Netanyahu says date set for Rafah assault as world leaders reiterate warnings - as it happened

Ahram Online , Monday 8 Apr 2024

Ahram Online provided coverage of the Israeli war on Gaza on its 185th day.

Two men sit in a donkey-drawn cart moving past the rubble of a destroyed building in Khan Yunis. AFP


20:00 A source in Hamas said Monday the Islamist group is studying a Gaza ceasefire deal that would see a six-week truce and Israeli women and child captives freed in exchange for up to 900 Palestinian prisoners.

The first phase of the proposal would also see the return of displaced Palestinian civilians to the north of the Gaza Strip and 400 to 500 trucks of food aid a day delivered to its starving people, according to a source close to the negotiations, asking for anonymity.

19:45 The United States said Monday it still opposed a major Israeli assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a date was set.

President Joe Biden's administration has repeatedly called on Israel to present a plan to protect civilians in Rafah, where some 1.5 million Palestinians have taken shelter from the six-month-old war.

"We have made clear to Israel that we think a full-scale military invasion of Rafah would have an enormously harmful effect on those civilians and that it would ultimately hurt Israel's security," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters when asked about Netanyahu's remarks.

"It's not just a question of Israel presenting a plan to us. We have made clear to them that we think that there is a better way to achieve what is a legitimate goal, which is to degrade and dismantle and defeat the Hamas battalions that remain in Rafah," Miller said.

19:00 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has escalated his pledge to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, declaring: “There is a date.”

Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel must send ground forces into Rafah, saying it is Hamas’ last stronghold in Gaza. But the international community, including the US, opposes the operation, saying the roughly 1.4 million civilians seeking shelter there will be in danger.

18:00 The White House said Monday that Hamas bore the responsibility for deciding on a ceasefire in Gaza with Israel after negotiators presented a proposal to the Palestinian militant group.

"At the end of the weekend, a proposal was submitted to Hamas. And now it's going to be up to Hamas to come through," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on a call.

17:30 Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said Monday it is the right time to do captives deal with Hamas, a day after the military pulled out troops from Gaza's main southern city.

With indirect talks between Israel and Hamas on a Gaza truce and a captives deal going on in Cairo, Gallant told Israeli army recruits: "I think we are at an appropriate moment" to make a deal with the Islamist militants, six months into the war.

"The relentless pressure on Hamas and the position of strength from which we come into this campaign allow us flexibility and freedom of action," he added, according to a statement issued by his office.

"There will be difficult decisions and we will be ready to pay the price to get the hostages back, and then return to fighting."

17:00 As the Gaza war raged on into a seventh month, Israel is under growing international pressure to agree to a ceasefire, including from its top ally and arms supplier the United States.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted on Sunday -- half a year after the 7 October attack  that Israel is "one step away from victory" and has vowed to defeat remaining Hamas fighters in Gaza's far-southern Rafah city.

On the same day however, the army also announced it had pulled its forces out of southern Gaza, although military commanders stressed the withdrawal was tactical and did not signal an end to the war.

16:10: A young Palestinian woman was shot and killed by Israeli forces at Tayasir military checkpoint, east of Tubas in the occupied West Bank, WAFA news agency reported.

Local sources said that she was shot as she passed through the checkpoint. The Israeli army claimed she attempted to stab a soldier at a checkpoint.

At least 460 Palestinians in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank have been killed by Israeli fire since the war in Gaza erupted six months ago.

16:00 The Palestinian health ministry said that at least 33,207 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its bloodiest-ever war on the strip.

The toll includes at least 38 deaths over the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, adding that 75,933 people have been wounded in the Gaza Strip since the war began on 7 October.

15:00 The European Union's naval mission in the Red Sea has repelled attacks on 11 civilian ships since it was launched in late February, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

Yemen's Houthis have been targeting the vital shipping lane since November in a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians during the Gaza war.

"In less than two months since the operation was launched, the operation has escorted 68 vessels and has repelled 11 attacks," Borrell told journalists.

The EU mission  which currently consists of four frigates  has an exclusively defensive mandate and is not allowed to attack the Houthis on Yemeni soil.

14:00 Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian left Oman to visit Syria’s capital, Damascus, a week after Iran’s consulate there was targeted in an Israeli attack, state media reported on Monday.

Iran has vowed to avenge the death of seven of its Revolutionary Guards commanders who were killed in the attack, with a senior adviser to the Supreme Leader saying on Sunday that Israeli embassies were no longer safe.

Meanwhile, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the deployment of volunteers to the Palestinian territories is not possible.

Video footage on Khamenei's official website showed him making the remarks during a meeting with students.

“Rest assured that if it was possible to send young men to Palestine, it would have been done before you say it,” Khamenei said.

12:00 Palestinian prisoner Walid Daqa has died in a hospital after battling with cancer, Israeli authorities said. 

Daqa was sentenced to life in prison following the killing of an Israeli soldier in 1984.  

The Palestinian Prisoners' Club said he was slated for release next year. He was one of the longest-serving Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Israeli media said he died Sunday. 

The prisoners club said Israel had excluded Daqa from all previous prisoner exchange deals, as he had been characterized as a high-risk prisoner. 

Hamas accused Israel of “deliberate medical negligence” in Daqa’s death.

11:00 Nicaragua hit out at Germany at the UN's top court Monday over its support to Israel, saying it was "pathetic" to give weapons to the Israeli government while simultaneously providing aid to Gaza.

"It is indeed a pathetic excuse to the Palestinian children, women, and men to provide humanitarian aid, including through airdrops, on the one hand, and to furnish the military equipment that is used to kill and annihilate them ... on the other hand," Daniel Mueller, a lawyer for Nicaragua, told the court.

Nicaragua brought the case against Germany before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to demand that judges impose emergency measures to stop Berlin from providing Israel with weapons and other assistance.

In a 43-page submission to the court, Nicaragua argued that Germany was in breach of the 1948 United Nations Genocide Convention.

"By sending military equipment and now defunding UNRWA (UN agency for Palestinian refugees) ... Germany is facilitating the commission of genocide," the submission says.

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