Israel-Hamas War, Day 165: Hamas leader accuses Israel of “sabotaging” truce negotiations with Al-Shifa hospital operation

The war between Israel and Hamas has left 31,819 dead in the Gaza Strip, mostly civilians, according to a report released Tuesday March 19 by the Palestinian Islamist movement's health ministry

Israel-Hamas War, Day 165: Hamas leader accuses Israel of “sabotaging” truce negotiations with Al-Shifa hospital operation

The war between Israel and Hamas has left 31,819 dead in the Gaza Strip, mostly civilians, according to a report released Tuesday March 19 by the Palestinian Islamist movement's health ministry. On the Israeli side, around 1,160 people died – most of them also civilians, killed during the Hamas attack on October 7, 2023 – according to a count by Agence France-Presse (AFP), established from official Israeli sources.

The efforts of mediators continued on Tuesday to achieve a truce in Gaza, where Israel has been carrying out an operation against Hamas since Monday in the Al-Shifa hospital, the largest in the Palestinian territory. The Israeli military claims to have killed “more than 50 terrorists” and arrested “approximately 180 suspects.” The Hamas health ministry reported “dozens of martyrs and wounded” near the hospital. Since the start of the war, Gaza's hospitals have often been targeted by the Jewish state's army, which accuses the Islamist movement of using civilians as human shields.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Tuesday evening accused Israel of “sabotage” ongoing negotiations for a truce in the Gaza Strip with its operation against Al-Shifa hospital. The action by Israeli forces “illustrates their efforts to sow chaos and perpetuate violence,” he said in a statement.

After months of unsuccessful efforts by mediators – the United States, Qatar and Egypt – to reach a truce, the head of Israeli intelligence, David Barnea, traveled to Doha on Monday to meet, according to a source close to the negotiations, the Qatari Prime Minister, Mohammed Ben Abderrahmane Al Thani, and Egyptian officials. Mr. Barnea left Doha on Tuesday, but "technical teams" continue to discuss details of a possible agreement on a ceasefire and the release of hostages, assured the spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar .

More than five months after the start of the war, NGOs and UN agencies continue to sound the alarm about the risk of famine in the besieged territory, which has become an "open-air cemetery" according to the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell.

In this context, the humanitarian aid that arrived in Gaza on Friday, with the first boat to have taken a maritime corridor open from Cyprus, was transported by a UN agency in the north of the territory, the NGO responsible for the operation. The ship was carrying 200 tons of aid. A second boat, with 240 tonnes of food on board, should leave Cyprus “in the coming days”, Cypriot authorities said on Tuesday, adding that the necessary checks had been carried out.

The international community and NGOs, however, emphasize that sending aid by sea or airdrops cannot replace land routes.

A meeting is planned for Thursday in Cyprus with representatives from forty countries, in order to “ensure the necessary coordination to increase the flow of humanitarian aid intended for the civilian population of Gaza and guarantee the continuity of this flow,” the authorities said Cypriots.

Israel's severe restrictions on the entry of humanitarian aid into the Palestinian enclave and the possible use of hunger as a weapon could "constitute a war crime", the UN said on Tuesday. In a statement sent to the media, the Israeli representation to the United Nations in Geneva responded to the contrary that “Israel is doing everything in its power to flood Gaza with aid.”

Emmanuel Macron had to justify himself at length on Tuesday morning to a resident of the Castellane district, in Marseille, who criticized him for practicing “double standards” in his action in Ukraine and Gaza. “We have given Ukraine all the means it needs to be able to defend its rights. Today, what are we doing for Palestine, Mr. Macron? », said this resident, Ahmed Saïd, 35, indignantly.

“We are doing it with the means that are ours, which are those of diplomacy, of humanitarian action,” replied the Head of State, on a surprise visit to the second largest city in France as part of a operation against drug trafficking. “We treated 1,000 Palestinians on the military building [Diksmuide], (…) we delivered medicine and food with the Jordanians and Egyptians,” he added.

This resident also criticized the president for not having done like South Africa, which had taken the matter to the International Court of Justice at the end of December accusing Israel of perpetrating a “genocide” in Gaza. But “France is not on this line,” according to Mr. Macron.

The head of state was also challenged by a crying woman, who spoke of the fate of Palestinian children. “In the name of God, don’t let these children die,” she implored. “I share your distress,” the head of state told him, affirming that “the nature of the operations being carried out [by the Israeli army] is unacceptable.”

The president then affirmed, during a press briefing, that he would continue to “contact and speak” with the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, “explaining the risks he runs, including in [ matter] of international perception and capacity to construct the political solution”. The “desire to eradicate a terrorist group” “cannot justify, when we are a democracy, such humanitarian consequences,” he continued.