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Israel-Hamas war: Fight in Gaza will take 'several months'

Published December 14, 2023last updated December 15, 2023

Israel's defense minister, Yoav Gallant, tells US national security adviser Jake Sullivan that Hamas' defeat is months away. Meanwhile, the Hamas-run Health Ministry says 18,787 people have been killed in Gaza.

An Israeli mobile artillery unit firing a shell towards the Gaza Strip
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue strikes against Hamas militantsImage: Leo Correa/AP Photo/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • IDF announces six-hour pause in military operations in Rafah
  • Israel's prime minister tells soldiers neither diplomatic rebukes nor battlefield losses would alter his course
  • An opinion poll suggests the conflict has boosted Hamas support in Gaza, and particularly the West Bank
  • US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan scheduled to become the latest Biden administration to visit Israel on Thursday
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December 15, 2023

This live blog is now closed

For more coverage, head to dw.com

Skip next section Israel will fight Hamas 'until absolute victory,' Netanyahu tells senior US official
December 14, 2023

Israel will fight Hamas 'until absolute victory,' Netanyahu tells senior US official

Israel will continue its war against Hamas "until absolute victory," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahutold visiting White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Thursday, according to a statement from Netanyahu's office.

"I told our American friends [that] our heroic fighters have not fallen in vain," the statement quotes him as saying. "From the deep pain of their falling, we are more determined than ever to continue to fight until Hamas is eliminated."

According to the statement, Netanyahu and Sullivan spoke about regional threats including the Iranian proxies Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthis in Yemen. They also discussed efforts to rescue hostages being held by Hamas and the issue of humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza.

According to White House spokesman John Kirby, Sullivan has also asked "hard questions" of Israeli officials about their continuing campaign in the Palestinian enclave during his visit.

"He did talk about possible transitioning from what we would call high-intensity operations, which is what we're seeing them do now, to lower-intensity operations sometime in the near future," Kirby said.

"But I don't want to put a timestamp on it."

Skip next section US has responsibility to secure Gaza cease-fire, Erdogan tells Biden
December 14, 2023

US has responsibility to secure Gaza cease-fire, Erdogan tells Biden

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told US President Joe Biden that the United States has a "historic responsibility" to achieve a lasting cease-fire in the Gaza conflict as soon as possible, Erdogan's office said on Thursday.

During a phone call, Erdogan reportedly told Biden that a cease-fire could be achieved quickly if the United States withdrew its unconditional support for Israel, and warned that "Israel's prolonged attacks may have negative global consequences."

White House spokesperson John Kirby said in a press conference that the two leaders talked about NATO and Sweden's potential accession to the military alliance, and that he "wouldn't be surprised if F-16 modernization was discussed."

As for a cease-fire, Kirby said: "We all want it to end as soon as possible, [but] we're not dictating terms to the Israelis about how long it has to be."

Looking further ahead, he said: "We still adhere to the promise and the vision of a two-state solution. Nothing has changed about policy. We'll let the Israelis speak for themselves."

Skip next section Internet and phone services reported down in Gaza
December 14, 2023

Internet and phone services reported down in Gaza

The Gaza Strip's main telecommunications companies, Paltel and Jawwal, said all phone and internet services were down late on Thursday.

"We regret to announce that all telecom services in the Gaza Strip have been lost due to the ongoing offensive. ... Gaza is blacked out again," Paltel said in a statement on social media.

Communication networks in the sealed-off coastal area have gone down several times since the beginning of the war

Skip next section 'Several months' to defeat Hamas — Israeli Defense Minister
December 14, 2023

'Several months' to defeat Hamas — Israeli Defense Minister

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan meets with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv, Israel
Top White House official Jake Sullivan arrived in Israel amid a public rift over civilian casualties in GazaImage: ISRAELI GOVERNMENT PRESS OFFICE (GPO)/Anadolu/picture alliance

On Thursday, Israel's defense minister, Yoav Gallant, said it would take several months to defeat Hamas in Gaza.

Gallant said the militants had been building "infrastructure under the ground and above the ground" and in order to defeat the group "it will require a long period of time — it will last more than several months, but we will win and we will destroy them."

Gallant made the comments during a visit by White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Thursday.

Sullivan is in Israel to discuss the need for strikes to be more precise amid mounting condemnation over the civilian death toll.

Earlier the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said that 18,787 Palestinians have been killed since the war began. The health officials territory do not provide figures as to how many Hamas fighters are among the dead, but say the majority of people killed in Israeli strikes have been women and children.

Skip next section Maersk container ship involved in Red Sea 'incident'
December 14, 2023

Maersk container ship involved in Red Sea 'incident'

A container ship owned by shipping giant Maersk has been involved in an "incident" in the Red Sea while en route from Oman to Saudi Arabia, the Danish company said on Thursday. 

"The crew and vessel is reported safe," according to a statement. "At this time, we are still working to establish the facts of the incident."

The incident, which involves the "Maersk Gibraltar" container ship, comes two days after an attack on a Norwegian vessel in the same waters.

Maersk said that "the recent attacks on commercial vessels in the Bad al-Mandab Strait are extremely concerning" and added that "the situation cannot be solved by the shipping industry alone."

It has called for "political action to ensure a swift de-escalation."

Later on Thursday, Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen claimed responsibility for an attack. They said the "Maersk Gibraltar" container ship was "targeted with a drone, and the hit was direct."

Huthi spokesman Yahya Saree said the attack came after the ship's crew "refused to respond to the calls of the Yemeni naval services," and that it was intended as retaliation for the "oppression of the Palestinian people."

Skip next section Death toll now at 18,787 — Gazan health officials
December 14, 2023

Death toll now at 18,787 — Gazan health officials

Gaza's Hamas-run Health Ministry reported on Thursday that at least 18,787 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip since October 7, the majority of them women and children.

Although there is a debate over the breakdown between civilian and combatant deaths, UN agencies and other international institutions believe that the overall death toll is broadly accurate.

Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qidra said 50,897 people had been wounded in Israeli strikes.

Israel launched attacks on Hamas targets after the militant Islamist group launched a large-scale terror attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people.

Since then, Israel has expanded military efforts to include the whole of the Gaza Strip.

According to the United Nations, there are no safe places for the people of Gaza.

Gaza's al-Mawasi safe zone lacks basic necessities

Skip next section 'Largest displacement of the Palestinian people' since 1948 war — UNRWA
December 14, 2023

'Largest displacement of the Palestinian people' since 1948 war — UNRWA

As Israel continues its offensive against the militant Islamist group Hamas, the UN Relief and Works Agency UNRWA says the majority of Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced.

UNRWA Director for Communications Juliette Touma told DW they observing "forced displacement" of Gazans.

"What we've been seeing since the war began is a pattern of forced displacement of the Palestinian population in Gaza," Touma said.

"This is the largest displacement of the Palestinian people since the 1948 war."

The 1948 war, known as the First Arab-Israeli War, started the day after Israel announced its establishment as a state, when it was attacked by Egyptian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese and Syrian forces. In the course of the war, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced out of their homes

In the current conflict, Israel's military says it is giving advanced warning to Palestinians to move to safer areas before attacking Hamas targets.

Israel has also accused Hamas, classified by multiple countries as a terrorist organization, of hiding behind civilian infrastructure such as mosques and schools. It says because of that, the group is responsible for putting Gazans at risk.

Touma told DW that the UN agency was no longer able to fulfil its mandate in the territory.

"We are challenged and our hands are tied. We have so many restrictions imposed on us," Touma said and spoke of the "very little aid" the agency was allowed to bring in and limited access it had within Gaza.

UN: Almost half of Gaza's population now in Rafah

Skip next section UK bans entry for violent settlers
December 14, 2023

UK bans entry for violent settlers

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron has said Israeli settlers responsible for violence against Palestinians would not be able to enter the UK.

"Extremist settlers, by targeting and killing Palestinian civilians, are undermining security and stability for both Israelis and Palestinians," Cameron said on social media site X, formerly known as Twitter. 

"Israel must take stronger action to stop settler violence and hold the perpetrators accountable. We are banning those responsible for settler violence from entering the UK to make sure our country cannot be a home for people who commit these intimidating acts."

Earlier this week, the EU's foreign policy chief said the bloc could draw up proposals to sanction settlers perpetrating violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

West Bank: Clashes between settlers and Palestinians soar

Skip next section Israel announces pause in Rafah military operations
December 14, 2023

Israel announces pause in Rafah military operations

Israel has announced that it would be implementing "tactical pauses" in Rafah to help civilians with humanitarian aid.

"The IDF is enabling tactical pauses for humanitarian purposes to allow civilians to replenish stocks such as food and water. Today, (Dec.14), the pause is taking place in the Al-Salam neighborhood in Rafah, from 10:00 to 14:00," COGAT, the Israeli government agency that handles Palestinian civil affairs, said in a post on X, formerly Twitter. 

Skip next section DW correspondent describes 'unlivable' situation in Gaza
December 14, 2023

DW correspondent describes 'unlivable' situation in Gaza

People clean up outside of tents after a night of heavy rain in Gaza
Many Palestinians have been seeking shelter in makeshift tents as the conflict displaced an estimated 80% of the Gazan population, according to the UNImage: Naaman Omar/Zumapress/picture alliance

Winter rains are compounding the misery of people in Gaza who have already been displaced several times, DW's Jerusalem correspondent Rebecca Ritters said. 

"The situation has been deteriorating for weeks. It has become unlivable. We are talking about half of the area's population now trying to take shelter in the border town of Rafah that’s normally home to around 250,000 people."

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that limited aid distribution was taking place in Rafah but had largely stopped in the rest of the Gaza Strip due to the conflict.

"It's seeing 1 million people descend on that area. Aid groups are saying that they have simply not been able to distribute what little aid they do have," Ritters said. "All of this is being compounded by the winter rain. It's getting very cold here in Israel."

People in Gaza are falling victim to deadly infections

Skip next section Israel bombs southern Gaza, faces calls to reduce civilian casualties
December 14, 2023

Israel bombs southern Gaza, faces calls to reduce civilian casualties

Israel kept up its bombing of the Gaza Strip on Thursday amid international calls to reduce civilian toll and address a deepening humanitarian catastrophe.

In central Rafah, in the south of the enclave, 24 people died in an Israeli strike that hit two houses, Hamas media said early Thursday. 

A confirmation from the Palestinian Health Ministry was not immediately available. 

Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by Israel, the US, the EU and others.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan will be in Israel on Thursday for talks with the Israelis over the need to be more precise with their strikes.

​​Israel says its bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza is aimed at destroying Hamas after the militant group launched terror attacks on October 7 that killed 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, and took 240 hostages.

Since then, at least 18,608 people have been killed and 50,594 injured in retaliatory Israeli strikes on Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

The Gaza Strip is now battling a public health disaster due to the destruction of its health system and the spread of disease, the UN humanitarian office has said.

Gaza's al-Mawasi safe zone lacks basic necessities

Skip next section RSF says 17 reporters killed in Middle East fighting since October
December 14, 2023

RSF says 17 reporters killed in Middle East fighting since October

At least 17 journalists have been killed while covering the fighting in the Middle East since October 7, most of them in Gaza.

That's according to media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) in its annual review of press freedom.

Thirteen of those journalists were killed in the Gaza Strip, three died in Lebanon and one was killed in Israel, RSF said.

RSF filed a complaint at the end of October at the International Criminal Court for "war crimes" over these deaths.

The RSF complaint also cites the deliberate destruction of the premises of more than 50 media outlets in Gaza. 

DW journalist gives his account of leaving Gaza

Skip next section US national security adviser to visit Israel
December 14, 2023

US national security adviser to visit Israel

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan will arrive in Israel on Thursday, where he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders. 

According to White House National Security Spokesman John Kirby, Sullivan is to hold "extremely serious" and "constructive" talks with Israeli officials. Sullivan is expected to discuss the next phase of the war with Israeli officials, after over two months of fighting. 

The visit comes after US President Joe Biden criticized Netanyahu's right-wing government and said it is engaging in "indiscriminate bombing" of Gaza. He also accused Netanyahu's administration of being against a two-state solution.

Netanyahu has vowed to continue the operations against Hamas, despite mounting international criticism. 

Hamas, deemed a terror group by the US, Germany and others, carried out terror attacks on Israel on October 7. Those terror attacks left around 1,200 people in Israel dead, with Hamas also taking some 240 hostages from Israel into Gaza. 

Skip next section Markus Söder begins his visit to Israel
December 14, 2023

Markus Söder begins his visit to Israel

Markus Söder, state premier of Bavaria, with Steffen Seibert, German Ambassador to Israel
Upon his arrival in Israel, Bavarian premier Markus Söder met with German Ambassador Steffen Seibert (right)Image: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa/picture alliance

Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder arrived in Israel on Wednesday afternoon. He began his visit by meeting with Foreign Minister Eli Cohen. 

Söder emphasized that his visit to Jerusalem is a clear signal. He said it was very important for him personally, but also for the Bavarian government, to show solidarity with Israel and the victims of the Hamas terror attacks on October 7.

Despite the United Nations' call for a cease-fire, Söder has supported Israel's actions against Hamas in Gaza.

"Of course we also sympathize with the people in the Gaza Strip, with the civilian victims," Söder said shortly before his departure from Munich.

"Nevertheless, we believe that Israel has a right to self-defense and that it is now necessary to give priority to security," he added. 

On Thursday, Söder will hold talks with President Isaac Herzog. A visit to a kibbutz on the Gaza border and a new agreement with the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial are also planned, the state chancellery in Munich said.

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