Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

Netanyahu pushes back at international pressure as Biden warns against Rafah assault

By 37ci3 Feb17,2024

Netanyahu: No point in Gaza truce talks until Hamas changes its demands

In a statement issued this evening, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there was no point in truce talks regarding Gaza until Hamas changes its demands.

“I must tell you, citizens of Israel, that until the moment, the demands of Hamas are illusory, they mean only one thing — defeat for Israel,” Netanyahu said. “Of course we will not agree to them. “But when Hamas drops these delusional demands, we can move forward.”

Hamas’ demands include a permanent cease-fire and full IDF withdrawal from Gaza. The group has also proposed a cease-fire plan that would include the release of 1,500 prisoners, including 500 people serving life sentences, a source has told NBC News. The proposal also includes developing a three-year plan, with a road map to rebuild homes and other infrastructure destroyed in the war, the source said.

Netanyahu reiterated the state’s commitment to releasing hostages in Gaza.

“I want to tell you and the families of the abductees; we do not forget even for a moment our commitment to the return of all the abductees,” he said.

Two more hostages were rescued and returned to their families this week, according to Netanyahu.

African leaders condemn Israel’s offensive in Gaza

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Leaders at an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Saturday condemned Israel’s offensive in Gaza and called for its immediate end.

Moussa Faki, the chair of the African Union Commission, said Israel’s offensive was the “most flagrant” violation of international humanitarian law and accused Israel of having “exterminated” Gaza’s inhabitants.

Faki spoke alongside Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, who also addressed the summit.

“Rest assured we strongly condemn these attacks that are unprecedented in the history of mankind,” Faki said to applause from delegates. “We want to reassure you of our solidarity with the people of Palestine.”

Azali Assoumani, president of the Comoros and the outgoing chairperson of the African Union, praised the case brought by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice while condemning “the genocide Israel is committing in Palestine under our nose.”

“The international community cannot close its eyes to the atrocities that are committed, that have not only created chaos in Palestine but also have disastrous consequences in the rest of the world,” Assoumani said.

A quarter of Gaza’s residents are starving because of the war, which began with Hamas’ assault into Israel on Oct. 7, in which militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250.

Israel strongly denies committing genocide in Gaza and says it does all it can to spare civilians and is only targeting Hamas militants. It says Hamas’ tactic of embedding in civilian areas makes it difficult to avoid civilian casualties.

During last year’s AU summit, an Israeli delegate was unceremoniously removed from the plenary hall amid a row over the country’s observer status at the continental body.

Concern over conflicts and the resurgence of coups across the African continent also underscored the opening of this year’s summit. Faki cited tensions over Senegal’s postponed election and violence in eastern Congo, Sudan, the Sahel, and Libya. He called for a revival of “the spirit of African solidarity and Pan-Africanism” to overcome the many challenges facing the continent of 1.3 billion people.

At least 18 injured during Israeli shelling in Deir al-Balah, Palestine Red Crescent Society says

At least 18 people were injured, many of them children, during Israeli shelling of Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza today, according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society.

The PRCS shared video from inside an ambulance, where the scream of a child could be heard. A few injured people could be seen, including a man who appeared to be bleeding from his head.

One aid worker could be seen with a child on his lap. Another aid worker helps him wrap the child’s head with gauze. The child could be heard calling for his mother as they took him out of the ambulance vehicle.

Another child could be seen at the end of the video, bleeding from his head.

U.S. Centcom forces conducted two ‘self-defense strikes’ in Yemen after Houthis launch missiles toward commercial vessel in Red Sea

U.S. Central Command conducted what it called two “self-defense strikes” in Yemen after the Houthis launched missiles toward a commercial vessel in the Red Sea, according to Centom.

Centom said four anti-ship ballistic missiles were launched from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, three of which appeared to be targeting MT Pollux, a Denmark-owned, Panamanian-registered vessel.

No injuries or damage to the vessel were reported.

In response, Centcom said, it conducted the two self-defense strikes, one against a mobile anti-ship cruise missile and another against a mobile unmanned surface vessel.

“CENTCOM identified the mobile missile and USV in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen and determined it presented an imminent threat to U.S. Navy ships and merchant vessels in the region,” Centcom said on X.

Israeli Minister of Defense accuses 30 UNRWA employees of violence, UNRWA denies claim

Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant accused 30 employees from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East of committing violence against Israelis.

“Over 30 UNRWA employees murdered civilians, kidnapped soldiers and assisted in holding them — this is the clear proof that the organization has lost legitimacy and can no longer exist,” Gallant wrote on X.

NBC News has not independently verified any of these claims.

UNRWA denied the allegations against them.

“We have seen media reports about these allegations. We have not been presented with any evidence from the Israeli authorities,” UNRWA Spokesperson Jonathan Fowler told NBC News. “But given that there is a probe underway by the Office of Internal Oversight Services — the highest investigative authority in the UN — we invite any country, party or institution with information, including anything available in the public domain, to provide it to that Office to help advance this investigation.”

The organization says it shares the names, employee numbers and functions of all staff members in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza with Israel, and never received any notion of any of their involvement in militant groups until January of this year.

“The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs last received the staff list for the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, in May 2023. As in previous years, UNRWA never received from the Government of Israel a response to the content of these lists, let alone an objection,” UNRWA said.

Sec. of State Blinken meets with Israeli President Herzog in Munich

Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Munich, according to a statement issued today by the U.S. State Department.

Blinken and Herzog discussed efforts to release hostages in Gaza and secure a humanitarian pause that would increase the flow of aid into the enclave.

“Secretary Blinken reiterated that the United States could not support a military ground operation in Rafah without a credible and implementable plan for ensuring the safety of the more than 1 million people sheltering there,” spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

Blinken also emphasized that all parties involved must take steps to protect civilians and “prevent the conflict from expanding.”

“The secretary underscored the U.S. commitment to lasting peace in the region, including through the establishment of a Palestinian state with security guaranteed for Israel,” Miller said.

Displaced Palestinians in Rafah say they are preparing for the worst

Displaced Palestinians in Rafah say they are preparing for the worst, including death, as Israel plans to bring a military operation to Gaza’s southernmost city.

Nearly 1.5 million people are currently in Rafah, which is more than six times the city’s population before Oct. 7, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

Fatima Elfag’awi and her two young children were displaced from their home in Khan Younis. After temporarily finding shelter with different family members, they are now stuck on the streets of Rafah without a tent.

News of Israel’s offensive in the southern city has left the mother wondering where her family can go.

“No, I am not leaving,” Elfag’awi said. “We were displaced from Khan Younis. Where should we go?”

“We will die here, that’s it, in the streets,” she said.

Ahmed Shael, 72, was also displaced from Khan Younis.

“It is so crowded here,” Shael said. “Everyone is scared that this invasion will lead to a catastrophe in the country because of how many people there are.”

Shael says people were displaced to Rafah with the understanding that they would be safe, only to be killed there by Israeli bombardment.

“So, either way, we are going to die, so it is better to remain steadfast in our place,” he said. “There is no alternative. The alternative is to die. Here, there, you will be martyred. Martyrdom is everywhere.”

Ismael Bakir called on the international community to help end the war that’s caused so much destruction and death in Gaza.

“There isn’t a place we haven’t been displaced to, no place left,” Bakir said. “What can we do? Have mercy on us, people. Have mercy on us, world.”

83 people killed in Gaza in last 24 hours, 125 injured, Gaza Ministry of Health says

A total of 83 people were killed in Gaza in the last 24 hours and 125 were injured, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza.

“A number of victims are still under rubble and on the roads, and the occupation prevents ambulance and civil defense crews from reaching them,” the ministry said in a statement on Telegram.

Vice President Kamala Harris warns Israel not to attack Rafah

MUNICH — Vice President Kamala Harris warned Israel over its planned ground offensive in Rafah in an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell at the Munich Security Conference today.

“Israel has the right to defend itself. However, how it does so matters,” the vice president said.

Harris condemned the brutal Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 and “rape being used as a tool of war.” She said it is “critically important” to get a hostage deal and that the U.S. is working on it “around the clock.”

At the same time, “too many” Palestinians have been killed, she said. Around 1.4 million people are currently trapped in the city of Rafah, many of whom have already fled attacks in northern Gaza. “I’m very concerned where they would go,” the vice president told NBC News. “There are steps we need to take now.”

At least 100 people detained in Nasser Hospital raid

TEL AVIV — The Israel Defense Forces’ operation at Nasser Hospital in Gaza’s southern city of Khan Younis continued today after it was launched on Thursday.

In an update this morning, the IDF said soldiers had apprehended at least 100 people it said were “suspected of terrorist activity in the Nasser Hospital.” The IDF confirmed to NBC News that as of this afternoon, the operation continued.

On Thursday, IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari said Israeli forces were launching the raid on the hospital in response to “credible intelligence from a number of sources, including from released hostages, indicating that Hamas held hostages” there. He said the intelligence indicated the bodies of killed hostages may have also been in the facility.

It was not clear whether any evidence of hostages being held at Nasser Hospital had emerged as of today. In its statement today, the IDF said only that the operation continued “based on IDF intelligence indicating that Hamas terrorist activity is being carried out from within the hospital.”

Many displaced Palestinians who had taken refuge at the hospital fled on Wednesday after the IDF said it issued warnings for people to evacuate. It said medical workers and patients would not have to leave the facility, however.

Palestinian health authorities in Gaza said at least five patients died due to a lack of oxygen and power outages during the offensive. NBC News was not immediately able to independently verify the claim.

‘Extraordinary opportunity’ for Israel to be integrated into the Middle East, Blinken says

There is an “extraordinary opportunity” in the months ahead for Israel to be integrated into the Middle East as Arab countries are willing to normalize ties with the country, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Saturday.

Speaking at a panel at the Munich Security Conference, Blinken also highlighted the “urgent” imperative to proceed with a Palestinian state that would also ensure the security of Israel.

“Virtually every Arab country now genuinely wants to integrate Israel into the region to normalize relations … to provide security commitments and assurances so that Israel can feel more safe,” Blinken said during a panel discussion at the annual Munich Security Conference.

“And there’s also, I think, the imperative that’s more urgent than ever, to proceed to a Palestinian state that also ensures the security of Israel,” he added.

The Biden administration has been working to secure a mega-deal that will see ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel normalize. Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries are seeking the creation of a Palestinian state as part of the deal, which was being discussed prior to the war in Gaza.

U.S. says Israel has not presented evidence of Hamas diverting U.N. aid deliveries

Israel has not presented specific evidence that Hamas is diverting U.N. aid, and Israel’s recent targeted killings of Gaza police commanders safeguarding truck convoys have made it “virtually impossible” to distribute the goods safely, a top U.S. envoy said in rare public criticism of Israel.

With the departure of police escorts following Israeli strikes, criminal gangs are increasingly targeting the convoys, said David Satterfield, the Biden administration’s special Middle East envoy for humanitarian issues. He said the lawlessness as well as regular Israeli protests at crossing points by those opposed to aid going into Gaza have disrupted delivery and distribution.

“We are working with the Israeli government, the Israeli military, in seeing what solutions can be found here, because everyone wants to see the assistance continue,” Satterfield told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace yesterday. A solution “is going to require some form of security escorts to return.”

Satterfield said that Israeli officials have not presented “specific evidence of diversion or theft” of U.N. assistance, but that the militants have their own interests in using “other channels of assistance … to shape where and to whom assistance goes.”

IDF detains WHO aid convoy near Nasser Hospital for hours, Gaza Health Ministry says

The Israel Defense Forces detained a World Health Organization aid convoy near Nasser Hospital for more than seven hours, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

The convoy included high-ranking international figures, the ministry said in a Telegram statement.

“The convoy consists of two trucks, one loaded with fuel and the other loaded with water and food, and has been detained for 7 hours,” the ministry said. “The Israeli occupation set up holes in front and behind the UN aid convoy to prevent it from reaching the Nasser Medical Complex.”

A spillover of Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt ‘would be a disaster for the future of peace,’ says U.N. high commissioner

The U.N. aid chief warned yesterday of the possibility of a spillover of Palestinians amassed in Rafah into Egypt if Israel launches a military operation against the border town.

Around 1.5 million Palestinians are in Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, along the border with Egypt. This is more than six times the city’s population before Oct. 7, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

“The possibility of a military operation in Rafah, with the possibility of the [border] crossing closing down, with the possibility of spillover … a sort of Egyptian nightmare … is one that is right before our eyes,” Martin Griffiths told diplomats at the United Nations in Geneva.

Griffiths added that the notion that the people of Gaza could evacuate to a safe place was an “illusion.”

“We must all hope that friends of Israel and those who care about Israel’s security give them good counsel at this moment,” Griffiths said.

99 journalists killed in 2023, 77 in war on Gaza, organization says

The majority of the 99 journalists and media workers killed in 2023 were killed in the war on Gaza, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Of the 77 journalists killed in the war, 72 were “Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks on Gaza,” the organization said. Three were Lebanese and two Israeli.

“The conflict claimed the lives of more journalists in three months than have ever been killed in a single country over an entire year,” CPJ said.

CPJ found that 78 of the deaths in 2023 were work-related. The organization is still investigating eight more deaths.

The organization expressed concerns that the Israeli military was deliberately targeting Palestinian journalists.

“Cases include that of Issam Abdallah, a Lebanese visual journalist for Reuters,” CPJ said. “Independent investigations by international news organizations and rights groups found evidence indicating that Israeli forces targeted a group of reporters — killing Abdallah and injuring six others — in southern Lebanon on October 13.”

The journalists were all wearing press insignia and covering crossfire between the IDF and Hezbollah militants “from a location where no fighting was taking place when they were hit by two Israeli shells,” CPJ said.

“CPJ, along with other organizations, is now investigating whether a dozen other journalists — and, in some cases, members of their families — killed in the Israel-Gaza war also were targeted by the Israeli military,” the organization said.

International Court of Justice rejects South Africa’s request for urgent measures to safeguard Rafah

The International Court of Justice rejected South Africa’s request for an urgent measure to safeguard Rafah, according to a statement from the court.

The ICJ said it considered South Africa’s letter, dated Feb. 12, asking for additional measures in Rafah.

“This perilous situation demands immediate and effective implementation of the provisional measures indicated by the Court in its Order of 26 January 2024, which are applicable throughout the Gaza Strip, including in Rafah, and does not demand the indication of additional provisional measures,” the court said.

The ICJ did note that the most recent developments in Gaza, specifically the Israeli operation in Rafah, “would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences.”

After South Africa took Israel to the ICJ, accusing it of committing genocide in Gaza, the ICJ ruled last month that Israel should take all possible measures to prevent acts of genocide in the enclave.

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