We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Smoke rises following an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza Strip Ariel Schalit/AP/PA Images
ceasefire talks

Israeli withdrawal from southern Gaza likely just so 'troops can rest', White House says

More than 33,000 people have been killed in Gaza in the last six months.


ISRAEL’S PARTIAL WITHDRAWAL from the southern Gaza Strip is likely so its troops can “rest and refit”, rather than a move towards a new operation, the White House said on Sunday.

“They’ve been on the ground for four months, the word we’re getting is they’re tired, they need to be refit,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told ABC’s This Week programme, though he stressed that it was “hard to know exactly what this tells us right now”.

Earlier today Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the conflict in Gaza will not stop and a truce will not be put in place until Hamas free all Israeli hostages from their custody.

Today marks six months since the beginning of the conflict which has devastated the Gaza Strip, as talks towards a truce and hostage-release deal resumed in Cairo.

Netanyahu today said: “We are one step away from victory but the price we paid is painful and heartbreaking. There will be no ceasefire without the return of hostages. It just won’t happen.”

He stressed that “Israel is ready for a deal” but “not ready to surrender”.

“Instead of international pressure being directed at Israel, which only causes Hamas to harden its positions, the pressure of the international community should be directed against Hamas. This will advance the release of the hostages,” he added.

Killing of aid workers

Israel has faced a storm of international outrage over the killing of seven aid workers of the US-based food charity World Central Kitchen in a Gaza airstrike on 1 April.

US President Joe Biden in a terse phone call with Netanyahu on Thursday demanded vastly greater aid deliveries into the territory now threatened by famine.

Biden also urged an “immediate ceasefire” and hinted at making US support for Israel conditional on curtailing the killing of civilians and improving humanitarian conditions.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also demanded that “this terrible conflict must end”.

“We continue to stand by Israel’s right to defeat the threat from Hamas terrorists and defend their security,” Sunak said. “But the whole of the UK is shocked by the bloodshed.”


Netanyahu meanwhile accused Iran of being behind several attacks against Israel “through its proxies”.

“Anyone who hurts us or plans to hurt us – we will hurt him. We put this principle into practice, all the time and in recent days,” Netanyahu said. 

Fears that the conflict in Gaza could spread have intensified after Iran vowed to hit back for the killing of seven of its Revolutionary Guards in an airstrike Monday on the consular annex of its embassy in Damascus.

Iran’s leaders have pledged retaliation, and the leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, has called the consulate strike a “turning point”.

Relations with top ally Washington have deteriorated, and the Middle East is on edge over a potential response from Hamas ally Iran to a deadly strike on Tehran’s consulate building in Syria last week that was widely blamed on Israel.

Hamas confirmed ahead of the talks that its core demands were a complete ceasefire in Gaza and the withdrawal of Israeli forces.

At least 33,175 people have been killed in Gaza in the last six months, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

The unprecedented Hamas raid on 7 October in southern Israel killed 1,170 Israelis and foreigners, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

‘We can smell the stench’

A Palestinian father-of-six in northern Gaza, Muhammad Yunis (51) told AFP the territory’s 2.4 million people desperately need a reprieve from the bombardment and suffering.

“It’s been half a year and the bombing and starvation continue,” the man from Beit Lahia, now a broken landscape of shattered buildings, said. 

“Watching the thin bodies of our children takes away our souls … I feel helpless and humiliated,” he said.

“Isn’t the bombing, death and destruction enough? There are bodies still under the rubble. We can smell the stench.”

Mass protests

Netanyahu has come under intense pressure at home from families and supporters of hostages, and from a resurgent anti-government protest movement.

Ten of thousands rallied in Tel Aviv and other cities on Saturday, demanding “elections now”.

Among the protesters was Israel’s centrist opposition leader Yair Lapid, who was later headed to Washington, his Yesh Atid party said.

Lapid was expected to meet US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

He will also meet Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who last month called for a snap Israeli election to give voters a chance to get rid of Netanyahu.

© AFP 2024