Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens

Update Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens
This handout picture released by the Israeli army on February 23, 2024 shows Israeli army soldiers on patrol at an unspecified location in the Gaza Strip amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 25 February 2024
Follow

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens
  • Several Israeli media outlets said Israel tacitly approved a deal and that Israel would send a delegation to Qatar for further discussions
  • Health ministry in Gaza says war death toll at 29,692

JERUSALEM: Israel’s war cabinet has discussed the next steps for negotiations toward a hostage deal and ceasefire in its war with Hamas, as concern deepens over the increasingly desperate situation faced by civilians in the devastated Gaza Strip.

Mediators made progress on an agreement for a weekslong cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and the release of dozens of hostages held in Gaza as well as Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, Israeli media reported Sunday.

Several Israeli media outlets, citing unnamed officials, said it tacitly approved the deal and that Israel would send a delegation to Qatar for further discussions.
Hamas says it has not yet been involved in the latest proposal developed by the United States, Egypt and Qatar, but the reported outline largely matches its earlier demands for the first phase of a truce. 

State-linked Egyptian media reported Sunday that negotiations for a ceasefire in Gaza have resumed in Doha between “experts from Egypt, Qatar, the United States and Israel”, as well as Hamas representatives. 

The talks are a “continuation of what was discussed in Paris" and "will be followed by meetings in Cairo”, reported Al-Qahera News, which is linked to Egyptian state intelligence services. 

Meanwhile, an Israeli delegation that had traveled to Paris for fresh talks on a hostage deal returned to brief the country’s war cabinet on Saturday night, according to an official and local media reports.
National security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said in a televised interview shortly before the meeting that the “delegation has returned from Paris — there is probably room to move toward an agreement.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the meeting would discuss the “next steps in the negotiations.”
Local media later reported that the meeting had concluded with the cabinet agreeing to send a delegation to Qatar in the coming days to continue the talks.
As with a previous week-long truce in November that saw more than 100 hostages freed, Qatar, Egypt and the United States have been spearheading efforts to secure a deal.
Domestic pressure on the government to bring the captives home has also steadily mounted, with thousands gathering in Tel Aviv Saturday night at what has come to be known as “Hostages Square” to demand swifter action.
“We keep telling you: bring them back to us! And no matter how,” said Avivit Yablonka, 45, whose sister Hanan was kidnapped on October 7.
Anti-government protesters were also out in Tel Aviv, blocking streets and calling for Netanyahu’s government to step down as authorities deployed water cannon and mounted officers in a bid to disperse them.
“They are not choosing the right path for us. Whether it’s (the) economy, whether it’s peace with our neighbors,” 54-year-old software company CEO Moti Kushner said of the government, adding “it looks like they never want to end the war.”
After more than four months of shortages inside the besieged Gaza Strip, the World Food Programme said this week its teams had reported “unprecedented levels of desperation,” while the United Nations warned that 2.2 million people were on the brink of famine.
In northern Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp, bedraggled children held out plastic containers and battered cooking pots for what little food was available.
Supplies are running out, with aid agencies unable to get into the area because of the bombing, while the trucks that do try to get through face frenzied looting.
“We the grown-ups can still make it, but these children who are four and five years old, what did they do wrong to sleep hungry and wake up hungry?” one man said angrily.
Residents have resorted to eating scavenged scraps of rotten corn, animal fodder unfit for human consumption and even leaves.
The health ministry said on Saturday that a two-month-old baby identified as Mahmud Fatuh had died of “malnutrition” in Gaza City.
Save the Children said the risk of famine would continue to “increase as long as the government of Israel continues to impede the entry of aid into Gaza.”
Israel has defended its track record on allowing aid into Gaza, saying that 13,000 trucks carrying relief supplies had entered the territory since the start of the war.
The war began after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.
Hamas militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,606 people, mostly women and children, according to a Saturday tally from Gaza’s health ministry.
The ministry said early Sunday that another 98 people had been killed overnight, with the Hamas media office reporting strikes along the length of the territory, from Beit Lahia in the north to Rafah in the south.
An AFP reporter said there had been a number of air strikes on Saturday evening in Rafah, a city along the territory’s southern border with Egypt where hundreds of thousands of Gazans have fled to escape fighting elsewhere.
The presence of so many civilians packed into the area has sparked concerns over Israeli plans for troops to finally push into the city, the last major urban center they have yet to enter.
Despite the concerns, including from key ally the United States, Netanyahu signalled Saturday night that the expected push had not been abandoned, adding that “at the beginning of the week, I will convene the cabinet to approve the operational plans for action in Rafah, including the evacuation of the civilian population from there.”
“Only a combination of military pressure and firm negotiations will lead to the release of our hostages, the elimination of Hamas and the achievement of all the war’s goals,” he added.
Netanyahu this week unveiled a plan for post-war Gaza that envisages civil affairs being run by Palestinian officials without links to Hamas.
It also says Israel will continue with the establishment of a security buffer zone inside Gaza along the territory’s border.
The plan has been rejected by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and drawn criticism from Washington.


Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza hostage deal

Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza hostage deal
Updated 8 sec ago
Follow

Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza hostage deal

Israel war cabinet to discuss new push for Gaza hostage deal
  • Hamas eader Izzat Al-Rishq jas accused Netanyahu earlier Sunday of “trying to buy more time to continue the aggression"

Hamas eader Izzat Al-Rishq jas accused Netanyahu earlier Sunday of “trying to buy more time to continue the aggression"

RAFAH, Palestinian Territories: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he “strongly opposes” ending the war in Gaza, ahead of his war cabinet convening amid intense diplomacy to forge a truce and hostage release deal.
Meanwhile deadly fighting rocked the Gaza Strip and Hamas militants fired a salvo of rockets at Israel’s commercial hub Tel Aviv for the first time in months, sending people scrambling for shelter.
Netanyahu has long rejected Hamas’s demand in negotiations for a permanent end to the fighting, which was triggered by the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack and has left vast areas of besieged Gaza in ruins.
A senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, had earlier told AFP that “the war cabinet is expected to meet... tonight at 9 p.m. (1800 GMT) to discuss a hostage release deal.”
A statement issued by Netanyahu’s office before the meeting said Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya “Sinwar continues to demand the end of the war, the withdrawal of the IDF (army) from the Gaza Strip and leaving Hamas in place, so that it will be able to carry out the atrocities of October 7 again and again,” referring to the attack that triggered the war.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu strongly opposes this,” the statement said.
A member of Hamas’s political leadership, Izzat Al-Rishq, accused Netanyahu earlier Sunday of “trying to buy more time to continue the aggression.”
In Brussels, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told journalists before meeting Palestinian premier Mohammed Mustafa that a strong Palestinian Authority (PA) was in Israel’s interest.
EU members Ireland and Spain, and also Norway, have said they will recognize the State of Palestine from Tuesday, drawing furious Israeli condemnation.
“A functional Palestinian Authority is in Israel’s interest too, because in order to make peace, we need a strong Palestinian Authority, not a weaker one,” Borrell said.
Mustafa, whose government is based in the occupied West Bank, said the “first priority” was to support people in Gaza, especially through a ceasefire, and then “rebuilding the institutions of the Palestinian Authority” there after Hamas seized it from the PA in 2007.
US President Joe Biden has pushed for renewed international efforts to halt the war, now in its eighth month.
The Israeli official had said Saturday that “there is an intention to renew these talks this week” after negotiations involving US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators stalled in early May.
However, Rishq said Sunday that so far, “we have not received anything from the mediators.”
He insisted on Hamas’s long-standing demand for a permanent cessation of hostilities as “the foundation and the starting point for anything.”


Netanyahu has repeatedly vowed to destroy Hamas following the October 7 attack, but has also faced growing domestic and international criticism.
The attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,984 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.
The military on Sunday announced the death of a soldier in north Gaza, taking to 289 the number of troops killed since Israel began its ground offensive in late October.
As the war ground on, the families of hostages still held by Palestinians militants have piled pressure on Netanyahu to secure a deal to free them.
Washington has also taken a tougher line with its close ally as outrage over the war and US support for Israel has become a major issue for Biden, seeking re-election in a battle against Donald Trump.
With more strikes reported Sunday across Gaza, Israel’s military said that over the past 24 hours it had destroyed “over 50 terror targets.”
Fighting has centered on the far-southern city of Rafah, where Israel launched a ground operation in early May despite widespread opposition over concerns for civilians sheltering there.
Rafah resident Moaz Abu Taha, 29, told AFP of “constant bombardment from land and air, which has destroyed many houses.”
Gaza’s civil defense agency said it had retrieved six bodies after a house was targeted in eastern Rafah.

Hamas’s armed wing said it had targeted Tel Aviv “with a large rocket barrage in response to the Zionist (Israeli) massacres against civilians.”
Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari told a televised briefing that “Hamas terrorists in Gaza fired eight rockets at central Israel from Rafah.”
“Hamas launched these rockets from near two mosques in Rafah,” Hagari said. “Hamas is holding our hostages in Rafah, which is why we have been conducting a precise operation” there.
Analyst Neomi Neumann said the militants were not trying to “cause damage to Israel, but to maintain continuity of fire.”
They “shoot relatively few rockets per barrage from their diminishing arsenal, and choose when to concentrate their efforts,” said Neumann, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank.
The UN has warned of looming famine in the besieged territory, where most hospitals are no longer functioning.
Amid the bloodiest ever Gaza war, Israel has faced growing global outcry over the surging civilian death toll, and landmark moves last week at two international courts.
Last Monday, the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court announced he was seeking arrest warrants for Netanyahu and his defense minister as well as for three top Hamas figures.
And on Friday, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to halt its Rafah offensive or any other operation there that could bring about “the physical destruction” of the Palestinians.
 


Hamas-run govt media office says at least 30 killed in Israel strike near Rafah

Hamas-run govt media office says at least 30 killed in Israel strike near Rafah
Updated 11 min 56 sec ago
Follow

Hamas-run govt media office says at least 30 killed in Israel strike near Rafah

Hamas-run govt media office says at least 30 killed in Israel strike near Rafah
  • Israeli strikes had also killed and wounded at least 50 people in the area, says Hamas
  • Israel said its air force carried out strikes on Rafah in response to a Hamas rocket barrage

RAFAH, Palestinian Territories: The Hamas-run government media office in Gaza said late Sunday that at least 30 people were killed and dozens wounded in Israeli strikes on a center for displaced people near the Palestinian territory’s far-southern city of Rafah.

“The Israeli occupation committed a horrific massacre by bombarding intensively and intentionally the UNRWA’s Barkasat displacement center northwest of Rafah Governorate,” the office said in a statement, referring to the UN Palestinian refugee agency.
The strikes had “led to the death of 30 martyrs and dozens of injured,” it said.
Gaza’s civil defense agency said Israeli strikes had killed and wounded at least 50 people in the area, where it said 100,000 displaced people live.
The Israeli army said it would respond “as soon as possible” when asked for comment about the incident.
The ICRC said one of its field hospitals was receiving an “influx of casualties seeking care for injuries and burns” and reported that other hospitals were also receiving a large number of patients.
“Our teams are doing their best to save lives,” the ICRC said in a statement.
Strikes in other areas of Rafah were also reported late Sunday, with the Kuwait Specialized Hospital saying it had received the bodies of three people, including a pregnant woman.
Israel launched a ground operation on Rafah in early May despite widespread opposition over concerns for civilians sheltering there.
Earlier on Sunday, Israel’s army said at least eight rockets were fired toward central areas of the country from Rafah.
Hamas’s armed wing said in a post on Telegram it had targeted Tel Aviv “with a large rocket barrage in response to the Zionist massacres against civilians.”
Later Sunday, the Israeli military said in a statement its air force had carried out strikes on Rafah in response.
“The rocket launcher, which was situated near two mosques in the area of Rafah, was struck by the (Israeli Air Force) shortly after,” it said.
 


Over 100 people ‘killed in 2 weeks of fighting in Sudanese city’

Over 100 people ‘killed in 2 weeks of fighting in Sudanese city’
Updated 26 May 2024
Follow

Over 100 people ‘killed in 2 weeks of fighting in Sudanese city’

Over 100 people ‘killed in 2 weeks of fighting in Sudanese city’

CAIRO: More than two weeks of fighting between Sudan’s military and a notorious paramilitary group over a major city in the western Darfur region killed at least 123 people, an international aid group said on Sunday.

The fighting in El-Fasher, the provincial capital of North Darfur province, also wounded more than 930 people in the same period, Doctors without Borders said.

“This is a sign of the violent intensity of the fighting,” the group said. 

“We urge the warring parties to do more to protect civilians.”

Clashes between the military and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces escalated earlier this month in the city, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes, according to the UN.

El-Fasher has become the center of the conflict between the military and the RSF, aided by militias commonly known as Janjaweed. 

The city is the last stronghold held by the military in the sprawling Darfur region.

Sudan’s conflict began in April last year when soaring tensions between the leaders of the military and the RSF exploded into open fighting in the capital, Khartoum, and elsewhere in the country.

The conflict killed more than 14,000 people and wounded thousands more amid reports of widespread sexual violence and other atrocities that rights groups say amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

It also pushed the country’s population to the brink of famine. 

The UN food agency warned the warring parties earlier this month that there is a serious risk of widespread starvation and death in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan if they don’t allow humanitarian aid into the vast western region.

In recent months, the RSF has built up forces seeking to wrest control of El-Fasher. 

Along with its militia allies, the RSF besieged the city and launched a major attack on its southern and eastern parts earlier this month.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration reported that clashes renewed on Thursday in the Abu Shouk camp for displaced people in the Salam neighborhood in the city’s northern and southern western parts.

On Saturday, a shell hit the house of a Doctors Without Borders aid worker close to the city’s main market, killing the worker, the charity said.


‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike

‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike
Updated 26 May 2024
Follow

‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike

‘Ground trembles’ as Hezbollah launches 150 missiles in revenge strike
  • The attacks marked a significant deterioration in the situation on the southern Lebanese border

BEIRUT: Residents of southern Lebanon’s border area took shelter late on Sunday as Hezbollah launched more than 150 missiles at targets inside Israel in one of the largest attacks since the conflict began.

“The ground trembles beneath us and the sky is covered by missiles,” one resident told Arab News.

Hezbollah’s barrage followed a series of Israeli drone strikes earlier in the day that killed at least eight of the group’s members and civilians.

Hezbollah responded by launching missiles toward Kiryat Shmona, the Golan, and military sites in the Al-Manara and Misgav Am areas. 

The attacks marked a significant deterioration in the situation on the southern Lebanese border.

“These are unprecedented barrages of missiles,”  the resident said.

“The area is shaking from the sounds of missiles above our heads heading toward the other side of the border. We see Iron Dome explosions above the towns all the way to the Nabatiyeh area.”

After the two deadly attacks on Naqoura and Aita Al-Shaab earlier on Sunday, the Israeli army struck a motorcycle in the town of Hula with a missile from a military drone, killing three Hezbollah members, Tariq Awad, Hussein Salman Mustafa, and Wissam Ali Hamid, whose brother was killed in an Israeli attack on the city of Bint Jbeil a few weeks ago.  

The Israeli army attacked the town of Yaron in the Bint Jbeil district with two air-to-surface missiles, killing two Hezbollah members. 

The towns of Aitaroun and Al-Adisa were hit by dozens of phosphorus shells, causing’ fires in several neighborhoods.


Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza
Updated 35 min 12 sec ago
Follow

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza

Sirens sound in Tel Aviv for the first time in months as Hamas says it fired rockets from Gaza
  • Hamas armed wing says fired ‘large rocket barrage’ at Tel Aviv
  • Aid trucks begin entering Gaza through Kerem Shalom crossing

CAIRO/TEL AVIV: Rocket sirens blared Sunday in Israel’s commercial hub of Tel Aviv for the first time in months, with at least three blasts reported across central Israel, AFP correspondents said.

The Israeli military said sirens had been activated over central Israel as fighting raged in Gaza, including in the far-southern city of Rafah.

The armed wing of Palestinian militant group Hamas said it had launched a “large rocket barrage” on Tel Aviv.

The Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said in a post on Telegram that they had targeted Tel Aviv “with a large rocket barrage in response to the Zionist massacres against civilians.”

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage from the latest barrage.

Earlier on Sunday, aid trucks entered Gaza from southern Israel through a new agreement to bypass the Rafah crossing with Egypt after Israeli forces seized the Palestinian side of it earlier this month. But was unclear if humanitarian groups would be able to access the aid because of ongoing fighting in the area.

A total of “200 trucks” had moved from the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, which has been shut since early May when Israel seized the Palestinian side of the terminal, to the Kerem Shalom crossing, some 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to the south.

Egypt has refused to coordinate aid through Rafah as long as Israeli troops control the Palestinian side.

But on Friday, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi agreed in a call with his US counterpart Joe Biden to allow aid through Kerem Shalom, the other entry point into southern Gaza, the White House said.

Al-Qahera News did not specify how many trucks had made their way through inspection into besieged Gaza, but said “four fuel trucks” had already crossed and were heading to hospitals.

All aid from Egypt is inspected by Israeli authorities and distributed via the United Nations.

The remainder of the 200 trucks were “expected to cross into Gaza today,” Khaled Zayed, head of the Egyptian Red Crescent in Al-Arish — where the bulk of aid arrives — said.