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Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Wednesday. Alamy Stock Photo
Gaza

Gunfire and strikes shake Gaza as Biden and Netanyahu have first call in a month

Gaza’s health ministry reported today that at least 24,762 people have been killed in Gaza since 7 October.

LAST UPDATE | 19 Jan

GUNFIRE AND AIRSTRIKES have shaken Gaza’s city of Khan Yunis today, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden discussed the conflict for the first time in a month. 

The Palestinian Red Crescent, a humanitarian aid organisation, reported “intense shelling” in the vicinity of its Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Yunis last night – since Israel’s military campaign in response to the 7 October Hamas attacks began, eight ambulance workers from the organisation have died. 

The official WAFA Palestinian news agency this morning reported that a number of civilians were “tragically killed” in a barrage of artillery strikes targeting Khan Yunis last night.

“Local sources reported that at least four civilians were killed in the Israeli shelling which targeted a house belonging to the Kazemi family in the western neighborhood of Khan Yunis,” the agency said.

Ahmed El-Madhoun from the Mena rights organisation tweeted overnight saying, “It’s 6am and clashes around Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis have not stopped for hours. Intense bombardment! We cannot determine its location!”. 

There have also been reports of strikes in Rafah and Gaza city. 

An orange fireball flashed above rooftops and an AFP journalist saw plumes of dark smoke towering above the city in nearby Rafah, the Strip’s southernmost city.

The United Nations has called repeatedly for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as it has said that 85% of the region’s population have been displaced and people are living in “inhumane conditions, where diseases are spreading, including among children.”

Gaza’s health ministry reported today that at least 24,762 people have been killed in Gaza since 7 October.

The toll includes 142 fatalities over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said.

rafah-gaza-16th-jan-2024-the-father-of-masa-shoman-carries-the-body-of-his-daughter-during-her-funeral-in-rafah-on-the-southern-gaza-strip-after-an-israeli-bombardment-on-houses-on-wednesday-ja he father of Masa Shoman carries the body of his daughter during her funeral in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip, Tuesday. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Healthcare and aid 

Currently only six of its 22 health centres in Gaza are operational. Yesterday it started giving out vaccinations again, following a donation of eight different vaccine types from the charity UNICEF. 

The World Health Organisation said overnight that it counted 24 cases of Hepatitis A and “thousands” of jaundice cases, which it linked to the spread of the viral liver infection. 

It pointed to the almost complete lack of drinking water and the absence of clean toilets as factors that will see Hepatitis A spread further.

On Wednesday, a shipment of medicine for dozens of hostages held by Hamas has arrived in Gaza after France and Qatar mediated the first agreement between Israel and the militant group since a week-long ceasefire in November.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Majed al-Ansari said on Wednesday night that the shipment had crossed into Gaza, without saying whether the medicine had been distributed.

A senior Hamas official said that for every box provided for the hostages, 1,000 boxes of medicine would be sent in for Palestinians. The deal also includes humanitarian aid for residents of the besieged coastal enclave.

ActionAid today claimed in a statement that “confusing and arbitrary rules” about the type of aid permitted to enter Gaza is resulting in thousands of essential items being stopped at border crossings and prevented from reaching those who desperately need it. 

Among the items rejected during inspections are oxygen cylinders and anaesthetics for hospitals, according to ActionAid Ireland CEO Karol Balfe.

Stone fruit is being refused entry under the explanation that the stones could be used as bullets or to plant trees, while tent poles – which help to provide shelter for Gaza’s 1.9 million displaced people – are also being turned away, ActionAid said it has heard. 

Phone call 

Biden and Netanyahu spoke about Gaza today, in their first conversation for nearly a month amid reports of tensions between the leaders.

The call came a day after Netanyahu said he had told Washington that he opposes allowing Palestinian statehood after the conflict with Hamas, putting him at odds with long-standing US policy.

The pair last spoke on 23 December and the silence since has led to repeated questions about a rift between Biden and Netanyahu over Israel’s offensive in Gaza and future plans.

Israel will let shipments of flour for Palestinians through the Israeli port of Ashdod, north of Gaza, the White House said after the call.

“The president welcomed the decision from the Government of Israel to permit the shipment of flour for the Palestinian people directly through Ashdod port,” the White House said in a readout of their call.

US teams would “separately work on options for more direct maritime delivery of assistance into Gaza,” it added. 

Speaking at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos this week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken renewed his call for a “pathway to a Palestinian state”. 

However, Netanyahu once again this week voiced his opposition to the two-state solution which the US, its greatest ally, endorses. 

“Israel must have security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River,” he said.

“This is a necessary condition, which contradicts the idea of (Palestinian) sovereignty,” the Israeli Prime Minister added.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has said that without an independent state for Palestine, there will be no “security and stability in the region”. 

In Ireland, the Social Democrats said today it will issue a Dáil motion next Wedneday, calling on the Irish Government to support South Africa’s case agaisnt Israel under the Genocide Convention in the International Court of Justice. 

- Additional reporting by Hayley Halpin, Press Association and © AFP 2024 

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