Live updates | UN court keeps genocide case against Israel alive as Gaza death toll surpasses 26,000

Jan 26, 2024, 2:00 AM | Updated: 2:00 pm

The death toll from the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip surpassed 26,000 on Friday as the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to limit deaths and damage but stopped short of demanding a cease-fire in the Palestinian territory.

The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said that 26,083 people have been killed and more than 64,400 wounded since Oct. 7, the day militants from the territory launched a surprise attack in southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostages.

South Africa has accused Israel of genocide and asked the world court in The Hague, Netherlands, to impose interim measures as the case proceeds. The requested measures included ordering Israel to stop its offensive, to allow Gaza residents access to aid and to take “reasonable measures” to prevent genocide.

Israel has denied committing genocide and asked the court to throw out the case, which the panel of 17 judges refused to do.


— Yemen’s Houthi rebels fire a missile at a US warship, escalating worst Mideast sea conflict in decades.

— Israel vows to fight Hamas all the way to Gaza’s southern border. That’s fueling tension with Egypt.

— How genocide officially became a crime, and why South Africa is accusing Israel of committing it.

— Georgia lawmakers, in support of Israel, pass a bill that would define antisemitism in state law.

— The U.S. and the U.K. sanction four Houthi leaders over Red Sea shipping attacks.

— Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.

Here’s the latest:


WASHINGTON — A British vessel was struck by a missile and caught fire in the Gulf of Aden off Yemen’s coast, the U.S. and U.K. militaries said Friday.

A U.S. military official confirmed the vessel was hit and damaged by a single anti-ship ballistic missile fired from a part of Yemen controlled by the Houthi rebel group. The official said there were no known injuries, speaking on condition of anonymity because no authorization had been given to discuss the incident.

The British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Operations, which oversees Mideast waterways, acknowledged a vessel had been struck.

The attacks were the latest assaults by Houthi rebels in their campaign against ships traveling through the Red Sea and surrounding waters, which has disrupted global trade amid Israel’s war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The attack came hours after the Houthis launched a missile at a U.S. warship patrolling the Gulf of Aden, forcing it to shoot down the projectile.

Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree did not acknowledge the Carney attack, but claimed a missile attack on a commercial vessel that set it ablaze. He identified the vessel as the Marshall Islands-flagged tanker Marlin Luanda. The Associated Press could not immediately reach the ship’s British managers.

The U.S. and Britain have launched multiple rounds of airstrikes since the Houthi attacks began targeting Houthi missile depots and launcher sites in Yemen.


UNITED NATIONS – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “horrified” at the “extremely serious allegations” implicating several U.N. staff members in Gaza in Hamas’ surprise attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7 and has ordered the U.N.’s internal watchdog to investigate.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday that Guterres was briefed on the allegations earlier this week by Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner-general of the U.N. agency dealing with Palestinian refugees known as UNRWA.

The secretary-general asked the Office of Internal Oversight Services, the U.N.’s internal watchdog, to launch an investigation “to establish the truth without delay,” Dujarric said.

“Any employee of UNRWA who is involved in acts of terror will be held accountable including through criminal prosecution,” he said.

Dujarric said 153 U.N. staff have perished during the Israeli-Hamas war and some 13,000 UNRWA staff are “all working to their best of their ability to deliver humanitarian aid.”

Dujarric said Guterres spoke to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken about the UNRWA allegations, when asked about the U.S. suspension of funding to UNRWA.

Dujarric said UNRWA launched an appeal at the end of December for about $481 million and has received about $280 million plus an additional $90 million for urgent needs. He said hundreds of thousands of Palestinians need humanitarian assistance “even more now than they did before” and support for UNRWA remains critical.


UNITED NATIONS – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is stressing that rulings of the U.N.’s top court are legally binding and trusts that Israel will comply with its orders, including “to take all measures within its power” to prevent acts that would bring about the destruction of the Palestinian people.

The U.N. chief takes note of the provisional measures the International Court of Justice ordered, and takes special note of its order to Israel to ensure the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the conditions in Gaza, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Friday.

Guterres also notes the court’s emphasis that “all parties to the conflict in the Gaza Strip are bound by international humanitarian law,” and that it calls for the immediate release of all hostages abducted by Hamas and other armed groups during the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel, he said.

Dujarric said the secretary-general respects the independence of the U.N. court and did not want to be a commentator on its rulings.

But he said Guterres has repeatedly called for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, stepped up humanitarian assistance for most of the 2.3 million people there, and the immediate release of the hostages.


WASHINGTON — CIA Director Bill Burns is slated to soon meet in Europe with David Barnea, the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel, according to three people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks.

The meeting will focus on the release of hostages in exchange for a pause in hostilities in Gaza. The administration’s hope is that an agreement could lead to a extended cease-fire that could eventually bring an end to the conflict, according to a U.S. official.

The CIA and White House National Security Council declined to comment on the meeting.

Egypt and Qatar have brokered past agreements between Israel and Hamas.

Burns’ trip comes after a visit to the Mideast by White House senior envoy Brett McGurk this week focused on the winning the release of the remaining hostages in Gaza.

McGurk has also been laying the groundwork for another trip to the region by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who could make his fifth visit to the Middle East since the start of the Israel-Hamas war next week.


Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed


BERLIN — German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Friday afternoon that Israel “must adhere” to the ICJ’s ruling Friday, but also said Hamas needs to release its remaining hostages.

“The International Court of Justice did not decide on the main issue, but ordered temporary measures in the interim legal protection proceedings,” she said. “But these are also binding under international law. Israel must adhere to this.”

“At the same time, the court made it clear that Israel’s actions in Gaza follow the barbaric terror of Oct. 7, and recalled that Hamas is also bound by international humanitarian law and must finally release all hostages,” Baerbock added. “We will support this with all our might, as well as the measure ordered by Israel to urgently allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.”


CAPE TOWN, South Africa — South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says Israel’s alleged crimes against Palestinians in Gaza have been “laid bare” in the International Court of Justice’s ruling.

Ramaphosa also said his country, which lodged the genocide case against Israel at the top U.N. court, is happy that “the Palestinian people’s cries for justice have been heeded by an eminent organ of the United Nations.”

The court ruled in a preliminary order that Israel must do all it can to prevent deaths, destruction and any acts of genocide in its offensive in Gaza, but did not order a cease-fire by Israel, which South Africa had pushed for.

Ramaphosa, in a live television address in South Africa hours after the ruling, accused Israel of meting out “collective punishment” against Palestinians in Gaza in response to the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas militants. The South African leader said Israel’s military offensive was ”vastly disproportionate to any claim by Israel that it has been acting in self-defense.”

He also explained why South Africa brought the case to the world court, comparing Israel’s actions in Gaza to South Africa’s own history of apartheid under the previous system of white minority rule that forced most Black South Africans to live in “homelands” and denied them the right of freedom of movement among many other oppressive policies.

Leading rights groups in Israel and abroad and Palestinians have accused Israel and its 56-year occupation of the West Bank of morphing into an apartheid system that they say gives Palestinians second-class status and is designed to maintain Jewish hegemony from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

“Some have told us that we should mind our own business and not get involved in the affairs of other countries,” Ramaphosa said. “Others have said it is not our place. And yet it is very much our place as a people who know too well the pain of dispossession, discrimination, state-sponsored violence.”

“We are also a people who were victims of the crime of apartheid,” he said. “We know what apartheid looks like.”


JERUSALEM — Yemen’s Houthi rebels have launched a missile at a U.S. warship patrolling the Gulf of Aden, forcing it to shoot down the projectile.

The attack Friday on the USS Carney marks the latest by the rebels amid their campaign against ships traveling through the Red Sea and surrounding waters. The Houthis say the attacks aim to force a halt to Israel’s war in Gaza against Hamas.

The Iranian-backed Houthi rebels did not immediately acknowledge Friday’s attack, although they typically take several hours afterward to claim their assaults.

The U.S. and Britain have launched multiple rounds of airstrikes in the time since targeting Houthi missile depots and launcher sites in Yemen, a country that’s been wracked by conflict since the rebels seized the capital, Sanaa, in 2014.


ISTANBUL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed the International Court of Justice’s decision as “valuable.”

Ankara has strongly criticized Israel’s operation in Gaza, alleging war crimes and human rights abuses.

Turkey would continue seeking to “ensure that war crimes committed against innocent Palestinian civilians do not go unpunished,” he added, writing on X, formerly Twitter.

“We hope that Israel’s attacks against women, children and the elderly will come to an end,” Erdogan said.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement it expected the decision to be “immediately and fully implemented by Israel.”


WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has temporarily suspended assistance to the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees following allegations that some of its employees took part in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

The State Department said Friday it was “extremely troubled” by the allegations and had paused additional aid to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency pending a review of the claims and any action the U.N. takes to address them.

It said Secretary of State Antony Blinken had spoken to U.N. chief Antonio Guterres on Thursday to inform him of the decision, which is a significant reversal from the administration’s past support for UNRWA.

Blinken had visited UNRWA’s offices in Jordan just a month ago and praised the agency’s work in Gaza while lamenting the deaths of dozens of its employees in the conflict.

“We welcome the decision to conduct such an investigation and Secretary General Guterres’ pledge to take decisive action to respond, should the allegations prove accurate,” the department said of the UN probe.

“We also welcome the UN’s announcement of a ‘comprehensive and independent’ review of UNRWA. There must be complete accountability for anyone who participated in the heinous attacks of October 7,” it said.

Shortly after taking office, the Biden administration resumed funding to UNRWA that had been cut off during Donald Trump’s presidency.


JERUSALEM — Israel’s defense minister vowed to press forward with the war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip after the International Court of Justice ruled that the country has to try to contain death and damage in the besieged enclave.

The International Court of Justice issued an interim ruling Friday in a case in which South Africa accused Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. The court stopped short of ordering an immediate cease-fire but issued a sharp rebuke of Israel’s wartime conduct.

More than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s military offensive, according to Gaza health officials, since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel in which the militants killed some 1,200 people and took about 250 hostages.

“The State of Israel does not need to be lectured on morality in order to distinguish between terrorists and the civilian population in Gaza,” Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a statement in response to the court ruling.

He said the military would “continue operating to dismantle the military and governing capabilities of the Hamas terrorist organization.”

A U.N. report last week said women and children are the main victims in the Israel-Hamas war, with some 16,000 killed, with an estimated two mothers losing their lives every hour.

The ruling also directly referenced a statement Gallant made to Israeli soldiers as an example of “dehumanizing” language toward Palestinians in Gaza.

“I have released all restraints,” Gallant told troops in the early days of the war. “You saw what we are fighting against. We are fighting human animals.”

The quotation was originally referenced by South Africa as an example of expressions of what it called “genocidal intent” by senior Israeli officials. Israel has vehemently denied the genocide allegations.


PRETORIA, South Africa — The South African government said the ruling was a victory for international law and the ruling had determined that “Israel’s actions in Gaza are plausibly genocidal.”

“There is no credible basis for Israel to continue to claim that its military actions are in full compliance with international law, including the Genocide Convention, having regard to the Court’s ruling,” the statement said.

“South Africa sincerely hopes that Israel will not act to frustrate the application of this Order, as it has publicly threatened to do, but that it will instead act to comply with it fully, as it is bound to do,” it said.

The South African government said other countries were now “are now on notice of the existence of a serious risk of genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza. This necessarily imposes an obligation on all States to cease funding and facilitating Israel’s military actions, which are plausibly genocidal.”

South Africa has gone to the International Court of Justice and accused Israel of genocide in response to Israel’s devastating military offensive in Gaza. Israel rejects the claim and accuses Pretoria of providing political cover for Hamas.


AMMAN, Jordan — The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees says he has fired several employees and ordered an investigation following Israel’s allegation that dome of the agency’s staff took part in the deadly attacks by Hamas militants in southern Israel.

In a statement Friday, Philippe Lazzarini described the allegations as “shocking.” He said his agency, known by the acronym UNRWA, condemns the Oct. 7 attacks in which militants killed about 1,200 people and took about 250 hostages. He called for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages to their families.

Lazzarini said Israeli authorities provided his agency with information about the alleged involvement of several employees in the attacks. The refugee agency, which provides education, medical care and welfare services to hundreds of thousands of Gaza’s 2.3 million people, has tens of thousands of employees.

“Anyone who betrays the fundamental values of the United Nations also betrays those whom we serve in Gaza, across the region and elsewhere around the world,” Lazzarini said.

He said that in addition to the people fired, additional agency employees would be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution, if they were found to have been involved.

Lazzarini didn’t say how many UNRWA employees are accused of taking part. The U.S. State Department put the number at 12 in an announcement that it has temporarily paused additional funding for the aid agency while reviewing the allegations.


RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian officials have welcomed an interim ruling by the world court ordering Israel to prevent death and damage in its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

An order issued Friday by the International Court of Justice was seen as an overwhelming rebuke of Israel’s conduct in the war, now in its fourth month. The court ordered Israel to report back in one month to show compliance.

The court stopped short of ordering a cease-fire. Friday’s ruling came in a case brought by South Africa, which alleged Israel was committing genocide in Gaza.

“States now have clear legal obligations to stop Israel’s genocidal war on the Palestinian people in Gaza and to make sure that they are not complicit,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The world court’s order “should serve as a wake-up call for Israel and actors who enabled its entrenched impunity,” said the ministry, which is part of the Palestinian Authority, a self-rule government in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority and Hamas, an Islamic militant group that has ruled Gaza since 2007, are bitter political rivals.

Israel has vehemently denied allegations that it was committing genocide in Gaza.


Following the ruling of the International Court of Justice, a crowd of pro-Palestinian supporters that had gathered outside the Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, waved Palestinian flags and chanted “Cease-fire now!” and “Free, Free Palestine!”

They also denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and shouted: “Netanyahu, criminal” and “Israel, criminal.” Many protesters wore the black and white checkered scarfs that have come to symbolize Palestinian solidarity.

Outside the building that houses the court, pro-Israeli protesters sang and chanted ″Bring them home!″ after the ruling was read, waving Israeli flags and posters of hostages held by Hamas.


JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will continue to do “what is necessary” to defend itself after the U.N.’s top court issued a ruling that harshly criticized Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The International Court of Justice stopped short Friday of ordering a cease-fire in Gaza but demanded that Israel try to contain death and damage from its military offensive in the tiny coastal enclave.

The world court based in The Hague, Netherlands, issued six interim actions it wants Israel to take as a panel of 17 judges considers genocide charges against the country brought by South Africa. The court on Friday denied Israel’s request to throw out the case.

Netanyahu rejected the genocide claims as “outrageous” and vowed to press ahead with the war. “We will continue to do what is necessary to defend out country and defend our people,” he said.

“Israel’s commitment to international law is unwavering. Equally unwavering is our sacred commitment to continue to defend our country and defend our people,” the Israeli leader added.

He said Israel would “continue to facilitate humanitarian assistance, and to do our utmost to keep civilians out of harm’s way, even as Hamas uses civilians as human shields.”


THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The president of the International Court of Justice says Israel must report back to the U.N.’s top tribunal in one month to show it has implemented the interim measures it ordered Friday to limit further deaths and destruction in the Gaza Strip.

During a one-hour hearing in The Hague, Netherlands, Judge Joan E. Donoghue listed the steps the court is demanding while it considers genocide charges that South Africa brought against Israel over the tens of thousands civilian casualties from its military campaign against Hamas.

The orders call on Israel to take all steps within its power to prevent a genocide, to make sure that any evidence that could point toward genocide is not destroyed, and to “prevent and punish public incitement” that could encourage genocide.

Israel also must also take “immediate and effective measures to ensure the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”

While the ruling stopped short of South Africa’s request for a cease-fire, it nonetheless amounted to an rebuke of Israel’s wartime conduct.


THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The six interim actions that the U.N.’s top court ordered Israel to take to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza received broad support among the 17 judges participating in the genocide case South Africa brought against Israel.

Many of the provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice on Friday were endorsed by an overwhelming majority of the panel, which included an Israeli judge who voted with the majority on several orders.

The Israeli judge, Aharon Barak, wrote in a separate opinion that “although I am convinced there is no plausibility of genocide,” he voted for two of the measures. He said he joined the majority in ordering Israel to refrain from public incitement “in the hope that the measure will help to decrease tensions and discourage damaging rhetoric.”

He said he voted for a measure about ensuring humanitarian aid in the hope that it “will alleviate the consequences of the armed conflict for the most vulnerable.”

During a one-hour reading of the court’s findings in The Hague, Netherlands, Israel was criticized time and again for its extraordinary use of force in Gaza, for top officials inciting the public in a way that dehumanized Palestinians, and for the tens of thousands of dead and wounded among the territory’s civilian population.


THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The International Court of Justice has ordered Israel to take steps to try to reduce further deaths and damage in the Gaza Strip but stopped short of demanding a stop to the blistering offensive that has decimated the Palestinian territory.

The court in The Hague, Netherlands, ordered a total of six provisional measures on Friday as it considers the genocide charges that South Africa brought against Israel. South Africa requested interim steps since the proceedings could take several years.

Court President Joan E. Donoghue said there were enough elements in South Africa’s arguments to continue the genocide case but that Israeli troops had to do much more in the meantime to protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

She said the court was “of the view that Israel must take measures within its power to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide.”


THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The United Nations’ top court has refused to throw out the genocide case that South Africa filed against Israel.

The International Court of Justice is not deciding Friday whether Israel has committed genocide in the Gaza Strip but only ruling on South Africa’s request for interim measures, including an order for Israel to halt its military offensive in Gaza.

While Israel asked the court to throw out the case, court president Joan E. Donoghue said a panel of 17 judges concluded that it has appropriate jurisdiction and therefore “cannot accede to Israel’s request for the case to be removed.”

Donoghue opened the hearing in The Hague, Netherlands, by noting that Israel’s war against Hamas “is causing massive civilian casualties, extensive destruction of civilian infrastructure and the displacement of the overwhelming majority of the population in Gaza.

“The court is acutely aware of the extent of the human tragedy that is unfolding in the region and is deeply concerned about the continuing loss of life and human suffering,” the judge said.


RAMALLAH, West Bank — A Palestinian delegation plans to be in The Hague when the International Court of Justice announces whether it is ordering Israel to suspend its offensive against Hamas militants and to take other steps to protect Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The world court is delivering its preliminary decisions in a genocide case that South Africa brought against Israel. The court is set to rule Friday only on South Africa’s request for interim measures to ease the suffering in Gaza while the case proceeds, a process expected to take several years.

“By moving quickly and issuing the ruling only two weeks after the oral hearings, the court acknowledges the urgency of the situation on the ground,” the Palestinian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Meanwhile, a top official with Hamas says his group will abide by a cease-fire if the court in the Netherlands calls for one.

Osama Hamdan said Thursday that Hamas also would be ready to release the remaining hostages it is holding if Israel releases Palestinian prisoners.

Hamdan says Hamas is open to all initiatives for an exchange but that the hostages would not return home until there was “a comprehensive cease of the aggression against our people.” He added that any delays or procrastination “means more deaths among (Israelis).”


DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip — Fifteen Palestinians, including an infant, were killed in Israeli airstrikes on two apartment buildings in the central Gaza Strip, according to an Associated Press journalist who saw the bodies at a local hospital Friday.

The strikes hit the Nuseirat refugee camp on Thursday evening, and the dead were taken to the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital in the nearby town of Deir al-Balah.

One of the bombardments killed seven members of the Rawah family, including a 5-month-old baby.

The strikes came as the Israeli army continued to expand its assault on the southern half of war-stricken Gaza, with a focus on Khan Younis, Gaza’s second-largest city.

The Israeli military said its troops were engaging in close, urban combat with Hamas fighters in neighborhoods of Khan Younis. The military says it is calling in airstrikes and attack helicopters to hit militants allegedly spotted with rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons.

Earlier this week,the military ordered civilians to evacuate most of the western half of the city and the Khan Younis refugee camp.

Hamas has reported that troops from the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the group’s military wing, are battling Israeli forces in the heart of the city.


RAFAH, Gaza Strip — The number of Palestinians killed in Gaza since the start of the Israel-Hamas war has surpassed 26,000, the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Friday.

The ministry said the total number of dead is 26,083, with 64,487 Palestinians wounded since the start of the war on Oct. 7. The ministry does not differentiate between combatants and civilians in its death toll, but has said about two-thirds of those killed were women and children.

In the past 24 hours, 183 people were killed and 377 others were injured, ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra said in a statement.

Israel’s blistering ground and air offensive has decimated vast swaths of Gaza during the nearly 4-month-old war. The conflict broke out on Oct. 7 when Hamas militants stormed southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted some 250.


CAPE TOWN, South Africa — South Africa’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it was seeking an interim ruling that “Israel immediately cease its military operations in Gaza, take reasonable measures to prevent the genocide of Palestinians, ensure that the displaced return to their homes and have access to humanitarian assistance, including adequate food, water, fuel, medical and hygiene supplies, shelter and clothing.”

The statement late Thursday also said Israel should “take necessary steps to punish those involved in the genocide and preserve the evidence of genocide.” Israel has denied the allegations of genocide.

South Africa will be represented at the ruling at The Hague by Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor, who spoke with United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken by phone Thursday, according to the State Department. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Blinken spoke about the need to protect civilians in the war in Gaza and ensure there was humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians, while working toward lasting regional peace that “ensures Israel’s security and advances the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.”

“The secretary reaffirmed support for Israel’s right to ensure the terrorist attacks of Oct. 7 can never be repeated,” Miller said.

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Live updates | UN court keeps genocide case against Israel alive as Gaza death toll surpasses 26,000