Progress on framework to reach truce in Gaza war reported as Israel continues pounding Palestinians - as it happened

Ahram Online , Monday 29 Jan 2024

A framework for a halt in fighting in Gaza and prisoner exchange is to be relayed to Hamas, Qatar's prime minister said Monday following meetings with US, Israeli and Egyptian officials.

Young men sit by the shallow tomb of a person killed in Israeli bombing as bodies are line up at a makeshift cemetery in a residential neighbourhood near Gaza City s al-Shabiyah district on January 29, 2024.AFP


22:30 President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed on Monday the importance of continuing funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) to enable it to fulfil its humanitarian role in the Gaza Strip.

During a phone call, both sides addressed the overall situation in the Middle East and the danger of expanding the ongoing conflict.

They also highlighted the Egyptian, regional, and international efforts that aim to reach a ceasefire, an exchange of detainees, and the delivery of humanitarian aid into the strip.

According to the Egyptian Presidential Spokesman Ahmed Fahmy, the Egyptian president and the UN secretary-general underscored the pivotal role played by the United Nations and its affiliated organizations in providing support and relief to the people of the Gaza Strip.

From his side, El-Sisi expressed his appreciation for the role played by the UN secretary-general in pushing towards calming the situation and ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid into the besieged strip.

21:00 A framework for a halt in fighting in Gaza and prisoner exchange is to be relayed to Hamas, Qatar's prime minister said Monday following meetings with US, Israeli and Egyptian officials.

Qatar, along with Egypt and the United States, has led mediation efforts since the war in Gaza broke out on 7 October. 

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, speaking in Washington at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council think tank, said "good progress" had been made during the talks in Paris.

The Qatari premier confirmed the meetings with CIA chief Bill Burns and top Israeli and Egyptian security officials had resulted in a framework for a phased truce that would see Israeli women and children captives released first, with aid also entering the besieged Gaza Strip.

The parties were "hoping to relay this proposal to Hamas and to get them to a place where they engage positively and constructively in the process," he said.

Sheikh Mohammed added that Hamas had made "a clear demand" for a "permanent ceasefire ahead of the negotiations."

The current proposal, the prime minister said, "might lead to a ceasefire permanently in the future."

Previously, Qatar mediated a one-week break in fighting that began in November and led to the release of scores of Israeli and foreign captives, as well as aid entering the besieged Palestinian territory.

Hamas took some 250 captives on 7 October, of whom Israel says around 132 remain in Gaza, including the bodies of at least 28 dead captives who were killed in the Israeli bombing of the strip.

Meanwhile, Israel holds more than 6,000 Palestinians in its jails who face torture among other harsh conditions.

Moreover, Israel has arrested thousands of Palestinians in raids in the occupied West Bank since 7 October.

Sky News Arabia reported on Monday evening that the prisoner exchange deal could see the release of 100-200 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails for every released Israeli captive.

20:00 A photograph taken on January 29 in east London shows graffiti made by Spanish street artist Nacho Welles, also known as Core246, depicting Palestinian journalist and bureau chief of Al Jazeera in Gaza City Wael al-Dahdouh, as part of a project launched by the art platform Creative Debuts called Heroes of Palestine.

Al Jazeera's Gaza bureau chief Wael al-Dahdouh left the Palestinian territory on January 16, 2024, he told AFP, after Israeli strikes killed his wife, multiple children and a colleagues.

19:00 Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip killed 215 more people within 24 hours, including 20 members of one family, said the Palestinian health ministry

This brings the death casualty toll among Palestinians since the start of the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip to nearly 27,000 killed and nearly 65,000 injured - with 70 percent of the victims women and children.

Hibiscus flowers are placed over the shallow tomb of a Palestinian killed in an Israeli bombing at a makeshift cemetery in a residential neighbourhood near Gaza City's al-Shabiyah district on January 9, 2024. AP

The Israeli army said its troops had "encountered and killed dozens of armed terrorists in battles in central Gaza."

Ground forces backed by tanks have focused their combat operations on the main southern city of Khan Younis.

An AFP journalist on a recent army-organised tour of the city witnessed tanks churning through mud amid shattered buildings, and was taken into a tunnel the army said was built by Hamas

Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers opened fire and killed a Palestinian man among a group of civilians in Khan Younis who had raised a white flag.

This image made from ITV News video shows one person on the ground after being shot. Earlier, a group of five men could be seen walking down a street west of the southern city of Khan Younis in Gaza as they held their hands in the air and one waved a white flag. A

Rocket sirens blared in Tel Aviv for the first time in weeks.

Hamas's armed wing Qassam Brigades said it had fired at the coastal city in response to "massacres against civilians" in Gaza.

18:00 Israeli police prevented right-wing activists from blocking trucks carrying humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip at the Karm Abu Salem border crossing between Israel and Gaza, in southern Israel. 

The activists say no aid should enter the territory until Israeli captives held by the Hamas militant group are released.

Israel has imposed a deadly blockade on Gaza since the start of its war on the strip on 7 October leaving 2.4 million Palestinians on the verge of starvation.

Urgent international humanitarian aid to the strip enters through the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza and the Karm Abu Salem crossing between Egypt-Gaza-Israel.

On Friday, the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide and allow humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the strip.

On Saturday, thousands of Israelis demonstrated in Tel Aviv, Haifa and other cities demanding the government reach a deal with Hamas to exchange prisoners.

Israel holds more than 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and has arrested thousands more in raids on the West Bank since 7 October.

A protester carries a portrait of an Israeli captive in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas, during a demonstration aimed at blocking aid trucks from entering the Palestinian territory, on the Israeli side of the Karm Abu Asalem border crossing with the southern Gaza Strip on January 29, 2024. AP

17:30 The White House said Washington does not want a broader war in the Middle East and ongoing talks to release Israeli hostages are "constructive."

" We don’t want a wider war in the region, but we gotta to do what we gotta to do," said John Kirby, the White House National Security spokesperson.

The statement comes one day after the Iranian-backed Iraqi group The Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed responsibility for a deadly drone attack on an American outpost - Tower 22 -  in Jordan that killed 3 soldiers and injured 30 others.

Various groups in Iraq have launched rocket and drone attacks on various US military bases in Iraq and Syria since 17 October in what they described as a response to US support for the Israeli war on the Palestinians in Gaza.

However, Sunday's attack was the first on a US post on Jordanian soil and the first to claim fatalities among US soldiers.

The statement also comes as CIA Director Bill Burns met Sunday in Paris with the director of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, David Barnea, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and Egyptian officials to discuss the latest emerging proposal to free the remaining captives held by Hamas in Gaza,

17:00 "The success of the Paris meeting is dependent on the Occupation (Israel) agreeing to end the comprehensive aggression on Gaza Strip," senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri has told Reuters.

It was not immediately clear if, with this condition met, Hamas would free all or some of the 132 hostages Israel says remain in Gaza.

Hamas had previously said a full release would require that Israel free all of the thousands of Palestinians held on security grounds in its prisons.

16:00 Columbia University students at a rally for Gaza were sprayed by skunk, a crowd control chemical weapon used by the IDF against Palestinians. 

Cameron Jones from Columbia Jewish Voice (JVP) for Peace says the university failed to protect its students

Major US universities have cracked down on pro-Palestinian voices since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza.

JVP has played a key role in organizing protests against the Israeli war on Gaza since 7 October, including demonstrations at Grand Central Station in NYC and mass mobilisations in Washington DC.

15:00 Pro-Iran fighters were among six killed in a suspected Israeli strike this morning on the Sayyida Zeinab district south of the Syrian capital Damascus, a war monitor has said.

"Israeli strikes targeted a base belonging to Hezbollah and Iran's Revolutionary Guards, killing six people" including pro-Iran fighters, said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, adding it was unclear whether civilians were among the dead.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

14:30 Deadly fighting and air strikes rocked besieged Gaza on Monday, a day after an attack that killed three US troops in Jordan heightened fears of a wider regional conflict.

Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip killed 140 people overnight, including 20 members of one family, said the health ministry in the Palestinian territory.

Ground forces backed by tanks have focused combat operations on the coastal strip's main southern city of Khan Yunis, the hometown of Hamas's Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar.

13:30 The United Nations Palestinian Refugee Agency (UNRWA) said on Monday that it would not be able to continue operations in Gaza and across the region beyond the end of February if funding were not resumed.

A string of countries, including the United States, Germany and Britain, have paused their funding to the aid agency in the wake of allegations that 12 UNRWA staff were involved in the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas in southern Israel.

"If the funding is not resumed, UNRWA will not be able to continue its services and operations across the region, including in Gaza, beyond the end of February," a spokesperson for the agency said.

13:00 Austria has become the latest country to suspend payments to the UN's Palestinian aid agency, UNRWA, pending a full investigation into accusations that its employees were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

"We call on UNRWA and the United Nations to conduct a comprehensive, swift and complete investigation into the allegations," the Austrian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Austria joins Britain, Germany, the United States, Australia and Canada, among others, in pausing funding to the aid agency, a critical source of support for people in Gaza.

11:00 Iraqi authorities on Monday condemned the drone attack that killed three US military personnel in Jordan, calling for an "end to the cycle of violence" in the Middle East.

"The Iraqi government condemns the ongoing escalation," government spokesman Bassem al-Awadi said in a statement, adding that it was willing "to collaborate on establishing fundamental rules to prevent further repercussions in the region and curb the escalation of conflict".

The attack against Tower 22, a logistics base located at Jordan's border with Syria, killed three US troops and wounded 34.

It is the highest number of American casualties in a single incident since pro-Iran groups in October escalated their attacks against US and anti-jihadist coalition forces.

"Have no doubt -- we will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner of our choosing," US President Joe Biden said on Sunday.

He has blamed "radical Iran-backed militant groups" for the attack.

Since mid-October, there have been more than 150 drone or rocket attacks against US and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria.

The majority have been claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose alliance of Iran-linked armed groups that oppose US support for Israel in the Gaza war and want them out of Iraq.

None of the pro-Tehran groups in Iraq, Syria or Yemen has so far claimed responsibility for the drone strike that killed the US soldiers.

But on Sunday the Islamic Resistance in Iraq claimed to have launched three drone attacks at bases in Syria, including near the Jordanian border.

10:00 Iran denied Monday any links to a drone strike in Jordan that killed three US military personnel and said it was not seeking an "expansion" of conflict in the Middle East.

The killing of three American troops on Sunday in a strike in Jordan marked the first US military losses in the region since Israel's war on Gaza began.

US President Joe Biden said "radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq" were behind the strike on the frontier base in Jordan's northeast.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron reiterated a call for Iran "to de-escalate in the region".

Iran lambasted what it described as "baseless accusations" and said they were a "projection" and part of a "conspiracy of those who see their interests in dragging America's foot into a new battle".

"The Islamic Republic of Iran does not welcome the expansion of conflict in the region," Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said in a statement, adding that Tehran "is not involved in the decisions of the resistance groups".

Iran has previously said it sees it as a "duty" to support what it calls "resistance groups" in the region but insists they are "independent" in decision and action.

Sunday's strike also left 34 personnel wounded, eight of whom required evacuation, according to the US Central Command.

US troops operate at the base known as Tower 22 near Jordan's border with Iraq and Syria as part of an international coalition against the Islamic State jihadist group.

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