Advertisement
Palestinians inspect the damage of a destroyed building following Israeli airstrikes on Gaza City Alamy Stock Photo
LIVE BLOG

As It Happened: Israeli troops told to be ready to see Gaza territory 'from the inside'

The Journal’s liveblog will bring you the latest developments throughout the day.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 19th 2023, 10:09 PM

UK PRIME MINISTER Rishi Sunak today held talks with Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel where he said Hamas “represent pure evil” and he defended Israel’s right to self-defence.

However, Sunak said it is “important that the conflict doesn’t escalate regionally”. He then headed to Saudi Arabia for more talks.

Israel’s defence minister today promised a ground invasion of Gaza, telling troops to be ready to see territory “from the inside”. 

At least 3,785 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip to date, while the death toll in Israel is over 1,400.

Here’s a round-up of the latest developments:

Updates from Hayley Halpin (now), Órla Ryan, Muiris O’Cearbhaill, Eoghan Dalton and Jane Moore (earlier).

That’s all from us on the liveblog tonight. 

A recap on some of the main points today:

  • UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak today held talks with Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel where he said Hamas “represent pure evil” and he defended Israel’s right to self-defence.
  • Sunak then travelled to Saudi Arabia where he met with Crown Price Mohammend bin Salman. 
  • Israel’s defence minister today promised a ground invasion of Gaza, telling troops to be ready to see territory “from the inside”. 
  • The Hamas-controlled interior ministry this evening said several displaced people who had taken shelter at a church compound in the Gaza Strip have been killed and injured after what it says was an Israeli strike.
  • An unclassified US intelligence assessment delivered to Congress today estimates casualties in the explosion at the Gaza City hospital on the “low end” of 100 to 300 deaths.
  • United Nations peacekeepers have said one person was killed today after civilians were caught in cross-border fire in Lebanon’s south.
  • The US State Department issued a “worldwide caution security alert” for all citizens abroad. 
  • The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the war-torn Gaza Strip “will open tomorrow”, state-linked television Al Qahera News reported.
  • The World Health Organization has said humanitarian aid should be allowed to enter Gaza daily.
  • A group of pro-Palestinian activists demonstrated inside and outside the European Commission building in Dublin this afternoon.

An unclassified US intelligence assessment delivered to Congress today estimates casualties in the explosion at the Gaza City hospital on the “low end” of 100 to 300 deaths.

That death toll “still reflects a staggering loss of life”, US intelligence officials said in the findings, which were seen by The Associated Press.

Officials in Hamas-ruled Gaza claimed an Israeli air strike had hit the hospital. Israel denied it was involved. 

President Joe Biden and other US officials have already said that US intelligence officials believed the explosion was not caused by an Israeli air strike.

The US assessment noted “only light structural damage” to the hospital itself was evident, with no impact crater visible.

United Nations peacekeepers have said one person was killed today after civilians were caught in cross-border fire in Lebanon’s south.

Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah and allied Palestinian factions have been trading cross-border fire with Israel daily since Hamas launched its massive 7 October assault on Israel.

Lebanese armed forces asked for help from the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which acts as a buffer between Lebanon and Israel, “for seven individuals stranded near” the border during “a significant exchange of fire”, UNIFIL said in a statement.

A spokesperson confirmed they were all civilians.

“Tragically, one person lost his life during this incident and the others were successfully rescued,” the UNIFIL said. They asked the Israeli forces to suspend fire “to facilitate the rescue operation” and they complied, the statement added.

The incident brings to at least 22 the number of people killed in south Lebanon since the Israel-Hamas war began. Most of them have been combatants, but at least four civilians, including a Reuters journalist, have been killed. At least three people have been killed in Israel.

The Hamas-controlled interior ministry has said several displaced people who had taken shelter at a church compound in the Gaza Strip have been killed and injured after what it says was an Israeli strike.

The strike left a “large number of martyrs and injured” at the compound of a Greek Orthodox church, the ministry said.

Witnesses told AFP the strike appeared to have been aimed at a target close to the place of worship where many Gaza residents had taken refuge as the war raged in the Palestinian enclave.

The Israeli army when contacted told AFP it was checking the reported strike.

As we just reported, the Pentagon has said a US Navy ship shot down missiles and drones that had been fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen, possibly at Israel.

Three “land-attack cruise missiles and several drones” were intercepted by a destroyer, a spokesman told reporters.

The attack had been conducted from Yemen and “potentially toward targets in Israel.”

AFP has reported the ship, USS Carney, was patrolling in the Red Sea as part of a heavily reinforced US military presence ordered by President Joe Biden to maintain stability in the wake of war between Israel and the Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip.

The Pentagon spokesman said that missiles were fired from Yemen where the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels are at war with a government backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

According to the spokesman, there were no US casualties and “we cannot say for certain what these missiles were targeting, but they were launched from Yemen, heading north along the Red Sea”.

“Our defensive response was one we would have taken for any similar threat in the region,” he said.

“We have the capability to defend our broader interests in the region and to deter regional escalation and broader expansion of the conflict that began with Hamas’ attack on Israeli civilians.”

Biden has ordered increased air and naval assets – including dispatching two aircraft carriers– to the Middle East to guard against the Israel-Hamas war spilling over in the tinderbox region.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon also ordered 2,000 personnel on standby for potential deployment.

BREAKING: A US Navy ship has shot down missiles and drones that had been fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen, possibly at Israel, the Pentagon has said.

Three “land-attack cruise missiles and several drones” were intercepted by a destroyer, a spokesman told reporters.

The attack had been conducted from Yemen and “potentially toward targets in Israel.”

President Joe Biden is set to address the US nation from the Oval Office regarding the Israel – Gaza conflict at 1am Irish time.

More from Saudi Arabia… 

Rishi Sunak said he had “an important and productive meeting” with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“We agreed on co-ordinated action to prevent further escalation in the region, provide vital humanitarian aid in Gaza and support stability, both now and in the long-term,” the British Prime Minister said.

united-nations-18th-oct-2023-the-un-security-council-holds-a-vote-for-a-brazilian-drafted-resolution-that-calls-for-humanitarian-pauses-in-gaza-at-the-un-headquarters-in-new-york-on-oct-18-2023 The UN Security Council holding its vote for a Brazilian-drafted resolution that calls for humanitarian pauses in Gaza Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The US veto on a UN Security Council resolution calling for a “humanitarian pause” in the Israel-Hamas war will have “monstruous consequences”, Russia has said.

12 out of 15 Council members voted in favour of the resolution put forward by Brazil, which also condemned the “heinous terrorist attacks by Hamas”.

The United States was the only vote against, but as one of the body’s five permanent members it counted as a veto.

“In the context of a standoff that is deepening and risks spilling over the borders of the Middle East region and taking on a confessional dimension, the consequences of such a step are monstruous,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Moscow said it was “disappointing” that a resolution that could have contributed to “stopping the escalation of tensions and reducing violence against civilians” was not adopted.

The US veto “clearly demonstrates Washington’s true aspiration for the region”, the statement said.

“Every day of delay means not only a rapid increase in the number of dead and wounded, but also the continuation of the suffering of civilians who have become prisoners of the blockaded enclave” of Gaza, it added.

The foreign ministry accused Washington of opposing “all humanitarian initiatives from the beginning” and said the Israel-Hamas conflict reflected “the failure of American policy” in the region, which “sparked the catastrophic current escalation”.

“The right to self-defence does not mean having a licence for mass and indiscriminate reprisals,” the ministry added, in a criticism aimed at Israel.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is in Saudi Arabia this evening for the second leg of his Middle East tour following his visit to Israel earlier. 

Sunak and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman agreed that the “loss of innocent lives in Israel and Gaza over the last two weeks has been horrific”, Downing Street said following their meeting.

Sunak “encouraged” Saudi Arabia to use its influence to “support stability” in the region.

“They underscored the need to avoid any further escalation in the region and agreed to co-ordinate action on this front,” a No 10 statement on the meeting said.

“The Prime Minister and crown prince agreed on the pressing need for humanitarian access into Gaza to provide vital water, food and medicine.

“The Prime Minister outlined the steps the UK has taken to address the increasingly urgent humanitarian situation, including announcing £10 million of further aid.

“The Prime Minister encouraged the crown prince to use Saudi’s leadership in the region to support stability, both now and in the long-term.

“More broadly, the Prime Minister and crown prince looked forward to working together to advance areas of shared interest for the UK and Saudi Arabia, including on upholding regional security.”

Thousands gathered for a pro-Palestinian protest in the heart of Paris today, after authorities lifted a ban put in place immediately after the Hamas attack on Israel.

A Paris court today suspended the ban that had been put on the protest in Place de la Republique in central Paris.

Thousands had already gathered for the rally, which started off peacefully, but later saw clashes with police, who used pepper spray to disperse the crowd, according to AFP journalists at the scene.

Last week Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin had called on regional authorities to ban all pro-Palestinian demonstrations, highlighting a spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the wake of the latest violence in Israel and Gaza.

But the Paris court said that bans imposed by regional prefects were “a serious and clearly illegal threat to the freedom to protest”.

President Emmanuel Macron said it had been justified to block pro-Palestinian demonstrations immediately after the 7 October attack by Hamas on Israel.

“I think there was a period of decency – there had been a terrorist attack, it wasn’t good,” he said earlier today in an exchange with students in the street witnessed by AFP.

“I see people who want to demonstrate peacefully but there are hyper-radical elements who are going to burn the Israeli flag and defend Hamas,” Macron added.

The United States’ State Department has extended its ‘caution’ alert to all US travellers citing terrorism and potential for anti-American demonstrators.

Earlier, this liveblog reported that US Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, advised US citizens in Lebanon “to make plans to depart as soon as possible while commercial options are still available”.

The US, Ireland and the United Kingdom have all warned not to travel to the country.

Tensions between militant group Hezbollah and the Israeli Defence Forces have risen in the last number of days. Yesterday, the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement called for a “day of rage” to condemn the strike on al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza on Tuesday.

The State Department urged Americans to “stay alert in locations frequented by tourists” and to enroll in a program known as STEP, which allows citizens to be located more quickly in case of emergency.

16 Palestinian journalists have been killed in the war in Gaza since Israel began bombarding the coastal enclave, the Palestinian journalists’ union said today.

Dozens of other journalists have been wounded in the conflict since it erupted on 7 October after Hamas militants carried out a deadly attack on Israel that triggered a blistering Israeli bombardment of the Palestinian territory.

The US State Department has today issued a “worldwide caution security alert” for all citizens abroad. 

The alert says: 

“Due to increased tensions in various locations around the world, the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations or violent actions against US citizens and interests, the Department of State advises US citizens overseas to exercise increased caution.” 

It says US citizens should star alert in locations frequented by tourists.

More can be read here

Earlier today, the European Parliament approved a joint motion for a resolution on recent events in Israel and Gaza and called for an immediate de-escalation of the conflict.

The motion, which called for a “humanitarian pause” to the conflict, was supported by nine of Ireland’s 13 members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

The joint motion for a resolution on “the despicable terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel, Israel’s right to defend itself in line with humanitarian and international law and the humanitarian situation in Gaza” was voted on and approved today.

Clare Daly, Mick Wallace, Luke Ming Flanaghan and Chris MacManus were the only Irish MEPs to vote against the motion.

Here’s what Luke Ming Flanaghan told the Parliament earlier: 

PA News is reporting that Israel’s defence minister has promised a ground invasion of Gaza, telling troops to be ready to see territory “from the inside”. More as we get it.

We now have more details from the World Health Organization press conference:

Irishman Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies director, said humanitarian aid must urgently be allowed into Gaza.

“We need to make sure the corridor is a corridor… humanitarian assistance needs to move every day. Twenty trucks is a drop in the ocean of need right now in Gaza,” he told reporters.

At the same press conference Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s chief, said he is worried about the chances of humanitarian aid reaching the Gaza Strip tomorrow from Egypt, given the delays thus far.

“We have been waiting for more than six days since the supplies have been delivered to the border area… We hope there will be a crossing tomorrow but, for sure, based on the experience we had the last few days, we are also at the same time worried whether this will happen.”

Demonstration on Saturday

A demonstration in solidarity with Palestine will be held in Dublin city on Saturday, beginning at the Garden of Remembrance at 1pm. Similar demonstrations are being planned for other locations around the country.

Matt Carthy, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, has called on other parliaments to follow Ireland’s lead in demanding immediate ceasefires in the Middle East.

“This week the Dáil became one of the first parliaments in the world to call for a ceasefire. It was an important international signal that other parliaments should follow – the world must demand that Israel ends the siege and the attacks on Gaza and the Palestinian people,” Carthy said today.

“We know from Irish history that a lasting and just peace requires negotiations and world leaders acting in good faith. A lasting and just peace between Palestine and Israel requires an end to the occupation and apartheid systems currently imposed on the Palestinian people.

“The events of the past weeks have created a new urgency to the need for decisive international intervention. Rigorous international leadership means demanding immediate ceasefires. That is the call from the Dáil, it must be followed by other parliaments and political leaders.”

Palestinians are under constant bombardment by Israeli air strikes, as the death toll mounts. These images were all taken in Gaza today: 

palestinians-react-after-an-israeli-bombardment-in-khan-younis-gaza-strip-thursday-oct-19-2023-ap-photofatima-shbair Palestinians react after an Israeli bombardment in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

palestinians-carry-the-lifeless-body-of-a-man-found-inside-a-destroyed-house-following-israeli-airstrikes-on-gaza-city-thursday-oct-19-2023-ap-photoabed-khaled Palestinians carry the lifeless body of a man found inside a destroyed house following Israeli air strikes on Gaza City Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

Screenshot 2023-10-19 15.46.02 Palestinians look for survivors after an Israeli air strike on Nuseirat refugee camp, Gaza Strip Ali Mohmoud / AP/PA Images Ali Mohmoud / AP/PA Images / AP/PA Images

palestinians-inspect-the-damage-of-a-destroyed-building-following-israeli-airstrikes-on-gaza-city-thursday-oct-19-2023-ap-photoabed-khaled Palestinians inspect the damage of a destroyed building following Israeli air strikes on Gaza City Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo / Alamy Stock Photo

The Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the war-torn Gaza Strip “will open tomorrow”, state-linked television Al Qahera News is reporting.

Hundreds of trucks full of supplies are still waiting on the Egyptian side of the border today, after US President Joe Biden struck a deal with Egypt and Israel to allow relief into Gaza, under withering bombardment by Israel.

The crossing is the only route into or out of Gaza not controlled by Israel.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has arrived in Saudi Arabia, after his brief visit to Israel earlier today.

Sunak is set to hold talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on how to stop the conflict from escalating.

More on the World Health Organization press conference in Geneva:

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has urged Israel to allow fuel to be taken into the Gaza Strip, alongside the first deliveries of water, food and medicine.

“We welcome Israel’s announcement yesterday that it will not block the entry of water, food and medicines into Gaza from Egypt.

“Fuel is also needed for hospital generators, ambulances and desalination plants — and we urge Israel to add fuel to the life-saving supplies allowed to enter Gaza,” Tedros said.

World Health Organization

In an ongoing press briefing, the World Health Organization has said humanitarian aid should be allowed to enter Gaza daily.

New death toll

At least 3,785 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip since Israel began bombarding the coastal enclave, the Hamas-controlled health ministry said today.

Some 1,524 children and 1,000 women are among those killed in the relentless Israeli air strikes, the ministry said, adding another 12,493 people have been injured.

More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed since Hamas’s attack on 7 October.

'Dead man walking'

Two accused masterminds of Hamas’s 7 October attacks sit at the top of Israel’s hit list as it threatens that every member of the militant group faces death when it invades Gaza.

Military strategist Mohammed Deif and political leader Yahya Sinwar have already spent time in Israeli or Palestinian jails and been the targets of multiple assassination attempts.

The hunt for the two most senior Hamas leaders in the beleaguered Gaza Strip will be fierce this time, AFP reports.

In the war of words leading up to the impending ground offensive, Israel has said that Sinwar is “a dead man walking”.

“Hamas terrorists have two options: Be killed or surrender unconditionally. There is no third option,” Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said.

Hamas spokesmen have responded that the Palestinian Islamist group is “not scared”.

Security sources outside Gaza say Deif and Sinwar have been embedded in the enclave’s network of tunnels — built to resist Israel’s air assault — since hundreds of Hamas fighters crossed the border to hit kibbutz communities, towns and military bases.

Our reporter Liam Coates spoke to Cork-based chef Habib Al Ostaz yesterday evening. 

The 27-year-old, who works at Palestinian restaurant the Izz Cafe in Cork City, said he was currently unable to concentrate on anything but the news from Gaza.

Communication with family members still in Gaza is often impossible, he said. 

“Last time I called them, they had no water and no food. The situation is really bad there – no electricity, no water, food or medicine. And no one can help.” 

Habib said that amid the turmoil he had been lifted by support from the Irish community in recent days. 

“Many, many people are calling and asking about my family. I am very grateful for them.”

The restaurant has partnered with the Dublin-based charity Human Appeal Ireland, which has set up an appeal for the people of Gaza. 

While he encouraged as many people as possible to donate to charity and attend protests, he ultimately sounded a helpless tone. 

“We can’t do anything. We are just thinking about how the lives of women and children can go so easily.”

A press conference was held today by Israeli people with family held hostage by Hamas in Gaza.

Hamas are believed to have captured over 200 Israeli citizens during their attack on the country on 7 October.

On the same date, it’s reported the militant group killed over 1,300 people in a single day.

One woman told the conference of her family members who are among the hostages – including a nine-month-old baby who relies on baby formula, and her aunt who suffers from Parkinson’s disease.

Sunak: ‘Hamas represent pure evil’

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Hamas “represent pure evil” as he defended Israel’s right to self-defence.

But Sunak, while meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier, said “no one wants to see” the “barbaric act of terrorism” carried out on 7 October lead to an escalation of the conflict across the region.

Asked by broadcasters during his visit to Israel about fears that attempting to defeat Hamas at “all costs” could spark a wider Middle East conflict, Sunak said: “Hamas has perpetrated an absolutely barbaric act of terrorism.

“I’m sure many people would have seen seen the videos, they are horrific. They chill you — they have certainly done that to me — and everyone can see that they represent pure evil. And it is right that Israel exercises its right to self-defence.

RISHI NET British PM Rishi Sunak and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu. Israeli State Media Israeli State Media

“It has not just the right to protect its citizens (but) the duty to protect its citizens and ensure that something like this can never happen again.

It is important that the conflict doesn’t escalate regionally. That is why I’m talking to as many people as I can across the region.”

“I’ve already done that and I’ll be able to see more people in person on this trip. No one wants to see this conflict escalate. And indeed, the UK has sent various military assets into the Mediterranean to prevent regional escalation.”

Netanyahu had thanked Sunak for his solidarity and said he has “never seen the people of Israel more united than they are now” and wishes for continued support as the conflict continues.

“We have here is two forces. One is an axis of evil led by Iran through Hezbollah, Hamas and others that want to bring back the Middle East to the Middle Ages, to an age of bondage and war and slavery and annihilation.

“And the other forces – the forces of progress and humanity – that want to push the Middle East into a world of peace and prosperity,” the Israeli leader said.

The United States Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, has today updated its travel advising US citizens in Lebanon “to make plans to depart as soon as possible while commercial options are still available”.

Earlier, this liveblog reported that tensions between militant group Hezbollah and the Israeli Defence Forces have risen in the last number of days, as the IDF continue its fight against Hamas in Gaza.

Yesterday, the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement called for a “day of rage” to condemn the strike on al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza on Tuesday.

“The Department of State reminds citizens to avoid demonstrations and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings or protests as some of these have turned violent,” it said in an update this afternoon.

Israeli forces killed seven Palestinians in multiple incidents across the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry has said.

The death toll is mounting in the West Bank territory while war rages in Gaza as at least 73 Palestinians have been killed in the region since conflict erupted on 7 October.

The latest fatalities were four people killed during an “attack by the occupation (Israel)” on Nur Shams refugee camp in the northern West Bank, the ministry said.

Health officials earlier announced another Palestinian, a 16-year-old boy, was killed by Israeli forces in the camp.

The Israeli military did not immediately comment on the Nur Shams fatalities when contacted by AFP journalists.

Troops were “continuing to operate in the camp to thwart terror activity”, an army statement said.

No EUFA competition matches to be played in Israel

EUFA, the European soccer organisation, said after a “thorough evaluation of the current safety and security situation in the whole territory of Israel” its Executive Committee has decided that no competition matches shall be played in Israel until further notice.

“The Israel Football Association and its clubs Maccabi Haifa FC and Maccabi Tel-Aviv have been requested to propose alternative venues/stadiums (which must comply with all applicable UEFA regulations) outside the territory of Israel for their home matches to be used for as long as this decision remains in force,” it said in a statement today.

Retired-Irish footballer Robbie Keane is currently Maccabi Tel-Aviv’s head coach – he fled the country shortly after the 7 October terror-attack by Hamas.

Separately, the organisation announced that the Belgium V Sweden, which was abandoned at half-time due to a terror attack in Brussels on Monday, will not be replayed, EUFA announced this afternoon.

The game’s final score will be 1-1, the score reached at half time.

Two matches for Israeli teams have been postponed:

  • Villarreal CF vs Maccabi Haifa has been postponed to 6 December 2023
  • Maccabi Tel Aviv vs Zorya Luhansk has been postponed to 25 November 2023

Full report from The42 here.

The Department of Foreign Affairs updated its travel advice for those going to Lebanon.

Its website, updated yesterday, states “Do not travel”.

Tensions between militant group Hezbollah and the Israeli Defence Forces have risen in the last number of days, as the IDF continue its fight against Hamas in Gaza.

Internally, the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement called for a “day of rage”, yesterday, to condemn the strike on al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza on Tuesday.

Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the French and US embassies in protest. 

Reporting live from the scene, Sky News showed protests and clashes between the Lebanese Armed Forces, its de facto state-police.

The United Kingdom and the United States both updated its travel advice yesterday as well, telling citizens not to travel to the region.

The US embassy also urged its citizens in Lebanon make “appropriate arrangements to leave the country”.

“We recommend that U.S. citizens who choose not to depart prepare contingency plans for emergency situations,” it added.

President Michael D Higgins has said Israel must not put itself in the same “category” as Hamas, adding that Israel is “taking great risks”.

Following a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican today, President Higgins spoke to reporters about his meeting with the Pontiff as well as the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

“I understand, when you see the circumstances in which children were killed, when those at an event in relation to music were killed, I have no reservation in accepting and knowing the reaction of the people whose families were affected,” President Higgins told reporters.

He added: “But however bad it is, you must save yourself from going into the same categories.

“If you put yourself into the category of unmediated, unrestrained response, you’re taking great risks I believe.”

Our reporter Diarmuid Pepper has been reporting from the Vatican City this afternoon, you can read the full piece here.

Speaking to RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Claire Byrne, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland won’t give Palestinian refugees the same protection as Ukrainians.

The Taoiseach claimed that Ukraine is in a “different category”.

Thousands have been displaced internally in the Gaza Strip since Israel ordered the evacuation of over 1.1 million people from the north of the densely populated region.

While Varadkar said he thinks the treatment of Palestinian refugees is “very unfair” globally, he said that the group was “different” when it came to providing them with the same protection status as those fleeing Ukraine.

You can read the full article on The Journal, here.

The European Parliament has approved a joint motion for a resolution on recent events in Israel and Gaza and called for an immediate de-escalation of the conflict.

The joint motion for a resolution on “the despicable terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel, Israel’s right to defend itself in line with humanitarian and international law and the humanitarian situation in Gaza” was voted on and approved today.

The resolution was adopted with 500 votes in favour, 21 against and 24 abstentions.

Clare Daly, Mick Wallace, Luke Ming Flanaghan and Chris MacManus were the only Irish MEPs to vote against the motion.

Irish Green Party MEPs Grace O’Sullivan and Ciarán Cuffe, who both voted in favour of the motion, described it as an “imperfect compromise”.

You can read the full article from our Political Reporter, Jane Matthews here.

A group of pro-Palestinian activists are demonstrating inside and outside the European Commission (EC) building in Dublin this afternoon.

The Journal’s Valerie Flynn reports that the protesters, of which there are around 30, are calling for a meeting with the EC’s Irish representative.

Dublin City Council councillor Hugh Lewis (Ind) is among the protesters “calling for end to EU support for Israeli war crimes”.

The group has not yet decided when its protest, which it terms an “occupation”, will end. 

Michael D Higgins told reporters in Rome that it was vital to be “unequivocal” about antisemitism, but added that a “distinction” was needed when criticising Israel’s actions as a state.

Speaking to The Journal and other media, the president said that “horrific events” have taken place due to the war and that as we move on, we needed to be “absolutely unequivocal about antisemitic expression”.

“But I do think it is incredibly important that the distinction be honoured between those who make criticisms, for example, of any breaches of international law, or indeed illegal settlements.

“If you’re criticising the state of Israel for illegal settlements, as some of us have in the past, it’s entirely wrong to be describing that as antisemitic behaviour.

“So we have to get it to a sophisticated, honest, straight, discussion.”

He added: “Nobody should tolerate antisemitism for a moment.”

Higgins said “we must be free to speak about the responsibility” for all nations in relation to international law.

“I think at this stage too, for example, it is a breach of international law to take hostages and … I certainly believe that the hostages should be released. That is a breach of international [law].”

President Michael D Higgins has warned that Israel is acting outside of international law and warned that it is “taking great risks” in its assaults on Gaza.

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Pope Francis, Higgins said that Israel must not place itself into the same “category” as Hamas in its actions.

The Journal’s Diarmuid Pepper is reporting from the president’s trip to meet Pope Francis.

https://twitter.com/Diarmuid_9/status/1714966005376541109

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu recalled Britain’s part in the Second World War as he urged for “continuous” UK support during what he predicted would be a “long war” against Hamas.

He lashed Hamas as the “new Nazis” and “new ISIS”, later calling them “modern barbarians, the worst monsters on the planet”.

In a press conference alongside Sunak, Netanyahu said: “80 years ago, Prime Minister, the civilised world stood with you in your darkest hour.

“This is our darkest hour. It is the world’s darkest hour. We need to stand together and we will win. And this is why I support, I value your support and the fact that you’re here — we must win together.

“That means that this is a long war and we’ll need your continuous support. There will be ups and downs, there will be difficulties.”

Appearing alongside Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Britain’s prime minister Rishi Sunak has said that the UK “absolutely supports” Israel’s right to defend itself.

He added that he believes Israel is “taking every precaution” to prevent harm coming to civilians in Gaza through IDF air strikes.

“We recognise that the Palestinian people are victims of Hamas too,” Sunak said.

“I am proud to stand here as your friend and we also want you to win”, the Tory leader said.

He also said: “In the last two weeks this country, this people, have gone through something that no country should have to ensure – least of all Israel.

“I know you are taking every precaution to avoid harming citizens in direct contrast to the terrorists of Hamas which seeks to put civilians in harm’s way.”

Meanwhile in Dublin, a group of pro-Palestinian activists have occupied the European Commission’s offices on Mount Street.

The group, calling themselves ‘Dublin for Gaza’, said they have gathered to express their opposition to “the open support given to Israel’s campaign of indiscriminate killing in Gaza by the EU Commission”.

The group is seeking a meeting with the head of the Commission in Ireland to call for the EU to support ” a rights-based approach to the Israeli attack on Gaza”.

In a statement, the group said the EU “needs to call for an immediate ceasefire, hold Israel accountable for war crimes and impose sanctions for continued breaches of international law”.

They are also calling for an aid corridor to be opened for those in Gaza.

The EU has announced probes into Facebook owner Meta and TikTok, seeking more details on the measures they have taken to stop the spread of “illegal content and disinformation” around the Hamas-Israel conflict.

AFP reports that the commission said it had sent formal requests for information to Meta and TikTok in what is a first procedure launched under the EU’s new law on digital content. It follows a similar probe launched into X, formerly known as Twitter, last week.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has met with Benjamin Netanyahu.

The office of the Israeli Prime Minister shared footage of the leaders embracing, with Sunak telling his counterpart: “Hello my friend. Very good to see you.”

The meeting is being held in private, though they are expected to issue statements about the discussion afterwards. 

Israeli newspaper Haaretz is reporting that IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari has said that 203 people are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza. 

Earlier this morning, Israel said that the bodies of two people who were taken hostage, 12-year-old Noya and her grandmother Carmela, were found yesterday. 

As we reported, Israel’s military has said it destroyed “hundreds” of sites in Gaza over the last 24 hours. 

The latest pictures this morning show Palestinians searching for survivors in a destroyed building in the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

palestinians-search-for-survivors-from-a-building-destroyed-in-israeli-bombardment-in-khan-younis-gaza-strip-thursday-oct-19-2023-ap-photofatima-shbair Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

palestinians-evacuate-wounded-from-a-building-destroyed-in-israeli-bombardment-in-khan-younis-gaza-strip-thursday-oct-19-2023-ap-photofatima-shbair Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

palestinians-evacuate-wounded-from-a-building-destroyed-in-israeli-bombardment-in-khan-younis-gaza-strip-thursday-oct-19-2023-ap-photofatima-shbair Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

palestinians-evacuate-wounded-from-a-building-destroyed-in-israeli-bombardment-in-khan-younis-gaza-strip-thursday-oct-19-2023-ap-photofatima-shbair Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

palestinians-evacuate-wounded-from-a-building-destroyed-in-israeli-bombardment-in-khan-younis-gaza-strip-thursday-oct-19-2023-ap-photofatima-shbair Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Rishi Sunak has held a meeting with Israeli president Isaac Herzog.

Downing Street said the British Prime Minister and the president “agreed on the importance of getting urgent humanitarian support to ordinary Palestinians in Gaza” who are suffering. 

“The Prime Minister welcomed yesterday’s announcement that Israel would not stop aid from entering Gaza. He expressed his sincere hope that further progress could be made on delivering crucial food, water and medicine,” a No 10 spokesperson said. 

“The Prime Minister and President Herzog stressed the imperative need to avoid further escalation of violence in the region. They agreed to continue working together to that end.”

The spokesperson said Sunak expressed his condolences for the loss of life in Israel as a result of the attack by Hamas and reiterated the UK’s support for the country. 

Sunak also conveyed his gratitude to Herzog for the support Israel has provided to British nationals caught up in the attacks, including to the families of those who have been taken hostage, Downing Street said.

“The leaders agreed to continue working tirelessly to secure their release.”

As we reported earlier, Rishi Sunak is visiting Israel today. 

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the UK Prime Minister said he met with families whose loved ones have been held hostage by Hamas following the attacks on 7 October.

“To have a child taken from you is a parent’s worst nightmare,” he said, sharing a photo of him hugging a woman. 

“This morning I heard from families going through this unbearable agony. Working with our partners, we’re determined to secure the release of the hostages taken by Hamas terrorists.”

Thousands of tonnes of aid bound for Gaza remain on the Egyptian side of the border today, after US President Joe Biden struck a deal with Egypt and Israel to allow relief in.

Biden told reporters last night that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi had agreed to “let up to 20 trucks through to begin with” to the heavily-bombarded Gaza Strip, starting Friday, giving authorities time to repair roads.

Sisi – whose spokesperson said the pair had agreed on “the sustainable delivery of aid” – has maintained that Egypt “did not close” the border, but that four rounds of Israeli air strikes on the Palestinian side of the Rafah crossing have forced it shut.

An eyewitness told AFP that “150 trucks have been waiting at Rafah” – the only passage in and out of Gaza not controlled by Israel – in addition to those in the nearby Egyptian city of El Arish, where planes full of relief supplies have been arriving.

Humanitarian workers at the border again warned that the aid must be allowed in as soon as possible, as perishable supplies had already begun to spoil.

The Israeli Defence Forces has said that it “continues to attack all the time throughout the Gaza Strip”. 

In an update shared on X, formerly Twitter, this morning, the IDF said: “During the last day, the IDF, directed by the Shin Bet, destroyed hundreds of Hamas terrorist infrastructures, dozens of which were attacked in the Sageya neighborhood.”

It claimed that anti-tank missile launch sites, tunnel shafts, intelligence infrastructures and operational headquarters were attacked and that “over ten terrorists were eliminated” in a targeted attack by fighter jets.

It also claimed that IDF warplanes, directed by Shin Bet Intelligence, killed Rafat Harev Hossein Abu Halal, the head of the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, the third largest armed group in Gaza.

While Rishi Sunak visits Israel, Chinese President Xi Jinping held a meeting with Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli in Beijing today.

According to multiple state media outlets, Xi told Madbouli of China’s support for a “two-state solution… to realise the peaceful coexistence of Palestine and Israel”.

“China is willing to enhance cooperation with Egypt… and inject more certainty and stability into the region and the world,” Xi was reported as saying.

Beijing was also willing to work with Cairo to “jointly safeguard international fairness and justice as well as the common interests of developing countries”, he said.

Since the outbreak of hostilities, Egypt has mostly kept closed its border with Gaza, where the humanitarian situation has become increasingly desperate.

Xi told Madbouli that China “appreciates the important role played by Egypt in de-escalating the situation and supports Egypt’s efforts to open humanitarian corridors”.

“It is crucial to prevent the conflict from expanding or even losing control and causing a serious humanitarian crisis,” Xi said.

“The top priority is to cease fire and stop war at an early date,” he added.

After the United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution yesterday calling for a “humanitarian pause”, Beijing reiterated calls for a cessation of violence.

“China is deeply disappointed in the United States’ obstruction of the Security Council’s adoption of a draft resolution on the Palestinian issue,” foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said.

Mao called on the Security Council to “play its role in reaching a ceasefire and stopping the war”.

China has repeatedly backed a vague two-state proposal on the decades-long deadlock that preceded the war, but it has historically been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause – albeit in favour of the nationalist Palestine Liberation Organisation rather than Islamist Hamas.

Israeli strikes have continued on Gaza, with the latest pictures this morning showing smoke rising from the enclave.

smoke-rises-following-an-israeli-airstrike-in-the-gaza-strip-as-seen-from-southern-israel-thursday-oct-19-2023-ap-photoariel-schalit Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

smoke-rises-following-an-israeli-airstrike-in-the-gaza-strip-as-seen-from-southern-israel-thursday-oct-19-2023-ap-photoariel-schalit Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Good morning.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrived in Israel this morning to begin a two-day trip where he will hold talks with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, along with President Isaac Herzog

As part of a trip, he will urge Middle East leaders to “avoid further dangerous escalation”, saying that “too many lives have been lost” already in the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

You can read the article here

Copy includes reporting by Press Association and AFP