Lull in Gaza Fighting Despite Blasts in South

17 June 2024, Palestinian Territories, Khan Younis: Palestinians walk among the rubble of houses destroyed in the Israeli bombardment of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on the second day of Eid al-Adha. (APA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa)
17 June 2024, Palestinian Territories, Khan Younis: Palestinians walk among the rubble of houses destroyed in the Israeli bombardment of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on the second day of Eid al-Adha. (APA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa)
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Lull in Gaza Fighting Despite Blasts in South

17 June 2024, Palestinian Territories, Khan Younis: Palestinians walk among the rubble of houses destroyed in the Israeli bombardment of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on the second day of Eid al-Adha. (APA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa)
17 June 2024, Palestinian Territories, Khan Younis: Palestinians walk among the rubble of houses destroyed in the Israeli bombardment of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on the second day of Eid al-Adha. (APA Images via ZUMA Press Wire/dpa)

Israel struck Gaza on Monday and witnesses reported blasts in the besieged territory's south, but fighting had largely subsided on the second day of an army-declared "pause" to facilitate aid flows.

The relative calm came as Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved his war cabinet, reflecting the country's political fractures.

David Mencer, spokesman for the prime minister's office, said the body had been disbanded following the resignation of centrist leader Benny Gantz, who had required a war cabinet's formation in order to join a unity government.

Mencer said the war cabinet's duties will be taken over by the pre-existing security cabinet which had finalized decisions proposed by the war cabinet.

Israeli media said the move was meant to counter pressure from far-right politicians seeking a greater say in decision-making.

The daytime "pause" for aid deliveries around a southern Gaza route, announced at the weekend by Israel's military, appeared to be holding on Monday.

The health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza said it had recorded 10 deaths over the previous 24 hours, in one of the lowest daily tolls since the war began.

- 'Catastrophic hunger' -

Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel triggered the war and resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

The fighters also seized 251 hostages. Of these, 116 remain in Gaza, although the army says 41 are dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive aimed at eliminating Hamas has killed at least 37,347 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory's health ministry.

Swathes of the territory's residential and other infrastructure have been reduced to rubble.

On Monday witnesses told AFP they could hear blasts in the center and west of the southernmost city of Rafah.

Palestinian officials there reported tank shelling early on Monday, before the start of the daily "local, tactical pause of military activity" announced by the army.

Elsewhere in the Palestinian territory an AFP correspondent said strikes and shelling have decreased.

In Gaza City, medics at Al-Ahli hospital said at least five people were killed in two separate air strikes, and witnesses reported tank shelling in the Zeitun district.

At least one strike hit Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, residents said.

The military said the pause "for humanitarian purposes will take place from 8:00 am (0500 GMT) until 7:00 pm (1600 GMT) every day until further notice along the road that leads from the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Salah al-Din road and then northwards".

- Fighting 'as planned' -

Troops were still operating in Rafah and central Gaza, reporting "close-quarters combat" that killed several militants, the military said.

Since ground forces went into Rafah against Hamas in early May, they have killed hundreds of gunmen and found "hundreds" of tunnel shafts, a military statement said on Monday.

"There was no change" in the military's policy and fighting "continues as planned", an Israeli official stressed, speaking on condition of anonymity to AFP.

Mahmud Basal, spokesman for Gaza's civil defense agency, said that apart from the deadly Gaza City strikes, "the other areas of the Gaza Strip are somewhat calm".

The UN says aid access to Gaza has been severely hindered by factors including insecurity, the closing of crossing points to the territory, and Israeli procedural delays.

The vital Rafah crossing with Egypt has been shut since Israeli forces seized its Palestinian side in early May.

"The idea behind the tactical pause in general is to allow for the UN to collect and distribute more aid," Shimon Freedman, spokesman for COGAT, the Israeli defense ministry body overseeing Palestinian civilian affairs, told reporters at Kerem Shalom, near Rafah.

- 'Waiting' for Hamas -

In a message late Sunday for Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice, US President Joe Biden called for implementation of a ceasefire plan he outlined last month, saying it was "the best way to end the violence in Gaza".

Biden's plan would bring an initial six-week pause to fighting and Hamas would free hostages in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Hamas has insisted on the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces and a permanent ceasefire. Netanyahu's far-right coalition partners strongly oppose a ceasefire.

He is also facing regular street protests by tens of thousands demanding a deal to free the hostages.

But a senior Israeli negotiator, who told AFP that tens of hostages "are alive with certainty", said that Israel could not commit to ending the war until all the captives were released.

The official said the Israeli negotiating team had approved Biden's plan.

"We expect, and are waiting for, Hamas to say 'yes,'" he said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.



Iraqi Air Force Strikes ISIS Positions in Hamrin Mountains

An Iraqi military force in a previous operation to pursue ISIS in Salahuddin, Diyala, and Samarra (Iraqi News Agency)
An Iraqi military force in a previous operation to pursue ISIS in Salahuddin, Diyala, and Samarra (Iraqi News Agency)
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Iraqi Air Force Strikes ISIS Positions in Hamrin Mountains

An Iraqi military force in a previous operation to pursue ISIS in Salahuddin, Diyala, and Samarra (Iraqi News Agency)
An Iraqi military force in a previous operation to pursue ISIS in Salahuddin, Diyala, and Samarra (Iraqi News Agency)

The Iraqi Security Media Cell reported on Friday that an aerial strike by F-16 aircraft in Mount Hamrin, near the border of Kirkuk and Salahuddin governorates, killed three ISIS militants.

In a statement, the cell said the operation was executed with “high-level coordination” between the Counter-Terrorism Service and the Joint Operations Command.

A force from the Counter-Terrorism Service’s Kirkuk regiment, assisted by technical and reconnaissance support from the Joint Operations Command, proceeded to inspect the site of the strike.

They discovered the bodies of three ISIS militants and seized light weapons, ammunition, explosives, and two explosive belts. They also found several destroyed weapons, equipment, communication devices, and various logistical materials.

This comes at a time when Baha Araji, an Iraqi official, announced that a deal has been reached with Washington to end the US-led international coalition’s operations in Iraq.

The official stated that this decision comes after careful consideration and discussions that have been ongoing since February.

The announcement was made on a televised broadcast, where Araji highlighted the significance of this move, emphasizing the longstanding ties between Iraq and the US.

This decision marks the end of a cooperative phase that began with the coalition’s establishment.

Additionally, it was mentioned that Iraqi forces have taken control of several areas, maintaining security and stability. Araji underscored that this transition reflects Iraq’s growing capabilities and sovereignty.

This development follows the recent interactions between Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ Al-Sudani and US representatives, aimed at redefining the future relationship between Baghdad and Washington.