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Israeli officials concerned about ICC orders: tensions in the Middle East

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Cairo (AFP) – The United States intensified its pressure on Monday to reach a ceasefire agreement in Gaza The Foreign Minister also said that a new proposal had been presented to Hamas, whose officials were in Cairo and speaking with Egyptian mediators. Israeli air strikes killed 26 people in the city of Rafah in the far south of the Gaza Strip, according to hospital records.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Before his visit to Israel this weekHe urged Hamas to accept the latest proposal, describing it as “very generous” on the part of Israel.

Terms were not announced. But according to an Egyptian official and Israeli media, Israel has softened its position and reduced the number of hostages that Hamas is demanding to be released during the initial six-week phase of the ceasefire in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinians from Israeli prisons. .

One question is whether this will be enough to overcome Hamas' concerns about the second phase of the ceasefire.

Hamas demanded guarantees that the eventual release of all hostages would put a complete end to the nearly seven-month-long Israeli attack on Gaza and the withdrawal of its forces from the devastated Strip. Israel offered only an extended pause, and pledged to resume its offensive once it ended. The issue repeatedly hampered the efforts of American, Egyptian and Qatari mediators during months of talks.

Some Israeli commentators have portrayed Israel at a crossroads: either go for an agreement with a potential end to the war, achieving benefits that could include normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia, or press ahead with plans including an attack on Rafah in the hope of crushing Hamas. And risking international isolation.

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The United States, Israel's closest ally, and other countries have repeatedly warned against launching an attack on Rafah, saying it would happen. The number of victims increases and the humanitarian catastrophe worsens. More than a million Palestinians have taken refuge in Rafah after fleeing fighting elsewhere.

The Israeli attack on Gaza killed more than 34,000 people.

During the night and Monday morning, Israeli raids leveled at least three homes where large Palestinian families were gathering. Among the dead were nine women and six children, one of whom was just five days old, according to hospital records and an Associated Press reporter.

“Everyone was sleeping in their beds,” said Mahmoud Abu Taha, whose cousin was killed along with his wife and their one-year-old child in a house where at least 10 people died. “They have nothing to do with anything.”

Egypt intensified mediation efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement in the hope of avoiding an attack on Rafah on the Gaza border with Egypt.

An Egyptian official said that Israel reduced the number of hostages it wanted to release in the first stage, down from previous demands of forty hostages. The new number was not specified. Israeli media said that it is now seeking to release 33 hostages in exchange for the release of about 900 Palestinian prisoners. Hamas is believed to be holding about 100 Israelis in Gaza.

The Egyptian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal talks, said Israel had also shown flexibility in allowing residents to return to northern Gaza.

There was no immediate comment from Hamas or Israeli officials.

Netanyahu has repeatedly refused to stop the war in exchange for the release of the hostages, and says the attack on Rafah is crucial to eliminating militants after their October 7 attacks on Israel that led to the fighting. His government could be threatened if he agrees to the deal, as hard-line cabinet members are calling for an attack on Rafah.

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Meanwhile, Netanyahu faces pressure to reach an agreement from the hostages' families.

On Monday, the families of the two hostages — Keith Siegel and Omri Miran — urged the two sides to reach an agreement, days after Hamas released a video showing the two men.

“I appeal to Sinwar, please agree to this deal. “To the members of the (Israeli) government, please agree to any agreement,” Danny Miran, Omri’s father, said, referring to Yahya Sinwar, the senior Hamas official in Gaza. He spoke during a press conference in Tel Aviv Square, where supporters of the hostage families organize regular rallies.

At the same time, Israeli officials increasingly appeared Concerned that the International Criminal Court He may issue arrest warrants against the country's leaders.

It was not clear what raised the concerns. The International Criminal Court launched a Investigation three years ago In possible war crimes committed by Israel and Palestinian militants since the war between Israel and Hamas in 2014. The investigation is also looking into Israel's construction of settlements in the occupied territories that the Palestinians want to establish their future state.

There was no comment from the court Monday No signal was given Arrest warrants in the case are imminent.

But the Israeli Foreign Ministry said late Sunday that it had informed Israeli missions of “rumors” that arrest warrants might be issued against senior political and military officials. Netanyahu said on Friday that Israel “will never accept any attempt by the International Criminal Court to undermine its inherent right to self-defense.”

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Neither Israel nor the United States accepts the ICC's jurisdiction, but any arrest warrants could put Israeli officials at risk of arrest in other countries. It would also serve as a major rebuke to Israel's actions at the time Pro-Palestinian protests spread to American college campuses.

The International Court of Justice, a separate body, is investigating Whether Israel has committed genocide In the ongoing war in Gaza, any ruling is expected to take years. Israel rejected allegations of wrongdoing and accused the two international tribunals of bias.

In the Hamas-led attack on October 7, militants stormed army bases and farming communities across southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking about 250 hostage. The air, sea and land attack launched by Israel on Gaza led to the deaths of at least 34,488 Palestinians, most of them women and children. According to the Ministry of Health in GazaWhich does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its share.

Israel blames the high civilian death toll on Hamas because the militants are fighting from dense residential areas. The army says it killed more than 12,000 militants, without providing evidence.

The war led to the displacement of about 80% of Gaza's 2.3 million people from their homes and pushed northern Gaza To the brink of starvation.

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Associated Press writers Michael Corder in The Hague, Netherlands; Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington; Matthew Lee contributed from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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Follow AP's coverage of the war on https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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