Calls for a ceasefire are intensifying as Israel attacks Gaza

Calls for a ceasefire are intensifying as Israel attacks Gaza

Diplomatic efforts increased on Sunday to reach a long sought-after truce and hostage-release deal in Gaza, as Israel carried out further airstrikes and shelling on the war-battered territory.

A new video of two hostages being held by Hamas militants since the group’s October 7 attack prompted fresh outrage in Israel, where protesters have piled pressure on the government to reach a deal.

Global opposition to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has also been growing, with world leaders and aid groups warning that a looming Israeli invasion of the southernmost city of Rafah would lead to massive civilian causalities.

FILE – Palestinian Hamas Gaza Chief Yehya Al-Sinwar and head of the Egyptian general intelligence Abbas Kamel walk as they meet in Gaza, May 31, 2021. Kamel is leading a delegation to Israel on April 26, 2024, to discuss a cease-fire in Gaza.
As Israel’s offensive in Rafah looms, Egypt tries to restart cease-fire talks
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas appealed to the United States on Sunday to stop Israel from invading Rafah, which he said would be “the biggest disaster in the history of the Palestinian people.”

The U.S. — Israel’s main ally and weapons supplier — was the only nation capable of preventing Israel from “committing this crime,” Abbas told a global economic summit in Saudi Arabia.

Hamas said on Saturday it was studying a new Israeli counterproposal for truce and hostage release, a day after media reports said an Egyptian delegation was in Israel in a bid to jump-start stalled negotiations.

Hamas reviewing Israeli cease-fire plan for Gaza
Hamas reviewing Israeli cease-fire plan for Gaza
Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been trying to mediate a new truce ever since a one-week halt to the fighting in November saw 80 Israeli hostages exchanged for 240 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

People protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and call for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 27, 2024.
A top Qatari official urges Israel and Hamas to do more to reach a cease-fire deal
Hamas has previously insisted on a permanent ceasefire — a condition that Israel has rejected.

However, the Axios news website, citing two Israeli officials, reported that Israel’s latest proposal includes a willingness to discuss the “restoration of sustainable calm” in Gaza after hostages are released.

It is the first time in the nearly seven-month war that Israeli leaders have suggested they are open to discussing an end to the war, Axios said.

‘Momentum’ for truce talks

Abbas spoke at a World Economic Forum (WEF) summit that opened Sunday in Riyadh, which U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and high-ranking officials from other countries trying to broker a ceasefire are also due to attend.

FILE – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he departs Tel Aviv, Israel, March 22, 2024. Antony Blinken will travel to Riyadh from Monday through Tuesday to participate in regional talks on humanitarian assistance in Gaza.
Blinken heads to the Middle East for talks on Gaza, regional security
While there is no Israeli participation, other key players will discuss the truce talks and humanitarian situation in Gaza, WEF president Borge Brende said.

There was “some new momentum now in the talks around the hostages, and also for… a possible way out of the impasse we are faced with in Gaza,” he said.

The war began with Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack which resulted in the deaths of about 1,170 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 34,454 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Israel estimates that 129 hostages seized by militants on October 7 are still being held in Gaza, including 34 the military says are dead.

The Gaza health ministry on Sunday reported at least 66 deaths in the past 24 hours.

In central Gaza, Mohammed al-Hattab said he found his 1-year-old boy in the rubble after an Israeli air strike hit the Nuseirat refugee camp over the weekend.

The boy is being treated for a fractured skull, while his 2-year-old daughter’s face was “completely disfigured” in the strike, he told AFP.

Israel carried out air strikes and shelling in Gaza overnight, hitting three houses in the southern city of Khan Yunis, an AFP correspondent said Sunday, also reporting strikes on Gaza City and Rafah.

The Israeli military said its jets struck dozens of terror targets including “launch sites, armed terrorists and observation posts.”

Most of Gaza’s population has taken refuge in Rafah, according to the U.N., many in makeshift shelters after fleeing violence elsewhere.

Despite international outcry, Israel has vowed to invade the city, where Israel’s military says Hamas is holding hostages.

On the side of a tent in Rafah on Saturday, a Palestinian wrote a message to the thousands of protesters on U.S. university campuses.

“Thank you, students in solidarity with Gaza, your message has reached,” it read.

A man writes a message of thanks to students in the U.S. protesting in solidarity with the people of Gaza, on a tent at a camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, April 27, 2024.
A man writes a message of thanks to students in the U.S. protesting in solidarity with the people of Gaza, on a tent at a camp for displaced Palestinians in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, April 27, 2024.
‘End the bloodshed’

A heated rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday night was the latest held by protesters demanding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ensure the release of the hostages.

Just hours earlier, the armed wing of Hamas released a video featuring two of the hostages, Keith Siegel and Omri Miran, who appeared to speak under duress.

“Keep protesting, so that there will be a deal now,” Miran said in the footage.

“We are in danger here, there are bombs, it is stressful and scary,” said Siegel, a 64-year-old U.S. citizen.

Omri Miran’s father Dani called on Hamas to “show humanity” and release the hostages.

“The world wants to see an end to the bloodshed,” he told the Tel Aviv demonstration.

U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA has warned that “famine thresholds in Gaza will be breached within the next six weeks” if a massive amount of food aid does not reach the territory.

A British ship set sail toward Gaza on Saturday which is planned to house hundreds of U.S. troops building a temporary floating pier off the coast to help deliver aid.

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