US urges Israel to open Al-Aqsa for prayer in Ramadan as truce deal teeters on edge - as it happened

Ahram Online , Wednesday 28 Feb 2024

As conflicting signals on the Gaza truce deal continue, the UN mounted its warnings over the catastrophic humanitarian conditions in the strip, saying that famine is "imminent" in the north due to the Israeli systematic blocking of aid access.

Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli strike on residential buildings and a mosque in Rafah, Gaza Strip. Photo: AP


Officials from Israel, Hamas, and Qatar have expressed caution regarding US President Joe Biden's optimism for a potential captive-for-ceasefire agreement in Gaza by the end of this week, highlighting lingering differences as negotiators strive to secure a deal.

Reuters and Al Jazeera reported on Tuesday that Hamas was reviewing a draft proposal for an initial ceasefire lasting approximately six weeks. As part of this proposal, 40 Israeli captives would be exchanged for 400 Palestinian prisoners.

Meanwhile, representatives of Hamas and Fatah are expected to meet in Moscow on 29 February to discuss the formation of a unified Palestinian government and the rebuilding of Gaza following the resignation of the Palestinian government.


21:30 The US on Wednesday urged Israel to allow Muslims to worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem during Ramadan after a far-right minister proposed barring Palestinians from the occupied West Bank from praying there.

20:00 Four children have died and seven others are in critical condition due to dehydration and malnutrition at the Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza, the health ministry in Gaza said on Wednesday.

The administration of the Kamal Adwan Hospital announced earlier that they were halting operations as the facility had run out of fuel.

18:00 Nearly 1.5 million Gazans are now packed into the far-southern city of Rafah, where Israel has warned it plans to launch a ground offensive. Those who remain in northern Gaza have been facing an increasingly desperate situation, aid groups have warned.

“People continue to struggle to find food and water,” UNICEF spokesperson Tess Ingram told FRANCE 24.

“We are doing absolutely everything that we can in a horrific situation where we are putting our lives at risk [to deliver aid] and we’re not able to get the guarantees we need to operate safely,” she said.

15:45 More than 120 individuals and groups called for a United Nations probe into Israeli attacks on journalists in south Lebanon, where three were killed in 2023.

An appeal addressed to UN rights chief Volker Turk expressed concern over "the Israeli forces' apparent deliberate targeting of journalists and media workers in Lebanon."

The letter to Turk urged "an investigation to establish the facts and circumstances" around the attacks and for the findings to be published "to hold those responsible accountable."

Signatories included the Committee to Protect Journalists, local and regional rights groups, Lebanese lawmakers, and media outlets including Al Jazeera, as well as AFP.

A separate letter, sent to UNESCO Chief Audrey Azoulay, urged her office to "advocate for accountability for the apparent war crimes committed by Israel in south Lebanon."

An AFP investigation into strikes on 13 October that killed Reuters journalist Issam Abdallah and wounded six others, including AFP photographer Christina Assi critically and AFP video journalist Dylan Collins, pointed to a tank shell only used by the Israeli army in the border region.

Human Rights Watch concluded that the October strikes were "apparently deliberate attacks on civilians, which is a war crime" and which "should be prosecuted or may be prosecuted for war crimes."

15:30 Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki said Wednesday he believes Hamas understands the need to form a new technocratic government in the Palestinian territories rather than a coalition including the Islamist movement.

"I think Hamas should understand this and I do believe that they are in support of the idea to establish today a technocratic government," based on expert individuals, who could "move the whole country into a period of transition," as a government including Hamas would be "boycotted" internationally, he told a press conference in Geneva.

14:00 Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has expressed hope that there may be a deal reached soon for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

“We hope that in the coming days, we will reach a ceasefire and that there will be a real relief for the people of Gaza,” he said during the fifth edition of the "Kaderoun Bekhtelaf" (Differently-Abled) event held on Wednesday at the Al-Manara International Convention Centre in New Cairo.

13:30 The Israeli security cabinet is set to meet on Thursday evening amid efforts to secure a captives deal that would see a temporary ceasefire in Gaza, Times of Israel reported.

Egyptian, Qatari, and US mediators are seeking a six-week pause in fighting and the release of the 40 Israeli captives held in Gaza in exchange for some 400 Palestinian prisoners.

Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari said late Tuesday that Doha was "hopeful, not necessarily optimistic, that we can announce something" before Thursday. 

13:00 Ismail Haniyeh, chairman of the political bureau of Hamas, said that the group is showing flexibility in negotiations with Israel, but at the same time it was ready to continue fighting.

In a speech at the Al-Quds conference of the Al-Quds International Institution held in Beurit, Haniyeh said that what Israel was unable to obtain by war would not be obtained politically.

Haniyeh called on the Arab world to work for ending the starvation in Gaza, and on the “axis of resistance” to step up efforts on behalf of Gaza’s population. 

Hamas chief also called on Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank to march to Al-Aqsa Mosque to pray on the first day of Ramadan.

"We affirm that the minimum we accept in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and all the other Islamic and Christian holy sites is adherence to the status quo following international law sustainability of the status of the holy sites as they were before the occupation on 4 June 1967," he added.

11:00 The Israeli military said it has carried out airstrikes on what it described as a Hezbollah weapons storage facility and a Hezbollah weapons manufacturing site in southern Lebanon after a barrage of 10 rockets fired from Lebanon hit northern Israel.

Earlier, Israeli media reported that a building was damaged after rockets hit Israel’s northernmost city of Kiryat Shmona, and the Hamas Al-Qassam Brigades said in a Telegram message that it had launched 40 Grad missiles from southern Lebanon at military targets in northern Israel.

10:30 The Ministry of Health in Gaza has revealed the grim toll of the Israeli aggression on the strip. The number of those killed since 7 October has reached 29,954, while the number of injured individuals stands at 70,325. At least 76 Palestinians were killed and 100 injured in the last 24 hours. 

Meanwhile, Israel’s army announced that two further soldiers were killed during the ground offensive in Gaza, raising the army death toll to 242 since Israel launched its ground assault in the strip.

10:00 Representatives of Hamas and Fatah will meet in Moscow on 29 February to discuss the formation of a unified Palestinian government and the rebuilding of Gaza, the RIA state news agency reported, citing the Palestinian ambassador to Russia.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov also confirmed to RIA Novosti that such a meeting was planned.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh announced Monday the resignation of his government, which rules parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, citing the need for change after the Israeli war on Gaza ends.

Shtayyeh, 66, said in brief comments that "the next stage and its challenges require new governmental and political measures that take into account the new reality in the Gaza Strip."

He submitted his resignation to the leader of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, President Mahmoud Abbas, 88, whose office later said he accepted it.

The United States and other powers have called for a reformed Palestinian Authority to take charge of all Palestinian territories after the end of the war.

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