Five months of war already in the Gaza Strip, and a new tour in the Middle East for the American Secretary of State. After visiting Egypt and Qatar on Tuesday, February 7, two countries at the heart of mediation efforts, Antony Blinken landed in Tel Aviv in the evening, where he is due to meet Israeli leaders to discuss a truce in the fights. Hamas confirmed on Tuesday February 6 that it had submitted its response, without detailing it, to the Egyptian and Qatari mediators to a proposed agreement formulated at the end of January in Paris by American, Qatari and Egyptian officials.
Information to remember
⇒ Netanyahu and Blinken to discuss truce with Hamas
⇒ Bombings continue in Khan Younes and Rafah
⇒ A ceremony honoring the 42 French victims of Hamas attacks
Blinken in Tel Aviv to discuss Gaza truce deal
The head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken arrived late Tuesday, February 6 in Israel at a time when local authorities are examining Hamas’ response to a proposed truce, including the release of hostages, in the fifth month of a deadly war . On Tuesday, the American Secretary of State visited Egypt, then Qatar, two mediator countries with the United States, before landing in Israel where he is due to meet with senior officials on Wednesday.
Alongside the American Secretary of State in Doha, the Prime Minister of Qatar Mohammed bin Abdelrahmane Al-Thani, calling himself “optimistic” declared: “we have received a response from Hamas concerning the general framework of the hostage agreement . This answer contains a few comments, but is overall positive.”
“Hamas’ response was transmitted by the Qatari mediator to Mossad (Israeli foreign intelligence services). The details are being carefully examined by officials involved in the negotiations,” said a statement from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Hamas confirmed that it had submitted its response to the Egyptian and Qatari mediators but without specifying its content.
Last week, a source in the Palestinian movement said that the three-phase project included a six-week truce during which Israel will have to release 200 to 300 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 35 to 40 hostages held by Hamas, and a more great humanitarian aid to Gaza. The American Secretary of State, who visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar, must also visit the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967. “There is still a lot of work to do. But we “We continue to believe that an agreement is possible and even essential, and we will continue to work tirelessly to achieve it,” Antony Blinken said in Doha.
UN describes Gaza as a ‘place of death’
In the Palestinian territory devastated by Israeli strikes and described as a “place of death” by the UN, Israeli bombings, particularly in Khan Younes and Rafah in the south, continued on Tuesday. The Israeli army also reported “close fighting” in Khan Younes, a town it presents as a Hamas stronghold.
In Rafah, the Hamas health ministry said an Israeli strike killed six Palestinian police officers in a vehicle. According to witnesses, they were securing the passage of a humanitarian aid truck.
Since the start of the war, entire neighborhoods have been destroyed by Israeli bombings and 1.7 million people have been displaced among the approximately 2.4 million inhabitants of the small territory. More than 1.3 million displaced people are crowded into desperate conditions in Rafah, five times the original population of this city backed by the closed border with Egypt, according to the UN.
This city could be Israel’s next objective. On Monday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant warned that the army would “reach places where it has not yet fought […] to the last Hamas bastion, namely Rafah.
High tensions in the region
Outside Gaza, tensions remain high in the region between Israel and its allies on the one hand and Iran and its “axis of resistance” on the other, including, in addition to Hamas, Lebanese Hezbollah, militias in Iraq and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. On Tuesday evening, the Israeli army claimed to have got its hands on documents “proving” transfers of 154 million US dollars from Iran to Hamas from 2014 to 2020.
During the night, Israeli strikes on the Homs region in Syria left five people dead, including three civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH).
National tribute to the French victims of October 7 in Paris
In the courtyard of the Invalides, 55 portraits and 55 families: President Emmanuel Macron pays a national tribute on Wednesday to the French victims of the attack carried out on October 7 by Hamas in Israel, in the presence, very controversial, of elected officials from the left radical.
This tribute, unprecedented outside Israel, comes four months to the day after the attack by the Palestinian Islamist movement, which led to the death of more than 1,160 people, killed by bullets, burned alive or mutilated, the majority of them civilians, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli data.
With 42 fellow citizens or Franco-Israelis killed, three still missing and presumed hostages, four hostages released and six injured, this is the heaviest death toll on the French side since the Nice attack on July 14, 2016 (86 dead and more than 400 wounded). Three hostages of French nationality are still being held in Gaza, according to Paris: Orion Hernandez-Radoux, also of Mexican nationality and kidnapped at the Nova rave party, Ohad Yaalomi whose son Eitan was released in November and Ofer Calderon, both of whom children were also released.