February 28, 2024

By Matthew Lee, Wafaa Shurafa and Sam Magdy | Related Press

DOHA, Qatar — Qatar’s prime minister mentioned Tuesday that Hamas’ response to the most recent plan for a cease-fire in Gaza and the discharge of hostages was “usually optimistic” as he met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was making his newest go to to the Center East.

Qatar, which has lengthy mediated with Hamas, has been working with the U.S. and Egypt to dealer a cease-fire that will contain an prolonged halt in combating and the discharge of the over 100 hostages nonetheless held by Hamas after its Oct. 7 cross-border raid that ignited the battle almost 4 months in the past.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani didn’t present any particulars on Hamas’ response however mentioned the group had “feedback.” Blinken confirmed that officers had obtained Hamas’ response and mentioned he would temporary Israel’s leaders when he visits the nation on Wednesday.

Hamas mentioned in an announcement that it responded in a “optimistic spirit” to the most recent proposal from the U.S. and Mideast mediators. However the militant group mentioned it nonetheless seeks “a complete and full” cease-fire to finish “the aggression in opposition to our folks.” Israel has dominated out the type of everlasting cease-fire sought by the militant group.

Blinken met with Egyptian officers earlier within the day and was in Saudi Arabia on Monday.

His go to additionally comes amid rising issues in Egypt about Israel’s said intentions to increase the fight in Gaza to areas on the Egyptian border which can be full of displaced Palestinians.

Israel’s protection minister has mentioned his nation’s offensive will ultimately attain the city of Rafah, on the Egyptian border, the place greater than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million folks have sought refuge and at the moment are dwelling in more and more depressing circumstances.

U.N. humanitarian screens mentioned Tuesday that Israeli evacuation orders now cowl two-thirds of Gaza’s territory, driving 1000’s extra folks day-after-day towards the border areas.

Egypt has warned that an Israeli deployment alongside the border would threaten the peace treaty the 2 nations signed over 4 many years in the past. Egypt fears an enlargement of fight to the Rafah space might push terrified Palestinian civilians throughout the border, a situation Egypt has mentioned it’s decided to forestall.

Blinken, who met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo, has mentioned repeatedly that Palestinians should not be pressured out of Gaza.

BLINKEN PUSHING FOR PROGRESS

Throughout this journey, Blinken is looking for progress on a cease-fire deal, on potential normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and on stopping an escalation of regional combating.

On all three fronts, Blinken faces main challenges. Hamas and Israel are publicly at odds over key parts of a possible truce. Israel has dismissed america’ requires a path to a Palestinian state, and Iran’s militant allies within the area have proven little signal of being deterred by U.S. strikes.

Egypt and Qatar have been attempting to mediate an settlement between Israel and Hamas that will result in the discharge of extra hostages in return for a several-week pause in Israeli army operations. The outlines of such a deal have been labored out by intelligence chiefs from the U.S., Egypt, Qatar and Israel late final month and have been introduced to Hamas, which has not but formally responded.

As on his earlier 4 journeys to the Mideast because the Gaza battle started, Blinken’s different essential objective is to forestall the battle from spreading, a process made harder by stepped-up assaults by Iran-backed militias within the area and more and more extreme U.S. army responses in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the Crimson Sea which have intensified since final week.

Blinken met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday night, shortly after arriving within the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Saudi officers have mentioned the dominion remains to be focused on normalizing relations with Israel in a doubtlessly historic deal, however provided that there’s a credible plan to create a Palestinian state.

FIGHTING ACROSS GAZA

Any such grand discount seems a great distance off because the battle nonetheless rages in Gaza.

The Palestinian loss of life toll from almost 4 months of battle has reached 27,585, in response to the Well being Ministry within the Hamas-run territory, with 107 our bodies dropped at hospitals over the previous day. The ministry doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants in its rely however says a lot of the useless have been ladies and youngsters.

The battle has leveled huge swaths of the tiny enclave and pushed 1 / 4 of residents to hunger.

Israel has vowed to proceed the battle till it crushes Hamas’ army and governing talents and wins the return of the 100-plus hostages nonetheless held by the militant group.

Hamas and different militants killed some 1,200 folks, principally civilians, within the Oct. 7 assault that ignited the battle and kidnapped round 250. Greater than 100 captives, principally ladies and youngsters, have been launched throughout a weeklong cease-fire in November in alternate for the discharge of 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

The Israeli army mentioned Tuesday it was battling militants in areas throughout the Gaza Strip, together with the southern metropolis of Khan Younis, the place it mentioned troops killed dozens of militants over the previous day.

An Israeli airstrike within the metropolis hit an condominium constructing, killing two dad and mom and 4 of their 5 kids, in response to the kids’s grandfather.

Mahmoud al-Khatib mentioned his 41-year-old son, Tariq, was sleeping alongside together with his household when an Israeli warplane bombed their condominium in the course of the night time. The Israeli army hardly ever feedback on particular person strikes however blames Hamas for civilians deaths, saying the militants embed in civilian areas.

HUMANITARIAN CRISIS PERSISTS

U.N. humanitarian screens mentioned Tuesday that Israel’s evacuation orders within the Gaza Strip now cowl two-thirds of the territory, or 246 sq. kilometers (95 sq. miles). The affected space was dwelling to 1.78 million Palestinians, or 77% of Gaza’s inhabitants, earlier than the battle.