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Israel-Hamas war: US says Gaza hostages deal 'possible'

Published February 15, 2024last updated February 15, 2024

Days after negotiators failed to agree on a truce in Gaza and the release of hostages, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a deal was still possible.

Israelis gather with placards to call for the release of hostages in Gaza
Israeli protesters have urged their government to make a deal to release the some 130 hostages in Gaza Image: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • Blinken believes a deal to release hostages in Gaza is still 'possible'
  • Israeli special forces enter besieged hospital in southern Gaza
  • German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock meets Israeli President on day 2 of her trip to Israel
  • Hezbollah says it fired rockets at Israeli town
Skip next section Houthis claim strike on 'British ship' off Yemen
February 15, 2024

Houthis claim strike on 'British ship' off Yemen

Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for an attack on a bulk carrier in the Red Sea that caused minor damage on Thursday.

The Iran-backed rebels carried "out a military operation targeting a British ship... while it was sailing through the Gulf of Aden," Houthi spokesperson Yahya Saree said on social media.

He claimed they fired missiles at the ship off the coast of Yemen and made a "direct" hit.

However, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency and security firm Ambrey had different accounts.

The UKMTO said it had a report of "an explosion in close proximity" to a vessel but said it was safe and sailing to its next port of call.

Security firm Ambrey said a  projectile exploded off the vessel but did not strike it and said it caused only "minor damage due to shrapnel impacting a diesel generator pipe, which led to a diesel leak."

Skip next section Israel asks World Court to reject South Africa's request for Rafah intervention
February 15, 2024

Israel asks World Court to reject South Africa's request for Rafah intervention

Israel has asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to dismiss South Africa's "urgent request" to issue additional emergency measures ahead of a planned operation in Rafah, calling it an "unjustifiable" appeal.

In documents released by the court, Israel argued that the emergency measures ordered by the court last month already covered "the situation of hostilities in Gaza as a whole." 

In January, the ICJ ordered Israel to take all measures within its power to prevent its troops from committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, in a case brought by South Africa.

On Tuesday, South Africa's government said it had made an urgent request to the World Court, as it is also known, to consider whether Israel's decision to expand military operations into Rafah was a "significant development" since its earlier ruling.

Israel said it was "unwavering" in its commitment to international law, including the Genocide Convention, during the current conflict.

Skip next section Germany's Baerbock urges protective corridor for Rafah civilians to flee
February 15, 2024

Germany's Baerbock urges protective corridor for Rafah civilians to flee

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock urged an evacuation of the civilian population before an Israeli offensive into the city of Rafah in Gaza.

According to the German news agency DPA, she said civilians in Rafah need a protective corridor back to the north of the coastal strip before attacks are launched.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock sit down with Israeli President Isaac Herzog at a meeting in Jerusalem
Baerbock met Israeli President Isaac Herzog in JerusalemImage: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa/picture alliance

She met Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Israeli War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz, and relatives of the hostages held by militants in the Gaza Strip.

Baerbock called on the countries in the region and the Palestinian Authority to put pressure on Hamas to surrender and release the hostages still being held in Gaza.

She stressed that "Hamas is the fundamental evil of this situation. We stand in full solidarity with the people here in Israel." 

She blamed Hamas, a group Germany and other countries consider terrorists, for the suffering of Palestinians.

"The suffering must end, the German foreign minister said. "That is our human task."

Skip next section Blinken says new Gaza hostage deal still possible
February 15, 2024

Blinken says new Gaza hostage deal still possible

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was still possible to get a new hostage deal and pause fighting in Gaza.

"We're very focused on it, and I believe it's possible," he told a joint press conference with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in Tirana.

His remarks came only two days after a meeting of US, Israeli, Egyptian and Qatari officials in Cairo ended without a breakthrough.

Blinken said while he believed a deal to secure the release of remaining hostages held by Hamas militants in Gaza was possible, "very hard" issues remain to be resolved. 

Israeli anger grows over hostage crisis

"But we're committed to do everything we can to move forward and see if we can reach an agreement," Blinken said. 

Some 130 hostages are still believed to be in Gaza after Hamas' October 7 terror attacks on Israel.

Skip next section Hezbollah fires rockets at Israeli town
February 15, 2024

Hezbollah fires rockets at Israeli town

Hezbollah said it fired dozens of rockets at a northern Israeli town on Thursday, a day after three of its fighters were killed in an Israeli airstrike.

Iran-backed Hezbollah described the strike on Kiryat Shmona in Israel as an "initial response."

Meanwhile, more Israeli strikes were reported in south Lebanon on Thursday.

Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati condemned the escalation in hostilities across the Lebanese-Israeli border. 

"At a time when we are insisting on calm and call on all sides not to escalate, we find the Israeli enemy extending its aggression," his office said in a statement.

The United Nations urged a halt to what it called a "dangerous escalation" of the conflict, which has played out in parallel to the war in Gaza.

Skip next section Explosion reported near ship off Yemeni coast
February 15, 2024

Explosion reported near ship off Yemeni coast

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said an explosion was reported near a ship off Yemen's Red Sea coast on Thursday.

UKMTO said there was "an explosion in close proximity to the vessel" east of Yemen's Aden. 

It added both the vessel and crew were safe.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels have targeted vessels in the Red Sea over Israel's war in Gaza against Hamas.

Houthi representatives did not claim responsibility for Thursday's incident, but the group's leader vowed to continue attacks on Red Sea shipping,

"Our operations have a big impact on the enemy which constitute a great success and a real triumph," Abdulmalik al-Houthi said in a televised address, Reuters news agency reported.

A US-led coalition has carried out strikes on targets in Yemen in retaliation for the Houthi attacks.

Skip next section Israel says it killed Hezbollah commander in Lebanon strike
February 15, 2024

Israel says it killed Hezbollah commander in Lebanon strike

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said they killed a Hezbollah commander of the group's Radwan Force in southern Lebanon on Wednesday. 

Ali Muhammad al-Debas, his deputy and another fighter were killed "in a precise air strike carried out by an IDF aircraft on a Hezbollah military structure in Nabatiyeh," the IDF said in a statement on Thursday.

The IDF claimed al-Debas helped orchestrate a roadside bombing in northern Israel last March and had been involved in cross-border fighting.

Sources in Lebanon told the Reuters and AFP news agencies that seven civilians were also killed in Wednesday's strike.

That would make it the deadliest day for Lebanese civilians in four months of hostilities across the Lebanese-Israeli border.

"The enemy will pay the price for these crimes," Hezbollah politician Hassan Fadlallah told Reuters. He vowed to retaliate saying Hezbollah had a "legitimate right to defend its people."

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.

Skip next section Israeli ministers reject Palestinian statehood as part of post-war plan
February 15, 2024

Israeli ministers reject Palestinian statehood as part of post-war plan

Top Israeli ministers have rejected Palestinian statehood in the wake of a Washington Post report that Israel's main ally, the United States, is advancing plans for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

"We will in no way agree to this plan, which says Palestinians deserve a prize for the terrible massacre they carried out against us: a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"A Palestinian state is an existential threat to the State of Israel as was proven on October 7," he added, referring to the Hamas terror attacks on that day. 

National Security Minister Ben Gvir said "the establishment of a Palestinian state means the establishment of a Hamas state." 

"1,400 are murdered and the world wants to give them a state. Not going to happen," wrote Ben Gvir on X.

Both ministers are extreme right-wing settlers who live in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinians and the international community largely consider the Israeli settlements in the West Bank as illegal.

Skip next section Brazil's Lula visits Egypt, slams Israel over Gaza war
February 15, 2024

Brazil's Lula visits Egypt, slams Israel over Gaza war

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said during a visit to Egypt that multilateral institutions are failing to resolve international conflicts. He also criticized Israel's actions in Gaza.

"Israel's behavior has no explanation: with the pretext of fighting Hamas, it is killing women and children," he said after a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi.

Lula also said there would be no peace without the establishment of a Palestinian state and called for an immediate ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Israel has rejected claims that it was purposely targeting civilians and claims its goal is to defeat Hamas militants.

The Brazilian president is scheduled to attend an Arab League meeting in Egypt to discuss the situation in Gaza.

Skip next section Ireland pledges €20 million more as UNRWA faces 'deep' cash crunch
February 15, 2024

Ireland pledges €20 million more as UNRWA faces 'deep' cash crunch

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, is facing an "existential threat" after major international backers pulled their funding in light of allegations made by Israel.

"Our operation will start to be compromised as from March, but April will be really the month where we will be under deep, deep, deep negative cashflow," UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini told a press conference in Dublin.

The agency provides healthcare, education and other services to Palestinian refugees across the Middle East. To achieve this goal, UNRWA employs 13,000 personnel in Gaza. Israel has accused 12 of these employees of playing a role in the Hamas terror attack on October 7, which killed 1,200 people. UNRWA responded by terminating the employees' contracts and launching an investigation. But the accusations have already caused a number of the agency's key backers to suspend funding.

UNRWA chief Lazzarini has spent days trying to plug the agency's $440 million (€410 million) shortfall.

Ireland, which has been one of major critics in Europe of Israel's operations in Gaza, announced that it would provide an extra €20 million in support to the agency during Lazzarini's visit to the country.

"At such a dangerous moment, it would be inconceivable to let UNRWA collapse," Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said.

"I urge other donors to resume and expand support to UNRWA so that it can deliver for the millions of Palestinian refugees in need," he added.

Spain announced an additional €3.5 million in aid last week. These commitments still leave the agency with a major shortfall as more than a dozen countries, among them the Germany, Japan and Italy, continue to pause financial support.

UN Palestinian aid agency struggles amid funding crisis

Skip next section IDF says special forces conduct 'rescue operations' inside Gaza hospital
February 15, 2024

IDF says special forces conduct 'rescue operations' inside Gaza hospital

Israeli special forces are operating inside Nasser Hospital in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, the military said, adding it had credible information that the bodies of hostages taken on October 7 may be in the facility.

"We conduct precise rescue operations — as we have in the past — where our intelligence indicates that the bodies of hostages may be held," the military said in a statement.

In a video posted online, an IDF representative said they had "credible evidence" that Hamas had held hostages inside the hospital.

At the same time, the IDF said on its Hebrew-language X account that the operation was based on intelligence information indicating terrorist activity by Hamas in the hospital, and its goal was to reach terrorist operatives, including those suspected of involvement in the October 7 massacre. The military added that a number of suspects were arrested.

The raid came a day after the army sought to evacuate thousands of displaced people who had taken shelter at the hospital. The city of Khan Younis has been the main target of Israel's offensive against Hamas in recent weeks.

Skip next section At least 10 killed by Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon
February 15, 2024

At least 10 killed by Israeli strikes in southern Lebanon

Israeli strikes against Lebanon late on Wednesday killed at least 10 people, mostly civilians, according to state-run National News Agency (NNA) and Hezbollah. 

Five people were reported dead following in a single strike on an apartment building in the city of Nabatiyeh, including a man, his two daughters, his sister and his grandson. Additionally, the bodies of the man's wife and niece could not be accounted for after the attack, which reportedly involved a "drone with a guided missile."

A boy was pulled alive from the rubble "after midnight," according to NNA. At least seven other people were taken to hospital.

Another three people were killed in a strike from an Israeli warplane in the village of Souaneh. NNA reported that the victims were a Syrian woman, her two-year-old child and her 13-year-old stepchild.

It marked the highest civilian death toll in a single day in Lebanon since the war in Gaza began. Hezbollah and the Israeli military have been exchanging cross-border fire since October 7.

At least two Hezbollah fighters were also killed on Wednesday according to the group, which is designated a terrorist organization by several countries including Israel, the United States and Germany.

How Hezbollah secures its power inside Lebanon

Skip next section Israeli fires on besieged hospital in Khan Younis, killing one
February 15, 2024

Israeli fires on besieged hospital in Khan Younis, killing one

A patient in the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis was killed on Thursday when Israeli forces fired on the facility, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

Medics said that six others were injured.

Nurse Mohammed al-Astal told AFP news agency that the facility had been "besieged" for a month, with no food or drinking water left.

"At night, tanks opened heavy fire on the hospital, and snipers on the roofs of buildings surrounding Nasser Hospital opened fire and killed three displaced people," he said.

Israel has ordered the evacuation of the hospital, the largest in southern Gaza. Doctors Without Borders has condemned the order, saying that staff were still treating their patients "amid near impossible conditions."

Thousands of people — patients, staff and displaced refugees — were held up in the facility that has been surrounded by heavy fighting for months.

Dr. Khaled Alserr, one of the remaining surgeons at Nasser Hospital, told the AP news agency the patients hit early Thursday were already receiving medical treatment for previous wounds. He said a doctor was lightly wounded on Wednesday when a drone fired at the hospital. 

"The situation is escalating every hour and every minute," he said.

Israel is accusing Hamas of using hospitals to protect its fighters.

Gaza hospital nears collapse amid unabated hostilities

Skip next section Australia, Canada, New Zealand warn Israel against Rafah operation
February 15, 2024

Australia, Canada, New Zealand warn Israel against Rafah operation

Leaders of Canada, Australia and New Zealand have warned Israel against a "catastrophic" ground incursion into the southern Gazan city of Rafah, calling for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire. 

In a joint statement, the three nations urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "not to go down this path."

"A military operation into Rafah would be catastrophic. About 1.5 million Palestinians are taking refuge in the area. ... There is simply nowhere else for civilians to go," the statement read. 

This comes days after Israel announced a ground offensive into Rafah, which Netanyahu called "the last bastion" of Hamas. 

Israel has steadily expanded ground operations in Gaza toward the south, leaving Rafah as one of the last refuges for over half of the enclave's 2.3 million residents fleeing the violence. The city's population, which stood at circa 250,000 before the war, has ballooned to at least 1.3 million, with several UN agencies estimating there is actually around 1.5 million people in the city.

Many refugees live in makeshift camps and UN shelters there. 

The prime ministers of the three countries also said that the International Court of Justice's January ruling, in the case brought by South Africa, required that Israel act to try to protect civilians and deliver basic humanitarian assistance.

"The protection of civilians is paramount and a requirement under international humanitarian law," the statement said. "Palestinian civilians cannot be made to pay the price of defeating Hamas."

In a post on social media on Wednesday, Netanyahu said, "we will fight until complete victory and this includes a powerful action in Rafah as well, after we allow the civilians population to leave the battle zones."

No signs Israel is listening to its close allies: DW’s Amien Essif

Skip next section Baerbock set to meet Israeli president
February 15, 2024

Baerbock set to meet Israeli president

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is set to meet Israeli President Isaac Herzog on the second day of her three-day trip to Israel. This is her fifth trip to the country since Palestinian militant group Hamas carried out terror attack in Israel in October 7. 

The European Union as well as the United States, Germany and several other countries classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Annalena Baerbock and Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands during a press conference, February 14, 2024.
Baerbock held talks with Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders after her arrival on WednesdayImage: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa/picture alliance

Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday after meeting with her Israeli counterpart Israel Katz, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and opposition leader Yair Lapid, Baerbock cautioned her hosts against going into the southern Gazan city which has become a refuge for well over 1 million Palestinians. The population of the city was around 250,000 before the start of the war.

"1.3 million people are waiting there in a very small space," Baerbock said. "They don't really have anywhere else to go right now."

Baerbock also urged the Israeli government to work towards a cease-fire deal given the worsening humanitarian situation of civilians in Gaza. 

Offensive on Rafah a 'humanitarian disaster in the making': Annalena Baerbock

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