Egypt takes key role in renewed diplomatic push for truce in Gaza

Update Egypt takes key role in renewed diplomatic push for truce in Gaza
Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, around two-thirds of them children and women. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 27 April 2024
Follow

Egypt takes key role in renewed diplomatic push for truce in Gaza

Egypt takes key role in renewed diplomatic push for truce in Gaza
  • High-level delegation in Israel for talks after Cairo visit by Israeli military and spy chiefs
  • Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel to make clear ‘will not tolerate’ Israel’s deployments of troops along Gaza-Egypt border

CAIRO: A high-level Egyptian delegation was in Israel for talks on Friday amid a new diplomatic push for a truce in the Gaza war and the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas.

The visit followed a trip to Cairo on Thursday by Israeli army chief Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi and Shin Bet domestic intelligence service head Ronen Bar.

Officials in Israel described the latest moves as “an attempt by Egypt to restart the talks” after previous mediation efforts led by Qatar broke down. They told the Egyptian delegation that Israel was ready to give hostage negotiations “one last chance” to reach a deal before moving forward with an invasion of the southern city of Rafah.

“Israel told Egypt that it is serious about preparations for the operation in Rafah and that it will not let Hamas drag its feet,” one official said.

FASTFACT

34,356

Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip during more than six months of war between Israel and Hamas.

Egypt is concerned about a potential influx of Palestinian refugees from Gaza if the war continues with the long-threatened Israeli offensive into Rafah, and has taken an increasingly active role in the negotiations.

“The Egyptians are really picking up the mantle on this. Egypt wants to see progress, not least because it’s worried about a prospective Rafah operation,” the official said.

Israel was increasingly looking past Qatar as a main broker, according to the official, after it failed to respond to Israeli demands to expel Hamas leaders from its territory or curb their finances.

“Qatar is still involved but in a lesser capacity,” the official said. “It’s clear to everyone they failed to deliver, even when it came to expelling Hamas or even shutting down their bank accounts.”

Hamas officials said they still considered Qatar a key mediator, alongside Egypt.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said he saw fresh momentum in the talks.

“I believe that there is a renewed effort … to try to find a way forward,” he said “Do I think that there is … new life in these hostage talks? I believe there is.” 

No new proposals

An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Israel had no new proposals to make, although it was willing to consider a limited truce in which 33 hostages would be released by Hamas, instead of the 40 previously under discussion.

“There are no current hostage talks between Israel and Hamas, nor is there a new Israeli offer in that regard,” the official said. “What there is, is an attempt by Egypt to restart the talks with an Egyptian proposal that would entail the release of 33 hostages — women, elderly and infirm.”

According to Israeli media reports, Israeli intelligence officials believe there are 33 female, elderly and sick hostages left alive in Gaza, out of a total of 133 still being held by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups.

There was no decision on how long any truce would last but if such an exchange were agreed, the pause in fighting would be “definitely less than six weeks,” the official said.

The visit by the Egyptian delegation came a day after the United States and 17 other countries appealed to Hamas to release all of its hostages as a pathway to end the crisis in Gaza. Hamas vowed not to relent to international pressure.

Hamas said it was “open to any ideas or proposals that take into account the needs and rights of our people.” However it stuck to central demands Israel has rejected, and said it criticized the statement for not calling for a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

 


Week before presidential election, Iranians divided on whether voting will address pressing problems

Week before presidential election, Iranians divided on whether voting will address pressing problems
Updated 8 sec ago
Follow

Week before presidential election, Iranians divided on whether voting will address pressing problems

Week before presidential election, Iranians divided on whether voting will address pressing problems
  • Iranians head to the polls on June 28 to choose from six candidates, five conservatives and a relative reformist
  • Election comes as Iran grapples with economic pressures, international sanctions, compulsory headscarves for women

TEHRAN: With just a week remaining before a presidential election, Iranians are divided over whether voting will address pressing economic issues and mandatory hijab laws.
Iranians head to the polls on June 28 to choose from six candidates — five conservatives and a relative reformist — to succeed Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash last month.
The election comes as Iran grapples with economic pressures, international sanctions and enforcement of the compulsory headscarves for women.
“They promise change, but won’t do much,” said Hamid Habibi, a 54-year-old shop owner at Tehran’s bustling Grand Bazar.
“I’ve watched the debates and campaigns; they speak beautifully but need to back their words with action,” he said.
Despite his skepticism, Habibi plans to vote next week.
The candidates have held two debates, each pledging to tackle the financial challenges impacting the country’s 85 million people.
“The economic situation is deteriorating daily, and I don’t foresee any improvements,” said Fariba, a 30-year-old who runs an online store.
“Regardless of who wins, our lives won’t change,” she said.

Others, like 57-year-old baker Taghi Dodangeh, remain hopeful.
“Change is certain,” he said, viewing voting as a religious duty and national obligation.
But Jowzi, a 61-year-old housewife, expressed doubts, especially about the candidate line-up.
“There’s hardly any differences between the six,” she said. “One cannot say any of them belongs to a different group.”
Iran’s Guardian Council approved six candidates after disqualifying most moderates and reformists.
Leading contenders include conservative parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and the sole reformist candidate, Masoud Pezeshkian.
Keshvar, a 53-year-old mother, intends to vote for the candidate with the most robust economic plan.
“Young people are grappling with economic hardships,” she said.
“Raisi made efforts, but on the ground, things didn’t change much for the general public, and they were unhappy.”
In the 2021 election that brought Raisi to power, many voters stayed away, resulting in a participation rate just under 49 percent — the lowest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has urged a high voter turnout.
Yet, 26-year-old shopkeeper Mahdi Zeinali said he would only vote if a candidate proves to be “the right person.”
This election comes at a turbulent time, with the Gaza war raging between Iran’s adversary Israel and Tehran-backed Palestinian militant group Hamas, along with ongoing diplomatic tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.
Compulsory hijab laws remain contentious, particularly since mass protests triggered by the 2022 death in custody of Mahsa Amini.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, was detained for an alleged breach of Iran’s dress code for women, who are required to cover their heads and necks and wear modest clothing in public.
Despite increased enforcement, many women, especially in Tehran, defy the dress code.
Fariba expressed concern that after the election, “things would go back to where they were,” and young women won’t be able to remove their headscarves.
Jowzi, an undecided voter who wears a veil, regards it as a “personal” choice and opposes state interference.
“It makes no difference who becomes president,” she said.
“What’s important is what they actually do. It’s not important to me whether or not they have a turban. They need to act humanely.”


UAE contributes $5 million to United Nations OCHA for humanitarian efforts in Sudan

UAE contributes $5 million to United Nations OCHA for humanitarian efforts in Sudan
Updated 38 min 17 sec ago
Follow

UAE contributes $5 million to United Nations OCHA for humanitarian efforts in Sudan

UAE contributes $5 million to United Nations OCHA for humanitarian efforts in Sudan

DUBAI: The UAE will allocate $5 million to support the Sudan Humanitarian Fund (SHF) that would be managed by the United Nations, state-run WAM news agency reported. 
In an agreement with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UAE contribution to the Sudan Humanitarian Fund will be managed by OCHA, in order to “facilitate access to funds to address the most critical humanitarian needs and emergencies on the ground,” WAM reported. 
Martin Griffiths, Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, in a statement said: “We are deeply grateful to the Government and the people of the United Arab Emirates for your generous support of $70 million to help bring relief to the people of Sudan through the United Nations. With this allocation, we can bolster our lifesaving support to families and communities caught up in Sudan's unprecedented humanitarian crisis.”
“The UAE’s long-term support to Sudan is a testament to our dedication to fostering a prosperous Sudan and promoting stability in the region. We are pleased to partner with OCHA and other UN agencies to deliver vital aid to those most impacted,” according to Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s Assistant Minister for Political Affairs and Envoy of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“I reiterate the UAE’s unwavering position is to call for an immediate and permanent ceasefire, and a peaceful solution to the crisis,” she added.

Meanwhile, Emirati officials also signed an agreement with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) to address the humanitarian crisis in Sudan and prevent the imminent risk of famine. 

FAO has received US$5 million in funding from the UAE, which will be directed towards the project titled ‘Mitigating Famine in Sudan – Support to Conflict-Affected Vulnerable Smallholder Farming and Pastoralist Households’.

The FAO project, set to run for one year, aims to provide emergency crop, livestock, and veterinary assistance to 275,000 vulnerable smallholder farmer and pastoralist households, benefiting approximately 1,375,000 individuals.

The UAE contributions to OCHA and FAO are part of a broader commitment of $70 million dedicated to addressing urgent humanitarian needs in Sudan, through UN agencies and humanitarian organizations.

This funding is a substantial portion of the $100 million pledge made by the UAE in April at a global humanitarian conference for Sudan and its neighboring countries.
This contribution takes the total amount of UAE aid to Sudan in the past 10 years to more than $3.5 billion.


Red Cross says 22 killed in shelling near Gaza office

Red Cross says 22 killed in shelling near Gaza office
Updated 22 June 2024
Follow

Red Cross says 22 killed in shelling near Gaza office

Red Cross says 22 killed in shelling near Gaza office
  • “This grave security incident is one of several in recent days,” Red Cross says
  • Humanitarian organization says Gaza office was ‘damaged’ in a shell attack Friday 

GENEVA: The International Committee of the Red Cross said its Gaza office was ‘damaged’ by in a shell attack Friday that killed at least 22 people who had taken shelter around the compound.
The ICRC did not say who fired the “heavy calibre projectiles” but in a statement on the X platform said they “damaged the structure of the ICRC office,” which is surrounded by hundreds of displaced persons living in tents.
It said 22 bodies and 45 wounded had been taken to a nearby Red Cross field hospital after the shelling, and there were “reports of additional casualties.”
“Heavy-calibre projectiles landed within meters of the office and residences of the International Committee of the Red Cross on Friday afternoon,” the statement said.
“Firing so dangerously close to humanitarian structures, of whose locations the parties to the conflict are aware and which are clearly marked with the Red Cross emblem, puts the lives of civilians and Red Cross staff at risk,” said the body.
“This grave security incident is one of several in recent days,” it added.
“Previously stray bullets have reached ICRC structures. We decry these incidents that put the lives of humanitarians and civilians at risk.”

 


Red Cross says 22 killed in shelling near Gaza office

Red Cross says 22 killed in shelling near Gaza office
Updated 22 June 2024
Follow

Red Cross says 22 killed in shelling near Gaza office

Red Cross says 22 killed in shelling near Gaza office
  • It said 22 bodies and 45 wounded had been taken to a nearby Red Cross field hospital after the shelling, and there were “reports of additional casualties”

GENEVA: The International Committee of the Red Cross said its Gaza office was ‘damaged’ by in a shell attack Friday that killed at least 22 people who had taken shelter around the compound.
The ICRC did not say who fired the “heavy calibre projectiles” but in a statement on the X platform said they “damaged the structure of the ICRC office,” which is surrounded by hundreds of displaced persons living in tents.
It said 22 bodies and 45 wounded had been taken to a nearby Red Cross field hospital after the shelling, and there were “reports of additional casualties.”
“Heavy-calibre projectiles landed within meters of the office and residences of the International Committee of the Red Cross on Friday afternoon,” the statement said.
“Firing so dangerously close to humanitarian structures, of whose locations the parties to the conflict are aware and which are clearly marked with the Red Cross emblem, puts the lives of civilians and Red Cross staff at risk,” said the body.
“This grave security incident is one of several in recent days,” it added.
“Previously stray bullets have reached ICRC structures. We decry these incidents that put the lives of humanitarians and civilians at risk.”

 


Likely Yemen Houthi rebel attack targets ship in Gulf of Aden as Eisenhower reportedly heads home

Likely Yemen Houthi rebel attack targets ship in Gulf of Aden as Eisenhower reportedly heads home
Updated 22 June 2024
Follow

Likely Yemen Houthi rebel attack targets ship in Gulf of Aden as Eisenhower reportedly heads home

Likely Yemen Houthi rebel attack targets ship in Gulf of Aden as Eisenhower reportedly heads home
  • The Yemeni militant Houthi group has been launching drone and missile strikes in the key waterway since November in what it says is solidarity with Palestinian militants in Gaza

DUBAI: A commercial ship traveling through the Gulf of Aden saw explosions near the vessel, authorities said Saturday, likely the latest attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels attempting to target the shipping lane.
The apparent fire by the Houthis comes after the sinking this week of the ship Tutor, which marked what appears to be a new escalation by the Iranian-backed Houthis in their campaign of attacks on ships in the vital maritime corridor over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, US officials reportedly ordered the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, the aircraft carrier leading America’s response to the Houthi attacks, to return home.
The captain of the ship targeted late Friday saw “explosions in the vicinity of the vessel,” the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said.
“The crew are reported safe and the vessel is proceeding to its next port of call,” the UKMTO said, without elaborating on whether the ship sustained any damage.
The Houthis, who have held Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, since 2014, did not immediately claim the attack. However, it can take the rebels hours or even days to acknowledge their assaults.
The Houthis on Friday released footage of one of their drone boats, the “Tufan,” or “Flood,” which they said targeted the Tutor.
The Houthis have launched more than 60 attacks targeting specific vessels and fired off other missiles and drones in their campaign that has killed a total of four sailors. They have seized one vessel and sunk two since November. A US-led airstrike campaign has targeted the Houthis since January, with a series of strikes May 30 killing at least 16 people and wounding 42 others, the rebels say.
In March, the Belize-flagged Rubymar carrying fertilizer became the first to sink in the Red Sea after taking on water for days following a rebel attack.
The Houthis have maintained that their attacks target ships linked to Israel, the United States or Britain. However, many of the ships attacked have little or no connection to the Israel-Hamas war.
Meanwhile, the US Naval Institute’s news service reported, citing an anonymous official, that the Eisenhower would be returning home to Norfolk, Virginia, after an over eight-month deployment in combat that the Navy says is its most intense since World War II. The report said an aircraft carrier operating in the Pacific would be taking the Eisenhower’s place.
The closest American aircraft carrier known to be operating in Asia is the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The Roosevelt anchored Saturday in Busan, South Korea, amid Seoul’s ongoing tensions with North Korea.