Israel sets date for Rafah offensive, truce negotiations underway

Israel sets date for Rafah offensive truce negotiations underway

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that a date had been set for an offensive on the town of Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip. While military redeployment in Gaza is not unanimous within the Israeli government itself, the United States opposes any “ massive military invasion » in Rafah. The French and Egyptian presidents as well as the king of Jordan sign an article in the newspaper The worldfor an immediate ceasefire in Gaza “.

Victory over the Palestinian Islamist movement demands entry into Rafah and the elimination of the terrorist battalions there. It will happen – there is a date “, proclaimed the Israeli Prime Minister in a video statement without giving further details. The prime minister is caught in the crossfire inside his office, notes our correspondent in Jerusalem, Michael Paul.

On the one hand, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant believes that Israel finds itself “ at a convenient time » to obtain the release of the hostages. For him, the months of war and the results on the ground of the Israeli army allow Israel some flexibility in the decision-making process. The comments of this minister, often relatively isolated within the government, arouse reactions from the far right which also questions the redeployment of the army to Gaza.

This decision is criticized in particular by ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir. The latter underlines on social networks that if Benyamin Netanyahu decides to end the war against Hamas without a large-scale offensive in Rafah, he ” will cease to have a mandate to serve as Prime Minister “. The security cabinet is due to meet on Tuesday evening to take, it is said, “ serious decisions “. A meeting that promises to be hectic.

United States opposition

For its part, the United States forcefully reaffirmed on Monday its opposition to any major Israeli operation in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip. “ We made it clear to Israel that we believed a massive military invasion of Rafah would have an extremely detrimental effect on these civilians and would ultimately harm Israel’s security. ” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters.

It’s not just a matter of Israel presenting us with a plan. We made it clear to them that we believed there was a better way to achieve a legitimate objective, namely to degrade, dismantle and defeat the Hamas battalions still in Rafah. “added Matt Miller.

An immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Washington and many capitals fear for the safety of the more than 1.5 million Gazans who have found refuge in this area in the far south of the Gaza Strip, near the closed border with Egypt. In this case, this opposition is shared by Presidents Emmanuel Macron and Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and the King of Jordan, Abdallah II in a column published in the newspaper The world.

The war in Gaza and the catastrophic human suffering it causes must end immediately,” believe the three leaders. They call for their wishes “ a two-state solution “, “ only credible option to guarantee peace and security for all and ensure that neither Israelis nor Palestinians have to relive the horrors that have struck them since the attacks of October 7, 2023 “.

The three heads of state also ask “ immediate and unconditional implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2728 […] faced with the intolerable number of victims “, that is to say an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

On a possible Israeli offensive in Rafah, the signatories of the forum warn: “ Such an offensive will only increase the loss of life and suffering, aggravate the risk and consequences of massive forced displacement of the population of Gaza and pose a threat of escalation in the region. “.

Emmanuel Macron, Abel Fatah Al-Sissi and Abdallah II ensure “ determined to intensify [leurs] efforts to respond to the humanitarian, medical and health needs of the civilian population of Gaza, in close coordination with the United Nations system and with our regional partners “. They also urge the Hebrew State to “ ease[r] the use of all crossing points to deliver this humanitarian aid, including in the north of the Gaza Strip and through a direct land corridor with Jordan, as well as by sea “.

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A truce proposal in three stages

This column appears at a time when indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel are being held in Cairo, the Egyptian capital, between representatives of the Israeli government and Hamas as well as Egyptian, Qatari and American mediators. This Monday, the question of a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel was at the center of the debates.

A source within the Palestinian Islamist movement told Agence France-Presse (AFP) this Monday that Hamas is examining a three-stage truce proposal, submitted by the mediating countries.

This same source specifies to AFP that this first phase provides for a six-week ceasefire, the release of 42 Israeli hostages (including soldiers, children and elderly women) in exchange for 800 to 900 Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons, including around a hundred serving long sentences, including life sentences.

This project also proposes the entry of 400 to 500 trucks of food aid per day and the return home of residents of the northern Gaza Strip displaced by the war.

In a second step, all the other hostages would be released. Israel estimates that there are currently 129 hostages still held captive in the Gaza Strip, and of them, 34 are dead. In exchange, a still undetermined number of Palestinian detainees would be released.

The third phase would include the handover of the remains of slain Israeli prisoners, reports our correspondent in Egypt, Alexandre Buccianti who quotes al-Jazeera. The Qatari channel does not provide details on the rewards for this third stage.

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For its part, the United States claims that the mediators presented Hamas with a cease-fire proposal. “ Now it is up to Hamas to make it happen “, affirmed John Kirby, spokesperson for the National Security Council of the White House, refusing to reveal details of this agreement so as not to ” torpedo “. The talks in Cairo were “ serious » but it is too early to say whether they will bear fruit, underlines the White House.

Questioned by the BBC, the spokesperson for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Majed al-Ansari, said he was more “ optimistic » that a few days ago, adding however that the negotiations are far from being at their last “ straight line “.

At the end of last November, a seven-day truce allowed the release of 80 Israeli hostages (and 25 others outside the agreement), in exchange for that of 240 Palestinian prisoners. All other attempts at negotiation have since failed. More than 250 people were kidnapped during the unprecedented Hamas attack in Israel on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to a report established by AFP based on official figures. Israelis. On Monday, the Hamas Ministry of Health announced the deaths of 32 Palestinians in 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 33,207.

Pope meets families of Israeli hostages

Pope Francis met on Monday with relatives of several Israelis held hostage by Hamas, the Vatican announced. The Argentine pontiff, aged 87, had already received a group of relatives of Israeli hostages at the Vatican in November and met Palestinians with family in Gaza the same day.

During a private audience with Francis on Monday morning, members of five Israeli families showed the pope photos of kidnapped loved ones, including Ariel and Kfir Bibas, aged four and one. Relatives of hostages Tamir Nimrodi, 19, Guy Gilboa Dalal, 22, Agam Berger, 19, and Omri Miran, 46, were also present.

Referring to a meeting “ very emotional » with Pope Francis, Ashley Waxman, a cousin of Agam Berger, assured that the sovereign pontiff “ was very clear regarding his solidarity for the release of hostages.”

The families of the Israeli hostages are in Italy as part of a delegation also including Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

On Sunday, after delivering the weekly Regina Coeli prayer at the Vatican, the pope reiterated his call for peace. “ Let us always pray for peace, a just and lasting peace, especially for the martyred Ukraine and for Palestine and Israel “, did he declare.