International pressure is intensifying for a new Israel-Hamas truce: Consultation fever in Cairo

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CIA Director Richard Burns is expected in Cairo later in the day for new negotiations mediated by Qatar.

International pressure is mounting today for a new ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas that would allow more hostages to be freed, amid a threatened attack on Rafah, the last refuge for more than a million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

CIA Director Richard Burns is expected in Cairo later in the day for fresh Qatar-brokered talks, mainly on the release of hostages still held by the Palestinian Islamist movement, according to sources familiar with the matter. .

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a few days ago ordered his army to prepare to launch an attack on Rafah, where, according to the UN, 1.4 million Palestinians, in other words more than half the population of the Gaza Strip, have piled up to be saved from the war that has been raging for more than four months.

He reiterated on Monday that he is determined to continue “military pressure until total victory” against Hamas, whose Rafah is according to him the “last stronghold”, and to free “all the hostages”.

A few hours earlier, the army freed two Israeli-Argentine hostages in Rafah, on the closed border with Egypt, during a nighttime operation by special forces, which was accompanied by heavy shelling that claimed the lives of about a hundred people, according to the ministry Health of the Palestinian Islamist movement, in power in the Gaza Strip since 2007.

“Station”

The US, a key ally of Israel, insists it opposes a large-scale operation with no solution for civilians trapped in Rafah, which has now turned into a sprawling refugee camp.

US President Joe Biden demanded from the Israeli armed forces a “credible” plan to protect Palestinian civilians before launching an attack, during his meeting yesterday Monday at the White House with the King of Jordan, Abdullah II.

The monarch, whose country was the second Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel (in 1994), went much further.

“We cannot allow an Israeli attack on Rafah”, where the humanitarian situation is already “unbearable”, emphasized Abdullah II, calling for an “immediate” and “lasting” ceasefire to be declared in the Gaza Strip.

“The US is working to (conclude) a hostage release agreement between Israel and Hamas, it will immediately bring at least a six-week period of calm to Gaza,” said the US president, whose administration still rejects any talk of an unconditional and indefinite ceasefire.

During this period, “something longer” can be agreed, Joe Biden added.

The war broke out on October 7 when members of the Palestinian Islamist movement's military wing Hamas launched an unprecedented raid from the Gaza Strip against southern sectors of the Israeli territory, killing more than 1,160 people, most of them civilians, according to a count of Agence France-Presse based on official announcements by the Israeli authorities.

In retaliation, Israel, whose civilian-military leadership vows to “eliminate” Hamas and release “all” hostages, has been conducting large-scale military operations in the Palestinian enclave that have so far killed more than 28,300 people, the vast majority women and children, according to the most recent casualty count released by the Hamas Health Ministry.

The condition of the two hostages freed yesterday, Fernando Marman, 60, and Luis Ar, 70, was described as stable, but after 128 days in captivity, they have “obvious signs” of a lack of “medical care”, a hospital spokeswoman said near Tel Aviv where they were brought in and found again by their own people.

“We are happy today, but we have not won. This is just another stop on the way to the return home” of the hostages, said Idan Beherano, Luis Ahr's son-in-law, echoing other families of abductees who are pressing the Netanyahu government for a new deal truce with Hamas.

According to Israeli authorities, more than 130 hostages are still in the Gaza Strip, but a few days ago army spokesman Daniel Hagari said 31 are dead, out of the approximately 250 kidnapped by Palestinian militants on October 7. A week-long truce in November allowed the release of more than 100 Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip in exchange for 240 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

“forced displacement”

As international concerns over the attack on Rafah intensify, Mr Netanyahu assured last Sunday that Israel would offer civilians “safe passage” to leave Rafah — without specifying in which direction.

“They will rush” the Palestinian population “to where? To the moon?” the head of European diplomacy, Giuseppe Borrell, asked in Brussels.

The UN will neither accept nor cooperate in the “forced displacement of the population” that has taken refuge in Rafah, stressed the representative of its Secretary-General.

The prospect of an attack on Rafah is “terrifying”, said the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, while the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim Khan, said he was “deeply concerned” about the fate of civilians.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, one of the leaders who has criticized Israel more strongly since the start of its operations in the Gaza Strip, is expected in Dubai today and tomorrow in Cairo.

Hamas warned last Sunday that an Israeli attack on Rafah would “torpedo” any deal for the hostages.

For its part, the State Department emphasized that the conclusion of an agreement on a new ceasefire would have “enormous” benefits, both because it would allow the release of hostages and because more humanitarian aid would be distributed to the Gazans.

Some 1.7 million people, according to United Nations estimates, out of a total population of 2.4 million, have been forced to leave their homes in the enclave, which remains mired in a major humanitarian crisis.

Rafah is also the main gateway for aid reaching the Gaza Strip, which is insufficient to cover the ocean of needs of the population, which is now threatened, according to the World Food Program (WFP), with “famine”.

Source: thetoc.gr

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