Israeli officials concerned about ICC orders: tensions in the Middle East

Jerusalem (AFP) – The United States has intensified its pressure to reach a ceasefire agreement in Gaza On Monday, the foreign minister said a new proposal had been presented to Hamas, whose officials were in Cairo for talks with Egyptian mediators. Israeli air strikes killed 26 people in the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, according to hospital records.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Ahead of a new visit to Israel this weekHe pressed Hamas to accept the latest proposal, describing it as “very generous” on the part of Israel.

The terms of the proposal were not announced, and it was not known whether anything had changed on the main roadblock that the American, Egyptian, and Qatari mediators repeatedly bumped into: the question of the extent of the ceasefire. During months of talks, contemplators often pointed to significant progress, but came up empty-handed.

Hamas demands that the release of all hostages lead to a complete end to the nearly seven-month-long Israeli attack on Gaza and the withdrawal of its forces from the devastated area. Israel has offered only an extended pause, and has vowed to resume its offensive to destroy Hamas once the pause ends.

Israel says it plans to invade the city of Rafah, located in the far south of the Gaza Strip, where more than a million Palestinians have taken refuge to escape fighting elsewhere. The United States, its closest ally, and other countries have repeatedly warned against this, saying it is an attack This would cause a new rise in the number of victims In an attack that has already killed more than 34,000 people.

During the night and Monday morning, Israeli raids destroyed at least three homes where large Palestinian families were gathering, and among the dead were nine women and six children, one of whom was just 5 days old, according to hospital records and an Associated Press reporter.

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“Everyone was sleeping in their beds,” said Mahmoud Abu Taha, whose cousin was killed along with his wife and their one-year-old child in one house where at least 10 people died. “They have nothing to do with anything, they are all girls and women.”

Egypt intensified mediation efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement in the hope of avoiding an Israeli ground attack on Rafah, located on the Gaza border with Egypt.

A Hamas delegation visited Cairo on Monday to hold talks on the new proposal. The talks focused on a two-stage agreement that would lead to an initial cessation of fighting with the release of about 100 hostages believed to be still held by Hamas in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, while talks are held to reach an agreement. The second stage is to release the rest, including soldiers.

An Egyptian official said that Israel reduced the number of hostages it wanted to release in the first stage, down from its previous demands of forty hostages, but he did not specify the new number. He added that Israel also showed flexibility in allowing residents to return to northern Gaza. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations.

The official said the Israelis had “shown a willingness” to discuss reaching a permanent ceasefire in Gaza as part of the second phase of the deal. “They have shown a willingness (to discuss the matter) but not a commitment,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from Hamas or Israeli officials.

Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected Hamas's demands for an end to the war and the withdrawal of forces, and he says that the attack on Rafah is crucial to eliminating the militants after their October 7 attacks on Israel that led to the outbreak of war.

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His government could also be threatened if he agrees to a deal, as hard-line members of his government are calling for an attack on Rafah.

At the same time, Netanyahu is facing pressure from the families of the hostages who are still in captivity and are demanding an agreement to release them.

On Monday, the families of the two hostages — Keith Siegel and Omri Miran — urged the two sides to reach an agreement, days after Hamas released a video showing the two men.

“I appeal to Sinwar, please agree to this deal. Omri’s father, Danny Miran, said: “To the members of the (Israeli) government, please agree to any agreement,” referring to Yahya Sinwar, the senior Hamas official in Gaza. He spoke during a press conference in Tel Aviv Square, where supporters of the hostage families organize regular rallies.

Addressing Netanyahu, he said: “Show leadership and command to your crying people and to the families (of the hostages). “This is something you promised us before the elections.”

Meanwhile, Israeli officials appeared increasingly concerned that the International Criminal Court might issue arrest warrants against the country's leaders.

It was not clear what raised Israeli concerns. The International Criminal Court launched a Investigation three years ago In possible war crimes committed by Israel and Palestinian militants since the war between Israel and Hamas in 2014. The investigation is also looking into Israel's construction of settlements in the occupied territories that the Palestinians want to establish their future state.

There was no comment from the court Monday No signal was given Arrest warrants in the case are imminent.

But the Israeli Foreign Ministry said late Sunday that it had informed Israeli missions of “rumors” that arrest warrants might be issued against senior political and military officials.

Netanyahu said on Friday that Israel “will never accept any attempt by the International Criminal Court to undermine its inherent right to self-defense.”

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Neither Israel nor the United States accepts the ICC's jurisdiction, but any arrest warrants could put Israeli officials at risk of arrest in other countries. It would also serve as a major rebuke to Israel's actions at the time Pro-Palestinian protests spread to American college campuses.

The International Court of Justice, a separate body, is investigating Whether Israel has committed genocide In the ongoing war in Gaza, any ruling is expected to take years. Israel rejected allegations of wrongdoing and accused the two international tribunals of bias.

In the Hamas-led attack on October 7 that sparked the war, militants stormed army bases and farming communities across southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking about 250 hostage. The massive Israeli air, sea and ground attack on Gaza led to the deaths of at least 34,488 Palestinians, most of them women and children, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants in its statistics.

Israel blames the high civilian death toll on Hamas because the militants are fighting from dense residential areas. The army says it killed more than 12,000 militants, without providing evidence.

The war has displaced about 80% of Gaza's 2.3 million people from their homes, caused widespread destruction in many towns and cities, and pushed northern Gaza from their homes. To the brink of starvation.

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Magdy reported from Cairo. Associated Press writers Michael Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, Ellen Knickmeier in Washington and Matthew Lee in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, contributed.

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Follow AP's coverage of the war on https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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