Israel strikes in Gaza continue; US vetoes unusual UN cease-fire resolution: Updates

More than 17,700 Palestinian people have died in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war, according to the latest figures from the Health Ministry in the Hamas-controlled territory. About two-thirds of the dead are women and children.

Israel continued its bombardment of the Gaza Strip on Saturday, including in areas where Israeli forces had previously told Palestinians to evacuate. The strikes came just hours after the U.S. stood alone against an historic U.N. resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire.

Women sit next to shrouded bodies of relatives killed following Israeli strikes at Khan Yunis's Nasser hospital in the southern Gaza Strip on Dec. 9, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
Women sit next to shrouded bodies of relatives killed following Israeli strikes at Khan Yunis's Nasser hospital in the southern Gaza Strip on Dec. 9, 2023, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

Hamas' attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7 left 1,200 dead, most of them civilians. Militants took more than 240 hostages back to Gaza. Nearly 100 Israeli soldiers have died in the ground offensive.

As fear grows of a wider regional conflict, Yemeni Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, threatened to target any ship that is headed to Israeli ports while passing through the Red and Arabian seas. The blockade will be in place, an official said, until food and medicine can freely enter Gaza. Aid groups and residents have described severe food and medical shortages as 2.3 million Palestinians have effectively become sealed inside the territory that is just 25 miles long and about 7 miles wide.

The Biden administration has opposed an open-ended cease-fire, arguing it would allow Hamas to continue its fight against Israel. The State Department bypassed Congress under emergency provisions to sell Israel nearly 14,000 rounds of tank ammunition worth over $106 million.

Smoke rises following an Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023.
Smoke rises following an Israeli bombardment in the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, Friday, Dec. 8, 2023.

Latest Israel-Hamas war updates

  • Sahar Baruch, an Israeli man who was taken hostage by Hamas militants, has died in captivity, his community announced Saturday. Baruch was killed during a failed rescue mission by Israeli forces, his captors say.

  • The bodies of more than 100 people killed in Israeli bombings over the past 24 hours arrived at two hospitals in central and southern Gaza, the Health Ministry in the Hamas-run territory said Saturday.

  • Several men and a teenage boy told the Associated Press Saturday they were beaten by Israeli troops, given only minimal water, and often prevented from using the bathroom while being detained and interrogated for five days. Viral images showed Israeli soldiers guarding dozens of men stripped down to their underwear, kneeling or sitting with their hands tied behind their backs in Gazan streets. An Israeli spokesperson said men were being interrogated to determine if they had ties to Hamas.

  • 274 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied territory of the West Bank since the start of the Israel-Hamas war. The death toll rose after Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man in the West Bank on Saturday and another man succumbed to his wounds from an Israeli raid on Friday, health officials said.

Houthi rebels in Yemen say they will target all ships headed to Israel

Houthi militants in Yemen warned on Saturday that they plan to target any ships headed to Israel, a Houthi military official announced.

The Houthi movement – which is aligned with Iran and controls northwestern Yemen – will impose the blockade on ships regardless of nationality and on all international shipping companies arriving at Israeli ports, according to Reuters.

Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said in a statement that all ships sailing to Israeli ports are banned from the Red and Arabian seas. The threat goes into effect immediately, the spokesperson said.

If Gaza does not receive the food and medicine it needs, Reuters reported the statement saying, "All ships in the Red Sea bound for Israeli ports, regardless of their nationality, will become a target for our armed forces."

Houthi militants previously attacked several ships linked to Israel in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab Strait, a narrow sea passage between the African continent and Yemen, located on the Arabian Peninsula, where much of global oil travels en route to the Suez Canal. In recent days, American destroyers have fought Houthi forces after rebels fired missiles and drones at civilian vessels and a U.S. ship.

Israel reportedly has called the attacks on ships an “Iranian act of terrorism." U.S. Department of State spokesperson Matthew Miller also blamed Iran for the attacks.

State Department bypasses Congress, sells tank ammunition to Israel

Secretary of State Antony Blinken bypassed Congress to move forward with selling $106 million worth of nearly 14,000 Army tank rounds and other military equipment to Israel, a Department of Defense news release said on Saturday.

Israeli officials requested to buy 13,981 rounds of highly explosive 50-pound tank ammunition, the announcement said. In addition, the U.S. will provide technical support and other logistical and programmatic help.

The Defense Security Cooperation Agency provided notice to Congress on the possible sale late Friday. The release said Blinken justified his action to Congress saying that an emergency exists requiring the immediate sale of the munitions to Israel “in the national security interests of the United States,” waiving congressional review under the federal arms export control law.

“The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability,” the announcement said. “This proposed sale is consistent with those objectives.”

The proposed sale, the news release said, didn’t have an impact on American defense readiness, nor would it alter the basic military balance in the region.

The New York Times first reported on the sale.

Erdogan blasts U.N. Security Council, barbarism in Gaza

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday the U.N. Security Council should be reformed after the U.S. vetoed a cease-fire resolution in Gaza that had near unanimous support, according to news reports.

The Turkish leader said in comments at a human rights conference in Istanbul that the security council's demand for cease-fire was rejected due to one vote, the U.S. veto. He added, according to a Reuters report, “Is this justice?"

Erdogan’s remarks came a day before the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, commemorating the U.N. General Assembly's historic 1948 document outlining basic human rights and freedoms world leaders agreed should be guaranteed for all.

The AP reported that Erdogan in his remarks also accused the West of “barbarism” for backing the war in Gaza and for overlooking Islamophobic attacks globally.

During Erdogan’s two decades in power, Turkey has come under criticism from human rights groups for targeting critics of Erdogan’s government, weakening democratic institutions and failing to address violence against women. The U.S. has also previously accused Erdogan of making antisemitic comments about previous Israeli military actions in Gaza.

In a 13-1 vote on Friday, the Security Council voted for an immediate cease-fire spurred by Guterres invoking for the first time Article 99, which allows the top U.N. diplomat to bring attention to the 15-member council matters that can threaten international peace and security. The U.S. vetoed the resolution. The United Kingdom abstained from the vote.

"The U.N. Security Council needs to be reformed," Erdogan said, according to reports.

Blinken meets with Middle East leaders on support for Israel, humanitarian needs in Gaza

On Friday, Blinken met with foreign ministers in the Middle East, as well as a senior official in the Palestinian Authority that runs the West Bank, as part of a delegation representing the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Washington, D.C.

In a readout, the State Department said Blinken reaffirmed to the group – which included diplomats from Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey – that the U.S. supported Israel in its fight to ensure Hamas couldn’t repeat the Oct. 7 attacks. Blinken also addressed the urgency of humanitarian needs in Gaza to protect Palestinian civilians from harm, prevent displacement, and contain the further spread of the war.

In addition, the readout said, Blinken discussed the U.S. commitment “to achieving lasting peace and security in the region including through the establishment of a future Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel.”

Pressure mounts on Ivy Leagues to address antisemitism

WASHINGTON − Pressure is intensifying on two Ivy League universities and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after a heated congressional hearing earlier this week on combating the rise of antisemitism on U.S. campuses in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas terror attacks in Israel.

A group of 13 House Democrats sent a letter Friday to the leaders of Harvard University, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania seeking policy changes to combat antisemitism on campus.

The letter led by Rep. Kathy Manning, D-N.C., comes days after Republican Congresswoman Elise Stefanik of New York had a viral exchange with the three university presidents about campus policies to address antisemitism.

Read more here.

- Riley Beggin and Zachary Schermele, USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Israel strikes Gaza after US vetoes UN cease-fire resolution: Updates