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Hope for a truce in Gaza next week revived by Washington

Photo: Jim Watson Agence France-Presse US President Joe Biden upon arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York on Monday

Adel Zaanoun – Agence France-Presse and Emmanuel Duparcq – Agence France-Presse respectively in the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem

February 27, 2024

  • Middle East

Israel could observe a truce in Gaza from next week and for the duration of Ramadan as part of an agreement allowing the release of Hamas hostages, according to US President Joe Biden, soon after five months of war in the besieged Palestinian territory.

Egypt, Qatar and the United States are trying to negotiate a new truce between Israel and Hamas, as the death toll from the war sparked on October 7 by the Palestinian Islamist movement's bloody attack on Israeli soil approaches 30 000 dead in Gaza.

In the devastated territory, plunged into a major humanitarian crisis, 2.2 million people, according to the UN, the vast majority of the population, are threatened with famine.

Mediators hope to secure a break in the fighting before the start of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims, which begins this year on the evening of March 10 or 11, but both sides have refused compromise so far.

Hamas is calling in particular for a definitive ceasefire before any agreement on the release of the hostages.

Israel, for its part, asserts that a truce should be accompanied by the release of all hostages and would not mean the end of the war, promising that it will continue until the total elimination of Hamas.

“Ramadan is coming and there was an agreement by the Israelis that they would not engage in operations during Ramadan, in order to give us time to get out all the hostages” held by Hamas since October 7, Mr. Biden told American television NBC on Monday.

The international community is particularly concerned about the potentially disastrous consequences of an upcoming ground offensive announced by Israel on the overcrowded town of Rafah, in the south of Gaza, where, according to the UN, nearly of a million and a half Palestinians, trapped against the closed border with Egypt.

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“Not done yet”

“I’m hopeful that by next Monday we will have a cease-fire,” Joe Biden said earlier. “My national security advisor tells me we are close, it’s not there yet,” he qualified.

An Israeli official told the Ynet news site that “the trend is positive,” on condition of anonymity.

Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, the country at the center of the negotiating efforts and which hosts the political leadership of Hamas, begins a two-day state visit to Paris on Tuesday where he is scheduled to meet French President Emmanuel Macron.

According to Qatar's official news agency, the emir has just met with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Doha and discussed with him efforts “to reach a ceasefire agreement.” immediate and permanent fire.”

But Benjamin Netanyahu maintains his preparations for a ground operation against Rafah, which according to him would allow a “total victory” over Hamas in “a few weeks”.

A truce would only “delay” this offensive, he stressed on Sunday, assuring that civilians could be evacuated “north of Rafah”, out of the war zones.

The fighting nevertheless continues in Khan Younes, a few kilometers north of Rafah.

On Tuesday, the army announced that it was also carrying out “targeted operations” in the center of the territory as well as in Zeitun, in the north, where soldiers discovered a Hamas tunnel housing a factory of weapons.

According to the Hamas government press service, 52 Israeli strikes targeted Zeitun, Khan Younes and Rafah during the night.

According to AFP images, survivors were searching the rubble of a bombed house on Tuesday morning. “They say Rafah is safe, look at the peace that has come to us,” said Khaled al-Zatma, the owner of the house.

Mr. Netanyahu claims that Rafah is Hamas's “last stronghold”, four months after the start of the ground offensive launched on October 27 in the north of Gaza and then gradually extended to the south.

“The north is hungry”

War broke out on October 7 when Hamas commandos infiltrated from Gaza launched an unprecedented attack on southern Israel, resulting in the deaths of at least 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli data.

During the attack, some 250 people were kidnapped and taken to Gaza. According to Israel, 130 hostages are still being held there, 31 of whom are believed to have died, after the release of 105 hostages and 240 Palestinians held by Israel during a truce at the end of November.

In retaliation, Israel vowed to annihilate Hamas, in power in Gaza since 2007, which it considers, along with the United States and the European Union, to be a terrorist organization.

The Israeli offensive has so far killed 29,878 people in Gaza, the vast majority of them civilians, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health, which counted 96 dead in 24 hours on Tuesday.< /p>

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Monday that an offensive on Rafah would “sound the death knell” for humanitarian aid programs in Gaza.

This city is the only entry point for aid into the territory, subject to the green light from Israel and which arrives from Egypt in very insufficient quantities. Its transport to northern Gaza is made almost impossible by the destruction, fighting and looting.

“The whole north is hungry. We ended up eating the food of donkeys, cows and other animals,” Mahmud Khodr, a resident of Jabalia, in northern Gaza, told AFP.

The Israeli prime minister faces growing public pressure over the fate of the hostages and protests against his government have resumed.

On Tuesday, Israeli voters began voting in municipal elections, originally scheduled for late October but postponed twice due to the war.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116