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Israel-Hamas war: Houthi rebels hijack Israeli-linked ship as IDF claim tunnel discovery under Shifa

A Palestinian man cries, looks at the destruction after Israeli fighter jets strike residential buildings in Hamad Town, northwest of Khan Yunis, Gaza
A Palestinian man cries, looks at the destruction after Israeli fighter jets strike residential buildings in Hamad Town, northwest of Khan Yunis, Gaza Copyright Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu via Getty Images
Copyright Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu via Getty Images
By Saskia O'Donoghue with AP & AFP
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The latest developments from the Israel-Hamas war.

Yemen's Houthi rebels hijack an Israeli-linked ship in the Red Sea, taking crew members hostage

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Yemen's Houthi rebels seized an Israeli-linked cargo ship in a crucial Red Sea shipping route on Sunday, officials said, taking over two dozen crew members hostage and raising fears that regional tensions heightened over the Israel-Hamas war were playing out on a new maritime front.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels said they hijacked the ship over its connection to Israel and took the crew as hostages. The group warned that it would continue to target ships in international waters that were linked to or owned by Israelis until the end of Israel's campaign against Gaza's Hamas rulers.

“All ships belonging to the Israeli enemy or that deal with it will become legitimate targets,” the Houthis said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office had blamed the Houthis for the attack on the Bahamas-flagged Galaxy Leader, a vehicle carrier affiliated with an Israeli billionaire. It said the 25 crew members had a range of nationalities, including Bulgarian, Filipino, Mexican and Ukrainian, but that no Israelis had been on board.

The Houthis said they were treating the crew members “in accordance with their Islamic values,” but did not elaborate on what that meant.

Netanyahu's office condemned the seizure as an “Iranian act of terror." The Israeli military called the hijacking a “very grave incident of global consequence."

Israeli officials insisted the ship was British-owned and Japanese-operated. However, ownership details in public shipping databases associated the ship’s owners with Ray Car Carriers, which was founded by Abraham “Rami” Ungar, who is known as one of the richest men in Israel.

Ungar told The Associated Press he was aware of the incident but couldn’t comment as he awaited details. A ship linked to him experienced an explosion in 2021 in the Gulf of Oman. Israeli media blamed it on Iran at the time.

The complex world of international shipping often involves a series of management companies, flags and owners stretching across the globe in a single vessel.

Two US defence officials confirmed that Houthi rebels seized the Galaxy Leader in the Red Sea on Sunday afternoon local time. The rebels descended on the cargo ship by repelling down from a helicopter, the officials said, confirming details first reported by NBC News. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to publicly discuss the matter.

Twice in the last month, US warships have intercepted missiles or drones from Yemen that were believed to be headed towards Israel or posing a threat to the American vessels.

The Red Sea, stretching from Egypt’s Suez Canal to the narrow Bab el-Mandeb Strait separating the Arabian Peninsula from Africa, remains a key trade route for global shipping and energy supplies. That’s why the US Navy has stationed multiple ships in the sea since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on 7 October.

Since 2019, a series of ships have come under attack at sea as Iran began breaking all the limits of its tattered nuclear deal with world powers. As Israel expands its devastating campaign against Hamas in the besieged Gaza Strip following the militant group's unprecedented attack on southern Israel, fears have grown that the military operations could escalate into a wider regional conflict.

The Houthis have repeatedly threatened to target Israeli ships in the waters off Yemen.

Israeli army claims it has discovered 55-metre-long tunnel under Shifa hospital

The Israeli army has said that it has discovered a 55 metre long tunnel used "for terrorism" by Hamas under the besieged Shifa hospital in Gaza.

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The IDF says it has been searching since Wednesday to find a Hamas military base.

Posting a video of the discovery on X - formerly Twitter - they claim the tunnel is ten metres deep, with a steep staircase leading to the entrance. The IDF also added in a press release that the tunnel is equipped with several means of defence including an armoured door.

“This type of gate is used by Hamas organisation terrorists to prevent Israeli forces from entering command centres,” the IDF claimed.

The tunnel was apparently discovered in an area of ​​the hospital under a hangar containing weapons, including "grenade launchers, explosives and Kalashnikov rifles", the army said.

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Israeli forces have besieged the hospital since Wednesday, leading to the evacuation of a large number of its patients.

The army claims that Hamas has a hideout there, which the movement denies.

Volker: 'Horrific events' in Gaza 'beyond comprehension'

The "horrific events" that have taken place in Gaza over the past 48 hours "are beyond comprehension", the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, said on Sunday.

"The killing of so many people in schools turned into shelters, hundreds fleeing al-Shifa hospital to save their lives while thousands of others continue to be displaced in southern Gaza, are actions that run counter to the basic protections that international law must afford civilians," he warned in a statement.

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France to send Dixmude helicopter carrier for hospital support

France is preparing to send the Dixmude helicopter carrier to the Middle East "in the coming days", configured to offer "hospital support" to Gaza, the Elysée declared on Sunday.

The Dixmude will set off "at the beginning of the week" and "will arrive in Egypt in the coming days", a spokesperson for the French president said.

“A new charter of a plane carrying more than 10 tonnes of medical cargo for the start of the week” was also announced.

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“France will also contribute to the European effort with medical equipment on board European flights on November 23 and 30,” the Elysée said, adding, “France is mobilising all the means at its disposal to help evacuate injured or sick children from the Gaza Strip to its hospitals who need urgent care.”

Emmanuel Macron met with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi on Saturday.

They discussed the pressing situation of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza and the ongoing negotiations.

Macron and his Egyptian counterpart are said to have agreed on: "the need to increase the number of trucks entering Gaza and to strengthen coordination for the delivery of humanitarian aid and the treatment of the wounded."

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Palestinian Authority will meet with Muslim leaders in China on Monday

A delegation of foreign ministers from the Palestinian Authority and four predominantly Muslim countries will visit China on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the situation in Gaza, Beijing announced on Sunday.

The foreign ministers of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and Indonesia - a non-Arab country but with the largest Muslim population in the world - as well as the secretary general of the The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation will be part of the delegation.

"During the visit, China will maintain in-depth communication and coordination with the delegation... to promote de-escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, protection of civilians and a fair settlement of the Palestinian issue," a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in a statement.

Tens of thousands rally in Pakistan against Israel's bombing in Gaza

Tens of thousands of supporters from Pakistan’s main religious political party have rallied in the eastern city of Lahore against Israel’s bombing of Palestinians in Gaza and what it said is the world’s failure to protect Gazans.

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Amid anti-Israeli and anti-American slogans the emotionally charged crowd also called for jihad, or holy war.

Earlier this month, Jamaat-e-Islami held massive rallies in the port city of Karachi and the capital, Islamabad.

Supporters, including women and children, marched for several kilometres to reach the location of the rally, holding banners and posters with slogans opposing Israel and the United States and in support of the Palestinians.

Senator Sirajul Haq, the JI chief, said the ongoing rallies in support of Palestinians around the world awaken world governments and give a voice to the innocent.

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He said the resolutions and words issued by the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation will not work, and that Muslim rulers have to rise and to stop the hand of the aggressor.

Supporters of right-wing religious Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party take part in a march to express their solidarity with Palestinians in Lahore on Sunday
Supporters of right-wing religious Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party take part in a march to express their solidarity with Palestinians in Lahore on SundayARIF ALI/AFP via Getty Images

Qatar: ‘minor’ obstacles before an agreement on hostages

The conclusion of an agreement on the release of hostages kidnapped by the Palestinian movement Hamas during its attack on 7 October against Israel now rests on "minor" practical questions, the Qatari prime minister said on Sunday, without providing a timetable.

“The challenges that remain in the negotiations are very minor… They are more logistical, they are more practical,” Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani during a press conference in Doha alongside Josep Borrell.

Negotiations for a deal have been "up and down over the last few weeks. I think I'm more confident now that we are close enough to reach an agreement that will allow these people (the hostages) to return home safely,” he added.

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Evacuation of 31 premature babies from Shifa hospital announced

31 premature babies who were still in Gaza's Shifa hospital after its evacuation yesterday have been removed from the establishment, Mohammed Zaqout, director general of hospitals in the Gaza Strip, told AFP

According to him, "three doctors and two nurses are accompanying them" and "preparations are underway to evacuate them to Egypt" via the Rafah terminal, the only opening to the world from the Palestinian territory which is not in the hands of Israel.

Three Israeli soldiers killed in Gaza, bringing total to 62 since war began

Three Israeli soldiers were killed in fighting in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army said in a statement on Sunday, bringing to 62 the number of soldiers killed since the start of the war.

The three new victims were all reservists and were killed in the north of the Gaza Strip, said the army, which is relentlessly shelling the Palestinian territory and has launched a ground offensive there to "eradicate" the Islamist Hamas movement. 

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Scores of patients left at beseiged Shifa Hospital after mass evacuation

A United Nations team has said that some 291 patients are left at Gaza’s largest hospital after Israeli troops made all others evacuate.

Those left include 32 babies in extremely critical condition, trauma patients with severely infected wounds and others with spinal injuries who are unable to move.

The team was able to tour Shifa Hospital for an hour after about 2,500 displaced people, mobile patients and medical staff left the sprawling compound Saturday morning, said the World Health Organisation, which led the mission.

It added that 25 medical staff remained, along with the patients.

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“Patients and health staff with whom they spoke were terrified for their safety and health, and pleaded for evacuation,” the agency said, describing Shifa as a ‘death zone’.

It said more teams will attempt to reach Shifa in the coming days to try to evacuate patients to southern Gaza, where hospitals are also overwhelmed.

Israel has long alleged that Hamas maintains a sprawling command post inside and under Shifa. It has portrayed the hospital as a key target in its war to end the militants' rule in Gaza following their wide-ranging attack into southern Israel six weeks ago, which triggered the war.

Hamas and hospital staff deny the allegations. Israeli troops who have been based at the hospital and searching its grounds for days claim they have found guns and other weapons and showed reporters the entrance to a tunnel shaft.

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Saturday's mass departure was portrayed by Israel as voluntary, but the WHO said the military had issued evacuation orders, and some of those who left described it as a forced exodus.

“We left at gunpoint,” Mahmoud Abu Auf told The Associated Press by phone after he and his family left the crowded hospital. He said he saw Israeli troops detain three men.

Strikes continue - in north and south

Elsewhere in northern Gaza, dozens of people were killed in the urban Jabalia refugee camp when what witnesses described as an Israeli airstrike hit a crowded UN shelter Saturday.

The Israeli military, which has repeatedly called on Palestinians to leave northern Gaza, said only that its troops were active in the area “with the aim of hitting terrorists.” It rarely comments on individual strikes, saying only that it targets Hamas while trying to minimise civilian harm.

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In southern Gaza, an Israeli airstrike hit a residential building near the town of Khan Younis on Saturday, killing at least 26 Palestinians, according to a doctor at the hospital where the bodies were taken.

Doctors Without Borders, an international aid group, said a convoy of staff members and their families tried to evacuate northern Gaza in a clearly marked convoy on Saturday but turned back after shots rang out at a crowded Israeli checkpoint. On their way back to Gaza City, the convoy was attacked and a staffer’s family member was killed, it said. It was not immediately clear who attacked the convoy.

More than 11,500 Palestinians have been killed, according to Palestinian health authorities. Another 2,700 have been reported missing, believed buried under rubble. The count does not differentiate between civilians and combatants; Israel says it has killed thousands of militants.

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