Israel-Gaza live updates: IDF general answers questions about alleged war crimes

A Palestinian elderly woman crosses a street which has been bulldozed by the Israeli forces during a raid in Jenin in the occupied West Bank on January 29, 2024 amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Gaza. (Photo by ZAIN JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) — More than 100 days since Hamas terrorists invaded Israel on Oct. 7, the Israeli military continues its bombardment of the neighboring Gaza Strip.

The conflict, now the deadliest between the warring sides since Israel’s founding in 1948, shows no signs of letting up soon and the brief cease-fire that allowed for over 100 hostages to be freed from Gaza remains a distant memory.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Jan 29, 7:00 AM
IDF general answers questions about alleged war crimes in southern Gaza

ABC News embedded with Brig. Gen. Dan Goldfus, commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ 98th Division that currently controls the southern Gaza Strip, and questioned him about alleged war crimes, the recent killing of an unarmed Palestinian carrying a white flag and the controversial buffer zone.

On Saturday, ABC News met with Goldfus in what looked like a post-apocalyptic neighborhood in Khan Younis, where machine guns chattered, detonations thundered and the blasts of tank fire rang out. Some of the explosions were so powerful that they blew in the curtains of the commandeered Palestinian home that the general and his staff have turned into a temporary headquarters.

Outside the headquarters were a series of arena-sized basins. One was about 60 feet deep and larger than a football field. A month ago, it was a multi-acre cemetery. Flanking the destroyed cemetery was the remains of a mosque — half of a dome listing on its side like a sinking ship. Goldfus told ABC News that his troops had dug up most of the cemetery looking for tunnel shafts belonging to Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that rules Gaza. The general pointed out where he said they found tunnel shafts, but ABC News could not visually verify due to the depth of the pit.

When asked what his troops do with the bodies if they dig up graves while hunting for tunnel shafts, Goldfus told ABC News: “We’ll put them aside.”

The intentional destruction of religious sites, such as cemeteries, without military necessity violates international law and could amount to war crimes. But Goldfus said he’s not concerned because Hamas had turned the cemetery and the adjacent mosque into a “military compound” that was “used to attack my forces again and again and again.”

“I’m not digging up a cemetery, I’m digging up a military compound,” he added.

When asked what he would say to the families of the people who were buried there, the general told ABC News: “I’m very sorry about it. Your relatives are being used as a human shield.”

Last week, British television network ITV captured what it said were Israeli snipers in Khan Younis gunning down an unarmed Palestinian man carrying a white flag who had moments earlier told the news team that he was trying to cross the battle lines to reach his family. At the time, Israel claimed the ITV video was edited and that there was no way of telling who fired the shots. However, while speaking to ABC News on Saturday, Goldfus appeared to take responsibility for the incident.

“Yes, it was my troops and I’m investigating that incident,” he told ABC News. “That is not the way we carry out rules of engagement. No, we don’t fire people waving white flags. We don’t fire at civilians.”

When pressed on the fact that Israeli troops have killed civilians in Gaza, the general said: “They are mistakes. It is war.”

Asked whether Israeli soldiers could face criminal charges for the fatal shooting, Goldfus told ABC News that “it depends.”

“We investigate every mistake that is done,” he added.

The general also answered questions about the buffer zone the IDF is creating inside Gaza along the coastal enclave’s border with Israel.

“This is part of the area that will become a buffer zone … to dismantle Hamas and prevent any entity that will try to carry out any terror attacks against our people,” he told ABC News while looking at a table-sized aerial map of the Gaza-Israel border.

Goldfus said the buffer zone will create an area inside Gaza that is under Israel’s control.

-ABC News’ Matt Gutman and Sohel Uddin

Jan 28, 2:24 PM
‘Constructive meeting’ with officials but ‘gaps’ remain, Israeli PM’s office says

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office released a statement on Sunday’s talks between CIA Director Bill Burns, the prime minister of Qatar and intelligence officials from Israel and Egypt.

The meeting was “constructive” but “significant gaps” remain, the statement said, adding that more meetings are expected this coming week.

-ABC News’ Jordana Miller

Jan 28, 4:40 AM
UN chief appeals for continued UNRWA funding

The secretary-general of the United Nations appealed on Sunday for continuing funding for the U.N. aid agency responsible for Gaza.

Nine countries, including the United States, paused their funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees after Israel accused 12 of its employees of being involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

Mark Regev, an Israeli spokesman, told ABC News in a phone interview Sunday that Israel gathered intelligence about the alleged connection to terrorism through videos released by Hamas and others during the Oct. 7 attack and claimed there’s “clear unrefutable evidence that U.N. paid staff were involved in crimes against humanity.”

About 2 million people in Gaza depend on the agency for daily survival, Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement Sunday.

According to Guterres, “Of the 12 people implicated, nine were immediately identified and terminated by the Commissioner-General of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini; one is confirmed dead, and the identity of the two others is being clarified.”

“The abhorrent alleged acts of these staff members must have consequences,” he said in the statement.

He added, “But the tens of thousands of men and women who work for UNRWA, many in some of the most dangerous situations for humanitarian workers, should not be penalized. The dire needs of the desperate populations they serve must be met.”

-ABC News’ Matt Gutman, Edward Szekeres and Kevin Shalvey

Jan 27, 5:13 PM
9 nations suspend contributions to UNRWA due to Oct. 7 allegations

The number of nations pausing funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East has risen to 9 — an unprecedented number for a UN agency. This withdrawal of funding comes amid allegations from Israeli officials that some of the agency’s staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.

On Saturday, Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Finland joined the U.S., Australia and Canada in pausing funding to UNRWA.

“UNRWA lifesaving assistance is about to end following countries decisions to cut their funding to the Agency. Our humanitarian operation, on which 2 million people depend as a lifeline in Gaza, is collapsing. I am shocked such decisions are taken based on alleged behavior of a few individuals and as the war continues, needs are deepening & famine looms,” the commissioner general of UNRWA said in a statement.

“Palestinians in Gaza did not need this additional collective punishment. This stains all of us,” the statement said.

-ABC News’ Matt Gutman, Dana Savir, Guy Davies

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