Israel rejects ceasefire proposal, plans to expand ground invasion into Rafah – Mondoweiss

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Casualties

  • 27,708+ killed* and at least 67,147 wounded in the Gaza Strip.
  • 380+ Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem
  • Israel revises its estimated October 7 death toll down from 1,400 to 1,147.
  • 564 Israeli soldiers killed since October 7, and at least 3,221 injured.**

*This figure was confirmed by Gaza’s Ministry of Health on its Telegram channel. Some rights groups put the death toll number at more than 35,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.

** This figure is released by the Israeli military, showing the soldiers whose names “were allowed to be published.”

Key Developments 

  • UNOCHA: Risk of famine ‘increasing by the day’ in Gaza.
  • Kataib Hezbollah announces death of commander after US strike.
  • Norway transfers $26 million to UNRWA.
  • PCRS: Israeli forces kill Red Crescent paramedic and wound two others in Gaza City.
  • Occupied West Bank: Israeli forces kill 2 Palestinians in Nur Shams refugee camp and a man near Nablus.
  • Occupied West Bank: Palestinian man dies weeks after being shot by Israeli troops near Ramallah.
  • UNOCHA: Israel denied access to 56 percent of planned aid missions to north Gaza.
  • Over  30 elected officials in Michigan pledge protest vote over Biden’s Gaza policy
  • Israeli strikes on south Lebanon kill civilian.
  • US Senate rejects package that includes assistance for Israel, Ukraine
  • Israeli airstrike kills Palestinian journalist and son in Gaza city.

Israel rejects ceasefire, Netanyahu pledges to expand fighting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Hamas’s proposed deal to halt fighting in the besieged enclave for at least four and half months, despite U.S. pressure to reach an agreement. 

Instead, Netanyahu said on Wednesday that Israel is on the road to a decisive victory and that they will not return [from Gaza] without victory, according to Al Jazeera. He added that now is the time for the [Israeli military] to allow safe corridors for residents.

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri has told the news outlet Reuters that Netanyahu’s remarks today demonstrate his desire to pursue a wider regional conflict.

“Netanyahu’s comments are a form of political bravado, indicating his intention to pursue the conflict in the region,” Abu Zuhri said. “The movement [Hamas] is prepared to deal with all options.

Al Jazeera senior political analyst has said that despite U.S. optimism over a potential deal between Israel and Hamas, a “huge gap” remains between the two parties that will be difficult to bridge.

“I’m not sure how long it’s going to take, I’m not sure there’s going to be an end to the war. But clearly the United States is projecting a certain kind of optimism that is contagious,” said Al Jazeera commentator Marwan Bishara.

“That’s part of its diplomatic leverage over Israel: if the United States projects this atmosphere that ‘we’re definitely there and everyone is on board’ and the Netanyahu government comes out and says, ‘no. absolutely not, then it’s the Netanyahu government which looks like the party pooper.”

“My analysis is that for the Biden administration, four months [of the war] is enough,” Bishara added.

Al Jazeera correspondent Rory Challands says: “Netanyahu has a delicate position here, it’s a very wobbly position: he’s stuck between pressure from the United States, an Israeli population that doesn’t particularly like him at the moment, and the far right in his own coalition,” 

Top U.S. diplomat Blinken, he said, outlined several steps the U.S. wants Israeli officials to take to minimize civilian harm and that the daily toll that its military operations continue to take on innocent civilians remains too high, reported Al Jazeera.

You could argue credibly that Netanyahu’s speech was “a very clear snub” from Netanyahu to [US Secretary of State] Antony Blinken, Joe Biden, and the White Housen, Al Jazeera added.

Shahram Akbarzadeh, a professor of Middle East and Central Asian politics at Deakin University, told Al Jazeera that Israel’s leader is averse to signing a truce deal as it would give Hamas credibility and recognition.

“[Netenyahu] knows his political future is very much tied to right-wing politicians, and he’s not going to antagonize them by stepping back from destroying Hamas,” Akbarzadeh said; Israel’s leader views the captives held in Gaza as “acceptable collateral damage.”

“Netanyahu is not making decisions based on the interests of the hostages. He’s making decisions on his own political interests.”

Despite Antony Blinken’s disappointing visit to the region, which has not yielded a truce deal, the U.S. will continue to back Israel unconditionally, Akbarzadeh predicted.

“It does put the U.S. in a difficult position, but at the end of the day, the United States is Israel’s steadfast ally in the international arena, and it’s not going to abandon that position.” 

Gaza: Nowhere left to run

While diplomatic discussions continue, no agreements are being reached, and Israeli attacks on Gaza have relentlessly continued. 

In Khan Younis, the second-most southern district of Gaza, which was once deemed a safe zone, an Israeli sniper shot a 14-year-old girl while she was trying to get water, reported Al Jazeera, adding that she bled to death in the street. 

The event showcases yet another example of how unsafe the situation in the city is. There are Israeli attack drones, intense bombing, and snipers on the rooftops.

“Hours before this murder, a 40-year-old woman was also shot and killed by a sniper just metres away from the main gate of Nasser Hospital. She was trying to get food and water for her wounded son inside,” continued Al Jazeera. 

Meanwhile, Israeli forces are reportedly preparing to expand their ground invasion into Rafah City, the southernmost area of Gaza, where about 1.9 million people are sheltering with nowhere left to flee. 

A sea of make-shift shelters make up a massive tent city of Palestinians who fled to Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on February 8, 2024. (Photo: Bashar Taleb/APA Images)
A sea of make-shift shelters make up a massive tent city of Palestinians who fled to Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on February 8, 2024. (Photo: Bashar Taleb/APA Images)

An intense bombing campaign is taking place in the city, particularly in the western part, reported Hani Mahmoud from the besieged enclave for Al Jazeera.

Mahmoud noted that Israeli forces are targeting residential homes. One displaced family from the northern part of the Gaza Strip and another that had come from Khan Younis were killed in massive overnight air strikes that destroyed an entire building.

In the early house of Thursday, people were still being removed from the rubble caused by the attack, which killed at least 14 people. 

In the eastern part of Rafah, many people have been killed, and more residential homes have been destroyed. In central areas, there is a similar situation, with more than ten people killed in designated “safe areas.”

In a video recorded by Gaza-based journalist Hani Abu Rezeq, a Palestinian nurse is shown weeping as he holds his son in his arms at the Kuwaiti Hospital in Rafah in southern Gaza after finding him among the injured. 

“My love, where is Mama?” Labd asks the young boy, whose head is bandaged after he was injured in an Israeli air strike on a home in Rafah; it is unclear if the man’s wife survived the strike.

“This seems to be an indication that the ground invasion is expanding,” Mahmoud concluded.

The UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths has said that he is “extremely concerned” by Israeli plans for an expansion of their operations to Rafah, where displaced Palestinian civilians are living in dire conditions with nowhere to flee.

“More than half of Gaza’s population is now crammed in Rafah, a town of originally 250,000 people right on Egypt’s doorstep. Their living conditions are abysmal – they lack the basic necessities to survive, stalked by hunger, disease and death,” Griffiths said in a statement today.

“Further fighting in Rafah risks claiming the lives of even more people. It also risks further hampering a humanitarian operation already limited by insecurity, damaged infrastructure, and access restrictions,” he added. “To put it simply: This war must stop.”

Similarly, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “especially alarmed” over reports that Israel is pledging an assault on Rafah.

“Such an action would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences,” Guterres told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, according to Al Jazeera

Gaza is still being starved 

As the UN’s Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), the primary aid distributer in Gaza loses funding from international countries, the risk of famine in Gaza is “increasing by the day,” reported the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). 

OCHA stressed that the situation is particularly dire for some 300,000 people in northern Gaza, whom Israel has essentially cut off from humanitarian assistance.

The World Food Programme warned that the amount of humanitarian aid reaching Gaza City in the north is “not enough to prevent a famine,” UNOCHA continued. The last time UNRWA was able to carry out food distribution in the north of the territory was on January 23.

Countries cutting funds to the UN’s Palestine refugee agency are guilty of “callous indifference” to the suffering of people in Gaza who are in desperate need of “lifesaving food, water, and medicine,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

“Despite mounting risks of famine and a binding order by the World Court in a case about genocide, Israel’s foreign minister has now announced that he will lead a brazen effort to shut down” UNRWA, said Akshaya Kumar, HRW’s crisis advocacy director.

“Unless governments reverse their decisions to suspend aid to UNRWA, the main humanitarian channel into Gaza, they risk contributing to the current catastrophe,” Kumar said. 

 In a letter addressed to Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, and Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, among others, HRW says it is “unconscionable” to consider closing the UN agency “most able” to provide lifesaving food, water, and medicine to Gaza’s residents at a time when people are “on the brink of famine.”

“We are also concerned about the longer-term implications shutting down UNRWA would have, especially on the right of Palestinian refugees to return, enshrined in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” HRW added.

Medical care is impossible

While Gaza’s population starves and injuries mount, the healthcare in Gaza continues to be systematically destroyed by the Israeli military.

In Khan Younis, Israel has continued targeting and attacking the two main medical complexes in the area, al-Amal and Nasser Hospitals.

The Palestinian Red Cresent Society (PRCS) said on Wednesday evening that Israeli forces are firing directly at the al-Amal Hospital, which has been under a brutal military siege for more than two weeks, during which troops have frequently fired towards the facility.

“Urgent: Israeli military vehicles are positioned in front of the PRCS Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Yunis and are firing directly at the building,” PRCS said in a social media post.

The ongoing siege has left 220 people in a dire situation “as the army prevents entry and exit” to and from the premises, PRCS staff have said. Not even ambulances are allowed to move. 

“Oxygen and fuel are still not being allowed into the hospital. Our yard has become a cemetery. Every day, we lose a patient,” PRCS staff continued in a video on X.

Farther north in Gaza, a Red Crescent paramedic was killed by Israeli forces when soldiers targeted them in an area between al-Ahli Arab Hospital and al-Shifa Hospital. 

Two other paramedics were also wounded in the attack “after the Israeli occupation forces directly fired at them in Gaza City while they were transferring several wounded individuals from Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in preparation for their transfer to hospitals in the south,” PRCS said on X

The humanitarian organization says its paramedics were ‘deliberately’ targeted by the army.

“This brings the number of colleagues killed while carrying out their humanitarian work since the beginning of the war on Gaza to 12,” it said.

“The occupation continues to carry out executions and has shelled aid convoys as well as pushing the displaced to leave shelters and hospitals, all of which shows its sadism and brutality,” Hamas official Osama Hamdan said in a news conference from Beirut.

“We warn the occupation from carrying out massacres at al-Amal and Nasser hospitals, and we hold the US administration responsible for providing Israel with all the support,” Hamdan continued.  

Another journalist killed 

Palestinian journalist Nafez Abdel Jawad and his son were killed in a bombing of a residential building in the as-Salam neighborhood in Deir el-Balah in the central Gaza Strip on Wednesday night.

The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the killing of Palestinian journalists as “horrifying”.

“In four months of conflict, Palestinian journalism has been decimated by Israeli armed forces with complete impunity, with a staggering death toll of more than 84 journalists killed, at least 20 in the line of duty,” RSF said in a statement.

The organization called on countries and international organizations to increase pressure on Israel to “immediately cease this carnage.”

“After filing two complaints with the International Criminal Court and making repeated appeals to States and international organizations, RSF is once again urging the UN Security Council to immediately enforce Resolution 2222 (2015) on the protection of journalists,” it said. 

Biden losing support 

The U.S. has continued to bankroll Israel’s massacres in Gaza despite verbal disagreements about how Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has dealt with the war. 

As a result, U.S. lawmakers increasingly oppose the Biden administration for enabling the ruthless attacks.

More than 30 elected officials in Michigan, a crucial swing state, have pledged that they will cast an “uncommitted” vote in the upcoming primary election in protest of U.S. President Joe Biden’s support for Israel’s war in Gaza, reported Reuters. 

Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud has signed the letter stating that the signatories “unequivocally demand that the Biden administration immediately call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.”

“We must hold our president accountable and ensure that we, the American taxpayers, are no longer forced to be accomplices in a genocide that is backed and funded by the United States government,” the letter reads.

Likewise, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has said on X that the US must stop providing “blank checks” to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “right-wing” government.

“No more blank checks for Netanyahu. We need to condition aid, resume the ceasefire, and advance peace through a two-state solution,” she continued.

Warren has previously accused the Netanyahu government of creating a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza.



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