Israel pressed its war to crush Hamas on Sunday nearly a month after the worst attack in the country’s history, as the Palestinian group said strikes on a central Gaza refugee camp killed dozens.
Fighting continues to rage in densely populated Gaza, despite calls for a ceasefire from Arab countries and desperate civilians after 30 days of war.
Since a shock Hamas attack on October 7, which Israeli officials say has killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, Israel has bombarded the besieged Gaza Strip.
The health ministry in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, says more than 9,480 Gazans, mostly women and children, have been 0 in Israeli strikes and the intensifying ground campaign.
Since Israel sent troops into the narrow Palestinian territory late last month, “over 2,500 terror targets have been struck” by “ground, air and naval forces”, the army said on Sunday.
In a statement, it said ground soldiers were engaged in “close-quarters combat” as Israeli jets were striking targets including a “Hamas military compound” at an undisclosed location overnight.
In the latest onslaught in Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry said an Israeli bombing on the Al-Maghazi refugee camp late Saturday killed 30 people, with an eyewitness reporting children dead and homes smashed.
“An Israeli air strike targeted my neighbours’ house in Al-Maghazi camp, my house next door partially collapsed,” said Mohammed Alaloul, 37, a journalist working for the Turkish Anadolu Agency.
Alaloul told AFP his 13-year-old son, Ahmed, and his four-year-old son, Qais, were killed in the bombing, along with his brother. His wife, mother, and two other children were injured.
A military spokesperson said they were looking into whether their forces had been operating in the area at the time of the bombing.
More than 240 Israeli and foreign hostages were abducted by Hamas during the October 7 attack, officials say, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffed proposals of a truce until the Islamist group releases them all.
Israel on Thursday said it had struck 12,000 targets across Gaza during the war, one of the fiercest bombing campaigns in recent memory.
Hamas said in a statement posted on Telegram that Israel had “directly” bombed civilian homes, adding that most of the dead were women and children.
As the war ground into its fifth week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to continue his Middle East tour Sunday with a visit to Turkey, where Ankara has hardened its tone against Israel and its Western supporters with the death toll in Gaza surging.
Blinken faced a rising tide of anger in meetings with Arab foreign ministers in Jordan on Saturday, where he reaffirmed US support for “humanitarian pauses” to ensure desperate civilians get help, a day after Netanyahu gave the idea short shrift.
This picture released by the Israeli army on November 5, 2023, shows Israel troops and vehicles patrolling inside the Gaza Strip as battles between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas movement continue. (Photo by Israeli Army / AFP)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, whose country has been acting as the sole conduit for foreigners to escape the Gaza Strip and for aid to get in, called for an “immediate and comprehensive ceasefire”.
The call for a ceasefire was echoed by thousands of protesters on Saturday marching in the US capital in solidarity with Palestinians, one of multiple similar rallies held from Indonesia to Iran, as well as in European cities.
Hamas said late Saturday the evacuation of dual nationals and foreigners from Gaza was being suspended until Israel lets some wounded Palestinians reach Rafah so they can cross the border for hospital treatment in Egypt.
A senior White House official said Hamas had tried to use a US-brokered deal opening the Egyptian border crossing to get its cadres out.
“That was just unacceptable to Egypt, to us, to Israel,” the official said.
Palestinian ally Turkey on Saturday said it was recalling its ambassador to Israel and breaking off contacts with Netanyahu in protest at the bloodshed in Gaza.
Turkey had been mending torn relations with Israel until last month’s start of the Israel-Hamas war.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters he held Netanyahu personally responsible for the growing civilian death toll in Gaza.
“Netanyahu is no longer someone we can talk to. We have written him off,” Turkish media quoted Erdogan as saying.
Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat said the move was “another step by the Turkish president that sides with the Hamas terrorist organisation”.
Israeli chief of staff Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi visited troops inside Gaza on Saturday after they completed an encirclement of Gaza City, which lies to the north of the Al-Maghazi camp hit overnight Saturday.
The Israeli military describes Gaza City as “the centre of the Hamas terror organisation”, while the US special envoy for aid assistance, David Satterfield, said between 350,000 and 400,000 civilians remained in the city and adjacent areas.
In the north of Israel, the army and Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah movement traded fire across the border on Saturday, with each claiming to have hit the other’s positions along the frontier.
The skirmishes came a day after Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah warned that the war between Israel and Hamas could draw in other forces in a regional conflict.
Blinken on Saturday held talks in Amman with his counterparts from Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, all key players in the crisis.
In his talks with the US top diplomat, King Abdullah II of Jordan underlined that “the only way to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is to work towards a political horizon to achieve a just and comprehensive peace based on the two-state solution”.
The US administration has said that it too backs a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but Netanyahu’s hard-right government is implacably opposed.
Trump Can Be Sued For Jan 6 Riots, US Court Says
A US federal appeals court ruled Friday that former president Donald Trump can be sued over the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol that saw his supporters attempt to thwart certification of his election loss to Joe Biden.
Trump could now face civil action over the violent clashes which saw a mob overrun law enforcement at the nerve center of American democracy. More than 1,200 people have been arrested over the melee.
Two Capitol police officers along with several Democratic lawmakers sued Trump in 2021, alleging that he may have incited violence in his public comments to supporters before they descended on Capitol Hill.
Trump’s legal team had argued that, as president, he had immunity for his actions, including comments telling his supporters to “fight like hell” as Congress prepared to certify his election defeat.
“It is not that President Trump could not establish his entitlement to immunity… it is that he has not done so,” said the ruling by a three-judge panel on the US Court of Appeals in Washington.
“When a first-term president opts to seek a second term, his campaign to win reelection is not an official presidential act,” it said.
“When a sitting president running for a second term… speaks at a campaign rally funded and organized by his reelection campaign committee, he is not carrying out the official duties of the presidency. He is acting as office-seeker, not office-holder.”
Trump “recognized that he engaged in his campaign to win reelection — including his post-election efforts to alter the declared results in his favor — in his personal capacity as presidential candidate, not in his official capacity as sitting president,” it said.
The Trump campaign did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The 77-year-old Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, is to go on trial in Washington in March on charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the November 2020 election won by Biden.
Trump seemingly knew he lost the election — his advisors told him so and his legal challenges went nowhere — but continued to insist it was “stolen” by his Democratic rival.
He pressured election officials in Georgia to “find” the votes he needed to win and tried to strongarm then vice president Mike Pence into not certifying the election results at the January 6 meeting of Congress.
After his fiery speech near the White House, Trump then watched on television for hours as his loyal backers violently attacked the Capitol in a bid to block congressional certification of Biden’s victory.
Trump was impeached by the House for the January 6 insurrection but acquitted by the Senate.
He has been indicted for racketeering in Georgia on accusations that he tried to overturn the 2020 election results in the southern state.
He additionally faces federal charges for alleged mishandling top-secret documents after he left the White House.
Gaza Truce To Be Extended By 48 Hours – Hamas, Qatar
A truce between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip will be extended by two days, the Palestinian group and mediator Qatar said Monday, opening the way for further releases of hostages and prisoners.
With just hours to go before the humanitarian pause was to end early Tuesday, Hamas said that an agreement had been reached to prolong it by 48 hours under the existing terms.
There was no immediate confirmation from the Israeli side of the extension, which was nevertheless hailed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as “a glimpse of hope and humanity in the middle of the darkness of war”.
Qatar — with the support of the United States and Egypt — has been engaged in intense negotiations to establish and prolong the truce in Gaza.
Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari announced that “an agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian truce for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip.”
Hamas, which runs Gaza and triggered the war when its militants made an unprecedented attack on southern Israel last month, said it was drawing up a new list of hostages for release.
Late Monday, on the last day of the initial four-day truce, Israel’s military said 11 hostages were “now in Israeli territory”.
Qatar said the 11 Israelis would be freed in exchange for 33 Palestinian prisoners, most of whom it said are minors.
The freed Israelis are dual nationals of France, Germany and Argentina, Qatar added.
Israel has been clear that the pause is designed to allow Hamas to free more of the roughly 240 hostages it has been holding since the October 7 attack which also killed 1,200 Israelis and foreigners, according to officials in the country.
But there have been widespread calls to build on the break in hostilities to allow more humanitarian aid to reach civilians in Gaza, where Israel’s campaign against Hamas has left almost 15,000 dead, mostly Palestinian civilians, according to Gaza’s Hamas government.
Most of Gaza’s people have been displaced and they are short of essential goods.
The extension announcements came after US President Joe Biden, top EU envoy Josep Borrell and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg added to calls for a longer break in fighting.
Over the initial four days, a total of 50 hostages and 150 Palestinian prisoners were to be exchanged.
Prior to Monday, 39 Isreali hostages and 117 prisoners had been released in three phases under the deal.
Separately, 19 foreign nationals, mostly Thais, have also been released by the Palestinian militants.
The tearful reunions of families and hostages have brought relief from images of civilian death and suffering in the seven-week war.
“That’s our goal, to keep this pause going beyond tomorrow so that we can continue to see more hostages come out and surge more humanitarian relief in to those in need,” Biden said Sunday.
The White House welcomed the agreement to extend the truce.
“We would of course hope to see the pause extended further, and that will depend upon Hamas continuing to release hostages,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Kirby said that “in order to extend the pause, Hamas has committed to releasing another 20 women and children.”
The EU’s Borrell had called for the pause to be prolonged “to make it sustainable and long lasting while working for a political solution.”
“Nothing can justify the indiscriminate brutality Hamas unleashed against civilians,” he said. “But one horror cannot justify another horror.”
Three successive days of hostage releases have buoyed spirits in Israel, which on October 7 suffered the worst attack since the country’s founding in 1948.
The third group of hostages released Sunday included a four-year-old American citizen called Abigail whose parents were both killed in the Hamas attacks.
Inside Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry complained that, despite the four-day pause, no fuel had been taken to generators in hospitals in the north of the Gaza Strip.
In Gaza City, the truce made clear the scale of the destruction. People walked or bicycled along debris-lined streets past flattened cars and buildings torn apart.
Yahya al-Siraj, the mayor of Gaza City, complained that without fuel the territory could not pump clean water or clear waste accumulating in the streets, warning of a potential public health “catastrophe”.
At Al-Shifa hospital, which had been a focal point of the war, young Gazans were working to clean up the facility, and “we hope it can soon resume its activities,” said Gaza health ministry spokesman Mahmud Hammad.
A French warship arrived in the Egyptian town of El-Arish near the border with Gaza to serve as a hospital for wounded civilians, a port source said.
Israel has faced mounting pressure to extend the pause, though its leaders have dismissed any suggestions of a lasting halt to the offensive.
“We continue until the end — until victory,” Netanyahu said in Gaza on Sunday, on the first visit by an Israeli premier since 2005.
His office has proposed a war budget of 30 billion shekels ($8 billion) for 90 days.
Wearing military fatigues and surrounded by soldiers, Netanyahu vowed to free all the hostages and “eliminate Hamas”, in footage posted online by his office.
In another sign of mounting international concern, UN rights experts called Monday for independent investigations into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity carried out in Israel and the Palestinian territories since October 7.
Morris Tidball-Binz, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, and Alice Jill Edwards, the special rapporteur on torture, issued a joint statement stressing the need for “prompt, transparent and independent investigations” into alleged crimes by “all parties”.
Pope Welcomes Temporary Truce In Gaza, Hostage Release
Pope Francis on Sunday welcomed a truce that has seen some hostages set free in the Middle East and prayed for further releases.
“Today we thank God because there is finally a truce between Israel and Palestine and some hostages have been freed,” the Argentinian pontiff said in a statement read by a Vatican official at the weekly Angelus prayer.
“We pray that they all may be (freed) as rapidly as possible and that more humanitarian aid arrives in Gaza and that they insist on dialogue,” the 86-year-old leader of the Catholic Church added in response to the release Friday and Saturday by Hamas to the Red Cross of 41 Israeli and non-Israeli hostages detained seven weeks ago, while Israel freed 78 Palestinian prisoners.
Dialogue “is the only way, the only path to peace. Those who do not want to hold a dialogue do not want peace,” Francis concluded.
The truce, a four-day pause to fighting brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States, provides for Hamas releasing 50 hostages in exchange for the release by Israel of 150 Palestinian prisoners.
Hamas took about 240 captives from southern Israel in an unprecedented October 7 attack that Israeli officials say killed around 1,200 people, most of them civilians.
In response, Israel has vowed to eliminate Hamas, which the United States, the European Union and Israel dub a terrorist organisation. It unleashed an aerial bombing campaign and ground invasion of Gaza that the Hamas government says has killed nearly 15,000 people, also mostly civilians and some 6,000 minors.
Francis had a colleague read his statement as he recited recite Sunday’s Angelus prayer from his Casa Santa Marta residence rather than overlooking St Peter’s Square as he deals with a mild bout of flu, the Vatican press service said.
The prayer was broadcast live on screens in St Peter’s Square and streamed on the Vatican News website.
The pope was recuperating a day after he had a CT scan which ruled out pulmonary complications and cancelled audiences for the day as the Vatican said he was getting over a “light flu”.
Francis is scheduled to make a much anticipated speech at the UN climate summit in Dubai next Saturday. He is expected to criticise the inaction of many governments and urge them to intensify efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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