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Israel-Hamas war: Netanyahu vows to launch Rafah offensive

Published April 30, 2024last updated April 30, 2024

The Israeli prime minister said the planned incursion will go ahead "with or without" a cease-fire deal with Hamas. The militant group is currently reviewing an Israeli truce proposal. DW has the latest.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, talks with Israeli troops in the northern Gaza Strip in late 2023
Netanyahu's comments came as negotiations were underway in Cairo for a new cease-fire agreement Image: Avi Ohayon/GPO/ZUMA Press Wire/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a ground offensive in Rafah will proceed whether or not a truce deal is reached with Hamas 
  • Hamas is reportedly going to return to Cairo with a written response to the latest Israeli proposal for a limited truce
  • The Israeli offer is “extraordinarily generous," as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken put it, and "very generous" as British Foreign Secretary David Cameron put it
  • David Cameron said the deal on the table is for a 40-day cease-fire

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Skip next section Netanyahu warns against possible ICC arrest warrants
April 30, 2024

Netanyahu warns against possible ICC arrest warrants

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it would be a scandal on a historic scale if the International Criminal Court (ICC) were to issue arrest warrants for Israeli officials.

The ICC in The Hague has been looking into possible war crimes committed by Israel since 2021, as well as accusations leveled against Islamist militant group Hamas and Israeli settlers in the West Bank. This is separate from the two cases concerning Israel at the International Court of Justice, which is also based in The Hague.

"The possibility that they will issue arrest warrants for war crimes against IDF (Israel Defense Forces) commanders and state leaders, this possibility is a scandal on a historic scale," Netanyahu said in a video statement on Tuesday night.

He said the move would be an "unprecedented antisemitic hate crime."

"No decision, whether in The Hague or elsewhere, will in any way diminish our determination to achieve all war aims," Netanyahu added.

The ICC has given no public indication that arrest warrants are imminent.

Skip next section Blinken to press Netanyahu on more aid for Gaza
April 30, 2024

Blinken to press Netanyahu on more aid for Gaza

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he would call on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza during his planned visit to Israel.

"I'm now able to go to Israel tomorrow and go over with the Israeli government the things that still need to be done if the test is going to be met of making sure that people have what they need," Blinken said on Tuesday.

"And I'll be doing that tomorrow directly with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other members of the Israeli government."

Blinken made the comments while visiting a warehouse in Jordan where aid shipments from American charities were being stored.

"Right here in Jordan, we're seeing a direct route from Jordan to northern Gaza through Erez. The first shipments are leaving today," Blinken told reporters as he saw the supplies.

"It is real and important progress, but more still needs to be done."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Jordan
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited an aid warehouse in Jordan before talks in IsraelImage: Evelyn Hockstein/AFP/Getty Images
Skip next section UN chief: Everything must be done to 'avert entirely preventable' famine
April 30, 2024

UN chief: Everything must be done to 'avert entirely preventable' famine

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said everything possible needed to be done "to avert an entirely preventable human-made famine" in Gaza.

Guterres said there had been "incremental progress recently" but that "much more is urgently needed."

This included "the promised opening of the two crossing points between Israel and northern Gaza so that aid can be brought into Gaza from Ashdod port and Jordan."

Guterres told a media briefing that a major impediment to aid distribution in northern Gaza was a lack of security for aid workers and civilians.

"I again call on the Israeli authorities to allow and facilitate safe, rapid and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid and humanitarian workers, including UNRWA, throughout Gaza," the UN chief said, referring to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

Guterres also warned that a planned Israeli incursion into Rafah, in southern Gaza, would "be an unbearable escalation, killing thousands more civilians and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee."

Skip next section UN court rules German military aid to Israel can continue
April 30, 2024

UN court rules German military aid to Israel can continue

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on Tuesday that it would not implement emergency measures to stop or limit Germany from providing weapons and other assistance to Israel for the conflict with militant-Islamist Hamas in Gaza. 

Nicaragua had brought the charges, claiming that German arms supplies to Israel breached the 1948 Genocide Convention by allowing violations of international humanitarian law in the Palestinian territory.

The broader case is likely to take far longer, but Tuesday's ruling means the court saw insufficient urgent imperative to try to intervene after a preliminary hearing.

The court did not, however, grant a German request to throw the case out altogether, saying it would continue.

Germany's Foreign Ministry was quick to react online, welcoming the ruling and also saying that "nobody is above the law" and that this notion "guides our actions." 

Skip next section Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Columbia University building
April 30, 2024

Pro-Palestinian protesters take over Columbia University building

Demonstrators from the pro-Palestine encampment on Columbia's Campus show a banner as they barricade themselves inside Hamilton Hall on Tuesday, April 30, 2024 in New York City.
Students said they renamed the occupied building "Hind's hall," after a 6-year-old Palestinian girl who was killed in GazaImage: Alex Kent/Getty Images

Demonstrators have occupied a campus building at prestigious Columbia University in New York, amid a growing pro-Palestinian protest movement across the US against the Israel's military operation in Gaza.

Student protesters entered Hamilton Hall and barricaded its doors with furniture, hanging a "Free Palestine" banner from a window. The hall was among the Columbia University buildings occupied by students protesting against the war in Vietnam back in the 1960s.

Students said they renamed the hall "Hind's hall," after a 6-year-old Palestinian girl who was killed in Gaza

Protesters are calling for the university's divestment of all financial holdings linked to Israel, alongside other demands. Protesters on Tuesday defied a deadline to end their sit-in, after which the university said it would suspend students.

On Monday, the university's president, Minouche Shafik, announced that days of negotiations between student organizers and academic leaders have failed. 

Students have been protesting at several universities across the US, with hundreds of arrests made. Universities and police argue some of the protests include antisemitic chants, while students and their supporters say the accusations are meant to silence them.

Skip next section Turkish national stabs Israeli policeman in Jerusalem
April 30, 2024

Turkish national stabs Israeli policeman in Jerusalem

A Turkish national stabbed an Israeli border police officer in east Jerusalem on Tuesday, Israeli police said.

Police said that a "terrorist armed with a knife arrived in the Old City of Jerusalem, on the Herod's Gate Ascent street, charged at a border police officer and stabbed him with a knife".

The perpetrator was shot dead by officers at the scene. Police identified him as a 34-year-old Turkish citizen.

The Israeli officer was moderately wounded.

Skip next section Netanyahu vows to enter Rafah 'with or without' cease-fire
April 30, 2024

Netanyahu vows to enter Rafah 'with or without' cease-fire

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to go ahead with plans for a ground offensive on Gaza's southern city of Rafah "with or without" a cease-fire deal.

Speaking on Tuesday, Netanyahu vowed to enter Rafah to eliminate the Palestinian, militant group Hamas. His comments came as Hamas was studying an Israeli truce proposal that could see a halt in the Gaza fighting and the release of Israeli hostages currently held in Gaza.

"The idea that we will stop the war before achieving all its objectives is out of the question," Netanyahu said, according to a statement from his office.

Rafah, which lies on the border with Egypt, currently houses some 1.4 million Palestinians, most of whom are taking shelter there after having fled the fighting in other parts of the strip. 

The UN, several aid organizations and Israeli allies including the US have warned against an Israeli ground offensive there, amid concern for the civilian population. However, Israel insists it is the last stronghold of Hamas in the Gaza.

Netanyahu has faced pressure from his nationalist governing partners to launch the offensive, according to Israeli media reports.

Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by the US, Israel, Germany and other countries.

Skip next section China hosts 'candid talks' between Fatah, Hamas
April 30, 2024

China hosts 'candid talks' between Fatah, Hamas

Beijing has hosted talks between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas, which it described as "in depth and candid."

"Representatives of the Palestine National Liberation Movement and the Islamic Resistance Movement recently came to Beijing," foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian said, referring to the groups by their formal names, adding that they made "positive progress."

The two rival groups expressed political will on realizing reconciliation through dialogue, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

Deep divisions between the two groups have often complicated peace negotiations and the push for a two-state solution.

China has been eyeing a more active role in Middle Eastern politics. Last year, it brokered a landmark deal, helping Iran and Saudi Arabia to re-establish diplomatic relations after years of tensions. 

Earlier this year, Moscow as well hosted talks between Fatah and Hamas.

Skip next section Baerbock: Cease-fire deal 'now lies solely in Hamas' hands'
April 30, 2024

Baerbock: Cease-fire deal 'now lies solely in Hamas' hands'

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said early on Tuesday, on her return from talks in the Middle East, that negotiations had reached the point where it was up to Hamas to take the next step. 

"It now lies solely in Hamas' hands, that the hostages are finally freed," Baerbock told German public broadcaster DLF, after more than six months of the militants holding them hostage, a situation she described as "inconceivable" for most people. 

Although the precise details of the latest deal have not been made public, again the proposal is understood to involve a halt in Israeli military operations in exchange for the remaining hostages' release. 

Blinken urges Hamas to accept Israel's cease-fire offer

Hamas has said it requires time to consider the offer. AFP quoted an unnamed Hamas source on Tuesday as saying the group wanted to reach a decision "as quickly as possible." Baerbock responded skeptically. 

"We've experienced this repeatedly in recent months," she said. "That Hamas, as a terrorist organization, is still sadly pursuing the goal not just of endangering Israel with continuing rocket attacks, but also apparently of extending this awful war." 

Baerbock said this was the reason why it was "so important that we found a common and strong voice — from Arabic countries, European countries and from the Americans," making it clear that the conflict must stop. 

"The suffering must have an end, for the people in Israel and just as much for the 2 million Palestinians. Hamas does not speak for the Palestinian people. It does not consider limiting this suffering to be its responsibility," Baerbock said. 

This was why collective pressure was crucial, she said, but it also demonstrated "how difficult this entire process has been over the past six months and more." 

More than 34,500 Palestinians in Gaza have died, according to the local health authorities, in Israel's retaliatory offensive following the October 7 terror attacks carried out by Hamas.

The Day with Gerhard Elfers

Skip next section EU leaders push for cease-fire and two-state solution
April 30, 2024

EU leaders push for cease-fire and two-state solution

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne called the humanitarian situation in Gaza "catastrophic" and repeated calls for a cease-fire in Saudi Arabia.

"Things are moving forward but you always have to be careful in these discussions and negotiations," Sejourne told Reuters news agency on the sidelines of a World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Riyadh.

Speaking at the same event on Monday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock renewed her calls for more humanitarian aid to be allowed into Gaza and reiterated Germany's support for a two-state solution.

Earlier on Monday, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters he wanted EU member states to invite Arab leaders to Brussels to present their proposals for advancing a two-state solution.

"My only hope, my strong will, is to believe that if Arabs put on the table a proposal, Europeans will have to consider overcoming our divisions because it's not a secret that the Europeans are strongly divided," he said.

"I will propose to member states to invite the Arabs to come to Brussels and to share with us their plan because we have to try to put together our approaches," he added.

Skip next section Student protests continue in US, Paris
April 30, 2024

Student protests continue in US, Paris

Protests on university campuses in the United States and France continued as students at Columbia University in New York defied a deadline to evacuate an encampment.

Protesters at the prestigious Ivy League university in Manhattan were requested to leave the camp and sign a commitment to abide by university policies – or face disciplinary action.

Columbia Vice President of Communications, Ben Chang, said the university had "begun suspending students as part of this next phase of our efforts to ensure safety on our campus."

He said the students had been warned they would be "placed on suspension, ineligible to complete the semester or graduate, and will be restricted from all academic, residential, and recreational spaces."

But more than 300 students remained at their 120 tents, clapping, chanting and drumming as the 2 p.m. deadline passed.

"These repulsive scare tactics mean nothing compared to the deaths of over 34,000 Palestinians," said a statement, read out by a student at a press conference after the deadline. "We will not move until Columbia meets our demands or ... [we] are moved by force."

Meanwhile at the University of Texas in Austin, police clashed with protesters and made arrests while dismantling an encampment, adding to the more than 350 people detained across the United States over the weekend.

"No encampments will be allowed," Texas Governor Greg Abbott said on Monday afternoon. "Instead, arrests are being made."

Protests have also begun to spread to university campuses in Europe, with around 100 pro-Palestinian students gathering near the prestigious Sorbonne University in Paris, France, on Monday.

The Sorbonne historically occupies a unique place in French public and intellectual life. Last week, President Emmanuel Macron chose it as the venue to deliver a speech on his vison of Europe ahead of elections for the European Parliament in June.

Skip next section Biden holds separate talks with leaders of Qatar, Egypt
April 30, 2024

Biden holds separate talks with leaders of Qatar, Egypt

US President Joe Biden held separate phone calls with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar to discuss the latest developments in the region.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said the call had touched on the ongoing negotiations about a cease-fire proposal as well as the dangers of a military escalation in Gaza.

The two leaders discussed the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, a main sticking point in any comprehensive cease-fire deal between Hamas and Israel, an Egyptian presidential spokesman said.

Separately, Biden spoke to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar, and urged him to exert all efforts to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas.

"This is now the only obstacle to an immediate ceasefire and relief for the people of Gaza," the White House said.

Ahead of the calls, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that "there has been new progress in talks," without offering further details.

Skip next section Hamas reviews Israel's cease-fire proposal
April 30, 2024

Hamas reviews Israel's cease-fire proposal

A Hamas delegation has left Cairo following talks for a cease-fire in exchange for the release of hostages held by militants in Gaza, Egypt's state-run Al Qahera TV reported.

The Al Qahera TV reported late on Monday that Hamas would return again with a written response to the latest Israeli proposal passed to them by mediators from Qatar and Egypt on Monday.

Negotiations for the release of hostages have failed in the months following a weeklong cease-fire in November that saw the release of more than 100 hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

Blinken urges Hamas to accept Israel's cease-fire offer

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking in Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh, also Monday, said the deal was "extraordinarily generous" and that Hamas had to "decide quickly" about the offer.

Blinken, who is on his seventh Middle East tour since the war broke out in October, then travels to Jordan and Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.

The latest deal could see a pause in the relentless offensive in Gaza, where over 34,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry there.

Israel says the militants in the enclave are still holding 100 hostages and the remains of more than 30 others.

The Israel-Hamas war was sparked by the unprecedented October 7 raid into southern Israel in which militants killed around 1,200 people and abducted around 250 hostages.

Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by many countries, including the US, Germany and Israel. 

mf/rm (Reuters, AP, AFP)