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Israel sets date for Rafah offensive

Photo: Agence France-Presse Palestinians were fleeing an attack on a hospital in al-Breij camp in the central Gaza Strip on Monday.

Gaël Branchereau – Agence France-Presse and Belal al Sabbagh – Agence France-Presse in the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem

April 8, 2024

  • Middle East

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday that a date had been set for an offensive on Rafah, in the far south of the Gaza Strip, despite opposition from Washington. time when Hamas and Israel try to agree on a truce.

Six months after the start of the war, the Palestinian Islamist movement is examining a three-stage proposal submitted by the mediating countries, the first of which provides for a six-week ceasefire, a source said within Hamas.

French President Emmanuel Macron, Egyptian Head of State Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and Jordanian King Abdullah II called Monday evening for an “immediate” and “permanent” ceasefire. , to a release of “all hostages” in Gaza and warned Israel of the “dangerous consequences” of an offensive in Rafah.

“The war in Gaza and the catastrophic human suffering it causes must end immediately,” they wrote in a joint column published in four French newspapers (Le Monde), American (Washington Post), Jordanian (Al-Raï ) and Egyptian (Al-Ahram).

The Israeli Prime Minister announced that a date had been set for an offensive on Rafah, one of the last bastions according to him of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. “It will be done — there is a date,” he said in a video message, six months after the start of the war, although he did not give the date.

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Almost immediately after this announcement, the United States reaffirmed its opposition to this operation on this Egyptian border town where nearly a million and a half Palestinians are crowded together in very precarious conditions. .

“We have made it clear to Israel that we believe that a massive military invasion of Rafah would have an extremely harmful effect on these civilians and would ultimately harm Israel's security,” he told reporters. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

Several Israeli officials reaffirmed this assault plan after Sunday's announcement of the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Khan Younes, a town in the south of the territory, which was the epicenter of fighting between the army and the Hamas, which took power in Gaza in 2007.

Khan Younès “indescribable”

On Sunday then Monday, thousands of Palestinians who had fled returned to Khan Younès, noted Agence France-Presse (AFP). “We were hoping to find the house or what was left of it,” said Safa Qandil, a 46-year-old woman. Nothing remains of the house. Safa also lost her son and her daughter-in-law, who was pregnant. “It’s […] indescribable,” she confides.

Salim Sharab, a 37-year-old man also looking for his house, said he was “shocked” by the sight. “Nothing is like what we knew anymore,” he said.

Israel sets date for Rafah offensive

Photo: Agence France-Presse A Palestinian family traveled on a cart pulled by a donkey on Monday in the ruined town of Khan Younes.

The war was sparked on October 7 when Hamas commandos infiltrated from the Gaza Strip carried out an unprecedented attack in southern Israel, resulting in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to a toll compiled by the 'AFP based on official Israeli figures.

More than 250 people have been kidnapped and 129 remain detained in Gaza, including 34 who have died, according to Israeli officials. In retaliation, Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and launched a ground offensive after an aerial bombardment campaign.

On Monday, the Hamas Ministry of Health announced the deaths of 32 Palestinians in 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 33,207.

Security and medical sources reported Israeli airstrikes throughout the Gaza Strip on Monday evening.

“Opportunity moment”

In addition to a six-week ceasefire, the truce proposal that Hamas is studying also provides, initially, for the release of 42 Israeli hostages in exchange for 800 to 900 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, entry 400 to 500 trucks of food aid per day and the return home of residents of the northern Gaza Strip displaced by the war, according to the source within Hamas.

This proposal is the result of a new round of negotiations in Cairo between Hamas and Israel through Egypt, the United States and Qatar.

Earlier in the day, Israeli and Hamas officials tempered hopes of an upcoming truce, with both sides accusing each other of a standoff.

“Hamas is blocking negotiations,” said Israeli government spokesperson Avi Hyman.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, for his part, considered “the opportune moment” to conclude a truce.

322 humanitarian aid trucks

According to a Hamas official contacted by AFP on Monday, “we cannot speak of concrete progress so far” and the differences mainly concern the return of displaced people to Gaza City, demanded by the Islamist movement, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, Canada and the European Union.

Questioned by the BBC, the spokesperson for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Majed al-Ansari, said he was more “optimistic” than a few days ago, adding however that the negotiations are far from being in their final “stretch”.

At the end of November, a seven-day truce allowed the release of 80 Israeli hostages (and 25 others outside the agreement) in exchange for that of 240 Palestinian prisoners.

Witnesses told AFP that several airstrikes hit a house and farmland in Rafah, as well as the sectors of Nousseirat and Deir el-Balah, in the center of the besieged territory. Artillery fire also targeted the southwest of Gaza City, located in the north.

In addition to the destruction and human toll, the war has also caused a humanitarian catastrophe in the territory of 2.4 million inhabitants besieged by Israel, where humanitarian aid controlled by Israel is reaching the drops.

On Monday, Avi Hyman announced that “322 trucks” had entered Gaza in the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the war.

Faced with the situation in Gaza, Nicaragua filed a lawsuit against Germany before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the highest court of the UN, denouncing its military support for Israel .

Germany will respond in court on Tuesday but has already called Nicaragua's presentation “grossly biased”.

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