-Top News UK News

Defence Secretary to Visit Israel, Palestine

He reiterated UK’s support to Israel’s right to defence, but pointed out that “it is important their fight against Hamas remains within international law.”…reports Asian Lite News

UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps will push for humanitarian aid to be delivered to Palestinians faster – including by sea directly into Gaza – when he visits Palestine and Israel this week, the Ministry of Defence has announced.

During the trip, Shapps will discuss options with leaders to provide civilians in Gaza with more aid and how the UK can support the Palestinian Authority, as well as efforts to prevent further escalation in the Middle East.

He will also discuss progress in recovering hostages – including a number of Britons – who were taken by Hamas during the 7 October attacks.

With Palestinian civilians experiencing a growing humanitarian crisis, the Defence Secretary will address options for providing Gaza with more medical and humanitarian aid, including potential routes via land, sea, and air. To date, four RAF flights carrying over 74 tonnes of aid have landed in Egypt with aid bound for Palestinians.  

“My visit this week is an important opportunity to discuss efforts to accelerate the delivery of lifesaving humanitarian assistance into Gaza and efforts to secure the release of all remaining hostages,” Shapps said. “We are working to find the best way to get aid and support to those in desperate need in the quickest and most direct route. That includes options by land, sea and air.

“We have deployed an extra 1,000 military personnel in the Middle East and our forces are there to support the humanitarian aid effort and help in stabilising the area,” he added.

He reiterated UK’s support to Israel’s right to defence, but pointed out that “it is important their fight against Hamas remains within international law.”

Meanwhile in Palestine, the Defence Secretary is expected to meet the Interior Minister of the Palestinian Authority, General Ziad Hab Al-Reeh, to address the urgent need for measures to improve security for Palestinians in the West Bank.  

In Tel Aviv, the Defence Secretary will meet Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant to address the current security situation and Israel’s next steps. The UK has made clear that Israel has the right to defend itself against terror, restore its security and bring the hostages home, but it must abide by international humanitarian law and take all possible measures to protect civilians.

Since Hamas attacks against Israel on 7 October, the UK has increased its military presence in the region in order to support contingency planning, monitor the evolving situation, and to be ready to react and respond to regional threats. 

This included the deployment of a Royal Navy task group to the eastern Mediterranean, including RFA Lyme Bay and RFA Argus, three Merlin helicopters and a company of Royal Marines. In support of the ongoing hostage rescue activity, the UK Ministry of Defence is also conducting unarmed surveillance flights over the eastern Mediterranean, including operating in airspace over Israel and Gaza.

In total, the UK has deployed an additional 1,000 personnel to the Middle East, bringing the total number of Armed Forces personnel deployed to the region to around 2,500 – including those deployed for counter-Daesh operations, training, and maritime security. 

Last week, the Defence Secretary also announced that HMS Diamond is deploying east of Suez to join HMS Lancaster on Operation Kipion, the UK’s longstanding maritime presence in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean, following increasing concerns about the security of important maritime trade routes.

ALSO READ-Russia Fails to Break Ukrainian Spirit: UK Envoy

-Top News Arab News Asia News

Beijing’s Hidden Agenda in Gaza Strip

Analysts say China has a long-term game plan in mind in criticizing Israel and condoning Hamas; to gain favour in the Middle East as well as with countries sympathetic to the Palestinian cause in regions such as Africa and Latin America and wean them away from the fold of the United States .. writes Dr Haroon Rashid

The Hamas terror attack on Israel and the subsequent Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip have provided Beijing with the opportunity to fish in troubled water. Instead of working with the world community to find a solution to the crisis, the mandarins of the Communist Party of China are trying to muddy the water even more to increase their geopolitical influence in the Middle East and fulfil the ambition of China emerging as a superpower.

In the light of such a Chinese design, there is much merit in the stand of India to abstain from voting in the recent motion before the United Nations for a ceasefire in Gaza. For one thing, New Delhi cannot side with the cause of terror; particularly in view of the fact that India itself is one of the worst victims of terror sponsored by Islamic fundamentalism. But India has seen through the game of China and New Delhi is now doubly cautious so that the Chinese designs in the Middle East do not succeed.

President of the United States Joe Biden gave a hint on October 26 in a joint Press conference in Washington with Prime Minister of Australia Anthony Albanese of what Beijing could be up to in the Gaza Strip. He said he was convinced that one of the reasons why Hamas launched the terrorist attack on Israel was the recent announcement in the G-20 Summit in New Delhi of the India – Middle East – Europe Economic Corridor that would integrate the entire region with a railroad network. If this is true, it is all the more the reason New Delhi should not take any stand that will encourage Hamas in any way. And, Presidents of the United States usually do not talk through the hat.

The new economic corridor was jointly announced by the U.S., India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy and the European Union on the occasion of the G20 Summit in New Delhi last September. Many see this as an alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative of China. India is a member of I2U2, a partnership formed at the initiative of the United States in 2021; the three other members of the partnership being Israel, the UAE and the USA. This partnership identifies bankable projects and initiatives to tackle challenges confronting the world. Some see in this initiative an alternative offered by the democratic world to the growing influence of Beijing in the Gulf countries and beyond, in Africa.

Behind the Hamas attack in Israel could have been a wily ploy to instigate Israel to launch an attack on Gaza Strip so that the entire Islamic world is antagonized and the Gulf countries decide not to do anything with a partnership with Israel as a member, say analysts. The question remains then if Hamas has been working at the behest of any vested interest; and who this vested interest is. So far, Beijing has not condemned in strong terms the terror attack launched by Hamas that killed about 1,400 people in Israel. A large number of Israeli citizens were also taken hostage by Hamas. On the other hand, Beijing has criticized Tel Aviv in strong terms, saying the Israeli response has been out of proportion with the offence committed by Hamas.

Foreign Minister of China Wang Yi has gone on record saying that the acts of Israel in Gaza to target Hamas had “gone beyond self-defence.” In its first statement following the Hamas attack and initial Israeli reaction, China had urged both sides to “exercise restraint” and opt for a “two-state solution.” In response, senior official in the Israeli embassy in Beijing Yuval Waks had expressed disappointment. Israel thought China was a friend, he said. “When people are being murdered, slaughtered in the streets, this s not the time to call for a two-state solution,” he said.

Analysts say China has a long-term game plan in mind in criticizing Israel and condoning Hamas; to gain favour in the Middle East as well as with countries sympathetic to the Palestinian cause in regions such as Africa and Latin America and wean them away from the fold of the United States. “China is clearly afraid of offending the Arab side,” former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, now with Washington-based think-tank Middle East Institute, has been quoted as saying.

But in making such statements, Beijing has really been working on a long-term game-plan and thinking far beyond the Middle East. Through its anti-Israel rhetoric, Beijing is trying to get close to nations where it has plans to extend investment in infrastructure under the Belt and Road Initiative, from highways to polluting thermal power plants to massive new ports. These are the countries in Africa and Latin America which often say the fight of the Palestinians against Israel is something like fighting colonization. South Africa, for instance, has said that “the new conflagration has arisen from the continued illegal occupation of Palestinian land and oppression of the people.”

Euronews has commented that Chinese state agents are using the information chaos surrounding the war between Israel and Hamas to Beijing’s advantage; glorifying violence, promoting hate and helping to spread false claims on what is happening on the ground in the Middle East; posting misinformation  to promote anti-Semitic feelings and phobia in Islamic countries.

A study by the U.K. – based Institute for Strategic Dialogue which monitors the spread of extremism and misinformation online, has found that Chinese agents are exploiting the crisis to advance the geopolitical agenda of Beijing. Data collected from Facebook and X accounts belonging to officials of the Communist Party of China, diplomatic representatives and the state media between October 7 and 18, right after the surprise attack of Hamas on Israel, indicate that Beijing is using the information chaos to serve the interests of China. “While Facebook posts remained neutral, insisting on condemning all acts that harm civilians, Chinese state media accounts on X denounced the U.S. for supposedly seeking economic advantage from the escalation,” the report is quoted to have said. “The same accounts have called out Western politicians and mainstream media for turning a ‘blind eye’ to the victims of Gaza.”

Senior Analyst of ID Julia Smirnova has been quoted to have said: “It may not come as a surprise that authoritarian states are trying to exploit the confusion around the  Israel – Hamas conflict to advance their own geopolitical agenda,” and to “deepen mistrust towards democratic institutions and the media.”

Notably, in June 2023 President of China Xi Jinping and President of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas finalized a “strategic partnership,” with Beijing pledging to increase cooperation with and funding to the Palestinian Authority. “China and Palestine are close friends and partners who trust and support each other,” President Xi was quoted to have said on the occasion.”

It will surely help the cause of China in Taiwan if the U.S. becomes too busy managing the two wars which are already raging in two corners of the globe, in Ukraine and Gaza Strip. It will thus help the Chinese strategy to extend moral support to the terrorist group Hamas, if stopping short of actually extending material support to them. There is one factor, however, which may prevent Beijing from openly supporting the cause of terror. Alienating Israel may come at a high cost for China, say analysts. China has a lucrative tech-sector trade with Israel, with Beijing often importing more than $1 billion worth of semiconductors a year from Israel.

China has been one of four countries that had voted in favour of a U.N. Security Council resolution drafted by Russia on October 16, urging a humanitarian ceasefire in the Israel – Hamas war that was rejected for not condemning the surprise attack of Hamas on Israel. There were five votes in favour and four against. For the Security Council to adopt a resolution, the proposal must receive at least nine votes in favour; with none of its five permanent members opposing or casting a veto.

“This makes it clear where China stands,” the Time magazine has commented. “China’s unwillingness to condemn Hamas and its call for an end to violence on both sides may stem from the interest in keeping itself in the good grace of Arab states in the region where China is eyeing an ambitious economic expansion — through the BRI.”

The war in Palestine has alarmed China as the region is crucial to the BRI for its energy exports. Chinese investments and construction projects in Saudi Arabia and the UAE under BRI have totalled $56.28 billion and $40.81 billion, according to the Time magazine. In this backdrop, the formation of the I2U2 partnership has clearly unnerved China as the partnership is challenging the BRI. Beijing has no qualms about extending moral support to a terrorist group like Hamas to protect its vested interests in the Middle East.

ALSO READ: China, US Discuss Preventing Spread of Gaza War

ALSO READ: Why Did China’s BRI Falter in Nepal?

-Top News Arab News Asia News

Hamdan Visits Wounded Palestinian Kids

H.H. Sheikh Hamdan checked on the health conditions of the children and their families, met with the medical teams supervising the treatment and rehabilitation plans….reports Asian Lite News

H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ruler’s Representative in Al Dhafra Region and Chairman of the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC), has visited wounded Palestinian children and cancer patients receiving medical treatment in UAE hospitals in implementation of directives of President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to provide treatment to 1,000 Palestinian children and their families from Gaza Strip.

During the visit, H.H. Sheikh Hamdan checked on the health conditions of the children and their families, met with the medical teams supervising the treatment and rehabilitation plans. He also listened to an explanation about the nature of the medical cases and the extent of their recovery.

Sheikh Hamdan directed the provision of the best-in-class health care, wishing everyone a speedy recovery and that God bless them with health and safety.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan emphasised the UAE’s keenness to stand by the people of the Gaza Strip and alleviate their suffering in light of the difficult humanitarian conditions they are going through. He pointed out that the country’s wise leadership has provided all the necessary health and medical capabilities and requirements for the sick and injured so that they can return safely to their homes, which reflects the UAE’s approach and long-standing commitment to supporting the Palestinian people and alleviating the humanitarian crisis they face, especially the most vulnerable groups, especially women and children.

ALSO READ: GCC Condemns ‘Genocide’ in Gaza, Urges Ceasefire

-Top News Arab News Asia News

Pro-Palestinian Protest in Philly Draws White House Flak

A video clip of the protest showed a group of demonstrators gathered outside Goldie, a falafel shop owned by the prominent Israeli-American chef Michael Solomonov….reports Asian Lite News

The White House labelled a pro-Palestinian rally, held over the weekend outside a kosher restaurant in Philadelphia, as ‘anti-semitic’, The Times of Israel reported on Monday.

“Goldie, Goldie, you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide,” the crowd of dozens was filmed shouting on Sunday outside the Rittenhouse Square branch of Goldie, which was founded by Israeli-American celebrity chef Michael Solomonov, the daily reported.

“It is antisemitic and completely unjustifiable to target restaurants that serve Israeli food over disagreements with Israeli policy, as Governor Shapiro has underlined,” The Times of Israel quoted White House spokesperson Andrew Bates as saying.

“This behaviour reveals the kind of cruel and senseless double standard that is a calling card of antisemitism,” Bates said.

Shapiro, who is Jewish, called the crowd’s slogans “a blatant act of antisemitism — not a peaceful protest”.

“A restaurant was targeted and mobbed because its owner is Jewish and Israeli,” Shapiro posted on X, adding, “This hate and bigotry is reminiscent of a dark time in history,” The Times of Israel stated in its report.

A video clip of the protest showed a group of demonstrators gathered outside Goldie, a falafel shop owned by the prominent Israeli-American chef Michael Solomonov. In the video, the demonstrators were seen marching down the street waving Palestinian flags and repeating the chant, ‘Goldie, Goldie, you can’t hide. We charge you with genocide’,” CNN reported.

Further, as per the report, the incident was part of a broader march in support of Gaza and Palestinians on Sunday that began at Rittenhouse Square. The demonstration continued for at least 20 more blocks after the stop at Goldie, across the Walnut Street Bridge into University City and West Philadelphia. There, marchers joined an ongoing candlelight vigil and protest in front of a controversial housing project.

Meanwhile, The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said its objectives in northern Gaza are “nearly completed,” CNN reported quoting the head of the Israeli military’s Armored Corps as saying on Monday.

“The war objective in the northern Gaza Strip is nearly completed,” Brig. Gen. Hisham Ibrahim told Israeli Army Radio on Monday.

According to CNN, the comments were echoed by the Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant during a visit to the Israeli border with Gaza on Monday.

“This action that is happening now, in the north of the Gaza Strip, will soon lead to the breaking of the entire area of Gaza City and the north of the Gaza Strip,” Gallant said, according to CNN.

The report stated that this is not the first time Israeli officials have said that the military was close to achieving its objectives in northern Gaza.

On November 16, before a since-expired temporary truce with Hamas went into effect, the chief of the IDF, General Staff Herzi Halevi, said, “We’re quite close to destroying the military system that [Hamas] had in the northern Gaza Strip.” (ANI)

ALSO READ: ‘COP28 Drives Capital Toward Emerging Markets for Climate Battle’X

-Top News Arab News UK News

Thousands of pro-Palestinian supporters stage events across Britain

At least 193 Palestinians have been killed since the cease-fire ended on Friday, according to Gazan health officials, adding to the more than 15,000 Palestinians killed since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas following a surprise attack on Oct. 7 in southern Israel…reports Asian Lite News

Tens of thousands of people across the UK held protests on Saturday as part of a “Day of Action” against the resumption of Israel’s renewed attack on Gaza following a seven-day pause in fighting, organizers said.

“Israel’s decision to resume its bombardment of Gaza flies in the face of international law, which prohibits collective punishment and attacks on civilians,” said Ben Jamal, the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign — one of the organizers of the nationwide call.

“Every humanitarian agency on the ground has indicated that the scale of destruction already wrought by Israel has pushed Gaza to the brink of catastrophe, where deaths from disease and lack of medical services could outstrip the current casualty figures,” he added.

“In that context not only is it unconscionable that Israel would renew its attacks, (but) it is also shameful and unacceptable that UK political leaders would give their support, tacitly or explicitly.”

At least 193 Palestinians have been killed since the cease-fire ended on Friday, according to Gazan health officials, adding to the more than 15,000 Palestinians killed since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas following a surprise attack on Oct. 7 in southern Israel.

“Ordinary people across the UK will come out again to show the vast majority of them support a permanent cease-fire, they will show their solidarity with Palestinians who are experiencing unbearable suffering, (and) they will also demand the root causes are not forgotten — Israel’s decades-long military occupation of Palestinian territories and its system of apartheid against Palestinians.

“We demand justice for the Palestinian people – their right to self-determination and to live in freedom, dignity and with equality,” he added.

PSC has organized weekly national marches in London since the war began, some of which organizers said drew around 800,000 people and was among the nations biggest demonstrations in history. The next scheduled national march is set to be held on Dec. 9.

Various events were held around the country as part of the call, including cease-fire rallies and vigils in places such as Brighton, Hull in the north of England, Coventry in the center, Canterbury in the southeast, and the Welsh capital Cardiff.

ALSO READ-Violent Protests Grip Bangladesh Poll Season

-Top News Arab News

Israel Frees 30 Palestinians as Deadline Approaches

Under the terms of the Israel-Hamas truce, Israel has to free three Palestinians for every Israeli hostage freed…reports Asian Lite News

The Israeli prison service has confirmed that 30 more Palestinians have been released as part of the ongoing humanitarian truce which is set to expire on Friday after it was extended for 24 hours the previous day.

The namesof the freed Palestinians have however, been witheld, the BBC reported

There was also no immediate confirmation of the prisoners’ release by the Hamas or the militant group’s affiliated media.

Under the terms of the Israel-Hamas truce, Israel has to free three Palestinians for every Israeli hostage freed.

After a tense and lengthy back-and-forth on extending the truce into a seventh day, the Israeli government eventually accepted a proposal for Hamas to release eight new Israeli hostages on Thursday.

Israel agreed to count two Israeli-Russian hostages who were set free on Wednesday as part of Thursday’s release, informed sources told CNN.

In a statement, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “The Government of Israel embraces our six citizens who have just returned to Israeli territory. Their families have been updated by the responsible authorities that they have returned to the country.

“The Government of Israel is committed to the return of all of the hostages and missing.”

Meanwhile, Qatari foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari also reiterated the terms of the truce extension on Thursday, stating Israel would release 30 Palestinians in Israeli prisons in exchange for the release of 10 hostages in Gaza — with the two Israeli-Russian nationals released on Wednesday counted on the list as part of the hostage deal.

Meanwhile, the truce, which was only renewed at the last minute for the seventh day, is set to expire again at around 7 a.m. local time (about 10.30 a.m. IST) on Friday.

The military wing of Hamas is calling for its forces to remain on “high combat readiness” in case the ceasefire isn’t extended.

Thursday’s extension was the second of the initial four-day truce that commenced on Novermber 24.

It was extended for two more days on Tuesday.

Since the start of the pause, 240 Palestinians, 86 Israelis, and 24 foreign nationals have reportedly been released.

Pledge to Continue War Against Hamas

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has told the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that his country will continue the war with Hamas until the terror outfit is defeated and deprived of its capabilities.

A statement from the office of the Defence Minister said that he had spoken to Blinken when they had met.

Blinken was in Israel for a third time after the war between Israel and Hamas erupted.

Yoav Gallant, a former General of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), is an important member of the ‘War Cabinet’ constituted by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Gallant is considered a hawk in the ‘War Cabinet’, and has taken a tough position against Hamas.

ALSO READ-US asks Israel to narrow zone of combat  

-Top News Arab News Asia News

Arab League Envoys Voice Solidarity With Palestinians

The League of Arab States (LAS) and the United Nations (UN) collaborate to promote peace, security, and economic development, while also advancing human rights and political inclusion….report Asian Lite News

The League of Arab States on Tuesday commemorated the ‘International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People’ at the Palestinian Embassy in New Delhi.

The League of Arab States (LAS) shares a common mission with the United Nations (UN): promoting peace, security and stability by preventing conflict, resolving disputes and acting in a spirit of solidarity and unity. In doing so, the two organisations also work together to expand economic opportunity, advance respect for human rights and build political inclusion.

Meanwhile, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ruchira Kamboj, recently said that India advocates for the resumption of direct negotiations towards establishing a sovereign, independent and viable state of Palestine.

Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly informal discussions on the humanitarian situation in Palestine on Monday, Kamboj said, “India’s consistent position of achieving a just, peaceful and lasting solution to the Israel-Palestine issue. India has always advocated the resumption of direct negotiations towards establishing a sovereign, independent and viable state of Palestine.”

Kamboj, welcoming the international efforts to ensure further de-escalation of the conflict, also affirmed that India opposes terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and is clearly against violence.

She said, “India welcomes all efforts by the international community that strive towards a de-escalation of the conflict and enables the delivery of urgent humanitarian assistance to the people of Palestine.”

She added, “The message from our leaders has been clear and consistent – we are firmly opposed to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, clearly against violence and are on the side of adherence to international humanitarian law and ensuring that further escalation is prevented, humanitarian aid delivery continues, all hostages are released unconditionally and all parties work towards an early restoration of peace and stability. Towards this, we also welcome efforts for humanitarian pauses.”

Kamboj highlighted that India has already delivered 70 tonnes of disaster relief materials, including medicines and medical supplies, to the people of Palestine.

She stated, “We are also firm in our commitment to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Palestine and have already delivered 70 tonnes of disaster relief materials including 17 tonnes of medicines and medical supplies in two tranches and our humanitarian support continues.

Similarly, India continues to play an active role as a Member of the Advisory Commission of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).”

Israel announced war against Hamas after it launched an attack on Israel on October 7 and killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, with around 240 people taken hostage, according to Israeli officials. (ANI)

ALSO READ: Lulu Launches Al Emarat Awwal Initiative

-Top News Arab News USA

‘Oslo Accords are now dead’

Norwegian peace worker Jan Egeland says, 30 years later, with a new bloody war raging between Israel and Hamas in Gaza the accords were “pretty much dead”…reports Asian Lite News

The Oslo Accords, which aimed to bring “peaceful coexistence” to Israel and the Palestinians, are now dead, one of the deal’s architects, said Norwegian peace worker Jan Egeland.

The agreement produced the iconic image of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shaking hands Sept. 13, 1993, on the White House lawn as President Bill Clinton watched.

It was the start of a delicate process: Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization mutually recognized each other and created Palestinian self-government for an interim period of five years.

The aim was to give the two sides enough time to iron out several key issues, such as the status of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, and the fate of Palestinian refugees — a process that struggled to make headway.

Now, 30 years later, with a new bloody war raging between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, Egeland was asked whether the accords were “pretty much dead.” “Absolutely,” he said in an interview in his office in the Norwegian capital.

“The Oslo Accords are gone as an accord. Now, there will be another accord, and it will have to be led by the US, the EU, and the Arab countries.”

The accords were the culmination of 14 rounds of secret talks in Oslo, initiated and organized by, among others, Egeland, who was, at the time, a state secretary in the Foreign Ministry.

International mediation is the only viable way out of the conflict for the 66-year-old former diplomat who now heads the Norwegian Refugee Council humanitarian organization.

“It’s not possible for Israel and Hamas to negotiate the future of these lands (alone). There will be zero trust,” he said. “Israel has waged (war) to destroy Hamas. Hamas is there to eliminate Israel.”

He said the “leaderships on either side are not at all at the level they were at the time of the Oslo Accords.” Egeland said: “Those were visionary leaders, they were strong leaders, really leaders. Now we have populists on both sides.”

Pictures hanging on the wall behind Egeland show him shaking hands with Arafat and US President George Herbert Walker Bush.

The current conflict erupted on Oct. 7 when Hamas fighters broke through Gaza’s militarized border in an attack Israeli officials said killed about 1,200 people.

Israel’s retaliatory strikes alongside a ground offensive have killed about 15,000 people.

“After this, there will be so much bitterness and hatred on both sides that there will be more violence,” Egeland said. “It’s an illusion that Israel can bomb itself to security and peace.

“It is an illusion that by killing Israeli civilians, as (Hamas) did massively, and taking civilians as hostages (that) you can solve the problem of Israel existing.” But the international community is not up to the task, he lamented.

Iran urges permanent truce

Meanwhile, Iran on Monday called for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza to stop Israel’s “crimes” in the territory as the truce between Israel and Hamas entered its final day.

With the four-day truce is approaching its scheduled end early Tuesday, Hamas has said it is willing to extend the pause and free more hostages.

The pause that began Friday has seen dozens of hostages freed, with over 100 Palestinian prisoners released by Israel in return.

“As the Islamic Republic of Iran, we want and expect… that the crimes of the Zionist regime against the Palestinian people will be stopped completely,” said Nasser Kanani, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman.

Kanani told reporters during his weekly press conference that Iran is “following” the extension of the truce “with the regional party active in this field, the state of Qatar.”

Iran’s Foreign Minster Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was on a visit to the Qatari capital Doha on Thursday.

“One of the main goals of the ongoing negotiations and efforts is to ensure that the existing temporary cease-fire takes a stable form and that the cruel aggression of the Zionist regime (Israel) against Gaza is not repeated,” he added.

But “it seems that the Zionist regime after not being able to achieve its objectives” after the offensive on Gaza, “wants to obtain a tangible victory,” he added, suggesting Israel would continue its offensive in Gaza.

Iran, which has labelled Israel’s military campaign in Gaza as a genocide, has denied any direct involvement in Hamas’s attack on Israel.

The Palestinian militant group poured across the border on October 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.

In response, Israel launched a military campaign to destroy Hamas, killing nearly 15,000 people, mostly civilians and including thousands of children, according to Gaza’s Hamas government.

ALSO READ: US President Biden to Skip COP28 in Dubai

-Top News Arab News UAE News

UAE Welcomes Palestinians

The plane landed in Abu Dhabi, carrying 93 children who are in the most urgent need of medical assistance, as well as cancer patients who need extensive treatment, accompanied by 80 of their families

The third group of wounded Palestinian children and cancer patients arrived in the UAE in implementation of the directives of President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to provide medical treatment for 1,000 injured children, and 1,000 cancer patients from the Gaza Strip, in the UAE’s hospitals.

Departing from Al-Arish International Airport in the Arab Republic of Egypt, the plane landed at Abu Dhabi International Airport, carrying 93 children who are in the most urgent need of medical assistance, including those suffering from severe injuries and burns, as well as cancer patients who need extensive treatment, accompanied by 80 of their families.

Maha Barakat, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Health, said, “The third flight of the initiative, which reflects the UAE’s unwavering and continuous support for the brotherly Palestinian people, aims to assist the most vulnerable groups and the deteriorating health sector in the Gaza Strip.”

Barakat added that the UAE’s hospitals will provide all the injured and cancer patients with the highest quality of medical treatment, stressing that the support will continue to mitigate the ongoing dire humanitarian conditions in Gaza.

Since the outbreak of the crisis, the UAE immediately provided urgent humanitarian aid and supplies to the Gaza Strip. In this regard, President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued a directive to allocate a humanitarian aid package of US$20 million. His Highness also ordered the establishment of an integrated field hospital inside the Gaza Strip as part of the “Gallant Knight 3” operation.

Ceasefire Extended

With the four-day ceasefire expiring on Tuesday, Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend the humanitarian pause by two days, a Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesperson confirmed.

“The State of Qatar announces, as part of the ongoing mediation, an agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian pause for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip,” the spokesperson said on X.

Deeming the extension as “a glimpse of hope and humanity in the middle of the darkness of war”, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “I strongly hope that these will enable us to increase even more the humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza that (are) suffering so much.”

On Monday, the last day of the Israel-Hamas truce which came into effect on November 24, Israel confirmed that Hamas released another 11 captives in the Gaza Strip, while 33 Palestinians released by Israel arrived early Tuesday in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

The Qatari Foreign Ministry said the 11 hostages freed by the Hamas were all dual nationals, comprising three Israeli-French citizens, two Israeli-German citizens, and six Israeli-Argentinian citizens.

They were released 52 days after being taken hostage by Hamas militants in their deadly attack on southern Israel on October 7.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) and Israel Security Agency (ISA) forces are currently accompanying 11 released hostages in Israeli territory, according to an official statement.

“After they undergo an initial medical assessment, our forces will escort them until they are reunited with their families,” it added.

With Monday’s releases, the Hamas has so far freed 69 hostages, primarily women and children, since the truce came into force on November 24. Israel has freed at least 150 Palestinians from prison, mainly women and minors, till date.

ALSO READ: UAE Aid Trucks Cross Into Gaza

-Top News Arab News World News

Qatar’s Global Clout Soars in Diplomatic Arenas

Doha Emerges as a Vital Intermediary for Washington, Navigating Talks with Iran and the Taliban…reports Asian Lite News

Qatar was instrumental in facilitating talks between the US and the Taliban that culminated in the 2020 Doha Accord and led to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

Ongoing mediation efforts in Lebanon, Libya, Chad, Venezuela, and Palestine are also positioning the small Gulf nation as a diplomatic heavyweight with expanding geopolitical influence, as per a recent article published in Middle East Council on Global Affairs.

Mediation has long been a cornerstone of Qatar’s foreign policy – a key strategy by which the country garners outsize prestige within the international system, while hedging its bets and maintaining ties with a wide range of actors.

Doha has made itself indispensable to Washington as a go-between with various states and non-state parties, including Iran and the Taliban, the article said.

The two sides held talks over humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and issues related to facilitating people’s movement at Torkhan and Spinboldak. (Photo Pakistan Embassy Qatar)

This strategy arguably took a hit in 2017 when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates imposed a three-and-a-half-year blockade on Qatar, leading the country to temper its efforts abroad even after the blockade ended in 2021.

But its more recent engagements show that Doha can still punch above its weight by mediating conflicts and alleviating tensions in the Middle East and beyond, the article said.

Qatar’s ability to speak to all sides in the current conflict seems to have paid off with the potential release of hostages in Gaza, DW reported.

The announcement of a possible “humanitarian pause” in the Gaza Strip can be considered a triumph for the small Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, the report said.

The Qatari Foreign Ministry put out a statement announcing a four day “pause” during which all sides — the Israeli military, the militant Hamas group and Hezbollah’s armed wing in Lebanon — would agree to stop fighting.

Previously, even Israel’s national security advisor Tzachi Hanegbi had praised Qatar’s role, writing on social media that “Qatar’s diplomatic efforts are crucial at this time”.

But not everyone is so pleased with the small Gulf state. Some commentators said negotiators should have tried harder to secure the release of more hostages. Others argued that because Qatar has been home to Hamas’ political leadership since 2012, it was somehow complicit in Hamas’ attacks, DW reported.

Experts agree that Qatar is walking a fine line when it comes to its foreign policy, playing the “Switzerland of the Middle East” and keeping doors open to all comers.

“Qatar’s role is particularly sensitive because the emirate has been relying on being an intermediary for well over two decades now,” Guido Steinberg, a senior associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, said.

In the past, Qatar has also acted as an interlocutor between the international community and the Taliban in Afghanistan (who also have political offices in Doha), between the US and Iran, and even Russia and Ukraine.

It also hosts the largest US military headquarters in the Middle East, al-Udeid Air Base, which played a significant role in evacuations from Afghanistan in 2021. This led to Qatar being described as ‘major non-NATO ally’, DW reported.

In the recent past, Qatar was spending an estimated $30 million a month on Gaza. But the arguments around this money are yet another example of how fraught Qatar’s role is when it comes to Palestinians and Hamas.

Some have suggested Qatari money subsidizes Hamas’ military wing and is used for nefarious purposes. Hamas has ruled the enclave since 2007 and also manages payments for the civil administration of Gaza, DW reported.

For many years the Qataris have served as a diplomatic bridge between various actors in the region, which, for political reasons, would not be able to easily engage each other in direct talks, The New Arab reported.

This has been evident in many instances, including the West’s engagement with the Taliban, which manifested in the Doha Agreement of 2020, the September 2023 Iran-US prisoner swap, as well as talks in Qatar between factions involved in conflicts in Lebanon and Sudan during the 2000s.

It is no secret that Hamas has a political office in Doha, with the group’s exiled leadership moved to Doha after leaving Damascus in 2012 following Hamas’ falling out with the Syrian regime at the Arab Spring’s outset, The New Arab reported.

Many neo-conservative voices in Washington have lashed out at Qatar for its relationship with the Palestinian group. Yet, an important fact to bear in mind is that it was the US which requested the opening of this Hamas office in the gas-rich emirate.

Qatar has long used Hamas’ status in Doha as a means to serve as an intermediary between the US and Israel, on one side, and Hamas, on the other, The New Arab reported.

Through Qatari backchannels, Hamas and Israel agreed to ceasefires which ended their previous armed conflicts in 2014, 2021, and 2022.

Many countries in the Middle East aspire to the role of mediators – Egypt, Oman and Kuwait among them – but Qatar presents itself as the region’s primary problem solver and advocate of dialogue. It has been active in Ukraine, Lebanon, Sudan, Iran, Afghanistan and Gaza, in the process hosting the leadership of the Taliban and the political wing of Hamas among others, The Guardian reported.

Observers say Qatar takes on this role since as a small but fabulously wealthy country built on vast supplies of liquid gas, it needs to make itself indispensable to the international community and be protected from unwelcome interventions by its larger neighbours, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The 2017-2021 boycott of Qatar led by Saudi Arabia showed it has good reasons to be fearful, The Guardian reported.

ALSO READ: Biden lauds role of Qatar, Egypt in Israel ceasefire

ALSO READ: Qatar Sets Stage for Ceasefire Announcement in Gaza