Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he will not agree to a possible new agreement on a ceasefire in the Gaza war and the release of more hostages "at any price." “We have red lines,” said the under-pressure head of government in a video speech, as the Times of Israel reported. He therefore reiterated that the war would not be ended, the troops would not be withdrawn and “thousands of terrorists” would not be released from prison for a hostage deal.
The right-wing politician also called for an end to the mandate of the controversial UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). "I think it is time for the international community and the UN to understand that UNRWA's mission must end," he told diplomats in Jerusalem.
Report: Intelligence chief describes details of hostage deal
According to Channel 12, the head of the Israeli secret service Mossad, David Barnea, told the war cabinet ministers the outlines of a possible agreement, the Times of Israel reported. These would provide for the release of 35 female, sick, injured and elderly hostages in a first phase in which the fighting would pause for 35 days. There would then be another week-long ceasefire, during which negotiators would try to free young men and hostages who Hamas described as soldiers, it said.
The Washington Post had previously reported that the draft negotiated in Paris stipulates that all civilians kidnapped from Israel will initially be released during a six-week ceasefire. For one hostage, three Palestinian prisoners would be released from Israeli prisons.
According to the US report, the modalities are still unclear as to which prisoners will be released and who can determine this. As of Wednesday evening, Hamas had not responded to the draft, wrote the Times of Israel. Hamas is expected to send its response through Qatar.
Netanyahu: Do everything possible to release the hostages
A key point of contention that has not yet been resolved is Hamas' demand that the agreement provide for a permanent ceasefire, which Israel has ruled out. Netanyahu has repeatedly reiterated that Israel will stick to its goals of destroying Hamas and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel.
He met with relatives of the hostages and, according to Netanyahu's office, assured them that everything was being done to free the hostages. "It is still too early to say how this will happen, but the efforts are being made now, at this moment," Netanyahu said at the meeting.
A new framework agreement to release the hostages is being worked on, "but I emphasize - not at any price," the head of government was quoted as saying on Wednesday evening. Hamas abducted more than 250 hostages to the Gaza Strip in its unprecedented terrorist attack on Israel on October 7th. It is estimated that more than 130 people are still in their power. Israel believes that 27 of them are no longer alive.
Employees of the UN relief agency UNRWA are said to have been involved in the Hamas massacre on October 7th. Several Western countries have temporarily suspended payments to UNRWA in response to the allegations, including the United States and Germany. “UNRWA is completely infiltrated by Hamas,” Netanyahu said. A neutral aid organization in the Gaza Strip is definitely necessary. But UNRWA cannot be this organization. It must be replaced by a structure that “does the job”.
Baerbock demands clarification of the allegations against UNRWA
Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has called for a differentiated debate about the future of the UN aid agency and demanded that the UN quickly clarify the allegations against UNRWA employees. “The situation in Gaza is simply hell,” said the Green politician in the debate about the Federal Foreign Office’s budget in the Bundestag in Berlin. UNRWA is almost the sole provider in Gaza, as all other aid organizations there "can hardly be active at the moment," she said.
The UN emergency relief coordinator has described UNRWA as the "heart" of the humanitarian response to the people of the Gaza Strip. UNRWA's life-saving work during the war "should not be jeopardized by allegations of alleged actions by a few people," Martin Griffiths told a UN Security Council meeting in New York on Wednesday. He was also horrified by the allegations. UN Secretary-General António Guterres had promised a comprehensive investigation and ended cooperation with several employees of the controversial UN aid agency.
UNRWA scandal: EU chief diplomat warns of funding freeze
At the EU special summit in Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned urgently against stopping funding for the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). The Spaniard said the investigation into the alleged involvement of UNRWA employees in the terrorist attack on Israel must be carried out. But no collective punishment should be imposed on the Palestinian people. “UNRWA must not stop working, otherwise hundreds of thousands of people will die,” said Borrell. There is no alternative to the aid organization.
UNRWA: Aid funds could only last until the end of February
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Middle East (UNRWA) says it may have to stop all of its work in four weeks if promised funds are not paid. The aid organization reported that 16 countries have now suspended payments of $440 million (407 million euros). The 16 countries include the largest donors, the USA and Germany.
"If funding continues to be suspended, we will most likely be forced to stop our work not only in Gaza but also in the entire region at the end of February," said UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini.
Palestinians criticize conditions in Israel after arrest
More than 110 Palestinians have been returned to the Gaza Strip after being temporarily detained and questioned by the Israeli army. Many of those affected were injured and taken to a hospital in the city of Rafah for treatment, Palestinian security sources said.
The people in Israel are said to have been beaten and subjected to torture, among other things. Israel's army said in response to a request that it was currently temporarily detaining and interrogating people suspected of involvement in terrorist activities in combat zones in the Gaza Strip. Bystanders would eventually be released. The military rejected allegations of ill-treatment: "The arrested people will be treated in accordance with international law."
USA: "Islamic Resistance in Iraq" responsible for attack
After the deadly attack by pro-Iranian militias on American soldiers in Jordan, the US government has identified a group as responsible. "We believe the attack was planned, financed and carried out by an umbrella organization called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq," National Security Council communications director John Kirby said in Washington. The organization includes several groups, including the pro-Iranian militia Kataib Hezbollah. Three US soldiers were killed in the drone attack near the Syrian border on Sunday.
Since the Gaza war between Israel and the Islamist Hamas began in October, pro-Iranian militias have carried out almost daily attacks on US military bases in Iraq and Syria. The US government responded with air strikes in both countries.
In anticipation of a US attack, officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) stationed in Syria have evacuated their positions, according to activists. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told the German Press Agency that high-ranking commanders had left their positions along the Syrian-Iraqi border.
US military destroys Houthi missile
In addition, the Yemeni Houthis - in solidarity with Hamas - repeatedly attack freighters in the Red Sea. US forces attacked and destroyed a drone ground station and 10 militia drones in Yemen, the US military announced Thursday morning. They would have posed an immediate threat to merchant ships and US naval vessels in the region.
The day before, the US military had again destroyed a Houthi anti-aircraft missile. The United States Central Command announced on the online platform X (formerly Twitter) that the missile was ready to launch and posed an immediate threat to US aircraft. In addition, an anti-ship missile fired by the Houthis in the direction of the Gulf of Aden was shot down by the US destroyer USS Carney. It was also said that three Iranian drones were intercepted near the ship shortly afterwards. There were no injuries or damage.
US Secretary of Defense: “Dangerous moment” in the Middle East
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has described the situation in the Middle East as a "dangerous moment" following the deadly attack by pro-Iranian militias on American soldiers in Jordan. "The president will not tolerate attacks on American troops, and neither will I," Austin said at a news conference at the Pentagon. But they want to avoid a major conflict in the region. “But we want to hold the people responsible for this accountable,” warned Austin, announcing a multi-stage response from the US.
Austin said it was unclear how much Iran knew about the attack beforehand. But in principle it doesn't matter, since Iran finances these groups and sometimes also trains them. And without this kind of support, such attacks on US bases would not happen. At the same time, Austin makes it clear: "We are not at war with Iran."
US sanctions violent Jewish settlers in West Bank
The US government has imposed sanctions on four Jewish settlers accused of taking part in violence against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank. The US Treasury Department released the names of the four men, who are also accused of intimidation and destruction of property. All four are Israeli citizens.
US President Joe Biden has repeatedly expressed his concern publicly and in almost every diplomatic conversation with the Israeli government about the increase in violence by extremists. These actions pose a serious threat to peace and security stability in the West Bank, Israel and the Middle East.
As a result of the sanctions, possible assets of those affected in the USA will, among other things, be blocked. U.S. citizens or people located in the United States are prohibited from doing business with the sanctioned individuals. The sanctions are “not discriminatory and apply to Israelis and Palestinians as well as foreigners,” emphasized the US government official. The Israeli government has already been informed about this.