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ConflictsMiddle East

Israel-Hamas war: US sanctions 4 Israeli West Bank settlers

Published February 1, 2024last updated February 2, 2024

The US placed sanctions on some Israeli settlers over violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. Meanwhile, the UNRWA relief agency said it will "most likely" shut down unless aid contributions resume. DW has more.

Israeli soldiers guard Jewish settlers who launched an attack on the Palestinian town of Deir Sharaf following a shooting attack that killed an Israeli near the area
Image: Nasser Ishtayeh/SOPA Images/ZUMA Press Wire/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • US President Biden signs off on sanctions against violent Israeli West Bank settlers
  • The UNRWA has warned it would be forced to shut down by the end of February unless frozen international aid is resumed
  • Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the Palestinian, militant group Hamas is expected in the Egyptian capital for mediation talks
  • Hamas-run health authorities say the death toll in the devastated strip has exceeded 27,000
Skip next section Israeli military to extend fighting to Rafah in southern Gaza
February 2, 2024

Israeli military to extend fighting to Rafah in southern Gaza

Israel is preparing to expand its war on the Gaza Strip further south, near the Egyptian border, after claiming to have routed Hamas in Khan Younis.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that success against Palestinian militants in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, where Israel launched a major ground assault last week, meant its forces could advance to Rafah on the enclave's southern border.

"We are achieving our missions in Khan Younis, and we will also reach Rafah and eliminate terror elements that threaten us," Gallant said in a statement.

More than 1.3 million people are believed to live in Rafah and the surrounding area. That is more than half of Gaza's population of about 2.2 million. 

They have fled their homes and sought refuge from the fighting in the southern city. Before the war, Rafah had a population of about 250,000.

Israel-Hamas war: Living in tents on the Gaza-Egypt border

Skip next section Hamas views cease-fire proposal positively, Qatar says
February 1, 2024

Hamas views cease-fire proposal positively, Qatar says

Hamas gave an initial positive reaction to a proposed cease-fire agreement and the release of hostages, Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari said on Thursday.

Mediators from the US, Egypt and Qatar met with Israeli officials in Paris over the weekend. They proposed a six-week pause in fighting in Gaza and an exchange of Hamas hostages for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

"That proposal has been approved by the Israeli side, and now we have an initial positive confirmation from the Hamas side," Ansari said. "There is still a very tough road in front of us."

A Hamas source, however, said there was still no consensus on the proposal.

"There is no agreement on the framework of the agreement yet... and the Qatari statement is rushed and not true," the source told the AFP news agency in Gaza.

Reuters news agency reported a Hamas member saying the group received the Paris proposal but had not provided a public response of any sort to it.

Any agreement could still take weeks to reach, Ansari added.

"We're hopeful that in the next couple of weeks, we'll be able to share good news," he said.

Qatar mediated a short November break in fighting that led to the release of scores of Israeli and foreign hostages, as well as aid entering the Gaza Strip.

Skip next section Israel's Netanyahu calls US settler sanctions unnecessary
February 1, 2024

Israel's Netanyahu calls US settler sanctions unnecessary

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office called US sanctions against four violent settlers in the West Bank unnecessary, in a statement issued soon after US President Biden announced the measures.

"Israel acts against all lawbreakers everywhere, so there is no need for exceptional measures in this regard," Netanyahu was quoted as saying. 

The statement said the majority of Israeli settlers in the West Bank were "law-abiding" and that those who were not were subject to prosecution in Israel.

Israel's allies, including the US, have for years tried — without success — to convince Netanyahu's governments to halt settlement building in the West Bank and other areas that had once been earmarked as a part of a future Palestinian state under the elusive two-state solution. The United Nations has deemed many Israeli settlements violations of international law. 

Skip next section US sanctions settlers over attacks on Palestinians
February 1, 2024

US sanctions settlers over attacks on Palestinians

US President Joe Biden signed an executive order imposing sanctions on four Jewish settlers over violence against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank, officials said Thursday. The US State Department is expected to announce the names of the people affected by the first round of sanctions later in the day.

"The situation in the West Bank — in particular high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction — has reached intolerable levels and constitutes a serious threat to the peace, security and stability," Biden said in the order.

"These actions undermine the foreign policy objectives of the United States, including the viability of a two-state solution and ensuring Israelis and Palestinians can attain equal measures of security, prosperity, and freedom," Biden's order added. "They also undermine the security of Israel and have the potential to lead to broader regional destabilization across the Middle East, threatening United States personnel and interests."

The executive order includes freezing assets and placing visa restrictions on people found to have attacked or intimidated Palestinians or seized their property, according to two senior US officials.

United Nations figures show that daily settler attacks have more than doubled in the nearly four months since the Hamas attack and Israel's ensuing assault on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. The EU has also considered sanctions against violent Israeli settlers

The United States, like Israel, Germany and several other countries, designates Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Skip next section US approves strikes against Iranian targets in Iraq and Syria, media report
February 1, 2024

US approves strikes against Iranian targets in Iraq and Syria, media report

US President Joe Biden has given the green light to multi-day strikes against Iranian targets in Iraq, according to a CBS News report citing government officials.

Earlier this week, Biden said he had decided how the US would respond to a drone attack in northeastern Jordan near the Syrian border that killed three US servicemembers and wounded more than 40. But he still has not detailed exactly what the response would be.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday that the US would take "all necessary actions" to defend its troops, adding that it would retaliate against targets in Iraq and Syria, but not Iran.

"If they were to target Iran that would likely escalate the conflict in the Middle East," DW Washington bureau chief Ines Pohl said.

The US blamed the drone attack on Iran-backed militants, and Biden said he placed blame for the attack on Iran because it supplies weapons to militant groups operating in the region.

CBS, an American television station, did not provide details on what the approval means regarding a timeline for the start of the strikes.

Report: US approves plans for retaliation attack

Skip next section UNRWA most likely to shut down by end of month
February 1, 2024

UNRWA most likely to shut down by end of month

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said it will most likely be forced to shut down its operations in the entire Middle East region by the end of February unless international aid resumes.

Several key UNRWA donors, including the United States, Germany, and Japan, halted funding to the agency following allegations from Israel that some staff played a role in the October 7 Hamas attacks.

The UNRWA said it had acted promptly over the Israel allegations, sacking 12 of its staff immediately and launching an investigation and review. 

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said, "If the funding remains suspended, we will most likely be forced to shut down our operations by end of February — not only in Gaza but also across the region."

Skip next section At least 122 journalists killed in Gaza, UN rights experts say
February 1, 2024

At least 122 journalists killed in Gaza, UN rights experts say

UN independent rights experts have sounded the alarm regarding the soaring number of journalists killed in Gaza since the start of the war, putting it at at least 122, with several more journalists injured.

The UN Human Rights Council appoints the five independent experts, but they do not speak on behalf of the United Nations. They include the special rapporteurs on freedom of expression, on rights in the Palestinian territories and on extrajudicial executions.

They said that Palestinian militants also killed four Israeli journalists on October 7, while three journalists have been killed by Israeli shelling on the Lebanese side of their border.

The experts said they received "disturbing reports that despite being clearly identifiable in jackets and helmets marked 'press' or traveling in well-marked press vehicles, journalists have come under attack."

They warned that this "would seem to indicate that the killings, injury, and detention are a deliberate strategy by Israeli forces to obstruct the media and silence critical reporting."

"Targeted attacks and killings of journalists are war crimes," they said.

The experts also voiced concern regarding what they said was Israel's refusal to allow media from outside Gaza to access the enclave and report on it unless they are embedded with Israeli forces. 

Skip next section Over 27,000 killed so far in Gaza, Hamas-run Health Ministry says
February 1, 2024

Over 27,000 killed so far in Gaza, Hamas-run Health Ministry says

Over 27,000 people, mainly women and children, have been killed in the Gaza Strip in the nearly four months of relentless fighting, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said on Thursday.

Some 66,139 more have been injured since the fighting broke out on October 7, the ministry added. The death toll was at least 27,019.

The ministry reported 118 Palestinian deaths in the past 24 hours, in addition to 190 injuries.

Israel, the US and the EU consider Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, a terrorist group. 

The ministry, whose figures the United Nations, among others, deems as largely accurate, does not differentiate between militants and civilians in the casualty statistics it provides.

Skip next section UKMTO reports new Red Sea explosion
February 1, 2024

UKMTO reports new Red Sea explosion

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UNMTO) organization has reported a new explosion at the Red Sea near a vessel's starboard side.

The explosion was reported west of Yemen's Hodeidah, which is under the control of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Residents said militants fired a missile from a camp in the rebel-controlled city of Ibb, in central Yemen, the Reuters news agency reported.

UKMTO said that the "vessel and crew are safe and proceeding to the next port of call."

Houthi rebels have intensified in recent months their attacks on commercial vessels passing through the Red Sea, which they say is in solidarity with Palestinians. The US and the UK have launched strikes on Houthi targets in Yemen as a response.

US, UK launch fresh strikes on Houthis in Yemen

Skip next section Hamas leader Haniyeh expected in Cairo for truce talks
February 1, 2024

Hamas leader Haniyeh expected in Cairo for truce talks

Hamas' Qatar-based leader Ismail Haniyeh was expected in the Egyptian capital of Cairo, for talks regarding a proposed truce.

An unnamed source within the Palestinian militant group Hamas told the French AFP news agency the group was reviewing a six-week pause proposal. 

The proposal is based on talks in Paris last weekend between Egyptian and Qatari mediators and CIA chief William Burns, attended by Israel. Mediators presented Hamas with the first concrete proposal for an extended truce.

The three-stage plan would start with an initial six-week cease-fire, coupled by more aid deliveries into Gaza, AFP cited the source as saying..   

Only "women, children and sick men over 60" held by Gaza militants would be freed during that stage in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israel, the source added.

Additional phases would involve more hostage-prisoner exchanges, negotiations around Israel's withdrawal and Gaza's rebuilding, the source added to AFP.

Hamas, which is designated as a terrorist organization by several countries, including Israel, Germany and the United States, said it will study the text of the proposal and prepare a response.

"I expect that Hamas will not reject the paper, but it might not give a decisive agreement either," a Palestinian official told the Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity.

Reuters' anonymous source added that Hamas was expected to demand that "for the agreement to be signed, it must ensure Israel will commit to ending the war in Gaza and pull out from the enclave completely."

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