The Hamas attacks on October 7 do not give Israel “the license to dehumanize others”, said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “The Israelis were dehumanized in the most horrific way on October 7 – Blinken said yesterday at a press conference in Tel Aviv, quoted by the international media -. Since then the hostages have been dehumanized every day, but this cannot be a license to dehumanize others”, underlined the US secretary of state.
The Palestinian news agency Wafa says at least 14 people died and dozens more were injured last night in shelling by Israeli planes on Rafah and Deir al-Balah, in the south and center of the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu rejects Hamas truce, 'forward on Rafah'
Benyamin Netanyahu rejects the Hamas truce and announces that Israel will continue the war in Gaza until the “total destruction” of the Islamic faction, with the army now having been ordered to head towards Rafah, in the south of the Strip on the border with Egypt, where there are hundreds of thousands of displaced people. An attack on Rafah, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres immediately warned, “would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare, with incalculable regional consequences”. And serious concerns were also expressed by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his face to face with Netanyahu. The possibility of an exchange of hostages and a ceasefire in the Strip vanished as soon as Hamas made its demands known in detail, which Israel immediately defined as “unacceptable”. “I told Blinken that Israel is one step away from total victory,” Netanyahu began in a press conference after meeting the Secretary of State who arrived in Jerusalem on his umpteenth diplomatic trip to the region. “Only total victory will guarantee Israel's security. The day after, it will be the day after Hamas. There will be the demilitarization of the Strip and civilian control will certainly not be entrusted to those who incite”, added the prime minister, thus excluding the possibility that Abu Mazen's Palestinian National Authority governs Gaza. Netanyahu then warned that Israel, after the war, will reserve the right to enter the Strip when security needs require it, as is the case today in the West Bank. He then claimed the effectiveness of the army's military action, which in 4 months of war killed or wounded around “20,000 terrorists, or half of their forces”. “The US, on the other hand – observed the prime minister – took nine months to defeat 5,000 terrorists in Mosul in a city smaller than Gaza and without underground military infrastructure comparable to that of the Strip”. “Netanyahu's words indicate that his goal now is to carry out genocide”, Hamas thundered in the evening, accusing the head of the Israeli government of wanting to “continue the conflict in the region”. Even Blinken admitted that the negotiations mediated by the USA, Qatar and Egypt in the French capital are now at an impasse. Biden's envoy – who together with Netanyahu raised the issue of increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza and reiterated that Washington supports the creation of a Palestinian state – said he still hoped for an agreement on the hostages but admitted that “there is there is still a lot of work to do.” While news has arrived from Cairo that a new round of hostage talks will begin tomorrow, once again mediated by Egypt and Qatar. Israel, according to sources in the Jewish State, has asked the mediators “to put pressure on Hamas to present a new proposal” given that the one delivered yesterday by the Islamic faction “contains many issues on which there is no possibility” of agreement. Hamas' plan for the hostage agreement with Israel envisaged a 135-day ceasefire to be developed in three phases of 45 days each with a schedule for the release of over 140 kidnapped people and that of the Palestinian prisoners. The latter are indicated in the number of 1,500 (of which 500 sentenced to life imprisonment and among these prominent figures) but Hamas has also called for the release of “all Palestinian prisoners in Israel who are younger than 19 years or older than 50 years old, as well as those who are sick.” Furthermore, the Palestinian faction demands a ban on Jews from climbing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (the Temple Mount for Judaism). On the 124th day of the war, Israel tightened its grip on the south of the Palestinian enclave, especially in Khan Yunis. There the army announced that it had discovered a kilometer-long tunnel that served the Hamas leadership, including leader Yahya Sinwar, and in which at least 12 Israeli hostages were held. While in the series of targeted attacks against members of the Islamic faction, the army hit the car of a Hamas police chief, Majdi Abdel-Al, in the Shabura district of Rafah, killing him. But now all eyes are on the possible ground attack in Rafah.
US raid on Baghdad, 'a pro-Iran commander killed'
The US strikes again in Iraq, where a drone attack targeted a vehicle in the eastern area of Baghdad killing at least three people, according to security sources. And among these, the American army claimed to have killed a commander of the pro-Iranian armed group Kataib Hezbollah, the same faction accused of the raid that killed three American soldiers in Jordan at the end of January, and which had announced “the suspension ” of its attacks against American forces even in the face of threats of retaliation from Washington. The raid occurred “in response to attacks against American service members” and killed “a Kataib Hezbollah commander responsible for planning and directly participating in attacks against American forces in the region”, explained the US military Central Command, stressing that “there are no indications of collateral damage or civilian casualties”. Before the US claimed responsibility, a security official had told AFP that “a drone fired three rockets at a 4X4 car” in the Machtal district, in the eastern part of the Iraqi capital, targeting “two leaders” of the group pro-Tehran. And a member of the faction had already announced that among those killed was a commander of the group, responsible for military affairs in Syria. Earlier, another security official said the struck vehicle was carrying an official from Hashed al-Shaabi, a coalition of mainly pro-Iranian paramilitaries now integrated into Iraq's regular security forces. An AFP photographer in the affected neighborhood spoke of a large deployment of security forces blocking all access to the attack site, while Al Jazeera's correspondent in Baghdad reported explosions heard across the city. The raid on Baghdad is only the latest episode in the escalation of tensions between the United States and pro-Iranian groups in the wake of Israel's war in the Gaza Strip. And it comes nearly a week after American strikes hit 85 targets of forces close to Tehran at seven different sites in Iraq and neighboring Syria. Raids launched in retaliation for the attack that killed three US soldiers in Jordan at the end of January. Since mid-October, American and allied troops have been attacked more than 165 times in the Middle East, in a campaign waged by Iran-backed armed groups angered by Washington's support for Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza.
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