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Middle East Crisis Live: Gaza Has Become ‘a Place Of Death And Despair’ With Mass Health Crisis Unfolding, Says UN Humanitarian Chief

Gaza has ‘simply become uninhabitable’, says UN humanitarian chiefThe UN humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, has described the Gaza Strip as having become “uninhabitable” after relentless bombing by Israel forces following the Hamas attacks on 7 October.

“Three months since the horrific 7 October attacks, Gaza has become a place of death and despair,” Griffiths said in a statement on Friday.

He warned that a “public health disaster is unfolding” in the territory as people are facing “the highest levels of food insecurity ever recorded”. “Famine is around the corner,” he added.

He said that the past 12 weeks of fighting have been particularly “traumatic” for children, adding:

No food. No water. No school. Nothing but the terrifying sounds of war, day in and day out.

Gaza has simply become uninhabitable. Its people are witnessing daily threats to their very existence – while the world watches on.

The humanitarian community has been left with the “impossible” mission of supporting more than two million in Gaza, “even as its own staff are being killed and displaced”, he said.

Gaza has “shown us the worst of humanity,” he said, adding that “hope has never been more elusive.”

We continue to demand an immediate end to the war, not just for the people of Gaza and its threatened neighbours, but for the generations to come who will never forget these 90 days of hell and of assaults on the most basic precepts of humanity.

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Here are some of the latest images we have received over the newswires from Gaza, Israel, and Yemen.

Palestinian children queue as they wait to collect drinking water, amid shortages of drinking water in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip. Photograph: Saleh Salem/ReutersIsrael’s Iron Dome anti-missile system fires to intercept a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, near Ashkelon, Israel. Photograph: Ariel Schalit/APPalestinians flee the Israeli ground offensive in the central Gaza Strip, heading south through Deir al Balah. Photograph: Adel Hana/APPeople take part in a protest against a multinational operation to safeguard Red Sea shipping and in solidarity with the Palestinian people, in Sana’a, Yemen. Photograph: Yahya Arhab/EPAScotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, has urged the UK government to demand an end to Israel’s “indiscriminate attacks” that have seen thousands of children in Gaza killed.

In a statement on Friday, Yousaf said the UK government’s refusal to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza was “shameful”.

It was time for the UK to make clear to Israel that its actions in Gaza had gone “way beyond a legitimate response” to the 7 October Hamas attacks, he said.

He also described comments by Israeli ministers earlier this week calling for the resettlement of Palestinians from Gaza as “deeply disturbing” and said they should be “universally condemned”, adding:

Gaza is Occupied Palestinian Territory and will be part of a future Palestinian state – Gazans should not be subject to forcible displacement or relocation from Gaza.

The Scottish leader said the UK government should make clear that Israeli officials, including Benjamin Netanyahu, will be held accountable for “the killing of thousands of innocent civilians and the deaths of tens of thousands more from starvation and disease” if Israel does not “immediately cease indiscriminate attacks” and allow aid to enter Gaza. He added:

Talk of a sustainable ceasefire from the UK Government has made no difference on the ground, as the situation has worsened for the people of Gaza. The UK government must use its voice and influence to stop the killing – directly with the Israeli government, and indirectly with the US.

Gaza has ‘simply become uninhabitable’, says UN humanitarian chiefThe UN humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, has described the Gaza Strip as having become “uninhabitable” after relentless bombing by Israel forces following the Hamas attacks on 7 October.

“Three months since the horrific 7 October attacks, Gaza has become a place of death and despair,” Griffiths said in a statement on Friday.

He warned that a “public health disaster is unfolding” in the territory as people are facing “the highest levels of food insecurity ever recorded”. “Famine is around the corner,” he added.

He said that the past 12 weeks of fighting have been particularly “traumatic” for children, adding:

No food. No water. No school. Nothing but the terrifying sounds of war, day in and day out.

Gaza has simply become uninhabitable. Its people are witnessing daily threats to their very existence – while the world watches on.

The humanitarian community has been left with the “impossible” mission of supporting more than two million in Gaza, “even as its own staff are being killed and displaced”, he said.

Gaza has “shown us the worst of humanity,” he said, adding that “hope has never been more elusive.”

We continue to demand an immediate end to the war, not just for the people of Gaza and its threatened neighbours, but for the generations to come who will never forget these 90 days of hell and of assaults on the most basic precepts of humanity.

The head of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, has said he hopes a visit by the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, to the Middle East will focus on ending aggression in the region.

Haniyeh, in a statement on Telegram reported by NBC, wrote:

We hope that the permanent brothers in the Arab and Islamic countries that will meet with the US secretary will convey to the American administration that the future of our region and its stability are partly linked to our Palestinian cause.

He added that he hoped that Blinken would help “end the occupation of all Palestinian land.”

As we reported earlier, Blinken arrived in Turkey on Friday to begin a week-long Middle East tour. He is also scheduled to travel to Greece, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank and Egypt.

During his upcoming visit to Israel, Blinken is expected to put pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu to do more to protect civilians in Gaza, allow more aid to reach the territory and rein in outspoken far-right ministers who have called for the mass resettlement of Palestinians – rhetoric that the US has condemned as inflammatory and irresponsible.

A Turkish court has decided to formally arrest 15 people and deport eight others suspected of being linked to Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency.

Turkish authorities detained 34 people earlier this week who were suspected of being linked to Mossad and of targeting Palestinians living in Turkey, Reuters reported that state broadcaster TRT Haber said.

Turkey warned Israel last month of “serious consequences” if it tried to hunt down members of Hamas on Turkish soil. Unlike most of its western allies and some Arab nations, Turkey does not classify Hamas as a terrorist organisation.

Report: IDF attacks Hezbollah ‘command center’ in LebanonThe Israel Defense Forces (IDF) says it carried out an airstrike on a Hezbollah command center in the southern Lebanese village of Blida on Friday in response to attacks on the border, the Times of Israel reports.

The newspaper says IDF tanks and artillery also shelled a number of areas along the Israel-Lebanon border, apparently to foil planned Hezbollah attacks.

Israel’s defense minister Yoav Gallant warned earlier Friday that time was running out on diplomatic efforts to end tensions between his country and Hezbollah, and that Israel would soon have no choice but to launch a military offensive.

The US learned that the terror group Islamic State (IS) was behind Wednesday’s twin bomb attacks in Iran that killed dozens from “communications intercepts”, Reuters is reporting.

The news agency cites two anonymous US sources. “The intelligence is clear-cut and indisputable,” one of the sources said, referring to the communications confirming an “Afghanistan-based branch” of IS was responsible.

Mourners light candles at the scene of Wednesday’s bomb explosion in the Iranian city of Kerman. Photograph: Vahid Salemi/APAt least 89 people died when two blasts ripped the a crowd attending a memorial for Iranian senior Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Suleimani in the city of Kerman, four years after he was killed by a US drone strike in Baghdad.

Suleimani was had been a staunch enemy of Isis, which resents the damage it says did to the group’s cause in Iraq and Syria.

While Isis claimed responsibility for the bomb attacks on Thursday, the US collection of the intercepts has not been previously reported.

Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi joined mourners in Kerman on Friday for the funerals of the 89 people killed.

Summary of the day so farIt’s 9pm in Gaza City, Tel Aviv and Beirut. Here’s a recap of the latest developments:

At least 22,600 Palestinians have been killed and 57,910 wounded in Israeli strikes on Gaza since 7 October, the Gaza health ministry said in a statement on Friday. About 162 Palestinians were killed and 296 wounded in the past 24 hours, the ministry added. At least six people have been killed in an apparent Israeli airstrike on a home in the southern Gaza city of Rafah overnight.

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has arrived in Turkey to start his fourth Middle East tour since the Israel-Hamas war broke out three months ago. Blinken will hold talks with his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan, and the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in Istanbul on Saturday. He will also travel to Greece, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank and Egypt.

The head of the Unicef has said time is running out for children in Gaza who are “caught in a nightmare that worsens with every passing day”. Children in the territory faced a “deadly triple threat” to their lives from the spread of diseases, plummeting nutrition and the escalation in fighting, Catherine Russell said in a statement, adding that most young children and women in the Gaza Strip were unable to meet their basic nutrition needs.

Hezbollah’s head, Hassan Nasrallah, has said that the assassination of one of Hamas’s most senior officials, Saleh al-Arouri, in Beirut has changed the nature of the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel. In a second nationally televised address within three days, Nasrallah warned that a response is “inevitable”, further heightening fears of a dangerous escalation in the conflict. His comments came as Lebanon issued a formal complaint to the UN security council over Arouri’s killing, and over Israeli incursions into Lebanon’s airspace to attack targets in Syria.

Israel’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant, has suggested that Israel would keep security control of Gaza after Hamas has been defeated with an undefined, Israeli-guided Palestinian body running day to day administration and the US, EU and regional partners taking responsibility for the reconstruction of the territory. Yoav Gallant revealed the plan on Thursday before a visit by Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, and after growing pressure from the US for Israel to make proposals for postwar scenarios.

The commander-in-chief of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said at the funeral on Friday for the victims of twin Islamic State bombings two days earlier that their deaths would be avenged. More than 84 people were killed at a memorial in the city of Kerman on Wednesday for the former top commander Qassem Suleimani, who was assassinated in Iraq in 2020 by a US drone. Iranian security forces have detained 11 people suspected of links to the attack, Iran’s intelligence ministry said on Friday.

France and Jordan teamed up to airdrop seven tonnes of aid to civilians and aid workers in Gaza late on Thursday, the French presidency has said. The “extremely complex” operation involved supplies equipped with systems that remotely guided them to a Jordanian field hospital set up in Gaza’s second city, Khan Younis, it said.

Germany’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, warned against an Israeli occupation of Gaza as she called for more humanitarian pauses in the war. Israel “must do more for the protection of the civilian population” in its war against Hamas in Gaza, Baerbock said at a press conference on Friday. She is expected to travel to Israel on Sunday for her fourth visit since the outbreak of the Gaza war.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, will be in Lebanon from 5 to 7 January to discuss the situation at the Israeli-Lebanese border and the importance of avoiding regional escalation, the EU said in a statement. Borrell will meet the speaker of the parliament, Nabih Berri; the prime minister, Najib Mikati, the foreign minister, Abdallah Bou Habib, and the armed forces commander Gen Joseph Aoun. He will also have an exchange with the head of the UN’s interim force in Lebanon, Gen Aroldo Lazaro.

The US is offering rewards of up to $10m (£7.9m) for information that will lead to the disruption of Hamas’s financial network. The state department is looking for information on five Hamas financiers: Abdelbasit Hamza Elhassan Khair, Amer Kamal Sharif Alshawa, Ahmed Sadu Jahleb, Walid Mohammed Mustafa Jadallah, and Muhammad Ahmad ‘Abd Al-Dayim Nasrallah.

Gallant warns ‘hourglass about to turn’ on HezbollahIsrael’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant, has warned that time is running out on diplomatic efforts to end tensions between Israel and Hezbollah.

Gallant, during a situational assessment at the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) northern command base, indicated that Israel would soon be left with no choice but to launch a military offensive against Hezbollah, the Times of Israel reported. He was quoted as saying:

We prefer the path of an agreed-upon diplomatic settlement, but we are getting close to the point where the hourglass will turn over.

He said Israel would continue to “intensify our operations across the entire sector as needed” with the objective to “safely return the residents of the north to their homes”, Ynet reported.

France and Jordan teamed up to airdrop seven tonnes of aid to civilians and aid workers in Gaza, the French presidency has said.

The “extremely complex” operation, which took place on Thursday night, involved each country sending a C-130 transport plane with mixed French-Jordanian crews, bringing a total of seven tonnes of “humanitarian and health” aid, it said.

The supplies were equipped with systems that remotely guided them to a Jordanian field hospital set up in Gaza’s second city, Khan Younis, the French presidency said.

Jordan has previously carried out drops in Gaza, but it was the first time France had directly taken part in such an operation.

“The humanitarian situation remains critical in Gaza,” France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, posted to social media, adding:

In a difficult context, France and Jordan delivered by air aid to to the population and those who are bringing them help.

La situation humanitaire reste critique à Gaza. Dans un contexte difficile, la France et la Jordanie ont livré par les airs de l’aide à la population et à ceux qui lui portent secours. pic.twitter.com/jNXGiZieCh

— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) January 5, 2024

Peter Beaumont

Saleh al-Arouri’s assassination took place in the Hezbollah stronghold of Beirut’s southern suburbs, as the group has attempted to pursue a policy of supporting Hamas in Gaza while stopping short of triggering its own major war with Israel.

Friday’s comments by Hassan Nasrallah, were, however, more forceful than those made earlier this week, and came as Lebanon issued a formal complaint to the UN security council over Arouri’s killing, and over Israeli incursions into Lebanon’s airspace to attack targets in Syria.

Hezbollah supporters watch Hassan Nasrallah’s televised address. Photograph: Mohamed Azakir/ReutersIn what appeared to be an effort to talk up Hezbollah’s carefully calibrated campaign since the beginning of the war in Gaza, the Hezbollah chief said his group had been engaged in a war with Israel for more than 90 days in which it had hit a large “number of targets”.

He said Hezbollah had launched 670 attacks on Israel in the past three months at an average rate of between six and seven a day.

“For those who demand to know why we are fighting on the [southern] front, we are obliged to reply.

There are two goals on this front: to pressure the enemy and its government to cease the aggression against Gaza. The second goal is to relieve the pressure on the resistance [Hamas] in Gaza.

Hezbollah chief says response to killing of senior Hamas official is inevitable

Peter Beaumont

The assassination of a senior official in Beirut has changed the nature of the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, the group’s head, Hassan Nasrallah, has said, warning that a response is “inevitable”.

In a second nationally televised address within three days, Nasrallah said all of Lebanon would be exposed if there was no response from his group to the killing of Saleh al-Arouri, further heightening fears of a dangerous escalation in the conflict. Israel said its military was ready for any eventuality.

Nasrallah said Hezbollah’s current operations on the southern border also opened a “historic opportunity” for Lebanon to liberate land occupied by Israel. He said residents of northern Israel would be the first to pay the price in any expanded war.

Since the war in Gaza began three months ago, Nasrallah has spoken four times, the two most recent addresses within days of each other after the killing of Arouri, the No 2 in Hamas’s political bureau, in a suspected Israeli drone strike on Tuesday.

He left the door open to a diplomatic solution over areas occupied by Israel when the war with Gaza ends, but analysts inferred that his remarks suggested a response was imminent and that they also signalled that other Iranian proxies may escalate their attacks on US forces in Iraq.

Reiterating that Hezbollah would be required to respond to the assassination, Nasrallah said that “the battle in the south of Lebanon” where Israel and Lebanon have been exchanging daily fire for three months was intended to “reinforce the equilibrium of dissuasion”.

A response to what occurred in a southern suburb of Beirut is inevitable … I am not going to say at the appropriate time and place.

“The war today is not only for Palestine but also for Lebanon and its south, in particular the region south of the Litani River,” he said.

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