• Sunday, May 19, 2024
businessday logo


Gaza ceasefire unlikely as Israel vows to continue strike operation in Rafah

hamas (1)

Palestinian militant group Hamas on Monday agreed to a Gaza ceasefire proposal from mediators, but Israel said the terms did not meet its demands and pressed ahead with strikes in Rafah while planning to continue negotiations on a deal.

The developments in the seven-month-old war came as Israeli forces struck Rafah on Gaza’s southern edge from the air and ground and ordered residents to leave parts of the city, which has been a refuge for more than a million displaced Palestinians.

Hamas said in a brief statement that its chief, Ismail Haniyeh, had informed Qatari and Egyptian mediators that the group accepted their proposal for a ceasefire.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said later that the truce proposal fell short of Israel’s demands but Israel would send a delegation to meet with negotiators to try to reach an agreement.

Qatar’s foreign ministry said its delegation will head to Cairo on Tuesday to resume indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

In a statement, Netanyahu’s office added that his war cabinet approved continuing an operation in Rafah. Meanwhile, Jordan’s foreign minister Ayman Safadi said on social media site X that Netanyahu was jeopardising a ceasefire by bombing Rafah.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the proposal that Hamas approved was a watered-down version of an Egyptian offer and included elements that Israel could not accept.

“This would appear to be a ruse intended to make Israel look like the side refusing a deal,” said the Israeli official.

Another official briefed on the agreement said Hamas had agreed to the phased ceasefire and hostage release deal Israel proposed on April 27 with only minor changes that did not affect the main parts of the proposal.

Matthew Miller, U.S. State Department spokesman said Washington would discuss the Hamas response with its allies in the coming hours, and a deal was “absolutely achievable”.

More than 34,600 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, according to Gaza health officials. The U.N. has said famine is imminent in the enclave.

The war began when Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and abducting 252 others, of whom 133 are believed to remain in captivity in Gaza, according to Israeli tallies.

International community reins in

Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy chief, on Monday, said Israel’s evacuation order for Palestinians in Rafah is “unacceptable” as France said “the forced displacement of a civilian population constitutes a war crime.”

“Israel’s evacuation orders to civilians in Rafah portend the worst: more war and famine. It is unacceptable. Israel must renounce to a ground offensive,” Borrell said, calling on Israel to “implement UN Security Council Resolution 2728,” which demanded an immediate ceasefire in Israel’s war on Gaza during Ramadan.

“The EU, with the International Community, can and must act to prevent such a scenario,” he added in the post on X (formerly Twitter).

Meanwhile, Germany on Monday called on all parties to continue with negotiations towards a truce in Gaza shortly after Israel issued evacuation orders to Palestinians in eastern Rafah.

Annalena Baerbock, German foreign minister on Monday said Germany has been doing “everything we can for months to finally alleviate the immeasurable suffering of the people in Gaza”.

France also said it was “strongly opposed” to Israel’s Rafah offensive, ahead of an expected ground assault in the southern city of the Gaza Strip.

“France reiterates that it is strongly opposed to an Israeli offensive on Rafah, where more than 1.3 million people are taking refuge in a situation of great distress,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The forced displacement of a civilian population constitutes a war crime,” it added.

UNICEF says nowhere safe to go for children

The United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) has warned that there is nowhere safe to go for the 600,000 children of Rafah.

It made this known in a statement on Monday shortly after the Israeli evacuation order for eastern Rafah was issued.

“With hundreds of thousands of children in Rafah injured, sick, malnourished, traumatized or living with a disability, UNICEF calls for children to not be forcibly relocated, and the vital infrastructure on which children rely to be protected,” it said.

With the unfolding humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip continuing to deteriorate, UNICEF is warning that a military besiegement and ground incursion in Rafah would pose catastrophic risks to the 600,000 children currently taking shelter in the enclave.

“More than 200 days of war have taken an unimaginable toll on the lives of children,” said Catherine Russell, UNICEF executive director.

“Rafah is now a city of children, who have nowhere safe to go in Gaza. If large-scale military operations start, not only will children be at risk from the violence, but also from chaos and panic, and at a time where their physical and mental states are already weakened,” Russell added.