Israel storms Nasser Hospital, death toll nears 29 thousands - as it happened

Ahram Online , Friday 16 Feb 2024

Israel is pushing forward with its offensive in the Gaza Strip, launching operations inside some hospitals where thousands of displaced people have taken refuge. The attacks have forced medical staff to flee, leaving patients behind, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike on a residential building in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. AP


19:00 US Vice President Kamala Harris held a meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Friday at the Munich Security Conference, as confirmed by Israel's Government Press Office.

The meeting took place following Vice President Harris' address to the conference earlier in the day.

During her speech she briefly touched on the Israeli war on Gaza, stating that the US is actively working to end the conflict and highlighted broader efforts to achieve peace in the region.

In a subsequent question-and-answer session, Harris expanded on the US approach to the Israeli war on Gaza and reaffirmed the importance of a two-state solution for lasting peace and security in the region.

She emphasized that peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians, including those in Gaza, are intertwined with the establishment of a two-state solution.

President Herzog expressed his gratitude to Vice President Harris for her support for Israel and conveyed the appreciation of the Israeli people to President Joe Biden and the US administration for their unwavering support. 

The White House, last week, sought to downplay sharp criticism levied against Israel by President Joe Biden and a senior national security official over how Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has conducted the Israeli war on Gaza.

Biden, speaking to reporters, had called Israel's military operations in Gaza “over the top” and said the suffering of innocent people has “got to stop.” While Biden has previously expressed concern about the mounting Palestinian civilian toll, his direct criticism of the Israelis has been muted.

Then the New York Times reported it had obtained a recording in which the president's deputy principal national security adviser, Jon Finer, expressed a “lack of confidence” in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government during a meeting with Arab American and Muslim community leaders this week.

The White House National Security Council confirmed that Finer’s comments, as reported by the Times, were accurate.

The comments appear to reflect a growing frustration in the White House with the Israeli war on Gaza. Earlier pauses in fighting led to the release of mostly women and children taken by Hamas, but U.S. officials believe more than 100 remain in captivity.

18:00 Missile fire targeted a ship Friday off Yemen in the Red Sea, the latest attack suspected to have been carried out by Yemen's Houthi rebels amid Israel's war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The vessel's captain reported an explosion near the ship in the Red Sea off the Yemeni city of Mocha, the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organization centre said.

“The crew and the vessel are reported safe,” the UKMTO said.

It did not immediately identify the vessel targeted. The security firm Ambrey described the ship as a Panama-flagged tanker and similarly said the crew was unharmed, though the vessel sustained minor damage.

Yemen's Houthi rebels did not immediately acknowledge carrying out the attack. However, the rebels typically take several hours before claiming their assaults.

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea over Israel’s war on Gaza.

They have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for trade among Asia, the Mideast, and Europe.

The U.S. and British militaries have conducted multiple rounds of airstrikes targeting the Houthis’ missile arsenals and launch sites in territory they hold.

17:00 Israeli artillery shells targeted the outskirts of Kfarhamam town in the southern region of Lebanon.

The shelling, which originated from across the border in Israel, has raised concerns about the potential for further escalation and instability in the area.

Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah movement had said Thursday it had fired dozens of rockets into northern Israel, a day after Israeli strikes killed 15 people, including one of its commanders.

It said the rocket fire was "a first response" to the deadly Israeli strikes on the southern cities of Nabatiyeh and Sawwaneh.

The slow-simmering cross-border conflict between Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group and Israeli forces escalated Wednesday, reviving fears that the daily clashes could expand into an all-out war.

A rocket fired from Lebanon struck the northern Israeli town of Safed, killing a 20-year-old female soldier and wounding at least eight people.

Israel responded with airstrikes that killed at least 10 people in southern Lebanon, including a Syrian woman, her two children, four members of another family, and three Hezbollah fighters. At least nine people were wounded.

Hamas ally Hezbollah and its arch-foe Israel have been exchanging near-daily fire across the border since the Israel war on Gaza broke out on 7 October.


16:00 The United Nations chief on Friday warned that an all-out offense by Israel on the southern Gaza city of Rafah would be devastating for Palestinian civilians there.

Secretary-General António Guterres called the situation in Gaza “an appalling indictment of the deadlock in global relations” and said the UN's humanitarian aid operation there is barely functioning.

“Rafah is at the core of the entire humanitarian aid operation,” Guterres said in an opening speech at the Munich Security Conference.

He said that humanitarian workers in Gaza are working under “unimaginable conditions” that include live fire, Israeli restrictions, and the breakdown of public order.

“An all-out offensive on the city would be devastating” for the Palestinian civilians living there, he added.

15:00 A recently trending ad on social media platforms in the United States has criticized the US government's financial support for Israel's genocidal actions towards Palestinians.

The ad features a character saying "You're gonna have to put those eggs back... We have to set that $7 aside for killing Palestinians," which is intended to highlight the perceived misallocation of funds.

"Apparently, it's costing us a lot of money to drop bombs on Gaza," the character added.

The ad, which has gained traction across various social media platforms, seeks to draw attention to what some perceive as excessive US financial support for Israel, particularly amid ongoing concerns about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and genocidal actions by Israeli troops.

The ad aims to raise awareness about the issue and generate public discourse regarding the allocation of US taxpayer funds.


13:30 The Sultanate of Oman has called for an emergency international conference aimed at reaching an agreement on the necessary arrangements for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

The conference, as proposed by Omani Foreign Minister Sayyed Badr al-Busaidi, would involve the participation of Hamas, the governing entity in Gaza.

During a speech delivered at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies in Britain, Minister al-Busaidi passionately emphasized the urgency of accelerating the establishment of a Palestinian state to protect the Palestinian people from further suffering, destitution, and loss of life.

He stressed the need for swift action through an international conference that would work towards implementing the two-state solution, which has long been advocated as a means to achieve a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Minister al-Busaidi acknowledged the reality on the ground, recognizing the presence and influence of Hamas.

He emphasized that any viable peace efforts must include engagement with Hamas, stating that the Islamic resistance group cannot be ignored or eliminated if genuine progress towards peace is to be achieved.

Reiterating his point, the Omani Minister underscored the importance of dialogue and listening, emphasizing that peacemakers must find a way to engage with Hamas constructively. 

Minister al-Busaidi further stressed that the emergency international conference should be led by a group of countries that accurately represent the global majority.

13:00 Martin Griffiths, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, has stated that what Israel is currently doing in Gaza is the "worst humanitarian crisis he has ever seen in his entire career."

The ongoing Israeli attacks and their devastating impact on the Palestinian population have exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation in the region.

Addressing the evacuation of Palestinians from Rafah, he said "The idea of evacuating them someplace of safety, we think is illusory."

He continued ​"We do not think there is anywhere safe to go in Gaza." 

"The one thing that keeps me up at night is whether the choice will be made to attack Rafah,"  the Under-Secretary-General added.  

Furthermore, Griffiths made a noteworthy distinction by describing Hamas, the governing entity in Gaza, as a political movement rather than a terrorist group.


11:55 The health ministry in Gaza said five patients died Friday due to lack of oxygen at one of the war-torn Palestinian territory's few operating hospitals that had been raided by Israeli forces.

"The generators of the complex stopped and the power was cut off," the ministry said, raising fears over the fate of six other patients in intensive care and three children in a nursery at the Nasser Hospital in the southern city of Khan Yunis.

"We hold the Israeli occupation responsible for the lives of patients and staff considering that the complex is now under its full control," it said in a statement.

11:00 In the latest wave of Israeli attacks on Gaza, the death toll has risen to 28,775, according to the Health Ministry of the besieged Gaza Strip.

Overnight strikes killed at least 112 Palestinians, while 157 others sustained injuries, bringing the total number of wounded to a staggering 68,552.

Dr. Ashraf Al Qudra, the spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry, expressed concern over the ongoing casualties, as many victims remain trapped under rubble.

The occupation forces have been impeding the efforts of ambulances to reach those in need of urgent medical assistance.

Israeli airstrikes have struck residential areas, infrastructure, and vital facilities. 

The vast majority of man-made structures in the Gaza Strip have been reduced to rubble as a direct result of the Israeli offensive.

Civilians, including women and children, have borne the brunt of the violence, with innocent lives being tragically cut short. 

10:00 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will not accept what he portrayed as “international dictates” regarding a resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians.

Writing early Friday on X, Netanyahu said such a resolution can only be the result of negotiations. He also said Israel opposes a unilateral recognition of statehood, claiming it would amount to a “huge reward” for the militant group Hamas.

Netanyahu leads a right-wing coalition that is fiercely opposed to a Palestinian state arising alongside Israel. During his years as prime minister, there were no significant high-level negotiations with the Palestinians. He has boasted that he has been instrumental over the years in preventing Palestinian statehood.

The two-state solution has broad international support, but international diplomatic efforts were long dormant, with successive U.S. presidents reluctant to spend political capital on a seemingly intractable conflict.

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