Half a year of Israel's war on Gaza passes as truce talks to resume in Cairo - as it happened

Ahram Online , Sunday 7 Apr 2024

Today marks six months since Israel's ongoing war in Gaza started, killing more than 33,000 people, as talks for a truce are scheduled to commence in Cairo.

Palestinians flee to the southern Gaza Strip on Salah al-Din Street in Bureij, Gaza Strip. Photo: AP


20:50 The Israeli army said "another phase of the Northern Command's readiness for war" on the Lebanon front has been completed.

In a statement on its website, the military said commanders "are prepared to summon and equip all the required soldiers in just a few hours ... to the front line for defensive and offensive missions."

19:10 Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said Sunday that Israeli troops pulled out of Khan Younis in southern Gaza Sunday "to prepare for future missions, including ... in Rafah."

The forces were withdrawn after months of fierce fighting because "Hamas ceased to exist as a military framework" in Khan Younis, just north of Rafah, where more than 1.5 million Palestinians are sheltering.

17:45 United Nations agencies and other aid organizations decried Sunday the devastating toll wreaked by six months of the Israeli war on Gaza, warning that the situation is "beyond catastrophic."

"Six months is an awful milestone," the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said, warning that "humanity has been all but abandoned."

The Gaza war broke out on 7 October, and Israel's offensive has killed at least 33,175 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Gaza.

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus voiced particular outrage at "the deaths and grievous injuries of thousands of children in Gaza," which he said would "remain a stain on all of humanity."

"This assault on present and future generations must end."

The IFRC chief Jagan Chapagain meanwhile described the situation as "beyond catastrophic," with "millions of lives at risk of hunger."

"An urgent and unhindered flow of humanitarian aid must be ensured to reach those in need. Not tomorrow, but now."

IFRC said 18 members of its network — 15 staff and volunteers with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and three from Magen David Adom (MDA) had been killed since 7 October.

"These deaths are devastating and unacceptable," Chapagain said on X.

16:20 The military spokesman for the Houthis said that the group had "targeted a British ship in the Red Sea, and the hit was direct."

16:05 Israel's partial withdrawal from the southern Gaza Strip is likely so its troops can "rest and refit," rather than a move towards a new operation, the White House said.

"They've been on the ground for four months, the word we're getting is they're tired, they need to be refit," National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby told ABC, "though he stressed that it was "hard to know exactly what this tells us right now."

Israel pulled all its troops out of southern Gaza, including from the city of Khan Younis, the military and Israeli media said on Sunday, but the army said a "significant force" will continue to operate in the rest of the besieged Gaza Strip.

"The 98th commando division has concluded its mission in Khan Younis," the army said in a statement to AFP.

"The division left the Gaza Strip to recuperate and prepare for future operations."

"A significant force led by the 162nd division and the Nahal brigade continues to operate in the Gaza Strip and will preserve the army's freedom of action and its ability to conduct precise intelligence-based operations," the statement said.

Displaced Palestinians from Khan Younis may now be able to return to their homes after sheltering Rafah, Haaretz quoted an official as saying.

Despite the withdrawal from the south, the Times of Israel said the army's Nahal brigade will continue to hold the central "Netzarim Corridor," which effectively cuts the Gaza Strip in two.

16:00 World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés has raised questions over the Israeli probe into their strike that killed seven of the NGO's staff in Gaza and warned that Israel’s war in Gaza had become a “war against humanity itself.”

“I want to thank, obviously, the Israeli army, for doing such a quick investigation,” the head of the US-based charity told ABC News.

“At the same time, I would say with something so complicated, the investigation should be much deeper,” Andrés added.

“And I would say that the perpetrator cannot be investigating himself.”

“This doesn’t seem like a war against terror. This doesn’t seem any more like a war about defending Israel,” he said.

“This, at this point, seems like a war against humanity itself,” Andrés said.

15:40 The WHO released footage of the interior of Gaza's largest hospital Al-Shifa, after its team visited the facility.

WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyesus said that the hospital had been reduced to ashes, leaving it an "empty shell with human graves."

WHO says there are smells of "rotting bodies" in the destroyed hospital after Israeli forces conducted a two-week raid against the facility that served as a shelter for displaced Palestinians as well.

Over 300 women, children, and men were slaughtered. Many zip-tied and executed, some flattened by tanks, burned, or hacked into pieces by missiles, skeletal remains and body parts everywhere, journalists and witnesses reported.



15:31 President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi discussed the latest efforts to reach a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip with CIA Director William Burns during a meeting in Cairo on Sunday.

During the meeting, they reviewed the ceasefire's efforts, highlighting the need to intensify efforts to stop military escalation in the strip, a presidential statement read.

El-Sisi urged concerted international efforts to pressure for immediate flow of adequate much-needed humanitarian aid to all areas of the strip for addressing the humanitarian catastrophe there, the statement added.

15:05 An Israeli delegation will take part in the latest round of negotiations in Cairo aimed at reaching a truce in Gaza, an Israeli government official told CNN.

A Hamas official said on Saturday that the group would be sending a delegation to Cairo in response to an invitation extended by Egyptian mediators.

15:00 Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry and his Norwegian counterpart Espen Barth Eide discussed over the phone on Sunday international efforts for expanding the base of countries wishing to recognize the Palestinian state.

Israel’s war on Gaza, which is now in its seventh month, has sparked renewed calls for Palestinians to be granted a state of their own.

As many as 137 of the 193 UN members already recognize a Palestinian state. The list includes many countries from the Middle East, Africa, and other regions.

However, the Palestinian state has not yet been recognized by other countries like the US, Canada, most of Western Europe, Australia, Japan, and South Korea.

The Arab group at the United Nations is currently pursuing a resolution to upgrade the status of Palestinians from an observer state to a member state.

During their phone call, Shoukry and Barth Eide also discussed the criteria for reviving the peace process and ceasing the ongoing Israeli war in the Gaza Strip, read a statement by the Egyptian foreign ministry.

Both ministers stressed the urgency of achieving an immediate and permanent ceasefire and ensuring the delivery of humanitarian aid “fully, safely, and quickly” to meet the urgent needs in the strip.

Shoukry stressed that Israel must comply with its responsibilities as an occupying power and cease its attacks against Palestinian civilians and international relief personnel in the Gaza Strip.

Egypt’s top diplomat said Israel’s actions violate all provisions of international law and international humanitarian law, according to a statement by the Egyptian foreign ministry.

14:29 Defying international outcry to end the bloodshed, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that there will be no ceasefire in Gaza without the return of the Israeli captives as he marks six months of the war.
“I made it clear to the international community: There will be no ceasefire without the return of the hostages. It just won’t happen,” Netanyahu said in a statement at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

“This is the Israeli government’s policy, and I welcome the fact that the US Biden administration made it clear the other day that this is still its position as well,” he added.

14:00 Preliminary hearings open Monday at the United Nations’ top court, ICJ, in a case that seeks an end to German military and other aid to Israel, based on accusations that Berlin is “facilitating” acts of genocide and breaches of international law in the Israeli war on Gaza.

Nicaragua, which brought the case, has asked the court to hand down preliminary orders known as provisional measures, including that Germany “immediately suspend its aid to Israel, in particular, its military assistance including military equipment in so far as this aid may be used in the violation of the Genocide Convention” and international law. 

Nicaragua argues that by giving Israel political, financial, and military support and by defunding the United Nations aid agency for Palestinians UNWRA, “Germany is facilitating the commission of genocide and, in any case, has failed in its obligation to do everything possible to prevent the commission of genocide.” 

The court will likely take weeks to deliver its preliminary decision and Nicaragua's case will likely drag on for years.

Monday’s hearing at the world court comes amid growing calls for allies to stop supplying arms to Israel as its six-month offensive continues on Gaza. 

On Friday, the UN’s top human rights body called on countries to stop selling or shipping weapons to Israel. The United States and Germany opposed the resolution.



13:55 The Palestinian Red Crescent reported that the body of colleague Mohammad Maher Khalil Abed, an employee of the PRCS Al-Amal Hospital, was discovered after the withdrawal of the Israeli occupation forces from the centre of Khan Younis province. 

Abed was targeted during the evacuation process of Al-Amal Hospital, as occupation forces opened fire on him, preventing PRCS teams from reaching him and refusing any coordination to search for him.



12:44 A senior Iranian official said on Sunday that none of Israel's embassies were safe anymore, Tasnim news agency reported.

Iran's semi-official ISNA news agency has published a graphic showcasing what it said were nine different types of Iranian missiles capable of reaching Israel. 

12:30 A doctor at a field hospital for detained Palestinians at Israel’s Sde Teiman army base has described “deplorable conditions” and “routine” amputations due to handcuff injuries, according to an exclusive report from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

In a letter to Israel’s attorney general and defense and health ministers, obtained by Haaretz, the doctor said the conditions at Sde Teiman field hospital compromise inmates’ health and violate medical ethics.

“Just this week, two prisoners had their legs amputated due to handcuff injuries, which unfortunately is a routine event,” the doctor said in the letter, according to the Haaretz report. 

He wrote that inappropriate care at the detention facility has led to “complications and sometimes even in the patient’s death.” 



12:00 Israel's bombardment killed at least 38 Palestinians in Gaza over the past 24 hours, the Palestinian health ministry said, adding that at least 33,175 people have been killed in the territory since the beginning of the war, 184 days ago.

The toll includes 75,886 wounded people since 7 October.



11:59 The UN Palestinian refugee agency, UNRWA, said that six months of Israel’s war in Gaza meant “six months of never-ending displacement” for the Palestinians in the strip.

“Around 1.7 million people have been forced to flee their homes,” UNRWA said, providing shelter for thousands of families with nowhere else to go.

Famine is “projected and imminent” in the northern half of Gaza, a UN-backed report said last month, and according to Oxfam, since December, the number of people in the Palestinian territory facing “catastrophic levels” of hunger has nearly doubled.



11:31 Three Palestinian citizens were killed, and several others were injured today when Israeli occupation forces bombed a group of civilians in the town of Zahraa, located in the central Gaza Strip, WAFA news agency reported.

Local sources reported that Israeli fighter jets targeted a group of civilians in Zahraa, resulting in the deaths of three civilians and the injury of dozens more.

The ongoing Israeli aggression has resulted in the killing of 33,137 Palestinians, mostly children and women, and the injury of more than 75,815 others, according to a preliminary toll.

The Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Catherine Russell has described the scale and pace of destruction in the Gaza Strip as shocking.

The war on Gaza has resulted in the deaths of more than 13,000 children and countless injuries, Russell said in a post on X. She noted that the aggression has claimed the lives of teachers, doctors, and humanitarian workers.

The UN official urged an immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza, emphasizing that homes, schools, and hospitals have been destroyed, and warning that famine in Gaza is imminent.



UNICEF spokesman James Elder says what children in Gaza are enduring these days is the worst of what he has seen in 20 years of his work.

"Safety, this word doesn't exist in Gaza."



UNICEF spokeswoman in Gaza Tess Ingram said children in northern Gaza have reached a level of "eating rats" due to the Israeli war of starvation waged on the region.

11:30 British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Saturday the "terrible" war "must end."

"The entire UK is appalled by the bloodshed," he stated.

However, Sunak reiterated continuous support for Israel, purportedly to defend their security.

He stressed, "The aid which we have been striving tirelessly to deliver by land, air, and sea must be swiftly provided."

Sunak emphasized the urgent need for a "humanitarian pause" for the children of Gaza, leading to a sustainable ceasefire.

"For the sake of both Israelis and Palestinians  who all deserve to live in peace, dignity, and security that is our ongoing commitment," he affirmed.

The British government on Friday called for "utmost transparency" and a "wholly independent review" into the Israeli killing of seven aid workers in the Gaza Strip.

Three of the seven World Central Kitchen staff who perished in an Israeli airstrike on Monday evening were British nationals.

The deaths have also heaped pressure on the UK government to suspend arms export licenses to Israel.

According to arms control groups, London has approved more than £487 million ($614 million) of weapons sales to Israel since 2015 in so-called single-issue licenses.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron warned the "prospect of famine is real" in Gaza, as a Royal Navy ship headed to the Mediterranean to help set up a maritime aid corridor.

Cameron said Britain was working with the United States, Cyprus, and others to set up a "new temporary pier off the coast of Gaza to get aid in as quickly and securely as possible."

"We need to continue to explore all options, including by sea and air, to ease the desperate plight of some of the world's most vulnerable people," he said.

Cyprus has vowed to continue with the humanitarian corridor despite the killing in an Israeli strike of seven aid workers unloading aid in the war-ravaged Palestinian territory.

The UK also announced £9.7m for aid, equipment, and expertise to help set up the maritime corridor from Cyprus to Gaza.

11:00 According to Israeli media reports, the occupation army withdrew all ground troops overnight from the southern Gaza Strip after four straight months of fighting in the Khan Younis area.

Only one brigade, the Nahal, currently remains in the Gaza Strip, the Times of Israel reported.

The Nahal Brigade is tasked with securing the so-called Netzarim Corridor, which divides the strip into northern and southern zones.

The corridor enables the Israeli army to carry out raids in northern and central Gaza and prevents Palestinians from returning to the northern part of the strip.

10:26 Israel says preparations have been completed to handle any scenario that may develop with Iran.

Iran threatened retaliation for the deaths of seven Revolutionary Guards in an Israeli strike on Damascus, with the army chief saying his country's enemies would "regret" the killings. 

The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard vowed: "Our brave men will punish the Zionist regime." 

Iran's response "will be carried out at the right time, with the necessary precision and planning, and with maximum damage to the enemy so that they regret their action," Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mohammad Bagheri said on Saturday.

US officials said they were concerned Iran may be planning to hit targets inside Israel in retaliation.

Israel's defense minister Yoav Gallant said today he had held an "operational situation assessment" with senior military officers.

10:17 British security firm Ambrey reported that a vessel was attacked on Sunday in the Gulf of Aden, approximately 102 nautical miles southwest of Mukalla in Yemen.

"Vessels in the vicinity were advised to exercise caution and report any suspicious activity," the firm stated. It refrained from attributing responsibility for the attack or providing additional details.

Yemen's Houthi militias have carried out attacks on shipping in the Red Sea region as a response to Israel's war on Gaza, and the support of the US and UK for it.

In a separate incident, a missile landed near a vessel in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday, causing no damage or injuries to the ship or its crew. 

The incident occurred approximately 59 nautical miles southwest of the Yemeni port of Aden, according to the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency.

"The vessel's master reports a missile impacted the water close to the vessel’s port quarter," UKMTO stated in an advisory note. 

"No damage to the vessel reported and crew reported safe," it added. The agency did not specify the source of the missile or provide further details.

10:02 As the war on Gaza entered its seventh month, the Israeli army said that a total of 604 Israeli soldiers, reservists, and security officers had been killed and another 3,193 had been wounded, Israeli media reported. 

It noted that 41 soldiers were killed due to friendly fire in Gaza and other military-related accidents. 

According to new data published by the Israeli army, some 9,100 projectiles fired from Gaza crossed the border into Israel, alongside 3,100 from Lebanon and around 35 from Syria since the beginning of the war. 

10:00 A Hamas delegation is expected to fly to Cairo on Sunday for a fresh round of Gaza ceasefire talks the same day.

Senior Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya will head the delegation, read a statement released by the Palestinian resistance group.

Hamas confirmed that it will adhere to its previous demands presented during the latest round of talks on 14 March, which called for a permanent ceasefire, the withdrawal of the Israeli occupation forces from Gaza, and the return of the displaced Palestinians to their places of residence.

In addition, the demands included ensuring the freedom of movement of people, providing relief and shelter for them, and a serious prisoner exchange deal.

CIA Director William Burns, Head of Mossad David Barnea, and negotiators from Egypt and Qatar are expected to attend the talks.

The last hours witnessed intense Egyptian contacts to resume truce negotiations in Cairo, high-level Egyptian sources told Al-Qahera News channel.

On 25 March, the UN Security Council passed a resolution for the first time demanding an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza war, but Israel's war on Gaza continues unabated in defiance of the resolution.

On Friday, US President Joe Biden wrote to the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, calling on them to press Hamas for a deal with Israel, reported AP citing an unnamed American senior administration official.

The move came one day after Biden called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to redouble efforts to reach a ceasefire in the six-month-old war.

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