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Israel-Hamas war: Ramadan begins as Gaza hunger worsens

Published March 11, 2024last updated March 12, 2024

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have begun Ramadan with food shortages across the territory getting steadily worse. A Spanish aid ship carrying 200 metric tons of supplies is set to sail from Cyprus.

People sit around a table in rubble
Gazans have an 'iftar' fast-breaking meal among on the first day of Ramadan amid the rubble of bombed homesImage: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • Israel investigating reports that high level Hamas military leader was killed in Gaza
  • The Muslim holy month of Ramadan has begun with the Gaza Strip's population in desperate need of supplies
  • A Spanish ship carrying food aid is due to set sail from Cyprus to the Palestinian territory
  • The Oscars awards ceremony see protests against war in Gaza

This live blog is now closed. For the latest developments from Tuesday March 12, click here.

Skip next section Malaysian PM defends Hamas ties during Germany visit
March 12, 2024

Malaysian PM defends Hamas ties during Germany visit

Anwar Ibrahim at a press conference alongside Olaf Scholz
Anwar Ibrahim and Olaf Scholz both addressed Israel's military offensive in GazaImage: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP Photo/picture alliance

Malaysia's Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim defended his country's ties to Hamas during a visit to Berlin on Monday, and said he makes "no apologies about it."

Hamas is considered a terror group by the US, the EU, Germany and others.

"We do not have any connection with any military outfit or wing, I've clarified this to many of my European colleagues (and) the United States," Anwar said at a press conference.

Muslim-majority Malaysia does not maintain any diplomatic relations with Israel.

"What I reject strongly is this narrative, this obsession, as if the entire problem begins and ends with the 7th of October," Anwar added.

At the same press conference, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said: "Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas's terror attack" but also said that Germany "wants more humanitarian aid to reach Gaza, we want the hostages to be released unconditionally, we want there to be no unnecessary casualties."

Skip next section Israel checking reports that Hamas' second-highest military leader killed
March 11, 2024

Israel checking reports that Hamas' second-highest military leader killed

An Israeli military spokesperson said Monday that officials are checking to see if Hamas's second-highest military leader died in an air strike in Gaza. 

Israeli Army Radio reported earlier that the military on Saturday bombed a compound in central Gaza, where Marwan Issa is thought to have been hiding. 

Issa is Hamas' deputy military leader and was involved in planning the October 7 terror attack on Israel that sparked the Gaza war.

Military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said Monday that the underground compound targeted was used by Issa, among others. 

However, it is still not clear whether Issa had been killed in the strike, he said.

"We are still examining the results of the attack, and we have yet to get final confirmation," Hagari said, adding that confirmation has been made more complicated because the target was underground.

Should his death be confirmed, Marwan Issa would be the highest-ranking Hamas official to be killed by Israel in more than five months of war.

Issa is second-in-command of Hamas's military wing the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades. Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by multiple governments, including the US and Germany. 

Skip next section Clashes reported near Al-Aqsa Mosque compound
March 11, 2024

Clashes reported near Al-Aqsa Mosque compound

Israeli media reported on Monday that Israeli police prevented hundreds of young Palestinians from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound to mark the first night of Ramadan on Sunday.

Footage shared by newspaper Haaretz , and other Israeli media outlets, appeared to show uniformed police offers using batons to drive people back in a narrow passageway.

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that police detained some individuals, citing eyewitness reports.

The compound is considered to be Jerusalem's most sensitive religious site, and known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount.

On March 5, the Israeli government said it wouldn't impose any new restrictions on the number of worshippers.

"During the first week of Ramadan, worshippers will be permitted to enter the Temple Mount in numbers similar to previous years," said a statement released by the Israeli Prime Minister's office.

"Ramadan is sacred to Muslims; its sanctity will be upheld this year, as it is every year." But, it also added, "a weekly assessment of security aspects will be carried out."

Haaretz reported that some young Palestinians were able to enter "when they arrived with their parents or in cases where the police opened the barriers due to pressure created by the gatherings, and let anyone who wanted to enter without being checked."

Israeli authorities did not immediately comment on reports of clashes on Sunday night.

Skip next section UN chief calls for guns in Gaza to fall silent for holy festival
March 11, 2024

UN chief calls for guns in Gaza to fall silent for holy festival

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for "silencing the guns" in Gaza to coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Guterres said Ramadan celebrates "peace, reconciliation and solidarity. Yet even though Ramadan has begun, the killing, bombing and bloodshed continue in Gaza."

The UN chief also called for the release of hostages held by Hamas and the removal of "all obstacles to ensure the delivery of lifesaving aid at the speed and massive scale required" to Gaza. The UN has warned that a quarter of Gaza's population are on the brink of famine.

"International humanitarian law lies in tatters," Guterres told reporters. "And a threatened Israeli assault on Rafah could plummet the people of Gaza into an even deeper circle of hell."

UN's Antonio Guterres calls for 'immediate release of all hostages' in Gaza

Skip next section Israel reprimands commander for destroyed Gaza university building — reports
March 11, 2024

Israel reprimands commander for destroyed Gaza university building — reports

Israeli media has reported that the military has officially reprimanded a commander for destroying a university building in Gaza City in January without authorization.

Soldiers said Hamas was using tunnels beneath the Al-Israa University structure, but the commander reportedly blew up the building without the required authorization from his superior. The incident is still being investigated.

"The investigation revealed that Hamas used the building and its surroundings for military activity against our forces, but the process of collapsing the building was done without the required approvals," Israel's Haaretz newspaper cited an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson as saying.

Skip next section Gaza health authorities put death toll at 31,112
March 11, 2024

Gaza health authorities put death toll at 31,112

The Gaza death toll has now reached 31,112, according to the territory's Health Ministry, an agency in the Hamas-controlled government.

The ministry said the toll included 67 fatalities over the past 24 hours.

Ministry officials also said a total of 72,760 Palestinians have been injured in the Israeli campaign that has now been going on for over four months.

The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants, but the UN and multiple humanitarian organizations consider the casualty numbers broadly reliable.

Around half of Gaza's 2.3 million inhabitants are children, and the UN says the majority of civilians killed have been women and children. 

Israel launched its Gaza operation after Hamas carried out terror attacks in southern Israel on October 7. The militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took around 250 people captive. Hamas is still believed to be holding around 100 hostages. 

Skip next section Israel says 15 Hamas fighters killed, arrests made
March 11, 2024

Israel says 15 Hamas fighters killed, arrests made

The Israeli army says its soldiers killed around "15 members of the militias" — referring to armed groups including Hamas — in the center of the Gaza Strip amid ongoing fighting. 

The military also said it had arrested members of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas and seized weapons in raids on homes in a neighborhood of the southern city of Khan Younis. 

During the operation, a rocket was reportedly fired at Israeli soldiers, but the Israeli army said there were no casualties.

The United States, the European Union and others have listed Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Skip next section Aid ship for Gaza due to set sail from Cyprus
March 11, 2024

Aid ship for Gaza due to set sail from Cyprus

A ship that belongs to the Spanish aid group Open Arms is preparing to sail from Cyprus to the coastal Gaza Strip with some 200 metric tons of food aid.

The UN has repeatedly warned of famine in the Palestinian territory, into which aid groups say only a fraction of the supplies required to meet basic humanitarian needs have been allowed to flow since the war began on October 7.

On Monday morning, it remained unclear exactly when the ship would depart after a delay due to "technical issues."

Israel has said it welcomes the sea deliveries and will inspect cargo bound for Gaza before it leaves Cyprus.

DW correspondent Rosie Birchard says the aid includes "things like flour, rice, protein like canned tuna." 

"The idea is that Cypriot officials check the goods here in Cyprus, overseen by Israeli officials, before it departs so that they can go directly to Gaza," Birchard, who is in the Cypriot port of Larnaca, reported.

The pilot voyage should take two to three days to arrive at an undisclosed location in Gaza.

The provisions are being supplied by the US charity World Central Kitchen, which said construction work began on a landing jetty in Gaza on Sunday.

When the vessel arrives in Gaza, the cargo is set to be offloaded by a crane, placed on trucks, and driven north, where food is said to be in particularly short supply.

Gaza aid ship cleared to sail from Cyprus: DW’s Rosie Birchard

Skip next section Ramadan begins in hunger-ravaged Gaza Strip
March 11, 2024

Ramadan begins in hunger-ravaged Gaza Strip

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have begun the holy Muslim month of Ramadan with cease-fire talks stalled and the hunger situation worsening in much of the territory. 

Officials in Saudi Arabia announced that the season of fasting had begun after seeing the appearance of a crescent moon to signify the start of the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

In his Ramadan message as custodian of Islam's two holiest sites, Saudi Arabia's King Salman noted the war in Gaza would cast a shadow over the month of fasting and prayer.

He called for the international community to end the conflict and "ensure the establishment of safe humanitarian and relief corridors."

There were muted celebrations as prayers were held late on Sunday amid the wreckage and rubble of demolished buildings. 

Families normally break the daily fast with holiday feasts, but food in Gaza is sparse. There is little beyond canned goods, with prices too high for many.

Marking the beginning of Ramadan in Gaza

Skip next section Oscars see protests against war in Gaza
March 11, 2024

Oscars see protests against war in Gaza

Jonathan Glazer
Director Jonathan Glazer, who won the Oscar for the best international film, talked about complicity and dehumanizationImage: Sthanlee B. Mirador/Sipa USA/picture alliance

The 96th Academy Awards, which took place even as the war in Gaza rages, saw many celebrities taking a stand for a cease-fire.

Director Jonathan Glazer, who won the Oscar for best international film for the Holocaust drama "The Zone of Interest," talked about complicity and dehumanization.

"Our film shows where dehumanization leads, at its worst," Glazer said. "Right now, we stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation, which has led to conflict for so many innocent people. Whether the victims of October the 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza, all the victims, this dehumanization, how do we resist?"

Earlier, hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, slowing down traffic.

"Shame!" shouted some at those trying to reach the awards.

"While you're watching, bombs are dropping," one sign read.

Several stars wore pins on the red carpet calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. This included Oscar nominees Billie Eilish and Mark Ronson.

Actor Mark Ruffalo raised a clenched fist in support of the protesters as he entered the theater.

"We need peace," Ruffalo said.

rc,ss/nm (AP, AFP, Reuters)