Hamas says it presses on with Gaza truce talks without Israelis

Hamas says it presses on with Gaza truce talks without Israelis
Displaced Palestinians walk around in an UNRWA school housing displaced Palestinians, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 4, 2024. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 04 March 2024
Follow

Hamas says it presses on with Gaza truce talks without Israelis

Hamas says it presses on with Gaza truce talks without Israelis
  • Ceasefire talks billed as a final hurdle to establish first extended ceasefire of five-month-old war in time for Ramadan 
  • Washington appeared to take a tougher line in demanding its ally Israel ease the plight of suffering civilians

CAIRO/RAFAH: Hamas said on Monday it was pressing on with talks on securing a ceasefire in Gaza despite Israel’s decision not to attend, while Washington appeared to take a tougher line in demanding its ally Israel ease the plight of suffering civilians.
The ceasefire talks, which began on Sunday in Cairo, are billed as a final hurdle to establish the first extended ceasefire of the five-month-old war, in time for the Ramadan Muslim fasting month which is expected to begin on Sunday.
Israel has declined public comment on the Cairo talks or its decision not to attend. A source had earlier told Reuters Israel would stay away because Hamas had refused its request for a list of names of all hostages it is holding that are still alive, information the militants say they will provide only once terms are agreed.
“Talks in Cairo continue for the second day regardless of whether the occupation’s delegation is present in Egypt,” a Hamas official told Reuters on Monday.
Washington, which is both Israel’s closest ally and a sponsor of the talks, says a deal remains close, with an agreement already effectively agreed by Israel and only awaiting approval from Hamas.
“Hamas claims it wants a ceasefire. Well, there is a deal on the table. And as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal,” Vice President Kamala Harris said on Sunday. “Let’s get a ceasefire. Let’s reunite the hostages with their families. And let’s provide immediate relief to the people of Gaza.”
In a speech signalling an apparent change of tone from the administration of President Joe Biden toward its ally, Harris also used unusually forceful language to call for Israel to do more to alleviate the humanitarian plight of the Gaza Strip.
“People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane and our common humanity compels us to act,” she said. “The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses.”
A Palestinian official close to the talks disputed the US contention that Israel had agreed to the ceasefire deal and Hamas was holding it up, saying the position appeared aimed at deflecting blame away from Israel should the talks collapse.
“The Palestinian resistance, led by Hamas, has shown the flexibility needed, but at the same time they are determined to defend their people and achieve a deal that is acceptable to the Palestinian people,” the official said.
The proposal being discussed is for a ceasefire of around 40 days, during which militants would release around 40 of the more than 100 hostages they are still holding in return for around 400 detainees held in Israeli jails.
Israeli troops would pull back from some areas, more humanitarian aid would be allowed into Gaza, and residents would be permitted to return to abandoned homes.
But the deal does not appear to address directly a Hamas demand for a clear path to permanently ending the war. Nor does it resolve the fate of more than half of the remaining hostages — Israeli men excluded from both this and earlier agreements covering women, children, the elderly and the wounded.
Israel says it will not end the war until Hamas is eradicated. Hamas says it will not free all its hostages without a deal that ends the war. Mediators have indicated they hope to overcome the standoff with promises to resolve further issues in later phases.

Rafah strike kills family
The Gaza war erupted after Hamas fighters who control the enclave burst into Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
Since then, Israel has sealed off the coastal strip, stormed nearly all of its towns and pounded it from the sky. Palestinian authorities say more than 30,000 people have been confirmed killed, with thousands of other bodies unrecovered. Most of the population has been made homeless, and the United Nations says hundreds of thousands of people face famine.
An agreement to halt fighting by Ramadan would effectively head off a threatened Israeli assault on Rafah, the last town on the southern edge of Gaza, where more than half of the enclave’s population are now sheltering, mostly in makeshift tents.
The final days leading up to that deadline have been particularly bloody. Residents have described heavy fighting since Saturday just north of Rafah in Khan Younis, the main southern city, where Israeli forces have released video showing buildings obliterated in airstrikes.
In Rafah itself, airstrikes on homes have been killing families nightly as they sleep. At least 14 corpses of a family killed overnight were laid out at a hospital morgue in Rafah on Monday morning. One of the body bags was partially unzipped so weeping relatives could stroke the hair of a dead child.
Israel’s Channel 14 News reported on Monday that several officers in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) spokesperson’s unit were leaving their jobs, including chief international spokesperson Lt. Col. Richard Hecht. It said the large number leaving at once at a time of war was unusual.
The military denied media reports that chief spokesperson Rear-Admiral Daniel Hagari had resigned, but did not directly comment on reports of other officers leaving the unit. “The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit continues to fulfil its mission of sharing the truth with transparency and accuracy, while countering misinformation — including baseless claims such as these,” it said in a statement.


Iraq hangs 11 convicted of ‘terrorism’: security, health sources

Updated 5 sec ago
Follow

Iraq hangs 11 convicted of ‘terrorism’: security, health sources

Iraq hangs 11 convicted of ‘terrorism’: security, health sources
Eleven “terrorists from Daesh group” were executed by hanging at a prison in Nasiriyah

NASIRIYAH, Iraq: Iraqi authorities have executed this week at least 11 people convicted of “terrorism,” security and health sources said Wednesday, with rights group Amnesty International condemning an “alarming lack of transparency.”
A security source told AFP that 11 “terrorists from Daesh group” were executed by hanging at a prison in Nasiriyah, while a local medical source confirmed that the health department had received the bodies of 11 executed people.

Iraqi authorities have executed this week at least 11 people convicted of “terrorism,” security and health sources said Wednesday. (Reuters)

Biden says Israel must allow aid to Palestinians ‘without delay’

Biden says Israel must allow aid to Palestinians ‘without delay’
Updated 24 April 2024
Follow

Biden says Israel must allow aid to Palestinians ‘without delay’

Biden says Israel must allow aid to Palestinians ‘without delay’
  • “We’re going to immediately secure that aid and surge it,” Biden said
  • “Israel must make sure all this aid reaches the Palestinians in Gaza without delay“

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Wednesday demanded that new humanitarian aid be allowed to immediately reach Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as key US ally Israel fights Hamas there.
“We’re going to immediately secure that aid and surge it... including food, medical supplies, clean water,” Biden said after signing a massive military aid bill for Israel and Ukraine, which also included $1 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza.
“Israel must make sure all this aid reaches the Palestinians in Gaza without delay,” he said.
US-Israel relations have been strained by Israel’s conduct of the war in Gaza and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to send troops into the southern Gazan city of Rafah, where 1.5 million people are sheltering, many in makeshift encampments.
“This bill significantly — significantly — increases humanitarian assistance we’re sending to the innocent people of Gaza who are suffering badly,” Biden said.
“They’re suffering the consequences of this war that Hamas started, and we’ve been working intently for months to get as much aid to Gaza as possible.”


Israel hits Lebanese border towns with 14 missiles

Israel hits Lebanese border towns with 14 missiles
Updated 24 April 2024
Follow

Israel hits Lebanese border towns with 14 missiles

Israel hits Lebanese border towns with 14 missiles
  • Hezbollah targets Israeli settlements in retaliation for Hanin civilian deaths
  • Hezbollah said it attacked the Shomera settlement with dozens of Katyusha rockets

BEIRUT: Clashes between Hezbollah and Israeli forces escalated sharply on Wednesday, the 200th day of conflict in southern Lebanon’s border area.

Israeli airstrikes created a ring of fire around Lebanese border towns, with at least 14 missiles hitting the area.

In the past two days, military activity in the border region has increased, with Hezbollah targeting areas in northern Acre for the first time in the conflict.

On Wednesday, Israeli strikes hit the outskirts of Aita Al-Shaab, Ramya, Jabal Balat, and Khallet Warda.

The Israeli military said it had destroyed a missile launching pad in Tair Harfa, and targeted Hezbollah infrastructure in Marqaba and Aita Al-Shaab.

Israeli artillery also struck areas of Kafar Shuba and Shehin “to eliminate a potential threat.”

Hezbollah also stepped up its operations, saying this was in retaliation for the “horrific massacre committed by the Israeli enemy in the town of Hanin, causing casualties and injuries among innocent civilians.”

A woman in her 50s and a 12-year-old girl, both members of the same family, were killed in the Israeli airstrike. Six other people were injured.

Hezbollah said it attacked the Shomera settlement with dozens of Katyusha rockets.

The group said it also targeted Israeli troops in Horsh Natawa, and struck the Al-Raheb site with artillery.

It also claimed to have killed and wounded Israeli soldiers in an attack on the Avivim settlement.

Israeli news outlets said that a rocket-propelled grenade hit a house in the settlement, setting the dwelling ablaze.

Hezbollah’s military media said that in the past 200 days of fighting with Israel, 1,998 operations had been carried out from Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq, including 1,637 staged by Hezbollah.


Egypt denies any discussions with Israel over Rafah offensive

Egypt denies any discussions with Israel over Rafah offensive
Updated 24 April 2024
Follow

Egypt denies any discussions with Israel over Rafah offensive

Egypt denies any discussions with Israel over Rafah offensive
  • Egypt reiterates opposition to any move on Rafah
  • Warnings tell of expected losses and negative repercussions

CAIRO: Egypt has denied any discussions with Israel regarding an offensive in the Palestinian city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt’s State Information Service, has refuted what has been claimed in one of the major American newspapers: that Egypt has discussed with the Israeli side its plans for an offensive in Rafah.

Rashwan has affirmed the Egyptian stance — announced several times by its political leadership — of complete opposition to the operation, which it is thought will lead to further massacres, massive human losses, and widespread destruction.

He added that Egypt’s repeated warnings have reached the Israeli side, from all channels, since Israel proposed carrying out a military operation in Rafah. These warnings tell of expected losses and the negative repercussions on the stability of the entire region.

Rashwan added that while Israel is contemplating its operation — which Egypt and most of the world and its international institutions stand against — Egyptian efforts since the beginning of the Israeli aggression had focused on reaching a ceasefire agreement and the exchange of prisoners and detainees.

He said Egypt was seeking the entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, especially the north and Gaza City, and the evacuation of wounded and sick people for treatment outside the area.

Egypt has repeatedly opposed the displacement of Palestinians from Gaza and is warning against any military operation in Rafah.


UAE announces $544m for repairs after record rains

People walk through flood water caused by heavy rains, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 17, 2024. (Reuters)
People walk through flood water caused by heavy rains, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 17, 2024. (Reuters)
Updated 24 April 2024
Follow

UAE announces $544m for repairs after record rains

People walk through flood water caused by heavy rains, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, April 17, 2024. (Reuters)
  • Wednesday's announcement comes more than a week after the unprecedented deluge lashed the desert country
  • “The situation was unprecedented in its severity but we are a country that learns from every experience,” Sheikh Mohammed said

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates announced $544 million to repair the homes of Emirati families on Wednesday after last week’s record rains caused widespread flooding and brought the Gulf state to a standstill.
“We learned great lessons in dealing with severe rains,” said Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum after a cabinet meeting, adding that ministers approved “two billion dirhams to deal with damage to the homes of citizens.”
Wednesday’s announcement comes more than a week after the unprecedented deluge lashed the desert country, where it turned streets into rivers and hobbled Dubai airport, the world’s busiest for international passengers.
“A ministerial committee was assigned to follow up on this file... and disburse compensation in cooperation with the rest of the federal and local authorities,” said Sheikh Mohammed, who is also the ruler of Dubai, which was one of the worst hit of the UAE’s seven sheikhdoms.
The rainfall was the UAE’s heaviest since records began 75 years ago.
Cabinet ministers also formed a second committee to log infrastructure damage and propose solutions, Sheikh Mohammed said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.
“The situation was unprecedented in its severity but we are a country that learns from every experience,” he said.
The storm, which dumped up to two years’ worth of rain on the UAE, had subsided by last Wednesday.
But Dubai faced severe disruption for days later, with water-clogged roads and flooded homes.
Dubai airport canceled 2,155 flights, diverted 115 and did not return to full capacity until Tuesday.