Israeli forces encircle Khan Younis as Gazans risk famine – Mondoweiss



  • 25,700+ killed* and at least 63,740 wounded in the Gaza Strip.
  • 387+ Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem
  • Israel revises its estimated October 7 death toll down from 1,400 to 1,147.
  • 556 Israeli soldiers killed since October 7, and at least 3,221 injured.**

*This figure was confirmed by Gaza’s Ministry of Health. Some rights groups put the death toll number closer to 32,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.

** This figure is released by the Israeli military.

Key Developments

  • UNRWA says 570,000 Palestinians in Gaza are now facing “catastrophic hunger”.
  • UNRWA says it delivered protein-based flour, dairy items, and high-energy biscuits to 320,000 Palestinian families in Gaza, leaving thousands others without food.
  • ActionAid UK appeals that “the humanitarian situation in Gaza is still catastrophic. As winter sets in, people are struggling without proper shelters, food, water and warm clothes.”
  • Israeli military says it encircled Khan Yunis, second-largest city in Gaza Strip, and one of the major southern cities where Gazans fled to from the north earlier on in the war upon Israeli army instruction.
  • Wafa reports Israeli forces fired directly at buildings in Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis. In December, Israeli shells directly hit the maternity ward in Nasser, killing a baby girl and wounding seven others.
  • WHO says its teams managed to resupply 19,000 liters of fuel to Al-Shifa Hospital in north Gaza.
  • Wafa reports Israel killed at least 50 Palestinians and injured 120 others in bombings of Khan Yunis.
  • The Al-Khair and Nasser Hospitals are minimally operating and totally inaccessible following Israeli siege of Khan Yunis.
  • Reuters reports Hamas and Israel broadly agreed in principle during mediated talks on month-long ceasefire and exchange of prisoners and captives.
  • Palestinian Authority condemns Israeli PM Netanyahu’s attempts to prolong war in Gaza for six months.
  • Israeli forces blow up house of Basil Shehadeh, Palestinian prisoner detained in June 2023, in his hometown of Urif, south of Nablus in the West Bank.
  • The Wall and Settlement Resistance Committee records 120 Israeli settler attacks in West Bank since January, 35 carried out by settlers dressed in military attire and 23 attacks happened under watch of Israeli soldiers.

In Gaza, ‘there is no fresh water, no food, no flour

Starvation and hunger are spreading among half a million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, as they facing rainy, cold weather and insufficient food due to the ongoing Israeli aggression since October. 

Some Palestinian families used whatever ingredients they had to feed their children, such as grinding fodder, which is hay or straw normally fed to cattle, to bake bread.

“People need to make bread; sometimes they manage to make it [using fodder] and sometimes not. We are living a famine,” a Palestinian in Gaza told Al-Jazeera Arabic.

“We live in a polluted condition. There is no fresh water, no food, no drink, no flour. This flour you see here was made from livestock fodder,” he said, showing a sack of fodder that contained insects and needed palming before being crushed.

UNRWA said on Tuesday that 570,000 Palestinians in Gaza are now facing “catastrophic hunger.”

“Intense fighting, access denials & restrictions + communications blackouts are hampering UNRWA’s ability to safely & effectively deliver aid,” the UN agency for Palestinian refugees said.

“As risk of famine grows, UN calls for a critical increase in humanitarian access,” it added.

UNRWA worries were reiterated by the World Food Programme (WFP), which believes that numerous areas of Gaza are on the verge of being plunged into famine pockets as Israeli bombardment and siege never eased for over three months, except for the ten-day truce in November.

“This is why we’re seeing people becoming more desperate and being impatient to wait for food distributions, because it’s very sporadic,” the WFP spokesperson Abeer Etefa said.

Both UNRWA and WFP are struggling to deliver sufficient aid and food supplies inside the Gaza Strip. UNRWA said it managed, alongside its partners, to deliver protein-based, flour, dairy items, and high-energy biscuits to 320,000 families in January, which still leave thousands of other Palestinians without food in Gaza.

Palestinians in Gaza have been blocked by the Israeli military from accessing the agricultural fields to the east of the Gaza Strip since October, a significant portion of which have been leveled and destroyed. This has added to the lack of sufficient food and to starvation in Gaza for 2.3 million Palestinians, the majority of whom are now displaced.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is still catastrophic. As winter sets in, people are struggling without proper shelters, food, water and warm clothes,” ActionAid UK appealed in a petition.

“The health system has collapsed in Gaza and outbreak of disease such as diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections threatens more lives,” it added.

Israel kills members of Zamel family and encircles Khan Younis hospitals

Israel has killed at least 25,700 Palestinian martyrs and injured 63,740 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip since October.

In the past 24 hours, Gaza’s Ministry of Health said that Israel killed 210 Palestinians and injured 386 people. Israel has continued to kill hundreds of Palestinians each day, despite language from the Israeli and U.S. governments and mainstream media, that Israel has moved to a “less intense” phase of the war in Gaza. 

The Israeli military announced on Tuesday that it had encircled Khan Younis, the second-largest city in the Gaza Strip, claiming that Hamas leaders are hiding in tunnels underneath it. In December, Israeli forces said that “within days,” they will be in the heart of Khan Younis, before being met with fierce Palestinian resistance fire.

Israeli forces are now cutting off the seaside road of Khan Younis, barring Palestinians from traveling southward to Rafah city, the southernmost city in the Gaza Strip bordering Egypt. It has been encircling two Palestinian hospitals, Al-Amal and Nasser, and has stormed a third one, the Al-Khair Hospital, arresting several medical staff this week.

Khan Younis saw the worst round of Israeli bombardment in the past 24 hours, according to Wafa news agency.

Wafa reported that Israeli artillery bombed a seaside house west of Al-Mawasi, an area designated as “safe” by Israel in December, killing at least four people and injuring several others, who were hospitalized in the Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah.

Israeli forces also bombed the Harun Al-Rashid Road in Khan Younis and were stationed around Al-Aqsa University buildings. Ambulances could not reach the Al-Amal and Nasser Hospitals as Israeli forces blocked all roads leading to them.

Wafa reported that Israeli forces fired directly at buildings in the Nasser Hospital compound. In December, an Israeli shell directly hit the maternity ward in the facility, killing a baby girl and wounding seven others.

Palestinian rescue teams transported 20 Palestinian martyrs to the Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza. Israel’s bombardment of west Gaza destroyed a number of houses and apartments in the area, leaving dozens of Palestinians under the rubble, Wafa said.

The Al-Shifa Hospital is one of seven medical facilities operating in a limited capacity in northern Gaza. The WHO said that its teams managed to resupply 19,000 liters of fuel to Al-Shifa on Monday.

“The roads leading to the hospital were severely damaged, and the desperation in northern Gaza was apparent, as thousands of civilians surrounded the UN vehicles and fuel truck in the hopes of finding food and water, also delaying the mission,” WHO described the conditions in Gaza.

Wafa reported that at least 50 Palestinians were killed and 120 injured in the Israeli bombardment of Khan Younis in the past 24 hours. The Al-Khair and Nasser Hospitals are minimally operating and totally inaccessible following the Israeli siege of of the city

“WHO is extremely concerned about reports of Al-Kheir Hospital, a small NGO-run hospital with around 30 beds, facing military incursions and several health workers being detained. Communication with the hospital is no longer possible,” the WHO said on Wednesday.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said that three people were killed in the Israeli bombardment of its offices in Khan Younis. Doctors without Borders (MSF) published an update from its team working at the Nasser Hospital on Tuesday evening, saying that the Israeli army ordered medical staff and patients to evacuate the area.

“MSF staff members can hear bombs and heavy gunfire close to Nasser. They are currently unable to evacuate along with the thousands of people in the hospital, including 850 patients, due to roads to and from the building being either inaccessible or too dangerous,” MSF wrote on X.

In Jabalia in northern Gaza, the Israeli army killed fourteen Palestinians in a bombing of the Zamel family home. Some of them were identified as Duaa, Mahmoud, Mariam, Ali, Suaad, Noor, and Fatima Zamel, according to Wafa.

The Zamel house was turned into rubble, according to a report by Al-Jazeera Arabic. A relative of the Zamel family said that the Israeli bombing hit the home, which was housing around 50 people, in the evening without warning.

“The ceilings collapsed, and children were lying in the road. We used phone torches to find and rescue them,” he said.

Hamas and Israel engage in mediated talks to reach prisoner exchange deal

Reuters reported on Wednesday that Hamas and Israel had broadly agreed in principle during mediated talks on a month-long ceasefire, in which Palestinian prisoners will be exchanged with Israeli captives held in Gaza. These reports are yet to be confirmed, while agreements regarding a permanent ceasefire remain a thorny issue for Israel, which the Hamas leadership has stipulated as a precondition for any exchange deal.

This comes a day after Axios reported that Israel submitted a proposal through Qatar and Egypt to pause the war for two months in return for the release of all the 130 Israeli captives in Gaza. Hamas is yet to comment on both reports. The movement made clear in the past months that it won’t accept any deal without a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

On Wednesday, hundreds of Israeli captives’ families blocked aid convoys going into the Gaza Strip through the Karam Abu Salem crossing to choke Palestinians off from aid and put pressure on Hamas to release the Israeli captives, according to The Jerusalem Post.

PA condemns Netanyahu’s attempt to prolong war, settler attacks rise in West Bank

The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempt to prolong the war in Gaza for six months.

Netanyahu said on Tuesday that the 3rd phase of the war in Gaza could last for half a year. The PA said Israel would use this period to destroy homes and expel more Palestinians from their neighborhoods and towns in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, over the past 24 hours in the West Bank, Israeli forces arrested 35 Palestinians from Nablus, Salfit, Ramallah, Hizma, Jericho, Al-Jalazoun refugee camp, Hebron and Jenin.

The Prisoner’s Club and the Commission for Ex-Prisoners’ Affairs said on Wednesday that Israel arrested a total of 6,255 Palestinians since October, some of whom have since been released. 

On Wednesday morning, Israeli forces stormed the village of Urif, south of Nablus, and blew up the house of Basil Shehadeh, a Palestinian prisoner detained in June 2023 on charges of assisting two Palestinian shooters who killed four Israeli settlers near the Eli settlement.

Wafa reported that a large Israeli force stormed Urif, barring the exit and entry of any Palestinians from the area and wiring explosives inside Shehadeh’s house before blowing it up.

The PA’s Wall and Settlement Resistance Committee said in a report that 120 Israeli settler attacks have been recorded in the West Bank since January.

These include shootings at Palestinians, arson attacks, and vandalism of property. The report said that 35 attacks were carried out by settlers dressed in military attire, while 23 attacks occurred under the watch of Israeli soldiers.

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