January 26, 2024 Israel-Hamas war

By Kathleen Magramo, Rob Picheta, Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Sana Noor Haq, Elise Hammond and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 12:06 a.m. ET, January 27, 2024
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11:12 p.m. ET, January 26, 2024

US destroys Houthi anti-ship missile aimed into Red Sea, US Central Command says

From CNN staff

The United States struck and destroyed a Houthi anti-ship missile that was aimed into the Red Sea and prepared for launch, US Central Command said. 

“US Forces identified the missile in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, and determined it presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and the US Navy ships in the region,” Central Command said.
“US Forces subsequently struck and destroyed the missile in self-defense.”

Meanwhile, NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS) said Friday it had detected a still continuing blaze in the middle of Gulf of Aden near to the last known location of the Marlin Luanda oil tanker.

The tanker went up in flames earlier Friday after being hit by a missile fired by the Iran-backed Houthis.

10:03 p.m. ET, January 26, 2024

Uganda ambassador says Ugandan judge who voted against all measures in ICJ case does not represent the country

From CNN’s Larry Madowo

Adonia Ayebare speaks during the opening of the 19th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Kampala, Uganda on January 15, 2024.
Adonia Ayebare speaks during the opening of the 19th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Kampala, Uganda on January 15, 2024. Abubaker Lubowc/Reuters

The Ugandan government said a Ugandan judge who dissented on all provisional measures sought by South Africa at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) does not represent the country.

Julia Sebutinde was the only one of the court’s 17 judges to vote against all the provisional measures against Israel announced by the court on Friday. Even Israeli Judge Aharon Barak voted in favor of two measures – delivering aid to Gaza and punishing public incitement to violence. 

But Judge Sebutinde wrote in her dissenting opinion that the orders were not warranted as the ICJ’s jurisdiction “is limited to the Genocide Convention and does not extend to alleged breaches of international humanitarian law.”

Adonia Ayebare, Uganda’s permanent representative to the United Nations, responded on his X account as social media outrage grew. 

“Justice Sebutinde ruling at the International Court of Justice does not represent the government of Uganda’s position on the situation in Palestine,” the ambassador wrote. “Uganda’s support for the plight of the Palestinian people has been expressed through Uganda's voting pattern at the United Nations.”

Judge Sebutinde believes the conflict requires a diplomatic or negotiated settlement so that Israeli and Palestinian people can coexist peacefully. 

“The dispute between the state of Israel and the people of Palestine is essentially and historically a political one,” Judge Sebutinde said in her opinion text.

Judge Sebutinde was elected to the ICJ in 2012 and is the first African woman to sit on the international court.

8:50 p.m. ET, January 26, 2024

Houthis strike another ship and UN agency probes serious allegations from Israel. Here's the latest

From CNN staff

An oil tanker went up in flames in the Gulf of Aden after being hit by a missile fired by the Iran-backed Houthi rebel group Friday.

The Houthis say they are retaliating for recent strikes on their infrastructure in Yemen by the US and UK militaries. Those attacks have been aimed at stopping the Houthis from disrupting global shipping in the region.

It all stems from Israel's ongoing war against Hamas in Gaza: The Houthis say their actions are aimed at pressuring Israel to stop its ground offensive and widespread bombardment of the Palestinian enclave.

The US sent a destroyer — which had itself been the target of Houthi fire Friday, according to US Central command — to respond to the commercial ship's distress call.

It's just the latest example of flaring tensions in the Middle East, where world leaders are trying to contain the ripple effects of the war in Gaza.

Here's what else to know today:

Allegations against UN workers in Gaza: Israel's foreign ministry said it expects the main United Nations relief agency in Gaza to conduct an urgent internal investigation after it fired staff members allegedly involved in the October 7, 2023, Hamas attack against Israel.

Israel has shared all the information it has about the 12 staffers at the center of the stunning allegations with both the US and UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), an Israeli official told CNN Friday.

The head of the UNRWA had previously vowed to probe the claims. The allegations have jeopardized the group's ability to offer desperately needed humanitarian aid in the enclave.

Growing pressure to free hostages: There are no "imminent developments" on an agreement to secure the release of hostages held in Gaza, the US says, even as it orchestrates a flurry of diplomatic efforts to reach a deal.

The White House coordinator for the Middle East wrapped up meetings in the region Friday, while CIA Director Bill Burns is set to meet in the coming days with Israel and Egypt’s intelligence chiefs and the Qatari prime minister to discuss a deal.

Hamas, meanwhile, released a heavily edited video showing three female hostages, in an apparent attempt to ramp up pressure on Israeli leaders.

Deteriorating conditions for Gaza medical workers: Vital medical services "have collapsed" at Nasser Hospital, the largest functioning hospital in the Gaza Strip, according to Doctors Without Borders. Intense fighting around the hospital has made it perilous to resupply the medical center.

Fewer than half of Gaza's hospitals are still partially functioning, the UN said Thursday. Those that remain open face shortages of staff, basic medical supplies, fuel, food and drinking water.

Today's ruling by the UN's top court: The UN secretary-general said he hopes Israel will comply with today's order from the International Court of Justice, which called on the country to prevent a genocide in Gaza, but stopped short of calling for a ceasefire.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the ruling as a rejection of what he called "discrimination" against his country, while the Palestinian Authority and South Africa said it represented a victory for human rights.

7:38 p.m. ET, January 26, 2024

Vital medical services have collapsed at Gaza's largest remaining hospital, Doctors without Borders say

From CNN's Kareem El Damanhoury, Niamh Kennedy and Caroline Faraj

Vital medical services "have collapsed" at Nasser Hospital, which is the largest functioning hospital in the Gaza Strip, according to Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

"The [Nasser] hospital’s surgical capacity is now almost non-existent, and the handful of medical staff remaining in the hospital must contend with very low supplies that are insufficient to handle mass casualty events — large influxes of wounded people," MSF said in a statement on Friday, adding that at least one patient died on Wednesday because there was no orthopedic surgeon available.

The World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said access to resupply the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis "remains challenging" due to intense fighting in the vicinity.

"[H]undreds of patients and health workers have fled," he said in a statement on Friday. "Currently 350 patients and 5000 displaced people remain at the hospital."

Earlier on Friday, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said “fragments of shrapnel” were going through the walls of their headquarters at the Al-Amal Hospital building in Khan Younis, which the aid agency said was surrounded by Israeli tanks.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said Hamas was operating from inside the Al-Amal and Nasser hospitals. CNN cannot independently verify those claims.

CNN's Celine Alkhaldi and Abeer Salman contributed to this report.

10:56 p.m. ET, January 26, 2024

Oil tanker ablaze in Gulf of Aden after Houthi missile attack

From CNN's Kareem El Damanhoury

The Marlin Luanda oil tanker is on fire in the Gulf of Aden after it was struck by a missile, the commodities group Trafigura, said on Friday.

"Earlier on 26th January, the Marlin Luanda, a petroleum products tanker vessel operated on behalf of Trafigura, was struck by a missile in the Gulf of Aden after transiting the Red Sea," the statement said. "Firefighting equipment on board is being deployed to suppress and control the fire caused in one cargo tank on the starboard side."

Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen have claimed responsibility for the attack, saying in a statement they fired missiles toward the "British oil tanker" in response to the "American-British aggression against our country (Yemen)" and in support of the Palestinian people. 

Trafigura, which has offices in Britain, said it is monitoring the situation and that military ships in the region are headed to provide assistance.

A US destroyer, the USS Carney, is among the vessels responding to the distress call, according to a US official. The Carney shot down an anti-ship ballistic missile fired by the Houthis toward the destroyer earlier Friday, according to US Central Command.

The British government has yet to comment on the attack.

This post has been updated to note that a US destroyer is responding to the commercial vessel's distress call.

CNN's Oren Liebermann and Haley Britzky contributed to this report.

9:14 p.m. ET, January 26, 2024

How Israeli troops make their way into deep underground tunnels in Gaza

From CNN’s Jeremy Diamond in Jerusalem

This picture taken during a media tour organized by the Israeli military on January 8, shows a soldier standing at the entrance of a tunnel in al-Bureij central Gaza.
This picture taken during a media tour organized by the Israeli military on January 8, shows a soldier standing at the entrance of a tunnel in al-Bureij central Gaza. Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

Israeli Master Sgt. Omri Erental was kneeling at the mouth of a tunnel shaft in Gaza, standing guard while waiting for a specialized unit to arrive, when he suddenly spotted movement down below.

Other soldiers in his Israel Defense Forces combat engineering unit had already thrown two grenades into the tunnel shaft, so Erental turned his flashlight on.

He then felt a hammer-like impact, as if “hot lava just punched into my face,” he recalled.

The impact was a 7.62-millimeter bullet that pierced his cheek and took out a fragment of his jaw, before lodging in his neck – very close to critical nerves and arteries, according to Erental and his doctor. As Erental crawled back to safety, his fellow soldiers killed the militant who shot him from inside the tunnel, he said. 

Exposing tunnels is central to the Israeli military’s campaign against Hamas in the Palestinian enclave, but the work presents big challenges and dangers. Israel uses enormous bunker-busting bombs to penetrate deep underground, targeting what it says are Hamas command centers and fighters – but these often leave gaping craters where civilian buildings once stood and can kill large numbers of civilians.

Members of Israel’s combat engineering forces also send drones, dogs and sometimes troops deep into booby-trapped tunnels in order to clear them of Hamas fighters, uncover potentially useful intelligence, and then ultimately detonate them.

Brig. Gen. Nitzan Nuriel (Res.), a former member of Israel’s national security council, estimates Israel has only discovered about 60% of the hundreds of miles of tunnels below Gaza and has detonated about 20.

Israeli officials believe that many Hamas fighters — including Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar — are surviving in sophisticated tunnels equipped with electricity, bathrooms and stocks of food and water. They could last in the underground shelters for up to two months, Nuriel predicts.

Watch Jeremy Diamond's report:

9:56 p.m. ET, January 26, 2024

UN chief says he hopes Israel will adhere to ICJ ruling on Gaza

From CNN's Richard Roth in New York and Niamh Kennedy in London

Antonio Guterres speaks during United Nations Holocaust Memorial Ceremony in observance of the International Day of Commemoration, at UN Headquarters in New York on January 26, 2024.
Antonio Guterres speaks during United Nations Holocaust Memorial Ceremony in observance of the International Day of Commemoration, at UN Headquarters in New York on January 26, 2024. Lev Radin/Sipa/AP

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Friday that he hopes Israel will comply with Friday's ruling from the UN's top court, the International Court of Justice, ordering the country to take action to prevent acts of genocide in Gaza. 

In a statement from the UN chief's spokesperson Stephane Dujarric, Guterres reiterated the legally binding nature of ICJ decisions, adding that he trusts "that all parties will duly comply with the Order from the Court." 

The UN chief has repeatedly called for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, expressing deep concern about the high reported number of civilian casualties and the "catastrophic" humanitarian situation in the enclave. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier hailed the preliminary ruling on South Africa's accusation of genocide as a rejection of discrimination against his country. 

3:21 p.m. ET, January 26, 2024

Israel calls on UN aid agency in Gaza to conduct urgent internal investigation

From CNN's Lauren Izso

Israel's foreign ministry said it is expecting the main United Nations relief agency in Gaza to conduct an urgent internal investigation after it fired staff members allegedly involved in the brutal and deadly October 7, 2023, Hamas attack against Israel.

"It is important that UNRWA conduct a thorough in-house check on the activity of Hamas and other terrorist factors in its ranks in order to ensure the organization’s humanitarian activity is not taken advantage of,” the foreign ministry said Friday. 

CNN reached out to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, for details about the nature of the alleged involvement and what information Israeli authorities shared with the agency, but they had no additional information to share.

UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini said an investigation is being launched, and anyone involved will be held accountable, "including through criminal prosecution."