UN chief says humanitarian law being broken in Gaza as Israel ramps up airstrikes and death toll soars

UN chief says humanitarian law being broken in Gaza as Israel ramps up airstrikes and death toll soars

The United Nations chief has called for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip after claiming there have been "clear violations of international humanitarian law".

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the UN Security Council that Israel's bombardment of Gaza and the level of civilian deaths is "alarming" as he appealed for "to all pull back from the brink before the violence...spreads even farther".

He said the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify "the horrifying and unprecedented October 7 acts of terror" by Hamas in Israel and demanded the immediate release of all hostages.

But Mr Guterres also stressed that "those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people".

In response Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said he would not meet with Mr Guterres and said "there is no room for a balanced approach".

"Hamas must be erased from the world," he added.

More than 700 people have been killed in just one day amid Israel’s rapidly expanding air strikes across Gaza, Palestinian health officials said on Tuesday.

Israel said it had launched 400 air strikes over the past 24 hours, killing Hamas commanders and militants preparing to launch rockets into Israel, and a Hamas tunnel shaft.

Downing Street said the number of Britons killed in the Hamas's murderous rampage in Israel earlier this month has risen to 12 with a further five missing.

It comes as Israeli hostage Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, freed by Hamas, has spoken of her ordeal at the hands of her captors in Gaza, saying: "I went through hell."

Key Points

  • Israeli hostage tells how she was taken hostage and how she was treated

  • At least six British nationals are believed to among Hamas' hostages

  • Israeli military is 'ready and determined for next stage'

  • Israel says it struck 400 targets in the last 24 hours

Good morning

Tuesday 24 October 2023 07:05 , Jordan King

Good morning and welcome to The Evening Standard's live coverage of the Israel-Gaza war.

Some important recent updates include:

  • Two elderly hostages Yocheved Lifshitz, 85, and Nurit Cooper, 79, were freed by Hamas

  • Some 20 additional aid trucks have entered Gaza

  • Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said British intelligence had concluded last week's deadly blast at Al Ahli hospital was unlikely Israel's responsibility

  • Hamas says more than 5,000 Palestinians have been killed since Israeli airstrikes were launched as a response to the October 7 attacks

  • Israel believes there are more than 200 hostages being held captive in Gaza

Freed hostage wants to share details with families of those she was held captive with

Tuesday 24 October 2023 07:11 , Jordan King

Yocheved Lifshitz, who was one of two elderly hostages freed by Hamas last night, wants to tell other families about the loved ones she was with, her London-based daughter has said.

This morning, Sharone told the BBC: "She is very sharp and is very keen to share the information, pass on the information to families of other hostages she was with."

Sharone also added that her 85-year-old mother "seems okay".

More aid allowed into Gaza

Tuesday 24 October 2023 07:24 , Jordan King

A third small aid convoy of 20 trucks was allowed to enter Gaza from Egypt.

Gaza's population of 2.3 million has been running out of food, water and medicine under Israel's sealed border.

But Israel will still not give the green light for fuel and the United Nations says this will mean its aid may grind to a halt within days - as it will no longer be able to fuel trucks in Gaza.

Hospitals flooded by a constant stream of wounded are struggling to keep generators running to power lifesaving medical equipment and incubators for premature babies.

IDF says it has struck 400 targets in the past 24 hours

Tuesday 24 October 2023 07:33 , Jordan King

In an update posted to the Israel Defense Forces' official social media account on X, formally known as Twitter, the military said it had carried out a "wide-scale operation to dismantle Hamas' terrorist capabilities" and struck 400 targets.

These included "Hamas gunmen setting up to fire rockets toward Israel", " a Hamas operational tunnel shaft allowing terrorists to infiltrate Israel through the sea and "Hamas command centres used by operatives and staging armaments in Mosques".The post added: "The IDF will continue operating in order to ensure the safety of innocent civilians."

The official Palestinian news agency WAFA said many residential buildings had been hit in the overnight Israeli airstrikes, and many people had been killed or injured. Rescuers were still searching the rubble for survivors.

At least 10 Brits killed and six still missing in conflict

Tuesday 24 October 2023 07:41 , Jordan King

At least 10 British nationals have been killed in the conflict between Israel and Hamas and a further six remain missing, junior British finance minister Victoria Atkins told Times Radio this morning.

Six British hostages are Government's 'absolute priority'

Tuesday 24 October 2023 08:08 , Jordan King

The six British nationals who are suspected to be among those currently held hostage by Hamas are the Government's main concern, a minister has said.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Victoria Atkins told Sky News: "It's a very, very fast-moving situation but the latest figure I've been given is that there are suspected to be six British nationals. They are our absolute priority."

Asked whether they were missing or being held hostage, she said: "We understand ... that they are hostages.

"I do acknowledge that it's a very fast-moving situation and that figure may or may not change, and I know how difficult that must be for the families and the friends at home here in the UK who are grappling with incredible worry and concern about their loved ones."

Freed hostage and her London-based daughter 'still want peace with Palestinians'

Tuesday 24 October 2023 08:12 , Jordan King

Sharone Lifschitz, whose 85-year-old mother Yocheved was one of two hostages released by Hamas last night, said they both still dream of peace.

The London-based artist and academic told the BBC this morning: "We have to find ways because there is no alternative. If anything, it makes me even more resolved.

"The way has got longer - we are dealing with grief and loss on a level we can never get over, but as nations we will have to find a way forward."

Sharone is still desparate for her father to be returned to safety, saying:  "It's really hard to know what to hope for."

Gaza in pictures

Tuesday 24 October 2023 08:35 , Jordan King

Last night saw fighting across several different different locations in Gaza.

Israel said it has struck 400 "terrorist" targets in the past 24 hours and the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said many residential buildings had been hit, leaving multiple people killed or injured.

People transport a shrouded body following Israeli strikes in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 24 (Getty)
People transport a shrouded body following Israeli strikes in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on October 24 (Getty)
Wounded Palestinians receive treatment at the al-Shifa hospital (AP)
Wounded Palestinians receive treatment at the al-Shifa hospital (AP)

French President Emmanuel Macron arrives in Tel Aviv

Tuesday 24 October 2023 08:42 , Jordan King

Emmanuel Macron landed in Tel Aviv this morning, to show France's solidarity with Israel.

Speaking about Hamas' deadly attack on October 7, Mr Macron said: "What happened will never be forgotten."

He stressed that the "first objective" should be "the release of all hostages because this is an awful crime to play with the lives of children, adults, old people, civilians and soldiers".

The leader also went on to say Israel's war in Gaza must be fought "without enlarging this conflict".

Mr Macron is also set to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his one-day trip.

Mr Macron shakes hands with Israel's President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mr Macron shakes hands with Israel's President Isaac Herzog in Jerusalem (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli military is 'ready and determined for next stage'

Tuesday 24 October 2023 08:58 , Jordan King

Israel's military spokesperson Daniel Hagari has today said the army is "ready and determined" for the next stage in the war and was awaiting political instruction.

He said Israel was learning from US experience in the Middle East but added that "our war is on our borders, not thousands of miles from Israel".

Mr Hagari also said he is expecting weeks of fighting ahead and stressed that freeing hostages is a top priority for Israel.

It comes after reports that the US advised Israel to delay its anticipated ground offensive - to ensure more time for hostage negotiations and allow more humanitarian aid, according to the New York Times.

But a diplomat from the Israeli Embassy in Washington denied this was the case, saying: "We have a close dialogue and consultations with the U.S. administration. The U.S. is not pressing Israel in regards to the ground operation"

Freed hostage's husband speaks Arabic and 'knows many people in Gaza and the West Bank'

Tuesday 24 October 2023 09:12 , Jordan King

While 85-year-old Yocheved Lifshitz was freed from Hamas last night, her husband is still being held captive iin Gaza.

Her London-based daughter Sharone Lifschitz, who is desparate to see her father returned, todl the BBC about him this morning.

She said: "I hope he is being looked after and has the chance to talk. He speaks good Arabic, so he can communicate very well with the people there.

"He knows many people in Gaza and the West Bank. I want to think that he's going to be OK.

"My mum said they had been looked after and there was a doctor there, so this gives a lot of comfort to everybody.

"We have so many people that we've lost - it is a little ray of light but there is a huge darkness as well."

Sharone Lifschitz (PA)
Sharone Lifschitz (PA)

First photos of freed hostage in hospital

Tuesday 24 October 2023 09:26 , Jordan King

One of the two elderly hostages released by Hamas last night has been pictured safely in hospital.

Ms Lifschitz, 85, can be seen chatting to medical staff and showing affection to those looking after her.

Ms Lifshitz's daughter said she
Ms Lifshitz's daughter said she
Yocheved Lifshitz at Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv (AP)
Yocheved Lifshitz at Ichilov hospital in Tel Aviv (AP)

Six more United Nations workers killed in Gaza

Tuesday 24 October 2023 09:38 , Jordan King

This brings the total number of UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) workers killed in the conflict to 35.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres last night: "Thousands of civilians have lost their lives amid the violence in the Middle East."Among them, 35 of our @UNRWA colleagues—humanitarians, teachers—have been killed in Gaza since 7 October."We mourn their loss & stand with colleagues doing all they can to assist those in need."

Palestinians recieving food in Rafah (REUTERS)
Palestinians recieving food in Rafah (REUTERS)

Israeli airstrike 'hits residential building and kills 32'

Tuesday 24 October 2023 10:02 , Jordan King

An overnight Israeli airstrike hit a four-story residential building in the city of Khan Younis, killing at least 32 people and wounding scores of others, according to survivors.

Palestinians carry a body of a dead person found under the rubble of a destroyed house in the town of Khan Younis (AP)
Palestinians carry a body of a dead person found under the rubble of a destroyed house in the town of Khan Younis (AP)

Released hostage speaks at press conference

Tuesday 24 October 2023 10:13 , Jordan King

Yocheved Lifshitz, who is one of the elderly hostages that was released by Hamas last night, has spoken to journalists in Tel Aviv with her London-based daughter Sharone Lifschitz.

She told how she was taken by Hamas militants at the back of a motorbike with her legs on one side.

The 85-year-old described "a huge network of tunnels underneath the ground" which "looked like a spiderweb".

Hamas militants were 'friendly towards hostages and took care of them'

Tuesday 24 October 2023 10:20 , Jordan King

Yocheved Lifshitz described how her and other hostages were treated by Hamas militants.

She said the militants were "friendly and gave them medical care" and told the hostages they would not be hurt.

Each hostage had a guard watching him or her and "they took care of all their needs".

Ms Lifshitz added that women who needed "women hygiene products were given what they needed".

Hostages 'ate the same food as Hamas militants'

Tuesday 24 October 2023 10:21 , Jordan King

Ms Lifshitz told reporters how she and the other hostages she was with ate the same food at their captives.

"They made sure that we were clean and ate," Ms Lifshitz said.

She described eating pita bread, hard cheese, cream cheese and cucumber.

Freed hostage says she 'went through hell' when she was kidnapped

Tuesday 24 October 2023 10:31 , Jordan King

"I have been through hell," Ms Lifshitz told reporters when she described being kidnapped by Hamas militants.

She said she struggled to breathe during the ride into Gaza - when she was put onto a motorbike - and described being hit by sticks at certain points in the journey.

Summary of freed hostage's account:

Tuesday 24 October 2023 11:00 , Jordan King

Yocheved Lifshitz spoke to reporters from a hospital in Tel Aviv and revealed some remarkable details about her time in captivity in Gaza.

Here are the key takeaways:

  • Ms Lifshitz "went through hell" when she was kidnapped on a motorbike and hit by sticks

  • She and other hostages were taken to underground tunnels in Gaza

  • The 85-year-old said Hamas militants were "gentle" with her and her fellow captives

  • She said they took care of her and ate the same food as them

Ms Lifshitz speaking to reporters (Getty Images)
Ms Lifshitz speaking to reporters (Getty Images)

Benjamin Netanyahu blames Hamas for civilian deaths in Gaza

Tuesday 24 October 2023 11:10 , Jordan King

The Israeli Prime Minister said Hamas was setting up checkpoints with guns to stop Palestinians from moving south where it is safe and where there is aid.

But he went on to say Israel would still try to protect civilians in its war against Hamas.

He is currently speaking at a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Netanyahu said Hamas' October 7 attack was "the worst act of anti-Semitic violence since the holocaust".

He went on to renew his dedication to destroy Hamas, saying Israel must have a "decisive victory".

Macron tells Israel: 'You are not alone'

Tuesday 24 October 2023 11:20 , Jordan King

French President Emmanuel Macron said terrorism was the "common enemy" of France and Israel, saying Israelis would not be left to live "under Hamas tyranny" and that they are "not alone".

Freed hostage was peace activist who helped sick Gazans reach hospitals

Tuesday 24 October 2023 11:28 , Jordan King

Yocheved Lifshitz, who has dominated headlines since she was released by Hamas militants last night, was an activist with her husband 83-year-old Oded, her grandson has said.

Before Ms Lifshitz's release was confirmed, Daniel Lifshitz revealed details about who is grandparents are.

He said: "They are human rights activists, peace activists for all their life.

"For more than a decade, they took ... sick Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, not from the West Bank, from the Gaza Strip every week from the Erez border to the hospitals in Israel to get treatment for their disease, for cancer, for anything."

Oded Lifshitz and his wife Yocheved  (Reuters)
Oded Lifshitz and his wife Yocheved (Reuters)

People in Gaza 'stabbing each other for a bag of bread'

Tuesday 24 October 2023 11:34 , Jordan King

A Palestinian has told of people in Gaza being so desperate they are attacking each other for bread.

Emad Abuaassi, who moved from Blackpool in the UK to Gaza around a year ago, told the BBC: "I reckon in the next two, three days people are going to start killing each other for a bit of food here.

"You go to buy a bit of bread, you'll see people stabbing each other just for the sake of a bag of bread."

UN calls for 'unimpeded flow of aid into Gaza'

Tuesday 24 October 2023 11:43 , Jordan King

The United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have called for an "unimpeded and continuous flow of humanitarian assistance and medical assistance to continue coming into Gaza".

"The trucks that have come in so far are just a trickle in the face of the immense needs of people on the street," according to Tamara Alrifai - spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

She went on to repeat pleas for Israel to allow fuel into Gaza, saying it is needed for hospital generators, bakeries and the water desalination plant.

WHO said medicines and health supplies had been delivered to three key referral hospitals in southern Gaza but that it still needed to reach the north of the Palestinian enclave, one of the most densely-populated places in the world.

United Nations workers arrive to distribute aid to Palestinians (Reuters)
United Nations workers arrive to distribute aid to Palestinians (Reuters)

British-based families of Hamas victims speak of their pain

Tuesday 24 October 2023 11:57 , Jordan King

Ayelet Svatitzky, whose brother was killed when his kibbutz in southern Israel was attacked, told a London press conference her "life stopped" on October 7.

She went on: "I try not to deal with the loss of my brother because I find it too painful and if I start thinking about that too much it would hurt too much, and it would break me - and I don't have the privilege of breaking."

Ms Svatitzky's other brother and mother are believed to have been taken hostage by Hamas militants.

She said it is her "mission" to "chase information and try to get help for hostages".

Other families held up photos of their loved ones.

HMS Lancaster to remain in Middle East

Tuesday 24 October 2023 12:24 , Sami Quadri

HMS Lancaster will remain in the Middle East as part of British efforts to “deter threats to regional security”, No 10 said.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We’ve got HMS Lancaster, which is a Type 23 frigate, which has been in the Arabian Gulf since November 2022.

“The Prime Minister confirmed yesterday that it would remain in the Gulf to bolster our presence and the ship will continue efforts to monitor and deter threats to regional security, tackle terrorist activity at sea, including arms and drug smuggling, and support humanitarian operations.

“Obviously, we have already confirmed the deployment of RAF surveillance planes and two other ships to the eastern Mediterranean.”

The No 10 spokesman said no date had been set for how long the military assets would be deployed but that it would be kept “under review given the nature of the situation”.

Vigil held in London to mourn children killed in Gaza

Tuesday 24 October 2023 12:29 , Sami Quadri

A vigil to mourn the children killed in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas conflict has been held in London.

Around 60 people gathered in Parliament Square for the event on Tuesday, which was organised by the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP).

Each person attending the vigil had the name of a Palestinian child killed in the conflict written on the palm of their hand.


Hezbollah-allied politician says Lebanon won’t initiate a war with Israel

Tuesday 24 October 2023 13:33 , Jordan King

A prominent Lebanese Christian politician allied with Hezbollah said that Lebanon would not initiate a war with Israel.

Gebran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement of former President Michel Aoun, made the comments as sporadic clashes continue on the Lebanese border with Israel between Hezbollah and armed Palestinian groups in Lebanon on one side and Israeli forces on the other.

He said: "No one can drag us into war unless the Israeli enemy attacks us, and then we will be forced to defend ourselves.

“All the Lebanese agree that they do not want war, but that does not mean that we should allow ourselves to be attacked without a response.”

It comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Hezbollah that it would "regret" getting involved with the war at a press conference earlier today.

US issues warning to ships in Red Sea

Tuesday 24 October 2023 13:35 , Jordan King

The US Maritime Administration has told ships in the Red Sea to "exercise caution when transiting this region".

It comes after after a drone and missile attack launched from Yemen during the Israel-Hamas war

The US Navy says it shot down missiles and drones believed to have been launched by Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in recent days amid wider tensions across the Middle East over the war.

More than 700 killed in Gaza in the past day, Hamas says

Tuesday 24 October 2023 13:46 , Jordan King

Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip have killed more than 700 people in the past day, the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza has said.

This has brought the death toll from the war to 5,791, including 2,360 children, ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra said in a statement. At least 16,297 others were wounded, he said.

Aid in Gaza 'will end tomorrow if Israel doesn't allow fuel inside'

Tuesday 24 October 2023 13:52 , Jordan King

The United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) told the BBC Radio 4's World At One programme: "If we do not get fuel urgently, we will be forced to halt our operations in the Gaza strip as of tomorrow night".

US sends military advisers to Israel

Tuesday 24 October 2023 14:22 , Jordan King

The Pentagon has sent military advisers, including a Marine Corps general versed in urban warfare, to Israel to aid in its war planning.

It has also sent multiple sophisticated air defense systems to the Middle East days ahead of an anticipated ground assault into Gaza.

One of the officers leading the assistance is Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James Glynn, who previously helped lead special operations forces against the Islamic State.

Israeli soldiers gather in a staging area near the border with Gaza Strip (AP)
Israeli soldiers gather in a staging area near the border with Gaza Strip (AP)

This is all according to a US official who was not authorised to discuss Glynn’s role and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

He will also reportedly be advising on how to mitigate civilian casualties in urban warfare.

Israel is preparing a large-scale ground operation in an environment in which Hamas militants have had years to prepare tunnel networks and set traps throughout northern Gaza’s dense urban blocks

Israeli hostage will spend his ninth birthday in captivity

Tuesday 24 October 2023 15:05 , Jordan King

An Israeli child will turn nine while held hostage by Hamas, his father has revealed.

Ohad Munder-Zichri, who was taken from the central Israeli city of Kfar Saba on October 7, is turning nine on Monday.

His uncle was killed in the attack while the boy, his mother and his grandparents disappeared with the only thread of information about them coming from a cellphone signal traced to Gaza.

This photo provided by Avi Zichri shows his son, Ohad Munder-Zichri (AP)
This photo provided by Avi Zichri shows his son, Ohad Munder-Zichri (AP)

The child's father, Avi, said: “I keep imagining what he is going through. He’s a sensitive boy. Did he see dead bodies? He wears glasses. Did they take them from him? Can he see anything?

“I keep thinking of every scenario, hoping for the leastcatastrophic. I just hope that he is safe and with his mother.”

Sirens sounding across central Israel

Tuesday 24 October 2023 15:22 , Jordan King

Air raid sirens are going off across central Israel, including Tel Aviv, the IDF has said.

Israelis are having to hide in bomb shelters - reportedly because of Hamas firing rockets.

3 hospitals in Gaza down, calls to move injured to Egypt

Tuesday 24 October 2023 16:00 , Miriam Burrell

Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said that three hospitals in the Gaza Strip were out of action because they had run out of fuel to run their electricity generators.

The minister said in a press conference in Ramallah that there was an urgent need to establish a safe corridor to move injured and critically ill people to get treatment in Egyptian hospitals.

Five injured in strikes on Tel Aviv - reports

Tuesday 24 October 2023 16:07 , Miriam Burrell

Five Israelis have been wounded as a barrage of rockets were fired into Tel Aviv on Tuesday afternoon, according to reports.

The rockets caused sirens to sound across the entire central Israel region.

Two of the wounded were hit by rocket shrapnel, suffering respective arm and head injuries, while three others were wounded after seeking shelter, the Jerusalem Post reports.

Pictured: People take cover in Tel Aviv

Tuesday 24 October 2023 16:11 , Miriam Burrell

People are seen fleeing their cars to take cover in Tel Aviv

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Hamas attacks 'did not happen in a vacuum', UN secretary general says

Tuesday 24 October 2023 16:55 , Miriam Burrell

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has voiced concern about "clear violations of international humanitarian law" in the Gaza Strip.

"It is important to also recognise the attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation," Guterres told the UN Security Council.

"But the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people."

Israel's UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan described Guterres' speech as "shocking."

Israeli minister will not meet UN Secretary General

Tuesday 24 October 2023 17:19 , Miriam Burrell

Following United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' comments, Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs said he would not meet him.

Eli Cohen wrote on X, formerly Twitter: "I will not meet with the UN Secretary General. After October 7th there is no room for a balanced approach. Hamas must be erased from the world!"

'Now is the time for dogged diplomacy', Security Minister tells UN

Tuesday 24 October 2023 18:05 , Miriam Burrell

Britain's Security Minister Tom Tugendhat has told the UN security Council that "now is the time for dogged diplomacy" to create a "sustained" humanitarian corridor into Gaza.

He said a constant stream of aid, water, medicine and fuel is desperately needed and western leaders must prevent the war "sparking conflict beyond Gaza and engulfing the wider region".

"It is in interest of civilians...that this conflict does not spread further," he added.

"Now is the time for dogged diplomacy.

"The events of the pass week show the need to achieve these goals. Hope and humanity must win out."

No aid trucks arrive in Gaza today

Tuesday 24 October 2023 18:12 , Miriam Burrell

The United Nations has said 20 trucks that were expected to deliver aid to Gaza on Tuesday have not crossed the border from Egypt.

It is hoped they can enter Gaza tomorrow.

Meanwhile the World Health Organisation said it delivered 51 pallets of medicines, supplies and surgical equipment to Al-Shifa Hospital."However, this is only a tiny drop in the ocean of health needs," Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Live coverage ends

Tuesday 24 October 2023 21:07 , Miriam Burrell

That's all for our live coverage today.

Please check back in the morning.