Hamas says studying new Israeli truce proposal, puts out new hostage video

Aid groups say Gaza’s already catastrophic humanitarian conditions would be worsened by Israel’s vow to attack Hamas fighters still in Rafah city in southernmost Gaza

Updated - April 28, 2024 07:41 am IST

Published - April 28, 2024 07:13 am IST

An image grab from a video released by the media office of the Palestinian militant group Hamas on April 27, 2024, shows a man who identified himself as Omri Miran, one of the hostages abducted during the Hamas attack on October 7, 2023, speaking to a camera. The armed wing of Palestinian militant group Hamas released video on Saturday of two men held hostage in Gaza and seen alive in the footage.

An image grab from a video released by the media office of the Palestinian militant group Hamas on April 27, 2024, shows a man who identified himself as Omri Miran, one of the hostages abducted during the Hamas attack on October 7, 2023, speaking to a camera. The armed wing of Palestinian militant group Hamas released video on Saturday of two men held hostage in Gaza and seen alive in the footage. | Photo Credit: AFP

Hamas said on April 27 it was studying Israel’s latest counterproposal for a Gaza ceasefire, a day after media reports said a delegation from mediator Egypt was in Israel trying to jump-start stalled negotiations.

The armed wing of Hamas also released video footage of two men held hostage in Gaza, identified by Israeli campaign group the Hostages and Missing Families Forum as Keith Siegel and Omri Miran.

Also read | The war on Gaza and America’s paradoxical role

The signs of fresh truce talks come after the United Nations warned that “famine thresholds in Gaza will be breached within the next six weeks” unless massive food assistance arrives.

Aid groups say Gaza’s already catastrophic humanitarian conditions would be worsened by Israel’s vow to attack Hamas fighters still in Rafah city in southernmost Gaza.

Rafah, on the border with Egypt, is crowded with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced by nearly seven months of war between Israel and the Islamist movement.

“We live in constant terror and fear of repeated displacement and invasion,” Nidaa Safi, 30, who fled Israeli strikes in the north and came to Rafah with her husband and children, told AFP.

The area comes under regular bombardment. Hospital officials said strikes in Rafah and elsewhere killed more than a dozen people overnight.

Among the dead were an entire family, their relative Mohammed Yussef said.

“Nobody left: the father, the mother, a girl and two boys” were killed when their house was targeted, he said.

Daily deaths

Khalil al-Hayya, deputy head of Hamas’s political arm in Gaza, said it had “received the official Zionist occupation response to the movement’s position, which was delivered to the Egyptian and Qatari mediators on April 13”.

In a statement, Hayya said Hamas “will study this proposal” before responding.

The movement has previously insisted on a permanent ceasefire, which Israel rejects.

Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been unsuccessfully trying to seal a new Gaza truce deal ever since a one-week halt to the fighting in November saw 80 Israeli hostages exchanged for 240 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Al-Qahera News, which is linked to Egyptian intelligence services, reported “noticeable progress in bringing the views of the Egyptian and Israeli delegations closer”.

In early April, Hamas had said it was studying a proposal, after talks in Cairo, and Al-Qahera reported progress. Days later Israel and Hamas accused each other of undermining negotiations.

Dozens are dying in Gaza every day, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

The war began with Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack which resulted in the deaths of about 1,170 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Summit in Saudi

Israel’s retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 34,388 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, the health ministry said Saturday.

Israel estimates that 129 hostages seized by militants on October 7 are still being held in Gaza, including 34 the military says are dead.

Israeli demonstrators have intensified protests for their government to reach a deal that would free the captives, accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of prolonging the war.

The latest hostage video comes just three days after Hamas released another video showing hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin alive.

Both Mr. Siegel and Mr. Miran appeared to speak under duress in the video.

“It’s time to reach a deal that will get us out of here safe and healthy... Keep protesting, so that there will be a deal now,” Miran said in the footage that appeared to have been recorded earlier this week.

U.S. citizen Siegel (64) broke down as he talked of their captivity. “We are in danger here, there are bombs, it is stressful and scary,” he said.

In its report on Friday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said “the only way to halt famine” is by “massive and consistent food assistance that can be delivered freely and safely”.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said this month that Israel planned to “flood Gaza” with aid, but the OCHA report cited continued “access constraints”.

A special meeting of the World Economic Forum set to begin Sunday in Saudi Arabia will have a strong focus on the war, including the humanitarian situation, organisers said.

A Royal Navy support ship has sailed from Cyprus to house hundreds of US army personnel building a jetty for aid sent by sea, a British defence source said.

Israeli Army spokesman Major Nadav Shoshani told a press briefing the military hoped the pier would be ready by early May.

Cyprus said the aid-laden Jennifer — which had previously returned after an Israeli strike killed seven aid workers in Gaza — is now sailing back to the territory.

In Turkey, however, a “Freedom Flotilla” aimed at delivering aid was blocked after being denied use of two ships flying the Guinea-Bissau flag, with organisers blaming Israeli pressure on the West African nation.

Lebanon, West Bank deaths

The Gaza war has led to increased violence between Israel and Iran’s proxies and allies, in particular Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

Israeli strikes on southern Lebanon killed three people on Saturday, including two members of Hezbollah.

Hezbollah said it fired “drones and guided missiles” at a base in northern Israel in response.

Israel’s military said its Iron Dome air defence system intercepted a “suspicious aerial target” and that fire was returned at the source of several anti-tank missiles launched from Lebanon.

Since October 7, more than 250 Hezbollah fighters and dozens of civilians have been killed in Lebanon, according to an AFP tally.

Israel says 11 soldiers and nine civilians have been killed on its side of the border.

Violence has also soared in the Israeli-occupied West Bank where Israeli troops shot dead two Palestinians near the city of Jenin on Saturday, the army and Palestinian media reported.

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