World

Diplomatic push for Israel-Hamas ceasefire intensifies

Published March 5, 2024
The war has devastated wide swathes of the Hamas-run territory. Photo: AFP
The war has devastated wide swathes of the Hamas-run territory. Photo: AFP

GAZA STRIP: International mediators and Hamas delegates were in Cairo Tuesday for talks to try to secure a pause in the war in Gaza ahead of the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramazan.

Envoys from the Palestinian group and the United States were expected to meet with Qatari and Egyptian mediators for a third day of negotiations over a six-week truce, the exchange of dozens of remaining hostages for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and the flow of aid to Gaza.

Hamas says Gaza truce possible ‘within 24 to 48 hours’ if Israel accepts terms

Israeli delegates have so far stayed away from the negotiations, despite growing diplomatic pressure for a truce before Ramazan early next week.

Israeli media reported that the country’s mediators boycotted the talks after Hamas failed to provide a list of living hostages.

Senior Hamas leader Bassem Naim told AFP, however, that details on the prisoners “were not mentioned in any documents or proposals circulated during the negotiation process”.

Israel has said it believes 130 of the 250 captives taken by Hamas in the October attack that triggered the war remain in Gaza, but that 31 have been killed.

 Israel’s offensive began in response to unprecedented attack by Hamas fighters on October 7. Photo: AFP
Israel’s offensive began in response to unprecedented attack by Hamas fighters on October 7. Photo: AFP

As conditions in the besieged Palestinian territory deteriorate and the spectre of famine looms, Israel is facing increasingly sharp rebuke from its top ally the United States.

Vice President Kamala Harris expressed “deep concern about the humanitarian conditions in Gaza” during talks in Washington on Monday with Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz.

China disappointed over US veto on Israel-Hamas ceasefire vote

The same day, the World Health Organization said an aid mission to two hospitals in northern Gaza had found horrifying scenes of children dying of starvation, amid dire shortages of food, fuel and medicines.

“The lack of food resulted in the deaths of 10 children,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus after the agency visited the Al-Awda and Kamal Adwan hospitals over the weekend.

In Gaza’s main southern city Khan Yunis, which has seen heavy fighting, people described finding decomposing bodies lying in streets lined with destroyed homes and shops.

“We want to eat and live. Take a look at our homes. How am I to blame, a single, unarmed person without any income in this impoverished country?” said Nader Abu Shanab, pointing to the rubble with blackened hands.

UN tensions

The Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7 resulted in about 1,160 deaths, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Israel’s aggression has killed 30,534 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the territory.

 The war has sparked violence across the region, including near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement. Photo: AFP
The war has sparked violence across the region, including near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement. Photo: AFP

Israel has accused the United Nations of taking too long to respond to the claims, as the body published a report on Monday that said there were “reasonable grounds to believe” rapes were committed in Hamas’ attack, and that hostages taken to Gaza have also been raped.

“In most of these incidents, victims first subjected to rape were then killed, and at least two incidents relate to the rape of women’s corpses,” the report said.

Shortly before the report’s release, Israel said it was recalling its UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan over what it said was an attempt by the body to “silence” information of sexual violence by Hamas.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s spokesman denied trying to suppress the report.

Israeli spy chief in Paris for Gaza ceasefire talks

UNRWA is at the centre of efforts to provide humanitarian relief in Gaza, where aid groups warn of looming famine after nearly five months of war between Israel and the Islamist group.

UNRWA on Monday said members of its staff had been tortured by Israel, with Israel’s army accusing the agency of employing more than 450 “terrorists”.

 Israel is facing growing pressure from its top ally the United States to agree to a truce. Photo: AFP
Israel is facing growing pressure from its top ally the United States to agree to a truce. Photo: AFP

Phillipe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, has said that Israel provided no evidence against his former employees.

Lebanon strikes

The war has sparked violence across the region, including near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.

“A diplomatic solution is the only way to end the current hostilities” and achieve “a lasting fair security arrangement between Lebanon and Israel”, US envoy Amos Hochstein told reporters in Beirut on Monday, adding that “a temporary ceasefire is not enough”.

“A limited war is not containable,” he said after meeting with parliament speaker Nabih Berri, a Hezbollah ally.

On Monday, a foreign worker in northern Israel was killed and seven Indian workers were wounded in a missile strike near the Lebanese border, Israeli medics said.

Israel’s army said late Monday it had carried out strikes on Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon in response.

Israeli delegation heads to Qatar for ceasefire deal push

Hezbollah said three paramedics affiliated with the group had been killed in an Israeli strike.

 Aid organisations have warned of a looming famine in besieged Gaza.Photo: AFP
Aid organisations have warned of a looming famine in besieged Gaza.Photo: AFP

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis, who since November have fired drones and missiles at numerous ships in the Red Sea area vital for world trade, claimed responsibility for another strike.

Their claim came after marine security firm Ambrey reported a Liberian-flagged vessel was targeted and reportedly struck off Yemen.

Comments

200 characters