Hamas studying new Israeli truce proposal as mediators seek to revive talks

AFP , Saturday 27 Apr 2024

Hamas said it was studying on Saturday the latest Israeli counterproposal regarding a potential ceasefire in Gaza, a day after a delegation from mediator Egypt reportedly arrived in Israel in a bid to jump-start stalled negotiations.

overnight Israeli bombardment
A Palestinian child looks on as people check the damage in a house destroyed by overnight Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on April 27, 2024. AFP


The signs of fresh truce talks came alongside ongoing Israeli preparations for a military push into Gaza's southern city of Rafah and as spillover from the war led to continued attacks across the region.

"Today, the Hamas movement received the official Zionist occupation response to the movement's position, which was delivered to the Egyptian and Qatari mediators on April 13," Khalil al-Hayya, deputy head of Hamas's political arm in Gaza, said in a brief statement early Saturday.

"The movement will study this proposal, and upon completion of its study, it will submit its response."

Hamas had previously insisted on a permanent ceasefire, something rejected by Israel.

Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been unsuccessfully trying to seal a new truce deal in Gaza ever since a one-week halt to the fighting in November saw 80 Israeli captives exchanged for 240 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Several Israeli media outlets, citing unnamed officials, said Israel's war cabinet had discussed a new plan for a truce and captive release ahead of the Egyptian delegation's visit.

There has been "noticeable progress in bringing the views of the Egyptian and Israeli delegations closer", said the Egyptian Al-Qahera News TV.

The Israeli war on Gaza was also on the agenda for an international summit set to kick off in Saudi Arabia.

The World Economic Forum special meeting, scheduled to begin in Riyadh on Sunday, will include a Gaza-focused session on Monday set to feature newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and Sigrid Kaag, the United Nations aid coordinator for the Gaza Strip.

"Discussions with European, American and regional counterparts on Gaza and the regional situation are planned in Riyadh," a diplomatic source said Friday.


'Miracle' baby dies

Witnesses in besieged Gaza reported fresh Israeli strikes overnight into Saturday around Rafah, the last urban centre Israeli ground forces have yet to enter.

Plans for an Israeli incursion into the city have sparked opposition among the international community due to the presence of nearly 1,3 million of displaced Palestinians seeking refuge there.

Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told AFP on Thursday that such an operation "will undoubtedly threaten the negotiations" and show "that Israel is interested in continuing the war".

Israel has killed at least 34,388 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the most recent toll.

At least seven Palestinians were killed and several others injured Saturday evening as Israeli warplanes bombed a house northeast of Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip, according to WAFA news agency. 

Simultaneously, Israeli artillery shelled land in the midst of the town of Khuza'a, east of Khan Younis in the south.

On Friday, missiles fired from an Israeli jet hit Gaza City, killing at least three people in the Rimal neighbourhood, an AFP reporter said.

"I was sitting selling cigarettes and suddenly a missile fell, shaking the whole area," a witness who did not give his name told AFP, adding that the bodies of a man, a woman and a little girl were pulled from the rubble.

Shaima Refaat Alareer, the daughter of a prominent Palestinian poet, was killed alongside her family in an Israeli airstrike on a house west of Gaza City, four months after her father was killed in a similar attack.

Alareer’s husband and their two-month-old son also died in the strike, according to eyewitnesses and family friends.

Eyewitnesses in Al-Rimal neighborhood told CNN that three Israeli missiles struck a home where the family were sheltering.

Additionally, a baby delivered from her dying mother's womb in Rafah on the weekend has died, the girl's uncle said. When she was born, doctors hailed her as a "miracle".

But Rami al-Sheikh told AFP on Friday that his niece Ruh had "joined her family in the gardens of eternity" after her mother was fatally wounded in an Israeli strike.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Ministry of Health warned, Saturday, of the spread of diseases due to sewage overflows, the accumulation of waste in streets and displaced persons camps, and the spread of insects in the besieged territory.

“Because of the closure of the public health laboratory and the inability to test drinking water, all citizens of the Gaza Strip are drinking unsafe water that puts their lives at risk,” the ministry said in a statement.

It attributed this to Israel’s refusal to allow the use of chlorine or any alternative for treating drinking water.


Hands off Rafah

Opposition to an Israeli military operation in Rafah extended to university campuses across the United States, where hundreds of students have been arrested at pro-Palestinian protests.

"Stop the invasion! Hands off Rafah!" said a sign at a pro-Palestinian encampment at George Washington University in the US capital.

Israel's military offensive has turned vast swathes of Gaza into rubble, creating 37 million tonnes of debris that will take years to clear away, according to the UN Mine Action Service.

The World Food Programme has warned that famine is "a real and dangerous threat" in Gaza.

The European Union said Friday it was giving an extra $73 million in aid to Palestinians in Gaza "in light of the continued deterioration of the severe humanitarian crisis".


Israel minister in crash

The Israeli war on Gaza has led to increased violence between Israel and Hezbollah, in particular along the border with Lebanon.

The Israeli army said Friday that a civilian was killed by anti-tank missiles fired towards "the area of Har Dov", which refers to the disputed Shebaa Farms border district.

Also on Friday, the Lebanese group Jamaa Islamiya said an Israeli strike in eastern Lebanon had killed two of its senior commanders.

In response to what it called a "cowardly assassination", Hezbollah said it launched dozens of rockets at two military posts in northern Israel.

And in the Red Sea, a tanker was damaged when it was targeted with multiple missiles off Yemen's coast on Friday, in the latest attack on international shipping in the Red Sea to be claimed by the Houthi rebels.

* This story has been edited by Ahram Online.


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