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Israel-Gaza war live: Hamas chief arrives in Egypt amid reports of ceasefire talks

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]Smoke rises from different points of the city as Israeli attacks continue on Khan Yunis, Gaza on December 20, 2023.

]Smoke rises from different points of the city as Israeli attacks continue on Khan Yunis, Gaza on December 20, 2023. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

TikTok moderators have struggled to assess content related to the Israel-Gaza conflict because the platform removed an internal tool for flagging videos in a foreign language, the Guardian has been told.

The change has meant moderators in Europe cannot flag that they do not understand foreign-language videos, for example, in Arabic and Hebrew, which are understood to be appearing more frequently in video queues.

The Guardian was told that moderators hired to work in English previously had access to a button to state that a video or post was not in their language.

Internal documents seen by the Guardian show the button was called “not my language”, or “foreign language”.

At least 66% of jobs have been lost in Gaza since the Israel-Hamas conflict erupted in October, the International Labour Organization(ILO) said on Wednesday, warning that employment losses could continue to increase in the enclave.

The losses amount to a total of 192,000 jobs in the small Palestinian territory, the ILO said in its second assessment of the impact of Israeli ground and airstrikes on Gaza which began after a deadly cross-border incursion by Hamas.

In a first assessment released in early November, ILO estimated that 182,000 jobs had been lost in Gaza, a figure representing more than 60% of employment.

“Today hardly anybody in Gaza is able to earn income from work,” said Peter Rademaker, ILO deputy regional director for the Arab states.

“It’s clearly a still growing curve,” he said of employment loss. “It might even get worse.”

Greece has advised commercial vessels sailing in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden to avoid Yemeni waters, keep only the necessary crew on the bridge and follow alerts issued by maritime authorities to avoid attacks in the area.

Greek ship-owners control about 20% of the world’s commercial vessels in terms of carrying capacity.

A shipping ministry advisory was issued on Saturday, as recent attacks by the Iran-aligned Houthi militant group on vessels have forced leading shipping companies to reroute via the cape of Good Hope to avoid the Suez Canal, the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.

According to a document seen by Reuters, vessels should also conduct fire drills for regular checks of their safety equipment before they reach Yemeni shores, and are advised to sail through the southern Red Sea and the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait at night.

The Houthis, who control much of Yemen, say the shipping attacks are a response to Israel’s military campaign in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and have said they will continue until Israel stops the offensive.

The UK foreign secretary, David Cameron, will travel to Jordan and Egypt this week to push for a sustainable ceasefire and further humanitarian pauses in Gaza, the Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

Cameron will travel with Britain’s Middle East minister, Tariq Ahmad, and “progress efforts to secure the release of all hostages, step up aid to Gaza and end Hamas rocket attacks and threats against Israel”.

In Jordan, Cameron will meet his counterpart, Ayman Safadi, and in Egypt, he will travel to Al Arish, near the Egypt-Gaza border, to see the impact of UK aid being sent to Gaza.

Smoke billows from buildings

Smoke billows after an Israeli bombardment seen from Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Intensive Qatari and Egyptian-mediated talks are under way for a possible second Gaza truce under which Hamas would return some hostages in exchange for Israel releasing Palestinian prisoners, a person briefed on the matter told Reuters on Wednesday.

While the number of people slated to go free was still being discussed, Israel is insisting that women and infirm male hostages be included, said the source, adding that Palestinians jailed for serious offences could also be on the roster.

The Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, arrived in Cairo on Wednesday to hold talks with Egyptian officials, mainly on developments in the war with Israel in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian group said.

In case you missed it last night, the US has announced the creation of an enhanced naval protection force operating in the southern Red Sea in an attempt to ward off mounting attacks from Yemen’s rebel Houthis on merchant shipping.

Britain said it would be among the countries participating but notable absentees were Arab nations Egypt and Saudi Arabia, while analysts speculated that shipping would continue to be disrupted with attacks.

Lloyd Austin, the US defence secretary, said the new effort would be called Operation Prosperity Guardian and was necessary to tackle the “recent escalation in reckless Houthi attacks originating from Yemen”.

Other participants in the effort, Austin said, included Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain.

Palestinians gather at the site of an Israeli strike on a house in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on 20 December.

Palestinians gather at the site of an Israeli strike on a house in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on 20 December. Photograph: Bassam Masoud/Reuters

Israel appears to be nearing the final stages of its clearing operation in the northern Gaza Strip, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

The US-based thinktank said Israel had degraded Hamas’s north Gaza brigade, with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announcing on Tuesday that it had completely “dismantled” Hamas’s three battalions operating in Jabaliya, just north of Gaza City.

It said in its update with the Critical Threats Project that about 500 suspected Palestinians fighters had surrendered to Israeli forces in the Jabaliya refugee camp.

Israeli Army Radio reported that the IDF fought “hard battles” in Jabaliya against Palestinian militias for more than two weeks and Israeli forces had killed more than 1,000 fighters, the update said. It added that the IDF estimated there were only a few militia fighters left in the Jabaliya area.

The update also said Palestinian militias were continuing to use the “relative safe haven” of the Gaza Strip’s central governorate to attack Israeli forces south of Gaza City.

Circling back to the latest casualties in Gaza, Israeli missiles hit the southern city of Rafah on Tuesday, killing at least 20 people and wounding dozens as they slept at home, health officials in the Hamas-run territory said.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees have amassed in Rafah in recent weeks.

Reuters also reports that residents said they had to dig in the rubble with bare hands.

Mohammed Zurub, whose family lost 11 people in the attack, said:

This is a barbarian act.

Palestinians search for survivors and bodies in the rubble of a residential building destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza

Palestinians search for survivors and bodies in the rubble of a residential building destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza. Photograph: Fatima Shbair/AP

In the north, another strike killed 13 people and wounded about 75 in the Jabaliya refugee camp, the health ministry said. Palestinians reported intensifying Israeli aerial and tank bombardment of Jabaliya as darkness descended late on Tuesday.

As reported earlier, Gaza health officials said 12 Palestinians were killed in an Israeli strike on a house in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, while residents reported intensifying gun battles between Hamas fighters and Israeli forces in the city’s central and eastern districts.

Israeli military officials said on Tuesday that heavy civilian casualties were the cost of Israel’s campaign to destroy Hamas and the militants’ urban warfare strategy, despite global alarm at the huge human toll.

Here are some of the latest images coming in from the Gaza Strip and Israel over the newswires, as residents of Khan Younis in southern Gaza reported intensifying gun battles between Hamas militants and Israeli forces on Wednesday.

Smoke rises over the Bani Suheila area of Khan Younis after Israeli strikes

Smoke rises over the Bani Suheila area of Khan Younis after Israeli strikes. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

Injured Palestinians including children are brought to Nasser hospital in Khan Younis

Injured Palestinians including children are brought to Nasser hospital in Khan Younis. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

Friends and family mourn Israeli army reservist Capt Rotem Yoseff Levy, 24, who was killed while serving in Gaza, at his funeral in Petah Tikva, Israel

Friends and family mourn Israeli army reservist Capt Rotem Yoseff Levy, 24, who was killed while serving in Gaza, at his funeral in Petah Tikva, Israel. Photograph: Violeta Santos Moura/Reuters

Palestinians inspect a destroyed house after an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, central Gaza

Palestinians inspect a destroyed house after an Israeli airstrike in Deir al Balah, central Gaza. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA

A rabbi brings sweets to Israeli solders in southern Israel

A rabbi brings sweets to Israeli solders in southern Israel. Photograph: Maja Hitij/Getty Images

A truck carrying humanitarian aid moves at the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with southern Gaza

A truck carrying humanitarian aid moves at the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with southern Gaza. Photograph: Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

In case you missed this report from Julian Borger in Washington earlier, a vote on a Gaza ceasefire resolution has been postponed for a second time at the UN security council amid reported policy differences inside the Biden administration.

His report says:

The UN draft resolution, drafted by the United Arab Emirates, had been changed on Tuesday in an effort to avoid a third US veto since the conflict began more than two months ago. Instead of calling for an “urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities,” the amended text referred to “the urgent suspension of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and for urgent steps towards a sustainable cessation of hostilities”.

According to diplomatic sources, the US mission in New York believed it had negotiated a text that it could at least abstain on, but when Washington was consulted, new objections were raised, with the White House reportedly taking a more pro-Israel line than the state department.

The full report is here:

The head of Hamas was due in Egypt on Wednesday for talks on a fresh ceasefire in Gaza, after Israel said it was willing to agree to another pause in exchange for more hostages.

Agence France-Presse reports that international pressure is mounting for a new truce that could ramp up aid to the besieged Palestinian territory, with the United Nations security council due to vote Wednesday on calling for a ceasefire.

The Qatar-based Hamas chief, Ismail Haniyeh, was expected to lead a “high-level” delegation to Egypt for talks with the country’s spy chief and others on “stopping the aggression and the war to prepare an agreement for the release of prisoners”, a source close to the group told the news agency.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s most senior political leader. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Israel’s leaders are facing growing calls to secure the release of 129 hostages they say are being held in Gaza and, on Tuesday, signalled a willingness to return to the negotiating table with Hamas.

The Israeli president, Issac Herzog, said his country was “ready for another humanitarian pause and additional humanitarian aid in order to enable the release of hostages”.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said he had recently sent his spy chief on two trips to Europe in an effort to “free our hostages”.

US news site Axios reported Monday that David Barnea, head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, met with the Qatari prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and the CIA director, Bill Burns, in Europe to discuss a potential new deal to free hostages.

Axios also reported on Tuesday that Israel had offered to pause the fighting in Gaza for at least one week in exchange for more than three dozen hostages held by Hamas.

Welcome back to our live coverage of the Israel-Gaza war. This is Adam Fulton and here are the latest developments as it nears 7am in Gaza City and Tel Aviv.

The leader of Hamas is due in Egypt on Wednesday for talks on a fresh ceasefire in Gaza after Israel said it was willing to agree to another pause in exchange for more hostages.

The Qatar-based Hamas chief, Ismail Haniyeh, was expected to lead a “high-level” delegation for talks with the country’s spy chief and others on “stopping the aggression and the war to prepare an agreement for the release of prisoners”, a source close to the Palestinian militant group told Agence France-Presse.

International pressure is growing for a new truce that could ramp up humanitarian aid to the battered Palestinian territory, with the UN security council due to vote on Wednesday on a resolution for an urgent ceasefire after the vote was postponed for a second time amid reported policy differences within the US government.

More on those stories. In other news:

  • Twelve Palestinians were killed in an Israeli strike on a house in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, health officials in the territory said. Residents on Wednesday reported intensifying gun battles between Hamas fighters and Israeli forces in the centre and eastern districts of the city. The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said on Tuesday that 19,667 Palestinians had been killed and 52,586 wounded in the war.

Residents and civil defense teams carry out search and rescue under the rubble after an Israeli attack on a building in Khan Younis, Gaza

Residents and civil defense teams carry out search and rescue under the rubble after an Israeli attack on a building in Khan Younis, Gaza. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

  • The Israeli military attacked a military structure of the Hezbollah militant group after intercepting six rockets launched from Lebanon on Tuesday, the military said. It also attacked a squad that carried out a shooting at a Israeli military post in the Malkia border area which left two reserve soldiers “moderately injured”, Israel Defence Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari said.

  • Talks between Qatar’s prime minister and the heads of the CIA and Mossad spy agency on Monday were “positive”, a Qatari official said. But no imminent deal for a truce involving hostages releases was expected, he said.

  • The United States has launched a multinational operation to safeguard commerce in the Red Sea as attacks by Iran-backed Yemeni militants over Israel’s military offensive in Gaza forced major shipping companies to reroute, stoking fears of sustained disruptions to global trade. The US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, said Britain, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain were among nations involved in the Red Sea security operation, which would conduct joint patrols in the southern Red Sea and the adjacent Gulf of Aden.

  • Israeli forces raided one of the last remaining hospitals in northern Gaza, putting it out of action, according to the hospital’s director. The nighttime raid at al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City led to the arrest of doctors, medical staff and patients, according to reports, and damaged the hospital. Israeli forces took control of the facility after surrounding it for 12 days, according to medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières. The hospital still had dozens of patients inside, including 14 children, it said

  • Israel’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant, said the Israeli ground operation would “expand to additional areas” of the Gaza Strip. It is thought he was referring to the central Gaza Strip or the southern city of Rafah.

An Israeli soldier operating as smoke billows in Gaza

An Israeli soldier operating as smoke billows in Gaza. Photograph: Israeli army/AFP/Getty Images

  • The military wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad has released a video it claimed showed two hostages who were taken to Gaza during the 7 October attack on Israel. The video posted by the al-Quds Brigades comes a day after Hamas’s military wing released video footage it claimed showed three elderly Israeli hostages held in Gaza.

  • The International Committee of the Red Cross president has insisted on the organisation’s neutrality and said criticism was making it increasingly hard to operate in the Israel-Gaza war. The Swiss-based organisation has been accused by both sides in the conflict of not providing adequate help to those being held hostage. ICRC chief Mirjana Spoljaric Egger said in Geneva: “The pressure we experience now in the context of Gaza and Israel is so much more than what we experienced a year ago on Ukraine and Russia.”

  • The Israeli army has said it is investigating the deaths of Palestinian detainees who were arrested in military operations across Gaza. At least six Palestinians have died in Israeli prisons or Israel Defence Forces (IDF) detention facilities since the start of the war, including “several” held at the Sde Teiman base near the city of Be’er Sheva in southern Israel, according to a report in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.

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