Gaza war: WHO chief expresses concern over infectious diseases

Gaza war: WHO chief expresses concern over infectious diseases
The Palestinian Red Crescent on Thursday condemned what it said was Israeli shelling near a hospital in Khan Younis that 'led to the martyrdom of ten people'.
15 min read
29 December, 2023

This live blog on Israel's war on Gaza has concluded. Make sure to follow us for the latest news on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Israeli shelling near a southern Gaza hospital has killed 41 people over the past two days, the Palestinian Red Crescent said, after Israel stepped up its attacks in the centre and south of the besieged territory.

The UN humanitarian office said on Thursday that an estimated 100,000 more displaced people had arrived in the already-teeming southern border city of Rafah in recent days following the intensification of fighting around Deir al-Balah and Khan Younis.

The extra displacements came as Egyptian officials prepared to receive a high-level Hamas delegation in Cairo on Friday for talks on a new proposal aimed at putting an end to the nearly three months of the Gaza war.

The Palestinian Red Crescent on Thursday condemned what it said was Israeli shelling near the al-Amal hospital in Khan Younis that "led to the martyrdom of ten people and the injury of at least 21 others", adding the attack followed one in front of the hospital the day before that killed 31.

"Among the casualties are individuals present in front of the hospital and displaced persons seeking shelter at the PRCS [Red Crescent] premises," the group said in a statement.

Later in the day, Gaza's health ministry said Israeli shelling had killed 20 people, most of them women and children, at the Shaboura camp in Rafah, on the southern border with Egypt.

AFP footage from the city showed bloodied people being rushed through the streets to the nearby Kuwaiti hospital, where medical staff raced to treat a flood of wounded patients, including children. AFP could not immediately confirm whether they were victims of the same strike.

Israel's bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza have killed more than 21,500 people, mostly women and children.

Featured images: Getty

This live blog has now concluded
6:02 PM
The New Arab Staff

This live blog on Israel's war on Gaza has concluded. Make sure to follow us for the latest news on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Three brothers say they were beaten in Israeli detention
5:58 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Three Palestinian brothers rounded up by Israel in the Gaza Strip said they and fellow detainees were beaten, stripped to their underwear, burnt with cigarettes, and subjected to other forms of mistreatment during their detention.

Live Story
IN PICTURES: Grief in Gaza amid Israel's war
5:13 PM
The New Arab Staff

Here are three pictures that illustrate the grief experienced by Palestinians in Gaza amid Israel's indiscriminate war on the enclave.

Images: Getty

WHO chief expresses concern over infectious diseases
4:55 PM
The New Arab Staff

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) expresses concern over the rising threat of infectious diseases as people continue to be "massively displaced" across southern Gaza.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says: "As people continue to be massively displaced across the south of #Gaza, with some families forced to move multiple times and many sheltering in overcrowded health facilities, my @WHO colleagues and I remain very concerned about the increasing threat of infectious diseases."

He adds in his X post that from mid-October to mid-November, people living in shelters have continued to become unwell.

Adhanom Ghebreyesus says nearly 180,000 people are suffering from upper respiratory infections.

He lists statistics for other conditions: 136,400 cases of diarrhoea, 4,683 of acute jaundice syndrome, 5,330 of chickenpox, and 126 of meningitis.

"WHO and partners are working tirelessly to support the health authorities to increase disease surveillance and control by supplying medicines, testing kits to support prompt detection and response to infectious diseases such as hepatitis, and trying to improve access to safe water, food, hygiene and sanitation services," Adhanom Ghebreyesus adds.

Shipping firms react to attacks by Houthis in Red Sea
4:17 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Iranian-backed Houthi militants in Yemen have stepped up attacks on vessels in the Red Sea over Israel's war on Gaza.

The attacks, aimed at a route that allows East-West trade, especially of oil, to use the Suez Canal to save the time and expense of circumnavigating Africa, prompted some shipping companies to reroute vessels earlier in December.

Others, now encouraged by the deployment of a US-led military operation, are resuming crossings of the area.

See the article below for companies' reactions to the situation in the Red Sea.


Live Story
Hamas says targeted 20 Israeli vehicles in two areas
3:57 PM
The New Arab Staff

Hamas's armed wing says it has targeted 20 Israeli vehicles penetrating two areas of Gaza City in the last 48 hours.

The Izzeddin al-Qassam Brigades says the attacking of the vehicles in the al-Daraj and al-Tuffah districts puts the number targeted in those areas up to 72.

Corbyn says 'clinging to hope' children he met in Gaza alive
3:20 PM
The New Arab Staff

British MP Jeremy Corbyn has said he is "clinging to the hope" children he met in Gaza are still alive.

Corbyn posted on X a picture of four boys sitting at desks, saying they were some of the children he had met in Gaza a few years back.

"They liked to learn, draw & play," he added.

"I have been thinking of these children, clinging to the hope they are still alive.

"Do their dreams not matter? Don't they laugh & cry like other children? Don't they deserve to live?"

Israeli forces shoot dead Palestinian in West Bank
2:42 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli forces shot dead a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank on Friday, medics said.

The army claimed soldiers "neutralised" a driver who rammed a car into people near a military post south of the city of Hebron.

Israel's Magen David Adom paramedic service said that it treated one person in moderate condition and three others who were lightly wounded.

The Palestinian health ministry named the man shot by Israeli forces as Amro Abu Hussein.

Baby saved from rubble after mother killed in Israeli strike
2:11 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The rescuers in orange vests shouted as they reached a baby girl still alive in the rubble of an Israeli airstrike on the Gaza Strip's Rafah city after yet another night of bombardment of the Palestinian enclave.

Baby Mariam Abu Akel's skin was grey with dust and she made little noises as the rescuers reached deep into the rubble to free her legs and lift her clear.

People crowded around in the ruins of the Abu Edwan family's house, where Mariam's family had been sheltering after they fled their own home in a more dangerous area near Gaza's border with Israel.

The airstrike killed 20 people and wounded 55, according to Health Ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra.

The Abu Edwan house had been sheltering many displaced people like the Abu Akel family.

Mariam's mother and sister were both killed in the strike along with members of the Abu Edwan family and people from other families temporarily living with them. Her father and brother Hamed, still a toddler, survived the blast.

When Mariam was lifted free, a rescuer ran with her in his arms to take her to hospital. Doctors there swabbed her cuts.


People throng Rafah market to buy food trucked in from Egypt
1:44 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Rafah residents and displaced people thronged a Rafah market on Friday morning to buy food, including fresh fruit, eggs, and meat, trucked in the previous night from Egypt.

"This is the first time eggs and some types of fruit have entered Gaza from Egypt," said vendor Muntasser al-Shaer.

"All types of fruit are missing in the markets, there are some types of vegetables but they're really expensive."

Israel's yearslong siege of Gaza, tightened since the war broke out, has deprived civilians of food, water, fuel and medicine.

The severe shortages have been only sporadically eased by humanitarian aid convoys entering primarily via Egypt.

Israel army says begun attack on Khirbet Khazaa in south
1:24 PM
The New Arab Staff

The Israeli army says it has begun an attack on Khirbet Khazaa in southern Gaza.

The attack there by the military's Fifth Brigade is the first since the war began, The New Arab's Arabic-language edition al-Araby al-Jadeed reports.


BDS movement says US, Europe 'active partners' in genocide
12:58 PM
The New Arab Staff

The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign says the US and Europe are "active partners" in an Israeli genocide in Gaza.

The movement posts a thread on X giving statistics about the Gaza war, including those killed, and the pregnant women giving birth in "unsafe and inhumane conditions".

"We're not numbers; behind these statistics are real lives, each with our own dreams, struggles, and stories," the BDS campaign says.

"This is not a natural catastrophe that requires charity, but a human-made one, fueled & sustained by international state, corporate and institutional complicity. This demands accountability."

BDS says the US and Europe are "more than just complicit in Israel's genocidal war", accusing them of being "active partners in its #GazaGenocide!"

"Permanent #CeasefireNOW and lifting Israel's siege. Lawful sanctions on Israel, including a #MilitaryEmbargo," the campaign writes.

"Stop #GazaGenocide."

West Bank death toll at 504 so far in 2023
12:25 PM
The New Arab Staff

The death toll for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank so far in 2023 has reached 504, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said yesterday.

It makes this year the deadliest for Palestinians in the territory since the agency started recording casualties in 2005.

Since just 7 October, the date the Gaza war broke out, more than 300 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

More than 300 killed in UNRWA shelters since start of war
11:57 AM
The New Arab Staff

More than 300 people have been killed in shelters belonging to the UN's Palestinian refugee agency since the start of the Gaza war.

UNRWA says at least 308 people taking refuge in its shelters have been killed and 1,095 others injured, adding: "Nowhere in #Gaza is safe."

The UN agency writes on X that initial reports suggest two people at its Maghazi Prep School were killed on Christmas Day and another inured, due to a "direct strike".

Gaza death toll tops 21,500, health ministry says
11:54 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The health ministry in Gaza says at least 21,507 people have been killed in the Palestinian enclave since Israel's war on the strip began.

The figure includes 187 fatalities over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement says. It adds that 55,915 people have been wounded.

Palestinian journalist reveals bombing 'threat' from Israel
11:32 AM
The New Arab Staff

A Palestinian journalist has opened up for the first time about a threat he said he had received in the first week of Israel's war on Gaza.

Hossam Shabat said on Wednesday that he received the threat while in Beit Hanoun, a city in the enclave's north, on the sixth day of Israel's assault. He was documenting the bombing of homes and massacres, and staying in a hospital.

He added on social media platform X that an officer from Israeli intelligence called him, telling him to delete posts on his Facebook account.

These were "posts from 7 October, calls for citizens to resist, and invitations to citizens to remain", according to Shabat.

The journalist said he was told he and those with him had to leave or his home would be bombed, but he refused to go.

"However, after the complete bombing of the house and an attempt to tighten the siege on us in the hospital, I went out under fire," Shabat said.

"But despite all these threats and the complete bombing of my house, I am still continuing to provide coverage.

"Death is pursues us everywhere," Shabat added, saying an aircraft had opened fire on him on Tuesday soon after he entered Beit Hanoun.

Live Story
Paramedic describes ordeal with Israeli forces in Gaza
10:49 AM
The New Arab Staff

A paramedic with the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has described the ordeal he and his colleagues went through with Israeli forces in Gaza.

Mohammed Salah is a paramedic at the PRCS ambulance centre in Jabalia in the enclave's north.

PRCS says on X that the site underwent an "invasion" a week ago and that eight members of its teams who were inside the centre remain detained.

"We were all humiliated. We were all beaten in sensitive areas and on our heads and backs," Salah says in a video posted by PRCS.

"What happened is that the Israeli occupation forces entered with their army tanks and bulldozed the ambulances and the building's entrance.

"The ambulance vehicles are all completely destroyed. The Israeli bulldozer took all the vehicles and dropped them to the ground next to us and completely destroyed them."

Salah adds that the Israeli forces then "called us" and "asked for the director to come outside".

"The director is not here and I am appointed to perform his duties. I came outside and I was instructed to take my clothes off," he says in the video.

Salah says he was taken by the Israeli forces and interrogated as to the number of people in the building. He adds that after he spoke to the soldier, the children, women, and wounded were evacuated.

Salah says he then "called on the guys one by one" and they were "taken" by Israeli forces. He says their IDs were inspected and they were tied up.

"We were taken to a military location on Jabal al-Kashef," Salah adds. "And over there they put is in a house with scattered glass. They made us sit in an unsafe place.

"Afterwards they took us to a van and made us sit in it for around six hours with our hands tied behind us. This is aside from the humiliation they subjected us to by using profanity."

Salah says Israeli forces "assaulted" his wounded colleague Mohammad Abu Rukbeh, who sustained burns to his legs during the war. "He will likely need a skin transplant as one of the occupation's soldiers threw rocks at his legs," Salah adds.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed demands Israel release Diaa al-Kahlout
10:28 AM
The New Arab Staff

Diaa al-Kahlout, bureau chief for The New Arab's Arabic edition al-Araby al-Jadeed, was detained by Israeli forces in early December.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed has said it "demands the immediate release" of al-Kahlout.

Read the pan-Arab daily's full statement below.

NYC protesters for Gaza ceasefire hold mock funeral
9:51 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters took to the streets of New York on Thursday, staging a mock funeral in a demonstration against Israel's continued heavy bombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip.

Holding banners demanding an immediate ceasefire, the activists gathered in Manhattan's Bryant Park while some briefly stood in the middle of the busy Sixth Avenue in the heart of New York's Midtown district.

Several women shrouded in black held baby dolls swaddled in white cloths to represent the toll taken on children in the coastal territory.

The mock funeral procession headed to New York's iconic Times Square where the protest continued with giant electronic advertisements as a backdrop.

"Today's action is to draw attention to the fact that, as of now, almost 10,000 children, just children alone, not counting everybody, not counting all Palestinians, have been killed... in Gaza," said archivist Grace Lile, 64.

New York City has seen dozens of protests since the Gaza war broke out, with both pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli demonstrators taking to the streets.

UNRWA says Gaza aid convoy came under Israeli fire
9:49 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees says an aid convoy came under fire by the Israeli military in the Gaza Strip without causing any casualties.

"Israeli soldiers fired at an aid convoy as it returned from northern Gaza along a route designated by the Israeli army – our international convoy leader and his team were not injured but one vehicle sustained damage," UNRWA's director in Gaza, Tom White, writes on X.

"Aid workers should never be a target."

According to UNRWA, the incident took place on Thursday afternoon.

The Israeli military responded to requests for comment saying that it was looking into reports about the incident.

Pakistan bans NYE celebrations in solidarity with Gaza
9:05 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Pakistan has banned New Year's Eve celebrations to show solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, the government said late on Thursday, urging people to instead "observe simplicity".

In an evening televised address to the nation, Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said because of the situation in the Gaza Strip, the government had "completely banned all kinds of events regarding the New Year celebrations".

Kakar said on Thursday: "The entire Pakistani nation and the Muslim Ummah were deeply saddened by the genocide of the oppressed Palestinians, especially the massacre of innocent children, in Gaza and the West Bank."

New Year's Eve is usually marked in boisterous fashion in Pakistan, with fireworks and aerial gunfire – as well as a bank holiday on 1 January.

Sharjah, an emirate of the UAE, on Thursday banned New Year's Eve fireworks over the war in Gaza.

The ban was "a sincere expression of solidarity and humanitarian cooperation with our siblings in the Gaza Strip", Sharjah police said in a Facebook post.

'Think again': UN relief chief explains Gaza aid challenges
8:53 AM
The New Arab Staff

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths tells people to "think again" if they believe getting aid into Gaza is easy.

"Three layers of inspections before trucks can even enter," he says in a statement posted to social media platform X.

"Confusion and long queues. A growing list of rejected items. A crossing point meant for pedestrians, not trucks.

"Another crossing point where trucks have been blocked by desperate, hungry communities.

"A destroyed commercial sector. Constant bombardments. Poor communications. Damaged roads. Convoys shot at. Delays at checkpoints.

"A traumatised and exhausted population crammed into a smaller and smaller sliver of land."

Griffiths adds that shelters have "long exceeded" their full capacity and that aid workers have been displaced and killed.

"This is an impossible situation for the people of Gaza, and for those trying to help them," he says.

"The fighting must stop."

Israeli strikes hit Damascus airport after back in service
8:41 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli strikes late Thursday and early Friday hit the Damascus airport and Syrian military sites, regime media and an opposition-linked war monitor said.

The Syrian regime's SANA news agency, citing military sources, reported Israeli airstrikes at 01:20 local time (22:20 GMT) "targeting a number of points in the vicinity of Damascus", which it said caused "some material losses". Late Thursday night, strikes had hit "some points in the southern region", it said.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the strikes had hit the ​​Damascus airport, a day after it returned to service after a two-month stoppage due to previous strikes.

Other strikes hit Syrian air defence sites in the Damascus countryside and a military facility in the southern province of Sweida, injuring two soldiers, the monitor said.

There was no statement from Israel on the strikes.

Israel has launched hundreds of strikes on sites in regime-controlled areas of Syria in recent years but rarely acknowledges them. When it does, Israel says it's targeting Iran-backed groups there that have backed the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.