Hamas responds to ceasefire mediation efforts. The Israeli army has declared 31 Hamas hostages dead.

Israeli soldiers launch a drone

Israeli soldiers launch a drone on the Gaza border in February 2024 Photo: Dylan Martínez/Reuters

31 of the hostages held in Gaza are dead

According to Israeli information, 31 of the hostages still being held in the Gaza Strip are no longer alive. This was announced on Tuesday by Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari. “We have informed 31 families that their captive relatives are no longer among the living and that we have declared them dead,” he said at a press conference. According to Israeli information, 136 hostages are still being held in the Gaza Strip. (rtr)

Hamas proposes three-stage ceasefire plan

According to a draft, the radical Hamas proposes a three-stage plan for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip. He is reacting to mediation efforts by Qatar and Egypt. Consequently, there will be indirect talks with Israel in an initial phase that will last 45 days. Its objective is to end the military operation and restore calm. In addition, hospitals and refugee camps will be rebuilt in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli troops should withdraw from populated areas, according to the draft, seen by Reuters. Some civilian hostages will be freed in exchange for Palestinian prisoners being released from Israeli custody. In a second phase, all hostages should be released – again in exchange for the release of the Palestinians – and the Israeli army should withdraw completely from the Gaza Strip. In a third phase, which will last 45 days, the dead will be replaced. (rtr)

Riyadh: Palestinian state is a prerequisite for diplomatic relations with Israel

Saudi Arabia has reiterated, in response to comments from a US government official, that a Palestinian state is a prerequisite for the kingdom to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. “The position of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the Palestinian issue has never changed,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. “There will be no diplomatic relations with Israel until a Palestinian state is recognized within the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Furthermore, Israeli “aggression” against the Gaza Strip must end, the Foreign Ministry said. All Israeli troops would have to withdraw from Palestinian territory.

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby previously told reporters that talks on normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia were continuing amid the war in Gaza. Washington has “received positive feedback from both sides that they are willing to continue these discussions.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had previously said, after a meeting with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, that he had expressed a “strong interest” in further normalizing relations with Israel. However, the heir to the throne also said that this requires “the end of the conflict in the Gaza Strip” and a “clear” and “credible” path towards a Palestinian state.

Several Arab states have normalized relations with Israel in recent years. US President Joe Biden's administration is also working to persuade Saudi Arabia to take that step.

However, progress in this direction was slowed by the unprecedented major attack on Israel by the Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas on October 7 and the subsequent Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip. Saudi Arabia suspended talks.

Blinken was in Israel on Wednesday after visits to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar. There he wanted to continue campaigning for a new ceasefire between Israel and Hamas and for greater hostage release.

Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said in a meeting with Blinken on Tuesday that Doha had “received a response from Hamas that relates to the general framework of the hostage deal.” The response contained “some comments” but was “generally positive.” (afp)

Eight killed in Israeli airstrikes in Syria

According to observers, eight people were killed in Israeli airstrikes on the Syrian city of Homs. The dead in the attack on a building were six civilians and two fighters from the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdel Rahman, said on Wednesday. Among the civilians were a woman and a child. The building attacked in Homs was completely destroyed.

The Observatory obtains its information from a network of various sources in Syria. Organization information is often difficult to independently verify.

The Syrian Defense Ministry said Israel struck several targets in Homs and around the western Syrian city. Many civilians were killed or injured. Footage from Syrian state television showed rescuers searching through the rubble of a destroyed building.

The Israeli military has carried out numerous attacks against targets in Syria in recent years. The bombings are directed mainly against militias supported by Iran, but also against positions of the Syrian armed forces.

The number of attacks has increased since the war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist organization Hamas began on October 7. As a rule, Israel does not provide information about its military operations in Syria. However, the government has repeatedly made clear that it will not allow Iran to expand its presence in Syria. Tehran supports Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad.

Last week, US forces attacked several targets in Syria and Iraq. With the attacks, directed at pro-Iran militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the United States retaliated for the death of three of its soldiers in a drone attack against a base in Jordan. (afp)

Israel's military chief announces investigation into Hamas attack

Israeli Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi has announced a thorough investigation into the military's response to the unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas and other extremist groups. “Our intention is very clear,” he said Tuesday at air force command in Tel Aviv. “Investigate, learn, get to the bottom of things and leave no stone unturned.” He did not say when the investigation would begin or who specifically would conduct it.

On October 7, terrorists from the Gaza Strip invaded Israel's southern border area, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping about 250 more hostage. Most of the victims were civilians, but also soldiers whose outposts on the Gaza border had been attacked by the attackers. (dpa)

Houthis fired six anti-ship missiles

According to the US military's Central Command, the Houthi militia fired three rockets at the Star Nasia cargo ship and three more at the Morning Tide in the Red Sea. The “Star Nasia” suffered minor damage and no injuries were reported. A US Navy ship docked near the cargo ship fired one of the missiles, the US military wrote in Information about the sea. (rtr)