Iraq's Kataeb Hezbollah Says Attacks Aim to 'Drain' US

FILE PHOTO: Military vehicles of US soldiers are seen at the al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq, January 13, 2020. REUTERS/John Davison/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Military vehicles of US soldiers are seen at the al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq, January 13, 2020. REUTERS/John Davison/File Photo
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Iraq's Kataeb Hezbollah Says Attacks Aim to 'Drain' US

FILE PHOTO: Military vehicles of US soldiers are seen at the al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq, January 13, 2020. REUTERS/John Davison/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Military vehicles of US soldiers are seen at the al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq, January 13, 2020. REUTERS/John Davison/File Photo

Iraq's Kataeb Hezbollah (KH), an armed faction with close ties to Iran, brushed off US sanctions on the group over attacks against US forces in Iraq and Syria and said on Saturday such strikes aimed to "drain the enemy".

The US on Friday issued sanctions against several KH members and against another Iran-backed Shiite group and its secretary-general, accusing them of being involved in attacks against the United States and its partners in Iraq and Syria.

The United States has blamed Iran and militia groups it supports for the more than 60 attacks since mid-October as regional tensions soar over the Israel-Hamas war, which began on Oct. 7. At least 59 US military personnel have been wounded in the attacks, though all have returned to duty so far.

A statement on Telegram by Abu Ali Al-Askari, a security official in the group, on Saturday dismissed the sanctions as "ridiculous," and said the measures would not affect the group's operations.

"Well-studied strikes by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq against enemies, causing losses in their ranks and destroying vehicles or confusing or distracting them, is going according to a strategy to drain the enemy," the statement said, according to Reuters.

Among those linked to Kataeb Hezbollah targeted on Friday are a member of the group's lead decision-making body, its foreign affairs chief, and a military commander the Treasury said has worked with Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to train fighters.

The US State Department also designated Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada and its secretary general, Abu Ala al-Walai, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

In a statement posted on Telegram late on Friday, Walai described the sanctions as "a medal of honor."



US Criticized as G20 Demands Immediate Ceasefire in Gaza

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gets off the plane on the runway at Jorge Newbery Airfield in Buenos Aires. (AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gets off the plane on the runway at Jorge Newbery Airfield in Buenos Aires. (AP)
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US Criticized as G20 Demands Immediate Ceasefire in Gaza

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gets off the plane on the runway at Jorge Newbery Airfield in Buenos Aires. (AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gets off the plane on the runway at Jorge Newbery Airfield in Buenos Aires. (AP)

The United States was criticized on Friday during two-day meetings of senior G20 diplomats for its opposition to an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The public criticisms first surfaced from Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira, whose country hosted the annual G20 meeting.

Vieira condemned the UN Security Council's "paralysis" on the ongoing conflicts" in Gaza and Ukraine, adding that the situation was costing "innocent lives."

Open mic

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and European Union High Representative for Foreign Policy and Common Security Josep Borrell participated in a session that was supposed to remain closed to the media.

Senior diplomats exchanged their views on several geopolitical issues.

However, a few journalists were accidentally able to listen to the proceedings of the session without the knowledge of the Brazilian hosts because the microphones were not turned off.

Australia, a close US ally, supported an immediate ceasefire, warning of "further devastation" that would result from the Israeli war on Gaza.

"We say again to Israel — do not go down this path," said Australian Finance Minister Katy Gallagher, who was representing Canberra at the meeting. "This would be unjustifiable."

South African envoy Naledi Pandor criticized world leaders for "allowing impunity to hold sway."

She said: "We failed the people of Palestine."

Naledi said that if the international community had rallied behind the principles put forward in the UN Charter, "the tragedy in Palestine would not have lasted over three months."

The statements appeared conflicting with last year's G20 meeting in India, where Blinken sought to unite global powers to denounce Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Attendees were more receptive to his demand for adherence to the United Nations Charter and the principles of state sovereignty.

However, Blinken told reporters that despite solid differences on an immediate ceasefire, the G20 is united mainly regarding the goals of the conflict.

He said, "We're joined in having the shared objectives in this moment of getting hostages out, getting an extended humanitarian ceasefire in, along with more humanitarian assistance, and ending the conflict."

"There may be differences over tactics, and there may be differences over the Security Council resolution," said the Secretary, adding that "if we're trying to focus on actually getting results, actually making a change, making a difference, we think what we're focused on is the best way to do that."

Brazilian FM Vieira announced that "every (minister) that addressed the issue voiced support" for a two-state solution, "and it was a lot" of ministers.

He stressed that all members of the group highlighted fears of the war in Gaza and the danger of expanding conflict in the Middle East.

Two-state solution

Borrell had urged Vieira to use his closing statement "to explain to the world that at the G20, everybody was in favor" of a two-state solution, with an independent Palestine co-existing with Israel.

"It was a strong request for a two-state solution," Borrell told journalists.

He added: "Everyone here, I haven't heard anyone oppose that."

"The common denominator is that there's not going to be peace, there's not going to be sustainable security for Israel unless the Palestinians have a clear political prospect to build (their) own state."

He said he hoped to see a proposal from the Arab world to that effect in the coming days.


Scores Killed Overnight in Gaza, Israeli Negotiators in Paris

People take part in a pro-Palestine rally outside the RAI national public broadcaster headquarters in Milan, Italy, 14 February 2024. EPA/Mourad Balti Touati
People take part in a pro-Palestine rally outside the RAI national public broadcaster headquarters in Milan, Italy, 14 February 2024. EPA/Mourad Balti Touati
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Scores Killed Overnight in Gaza, Israeli Negotiators in Paris

People take part in a pro-Palestine rally outside the RAI national public broadcaster headquarters in Milan, Italy, 14 February 2024. EPA/Mourad Balti Touati
People take part in a pro-Palestine rally outside the RAI national public broadcaster headquarters in Milan, Italy, 14 February 2024. EPA/Mourad Balti Touati

More than 100 people were reported killed early Saturday in overnight strikes across Gaza, as Israel's spy chief was in Paris for talks seeking to "unblock" progress towards a truce and the return of hostages held by Palestinian Hamas group.
The Paris negotiations come after a plan for a post-war Gaza unveiled by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew criticism from key ally the United States and was rejected by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas on Friday.
They also come as fears for civilians in the territory are deepening, with the UN warning of the growing risk of famine and its main aid body for Palestinians, UNWRA, saying early Saturday that Gazans were "in extreme peril while the world watches on".
AFP footage showed distraught Gazans queuing for food in the territory's devastated north on Friday and staging a protest decrying their living conditions.
"Look, we are fighting each other over rice," said Jabalia resident Ahmad Atef Safi. "Where are we supposed to go?"
"We have no water, no flour and we are very tired because of hunger. Our backs and eyes hurt because of fire and smoke," fellow Jabalia resident Oum Wajdi Salha told AFP.
"We can't stand on our feet because of hunger and lack of food."
In a Friday night statement on social media platform X, the UN humanitarian agency OCHA said: "Without adequate food and water supplies, as well as health and nutrition services, the elevated risk of famine in #Gaza is projected to increase."
Post-war plan
The war started after Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.
Hamas also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,514 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by Gaza's health ministry on Friday.
An Israeli air strike Friday destroyed the Gaza home of well-known Palestinian comedian Mahmoud Zuaiter, killing at least 23 people and injuring dozens more, the health ministry said.


Chinese Fleet Heads to Red Sea amid Rising Tensions

Houthi supporters hold up weapons during a protest against the US and Israel and in support of Palestinians, in Sanaa, Yemen, 23 February 2024. (EPA)
Houthi supporters hold up weapons during a protest against the US and Israel and in support of Palestinians, in Sanaa, Yemen, 23 February 2024. (EPA)
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Chinese Fleet Heads to Red Sea amid Rising Tensions

Houthi supporters hold up weapons during a protest against the US and Israel and in support of Palestinians, in Sanaa, Yemen, 23 February 2024. (EPA)
Houthi supporters hold up weapons during a protest against the US and Israel and in support of Palestinians, in Sanaa, Yemen, 23 February 2024. (EPA)

China has decided to dispatch a fleet to the region amid the rising tensions sparked by the Iran-backed Houthi militias’ attacks on vessels in the Red Sea.

The 46th fleet of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy sailed for the region on Wednesday, departing Zhanjiang, a coastal city in Guangdong province, reported the Xinhua News Agency.

The deployment is part of China's ongoing efforts to secure the Gulf of Aden and the waters off Somalia. It replaces the 45th fleet.

The 46th fleet's naval mission includes the guided-missile destroyer Jiaozuo, the missile frigate Xuchang and the comprehensive replenishment vessel Honghu, said Xinhua.

Over 700 officers and soldiers are on board, along with two helicopters.

Meanwhile, the US military said on Friday it had destroyed Houthi drones and anti-ship cruise missiles in Yemen and the Red Sea after determining they presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships.

The strikes hit four drones and two cruise missiles that were prepared to launch from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen toward the Red Sea, the military's Central Command said.

The military also shot down three Houthi one-way attack drones near commercial ships operating in the Red Sea, it said.

The strikes were conducted on Thursday and Friday, the Central Command said. There was no damage to any ships, it added.


UN Report: Violations Committed by Warring Parties in Sudan Could Amount to War Crimes

Army commander Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (left) and RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti) in 2019 (AFP)
Army commander Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (left) and RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti) in 2019 (AFP)
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UN Report: Violations Committed by Warring Parties in Sudan Could Amount to War Crimes

Army commander Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (left) and RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti) in 2019 (AFP)
Army commander Abdel Fattah al-Burhan (left) and RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (Hemedti) in 2019 (AFP)

Both sides in Sudan's civil war have committed abuses that may amount to war crimes including indiscriminate attacks on civilian sites like hospitals, markets and even camps for the displaced, the UN human rights office said on Friday.
Efforts have so far failed to end the 10-month-old conflict that pits Sudan's regular armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Thousands of people have been killed and some six million forced to flee their homes, making it the country with the largest displaced population in the world.
“Some of these violations would amount to war crimes,” Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a statement accompanying a report. “The guns must be silenced, and civilians must be protected.”
The US has already formally determined that the warring parties have committed war crimes and said the RSF and allied militias were involved in ethnic cleansing in West Darfur.
Both sides have said they would investigate reports of killings and abuses and prosecute any fighters found to be involved.
The United Nations report is based on interviews with over 300 victims and witnesses as well as footage and satellite imagery.
It says that sometimes those fleeing for their lives or displaced by the violence became victims of explosive weapons attacks.
Women and Children
In one incident, dozens of displaced people were killed when their camp in Zalingei, Darfur was shelled by the RSF between Sept. 14-17, the report said. Some 26 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed on Aug. 22 by shells reportedly fired by the Sudanese Armed Forces while sheltering under a bridge.
The report also says the RSF had adopted a military strategy of using human shields, citing testimonies of victims involved.
It describes incidents in the capital Khartoum where dozens of individuals were arrested and placed near RSF military posts to deter air strikes from Sudanese fighter jets.
UN investigators have so far documented cases of sexual violence affecting 118 people, including one women who was detained and repeatedly gang-raped for weeks. Many of the rapes were committed by RSF members, the report said.
The war in Sudan erupted last April over disputes about the powers of the army and the RSF under an internationally-backed plan for a political transition towards civilian rule and elections.
Resumption of Jeddah Talks
Separately, sources revealed on Friday that negotiations between the army and the RSF will resume through the Jeddah platform early in March.
The sources, who asked not to be identified, told the Arab World Press that the two sides will discuss in Jeddah the document signed last month in the Bahraini capital, Manama, between the army representative General Shamseldin Kabbashi and the RSF representative General Abdelrahim Dagalo, a brother of RSF commander Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo.
The document includes a declaration of principles including maintaining the unity of Sudan and its military. It also agreed on the arrest of Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including those wanted by the International Criminal Court, and the dismantling of the Islamic Movement regime.
The sources expressed concerns that the Muslim Brotherhood leadership would obstruct the negotiations, noting that such attempts were made in previous rounds of talks.
Since May 2023, Saudi Arabia and the US co-facilitated talks in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, between representatives of the Sudanese army and the RSF.
Entebbe Workshop
Also, the sources told the Arab World Press that the Rapid Support Forces held a workshop in the Ugandan city of Entebbe, from February 15 to 20.
The workshop was attended by RSF members who participated in the Jeddah Platform talks, in addition to all members of the Commander’s advisory bureau, the tribal communities in the regions of Kordofan and Darfur fighting alongside the RSF, and media activists.


Palestinians Cling to Life in Rafah, a Town Likely to Be Israel's Next Focus in the War on Hamas

Destroyed buildings stand along a rubble-strewn street, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Gaza, in this still image taken from video released February 15, 2024. UNRWA/Handout via REUTERS
Destroyed buildings stand along a rubble-strewn street, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Gaza, in this still image taken from video released February 15, 2024. UNRWA/Handout via REUTERS
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Palestinians Cling to Life in Rafah, a Town Likely to Be Israel's Next Focus in the War on Hamas

Destroyed buildings stand along a rubble-strewn street, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Gaza, in this still image taken from video released February 15, 2024. UNRWA/Handout via REUTERS
Destroyed buildings stand along a rubble-strewn street, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Gaza, in this still image taken from video released February 15, 2024. UNRWA/Handout via REUTERS

In the narrow crevices between the tents that crowd nearly every inch of the southern Gaza town of Rafah, Palestinians cling to life amid the grinding war with Israel.
A barefoot boy wears a pot on his head and beams a smile. A child lugs a jerry can half his size full of water. Men sit at half-empty tables selling canned goods. A tapestry of laundry hangs from every line, The Associated Press said.
The world’s gaze is on Rafah, the once-sleepy town along the Egyptian border that is likely Israel’s next focus in its fight against Hamas.
Rafah has swelled in size in recent weeks. Hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians have splayed out across the town in tents or at the homes of friends or relatives. The estimated 1.5 million people sheltering there — more than half of Gaza’s population — have nowhere to flee in the face of an offensive that has leveled large swaths of the urban landscape in the rest of the territory.
UN officials warn that an attack on Rafah will be catastrophic, with more than 600,000 children in the path of an assault. A move on the town and surrounding area also could cause the collapse of the humanitarian aid system struggling to keep Gaza’s population alive. Israel’s Western allies have also expressed concern.
Israel says it must take Rafah to ensure Hamas’ destruction and to free hostages held by the group.
Food, like everywhere in the Gaza Strip, is scarce. Throngs of people crowd around a bakery, hoping for a few pitas to feed their families. Others bake their own in mud stoves with whatever flour they could get. One child, seated on an older child’s shoulders, reveled in the first bite of the fluffy bread.
The streets with no tents are packed with crowds of Palestinians hustling to sustain their families.
The mundane drumbeat of life continues in some places. A boy gets a haircut. A girl dons an oversized sheer pink floral dress. Women and a child avoid a large puddle near a mass of tents.
And in a surreal snapshot of joy, children spin around on a makeshift, manually operated Ferris wheel, turning and turning as the war — now in its fifth month — rolls on.


Protesters Partially Shut Libya Oilfield, Demand Unpaid Wages

A general view shows Libya's Sharara oilfield. (File photo: Reuters)
A general view shows Libya's Sharara oilfield. (File photo: Reuters)
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Protesters Partially Shut Libya Oilfield, Demand Unpaid Wages

A general view shows Libya's Sharara oilfield. (File photo: Reuters)
A general view shows Libya's Sharara oilfield. (File photo: Reuters)

Members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard (PFG) in Libya announced that an armed group took control and shut down oil and gas fields in the southwest, demanding their unpaid salaries and other benefits.

In a statement, the protestors said they had granted the Tripoli-based Government of National Unity (GNU) a 48-hour deadline to meet their demands, but "to no avail."

They noted that head of the GNU Abdulhamid Dbeibeh had ordered authorities to grant them their dues, but nothing happened.

The statement said there was "no adherence" to any of Dbeibeh’s instructions to "consider the situation of the PFG and its members, restore their full rights, and implement the decisions regarding their financial dues."

Members of the PFG lined up in front of the North Hamada field in southern Libya to protest the authorities’ neglect of their legitimate demands.

They said they had held several peaceful protests without sabotaging or violating state property.

Since Libya slid into chaos after the 2014 revolt, various forces have used oil revenues as a "pressure card" against politicians to meet their demands.

The PFG said they were loyal "soldiers to the Libyan people," pointing out that since the Feb. 17 revolution, they had left their jobs and families to "protect the homeland and source of the Libyans' livelihood", including oil and gas fields.

They said they had resorted to the partial closure after having grown "fed up" with the authorities for failing to meet their demands.

Last Tuesday, employees of the Petroleum Facilities Guard at the Zawiya Refinery announced the closure of the refinery and the Mellitah and Misrata oil complexes, demanding their rights, including unpaid salaries and settlements.

They also demanded the implementation of the decision to grant them health insurance, similar to the employees of the National Oil Corporation.

Libya’s oil production will once again fall victim to the cycle of "partial closure" if the Petroleum Facilities Guard continue the shutdown.

On Jan. 3, "Youth and Women in Fezzan" protesters shut down the Sharara oilfield, forcing the National Oil Corporation (NOC) to declare force majeure.

It lifted the "force majeure" on Jan. 23 and announced the resumption of production.


Blinken Says Israel’s New Settlements in West Bank ‘Inconsistent’ with International Law

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a press conference at La Casa Rosada government house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a press conference at La Casa Rosada government house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP)
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Blinken Says Israel’s New Settlements in West Bank ‘Inconsistent’ with International Law

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a press conference at La Casa Rosada government house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken attends a press conference at La Casa Rosada government house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. (AP)

Israel's expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank were inconsistent with international law, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday, signaling a return to long-standing US policy on the issue, which had been reversed by the previous administration of Donald Trump.

The Trump administration in 2019 effectively backed Israel's right to build West Bank settlements by abandoning a long-held US position that they were "inconsistent with international law".

Speaking at a news conference during a trip to Buenos Aires, Blinken said the United States was disappointed in Israel's announcement of plans for building new housing in the occupied West Bank, saying they were counterproductive to reaching an enduring peace.

"They're also inconsistent with international law. Our administration maintains a firm opposition to settlement expansion, and in our judgment, this only weakens, doesn't strengthen Israel's security," Blinken said.

In November 2019, Trump's then secretary of state Mike Pompeo announced that Washington no longer viewed Israel's settlements on West Bank land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war as "inconsistent with international law", a reversal of four decades of US policy.

Palestinians and the international community view the transfer of any country's civilians to occupied land as illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and UN Security Council resolutions. Many countries condemned the announcement.


Gaza Ceasefire Talks Underway in Paris, Source Says

Palestinians perform Friday prayers in the ruins of Al-Huda Mosque after it was destroyed by the Israeli army, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2024. (EPA)
Palestinians perform Friday prayers in the ruins of Al-Huda Mosque after it was destroyed by the Israeli army, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2024. (EPA)
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Gaza Ceasefire Talks Underway in Paris, Source Says

Palestinians perform Friday prayers in the ruins of Al-Huda Mosque after it was destroyed by the Israeli army, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2024. (EPA)
Palestinians perform Friday prayers in the ruins of Al-Huda Mosque after it was destroyed by the Israeli army, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2024. (EPA)

Gaza truce talks were under way in Paris on Friday, in what appears to be the most serious push for weeks to halt the fighting in the battered Palestinian enclave and see Israeli and foreign hostages released.

A source briefed on the ceasefire talks, who could not be identified by name or nationality, said talks had begun with Israel's head of Mossad intelligence service meeting separately with each party - Qatar, Egypt and United States.

"There are budding signs of optimism about being able to move forward toward the start of a serious negotiation," the source said. Egypt's Al Qahera TV News also reported that the talks had begun.

An official from Hamas said the militant group had wrapped up ceasefire talks in Cairo and was now waiting to see what mediators bring back from the weekend talks with Israel.

Mediators have ramped up efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, in the hope of heading off an Israeli assault on the Gaza city of Rafah where more than a million displaced people are sheltering at the southern edge of the enclave.

Israel says it will attack the city if no truce agreement is reached soon. Washington has called on its close ally not to do so, warning of vast civilian casualties if an assault on the city goes ahead.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met Egyptian mediators in Cairo to discuss a truce this past week on his first visit since December. Israel is now expected to participate in talks this weekend in Paris with US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

Two Egyptian security sources confirmed that Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel would head on Friday to Paris for the talks with the Israelis, after wrapping up talks with Hamas chief Haniyeh on Thursday. Israel has not publicly commented on the Paris talks.

The Hamas official, who asked not to be identified, said the militant group did not offer any new proposal at the talks with the Egyptians, but was waiting to see what the mediators brought back from their upcoming talks with the Israelis.

"We discussed our proposal with them (the Egyptians) and we are going to wait until they return from Paris," the Hamas official said.

The last time similar talks were held in Paris, at the start of February, they produced an outline for the first extended ceasefire of the war, approved by Israel and the United States. Hamas responded with a counterproposal, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then rejected as "delusional".

Hamas, which is still believed to be holding more than 100 hostages seized in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war, says it will free them only as part of a truce that ends with an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Israel says it will not pull out until Hamas is eradicated.

Late on Thursday, Netanyahu presented his security cabinet with an official plan for Gaza once the fighting stops. He emphasized that Israel expects to maintain security control over the enclave after destroying Hamas, and also sees no role there for the Palestinian Authority (PA) based in the West Bank.

Washington favors a role for a reformed PA.

Two Palestinian officials familiar with the negotiations said Hamas has not changed its stance in the latest push to reach a deal, and still demands that a truce end with an Israeli pullout.

RAFAH UNDER FIRE

Israeli planes and tanks pounded areas across Gaza Strip overnight, residents and health officials said. The Gaza health ministry said 104 people had been killed and 160 others were wounded in Israeli military strikes in the past 24 hours.

The Israeli military said it had killed dozens of militants and seized weapons across Gaza since Thursday.

In Rafah, where over half of Gaza's 2.3 million people are sheltering, an Israeli air strike on a house killed 10 people.

At a morgue in Rafah, a family knelt by the body of their child, killed by overnight Israeli strikes. They tenderly touched and stroked the small body through a shroud.

Airstrikes also killed civilians overnight in Deir al-Balah, in central Gaza, one of the few other areas yet to be stormed by the Israelis.

In video obtained by Reuters, bereaved families crowded a hospital, where Ahmed Azzam held up the body of his dead baby son wrapped in a shroud, shouting: "You killed them Netanyahu. You killed this innocent child!"

Israel says it is doing its best to minimize harm to civilians as it battles militants in urban areas.

At least 29,514 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes on Gaza since Oct.7, the Gaza health ministry said on Friday.

Israel launched its months-long military campaign after militants from Hamas-ruled Gaza killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages in southern Israel on Oct 7.


US Destroys Houthi Drones, Missiles in Yemen and Red Sea, Military Says

Students recruited into the ranks of Yemen's Houthi militias hold up automatic rifles as they take part in a rally in support of the Palestinians and against the US, Britain and Israel at a university campus in Sanaa on February 21, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas movement in Gaza. (AFP)
Students recruited into the ranks of Yemen's Houthi militias hold up automatic rifles as they take part in a rally in support of the Palestinians and against the US, Britain and Israel at a university campus in Sanaa on February 21, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas movement in Gaza. (AFP)
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US Destroys Houthi Drones, Missiles in Yemen and Red Sea, Military Says

Students recruited into the ranks of Yemen's Houthi militias hold up automatic rifles as they take part in a rally in support of the Palestinians and against the US, Britain and Israel at a university campus in Sanaa on February 21, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas movement in Gaza. (AFP)
Students recruited into the ranks of Yemen's Houthi militias hold up automatic rifles as they take part in a rally in support of the Palestinians and against the US, Britain and Israel at a university campus in Sanaa on February 21, 2024, amid continuing battles between Israel and Hamas movement in Gaza. (AFP)

The US military said on Friday it had destroyed Houthi drones and anti-ship cruise missiles in Yemen and the Red Sea after determining they presented an imminent threat to merchant vessels and US Navy ships.

The strikes hit four drones and two cruise missiles that were prepared to launch from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen toward the Red Sea, the military's Central Command said.

The military also shot down three Houthi one-way attack drones near commercial ships operating in the Red Sea, it said.

The strikes were conducted on Thursday and Friday, the Central Command said. There was no damage to any ships, it added.


Netanyahu’s Post-War Plan Says Israel to Keep Security Control on Palestinian Areas 

Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike on Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2024. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike on Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2024. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
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Netanyahu’s Post-War Plan Says Israel to Keep Security Control on Palestinian Areas 

Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike on Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2024. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER
Palestinians search for bodies and survivors among the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike on Deir Al Balah, southern Gaza Strip, 23 February 2024. EPA/MOHAMMED SABER

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has presented his first official "day after" plan for the Gaza Strip once the war there ends, saying Israel will keep security control over all Palestinian areas and make reconstruction of Gaza dependent on its demilitarization. 

The document proposes Israel would maintain security control over all land west of Jordan, including the occupied West Bank and Gaza - territories where the Palestinians hope to establish an independent state. 

It was swiftly dismissed by Palestinian officials as doomed to failure. 

Netanyahu presented the plan on Thursday to the security cabinet, which could still demand amendments. It was seen by Reuters on Friday. 

In the long-term goals listed, Netanyahu rejects the "unilateral recognition" of a Palestinian state. He says a settlement with the Palestinians will only be achieved through direct negotiations between the two sides - without naming who the Palestinian party would be. 

In Gaza, Netanyahu outlines demilitarization and deradicalization as goals to be achieved in the medium term. He does not elaborate on when that intermediary stage would begin or how long it would last. But he conditions the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip, much of which has been laid to waste by Israel's offensive, on its complete demilitarization. 

Netanyahu proposes Israel have a presence on the Gaza-Egypt border in the south of the enclave and cooperates with Egypt and the United States in that area to prevent smuggling attempts, including at the Rafah crossing. 

To replace Hamas rule in Gaza while maintaining public order, Netanyahu suggests working with local representatives "who are not affiliated with terrorist countries or groups and are not financially supported by them". 

He calls for shutting down the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA and replacing it with other international aid groups. 

"The prime minister's document of principles reflects broad public consensus over the goals of the war and for replacing Hamas rule in Gaza with a civilian alternative," a statement by the Prime Minister's office said. 

The document was distributed to security cabinet members to start a discussion on the issue. 

The war was triggered by a Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage, according to Israeli counts. 

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has responded with an air and ground assault on blockaded Gaza that has killed more than 29,400 people, according to Palestinian health authorities. The offensive has displaced most of the territory's population and caused widespread hunger and disease. 

The spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, told Reuters that Netanyahu's proposal was doomed to fail, as were any Israeli plans to change the geographic and demographic realities in Gaza. 

"If the world is genuinely interested in having security and stability in the region, it must end Israel's occupation of Palestinian land and recognize an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," he said. 

The war in Gaza has revived international calls - including from Israel's main backer the United States - for the so-called two-state solution as the ultimate goal for resolving the decades long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Little progress has been made on achieving Palestinian statehood since the signing of the Oslo Accords in the early 1990s. Among the obstacles impeding it are expanding Israeli settlements in territories Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war. 

Most countries regard the settlements, which in many areas cut Palestinian communities off from each other, as a violation of international law. Israel claims a biblical birthright to the land and on Thursday said it would approve more than 3,000 new housing units in settlements.