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Middle East Crisis Live: Hamas Says 7 October Attacks Were A ‘necessary Step’; Death Toll In Gaza Passes 25,000

Netanyahu rejects Hamas conditions for hostage release dealThe Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has rejected conditions presented by Hamas to end the war and release hostages that would include Israel’s complete withdrawal and leaving Hamas in power in Gaza.

As Israeli planes resumed bombing Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters the Israeli leader’s refusal to end the military offensive in Gaza “means there is no chance for the return of the [Israeli] captives”.

Netanyahu said in a statement:

In exchange for the release of our hostages, Hamas demands the end of the war, the withdrawal of our forces from Gaza, the release of all the murderers and rapists. And leaving Hamas intact.

I reject outright the terms of surrender of the monsters of Hamas.

Under a deal brokered in late November by the United States, Qatar and Egypt, more than 100 of the estimated 240 hostages taken captive to Gaza during an attack by Hamas militants on 7 October were freed in exchange for the release of 240 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Since then, Netanyahu has faced mounting pressure to secure the release the 136 hostages who remain in captivity.

The Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum demanded in a statement that Netanyahu “clearly state that we will not abandon civilians, soldiers and others kidnapped in the October debacle”.

“We must advance the deal now,” Reuters quoted the forum saying.

If the prime minister decides to sacrifice the hostages, he should show leadership and honestly share his position with the Israeli public.

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Two US navy Seals declared dead after going missing in Gulf of AdenTwo US navy Seals who went missing in the Gulf of Aden have not been located after an “exhustive” 10-day search and their status has been changed to deceased, the US military says.

The Seals were reported missing while boarding an Iranian vessel carrying advanced conventional weapons, the US central command (Centcom) said on X on Sunday.

As we reported last week, US navy ships and aircraft had combed areas of the Gulf of Aden for the missing Seals as details emerged about their mission to board and take over a vessel carrying components for medium-range Iranian ballistic missiles headed for Somalia, a US defence official said at the time.

Officials had said the Seal mission was not related to Operation Prosperity Guardian, the ongoing US and international mission to provide protection to commercial vessels in the Red Sea, or the retaliatory strikes the US and the UK have conducted in Yemen.

The US official had said crew on the Iranian dhow, which did not have a country flag, were planning to transfer the missile parts – including warheads and engines – to another boat off the coast of Somalia.

Centcom said on Sunday that the search for the two seals had now concluded and “recovery operations” were being conducted.

CENTCOM Status Update on Missing U.S. Navy Seals

We regret to announce that after a 10-day exhaustive search, our two missing U.S. Navy SEALs have not been located and their status has been changed to deceased. The search and rescue operation for the two Navy SEALs reported… pic.twitter.com/OAMbn1mwK8

— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) January 21, 2024Centcom’s post on X said:

During this expansive search operation, airborne and naval platforms from the U.S., Japan, and Spain continuously searched more than 21,000 square miles to locate our missing teammates. Search assistance was also provided by Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center, the U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area Command, University of San Diego – Scripts Institute of Oceanography, and the Office of Naval Research – Oceanographic Support.

Out of respect for the families, no further information will be released at this time.

The post quoted Centcom’s commander, Gen Michael Erik Kurilla, as saying:

We mourn the loss of our two naval special warfare warriors, and we will forever honour their sacrifice and example. Our prayers are with the Seals’ families, friends, the US Navy and the entire special operations community during this time.

The Israeli and Palestinian foreign ministers are to meet their European Union counterparts on Monday as the EU considers potential steps toward a comprehensive peace between the two sides even as the war in Gaza rages on.

Israel’s Israel Katz and Palestine’s Riyad al-Maliki will take part separately in a regular meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels largely devoted to the Middle East but also taking stock of the war in Ukraine, Reuters reports.

Foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan and the secretary general of the League of Arab States will also attend.


Ahead of the meeting, the EU’s diplomatic service sent a discussion paper to its 27 member countries, suggesting a roadmap to peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At the heart of the plan is a call for a “preparatory peace conference” to be organised by the EU, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the League of Arab States, with the US and the UN also invited to be conveners of the gathering.

The conference would go ahead even if Israelis or Palestinians declined to take part. But both parties would be consulted at every step of the talks as delegates sought to draw up a peace plan, the document suggests.

The internal document, seen by multiple news organisations, makes clear one key goal of a peace plan should be the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, “living side by side with Israel in peace and security”.

EU officials acknowledge Israeli officials and diplomats currently display no interest in the so-called two-state solution but insist it is the only option for long-term peace.

This is Adam Fulton picking up our live reporting. It’s 1.10am in Gaza City and Tel Aviv

SummaryHere is where the day stands:

Speaking to CNN on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said: “We are in a very difficult and dangerous time in the region.” He added: “We are very worried … that’s why we are calling for de-escalation. We of course believe very much in the freedom of navigation and that’s something that needs to be protected but we also need to protect the security and stability of the region.”

A strike on Damascus targeting the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Syria spy chief and blamed on Israel killed 13 people, a war monitor said Sunday in an updated toll, Agence France-Presse reports. “The death toll has risen to 13,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights of Saturday’s strike, revising earlier death tolls. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps confirmed that it lost five members in the strike which has been blamed on Israel.

An Israeli strike killed a Hezbollah fighter on Sunday in south Lebanon, a source close to the group told Agence France-Presse. According to a Lebanese security official, the strike on car in south Lebanon “killed a member of Hezbollah’s protection team”, adding that the senior commander he was protecting “escaped death”. The security official added that the Hezbollah commander was in a vehicle with three other people behind the car that was hit.

The US said that it is taking the attack by Iran-backed militants on an Iraq base over the weekend “extremely seriously”. On Saturday, the US military said that “multiple ballistic missiles and rockets” were fired by Iran-backed militants at al-Asad airbase in western Iraq. “It was a very serious attack, using a capability of ballistic missiles that posed a genuine threat,” White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said.

Scotland’s first minister Humza Yousaf has condemned Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal of Palestinian state, saying: “Netanyahu’s dangerous views, denying Palestinian statehood, are not just ‘disappointing’ but must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. For those who want to see peace in the region, we must see meaningful progress on a two state solution.”

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) received 80 trucks from the Egyptian Red Crescent via the Rafah border crossing over the weekend. The trucks carried food, water, relief items and medical supplies, the PRCS said, adding that no trucks entered through the Karm Abu Salem crossing.

UN chief António Guterres condemned the refusal to accept a two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis, writing on Twitter/X: “The refusal to accept the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, and the denial of the right to statehood for the Palestinian people, are unacceptable. The right of the Palestinian people to build their own state must be recognized by all.”

The Palestine Red Crescent Society’s (PRCS) psycho-social support team visited paramedics and staff at the occupational therapy unit at al-Amal hospital in Khan Younis, southern Gaza.

Video posted online showed PRCS staff members playing music and singing in attempts to bring healthcare workers relief amid Israel’s attacks across the strip which have injured nearly 63,000 Palestinians since 7 October.

🎼 Moments of joy and music, organized by the PRCS Psycho-social support team, brought relief to the paramedics and staff in the occupational therapy unit at Al-Amal Hospital in #KhanYunis.

⭕ This activity provided them with a much-needed #break from the challenging and tense… pic.twitter.com/vhQOwEChal

— PRCS (@PalestineRCS) January 21, 2024Saudi foreign minister: ‘We are in a very difficult and dangerous time in the region’Speaking to CNN on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said: “We are in a very difficult and dangerous time in the region.”

He added:

We are very worried … that’s why we are calling for de-escalation. We of course believe very much in the freedom of navigation and that’s something that needs to be protected but we also need to protect the security and stability of the region so we are very focused on de-escalating the situation as much as possible.

Bin Farhan’s comments come as Yemen’s Houthis have scaled up their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea which have been met in response with US and UK airstrikes, as well as a rising death toll in Gaza where Israeli forces have killed 25,000 Palestinians since 7 October. Frequent cross-border fire exchanges between Israeli forces and Iran-backed Hezbollah fighters have also become a growing regional concern.

Here are some images coming through the newswires from protests held around the world over the weekend, in which thousands of people called for a ceasefire in Gaza where Israeli forces have killed 25,000 Palestinians since 7 October while displacing nearly 2 million survivors:

People hold banners and Palestinian flags at Skanderbeg Square to condemn Israeli attacks on Gaza in Tirana, Albania, on 21 January 2024. Photograph: Olsi Shehu/Getty ImagesPeople gather in front of the Gare du Nord building to protest against Israeli attacks over Gaza and to show their support for Palestinian people in Brussels, Belgium, on 21 January 2024. Photograph: Dursun Aydemir/Getty ImagesPeople march during a protest in support of Palestinians while calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, in Barcelona, Spain, on 20 January 2024. Photograph: Emilio Morenatti/APPro-Palestinian demonstrators march in central Athens, Greece, in calls for a ceasefire in Gaza on 21 January 2024. Photograph: Orestis Panagiotou/EPAProtesters take part in a rally in support of Palestinians, in Geneva, Switzerland, on 20 January 2024. Photograph: Martial Trezzini/EPAPeople holding banners and Palestinian and Tunisian flags gather in front of the US embassy to show solidarity with Palestinians and protest against Israeli attacks on Gaza, on 21 January 2024, in Tunis, Tunisia. Photograph: Yassine Gaidi/Getty ImagesProtesters during the pro-Palestine march hosted by Let Gaza Live on 21 January 2024 in Park City, Utah. Photograph: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty ImagesProtesters march in east London in calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, on 20 January 2024. Photograph: Guy Smallman/Getty ImagesA strike on Damascus targeting the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Syria spy chief and blamed on Israel killed 13 people, a war monitor said Sunday in an updated toll.

Agence France-Presse reports:

‘The death toll has risen to 13,’ said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights of Saturday’s strike, revising earlier death tolls.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) confirmed it lost five members in the strike it blamed on Israel, its regional arch-foe.

The British-based monitor, which has a vast network of sources inside Syria, said the deaths include ‘five Iranians, including three IRGC leaders, four Syrians working with the Iranians, one Syrian civilian, two Lebanese, and one Iraqi national’.

Iranian news agency Mehr, quoting an anonymous informed source, said ‘the Revolutionary Guards’ Syria intel chief’ and his deputy were among those ‘martyred in the attack on Syria by Israel’.

The Syrian Observatory said the building targeted belonged to the IRGC and that the area is known to be a high-security zone home to leaders of the IRGC and pro-Iran Palestinian factions.

Israel’s war on Gaza – which has killed 25,000 Palestinians while forcibly displacing nearly 2 million survivors since 7 October – is not genocide, said UK’s chief rabbi.

The Guardian’s Alexandra Topping reports:

The chief rabbi has said using the word ‘genocide’ to describe Israel’s actions in Gaza is an ‘increasingly frequent, disingenuous misappropriation of the term’.

Sir Ephraim Mirvis said the use of the term was a ‘moral inversion, which undermines the memory of the worst crimes in human history’ and was designed to ‘tear open the still gaping wound of the Holocaust’.

Earlier this month the UN international court of justice in The Hague heard that Israel had shown ‘chilling’ and ‘incontrovertible’ intent to commit genocide in Gaza. South Africa, which has brought the case, alleged ‘grave violence and genocidal acts’ by the country. Israel has described the case as baseless, and accused South Africa of presenting a ‘profoundly distorted’ view of hostilities, ‘barely distinguishable’ from that of Hamas.

Read the full story here:

Palestine’s foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki met with the head of the Russian delegation to address the “urgent and necessary steps to achieve an immediate ceasefire”, the Palestinian foreign ministry said on Sunday.

Israeli strike kills Hezbollah fighter in south Lebanon – reportsAn Israeli strike killed a Hezbollah fighter on Sunday in south Lebanon, a source close to the group told Agence France-Presse.

According to a Lebanese security official, the strike on car in south Lebanon “killed a member of Hezbollah’s protection team”, adding that the senior commander he was protecting “escaped death”. The security official added that the Hezbollah commander was in a vehicle with three other people behind the car that was hit.

Another source close to Hezbollah confirmed that a Hezbollah fighter had been killed, but denied that a high-level official had been the target of the strike. The source added that the strike also injured a civilian woman who was in the area of the strike.

According to AFP, Lebanon’s state-run media reported one death in an Israeli drone strike on Kafra, a village near the border.

“The strike that targeted a car in Kafra killed one person while others suffered moderate and minor injuries,” the official National News Agency (NNA) said.

The US said that it is taking the attack by Iran-backed militants on an Iraq base over the weekend “extremely seriously”.

On Saturday, the US military said that “multiple ballistic missiles and rockets” were fired by Iran-backed militants at al-Asad airbase in western Iraq.

“It was a very serious attack, using a capability of ballistic missiles that posed a genuine threat,” White House deputy national security advisor Jon Finer said Sunday, Agence France-Presse reports.

“We are going to respond … to establish deterrence in these situations, and to hold these groups accountable that continue to attack us,” Finer said, adding: “You can be assured that we are taking this extremely seriously.”

Most of the projectiles that were fired at the base were intercepted by the base’s air defense systems, he said.

Scotland first minister: Benjamin Netanyahu’s denial of Palestinian statehood ‘must be condemned in the strongest possible terms’Scotland’s first minister Humza Yousaf has condemned Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s refusal of Palestinian state, saying:

Netanyahu’s dangerous views, denying Palestinian statehood, are not just ‘disappointing’ but must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. For those who want to see peace in the region, we must see meaningful progress on a two state solution.

Netanyahu’s dangerous views, denying Palestinian Statehood, are not just “disappointing” but must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

For those who want to see peace in the region, we must see meaningful progress on a two state solution. t.co/vp8JgwBJav

— Humza Yousaf (@HumzaYousaf) January 21, 2024The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) received 80 trucks from the Egyptian Red Crescent via the Rafah border crossing over the weekend.

The trucks carried food, water, relief items and medical supplies, the PRCS said, adding that no trucks entered through the Karm Abu Salem crossing.

The aid delivery comes as approximately 2 million people in Gaza remain internally displaced across the strip as a result of Israel’s deadly attacks which have also killed 25,000 Palestinians since 7 October.

📍Yesterday, the Palestine Red Crescent teams received 80 trucks from the @EG_Red_Crescent via the Rafah crossing, carrying essential humanitarian aid, including food, water, relief items, and medical supplies.🚚 Notably, no trucks entered through the Karm Abu Salem crossing.… pic.twitter.com/HRFGXibPgS

— PRCS (@PalestineRCS) January 21, 2024UK foreign secretary David Cameron told MPs that he had not made a formal decision to allow UK’s arms sales to Israel to continue, despite written evidence appearing to indicate otherwise.

From the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour:

The chair of the foreign affairs select committee is writing to the foreign secretary, David Cameron, asking him to clarify his claim that he had not taken any formal decision to allow arms sales to Israel to continue amid the Gaza crisis.

Written evidence presented by the UK Department for Business and Trade shows the foreign secretary on 8 December recommended arms sales licences be allowed to continue when presented with three options: stopping arms sales, pausing them in Gaza, or allowing them to continue.

Foreign Office officials, in papers sent by the foreign secretary, had expressed serious concerns about aspects of the Israeli assault against Hamas. They also said the Foreign Office did not agree with Israeli claims that it did not have a legal duty to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza, but only to allow others to provide aid, and that this permission could be conditional.

Read the full story here:

UN chief António Guterres condemned the refusal to accept a two-state solution for Palestinians and Israelis, writing on Twitter/X:

The refusal to accept the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, and the denial of the right to statehood for the Palestinian people, are unacceptable.

The right of the Palestinian people to build their own state must be recognized by all.

The refusal to accept the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, and the denial of the right to statehood for the Palestinian people, are unacceptable.

The right of the Palestinian people to build their own state must be recognized by all.

— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) January 21, 2024Guterres’s comments come amid Benjamin Netanyahu’s public remarks about his rejection of a Palestinian state. Additionally, a spokesperson for the Israeli prime minister claimed that in a phone call with Joe Biden, Netanyahu told the US president that Israel’s security needs left no space for a sovereign Palestinian state.

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