Israel PM Netanyahu acknowledges ‘tragic mistake’ after Rafah strike kills dozens of Palestinians

Children light candles during a march against Israel and in solidarity with Palestinians in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, on the Mediterranean Sea corniche in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, May 27, 2024. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged Monday that a “tragic mistake” had been made after an Israeli strike in the southern Gaza city of Rafah set fire to a tent camp housing displaced Palestinians and killed at least 45 people, according to local officials.
| Photo Credit: AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged Monday that a “tragic mistake” had been made after an Israeli strike in the southern Gaza city of Rafah set fire to a tent camp housing displaced Palestinians and killed at least 45 people, according to local officials.

Israel has faced surging international criticism over its war with Hamas, with even some of its closest allies, particularly the United States, expressing outrage at civilian deaths.

Israel insists it adheres to international law even as it faces scrutiny in the world’s top courts, one of which last week demanded that it halt the offensive in Rafah.

Israel’s military had earlier said that it launched an investigation into civilian deaths after it struck a Hamas installation and killed two senior militants.

Sunday night’s attack, which appeared to be one of the war’s deadliest, helped push the overall Palestinian death toll in the war above 36,000, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between fighters and noncombatants in its tally.

“Despite our utmost efforts not to harm innocent civilians, last night, there was a tragic mistake,” Mr. Netanyahu said Monday in an address to Israel’s parliament.

“We are investigating the incident and will obtain a conclusion because this is our policy,” he said.

Mohammed Abuassa, who rushed to the scene in the northwestern neighbourhood of Tel al-Sultan, said rescuers “pulled out people who were in an unbearable state.” “We pulled out children who were in pieces. We pulled out young and elderly people. The fire in the camp was unreal,” he said.

At least 45 people were killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry and the Palestinian Red Crescent rescue service. The ministry said the dead included at least 12 women, eight children and three older adults, with another three bodies burned beyond recognition.

In a separate development, Egypt’s military said one of its soldiers was shot dead during an exchange of fire in the Rafah area, without providing further details.

Israel said it was in contact with Egyptian authorities, and both sides said they were investigating.

Rafah, the southernmost Gaza city on the border with Egypt, had housed more than a million people — about half of Gaza’s population — displaced from other parts of the territory.

Most have fled once again since Israel launched what it called a limited incursion there earlier this month. Hundreds of thousands are packed into squalid tent camps in and around the city.

Mr. Netanyahu says Israel must destroy what he calls Hamas’ last remaining battalions in Rafah. The militant group launched a barrage of rockets Sunday from the city toward heavily populated central Israel, setting off air raid sirens but causing no injuries.

The strike on Rafah brought a new wave of condemnation, even from some of Israel’s close allies.

“These operations must stop. There are no safe areas in Rafah for Palestinian civilians. I call for full respect for international law and an immediate ceasefire,” French President Emmanuel Macron posted on X. Italian Defence Minister Guido Crosetto, in a TV interview, said such bombings are “spreading hatred, rooting hatred that will involve their children and grandchildren.” Qatar, a key mediator between Israel and Hamas in attempts to secure a cease-fire and the release of hostages held by Hamas, said the Rafah strike could “complicate” talks.

Negotiations, which appear to be restarting, have faltered repeatedly over Hamas’ demand for a lasting truce and the withdrawal of Israeli forces, terms Israeli leaders have publicly rejected.

Neighbouring Egypt and Jordan, which made peace with Israel decades ago, also condemned the Rafah strike. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry called it a “new and blatant violation of the rules of humanitarian international law.” Jordan’s Foreign Ministry called it a “war crime.” The Israeli military’s top legal official said authorities were examining the strikes and that the military regrets the loss of civilian life. Military Advocate General Maj. Gen. Yifat Tomer-Yerushalmi said such incidents occur “in a war of such scope and intensity.”

Speaking to an Israeli lawyers’ conference, Tomer-Yerushalmi said Israel has launched 70 criminal investigations into incidents that aroused suspicions of international law violations, including the deaths of civilians, the conditions at a detention facility holding suspected Palestinian militants and the deaths of some inmates in Israeli custody. She said incidents of “violence, property crimes and looting” were also being examined.

Israel has long maintained it has an independent judiciary capable of investigating and prosecuting abuses. But rights groups say Israeli authorities routinely fail to fully investigate violence against Palestinians and that even when soldiers are held accountable, the punishment is usually light.

Israel has denied allegations of genocide brought against it by South Africa at the International Court of Justice. Last week, the court ordered Israel to halt its offensive in Rafah, a ruling that it has no power to enforce.

Separately, the chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court is seeking arrest warrants against Mr. Netanyahu and Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as three Hamas leaders, over alleged crimes linked to the war.

Israel says it does its best to adhere to the laws of war and says it faces an enemy that makes no such commitment, embeds itself in civilian areas and refuses to release Israeli hostages unconditionally.

Hamas triggered the war with its October 7 attack into Israel, in which Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and seized some 250 hostages. Hamas still holds about 100 hostages and the remains of around 30 others after most of the rest were released during a cease-fire last year.

Around 80% of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have fled their homes, severe hunger is widespread and UN officials say parts of the territory are experiencing famine.

Source link

#Israel #Netanyahu #acknowledges #tragic #mistake #Rafah #strike #kills #dozens #Palestinians

The Hindu Morning Digest, March 30, 2024

Indian Navy ships free hijacked Iranian fishing vessel off Somalia, rescue 23 Pakistani nationals

Indian Naval Ships Sumedha and Trishul intercepted and freed hijacked Iranian Fishing Vessel Al-Kambar off Somalia after forcing the pirates to surrender over the course of 12 hours and safely rescued the crew consisting of 23 Pakistani nationals. “After more than 12 hours of intense coercive tactical measures as per the Standard Operating Procedures, the pirates on board hijacked FV were forced to surrender. The crew, comprising 23 Pakistani nationals, have been safely rescued,” a Navy spokesperson said in an update on March 29 midnight. “Indian Naval specialist teams are presently undertaking thorough sanitisation and seaworthiness checks of the FV in order to escort her to a safe area for resuming normal fishing activities.”

Netanyahu approves new Gaza ceasefire talks

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved new talks on a Gaza ceasefire, a day after the world’s top court ordered Israel to ensure urgent humanitarian aid reaches people in the Palestinian territory .But despite a binding United Nations Security Council resolution this week demanding an “immediate ceasefire”, fighting continued Friday, including around hospitals.

National parties often ignore regional aspirations, says AIADMK general secretary Edappadi Palaniswami

Criticising national parties for “ignoring” regional aspirations “many times”, AIADMK general secretary and Leader of the Opposition Edappadi K. Palaniswami on Friday said that regional parties, such as his own, were better equipped to represent the people and expedite development initiatives in the States. In an interview to The Hindu at his official residence, Sevanthi, on Greenways Salai in Chennai, Mr. Palaniswami, who took time off his busy Lok Sabha election campaign schedule, said that “In a country such as ours with much diversity”, regional parties fulfilled the regional aspirations.

AAP pulls out all stops for mega Oppn. rally in Delhi

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is pulling out all the stops to ensure a large turnout at the Opposition’s ‘maha rally’ at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan on Sunday. Several senior leaders of the Indian National Developmental, Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc are likely to attend the event to express solidarity with Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, who is in ED custody on corruption charges.

IPL-17: RCB vs KKR | Venkatesh Iyer’s 50, Narine’s cameo carry KKR to seven-wicket win over RCB

A ruthless fifty by Venkatesh Iyer worked as the catalyst for Kolkata Knight Riders’ smooth seven-wicket victory over Royal Challengers Bengaluru in their IPL match here on Friday. Venkatesh’s 50 of 30 balls (3×4, 4×6) and stunning blitzes by openers Sunil Narine (47, 22b, 2×4, 5×6) and Phil Salt (30, 20b, 2×4, 2×6) propelled the Knight Riders past the 183-run target that the RCB set for them, which was built around Virat Kohli’s skilful unbeaten 83. The KKR batters never got bogged down either by a slow pitch or RCB bowlers as they hunted down the target in just 16.5 overs.

Pappu Yadav hints at rebellion; Congress deeply unhappy with seat sharing in Bihar

With a formal stamp on the seat division in Bihar and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) keeping Purnia for itself, the Congress is left with a Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav-size headache and also has to contend with enraged State leaders who find the principal opposition party settling for too little. The Congress has got nine out of the 40 Lok Sabha seats in the State and in majority of these seats, the party leadership claims, it has nominal presence, with a caste arithmetic leaning in favour of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

The Rameshwaram Cafe blast case: NIA announces ₹10 lakh reward on each of the two absconding prime accused

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has released the photographs and details of the two absconding prime accused in The Rameshwaram Cafe blast case — Abdul Matheen Ahmed Taahaa, 30, and Mussavir Hussain Shazib, 30 — and announced a reward of ₹10 lakh on each of them. The NIA had on Thursday identified Mussavir Hussain as the alleged bomber at the restaurant and Abdul Matheen Taaha as the key conspirator behind the attack. NIA has said the informant’s identities will be kept confidential.

Yusuf Pathan removes photograph of World Cup-winning squad after Congress complains to EC

Former cricketer and Trinamool Congress candidate from Baharampur Yusuf Pathan on Friday began removing photographs of the Cricket World Cup-winning moment used by his supporters as campaign material in the Lok Sabha seat. The development comes after West Bengal Congress lodged a complaint with the Election Commission of India (EC) accusing the former cricketer of violating the model code of conduct (MCC) by using posters of India’s World Cup-winning moments in 2011.

Stalin questions the ‘mysterious’ PMK-BJP tie-up

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on Friday questioned the “mystery” behind the alliance between the PMK and the BJP, when the former speaks of social justice and the latter “tolls the death knell for social justice”. At an election meeting to canvass for the INDIA bloc’s Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri candidates R. Mani (DMK) and K. Gopinath (Congress) respectively, Mr. Stalin asked whether “the venerable Dr. Ramadoss (PMK founder), who champions the call for caste census, secured a guarantee from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah on the same? Did he ask Mr. Modi why did he not initiate the census during his term now,” Mr. Stalin asked.

Uncontrolled celebratory firing is recipe for disaster: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court, in a judgment, has highlighted the often disastrous consequences of “uncontrolled and unwarranted” celebratory firing at weddings, including the maiming or loss of innocent lives. This is the second time in as many years the court has raised its voice against the culture of gun-toting bravado. In February 2023, the court had condemned the easy availability and possession of guns, mostly country-made or unlicensed, in States like Uttar Pradesh as a feudal practice that cocks a snook at a very basic fundamental right — the right to life — guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

After veto, Russia says big powers need to stop ‘strangling’ North Korea

Russia said on March 29 that major powers needed a new approach to North Korea, accusing the United States and its allies of ratcheting up military tensions in Asia and seeking to “strangle” the reclusive state. Russia vetoed the annual renewal of a panel of experts monitoring enforcement of longstanding United Nations sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes.

Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar takes a swipe at Opposition for rallying behind Kejriwal

In an apparent swipe at the Opposition for rallying behind the beleaguered Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar on Friday pointed out how one breaking the law was playing the victim card. Mr. Kejriwal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on March 21 in a money laundering case linked to Delhi’s scrapped excise policy.  Without naming the U.S. and Germany, who have reacted strongly to Mr. Kejriwal’s arrest, Mr. Dhankhar said “India does not need lessons from any country on rule of law.”

Moscow concert hall attack: Nine detained in Tajikistan, Russian state media reports

Nine persons have been detained by Tajikistan’s state security service over suspected contact with the perpetrators of last week’s attack by gunmen on a suburban Moscow concert hall that killed 144 people, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said on March 29. “Nine residents of the Vakhdat district were detained for contact with the persons who committed the terrorist attack at Crocus City Hall on March 22,” the agency reported, citing information from an unnamed source in Tajikistan’s special services, who said that Russian security forces were also involved in the operation to detain the suspects.

Wives on the driving seat, Bihar’s bahubalis keep poll clout intact

Having weathered allegations, criminal cases and even long prison stints, Bihar’s bahubalis (strongmen) are back in action in Bihar’s politics. Like previous elections, their wives are in the fray, but voters clearly understand who’s calling the shots. Lovely Anand, wife of strongman Anand Mohan Singh; Bima Bharti, wife of Awadhesh Mandal; and Anita Mahto, wife of Ashok Mahto, are better known as Mrs. Bahubalis. Their husbands hold sway in their respective constituencies and beyond but cannot contest the poll directly owing to rules that prohibit convicts jailed for over two years from contesting elections “until six years after release”. This is not too different from mukhiapatis (village head’s husband) in Bihar reigning supreme at village panchayats with their elected wives (mukhias) watching from the sidelines.

‘Writers, journalists, social activists being jailed for merely criticising Indian government’

Expressing concern over the “prolonged incarceration” of a large number of writers, journalists, and social activists for criticising the Indian government, a group of eminent personalities have sought to draw the world’s attention on how India’s “democratic tradition is being fundamentally undermined.”

Lok Sabha polls: Trinamool alleges BJP leaders using NIA to target its party leaders

Trinamool Congress on Friday alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates contesting the Lok Sabha polls are conspiring with the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to have certain leaders of the State’s ruling party arrested ahead of the Lok Sabha polls. Trinamool Congress spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said that two BJP candidates have held a meeting with the NIA officer in Kolkata regarding summon and arrest of Trinamool Congress leaders in the State’s Purba Medinipur district. Referring to an NIA official, Mr. Ghosh asked whether two BJP leaders met the official and “handed over a list of @AITCofficial leaders and workers for immediate summon and arrest, or not”.

Source link

#Hindu #Morning #Digest #March

Biden backs Schumer after U.S. Senator calls for new elections in Israel

President Joe Biden expressed support on March 15 for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer after the senator called for new elections in Israel, the latest sign that the U.S. relationship with its closest Middle East ally is careening toward fracture over the war in Gaza.

Mr Schumer, a Jewish Democrat from New York, sent tremors through both countries this week when he said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “lost his way” and warned that “Israel cannot survive if it becomes a pariah” as the Palestinian death toll continues to grow.

“He made a good speech,” Mr. Biden said in the Oval Office during a meeting with Ireland’s prime minister. “I think he expressed serious concerns shared not only by him but by many Americans.”

The Democratic president did not repeat Mr. Schumer’s appeal for Israel to hold elections, a step that would likely end Netanyahu’s tenure because of mounting discontent with his leadership. But Biden’s comments reflect his own frustration with an Israeli prime minister who has hindered efforts to expand humanitarian assistance in Gaza and opposed the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

The latest point of friction has been Israel’s goal of pursuing Hamas into Rafah, a city in southern Gaza where 1.4 million displaced Palestinians have fled to avoid fighting in the north. Netanyahu’s office said Friday that it approved a military operation that would involve evacuating civilians, but U.S. officials are concerned about the potential for a new wave of bloodshed.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking from Vienna, said, “We have to see a clear and implementable plan” to safeguard innocent people from an Israeli incursion.

“We have not seen such a plan,” he said.

However, Mr. Blinken said tough conversations between Israeli and American leaders do not mean the alliance is fraying.

“That’s actually the strength of the relationship, to be able to speak clearly, candidly and directly,” he said.

It’s possible that an attack on Rafah could be avoided. Negotiations over a cease-fire and the release of hostages are underway in Qatar, where Netanyahu agreed to send a delegation to continue talks.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. would not have its own team at the negotiations but will remain engaged in the process.

He also said it’s “up to the Israeli people to decide” whether there should be elections. Asked about why Biden praised Schumer’s speech, Kirby said the president appreciated the senator’s “passion.”

Biden’s rhetoric on the war has evolved since the conflict began on Oct. 7, when Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis in a surprise attack. The president immediately embraced Netanyahu and Israel while also warning against being “consumed” by rage.

Since then, Israel has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza. And while Mr. Biden continues to back Israel’s right to defend itself, he’s increased his criticisms of Mr. Netanyahu.

After his State of the Union speech earlier this month, Mr. Biden said that he needed to have a “come to Jesus” conversation with Netanyahu. He also accused Netanyahu of “hurting Israel more than helping Israel” with his leadership of the war.

Mr. Biden is trying to navigate between a Republican Party with an “Israel right or wrong” mindset and a deeply divided Democratic Party, said Aaron David Miller, who has advised administrations from both parties on the Middle East.

He described the U.S. approach to Israel as “passive aggressive,” with escalating rhetoric but no concrete steps like withholding military assistance.

“I haven’t seen it,” Miller said. “And we’re six months into the war.”

Americans have increasingly soured on Israel’s military operation in Gaza, according to surveys from The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. In January, 50% of U.S. adults said the military response from Israel in the Gaza Strip had gone too far, up from 40% in November. It’s a sentiment even more common among Democrats, with about 6 in 10 saying the same thing in both surveys.

Reckoning with shifts in Israeli and American politics has been challenging for Mr. Biden. A self-described Zionist, Mr. Biden’s political career began several decades ago when Israel was led by liberal leaders and the country enjoyed broad bipartisan support in its battle for survival against its Arab neighbors.

Since then, the failure of peace talks with Palestinians and the growing power of conservative Israeli politicians has led to a growing tension.

Biden’s praise for Schumer could upset Mr. Netanyahu, who has already chafed at what he sees as American meddling in Israeli politics.

“One would expect Sen. Schumer to respect Israel’s elected government and not undermine it,” said a statement from Likud, Netanyahu’s political party. “This is always true, and even more so in wartime.”

Mr. Netanyahu has a long history of defying U.S. presidents, particularly Democratic ones. He fought President Barack Obama’s push for a nuclear deal with Iran, and he accepted a Republican invitation to address Congress to demonstrate his opposition. Before that, he clashed with President Bill Clinton over efforts to create an independent state for Palestinians, who have lived for decades under Israeli military occupation.

Democratic anger over Israel’s siege of Gaza has focused on Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister who leads a right-wing coalition that includes ultranationalist politicians. He also faces corruption charges in a long-delayed trial and declining popularity over his failure to prevent Hamas’ attack or secure the return of all Israeli hostages being held in Gaza.

Public opinion surveys suggest that, if elections were held now, Mr. Netanyahu would likely lose to Benny Gantz, a former military leader who is a centrist member of Israel’s war cabinet.

“Netanyahu has an interest in buying time,” said Gideon Rahat, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute and professor of political science at Hebrew University. “That’s always his interest, not to have elections, to stay in power.”

Rahat also said a different Israeli leader might approach the war differently, causing less strain with Washington.

“Another government would pursue not only a military but also a diplomatic and foreign affairs solution, one involving the PA,” a reference to the Palestinian Authority that operates in the West Bank, Rahat said. “Another government would give more aid to Gaza and would run the war with a better distinction between Hamas and the Palestinians.”

However, replacing Mr. Netanyahu would not necessarily end the war or stop the rightward shift that has been underway in Israel for years.

Jewish Israelis believe by a slim majority that their leaders’ judgment should be prioritized over coordinating with the U.S., according to a January poll from the Israel Democracy Institute. In addition, the Israeli Defense Forces receive wide support for their performance in Gaza.

Gantz also criticized Mr. Schumer’s remarks, although not as harshly as Likud did. He wrote on social media that the senator is “a friend of Israel” who “erred in his remarks.”

“Israel is a robust democracy, and only its citizens will decide its future and leadership,” Gantz said. “Any external interference on the matter is counter-productive and unacceptable.”

Source link

#Biden #backs #Schumer #Senator #calls #elections #Israel

Israel seeks open-ended control in post-war Gaza

A long-awaited postwar plan by Israel’s Prime Minister shows that his government seeks open-ended control over security and civilian affairs in the Gaza Strip. That was swiftly rejected on February 23 by Palestinian leaders and runs counter to Washington’s vision for the war-ravaged enclave.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented the two-page document to his security Cabinet late Thursday for approval.

Also Read | Gaza | Between occupation and the deep blue sea

Deep disagreements over Gaza’s future have led to increasingly public friction between Israel and the United States, its closest ally. The Biden administration seeks eventual Palestinian governance in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank as a precursor to Palestinian statehood, an outcome vehemently opposed by Mr. Netanyahu and his right-wing government. Mr. Netanyahu’s plan envisions hand-picked Palestinians administering Gaza.

Separately, cease-fire efforts appeared to gain traction, with mediators to present a new proposal at an expected high-level meeting this weekend in Paris. The U.S., Egypt and Qatar have been struggling for weeks to find a formula that could halt Israel’s devastating offensive in Gaza, but now face an unofficial deadline as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan approaches.

In Gaza, Israeli airstrikes in the centre and south of the territory killed at least 92 Palestinians, including children and women, overnight and into Friday, health officials and an AP journalist said. Another 24 bodies remained trapped under the rubble.

After a strike levelled his apartment building in the central town of Deir al-Balah, online video showed Mahmoud Zueitar — a comedian well known in Gaza for his appearances in TV commercials — rushing into the hospital holding his young sister, who was screaming and covered in blood. At least 25 people were killed in the strike, 16 of them women and children.

Throughout the war, Mr. Zueitar has been posting upbeat and cheerful videos on social media, joking with people about ways they endure bombardment and displacement, praising Palestinian culture and assuring those around him that one day things will be better.

Another video at the hospital showed him cradling his wounded sister in his lap. “I always say, ‘God, may they not force us out of Gaza,’ that’s how much I love it and its people,” he says, crying. “But it looks like they want us to leave Gaza.” Earlier at the hospital, relatives wept over bodies laid out in burial shrouds in the courtyard, and a man cradled a dead infant.

The overall Palestinian death toll since the start of the war rose to more than 29,500, with close to 70,000 people wounded, Gaza health officials said. The death toll amounts to close to 1.3% of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million.

Also Read | An expanding Gaza war, with no endgame in sight

Mr. Netanyahu’s plan, while lacking specifics, marks the first time he has presented a formal postwar vision. It reiterates that Israel is determined to crush Hamas, the militant group that overran the Gaza Strip in 2007.

Polls have indicated that a majority of Palestinians don’t support Hamas, but the group has deep roots in Palestinian society. Critics, including some in Israel, say the goal of eliminating Hamas is unattainable.

Mr. Netanyahu’s plan calls for freedom of action for Israel’s military across a demilitarized Gaza after the war to thwart any security threat. It says Israel would establish a buffer zone inside Gaza, which is likely to provoke U.S. objections.

The plan also envisions Gaza being governed by local officials who it says would “not be identified with countries or entities that support terrorism and will not receive payment from them.”

It’s not clear if any Palestinians would agree to such sub-contractor roles. Over the past decades, Israel has repeatedly tried and failed to set up hand-picked local Palestinian governing bodies.

The Palestinian Authority, which administers pockets of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on Friday denounced Mr. Netanyahu’s plan as “colonialist and racist,” saying it would amount to Israeli reoccupation of Gaza. Israel withdrew its soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but maintained control of access to the territory.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had not seen details of the plan. But he said any plan should be consistent with basic principles the U.S. had set out for Gaza’s future, “including that it cannot be a platform for terrorism, there should be no Israeli re-occupation of Gaza, the size of Gaza’s territory should not be reduced.”

The Biden administration wants to see a reformed Palestinian Authority govern both Gaza and the West Bank as a step toward Palestinian statehood. It has sought to chip away at Mr. Netanyahu’s resistance by holding out the prospect of the normalization of ties between Israel and Arab powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which demands a Palestinian state as a precondition.

U.S., Israeli, Qatari and Egyptian officials are expected to meet in Paris this weekend to discuss cease-fire efforts. A senior Egyptian official said Egypt and Qatar would bring an understanding reached with Hamas leaders that calls for a six-week cease-fire and the release of elderly and sick hostages in return for Palestinian prisoners in Israel. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the press. During the cease-fire, details would be worked out on a further stage.

Hamas has demanded a complete halt to Israel’s offensive and a withdrawal of its troops from Gaza in return for releasing all its remaining hostages, as well as the freeing of Palestinians held by Israel, including top militants. Mr. Netanyahu has rejected those demands.

Israel declared war on Hamas on October 7, after the militants stormed into southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking about 250 hostages. More than 100 hostages were freed in a weeklong cease-fire in late November.

Since the start of the war, 29,514 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s offensive and close to 70,000 were wounded, the Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said Friday. Two-thirds of those killed have been women and children, said the ministry, which does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count.

Israel says it has killed at least 10,000 Hamas fighters, without providing evidence for its count. It holds Hamas responsible for civilian casualties because the group operates and fights from within civilian areas.

The Israeli offensive has inflicted immense suffering in Gaza. About 80% of the population have been displaced, infectious diseases run rampant and hundreds of thousands of people are facing hunger.

In the West Bank, two Palestinians killed in an Israeli drone strike on their car were buried Friday in the Jenin refugee camp. The two bodies were wrapped in flags of the militant group Islamic Jihad and carried on stretchers during the funeral procession.

Israel says one of those killed was previously involved in shooting attacks on Israeli settlements and army posts, and was about to carry out another attack when he was killed in the drone strike late Thursday.

Source link

#Israel #seeks #openended #control #postwar #Gaza

Netanyahu rejects two key Hamas demands for any cease-fire

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected two key demands Hamas has made during indirect cease-fire talks, saying Israel will not withdraw from the Gaza Strip or release thousands of jailed militants.

During an event on January 30 in the occupied West Bank, Mr. Netanyahu again vowed that the war would not end without Israel’s “absolute victory” over Hamas.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces working undercover killed three Palestinian militants in a raid on a hospital in the West Bank, where violence has surged since the outbreak of the war in Gaza.

The Israeli military said forces entered the Ibn Sina hospital in the northern city of Jenin early Tuesday and shot the three men, whom Hamas claimed as members. The military said the men were using the hospital as a hideout and that at least one was planning an attack.

The Palestinian Health Ministry said the Israeli forces opened fire inside the hospital’s wards and called on the international community to stop Israeli operations in hospitals.

Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza has killed more than 26,000 Palestinians, most of them women and minors, according to the Health Ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

The October 7 attack in southern Israel that sparked the war killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and about 250 people were taken hostage, according to Israeli authorities.

‘Israel raided a Gaza hospital’

The Palestinian Red Crescent says Israeli forces raided the Al-Amal Hospital in south Gaza city of Khan Younis, where about 7,000 displaced people were sheltering.

In a post on X, the group said Israeli tanks were lined up outside the front of the hospital on Tuesday, firing live ammunition and smoke grenades at people inside. Raed al-Nims, a spokesperson for the aid group, told AP in a telephone interview that everyone was ordered to evacuate.

The Israeli military said its forces were operating in the area of the hospital but not inside it, without elaborating.

In recent weeks, the Israeli army has expanded its assault on the southern half of the Gaza Strip, with a focus on territory’s second-largest city, Khan Younis.

Since the war erupted, the Israeli army has raided at least six hospitals in the north of Gaza, accusing several of being a base for Hamas fighters.

U.S. Treasury official visits Baghdad

A U.S. Treasury official travelled to Baghdad this week amid high regional tensions. The U.S. is seeking to crack down on Iranian-backed armed groups that have launched attacks on its forces, including through sanctions.

U.S. Treasury Under Secretary Brian Nelson’s two-day visit Sunday and Money aimed to strengthen cooperation between the two countries on “countering illicit finance and strengthening the Iraqi financial system,” the Treasury said in a statement Tuesday.

On Monday, the U.S. issued a notice of proposed rulemaking identifying Iraqi bank Al-Huda Bank as a conduit for terrorist financing, an action that would sever the bank from the U.S. financial system. It also imposed sanctions on the bank’s owner, Hamad al-Moussawi.

Last week, the Treasury hit Iraqi airline Fly Baghdad and its CEO with sanctions, alleging assistance to Iran’s military wing. The airline denied the allegation.

Biden says he has decided how to respond to attack in Jordan

President Joe Biden says he has made a decision on how to respond to the drone attack in Jordan that killed three U.S. Army Reserve soldiers.

But in talking to reporters before boarding the presidential helicopter, Mr. Biden declined to provide more details about what that response would be.

The weekend drone strike on a U.S. base in Jordan near the Syrian border also wounded more than 40 others.

When asked how the U.S. response would be different from past responses to aggressions from groups backed by Iran, Mr. Biden said, “We’ll see.”

The U.S. President said he did hold Iran responsible for supplying the weapons used in the attack. Mr. Biden was also asked what he would say to Democratic lawmakers who are concerned about the risks of an expanding war in the Middle East and he, again, said, “We’ll see.”

“I don’t think we need a wider war in the Middle East,” Mr. Biden said. “That’s not what I’m looking for.”

Israeli lawmaker faces possible explusion

An Israeli parliamentary committee has recommended expelling a lawmaker for supporting the South African genocide case against Israel in the U.N. world court.

The Knesset’s House Committee on Tuesday passed the measure to expel lawmaker Ofer Cassif by a 14-2 margin. The proposal now goes to the full 120-member parliament. Approval would require a 90-vote supermajority.

Mr. Cassif is the lone Jewish member of a small predominantly Arab party in parliament called the Joint List.

After Tuesday’s vote, Mr. Cassif said claims that he supports Hamas are a “blatant lie.”

He called himself a victim of “political persecution and silencing.”

In response to South Africa’s case, the International Court of Justice last week called on Israel to take steps to prevent a genocide against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. It rejected an appeal to order an immediate cease-fire.

Israeli leaders have rejected the accusations, saying their war in Gaza is against Hamas, not the broader civilian populations.

Investigation of sexual assaults from Hamas attack

The U.N.’s special representative on sexual violence has begun a weeklong visit to Israel to look into reports of sexual assaults committed by Hamas militants during the Octoter 7 attack that triggered Israel’s war in Gaza.

Pramila Patten kicked off her visit on Monday by meeting with Israeli diplomats and Israel’s president, Issac Herzog, and his wife Michal. Patten encouraged victims to come forward to meet with her delegation.

“We really want to ensure that you have justice so that we put an end to this heinous act,” Ms. Patten said during the meeting, according to Mr. Herzog’s office.

Reports have emerged that sexual assaults were part of the deadly rampage by militants from Hamas and other Gaza groups who killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and took more than 250 hostages from southern Israel.

Jewish tradition calls for the dead to be buried as soon as possible, and in the chaos of the beginning of the war, few autopsies were conducted, so forensic evidence of rape has been difficult to collect.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has condemned women’s rights organisations, including the United Nations, for not immediately condemning the reports of sexual assault.

Ms. Patten is also set to meet with representatives from the Palestinian Authority, Israeli security forces, local organisations, witnesses, and released hostages during her visit.

Source link

#Netanyahu #rejects #key #Hamas #demands #ceasefire

Joe Biden, Benjamin Netanyahu have finally talked, but their visions still clash for ending Israel-Hamas war

U.S. President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finally spoke on January 19 after a glaring, nearly four-week gap in direct communication during which fundamental differences have come into focus over a possible pathway to Palestinian statehood once the fighting in Gaza ends.

Mr. Biden and his top aides have all but smothered Mr. Netanyahu with robust support, even in the face of global condemnation over the mounting civilian death toll and humanitarian suffering in Gaza as the Israelis have carried out military operations in the aftermath of the October 7 attack on Israel.

But the leaders’ relationship has increasingly shown signs of strain as Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly rebuffed Mr. Biden’s calls for Palestinian sovereignty, gumming us what the U.S. President believes is the key to unlocking a durable peace in the Middle East — the oft-cited, elusive two-state solution. Neither side shows signs of budging.

Friday’s phone call came one day after Mr. Netanyahu said that he has told U.S. officials in plain terms that he will not support a Palestinian state as part of any post-war plan. Mr. Biden, for his part, in Friday’s call reaffirmed his commitment to work toward helping the Palestinians move toward statehood.

“As we’re talking about post-conflict Gaza … you can’t do that without also talking about the aspirations of the Palestinian people and what that needs to look like for them,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

The leaders spoke frequently in the first weeks of the war. But the regular cadence of calls between Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu, who have had a hot-and-cold relationship for over three decades, has slowed considerably. Their 30- to 40-minute call on Friday was their first conversation since December 23. Both sides are hemmed in by domestic political considerations.

The chasm between Mr. Biden, a centre-left Democrat and Mr. Netanyahu, who leads the most conservative government in Israel’s history, has expanded as pressure mounts on the United States to use its considerable leverage to press Israel to wind down a war that has already killed nearly 25,000 Palestinians.

There is also growing impatience with Mr. Netanyahu in Israel over the lack of progress in freeing dozens of hostages still held by Islamic militants in Gaza.

“There is certainly a reason to be concerned,” says Eytan Gilboa, an expert on U.S.-Israeli relations at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, “The more and more we see political considerations dominating the relationship between Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu, which is likely to continue because of the upcoming Presidential election and the weakness of both leaders, the more we will see them pulling apart.”

In their most recent calls, Mr. Biden’s frustration with Mr. Netanyahu has grown more evident, even though the U.S. leader has been careful to reaffirm his support for Israel at each step, according to U.S. officials who requested anonymity to discuss the leaders’ private interactions.

Yet, Mr. Biden, at least publicly, has not given up on the idea of winning over Mr. Netanyahu. Asked by a reporter on Friday if a two-state solution is impossible while Mr. Netanyahu is in office, Mr. Biden replied, “No, it’s not.”

Aides insist Mr. Biden understands the political box Mr. Netanyahu finds himself in with his hard-right coalition and as he deals with ongoing corruption charges that have left the Prime Minister fighting for his freedom, not just his political future.

Mr. Biden, meanwhile, faces American voters in November, in a likely rematch with former President Donald Trump. Netanyahu and Trump forged a close relationship during the Republican’s term in office. Mr. Biden faces criticism from some on his left who believe he hasn’t pushed the Israelis hard enough to demonstrate restraint as it carries out military operations.

Key Democratic lawmakers, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, this week warned that Mr. Netanyahu’s position on statehood could complicate negotiations in the Senate on a spending package that includes military aid for Israel.

Expect Mr. Netanyahu to “use every trick that he has to keep his coalition together and avoid elections and play out the clock,” said Michael Koplow, chief policy officer at the Israel Policy Forum. ”And I’m sure that part of it is a conviction that if he waits until November, he may end up with Donald Trump back in the Oval Office.”

In recent weeks, some of the more difficult conversations have been left to Ron Dermer, a top aide to Mr. Netanyahu and former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., and Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. The two top aides talk almost daily — sometimes multiple times during a day, according to a U.S. official and an Israeli official, who were not authorised to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Other senior Biden administration officials including Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, as well as senior advisers Brett McGurk and Amos Hochstein, have been at the forefront of the administration’s push to engage the Israelis and other Middle East allies as the Biden-Netanyahu dialogue has become less constructive.

Mr. Netanyahu, who has opposed calls for a two-state solution throughout his political career, told reporters this week that he flatly told U.S. officials he remains opposed to any post-war plan that includes establishment of a Palestinian state.

The Prime Minister’s latest rejection of Mr. Biden’s push in that direction came after Mr. Blinken this week said at the World Economic Forum in Davos that Israel and its Middle East neighbours had “a profound opportunity” to solve the generational Israel-Palestinian conflict. Asked if he thought Mr. Netanyahu was up to making the most of the moment, Mr. Blinken demurred.

“Look, these are decisions for Israelis to make,” Mr. Blinken said. “This is a profound decision for the country as a whole to make: What direction does it want to take? Does it see — can it seize — the opportunity that we believe is there?”

The Biden-Netanyahu relationship has seen no shortage of peaks and valleys over the years. As vice-president, Mr. Biden privately criticised Mr. Netanyahu after the the Israeli leader embarrassed President Barack Obama by approving the construction of 1,600 new apartments in disputed East Jerusalem in the middle of Biden’s 2010 visit to Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu publicly resisted, before eventually relenting to Mr. Biden’s calls on the Israelis to wind down a May 2021 military operation in Gaza. And in late 2019, during a question and answer session with voters on the campaign trail, Mr. Biden called Mr. Netanyahu an “extreme right” leader.

The path to a two-state solution — one in which Israel would co-exist with an independent Palestinian state — has eluded U.S. presidents and Middle East diplomats for decades.

But as the war grinds on, Mr. Biden and his team have pressed the notion that there is a new dynamic in the Middle East in which Israel’s Arab and Muslim neighbours stand ready to integrate Israel into the region once the war ends, but only if Israel commits to a pathway to a Palestinian state.

Mr. Biden has proposed that a “revitalised” Palestinian Authority, which is based in the West Bank, could run Gaza once combat ends. Mr. Netanyahu has roundly rejected the idea of putting the Palestinian Authority, which is beset by corruption, in charge of the territory.

Mr. Netanyahu argues that a Palestinian state would become a launchpad for attacks on Israel. So Israel “must have security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “That collides with the idea of sovereignty. What can we do?”

White House officials have sought to play down Mr. Netanyahu’s public rejection of Mr. Biden’s call for a two-state solution, noting that the Prime Minister’s rhetoric is not new.

They hold out hope Israel could eventually come around to accepting a Palestinian state that comes with strong security guarantees for Israel.

“I don’t think Mr. Biden has any illusions about Netanyahu,” said Daniel Kurtzer, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Egypt during the Bill Clinton administration and to Israel under George W. Bush. “But I don’t think he’s ready to slam the door on him. And that’s because he gets the intersection between the policy and the politics.”

Source link

#Joe #Biden #Benjamin #Netanyahu #finally #talked #visions #clash #IsraelHamas #war

Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu says war against Hamas will not stop after ceasefire

Israel and Hamas on Tuesday appeared close to a deal to temporarily halt their devastating six-week war for dozens of hostages being held in the Gaza Strip to be freed in exchange for Palestinians in Israeli prisons.

But as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his Cabinet for a vote, he vowed to resume the Israeli offensive against Hamas as soon as the truce ends.

“We are at war, and we will continue the war,” he said. “We will continue until we achieve all our goals.”

The Israeli Cabinet was expected to vote on a plan that would halt Israel’s offensive in Gaza for several days in exchange for the release of about 50 of the 240 hostages held by Hamas. Israel has vowed to continue the war until it destroys Hamas’ military capabilities and returns all hostages.

Hamas predicted a Qatari-mediated deal could be reached in “the coming hours.”

Israeli PM tells cabinet hostage deal is ‘right decision’

Mr. Netanyahu acknowledged that the Cabinet faced a tough decision, but supporting the ceasefire was the right thing to do. Mr. Netanyahu appeared to have enough support to pass the measure, despite opposition from some hard-line ministers.

Mr. Netanyahu said that during the lull, intelligence efforts will be maintained, allowing the army to prepare for the next stages of battle. He said the battle would continue until “Gaza will not threaten Israel.”

The announcement came as Israeli troops battled Palestinian militants in an urban refugee camp in northern Gaza and around hospitals overcrowded with patients and sheltering families.

Details of the expected ceasefire deal were not released. Israeli media reported that an agreement would include a five-day halt in Israel’s offensive in Gaza and the release of 50 hostages held by Hamas in exchange for some 150 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Israel’s Channel 12 TV said the first releases would take place on Thursday or Friday and continue for several days.

Talks have repeatedly stalled. But even if a deal is reached, it would not mean an end to the war, which erupted on October 7 after Hamas militants stormed across the border into southern Israel and killed at least 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and kidnapped some 240 others.

In weeks of Israeli airstrikes and a ground invasion, more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed, two-thirds of them women and minors, and more than 2,700 others are missing and believed to be buried under rubble, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. The ministry says it has been unable to update its count since Nov. 11 because of the health sector’s collapse.

Gaza health officials say the toll has risen sharply since, and hospitals continue to report deaths from daily strikes, often dozens at a time.

The Health Ministry in the West Bank last reported a toll of 13,300 but stopped providing its own count on Tuesday without giving a reason. Because of that, and because officials there declined to explain in detail how they tracked deaths after Nov. 11, the AP decided to stop reporting its count.

The Health Ministry toll does not differentiate between civilians and combatants. Israel says it has killed thousands of Hamas militants but has not provided evidence for its count.

In southern Lebanon, an Israeli strike killed two journalists with Al-Mayadeen TV, according to the Hezbollah-allied Pan-Arab network and Lebanese officials. There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military. A separate Israeli drone strike in Lebanon killed four Hamas members, a Palestinian official and a Lebanon security official said.

The Israeli military has been trading fire almost daily across the border with Lebanon’s Hezbollah group and Palestinian militants since the outbreak of the war.

Israel, the United States and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas, have negotiated for weeks over a hostage release that would be paired with a temporary cease-fire and the entry of more aid.

In Washington, President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that a deal on releasing some hostages was “very close.”

“We could bring some of these hostages home very soon,” he said at the White House.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Majed al-Ansari expressed optimism, telling reporters that “we are at the closest point we ever had been in reaching an agreement.” He added that negotiations were at a “critical and final stage.”

Izzat Rishq, a senior Hamas official, said Tuesday that an agreement could be reached “in the coming hours,” in which Hamas would release captives and Israel would release Palestinian prisoners. Hamas’ leader-in-exile, Ismail Haniyeh, also said they were close to a deal.

Israel’s Channel 12 TV, citing anonymous Israeli officials, said a truce could be extended and additional Palestinian prisoners released if there were additional hostages freed.

Inside Gaza, the front line of the war shifted to the Jabaliya refugee camp, a densely built district of concrete buildings near Gaza City that houses families displaced in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation. Israel has bombarded the area for weeks, and the military said Hamas fighters have regrouped there and in other eastern districts after being pushed out of much of Gaza City.

The fighting in Jabaliya also affected two nearby hospitals, trapping hundreds of patients and displaced people sheltering inside. A strike Tuesday hit inside one of the facilities, al-Awda, killing four people, including three doctors, the hospital director told Al-Jazeera TV. The director, Ahmed Mahna, blamed the strike on Israel, a claim that AP could not independently confirm. The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders confirmed that two of the doctors killed worked for it.

Residents of Jabaliya said there was heavy fighting as Israeli forces tried to advance under the cover of airstrikes. “They are facing stiff resistance,” said Hamza Abu Mansour, a university student.

The Israeli military said strikes hit three tunnel shafts where fighters were hiding and destroyed rocket launchers. Footage released by the military showed Israeli soldiers patrolling on foot as gunfire echoed around them.

It was not possible to independently confirm details of the fighting.

It’s unclear how many Palestinian civilians remain in northern Gaza, but the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees estimates that some 160,000 people are still in its shelters there, though it can no longer provide services. Thousands more still shelter in several hospitals in the north even after many fled south in recent weeks.

Most hospitals are no longer operational. The hospital situation in Gaza is “catastrophic,” Michael Ryan, a senior World Health Organization official, said Monday.

With Israeli troops surrounding the Indonesia Hospital, also near Jabaliya, staff had to bury 50 dead in the facility’s courtyard, a senior Health Ministry official in the hospital, Munir al-Boursh, told Al-Jazeera TV.

Up to 600 wounded people and some 2,000 displaced Palestinians remain stranded at the hospital, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

A similar standoff played out in recent days at Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest, where over 250 patients and medical workers are stranded after the evacuation of 31 premature babies.

Israel has provided evidence in recent days of a militant presence at Shifa. But it has yet to substantiate its claims that Hamas had a major command center beneath the facility, allegations denied by Hamas and hospital staff.

Most of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million have crowded into the southern section of the Gaza Strip, where Israeli strikes have continued and where the military says it intends to extend its ground invasion. Many are packed into U.N.-run schools and other facilities across the territory’s south or sleeping on the streets outside, even as winter rains have pelted the coastal enclave in recent days.

There are shortages of food, water and fuel for generators across all of Gaza, which has had no central electricity for over a month.

Strikes overnight crushed residential buildings in the Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, killing at least 20 people, according to hospital officials. Footage from the scene showed the legs of five young boys sticking out from under a collapsed concrete slab of one home.

Israel continues to strike what it says are militant targets throughout Gaza, often killing women and children. Israel accuses Hamas of using civilians as human shields.

Source link

#Israel #Prime #Minister #Netanyahu #war #Hamas #stop #ceasefire

Israeli PM Netanyahu freezes judicial overhaul, urges protesters to behave responsibly

Embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on March 27 that he would temporarily freeze his controversial judicial overhaul plans to seek a compromise following unprecedented demonstrations and a general strike that paralysed the Jewish nation.

Mr. Netanyahu, 73, said that he ordered “the timeout” on the contentious legislation until after the Knesset (Parliament) recess in order “to give a real opportunity for real dialogue”.

“One thing I am not willing to accept — there are a minority of extremists that are willing to tear our country to shreds… escorting us to civil war and calling for refusal of army service, which is a terrible crime,” the Israeli Prime Minister said.

Drawing analogy from the story of King Solomon from about 3,000 years ago when two women reached out with the claim over a baby boy and the king said to divide the infant in two halves to ascertain the real mother, Mr. Netanyahu said that he would not let that happen to Israel in his watch.

“When there’s an option to avoid civil war through dialogue, I take a time-out for dialogue…. out of national responsibility,” Mr. Netanyahu said, asserting that most of his coalition members backed the “reforms” and he could have done it if he wished so.

President Isaac Herzog said, “Stopping the legislation is the right thing. This is the time to begin a sincere, serious, and responsible dialogue that will urgently calm the waters and lower the flames.

“I call on everyone to act responsibly. Protests and demonstrations, on whichever side – yes. Violence – absolutely not! If one side wins, the state will lose. We must remain one people and one state – Jewish and democratic,” the President said.

“For the sake of our unity and for the sake of our children’s future, we must start talking, here and now. The President’s residence, the people’s home, is a space for dialogue and the formation of as broad agreements as possible, with the aim of extracting our beloved State of Israel from the deep crisis that we are in. And you gave peace in the Land, and eternal joy to its inhabitants,” Mr. Herzog added.

Mr. Netanyahu earlier on Monday urged protesters “to behave responsibly and refrain from violence” as Israelis from all over the country started descending into Jerusalem and workers from a range of sectors joined a protest movement against the government’s contentious plan.

Mr. Netanyahu’s appeal came hours after Mr. Herzog on Monday appealed to him to immediately halt his controversial judicial overhaul, warning that the move has put the country’s security, economy and society under threat.

Mr. Netanyahu in his first public statement since widespread demonstrations erupted in reaction to his sacking of the defence minister has urged protesters, from the left and right, “to behave responsibly and refrain from violence.” As Israelis from all over the country started descending into Jerusalem, in a tweet Mr. Netanyahu appeared to address fears of violent clashes this evening between opponents and supporters of the government’s judicial overhaul plan.

“All of us are brothers and sisters,” Mr. Netanyahu stressed in his tweet.

President Herzog’s appeal to Mr. Netanyahu came after the Prime Minister sacked Defence Minister Yoav Gallant for opposing his judicial reforms, sparking widespread street protests. The President also called on the government to put aside political considerations for the sake of the nation.

“Last night we witnessed very difficult scenes. I appeal to the Prime Minister, members of the Government, and members of the Coalition: there are harsh and painful feelings. The entire nation is rapt with deep worry,” Mr. Herzog said.

“Our security, economy, society — all are under threat. The whole people of Israel are looking at you. The whole Jewish People are looking at you. The whole world is looking at you,” the ceremonial President in a statement.

“For the sake of the unity of the People of Israel, for the sake of the necessary responsibility, I call on you to halt the legislative process immediately,” he emphasised.

He urged all the leaders in power to place the country’s citizens above all else.

“I appeal to the leaders of all Knesset factions, Coalition and Opposition alike, to place this country’s citizens above all else and to act with courage and responsibility without further delay. Wake up now! This is not a political moment; this is a moment for leadership and responsibility,” the President asserted.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across Israel on Sunday night after Mr. Netanyahu fired Defence Minister Gallant after he said on Saturday that the judicial overhaul “poses a clear, immediate, and tangible threat to the security of the state”.

Irked by the televised speech given by Gallant, the Prime Minister’s Office in a terse statement Sunday evening said “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided, this evening [Sunday, 26 March 2023], to dismiss Defence Minister Yoav Gallant”.

The announcement led to a spontaneous and unprecedented outburst of anger against the country’s longest-serving prime minister.

An unconfirmed Channel 12 report said that 6,00,000-7,00,000 Israelis were demonstrating late on Sunday across the country, with protests reported from Kiryat Shmona in the north to Eilat in the south.

Protesters in Tel Aviv blocked a main highway and lit large bonfires, while police scuffled with protesters who gathered outside Mr. Netanyahu’s private home in Jerusalem.

The unrest sparked by Justice Minister Yariv Levin’s proposals to shake up the judiciary by severely curbing the High Court of Justice’s judicial review powers and the government’s efforts to cement political control over the appointment of judges has met with resistance not only in the streets of the country but also abroad with thousands of Jewish diaspora members protesting during Mr. Netanyahu’s visits to Italy, Germany and the U.K.

The protests have alarmed business leaders, former security chiefs and drawn concern from Israel’s close allies, including the United States.

The country has also seen economic disruption with talk of a “flight of capital” and hi-tech leaders and firms.

Arnon Bar-David, the head of Israel’s largest labour federation Histadrut, on Monday announced a “historic” labour strike in an attempt to “stop the madness” of the government’s controversial judicial overhaul.

“We are all worried about Israel’s fate,” Mr. Bar-David says. “Together we say, enough! We have lost our way — this is not about left or right. We can no longer polarise the nation,” the union head was quoted as saying in The Times of Israel newspaper.

Mr. Bar-David said the strike will begin as soon as Monday if Prime Minister Netanyahu does not announce a halt to the judicial overhaul.

Israel’s main airport Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv on Monday announced an immediate halt to all departing flights, minutes after the head of the Histadrut announced the “historic” labour strike.

The Histadrut also instructed all government employees to go on strike, including in all of Israel’s diplomatic missions around the world, the paper reported.

Citing a spokesperson for Israel’s Embassy in the United States, it confirmed that the mission has shut down until further notice.

The National Student and Youth Council, representing the high school and middle school students, declared a nationwide strike to start on Monday morning.

The council has called for “halting the [overhaul] legislation and starting negotiations immediately”.

Two protesters entered the Knesset building and shouted at Education Minister Yoav Kisch that he should resign. They were quickly bundled away by security guards.

As protests intensified accompanied by an unforeseen display of anger, some Likud Ministers relented, beginning to show their willingness to compromise.

Culture Minister Micky Zohar, a Netanyahu confidant, said the party would support him if he decided to pause the judicial overhaul.

Protest organisers, mostly common people with no declared political affiliation, continued to push for further demonstrations on Monday.

Political analysts see the development as a “grassroots movement” beyond the control of any political formation. The opposition though has been fully supportive and participating in the protests.

Legislation, which many argue is aimed at establishing executive supremacy over the judiciary, making it subservient to the government, is slated to come for the final readings this week in the Knesset.

Seen at the receiving end of international ire, including a rebuke from U.S. President Joe Biden, Mr. Netanyahu has looked weak and perplexed but also hesitant to step back from the proposed “reforms” because of fear of backlash within his ruling Likud party.

Source link

#Israeli #Netanyahu #freezes #judicial #overhaul #urges #protesters #behave #responsibly

Israel passes law protecting Netanyahu as protests continue

Israel’s Parliament on Thursday passed the first of several laws that make up its contentious judicial overhaul as protesters opposing the changes staged another day of demonstrations aimed at raising alarm over what they see as the country’s descent toward autocracy.

Thousands of people protested throughout the country, blocking traffic on main highways and scuffling with police in unrest that shows no sign of abating, especially as the overhaul moves ahead.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition approved legislation that would protect the Israeli leader from being deemed unfit to rule because of his corruption trial and claims of a conflict of interest surrounding his involvement in the legal changes. Critics say the law is tailor-made for Mr. Netanyahu, encourages corruption and deepens a gaping chasm between Israelis over the judicial overhaul.

The legal changes have split the nation between those who see the new policies as stripping Israel of its democratic ideals and those who think the country has been overrun by a liberal judiciary. The government’s plan has plunged the nearly 75-year-old nation into one of its worst domestic crises.

“Either Israel will be a Jewish, democratic and progressive state or religious, totalitarian, failing, isolated and closed off. That’s where they are leading us,” Tzipi Livni, a former Foreign Minister and a prominent supporter of the protest movement, told Israeli Army Radio.

The opposition is rooted in broad swaths of society — including business leaders and top legal officials. Even the country’s military, seen as a beacon of stability by Israel’s Jewish majority, is enmeshed in the political conflict, as some reservists are refusing to show up for duty over the changes. Israel’s international allies have also expressed concern.

The law to protect Mr. Netanyahu passed in an early morning vote 61-47 in Israel’s 120-seat Knesset, or Parliament, after a debate that ran through the night. Mr. Netanyahu, seated by his Justice Minister, and the overhaul’s architect, Yariv Levin, was seen smirking during the vote.

It stipulates that a Prime Minister can only be deemed unfit to rule for health or mental reasons and that only he or his government can make that decision. It comes after the country’s attorney general has faced growing calls by Mr. Netanyahu opponents to declare him unfit to rule over his legal problems. The attorney general has already barred Mr. Netanyahu from involvement in the legal overhaul, saying he is at risk of a conflict of interest because of his corruption trial.

The Movement for Quality Government in Israel, a good governance organisation, said it was challenging the law in court, in what could set up the first showdown between judges and the government over the legal changes. Experts say the overhaul could set off a constitutional crisis that would leave Israel in chaos over who should be obeyed, the government or the courts.

On Thursday, protesters launched a fourth midweek day of demonstrations. They blocked major thoroughfares, set tires ablaze near an important seaport and draped a large Israeli flag and a banner with the country’s Declaration of Independence over the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. The police said they made several arrests around the country. Several protest leaders were among those arrested, organisers said.

Protesters blocked the main highway in seaside Tel Aviv and police used water cannon to disperse demonstrators in that city and Haifa in the north.

Mr. Netanyahu called on Opposition leaders to “stop the anarchy immediately,” after what he said was an attack on Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Bet domestic security agency.

Video on social media showed a protester swiping her flagpole in Dichter’s direction, hitting him once on the head, but he appeared unharmed and continued walking. A spokesman for Dichter said the flagpole tapped his head lightly and that the protester also smacked his car with it.

A protest was planned later in the day in a large ultra-Orthodox city near Tel Aviv. The demonstration’s organisers say the demonstration there is meant to drive home to that community that their rights are in danger under the overhaul. Ultra-Orthodox leaders see the demonstration in their midst as provocative.

The overhaul crisis has magnified a longstanding rift between secular Jewish Israelis and religious ones over how much of a role religion should play in their day-to-day lives. Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers in government are central drivers of the overhaul because they believe the courts are a threat to their traditional way of life. In contrast, secular opponents to the changes fear they will open the door to religious coercion.

In addition to Thursday’s demonstrations, tens of thousands of people have been showing up for weekly protests each Saturday night for more than two months.

Mr. Netanyahu’s government rejected a compromise proposal earlier this month meant to ease the crisis. It said that it would slow the pace of the changes, pushing most of them to after a monthlong parliamentary recess in April.

But the government was plowing forward on a key part of the overhaul, which would grant the government control over who becomes a judge. The government says it amended the original bill to make the law more inclusive, but opponents rejected the move, saying the change was cosmetic and would maintain the government’s grip over the appointment of judges. The measure was expected to pass next week.

Mr. Netanyahu is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes in a series of scandals involving wealthy associates and powerful media moguls. He denies wrongdoing and dismisses critics who say he could find an escape route from the charges through the legal overhaul his government is advancing.

The government says the changes are necessary to restore a balance between the executive and judicial branches, which they say has become too interventionist in the way the country is run.

Critics say the government, Israel’s most right-wing ever, is pushing the country toward authoritarianism with its overhaul, which they say upends the country’s fragile system of checks and balances.

Rights groups and Palestinians say Israel’s democratic ideals have long been tarnished by the country’s 55-year, open-ended occupation of lands the Palestinians seek for an independent state and the treatment of Palestinian Israeli citizens, who face discrimination in many spheres.

Source link

#Israel #passes #law #protecting #Netanyahu #protests #continue