Israel bombards Gaza with largest functioning hospital still under siege

Israel bombards Gaza with largest functioning hospital still under siege
Gaza war day 134: Israeli jets continue to pound the Gaza Strip's southernmost city of Rafah, as Israeli forces continued their attacks on hospitals.
10 min read
17 February, 2024

This live blog on day 134 of Israel's war on Gaza has concluded. Make sure to follow us for the latest news on FacebookX, and Instagram.

The Gaza Strip's largest functioning hospital was under siege on Friday in Israel's war on the besieged territory, leaving patients and doctors helpless in the chaos as warplanes struck Rafah, the last refuge for Palestinians in the enclave, officials said.

Israeli forces remained in Nasser Hospital in the town of Khan Younis after raiding it early Thursday. The Gaza health ministry said five intensive care patients died on Friday due to power outages and lack of oxygen supply caused by the attack.

There is mounting international concern the humanitarian crisis in Gaza could worsen sharply if the Israeli military decides to storm the southern border city of Rafah, where more than half of the densely populated enclave's people are taking shelter in anticipation of a major attack.

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5:56 PM
The New Arab Staff

This live blog on Israel's war on Gaza has concluded. Thanks for following.

Gaza talks 'not really promising' currently: Qatar PM
5:24 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Talks between Israel and Hamas to agree to a ceasefire in Gaza were "not really very promising" in recent days, the prime minister of Qatar, a key mediator for the negotiations, said Saturday.

"I believe that we can see a deal happening very soon. Yet the pattern in the last few days is not really very promising," Qatar's Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said at the Munich Security Conference.

"We will always remain optimistic, we will always remain pushing," he added, speaking in English.

Hamas warns of talks pullout unless Gaza aid increased
4:20 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Hamas threatened Saturday to suspend ceasefire talks unless urgent aid was brought into the north of the Gaza Strip, where aid agencies have warned of a looming famine.

"The movement intends to suspend negotiations until aid is brought into northern Gaza," a senior source in the Palestinian militant group told AFP.

"Negotiations cannot be held while hunger is ravaging the Palestinian people," he said, asking not to be identified as he is not authourised to speak on the issue.

Norway PM sees imminent deal to transfer tax funds to PA
4:15 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

An agreement to unfreeze tax funds earmarked for the Palestinian Authority (PA) that are held by Israel is "imminent", Norway's prime minister, whose country is working as an intermediary, said on Saturday.

"I would say that the talks have been concluded and we are very close to settling an arrangement," Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere told Reuters in an interview, saying he believed they had been able to forge a compromise.

"I think we are trusted by the parties to manage financial support to the PA in a responsible way," he said. "It has taken a lot of diplomatic work between Norway, the PA, Israel, the U.S., but I will say that we are very close, imminent."

G7 concerned by risk of forced displacement of Gazans
3:54 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

 G7 foreign ministers on Saturday said they were worried by the risk of forcible displacement of Palestinian civilians out of Gaza and the possible consequences of an Israeli military operation in the Rafah region.

"They called for urgent action to address the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Gaza, particularly the plight of 1.5 million civilians sheltering in Rafah and they expressed deep concern for the potentially devastating consequences on the civilian population of Israel's further full scale military operation in that area," according to a statement released by Italy, which is currently chairing the Group of Seven wealthy nations.

The foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States met in Munich on Saturday.

Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters march in Madrid
3:44 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Waving pro-Palestinian flags and banners, thousands marched through the streets of Madrid on Saturday to demand an immediate ceasefire in the deadly war between on Gaza.

The crowd snaked under bright sunshine through closed-off streets in the Spanish capital from Atocha train station to the central Plaza del Sol square behind a large banner that read "Freedom for Palestine".

Many waved Palestinian flags or carried signs that read "Peace for Palestine" and "Don't ignore Palestinian suffering".

Six ministers from Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's cabinet took part -- all five from hard-left party Sumar, his junior coalition partners, as well as Transport Minister Oscar Puente of the premier's Socialist party.

"We need an immediate ceasefire, an end to the killing and attacks against innocents, we must achieve the release of all hostages," Puente told reporters at the start of the march.

Around 3,000 people took part in the demonstration, according to the central government's delegation to Madrid, a much smaller turnout than the last protest in the Spanish capital on January 27, when some 20,000 participated.

Pro-Palestinian demonstration in Madrid, Spain on February 17 [Getty]
'Extraordinary' opportunity for Israel-Arab ties: Blinken
2:32 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

There is "an extraordinary opportunity" in the coming months for Israel to normalise ties with its Arab neighbors, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday, while also emphasising the need for the creation of a Palestinian state.

The top U.S. diplomat said there were genuine efforts led by Arab countries to revitalise the Palestinian Authority so it can be more effecting in representing the Palestinians.

"Virtually every Arab country now genuinely wants to integrate Israel into the region to normalise provide security commitments and assurances so that Israel can feel more safe," Blinken said during a panel discussion at the annual Munich Security Conference.

"And there's also, I think the imperative, that's more urgent than ever, to proceed to a Palestinian state that also ensures the security of Israel," he added.

African leaders condemn Israel's offensive in Gaza
12:41 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Leaders at an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Saturday condemned Israel’s offensive in Gaza and called for its immediate end.

Moussa Faki, the chair of the African Union Commission, said Israel’s offensive was the "most flagrant" violation of international humanitarian law and accused Israel of having "exterminated" Gaza’s inhabitants.

Faki spoke alongside Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who also addressed the summit.

"Rest assured we strongly condemn these attacks that are unprecedented in the history of mankind,"Faki said to applause from delegates. "We want to reassure you of our solidarity with the people of Palestine."

Israel out to destroy UNRWA, says agency chief
12:02 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel is waging a concerted campaign aimed at destroying UNRWA, the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said in an interview published Saturday.

Philippe Lazzarini said calls for his resignation were part of the Israeli government's push.

"Right now we are dealing with an expanded, concerted campaign by Israel aimed at destroying UNRWA," he told the Swiss newspaper group Tamedia.

Israel hasn't given evidence that Hamas diverted UN aid: US
11:56 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel has not presented specific evidence that Hamas is diverting U.N. aid and its recent targeted killings of Gaza police commanders safeguarding truck convoys have made it "virtually impossible" to distribute the goods safely, a top U.S. envoy said in rare public criticism of Israel.

David Satterfield, the Biden administration's special Middle East envoy for humanitarian issues, said that Israeli officials have not presented "specific evidence of diversion or theft" of U.N. assistance, but that Hamas members have their own interests in using "other channels of assistance ... to shape where and to whom assistance goes."

Recognising Palestinian state not taboo for France: Macron
11:47 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

French President Emmanuel Macron says recognizing a Palestinian state is not a "taboo" for France, as international frustration grows with Israel’s actions in the Palestinian territories .

"Recognising a Palestinian state is not a taboo for France,’" Macron said Friday at a meeting in Paris with Jordan’s King Abdullah.

"We owe it to Palestinians, whose aspirations have been trampled on for too long. We owe it to Israelis, who lived through the worst antisemitic massacre of our time. We owe it to a region that is seeking to rise above those who promote chaos and seed revenge."

Macron did not elaborate on when and under what conditions France could recognize a Palestinian state, and France is unlikely to take such a decision unilaterally. But France holds important diplomatic weight, as one of just five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

"Our partners in the region, notably Jordan, are working on it, we are working on it with them. We are ready to contribute to it, in Europe and in the Security Council," Macron said.

Gaza death toll at 28,858: health ministry
10:23 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The health ministry in Gaza said Saturday at least 28,858 people have been killed in the Palestinian territory in Israeli strikes.

A ministry statement said 68,667 people have also been wounded in Gaza since war erupted on October 7.

Haniyeh blames Israel for lack of progress on Gaza truce
10:21 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh blamed Israel for a lack of progress in achieving a ceasefire deal in Gaza, the enclave's ruling Palestinian group said in a statement on Saturday.

Haniyeh added that Hamas "will not accept anything less than a complete cessation of the aggression, withdrawal of the occupation army from Gaza, and lifting of the unjust siege".

Scholz says Israel must abide by international law
9:27 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Saturday that Israel must abide by international law, adding that humanitarian aid has to get to Gaza.

US plans to send weapons to Israel despite ceasefire talks
9:15 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The Biden administration is preparing to send bombs and other weapons to Israel that would add to its military arsenal even as the U.S. pushes for a ceasefire in Gaza, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing current and former U.S. officials.

The proposed arms delivery includes MK-82 bombs and KMU-572 Joint Direct Attack Munitions that add precision guidance to bombs, and FMU-139 bomb fuses, WSJ reported, adding that the value of is estimated to be "tens of millions of dollars."

The proposed delivery is still being internally reviewed by the administration, the report added, citing a U.S. official, who said the details of the proposal could change before the administration notifies congressional committee leaders who would need to approve the transfer.

Yemen's Houthis say they targeted oil tanker Pollux
9:14 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthis said on Saturday that they had fired missiles at oil tanker Pollux, which U.S. officials said the previous day had been hit by a missile.

The U.S. State Department said on Friday that the Pollux, a Panamanian-flagged tanker carrying crude oil bound for India, was hit by a missile on its port side.

"The naval forces of the Yemeni Armed Forces carried out a targeting operation against a British oil ship (Pollux) in the Red Sea with a large number of appropriate naval missiles, and the strikes were accurate and direct", the Houthis' military spokesperson, Yahya Sarea, said in a statement.

Egypt denies reports of participating in Gaza displacement
9:08 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Egypt categorically denied allegations of participating in any process involving the displacement of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip into the Sinai Peninsula, the country's State Information Service (SIS) said on Friday.

Four sources told Reuters that Egypt, as a precautionary measure, is preparing an area at the Gaza border which could accommodate Palestinians in case an Israeli offensive into Rafah prompts an exodus across the frontier.

The news was also reported by other outlets, including the Wall Street Journal.

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"Egypt's decisive stance since the beginning of the aggression ... is to completely reject any forced or voluntary displacement of Palestinian brothers from the Gaza Strip to outside it, especially to Egyptian territory," Diaa Rashwan, the SIS head, said in a statement.

He said such scenario would entail "a definite liquidation of the Palestinian cause and a direct threat to Egyptian sovereignty and national security."

Israel hit Palestinian police escorting Gaza aid: US envoy
9:05 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The top U.S. diplomat involved in humanitarian assistance for Gaza said on Friday that Israeli forces earlier this month killed Palestinian police protecting a U.N. aid convoy in the enclave's embattled southern city of Rafah.

As a result, Palestinian police have refused to protect convoys, hampering aid deliveries inside Gaza because of threats from criminal gangs, said David Satterfield, Washington's special regional envoy for humanitarian issues.

"With the departure of police escorts, it has been virtually impossible for the U.N. or anyone else, Jordan, the UAE, or any other implementer to safely move assistance in Gaza because of criminal elements," Satterfield told an event hosted by the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

MSF slams 'catastrophic' situation at raided Gaza hospital
9:02 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Doctors Without Borders on Friday described chaos and terror seen at the Nasser Hospital before its staff were forced to flee amid a raid by the Israeli army.

"The situation was chaotic, catastrophic," said Christopher Lockyear, secretary-general of the medical charity which goes by its French acronym MSF.

"We lack painkillers such as morphine and sedatives," said Raphael Pitti, who spent two weeks at the European Hospital in Khan Yunis until February 6 with medical charity UOSSM.

"We have no other choice but to let the most seriously injured die without being able to make them comfortable, because otherwise they will take up personnel, resources, beds, medicines.

"That leaves others with less chance of survival," he told AFP in Jerusalem.

ICJ rejects South Africa request for more Gaza measures
8:59 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The UN's top court Friday rejected South Africa's request to put more legal pressure on Israel to halt a threatened offensive against the Gaza city of Rafah, saying it was "bound to comply with existing measures".

The ICJ's judges acknowledged that the recent developments in Rafah "would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences" - citing remarks by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

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But although Israel needed to act immediately to ensure the safety and security of Palestinians, that did not require "the indication of additional provisional measures", they added.

Israel remained "bound to fully comply with its obligations under the Genocide Convention and with the said Order", the ICJ ruling said, referring to its January 26 ruling.

Despite the rejection of its latest request, South Africa welcomed the ICJ's latest decision.