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War in the Middle East: Gaza War: New talks in Saudi Arabia

War in the Middle East: Gaza War: New talks in Saudi Arabia

Can an Israeli offensive in Rafah still be averted? Talks in Riyadh and Cairo are said to be about a ceasefire and the release of remaining hostages. The news at a glance.

At a meeting of several foreign ministers from Western and Arab states in Riyadh today, efforts to bring about a ceasefire in the Gaza war and the release of hostages held by Hamas will be discussed. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is traveling to Saudi Arabia on the way back from a visit to China, wants to discuss the conflict with regional partners, according to his office. Among those expected are Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her counterparts from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

The ministers will meet in Riyadh on the sidelines of the Open Forum, an economic conference organized by the World Economic Forum (WEF) that will focus on, among other things, the environment, health and finance. Israel should not take part, according to WEF President Børge Brende.

Also today, a Hamas delegation is expected to travel to Cairo to discuss details of a new proposal for a compromise with Israel in the Egyptian capital, a Hamas representative told the dpa. However, hopes for an agreement in the indirect negotiations between international mediators – as a matter of principle, Israel’s government and Hamas do not hold direct talks – have so far been repeatedly dashed. The focus of the talks had recently moved from Qatar to Egypt.

Can the offensive in Rafah still be averted?

A senior Hamas official announced on Telegram that the Islamist organization would examine an Israeli proposal and provide an answer. According to Israeli television, Israel’s government expects this to happen today. Foreign Minister Israel Katz said Israel was prepared to postpone military operations in the city of Rafah if a deal was reached to release hostages held by Hamas.

The United States has repeatedly warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government against a large-scale offensive in Rafah. The city on the border with Egypt is overcrowded with hundreds of thousands of refugees. US President Biden reiterated his clear position in a conversation with Netanyahu, the White House said.

According to Israeli media, the current draft deal is initially a limited agreement that initially only provides for the release of female, elderly and sick hostages. Hamas has recently called for a permanent ceasefire, which Israel rejects. It is feared that of the 133 hostages still believed to be in the Gaza Strip, many are no longer alive.

Israeli minister threatens end of government

Israeli Chief of General Staff Herzi Halevi discussed and approved plans to continue the Gaza war with senior officers of the Southern Command, according to the military. No further details were given. Halevi had previously approved further steps to continue the Gaza war. Israeli media also interpreted the decision as an endorsement of the planned offensive in Rafah.

Israel’s right-wing extremist Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich had previously threatened to break the coalition if a military operation in Rafah was stopped in favor of a hostage deal. This would be a “humiliating surrender” and a “death sentence for the hostages and an immediate existential threat to the state of Israel,” Smotrich said in a video message to Netanyahu.

Netanyahu is said to fear arrest warrants from the Criminal Court

According to media reports, the Israeli prime minister fears that the International Criminal Court in The Hague could issue arrest warrants against him and other Israeli leaders. The government assumes that chief prosecutor Karim Khan could issue international arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Defense Minister Joav Galant and Chief of General Staff Herzi Halevi this week, Israeli media reported. There was no comment from The Hague.

The Criminal Court has been investigating Hamas and Israel for alleged war crimes in the Gaza Strip since 2021. Investigations are also underway into violence by Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

In connection with the reports of possible arrest warrants, Israel’s Foreign Minister Katz instructed all Israeli missions abroad to immediately prepare for a “severe anti-Semitic, anti-Jewish and anti-Israel wave in the world.” Security measures around Jewish institutions should also be increased, said a ministry spokesman in response to the instructions to the embassies.

Israel’s army continues to attack targets in the Gaza Strip

The Israeli army carried out further air strikes against Hamas in the Gaza Strip over the weekend. A vehicle carrying eight Hamas terrorists was hit in the central part of the coastal area, the army said. In addition, terrorist infrastructure, observation posts and rocket launch pads were attacked.

The war was triggered by the unprecedented massacre with more than 1,200 deaths that terrorists from Hamas and other groups carried out in Israel on October 7th last year. The Hamas-controlled health authority put the number of people killed in the Gaza Strip since the start of the war at 34,454. The figures it publishes make no distinction between civilians and armed people and are difficult to independently verify.

Humanitarian aid

Israel’s army spokesman Daniel Hagari announced an expansion of aid deliveries to Gaza. The opening of the Israeli port of Ashdod and a new crossing for humanitarian transport in the north of the Gaza Strip should contribute to this, he said. Work is also underway with the US military on a temporary pier so that ships can bring aid supplies ashore. “Getting aid to the people of Gaza is a top priority because our war is against Hamas, not against the people of Gaza,” Hagari said.

Critics have been accusing Israel for months of deliberately hindering aid deliveries and thereby condoning a worsening of the humanitarian emergency in the Gaza Strip. In his phone call with Netanyahu, US President Biden emphasized that the recent progress in aid deliveries must be continued and increased in full coordination with humanitarian organizations, the White House said.

The aid organization World Central Kitchen (WCK) wants to resume its work in Gaza today. In early April, seven aid workers were killed in an airstrike as their convoy of three vehicles left a warehouse in Deir al-Balah in the center of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli army later described the attack as a “serious mistake” and said the vehicles had not been correctly identified.

Source: Stern

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