US proposes hostage-to-prisoner ratio in Gaza truce talks, Israeli official says

US proposes hostage-to-prisoner ratio in Gaza truce talks, Israeli official says
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Demonstrators attend a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government in Tel Aviv on March 23, 2024, and call for the release of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants from Gaza,. (Reuters)
US proposes hostage-to-prisoner ratio in Gaza truce talks, Israeli official says
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Police officers block the way to demonstrators during a protest in Tel Aviv on March 23, 2024, calling for the release of hostages kidnapped in the deadly October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants from Gaza. (Reuters)
US proposes hostage-to-prisoner ratio in Gaza truce talks, Israeli official says
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (2L) talks to relatives and supporters of Israelis held hostage in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Palestinian militants, as they rallied in Tel Aviv to call on the US to intervene for their release on March 22, 2024.(POOL / AFP)
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Updated 24 March 2024
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US proposes hostage-to-prisoner ratio in Gaza truce talks, Israeli official says

US proposes hostage-to-prisoner ratio in Gaza truce talks, Israeli official says
  • Israel has expressed openness to suspending its offensive for six weeks and allowing more humanitarian aid into Gaza in return for the 40 hostages
  • Hamas earlier proposed that Israel frees 1,000 jailed Palestinians in return for female, minor, elderly and infirm captives and to totally stop its offensive

JERUSALEM/CAIRO: The United States has made a “bridging proposal” for the number of jailed Palestinians to be released by Israel in exchange for every hostage freed by Hamas in any new Gaza truce, an Israeli official briefed on the Qatar-hosted talks said on Saturday.
An Israeli delegation led by Mossad chief David Barnea has been in Doha for indirect negotiations with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which CIA director William Burns is helping Qatari and Egyptian officials to mediate.
Hamas wants to parlay any deal into a permanent end to the fighting — short of a formal peace, as the Islamist group is sworn to Israel’s destruction. Israel plans to pursue the war until Hamas’s governing and military capacities are dismantled.
“During the negotiations, significant gaps came to light on the question of the ratio” of prisoners to be released for each of the 40 hostages whose potential recovery is under discussion, said an Israeli official, who requested anonymity.
“The United States put a bridging proposal on the table, to which Israel responded positively. Hamas’ response is pending.”
The official provided no details on the US proposal.
The US embassy in Israel did not immediately comment.
Asked about the hostage-to-prisoner ratio, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri referred Reuters to a proposal made by the group this month under which Israel would free between 700 and 1,000 jailed Palestinians in return for female, minor, elderly and infirm captives. Israel called that “unrealistic.”
Abu Zuhri noted Israel’s refusal to agree to call off its offensive, withdraw forces and allow displaced Palestinians to return to homes in the northern Gaza Strip: scenes of some of the most intense fighting in the almost six-month-old conflict.
“What America and the Occupation (Israel) want is to regain the captives without a commitment to end the aggression, which means the resumption of war, killing and destruction, and we can’t accept that,” Abu Zuhri said.
US President Joe Biden, echoing Israel, has said Hamas must be eliminated.
Israel has expressed openness to suspending its offensive for six weeks and allowing more humanitarian aid into Gaza in return for the 40 hostages. That would leave behind 90 hostages, out of 253 seized by Hamas in its Oct. 7 cross-border rampage that sparked the war.
Under a previous truce, in late November, Israel released three jailed Palestinians, most of them young and accused of relatively light offenses, for every hostage freed by Hamas, totalling 300 Palestinian prisoners for around 100 hostages.
Israeli officials have said they will likely have to agree to the release of a larger number of more senior Palestinian militants this time around.
Barnea flew back with other senior members of Israel’s delegation on Saturday evening, the Israeli official said, adding that their teams remain in Doha. The principals were prepared to shuttle back if the negotiations gain momentum, the official added.
The Hamas armed wing said on Saturday that an Israeli hostage had died due to “lack of medicine and food.”
Israeli officials have generally declined to respond to such announcements, accusing Hamas of psychological warfare. But Israel has itself declared 35 of the hostages dead in captivity. 


UAE allocates $70 million in humanitarian aid for Sudan

UAE allocates $70 million in humanitarian aid for Sudan
Updated 6 sec ago
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UAE allocates $70 million in humanitarian aid for Sudan

UAE allocates $70 million in humanitarian aid for Sudan

DUBAI: The UAE has said 70 percent of the $100 million pledge it announced for UN agencies last April will go towards supporting humanitarian aid efforts in Sudan, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the funds would be directed to key UN partners, including the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Food Programme, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Health Organization. The money will provide food and health support, protect women and children, and offer livelihoods and shelter in emergencies.
Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem bint Ibrahim Al-Hashemi emphasized the UAE’s commitment to humanitarian support for the Sudanese people. She highlighted ongoing efforts to provide aid in cooperation with the WFP, including operations in El-Fasher and other areas in Sudan.
Since the onset of the crisis, the UAE has launched an air bridge with Sudan and Chad, delivering 9,500 tons of food and medical supplies through 148 relief flights and a ship carrying some 1,000 tons of urgent supplies. Additionally, the UAE has supported Sudanese refugee camps in Chad and South Sudan by providing food.


Civil Defense extinguishes major fire in northern Jordan

Civil Defense extinguishes major fire in northern Jordan
Updated 23 min 50 sec ago
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Civil Defense extinguishes major fire in northern Jordan

Civil Defense extinguishes major fire in northern Jordan
  • The fire affected over 320,000 square meters of trees and dry grass

DUBAI:  Civil Defense teams on Monday extinguished a fire that spread from the Zamal area in the Koura District to the Anaba area in the Northern Mazar District.

Koura District Superintendent Bassem Al-Khalayleh informed the Jordan News Agency that the fire affected over 320 dunams (320,000 square meters) of trees and dry grass. He praised the quick response of the Civil Defense, which contained and extinguished the fire, preventing it from spreading to neighboring areas.

Al-Khalayleh urged citizens to clean the areas surrounding their homes, remove waste and dead vegetation that pose safety risks, ensure the presence and readiness of fire extinguishers, and educate individuals about fire hazards. He emphasized the dangers of throwing cigarette butts in forests, leaving flammable waste unattended, lighting fires in grassy areas, and using fireworks near forests or residential areas.

Jordan is currently experiencing a severe heatwave, with temperatures soaring to record highs of 45 degrees Celsius in several regions.

The Jordan Meteorological Department reported that the heatwave is expected to persist over the coming days, particularly impacting the desert areas, Jordan Valley, Dead Sea, and Aqaba. Residents are advised to stay indoors during peak sunlight hours, stay hydrated, and avoid strenuous outdoor activities.


Tunisian security units foil 59 sea border crossing attempts, rescue 1,806 migrants

Tunisian security units foil 59 sea border crossing attempts, rescue 1,806 migrants
Updated 18 June 2024
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Tunisian security units foil 59 sea border crossing attempts, rescue 1,806 migrants

Tunisian security units foil 59 sea border crossing attempts, rescue 1,806 migrants
  • At least 18 Tunisians were rescued on June 15 and 16 with the remainder being from sub-Saharan countries

DUBAI: Security units in Tunisia thwarted 59 attempts to illegally cross its sea borders and rescued 1,806 individuals, state news agency Tunis Afrique Press reported on Monday.

At least 18 Tunisians were rescued on June 15 and 16 with the remainder being from sub-Saharan countries, the Directorate General of the National Guard announced in a statement.

Two bodies were also recovered, and 24 wanted individuals, including smugglers and middlemen, were detained. In addition, the authorities seized boats and outboard motors used in illegal migration operations.


Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on Taiz officials

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on Taiz officials
Updated 18 June 2024
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Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on Taiz officials

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on Taiz officials
  • The minister called on the international community, the UN, and its special envoy to Yemen to condemn this attack.

DUBAI: Yemeni Minister of Information, Culture, and Tourism Muammar Al-Eryani strongly condemned the Houthi militia on Monday for targeting government officials in Taiz, state news agency SABA reported. 

The attack targeted Maj. Gen. Abdul Karim Al-Sabri, undersecretary of Taiz Governorate for defense and security affairs; Maj. Gen. Abdul Aziz Al-Majidi, acting commander of the Taiz Axis; Brig. Gen. Mohammed Al-Mahfadi, commander of Brigade 22 Mika; Samir Yahya Abdul-Ilah, director-general of the Cairo Directorate; and several other civilian, security, and military leaders. They were on a visit to National Army officers stationed at the old airport camp northwest of Taiz.

Al-Eryani said that the attack occurred less than 500 meters from the recently reopened Al-Kamp-Republican Palace road, after a decade-long siege imposed by the Houthi militia on the governorate.

The attack highlights the Houthi militia’s lack of commitment to peace and their intent to undermine any efforts to alleviate the suffering of citizens, the minister said. 

Al-Eryani called on the international community, the UN, and its special envoy to Yemen to condemn this attack. He urged for the militia to be classified as a terrorist organization, for its financial, political, and media resources to be cut off, and for measures to be taken to support the government in establishing control and achieving security throughout Yemeni territory.


US imposes new sanctions on Houthis

US imposes new sanctions on Houthis
Updated 18 June 2024
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US imposes new sanctions on Houthis

US imposes new sanctions on Houthis
  • Three individuals and six entities that facilitated the purchase of weapons for the Houthis have been sanctioned

DUBAI: New sanctions on the Iranian-supported Houthi militia have been imposed by the US, Yemen News Agency (SABA) reported.

“We have sanctioned three individuals and six entities that facilitated the purchase of weapons for the Houthis. Additionally, we have designated one ship owned by one of the sanctioned entities as prohibited property,” said US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

Miller emphasized Washington’s commitment to using “the tools available to obstruct the flow of military materials to Yemen, which enables the Houthis to launch these terrorist attacks.”

He also noted that “Houthi attacks against unarmed commercial ships continue to obstruct navigation in a vital waterway.”