Israel-Gaza updates: Israel channeling water into Gaza tunnels

(NEW YORK) — More than 100 days since Hamas terrorists invaded Israel on Oct. 7, the Israeli military continues its bombardment of the neighboring Gaza Strip.

The conflict, now the deadliest between the warring sides since Israel’s founding in 1948, shows no signs of letting up soon and the brief cease-fire that allowed for over 100 hostages to be freed from Gaza remains a distant memory.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Jan 31, 3:54 PM
‘Full-fledged famine’ threat in Gaza continues to rise as aid declines, humanitarian groups warn

Before the war, roughly two-thirds of Gaza residents were reliant on food aid, according to the World Food Program.

Now, roughly 577,000 people in Gaza, or 26% of the population, are starving, according to Arif Husain, the chief economist for WFP.

“If things continue as they are, or if things worsen, we are looking at a full-fledged famine within the next six months,” he told ABC News.

Maryam al-Dahdough, a mother of four who is pregnant with another child, was one of the thousand people who line up daily at a soup kitchen in Rafah in southern Gaza.

She told ABC News that she has not eaten eggs, milk or anything healthy for three months and it’s been worse for her other children.

“Fever, vomiting, diarrhea all day, not a single one of them is healthy,” she said.

Jan 31, 3:00 PM
White House says hostages, Jordan response can both be done

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby was tight-lipped Wednesday about ongoing hostage negotiations, stressing that he did not want anything to jeopardize any progress.

“I will tell you that, in broad strokes, we are looking at an extended pause,” he said. “How long? That’s all part of the discussions, but longer than what we saw in November, which was about a week. We’d like to see a longer pause than that. Not just because that helps facilitate the movement of so many more hostages out … but so it can also give us an opportunity to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance in.”

Asked if President Joe Biden is holding off on retaliatory strikes after a drone attack killed three American service members in Jordan this weekend, to give time and safe space for the ongoing hostage negotiations, Kirby insisted that the U.S. would continue to move forward on both.

“This is hard diplomatic work that’s going into trying to get those hostages out,” Kirby said. “It’s hard, but that doesn’t mean that you put the brakes on that. … And it doesn’t mean that you don’t respond to the attacks in Jordan. … We can and we will do both.”

-ABC News’ Molly Nagle

Jan 31, 2:29 PM
Palestinian statehood options part of ‘ongoing policy planning,’ State Department says

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller declined to outright confirm or deny a report from Axios claiming that Secretary of State Antony Blinken ordered a review of options for recognizing Palestinian statehood, but Miller said the State Department has an “ongoing policy planning process” examining the matter.

“There has been no policy shift in the administration — we have made quite clear publicly that we support the establishment of an independent Palestinian state,” Miller said. “That’s been the policy of the United States for some time.”

“We do a lot of work inside the government to think about how to bring that about,” Miller said regarding Palestinian statehood recognition. “We look at any number of options. That’s part of the normal planning process. The vast majority of options never usually get implemented.”

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

Jan 31, 11:55 AM
Netanyahu meets with hostage families

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Wednesday with family members of hostages still being held captive in Gaza, telling them the government is “making every effort” to bring the hostages home.

“The more public this effort gets, the more distant it gets, and the more discreet this effort is, the more likely it is to succeed,” Netanyahu said. “Naturally, and for these two reasons, I am limited from sharing with you. I ask you to understand that we are truly committed in the full sense of the word.”

ABC News’ Jordana Miller

Jan 31, 7:22 AM
Israeli airstrikes hit Syrian military infrastructure, IDF says

The Israel Defense Forces said Wednesday morning that its fighter jets struck Syrian military infrastructure overnight in the area of Daraa, the southernmost city of Syria near the border with Jordan.

The Israeli airstrikes were conducted after “a number of launches from Syria toward the southern Golan Heights were identified” on Tuesday night, according to the IDF.

Jan 30, 9:08 PM
Experts say Israel may have violated international law with hospital raid

The Israel Defense Forces in the raid they conducted inside a hospital in the West Bank resulted in the death of three Palestinian men both Hamas and the Islamic Jihad claimed as members, several experts told ABC News.

Members of the IDF disguised themselves as doctors and patients to infiltrate the Ibn Sina Hospital in Jenin on Monday and killed three Palestinian men whom Hamas and the Islamic Jihad both claimed as members, Dr. Wisam Sebehat, general director of the Palestinian Health Ministry in Jenin, told ABC News.

Doctors and patients are granted “protected status” in armed conflict under the Geneva Convention.

The experts cautioned that ultimately the International Criminal Court is the body that can determine if international law was violated during the raid, but they pointed to elements of the governing treaty of the ICC, and the study on the rules of the IDF may have violated in conducting the raid. The United States, along with China, India, Russia — about 40 countries total — did not sign the Rome Statute and are not party to the ICC, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Jan 30, 4:23 PM
US details money earmarked for UNRWA held up by pause

For the first time, a member of the Biden administration Tuesday offered some detail on how many U.S. dollars earmarked for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East are held up under the current pause.

“We have provided in this fiscal year already $121 million to UNRWA,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said. “We have remaining about $300,000 — a little more than $300,000 — in funds that we were planning to provide to UNRWA. That funding has been suspended. That would not be the total of our funding in this fiscal year.”

Miller went on to say that it was “really impossible” to say what the total amount for the fiscal year would be due to operating under a continuing resolution, and he did not know what its exact budget would be, but that historically the Biden administration had provided “somewhere between” $300 million and $400 million a year.

Nine countries, including the U.S., have paused funding for the UNRWA in wake of allegations that some UNRWA employees were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. The commissioner-general of UNRWA is investigating.

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

Jan 30, 3:11 PM
Israel channeling water into Gaza tunnels

The Israel Defense Forces said its soldiers are sending “large volumes of water” into Gaza tunnels to try to stop terrorist infrastructure.

“The pumping of water was only carried out in tunnel routes and locations that were suitable, matching the method of operation to each case,” the IDF said in a statement. “This project was developed following combat procedures, accelerated force-building efforts, and while training forces with technological expertise.”

“This tool represents a significant engineering and technological breakthrough in combating the threat of underground terror infrastructure and is the result of a collaborative effort between various bodies in Israel’s security establishment,” the IDF added.

Jan 30, 12:52 PM
Proposed hostage deal includes at least 6-week pause in hostilities: US officials

The latest proposed hostage deal includes an at least six-week pause in hostilities, during which the remaining civilian hostages in Gaza would be returned in phases, with the elderly, women and any remaining children released first, two U.S. officials confirmed to ABC News.

When the six-week truce nears the end, the framework calls for the parties to begin discussing: the return of all Israeli soldiers detained by Hamas; paving the way for all hostages in Gaza to be freed; and possibly extending the pause, the U.S. officials said.

The framework also includes the release of a large number of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel and additional humanitarian provisions for civilians in Gaza, the officials said.

According to an Israeli source, Israel has rejected this current hostage and cease-fire deal on the table.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday the group is studying a proposal for a hostage and cease-fire deal that was put forward during talks this weekend in Paris. He said he would visit Egypt to discuss the plan and ways to implement it.

The White House is expressing confidence to secure the release of the remaining hostages being held by Hamas even after Israel rejected the current deal.

“The president’s view is we got to continue to do everything we can to get those hostages out,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday. “We are making progress on trying to get an extended pause in place so that we can get those hostages out. And the president’s not going to wait on that.”

Kirby would not say if President Joe Biden was disappointed that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would not release thousands of prisoners and pull troops out of Gaza as part of the deal.

“I think we’ll let the prime minister speak for himself. There’s no reason for us to change course here. We still believe that this is the right thing to do,” he said.

Kirby said national security adviser Jake Sullivan met with Amir Sheikh Al Thani of Qatar Tuesday to discuss the war and efforts to get a hostage deal in place. Sullivan is also meeting Tuesday with the families of hostages being held by Hamas.

ABC News’ Shannon Crawford and Justin Gomez

Jan 30, 12:08 PM
Israel rejects current hostage deal on the table: Israeli source

Israel has rejected the current hostage and cease-fire deal that was on the table, an Israeli source told ABC News Tuesday.

The deal included the release of women, the elderly and the injured hostages. This is likely to be the terms of the first round of a future deal, the source said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday, “I hear talk about all kinds of deals. I would like to make it clear: We will not conclude this war without achieving all of its goals. This means eliminating Hamas, returning all of our hostages and ensuring that Gaza never again constitutes a threat to Israel.”

Meanwhile, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday the group is studying a proposal for a hostage and cease-fire deal that was put forward during talks this weekend in Paris. He said he would visit Egypt to discuss the plan and ways to implement it.

ABC News’ Jordana Miller, Ayat Al-Tawy and Dana Savir

Jan 30, 6:41 AM
UNRWA funding cuts threaten Palestinian lives, NGOs warn

Twenty aid organizations have joined together to express deep concern and outrage that some of the largest donors suspended funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the largest humanitarian agency in the Gaza Strip and the main provider for millions of Palestinians in the wider region.

A wave of countries, including the United States, have cut funding for UNRWA in recent days over Israel’s accusations that 13 UNRWA staff members in Gaza were involved in the Oct. 7 terror attack. UNRWA said it is investigating the allegations.

In a joint statement released Monday, 20 non-governmental organizations, including Oxfam and Save the Children, urged the donor states to reverse their suspensions and warned that not doing so could lead to “a complete collapse of the already restricted humanitarian response in Gaza.”

“We are shocked by the reckless decision to cut a lifeline for an entire population by some of the very countries that had called for aid in Gaza to be stepped up and for humanitarians to be protected while doing their job,” the NGOs said. “This decision comes as the International Court of Justice ordered immediate and effective action to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza.”

The NGOs warned: “If the funding suspensions are not reversed we may see a complete collapse of the already restricted humanitarian response in Gaza.”

“The suspension of funding by donor states will impact life-saving assistance for over two million civilians, over half of whom are children, who rely on UNRWA aid in Gaza,” they added. “The population faces starvation, looming famine and an outbreak of disease under Israel’s continued indiscriminate bombardment and deliberate deprivation of aid in Gaza.”

Jan 30, 5:35 AM
Israeli soldiers dressed in disguise kill 3 in raid at hospital in West Bank

The Palestinian Ministry of Health on Tuesday released security camera footage showing Israeli troops in disguise as they raideda hospital in the occupied West Bank overnight.

In the video, soldiers are seen dressed as doctors and patients while holding rifles and walking through the corridors of Ibn Sina Hospital in the city of Jenin. The Palestinian Ministry of Health said three people were killed during the raid, which it called a “flagrant violation of all international norms and laws.”

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed the overnight raid in a statement early Tuesday, saying its troops “neutralized” three “terrorists” who were “hiding” inside Ibn Sina Hospital, one of whom was a member of Hamas and was allegedly planning an attack “inspired by the October 7th massacre.”

“For a long time, wanted suspects have been hiding in hospitals and using them as a base for planning terrorist activities and carrying out terror attacks, while they assume that the exploitation of hospitals will serve as protection against counterterrorism activities of Israeli security forces,” the IDF said. “This is another example of the cynical use of civilian areas and hospitals as shelters and human shields by terrorist organisations.”

Jan 29, 3:29 PM
Qatari prime minister: Hostage talks in ‘much better place’ now than a few weeks ago

The Qatari prime minister said Monday that the hostage talks between Israel and Hamas are in a “much better place” now than they were “a few weeks ago,” according to Reuters.

He also said he hoped the drone attack by Iran-backed militants that killed three American service members in Jordan won’t derail progress that’s been made on a hostage deal.

“I hope that nothing would undermine the efforts that we are doing or jeopardize that process,” Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim Al-Thani said at a think tank event in Washington, D.C., according to Reuters. “Yet it will definitely have an impact on it and one way or another, it will have an impact on the regional security and we hope that things get contained and not to get escalated beyond control.”

Jan 29, 12:30 PM
IDF: Quarter of Hamas terrorists killed

One “quarter of Hamas’ terrorists have been killed and at least another quarter are wounded,” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Monday while visiting troops at the Gaza border.

Gallant said fighting the remaining terrorists “will take months.”

“On the other hand,” he continued, “the terrorists don’t have supplies, they don’t have ammunition, they don’t have reinforcements.”

ABC News’ Dana Savir

Jan 29, 11:50 AM
Dossier from Israel alleges 4 UNRWA employees involved in kidnappings

A dossier from the Israeli military has revealed new allegations against employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees who are accused of being involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

The report obtained by ABC News alleges that 13 UNRWA employees participated in the Oct. 7 attack, including six employees who allegedly infiltrated Israel.

Four UNRWA employees were allegedly involved in kidnappings and one employee allegedly supplied logistical support, the report said.

One UNRWA teacher is accused of kidnapping a hostage, who has returned to Israel and identified the UNRWA teacher, the report said.

Nine countries, including the U.S., have paused funding for the UNRWA in wake of the allegations. The commissioner-general of UNRWA is investigating.

ABC News’ Matt Gutman

Jan 29, 7:00 AM
IDF general answers questions about alleged war crimes in southern Gaza

ABC News embedded with Brig. Gen. Dan Goldfus, commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ 98th Division that currently controls the southern Gaza Strip, and questioned him about alleged war crimes, the recent killing of an unarmed Palestinian carrying a white flag and the controversial buffer zone.

On Saturday, ABC News met with Goldfus in what looked like a post-apocalyptic neighborhood in Khan Younis, where machine guns chattered, detonations thundered and the blasts of tank fire rang out. Some of the explosions were so powerful that they blew in the curtains of the commandeered Palestinian home that the general and his staff have turned into a temporary headquarters.

Outside the headquarters were a series of arena-sized basins. One was about 60 feet deep and larger than a football field. A month ago, it was a multi-acre cemetery. Flanking the destroyed cemetery was the remains of a mosque — half of a dome listing on its side like a sinking ship. Goldfus told ABC News that his troops had dug up most of the cemetery looking for tunnel shafts belonging to Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza. The general pointed out where he said they found tunnel shafts, but ABC News could not visually verify due to the depth of the pit.

When asked what his troops do with the bodies if they dig up graves while hunting for tunnel shafts, Goldfus told ABC News: “We’ll put them aside.”

The intentional destruction of religious sites, such as cemeteries, without military necessity violates international law and could amount to war crimes. But Goldfus said he’s not concerned because Hamas had turned the cemetery and the adjacent mosque into a “military compound” that was “used to attack my forces again and again and again.”

“I’m not digging up a cemetery, I’m digging up a military compound,” he added.

When asked what he would say to the families of the people who were buried there, the general told ABC News: “I’m very sorry about it. Your relatives are being used as a human shield.”

Last week, British television network ITV captured what it said were Israeli snipers in Khan Younis gunning down an unarmed Palestinian man carrying a white flag who had moments earlier told the news team that he was trying to cross the battle lines to reach his family. At the time, Israel claimed the ITV video was edited and that there was no way of telling who fired the shots. However, while speaking to ABC News on Saturday, Goldfus appeared to take responsibility for the incident.

“Yes, it was my troops and I’m investigating that incident,” he told ABC News. “That is not the way we carry out rules of engagement. No, we don’t fire people waving white flags. We don’t fire at civilians.”

When pressed on the fact that Israeli troops have killed civilians in Gaza, the general said: “They are mistakes. It is war.”

Asked whether Israeli soldiers could face criminal charges for the fatal shooting, Goldfus told ABC News that “it depends.”

“We investigate every mistake that is done,” he added.

The general also answered questions about the buffer zone the IDF is creating inside Gaza along the coastal enclave’s border with Israel.

“This is part of the area that will become a buffer zone … to dismantle Hamas and prevent any entity that will try to carry out any terror attacks against our people,” he told ABC News while looking at a table-sized aerial map of the Gaza-Israel border.

Goldfus said the buffer zone will create an area inside Gaza that is under Israel’s control.

-ABC News’ Matt Gutman and Sohel Uddin

Jan 28, 2:24 PM
‘Constructive meeting’ with officials but ‘gaps’ remain, Israeli PM’s office says

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office released a statement on Sunday’s talks between CIA Director Bill Burns, the prime minister of Qatar and intelligence officials from Israel and Egypt.

The meeting was “constructive” but “significant gaps” remain, the statement said, adding that more meetings are expected this coming week.

-ABC News’ Jordana Miller

Jan 28, 4:40 AM
UN chief appeals for continued UNRWA funding

The secretary-general of the United Nations appealed on Sunday for continuing funding for the U.N. aid agency responsible for Gaza.

Nine countries, including the United States, paused their funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees after Israel accused 12 of its employees of being involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Mark Regev, an Israeli spokesman, told ABC News in a phone interview Sunday that Israel gathered intelligence about the alleged connection to terrorism through videos released by Hamas and others during the Oct. 7 attack and claimed there’s “clear unrefutable evidence that U.N. paid staff were involved in crimes against humanity.”

About 2 million people in Gaza depend on the agency for daily survival, Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement Sunday.

According to Guterres, “Of the 12 people implicated, nine were immediately identified and terminated by the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini; one is confirmed dead, and the identity of the two others is being clarified.”

“The abhorrent alleged acts of these staff members must have consequences,” he said in the statement.

He added, “But the tens of thousands of men and women who work for UNRWA, many in some of the most dangerous situations for humanitarian workers, should not be penalized. The dire needs of the desperate populations they serve must be met.”

-ABC News’ Matt Gutman, Edward Szekeres and Kevin Shalvey

Jan 27, 5:13 PM
9 nations suspend contributions to UNRWA due to Oct. 7 allegations

The number of nations pausing funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East has risen to 9 — an unprecedented number for a UN agency. This withdrawal of funding comes amid allegations from Israeli officials that some of the agency’s staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.

On Saturday, Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Finland joined the U.S., Australia and Canada in pausing funding to UNRWA.

“UNRWA lifesaving assistance is about to end following countries decisions to cut their funding to the Agency. Our humanitarian operation, on which 2 million people depend as a lifeline in Gaza, is collapsing. I am shocked such decisions are taken based on alleged behavior of a few individuals and as the war continues, needs are deepening & famine looms,” the commissioner general of UNRWA said in a statement.

“Palestinians in Gaza did not need this additional collective punishment. This stains all of us,” the statement said.

-ABC News’ Matt Gutman, Dana Savir, Guy Davies

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