Israel declines participation in Gaza truce talks in Cairo; Hamas says deal still possible - as it happened

Ahram Online , Sunday 3 Mar 2024

As the Israeli war enters its 146th day, a senior Hamas official said that a ceasefire in Gaza may be secured "within 24 to 48 hours" if Israel accepts the Palestinian group's demands in ongoing talks, while Israel signed absent and targeted another group of aid-seekers.

Palestinians walk amid the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on March 3, 2024. Photo: AFP


21:58 At least 12 martyrs and more than 40 wounded were brought to Al-Awda Hospital following the Israeli airstrike on a residence in the Nuseirat refugee camp, Al Jazeera reported.

21:24 Israel's army announced the death of one more soldier in Gaza, bringing to 246 the number killed in ground operations.

21:15 Israeli airstrikes targeted a house sheltering displaced Palestinians, killing at least 10 and wounding dozens, in Nusairat camp, central Gaza Strip. Palestinian media in Gaza reported.

Rescue efforts are still underway, with numerous individuals still missing under the rubble.


Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the Gaza health ministry said that the number of Palestinian children who starved to death was raised to 15 children. "They have succumbed to dehydration and malnutrition in northern Gaza, with concerns raised about the lives of 6 others," he added.

"The situation in Gaza is desperate. The decision of the United States to deliver humanitarian aid through air drops is incomprehensible," Amnesty International said.

They are "inefficient, insufficient, wasteful and potentially dangerous," Donatella Rovera, senior crisis adviser at Amnesty, said.



Snapshot of daily life for children in Gaza:

20:34 Pope Francis urged efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza, saying: "Enough, please."

"I carry in my heart with pain the suffering of the people of Palestine and Israel," the pontiff said in his weekly Angelus message, WAFA news agency reported.

He called for an end to the war, saying the immense destruction causes pain and has terrible consequences for the small and defenseless.

"Is this really how we plan to build a better world? Stop, Enough," he added.

20:09 The UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Michael Fakhri has called for sanctions against Israel, saying it is the only way to reach a ceasefire in Gaza.

Fakhri said Israel was "intentionally starving the Palestinian people" in Gaza since 7 October, warning that a potential famine may already be occurring in besieged Gaza.

He stressed that an immediate ceasefire is essential to prevent or end the famine and called for sanctions against Israel as a means to push for a ceasefire.


19:05 "Families can't find anything to feed their kids in Gaza. They're being forced to forage for scraps of food left by rats & eating leaves out of desperation," Save the Children said.

"The risk of famine will increase so long as the government of Israel continues to impede the entry of aid," the UK-based charity said.


18:32 Once again, Israeli airstrikes targeted Palestinians who were waiting to collect humanitarian aid.

The airstrikes hit Palestinians gathering to collect flour trucks near Kuwaiti Roundabout in Gaza just moments ago.


17:58 The Palestine Red Crescent crews shared footage of their efforts to transfer five Palestinians killed and four others injured by an Israeli drone targeting a truck in the Al-Quran area southwest of Deir Al-Balah city, in central Gaza.

Meanwhile, the Israeli occupation forces continue to impose siege and target RCS Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis, in the south, for the forty-second consecutive day.



16:40 “The child deaths we feared are here, as malnutrition ravages the Gaza Strip," Adele Khodr, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.

At least ten children have reportedly died because of dehydration and malnutrition in Kamal Adwan Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip in recent days and "there are likely more children fighting for their lives somewhere in one of Gaza’s few remaining hospitals, and likely even more children in the north are unable to obtain care at all," he added.

UNICEF and WFP malnutrition screenings in the north in January found that nearly 16 percent or one in six children under two years of age are acutely malnourished. Similar screenings conducted in the south in Rafah, where aid has been more available, found that five percent of children under two years are acutely malnourished.

“Now, the child deaths we feared are here and are likely to rapidly increase unless the war ends and obstacles to humanitarian relief are immediately resolved," he warned.

“These tragic and horrific deaths are man-made, predictable, and entirely preventable," Khodr said.

“The widespread lack of nutritious food, safe water, and medical services, a direct consequence of the impediments to access, and multiple dangers facing UN humanitarian operations are impacting children and mothers, hindering their ability to breastfeed their babies, especially in the northern Gaza Strip. People are hungry, exhausted, and traumatized. Many are clinging to life," he added.

He explained that the disparity in conditions in the north and south is clear evidence that aid restrictions in the north are costing lives.

Read the full statement here.


16:32 The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs accused the Israeli right-wing of deliberately seeking to escalate the situation in the occupied West Bank.

In a statement, the ministry declared that Israeli extremists are aiming to plunge the West Bank into a spiral of violence and chaos to facilitate its annexation and the displacement of its residents, under the protection of the Israeli army.

The Palestinians condemned the ongoing Israeli incursions into the occupied territory and the systematic arrests of Palestinians.

They also denounced the division of Palestinian territory and the establishment of routes exclusively for Israeli settlers, while Palestinians are subjected to apartheid-like restrictions.


16:25 Gaza’s government media office has said in a statement that “the famine is still deepening in the governorates of the Gaza Strip to a great extent.”

It said on Telegram that “2,400,000 people are still suffering from severe food shortages.”

“Dropping aid by air and turning a blind eye to bringing it in through the crossings is an attempt to circumvent the radical solutions to the problem,” it added.

Civil defense spokesperson said: "The aid dropped from the air onto the strip does not equate to the load of two trucks."


16:00 Israel withheld a delegation expected to go to Cairo for truce talks, after learning that Hamas had not provided the expected list of captives held by the group that rules Gaza, according to the Israeli media.

According to the Times of Israel newspaper, quoting an official, Hamas refused to address the demand to receive the list of living captives.

13:45 Yemen’s Houthi rebels vowed to continue targeting British ships in the Gulf of Aden following the sinking of UK-owned vessel Rubymar.

The US military confirmed on Saturday that the UK-owned vessel Rubymar had sunk after being struck by an anti-ship ballistic missile fired by Yemeni Houthi militants on 18 February.

“Yemen will continue to sink more British ships, and any repercussions or other damages will be added to Britain’s bill,” Hussein Al-Ezzi, deputy foreign minister in the Houthi-led government, said in a post on X.

“It is a rogue state that attacks Yemen and partners with America in sponsoring ongoing crimes against civilians in Gaza,” he said.

13:00 The Palestinian health ministry said that 15 children have died from malnutrition and dehydration at the Kamal Adwan Hospital in Gaza City, according to Al Jazeera.

On Friday, the hospital director announced the death of seven children, noting that they suffered from severe dehydration and malnutrition.

"We fear for the lives of 6 (other) children suffering from malnutrition and diarrhea at the hospital's intensive care unit as a result of the cessation of the electric generator and oxygen and the weakness of medical capabilities," Ashraf Al-Qidra, the Gaza health ministry spokesperson, said.

The hospital has been out of service for months due to Israel’s attacks and lack of fuel and medicine.

Late on Saturday, Catherine Russell, the executive director of UNICEF, called for a “humanitarian ceasefire now,” saying that “every minute counts” for children in Gaza who are facing severe malnutrition.

Russell said on X that she was horrified to hear that at least 10 children in Gaza had died of malnutrition and dehydration, adding that one in six children under the age of two in north Gaza are acutely malnourished.

11:30 The UN Security Council expressed deep concern regarding reports stating that over 100 Palestinians lost their lives with several hundred injured, including people with gunshot wounds as observed by UN-OCHA, in an incident involving Israeli forces at a large gathering surrounding a humanitarian assistance convoy southwest of Gaza City.

In a statement on Saturday, the council stressed "the need to take all necessary measures to protect civilians" and urged "parties of the conflict to allow, facilitate, and enable the immediate, rapid, safe, sustained, and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale."

The council members voiced concern over "alarming levels of acute food insecurity in Gaza, demanding Israel to keep border crossings open for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, to facilitate the opening of additional crossings to meet humanitarian needs at scale, and to support the rapid and safe delivery of relief items to people in all of the Gaza Strip.

Several leaders at the UNSC have called for an investigation into the aid truck attack, which resulted in the death of 116 people.

10:55 Delegations from Hamas, Qatar, and the United States have arrived in Egypt "to resume a new round of negotiations" for a truce in Gaza, Al-Qahera News reported Sunday.

Cairo, Doha, and Washington have mediated in weeks of ceasefire talks aiming to pause the fighting in the almost five-month-old war.

"If Israel agrees to Hamas' demands, which include the return of displaced Palestinians to northern Gaza and increasing humanitarian aid, that would pave the way for a (truce) agreement within the next 24 to 48 hours," a Hamas official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity as negotiations were set to resume.

10:50 Taher Al-Nono, the media adviser to the head of the political bureau of Hamas, denied allegations that an Egyptian company is imposing additional fees on Palestinians wanting to cross into Egypt from Gaza at the Rafah border crossing.

In a phone interview on "In the Evening with Kaswaa El-Khelaly" TV show on CBC channel, Al-Nono denied allegations that Cairo-based Hala Tourism company was charging Palestinian travelers thousands of dollars in crossing fees.

The leading Hamas figure said that these allegations were lies fabricated by “the Zionist occupation” to sow division between the Egyptian and Palestinian peoples.

"These are rumors aimed at targeting the Egyptian role, which is the only constant and strongest role in supporting the Palestinian people; these (allegations) are Israeli Zionist rumors spread by their agents and those who oppose the Egyptian role," he told TV host Kaswaa El-Khelaly.

The Israeli occupation does not want a strong relationship to exist between the Palestinian and Egyptian peoples, nor at the leadership level, he said.

“[Egypt] has never fallen short in its support for our people,” he added.

Al-Nono’s comments came after London-based Sky News TV aired a report accusing the Egyptian tourism company of receiving thousands of dollars in return for allowing Palestinians in Gaza to pass through the Rafah crossing.

Similar accusations were raised in early January and were officially denied by the head of Egypt’s State Information Service Diaa Rashwan.

Al-Nono also spoke about the recent “flour massacre” in north Gaza, saying that the Israeli army is punishing the residents for refusing to be displaced south to Rafah.

Early on Thursday, at least 112 people were killed and more than 760 injured after Israeli aircraft and tanks opened fire on civilians gathered at an aid distribution point at the Nabulsi roundabout in northern Gaza.

Al-Nono pointed out that the massacre has begun to shift international opinion.

“The international community has begun to tell Netanyahu ‘enough’ of these crimes, and no one can tolerate this scene of bloodshed anymore,” he said.

He also pointed out the importance of aid deliveries from Egypt.

“We do not deny that the need is great, and this aid contributes to strengthening the resilience of the Palestinian people,” he said, hoping that all Arab and international countries send aid to Gaza.

10:30 The health ministry in Gaza said on Sunday that 90 Palestinians were killed over the past 24 hours, putting the total fatalities of Palestinians killed by Israel since the war started to 30,410 people.

The ministry also said 71,700 people have been wounded in Gaza.

10:00 In a new sign of growing political tension in Israel, the Israeli embassy in Washington has been instructed not to facilitate war cabinet minister Benny Gantz’s trip to the US after it was not authorized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli state-owned Kan public broadcaster reported.

Additionally, Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Herzog will not take part in the visit, the report said, without clarifying where the order came from.

Netanyahu was reportedly infuriated by Gantz’s decision to travel for meetings with senior US officials without his approval.

A source close to Netanyahu said the PM “made it clear to Minister Gantz that the State of Israel only has one prime minister,” Ynet reported.

Gantz, a former military chief and defense minister, is Netanyahu’s main political rival in opinion polls. He brought his National Unity party into the government after Hamas' operation on 7 October.

Meanwhile, opposition lawmaker Avigdor Liberman said the time has come for the country to go to the polls for a new government, Times of Israel reported.

“I gave the government credit for five months, but after the last ten days, the government has no right to exist, and we must have elections,” Liberman told Israeli Army Radio.

“The government is unable to lead the people of Israel when three of its members are unable to come together with one message. This is the end of its path,” Liberman said, an apparent reference to the potential coalition crisis over the drafting of members of the ultra-Orthodox community, according to Times of Israel.

Liberman addressed war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, saying that he expects him and his National Unity party to announce that “this government is finished.”

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