Israel and Hamas at war, day 151 | Biden calls Hamas for ceasefire in Gaza, negotiations continue in Cairo

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday called on Hamas to agree to a ceasefire in Gaza before Ramadan, hoping to advance negotiations for a truce in the war with Israel that cannot last “indefinitely”, according to the Palestinian Islamist movement.




“It is in the hands of Hamas,” said Mr. Biden, who said he feared a “very dangerous” situation, particularly in Jerusalem, if hostilities continued during the holy month of Muslim fasting, which begins on the 10 or March 11.

Washington, which is concerned about a possible outbreak of violence during Ramadan, called on Israel last week to “facilitate access” to the Esplanade des Mosques in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam, “for peaceful faithful.”

Muslims will be able to pray on the esplanade “in the same number as in previous years” during Ramadan, the Israeli government assured Tuesday. This number will be re-evaluated every week based on security criteria, he added.

To stem a catastrophic humanitarian crisis after almost five months of conflict, Joe Biden also called for “more aid” in the besieged Gaza Strip, saying that Israel had “no excuses” for restricting the entry of convoys waiting at the border with Egypt.

Compromise

On the ground, Israeli bombings continued, particularly in southern Gaza, killing 97 people in 24 hours, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.

PHOTO FATIMA SHBAIR, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Rafah, March 4.

In Cairo, discussions started on Sunday with a view to a truce are “difficult” and must continue on Wednesday between representatives of Egypt, the United States, Hamas and Qatar, but without an Israeli representative, said the AlQahera channel. News, close to Egyptian intelligence, citing a senior official.

Mediators are trying to reach a compromise on a six-week break before the start of Ramadan. It would free hostages held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and an increase in humanitarian aid to the besieged territory.

The United States, Israel’s main supporter, is pushing for a ceasefire in the face of the humanitarian catastrophe caused by the war in Gaza.

Mr. Biden stressed that the Israelis were “cooperative” and that a “reasonable” proposal was on the table.

Before him, Secretary of State Antony Blinken had called on Hamas for an “immediate ceasefire” which could “bring hostages home, allow a considerable increase in humanitarian aid” and then “create the conditions for ‘a lasting resolution’ of the conflict.

A Hamas leader, Mahmoud Mardawi, reiterated to AFP on Tuesday Hamas’ demands before any agreement on the hostages: a definitive ceasefire, a withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, the reconstruction of the territory and the return of displaced by war.

And the path to negotiations “will not be open indefinitely,” warned an official of the Palestinian Islamist movement based in Beirut.

Israel rejects these conditions and assures that the offensive will continue until “total victory” over Hamas.

The Israelis are also asking Hamas, according to media reports, for a precise list of hostages held in Gaza. But a senior official in the Palestinian movement told AFP on Monday that he did not know “who is alive or dead” among the hostages.

“New tragedy”

PHOTO SAID KHATIB, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Khan Younes, March 5, 2024

The war was sparked on October 7 by an attack by Hamas commandos infiltrated into southern Israel from Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of at least 1,160 people, most of them civilians, according to a tally by the AFP produced from official Israeli data.

According to Israel, 130 hostages are still in the Gaza Strip, including 31 presumed dead, out of some 250 people kidnapped on October 7.

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

The Israeli offensive has left at least 30,631 dead in the Gaza Strip, the majority of them civilians, the Hamas Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

PHOTO MOHAMMED SALEM, REUTERS

Rafah, March 5, 2024

Israel also announced that it was preparing a ground operation on Rafah, in the far south of the territory on the closed border with Egypt, where nearly a million and a half Palestinians are massed, according to the UN.

The city was once again bombarded during the night and several strikes targeted Khan Younes, a few kilometers further north, where ground fighting continues, according to an AFP journalist in the Gaza Strip.

These strikes hit the European Hospital sector, in the Hamad district. A strike on a house killed 16 people, including children and a newborn, according to residents and the Hamas health ministry.

“He was ten years old, what did he do wrong?” », Launched Mohamed Mosleh, whose nephew was one of the victims. “Every day we wake up to a new tragedy.”

“Flood” Gaza with aid

In the northern city of Gaza, Israeli soldiers opened fire on Tuesday on a hungry crowd who had rushed onto a convoy of trucks loaded with flour, wounding people, according to the ministry and witnesses to AFP.

PHOTO MOHAMMED ABED, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Rafah, March 5, 2024

The army has not confirmed this information.

On February 29, a stampede accompanied by Israeli fire during an aid distribution left dozens of people dead in the same city.

According to the UN, famine is “virtually inevitable” for 2.2 million inhabitants of Gaza, the vast majority of the population, with humanitarian aid arriving only in dribs and drabs.

The Jordanian army announced that it had carried out humanitarian aid drops in northern Gaza, its largest operation since the start of the war, in cooperation with the United States, France and Egypt.

The UN has urged the world to “flood” Gaza with aid to save children “who are beginning to die of hunger” in a territory where the health system has collapsed.

Some 8,000 patients, three-quarters of whom are war victims, require medical evacuation to receive adequate care, said the World Health Organization (WHO).


reference: www.lapresse.ca

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