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Gaza ceasefire talks underway in Paris as air strikes continue

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Gaza truce talks were underway in Paris on Friday, marking the most serious push in weeks to halt the fighting in the battered Palestinian enclave and see Israeli and foreign hostages released.

Reuters reported that the talks had begun, with Israel’s head of the Mossad intelligence service meeting separately with each party – Qatar, Egypt and the United States, according to an anonymous source.

“There are budding signs of optimism about moving forward toward the start of serious negotiations,” the source was quoted as saying. Egypt’s Al Qahera TV News also reported that the talks had commenced.

An official from Hamas stated that the militant group had concluded ceasefire talks in Cairo and was now awaiting the outcome of the weekend talks with Israel mediated by others.

Mediators have intensified efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, aiming to prevent an Israeli assault on the Gaza city of Rafah, where more than a million displaced people are sheltering at the southern edge of the enclave.

Israel has threatened to attack the city if no truce agreement is reached soon. Washington has urged its close ally not to proceed, warning of vast civilian casualties if an assault on the city occurs.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met with Egyptian mediators in Cairo this past week to discuss a truce, marking his first visit since December.

Two Egyptian security sources confirmed that Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel would head to Paris for talks with the Israelis after wrapping up discussions with Haniyeh on Thursday. Israel has not publicly commented on the Paris talks, which are expected to continue through the weekend.

Reuters reported that the militant group did not offer any new proposals at the talks with the Egyptians but was waiting to see what the mediators would bring back from their discussions with the Israelis, citing a Hamas official who requested anonymity.

Ceasefire outline emerged from earlier talks

The last time similar talks were held in Paris, at the start of February, they produced an outline for the first extended ceasefire of the conflict, approved by Israel and the United States. Hamas responded with a counterproposal, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then rejected as “delusional.”

Hamas, believed to still be holding more than 100 hostages seized in the October 7 attack on Israel that triggered the conflict, insists on their release only as part of a truce that includes an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Israel, on the other hand, refuses to withdraw until Hamas is eradicated.

Late on Thursday, Netanyahu presented his security cabinet with an official plan for Gaza once the fighting stops. He emphasized that Israel expects to maintain security control over the enclave after destroying Hamas and also sees no role there for the Palestinian Authority (PA) based in the West Bank.

Washington favors a role for a reformed PA.

Two Palestinian officials familiar with the negotiations stated that Hamas has not changed its stance in the latest push to reach a deal and still demands that a truce end with an Israeli pullout.

“Israel’s position and its response to mediation has been negative and this poses many obstacles towards reaching an agreement,” senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said on Friday during a press conference in Beirut.

“Netanyahu is procrastinating… He does not care about the release of his hostages, but rather uses this issue as a card to achieve his goals,” Hamdan said.

At least 29,514 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since October 7, the Gaza health ministry said on Friday.

Source(s): CGTN

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Iran warns against retaliation after first direct attack on Israel

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Iran’s mission to the United Nations said on early Sunday that Tehran’s retaliation for an attack on its diplomatic compound in Syria has ended, warning Israel against “another mistake” after Iran’s first military strike on Israeli territory.

The statement came after the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) launched a suite of explosive drones and fired missiles at Israel late Saturday, further raising tensions between the two countries over Israel’s alleged killing of senior IRGC commanders in Syria earlier this month.

“Should the Israeli regime make another mistake, Iran’s response will be considerably more severe. It is a conflict between Iran and the rogue Israeli regime, from which the U.S. MUST STAY AWAY!” the Iranian mission said on social media platform X.

Sirens wailed, and the loud sounds of suspected drone interceptions reverberated across Israel. The Israel Defense Forces said it had intercepted most of the 200 missiles and drones headed toward the country. A Reuters report said the U.S. military in the region had also shot down an undisclosed number of drones.

Still, in the early hours of Sunday, a senior Israeli official vowed to respond in an “unprecedented” way and urged Israelis to remain awake for what might be coming afterward, local media reported.

In Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden, an ardent supporter of Israel’s ongoing war in Gaza, cut short his weekend vacation and met with his national security team, after which he reaffirmed his “commitment to Israel’s security” on X.

The IRGC strike was an inevitable response as the United Nations Security Council failed to condemn Israel’s alleged attack on Iran’s diplomatic facility in Syria, Wei Mingchen, an associate research fellow of the Institute of West-Asian and African Studies of Chines Academy of Social Science, told CGTN.

But Iran’s warning about an Israeli response indicated its unwillingness to see the expansion of hostilities into a major Middle Eastern conflict or a full-blown war between the two countries – a deescalatory tone that’s directed toward both Israel and the U.S., Wei said.

War between Israel and Iran would “incur tremendous security, social and economic damage to the Islamic Republic,” he said.

Source(s): CGTN

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Iran launches large-scale drone, missile attack against Israel

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JERUSALEM, April 14 (Xinhua) — Iran has launched unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and missiles toward Israel, the Israeli military said on Saturday night.

Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Spokesman Daniel Hagari said in a press briefing that the drones would take several hours to arrive in Israeli airspace and that the country’s defense systems would try to intercept them.

An official statement said the Israeli airspace will be closed from 00:30 a.m. (2130 GMT).

The Israeli military said in a statement that it is “constantly monitoring the operational situation.” According to the statement, “the IDF Aerial Defense Array is on high alert, along with Israel Air Force fighter jets and Israeli Navy vessels that are on a defense mission in Israeli air and naval space.”

Hagari called the Iranian aerial attack on Israel “a severe and dangerous escalation,” adding that Israel’s “defensive and offensive capabilities are at the highest level of readiness ahead of this large-scale attack from Iran.”

Israeli and U.S. forces are in “close coordination” and “dozens” of fighter jets are currently airborne, preparing for the Iranian aircraft’s arrival in Israeli airspace, according to the Israeli army.

Meanwhile, two Israeli officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to Xinhua that several cruise missiles were also launched from Iran toward Israel.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) confirmed in a broadcast statement that it had launched missile and drone attacks on Israel from Iran.

The IRGC added the details of the operation would be announced soon, stressing that it was carried out with the approval of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran and under the supervision of the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces.

Iranian media reported that about 50 UAVs have been launched. Israel’s state-owned Kan TV news reported that the drones were launched from Iran as well as from other countries allied with Iran.

Israel has been on heightened alert over the past few days following Iranian threats to avenge the killing of seven Iranian officers in its consular building in Damascus, Syria, earlier in April, which was carried out by Israel, according to Iran.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Hamas leader’s family killed in Israeli strike as truce talks drag on

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An Israeli strike on Wednesday killed three of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s sons in Gaza, as conflict rages in the Palestinian territory despite ongoing truce negotiations.

Hamas said in a statement that three of Haniyeh’s sons and four of his grandchildren were killed in the air strike. Israel confirmed the killings, saying the sons were “Hamas operatives” who were “on their way to carry out terrorist activities.”

The strike came as talks in Cairo dragged on, with Hamas still considering the latest proposal. A framework being circulated would halt fighting for six weeks and see the exchange of about 40 hostages for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

U.S. President Joe Biden, speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, said, “It’s now up to Hamas. They need to move on the proposal that’s been made.”

Reacting to the strike that killed his sons and grandchildren, Haniyeh told Al Jazeera, “If they (Israel) think that targeting my children at the peak of these talks and before the movement’s response, if they think that this will force Hamas to change its positions, they are delusional.”

“Our demands are clear and specific, and we will not make concessions on them,” Haniyeh said.

Israel’s offensive in the past months has killed at least 33,482 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Israeli troops would nevertheless enter Rafah and return to Khan Yunis, from which they withdrew several days ago, said Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz.

The army would have to fight for years to come “in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank, and on the Lebanon front,” Gantz added.

As the conflict rages, there has been a growing chorus of international criticism aimed at the lack of aid entering the territory.

Humanitarian groups have accused Israel of using starvation as a weapon in the conflict, where UN experts say half the population is facing “catastrophic” food insecurity.

Israel denies the charges, and has repeatedly blamed the UN and aid organizations for distribution problems.

On Wednesday, Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said they are planning on distributing aid to Gaza through a new crossing and a port just north of the besieged territory.

“We plan to flood Gaza with aid and we are expecting to reach 500 trucks per day,” Gallant said.

He also vowed to “streamline security checks” that aid organizations had blamed for choking the flow of aid through six months of the conflict.

Israel promised last week it would open the Erez crossing in the north after a tense telephone call between Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which the U.S. president demanded “immediate action” on aid.

But it is understood Israel’s trucks will not use the crossing, with the country’s media reporting that the government feared protests from far-right groups who are against any aid reaching Gaza.

Source(s): CGTN

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