Israel & Palestine

Biden hopes to have Israel-Hamas ceasefire deal in place by next week

Author: Editors Desk Source: CBC News:
February 26, 2024 at 21:25
U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters Monday he hopes a hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas can be in place by next Monday, as the war in Gaza nears the five-month mark. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)
U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters Monday he hopes a hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas can be in place by next Monday, as the war in Gaza nears the five-month mark. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)
Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of not complying ICJ ruling, as plans for Rafah operation take shape

U.S. President Joe Biden said Monday that he hopes a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that would pause hostilities, and allow for the remaining hostages held in Gaza to be released, can take effect by early next week.

"Well, I hope by the beginning of the weekend, by the end of the weekend," he told reporters in New York, when asked Monday when he expected a ceasefire to start.

"My national security adviser tells me that we're close. We're close. We're not done yet. My hope is by next Monday we'll have a ceasefire."

WATCH | Biden says he's been advised Israel-Hamas ceasefire is close:

U.S. President Joe Biden says he's been advised a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas could be reached by Monday, March 4, but warned that it is 'close ... but not done yet.'

In public, both sides continued to take positions far apart on the ultimate aims of a truce, while blaming each other for holding up the talks.

After meeting Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Ismail Haniyeh, the reclusive head of Hamas, said his group had embraced mediators' efforts to find an end to the war, and accused Israel of stalling while Gazans die under siege.

"We will not allow the enemy to use negotiations as a cover for this crime," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready for a deal, and it was now up to Hamas to drop demands he described as "outlandish" and "from another planet."

"Obviously, we want this deal if we can have it. It depends on Hamas. It's really now their decision," he told U.S. network Fox News. "They have to come down to reality."

A group of people carry another person in a blanket away from the rubble of a building hit by an airstrike.
Palestinians rescue survivors after an Israeli strike hit a home in Rafah, in southern Gaza, on Saturday. (Hatem Ali/The Associated Press)

Plan for Rafah offensive

Netanyahu had said Sunday that an Israeli military offensive in Rafah, Gaza's southernmost city along the border with Egypt, could be "delayed somewhat" if a deal for a weeks-long ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is reached.

He claimed that total victory in Gaza will be "weeks away" once the offensive begins in Rafah, where some 1.4 million Palestinians have sought safety. 

Early Monday, Netanyahu's office said the army had presented to the War Cabinet its operational plan for Rafah, as well as plans to evacuate civilians from the battle zones.

It gave no further details.

The situation in Rafah has sparked global concern.

Israel's allies have warned that it must protect civilians in its battle against Hamas militants.

A large encampment of tents and makeshift shelters on a stretch of sand.
Displaced Palestinians, who fled their houses due to Israeli strikes, shelter at a tent camp in Rafah, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters)

The bodies of 90 people killed in Israel's latest bombardment were brought to hospitals in the war-wrecked territory in the past 24 hours, Gaza's Health Ministry reported Monday.

Hospitals have also received 164 wounded, it said.

The fresh fatalities brought the death toll in Gaza to 29,782 since the Israel-Hamas war began on Oct. 7, the ministry said in its daily briefing.

The ministry doesn't differentiate between civilians and combatants, but said two-thirds of the dead are children and women. Another 70,043 have been wounded since Oct. 7, it said.

The ministry said many casualties remain under the rubble, and first responders have been unable to retrieve them amid the relentless bombing.

The war began after Hamas-led militants attacked communities in southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking roughly 250 people hostage, according to the Israeli government.

The government believes some 130 captives remain in Gaza, but officials believe at least 31 hostages are dead. 


Rights group says Israel not complying with ICJ ruling

Human Rights Watch said Monday Israel has failed to comply with an order by the United Nations' top court to provide urgently needed aid to desperate people in the Gaza Strip, a month after a landmark ruling in The Hague ordered Israel to moderate its war.

In a preliminary response to a South African petition accusing Israel of genocide, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to do all it can to prevent death, destruction and any acts of genocide in the tiny Palestinian enclave.

It stopped short of ordering an end to the military offensive that has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe. Israel denies the charges against it, saying it is fighting in self-defence.

A large crowd of people waiting among carts, wagons and vehicles along a stretch of beach.
Palestinians waiting for humanitarian aid on a beachfront in Gaza City on Sunday. (Mahmoud Essa/The Associated Press)

In its Jan. 26 ruling, the ICJ ordered Israel to follow six provisional measures, including taking "immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance" to Gaza.

Israel also must submit a report on what it is doing to adhere to the measures within a month.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said late Monday that it has filed such a report. It declined to share it or discuss its contents.

Human Rights Watch said Israel was not adequately facilitating fuel deliveries to hard-hit northern Gaza and blamed Israel for blocking aid from reaching the north, where the World Food Program said last week it was forced to suspend aid deliveries.

"The Israeli government has simply ignored the court's ruling, and in some ways even intensified its repression," said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.

WATCH | Israeli airstrikes put Gaza's largest hospital out of service:

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Gaza residents desperate for food

The crisis has pushed a quarter of the population toward starvation and raised fears of imminent famine, especially in the northern part of Gaza, the first focus of Israel's ground invasion.

Starving residents have been forced to eat animal fodder and search for food in demolished buildings.

Israel said 245 trucks of aid entered Gaza on Sunday, but that's less than half the amount that entered daily before the war.

Human Rights Watch, citing UN figures, noted a 30 per cent drop in the daily average number of aid trucks entering Gaza in the weeks following the court's ruling.

Israel denies it is restricting the entry of aid and has instead blamed humanitarian organizations operating in Gaza, saying large aid shipments sit idle on the Palestinian side of the main crossing.

The UN says it can't always reach the crossing because it is at times too dangerous. In some cases, crowds of desperate Palestinians have surrounded delivery trucks and stripped them of supplies.

The UN has called on Israel to open more crossings, including in the north, and to improve the process.

Netanyahu's office said that the War Cabinet had approved a plan to deliver humanitarian aid safely into Gaza in a way that would "prevent the cases of looting." 

It did not disclose further details.

Aid groups say deliveries also continue to be hobbled by security issues.

The French aid groups Médecins du Monde and Doctors Without Borders each said that their facilities were struck by Israeli forces in the weeks following the court order.

WATCH | Netanyahu's post-war plan includes security control over Gaza, occupied West Bank: 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is revealing his plan for the day after the war in Gaza ends. It includes Israeli security control over Gaza and the occupied West Bank, as well as buffer zones in Gaza. It makes no mention of the Palestinian Authority or the establishment of a Palestinian state — key U.S. and international demands.

With files from Reuters

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