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US Unveils Ambiguous UN Security Council Ceasefire Resolution

Meanwhile, Israel’s ongoing attack on Al-Shifa Hospital has once again displaced Palestinians seeking shelter inside.

Smoke rises above buildings as people fleeing the Al-Shifa hospital compound reach the central part of the Gaza Strip amid Israel's bombardment on March 21, 2024.

Casualties

  • 31,988 + killed* and at least 74,188 wounded in the Gaza Strip.
  • 435+ Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.**
  • Israel revises its estimated October 7 death toll down from 1,400 to 1,147.
  • 594 Israeli soldiers killed since October 7, and at least 3,221 injured.***

*Gaza’s Ministry of Health confirmed this figure on Telegram channel. Some rights groups put the death toll number at more than 40,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.

** The death toll in West Bank and Jerusalem is not updated regularly. According to PA’s Ministry of Health on March 17, this is the latest figure.

*** This figure is released by the Israeli military, showing the soldiers whose names “were allowed to be published.”

Key Developments

  • Over 100 aid workers have been killed and dozens wounded over the past week in eight attacks carried out by Israeli forces, according to the Government Media Office in Gaza.
  • Hamas says Israel’s response to ceasefire proposal was ‘negative’
  • Video of burned 4-year-old girl displaced from al-Shifa fuels anger on social media
  • Hamas denies Israel’s claim its fighters were killed at al-Shifa
  • Palestine Football Association urges FIFA sanctions against Israel
  • Canada confirms halting arms shipments to Israel, reports Wafa.
  • World Bank: Northern Gaza faces imminent famine
  • Israeli forces kill 7 Palestinians in occupied West Bank.
  • PRCS: Four Palestinian men killed by Israeli drone attack on Nur Shams refugee camp in the occupied West Bank
  • Palestinian Ministry of Health: At least 65 Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks in 24 hours
  • OCHA: Israel orders 25 patients to return to Gaza from East Jerusalem hospitals.
  • Netanyahu: Preparations still underway for Rafah invasion.
  • Almost 70 former U.S. officials, diplomats, and military officers urge Biden to take firmer stance with Israel over its actions in Gaza and West Bank.

AlShifa Update

The Gaza Strip’s largest hospital before Israel decimated it in November, al-Shifa, is still under military siege following yet another violent Israeli attack on the medical facility on Monday.

According to Al Jazeera, the Israeli military says it has killed 90 people during its raid on Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital, as displaced Palestinians sheltering in the facility described lengthy detentions and abuse.

Emergency surgeon Mads Gilbert, who worked at the hospital during previous wars, recounted harrowing details provided by his former colleagues at the medical compound after Israel’s latest raid to Al Jazeera.

“Medical staff have been arrested and left for hours in the cold.” Israeli forces scanned their faces with a camera before being taken for what they described as “humiliating investigations,” Gilbert said.

“Some were forced to leave the hospital and taken to unknown places. Others were displaced to the south half naked,” he continued, “One doctor was shot in the chest when he followed the orders to leave the hospital and later went into surgery at al-Ahli Arab Hospital.”

Gilbert also said the Israeli army, in its “repeated attacks,” does not differentiate “between fighters and medical staff, patients and refugees.”

He said that as a result of Monday’s raid, al-Shifa Hospital was again non-operational, putting at risk the lives of Palestinians in northern Gaza, where starvation, lack of water, and disease are life-threatening in addition to the war.

Al-Shifa was one of the few remaining healthcare facilities still partially operational in the north of the enclave.

Commenting on the attack, the Israeli military said: “Over the past day, the troops have eliminated terrorists and located weapons in the hospital area while preventing harm to civilians, patients, medical teams, and medical equipment,” reported Al Jazeera.

Hamas has rejected Israel’s claims, added Al Jazeera.

Similarly, Ismail al-Thawabta, director of Gaza’s government media office, told Reuters all of those killed had been wounded patients and displaced people inside the hospital.

“The Israeli occupation army practices lying and deception in spreading its narrative as part of justifying its continuous and law-breaking crimes, which violate international law, international humanitarian law,” he said.

Senior Hamas official Basem Naim, who has previously served as a health minister, told Reuters that “what happens in al-Shifa Hospital is a war crime and is part of the war of genocide conducted by the Israeli occupation.”

Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst Marwan Bishara says Israel’s latest attack on al-Shifa Hospital has shown that, rather than eliminating Hamas, Israel is attempting to “eliminate anything that walks or breathes in Gaza.”

Palestinians have been displaced from their homes to schools, hospitals, and other protected facilities that have nonetheless come under attack, he said.

What’s more, Bishara added, no distinction is being made between the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, and the government officers simply carrying out their duties. “Anyone who works for a ministry under Hamas and their relatives is considered punishable by killing,” Bishara said.

Tortured and Displaced Again

The ongoing attack on the hospital has once again displaced Palestinians seeking shelter inside al-Shifa Hospital.

Palestinians displaced from the medical complex told Al Jazeera they were subjected to humiliating detentions that lasted several hours before being instructed to move south.

Saleh Abu Sakran, an elderly man displaced in al-Shifa Hospital, said he was instructed to remove his clothes and get on his knees. “The Israelis kept the women at al-Shifa but took us to another nearby building where we stayed until the evening,” he said.

“They took our I.D.s and investigated us and eventually returned us back to al-Shifa. They kept some of the men. The rest of us were told to follow an Israeli tank until the roundabout — and then we were freed.”

A Palestinian woman told Al Jazeera that Israeli soldiers fired on them despite them raising white sheets. “The soldiers spoke to us in English and we didn’t understand them. I’m diabetic and I was without food or water for three days.”

Four-year-old Saja Junaid”s face was severely burned by an Israeli attack on a residential home in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza after she fled with her family.

A video published by Journalist Hani Abu Rizk of Junaid’s face has sparked anger on social media. According to Abu Rizk, Junaid was receiving treatment at al-Shifa Hospital when she was forced to leave after the Israeli army stormed the compound, putting her life at risk.

The girl, who has not eaten in three days due to food scarcity, was originally displaced from Gaza City to Deir el-Balah following the Israeli raid.

In a statement, spokesperson for the organization Mahmoud Basal says that Israel refuses to coordinate with international groups such as the Red Cross to allow rescue crews access to “hundreds” of wounded Palestinians in the vicinity of al-Shifa Hospital in north Gaza, as cited by Al Jazeera.

“The occupation’s decision to prevent coordination is an extension of the policy of slow execution of innocent and wounded citizens under siege,” Basal says.

Threat of Famine in Gaza Has Reached “Catastrophic Levels

Meanwhile, Israeli military attacks across the besieged enclave have continued. At least 65 Palestinians killed in Israeli attacks in 24 hours, says the Palestinian Ministry of Health.

According to Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum, several people were killed on Wednesday evening after a home was bombarded without any prior warning. There have been dozens of casualties transported to al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah.

More attacks have occurred in the central area of Gaza. A residential building was hit in Deir el-Balah, with ambulances rushing to the site to rescue those injured and trapped under the rubble, he continued.

Meanwhile, in northern Gaza, the bombing has not stopped, with some describing the situation as the hardest since the beginning of the land incursion, Abu Azzoum added, citing eyewitnesses.

“There is no end in sight to the Israeli operation inside al-Shifa Hospital. Israeli troops have completely encircled the facility, preventing anyone from getting out. Hundreds of people, including patients, remain inside. Battles around the hospital continue,” he concluded.

Amid the ongoing attacks, Palestinians in Gaza are still being actively starved by Israeli restrictions on humanitarian aid, endangering people’s lives further.

Warning about the dire situation of pregnant women, new mothers, and children in the Gaza Strip amid ongoing bombardment by Israeli forces, the U.N. Population Fund says, “People in Gaza are starving and famine is imminent in the north,”

“Pregnant women and new mothers face a constant struggle to keep themselves and their newborns alive,” the organization continued on X.

Famine is imminent for Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip and is projected to affect adults and children between now and May, according to a World Bank food security report.

“The situation in the Gaza Strip has reached catastrophic levels,” it warned.

Approximately half of the Gaza Strip’s population are in Phase 5 of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Food Insecurity Scale, known as the “Catastrophe Phase” of extreme food shortages and inability to meet basic needs.

The report states that virtually all households skip meals daily and that a significant portion of children under two suffer from acute malnutrition. It recommends “restoring humanitarian access, curbing hostilities, and ensuring the safe delivery of aid to the population in need.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) added that there is not enough access to safe water and medical care in the coastal enclave, adding that more than 1.6 million people reside in Rafah.

“Some families receive a can of food every other day for the whole family,” the group posted on X.

Hamas: Israeli Response to Deal “Negative”

Discussions between Israel and Hamas, mediated by Qatar, the U.S., and Egypt, have continued. However, no concrete developments have been made.

Israel’s response to Hamas’ latest ceasefire proposal was “generally negative,” senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said on Wednesday after mediators handed it over, making it likely that the talks in Qatar would again fail to yield an agreement.

“On Tuesday evening, our brothers, the mediators, informed us of the occupation’s position on the proposal … it is a negative response in general and does not respond to the demands. In fact, it retracts the approvals it previously provided to the mediators,” Hamdan told a press conference in Beirut, as cited by Reuters.

Hamas’s demands include the cessation of the hostilities in Gaza, the return of the displaced to their homes, and the withdrawal of the Israeli military from the strip.

Hamdan blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for blocking the agreement and added that the U.S. must stop sending arms to Israel if it genuinely wants to stop “genocide” in Gaza.

Hamdan added that Israel continues to target civilian areas to strengthen its hand in ceasefire discussions: “With every round of negotiations, it escalates its crimes against our people, thinking that with such crimes it may achieve gains at the negotiating table,” said Hamdan, as reported by New Arab.

“We affirm again that what the occupation does not take in the military battle and the crime of genocide, it will not take it with the machinations of politics and the games of negotiations.”

Hamdan said “approvals” previously agreed on in talks have now been retracted by Israel, calling it a “policy of procrastination.”

“Palestinians in Gaza are drained as they wait for a possible durable ceasefire. They are desperate for a semblance of peace and stability in their lives.,” says Al Jazeera correspondent Hani Mahmoud, reporting from Rafah, Gaza.

Impending Rafah Invasion

As truce talks continue, so do Israeli military plans to launch a violent ground invasion on Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where over half the population is seeking shelter.

In a video statement, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu says preparations are underway for the invasion of Rafah, but an operation “will take some time.”

Netanyahu said he will soon approve a plan for the evacuation of about 1.5 million Palestinian civilians from fighting areas after having greenlit the military’s operation, adding that he appreciates the support of U.S. President Joe Biden, who he asked to present proposals on humanitarian assistance and other aspects of the war.

The army would “continue to operate in Khan Younis, in the central camps, for the elimination and capture of senior Hamas officials as we just did in Shifa Hospital, while eliminating hundreds of terrorists,” Netanyahu added.

“As I promised you time and time again — we are determined to achieve absolute victory, and we will achieve it,” he concluded.

Al Jazeera analyst Bishara says that as long as the U.S. and other allies, who have warned against a military operation in Rafah, take no action to back their words, Israel will do as it pleases.

Almost 70 former U.S. officials, diplomats, and military officers have urged President Joe Biden to take a firmer stance with Israel over its actions in Gaza, as well as the expansion of settlements and failure to respect civil liberties in the occupied West Bank, reports U.S. News.

“The United States must be willing to take concrete action to oppose” such practices, the group said in an open letter to Biden, “including restrictions on provision of (U.S.) assistance (to Israel) consistent with U.S. law and policy.”

The collection of a dozen former ambassadors, as well as retired State Department officials and former Pentagon, intelligence, and White House officials, also highlighted the growing dismay in the U.S. over the mounting death toll from Israeli operations in Gaza, and while it said an assault on Hamas was “necessary and justified,” Israel’s actions “have been marked by repeated violations.”

Meanwhile, Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid has warned Netanyahu against launching a ground invasion in Rafah because it risks jeopardizing the deal and called on the government to strike an immediate deal with Hamas to return all captives held in Gaza, reported Al Jazeera, citing a radio interview.

Lapid said eliminating Hamas and its battalions in Rafah would then be possible, while the most urgent matter was to end the tragedy of the captives and their families.

Ambiguous U.S. UNSC Ceasefire Resolution

The U.S. has circulated a draft United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution calling for an “immediate ceasefire tied to the release of hostages” in Gaza, according to Al Jazeera, citing the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The U.S., Israel’s key political and military backer, has repeatedly vetoed UNSC votes on ending the nearly six-month war, objecting as recently as February to the use of the term “immediate” in a draft submitted by Algeria.

A copy of the new draft resolution, obtained by Al Jazeera, reads: “The Security Council determines the imperative of an immediate and sustained ceasefire to protect civilians on all sides, allow for the delivery of essential humanitarian assistance, and alleviate humanitarian suffering and towards that end unequivocally supports ongoing international diplomatic efforts to secure such a ceasefire in connection with the release of all remaining hostages.”

Al Jazeera’s Diplomatic Editor, James Bays, said that while the development “sounds very important,” the “exact language” of the resolution is crucial. He added that what the U.S. was actually demanding was ambiguous.

“The language of other resolutions that the U.S. has vetoed have demanded a ceasefire. This one uses the words, ‘determines the imperative’, so it says it is important that there is a ceasefire. It is not really demanding one now and the ceasefire seems to be also directly linked to the release of the people held by Hamas and other groups in Gaza,” Bays added.

“My suspicion is that what the U.S. is trying to do is have this resolution ready while the talks continue in Doha — the idea being that you get some sort of deal in Doha for a ceasefire and a release of the captives, and then you pass this resolution in the Security Council. That, I think, is the timing but we’ll need more clarity.”

Seven Killed in Occupied West Bank

Since October 7, Israeli forces have conducted almost daily overnight raids in the occupied West Bank, but on Wednesday night into Thursday morning, it was particularly violent. Seven Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces.

On Thursday morning, in the south of Bethlehem, Israeli forces also killed 63-year-old Sameh Muhammad Abd al-Rai Zaytoun, reported Wafa, citing PRC.

In Jenin, three Palestinians were killed and one seriously injured on Wednesday by an Israeli drone attack that targeted a Palestinian vehicle on the outskirts of Jenin, added Wafa.

Mahmoud Ghrayyeb, a resident of the Jenin refugee camp who said he witnessed the incident through a surveillance camera, said the strike hit the car around 5:37 p.m. when traffic was busy ahead of iftar, the meal that breaks the fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“We saw limbs flying onto the street,” he told Reuters. “A man and his wife were in another car driving past, they were saved by a miracle.”

The director of Jenin Governmental Hospital, Wisam Bakr, told WAFA that the bodies of two people were reduced to burned remains, stressing that doctors faced great difficulty in identifying them, the report continued.

This is the second such air strike in less than a month on Jenin, where the number of Palestinians killed since the war on Gaza started has surpassed 100, reported Al Jazeera.

On Wednesday, four men were also killed by an Israeli drone attack on Nur Shams refugee camp, Tulkarem, reported PCRS. Later, as many as 50 Israeli military vehicles raided the camp, declaring it a closed military zone, prohibiting entry and exit of Palestinians, Wafa reported.

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