Biden says Israel has agreed to stop Gaza attacks for Ramadan as Hamas mulls draft truce proposal

Update US President Joe Biden walks to Marine One. (AFP)
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US President Joe Biden walks to Marine One. (AFP)
Update Biden says Israel has agreed to stop Gaza attacks for Ramadan as Hamas mulls draft truce proposal
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People find their way through a rubble-covered alley, following overnight Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on February 25, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)
Update Biden says Israel has agreed to stop Gaza attacks for Ramadan as Hamas mulls draft truce proposal
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This picture taken from Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip shows Israeli armoured personnel carriers moving out of Gaza on February 26, 2024, amid the ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP)
Update Biden says Israel has agreed to stop Gaza attacks for Ramadan as Hamas mulls draft truce proposal
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Palestinians mourn as they bury their dead following overnight Israeli air strikes, at a cemetery in east Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on February 26, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant Hamas movement. (AFP)
Update Biden says Israel has agreed to stop Gaza attacks for Ramadan as Hamas mulls draft truce proposal
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Displaced Palestinians, who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, shelter at a tent camp, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 26, 2024. (REUTERS)
Update Biden says Israel has agreed to stop Gaza attacks for Ramadan as Hamas mulls draft truce proposal
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President Joe Biden eats ice cream at Van Leeuwen Ice Cream Monday, Feb. 26, 2024, in New York, as Seth Meyers watches. (AP)
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Updated 27 February 2024
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Biden says Israel has agreed to stop Gaza attacks for Ramadan as Hamas mulls draft truce proposal

US President Joe Biden walks to Marine One. (AFP)
  • Under proposed deal, hospitals and bakeries in Gaza would be repaired, 500 aid trucks would enter into the strip each day
  • Hamas would free 40 Israeli hostages in exchange for 400 Palestinian prisoners

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden said Israel has agreed to halt military activities in Gaza for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, as Hamas studied a draft proposal for a truce which includes a pause in fighting and a prisoner-hostage exchange.
The draft proposal, which a senior source close to truce talks in Paris told Reuters would allow hospitals and bakeries in Gaza to be repaired and 500 aid trucks to enter the battered enclave every day, is the most serious attempt in weeks to end the conflict which erupted in October last year.
Ramadan is expected to begin on the evening of March 10th and end on the evening of April 9th.
“Ramadan is coming up, and there’s been an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in activities during Ramadan, as well, in order to give us time to get all the hostages out,” Biden said during an appearance on NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”
He also warned that Israel risked losing international support due to the high death toll among Palestinians, adding that Israel had committed to make it possible for Palestinians to evacuate from Rafah in Gaza’s south before intensifying its campaign there to destroy Hamas.
Biden, whose remarks were recorded on Monday and broadcast on Tuesday, said there was an agreement in principle for a ceasefire between the two sides while hostages were released. He said he hoped to have a ceasefire in the conflict by the following Monday.
“There are too many innocent people that are being killed. And Israel has slowed down the attacks in Rafah,” Biden said, adding that a temporary ceasefire would jumpstart a process for Palestinians to have their own state.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected a two-state solution.
Under the draft proposal, the exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli hostages would be at a ratio of 10 to one, the senior source said.
The draft also states Hamas would free 40 Israeli hostages including women, children under 19, elderly over 50 and the sick, while Israeli would release around 400 Palestinian prisoners and will not re-arrest them, the source told Reuters.
Mediators have ramped up efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, in the hope of heading off an Israeli assault on the Gaza city of Rafah where more than a million displaced people are sheltering at the southern edge of the enclave.
After Hamas killed 1,200 people and captured 253 hostages on Oct. 7, Israel launched a ground assault on Gaza, with nearly 30,000 people confirmed killed, according to Gaza health authorities.


At UNSC meeting, Iran and US swap threats while Israel urges ‘all possible sanctions’ over Iran attack

At UNSC meeting, Iran and US swap threats while Israel urges ‘all possible sanctions’ over Iran attack
Updated 19 min 19 sec ago
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At UNSC meeting, Iran and US swap threats while Israel urges ‘all possible sanctions’ over Iran attack

At UNSC meeting, Iran and US swap threats while Israel urges ‘all possible sanctions’ over Iran attack
  • Iran envoy: If US attacks Iran, Tehran will use “its inherent right to respond proportionately” 
  • US ambassador: If Iran attacks US, it will be held responsible

NEW YORK: Iran has on Sunday said that it has no intention of engaging militarily with the US in the region, but if the latter initiates a military operation against it, its citizens, or security interests “Iran will use its inherent right to respond proportionately." 

Iran’s permanent representative to the UN Amir Saeid Iravani told a meeting of the UN Security council that his country’s Saturday attack on Israel was "precise, only targeted military objectives and was carried out carefully to minimize the potential for escalation and prevents civilian harm." 

 

 

Iran on Saturday launched dozens of drones and missiles at Israel in retaliation against an Israeli strike on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, which killed seven revolutionary guards, including two generals. Iran had warned that Israel would be “punished” for the strike, which took place on April 1. 

The emergency Security Council meeting was requested by Israel’s permanent representative to the UN Gilad Erdan who called council members to “unequivocally condemn Iran (and) immediately act to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization.” 

Iran had said that Saturday’s attack was in line with Article 51 of the UN Charter, which invokes the “inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” 

US ambassador Robert Wood warned that “if Iran or its proxies take actions against the United States or further action against Israel, Iran will be held responsible. " 

Wood condemned in the strongest terms "the unprecedented attack on Israel by Iran and its militant proxies and partners.” Iran's "reckless actions" not only posed a threat to populations in Israel, but also to other UN member states in the region, including Jordan and Iraq, he added.  

"Security Council has an obligation to not let Iran actions go unanswered,” said the US diplomat, adding that "for far too long, Iran has flagrantly violated its international legal obligations through the actions of its IRGC, by arming Hezbollah, by arming, facilitating and enabling Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE and more recently, merchant and commercial shipping in the Red Sea.” 

 

 

Wood also accused Iran of being complicit in the October 7 attack on Israel, having provided “significant funding and training for Hamas.”  

He said the US will explore “additional measures to hold Iran accountable at the UN,” and called on the Security Council to unequivocally condemn Iran's actions and call for it “and its partners and proxies to cease their attacks. " 

Israel’s Gilad Erdan compared Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Hitler. He said that in its “plot to impose a global Shiite hegemony through its proxies, Iran has even attacked Saudi Arabia, the Aramco oil field in the UAE and anyone else they view as an obstacle.” 

"The only option is to condemn Iran and utilize every means necessary to make them pay a heavy price for their horrible crimes,” Erdan told the council, as he warned that Tehran is “barreling towards nuclear capabilities, has enriched uranium up to 60% purity, and its breakout time to produce nuclear weapons is now mere weeks away.  

“Impose sanctions on Iran before it is too late," said Erdan. 

The Israeli envoy added that "we are being fired upon from all fronts, from every border. We are surrounded by Iran's terror proxies. The war in Gaza extends far broader than Israel and Hamas. All of the terror groups attacking Israel are tentacles of the same Shia octopus, the Iranian octopus." 

He warned that "while the Ayatollah regime thinks Israel is a frog in boiling water. They are wrong. This attack crossed every red line and Israel reserves the legal right to retaliate.  We are a nation of lions. Following such a massive and direct attack on Israel, the entire world let alone Israel cannot settle for inaction." 

Russia's Vasily Nebenzia accused the council of hypocrisy and double standard over its failure to convene in a similar fashion following Israel’s attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, or what he called the “now regular attacks by Israel against Syria and Lebanon.” 

The Russian envoy warned that “if the council’s inaction on such matters will continue "then your appeals to restraint by all parties can become futile." 

China's deputy permanent representative Dai Bing noted Iran’s statement that its military action was in response to Israel's aggression against his diplomatic premises and “the matter can be deemed concluded." 

Dai added that "if the flames of the Gaza conflict are allowed to continue raging, then the adverse spillover is set to spread still further, making the region, even more unstable. Countries and peoples in the Middle East, have no desire for nor can they afford a larger conflict or war." 

Algeria's Deputy Permanent Representative Nacim Gaouaoui said recent developments cannot overrule the central question “which is the aggression on the Palestinian people in Gaza, and at the same time, it can never be used as a pretext or cover to launch a land attack against Rafah.  

“Algeria calls again for ceasefire, and an end to Israel's heinous killing machine.” 

Slovenia's Samuel Zbogar condemned the attacks on Israel in same way Slovenia condemned the attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus earlier in April. 

"The sequence of these events accelerates the spiral of violence, escalating into a broader conflict of unpredictable scope,” Zbogar said, as he urged all parties to “choose the path of dialogue and diplomacy, and refrain from further retaliations." 

"Slovenia continues to believe that a ceasefire in Gaza would have a calming effect on tensions in the region. Every moment we delay the risk of a broader conflict increases in these chaotic times," added Zbogar.  

Malta's UN ambassador Vanessa Frazier said the Middle East is experiencing “one of the bleakest and most volatile periods in modern history, which risks spiraling out of control if all sides do not take a step back. 

"Focus should be on defusing tensions by advocating for an immediate and permanent cease fire to the war in Gaza, facilitate immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and ensure the delivery of sustained humanitarian aid throughout Gaza. All we are witnessing, our steps in the opposite direction," lamented Frazier.  

Sierra Leone’s UN ambassador Michael Imran Kanu warned that “the escalating tension in the Middle East is dangerous and unprecedented, with the potential to destabilize not only the entire region, but impact global peace and security.” 

UK’s permanent representative to the UN Barbara Woodward condemned Iran’s attack on Israel and accused Tehran of being intent on sowing chaos in the region.   

“As we have demonstrated, the United Kingdom will continue to stand up for Israel's security, and that of all our regional partners, including Jordan and Iraq.” 

France’s deputy permanent representative Nathalie Broadhurst said Iran crossed a new threshold in its destabilizing action and is risking a military escalation for which “it would be responsible.”  

Broadhurst called upon Tehran and its allies “to at long last, and without further delay cease their destabilizing activities throughout the region.” 

 


Biden in ‘very tough spot’ trying to stop Middle East escalation

Biden in ‘very tough spot’ trying to stop Middle East escalation
Updated 15 April 2024
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Biden in ‘very tough spot’ trying to stop Middle East escalation

Biden in ‘very tough spot’ trying to stop Middle East escalation
  • Biden has been trying to avoid a regional war that could suck the United States back into the Middle East ever since Hamas’s October 7 attack

WASHINGTON: Iran’s attack on Israel gives Joe Biden a familiar dilemma, but on steroids — how to balance support for a difficult ally while preventing the nightmare scenario of a wider war?
Tensions with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Israel’s war on Gaza were papered over as the US president offered “ironclad” support, including shooting down Iranian drones.
But the White House said it would not support an Israeli counterattack and warned Israel to “think carefully” about escalation that could trigger a full-blown regional conflict.
The question then for Biden, who is facing a tough reelection battle against Donald Trump in November, is what if Netanyahu goes ahead anyway, as he has done in Gaza?
“It puts him in a very tough spot” Colin Clarke, Director of Research at the Soufan Group, told AFP.
“I think he’s suspicious of Netanyahu’s motives here... that Netanyahu is attempting to broaden the war throughout the region to deflect from how poorly the war is going for him in Gaza.”
Biden has been trying to avoid a regional war that could suck the United States back into the Middle East ever since Hamas’s October 7 attack and Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip.
The 81-year-old has, however, struggled to use the leverage provided by the United States being Israel’s main military supplier, especially given a long history of tense relations with Netanyahu.
Biden has been increasingly critical of the death toll in the Palestinian territory and even went as far as suggesting the US could limit military aid, but so far to little effect.
Iran’s attack has seen Biden go back to showing overt support — but at the same time scrambling to stop the crisis spiraling.
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Netanyahu was “well aware” that Biden did not want a “wider war.”
Biden himself warned Netanyahu of the potential dangers in a call on Saturday night at a time of “heightened emotion.”
“The president had a discussion about trying to slow things down, think through things,” a US official said.
The hope was that “in the light of day” Israel would see it had had a “spectacular success” against Iran’s attack, added the official.
Washington’s calculus looks to be that Iran also got what it wanted, with a show of force in retaliation for Israel’s strike in Damascus earlier this month that killed a key Iranian general, but with minimal damage.
“However, I fear the status quo will be short-lived,” said James Ryan, Executive Director of the Middle East Research and Information Project, warning of a “dangerous spiral.”
“I expect Biden to attempt to restrain Israeli responses, but Netanyahu has already shown a willingness to test any kind of limit Biden wishes to impose,” he added.
“It’s all very cynical now, unfortunately.”
Biden’s options for restraining Israel are likely to be limited at this stage to tough language in private and making threats in public.
“They’ve got themselves into a corner in many ways,” said Clarke.
“I think they’ve overplayed their hand a little bit by saying the administration is considering cutting off weapons to the Israelis. It’s never going to happen — I think it’s an empty threat, especially in an election year.”
The US presidential election in November comes as Biden faces domestic political pressure on all sides when it comes to Israel.
Trump has led a chorus of Republicans accusing Biden of being weak on the issue — while young and left-wing voters in particular are angered by his failure to stop the bloodshed in Gaza.
Netanyahu, facing his own political and legal issues at home, would now be able to use the Iran attacks to “paper over the very real rifts that exist” with Washington on Gaza, said Clarke.
“If he can drag this out until November, he’s hoping for a Trump victory” when he would have “carte blanche” to act however he wanted in the region, said Clarke.
Another possibility, however, is that Netanyahu may decide to “accede to American urgings” for now on Iran — but with a cost, said Paul Salem, President and CEO of the Middle East Institute.
“Politically, I think they can cash in on saying, ‘okay, America, we won’t do anything, we’re being good. But in exchange, you have to, you know, give us more of a free hand in Gaza,’” he said.


G7 ‘ready to take measures’ over destabilization by Iran

G7 ‘ready to take measures’ over destabilization by Iran
Updated 15 April 2024
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G7 ‘ready to take measures’ over destabilization by Iran

G7 ‘ready to take measures’ over destabilization by Iran
  • Going forward we will reflect on additional sanctions against Iran in close cooperation with our partners: Ursula von der Leyen

ROME: G7 leaders offered their full support for Israel on Sunday following an attack by Iran, and said they were ready to “take further measures” in response to “further destabilising initiatives.”
In a statement following a video meeting, the leaders of the Group of Seven powers said they “unequivocally condemn in the strongest terms Iran’s direct and unprecedented attack against Israel.”
“We express our full solidarity and support to Israel and its people and reaffirm our commitment toward its security,” they said, in the statement published by the Italian G7 presidency.
“With its actions, Iran has further stepped toward the destabilization of the region and risks provoking an uncontrollable regional escalation. This must be avoided.
“We will continue to work to stabilize the situation and avoid further escalation.
“In this spirit, we demand that Iran and its proxies cease their attacks, and we stand ready to take further measures now and in response to further destabilising initiatives.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a separate statement: “Going forward we will reflect on additional sanctions against Iran in close cooperation with our partners. Specifically on its drone and missile programs.”
Iran launched the attack, its first ever to directly target Israeli territory, in retaliation for a deadly air strike widely blamed on Israel that destroyed its consular building in Syria’s capital early this month.
The attack came as the Israel-Hamas war raged in besieged Gaza.
The G7 — which groups the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada — also said Sunday they would step up efforts to end that crisis.
“We will also strengthen our cooperation to end the crisis in Gaza, including by continuing to work toward an immediate and sustainable ceasefire and the release of hostages by Hamas, and deliver increased humanitarian assistance to Palestinians in need,” they said.
The Israel-Hamas war began with an unprecedented October 7 attack by the militant group against Israel, resulting in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,729 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.


Heavy rain and flash floods kill 33 in Afghanistan

Heavy rain and flash floods kill 33 in Afghanistan
Updated 14 April 2024
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Heavy rain and flash floods kill 33 in Afghanistan

Heavy rain and flash floods kill 33 in Afghanistan
  • Most casualties were from roof collapses while some 600 houses were damaged or destroyed
  • Some 20 of the nation’s 34 provinces were lashed by heavy rains after an unusually dry winter

KABUL: At least 33 people have been killed over three days of heavy rains and flash flooding in Afghanistan, the government’s disaster management department said Sunday.
“From Friday onward, because of the rains there were flash floods which caused high human and financial losses,” department spokesman Janan Sayeq said.
“The primary information shows that, unfortunately, in the floods, 33 people were martyred and 27 people got injured.”
Most casualties were from roof collapses while some 600 houses were damaged or destroyed, nearly 600 kilometers (370 miles) of road demolished, and around 2,000 acres of farmland “flooded away,” Sayeq said.
Some 20 of the nation’s 34 provinces were lashed by the heavy rains, which have followed an unusually dry winter season which has parched terrain and forced farmers to delay planting.
Since the Taliban returned to power in 2021 the flow of foreign aid into the impoverished country has drastically diminished, hindering relief responses to natural disasters.
At least 25 people were killed in a landslide after massive snowfall in eastern Afghanistan in February, whilst around 60 were killed in a three-week spate of precipitation ending in March.
The United Nations last year warned “Afghanistan is experiencing major swings in extreme weather conditions.”
Scientists say harsh weather patterns are being spurred by climate change and after being ravaged by four decades of war Afghanistan ranks among the nations least prepared to face the phenomenon.


Pope warns against ‘spiral of violence’ after Iran attack

Pope warns against ‘spiral of violence’ after Iran attack
Updated 14 April 2024
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Pope warns against ‘spiral of violence’ after Iran attack

Pope warns against ‘spiral of violence’ after Iran attack
  • The Pope once again repeated earlier calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and negotiation

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Sunday made a “pressing appeal” against a “spiral of violence” after Iran’s unprecedented missile and drone attack on Israel, warning of a potential regional conflagration.
“I make a pressing appeal for an end to any action which could fuel a spiral of violence that risks dragging the Middle East into an even greater conflict,” the Argentinian pontiff declared following his traditional Sunday prayer in Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
“I am praying and following with concern, but also pain, the news that has come in recent hours about the worsening situation in Israel due to Iran’s intervention,” the pope told worshippers.
“No one should threaten the existence of others. All countries must, however, side with peace and help Israelis and Palestinians to live in two states, side by side and in security,” he said.
“That is their right,” Francis insisted as he once again repeated earlier calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and “negotiation.”
The pontiff futhermore demanded the world “help the population facing a humanitarian crisis” in Gaza and urged the “immediate release of the hostages kidnapped months ago” by Hamas, setting in train the latest chapter of violence in the region.