Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Israel-Palestine conflict LIVE: Hamas, Israel agree to extend Gaza truce for a seventh day

Palestinian group, Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, has announced the start of military the operation Al-Aqsa Flood against Israel. Thousands of rockets have been fired from the blockaded enclave towards the occupied territories as far away as Tel Aviv, killing over 1,200 Israelis, including both military and settlers. More than 15,000 Palestinians have been so far killed in an exchange of fire between the two sides.

Top US diplomat meets Palestinian Authority President Abbas in Ramallah after meetings with Israeli officials

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank, Thursday.

It’s the top US diplomat’s second visit to the West Bank since the Israel-Hamas war began and comes amid escalating Israeli settler violence in the territory following the October 7 attack on Israel.

Earlier Thursday, Blinken met in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the war cabinet, just hours after the truce with Hamas was extended. According to a US State Department readout of those meetings, Blinken “reaffirmed the United States’ support for Israel’s right to protect itself from terrorist violence in compliance with international humanitarian law and urged Israel to take every possible measure to avoid civilian harm.”

“Secretary Blinken reiterated that the United States remains committed to tangible steps to advance a Palestinian state living in peace, freedom, and security alongside Israel,” the readout from spokesperson Matt Miller said.

Meanwhile, following the shooting attack in Jerusalem, Netanyahu said he told Blinken, “we have sworn, I have sworn, to eliminate Hamas. Nothing will stop us.”

Blinken also met with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

Egypt, Qatar push for two-day truce extension

Egyptian and Qatari negotiators are pressing for a new two-day extension to the truce.

According to a statement from Egypt’s State Information Service (SIS), mediators are pushing for more prisoner releases and an increase in the delivery of humanitarian aid.

“Egypt will continue to exert its utmost efforts to ensure the continued flow of humanitarian aid to the north and south of the Gaza Strip,” it announced.

Last night, Israel and Hamas agreed to a last-minute extension to the truce deal for 24 hours. It included the release of 10 Israelis captured by Hamas and 30 Palestinian prisoners, as well as the provision of the same levels of humanitarian relief as during the previous six days, the SIS head stated.

Blinken says Israel-Hamas truce is helping get aid into Gaza

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated the temporary truce between Israel and Hamas, now in its sixth day, is working to help move more aid into Gaza.

“We have been focused relentlessly on trying to secure the release of hostages,” Blinken said during his third visit to the region since the October 7 Hamas attacks on Thursday.

“So the process is producing results, is important, and we hope that it will continue.”

Blinken also reaffirmed US commitment to supporting Israel’s right to defend itself.

On Tuesday, the US military announced it would fly three planeloads of crucial humanitarian aid to North Sinai in Egypt to be brought into Gaza to aid civilians in the region, according to senior administration officials.

The aid that was taken included medical supplies, food and winter weather gear as Gaza enters its rainy season – which can be wet, cold and even lead to flooding – with countless Palestinians displaced in temporary shelters.

More than 1,100 aid trucks entered Gaza since truce began: PRCS

Some 1,132 trucks carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza have entered the coastal region via Egypt’s Rafah border crossing since the truce began on Friday, the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has said.

“Since the beginning of the truce until yesterday, PRCS staff and volunteers have received 1,132 aid trucks via Rafah Crossing,” the relief group added in a brief statement.

There are still 145 hostages in Gaza: Israel

Israel now believes there are 145 hostages taken captive on October 7 who are still in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office told CNN Thursday.

Of those people, 134 are Israeli citizens, including those who hold dual citizenship, and 11 and foreigners.

Out of the 145 abductees:

  • 118 are men and 27 are women.
  • 3 are children under the age of 18.
  • 1 is age 18.
  • 10 are aged 75 and older.

Under the United Nations definition, an 18-year-old is also legally considered a child.

A total of 102 people have been released or recovered so far. These include:

  • 78 Israelis (70 as part of the framework with Hamas; three Russian-Israeli citizens; four women released before the Israel-Hamas deal; and one soldier who was rescued by IDF troops)
  • 24 foreigners

Two abductees who were murdered were located by IDF soldiers.

Hamas confirms attackers in Jerusalem shooting were members of its group

Hamas confirmed on Thursday that the individuals who perpetrated a shooting incident in Jerusalem were members of its organisation.

In a statement, Hamas announced that “the operation came as a natural response to unprecedented crimes conducted by the occupation”, citing Israel’s military campaign in Gaza and the treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Three people were killed and several wounded after the two gunmen opened fire with an assault weapon and a pistol.

Israeli forces kill Palestinian man during West Bank prisoner release: Officials

A 21-year-old Palestinian man, Fadi Muayyad Badran, was killed by Israeli forces during a prisoner release from the Ofer prison in the West Bank early Thursday morning, according to a statement from the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

The Palestinian WAFA news agency reported that Badran, who was not among the prisoners being released, was killed by a gunshot wound to the chest and that four others had been wounded by live fire during pre-dawn confrontations in front of the prison in the city of Beitunia.

For a sixth straight day, Israel has intervened to prevent Palestinians from gathering to celebrate the release of detainees that have been freed as part of the truce deal with Hamas.

WAFA also reported that Israeli forces entered the neighborhoods near the prison, leading to further confrontations in which live bullets, stun grenades and tear gas were used.

The health ministry also added that with Badran’s death, the total number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank had risen to 455 for the year with 247 of them since October 7.

Deal reached to extend Israel-Hamas truce

A temporary truce between Israel and Hamas has been extended to a seventh day, Israel Defense Forces announced Thursday morning, minutes before the deal was set to expire .

This is the second extension of the initial four-day truce that began on Friday.

The truce has resulted in the return of 70 Israelis under the agreement. During the pause, three dual-national Israeli citizens and twenty-four foreign nationals have also been released outside of the deal.

In exchange, 210 Palestinians have been freed from Israeli jails, officials announced.

In a separate statement, Hamas said that an agreement has been reached to extend the truce for a seventh day.

Until the last hour, the prospect of an extension of the truce was in question, after the two sides failed to agree on the new list of Israelis to be released from Gaza.

Hamas blames Israel for impasse in ceasefire extension talks

Talks for an extension of a current ceasefire between Israel and Hamas are at an impasse, according to a statement from Hamas Thursday.

Hamas announced Israel had refused an offer to extend the truce in exchange for receiving seven detained women and children and the bodies of three deceased women or children who Hamas claim were killed by Israeli bombardment.

The truce is set to expire at 7 a.m. local time (midnight ET).

Hamas military wing asks fighters to be ready for combat if truce isn’t extended

The Hamas military wing on Thursday asked its forces to maintain a high-combat readiness posture in the final hours of a truce with Israel in case it isn’t renewed.

The Al-Qassam Brigades said on Telegram that its fighters should remain in the high-combat readiness position unless an official statement is issued confirming the extension of the truce, which is set to expire at 7 a.m. local time (midnight ET).

Key mediator Qatar is “very optimistic” an extension will be announced, a foreign ministry spokesperson stated on Wednesday.

However, the Israeli military is prepared for the next stage of the war in Gaza when the truce ends, Herzi Halevi, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) chief of staff announced Wednesday, according to an IDF statement.

Truce would only be extended if Hamas provides list of hostages to be released Thursday: Sources

As the current truce deal is poised to expire, multiple sources familiar with the talks told CNN that another extension would be announced once Hamas has handed over the next list of names of hostages to be released.

The truce began on Friday at 7 a.m. local time (midnight ET). With the two-day extension, the current deal would be expected to expire at 7 a.m. local time Thursday (midnight ET).

The sources have expressed optimism about an extension — but until the list is provided by Hamas nothing is certain.

Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi released from prison

High-profile Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi has arrived in Ramallah after being released as part of the truce between Israel and Hamas.

Tamimi was detained earlier this month over what her family said was an Instagram post she didn’t make that referenced Hitler and the “slaughter” of settlers.

Tamimi has often been referred to as an icon of the Palestinian resistance.

She garnered widespread media attention in 2017 when she was arrested following an altercation with Israeli soldiers who refused to leave her home in Nabi Saleh, a village in the occupied West Bank. Tamimi was just 16 years old at the time she was sentenced to eight months in an Israeli prison.

Northern Gaza’s health care system faces crisis: Health ministry

Northern Gaza’s health care system has lost over 60% of its capacity across all of its hospitals, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health.

The reduction extends to operation rooms and intensive care units, which have seen a similar decline in capacity, spokesperson Dr. Ashraf Al-Qidra told CNN in a written statement Wednesday.

The spokesperson noted that 62% of renal dialysis units have been lost recently, leaving only 38% of the units predominantly in the south operational. This equates to about 70 units.

Additionally, the healthcare infrastructure for neonatal and maternity care has been heavily affected, according to Al-Qidra.

In the north, 76 premature incubators have been lost, leaving only 51 units in the south. The north has also seen the loss of 150 maternity beds, with only a few remaining in Al-Sahaba NGO clinic and Kamal Adwan Hospital.

“Primary health care centers (PHCC) are continuing to function in the south, along with nine UNRWA clinics. However, only four PHCCs are currently operational in the north. The refugee centers in the North, numbering 57, are receiving only partial health services,” Al-Qidra added.

US secretary of state arrives in Israel

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Tel Aviv as a truce between Israel and Hamas is poised to expire.

Blinken has said he will be focused on extending the pause in fighting in Gaza “so that we continue to get more hostages out and more humanitarian assistance in.”

“We’d like to see the pause extended because what it has enabled, first and foremost is hostages being released and being united with their families,” Blinken stated.

“It’s also enabled us to surge humanitarian assistance into the people of Gaza who so desperately need it. So, its continuation, by definition means that more hostages would be coming home, more assistance would be getting in.”

The top US diplomat added he also believes that an extension of the pause is something Israel wants because “they’re also intensely focused on bringing people home”. He said he plans to discuss the issue in his meetings with Israeli officials in the coming days.

“We’ll discuss with Israel how it can achieve its objective of ensuring that the terrorist attacks of October 7 never happen again, while sustaining and increasing humanitarian assistance and minimizing further suffering and casualties among Palestinian civilians,” Blinken added.

President Joe Biden also said at an event in Colorado that he spoke with members of his national security team about the next group of hostages set to be released by Hamas.

In addition to his stop in Israel, Blinken will travel to the West Bank and then on to Dubai for the COP28 climate summit.

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