BLINKEN BLOG: US continues to push for ceasefire

The war between Israel and Hamas - 167st day

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There is no end in sight to the conflict in Gaza, Photo: Reuters
There is no end in sight to the conflict in Gaza, Photo: Reuters
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.
Ažurirano: 21.03.2024. 22:14h
Finished
22: 13h

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the US continues to push for a deal to release the hostages and a ceasefire in Israel's conflict with Hamas in Gaza amid ongoing talks in Doha.

Blinken said hard work remains to reach an agreement, but "he still believes it is possible," Reuters reports.

He also said Israel still needs to do more to facilitate humanitarian aid in Gaza.

19: 00h

The head of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, David Barnea, will travel to Doha, Qatar on Friday to meet with the head of the CIA, William Burns, as part of the negotiations regarding the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, the office of the Israeli prime minister announced today, reports AFP.

There, he will also meet with the Qatari prime minister and the head of Egypt's intelligence services, as well as other mediators in the negotiations between Israel and Hamas on a truce and an agreement to release hostages in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, the statement added.

(Beta)

Change: 22:13 p.m
18: 56h

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday that only the opening of new land crossings in Gaza can help prevent starvation in the densely populated Palestinian enclave.

Children are dying as a result of malnutrition and disease, as well as lack of adequate water and sanitation, said director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"The future of an entire generation is in grave danger," he said.

Five months of war in Gaza have left 2,3 million Palestinians with critical food shortages, which in some areas now exceed starvation levels, United Nations figures show.

The head of the WHO once again appealed to Israel to open more crossings and speed up the entry and delivery of water, food, medical supplies and other humanitarian aid to Gaza.

"Recent efforts to deliver food by air and sea are welcome, but only the expansion of land crossings will enable large-scale deliveries to prevent famine," Tedros said.

UN aid agencies have said the "enormous obstacles" to the transport of humanitarian aid to northern Gaza will only be overcome by a ceasefire and the opening of border crossings closed by Israel after Hamas launched its attack on October 7.

Tedros said WHO requests to deliver supplies to the enclaves were often blocked or refused.

Israel says it places no restrictions on humanitarian aid to Gaza and blames the slow delivery of aid on a lack of capacity or inefficiency among UN agencies.

Most of the aid coming to Gaza by land is cleared by Israel at Kerem Shalom, a customs post at the border point between Egypt, Israel and Gaza. Aid is then brought in through the southern city of Rafah, the main passenger crossing between Egypt and Gaza.

After letting six aid trucks into northern Gaza through a security fence crossing last Sunday, Israel said more such convoys would follow, as well as deliveries from other entry points.

(Radio Free Europe)

Change: 18:59 p.m
18: 43h

European Union (EU) leaders will call for a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza at a summit in Brussels on Thursday, said the EU's high representative for foreign policy and security, Josep Borelj.

"Today, the Council is going much further than in previous months, seeking a sustainable ceasefire, certainly seeking the freedom of the hostages, but showing strong concern for the situation of the people in Gaza, which is unacceptable," Borelj said before the start of the two-day summit.

Borelj called on Israel to ensure that more aid reaches Gaza and said he hoped EU leaders would do the same.

"People in Gaza are starving. So I hope the Council will send a strong message to Israel, stop the blockade, stop preventing food from coming to Gaza and take care of the civilians," he said.

Borelj added that Israel "has the right to defend itself, but not to defend itself".

Israel invaded Gaza after a deadly attack by Hamas militants on October 7, 2023, in which about 1.200 people were killed in southern Israel and 253 people, according to Israeli claims, were taken hostage.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has warned that 2,4 million Gazans are on the brink of starvation.

(Radio Free Europe)

17: 27h

Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates are participating today in Cairo in a ministerial meeting on the war in Gaza, before a meeting with Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.

In addition to the ministers of foreign affairs of those countries, Hussein al-Sheikh, a senior official of the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank, a close associate of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, is attending the meeting, said the spokesman of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Abu Zeid, on the X network.

They will discuss the necessary efforts to stop Israel's war, achieve a ceasefire in Gaza and guarantee the delivery of all humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory, where the UN warns of an imminent threat of famine after five months of war.

The ministers will meet later with Blinken, who has already spoken to his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shukri and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi about efforts to protect Palestinian civilians and the means to achieve an immediate ceasefire that would include the release of hostages from Gaza.

Blinken said yesterday that the USA submitted a proposal for a resolution to the members of the UN Security Council calling for an immediate ceasefire and the release of the hostages in Gaza.

After the start of the October 7 war between Israel and Hamas, the US, Israel's main ally, vetoed several resolutions calling for a truce in the conflict sparked by an attack on Israel by the Palestinian Islamist Hamas.

But with nearly 32.000 dead in Gaza, according to the Hamas Health Ministry, and the risk of starvation in the blockaded Palestinian territory, the US says it is redoubling its efforts to broker a ceasefire.

Parallel to Blinken's tour, negotiations continued yesterday in Doha, Qatar, through American, Qatari and Egyptian mediators. The plan being discussed in Qatar envisages a temporary cessation of hostilities with the release of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners, as well as an increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza.

A senior Hamas official said yesterday that Israel's response to the cease-fire proposal submitted by his movement was "mostly negative" and that it could bring the negotiations to an impasse.

(Beta)

14: 14h

The Supreme Court of Israel has temporarily postponed the implementation of the decision of the Israeli authorities to return to the Gaza Strip a group of Palestinian patients who are being treated for life-threatening diseases.

Following a petition by the Israeli non-profit organization Doctors for Human Rights - Israel, the Supreme Court ordered that no more than 20 Palestinian patients, who are being treated in East Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, be returned to the war-torn Gaza Strip today.

They were scheduled to be taken by bus to the Gaza Strip, a small Palestinian enclave, early this morning, which has now been delayed until at least Monday, health officials said.

Israeli authorities ordered the return of a group of Palestinian patients, explaining that they no longer needed care.

The organization Doctors for Human Rights - Israel announced that among them there are cancer patients, babies, women in labor and elderly people, and it submitted a petition to the Supreme Court thanks to the report of the American CNN.

"Returning residents of Gaza during the military conflict and humanitarian crisis is against international law and represents a deliberate risk to innocent lives," said the organization's spokesman, Ran Jaron, yesterday.

He expressed concern that patients could die due to unsanitary conditions and starvation or lack of medical care.

(Beta)

14: 10h

Satellite images analyzed by the UN Satellite Center (UNOSAT) show that 35 percent of buildings in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

UNOSAT used high-resolution satellite images collected on February 29 taken before and after the start of the latest conflict for the assessment.

It was concluded that 35 percent of all buildings in the Gaza Strip, or 88.868, were destroyed or damaged.

31.198 buildings were destroyed, 16.908 were severely damaged and 40.762 suffered moderate damage.

That represents an increase of nearly 20.000 damaged buildings compared to an earlier estimate based on images from January that showed 30 percent of all buildings were damaged or destroyed, UNOSAT said, the British Guardian reported.

The Khan Yunis area was particularly hard hit, as 12.279 buildings were additionally damaged and 6.663 were destroyed.

(Beta)

11: 58h

The Israeli army announced today that two "Palestinian extremists" were killed in an airstrike during a raid in the occupied West Bank.

As stated, the two killed "posed a threat to the Israeli forces" operating in the Nur Shams refugee camp in the city of Tulkarm.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health, Emergency Services and the Palestinian Red Crescent, however, said four people were killed in Nur Shams, including two in an airstrike, but did not say whether they were civilians or gunmen.

On Wednesday, an Israeli airstrike killed three Palestinians who were driving a car in the northern West Bank.

Violence has intensified across the West Bank since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza, on October 7 last year.

Earlier today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Israeli security officials are secretly preparing a plan to distribute humanitarian aid to Gaza, without Hamas intervention.

The secret plan, on the basis of which a government would potentially be formed in Gaza, has provoked the condemnation of the Palestinian extremist Hamas, and is opposed by the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Based on that plan, humanitarian aid would enter Gaza by land and sea after Israeli inspection and be delivered to warehouses from which Gazans would distribute it.

Those in charge of distribution, Palestinian leaders and businessmen, it said, would potentially take power to rule Gaza after the war ends, backed by security forces funded by wealthy Arab governments, the unnamed officials said.

10: 32h

The Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip, which is run by Hamas, announced today that at least 65 Palestinians were killed and 92 wounded in Israeli strikes last night.

As stated in the statement, 31.988 Palestinians have been killed and 74.188 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since the beginning of the war between Hamas and Israel on October 7 last year.

The ministry does not distinguish between civilians and combatants, but it has been repeatedly said that two-thirds of the victims are women and children, the agencies report.

(BETA)

10: 10h

The Israeli army announced today that it killed more than 50 armed Palestinians during the past day in clashes around the Al-Shifa hospital in the Gaza Strip, agencies report.

As stated, the army continues "precise operational activity in Šifa hospital".

"Over the past day, more than 50 terrorists have been eliminated during the exchange of fire and terrorist infrastructure and weapons warehouses have been located. Since the beginning of the operation, more than 140 terrorists have been eliminated in the area of ​​the hospital," the military statement reads.

The Israeli army claims that in the large complex of the Al-Shifa hospital, in addition to patients and people who took refuge there from the conflict, Palestinian extremists are hidden.

"Over 300 suspects were captured at the hospital in a raid that began on Monday, including high-ranking terrorists and those in key positions," a military statement said.

Israeli forces have "killed around 90 terrorists" since the start of the raid, army chief Herzi Halevi said, adding that the aim was "not to allow such a place to be controlled" by Hamas.

The Palestinian Islamist organization condemned what it said were Israeli "crimes" in Shifa and the "execution of dozens of displaced persons, patients and staff".

The Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said at least 70 people were killed last night.

(BETA)

09: 33h

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that differences in the negotiations between Israel and Hamas on a new ceasefire and the release of hostages are decreasing, and that it is very possible to reach an agreement.

Blinken is making his sixth visit to the region since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas. After his visit to Saudi Arabia, the head of American diplomacy is in Egypt today, and then in Israel tomorrow.

In an interview with the Saudi media, he said that the negotiators worked with Israel to bring a serious proposal to the table.

Hamas rejected that proposal, but came back with other demands that mediators are working on, Blinken added.

"The differences are narrowing and I think an agreement is very possible," the US secretary of state said.

Gaza's health ministry said at least 31.819 Palestinians have been killed in an Israeli offensive since attacks by Palestinian extremists led by Hamas in southern Israel.

The United States has introduced a draft United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an "immediate ceasefire associated with the release of hostages" in the Gaza Strip, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said.

He said this during his tour of the Middle East, during which he will visit Israel on Friday, France Press reported today.

Israel's key backer, the US, vetoed earlier Security Council resolutions on a ceasefire in the nearly six-month-old war, objecting in February to the use of the term "emergency" in a draft submitted by Algeria.

In recent weeks, however, Washington has stepped up pressure on its ally, insisting that Hamas extremists must immediately release the hostages kidnapped on October 7 in attacks on Israel.

(BETA)

Change: 09:38 p.m
08: 46h

Last night, in an address to Republicans in the US Senate, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that his country will continue military operations until the defeat of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, agencies reported.

Jim Risch, one of the senators who conveyed to the media what Netanyahu told them, stated that there was also talk of civilian casualties and the need to deliver more aid to Gaza, and that he supports plans to build a temporary dock and deliver aid by sea.

The senators told Netanyahu that Israel has every right to defend itself, and he replied that he would continue to do so, Senator John Barroso said.

Netanyahu harshly criticized Democratic leader Chuck Schumer who called for elections to form a new government in Israel.

"It's clear that the Prime Minister was not happy with Senator Schumer's speech. He was not happy with President Biden's praise of Senator Schumer's speech. But I think the Prime Minister understands the politics of it all," said Louisiana Senator John Kennedy.

"We have made it clear to the (Israeli) prime minister that in our judgment, the American people overwhelmingly support Israel's war. And he has made it clear that he intends to wage war against Hamas with full force," Kennedy added.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said Netanyahu did not criticize Biden, but was grateful for the support he received from the US president and hoped it would continue.

Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, said Netanyahu was honest and thorough and gave a detailed account of the war, explaining what Israel needed from the US.

Senator Schumer dismissed criticism from Republicans that he was meddling in the domestic politics of US allies, saying he spoke out of love for Israel, and that he called for elections to be held after the conflict ends.

(BETA)  

Change: 09:40 p.m

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