Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Israel-Palestine conflict LIVE: Hamas says no negotiations or prisoner exchange with Israel until there is ceasefire in Gaza Strip

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 15,200 Palestinians have been so far killed in an exchange of fire between the two sides.

IDF says two more soldiers killed in Gaza offensive

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said two more soldiers have died in their offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The IDF announced one died of wounds sustained three weeks ago, and a second was killed on Saturday. A total of 66 soldiers have died since Israel launched its ground offensive on Gaza last month, the IDF added.

The latest deaths come after Israel resumed its offensive in Gaza.


Palestinians officials say 700 killed in 24 hours

Israeli bombing has killed at least 700 people in the last 24 hours, the Gaza government media office has announced.

Israeli fighter jets bombed heavily across Gaza’s north and south on Saturday night and Sunday morning, levelling dozens of homes.

The escalation comes after US officials say they have urged Israel to show “restraint” following the resumption of bombing on Friday.


Report reveals Israel’s AI-driven military campaign in Gaza

Israel’s war on Gaza has seen it strike the Palestinian enclave with new and deadly ferocity. That onslaught, according to a recent report, is being powered with an artificial intelligence system that experts warn is indiscriminate and inherently faulty.

During a collaborative investigation, Israeli publications +972 Magazine and Local Call carried out interviews with various ex and current Israeli intelligence officials, Middle East Eye reported.

These discussions uncovered that the military’s expectations for minimising civilian targets were lower than what was previously assumed.

The combination of relaxed operational guidelines and the deployment of “Habsora” (“The Gospel” in Hebrew), an AI system capable of rapidly generating targets, led to what a former intelligence officer described as a “mass assassination factory”.

According to the reports by officials, residences of lower-ranking members of Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups were deliberately targeted, even at the cost of potential casualties in the entire building.


Palestinian man shot dead in occupied West Bank

Adnan Issam Zaid, 21, was shot dead by Israeli forces on Sunday, Palestinian WAFA news agency reported.

The killing took place during an Israeli raid in Qalqilya in the occupied West Bank.

Since October 7, more than 250 people have been killed in the occupied West Bank, more than a quarter of them were minors.


Hamas says it launched a barrage of rockets at Tel Aviv

The military wing of Hamas, Al-Qassam Brigades, has launched a barrage of rockets toward Tel Aviv, it said in a statement late Saturday local time.

The group claimed the action is in response to what it calls “Zionist massacres against civilians.”

The rockets were fired from a location in the northern Gaza Strip, according to Izzat al-Rishq, a member of Hamas’ political bureau.

It was the second round of threats over the city since the truce between Israel and Hamas ended.


Estimated 300 killed in Shujaiya ‘massacre’: Palestinian civil defence

An estimated 300 people were killed in a single Israeli attack on a residential block in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, according to the Palestinian civil defence.

Hundreds more are feared wounded, the spokesperson for the civil defence in Gaza, Mahmoud Basal, told Al Ghad TV, after 50 residential buildings were levelled by Israeli fighter jets.

Residents say up to 1,000 people lived in the targeted area in Shujaiya, a densely populated neighbourhood in eastern Gaza City.

“The numbers are huge,” Basal continued, stating, “At least 300 are dead and many more are missing under the rubble.”

Basal added the civil defence teams do not have the means nor the equipment to handle the “massacre”.


Hamas says no negotiations or prisoner exchange with Israel until there is ceasefire in Gaza

Saleh Al-Arouri, deputy head of the political bureau of Hamas, conveyed the group’s official stance on negotiations and hostage-prisoner exchanges in an interview with Al Jazeera TV on Saturday.

He said “there are no negotiations now” and there will be no more prisoner exchanges until there is a ceasefire in Gaza and “until the Zionist terrorist aggression is completely ended.”

The remaining hostages still being held captive by Hamas are soldiers and former soldiers, according to Al-Arouri, who added that “there will be no negotiations regarding them until the end of the aggression.”

Al-Arouri said adult male hostages — “all of whom served in the army, with some still on the reserve list” — are now subjected to different standards by Hamas. The Israeli prime minister’s office said Saturday that 117 men remain captive.

“We said from day one that the price for releasing Zionist prisoners is the liberation of all our prisoners, after the ceasefire,” Al-Arouri added.

The negotiations between Israel and Hamas over hostages held captive in Gaza broke down Saturday after Israel continued to insist on the release of a group of women and Hamas refused, according to reports.


Israel will continue ground operations in Gaza until all goals are met: Netanyahu

Israel will continue ground operations in Gaza until all of its goals are achieved, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated in a press conference Saturday.

“We will continue the war until we achieve all our goals, and we can’t achieve these goals without the ground maneuvering,” Netanyahu said.

“There are no other ways to achieve these goals but to win, and there is no way to win other than ground maneuvering.”

Netanyahu added Israel’s goals are freeing hostages, eradicating Hamas and preventing a “regime of terror” in Gaza.

“We must achieve these goals; this is the only thing that is important to me,” he continued.

Netanyahu also spoke of the freed hostages, but declined to provide details on the conditions in which they were kept in Gaza.

“As evidence has been gathered, you realize they experienced hell,” he said.

Netanyahu also reiterated his warning against Hezbollah becoming more involved in the conflict.

“In the north, we are operating all the time against Hezbollah, eliminating terror squads bringing terrorists further from the border,” Netanyahu added.

“We are on the offensive and, let me declare, we are committed to bring security both to the north and the south; if Hezbollah makes such mistake and enters the expanded war, it will demolish Lebanon single-handedly,” the prime minister continued.


Israeli DM claims Hamas violated agreement to return 15 women and 2 children

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant blamed Hamas for breaching the truce agreement with Israel.

“Hamas explicitly violated the agreement we reached with the US, Egypt and Qatar,” Gallant said in a news conference Saturday.

The truce between Israel and Hamas collapsed after Hamas promised to return the remaining 15 women and two children but did not follow through, Gallant claimed.

Gallant also addressed Hamas’ Wednesday claim that two young children — 4-year-old Ariel and 10-month-old Kfir Bibas — had been killed in an Israeli airstrike, stating only that they had been photographed alive earlier.

“Hamas promised to bring women and children; there have been 17 left behind. We need all 17, two kids of the Bibas family and 15 women,” Gallant stated.

“This is their obligation because we agreed on it,” he added.


Destruction of Hamas would take a decade of war: Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron said the total destruction of Hamas would take 10 years of fighting, adding that Israel needs to further define its end goal with the war.

Speaking at a press conference at the COP28 climate talks in Dubai, Macron said he would be traveling to Qatar to “work together on a new truce as soon as possible.”

Israel on Saturday recalled its team of negotiators from Qatar after reaching a “dead end” in talks, according to a statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.

Macron stated there needs to be a permanent ceasefire.

“I think we’re at a moment when Israeli authorities will have to more precisely define their goal and the final outcome they’re trying to achieve. What does the total destruction of Hamas mean? Does anyone think it is possible?” Macron continued.

“If this is the case, the war will last 10 years, and I don’t think that anyone is really able to define that goal. So it will need to be better defined,” he added.

Macron has reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself, but he stressed “the right for defense does not give you, in any way, the right to attack civilians.”


ICRC says conditions in Gaza do not allow for ‘meaningful humanitarian response’

The International Committee of the Red Cross said the current conditions in Gaza “do not allow for a meaningful humanitarian response”.

In a statement released on Saturday, Pascal Hundt, the head of the ICRC’s Gaza operations, stated: “A very high number of civilians have been killed and maimed, including thousands of children. Homes, hospitals and other infrastructure critical to the survival of the civilian population have suffered colossal destruction…”

“Current conditions do not allow for a meaningful humanitarian response and fear will spell disaster for the civilian population.”


Hamas blames Israel and the US for war resuming after latest truce talks break down

After talks on a fresh truce broke down Saturday, Hamas announced Israeli authorities had made a “predetermined decision to resume the criminal aggression.”

A Hamas spokesperson stated the group had offered to exchange prisoners and hand over the bodies of hostages it said died during Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, but that Israel “refused to consider all these offers.”

“The occupation and the US administration are the ones responsible for the resumption of the war and the continuation of the massacres in Gaza,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Israel recalled its negotiators from Qatar on Saturday because of what it described as a “dead end” in the talks.

The Israeli prime minister’s office announced in a statement that Hamas didn’t “fulfill its part in the agreement, which included the return of all women and children held hostage, in accordance with a list sent to Hamas and approved by them.”

Israeli and US officials believe Hamas continues to hold hostage a number of women between the approximate ages of 20 to 30 – many of them kidnapped from the Nova music festival – CNN previously reported. Hamas has been insisting that some of the remaining women they were holding hostage were considered part of the Israel Defense Forces, which Israel denies.


Civilians ‘centre of gravity’ in Gaza war: Pentagon chief

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin delivered his strongest remarks to date over Israel’s need to protect civilians in Gaza on Saturday, calling them the centre of gravity in Israel’s war with Hamas and warning over the risks of their radicalisation.

“In this kind of a fight, the centre of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat,” Austin said, drawing on his experience as a four-star general overseeing the battle against Islamic State militants.

“So I have repeatedly made clear to Israel’s leaders that protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza is both a moral responsibility and strategic imperative,” he added.


US VP says Israel must do more to protect civilians: “Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed”

While the US supports Israel’s “legitimate military objectives” in Gaza, the civilian suffering in the enclave has been too high, US Vice President Kamala Harris said Saturday.

Harris, who met several key leaders in the region on the sidelines of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, stated she spoke with them in depth Saturday about what expectations the US will have in regard to post-conflict planning.

“As Israel defends itself, it matters how. The United States is unequivocal: International humanitarian law must be respected. Too many innocent Palestinians have been killed. Frankly, the scale of civilian suffering, and the images and videos coming from Gaza, are devastating,” Harris said at a news conference during the COP28 climate summit in Dubai.

“It is truly heartbreaking.”

“As Israel pursues its military objectives in Gaza, we believe Israel must do more to protect innocent civilians,” she added.

Harris and US President Joe Biden are already having discussions with their national security team and partners in the region about what a future path forward could look like for Gaza and the West Bank, Harris told reporters.

There are five principles currently guiding their approach: No forcible displacement of the Palestinian people, no reoccupation of Gaza, no siege or blockade, no reduction in territory, and no use of Gaza as a platform for terrorism, she continued.

“I’ve had a number of in-depth conversations with Arab leaders here in Dubai. Specifically, I proposed three areas of focus,” Harris said, pointing first to the reconstruction of critical infrastructure in Gaza, then strengthening the Palestinian Authority’s security services, and lastly, revitalizing the PA’s governance structure.

“When this conflict ends, Hamas cannot control Gaza, and Israel must be secure. Palestinians need a hopeful political horizon, economic opportunity and freedom and the region more broadly, must be integrated and prosperous. And we must, we must work toward that vision,” she added.


The US will “under no circumstances” permit forced relocation of Palestinians: VP

Washington will not allow for the forced relocation of Palestinians or any redrawing of the current border of the Gaza Strip, US Vice President Kamala Harris said in a meeting Saturday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

“Under no circumstances will the United States permit the forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank, the besiegement of Gaza, or the redrawing of the borders of Gaza,” Harris stated, according to a statement from the White House.

Israel says its military campaign in Gaza is aimed at destroying Hamas, the group responsible for the October 7 terror attack that left more than 1,200 Israelis dead and saw another 240 taken hostage.

However, regional leaders like Jordan’s King Abdullah II have expressed concerns that Israel could use the conflict to seize parts of Gaza or expel its Palestinian residents.

It’s also unclear what role Israel plans to play after the conflict ends. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed in November that Israel’s security role in a post-war Gaza would be an “over-riding, over-reaching military envelope,” but did not explain what that meant.

During their meeting, Harris and Sisi discussed “ideas for post-conflict planning in Gaza including efforts on reconstruction, security, and governance,” the statement read.

“She (Harris) emphasized that these efforts can only succeed if they are pursued in the context of a clear political horizon for the Palestinian people towards a state of their own led by a revitalized Palestinian Authority and have significant support from the international community and the countries of the region.”


Israel negotiators reach “dead end” in Qatar talks: PM’s office

Israel has recalled its team of negotiators from Qatar after reaching a “dead end” in talks, according to a statement released by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.

“The Hamas terror organization did not fulfill its part in the agreement, which included the return of all women and children held hostage, in accordance with a list sent to Hamas and approved by them,” the statement said.

The negotiators were from Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency. The statement added it was the head of the agency, David Barnea, who recalled the team.

An agreement between Israel and Hamas was reached with the help of foreign mediation and saw a seven-day pause in fighting, with the release of Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. More aid was also able to flow into the enclave during the truce.

The pause began on November 24 and was renewed twice before ending on Friday morning.


PRCS receives 100 aid trucks at Rafah crossing

The Palestine Red Crescent Society received 100 aid trucks at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip on Saturday, the humanitarian organisation has said.

The trucks contained food, water, relief assistance, medical supplies and medicines, the PRCS added.

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