday during a press conference with Slovenia’s Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Tanja Fajon.

He stressed that Egypt has upheld its peace treaty with Israel for the past 40 years, serving as the foundation for diplomatic relations between the two nations.

He highlighted Egypt's efforts to facilitate an agreement between Israel and Hamas, aimed at enabling the exchange of detainees and ensuring the entry of humanitarian aid into the strip.

Here is a summary of the day so far.


The Palestinian Authority has appealed to the international community to intervene and halt the Israeli ground attack in Rafah.

Israeli media reported a significant ambush executed by Palestinian resistance fighters in Khan Younis, that claimed the lives of  at least 2 Israeli soldiers.

Extensive diplomatic endeavors and numerous phone conversations have laid the groundwork for a captive-prisoner exchange deal, according to a senior US administration official.

During a phone call, President Biden urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to explore avenues for bridging the gaps with Hamas in the negotiations for a new agreement. 

Biden reportedly called Netanyahu "asshole" over Israel policy in Gaza.

15:10 The IMF and World Bank warned that the Israeli war on Gaza and the related attacks on shipping through the Red Sea pose threats to the global economy.

The war on Gaza raging since October has already hit the Middle East and North Africa region's economy, the International Monetary Fund's managing director Kristalina Georgieva told the World Governments Summit in Dubai.

"I fear most a longevity of the conflict because, if it goes on and on, the risk of spillover goes up," she said.

"Right now, we see a risk of spillover in the Suez Canal," she said, as Yemen's Houthi rebels have attacked Red Sea shipping leading to the crucial maritime passage.

Also speaking at the summit, World Bank President Ajay Banga said that "what's going on Gaza, but also the challenges of Ukraine... and the Red Sea" are among the top challenges to the global economic outlook.

"When you add these variables to what is already turning out to be probably the lowest growth of the last 55 years.... that's something we have to keep a close eye on," he said.

14:50 Israel called on UN relief agencies to help evacuate civilians from Gaza ahead of its planned ground sweep of Rafah, which is crowded with around 1.4 million displaced Palestinians, Reuters reported.

“We urge UN agencies to cooperate,” Israeli government spokesperson Eylon Levy said in a briefing. "Don't say it can't be done. Work with us to find a way."

14:45 British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said the UK is "very concerned" about the situation in Rafah and has called for Israel to "stop and think seriously" before taking further action.

"It's impossible to see how you can fight a war amongst these people, referring to the civilians in Gaza, “There's nowhere for them to go,” Cameron told reporters during a visit to Scotland.

"Above all, what we want is an immediate pause in the fighting - we want that pause to lead to a ceasefire, a sustainable ceasefire without a return to further fighting," he added.

Meanwhile, The UK has imposed sanctions on four Israeli nationals over "threatened and perpetrated acts of aggression and violence" against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Two of the individuals targeted by UK sanctions have "in recent months used physical aggression, threatened families at gunpoint, and destroyed property as part of a targeted and calculated effort to displace Palestinian communities," the government said.

"We should be clear about what is happening here. Extremist Israeli settlers are threatening Palestinians, often at gunpoint, and forcing them off land that is rightfully theirs," Cameron said.

14:30 At least seven Palestinians were killed and 14 medical staff and displaced persons were wounded by Israeli sniper fire in the vicinity of the Nasser Medical Complex, in the city of Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

Medical sources reported that the staff, patients, and displaced people in the Nasser complex had run out of food and that the suspended ceilings in the accommodation and operations departments fell as a result of the ongoing Israeli shelling and constant shooting.

Sewage water flooded the emergency department and hampered the work of the crews at the Nasser medical complex, which has been under a strict Israeli military siege for the 22nd day.

Meanwhile, at least 67 people were transferred to hospitals after a massacre committed by Israeli forces carried out in Rafah overnight.

Medical sources warned that medical teams were unable to move between the complex’s buildings due to the constant shooting by occupation snipers, putting at risk the lives of 300 health personnel, 450 sick and wounded people, and 10,000 displaced people inside the complex.

The medical and humanitarian conditions in Rafah are extremely catastrophic, and the number of people killed in the Israeli shelling on Rafah last night is greater than the capacity of hospitals, medical sources added.

Women mourn loved ones killed during Israeli bombardment at Al-Najar Hospital in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024


14:15 The US Senate will on Monday attempt to steer a $95.34bn package containing aid for Ukraine and Israel to passage this week after months of delays, Reuters reported.

The legislation includes $14 billion for supporting Israel in its war on Gaza.

Washington sends around $3.8bn in military aid to Israel each year, making the country the world's biggest recipient of such funding.

14:00 The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) shed light on the dire situation unfolding in Gaza's Rafah, describing it as one of the most densely populated areas on the planet.

With families repeatedly displaced, a palpable sense of panic and desperation permeates the air as 1.4 million inhabitants struggle for survival a video published by the UNRWA on X showed.

The quest for necessities such as food and water is compounded by the looming threat of military operations, leaving residents in a perpetual state of fear for their lives.


13:45 Egypt has warned Israel that it will “review and downgrade the diplomatic relations” in case Tel Aviv moves forward with its plan – announced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – to storm the border town of Rafah, Saudi TV channel Al-Arabiya reported citing unnamed sources.

13:30 US President Joe Biden has expressed frustration over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's reluctance to change military tactics in Gaza and pursue peace, suggesting tensions could be coming to a head between the long-time allies, according to five sources familiar with Biden's private comments, an NBC exclusive report said on Monday.

Biden has in recent weeks spoken privately about Netanyahu, a leader he has known for decades, with an honesty that has surprised some of those on the receiving end of his comments, people familiar with them said.

His descriptions of his dealings with Netanyahu are peppered with contemptuous references to Netanyahu as “this guy,” these people said.

And in at least three recent instances, Biden has called Netanyahu an “asshole,” according to three of the people directly familiar with his comments, the NBC reported.


Palestinians inspect the damage to residential buildings where two Israeli hostages were reportedly held before being rescued during an operation by Israeli security forces in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Monday, Feb. 12, 2024


In some of his most candid recent private moments, the president has reportedly expressed the belief that Netanyahu wants the war to drag on so he can remain in power, according to three individuals familiar with his remarks.

However, even as Biden has escalated his rhetoric against Israeli war tactics in Gaza, he is not yet prepared to make significant policy changes, officials told NBC. He and his aides continue to believe his approach of unequivocally supporting Israel is the right one, the American network added.

12:30 Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, called on the international community to stop the advance of the Israeli ground attack into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, saying that “the US administration must not remain a hostage to Israeli policies.”

Abu Rudeineh slammed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments to ABC News in which he claimed that Israel would provide safe passage for civilians to leave Rafah.

Netanyahu’s statements are “pure nonsense” and “a deception to the world,” Abu Rudeineh said, “because there is no longer a safe place in the Gaza Strip, and civilians cannot return to their homes in the centre and north of the Strip amid the ongoing bombing.”

“The region is at a crossroads, and the continuation of the war against the Palestinian people will lead to its regional expansion,” Abu Rudeineh added.

People pray over the bodies of loved ones killed during Israeli bombardment at Al-Najar Hospital in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024


11:30  A Dutch court ordered the Netherlands government to stop delivering parts for F-35 fighter jets used by Israel in the Gaza Strip, following an appeal by human rights organizations.

The groups had argued that supplying the parts contributed to violations of international law by Israel in its war on Gaza.

"The court orders the State to cease all actual export and transit of F-35 parts with final destination Israel within seven days after service of this judgment," said the ruling.

The US-owned F-35 parts are stored at a warehouse in the Netherlands and then shipped to several partners, including Israel, via existing export agreements.

"In doing so, the Netherlands is contributing to serious violations of humanitarian law of war in Gaza," the rights groups said.

11:00 Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has met with Ziad al-Nakhaleh, secretary general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah said in a statement.

According to the statement, the two leaders discussed the” latest developments in Gaza and the occupied West Bank”, and the ”support provided by the axis of resistance to the Gaza Strip front.”

Meanwhile, Lebanese media outlets reported an Israeli strike on a car in the south Lebanon town of Bint Jbeil.

Israeli forces and Hezbollah have traded near-daily fire following the outbreak of war on Gaza on 7 October.

10:30  A vessel reported coming under a missile attack off Yemen's southern coast while transiting the strategic Bab al-Mandeb strait, security agencies said.

Yemen's Houthi rebels, who have repeatedly targeted Red Sea shipping in recent months, said they had attacked a US ship with "suitable naval missiles," though it was not immediately clear they were referring to the same incident.

The Houthis have been targeting Red Sea shipping vessels since November, saying the attacks are intended to show solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.


People inspect the damage in the rubble of a mosque following Israeli bombardment, in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024


10:00 EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell said the UN's agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) must be able to continue its work providing humanitarian aid to people in Gaza.

"Nobody else can do what UNRWA is doing, allegations need to be verified... let's wait for the investigations to take place," Borrell said ahead of a meeting of EU development ministers in Brussels. 

A host of countries, including the US and UK, have suspended funding for the agency in the wake of the Israeli allegations that several UNRWA members participated in the Al-Aqsa Flood operation.

Borrell also said he is “extraordinarily concerned” about Benjamin Netanyahu’s threats to launch attacks on Rafah, bordering Egypt, saying: “Even in the US, which is the strongest supporter of Israel, President Biden himself considers that this action is disproportionate.”

“The toll of people being killed, civilians being killed is unbearable,” he said, adding that the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, had been “begging” Netanyahu “to stop killing people.”

“If they launch an offensive against a highly populated area with more than 1.7 million people, they will crash against a wall, they cannot escape,” he said.

“The situation with Egypt is very tense and we are extraordinarily concerned about what can happen there,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, reiterated his call for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking at the World Governments Summit 2024 in Dubai, Ghebreyesus expressed concern over the inadequacy of medical supplies provided thus far, emphasizing that the assistance provided to Gaza is “a drop in the ocean of need which continues to grow every day.”


A picture taken from a position from a position in southern Israel along the border with Gaza shows smoke billowing over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024


09:30 The Israeli occupation army announced early this day morning that two soldiers from the Maglan unit of the Commando Brigade were killed in battle in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday night, bringing the overall number of casualties of Israeli soldiers since the beginning of the war to 566.

09:00 Israel announced it managed to release two captives from the Israelis detained in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where the Palestinian health ministry said around 100 Palestinians including children were killed in heavy overnight Israeli air strikes. 

In a statement, the occupation army identified the two as Fernando Simon Marman and Louis Har. Both were in "good medical condition," it added.

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