Israel-Hamas War, Day 139: Israeli strikes on Rafah, Gaza truce talks

During the night of Wednesday to Thursday February 22, the Israeli air force carried out around ten strikes in Rafah, according to a journalist from Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Israel-Hamas War, Day 139: Israeli strikes on Rafah, Gaza truce talks

During the night of Wednesday to Thursday February 22, the Israeli air force carried out around ten strikes in Rafah, according to a journalist from Agence France-Presse (AFP). In this city, where the vast majority of the population is threatened with famine according to the UN, the bombings destroyed the Al-Faruq mosque, of which only the minaret remained standing in the middle of the ruins. Bombings also targeted Khan Younes, a few kilometers further north in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian Red Crescent reported “multiple attacks” and artillery fire against Al-Amal hospital. The city's other major hospital, Nasser, was stormed by the army on February 15.

The Israeli army announced Thursday that it was continuing its operations in Zeitoun, a district of Gaza City in the north, bombed several times this week, where “around twenty terrorists” were killed on Wednesday. In Khan Younes, the army said it had killed “15 terrorists”.

According to the Hamas health ministry, the bombings killed 97 people in 24 hours across the territory of the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian office reports 29,410 deaths in the enclave, the vast majority of them civilians, since the start of the offensive. On the Israeli side, more than 1,160 people have been killed since October 7, the majority of them civilians, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli data.

The secretary general of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) attacked the United States on Thursday, saying he was "dismayed" by their vetoes to prevent the Security Council from calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. “Meeting after meeting, resolution after resolution, [the Security Council] has failed to respond effectively to this conflict. We have seen members of this Council deliberate and take their time while civilians die,” Christopher Lockyear said during a Council meeting.

“We are dismayed that the United States is willing to use its power as a permanent member of the Council to obstruct efforts to pass an obvious resolution calling for an immediate and lasting ceasefire,” he added.

Despite international pressure to tone down its support for Israel, the United States, criticized from all sides, blocked the UN Security Council on Tuesday from demanding an "immediate" ceasefire in Gaza, its third veto since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas. “This Council should reject any resolution that further hinders humanitarian efforts on the ground and leads this Council to tacitly support continued violence and mass atrocities in Gaza,” Christopher Lockyear insisted.

“The people of Gaza need a ceasefire, not when it is feasible, but now. It needs a lasting ceasefire, not a temporary period of calm. Anything else is a serious mistake,” he added.

At the end, Thursday, of a meeting of foreign ministers of the G20 countries in Rio de Janeiro, the head of Brazilian diplomacy, Mauro Vieira, underlined to the press "the virtual unanimity in support of the solution two states as the only possible one for the conflict between Israel and Palestine”. According to a Brazilian diplomatic source who spoke to AFP, "he didn't just say 'unanimity' because not all the interventions focused on the subject, but those who came forward showed themselves favorable, and there were many”.

On Wednesday, the Israeli Parliament overwhelmingly voted for a resolution proposed by Benjamin Netanyahu opposing any “unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state”, which would amount, according to the text, to rewarding the “unprecedented terrorism” of Hamas.

The war in Gaza has also led to an outbreak of violence in the occupied West Bank, the scene of frequent attacks by Palestinians against Israelis and often deadly raids by the Israeli army.

According to Israeli police, three Palestinians opened fire with automatic weapons Thursday on vehicles in a traffic jam near a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, killing one person and injuring eight others, including a young pregnant woman in a critical state.

This attack comes days after two people were shot and killed in Kiryat Malakhi, in southern Israel, and after a proposal by Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir to block access to Palestinians from the West Bank at the East Jerusalem Mosque Plaza during the month of Ramadan, which is scheduled to begin around March 10. “Our right to life surpasses [the right] to freedom of movement” of the Palestinians, declared Thursday at the scene of the attack Mr. Ben Gvir, leader of a far-right group.

To try to break the deadlock in discussions on a truce, US President Joe Biden's adviser for the Middle East, Brett McGurk, was expected in Israel on Thursday, after a stop in Cairo where the head of the Hamas political office, Ismaïl Haniyeh also surrendered this week.

Faced with a human toll that continues to increase, new discussions have begun around a plan developed by Qatar, the United States and Egypt, the first phase of which provides for a six-week truce, associated with an exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and the entry into Gaza of a large quantity of humanitarian aid. “We want an agreement to be reached (…) as quickly as possible,” declared US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

The discussions led by Joe Biden's advisor on a new release of hostages accompanied by a pause in hostilities in Gaza "are going well", a White House spokesperson, John Kirby, also assured Thursday. These are “the initial indications that we have from Brett [McGurk],” he said, specifying that in Israel, the envoy is to meet members of the government as well as families of American hostages.