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War on Gaza: Israel bombs Palestine Red Crescent building, as genocide probe looms

At least 207 killed over 24-hour period in Gaza, as Israel says it will go to Hague to contest South African accusation of genocide against Palestinians
Smoke billows over Khan Younis from Rafah in the southern Gaza strip during Israeli bombardment on 2 January 2024 (AFP)
Smoke billows over Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment, on 2 January 2024 (AFP)
By Walaa Sabah in Gaza, occupied Palestine and Rayhan Uddin in London and Sean Mathews

An Israeli attack on a building belonging to the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) in Gaza’s Khan Younis killed five people on Tuesday and wounded several others.

The Red Crescent compound in southern Gaza includes the Red Crescent headquarters, al-Amal Hospital, a hotel, and a building designated for people with special needs.

Around 14,000 Palestinians are sheltering in the area after being forcibly displaced since the war broke out on 7 October.

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Waseem, a 37-year-old from Khan Younis, told Middle East Eye that an explosion shook his home, in the area, at around 2.40pm local time and "screams filled the air".

"They targeted the Red Crescent Society's top two roofs. The medical team recovered the bodies of four civilians who had sought refuge there, including a baby. There were a significant number of injuries. I saw at least 15 people rushing to al-Amal Hospital," he said.

"The area here is designated as a safe zone, and we have not received any orders to evacuate, but it has been targeted over four times now. Targeting the top roofs today is alarming, as thousands of people seek refuge here."

Israeli forces killed 207 Palestinians and wounded 338 people over 24 hours in Gaza, the Palestinian health ministry said.

That brought the total number of Palestinians killed in Gaza since 7 October to 22,185, and the wounded to at least 57,00o. 

The Palestinian Ministry of Education said on Tuesday that over 4,156 students had been killed in Israeli attacks, and at least 381 schools bombed or damaged. 

In the occupied West Bank, five Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces. Four of them were killed during a dawn raid in the town of Azzun, Wafa news agency reported. 

Ramallah condemns 'kidnapping' of infant

Meanwhile, a Palestinian prisoner has died in Israeli detention, making him the seventh detainee to have died in custody since the start of the war.

Abdul Rahman al-Bahsh, 23, who had been imprisoned since May 2022, was announced dead by Israel's prison service on Tuesday.

Speaking to Palestinian media, Bahsh's father said his son had been subjected to "torture, beatings and aggression" while in prison. He added that many prisoners were being stripped naked and left in the cold, facing humiliation and not allowed to sleep.

Haaretz reported that Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons were being beaten by prison guards and threatened with violence if they refused to kiss the Israeli flag. 

One Palestinian testimony described the treatment prisoners faced: "Eleven prisoners were put in a cell that usually held a third of that. [The guards] threw the food on the floor, sometimes they mashed it with their feet, and every day - under the pretext of a "search" - they would beat the prisoners with iron sticks."

Separately, the Palestinian foreign ministry condemned the "kidnapping" of an infant Palestinian girl by an Israeli soldier in Gaza.

"The kidnapping of the infant girl from the Gaza Strip is evidence that the occupation army is committing the most heinous crimes against civilians without oversight or accountability," it said in a statement. "The Ministry calls on the occupation authorities to immediately hand over the infant to the Palestinian National Authority."

An Israeli soldier revealed last week that an officer took a Palestinian infant from Gaza after Israeli air strikes likely claimed the lives of her family. 

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Shachar Mendelson, a friend of the soldier, told Army Radio on Sunday that Captain Harel Itach, from the Givati Brigade, who was later killed in battles in the northern Gaza Strip on 22 November, took the Palestinian orphan back into Israel. 

Israel has not responded publicly to any of the allegations. The Army Radio clip was also deleted after it was widely circulated.

In Gaza, Palestinian tribal leaders denounced Israeli army proposals to divide the territory into areas ruled by Palestinian tribes or clans rather than a single political entity.

"The occupying state seeks to cover up its failure in Gaza and create confusion and strife in Palestinian society," Akef al-Masry, the commissioner-general of the Supreme Authority for Palestinian Tribes, said in a statement on Tuesday.

According to reports of the plan envisioned by the Israeli army, the tribes would look after the civil administration of the Gaza Strip and each have individual arrangements with Israel.

Israeli state broadcaster Kan News said the plan was expected to be presented to the war cabinet soon.

Israel to contest genocide accusation at the Hague

Meanwhile in Israel, a group of wounded survivors of the Hamas-led attack on a music festival on 7 October in southern Israel are suing Israeli security forces over alleged negligence. 

Forty-two plaintiffs who attended the Supernova rave, near the besieged Gaza Strip, filed a civil suit for $56m at a Tel Aviv court on Monday against the Israeli military, police, defence ministry, and the Shin Bet security service.

"Hamas murdered 364 partygoers, and kidnapped 40 to Gaza, some of whom were released, and some of whom are missing. Many were injured physically or mentally, including the plaintiffs," the civil action read.

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"A single phone call by IDF officials to the commander responsible for the party to disperse it immediately in view of the expected danger would have saved lives and prevented the physical and mental injuries of hundreds of partygoers, including the plaintiffs."

Later on Tuesday, an Israeli government spokesperson said Israel would appear before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague to contest South Africa's genocide accusations

South Africa on Friday launched a case for the ICJ, stating that Israel was in breach of its obligations under the Genocide Convention and calling for a halt to its military operations in Gaza.

"The State of Israel will appear before the International Court of Justice at The Hague to dispel South Africa's absurd blood libel," spokesman Eylon Levy told an online briefing.

"We assure South Africa's leaders, history will judge you, and it will judge you without mercy," he added.

Elsewhere, the Israeli army confirmed on X that it struck "military infrastructure belonging to the Syrian army" and used its jets to target infrastructure belonging to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Israeli army rarely comments on its attacks in Syria. 

In Turkey, police detained 33 individuals for allegedly spying for Israel, Turkish public news agency Anadolu Agency reported on Tuesday.

Police detained the individuals in Istanbul and seven other provinces on charges of "carrying out international espionage activities" on behalf of the Israeli foreign intelligence service, Mossad, against foreign nationals residing in Turkey for humanitarian reasons.

Hezbollah vows response over killing of Hamas official in Beirut

Israel killed senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri and two commanders of the al-Qassam Brigades on Tuesday, in a targeted attack in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, marking a significant escalation in the war.

Dahiyeh, where the explosion took place, is a largely residential neighbourhood but also serves as a stronghold for the Lebanese armed movement, Hezbollah, and also houses Hamas offices.

Arouri was a deputy chairman of Hamas’s political bureau and chief of the group's operations in the West Bank.

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas's political bureau, called the killing a “craven assassination” by Israel.

"The assassination of the leader al-Arouri and his brothers by the occupation is a fully-fledged terrorist act, a violation of Lebanon's sovereignty, and an expansion of its aggression,” Haniyeh said.

Hezbollah, meanwhile, said that the attack "will not go without a response or punishment", adding that the group has "its finger on the trigger".

Without acknowledging the strike, Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said that the country's military is at a “very high level of readiness - in all arenas, in defense and offense”, as the country braces for retaliation by Hezbollah.

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