PALESTINE

Tue 27 Feb 2024 6:17 pm - Jerusalem Time

Israel and Hamas contradict Biden claim that Gaza ceasefire is close

BY MUSTAFA ABU SNEINEH  

A proposed ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas is reported to include a temporary 40-day truce, the release of 40 Israeli captives in return for 400 Palestinian prisoners, and the entry of humanitarian aid and mobile shelters into Gaza.


Casualties

  • 29,878+ killed* and at least 70,215 wounded in the Gaza Strip.
  • 380+ Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem
  • Israel revises its estimated October 7 death toll down from 1,400 to 1,147.
  • 580 Israeli soldiers killed since October 7, and at least 3,221 injured.**


Key Developments

  • U.S. President Joe Biden says regarding a deal between Israel and Hamas: “Well, I hope by the beginning of the weekend, by the end of the weekend.”
  • Biden adds, “Ramadan’s 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.”
  • Latest deal framework consists of temporary truce for 40 days, release of 40 Israeli hostages in return for 400 Palestinian prisoners, and release of five Israeli soldiers in return for 15 Palestinian national figures in Israeli jails.
  • Israeli and Hamas officials met Biden’s optimistic language less enthusiastically. Israeli official told Yedioth Ahronoth “we do not understand what the American president’s optimism is based on.”
  • PRCS says it evacuated another 24 patients from Al-Amal Hospital, with help of United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
  • Israeli forces obstruct PRCS and OCHA convoy from reaching Al-Amal for seven hours at military checkpoint, arrest three paramedics.
  • Israeli bombing near Kuwaiti Hospital in downtown Rafah, kill nine members of Al-Zatma family.
  • Israel’s aggression on Gaza has killed at least 5,379 students and injured 8,888 others since October.
  • Amnesty International says Israel “failed to take even the bare minimum steps to comply” with ICJ ruling to prevent genocide in Gaza.
  • Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in Tubas town and Al-Faraa refugee camp in West Bank.

Joe Biden says “We’re close. We’re not done yet”

U.S. President Joe Biden said that he hopes a ceasefire will be reached between Israel and Hamas by next week, which would end Israel’s aggression on Gaza and secure the release of the Israelis taken captive on October 7, 2023.

“Well, I hope by the beginning of the weekend, by the end of the weekend,” he told reporters. His comment came as an Israeli delegation flew for intensive talks to Qatar, which plays a mediator role along with Egypt. 

“My national security adviser tells me that we’re close. We’re close. We’re not done yet. My hope is, by next Monday, we’ll have a ceasefire,” Biden added while visiting an ice cream shop in New York on Monday. 

Indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas have been going on since December, but so far, they have not borne fruit. They have been hindered by the Israeli assassination of Hamas leader Saleh Aruri in January, the ground invasion of Khan Younis, and most recently, the threats to invade Rafah, where 1.4 million Palestinians are currently sheltering.

Biden also said that Israel “agreed” to end its military operations in the Gaza Strip for almost six weeks, which include the months of Ramadan that starts on March 10 and ends on April 9.

“Ramadan’s 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.

The American president is “an optimist”

There have been a few frameworks for a deal between Israel and Hamas that have been leaked since December.

The most recent one, but yet to be confirmed by either Israeli or Hamas officials, is a temporary truce for 40 days, the release of 40 Israeli hostages, five female soldiers, and 35 civilians, in return for 400 Palestinian prisoners.

Israel’s air force will cease flights over Gaza for eight hours a day, withdraw from several areas, and allow the gradual return of Palestinians to north Gaza, except men “who are at the age of enlistment for Hamas,” Yediot Ahronoth reported.

The deal involves the entry of 500 trucks of humanitarian aid daily into Gaza, 200,000 tents for displaced families, and 60,000 mobile homes.

In addition, Israel agreed to an American proposal to free 15 Palestinian national figures from Israeli jails in return for the release of five Israeli soldiers. 

However, Israeli and Hamas officials met Biden’s optimistic language less enthusiastically. A senior Israeli official told Yedioth Ahronoth that “we do not understand what the American president’s optimism is based on.”

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas political chief, said the movement “will not allow the enemy to use negotiations as a cover for this crime”. Previously, Hamas described the optimism of reaching a deal as “far from the truth.”

Biden’s comment seems to be more about the U.S. presidential race and less about ending the Israeli assault on Gaza. His campaign is attempting to win Muslim and Arab American voters in states such as Michigan, which votes today in a Democratic primary to choose the party’s presidential candidate, and where anger over the administration’s firm support of Israel’s war on Gaza is profound.


Israeli forces obstruct PRCS and OCHA rescue convoy 

In the past 24 hours, Israeli forces committed 11 “massacres” in various areas of the Gaza Strip, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health on Telegram, killing at least 96 Palestinian martyrs and injuring 172 people.

The ministry said that Israeli forces are still laying siege over the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, where 120 patients are in urgent need of evacuation.

“The [electric] generators stopped, the oxygen [cylinders] ran out, the sewage network malfunctioned, the water was cut off, the accumulation of waste, and the lack of medical capabilities hinder work at the Nasser Medical Complex,” the ministry said on Tuesday morning.

The Israeli siege of the Nasser and Al-Amal Hospitals in Khan Younis has been going on since late January, forcing both out of service.

On Tuesday morning, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said it evacuated another 24 patients from the Al-Amal Hospital, with the help of United Nations Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

PRCS said Israeli forces obstructed the PRCS and OCHA convoy from reaching Al-Amal despite pre-coordination with them to supply materials, food, and water to the hospital. The convoy was stopped for seven hours at a military checkpoint west of the Al-Amal Hospital.

Israeli forces ordered paramedics to get out of their vehicles and sit down on the ground, while three paramedics were detained after being stripped from their clothes and tied up. One was released later, while Jihad Aslim and Ramadan Ashour are still detained, Wafa news reported. 

Israel’s aggression has killed at least 5,379 students in Gaza

Israeli forces bombed several areas in the Gaza Strip overnight, including Rafah, Gaza City, and Khan Younis.

Israeli artillery shelled Gaza’s southern neighborhoods of Al-Daraj, Al-Zaytoun and Al-Sabra. It also bombed Tel al-Hawa and Deir al-Balah, Al-Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

An Israeli bombing near the Kuwaiti Hospital in downtown Rafah, killed nine members of Al-Zatma family, Wafa reported. 

Palestinian paramedics recovered on Monday the bodies of five people under the rubble of a bombed house in Al-Qarara town, near Khan Younis, Wafa said.

Palestine’s Ministry of Education said in a new report that 620,000 students in the Gaza Strip have remained out of schools since October, with most schools having been either damaged, destroyed, or turned into a shelter. 

Israel’s aggression on Gaza killed at least 5,379 students and injured 8,888, the ministry said on Tuesday. In the occupied West Bank, Israeli forces or settlers have killed 48 Palestinian students and injured 305 others in nearly five months. 

In Gaza, Israel bombed or damaged a total of 351 schools and killed 255 teachers and staff.

UN chief says Security Council “needs serious reform”

On Tuesday, the UN Security Council is scheduled to discuss the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, including the lack of food and drinking water. It is unclear what will come out of it. 

The Security Council has been dominated by the U.S. power to veto every resolution proposing an end to Israel’s war on Gaza. 

The UN chief Antonio Guterres warned that credibility is in danger after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Israel’s aggression on Gaza which“has severely – perhaps fatally – undermined its authority.”

“The Council needs serious reform to its composition and working methods,” Guterres said.

On Monday, Jordan said it made four airdrops carrying aid over the Gaza Strip. However, some of the aid landed in the sea, pushing some Palestinians to enter the water to fish it out.

Jordan said it “aimed at delivering aid to the population directly and drop it along the coast of the Gaza Strip from north to south.”

This is the 16th humanitarian airdrop operation carried out by Jordan’s air force since October, following coordination with Israel, which dominates the skies over Gaza. Amman has also established a military field hospital in northern Gaza.

“Four C-130 aircraft, one of them belonging to the French armed forces, carried out the deliveries,” Jordan said on Monday.

However, these deliveries are way short of meeting the harsh conditions the majority of Palestinians in Gaza are living under. In Rafah, an area in southern Gaza of 65 square kilometers, there are 1.4 million Palestinians who lack sufficient food, drinking water, and decent shelter.

Amnesty International says Israel “failed to comply with ICJ ruling”

More than 50 states and organizations have presented their testimony at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which concluded its hearings on Monday, discussing the illegality of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said on Monday that “a just, lasting and comprehensive peace based on a two-state solution in Palestine is the only way to ensure security and stability of all people in the region and protect them from the cycle of violence.”

ICJ is expected to issue a non-binding legal opinion by the judges on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands captured in June 1967, sometime this summer.

Israel has shunned sending a representative to the Hague, instead filing a five-page written statement, saying that the ICJ’s case “aimed at harming Israel’s rights to defend itself from existential threats.”

On Monday, it submitted a report to the ICJ detailing steps it is taking to comply with a court order in January, to prevent genocidal actions in Gaza. Since then, Israel killed nearly 3,000 Palestinians.

Amnesty International said that Israel “failed to take even the bare minimum steps to comply” with the ICJ ruling.

Heba Morayef, the Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, said that “not only has Israel created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, but it is also displaying a callous indifference to the fate of Gaza’s population by creating conditions which the ICJ has said places them at imminent risk of genocide.”

Israeli forces kill three Palestinians in Tubas; arrest workers from Gaza 

Israeli forces killed three Palestinians in the early hours of Tuesday in Tubas town and Al-Faraa refugee camp.

Following a night raid of Tubas, Israeli soldiers shot and killed Ahmed Daraghmeh, 26, from Tubas, Osama Jabr Al-Zalt, 31, and Muhammad Samih Bayadsa, 32, both from Al-Faraa camp.

Wafa reported that Israeli forces deployed snipers in Al-Faraa and stormed the area with several bulldozers, destroying roads and urban infrastructure.

Israeli forces also arrested several Palestinians, including 30 workers from Gaza and the West Bank in Barta’a town, south of Jenin.

Wafa said that forces raided a residential building in Bara’a, close to an industrial zone, wreaked havoc in the houses, conducting the arrests. Those from Gaza are still detained, while workers from the West Bank have been released.

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Israel and Hamas contradict Biden claim that Gaza ceasefire is close