US State Dept: “We have not at this point seen acts that constitute genocide” – Day 88

US State Dept: “We have not at this point seen acts that constitute genocide” – Day 88

US in denial about genocide; HRW report on torture of Palestinian captives; another Biden appointee quits over Gaza; explosions in Iran kill over 100; Israel killed another Israeli hostage; Netanyahu mulls sending Gazans to Congo; refugee camp in West Bank under siege

The United States has condemned a case brought before the UN’s top court accusing Israel of genocide, calling the accusation “meritless”. “We don’t think it’s a productive step,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Wednesday. “We have not at this point seen acts that constitute genocide.”

Israel has angrily rejected the accusation by South Africa, with the foreign ministry calling it “blood libel,” a reference to ancient anti-Semitic conspiracies.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague will next week hold hearings on a filing by South Africa that alleges “genocidal acts against the people in Gaza” and seeks to order Israel to end the military operation.

Many experts concur with South Africa. The Center for Constitutional Rights declared,

While there has been recent criticism of those taking the position that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians, there is a long history of human rights scholarship and legal analysis that supports the assertion. Prominent scholars of the international law crime of genocide and human rights authorities take the position that Israel’s policies toward the Palestinian people could constitute a form of genocide.

Those policies range from the 1948 mass killing and displacement of Palestinians to a half century of military occupation and, correspondingly, the discriminatory legal regime governing Palestinians, repeated military assaults on Gaza, and official Israeli statements expressly favoring the elimination of Palestinians…

“A Textbook Case of Genocide: Israel has been explicit about what it’s carrying out in Gaza. Why isn’t the world listening?” points out,

Grave violations committed by Israel against Palestinians in the aftermath of 7 October, particularly in Gaza, point to a genocide in the making, UN experts said today. They illustrated evidence of increasing genocidal incitement, overt intent to “destroy the Palestinian people under occupation”, loud calls for a ‘second Nakba’ in Gaza and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory, and the use of powerful weaponry with inherently indiscriminate impacts, resulting in a colossal death toll and destruction of life-sustaining infrastructure…

Palestinians walk between the remains of destroyed buildings following the Israeli bombardment on the main road of Gaza City on January 2, 2024
Palestinians walk between the remains of destroyed buildings following the Israeli bombardment on the main road of Gaza City on January 2, 2024 (photo)

Human Rights Watch says that Israel held Gazan laborers who were in Israel on October 7th without charge in incommunicado detention for weeks. Some were stripped naked and photographed, put in diapers, attacked by dogs, dragged face down in gravel and cuffed for days.

“The released Palestinian workers gave media interviews, describing abuses and degrading conditions in detention, including being subjected to electric shocks, urinated on, attacked by dogs, as well as held for several days without food or water,” the group said. “Human Rights Watch was not able to verify these accounts.” (Read the full report here.)

The UN and other humanitarian partners have been unable to deliver urgently needed life-saving humanitarian assistance north of Wadi Gaza for three days due to access delays and denials, as well as active conflict.

This includes medicines that would have provided vital support to more than 100,000 people for 30 days, as well as eight trucks of food for people who currently face catastrophic and life-threatening food insecurity.

Humanitarian organizations are calling for urgent, safe, sustained and unhindered humanitarian access to areas north of Wadi Gaza, which has been severed from the south for more than a month.

According to several Palestinian prisoners’ institutions, around 11,000 Palestinians were detained by the Israeli occupation forces during the year 2023, half of whom were detained after October 7. The prisoners’ institutions explained that the 11,000 detention cases do not include detainees from Gaza who were detained after October 7.

A joint statement said that around 1,085 children and 300 women, including women from the 1948-occupied territories, were detained by the Israeli occupation after October 7th. The statement noted that after October 7th, detentions reached more than 5,500, including 355 children and 184 women, including women who were arrested from the 1948-occupied territories.

A senior political appointee in the Biden administration on Wednesday resigned from his position in the US Department of Education, citing the government’s continued support of Israel’s war in Gaza, which the official said was leading to an ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

“As a Palestinian-American – in fact, the only Palestinian-American political appointee at the Department of Education – I bring a critical and underrepresented perspective to the ongoing work on equity and justice,” Tariq Habash said in his resignation letter.

“But now, the actions of the Biden-Harris Administration have put millions of innocent lives in danger, most immediately for the 2.3 million Palestinian civilians living in Gaza who remain under continuous assault and ethnic cleansing by the Israeli government. Therefore, I must resign,” read the letter, sent to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

Habash, a Palestinian-American Christian whose family experienced the Nakba in 1948, said that he has experienced “each day the dehumanization and erasure of my identity by my peers, by the media, and by my own government”. He served in the Department of Education as the special assistant in the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development.

Gaza: three long months of a brutal war: mass displacement, mass human losses & injuries, mass destruction. Unbearable suffering made worse by constant dehumanization & promotion of hate speech going unchecked.
Gaza: three long months of a brutal war: mass displacement, mass human losses & injuries, mass destruction.
Unbearable suffering made worse by constant dehumanization & promotion of hate speech going unchecked. (photo)

NSC’s John Kirby discussed the increase in American military assets in the waters of the Middle East to protect its forces, allies and international trade. He said the Pentagon now has more than 4,000 troops and 50 aircraft in the eastern Mediterranean. Additionally, Kirby said the US and its allies are bolstering their forces in the Red Sea to thwart Houthi attacks on commercial ships.

“The United States does not seek conflict with any nation or actor in the Middle East, nor do we want to see the war between Israel and Hamas widen in the region, but neither will we shrink from the task of defending ourselves, our interests, our partners or the free flow of international commerce,” Kirby said.

Notably, Kirby did not mention during the briefing that the reason for the Houthi threat is Israel’s brutal war against Gaza. There was no mention of efforts toward a ceasefire that would bring an end to the Houthi attacks.

In Iran, two explosions killed nearly 100 people and wounded scores at a ceremony on Wednesday to commemorate commander Qassem Soleimani who was killed by a U.S. drone in 2020, Iranian officials said, blaming unspecified “terrorists”. Iranian state television reported a first and then a second blast after 20 minutes during a crowded fourth-anniversary event at the cemetery where Soleimani is buried in the southeastern city of Kerman.

Iran has in the past blamed Israel for attacks on individual people or places within its borders – claims which Israel has neither confirmed nor denied – but there was no indication of any involvement of a foreign state in the cemetery explosions.

No one claimed responsibility for the blasts. A senior Biden administration official said in Washington that the blasts appeared to represent “a terrorist attack” of the type carried out in the past by Islamic State militants.

On December 25, an Israeli airstrike outside the Syrian capital Damascus killed a senior adviser in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, three security sources and Iranian state media said.

Ha’aretz reports: The Israeli army reported that Sahar Baruch, 25, from Kibbutz Be’eri, who was kidnapped to Gaza by Hamas on October 7, was killed during a rescue operation to free him.

According to the army’s report, two soldiers were severely wounded during the rescue operation, and Sahar’s body was not returned to Israel.

Israel is in talks with Congo and other countries on Gaza ‘voluntary migration’ plan. The “voluntary” resettlement of Palestinians from Gaza is slowly becoming a key official policy of the government, with a senior official saying that Israel has held talks with several countries for their potential absorption.

Zman Israel, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister site, has learned that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition is conducting secret contacts for accepting thousands of immigrants from Gaza with Congo, in addition to other nations. “Congo will be willing to take in migrants, and we’re in talks with others,” a senior source in the security cabinet said.

Forced transfer of a people group is a crime against humanity.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell addressed recent comments from Israeli ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir about relocating Palestinians from Gaza, saying that “forced displacements are strictly prohibited” under international humanitarian law. He called comments from the two Israeli ministers advocating for the removal of Palestinians from Gaza “inflammatory and irresponsible”.

Gaza: three long months of a brutal war: mass displacement, mass human losses & injuries, mass destruction. Unbearable suffering made worse by constant dehumanization & promotion of hate speech going unchecked.
Gaza: three long months of a brutal war: mass displacement, mass human losses & injuries, mass destruction.
Unbearable suffering made worse by constant dehumanization & promotion of hate speech going unchecked. (photo)

Israeli forces raided the Nur Shams refugee camp in Tulkarem, occupied West Bank for at least 16 hours starting Tuesday night, according to a reporter from Al Jazeera. The camp has been completely surrounded from all sides and is declared a closed military zone, with a strict curfew imposed on the residents.

The reporter stated that over 100 homes were attacked, their contents were completely destroyed, and 4 homes were bombed. Hundreds of Palestinians were arrested, he added, saying that in the homes the Israeli soldiers raided, they detained every male over the age of 16. The camp’s infrastructure was also attacked, and some of the streets were destroyed.

27 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli raids on the camp since October 7th.

Gemma Connell, the Gaza team leader of the UN humanitarian agency (OCHA), expressed her thoughts at al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, after an Israeli air strike that killed at least five people there.

“Five people were killed here, including a five-day-old child,” said Connell. “It’s a Palestinian Red Crescent Society facility clearly marked with the Red Crescent emblem on the roof. No child in the world should be killed, let alone one sheltering under the emblem of a humanitarian organisation,” she added.

“This was a space where babies were living. This is a space where children were living,” Connell said, “but there is no safe space in Gaza, and the world should be ashamed”.

Lawyers representing South Africa in International Court of Justice proceedings against Israel are preparing for a hearing scheduled for January 11 and 12, according Clayson Monyela, a spokesperson for South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation.

South Africa’s lawyers reportedly include John Dugard, a South African professor of international law, who was the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories from 2001 until 2008.


Palestinian death toll since October 7: at least 22,166* (~21,842 in Gaza* (at least 9,100 children), and at least 324 in the West Bank, about 77 of them children). This does not include an estimated 7,000 more still buried under rubble (4,900 women and children). Euro-Med Monitor reports 30,034 Palestinian deaths.

*IAK does not yet include 471 Gazans killed in the Al Ahli hospital blast since the source of the projectile is being disputed; although much evidence points to Israel as the culprit, experts are still looking into the incidentIsrael is blocking an international investigation.

Palestinian injuries since October 7: at least 61,245** (including at least 57,296 in Gaza** and 3,949 in the West Bank). **NOTE: it is impossible to provide an accurate number of injuries in Gaza due to the ongoing bombardment and communication disruption. 

It remains unknown how many Americans are among the casualties. in Gaza**. About 1.9 million people have been displaced (about 85-90% of the population).

Reported Israeli death toll since October 7: ~1,139  (7 killed in West Bank, 173 in Gaza), including 32 Americans, and 8,730 injured, approximately 36 children).

NOTE: It is unknown at this time how many of the deaths and injuries in Israel may have been caused by Israeli soldiers; additionally, since Israel has a policy of universal conscription, it is unknown how many of those attending the outdoor rave a few miles from Gaza on stolen Palestinian land were Israeli soldiers.

Find previous daily casualty figures and daily news updates hereFor more news, go here and here. Live broadcast news from the region is here.

Hover over each bar for exact numbers.

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