The latest developments from the Israel-Hamas war.
Arab and Muslim leaders will demand end to violence in Gaza
Arab leaders and Iran’s president will meet in Saudi Arabia on Saturday for a joint summit that is expected to highlight the urgency of ending Israel’s attacks on Gaza before conflict engulfs the region.
Emergency meetings of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are being held in Riyadh, five weeks after the start of the war.
Since then, Israel has relentlessly bombed the Palestinian territory controlled by Hamas, killing more than 11,000 people, including at least 4,500 children, according to the Hamas government’s Health Ministry.
The Arab League and the OIC were initially scheduled to hold their meetings separately, but the Saudi Foreign Ministry announced early on Saturday that the two summits would be held jointly.
The Arab League will discuss “the way forward on the international stage to end the aggression, support Palestine and its people, condemn the Israeli occupation and hold it accountable for its crimes,” the deputy secretary general of the Arab League said.
Islamic Jihad, Hamas’ ally in Gaza, said, however, that it expected “nothing” from this meeting. “We do not place our hopes in such meetings” which have never produced results, Mohammad al-Hindi, deputy secretary general of the group, said on Friday at a press conference in Beirut.
“The fact that this conference is being held after 35 days (of war) is a clear indication,” he added.
Israel and its main ally, the United States, have so far rejected demands for a ceasefire, a stance that is expected to draw sharp criticism at Saturday’s meetings.
According to Saudi analyst Aziz Alghashian, fingers should not only be pointed at Israel, but also those who “make it easier… that is to say essentially the United States and the West” .
The differences in position were clearly displayed during the latest visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the region, and that of British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on Thursday in Riyadh, where he met some of his counterparts.
“What we have said is that it is understandable to ask for a ceasefire, but we also recognize Israel’s right to take measures to ensure its own stability and security,” Cleverly said.
Red Cross: ‘Point of no return’ for hospitals in North Gaza
Hospitals, healthcare workers and patients in northern Gaza must be protected as intense fighting rages, the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) has said.
“Overstretched, running on thin supplies and increasingly unsafe, the healthcare system in Gaza has reached a point of no return risking the lives of thousands of wounded, sick and displaced people,” the organisation said.
The statement, which did not specifically name either the Israeli military or Palestinian militants, came after several reported strikes on or near at least four hospitals in northern Gaza. Tens of thousands of people had crowded into hospital grounds, believing they would be safe.
The ICRC noted that children’s hospitals had sustained major damage from the fighting. The Nasr Hospital was heavily damaged by fighting and Rantisi Hospital had to completely shut down, the statement said. It also added that Al-Quds Hospital is fast running out of supplies.
Macron ‘urges Israel to stop’ bombings killing civilians in Gaza
French President Emmanuel Macron “urges Israel to stop” the bombings killing civilians in Gaza, in an interview with the BBC.
“We share (Israel’s) pain. And we share their desire to get rid of terrorism.” But “de facto, today, civilians are being bombed. These babies, these women, these elderly people are being bombed and killed.” There is “no justification” and “no legitimacy for this. We therefore urge Israel to stop,” he stressed.
The Hamas Ministry of Health announced that 11,078 people, including 4,506 children, have been killed in Israeli bombardments on the Gaza Strip since the start of the war triggered by the bloody attack of the Palestinian Islamist movement against Israel on 7 October.
This “reaction in the fight against terrorism, because it is led by a democracy, must be consistent with the international rules of war and international humanitarian law,” said the French president.
Asked about a possible violation of international law by Israel, Emmanuel Macron stressed that he was “not a judge”, but “a head of state”.
He also expressed concern that the “massive bombing” of Gaza would create “resentment” in the region.
“There is no other solution than a humanitarian pause first” to move towards a “ceasefire, which will protect all civilians who have nothing to do with the terrorists,” he insisted.
“It is impossible to explain that we want to fight against terrorism by killing innocent people,” the French president further underlined.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reacted to Macron’s remarks by emphasising that “responsibility for any harm done to civilians lies with Hamas”, which started the war with the massacres of 7 October and which uses civilians as “human shields”.
More than 250 attacks on Gaza health care system – WHO
The World Health Organisation has verified more than 250 attacks on hospitals, clinics, patients and ambulances in Gaza since Hamas’ incursion into Israel on 7 October – as well as 25 attacks on health care in Israel.
In Gaza, the “health system is on its knees” and the situation on the ground “is impossible to describe,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
“As we speak, there are reports of firing outside the al-Shifa and Rantisi hospitals,” he said, adding that Palestinian health workers were still saving lives despite being “directly in the firing line.”
Last week saw attacks on five hospitals in one day in Gaza, Ghebreyesus said, and in the past 48 hours four hospitals with some 430 beds were put out of action.
He said half of the Gaza Strip’s 36 hospitals and two-thirds of its primary health care centres are not functioning, and facilities that are functioning “are operating way beyond their capacities.”
Israel lowers 7 October death toll to 1,200 people
Israel’s Foreign Ministry says the official death toll in Hamas’ 7 October cross-border attack into Israel has been lowered to 1,200 people.
Israeli officials have previously estimated the death toll at 1,400.
The ministry gave no reason for the revision. But an Israeli official said the number had been changed after a painstaking weeks long process to identify bodies, many of which were mutilated or burned.
The official said the final death toll could still change. He said a number of bodies have not been identified and it is unclear whether all of the nearly 240 hostages believed to be held by Hamas are still alive.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity pending an official government announcement.