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Israel-Hamas War Live: Four-Day Ceasefire Due To Start On Thursday Too Short To Meet Gaza’s Needs, Aid Agencies Warn

Four-day ceasefire leaves no time to meet Gaza’s needs, warn aid agencies

Dan Sabbagh

A coalition of aid agencies warned in a briefing that the four day ceasefire announced by the warring parties left almost no time to provide effective humanitarian relief to Gaza’s 2.3 million people.

They argued the only effective response would be a permanent or durable end to the war and that it remained unclear if there would be sufficient access, particularly to the north of the strip, to allow anything beyond cursory relief.

Joel Weiler, executive director of medical charity Médecins du Monde, said “for a medical organisation, four days of pause is….band aid, not health care”, arguing it would be insufficient to time to diagnose and begin treating serious injuries or other medical conditions.

Danila Zizi, Palestine director from Humanity & Inclusion, an aid organisation, said “it’s a kind of drop in the ocean if we don’t have fuel and we don’t have access” and complained that it was unclear what the arrangements were likely to be.

It is estimated 1.7 million people out of 2.3 million have been displaced by the conflict, many of whom are living in tents in the south of the strip, just as the weather is deteriorating. But there remain 200,000 to 300,000 civilians still in northern Gaza despite weeks of fighting.

Agencies present complained that there was no sign of other border crossings being reopened during the four day pause in fighting, leaving aid only able to pass through the crowded Rafah facility, in the south of the strip, where it meets Egypt.

“There is a logistic limitation into what can enter through the crossing,” at Rafah, said Chiara Saccardi, head of Middle East operations with ActionAid.

If you consider that in some of the shelters so you have 20,000 people sheltering and they have available one latrine for 650 persons, then you can only figure what is needed on the ground right now.

Only a long term ceasefire and security for aid workers could begin to meet some of the people’s urgent needs, she added.

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Edward Helmore

A New York political lobbying firm has offered to represent a halal street food vendor who was recently subjected to a sustained racist attack by one of its own consultants, a former state department official, in the latest encounter reflecting tension in the city over the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The Manhattan-based Gotham Government Relations firm said on Tuesday that it would cut all ties with Stuart Seldowitz, who worked in the US Department of State’s Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs from 1999 to 2003 and later at the national security council during the Obama administration, after he was filmed harassing an Upper East Side street vendor.

In one widely shared video, Seldowitz is heard to ask the unidentified vendor: “Did you rape your daughter like Muhammad did?” In another, he states: “If we killed 4,000 Palestinian kids, you know what? It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough.”

When the vendor says he doesn’t speak English, Seldowitz laughs and says, “That’s why you’re selling food in a food cart, because you’re ignorant,” before suggesting that the vendor will be deported to Egypt and tortured by intelligence agents.

“The mukhabarat in Egypt will get your parents,” Seldowitz said in the video. “Does your father like his fingernails? They will take them out one by one.”

The vendor is heard asking Seldowitz to “please go” and saying that he would call the police.

An NYPD spokesperson told the outlet that they are aware of the videos and monitoring the situation but that no reports had been filed. The woman who posted the videos, who is believed to be a social activist and Columbia University graduate, said Seldowitz had been harassing the vendor for weeks.

The Swiss government has announced that it will bring foward a draft law that explicitly bans Hamas “activities” or support for the group in Switzerland.

In a statement, the government said the drafting of the law would be “the most appropriate response to the situation that has prevailed in the Middle East” since the Hamas terror attacks on Israel on 7 October. The statement continued:

The act will provide the federal authorities with the necessary tools to counter any Hamas activities or support for the organisation in Switzerland.

“The ban has the sole aim of preventing the terrorist activities of this organisation, and the people who support them,” the justice minister, Elisabeth Baume-Schneider, told a press conference on Wednesday, AFP reported.

She said banning Hamas would make it easier to expel “dangerous people” and speed up criminal proceedings against “potential terrorists”.

The seven-member Swiss government is formed by ministers from the four biggest parties, and lawmakers in parliament are likely to back the draft law.

The hard-right Swiss People’s Party, the biggest in the country, has been strongly advocating for a ban.

The families of hostages held in Gaza have said they are living in a “nightmare” as they endure an agonising wait to see if their loves ones are among those freed.

The relatives of some of the 240 hostages in Gaza have said they are grappling with feeling both optimistic about the deal, and fearful that their loved ones may be left behind. The families said they were in the dark about who would be released and when.

Keren Schem said she feared the deal might collapse but that she was praying for the release of her daughter, Mia Schem, 21, who was abducted from the Supernova music festival. “It’s like Russian roulette. We don’t know who’s going to come out,” Schem, 51, said.

They’re talking about children and their mothers so I don’t think that Mia will come out today or tomorrow or even the day after. But I’m praying that she will because nobody really knows.

Ofri Bibas Levy, sister of Yarden, holds up a picture of Yarden’s child Kfir, who at nine months old is believed to be the youngest of the hostages. Photograph: Salvatore Di Nolfi/APEylon Keshet said he was afraid that his cousin, Yarden Bibas, 34, would be split from his wife, Shiri, 32 and their two boys, Ariel, four, and nine-month-old Kfir, who is thought to be the youngest hostage. Keshet said:

I’m afraid that this is what it means, but, unfortunately, I’m not optimistic from the very beginning that Yarden was held together with them because he was kidnapped separately from them and I don’t think Hamas cares much to reunite families.

Read the full story here.

Images sent over to us from the newswires show preparation is under way for humanitarian aid and fuel to enter Gaza through the Rafah crossing from Egypt following the announcement of a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

During the four-day pause in hostilities, aid and fuel is expected to reach the besieged Gaza Strip, where more than 12,000 people have been killed and much of the exclave’s population of 2.3 million people has been displaced from their homes.

Under the agreement, Hamas will free at least 50 of the more than 240 mostly Israeli hostages they took on 7 October. In turn, Israel will release at least 150 Palestinian prisoners and allow up to 300 trucks of humanitarian aid into Gaza after more than six weeks of bombardment, heavy fighting and a crippling blockade of fuel, food, medicine and other essentials.

Trucks carrying aid await an opportunity to enter Gaza via the Rafah crossing in Arish, Egypt. Photograph: Ali Moustafa/Getty ImagesAid organised by the Egyptian Red Crescent is prepared in Arish, Egypt. Photograph: Ali Moustafa/Getty ImagesA truck carrying humanitarian aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) arrives at the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip. Photograph: Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty ImagesOfficials list 300 Palestinians to be freed under hostage deal

Bethan McKernan

Palestinian and Israeli officials have published the names of 300 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons, at least some of whom are expected to be released in an exchange with Hamas in Gaza for dozens of Israeli hostages seized by the militant group on 7 October.

An initial 10 hostages – children or elderly women – are expected to be released on Thursday morning. While details are still unclear, a source at the West-Bank based Palestinian Authority told the Guardian that it is thought that 50 Palestinian women and children will then be dropped off at the Betunia checkpoint, near Ramallah, on Thursday afternoon.

As the families of abducted Israelis endure an agonising wait to see if their loved ones will be able to return, excitement is also growing for Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank that their imprisoned loved ones will also be coming home.

Aseel Osama Shadeh, 17, was arrested earlier this month after carrying a Hamas flag to a protest at the notorious Qalandia checkpoint between Ramallah and Jeruaslem – an offence under Israeli law.

According to the Palestinian Prisoners Society, 7,200 prisoners are currently being held by Israel, among them 88 women and 250 children 17 and under. The plight of prisoners is a key issue for Palestinians: at least four in 10 Palestinian men spend at least some time in their life in Israeli prisons.

The hostage swap deal has also shone a light on Israeli detention and sentencing practices in the Palestinian territories, where Palestinians are tried in military courts and minors are regularly imprisoned.

All but four on the list of 300 are from the West Bank and Jerusalem. Israel refused to release anyone sentenced for murder; most are held for stone throwing, damaging property, having contact with “hostile” organisations, as well as more serious charges including attempted stabbings and making explosives.

Many are held in administrative detention, which allows for pre-emptive arrest, on secret evidence, and six-month-long extendable stints in prison without charge or trial.

Lorenzo Tondo

Pope Francis has faced criticism for allegedly drawing equivalence between Israel and Hamas.

During a general audience after meeting with Israeli and Palestinian delegations at the Vatican, the pope reportedly remarked, “They suffer so much, I heard how they both suffer.”

This statement referred to testimonies brought by the Israeli group, who shared their experiences of having relatives taken hostage by Hamas during the 7 October attacks, as well as the Palestinians with family members living in the targeted enclave.

Continuing his remarks, Pope Francis stated:

Wars do this, but here we have gone beyond war: this is not war, it is terrorism.

In response, members of the Israeli delegation expressed their discontent, citing that there could be no comparison between Hamas, an organisation that employs civilians as shields, and Israel, which defends civilians.

Pope Francis meets a delegation of Israelis who have relatives held hostage in Gaza at the studio of Santa Marta in Vatican City. Photograph: Vatican Pool/Getty ImagesNoemi Di Segni, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, also criticised Pope Francis for placing everyone on the same level in terms of responsibility. According to Di Segni, the starting point should be recognised as the terrorism employed in a plan to exterminate Jews worldwide, while war is necessary for the defense of Israel and its people. Di Segni stressed that while there is suffering involved, the blame should be attributed to those truly responsible.

Meanwhile, Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni addressed claims made by the Palestinian delegation during a press conference in Rome. They asserted that the Pope had recognised the ongoing “genocide” faced by the Palestinian people in their meeting. Bruni, however, refuted this claim, stating that he was not aware of the pope using such terminology. He clarified that the pope’s words during the general audience represented the dire situation experienced in Gaza.

The Palestinian delegation also invited the pope to visit Gaza, suggesting that his presence could help stop the war. In response, Pope Francis mentioned that it could be considered when circumstances permit.

Pope Francis meets a delegation of families of Palestinians in Gaza at the studio of Paul VI Hall in Vatican City. Photograph: Vatican Pool/Getty ImagesFour-day ceasefire leaves no time to meet Gaza’s needs, warn aid agencies

Dan Sabbagh

A coalition of aid agencies warned in a briefing that the four day ceasefire announced by the warring parties left almost no time to provide effective humanitarian relief to Gaza’s 2.3 million people.

They argued the only effective response would be a permanent or durable end to the war and that it remained unclear if there would be sufficient access, particularly to the north of the strip, to allow anything beyond cursory relief.

Joel Weiler, executive director of medical charity Médecins du Monde, said “for a medical organisation, four days of pause is….band aid, not health care”, arguing it would be insufficient to time to diagnose and begin treating serious injuries or other medical conditions.

Danila Zizi, Palestine director from Humanity & Inclusion, an aid organisation, said “it’s a kind of drop in the ocean if we don’t have fuel and we don’t have access” and complained that it was unclear what the arrangements were likely to be.

It is estimated 1.7 million people out of 2.3 million have been displaced by the conflict, many of whom are living in tents in the south of the strip, just as the weather is deteriorating. But there remain 200,000 to 300,000 civilians still in northern Gaza despite weeks of fighting.

Agencies present complained that there was no sign of other border crossings being reopened during the four day pause in fighting, leaving aid only able to pass through the crowded Rafah facility, in the south of the strip, where it meets Egypt.

“There is a logistic limitation into what can enter through the crossing,” at Rafah, said Chiara Saccardi, head of Middle East operations with ActionAid.

If you consider that in some of the shelters so you have 20,000 people sheltering and they have available one latrine for 650 persons, then you can only figure what is needed on the ground right now.

Only a long term ceasefire and security for aid workers could begin to meet some of the people’s urgent needs, she added.

The head of the UN children’s agency (Unicef), Catherine Russell, welcomed the deal agreed by Israel and Hamas for the release of hostages and a temporary ceasefire but said “much more needs to be done”.

Speaking to the UN security council on Wednesday, Russell said:

For children to survive, for humanitarian workers to stay and effectively deliver, humanitarian pauses are simply not enough. Unicef is calling for an urgent humanitarian ceasefire to immediately put a stop to this carnage.

She said she was concerned that further military escalation in the south of Gaza would “exponentially worsen” the humanitarian situation there, and said attacks on the south “must be avoided”. She added:

The true cost of this latest war in Palestine and Israel will be measured in children’s lives – those lost to the violence and those forever changed by it. Without an end to the fighting and full humanitarian access, the cost will continue to grow exponentially.

Temporary ceasefire in Gaza to come into effect on Thursday morning, say Hamas and Israel officialsThe first ceasefire in seven weeks of war in Gaza is due to come into effect on Thursday morning, officials from both Hamas and Israel have said.

The four-day truce, announced early this morning, is slated to begin at 10am local time (08:00 GMT) on Thursday, an Israeli official told CNN today.

Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk also told Al Jazeera that the temporary cease-fire will start at 10am local time. Marzouk said the pause in fighting would cover “all regions the of Gaza Strip”, adding that “there will be no warplanes or air traffic in Gaza from 10am to 4pm”.

An Egyptian security source told Reuters that mediators wanted a start time of 10am on Thursday, with Hamas seeking a few hours from the start to begin freeing hostages.

Under the agreement, Hamas will free at least 50 of the more than 240 mostly Israeli hostages they took on 7 October. In turn, Israel will release at least 150 Palestinian prisoners and allow up to 300 trucks of humanitarian aid into Gaza after more than six weeks of bombardment, heavy fighting and a crippling blockade of fuel, food, medicine and other essentials.

There will be a halt to Israeli air sorties over southern Gaza, with air activity over northern Gaza restricted to six hours a day. According to a Hamas statement, Israel has agreed not to arrest anyone in Gaza for the duration of the temporary truce.

Unicef’s executive director, Catherine Russell, who visited southern Gaza last week, said she was “haunted by what I saw and heard” as she met with Palestinian children, families and Unicef staff on the ground.

She recounted seeing “tiny babies clinging to life in incubators” while visiting the Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, while “doctors worried how they could keep the machines running without fuel.”

“In addition to bombs, rockets, and gunfire, Gaza’s children are at extreme risk from catastrophic living conditions,” she said, adding that “all children inside the territory” were facing “what could soon become a catastrophic nutrition crisis”.

Russell said that water production capacity in Gaza had plummeted to just 5% of its normal output, with families and children relying on three litres or less of water per person per day for drinking, cooking, and hygiene.

Gaza Strip is ‘world’s most dangerous place’ for children, says UN agencyThe head of the UN children’s agency (Unicef) has called the Gaza Strip “the most dangerous place in the world to be a child” and said that the temporary ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas is “far from enough”.

Unicef’s executive director, Catherine Russell, addressing the UN security council on Wednesday, said more than 5,300 Palestinian children have been reportedly killed in Gaza in just 46 days of war, adding:

That is over 115 a day, every day, for weeks and weeks. Based on these figures, children account for 40% of the deaths in Gaza. This is unprecedented. In other words, today, the Gaza Strip is the most dangerous place in the world to be a child.

The UN agency has received reports that more than 1,200 Palestinian children remain under the rubble of bombed-out buildings or are otherwise unaccounted for, she added.

For the children who manage to survive the war, they are “likely to see their lives irrevocably altered through repeated exposure to traumatic events”, Russell said.

She said she was particularly concerned by reports of increasing numbers of displaced children who have been separated from their families as they fled south, or who have arrived unaccompanied to hospitals for medical care.

These children are especially vulnerable, and they urgently need to be identified, provided with temporary care, and given access to family tracing and reunification services.

Peter Beaumont

Reactions among leading Israeli columnists on Wednesday reflected the continuing political problems that Benjamin Netanyahu is facing even as he tries to sell the deal.

Nahum Barnea, a journalist for the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, suggested that “Israel has no choice but to pay the price” while linking the agreement with the failures of 7 October.

The alternative to forsaking the hostages a second time, after they were first forsaken on October, would have been far worse and far more dangerous. Beyond the price it could end up costing in blood and lives, it would have left an indelible stain on the Israeli government and the IDF.

Others were more damning still. Also writing in Yedioth, Yossi Yehoshua warned that Israel risked missing “an historic opportunity to fundamentally change the Gaza problem, and will not only pay for that in soldiers’ lives but by missing out on a better deal”, adding “we are jeopardising our most important war in recent decades. One man has to own all of this: Binyamin Netanyahu.”

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, speaks at a press conference in Tel Aviv Photograph: Xinhua/ShutterstockOn Kan Radio, Gadi Shamni, a former senior military officer, said:

I’m not sure that Netanyahu wants to win this war. This floundering might work for him.

Netanyahu already realises that he is going to be remembered in infamy as the man who with his own two hands moulded this crisis. The prime minister delayed the IDF [ground] manoeuvre for weeks – he didn’t believe in the IDF’s capabilities, and he chose to waste his time.

What Netanyahu wants, first of all, first and foremost, is to minimise the damage to himself.

Peter Beaumont

The support from Bezalel Smotrich, the finance minister, and his Religious Zionist party represented a victory for Benjamin Netanyahu and his senior allies.

Support for the hostage deal appears to have been clinched with the decision by Yoav Gallant, the defence minister, and by senior officials in the Israel Defense Forces and Shin Bet domestic intelligence agency to back it, even if it meant slowing the pace of the offensive.

Talks around the truce in exchange for the release of hostages have seen Netayahu and his cabinet attempt to balance two competing concerns.

On one hand, support for an arrangement to release those held captive by Hamas and other armed Palestinian factions in Gaza enjoys widespread public support, much of which has been galvanised by the campaign waged by the families of the hostages.

On the other hand, however, has been the concern that an agreement for a substantial ceasefire could mark the beginning of the end of Israel’s war against Hamas, a concern dismissed by Netanyahu as “nonsense”.

Justifying his support for a deal he had previously rejected, Netanyahu said:

Let me make clear: we are at war, and we will continue the war until we achieve all our objectives – eradicating Hamas, bringing back all our hostages and MIAs, and guaranteeing that there will be no figure in Gaza that threatens Israel.

Isaac Herzog, Israel’s president, however, acknowledged that the deal – while moral – would inspire “understandable, painful and difficult misgivings”.

It is a moral and ethical duty that correctly expresses the Jewish and Israeli value of redeeming captives, and I hope that it will be a significant first step for bringing all the captives home.

Peter Beaumont

Benjamin Netanyahu has managed to avert a wider rebellion over the Gaza deal with Hamas among his far-right coalition partners even as Itamar Ben-Gvir, the firebrand national security minister, called it immoral.

Three ministers, all from Ben-Gvir’s far-right Jewish Power party, oppose the deal but members of the equally hardline Religious Zionist party were persuaded to support the deal after heated exchanges in an Israeli cabinet meeting late on Tuesday night.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel’s national security minister, has been critical of the deal with Hamas. Photograph: Ammar Awad/ReutersThe deal was made after weeks in which Netanyahu had been vocal in his opposition to any pause in Israel’s military offensive against Hamas in Gaza, but there has also been mounting political pressure on the prime minister, who has seen his support among voters collapse since the 7 October massacre by Hamas.

But amid warning signs of political difficulties for Netanyhu, who depends on support from far-right parties to remain in power, Ben-Gvir heavily criticised the deal on Wednesday. “We don’t have the right to agree to separating them and only some of them returning,” he said. “And we definitely cannot accept an outline that sees the release of female and underage terrorists when we don’t get back everyone”, adding that the ceasefire benefited Hamas.

Leaks from the cabinet meeting suggested that Ben-Gvir had also said that the decision to back the deal threatened “generational damage that will come back to hurt us badly”.

The head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, David Barnea, has arrived in Doha to meet with Qatar’s prime minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, to discuss the final details of the hostage deal, according to reports.

Barnea’s trip to Qatar signals there are some details that Israel wants to finalise in the deal, including how it will be implemented on the ground and the exact time the pause in the fighting will begin, Axios reported. Barnea was the lead negotiator on the Israeli side.

The report cites Israeli and US official as warning that the next 24 hours will be “highly sensitive” and that “a lot can still go wrong”.

There are multiple reports that the pause in fighting will come into effect at 10am local time (08:00 GMT) on Thursday, but an Israeli official told the outlet that the time will be determined this evening.

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