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ConflictsMiddle East

Israel-Hamas war: Haniyeh calls for Ramadan march to Al-Aqsa

Published February 28, 2024last updated February 28, 2024

Hamas' political leader called on Palestinians to march to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque at the start of Ramadan, raising the stakes in ongoing negotiations with Israel.

https://p.dw.com/p/4cylc
Israel |Al-Aqsa Moschee in Jerusalem
Part of the Haram al-Sharif complex, Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam. The compound is also known as the Temple Mount and is the most sacred site in the Jewish faithImage: Mohammad Hamad/Anadolu/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • Hamas calls on Palestinians to march to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque
  • Families of hostages still held in Gaza start four-day march to Jerusalem
  • IDF says 160 packages of aid have been airdropped into the southern Gaza Strip

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Skip next section Israeli missile attack hit areas south of Damascus, says Syrian war monitor
February 28, 2024

Israeli missile attack hit areas south of Damascus, says Syrian war monitor

Israel carried out strikes near Damascus, a monitoring organization and Syria's military said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the Israeli strikes targeted "sites where Iran-backed groups including Lebanon's Hezbollah are based" in two locations near Damascus. 

The monitor said the strikes resulted in two deaths of Syrian nationals and at least six injuries.

Witnesses in the area said four loud explosions echoed throughout the countryside of Damascus, while ambulances with wailing sirens were seen rushing to the targeted areas.

The Syrian Defense Ministry said that Israel "launched airstrikes from the direction of the occupied Syrian Golan, targeting a number of sites in the Damascus countryside."

"Our air defenses responded to the aggression's missiles and shot down most of them," it added.

https://p.dw.com/p/4d0AZ
Skip next section Hamas calls on Palestinians to march to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque
February 28, 2024

Hamas calls on Palestinians to march to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque

A Hamas leader called on Palestinians to march to Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque at the start of Ramadan, raising the stakes in ongoing negotiations for a Gaza cease-fire.

"This is a call to our people in Jerusalem and the West Bank to march to Al-Aqsa on the first day of Ramadan," Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said.

Part of the Haram al-Sharif complex, the mosque and is the third holiest site in Islam. The compound is also known as the Temple Mount and is the most sacred site in the Jewish faith. Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, the spot has long been a flashpoint for potential violence, especially during religious holidays.

Israeli government spokesman Tal Heirich called Haniyeh's remarks "very unfortunate" and accused him of "trying to drag us to wars on other fronts."

The United States on Wednesday urged Israel to let Muslims worship at the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan.

"As it pertains to Al-Aqsa, we continue to urge Israel to facilitate access to Temple Mount for peaceful worshippers during Ramadan consistent with past practice," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said. "It is not in Israel's security interest to inflame tensions in the West Bank or in the broader region."

The call by Haniyeh followed comments by US President Joe Biden that an agreement between Israel and Hamas could be reached as early as next week for a cease-fire during the Muslim fasting month, which this year is expected to begin on March 10.

https://p.dw.com/p/4d04t
Skip next section Hamas chief says group showing 'flexibility' in talks but also ready to fight — report
February 28, 2024

Hamas chief says group showing 'flexibility' in talks but also ready to fight — report

Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh on Wednesday said the Islamist group was "flexible" in the cease-fire negotiations with Israel but was still prepared to continue fighting, according to a report by the Reuters news agency.

Haniyeh made the comments during a televised address during which he called on Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank to march to the Al-Aqsa Mosque for prayers on March 10, the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this month said it would allow Ramadan prayers at Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque during the upcoming holy month but set limits according to security needs.

The mosque is part of the Haram al-Sharif complex and is the third holiest site in Islam. The compound in the Old City of Jerusalem is also known as the Temple Mount and is the most sacred site in the Jewish faith.

https://p.dw.com/p/4czc9
Skip next section Families of hostages still held in Gaza begin four-day march
February 28, 2024

Families of hostages still held in Gaza begin four-day march

The families of hostages still held in Gaza and people supporting them began a four-day march on Wednesday.

The group is demanding the safe return of those taken hostage by Hamas during the October 7 terror attacks in southern Israel.

The march, organized by the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, began at the site of the Supernova festival in Kibbutz Re’im, where hundreds of people were killed and others were abducted by Hamas militants during a dance party early on during the attack, near the Gaza border.

Freed hostage Sharon Alony Cunio, center, carries a poster of her husband, David Cunio
The four-day march began at the site where hundreds of revelers at the Nova music festival were killed or captured by Hamas on October 7, 2023Image: Tsafrir Abayov/AP Photo/picture alliance

The march by families of hostages comes amid a negotiation process taking place in Qatar aimed at reaching a deal between Hamas and Israel that would lead to a cease-fire as well as the release of hostages held by Hamas and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

US President Joe Biden said such a deal could come by next week, but officials from Israel and Hamas were skeptical of his optimism.

Hamas abducted roughly 240 people during the October 7 attacks, according to Israeli authorities.

Around 100 were freed in a weeklong truce that ended on December 1.

Israel says some 130 hostages remain and nearly a quarter of them have died.

Israeli anger grows over hostage crisis

https://p.dw.com/p/4cz95
Skip next section Hamas claims rocket attack on northern Israel
February 28, 2024

Hamas claims rocket attack on northern Israel

Hamas militants on Wednesday said they fired more than 40 rockets from southern Lebanon into northern Israel.

"Al-Qassam Brigades bombed from southern Lebanon the headquarters of the 769th Eastern Brigade, Camp Ghaybour and the airport barracks in Beit Hilal" in northern Israel, the AFP news agency reported, citing a statement from the group posted on Telegram. 

Hamas, classified as a terrorist group by Israel, Germany, the United States and several other countries, went on to say the rocket attack was in response to “massacres against civilians in the Gaza Strip and the assassination of the martyred leaders and their (Hezbollah) brothers in the southern suburbs of Lebanon."

Israel’s military said in a statement that "approximately 10 launches which crossed from Lebanon into northern Israel were identified." It went on to say that sirens had sounded in northern Israel's Kiryat Shmona area.

Air defenses "successfully intercepted a number of the launches," the Israeli military statement said, adding that the army "struck the sources of the fire in Lebanon.”

There have been escalating cross-border exchanges between Israel and Hezbollah since October 8 — a day after the terror attack in southern Israel — leading to fears a regional conflict could be triggered.

Hezbollah is an Iran-backed Shiite political party and militant group in Lebanon. Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by the US, Germany and several Sunni Arab countries, while the EU lists its armed wing as a terrorist group.

How Hezbollah secures its power inside Lebanon

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Skip next section German navy intercepts drones in Red Sea
February 28, 2024

German navy intercepts drones in Red Sea

Germany's military said a naval frigate deployed in the Red Sea shot down two drones on Tuesday evening.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the German army said that the Hesse frigate recognized the drone and intercepted it.

"The crew initiated defensive measures in accordance with the rules of engagement and successfully engaged the unmanned aerial vehicle," the German military said.

"There was no personal injury or damage to property on the frigate," it added.

The German warship arrived in the Red Sea over the weekend to join an international mission to secure shipping in the region.

This comes after the German parliament approved its participation in the mission, which is aimed at eliminating the threat posed by Houthi rebels.

The Iran-backed group — which was redesignated as a global terrorist organization by the US in January — has targeted vessels in the Red Sea over Israel’s war in Gaza against Hamas which is also listed as a terrorist organization by the US, the EU and other governments.

The attacks have disrupted global shipping, and have forced companies to opt for longer and costlier detours around southern Africa.

Germany sends frigate to help secure Red Sea

https://p.dw.com/p/4cywJ
Skip next section Supplies airdropped into Gaza — Israeli military
February 28, 2024

Supplies airdropped into Gaza — Israeli military

Israel's military said on Wednesday aid had been dropped into the southern Gaza Strip.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said in a post on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, that "160 packages of food and medical equipment were airdropped into southern Gaza and the Jordanian field hospital in Khan Yunis."

The IDF said this was "part of international cooperation between Israel, the USA, the UAE, Jordan, Egypt and France." 

The amount of aid entering Gaza has dropped by around half since January, according to the UN, which blamed a lack of political will, the regular closing of crossing points, insecurity caused by Israel's military operations in Gaza, and the collapse of civil order. Israel denies restricting the entry of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. 

But there is mounting concern over the humanitarian situation facing Gaza's 2.3 million inhabitants, with the World Food Programme warning the UN Security Council on Tuesday that "famine is imminent in northern Gaza."

Gaza: UNRWA at 'breaking point' as humanitarian needs soar

kb/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP, DPA)

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