Israel on board with Gaza peace deal, as US airdrops begin - as it happened

Ahram Online , Saturday 2 Mar 2024

Israel has broadly accepted a ceasefire deal with Hamas, a senior US official said Saturday, as the first American air drops of humanitarian aid were carried out over war-ravaged Gaza.

war on Gaza
A Palestinian child stands in the living room of a building that was damaged during Israeli bombardment in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip, on March 2, 2024. AFP

The framework agreement envisages a six-week truce, which could begin immediately if the Palestinian group signs off on the release of the most vulnerable captives it holds, the official told reporters on a call.

"The Israelis have more or less accepted it," the administration official said. "Right now, the ball is in the camp of Hamas."

The announcement came hours after US military cargo planes began airdropping humanitarian aid into the besieged Gaza Strip.

The United Nations has warned of famine in Gaza, and more than 100 people were left dead earlier this week in a frenzied scramble for food from a truck convoy delivering aid, with Israeli forces opening fire on the crowd.

Saturday's drop, which included 38,000 meals, was conducted "to provide essential relief to civilians affected by the ongoing conflict," the US Central Command said.

22:00 The Houthi Transport Ministry in Yemen said on Saturday that there had been a "glitch" in undersea communication cables in the Red Sea as a result of actions by US and British naval vessels.

The actions "endangered the security and safety of the international communications and the flow of information," the ministry said in a statement, reported by the Houthi-run Saba news agency, without giving details.

"Any glitch in these cables as a result of the militarization of the Red Sea by U.S. and British naval vessels represents a serious threat to the information security and economic and social stability for all countries of the world," the statement read.

20:00 A Hamas delegation was expected to fly to Cairo on Saturday for talks on a truce in Gaza, a source close to the group told AFP, as mediators scrambled to secure a deal.

The Hamas delegation will "meet with Egyptians overseeing the ceasefire negotiations, to follow up on the negotiation developments that aim to stop the offensive and the war, and to reach a hostage exchange deal", said a source close to Hamas, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

The source said the delegation would submit Hamas's "official answer" to a proposal thrashed out with Israeli negotiators in Paris late last month.

19:30 Many of the Palestinians killed or wounded in the chaos as they tried to get bags of flour from an aid convoy were hit by Israeli army fire, the European Union's diplomatic service said on Saturday, urging an international investigation.

Outrage is rising over the desperation of hundreds of thousands struggling to survive in northern Gaza after nearly five months of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

“The responsibility for this incident lays on the restrictions imposed by the Israeli army and obstructions by violent extremist(s) to the supply of humanitarian aid,” the European External Action Service said, calling for the opening of further ground crossings into Gaza and the removal of obstacles from the rare ones that are already open.

19:00 US air drops of aid to Gaza cannot replace the need for as much humanitarian relief as possible to move by land into the Palestinian territory under bombardment by Israel, a senior US official said on Saturday.

"None of these – maritime corridors, air drops – are an alternative to the fundamental need to move assistance through as many land crossings as possible. That's the most efficient way to get aid in at scale," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

18:00 Israel has broadly accepted a deal for a six-week Gaza ceasefire, and it is now up to Hamas to agree to release hostages for the deal to take effect, a senior US official said on Saturday.

"There's a framework deal. The Israelis have more or less accepted it," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity. "Right now, the ball is in the camp of Hamas."

17:00 The health ministry in Gaza said that an Israeli strike hit tents housing displaced civilians near a hospital in the southern city of Rafah on Saturday, killing 11 and wounding dozens.

A paramedic was among those killed, and children were wounded in the blast close to the Emirati Maternity Hospital, ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said in a statement.

"Eleven citizens were martyred and about 50 injured, including children, as a result of Israeli forces targeting tents of displaced people near the Emirati hospital," Qudra said. The death toll had earlier stood at 10 Palestinians killed.

15:04 The French minister of foreign affairs criticized the Israeli authorities, holding them responsible for the blockade of humanitarian aid to Gaza, in an interview with the French daily Le Monde published on Saturday.

"The responsibilities for the blockade of aid are clearly Israeli," said Stéphane Séjourné, noting that the catastrophic humanitarian situation "creates indefensible and unjustifiable situations for which the Israelis are accountable."

France has redoubled its efforts with Israeli authorities to increase the number of crossing points and humanitarian trucks.

But these "have not been satisfied," and "famine adds to the horror," deplored the French FM.

13:10 The Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that 11 civilians were killed and over 50 others wounded, including children and one paramedic, in Israeli strikes on tents of displaced families near the Emirati Hospital in Tal Al-Sultan in Rafah.

Footage taken immediately after the strikes showed dead and wounded Palestinians lying on the ground. 

Abdel-Fattah Abu Meri, a paramedic at the Emirati field hospital, was among those killed.



13:50 A ship attacked by Yemen's Houthi rebels has sunk in the Red Sea after days of taking on water, officials from Yemen's internationally recognized government said Saturday.

This is the first vessel to be fully destroyed by the Houthis as part of their campaign against Israel's war on Gaza.

The Rubymar had been drifting northward after being attacked on 18 February in the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait, a crucial waterway linking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

The sinking was also confirmed by an unspecified regional military official.

Yemen's exiled government, which has been backed by a Saudi-led coalition since 2015, said the Rubymar sank late Friday as stormy weather took hold over the Red Sea. The vessel had been abandoned for 12 days after the attack, though plans had been floated to try and tow the ship to a safe port.

13:00 Gaza ceasefire talks are expected to continue on Sunday in Cairo, according to two Egyptian security sources who spoke to Reuters. 

The warring parties have so far agreed to the duration of the truce as well as the prospective exchange of captives, Reuters said.

The finalization of the deal now rests on the fate of northern Gaza, where the withdrawal of Israeli soldiers and the safe return of displaced citizens is being demanded. 

Egypt is diligently working alongside its partners to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza before the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry said at an event in Turkey on Friday.

As the fasting month of Ramadan is merely ten days away, over half a million people in the Palestinian territory are on the brink of famine due to the relentless Israeli war and ongoing blockade.

Active negotiations involving Egypt, Qatar, the US, and Israel are currently underway, aiming to reach a ceasefire in the war-torn Gaza Strip and a detainee swap deal.

12:17 Egypt continues its aerial drops of tons of food and urgent humanitarian aid on northern Gaza, Egyptian Armed Forces Spokesman Gharib Abdel-Hafez said on Saturday.

"The General Command of the Armed Forces has ordered the preparation of military transport aircraft loaded with tons of food and urgent humanitarian needs to alleviate the suffering of the people of Gaza, where aerial drops of aid were carried out in various areas in the northern Gaza Strip," he added on social media.

12:02 Palestinians forcibly displaced by Israel’s war on Gaza are holding onto keys from their damaged or destroyed homes as a symbol of one day returning to their land. For many, it’s a tradition that their grandparents started during the Nakba in 1948.

Home keys represent the Palestinians' attachment to their ancestral land and their longing for the right-of-return to homes from which they were displaced, particularly during the establishment of the state of Israel.

These keys are often passed down through generations as tangible reminders of their history, identity, and the ongoing struggle against the Israeli occupation, and reclaiming their homeland.



11:37 The heads of Gaza City hospitals that treated some of the Palestinians wounded by Israeli soldiers surrounding an aid convoy said that more than 80 percent had been struck by gunfire while they raced to pull goods off an aid convoy.

Dr. Mohammed Salha, the acting director of Al-Awda Hospital, told The Associated Press that of the 176 wounded brought to the facility, 142 had gunshot wounds and the other 34 showed injuries from a stampede.

He couldn’t address the cause of death of those killed, because the bodies were taken to government-run hospitals to be counted.

Dr. Husam Abu Safyia, director of Kamal Adwan Hospital, said the majority of the injured taken there had gunshot wounds in the upper part of their bodies, and many of the deaths were from gunshots to the head, neck, or chest.

11:10 The Palestinian death toll has reached 30,320 after 92 more people were martyred over the past 24 hours, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The ministry also said 71,533 people have been wounded in Gaza since the war broke out on October 7.

10:01 Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Chief of the World Health Organization (WHO), took to social media to announce the long-awaited delivery of critical aid to Al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza.

He highlighted the challenges faced by the hospital and the urgent need for a ceasefire.

"After more than a month, WHO and partners managed to access Al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza to deliver 19,000 litres of fuel; lifesaving medical supplies for 150 patients; and treatments for 50 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition," he tweeted.

He further revealed that despite the difficult circumstances, a dedicated team of volunteer health workers is serving over 240 patients at the hospital.

However, the provision of services remains severely limited due to a scarcity of medical supplies, fuel, water, and food.

"The level of destruction around the hospital is beyond words," he lamented.


10:00 US forces struck and destroyed a Houthi surface-to-air missile in Yemen on Friday after deciding it posed an "imminent threat" to American aircraft, the US Central Command in the Middle East announced.

The Houthis, who control much of war-torn Yemen, have been attacking shipping in the Red Sea since November in solidarity with Palestinians amid the Israeli war on Gaza.

On Friday afternoon, US "forces conducted a self-defense strike against one Iranian-backed Houthi surface-to-air missile that was prepared to launch," CENTCOM said in a statement, adding it had "determined (the missile) presented an imminent threat to U.S. aircraft in the region."

It went on to say that the Houthis on Friday night launched an anti-ship missile into the Red Sea, but "there was no impact or damage to any vessels."



09:42 Hezbollah reported that three of its fighters were killed by an Israeli drone targeting a car near the town of Naqoura in southern Lebanon.

Since October, Israeli strikes have killed over 200 Hezbollah fighters and around 50 civilians in Lebanon.

In retaliation, attacks from Lebanon into Israel have claimed the lives of a dozen Israeli soldiers and five civilians.

09:28 At least 9,000 Palestinian women have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since 7 October, and many more are reported to be buried under the rubble, the United Nations agency promoting gender equality says.

UN Women said in a statement late Friday that, at the current rate, an average of 63 women will be killed every day the war continues.

An estimated 37 of them were mothers whose deaths have left devastated families and children at greater risk, it said.

UN Women said its rapid assessment of 120 women between 8-11 February, found that 84 percent reported that their family eats half or less the amount they did before the war began.

The same percentage indicated that at least one family member had to skip meals during the previous week, the agency said.

Unless there is an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, UN Women said, many more people will die in the coming days and weeks.

09:00 US President Joe Biden said late on Friday that Washington will begin air-dropping humanitarian assistance into Gaza. This decision follows the killing of at least 115 Palestinians by Israeli troops, on Thursday, as crowds rushed to access goods from an aid convoy, resulting in injuries to more than 750 others.

Biden said the airdrops would begin in the “coming days.”

He made the announcement while hosting Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at the White House.

The United Nations said a UN team that visited Shifa Hospital in Gaza City reported that there were “a large number of gunshot wounds” among more than 200 people still being treated for injuries from Thursday’s deadly attack.

UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the team reported after their visit Friday that Shifa admitted more than 700 injured people and received the bodies of more than 70 people who were killed by Israel in the bloodshed near Gaza City.

Short link: