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Gaza ceasefire talks at crucial stage as Hamas delegation leaves Cairo

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Gaza ceasefire talks at crucial stage as Hamas delegation leaves Cairo

Negotiations over a potential ceasefire in the Gaza war have entered a crucial stage as Hamas reiterated its demand for an end to Israel’s assault on the Palestinian territory in exchange for the release of captives and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flatly ruled out such an outcome.

On Sunday, the two sides blamed each other for the impasse. In their second day of talks with Egyptian and Qatari mediators, Hamas negotiators maintained their stance that any ceasefire agreement must include an end to the war, Palestinian officials said.

Israeli officials did not travel to Cairo to take part in indirect diplomacy, but on Sunday, Netanyahu reiterated Israel’s aim since the start of the war nearly seven months ago: to disarm and dismantle Hamas.

He said Israel was willing to pause fighting in Gaza in order to secure the release of hostages still being held by Hamas, believed to number more than 100.

“But while Israel has shown willingness, Hamas remains entrenched in its extreme positions, first among them the demand to remove all our forces from the Gaza Strip, end the war, and leave Hamas in power,” Netanyahu said.

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“Israel cannot accept that,” he said.

In a statement released shortly after Netanyahu’s, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh blamed Netanyahu for “the continuation of the aggression and the expansion of the circle of conflict, and sabotaging the efforts made through the mediators and various parties”.

A Hamas delegation at the Gaza truce negotiations in Cairo had departed and will return for more talks on Tuesday, Egyptian state-linked media said.

“The Hamas delegation has left Cairo this evening [Sunday] for Doha in order to conduct consultations, and will return Tuesday to conclude the negotiations” towards a truce in the war with Israel, said Al-Qahera News, a site linked to Egyptian intelligence services, citing an unidentified “informed source”.

Reporting from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith said that Israel has been insisting that any agreement would only include a pause in fighting rather than a permanent end to hostilities.

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“From the Israelis, there’s an insistence that the most Hamas is going to get is this initial 40-day truce in exchange for 33 Israeli captives and the release of a large number of Palestinian prisoners,” he said.

“From Hamas, there’s an insistence that any agreement with Israel should lead to an end to the war and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza,” Smith added.

Meanwhile, CIA Director William Burns – who had been in Cairo – is also travelling to Doha to hold an emergency meeting with Qatar’s prime minister, an official briefed on the talks said late on Sunday.

“Burns is on his way to Doha for an emergency meeting with the Qatari prime minister aimed at exerting maximum pressure on Israel and Hamas to continue negotiating,” a source told Reuters.

Washington has pressed Hamas to accept the latest Israeli proposal.

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Rafah assault

The talks come amid signs that Israel is preparing for an assault on Rafah in southern Gaza, where more than a million displaced Palestinians have taken refuge.

Israel believes thousands of Hamas fighters are holed up in the city, along with potentially dozens of captives.

Such an incursion would put hundreds of thousands of lives at risk and be a huge blow to the aid operations of the entire enclave, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Friday.

Residents and health officials in Gaza said Israeli planes and tanks continued to pound areas across the Palestinian enclave overnight, killing and wounding several people.

Hamas’s armed wing claimed responsibility for an attack on Sunday near the Karem Abu Salem crossing between Israel and Gaza, the main entry point for humanitarian aid access into Gaza. Israel’s military said the crossing – known to Israelis as Kerem Shalom – was closed in the wake of the rocket attack.

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At least 34,683 people, mostly women and children, have been killed and 78,018 wounded in Israel’s war on Gaza since October, according to Palestinian authorities.

Israel launched the assault after Hamas led an attack on southern Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,139 people, according to an Al Jazeera tally based on Israeli statistics.

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Russia hits Kharkiv supermarket in deadly attack

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Russia hits Kharkiv supermarket in deadly attack

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the airstrike “a manifestation of Russian madness”.

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Scores of people were killed or wounded when an aerial bomb hit a large store in the city of Kharkiv on Saturday afternoon, according to local officials.

The airstrike caused a huge fire to break out, with huge plumes of smoke seen filling the sky in social media footage. 

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said more than 200 people could have been inside the store. 

A second bomb hit the city’s central park, Kharkiv Mayor Ihor Terekhov said.

Zelenskyy called the airstrike “a manifestation of Russian madness”, and appealed to Western countries to provide Ukraine with air defence systems.

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“When we tell world leaders that Ukraine requires adequate air defence protection … we are literally talking about how not to allow such terrorist strikes,” he said in a post on X.

“Only madmen like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin are capable of killing and terrorising people in this way,” Zelenskyy added.

Kharkiv region is situated about 20 kilometres from the Russian border. 

Moscow’s troops have in recent weeks captured villages in the area as part of a broad push, and analysts say they may be trying to get within artillery range of Kharkiv city. 

Ukrainian authorities have evacuated more than 11,000 people from the region since the start of the offensive on 10 May.

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Russia’s Kharkiv push appears to be a coordinated new offensive that includes testing Ukrainian defences in the Donetsk region further south, where Russia’s Defense Ministry said Saturday that its forces had taken over the village of Arkhanhelske. 

They have also launched incursions in the northern Sumy and Chernihiv regions.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has said the Kremlin’s army is attempting to create a “buffer zone” in the Kharkiv region to prevent Ukrainian cross-border attacks.

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Biden Set to Deliver Commencement at West Point on Saturday

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Biden Set to Deliver Commencement at West Point on Saturday
By Jarrett Renshaw WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) – U.S. President Biden will deliver the commencement speech on Saturday at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, amid conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza. The speech before some 1,000 U.S. Army cadets is part of a push by Biden to highlight the …
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Israel forced to work on Jewish Sabbath as UN court judge calls out colleagues in scathing dissent

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Israel forced to work on Jewish Sabbath as UN court judge calls out colleagues in scathing dissent

A U.N. International Court of Justice (ICJ) chided her colleagues on Friday for requiring Israel to work on the Sabbath when responding to a case brought by South Africa to the ICJ under the Genocide Convention.

The dissenting opinion from ICJ Vice President Julia Sebutinde came in a nine-page document, issued in response to the court’s order for Israel to end its military offensive in the southern city of Rafah in Gaza. That ruling stems from South Africa’s request, which accuses Israel of genocide in its ongoing war with Hamas terrorists in Gaza. Israel has vehemently denied these charges. 

Among her disagreements with her colleagues, Sebutinde, who is Ugandan, objected to the court’s handling of South Africa’s request, and the “incidental oral hearings.” 

Judge Nawaf Salam, president of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), speaks next to Judge Julia Sebutinde, vice president of the ICJ, at the start of a hearing in The Hague Netherlands, on May 16. (Reuters/Yves Herman)

“In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s Request and engage counsel,” Sebutinde wrote, noting that the Israel’s preferred Counsel was not available on the dates scheduled by the Court. 

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“It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a Member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath,” Sebutinde said. “The Court’s decision in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the Parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.” 

Sebutinde also argued that the court’s initial ruling “does not entirely prohibit the Israeli military from operating in Rafah.” She also urged the court, to maintain its judicial integrity, to “avoid reacting to every shift in the conflict and refrain from micromanaging the hostilities in the Gaza Strip, including Rafah.” 

LINDSEY GRAHAM TELLS UN INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE TO ‘GO TO HELL’ OVER RULING AGAINST ISRAEL

Sebutinde clarified that the ruling operates to “partially restrict Israel’s offensive in Rafah to the extent it implicates rights under the Genocide Convention.” She warned that the ruling is “susceptible to ambiguity and could be misunderstood or misconstrued as ordering an indefinite, unilateral cease-fire, thereby exemplifying an untenable overreach on the part of the Court.” 

Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment in eastern Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 19, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (AFP via Getty Images)

The judges’ ruling on Friday stopped short of ordering a full cease-fire across the entire Palestinian territory, and Israel is unlikely to comply with the court’s ruling. Friday’s decision comes just days after Norway, Ireland, and Spain said they would recognize the Palestinian state, and the chief prosecutor of a separate international court sought arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as leaders of Hamas.

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Since Oct. 7, Israeli bombardments and ground offensives in Gaza have killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health, which doesn’t distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Israel launched its war in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed about 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250. Israel says around 100 hostages are still captive in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more.

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