Hamas says it creates broad prospects for a ceasefire deal in Gaza

Update Hamas says it creates broad prospects for a ceasefire deal in Gaza
The United Nations Security Council adopted a US-drafted resolution supporting a ceasefire plan in Gaza, as Washington leads an intense diplomatic campaign to push Hamas to accept the proposal. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 12 June 2024
Follow

Hamas says it creates broad prospects for a ceasefire deal in Gaza

Hamas says it creates broad prospects for a ceasefire deal in Gaza
  • Hamas submitted its formal response on Tuesday to a proposal outlined by US President Joe Biden on May 31
  • Group says answer “responsible, serious and positive” and “opens up a wide pathway” for an accord

JERUSALEM/CAIRO: Hamas on Wednesday said its “positive” response to a US ceasefire plan for the eight-month-old war in the Gaza Strip opened a “wide pathway” to reach an agreement, but the outlook was uncertain as neither the Palestinian group nor Israel publicly committed to a deal.
Hamas submitted its formal response on Tuesday to a proposal outlined by US President Joe Biden on May 31. Israel said the response was tantamount to a rejection while a Hamas official said the Palestinian group merely reiterated longstanding demands not met by the current plan.
Egypt and Qatar said they had received Hamas’ response but did not disclose the contents.
Early on Wednesday, Izzat Al-Rishq, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, said in a statement the group’s answer was “responsible, serious and positive” and “opens up a wide pathway” for an accord.
Another Hamas official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters on Tuesday the response reaffirmed the movement’s stance that a ceasefire must lead to a permanent end to hostilities in Gaza, withdrawal of Israeli forces, reconstruction of the Palestinian enclave and release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
“We reiterated our previous stance. I believe there are no big gaps. The ball is now in the Israeli courtyard,” the official said.
The United States has said Israel accepted its proposal, but Israel has not publicly stated this. As Israel has continued assaults in central and southern Gaza that are among the bloodiest of the war, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel would not commit to an end of its campaign in Gaza before Hamas is eliminated.
An Israeli official said on Tuesday the country had received Hamas’ answer via the mediators and that Hamas “changed all of the main and most meaningful parameters.”
The Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Hamas “has rejected the proposal for a hostage release that was presented by President Biden.”
Earlier a non-Israeli official briefed on the matter, who declined to be identified, said Hamas proposed a new timeline for a permanent ceasefire with Israel and withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, including Rafah.
The UN Security Council on Monday voted in favor of a US resolution supporting the proposal outlined by Biden. Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters on Tuesday that Hamas accepted the Security Council resolution and was ready to negotiate over the details of a ceasefire.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Tel Aviv to meet Israeli officials on Tuesday, described the comments by Hamas as a “hopeful sign” but said they were not conclusive.
More important “is the word coming from Gaza and from the Hamas leadership in Gaza. That’s what counts, and that’s what we don’t have yet,” Blinken told reporters in Tel Aviv.

CEASEFIRE PLAN

Biden’s proposal envisages a ceasefire and phased release of Israeli hostages in Gaza in exchange for Palestinians jailed in Israel, ultimately leading to a permanent end to the war. This would be a three-phase plan starting with an initial six-week ceasefire with an Israeli military withdrawal from populated areas of Gaza and the release of some hostages while “a permanent end to hostilities” is negotiated through mediators. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Israeli official’s remarks on Tuesday. Earlier US officials said they were reviewing Hamas’ response, as did Qatar and Egypt.
For months, negotiators from the US, Egypt and Qatar have been trying to mediate a ceasefire in the enclave of 2.3 million people.
Separately, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said in a report to the Security Council that Israel’s army and security forces as well as Palestinian militants Hamas and Islamic Jihad killed and maimed children in 2023.
Israel is retaliating against Hamas, which rules Gaza, over an Oct. 7 attack by its militants.
More than 1,200 people were killed and over 250 taken hostage by Hamas during the raids, according to Israeli tallies. More than 100 hostages are believed to remain captive in Gaza.
Israel launched an air, ground and sea assault on the Palestinian territory, killing more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities. Gaza is in the grip of a humanitarian crisis due to widespread hunger, scarcity of essentials, infrastructure destruction and continuing displacement of civilians.
The US military resumed bringing humanitarian aid into the enclave via a floating pier on Tuesday after a two-day halt due to bad weather, three US officials said.
The pier was out of operation for 10 days for repairs, and briefly re-opened on Saturday. The UN still is not moving aid from the pier to warehouses while it reviews security.


Algeria places pro-democracy activists in pre-trial detention: lawyer

Algeria places pro-democracy activists in pre-trial detention: lawyer
Updated 20 July 2024
Follow

Algeria places pro-democracy activists in pre-trial detention: lawyer

Algeria places pro-democracy activists in pre-trial detention: lawyer
  • UN Special Rapporteur Clement Voule called on Algeria to “address the climate of fear caused by a string of criminal charges”

ALGIERS: Eight Algerian activists from pro-democracy protests that toppled the country’s last president have been placed in pre-trial detention while six others were released under judicial supervision, one of their lawyers said Friday.
The activists were arrested between July 8 and 15 in Bejaia, some 220 kilometers (136 miles) east of the capital Algiers.
Mira Mokhnache, a university professor and human rights defender, along with seven other activists were placed in pre-trial detention on Thursday by an investigating judge at the Sidi M’Hamed court in downtown Algiers, according to lawyer Fetta Sadat.
The protest movement, known as Hirak, broke out in February 2019 and forced longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down two months later.
The movement continued to press for deep reforms, but it waned during the Covid pandemic.
The National Committee for the Release of Detainees (CNLD) said that among the eight convicted was a man who was released from prison last month after three years of imprisonment over ties to the pro-democracy protests.
A 16-year-old whistleblower who documented Algerian political prisons on his Facebook page was among those released under judicial supervision, according to Sadat.
Local media said the group was being prosecuted under a 2021 law amendment relating to “terrorism.”
Last year, a United Nations expert called for the repeal of the article that “broadened the definition of terrorism,” and urged Algerian authorities to pardon people convicted or detained over their involvement in the pro-democracy protests.
UN Special Rapporteur Clement Voule called on Algeria to “address the climate of fear caused by a string of criminal charges.”
Dozens of people are still detained in Algeria over links to Hirak or human rights activism, according to the National Committee for the Release of Detainees.
In February, rights watchdog Amnesty International said that five years after the protests erupted, Algerian authorities had “escalated their repression of peaceful dissent.”
“It is a tragedy that five years after brave Algerians took to the streets in their masses to demand political change and reforms, the authorities have continued to wage a chilling campaign of repression,” said Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director, Heba Morayef.
The North African country is readying for presidential elections set to take place on September 7 as the incumbent President Abdelmadjid Tebboune remains its frontrunner.
 

 


Blast hits Iraq former paramilitaries depot: officials

Blast hits Iraq former paramilitaries depot: officials
Updated 20 July 2024
Follow

Blast hits Iraq former paramilitaries depot: officials

Blast hits Iraq former paramilitaries depot: officials
  • A security source confirmed the blast, adding that it “occurred in a warehouse storing equipment that belongs to Hashed Al-Shaabi”

BAGHDAD: An explosion ripped through “logistics” warehouses belonging to former pro-Iran paramilitaries south of the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Thursday, officials said.
“At 7:00 p.m. (1600 GMT)... an explosion occurred in logistics warehouses belonging to the 42 Brigade... in the Yusufiyah area, south of Baghdad,” said the Hashed Al-Shaabi — an alliance of pro-Iranian former paramilitary groups now integrated into the regular army.
The cause of the blast was not immediately known, and the Hashed said it assigned a committee to investigate.
Firefighters were battling the blaze, it added in a statement.
A security source confirmed the blast, adding that it “occurred in a warehouse storing equipment that belongs to Hashed Al-Shaabi.”
A Hashed official said he did not rule out the possibility of an “air strike.”
In April, one person was killed and eight wounded in a blast at a military base housing Hashed groups in Babylon province, south of Baghdad.
An investigation found the blast was caused by munitions stored on-site, not by an air strike.
The Hashed Al-Shaabi is an integral part of the Iraqi security apparatus under the authority of the prime minister.
It includes some pro-Iran groups which have carried out dozens of attacks against US forces in Iraq and neighboring Syria.
The latest blast comes after two drones were launched on Tuesday against an Iraqi base used by US-led troops without causing any damage.
 

 


Israel threatens reprisals for deadly Yemen rebel drone strike

Israel threatens reprisals for deadly Yemen rebel drone strike
Updated 20 July 2024
Follow

Israel threatens reprisals for deadly Yemen rebel drone strike

Israel threatens reprisals for deadly Yemen rebel drone strike
  • Israel has killed at least 38,848 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory, where fighting raged on Friday

TEL AVIV: Israel threatened reprisals Friday after a drone claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels penetrated its vaunted air defenses and killed a civilian in a Tel Aviv apartment building near a US embassy annexe.
The attack drew condemnation from UN chief Antonio Guterres and an appeal for “maximum restraint” to avoid “further escalation in the region.”
The pre-dawn strike came hours before Israel suffered another blow, a ruling by the UN’s top court that its occupation of the Palestinian territories was “illegal” and needed to end as soon as possible.
The advisory opinion of The Hague-based International Court of Justice is not binding, but it comes amid mounting international condemnation of Israel’s handling of its war on Hamas in Gaza.
The office of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas hailed the court’s decision as “a victory for justice.” Hamas said it puts “the international system before the imperative of immediate action to end the occupation.”
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has overseen a major expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, insisted: “The Jewish people are not occupiers in their own land.”
The Houthis are one of a number of Iran-backed armed groups around the Middle East that have claimed drone and missile attacks on Israel in retaliation for the Gaza war.
The group, which controls swathes of Yemen, including much of its Red Sea coast, has previously claimed attacks on Israeli cities including Ashdod, Haifa and Eilat, but Friday’s strike appears to be the first to breach Israel’s sophisticated air defenses.
The Houthis fired at Tel Aviv a “new drone called ‘Yafa’, which is capable of bypassing the enemy’s interception systems,” their spokesman Yahya Saree said.
An Israeli military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a “very big drone that can travel long distances” was used in the 3:12 am (0012 GMT) attack.
He said the drone was detected but due to “human error” the alarm was not raised in time, and it slammed into an apartment building.
Military spokesman Daniel Hagari said Israel believed the drone used was Iranian-made and upgraded so it could reach Tel Aviv from Yemen — at least 1,800 kilometers (1,100 miles) away.
Medical services said one civilian was killed and four people suffered “relatively minor” injuries.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant vowed revenge.
“The security system will settle the score with all who try to harm the state of Israel, or sends terrorism against it, in a decisive and surprising manner,” he said in comments posted on social media platform X.

In grainy security camera footage, the buzz of what appeared to be the drone was followed by an explosion that shook the building and set off car alarms.
The blast occurred about 100 meters (yards) from a US embassy annexe, said an AFP journalist who saw broken windows along the street lined with apartment blocks.
“It woke me up because the vibration of the sound was like a 747 (jet) coming in,” said Kenneth Davis, an Israeli who was staying in a hotel opposite the building which was hit.
“And then the explosion... everything blew out in the room,” he told AFPTV.
Since November, the Houthis have also carried out dozens of drone and missile attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden that they claim is Israeli-linked.
The United States and Britain launched a campaign of air strikes in January to deter the attacks on shipping.
The Gaza war was triggered by Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel which resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom are still in Gaza, including 42 the Israeli military says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 38,848 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory, where fighting raged on Friday.

Residents said clashes were heard between Palestinian fighters and the Israeli army, with explosions and shelling in the Tal Al-Hawa district of Gaza City.
The war has destroyed much of Gaza’s housing and other infrastructure, leaving virtually the entire population displaced and short of food and drinking water.
Many are living in unsanitary conditions. Health authorities in Gaza and Israel said on Thursday that poliovirus had been detected in Gaza sewage samples.
The World Health Organization said on Friday that no cases of the highly infectious disease had been discovered in Gaza so far.
 

 


Houthis damage cargo ship in Gulf of Aden as it steps up attacks

Houthis damage cargo ship in Gulf of Aden as it steps up attacks
Updated 20 July 2024
Follow

Houthis damage cargo ship in Gulf of Aden as it steps up attacks

Houthis damage cargo ship in Gulf of Aden as it steps up attacks
  • Houthis in recent weeks have become more adept at inflicting damage on their targets

CAIRO: Yemen’s Houthi militants hit and damaged a Singapore-flagged container ship with two missiles on Friday as they escalate attacks on global shipping over Israel’s war in Gaza.
The overnight assault on the Lobivia cargo ship came as the Iran-aligned Houthis also claimed responsibility for a fiery, long-range aerial drone strike in the center of Tel Aviv that killed one man and wounded four others.
The Houthis in recent weeks have become more adept at inflictingdamage on their targets. In June, the militants struck the Greek-owned Tutor coal carrier with missiles and an explosive-laden remote-controlled boat, causing it to sink.
Tutor was the second ship sunk in the Houthi campaign against commercial shipping, which since November has killed at least three sailors and upended global trade by forcing ship owners to avoid the Suez Canal trade shortcut.
“Their capacity, their access to more sophisticated weapons, has only increased over the course of this conflict,” said Gerald Feierstein, director of the Arabian Peninsula Affairs Program at the Middle East Institute in Washington.
Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saree in a television speech on Friday said the group launched the Lobivia strikes, adding that the assault also included drones. The manager of Lobivia did not immediately comment.
Lobivia was in the Gulf of Aden when the missiles struck two areas on its port side, the Joint Maritime Information Center (JMIC) said in an incident report.
The ship was located 83 nautical miles southeast of Yemen’s port city of Aden during the attack. All crew are reported safe and the ship was returning to its last port of call, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) said.
“The ship was transiting northeast along the Gulf of Aden when a merchant vessel in the vicinity observed ‘light and blast’ where the ship was located,” British security firm Ambrey said.
The ship appeared to perform evasive maneuvers immediately and switch off her automatic identification system approximately an hour later, Ambrey said.
On Tuesday, the Houthis hit the Liberia-flagged oil tanker Chios Lion with a drone boat, causing damage to the port side that left an oily trail that experts said appeared to be fuel.
Britain and the US have conducted retaliatory strikes since February, shooting down drones and bombing attack sites in Yemen.
That has come at a significant cost, said Feierstein, who was the US Ambassador to the Republic of Yemen from 2010 to 2013 under President Barack Obama.
“We’re basically spending a million dollars every time we shoot down a Radio Shack drone. That’s wearing on the Navy and wearing on our supplies,” he said.


Killing of Gaza girl, 5, may be Israeli war crime: UN experts

Killing of Gaza girl, 5, may be Israeli war crime: UN experts
Updated 46 min 34 sec ago
Follow

Killing of Gaza girl, 5, may be Israeli war crime: UN experts

Killing of Gaza girl, 5, may be Israeli war crime: UN experts
  • The UN experts said “the absence of proper investigation and accountability” five months after the facts “is deeply troubling and may in itself amount to a violation of the right to life”

GENEVA: The death of Hind Rajab, a Palestinian girl whose final appeals for help moved public opinion worldwide, may constitute a war crime, UN experts said on Friday.
“The killing of five-year old Hind Rajab, her family and two paramedics may amount to a war crime,” the experts said in a press statement.
Israeli claims its troops were not in the area at the time were “unacceptable,” they added.
In a statement, the Israeli Embassy in Geneva said that its own army was investigating.

This undated handout photograph obtained courtesy of the family shows six-year-old Palestinian girl Hind Rajab posing for a picture. (AP)

The UN experts said “the absence of proper investigation and accountability” five months after the facts “is deeply troubling and may in itself amount to a violation of the right to life.”
They also referred to “compelling evidence” on where the family’s car was in relation to an Israeli tank “and how it was shot at from very close range using a type of weapon that can only be attributed to the Israeli forces.”
“Audio recordings of calls between Hind and emergency services suggest that she was the only survivor in the car before she was also killed,” the experts added.
The UN experts, while mandated by the Human Rights Council, do not speak in its name.
The Gaza war was triggered by the Oct. 7 attack by militants on southern Israel.
Israel’s military retaliation to wipe out Hamas has killed at least 38,848 people, also mostly civilians, according to data from the Health Ministry in Gaza.