Israel-Hamas War, Day 208: US Determined to Get Truce Agreement “Now”; Palestinian movement demands permanent ceasefire

American Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday, May 1, that he was determined to secure a truce agreement between Israel and Hamas “now” associated with the release of hostages, calling on the Palestinian movement to accept the latest proposal

Israel-Hamas War, Day 208: US Determined to Get Truce Agreement “Now”; Palestinian movement demands permanent ceasefire

American Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday, May 1, that he was determined to secure a truce agreement between Israel and Hamas “now” associated with the release of hostages, calling on the Palestinian movement to accept the latest proposal. dated. Hamas has not yet given its response to the latest proposal providing for a truce for forty days as well as the exchange of hostages kidnapped during the attack of October 7, 2023 and taken to Gaza for Palestinian prisoners incarcerated by Israel.

In the seventh month of war, Israeli aerial bombardments on the Gaza Strip have seen no respite, causing at least thirty-three deaths in the last twenty-four hours, according to the Ministry of Health of the Gaza Strip, administered by Hamas. .

According to an Israeli official, Israel will wait until “Wednesday evening” for a response from Hamas before deciding whether it will send a delegation to Cairo with a view to a possible agreement. After a meeting in Cairo on Monday of a Hamas delegation with the Egyptian and Qatari mediators, a source close to the movement told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the latter should give its response “as quickly as possible ". “Even in these difficult times, we are determined to secure a ceasefire bringing the hostages home and to achieve it now. And the only reason it wouldn’t happen is Hamas,” Blinken said while meeting President Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv.

Hamas will respond "in a very short time" to an offer of truce with Israel, one of its leaders assured AFP, stressing that the Palestinian movement still demands a permanent ceasefire and Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. “We do not want to provide a specific time or day,” said Souheil Al-Hindi, a member of the Hamas political bureau.

“Hamas is open to any discussion with mediation” and “to all initiatives to end the war (…) but subject to very clear conditions which cannot be waived”, firstly “the cessation of hostilities and the total withdrawal of the occupier from the Gaza Strip,” he added.

For his part, the head of Egyptian diplomacy, Sameh Choukri, underlined “the necessary flexibility of each party to reach a truce agreement” between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, during a visit to Cairo by his counterpart French, Stéphane Séjourné.

The American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, reiterated in Jerusalem to the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Washington's opposition to an Israeli assault on the town of Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, according to Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesperson.

But the Israeli Prime Minister refuses to give up despite opposition from the UN and many capitals, which fear carnage among the 1.5 million civilians crowded there, the vast majority displaced.

The discussions between MM. Blinken and Netanyahu – first one-on-one, then extended to their collaborators – lasted two and a half hours. This is Mr. Blinken’s seventh trip to the Middle East since the attack on October 7, 2023.

A possible indictment by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of Israeli leaders for their conduct of the war in Gaza represents “a danger for democracies”, said Israeli President Isaac Herzog, calling on his allies to “oppose” it.

Israeli officials told the New York Times that they expect the ICC to issue arrest warrants for members of the Israeli government on charges related to Israel's devastating military operations in Gaza on October 7, 2023. According to the American daily, the ICC also plans to indict leaders of the Islamist movement Hamas.

“Attempting to use the International Criminal Court against Israel, which fights terrorism, poses a clear and immediate danger to democracies and free, peace-loving nations that respect the rules of international law,” Mr. Herzog said. “I call on our allies and friends to oppose and reject such actions,” the president added. “Israel has a very effective judicial system” that “has prosecuted the highest authorities in this country like any citizen. We are proud of it,” he continued.

“Gaza has more rubble than Ukraine, and to put that into perspective, the front in Ukraine is 600 miles [just under 1,000 kilometers] long and Gaza is 25 miles long,” Mungo explained Birch, who is responsible for the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in Gaza, during a press briefing Wednesday in Geneva. But the mass of debris in the Palestinian territory (37 million tons, or 300 kilograms per m2, according to a mid-April estimate by the UN) is not the only problem.

“This rubble is likely heavily contaminated with UXO (unexploded ordnance), but cleaning it up will be further complicated by other hazards in the rubble,” says Birch. Thus, “it is estimated that there are more than 800,000 tons of asbestos, just in the rubble of Gaza,” adds the official. This very dangerous product for health requires special precautions.

Mr. Birch hopes that UNMAS will eventually “be able to be the coordinating body for mine action in Gaza and establish our own explosive ordnance disposal teams.” In terms of funding, the organization obtained five million dollars but “to continue our work over the next twelve months, we need an additional 40 million dollars,” the official stressed. But “the sector as a whole will need hundreds of millions of dollars over several years to make Gaza safe for the population again,” he estimates.