Israel-Palestine: News

2023-2024 Hostilities and Escalating Violence in the oPt | Account of Events

12 January 2024

This account of events is based on available and verified facts at the time of writing. The page reflects developments in the time period from 7 October 2023 until 7 January 2024 

A detailed legal brief on the 2023-2024 hostilities in Israel and Gaza, covering the time period from 7 October until 8 November 2023, is available here. All material relevant to the 2023-2024 hostilities can be found on this page.

Background: The situation in Israel-Palestine prior to the 2023-2024 hostilities



  • As of 7 January 2024 (figures reported by the Gaza Ministry of Health), at least 22,835 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, around 70% of whom were women and children, while around 58,416 others have been injured. Thousands more are feared trapped underneath the rubble, and “entire families” have been wiped out – it is estimated that as of 5 January, 1,876 families have lost multiple family members.  
  • On 6 November, UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that “Gaza is becoming a graveyard for children”. The New York Times has reported that even according to “a conservative assessment of the reported Gaza casualty figures … the rate of death during Israel’s assault has few precedents in this century”. 
  • As of 7 January (figures reported by the Israeli authorities, according to Israeli media), more than 1,200 Israeli and foreign nationals in Israel have been killed, amongst them 36 children; 1,162 of them have been identified by name. Around 5,400 others have been injured.  
  • 174 Israeli soldiers have been killed and 1,023 injured since the beginning of ground operations in Gaza, according to Israeli sources

    Release of hostages and prisoners 

    • On 22 November, Israel and Hamas agreed to a temporary, four-day-long ceasefire and the release of 50 hostages held in Gaza – women and children – in exchange for 150 Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons – also women and children.
    • The humanitarian pause entered into effect on 24 November at 7 am local time; it was extended by two more days on 27 November. 
    • The humanitarian pause ended on 1 December at around 7 am local time. Overall, 105 hostages held in Gaza – Israeli and foreign nationals – and 240 Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons were released.  
    • Of the 240 Palestinians who were released, 107 are children aged 14 to 17, and 66 are 18 years old; 68 are women. The New York Times reported that 37 had been detained after the 7 October attacks, and a majority – around three quarters – were never convicted of a crime, which reinforces longstanding concerns about a deeply flawed and discriminatory military justice system in the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem. An 18-year-old teenager from Qabatiya told Al Jazeera that he was beaten while in detention, which left him “in pain on the floor for a week” without medical assistance; upon his release, he held up his bandaged hands and fingers, covering up multiple fractures.   
    • Of the 105 hostages who were released, more than 30 are children under the age of 18, five are 18 years old, and over 40 are women. One 84-year-old hostage was hospitalized in critical condition upon her release. First testimonies by the abducted, their families, and medical professionals are beginning to emerge regarding the conditions the hostages were kept in and ill-treatment meted out, including some accounts of sexual violence; a 12-year-old boy was forced to watch videos of the 7 October attacks, according to his aunt. An Israeli doctor reportedly said that some of the hostages were drugged while in captivity. 
    • According to Israeli sources, 136 hostages are reportedly still being held in Gaza, including two siblings, a 10-month-old baby and a 4-year-old child; on 12 December, 19 hostages were declared dead.  

      Humanitarian catastrophe

      • During the humanitarian pause, humanitarian aid agencies were reportedly able to scale up the delivery of aid to Gaza, including to the north of Wadi Gaza, which had been largely cut off from aid deliveries.  
      • The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains catastrophic, especially with the resumption of the hostilities, and humanitarian operations inside Gaza face significant challenges.  
      • Since 11 October at 2 pm local time, Gaza has been under electricity blackout; fuel-run backup generators are used to keep critical infrastructure functional.  
      • The Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel has been closed since the start of hostilities on 7 October.  
      • As of 29 December, the total number of aid convoys that have entered Gaza since 21 October is 5,902; around 500 trucks reportedly reached Gaza every working day before the hostilities. For more than five weeks, the Israeli authorities did not allow the entry of fuel; the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Philippe Lazzarini, said previously that fuel imports must be allowed, otherwise “there will be no humanitarian response, no aid reaching people in need, no power for hospitals, no water, no bread”. On 13 November, UNRWA reported that its fuel reserves had been depleted and warned of an immediate shutdown of its humanitarian operations in Gaza. On 18 November, 123,000 litres of fuel were reportedly brought into Gaza from Egypt; the first fuel imports had been allowed to enter Gaza on 15 November.  
      • On 17 December, aid entered through the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza for the first time. Delivery through Kerem Shalom was halted between 25 and 28 December, reportedly due to security concerns, and resumed on 29 December. 
      • On 7 December, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, “reiterate[d] in the clearest terms possible that wilfully impeding relief supplies to civilians may constitute a war crime” under the Rome Statute of the ICC. 


        • In early December, the World Food Programme (WFP) released a food security assessment for Gaza, which documents inadequate food consumption in 97% of households in northern Gaza and 83% of households in southern Gaza, respectively. Furthermore, 48% of residents in the north and 38% in the south suffer from severe levels of hunger; they have around 1.8 and 1.5 litres of clean water per day at their disposal, respectively. 90% of Gazans in the north and two thirds in the south reportedly had to go one full day and night without food; 18% and 13%, respectively indicated that they endured this for over 10 days in the last month. The deputy director of the WFP said that half of Gaza’s population is starving. 
        • In a statement dated 11 November, UNRWA Commissioner-General Lazzarini said: “Every little girl and boy I met in an UNRWA shelter asked me for bread and water”. 
        • The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, warned of “a heightened risk of atrocity crimes” in light of an “apocalyptic” humanitarian situation in Gaza.  
        • On 21 December, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that “93% of the population in Gaza is facing crisis levels of hunger, with insufficient food and high levels of malnutrition”, while communicable diseases, including diarrhoeal and respiratory infections – the former a leading cause of infant mortality worldwide – as well as meningitis and chickenpox are spreading rapidly.  
        • At least one out of four households are “experiencing an extreme lack of food and starvation[,] … having resorted to selling off their possessions and other extreme measures to afford a simple meal”. 
        • As of 21 December, 2.2 million Gazans were “at imminent risk of famine”, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). 
        • UN Secretary-General António Guterres wrote on LinkedIn that “[f]our out of five of the hungriest people anywhere in the world are in Gaza”.  
        • In a statement dated 5 January 2024, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said that “Gaza has become a place of death and despair”, which “has simply become uninhabitable”, with its population “witnessing daily threats to their very existence – while the world watches on”. He called for “an immediate end to the war, not just for the people of Gaza and its threatened neighbors, 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”.   

          Displacement and destruction of civilian infrastructure 

          • An estimated 1.9 million Palestinians in Gaza almost 85% of the population have been displaced, according to UNRWA, a majority of whom are reportedly sheltering in UNRWA facilities. On 16 November, UNRWA Commissioner-General Lazzarini said in a statement that the world “just witnessed the largest displacement of Palestinians since 1948”. Many Gazans have been displaced multiple times.  
          • UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said on 7 December that “the pace of the military assault in southern Gaza is a repeat of the assault in northern Gaza”, and that “it has made no place safe for civilians in southern Gaza”. 
          • On 9 December, Save the Children warned that “[t]wo months of relentless bombardment, an Israeli-imposed siege, and dangerous relocation orders have stripped families’ options for survival in Gaza”.  
          • In an op-ed for the New York Times dated 11 December, the heads of six humanitarian aid organizations wrote that “[i]n no other war we can think of in this century have civilians been so trapped, without any avenue or option to escape to save themselves and their children”.  
          • As of 4 January, more than 65,000 housing units in Gaza have been destroyed and over 290,000 others partially damaged, according to the Government Media Office in Gaza. More than 69% of school buildings have been damaged, and 625,000 children cannot go to school. Damage has also been inflicted on universities, and academics and scholars have been killed.  
          • The Israeli air force announced on 12 October that between 7 and 12 October alone, it has dropped around 6,000 bombs on Gaza; during the intervention in Libya, which lasted from March until October 2011, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) reportedly dropped an estimated 7,700 bombs.  
          • The Financial Times has reported that according to military analysts, “the destruction of northern Gaza in less than seven weeks has approached that caused by the years-long carpet-bombing of German cities during the second world war”.   
          • It has been suggested that Israel’s obliteration of wide swathes of residential houses and public infrastructure in Gaza may constitute “domicide”, i.e., “the massive and deliberate destruction of homes in order to cause human suffering”.  
          • The total number of rockets fired into Israel between 7 October and the end of December 2023 was estimated to be around 12,000, according to Israeli sources. 

            Accounts of sexual and gender-based violence 

            • On 29 November, UN Secretary-General António Guterres wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that “[t]here are numerous accounts of sexual violence during the abhorrent acts of terror by Hamas on 7 October that must be vigorously investigated and prosecuted”.  
            • On 1 December, UN Women “called for all accounts of gender-based violence to be duly investigated and prosecuted, with the rights of the victim at the core”. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk also called for a full investigation. 

              Grim milestones

              • According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 29 journalists were killed between 7 and 27 October, which marks “the deadliest period for journalists covering conflict since CPJ began tracking in 1992”; as of 11 January 2024, there have been at least 79 fatalities amongst journalists and media personnel.  
              • According to a statement by Save the Children dated 29 October, 3,195 children in Gaza have been killed since 7 October, which “is more than the number killed in armed conflict globally – across more than 20 countries – over the course of a whole year, for the last three years”; as of 11 December, the total number of children killed in Gaza stands at around 7,729 (numbers reported by the Gaza Ministry of Health and the Government Media Office in Gaza). 
              • Save the Children said on 7 January that on average, more than 10 Gazan children per day have lost either one or both legs.  
              • According to a statement by the UN and other humanitarian organizations dated 5 November, 88 UNRWA staff have been killed since 7 October, which constitutes “the highest number of United Nations fatalities ever recorded in a single conflict”. As of 7 January, the number of UNRWA staff killed stands at 142
              • As of 7 January, at least 326 health workers have been killed.  

                Attacks by Hamas-led armed groups from Gaza 

                On 7 October 2023, from the early morning hours, Hamas and other armed groups from Gaza carried out an attack against Israel, firing barrages of rockets towards the southern and central part of the country. The armed groups crossed the Gaza border fence into Israeli territory by land, air, and sea, where they injured, brutalized, and killed Israeli forces and Israeli and foreign civilians, including more than 360 attendees of a music festival near Re’im and residents of kibbutzim Kfar Azza and Be’eri. Over the course of three days, there were gun battles and hostage situations in southern Israeli towns, with the Israeli army only regaining control on 9 October. Indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israeli cities, including Ben Gurion Airport near Lod (formerly Lydda), continued in the weeks thereafter. 

                Overall, more than 1,200 Israeli and foreign nationals in Israel were killed, and around 5,400 more injured; more than 200 were abducted to Gaza, amongst them babies, children, and the elderly, according to Israeli sources.  

                According to reports, first responders encountered “horrifying scenes, including the slaughter of elderly people and finding bloody rooms crowded with massacred civilians”. Footage of the 7 October attacks screened by the Israeli military reportedly depicts “grenades thrown directly at families, a man being decapitated with a shovel from his garden, [and] the tiny burned bodies of babies”, amongst other “harrowing” visuals. An Israeli army spokesperson called 7 October “by far the worst day in Israeli history”; United States (US) President Joe Biden spoke of “the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust”. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documented that “[t]he reported fatality toll is over threefold the cumulative number of Israelis killed since OCHA began recording casualties in 2005 (nearly 400)”. An estimated 1,500 members of the armed groups have reportedly been killed.  

                On 20 October, two of the hostages, US citizens aged 59 and 17 (mother and daughter), were released, reportedly after mediation by Qatar, followed by two elderly women aged 79 and 85 on 23 October. On 30 October, it was reported that the Israeli military freed an Israeli soldier who was being held by Hamas during a ground raid. According to the Israeli authorities, around 200,000 Israelis have been evacuated from the southern and northern part of the country due to rocket fire. On 14 November, the Israeli military announced that one of the hostages, a 19-year-old soldier, had died, following the release of a video, reportedly by Hamas, depicting her making a statement and later her lifeless body, bearing signs of physical injury; her body was reportedly recovered by the Israeli military on 17 November.  

                On 16 November, the Israeli military reportedly found the body of a 65-year-old hostage – a cancer patient whose husband was killed in the 7 October attacks – in Gaza City; on 17 November, a Tanzanian national who had been abducted was confirmed dead. On 20 November, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mirjana Spoljaric, reportedly met with Qatari officials and Ismail Haniyeh, the chairman of Hamas’ politbureau, in Qatar to call for the release of the hostages. On 1 December, six Israelis who had been abducted to Gaza – or were assumed to have been taken hostage – were declared dead, according to Israeli media. On 9 December, a 25-year-old hostage from kibbutz Be’eri was reported killed. On 12 December, the bodies of two hostages were retrieved from Gaza, and 19 of then 135 hostages reportedly still being held in Gaza were declared dead.  

                On 15 December, the Israeli military killed three hostages in the Shuja’iyya neighbourhood of Gaza City, with soldiers acting upon the mistaken belief that “their cries for help [were] a ruse by Hamas militants to draw them into an ambush”, according to a review of the incident by the army; the hostages were reportedly without shirts, and one was holding up a white flag. Two of the men were killed instantly, while the third was injured and fled to a nearby building; he was shot dead when he re-emerged, as he was reportedly instructed to do by the battalion commander, having called for help in Hebrew.  

                Also on 15 December, the Israeli military retrieved the bodies of three Israeli hostages from Gaza. On 22 December, US and Israeli officials said that a 73-year-old dual US-Israeli citizen from Nir Oz previously believed to be a hostage was killed on 7 October, with his body still being held in Gaza. On 28 December, his 70-year-old wife, who held Israeli, Canadian, and US citizenship, was declared dead; her body is reportedly being held in Gaza as well. On 5 January 2024, it was reported that a 38-year-old from Nir Oz who was previously believed to have been taken hostage was killed in the 7 October attacks, and that his body was taken to Gaza. His grandfather had been taken hostage and was released during the temporary humanitarian ceasefire.  

                Accounts of sexual and gender-based violence 

                On 14 November, the Israeli police reportedly opened an investigation into acts of sexual violence allegedly committed by Hamas forces during the 7 October attacks; there had already been numerous reports about rape and sexual assault from witnesses and survivors, first responders, and Israeli officials, including an instance of gang rape and murder; there were also “bodies of women found partially or fully naked, [and] women with their pelvic bones broken”.  

                On 26 November, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHRI) published a position paper expressing “concerns that the October 7 Hamas attacks included many incidents of sexual assault following repetitive patterns” and calling for processes of social and legal recognition and support for victims and survivors, including “an investigation of crimes against humanity”. The UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel opened a call for submissions on gender-based crimes committed on and since 7 October 2023. An Israeli nongovernmental commission has been set up to collect evidentiary materials and testimonies, whose work documents, according to a Ha’aretz report, that “[u]nder cover of the massacre, Hamas carried out a campaign of rape and sexual abuse at many of the communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip that it attacked”.  

                An Israeli police commander reportedly said that “they have 1,500 testimonies on atrocities including sexual violence, rape and genital mutilation from survivors, security forces, first responders and families of victims”. “[F]irst responders or others dealing with the dead” reported finding “women semi-naked, bound, eviscerated, stripped, bruised, shot in the head or torched, at two communities including Kibbutz Beeri, and at an open-air music festival near the Gaza border fence”.  

                An investigation by the New York Times, based on more than 150 interviews and the evaluation of available photographs, videos, and metadata, which was published on 28 December, concludes that “the attacks against women were not isolated events but part of a broader pattern of gender-based violence on Oct. 7”; the report documents “at least seven locations where Israeli women and girls appear to have been sexually assaulted or mutilated”.  

                Protest calling for the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Photo: Yahel Gazit/ActiveStills Photo Collective (Tel Aviv, 14 October 2023). All rights reserved.

                The war in Gaza

                Unprecedented aerial bombardment 

                On the day of the initial attack, shortly before 11 am local time, Israel launched a large-scale counteroffensive on the Gaza Strip, with Prime Minister Netanyahu proclaiming that the country is “at war”; the government declared a state of war the following day. Ever since, the Israeli military has been carrying out heavy, near-constant, “unprecedented” bombardment of Gaza.  

                Over 22,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed and more than 58,000 others injured, according to reports by the Gaza Ministry of Health.  

                The Israeli military has asserted that it is targeting the political and military leadership of Hamas, with a military spokesperson claiming on 8 October that “Israeli intelligence indicates that Hamas are hiding among Gazan civilians, inside Gazan homes and schools, hospitals and mosques”. Israel has hit high-rise buildings, including those housing apartments, the Rimal neighbourhood in Gaza City, the Jabalia and Shati refugee camps, and in close proximity to the Rafah crossing with neighbouring Egypt, amongst others, wreaking devastation; according to OCHA, “[e]ntire neighbourhoods have been destroyed”.  

                There have also been reports about damage to hospitals, water and sanitation facilities, UNRWA and other UN buildings, telecommunications lines, schools and educational facilities, mosques, and churches, as well as fatal attacks on journalists, healthcare workers and ambulances, and humanitarian workers. A situation report from UNRWA, dated 15 October, observed that “[t]he number of killed is increasing. There are not enough body-bags for the dead in Gaza”. Around 100 persons were reportedly buried in a mass grave in Rafah “due to the lack of refrigerated space to store them until recognition procedures are conducted”, with OCHA raising “environmental and human indignity concerns related to the decomposition of the bodies”. It has also been reported that a hospital in Deir al-Balah has turned to using ice cream trucks as “makeshift morgues to supplement the overflowing hospital mortuaries”.  

                On 10 October, an Israeli military spokesperson proclaimed that in his view the parliament and civilian ministries in Gaza constitute legitimate targets “if there’s a gunman firing rockets from there” and indicated a lesser “level of fidelity” as regards warnings given to civilians prior to an attack. On the same day, the military announced that “the emphasis is on damage, not precision” in the bombardment. Hamas has threatened to start executing hostages in retaliation for attacks resulting in civilian deaths that are carried out without warning. On 12 October, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported, and Amnesty International later reported as well, that the Israeli military has used white phosphorus, an incendiary weapon, prompting grave concerns about harm to civilians. The Israeli military has denied this claim. Dr. Ghassan Abu Sitta, a British-Palestinian volunteer surgeon at Al-Shifa Hospital, has testified treating patients with burns that he deemed characteristic of exposure to white phosphorus.  

                Israeli President Isaac Herzog suggested in relation to the 7 October attacks that “[i]t’s an entire nation out there that is responsible. It’s not true, this rhetoric about civilians … not aware, not involved, it’s absolutely not true. They could have risen up, they could have fought against that evil regime which took over Gaza in a coup d’état”. On 13 October, the Israeli army announced that it has conducted “localized raids within Gaza”. On the same day, Hamas reportedly fired a long-range missile towards the Galilee. On 14 October, the Israeli military said that it is getting ready for a new phase, including “significant ground operations”. On 17 October, Israel hit an UNRWA school in al-Maghazi refugee camp, killing at least six people, injuring dozens more, including UNRWA staff, and severely damaging the building. According to UNRWA, around 4,000 Gazans had been sheltering there, who “had and still have nowhere else to go”; UNRWA “provides the coordinates of its facilities to relevant parties on a daily basis”.  

                On 19 October, the Israeli military struck the Saint Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church, where hundreds had reportedly been sheltering, with 16 killed according to the Gaza Health Ministry. In a statement dated 19 October, the Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem condemned the airstrike, stressing that “targeting churches and their institutions, along with the shelters they provide to protect innocent citizens … constitutes a war crime that cannot be ignored”. On 20 October, Defence Minister Gallant announced that Israel’s military campaign in Gaza would culminate in “the creation of a new security regime in the Gaza Strip, the removal of Israel’s responsibility for life in the Strip and the creation of a new security reality for the citizens of Israel”. On 21 October, the Israeli military said that it would intensify its airstrikes on Gaza going forward. On 22 October, an Israeli soldier was reportedly killed during a raid in Gaza. On 25 October, it was reported that Hamas fired long-range rockets towards Haifa in Israel’s north and Eilat in the south. Hamas officials reportedly claimed that they would release no more hostages until there is a ceasefire. On 27 October, “landlines, cellular and internet services” were cut off across the Gaza Strip following a barrage of heavy Israeli airstrikes, with the main telecommunications tower reportedly having been hit.  

                Intensifying land, air, and sea attacks 

                Bombardment and ground raids by the Israeli military into Gaza intensified despite repeated calls for a humanitarian ceasefire, with Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi reportedly declaring on 28 October that “the objectives of the war require a ground operation”. On the same day, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a public address confirming “the widening of the ground invasion” as part of a new phase in the hostilities, which he referred to as Israel’s “second war of independence”. Netanyahu also proclaimed: “You must remember what Amalek has done to you, says our Holy Bible, and we do remember, and we are fighting”, invoking reference to the Amalekites, a biblical archenemy of the Israelites, whom they were told to destroy and whose memory they were commanded to eradicate. Starting on 29 October, communications in Gaza were reportedly “gradually restored”, apparently following US pressure.  

                On 30 October, Netanyahu emphatically rejected ever more frequent calls for a ceasefire. The following day, the Israeli military again struck the densely populated Jabalia refugee camp, “reportedly destroying an entire quarter with 30 residential buildings”, according to OCHA, and with dozens reported killed; further strikes on Jabalia took place on 1 November. Also on 1 November, telecommunications and internet services in Gaza were again interrupted over the span of several hours. The High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell Fontelles, said that building on the EU position that “Israel has the right to defend itself in line with international humanitarian law and ensuring the protection of all civilians”, he is “appalled by the high number of casualties following the bombing by Israel of the Jabalia refugee camp”. The Director of the UNRWA Representative Office in New York renewed the organization’s call for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire” before the UN General Assembly’s Fourth Committee. The Israeli military announced that soldiers have reached “the gates of Gaza City”.  

                On 2 November, several UN experts issued a statement warning that “the Palestinian people are at grave risk of genocide” and affirming that “[t]he Israeli airstrike on a residential complex in the Jabalia refugee camp is a brazen violation of international law – and a war crime”, amongst other points. On the same day, the Israeli military hit four UNRWA facilities sheltering almost 20,000 people, leaving at least 23 dead and dozens more injured. UNRWA released a video commemorating the 72 staff members who were killed between 7 October and 2 November, which “marks the largest loss of life of United Nations aid workers in such a short span of time”. On 3 November, Israel reportedly struck a convoy of ambulances en route to the Rafah crossing in close proximity to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the point of origin, killing at least 13 persons and injuring 26 others. The Israeli military claimed to have targeted “a Hamas terrorist cell”; it was reported that the Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City and the Indonesian Hospital in Beit Lahia were hit as well. The WHO issued a statement emphasizing that “[a]ttacks on health care, including the targeting of hospitals and restricting the delivery of essential aid such as medical supplies, fuel, and water, may amount to violations of International Humanitarian Law”. On 4 November, the Israeli military reportedly struck the entrances of Al-Quds Hospital – serving as shelter to around 14,000 displaced persons – and Nasser Children’s Hospital, both in Gaza City.  

                A doctor working for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) told reporters that medical staff have come up with the category “wounded child no surviving family” for the many orphaned children in Gaza. On 5 November, Amihai Eliyahu, Israel’s Heritage Minister, suggested in a radio interview that dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza is an option, later seemingly walking back the remark and claiming on social media that it was “metaphorical”; he was suspended indefinitely from participation in cabinet meetings. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, who expressed the PA’s willingness to “assume … responsibilities within the framework of a comprehensive political solution that includes all of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip”. Hamas reportedly said that over 60 hostages are unaccounted for due to Israeli airstrikes.  

                The Israeli military announced on 5 November that its forces have completed a division of the Gaza Strip into a northern and a southern part and encircled Gaza City in the north. On the same day, an Inter-Agency Standing Committee representing various UN agencies and humanitarian organizations released a statement expressing “shock and horror at the spiralling numbers of lives lost and torn apart”, both in Israel during the initial attacks by armed groups and in the Gaza Strip, where the “entire population is besieged and under attack, denied access to the essentials for survival, bombed in their homes, shelters, hospitals and places of worship” and 88 UNRWA staff have been killed, marking “the highest number of United Nations fatalities ever recorded in a single conflict”. It ends: “We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It’s been 30 days. Enough is enough. This must stop now”. On 11 November, the building of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Gaza City was reportedly hit. On 12 November, the Israeli navy struck and caused severe damage to an UNRWA guesthouse in Rafah south of Gaza.  

                Palestinian men carry a person who was injured or killed in an Israeli airstrike launched on Gaza City. Photo: Mohammed Zaanoun/ActiveStills Photo Collective (Gaza City, 11 October 2023). All rights reserved.

                Encircling of hospitals in north Gaza 

                The Israeli army continued its advance on Gaza City, with soldiers reportedly moving into Al-Rantisi Children’s Hospital; according to OCHA, as of 13 November all hospitals in the north of Gaza except one – Al-Ahli Hospital, which was under severe strain – had ceased operations due to a lack of electricity and essential supplies, as well as airstrikes and fighting nearby. Israeli forces were reportedly closing in on Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa; on 12 November, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that the hospital had been without water and electricity for three days. OCHA said on 13 November that since 11 November 32 patients at Al-Shifa Hospital had reportedly died, among them three premature babies; amidst the power outage and lack of oxygen, other newborns were moved from incubators in the neonatal care unit, “wrapped in foil[,] and placed next to hot water in a desperate bid to keep them alive”.  The Gaza Ministry of Health said that on 14 November 40 patients at Al-Shifa Hospital died. On the same day, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health reported that Palestinians inside Al-Shifa Hospital started digging a mass grave; over 100 persons were reportedly buried there, according to the Ministry. There have been reports of stray dogs feeding on unburied bodies. Heavy fighting was also reported around Al-Quds Hospital. Overall, hundreds of thousands of people reportedly remained in the north of Gaza amidst intensifying hostilities.  

                On 18 November, a WHO-led team reportedly conducted a “high-risk” humanitarian assessment at Al-Shifa Hospital, which they called a “death zone”. On the same day, the Israeli military reportedly struck Al-Fakhouri school in Jabalia and Tal Az-Za’atar school in Beit Lahia, killing at least 24 (according to UNRWA) and more than 50 (according to media reports), respectively. On 19 November, 31 premature babies at Al-Shifa Hospital were evacuated to a hospital in Rafah, south Gaza, alongside staff and companions; 5 others had reportedly died in the preceding days because of the electricity blackout and lack of fuel. Also on 19 November, an Israeli strike killed Belal Jadallah, a veteran journalist and founder and chairman of the Gaza Press House. On 20 November, an attack by the Israeli military reportedly hit the Indonesian Hospital in Beit Lahia for the fifth time since the start of the hostilities, leaving at least 12 people killed, including patients. The WHO said in a statement that “[h]ealth workers and civilians should never have to be exposed to such horror, and especially [not] while inside a hospital”. The following day – 21 November – Al-Awda Hospital in the north of Gaza was struck, reportedly killing four persons, including three doctors, and injuring many patients. On 23 November, reports emerged that the Israeli military arrested the director of Al-Shifa Hospital and handed him over to the Shin Bet.  

                Humanitarian pause

                On 24 November, after the temporary humanitarian pause entered into effect, Israeli forces reportedly opened fire and threw teargas canisters on persons attempting to travel to the area north of Wadi Gaza – the Israeli military allegedly having interdicted movement to the north – killing at least one and injuring dozens. Also during the humanitarian pause, a Gazan journalist reportedly entered Al-Nasr Children’s Hospital, where he found “[t]he decomposing bodies of … four babies” who had been in the neonatal intensive care unit when Israeli troops encircled the facility and forced those inside to leave, threatening to bomb the hospital, according to the director. On 30 November, +972 Magazine published the results of an investigation into the conduct of Israel’s heavy aerial attacks on Gaza, citing Israeli military and intelligence sources, amongst others; the article notes that “[t]he Israeli army’s expanded authorization for bombing non-military targets, the loosening of constraints regarding expected civilian casualties, and the use of an artificial intelligence system to generate more potential targets than ever before, appear to have contributed to the destructive nature of the initial stages” of the hostilities. Many libraries, museums, and cultural sites in Gaza have been destroyed. In a report published in November 2023, the organization Heritage for Peace documented partial damage to or total destruction of more than 100 cultural heritage sites.  

                Photo: Mohammed Zaanoun/ActiveStills Photo Collective (Al-Batn Al-Thameen area of Khan Yunis, southern Gaza, 7 December 2023). All rights reserved.

                Expansion of ground attacks to the south of Gaza 

                With the resumption of hostilities on 1 December, heavy Israeli bombardment throughout the Gaza Strip continued. Ground forces reportedly advanced on the south of Gaza, including Gaza’s second-largest city, Khan Younis. A video emerged in Israeli media depicting a powerful explosion ripping through Gaza’s main courthouse, the Palace of Justice. An internet and communications blackout in north Gaza was again reported by Paltel, a local telecommunications provider, on 4 December. Intense fighting was also reported around Jabalia. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that the organization had relocated medical supplies stored in Khan Younis to Rafah, following an earlier request by the Israeli military to do so, which “resulted in a postponement of the planned delivery of medicines” to UNRWA and MSF. The Israeli military reportedly dropped leaflets in the Arabic language in Khan Younis, which quote a passage from the Qur’an referring to the prophet Noah: “The flood overtook them, while they persisted in wrongdoing”.  

                The BBC has verified a video that depicts the Great Omari Mosque in Gaza City, which dates back to the 7th century, reduced to rubble; only the minaret remains standing. Hamas said that the damage stems from Israeli bombardment of the mosque. According to the WHO, Al-Awda Hospital in Jabalia “has been under siege since 5 December”, with at least 250 people still inside; two of its medical staff were reportedly killed on 9 December. Attacks were also reported in the vicinities of hospitals in Khan Younis.  

                Photographs emerged of scores of Palestinian men detained by the Israeli military in Beit Lahia; they had reportedly been sheltering in a school there and were depicted sitting on the ground with their hands tied behind their backs and stripped to their underwear, which caused outrage. They were later brought to an unknown location. Official Israeli sources said that potential ties of the detained with Hamas were being investigated. While it had initially been claimed that some of the detainees were Hamas fighters who had surrendered, several civilians were soon identified in the images. According to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, 153 women in Gaza have been detained by the Israeli military, some of them pregnant or with babies, and the vast majority since the end of the temporary humanitarian pause.  

                Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahia was reportedly encircled by the Israeli military, with fighting taking place in close proximity; on 11 December, the hospital’s maternity unit was struck, killing two patients and injuring several other persons. Around 3,000 displaced persons were reportedly sheltering there amidst “extreme shortages of water, food and power”. The hospital was raided on 12 December, with the Israeli military reportedly arresting more than 70 medical staff, including the hospital director. The troops withdrew from the hospital on 16 December. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, writing on X (formerly Twitter), condemned “the effective destruction of Kamal Adwan hospital … rendering it non-functional and resulting in the death of at least 8 patients”, “several [of whom] died due to lack of adequate health care, including a 9-year-old child”. Reports by hospital staff and patients later emerged which describe Israeli forces “desecrat[ing] the bodies of dead patients with bulldozers, let[ting] a military dog maul a man in a wheelchair, and [shooting] multiple doctors even after vetting them for terror links”.  

                The WHO released a statement on 12 December stating that one patient died on 9 December during a mission to evacuate patients in critical condition from Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City – which was barely functional, with medical staff, many of them volunteers, “treating many serious cases in the hospital’s corridors, on the floor, in the hospital chapel, and even in the street” – to Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis. In Gaza City, an aid truck and an ambulance were reportedly hit by bullets, and staff of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) were detained on two occasions at the Wadi Gaza checkpoint – during the initial travel north, and upon the convoy’s return. In the second instance, one PRCS staff member “was harassed, beaten, threatened, stripped of his clothes and blindfolded”; upon his release, he “was left to walk towards the south with his hands still tied behind his back, and without clothes or shoes”. Six staff working for both the Gaza Health Ministry and PRCS were detained at Al-Shifa Hospital on 18 November, during a WHO-led mission; four of them reportedly remained in detention as of 12 December, with their whereabouts unknown.  

                The Wall Street Journal reported on 12 December that the Israeli military had begun the process of flooding Hamas’ underground tunnel network with seawater, quoting comments by US officials. Between 14 and 18 December, when services were partially restored in the south, another telecommunications blackout was reported. On 15 December, Al Jazeera reported that its cameraman Samer Abudaqa succumbed to his wounds after being injured in an Israeli drone attack alongside Wael Al-Dahdouh, Al Jazeera’s Gaza bureau chief, in Khan Younis; he reportedly “bled to death because a heavy bombardment prevented paramedics from reaching him”. 

                On 16 December, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a statement detailing reports of “mass detentions, ill-treatment and enforced disappearance of possibly thousands of Palestinian men and boys, and a number of women and girls” by the Israeli military in the north of Gaza. The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem said that also on 16 December, two women, mother and daughter, were shot and killed on the grounds of the Holy Family Church in Gaza City, while others were injured, drawing strong condemnation from Pope Francis.  

                On 17 and 18 December, Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City was hit multiple times, resulting in 62 persons, including children, killed while others were shot and injured. On 18 December, Israeli raids took place near Al-Awda Hospital in Jabalia; all males over the age of 16 at the hospital were reportedly “arrested, stripped, bound and interrogated”, six of whom, including the hospital director, remained in detention, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health and hospital officials. The Ministry of Health further said that Al-Ahli Hospital was raided on 19 December. On the same day, over 100 persons were reportedly killed in a strike on a multistorey building in the Al-Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza City. 

                On 20 December, OHCHR reported that it had confirmed the killings of 11 unarmed Palestinian men in the Al-Rimal neighbourhood of Gaza City, the exact circumstances of which were reportedly still subject to verification. According to reports by witnesses cited in the media and the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor, Israeli forces gained control of a building where several families were sheltering, separated the men from the women and children, and summarily shot at least 11 of the men in front of their family members; some of the women and children were seriously injured when Israeli forces either shot at them or threw a grenade into the room they had been ordered to move to. Between 20 and 21 December, another telecommunications blackout was reported. On 24 December, Al-Maghazi refugee camp was struck, leaving at least 70 persons killed and many more injured. On 27 and 28 December, strikes hit the areas around Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis, killing 41 people and injuring several others.  

                On 1 January 2024, it was announced that Israel would withdraw some of its forces from Gaza. On 2, 3, and 4 January, Israel repeatedly struck in and around Al-Amal Hospital, where around 14,000 displaced persons had been sheltering, and the PRCS in Khan Younis, killing seven persons, including a five-day-old baby, and injuring 11 others, according to the PRCS. The attacks drew sharp condemnation from OCHA and the WHO. On 4 January, a missile attack reportedly hit Al-Mawasi killing three, amongst them a 10-year-old girl, and injuring five; Al-Mawasi had been designated as a “safe area” by the Israeli military, with Gaza residents having been urged repeatedly to move there.  

                On 7 January 2024, two journalists – Hamza Al-Dahdouh, who was the son of Wael Al-Dahdouh, and Mustafa Thuraya – were killed in southern Gaza when a missile struck the vehicle they were travelling in. The CPJ called for an investigation into the circumstances of their deaths, and in particular a determination of whether the strike was targeted. Al Jazeera previously reported that several members of Wael Al-Dahdouh’s family, including his wife and one-year-old grandson, were killed on 25 October in an Israeli strike on their place of shelter in Nuseirat refugee camp. 

                Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah – the only hospital that was still operational in the eponymous governorate as of 7 January – has been affected by fighting and “evacuation orders”, forcing staff and hundreds of patients to relocate; their whereabouts remain unknown, according to the hospital director. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described “sickening scenes of people of all ages being treated on blood-streaked floors and in chaotic corridors. An unidentified child laid dead, partially covered by a sheet, on a bed. Other injured were prostrate on the floor, being stepped over by the health staff and families. A man’s harrowing groans, either from pain or anguish, cut through the emergency ward’s commotion”. He concluded: “The bloodbath in Gaza must end”. 

                Explosion at Al-Ahli Hospital, 17 October 2023

                Israel imposes a complete siege on Gaza, after 16 years of blockade 

                On 9 October, Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant ordered a “complete siege” of Gaza, specifying “no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel, everything is closed”. He claimed that Israel is “fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly”. On 7 October, Israel had already cut off electricity and fuel. On 11 October, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, and Netanyahu rival Benny Gantz – the leader of the opposition Kahol Lavan party who is also a former Chief of Staff of the Israeli military and Defence Minister – formed an emergency war cabinet, with Gallant vowing to “wipe [Hamas] off the face of the Earth”. Israel mobilized around 360,000 reservists and amassed around 100,000 troops near Gaza, raising the spectre of a ground invasion. On 12 October, the Israeli military’s Chief of Staff, Herzl Halevi, pledged that “Gaza will never look the same”. On the same day, Israel Katz, Israel’s Energy Minister, threatened that no “electrical switch will be turned on, no water hydrant will be opened and no fuel truck will enter” until the hostages are released, a position reportedly shared by Defence Minister Gallant. Hamas has asserted on several occasions that Israel’s attacks on Gaza have killed some of the hostages.  

                On 14 October, UNRWA warned that “[c]lean water is running out in the Gaza Strip, after its water plant and public water networks stopped working”; Gaza residents are reportedly forced to consume “brackish water from agricultural wells”. Humanitarian organizations have raised alarm that the lack of clean water for drinking and personal hygiene severely increases the risk of infectious disease outbreaks, such as cholera. According to the UN, Gazans only have around three litres of water at their disposal, while the recommended minimum is between 50 and 100 litres; for purposes of illustration, it is estimated that an adult in the United Kingdom (UK) uses around 142 litres of water in a day. On 22 October, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini warned that fuel in Gaza will run out in three days, which would mean “no water, no functioning hospitals and bakeries” as well as “no humanitarian assistance”. Due to the shortage of water, fuel, electricity, and medical supplies, doctors in Gaza have been forced to operate on patients without sufficient anaesthetics, and to use “clothes for bandages, vinegar for antiseptic, sewing needles for surgical ones”, according to reports. This is only a small part of the picture: Gaza’s entire health care system is “on the brink of collapse”. Furthermore, there are growing concerns about environmental hazards and the spread of diseases due to the breakdown of sewage pumps, water wells, as well as desalination and wastewater treatment plants. 

                View of the ruins of a building destroyed by an airstrike carried out by Israel. Photo: Mohammed Zaanoun/ActiveStills Photo Collective (Jabaliya, Gaza, 9 October 2023). All rights reserved.

                Displacement and unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe 

                Displacement from north Gaza 

                The destruction of homes and infrastructure, shortage of water, food, electricity, and fuel, as well as the threat of near-constant heavy bombardment has led to the displacement of an estimated 1.9 million Palestinians in Gaza, many of whom are sheltering in UNRWA facilities.  

                On 10 October, Egypt closed the Rafah crossing to Gaza residents for an indefinite time period; the Israeli military had suggested previously that Gazans should leave through there to escape the bombardment, only to reverse course. From 8 October until 21 October, the Rafah crossing remained fully closed (with the Egyptian Foreign Ministry denying a closure and clarifying that the crossing was damaged by Israeli airstrikes). On 13 October, the Israeli military reportedly directed the more than 1 million residents of northern Gaza to move south, prompting concerns of an imminent land offensive and drawing international outrage. Gaza’s biggest hospital Al-Shifa is located in this area, in Gaza City. UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that “[m]oving more than one million people across a densely populated warzone … is extremely dangerous” and may not be “possible”, urging the Israeli authorities to “reconsider”, while numerous organizations, including the WHO, Amnesty International, and the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), called for the order to be rescinded with immediate effect. Many Palestinians fear a second Nakba, a majority of Gaza residents being refugees or descendants of refugees who were displaced during the 1948 war that led to the establishment of the State of Israel and concomitant mass exodus of over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes across Mandatory Palestine. One resident interviewed by Amnesty International remarked: “We went to sleep in 2023 and woke up in 1948”.  

                UNRWA relocated its foreign staff and central operations centre to the south of Gaza, urging the Israeli military “to protect all civilians in UNRWA shelters including schools”. A spokesperson for the WHO said that moving critically ill patients from hospitals in north Gaza “is a death sentence” and that “[a]sking health workers to do so is beyond cruel”. On the same day, MSF reported being given two hours to “evacuate” Al-Awda Hospital in north Gaza, which was then postponed until 6 am local time on 14 October. Hamas reportedly instructed Gazans to “remain steadfast in [their] homes and to stand firm in the face of this disgusting psychological war waged by the occupation”. On 12 October, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi had reportedly said that Palestinians in Gaza should “stay steadfast and remain on their land”. Gazans are seemingly left with two options: mass displacement, which for many of them calls to mind painful memories of the Nakba, or staying in their homes under bombardment.  

                On 12 October, the ICRC warned that “[w]ithout electricity, hospitals risk turning into morgues”. UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini cautioned in similarly stark terms that Gaza is “becoming a hell hole and is on the brink of collapse”. On 14 October, the Israeli military announced that it would allegedly allow Gazans to safely travel southwards until 4 pm local time; thousands reportedly made their way south. There are indications that fleeing civilians may have come under attack. On 16 October, the EU announced that it is setting up an air bridge to transfer humanitarian supplies to Gaza via Egypt. King Abdullah II of Jordan indicated that neither his country nor Egypt are willing to host refugees from Gaza. On 18 October, the Israeli military published a call for the residents of northern Gaza “to evacuate towards the area of Al-Mawasi, south of Wadi Gaza”, where allegedly “international humanitarian aid will be provided as needed”.  

                On 17 October, OCHA documented that fatalities from recent Israeli airstrikes have “included people moving southward in compliance with the Israeli military order to evacuate the northern Gaza Strip”; it was also reported that some of those who fled to the south of Gaza have been returning north because of ongoing airstrikes also in the south and lack of shelter. Hundreds of displaced Palestinians who wound up in Khan Younis in the south of Gaza are reportedly forced to live in tents provided by the UN, an image which for many is yet another painful reminder of the Nakba. A spokesperson for UNRWA stated that “[n]owhere today in Gaza is safe”. At a peace summit in Cairo, King Abdullah II of Jordan warned that “the forced or internal displacement of Palestinians would be a war crime”. PA President Mahmoud Abbas declared: “Ladies and gentlemen, we will not leave, we will not leave, we will not leave, and we will remain on our land”. 

                On 21 October, an aid convoy consisting of 20 trucks entered via the Rafah crossing “for the first time since 8 October”; according to the Associated Press, “[m]ore than 200 trucks carrying 3,000 tons of aid have been waiting nearby for days”. The trucks carried more than 44,000 bottles of drinking water, reportedly sufficient for 22,000 people for one day, “60 metric tonnes of emergency food” provided by the WFP, as well as some medical supplies, for a total of (then) around 1.4 million displaced persons. Martin Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, expressed the hope that “this delivery will be the start of a sustainable effort to provide essential supplies – including food, water, medicine and fuel – to the people of Gaza” who “have endured decades of suffering”. UN Secretary-General Guterres called for “a commitment for much, much more – a continuous delivery of aid to Gaza at the scale that is needed”. One aid worker quoted in The Guardian said that “what’s being delivered today is barely a drop in the ocean. Before this crisis began, around 500 aid trucks would normally cross the border every day providing a vital lifeline to millions of Gazans who were already facing a humanitarian crisis”. Also on 21 October, Israel reportedly doubled down on its relocation directives for the residents of northern Gaza; according to Politico, the military dropped leaflets in the area indicating that “[a]nyone who chooses not to evacuate from the North of the Gaza Strip to the South of the Gaza Strip may be identified as a partner in a terrorist organization”.  

                On 22 October, a second aid convoy consisting of 14 trucks reportedly passed through the Rafah crossing into Gaza. There were reports about a third convoy on 23 October. On 27 October, it was reported that a first medical team comprised of international specialists was allowed to enter Gaza, alongside 10 trucks with aid. The afternoon of 28 October, while Gaza was under communications blackout, the Israeli military published an announcement on X (formerly Twitter) in English, calling upon the residents of north Gaza “to temporarily relocate south”, claiming that “[m]oving back to northern Gaza will be possible once the intense hostilities end” and that “your window to act is closing”. According to the PRCS, on 29 October the military requested that Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza be “immediately evacuate[d]”, prompting WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to warn that “it’s impossible to evacuate hospitals full of patients without endangering their lives”. OCHA reported as well that “[a]ll 13 hospitals still operational in Gaza city and northern Gaza have received repeated evacuation orders in recent days”, and that the Israeli military had reportedly struck the areas around Al-Quds and Al-Shifa Hospitals in Gaza City, as well as the Indonesian Hospital in Beit Lahia.  

                Palestinians walk with water bottles in Rafah, south Gaza. Photo: Mohammed Zaanoun/ActiveStills Photo Collective (Rafah, Gaza, 12 December 2023). All rights reserved.

                On 1 November, more than 300 foreign passport holders and dozens of injured and sick persons were allowed to cross into Egypt via the Rafah crossing. On the same day, the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital, the principal hospital in Gaza that offers cancer treatment, ceased operations reportedly after running out of fuel, according to Gazan health officials. An analysis conducted by the BBC corroborates that on at least three occasions, Israeli airstrikes hit in close proximity to “vaguely defined areas” that the military had directed Gaza residents to move to for their safety.  

                On 2 November, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus published a video on X (formerly Twitter) describing the situation in Gaza. Observing that thousands have been killed since the start of the hostilities, he goes on to say: “It’s too late to help the dead now. But we can help the living. We can help those who live every moment in fear. We can help injured civilians. We can help the almost 200 women who are expected to deliver babies every day. We can help children and older people. We can help those with life-threatening diseases who need urgent medical care. The ultimate solution is one thing we can’t provide: peace”.  

                On 3 November, the WHO said that “14 hospitals and 45 primary health care centres [in Gaza are] closed”, with devastating consequences for patients, in particular babies, children, and women, who are forced “to give birth in shelters, in their homes, in the streets amid rubble, or in overwhelmed healthcare facilities, where sanitation is worsening, and the risk of infection and medical complications is on the rise”. It has been reported that doctors perform emergency C-sections without anaesthetics; according to Al Jazeera Arabic, there have also been instances of women having to undergo hysterectomies to save their lives. On 5 November, telecommunications and internet services were reportedly cut again in Gaza. On 9 November, a WFP official warned that the entire population of Gaza is food insecure and faces severe risks of malnutrition. Strikes hitting bakeries and fishing boats have also been reported, threatening to further exacerbate food shortages. Attacks on and damage to solar panels, especially around Gaza City, have reportedly cut off “one of the remaining sources of energy for hospitals and water and food production”. 

                On 7 November, the ICRC issued a statement condemning an attack on a humanitarian convoy – including two ICRC vehicles – en route to hospitals in Gaza City; the convoy eventually managed to reach Al-Shifa Hospital and dropped off medical supplies there. The head of the ICRC delegation in Gaza said that “[t]hese are not the conditions under which humanitarian personnel can work”. On 8 November, with the support of UNRWA, a WHO convoy reportedly delivered emergency medical supplies to Al-Shifa Hospital, marking “only the second delivery of lifesaving supplies to the hospital since the escalation of hostilities and the total siege of Gaza began”. On 10 November, around a dozen children suffering from cancer and blood diseases were evacuated through the Rafah crossing with Egypt in order to obtain treatment elsewhere, the health care system in Gaza having collapsed.  

                While exact numbers cannot be given, it has been estimated that between 5 and 13 November around 200,000 Gazans moved south, many reportedly on foot, amidst reports about “[o]vercrowding and limited access to shelter, food and water, in the south”; hundreds of thousands reportedly remained in the north, who “are struggling to secure the minimum amount of water and food for survival”. On 16 November, telecommunications services reportedly broke down across Gaza due to lack of fuel. On the same day, the director of the Indonesian Hospital in Beit Lahia said that the hospital shut down all its functions, with patients in need of surgery reportedly left in the reception area.  

                The Executive Director of the WFP warned in a statement dated 16 November that “[w]ith winter fast approaching, unsafe and overcrowded shelters, and the lack of clean water, civilians are facing the immediate possibility of starvation” and urged the opening of a second crossing to let aid pass through, echoing similar remarks by UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths. The Israeli authorities had reportedly turned down a proposal to allow for the passage of aid through the Kerem Shalom crossing. On 22 November, dozens of Palestinians were reportedly buried in a mass grave in Khan Younis, in the south of Gaza. The WHO has warned that more people in Gaza could succumb to infectious diseases than bombardment in light of an ever-deteriorating humanitarian situation and the collapse of the health system. 

                Palestinians cross a road flooded by water after it was damaged by a nearby airstrike carried out by Israel. Photo: Mohammed Zaanoun/ActiveStills Photo Collective (Beit Lahiya, Gaza, 9 October 2023). All rights reserved.

                The aftermath of the humanitarian pause 

                On 1 December, following the collapse of the humanitarian pause, a map dividing the Gaza Strip into hundreds of different areas was published on the official website of the Israeli military, according to its title allegedly “to direct Gaza residents to evacuate targeted areas”. OCHA noted that it is not indicated where residents should evacuate to, and that “[i]t is unclear how those residing in Gaza would access the map without electricity and amid recurrent telecommunications cuts”. UNRWA Commissioner-General Lazzarini said on 5 December that more than 600,000 people in southern Gaza “are under evacuation orders” with “nowhere to go”. Tents for the displaced were reportedly set up in Rafah due to the overcrowding of shelters. On the basis of satellite images, HRW documented the systematic razing of farmland, greenhouses, and orchards by the Israeli military around Beit Hanoun, which stands to further exacerbate the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe and the grave risk of starvation. On 7 December, it was reported that the Israeli authorities agreed to open the Kerem Shalom crossing “to increase the capacity to inspect aid trucks, but not to allow aid into Gaza directly”.  

                On 8 December, OCHA described the conditions in Rafah for tens of thousands displaced persons as follows: “[T]hey are subject to extreme overcrowded conditions with no empty space to shelter, not even in the streets … or other open areas. Thousands of people wait for hours in large crowds around aid distribution centres, in desperate need of food, water, shelter, health, and protection”. The BBC reported that Al-Mawasi, the area that the Israeli military had directed Gazans to move to over a dozen times, is “smaller than London’s Heathrow Airport”; one Gaza resident who moved to the area told the BBC that it is “neither humane nor safe”, with airstrikes taking place in close proximity and Israeli tanks being visible. Others said that water and electricity are only available sporadically, amidst a shortage of basic supplies. Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem said in a report dated 7 December that “[t]he humanitarian crisis currently underway in the Gaza Strip is not a side effect of the war, but the direct intended result of the policy implemented by Israel”, and that “[t]he people behind this policy see inflicting a humanitarian crisis on more than two million people as a legitimate way to put pressure on Hamas”.  

                With intensifying Israeli attacks on the central governorate of Deir al-Balah and the southern governorate of Khan Younis, the southernmost Rafah governorate bordering Egypt has become “the main refuge for those displaced, with over one million people squeezed into an extremely overcrowded space”. The Israeli military reportedly kept issuing directives to leave for an ever-growing number of neighbourhoods, pushing Gaza residents into “ever smaller areas”. According to OCHA, between 1 December 2023 and early January 2024, such directives were issued for an area “estimated to cover 128 square kilometres south of Wadi Gaza alone (35 per cent of the Gaza Strip) and previously home to just over 1 million people (44 per cent of Gaza’s population)”. This includes the locations of dozens of hospitals and health facilities and over 100 shelters housing more than half a million displaced persons. 

                Calls for the transfer of Palestinians from Gaza 

                A document drawn up by the Israeli Ministry of Intelligence reportedly proposes relocating residents of Gaza to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. On 11 November, Avi Dichter, the Israeli Minister of Agriculture who is also a member of Israel’s security cabinet, said in an interview: “We are now rolling out the Gaza Nakba … Gaza Nakba 2023. That’s how it’ll end”. On 14 November, ultranationalist Finance Minister and Minister in the Defence Ministry Bezalel Smotrich reportedly wrote on Facebook: “I welcome the initiative of members of Knesset Ram Ben-Barak and Danny Danon on the voluntary immigration of Gaza Arabs [sic] to the countries of the world. This is the right humanitarian solution for the residents of Gaza and the entire region”. According to the Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom, Prime Minister Netanyahu reportedly asked Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer to devise plans for reducing Gaza’s population “to a minimum”.  

                Ultranationalist Finance Minister and Minister in the Defence Ministry Smotrich said in a radio interview at the end of December: “If there are 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs in Gaza and not two million, the whole discourse about the day after will be different”. He also claimed on social media that 70% of Israelis agree with what he called the “voluntary migration” of Palestinians from Gaza. Ultranationalist National Security Minister Ben-Gvir echoed such calls and expressed support for the resettlement of Gaza by Israel. These comments drew sharp criticism from the US, the EU, Germany, France, the Netherlands, the United Arab Emirates, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk, amongst others. Ultranationalist Knesset member Zvi Sukkot of the Religious Zionism party said in a TV interview that “Jewish settlement on ruins of Palestinian villages is a message we must convey”. On 7 January 2024, Ben-Gvir reportedly doubled down on his remarks calling for a mass exodus of Palestinians from Gaza and the re-establishment of Israeli settlements in the Strip.  

                Developments on the Lebanese border and in the wider region

                The Israeli-Lebanese border has become another ‘area of operations’, with rocket fire, missiles, and infiltration from southern Lebanon reported as well as Israeli shelling, raising fears of a wider regional conflagration, including the entry into the war of the Iran-sponsored Lebanese armed group Hezbollah, deemed to be amongst the best equipped and most powerful militias in the world. On 10 October, shells and missiles were reportedly launched from Syria, drawing responding fire by the Israeli military. On 12 October, Israel reportedly struck the airports in Damascus and Aleppo. On 13 October, it was reported that Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met with Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut, with the former warning that the war could spill over to other parts of the region should Israel’s attacks on Gaza continue.  

                Also on 13 October, Israeli shelling of southern Lebanon killed Issam Abdallah, a journalist from Reuters, and injured six others. An investigation by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) suggests that the journalists were hit by two strikes in close proximity and rapid succession, which “clearly indicate[s] precise targeting”; they were wearing press vests and helmets, and their vehicle was also marked with the inscription ‘press’ on the roof. An assessment by HRW, released on 7 December, concludes that the strikes “were apparently deliberate attacks on civilians, which is a war crime”. Amnesty International said as well that the strikes “were likely a direct attack on civilians that must be investigated as a war crime”.  

                On 14 October, rockets were reportedly fired from Syrian territory, drawing Israeli artillery fire; the Israeli military again struck Aleppo airport. Clashes along the Israeli-Lebanese border intensified; Israel reportedly set up a 4 km ‘buffer zone’ along the border and prepared to evacuate residents. On 17 October, Hezbollah reportedly fired an anti-tank missile into northern Israel, leaving three injured; five members of the group were later killed by Israeli strikes. On 19 October, Hezbollah and Hamas fired dozens of rockets from Lebanon towards northern Israel; the Israeli military struck back. On 20 October, an Israeli soldier was killed by an anti-tank missile. Six Hezbollah members and one PIJ member were reportedly killed on 21 October. Israel’s Minister of Economy and Industry, Nir Barkat, threatened that if Hezbollah joins the war, Israel would not just retaliate against the group but also attack Iran. On 22 October, Syrian State media reported that the Israeli military had again hit the airports in Aleppo and Damascus.  

                According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the clashes along the Israeli-Lebanese border have led to the displacement of almost 29,000 persons inside Lebanon. On 27 October, the US attacked targets in Syria that are allegedly tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and allied militias, in response to earlier attacks on US bases in Syria and Iraq. On 29 October, the Israeli military struck targets in Lebanon following earlier rocket fire. On 30 October, Israel again carried out strikes in Syria and Lebanon in response to rocket fire; on the same day, the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Syria, Geir Pedersen, said that the hostilities have already spilled over into Syria and warned of “a terrifying prospect of a potential wider escalation”.  

                On 31 October, the Iranian-backed Yemeni group Ansar Allah (commonly known as the Houthis) reportedly claimed responsibility for barrages of missiles fired towards the Israeli port city of Eilat by the Red Sea, which were intercepted by the Israeli military. Amnesty International reported again that the Israeli military has used white phosphorus on several occasions in southern Lebanon. On 2 November, the situation along the Israeli-Lebanese border deteriorated, with some of the strongest strikes by Hezbollah on Israeli positions and Israeli retaliation in southern Lebanon reported since the start of the hostilities. On 3 November, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Nasrallah delivered the first public address since the outbreak of the hostilities. In a speech lasting over an hour, he said that Hezbollah “already entered the battle on Oct. 8”; while he warned that “all options are on the table”, including a possible wider conflagration, he seemed to tie this to the further course of events in Gaza. Some analysts interpreted this as a sign of deterrence on the northern front for the time being. On 5 November, an Israeli strike in southern Lebanon hit a car, reportedly killing three children and their grandmother and injuring the mother, all civilians; Hezbollah retaliated with rocket fire on Kiryat Shmona.  

                On 8 November, Hezbollah’s Deputy Secretary-General, Naim Qassem, seemingly warned in an interview with the BBC that a wider regional war remains a possibility if Israel continues or further escalates its bombardment of Gaza. On the same day, the US reportedly again struck targets in eastern Syria allegedly linked to the IRGC and allied militias. On 9 November, a school in the southern city of Eilat was reportedly struck by a drone; the Israeli military attacked targets in Syria in response. On 13 November, a group of journalists in southern Lebanon reportedly came under attack from the Israeli military; a photographer working for Al Jazeera was injured. According to reports, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, indicated to the Hamas leadership that Iran would not join the war in Gaza. On 19 November, Yemen’s Ansar Allah (commonly known as the Houthis) seized a cargo ship – which they claimed to be Israeli – in the southern Red Sea. On 21 November, Farah Omar and Rabih Al Maamari, both working for the Lebanese news channel Al Mayadeen, were killed during an Israeli strike in southern Lebanon. On 22 November, an Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon reportedly killed five members of Hezbollah; the following day, Hezbollah fired a barrage of over 50 rockets towards northern Israel. On 26 November, Israel reportedly struck the airport in Damascus, putting it out of service.  

                With the resumption of the hostilities in Gaza on 1 December, fighting was also renewed along the Israeli-Lebanese border. On 3 December, the US carried out an airstrike near Kirkuk, reportedly against Iraqi militias with links to Iran. On the same day, missiles reportedly fired by Yemen’s Houthis struck commercial ships in the Red Sea. On 6 December, a missile fired from Yemen was intercepted by Israel’s missile defence system. On 8 December, the US embassy in Baghdad was reportedly struck by mortars; separate attacks also took place against US military bases in Iraq and Syria. On 10 December, in a further escalation, Hezbollah reportedly launched drone and missile attacks on northern Israel; Israel carried out large-scale strikes in southern Lebanon. An investigation by the Washington Post, published on 11 December, documents that Israel used US-manufactured white phosphorus munitions in southern Lebanon. On 12 December, a missile hit a Norwegian oil tanker in the Red Sea; the attack was claimed by the Houthis.  

                The US administration announced the establishment of an international task force to ensure the safety of shipping in the Red Sea. The situation along the Israeli-Lebanese border remained volatile. On 25 December, an airstrike in Damascus attributed to Israel killed Razi Mousavi, a senior IRGC general. On the same day, an attack claimed by the Iran-aligned group Kata’ib Hezbollah on a US military base in Erbil in northern Iraq injured three, drawing US retaliatory strikes on targets linked to the group and others in Iraq. On 31 December, the US military sank three ships belonging to Ansar Allah, reportedly in response to an attack by the group on a Maersk container ship.  

                On 2 January 2024, a strike in the south of the Lebanese capital Beirut, attributed to Israel, killed Saleh Al-Arouri, the deputy head of Hamas’ politbureau, who was seen as the group’s leader in the occupied West Bank and reportedly had close ties to Hezbollah and Iran, raising fears of retaliation and further escalation. On 3 January, Hezbollah Secretary-General Nasrallah delivered another public address in which he called Al-Arouri’s killing “a major, dangerous crime about which we cannot be silent”. He also warned: “If the enemy … thinks of waging a war on Lebanon, we will fight without restraint, without rules, without limits and without restrictions … Whoever considers going into war against us, will simply regret it”. At the same time, analysts have suggested that the lack of direct threats against Israel may signal deterrence rather than a desire to engage in all-out war, beyond the ongoing confrontations along the border. Also on 3 January, members of the UN Security Council discussed threats to international shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden resulting from recent attacks by Ansar Allah, calling upon the group to cease such acts.  

                On 4 January, the US carried out a strike on the Harakat al-Nujaba group in Baghdad, killing one of the group’s leaders, reportedly in response to attacks on US personnel in Iraq. In a second speech on 5 January, Nasrallah seemed to signal that Hezbollah would retaliate against Israel over the killing of Al-Arouri, without indicating specifics. On 6 January, Hezbollah fired rockets towards northern Israel, and Israel carried out strikes on Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon.  

                Palestinians inspect the destruction of a building following an Israeli airstrike on Gaza City. Photo: Mohammed Zaanoun/ActiveStills Photo Collective (Gaza City, 11 October 2023). All rights reserved.

                Increasing violence and oppression in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and towards Palestinian citizens of Israel

                Use of force in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem 

                As hostilities rage in Gaza and Israel, confrontations have been taking place between Israeli forces and Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, including annexed East Jerusalem. Between 7 October 2023 and 7 January 2024, 326 Palestinians, amongst them 84 children, have been killed. 4,042 Palestinians have been injured, including 606 children. Five Israelis have been killed by Palestinians, four of them reportedly members of Israeli forces. The week of 9 to 15 October marked “the deadliest … for West Bank Palestinians since OCHA began recording casualties in 2005” (reported on 16 October). Throughout 2023, 507 Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, were killed, which constitutes “the highest number … since OCHA started recording casualties in 2005”.  

                Hamas called for a ‘day of rage’ on 13 October; overnight and on this day alone, Israeli forces killed 13 Palestinians, amongst them four children and one woman, across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, most during protests. On 19 and 20 October, Israeli forces conducted an operation in Nur Shams refugee camp near Tulkarm in the northwestern West Bank. According to OCHA, 13 Palestinians, amongst them six children, were killed and 62 injured; one member of the Israeli forces was killed, and nine others were injured. The Israeli military reportedly struck the camp from the air; UNRWA documented extensive damage to homes and infrastructure. On 22 October, the Israeli military carried out an airstrike in Jenin refugee camp in the northern West Bank, citing an “imminent terror attack” being planned from a compound underneath Al-Ansar Mosque allegedly belonging to Hamas and PIJ operatives, which was hit; two people were reportedly killed. The strike marked “the first Israeli use of a warplane in the West Bank since the second intifada in the early 2000s”.  

                On 25 October, it was reported that Israeli forces conducted another raid in Jenin refugee camp and carried out a drone strike, killing four Palestinians, including two children aged 15 and 17. On 9 November, OCHA reported that 13 Palestinians, amongst them one child, were killed by Israeli forces in Jenin refugee camp; during the raid, there were “armed clashes with Palestinians, and airstrikes, resulting in extensive infrastructure damage”. During an Israeli military raid in Tulkarm, reported on 14 November, seven Palestinians were killed; OCHA cited reports by medical sources that “during the operation, Israeli forces impeded the work of paramedics”. On 16 November, at a checkpoint near Bethlehem, three Palestinians reportedly opened fire at Israeli soldiers killing one and injuring three; they were then shot and killed by Israeli forces. On 17 November, reports emerged that three Palestinians were killed in an Israeli drone strike in Jenin. 

                There have been reports about a sharp increase in applications for gun licenses amongst Israeli citizens, ultranationalist National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir having facilitated and expedited the process for obtaining licensing and gun ownership; furthermore, hundreds of armed civilian security squads have reportedly been set up to patrol the streets alongside the police. 

                On 22 November, in Tulkarm refugee camp, six persons were reportedly killed during a raid “that involved armed clashes with Palestinians and Israeli airstrikes, resulting in extensive infrastructure and residential damage”. On the same day, Israeli forces shot and killed a 14-year-old child near Nablus. On 25 November, an armed group in the West Bank claimed to have killed two Palestinian men whom they accused of collaborating with Israel. On 29 November, Israeli forces killed four Palestinians, including two children aged eight and 15, in Jenin refugee camp; Palestinian medical sources reportedly said that the forces “impeded the work of paramedics, denied access to a hospital, and arrested an injured person while paramedics were transferring him into a hospital”. On 30 November, three Israelis were killed in a shooting attack in West Jerusalem, which was reportedly claimed by Hamas; the two assailants were shot and killed. A fourth Israeli who reportedly tried to intervene and shot at the assailants was himself mistaken for an assailant, shot by a soldier, and later succumbed to his injuries.  

                On 2 December, a 14-year-old child who allegedly tried to stab a soldier was shot and killed by Israeli forces near Nablus; Palestinian medical sources said that Israeli forces prevented the evacuation of his body. On 4 December, Israeli forces conducted raids in Qalqilya and Qalandia refugee camp, killing three Palestinians and injuring 32 others, amongst them four children. A video emerged of an Israeli soldier shooting and injuring a Palestinian man near Hebron, despite a bystander reportedly telling the soldiers that the man has special needs. On 6 December, Israeli forces reportedly killed two Palestinians, one of them a child, and injured six others in two separate operations in Tubas Governorate. On 8 December, six Palestinians, including one child, were killed by Israeli forces in Far’a refugee camp near Tubas.  

                On 12 December, Israeli forces killed five Palestinians in the course of an operation in Jenin and Jenin refugee camp, four of them in a drone strike; two other Palestinians, amongst them a 13-year-old child, reportedly “died after their access to medical care and hospitalization was impeded during the incident”. The operation lasted for a period of around 60 hours, until 14 December, and the total number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces rose to 11, including three children, one of whom was shot and killed on the premises of a hospital, according to eyewitness accounts and the Palestinian Ministry of Health, while dozens were injured. During the operation, large swathes of infrastructure were damaged and hundreds of Palestinians were reportedly arrested; Reuters verified footage depicting an Israeli soldier singing a Jewish prayer inside a mosque. On 27 December, Israeli forces carried out a drone strike in Nur Shams refugee camp in Tulkarm, reportedly killing six Palestinians, amongst them two children, and injuring two others.  

                Also on 27 December, OHCHR released a report on the human rights situation in the occupied West  Bank, including East Jerusalem, covering the time period from 7 October until 20 November 2023. The report documents “an increase in the use of military tactics and weapons in law enforcement contexts, the use of unnecessary or disproportionate – and therefore unlawful – force to suppress Palestinian protests and to enforce broad movement restrictions imposed on discriminatory grounds”, “[m]ass arbitrary detentions and consequential unlawful detentions, and reported torture and other ill-treatment of Palestinians”, as well as a sharp increase in settler violence and related displacement of Palestinian communities, resulting in an ever-more “coercive environment” in which “Palestinians live in constant terror of the discriminatory use of State force and settler violence against them”.  

                On 2 and 3 January 2024, Israeli forces operated in Nur Shams refugee camp, reportedly injuring several Palestinians and inflicting damage to homes and infrastructure. On 6 January, it was reported that during a raid in Jenin, one member of Israeli forces was killed when a military vehicle was attacked with explosives; seven Palestinians, amongst them a 17-year-old child and four brothers, were killed in subsequent Israeli airstrikes. On 7 January, Israeli forces shot and killed three Palestinians, including a three-year-old girl, close to a checkpoint near Jerusalem; one Palestinian man was killed in a shooting attack on a bypass road in the West Bank, having reportedly been mistaken for a settler.  

                Israel’s ultranationalist Finance Minister and Minister in the Defence Ministry Bezalel Smotrich reportedly said that there are “two million Nazis” in the West Bank, while Prime Minister Netanyahu has been sounding the message that only he can prevent the establishment of a Palestinian State.  

                Arrests, detention, and other restrictive measures  

                There have been increasing reports of Israeli police detaining East Jerusalemites and Palestinian citizens of Israel over social media posts and students and employees being suspended or dismissed. Other concerning measures such as a de facto ban on demonstrations against the war or in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, and threats directed specifically against Palestinian lawyers and Knesset members have been reported as well; on 15 November, parliamentarian Aida Touma-Sliman of the Hadash party published a video on X (formerly Twitter) in which she stated that she had been suspended from participation in the Knesset plenary and committee sessions by the Knesset’s Ethics Committee for two months, reportedly over her stance regarding the war.  

                On 8 November, the Knesset amended the Counter-Terrorism Law of 2016, which contains numerous broad and open-ended provisions that have been criticized since the law’s inception seven years ago. The amendment criminalizes “systematic and continuous consumption of publications of a terrorist organization under circumstances that indicate identification with the terrorist organization” and specifically lists Hamas and the so-called ‘Islamic State’ for this purpose.  

                Also on 8 November, Amnesty International reported a sharp uptick in the number of Palestinians arbitrarily detained by Israel and detailed instances of detainees being subjected to torture and severe ill-treatment, which is a longstanding issue of concern; in one instance, a female prisoner was reportedly threatened with rape. OHCHR said on 1 December that over 3,000 Palestinians had been arrested since 7 October, and as of 1 January 2024 the number of administrative detainees – i.e., those held without charge or trial – stands at 3,291, according to human rights organization HaMoked, while the total number of so-called “security inmates” is 8,600.  

                OHCHR also said on 1 December that six Palestinian detainees have died in Israeli custody, amidst reports of “mass beatings” of prisoners. The head of the PA Commission for Prisoners’ Affairs told Reuters that autopsies of deceased prisoners revealed signs of torture and medical neglect; hundreds more “were wounded after being severely beaten, their limbs and ribs broken and their bodies bruised”. On 2 January 2024, Palestinian sources reported that a seventh Palestinian prisoner, aged 23 and hailing from Nablus, had died in Megiddo prison in northern Israel. His family said that he was tortured in custody.  

                The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club documented that over 260 Palestinians were newly arrested during the humanitarian pause, while the prisoners’ release was ongoing. According to witness testimony of a Palestinian released during the pause, one detainee, Thaer Abu Assab, was beaten to death: “He was tortured because of a question; he asked the warden whether there was a truce. Then he got beaten to death”. Another detainee released during the pause also said that Abu Assab was beaten severely, left lying on the ground bleeding, and succumbed to his injuries.  

                On 7 December, a group of human rights organizations registered in Israel warned of “systemic torture and inhumane treatment of Palestinian detainees in Israeli prison facilities since October 7”. Other ill-treatment inflicted on Palestinian detainees, in addition to severe beatings, reportedly includes sexual assault and harassment; humiliating treatment; and threats and intimidation to prevent abuse from being reported. Family visits and visits by the ICRC have reportedly been suspended, and detainees have been prevented from being in contact with their lawyers. Ultranationalist National Security Minister Ben-Gvir reportedly said during a prison visit that detainees were being subjected to “the strictest conditions”, and that “the Israeli national anthem would play on loudspeakers at all times”.  

                The Palestinian Prisoners’ Club and others reported that Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian politician affiliated with Fatah and currently imprisoned by Israel, was moved from Ofer prison in the West Bank to solitary confinement in another facility; he reportedly petitioned an Israeli court against his detention conditions and ill-treatment he says he suffered at the hands of prison authorities.  

                On 9 November, Mohammad Barakeh, the Chairman of the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, was arrested reportedly over plans to hold a demonstration against the Gaza war in Nazareth. Three former members of the Knesset and the Director-General of the Balad party – like Barakeh, all Palestinian citizens of Israel – were detained as well, reportedly when they gathered at the site of the planned protest.  

                Detention of Palestinians from Gaza 

                There are also serious concerns over the physical safety and well-being of Gazans who used to work in Israel, around 4,000 of whom (figure quoted by the Israeli media) were reportedly detained by the Israeli authorities after their work permits were revoked in the wake of the 7 October attacks. Testimonies indicate that persons in detention have been subjected to ill-treatment; some were reportedly held incommunicado and had their belongings confiscated. On 3 November, following an Israeli cabinet decision, more than 3,000 Gazans were reportedly sent back to the Gaza Strip via the Kerem Shalom crossing; others reportedly remain detained by Israel. On 6 November, it was reported that two Gazan workers detained at the Ofer and Anatot bases, respectively, died in custody; their bodies are reportedly still being held by the Israeli military, which has not opened an investigation into their deaths. Middle East Eye has reported that a third worker died on the way back to Gaza. Overnight from 9 to 10 November, another 982 workers were reportedly sent back to Gaza via Kerem Shalom, and 300 others were returned on 28 November. On 3 January 2024, HRW reported as well that Gaza workers were being kept in incommunicado detention by Israel, with reports of mistreatment abounding; it is estimated that thousands more are still in the West Bank “without valid legal status and vulnerable to arrest”.  

                A Ha’aretz report, also published on 3 January and citing figures from HaMoked, said that 661 Palestinians from Gaza were being held in Israeli prisons, excluding an unknown number detained at the Sde Teiman military base near Be’er Sheva, where detainees are reportedly being subjected to beatings and other severe abuse and ill-treatment while being denied medical care; according to reports, several of them have died in custody. Many are held pursuant to the so-called “Unlawful Combatants Law”, which was first adopted in 2002 and has been criticized for falling short of international human rights standards. Following a legislative amendment in December, a detention order for persons detained under this Law must only be issued within 45 days of their arrest, and they must be brought before a judge within 75 days; detainees can be prevented access to a lawyer for up to 180 days by means of a court order to this effect.  

                +972 Magazine, in cooperation with Local Call, conducted interviews with several Gazan civilians who were detained by the Israeli military and examined video testimonies available in Arabic media, all of which point to “systematic abuse and torture by Israeli soldiers against all of the detainees, civilians and combatants alike”. This includes reports that Israeli forces “subjected Palestinian detainees to electric shocks, burned their skin with lighters, spat in their mouths, and deprived them of sleep, food, and access to bathrooms until they defecated on themselves”. Others “were tied to a fence for hours, handcuffed, and blindfolded for most of the day”, “beaten all over their bodies[,] and ha[d] cigarettes extinguished on their necks or backs”.  

                Access and movement restrictions 

                Access and movement restrictions for residents of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, such as “closures, checkpoints and roadblocks”, have been reported as well, especially around the so-called ‘Seam Zone’ (i.e., the area east of the ‘Green Line’ and west of the ‘Separation Barrier’) and in areas close to Israeli settlements. Since the start of hostilities, dozens of additional checkpoints and road blocks have reportedly been set up, and crossing from the West Bank into Jerusalem has been rendered much more difficult. According to B’Tselem, hundreds of Palestinian families in the H2 (Israeli-controlled) area of Hebron have been subjected to a curfew since 7 October, and only since 21 October have they been allowed to “leave home on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening” while having to cross military checkpoints – an intrusive and time-consuming process that risks leaving residents stranded outside their homes. As a result, public and commercial life has reportedly all but grinded to a halt. The Israeli bank account of the Israeli human rights organization Gisha, which focuses on access and movement restrictions in Gaza, was reportedly frozen. 

                Settler violence and displacement 

                There have also been reports about continued and intensifying attacks by violent settlers, with 381 attacks in total documented since 7 October, out of which 36 resulted in casualties, 297 in property damage, and 48 in both.  

                In one instance, five Palestinians (amongst them one child) were killed by settlers in Qusra, near Nablus; settlers also threatened the entire village. On 12 October, Israeli soldiers and settlers reportedly detained three Palestinians over the course of several hours, handcuffed them, stripped them to their underwear, subjected them to severe beatings, and photographed them, amongst other ill-treatment. They also detained, handcuffed, and threatened Israeli activists, who were let go after three hours; some were also beaten. On 13 October, it was reported that a settler shot a Palestinian at point blank near Hebron, with an Israeli soldier standing by.  

                OCHA estimates that settler violence, threats thereof, and access restrictions have led to the displacement of 1,208 Palestinians, amongst them 586 children, from at least 15 herding communities. 95 Palestinians, amongst them 42 children, have been displaced due to punitive home demolitions; 444 others, including 224 children, have been displaced because of demolitions carried out on the grounds of an alleged lack of permits. 587 Palestinians, amongst them 257 children, have been displaced as a result of damage to homes inflicted during other operations by Israeli forces, notably in the Jenin, Tulkarm, and Nur Shams refugee camps.  

                On 28 October, a settler reportedly shot and killed a Palestinian who had been harvesting olives. On 29 October, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement condemning violent attacks by settlers and calling upon the Israeli authorities to protect the affected Palestinian communities. On the same date, a group of civil society organizations registered in Israel published a joint letter urging “clear, strong and direct intervention by the international community” in light of the settler violence, which they argue the Israeli government has failed to rein in and supports. US President Biden has also condemned the surge in settler violence in the West Bank. 

                On 1 November, it was reported that Zvi Sukkot, an ultranationalist Knesset member from the Religious Zionism party who resides in the settlement of Yitzhar near Nablus, has been slated to become chairman of a subcommittee on the West Bank, having been appointed to the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee of the Knesset on 30 October. On 9 November, the General Assembly adopted a resolution with a vote of 145 States in favour, 7 against, and 18 abstentions affirming that Israeli settlements in the oPt, including East Jerusalem, and the Syrian Golan are illegal under international law, and urging Israel “to investigate all acts of settler violence against Palestinian civilians and their properties and to ensure accountability for these acts and end prevailing impunity in this regard”, amongst other points. On 19 November, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “We condemn the unacceptable violence by extremists in the West Bank … A two-state solution is the only way to achieve peace”. On 2 December, armed settlers attacked a town near Salfit, shooting at houses and throwing stones and Molotov cocktails; one Palestinian was killed either by settlers or by Israeli soldiers, who were reportedly present at the scene and accompanying the former.  

                In the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City, a controversial lease agreement between the Armenian Patriarchate and a company allegedly linked to settler interests – which the former has meanwhile sought to cancel – has prompted recurring demonstrations; the company has reportedly sent bulldozers to the site on multiple occasions, and in one instance a standoff ensued between protesters and Israeli settlers, some of them armed. On 28 December, it was reported that masked assailants attacked members of the Armenian community in the Armenian Quarter.  

                On 5 December, US Secretary of State Blinken announced the imposition of a visa restriction policy for “individuals believed to have been involved in undermining peace, security, or stability in the West Bank, including through committing acts of violence or taking other actions that unduly restrict civilians’ access to essential services and basic necessities”. On 6 December, it was reported that settlers demolished a school in Zanuta in the southern West Bank, which had been constructed with the help of EU funds; an EU official sharply condemned the attack, which he called “intolerable and a violation of International Humanitarian Law”. On 7 November, Israeli ultranationalists conducted a march through the Old City of Jerusalem; some participants chanted incendiary slogans, and there were confrontations with the police.  

                Photo: Wahaj Bani Moufleh/ActiveStills Photo Collective (Al Far'a Refugee Camp, West Bank, 8 December 2023). All rights reserved.

                International reactions  

                Third States 

                A number of Israel’s Western allies declared their solidarity in the wake of the Hamas attacks. On 9 October, US President Biden, UK Prime Minister Sunak, French President Macron, German Chancellor Scholz, and Italian Prime Minister Meloni released a joint statement indicating their “steadfast and united support to the State of Israel, and … unequivocal condemnation of Hamas and its appalling acts of terrorism”. The US moved “the USS Gerald R Ford aircraft carrier, a missile cruiser and four missile destroyers” as well as fighter jets to the Eastern Mediterranean and started providing Israel with military equipment and ammunition. On 14 October, the US sent another aircraft carrier to the Middle East. Germany and the UK followed suit with shows of military assistance.  

                The EU announced that it would review development aid to Palestinian authorities, revising an earlier announcement that such payments had been suspended – a step taken at the national level by Germany and Austria. A statement released by the EU on 15 October emphasizes, amongst other points, “Israel’s right to defend itself in line with humanitarian and international law [sic]” and “the importance to ensure the protection of all civilians at all times in line with International Humanitarian Law”. During a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel, Sunak affirmed that the UK wants Israel “to win”. On 19 October, the European Parliament adopted a resolution which “[c]alls for a humanitarian pause, de-escalation and full respect of international humanitarian law”, amongst a long list of other issues. On the same day, missiles reportedly fired from Yemen were intercepted by a US warship, the US concern being that they were potentially targeted towards Israel. On 21 October, the Pentagon announced that it would deploy further air defence systems to the region.  

                On 31 October, Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide said in an interview with Reuters that in Norway’s assessment “there have been cases where … proportionality and … distinction have not been fully respected” in Israel’s campaign, referring to two of the cardinal principles of international humanitarian law (IHL) on the conduct of hostilities. On the same day, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg underlined the importance of “Israel’s response [to the Hamas attacks] tak[ing] place within international law”, and in particular that “civilian lives are protected, and that humanitarian aid reaches Gaza”. In light of the ever-increasing number of civilian casualties in Gaza, several countries recalled their ambassadors to Israel, including Turkey, Jordan, Bahrain, Honduras, Chile, Colombia, and South Africa; Bolivia severed diplomatic relations with Israel.  

                At the beginning of November, US President Biden said that he is in favour of a “humanitarian ‘pause’”. Gabriel Boric, the President of Chile, asserted that “without doubt … the response [of Israel in Gaza] has been disproportionate, and … international humanitarian law is being violated”. Boric proceeded to categorically condemn the attacks by Hamas and armed groups from Gaza and called for the unconditional release of the hostages, stressing that in his view one does not have to choose between one and the other; rather, he proclaimed: “We choose humanity”. On 5 November, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna urged the belligerents to implement an “immediate humanitarian truce”. The US reportedly deployed a nuclear submarine to the region. 

                In a speech on 8 November, on the occasion of a G7 meeting in Tokyo, US Secretary of State Blinken reiterated the G7 ministers’ “staunch support for Israel’s right and obligation to defend itself and [aspiration] to ensure the attacks of October 7th can never happen again, in accordance with international humanitarian law”. He also pointed out that he has had “conversations with Israeli leaders on [humanitarian] pauses, and on concrete steps to minimize harm to Palestinian civilians in Gaza and to stop extremist violence in the West Bank”. On the same day, Ione Belarra, the Spanish Minister for Social Rights, suggested in an interview that countries should act in response to what she deemed a “planned genocide” on the part of the Israeli authorities, for example by means of severing diplomatic relations with Israel and imposing sanctions on Prime Minister Netanyahu, amongst other measures. Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister, Petra De Sutter, also wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that “[i]t’s time for sanctions against Israel”.  

                In an interview with the BBC, French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated his call for a ceasefire. He further stated that “de facto, there’s babies, there’s ladies, there’s old people [who] are bombed and killed. There is no reason for that and no legitimacy. So, we do urge Israel to stop”. On 12 November, the EU released a statement calling for “immediate pauses in hostilities and the establishment of humanitarian corridors”, decrying “the use of hospitals and civilians as human shields by Hamas”, and stressing that “hospitals, medical supplies and civilians inside hospitals must be protected” while calling upon Israel “to exercise maximum restraint to ensure the protection of civilians”. On 14 November, Belize suspended diplomatic relations with Israel; South Africa followed suit on 21 November. The EU announced on the same day that its review of development aid to Palestine had been finalized; it found “no evidence … to date that money has been diverted for unintended purposes”. The UK reportedly announced that it will conduct unarmed surveillance flights in the region. On 5 December, the Emir of Qatar called for “a comprehensive ceasefire”. 

                The Biden administration reportedly authorized the emergency sale of tank ammunitions and other military equipment to Israel, without consulting Congress. On 1 January 2024, US officials announced that they were withdrawing the USS Gerald Ford aircraft carrier from the eastern Mediterranean. On 3 January, Josep Borrell Fontelles, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said that a political solution must be imposed on the parties, otherwise “the entire Middle East might end up in flames”.  

                The quarter of Al-Karama that was destroyed in Israeli airstrikes, Gaza City. Photo: Mohammed Zaanoun/ActiveStills Photo Collective (Gaza City, 11 October 2023). All rights reserved.

                The UN system and international organizations 

                On 9 October, UN Secretary-General António Guterres remarked to the press that “[t]his most recent violence does not come in a vacuum. The reality is that it grows out of a long-standing conflict, with a 56-year long occupation and no political end in sight”. On 24 October – ‘United Nations Day’, marking 78 years since the UN Charter entered into force in 1945 – UN Secretary-General Guterres delivered a speech to the Security Council, noting that he has “condemned unequivocally the horrifying and unprecedented 7 October acts of terror by Hamas in Israel” and that “[n]othing can justify the deliberate killing, injuring and kidnapping of civilians – or the launching of rockets against civilian targets”. He observed that “the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum” – the “Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation” – while clarifying that “the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”. The speech incensed Israeli officials, with Israel’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Gilad Erdan, calling on Guterres to resign and threatening to refuse visas to UN staff going forward, vowing to “teach them a lesson”.  

                On 25 October, it was reported that the US would send two Iron Dome missile defence systems to Israel. During a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, US President Biden said that “there’s no going back to the status quo as it stood on October the 6th” and that “when this crisis is over, there has to be a vision of what comes next”, which should be “a two-state solution”. The Security Council – which is the UN body tasked with “maintain[ing] or restor[ing] international peace and security”, being endowed with enforcement powers under Chapter VII of the UN Charterfailed twice to adopt a resolution on the hostilities; on 27 October, the UN General Assembly (which, unlike the Security Council, is a deliberative body) passed a resolution with a majority of 121 out of 193 member States voting in favour, which calls for “an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities”, full compliance with international law by all parties, “the immediate and unconditional release of all civilians who are being illegally held captive”, and “the immediate, continuous, sufficient and unhindered provision of essential goods and services to civilians throughout the Gaza Strip”, amongst other points. An amendment introduced by the Canadian delegation, which would have “[u]nequivocally reject[ed] and condemn[ed] the terrorist attacks by Hamas that took place in Israel starting on 7 October 2023 and the taking of hostages”, and called for their “immediate and unconditional release”, was not adopted.  

                ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan visited the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, reflecting sombrely on the fact that “the international architecture built on the rubble of the Second World War … was meant to create institutions that would ensure never again would we see abominations where people could be targeted because of their race, their religion, their culture, where they come from, or what passport they hold”. He emphasized that “there should not be any impediment to humanitarian relief supplies going to children, to women and men, civilians. They are innocent, [and] they have rights under international humanitarian law”, the denial of which may give rise to individual criminal responsibility under the Rome Statute

                Also speaking from the Rafah crossing, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, said on 8 November that he was standing at “the gateway to a hellish nightmare”, referring to the catastrophic situation in Gaza. On 10 November, an OCHA spokesperson observed that “[i]f there is a hell on earth today, its name is northern Gaza”. On the same day, the ICRC issued a statement calling for the protection of hospitals and health workers against the backdrop of a “healthcare system in Gaza [that] has reached a point of no return risking the lives of thousands of wounded, sick and displaced people”. On 15 November, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for “urgent extended humanitarian pauses”, humanitarian corridors, and the release of the hostages, amongst other points. On 16 November, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee released another statement opposing the (unilateral) establishment of ‘safe zones’ unless they enjoy the support of all parties and “fundamental conditions are in place to ensure safety and other essential needs are met and a mechanism is in place to supervise … implementation”.   

                On 27 November, a statement by UN experts was released calling for “prompt, transparent and independent investigations into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, perpetrated in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territory on 7 October 2023 and thereafter”. On the same day, a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Guterres urged that the “dialogue that led to the [temporary humanitarian pause] must continue, resulting in a full humanitarian ceasefire, for the benefit of the people of Gaza, Israel and the wider region”.  

                The ICC Prosecutor, Karim Khan, visited Israel and the occupied West Bank in early December, marking his first official visit since taking office in 2021. (While Israel is not a party to the Court, the State of Palestine acceded to the Rome Statute in 2015, and the then-Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, opened an investigation into the Situation in Palestine in March 2021.) In a statement dated 3 December, Prosecutor Khan noted that he had met with victims’ families, both Palestinian and Israeli, and announced that his “Office will further intensify its efforts to advance its investigations in relation to this situation”, amongst other points.  

                On 4 December, Lynn Hastings, OCHA’s Humanitarian Coordinator for the oPt, said that “[n]owhere is safe in Gaza and there is nowhere left to go”, warning of “an even more hellish scenario … in which humanitarian operations may not be able to respond”. On the same day, ICRC President Mirjana Spoljaric said that “[t]he level of human suffering is intolerable”, noting that the temporary humanitarian pause had offered “a positive glimpse of humanity that raised hopes around the world that a path to reduced suffering could now be found”. On 5 December, OHCHR called for “an immediate, enduring ceasefire on humanitarian and human rights grounds”.  

                On 6 December, UN Secretary-General Guterres sent a letter to the President of the Security Council invoking Article 99 of the UN Charter, which authorizes the Secretary-General to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”. Guterres wrote that there is “a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system” in Gaza, and that “[t]he situation is fast deteriorating into a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians as a whole and for peace and security in the region”, which “must be avoided at all cost”. On 8 December, the US vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire; the UK abstained, while the 13 remaining members of the Council, including the three other permanent members – France, Russia, and China – voted in favour.  

                On 12 December, the General Assembly adopted a short, non-binding resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire; the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages; humanitarian access; and compliance by all parties with international law. 153 States voted in favour of the resolution, 23 abstained, and 10 voted against (including Israel, the US, Paraguay, Czechia, and Austria). On 19 December, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk reiterated his call for a ceasefire, observing that “Palestinians are being forced into smaller and smaller areas, in a mass displacement up to the Gaza-Egyptian border while military operations continue to encroach ever closer”, with “simply nowhere left in Gaza for them to go”.  

                On 21 December, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination issued a decision pursuant to its Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure in which it called upon “Israel, the State of Palestine and other State parties to institute an immediate and sustained ceasefire in the occupied Gaza Strip”. The Committee also expressed its concern about Israel’s “heavy bombardments, indiscriminate attacks using explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas, collective punishment and obstruction of humanitarian aid”, and “attacks that target or impact civilian infrastructure leading to a catastrophic humanitarian crisis”, which “raise serious concerns regarding the obligation of Israel and other State parties to prevent crimes against humanity and genocide”. The decision further specifically urged Israel “to firmly condemn any form of hate speech and distance itself from racist hate speech expressed by politicians and public figures … and ensure that such acts are investigated and adequately and robustly punished”. 

                On 22 December, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling upon all parties to the hostilities to comply with their obligations under international law, including with respect to securing the safe passage of humanitarian relief “at scale directly to the Palestinian civilian population throughout the Gaza Strip”. The Council further requested that the UN Secretary-General appoint a Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for purposes of “expediting the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip”, and that said Coordinator “establish a UN mechanism for accelerating the provision of humanitarian relief consignments to Gaza through states which are not party to the conflict”, amongst other points. Dutch national Sigrid Kaag was appointed to the post at the end of December.  

                On 29 December, South Africa filed an application instituting proceedings against Israel with the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the UN. South Africa’s application is brought on the basis of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Genocide Convention), which was adopted in December 1948 and to which both Israel and South Africa are party. South Africa argues that Israel has been violating its obligations under the Convention by failing to prevent genocide, carrying out acts that amount to genocide, and failing to prevent or punish incitement to genocide by Israeli public officials. Furthermore, it bases its standing to invoke Israel’s responsibility before the ICJ on the grounds that the Genocide Convention gives rise to obligations erga omnes partes, i.e., obligations that are owed to all parties to the Convention, regardless of whether they are directly injured by the conduct complained of. An Israeli official referred to the case as an “absurd blood libel” that Israel would contest before the Court.  

                Outside view of the peace palace in the Hague (Netherlands), in February 2012. © CIJ-ICJ/UN-ONU, Frank van Beek - Courtesy of the ICJ.

                HEADER Photo: Mohammed Zaanoun/ActiveStills Photo Collective, Gaza (Al-Rimal, Gaza City, 8 October 2023). All Rights Reserved.