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Israel-Hamas war: 136 UN staff killed in Gaza, says Guterres

Published December 23, 2023last updated December 24, 2023

The secretary-general of the United Nations says no conflict has ever taken such a toll on UN workers. Meanwhile, the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry in Gaza reports that Israel hit a refugee camp. DW has the latest.

A convoy of ambulances and a UN truck heads towards north Gaza on November 24, 2023
UN chief Antonio Guterres described the situation in Gaza as a 'nightmare'Image: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • Israel is pressing on with its offensive in Gaza, hours after the UN Security Council called for more aid
  • UN chief Guterres pays tribute to 136 UN staff killed in the fighting
  • Germany reports more than 1,000 antisemitic crimes since the Hamas attack on October 7
  • US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have held talks over the ongoing situation in Gaza
Skip next section Biden, Netanyahu discuss Israeli 'campaign' in Gaza, plight of civilians
December 24, 2023

Biden, Netanyahu discuss Israeli 'campaign' in Gaza, plight of civilians

US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed "Israel's military campaign in Gaza, including its objectives and phasing," the White House said in a statement on Saturday.

Biden "emphasized the critical need to protect the civilian population including those supporting the humanitarian aid operation, and the importance of allowing civilians to move safely away from areas of ongoing fighting," the White House
statement continued. "The leaders discussed the importance of securing the release of all remaining hostages."

Biden told reporters in Washington that he had a "long talk" with Netanyahu and that it was a private conversation. "I did not ask for a cease-fire," he said, in response to a reporter's question.

Netanyahu thanked Biden for the United States' stand on the Security Council resolution that was approved Friday, the Israeli prime minister's office said.

Gaza Vote: UN Security Council adopts resolution to boost aid deliveries to Gaza

The US negotiated for days to amend the language of the resolution and won the removal of a previous tougher call for an "urgent suspension of hostilities" between Israel and Hamas, an organization classified as one of terror by Israel, the US, Germany and the EU.

Netanyahu also "made clear that Israel will pursue the war until all of its objectives are fully met."

Skip next section UKMTO reports incident off Yemen coast, tells vessels to transit with caution
December 23, 2023

UKMTO reports incident off Yemen coast, tells vessels to transit with caution

Authorities are investigating a shipping incident 50 nautical miles west of Hodeidah, Yemen, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency.

The agency urged vessels to transit through the area with caution.

The UKMTO did not initially give further details as to the nature of the incident.

Yemen's Houthi rebels have launched multiple attacks on ships passing through the Red Sea in response to Israel's offensive in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

Skip next section Hamas says contact lost with group in charge of 5 Israeli hostages
December 23, 2023

Hamas says contact lost with group in charge of 5 Israeli hostages

Hamas says it has lost contact with a group holding five Israeli hostages in the Gaza Strip.

A spokesman for the armed wing of the Hamas militant group said communications were interrupted following an Israeli airstrike on Gaza. He said Hamas believed that the hostages were killed during the attack.

It was initially impossible to independently verify the claim.

Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza launched attacks on southern Israel on October 7. Israeli authorities say nearly 1,200 people, most of them civilians, were killed in the attacks and about 240 people were taken into Gaza as hostages.

During a temporary pause in fighting, 105 hostages were freed in exchange for about 240 Palestinians held by Israel.

Skip next section Death toll in Gaza rises to 20,258 — Hamas-led Health Ministry
December 23, 2023

Death toll in Gaza rises to 20,258 — Hamas-led Health Ministry

The Health Ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip reports that at least 20,258 people have been killed since the start of the war with Israel.

According to the ministry, there had been at least 201 fatalities over the past 24 hours as of late Saturday.

Gaza's Health Ministry does not distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties, though officials report that at least 70% of the people killed have been women and children. Israel sometimes questions the trustworthiness of the figures, given Hamas' influence over Gaza's Health Ministry, but, according to the United Nations and other observers, the figures have proved generally reliable.

Israel declared war after Hamas militants stormed across the border on October 7, killing nearly 1,200 people in Israel and taking about 240 hostages. 

Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by the US, EU, Israel and other governments.

Gaza death toll climbs as Israeli strikes continue

Skip next section Over 1,500 people march in pro-Palestinian protest in Berlin — police
December 23, 2023

Over 1,500 people march in pro-Palestinian protest in Berlin — police

More than 1,500 people attended a pro-Palestinian protest in Berlin, police said.

The march went from the Kreuzberg district to the Brandenburg Gate in the city center.

The main slogan was "Solidarity with Palestine," and protesters chanted: "Stop the murder, stop the war, stop the Gaza genocide."

Protesters demanded that Germany's government work toward an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

A spokesperson said the demonstration proceeded peacefully.

Police saw placards with illegal slogans and filed charges against the people carrying them, he said.

The march was organized by the Berlin branch of the socialist Left party.

Skip next section Top Iranian officer warns other sea routes could be blocked over Gaza
December 23, 2023

Top Iranian officer warns other sea routes could be blocked over Gaza

A senior Iranian officer has warned that international sea routes other than the Red Sea could be blocked in response to the war in the Gaza Strip.

A spokesperson for Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Naqdi, speaking on behalf of the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said that "with the continuity of the crimes in the Gaza Strip," the United States and its allies should also expect the emergence of further resistance groups.

"They shall soon await the closure of the Mediterranean Sea, (the Strait of) Gibraltar and other waterways," the spokesman added.

Iran has no direct access to the Mediterranean itself, and it was not clear how the Guards could attempt to close it off.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthis have, over the past month, attacked merchant vessels sailing through the Red Sea in retaliation for Israel's assault on Gaza.

The attacks prompted many of the world's largest shipping lines to avoid the area and instead sail around the entire African continent.

Iran has denied US accusations of involvement in attacks by the Houthis.

On Friday, us National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson told CNN that newly declassified intelligence suggested Iran had been "deeply involved in planning the operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea."

Skip next section Drone hits Israel-linked ship off India, maritime agencies report
December 23, 2023

Drone hits Israel-linked ship off India, maritime agencies report

A drone strike damaged an Israel-affiliated merchant vessel in the Arabian Sea off India's west coast, British maritime security firm Ambrey said on Saturday.

The strike sparked a fire but caused no casualties, the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations, or UKMTO, said.

"Some structural damage was also reported and some water was taken onboard," Ambrey said on its website.

The firm described the vessel as a Liberia-flagged chemical/products tanker, which it said had last called at Saudi Arabia and was heading for India.

Both agencies said the attack occurred 200 nautical miles southwest of Veraval, India.

The Indian Navy said it had responded to a request for assistance. 

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the strike. 

However, the latest incident sparked comparisons with several drone and missile attacks by Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels on a vital shipping lane in the Red Sea, in response to the Israel-Hamas conflict.

Iran has also been accused of carrying out attacks near its waters.

Skip next section More than 1,000 antisemitic crimes reported in Germany since war started
December 23, 2023

More than 1,000 antisemitic crimes reported in Germany since war started

Germany has recorded more than 1,000 crimes with an antisemitic background since the Israel-Hamas war erupted on October 7, Welt am Sonntag newspaper reported.

The figure is already around twice as high as in the last quarter of 2022.

The crimes mainly involve graffiti on synagogues and the burning of Israeli flags.

In addition, hatred, agitation, calls for violence and death threats against Israel and Jews have also increased on social media.

Since the beginning of October, 603 criminally relevant reports have been sent to the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). Almost two-thirds had an antisemitic background.

"We not only have to protect Jews physically but also in the digital space, because words quickly become actions," Felix Klein, the Federal Government’s Anti-Semitism Commissioner, told the newspaper. "If they [social media] don't do that, the state has to make them do it."

Welt am Sonntag reported that police have recorded more than 4,700 crimes related to the conflict in the Middle East since October 7th.

Most of the cases involve incitement to hatred, resistance against police officers at anti-Israel demonstrations and damage to property.

Skip next section Guterres decries death toll of the Gaza war for UN staff
December 23, 2023

Guterres decries death toll of the Gaza war for UN staff

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has paid tribute to staff of the United Nations who have been killed in Gaza since October 7.

"136 of our colleagues in Gaza have been killed in 75 days —  something we have never seen in UN history," Guterres wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Saturday. "Most of our staff have been forced from their homes."

"I pay tribute to them & the thousands of aid workers risking their lives as they support civilians in Gaza," Guterres added.

"The way Israel is conducting this offensive is creating massive obstacles to the distribution of humanitarian aid inside Gaza," he wrote in another post.

"An effective aid operation in Gaza requires security; staff who can work in safety; logistical capacity; and the resumption of commercial activity," Guterres added.

The UN chief's comments came hours after the UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding more aid for about 2 million people in Gaza.

Skip next section Jews not leaving Germany despite rising hate crimes
December 23, 2023

Jews not leaving Germany despite rising hate crimes

Germany's Central Council of Jews has not observed any emigration of Jews from Germany despite the notable rise in antisemtic acts in the country.

"No, I definitely don't see any emigration of Jewish people from Germany," Council president Josef Schuster told the Rheinische Post, "That's in contrast to France, where there is a clear exodus of Jews."

Schuster said there are always people who move to Israel for religious reasons, but he said he couldn't see that for political reasons.

The large rise in antisemitic crimes recorded in Germany over the past two months includes hostility, verbal abuse, the marking of residential buildings with Stars of David and an attempted arson attack on a synagogue in the capital, Berlin. 

Anti-Israeli slogans have been shouted and posters displayed at pro-Palestinian demonstrations.

Skip next section Hamas says Israel targeted refugee camp hours after UN vote
December 23, 2023

Hamas says Israel targeted refugee camp hours after UN vote

Eighteen people have been killed in an Israeli strike on a house in Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza said Saturday. 

The camp was among several targets hit by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) up and down the strip following the UN Security Council vote calling for more life-saving aid to be rushed to the Palestinian enclave.

UN Security Council passes watered-down Gaza resolution

The Israeli army said late Friday it had been locked in street-to-street fighting with Hamas gunmen in Gaza City. Hamas is classified by multiple countries as a terrorist organization.

The army said it had also destroyed another "strategic" tunnel complex and a "Hamas headquarters."

Pressure is growing on Israeli authorities to recalibrate the Gaza offensive due to the large number of Palestinian casualties and an increasingly desperate humanitarian situation.

But hopes for a Christmas truce have faded, despite ongoing talks brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States.