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Hamas fighters (File photo) Alamy Stock Photo
Gaza

Hamas release video of two hostages as political arm considers Israeli truce proposal

Hamas had previously insisted on a permanent ceasefire, something rejected by Israel.

LAST UPDATE | 27 Apr

THE ARMED WING of Hamas has released video of two men held hostage in Gaza who are seen alive and urging Israeli authorities to strike a deal for the release of all the remaining captives.

The campaign group the Hostages and Missing Families Forum identified the two as Keith Siegel and Omri Miran who were abducted by militants during the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on 7 October.

“The proof of life from Keith Siegel and Omri Miran is the clearest evidence that the Israeli government must do everything to approve a deal for the return of all the hostages before Independence Day (on 14 May),” the forum said in a statement.

“The living should return for rehabilitation, and the murdered should receive a dignified burial.”

The latest video comes just three days after Hamas released another video showing hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin alive.

Siegel and Miran appeared to speak under duress.

“I have been here in Hamas captivity for 202 days. The situation here is unpleasant, difficult and there are many bombs,” Miran, 47, is heard saying in the footage.

“It’s time to reach a deal that will get us out of here safe and healthy… Keep protesting, so that there will be a deal now.”

Truce talks

Hamas said today it is studying an latest Israeli counterproposal regarding a potential ceasefire in Gaza, a day after a delegation from mediator Egypt reportedly arrived in Israel in a bid to jump-start stalled negotiations.

The signs of fresh truce talks came alongside ongoing Israeli preparations for a military push into Gaza’s southern city of Rafah and as spillover from the war led to continued attacks across the region.

“Today, the Hamas movement received the official Zionist occupation response to the movement’s position, which was delivered to the Egyptian and Qatari mediators on 13 April,” Khalil al-Hayya, deputy head of Hamas’s political arm in Gaza, said in a brief statement early today.

“The movement will study this proposal, and upon completion of its study, it will submit its response.”

Hamas had previously insisted on a permanent ceasefire, something rejected by Israel.

Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been unsuccessfully trying to seal a new truce deal in Gaza ever since a one-week halt to the fighting in November saw 80 Israeli hostages exchanged for 240 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Several Israeli media outlets, citing unnamed officials, said Israel’s war cabinet had discussed a new plan for a truce and hostage release ahead of the Egyptian delegation’s visit.

There has been “noticeable progress in bringing the views of the Egyptian and Israeli delegations closer”, said Al-Qahera News, which is linked to Egyptian state intelligence services.

The conflict in Gaza was also on the agenda for an international summit set to kick off in Saudi Arabia over the weekend.

The World Economic Forum special meeting, scheduled to begin in Riyadh tomorrow, will include a Gaza-focused session on Monday set to feature newly appointed Palestinian prime minister Mohammed Mustafa, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and Sigrid Kaag, the United Nations aid coordinator for the Gaza Strip.

“Discussions with European, American and regional counterparts on Gaza and the regional situation are planned in Riyadh,” a diplomatic source said yesterday.

Two killed in West Bank

Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinian men at a military post near the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank today, the army and Palestinian officials reported.

The incident occurred when several militants arrived in a vehicle and fired at soldiers stationed at the Salem military post at the entrance to Jenin, the Israeli army said in a statement.

“The soldiers, who were pre-positioned due to several similar past incidents, eliminated two terrorists,” the army said.

Palestinian authorities in Ramallah identified the two men killed at the military post as Mustafa Sultan Abed, 21, and Ahmed Muhammad Shawahna, 20.

The official Palestinian news agency Wafa said Israeli forces withheld their bodies after denying medics access to them, adding two other men had been hospitalised after being wounded.

This afternoon residents of Sultan Abed’s village of Kfardan held a march paying tribute to him, an AFP correspondent reported.

The mourners included several gunmen who fired in the air.

“I am proud of my son’s martyrdom… but the pain I feel in my heart as a father is impossible to comprehend or bear,” said Sultan Abed’s father.

Abu Nissan, a local commander of Al-Quds Brigade, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, said the militants were not “shaken” by the killing.

“He is not the first martyr, nor he will be the last. We all are martyrs,” he told AFP.

‘Hands off Rafah’

Witnesses in besieged Gaza reported fresh Israeli strikes overnight into today around Rafah, the last urban centre Israeli ground forces have yet to enter where about half of Gaza’s 2.3 million population are sheltering after being displaced by the violence further north. Many of those in Rafah are children.

The Israeli military has massed dozens of tanks and armoured vehicles in southern Israel close to Rafah and hit targets in the city in near-daily airstrikes.

Plans for an Israeli assault on the city, which military leaders say is necessary to uproot Hamas battalions, have sparked opposition among the international community due to the presence of hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians seeking refuge there.

Egypt has cautioned an offensive into Rafah could have “catastrophic consequences” on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, as well as on regional peace and security.

Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad said on Thursday that such an operation “will undoubtedly threaten the negotiations” and show “that Israel is interested in continuing the war”.

Yesterday, missiles fired from an Israeli jet hit Gaza City, killing at least three people in the Rimal neighbourhood, an AFP reporter said.

“I was sitting selling cigarettes and suddenly a missile fell, shaking the whole area,” a witness who did not give his name told AFP, adding that the bodies of a man, a woman and a little girl were pulled from the rubble.

Opposition to an Israeli military operation in Rafah extended to university campuses across the United States, where hundreds of students have been arrested at pro-Palestinian protests.

“Stop the invasion! Hands off Rafah!” said a sign at a pro-Palestinian encampment at George Washington University in the US capital.

Israel’s military offensive has turned vast swathes of Gaza into rubble, creating 37 million tonnes of debris that will take years to clear away, according to the UN Mine Action Service.

The World Food Programme has warned that famine is “a real and dangerous threat” in Gaza.

The European Union said yesterday it was giving an extra €68m in aid to Palestinians in Gaza “in light of the continued deterioration of the severe humanitarian crisis”.

Earlier today, an Israeli airstrike hit a house in Rafah’s Tel Sultan neighbourhood, killing six people, including four children, according to officials at a local hospital.

The strike killed a man, his wife and their three sons, aged 12, 10 and eight, according to records of the Abu Yousef al-Najjar hospital’s morgue. A neighbour’s four-month-old girl was also killed, the records showed.

Five people were also killed in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza overnight when an Israeli strike hit a house, according to officials at the al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.

The conflict began with the unprecedented Hamas-led attack on 7 October last year, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,170 people in Israel, mostly civilians.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,356 people in Gaza, mostly women and children. A further 77,437 people have been wounded during Israel’s siege, bombardment and assault on Gaza. 

Israel estimates that 129 hostages are still being held by Hamas in Gaza, including 34 the military says are dead.

Israel-Lebanon border

The conflict has led to increased violence between Israel and some of its neighbours, in particular the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon. Israel has been launching strikes against targets inside Lebanon, as well as one against the Iranian consulate in Syria, although the Israeli military has not admitted to it. 

Hezbollah has said it had launched missiles and drones at northern Israel today. 

A Hezbollah statement said the group “launched a complex attack using explosive drones and guided missiles on the headquarters of the Al Manara military command and a gathering of forces from the 51st Battalion of the Golani Brigade”.

Israel had again launched attacks on Lebanese territory earlier today, killing three people, according to Hezbollah.

In two separate statements, Hezbollah mourned the deaths of two fighters from the villages of Kafr Kila and Khiam.

It said they had been “martyred on the road to Jerusalem”.

Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA) said “Israeli occupation aircraft carried out two raids today at dawn on the towns of Kafr Shuba and Shebaa”, leading to the death of “citizen Qasim Asaad in the town of Kafr Shuba”.

Multiple villages in southern Lebanon had been hit by Israeli strikes in recent hours, leaving damage to homes and property, NNA said.

Hezbollah said separately that it targeted “newly established positions of enemy soldiers” west of Shumira in northern Israel, the day after it targeted two military sites with dozens of Katyusha rockets in response to an Israeli strike on Friday.

The Israeli army said yesterday that a civilian was killed by anti-tank missiles fired towards “the area of Har Dov”, which refers to the disputed Shebaa Farms border district.

Also yesterday, the Lebanese Islamist group Jamaa Islamiya said an Israeli strike in eastern Lebanon had killed two of its senior commanders.

In response to what it called a “cowardly assassination”, Hezbollah said it launched dozens of rockets at two military posts in northern Israel.

And in the Red Sea, a tanker was damaged when it was targeted with multiple missiles off Yemen’s coast yesterday, in the latest attack on international shipping in the Red Sea to be claimed by the Houthi rebels.

Near Tel Aviv, an 18-year-old woman was seriously wounded in a stabbing attack and the assailant was killed at the scene, according to paramedics and police.

After addressing journalists at the scene, Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir was involved in a car crash in which three people were lightly injured, police said. His driver reportedly ran a red light. 

US pier 

The US has been building a pier to deliver aid to Gaza through a new port, which an official said last week was on track to start operating by early May.

The Biden administration has stressed there will be no American boots on the ground for the mission.

However, the BBC reported on Saturday that the British government was considering deploying troops to drive the trucks to carry the aid to the shore, citing unidentified government sources. UK government officials declined to comment on the report.

A British ship to house hundreds of US troops building the jetty has set sail from Cyprus, a UK defence source said.

Royal Navy support ship Cardigan Bay will assist the international effort to construct the temporary floating pier.

The aid will be pre-screened in Cyprus and delivered directly to Gaza via the pier off the coast or via Ashdod Port, which Israel has said it will open to aid vessels.

“It is critical we establish more routes for vital humanitarian aid to reach the people of Gaza and the UK continues to take a leading role in the delivery of support,” Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said.

Hamas said yesterday it is open to any “ideas or suggestions” that take into consideration the needs of the Palestinian people such as an end to Israel’s attacks on Gaza, the return of displaced people to their homes and an Israeli withdrawal.

Includes reporting from  © AFP 2024 and Press Association

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