Monday, March 4, 2024

Israel-Palestine conflict LIVE: Palestinian death toll climbs despite Gaza truce

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.

Hamas sets permanent Gaza ceasefire as condition for release of captured IDF soldiers: Report

Palestinian movement Hamas has made calling a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip as a precondition for its release of captured Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers in negotiations with Israel, Egyptian television channel Al-Qahera al-Ekhbariya reported on Wednesday.

According to the broadcaster, the Palestinian militants confirmed that the “conditions for the release of Israeli troops will be different”. In particular, negotiations on the issue will encompass a discussion on “ending hostilities and lifting of the blockade” imposed by Israel on the Gaza Strip.

Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official, said in an interview with Al Arabiya television that, “it is still early and difficult to speak about the release of [captured] troops under conditions of the ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people and the continuing Israeli aggression”.

According to him, “the termination of war is the condition for the negotiations.”

Hamdan confirmed that Hamas believes it is possible to extend the humanitarian truce for several more days.

“The extension of the ceasefire for several more days is possible and the negotiating process has two directions. The first is the humanitarian direction, which stipulates the release of as many hostages as possible. The second direction is political, concerning the cessation of the aggression and lifting of the blockade from the Gaza Strip<…>which will open a door to the conclusion of an exchange deal that involves all hostages,” Hamdan added.

Israeli police arrest protesters calling for Netanyahu’s impeachment

Israeli police have arrested demonstrators at a protest held in front of the Knesset in Jerusalem, according to independent journalist Or-ly Barlev.

Barlev shared on X videos of the morning demonstration showing “police violence” with officers “tearing down signs held by bereaved parents”.

“The demonstrators stood on the sidewalk as usual every Monday and Wednesday calling for Benjamin Netanyahu’s impeachment. According to them, the police said that it was forbidden to demonstrate ‘only on the issue of the abductees is allowed’ (what???),” she wrote on X, according to an automatic translation.

“They arrested Ayelet Katzir, the manager of the family camp, police broke and tore signs from the hands of the bereaved parents Yael Alon and Yaakov Godo, Maoz Yanon was detained in the area and then released. The Ben Gvir-Netanyahu police against the bereaved families!”

Gaza at risk of famine, warns World Food Program

The UN World Food Program (WFP) has warned of the possibility of a famine in the Gaza Strip, stressing that supplies are woefully insufficient to address the hunger levels observed by WFP staff in UN shelters.

“It is highly likely that the population of Gaza, especially women and children are at high risk of famine if WFP is not able to provide continued access to food,” the WFP said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The WFP delivered desperately needed food to more than 120,000 people in Gaza during the initial pause,” the statement added.

“Thanks to the pause, our teams have been in action on the ground, going into areas we haven’t reached for a long time. What we see is catastrophic,” said Corinne Fleischer, the WFP’s director for the MENA and Eastern Europe Region,.

“Six days is simply not enough to provide all the assistance needed. The people of Gaza have to eat every day, not just for six days”, she added.

Samer Abdeljaber, the WFP representative and country director in Palestine, said that program’s teams witnessed “hunger, despair, and destruction” among people who have not received any relief for weeks.

The humanitarian pause provided a moment of relief, he stated, “which we hope will pave the way for long-term calm.”

The uninterrupted and secure delivery of humanitarian aid must continue now without obstacles, he added.

Erdogan calls Netanyahu ‘butcher of Gaza’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday branded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “the butcher of Gaza” and accused him of spawning anti-Semitism across the world.

“Netanyahu has already written his name in history as the butcher of Gaza,” Erdogan said in nationally televised remarks.

“Netanyahu is endangering the security of all Jews in the world by supporting anti-Semitism with the murders he committed in Gaza,” he added.

Hamas ready to extend truce in Gaza Strip for four more days

The radical Palestinian movement Hamas is ready to extend a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip by another four days, France-Presse reported, citing a source close to the militants.

“Hamas has informed the mediators that it is willing to extend the truce for four days and that the movement would be able to release Israeli prisoners that it, other resistance movements and other parties hold during this period, according to the terms of the existing truce,” the source told AFP.

Hamas has not yet officially commented on this information.

Israel believes at least 161 hostages taken October 7 are still in Gaza: PM office

Israel now believes there are 161 hostages taken captive on October 7 who are still in Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office told CNN Wednesday.

Out of the 161 abductees, 146 are Israelis (some of whom are dual nationals) and 15 are foreigners.

Of those who remain kidnapped:

  • 4 are children under the age of 18
  • 4 at the age of 18-19
  • 10 at the age 75 and older

A total of 86 hostages have been released so far (66 of them Israeli):

  • 60 Israelis as part of the agreement with Hamas, some of whom are dual nationals
  • 20 foreigners
  • 4 women released before the deal with Hamas

One soldier was rescued by IDF troops, and one Russian-Israeli citizen was released due to Russian intervention.

The remains of two abductees who were killed were located by IDF soldiers.

Civil defence teams struggle to remove bodies from rubble: Member

Khalil Abu Shammala, a member of Gaza’s civil defence, has told Al Jazeera that the team is facing difficulties digging bodies out from underneath rubble after weeks of Israeli army bombardments in Gaza.

“[We] suffer from a lack of heavy machines that can deal with such crises. We have real difficulties dealing with the rubble and being able to reach the bodies, alive or dead. We are talking about thousands of people… mainly in the north of Gaza – Beit Hanoon and Beit Lahiya,” Abu Shammala said.

“Without real intervention from the international community to support these civil defence forces and to send the heavy-duty machines, teams and experts to support them, I think we won’t succeed in this mission,” he continued, adding that more fuel is needed as well.

The civil defence team told Al Jazeera they were able to recover only 160 dead bodies so far. According to the Ministry of Health, there are at least 7,000 people still buried underneath the rubble.

Netanyahu denies allowing Qatari funds to strengthen Hamas

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied that he allowed Qatar to fund and strengthen Hamas in order to politically divide Palestinians, according to a report in Politico.

Critics have long accused the premier of boosting Hamas in an attempt to play it off against the Palestinian Authority.

“It’s a big lie that I wanted to build Hamas. Ridiculous,” Netanyahu told Axel Springer, Politico’s parent company.

“You don’t go to war three times with Hamas or do major military operations if you want to build up Hamas.”

In 2019, Netanyahu told Likud’s annual conference: “Anyone who wants to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state needs to support strengthening Hamas.”

But he denied that allowing Qatari funds into the besieged enclave was linked to strengthening Hamas.

“We wanted to avoid a civilian humanitarian collapse – disease, rampant hunger and other things that would have created an impossible humanitarian situation,” he stated.

“That’s why successive Israeli governments allowed this money to go in, not in order to strengthen Hamas. We didn’t want to strengthen Hamas at all. We wanted to weaken it and degrade its capabilities as far as we could.”

More than 3,300 arrested in West Bank since October 7: Non-profit

The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society (PPS) and the Prisoners’ Affairs Authority say Israeli forces arrested 35 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank within the past 24 hours, including a 12-year-old child.

The total number of people arrested since October 7 is now more than 3,325, a post on the PPS’s Facebook page read.

Pope calls for truce to continue

Pope Francis has called for a continuation of the truce in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, according to Vatican News.

“I hope that the truce in Gaza might continue so that all the hostages might be freed, and the necessary humanitarian aid might be able to enter,” the pope said at the end of his weekly audience this morning.

“May we please continue to pray for the serious situation in Israel and Palestine,” he stressed, adding, “Peace, please, peace.”

Hamas has given Israel list of hostages expected to be released Wednesday

The list of the sixth set of hostages expected to be freed has been given to the Israeli government, and families are being notified.

This will be the second release in the extension of the truce.

Another group of 12 hostages, comprising 10 Israelis and two Thai citizens, were released by Hamas on Tuesday, according to officials.

Thirty Palestinians were also freed from Israeli prisons, officials confirmed.

Netanyahu says Israel determined to complete mission in Gaza

Israel’s military operation will continue until Gaza is “no longer a threat to Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated.

“We are committed to completing these missions: Freeing all of the hostages, eliminating this terrorist organization above and below the ground and, of course, that Gaza must not return to being what it was — that it will no longer constitute a threat to the State of Israel,” Netanyahu said Tuesday during a visit to an army intelligence base.

He made the comment before the latest release of hostages on Tuesday.

The prime minister also vowed to bring the release of all hostages taken by Hamas “without exception.”

Netanyahu went on to blame civilians in Gaza for “protecting the terrorists”, but did not provide any evidence.

“We are seeing, in effect, that the residents, the civilians in Gaza above (the ground) are protecting all of the terrorists (that are underground). They built an underground city to protect themselves and are sacrificing the civilians above,” he added.

Hamas denies that it uses civilians as human shields.

G7 foreign ministers welcome captive release, support truce extension

A statement issued on behalf of the foreign ministers of the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US and the High Representative of the EU) has backed ongoing international efforts to release captives being held in Gaza, saying that the current pause was “a crucial step towards bringing all remaining hostages home and addressing the full scope of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza”.

“Every effort must be made to ensure humanitarian support for civilians, including food, water, fuel, and medical supplies,” the statement added.

“We support the further extension of this pause and future pauses as needed to enable assistance to be scaled up, and to facilitate the release of all hostages.”

The foreign ministers also called on Yemen’s Houthi rebels to stop attacks on civilians “and threats to international shipping lanes” after they reportedly recently seized a ship in the Red Sea.

Israel targeting hospitals in West Bank

Israel is blocking the entrances to Khalil Suliman and Ibn Sina hospitals, and are inching closer to al-Razi Hospital, according to Al Jazeera Arabic.

These are the main hospitals in Jenin, in the occupied West Bank.

Several Palestinians have been wounded in ongoing Israeli raids on the refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.

Jenin over the last year has become an important hub of resistance to the continued Israeli occupation.

Israeli military denies aid truck access to northern Gaza

The Israeli military has denied the entry of fuel trucks into the north of the Gaza Strip, according to the Palestine Red Crescent.

Israeli soldiers controlling access to the north denied entry to a truck carrying fuel to ambulances in the north.

Israeli intelligence dismissed warnings of Hamas attack: Report

Israeli military intelligence dismissed a detailed warning that Hamas was planning to break through the separation fence surrounding Gaza and overrun kibbutzim and military posts, according to reports in Israeli media.

The claim made by Israel’s Channel 12 was based on leaked emails from the Israeli military’s 8200 cyber-intelligence unit discussing the warnings.

The leaked emails revealed that a senior officer who reviewed intelligence of a surprise attack by Hamas, called it an “imaginary scenario”.

PRCS says Israeli forces arrest injured person inside its ambulance

The Palestinian Red Crescent (PRCS) announced Israeli forces arrested an injured person inside one of its ambulances at the entrance of Jenin Governmental Hospital.

The arrest took place shortly after the PRCS said that its ambulance, which was carrying the injured individual, was prevented from reaching the hospital by Israeli soldiers raiding Jenin.

The injured person had sustained a gunshot wound in the leg, the PRCS added.

Hamas and Israel accuse each other of breaking truce

In a post on the social media platform X, the Israeli army alleged that three explosive devices went off near its troops in two separate locations in the northern Gaza Strip.

The explosions were “violating the framework of the operational pause”, the Israeli army said.

“In one of the locations, terrorists also opened fire at the troops, who responded with fire.”

“A number of soldiers were lightly injured during the incidents,” it added.

Hamas, for its part, released a statement saying that its fighters had “dealt with” an Israeli violation of the truce in northern Gaza.

The Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, added that it was committed to the truce “as long as the enemy has committed to it, and we call on the mediators to pressure the occupation to adhere to all the terms of the truce on the ground and in the air”.

UN renews call for ceasefire in Gaza

The United Nations has renewed its call for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

On Tuesday, the Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), took to X and wrote “UNICEF welcomes the extension in the pause in fighting in Gaza.”

“UNICEF and partners have scaled-up our humanitarian response but much more is needed,” she added.

“We continue to call for a humanitarian ceasefire and protection of aid workers and the children and families they serve.”

Hamas invites Elon Musk to visit Gaza

A senior Hamas official invited US billionaire Elon Musk on Tuesday to visit the Gaza Strip to see the extent of destruction caused by Israeli bombardment.

“We invite him to visit Gaza to see the extent of the massacres and destruction committed against the people of Gaza, in compliance with the standards of objectivity and credibility,” Hamas’s senior official, Osama Hamdan, said in a press conference in Beirut.

Musk is the CEO of Tesla Motors, SpaceX, and X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

On Monday, Elon Musk went to Israel to visit the site of the 7 October attack.

Palestinian death toll climbs despite truce

At least 160 Palestinian civilians have been found dead amid the rubble in Gaza over the last 24 hours, according to Palestinian media agency Wafa.

Despite the truce, Palestinians killed by Israeli air strikes continue to be found as rescue workers take advantage of the lull in fighting.

Over 15,000 Palestinians have been killed since 7 October, including over 6,150 children and 4,000 women.

Hamas says it wants to extend truce and is in contact with Qatar and Egypt

Hamas is “striving to extend the truce” with Israel in the Gaza Strip by using all of the cards it has in negotiations, a member of the militant group’s political bureau said.

Ghazi Hamad stated Hamas is in contact with Qatar and Egypt regarding the truce and that there are “efforts being made by other countries to pressure for a ceasefire.”

“We are striving to extend the truce to stop the aggression once and for all, by using the cards we have,” Hamad added.

The political bureau member said that “so far” there are no negotiations to release Israeli soldiers in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

“We are prepared and ready to achieve a comprehensive or partial deal. The comprehensive deal relates to the military (captives) in exchange for the release of all Palestinian detainees from Israeli prisons, or it may be a partial (deal) related to civilians, and this will be subject to the negotiations,” Hamad added.

Under the current truce, which is now in its fifth day after an agreed-upon two-day extension, Hamas will release 10 hostages daily, according to a senior Israeli adviser, in exchange for Israel releasing Palestinian detainees.

At the time of the original deal, Israeli officials said there was an option for the pause to last as long as 10 days, but officials said they didn’t believe it was likely to last that long.

Israel must face international court: Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on Israel to be brought to an international court over its actions in Gaza amid the continued escalation between Tel Aviv and Hamas.

The Israeli military continues to violate international law in full view of the international community, he told UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a phone call on Tuesday.

The two officials spoke ahead of the UN Security Council meeting on Gaza scheduled for Wednesday. The conversation was focused on solutions to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave and ways to achieve “lasting peace” in the region, the Turkish president’s office said in a statement on X (formerly Twitter).

Erdogan also maintained that Israel “continues to blatantly trample on the international law, the law of war and the humanitarian law”, the statement said, adding that the Turkish leader demanded West Jerusalem “be held to account before the international law for the crimes committed”.

On Tuesday, Erdogan expressed his condolences to Guterres over the deaths of more than 100 UN personnel killed in the Palestinian enclave amid the continued conflict.

A ‘humanitarian pause’ was arranged last week following growing international pressure on Israel. The truce also involved prisoner exchanges. Hamas has since released 39 Israeli hostages, as well as two dozen more captives under a separate arrangement. Israel has released 117 imprisoned Palestinians.

Erdogan has harshly criticized Israel’s conduct in Gaza from the very onset of the escalation, labeling it a “terror state” and accusing the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of committing war crimes against Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has responded by accusing the Turkish president of supporting “the terrorist state of Hamas”.

Earlier in November, the Turkish leader said Ankara would ask the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to investigate whether the Jewish state has a nuclear arsenal. “Israel’s nuclear weapons must be inspected beyond any doubt before it is too late”, he said at the time, reminding everyone that West Jerusalem is not a party to the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

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