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January 19, 2024 Israel-Hamas war

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10:36 p.m. ET, January 19, 2024

State Department confirms US citizen death in West Bank and asks Israel for more details

The State Department officially confirmed the death of a US citizen in the West Bank on Friday and has asked the Israeli government for more information, a spokesperson told CNN.

"We extend our deepest condolences to the family," the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson did not provide the individual's name due to privacy considerations.

"Out of respect to the family during this difficult time, we have no further comment," the spokesperson said.

CNN reported earlier Friday, citing Palestinian news agency WAFA, that Tawfiq Hafiz Ajjaq, 17, was fatally shot.

The Israel Defense Forces(IDF) and Israeli police told CNN it received a report that an off-duty police officer and an Israeli civilian fired toward a “Palestinian individual suspected of hurling rocks in the area of Al-Mazra'a ash-Sharqiya.”   

IDF says it is reviewing claims that a soldier has fired at him, while the Israeli police have also launched an investigation.

10:22 p.m. ET, January 19, 2024

Nearly 3 times more people killed in Gaza during current conflict than in past 15 years, UN says

A bulldozer unloads the bodies of Palestinians killed in fighting with Israel and turned over by the Israeli military during a mass funeral in Rafah, Gaza, on December 26. Fatima Shbair/AP

The current Israel-Hamas conflict has left nearly three times more people dead in Gaza than in the last 15 years combined, according to a report from United Nations Women, the organization's gender equality entity.

The statistics released Friday say more than 24,620 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the latest war began with Hamas' attacks on Israel on October 7, 2023.

The UN's death toll also reflects the number released by the Hamas-run Ministry of Health in Gaza. CNN cannot independently verify these numbers due to the challenges of reporting from the war zone.

The report specifically analyzed the war's impact on women. According to the data:
  • About 70% of those killed in Gaza since October 7 were women or children
  • Two mothers are killed in Gaza every hour
  • Gaza’s only two women’s shelters, both in Gaza City, are now closed
  • Women lack adequate water and sanitation, including for managing menstrual hygiene, impacting mental and physical health
  • Communications and electricity blackouts are severely restricting remote gender-based violence services
  • 1.9 million people (or 85% of Gaza's total population) have been displaced, including what UN Women estimates to be 1 million women and girls, the agency said
Earlier Friday, the UN International Children's Emergency Fund said there had been nearly 20,000 births in Gaza during the current war — with many of the mothers suffering or dying in childbirth due to a lack of resources, and newborns facing dismal conditions.
6:52 p.m. ET, January 19, 2024

Netanyahu tells Biden he has not ruled out possibility of a Palestinian state, source says

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US President Joe Biden in a phone call Friday that public comments he made on Thursday, in which he appeared to reject the idea of creating a Palestinian state, were not meant to foreclose the possibility of a Palestinian state in any form, a person familiar with the conversation tells CNN.

Biden and Netanyahu discussed the possible attributes of a future Palestinian state in a "detailed" and "serious" conversation, the person said.

Biden administration officials have recently discussed the possibility of a future demilitarized Palestinian state, an idea Biden finds "intriguing," the person added.

What Netanyahu said Thursday: Netanyahu said in a news conference that "Israel needs security control over all territory west of Jordan" in any future arrangement reached after the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

"This clashes with the idea of (Palestinian) sovereignty. What can you do?" he asked.

Those comments were widely understood as a rejection of the idea of creating a Palestinian state — the central component of a two-state solution to the conflict, which Biden has long supported and advocated for.
6:28 p.m. ET, January 19, 2024

Fighting rages in the south as human rights official raises alarm about Gaza detainees. Catch up here

Smoke rises over Khan Younis in Southern Gaza on January 19. AFP/Getty Images

Intense Israeli bombardment and heavy fighting in the area around a large hospital in southern Gaza killed at least 29 people Friday, according to Palestinian state news agency WAFA.

Nasser Hospital, the largest remaining health facility in the city of Khan Younis, and several residential buildings came under "violent bombardment" by Israeli artillery and military vehicles, according to WAFA.

Khan Younis has been the epicenter of Israel's ground operation in recent weeks. The fighting has forced thousands of Gazans to flee the area, many of them already displaced from northern neighborhoods where Israel first launched its offensive.

Displaced Palestinians continue to arrive in overcrowded Rafah, near the border with Egypt, by "the thousands," a United Nations human rights official said Friday. There, they shelter in makeshift tents with little food or clean water.

  • Harrowing claims from Gaza detainees: A UN Human Rights official says he has met Palestinian men in Gaza who described being beaten, blindfolded and held for weeks in Israeli detention. The official, Ajith Sunghay, shared their accounts and called on Israel to observe international human rights laws. In a statement of response, Israel's military said it detains Gazans suspected of terror activities for security reasons and observes international law. It did not directly address most of the claims relayed by Sunghay.
  • Communications coming back on line: Service is slowly being restored after a near-total telecommunications blackout in the Gaza Strip that lasted more than a full week — the longest of the Israel-Hamas war, according to the internet monitoring site NetBlocks.
  • Diplomatic divide: US President Joe Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, one day after the Israeli leader appeared to reject the idea of creating a Palestinian state — a comment that would put him at odds with Biden’s position. The US president reiterated his support for a two-state solution to the conflict (one in which an independent Palestinian state exists peacefully alongside Israel).
  • More US strikes in Yemen: The US struck additional anti-ship missiles belonging to the Houthi rebels in Yemen today, according to a US official, marking the sixth time in the past 10 days the US has targeted the Iranian proxy group. The US says it is trying to deter more attacks by the Houthis on commercial shipping in the Red Sea, but Biden conceded Thursday that so far the attacks have not abated. Concerns remain, meanwhile, about widening conflict in the Middle East during the Israel-Hamas war.
  • Damage to Gaza institutions: Fighting south of Gaza City damaged buildings at Al-Israa University on Wednesday, according to WAFA. Palestinian officials say all universities in the enclave have now been destroyed or at least damaged. CNN has geolocated images of the damage Wednesday that match the university's location. The IDF did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
7:44 p.m. ET, January 19, 2024

Palestinian American fatally shot in occupied West Bank, Palestinian news agency says

A 17-year-old Palestinian American was fatally shot Friday in the town of Al-Mazra'a Al-Sharqiya in the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian news agency WAFA, citing local sources.   

Tawfiq Hafiz Ajjaq was shot in the head and was taken to Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah, where he was in critical condition but later died, WAFA said, citing medical sources at the hospital.   

The Israel Defense Forces and Israeli police told CNN it received a report that an off-duty police officer and an Israeli civilian fired toward a “Palestinian individual suspected of hurling rocks in the area of Al-Mazra'a ash-Sharqiya.”   

An IDF soldier was also present in the area, the IDF said in a statement to CNN.

“The claim that the soldier fired at the Palestinian is under review,” the statement said.  

Israel’s police have opened an investigation into the incident, the IDF and Israeli police told CNN.  

Tawfiq had been living abroad for almost a year and a half before returning to the West Bank, according to WAFA.  

Al-Mazra'a Al-Sharqiya is a town where many Palestinian-Americans live.

The US is "seriously concerned" about reports of the shooting, though information is "scant at this time," John Kirby, US National Security Council spokesperson, said in a Friday briefing.

CNN has reached out to the US Embassy in Jerusalem and the US Office of Palestinian Affairs in Jerusalem for comment.

This post has been updated with comments from a US national security official.
5:19 p.m. ET, January 19, 2024

"They’ve become family to the entire world": Followers share connections with citizen journalists in Gaza

Motaz Azaiza, a 24-year-old photojournalist who has been documenting the war on social media, now has millions of Instagram followers. CNN

I’m so scared for Motaz.
I hope Motaz is okay.”
Pray for Motaz.
These are some of the comments from one of Motaz Azaiza's dispatches from Gaza, broadcast to his millions of followers: images of his once-vibrant neighborhood transformed into a gray wasteland, raw glimpses of carnage in the ashes, and reflections on his own feelings of rage and exhaustion.
Noor, a medical student in California who asked to go by her first name for safety reasons, is one of the many followers who refer to Azaiza with the familiarity of his first name. She gets notifications on her phone each time he posts and worries when too much time passes.
“For so many of us, it almost feels like he’s a brother. He’s a friend, and we’re seeing him suffer in real time,” she told CNN.

Like millions of others around the world, Noor is witnessing the war in Gaza through the eyes of Palestinians who are sharing their daily realities on social media. Through their posts on Instagram, X and other platforms, these citizen journalists are putting a face to the conflict, giving outsiders an intimate look at the human costs of war from the perspective of people who live there. In return, their followers are developing strong emotional connections with them.

Kanwal Ahmed, a filmmaker and storyteller in Toronto, has a similar opinion.

“They’ve become family to the entire world,” she said. “If (creator Bisan Owda) hasn’t posted for 12 hours, there are hundreds of tweets: ‘Where’s Bisan?’ ‘Does anybody know where Bisan is?’ ‘Is she okay?’ If (Azaiza) has posted a picture where you can tell that he’s looking extremely depressed or he’s lost weight, there’s people discussing that.”
Read the full story about the Palestinians documenting the daily realities of war.
3:28 p.m. ET, January 19, 2024

Middle East foreign ministers to meet with EU counterparts Monday

Israeli, Palestinian and Middle Eastern foreign ministers will travel to Brussels on Monday to meet with their European Union counterparts.

Foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the secretary general of the Arab League are also scheduled to attend what a high-ranking EU official called a "complex ballet" of meetings.

The EU official told journalists in Brussels during a background briefing on Friday that the aim of the invitation was to have "a full discussion with all the participants — the Israelis, the Palestinians, the Arabs," adding that it could more precisely define "a policy position for the European Union."

The official detailed that Josep Borell, the EU’s chief diplomat, has tabled a series of objectives for Monday’s discussions, which include an independent Palestinian state, ironclad guarantees for Israel, and a full normalization of relations between Israel with the Arab countries.

The official also pointed to a two-state solution as "a reasonable, legitimate and achievable objective."

A senior EU diplomat, in a separate briefing to journalists, acknowledged there would be no concrete outcomes from the meetings but said that “going forward and in any solution, either for Gaza specifically or for the broader peace process that should lead to a two-state solution, the role of our Arab friends is crucial.”

3:00 p.m. ET, January 19, 2024

Nearly 20,000 babies have been "born into hell" during war in Gaza, UNICEF says

Thousands of babies have been born "into hell" in Gaza, while mothers are forced to undergo caesarean sections without anesthetics — and in some cases have to be discharged from the hospital just a few hours after the operation, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund said Friday. 

There have been nearly 20,000 births in Gaza since the conflict began on October 7 of last year, UNICEF said. The mothers and their newborns face desperate aid shortages and the widespread Israeli bombardment in Gaza.

Some mothers have bled to death, and other women have been unable to deliver their stillborn babies because medical workers are overwhelmed, UNICEF said.

"Becoming a mother should be a time for celebration. In Gaza, it's another child delivered into hell," spokesperson Tess Ingram said after returning from a trip to southern Gaza.

Ingram said staff at the overwhelmed Emirati Hospital in southern Gaza were forced to discharge mothers "within three hours of a caesarean," a situation that she said was "beyond belief and requires immediate action."

CNN is not able to independently verify the claims made by UNICEF because of difficulties in gaining access to hospitals and other impacted areas of Gaza.