Israeli marks 1st birthday as Hamas hostage, South Africa genocide case, 60,000 Palestinians wounded

Israeli hostage spends 1st birthday held by Hamas

Family members and supporters will mark the first birthday of Kfir Bibas, the youngest Israeli held by Hamas in a sombre ceremony in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

The red-haired infant, who has been in captivity for a quarter of his life, has become a symbol of the helplessness and anger in Israel over the dozens of hostages still held in Gaza after Hamas’ deadly 7 October attack on southern Israel.

On Tuesday, his family gathered at the Bibas’ home in Kibbutz Nir Oz near Gaza, blowing up orange balloons to hang on the walls to cover bullet holes and spatters of blood. They filled his nursery school classroom with birthday decorations.

“It’s celebrating for someone who isn’t here,” Yossi Schneider, a cousin of Kfir’s mother, Shiri, told Israel’s Channel 12 TV. “He’s supposed to be out here on the grass of the kibbutz, with balloons on the trees, with family and high-fives and presents and love and hugs, and none of those things will be there.”

Kfir, his 4-year-old brother, Ariel, their mother Shiri, and father Yarden, were taken captive by Hamas. 

Under a weeklong temporary ceasefire, the Palestinian militant group released women, children, and teens, but Shiri Bibas and her sons were not included in the list.

Hamas says it won’t release any more hostages until Israel stops its catastrophic offensive in Gaza – something Israel has so far ruled out. 

South Africa’s genocide case focuses on Israeli rhetoric

Fighting “human animals.” Making Gaza a “slaughterhouse.” “Erasing the Gaza Strip from the face of the earth.”

Such inflammatory rhetoric is a key component of South Africa’s case accusing Israel of genocide at the International Criminal Court (ICC), a charge Israel denies. 

South Africa says the language — in comments by Israeli leaders, soldiers and entertainers about Palestinians in Gaza since war broke out in October — is proof of Israel’s intent to commit genocide.

Pictures of hostages kidnapped during the Oct. 7 attack in Israel are placed by a table outside the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, Jan. 12, 2024

Israeli leaders have downplayed the comments, and some in Israel say they’re a result of the trauma from Hamas’ attack.

Rights groups and activists say they’re an inevitable byproduct of Israel’s decades-old, open-ended rule over the Palestinians and that they’ve intensified during the war. They say such language has been left unchecked, inciting violence and dehumanising Palestinians.

“Words lead to deeds,” said Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard. “Words that normalise or legitimise serious crimes against civilians create the social, political and moral basis for other people to do things like that.”

The genocide case against Israel opened last week at the International Court of Justice at The Hague. 

UN estimates 60,00 Palestinians wounded

Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are brought to Al Aqsa hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024

Palestinians are dying every day in Gaza. 

The remaining hospitals can’t deal with the estimated 60,000 injured from Israeli’s military offensive in Gaza, a UN health emergency expert said Wednesday. 

The International Rescue Committee called the situation in Gaza’s hospitals the most extreme she had ever seen.

Hundreds more people flood into the overwhelmed medical facilities every day. 

Sean Casey, an officer with the World Health Organisation said there was “a really horrifying situation in the hospitals”, and that the health system is collapsing day by day.

Al-Shifa Hospital, once Gaza’s leading hospital with 700 beds, has been reduced to treating only emergency trauma victims, and is filled with thousands of people who have fled their homes and are now living in operating rooms, corridors and stairs, he said.

Gaza historically had a strong health system with 36 hospitals, 25,000 health workers and many specialists, he said. 

However, 85% of the territory’s 2.3 million people are now displaced, including health workers, doctors, nurses, surgeons and administrative staff.

The priority, he said, should be a ceasefire. This would be key to helping the tens of thousands of injured Gazans and people with health issues.

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