Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Live Updates | Gaza’s Death Toll Mounts as Negotiators Cite Progress on a Cease-Fire Deal

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The Palestinian death toll from an Israeli hostage rescue operation in a key Gaza city rose to 74 on Tuesday, officials in the besieged enclave said, even as the warring sides appear to have made progress toward a deal that aims to bring about a cease-fire and free hostages held by Hamas.

The raid took place early Monday in Rafah, a city on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip where 1.4 million Palestinians have fled to escape fighting elsewhere in the Israel-Hamas war. Women and children were among those killed in the airstrikes, Palestinian officials said.

The war began with Hamas’ assault into Israel on Oct. 7, in which militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250. Israel says about 100 hostages remain in Hamas captivity, while Hamas is holding the remains of roughly 30 others who were either killed on Oct. 7 or died in captivity. Three hostages were mistakenly killed by the army after escaping their captors in December.

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2 AL-JAZEERA JOURNALISTS WOUNDED IN ISRAELI AIRSTRIKE NEAR RAFAH, NETWORK SAYS

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Al Jazeera says two of its journalists have been wounded in an Israeli airstrike near Rafah in the Gaza Strip, with one having to undergo an amputation.

The pan-Arab broadcaster, funded by Qatar, reported the strike on Tuesday and identified the wounded as cameraman Ahmad Matar and reporter Ismail Abu Omar.

The Israeli military had no immediate comment.

The channel quoted Dr. Muhammad al-Astal at the European Hospital in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip as saying that Abu Omar had his right foot amputated after suffering severe wounds, including shrapnel to his chest and head. The channel said doctors were trying to stop the bleeding and save his left leg.

Hamas’ media office condemned what it called a “deliberate” attack by Israel’s military on the two journalists, saying the attack was an attempt to “intimidate and terrorize” journalists.

As of Tuesday, the Israel-Hamas war has seen at least 85 journalists and media workers killed, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. The agency has given the breakdown for the fatalities as 78 Palestinians, 4 Israelis and 3 Lebanese.


WARRING SIDES MAKE PROGRESS TOWARD A DEAL ON CEASE-FIRE, FREEING HOSTAGES

CAIRO — A senior Egyptian official said mediators have achieved what he described as “relatively significant” progress in the negotiations between Israel and Hamas ahead of a scheduled meeting in Cairo on Tuesday of representatives from Qatar, the United States and Israel.

Israeli media reported the head of the spy agency Mossad, David Barnea, was in the Egyptian capital.

The Egyptian official said the meeting would focus on “crafting a final draft” of a six-week cease-fire deal, with guarantees that the parties would continue negotiations toward a permanent cease-fire.

A Western diplomat in the Egyptian capital also said a six-week deal was on the table but cautioned that more work is still needed to reach an agreement.

He said the meeting Tuesday would be crucial in bridging the remaining gaps to get the two sides to agree on a six-week truce and embark on talks for a final cease-fire deal.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the sensitive talks with the media.


GERMANY PRESSES FOR ESTABLISHING ‘SAFE CORRIDORS’ FOR CIVILIANS IN RAFAH

BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister is pressing for establishing “safe corridors” for civilians facing an Israeli offensive in Rafah.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock received Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Maliki in Berlin on Tuesday, a day before she is due to set off for her fifth trip to Israel since Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7 that started the war.

Baerbock said that if Israel acts against Hamas in Rafah, “then it is our common responsibility, it is the responsibility of the Israeli army, to have safe corridors for the people who have sought safety there.”

She added that “these parents, these children, these families, cannot simply disappear into thin air. They can’t go anywhere else.”

Baerbock renewed a call for “humanitarian cease-fires” to facilitate aid deliveries. She acknowledged the “incredible dilemma” created by Hamas hiding behind Gaza’s civilian population.


RELATIVE OF A FREED ISRAELI HOSTAGE SAYS HIS MEDICATION WAS NOT DELIVERED IN CAPTIVITY

TEL AVIV, Israel — A relative of one of the hostages Israel rescued in a daring mission this week in the Gaza Strip says he never received medicines that were part of a Qatar- and French-mediated deal meant to deliver treatment to sick captives held by Hamas in exchange for more aid for Palestinians.

Maayan Sigal-Koren told Israeli Army Radio on Tuesday that Louis Har, her mother’s partner who was freed, was sent a hearing aid, glasses and medication which he said he never received.

Har, 70, has diabetes and hypertension for which he needs medication, among other conditions, according to the Hostage and Missing – Families Forum, an advocacy group supporting the families of the hostages.

Sigal-Koren said the fact that Har didn’t have the meds compounded the challenges of being held captive. “It added to other difficulties there, the psychological difficulties, the difficulty that his freedom was taken away,” she said.

Israeli hospital officials said Har and fellow freed captive Fernando Marman were in good physical shape upon their release.

The Qatar- and France-mediated deal was meant to provide a three-months’ supply of medications for 45 of the hostages. Qatar announced nearly a month ago that the medications had arrived in Gaza but there was never any confirmation that they had reached the hostages.


CHURCH OF ENGLAND BISHOPS CALL FOR CEASE-FIRE IN GAZA

LONDON — Bishops in the Church of England on Tuesday called for an immediate cease-fire in Israel’s “relentless bombardment” of the Gaza Strip.

“The relentless bombardment of Gaza and its huge cost in civilian lives and civilian infrastructure must stop,” the House of Bishops said in a statement. “The manner in which this war is being prosecuted cannot be morally justified.”

The church joined a growing number of government leaders and heads of state that have called for a pause or cease-fire in Israel’s war against Hamas for the militant group’s Oct. 7 attack.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron on Monday said he was “deeply concerned” about Israel’s offensive in Rafah and suggested it “stop and think seriously before it takes any further action.”

The bishops also condemned antisemitic and anti-Muslim sentiment. They called for the release of all hostages and a cessation of missile attacks by Hamas.

“All sides must begin to imagine a future beyond this conflict: for a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” the bishops said. “This war can’t result in the consolidation of a system of occupation that has for too long denied Palestinians their rights and freedoms.”


TURKEY’S ERDOGAN LASHES OUT AGAINST ISRAEL, DEMANDS IT HALT THE WAR IN GAZA

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has offered blistering criticism of Israel, demanding it immediately recognize an independent Palestinian state and halt its war in the Gaza Strip against Hamas.

“Before the region is exposed to harsher threats, we need to stop the massacre in Gaza now,” Erdogan said before the World Governments Summit in the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday.

He criticized Israeli settlers taking land in the West Bank as some in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s hard-line government called for settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Erdogan said setting aside Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that killed some 1,200 people and saw 250 others taken hostage, “the source of the crisis today is the sustaining of the settlements on the Palestinian lands.”

“If Israel wants a permanent peace in the region, the proliferation-related vision should be stopped once and for all,” Erdogan said. “A free and independent Palestinian state should be recognized within the 1967 borders.”

He described Turkey as “living in a circle of fire” in the region. He also called on funding to immediately resume for the United Nations’ agency for Palestinians, known as UNRWA. Some nations have cut funding to the agency over Israeli accusations that some of its employees took part in the Oct. 7 attack.


CHINA CALLS ON ISRAEL TO STOP MILITARY OPERATIONS IN GAZA AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

BEIJING — China has called on Israel to halt military operations in Gaza as soon as possible following a raid that rescued two hostages and killed at least 74 Palestinians.

The Foreign Ministry in Beijing added in a brief statement on Tuesday that Israel should “do everything possible to avoid casualties among innocent civilians and prevent a more devastating humanitarian disaster in Rafah.”

Israel has signaled its ground offensive may soon target Rafah, the town in the Gaza Strip where the hostages were freed by the raid.

China has consistently opposed the Israeli offensive, calling from the start for a cease-fire and talks to find a permanent solution to the crisis.


HEALTH MINISTRY IN GAZA SAYS 133 BODIES BROUGHT TO HOSPITALS OVER THE PAST DAY

CAIRO — The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza says the bodies of 133 people killed in Israeli strikes have been brought to hospitals in the war-wrecked territory over the past day.

Hospitals also received 162 wounded patients, the ministry said.

Also Tuesday, the death toll from an Israeli hostage rescue operation in the town of Rafah rose to 74, according to Dr. Marawan al-Hams, director of the local Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital. Israeli forces conducting the operation, which freed two hostages, were backed by heavy airstrikes on the town, to where hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians have fled.

The fresh fatalities brought the death toll in Gaza to 28,473 since the war began on Oct. 7, according to the ministry.

The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count but says more than 70% of the dead are women and minors. Israel says its forces have killed 10,000 Hamas fighters without providing evidence. It blames Hamas for the death toll, saying it embeds in civilians areas, putting noncombatants at risk.

More than 68,000 people have been wounded in the war, of them 11,000 who need urgent evacuation for treatment out of Gaza, the ministry said.

The ministry said many of the dead remain under the rubble of destroyed buildings and on roadsides with first responders unable to reach many areas and collect the bodies.


ISRAELI FORCES KILL PALESTINIAN MAN IN WEST BANK, PALESTINIAN OFFICIALS SAY

CAIRO — Palestinian health officials say Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian Health Ministry identified the man as 20-year-old Mohammed Sherif Hassan Selmi and said he was shot in his chest, shoulders and head.

The Israeli military said Tuesday that forces were operating in the West Bank city of Qalqilya when the man allegedly attempted to run over soldiers, who opened fired and killed the man. The military said it was not aware of whether any soldiers were wounded.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an armed offshoot of the secular Fatah party, said its fighters clashed with the Israeli forces but did not claim Selmi as a member.

The West Bank has seen a surge of violence since the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza broke out in October. The Health Ministry says more than 380 Palestinians have been killed during that time. The Israeli military says it has arrested more than 3,000 Palestinians in the West Bank since the war began.


ARAB LEAGUE SECRETARY-GENERAL WARNS ISRAEL AGAINST FORCEFULLY DISPLACING PALESTINIANS

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The secretary-general of the Arab League has warned Israel against policies he described as forcefully displacing Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit decried what he called an “Israeli mentality” to try and seize land the Palestinians want for their future state. He warned any seizure of the Gaza Strip or the West Bank by Israel would mean “a confrontation for the next thousand years.”

“The United States must order Israel to stop these policies or otherwise the Middle East will explode in an unprecedented way,” he said.

He also called on Israel to “empty the settlements” in Palestinian land as well.

Aboul Gheit, a former ambassador to the United Nations and Egypt’s last foreign minister under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, spoke at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

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