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Netanyahu Signals Cease-Fire Deal Near 07/23 06:08

   

   (AP) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signaled that a 
cease-fire deal that would free dozens of hostages from captivity in Gaza could 
be taking shape. Netanyahu is in Washington, where he was to meet with 
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

   The Israeli military ordered the evacuation of part of a crowded area in the 
Gaza Strip it had designated a humanitarian zone, while the Health Ministry in 
Gaza says over 39,000 Palestinians have now been killed in the nine-month war.

   Egypt, Qatar and the United States are pushing Israel and Hamas toward a 
phased deal that would stop the fighting and free the remaining hostages. 
Netanyahu's office has said a negotiating team will be sent to continue talks 
Thursday.

   In China, Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed a declaration on 
forming a unity government and ending a yearslong rift. But previous 
declarations have failed, including a similar deal in 2011, casting doubt over 
whether the China-sponsored negotiations might actually lead to a resolution.

   Here's the latest:

   Israeli forces raid a Palestinian city in the West Bank, killing at least 3 
militants

   JERUSALEM -- Israeli forces raided a Palestinian city in the occupied West 
Bank and killed three militants, the military and Hamas said Tuesday. The 
Palestinian Health Ministry said a woman was also killed.

   The military said a drone struck militants in the area of the northern West 
Bank city of Tulkarem overnight into Tuesday, killing Ashraf Nafa, who the 
military said was a local senior Hamas operative. It said another alleged 
militant, Mohammed Awad, was also killed in the raid, and said both had been 
behind attacks on Israeli soldiers. The Israeli military statement did not 
mention the woman killed.

   Hamas identified Nafa as a member and said two other militants with the Al 
Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, including Awad, were also killed. The woman's identity 
was not immediately clear.

   For several years, the Israeli military has been carrying out near nightly 
raids in the West Bank that intensified when the war in Gaza erupted. The 
Palestinian Health Ministry says more than 500 Palestinians have been killed in 
the ensuing violence, many of them in clashes with Israeli soldiers but others 
while throwing stones or protesting. People not involved in confrontations have 
also been killed.

   Palestinian attacks against Israelis have been on the rise in the territory.

   A top WHO official is worried about possible polio and other disease 
outbreaks in Gaza

   GENEVA -- A top World Health Organization official in Palestinian areas said 
Tuesday he's "extremely worried" about polio and other outbreaks of 
communicable diseases in Gaza after traces of the virus turned up in sewage 
samples in the territory.

   Dr. Ayadil Saparbekov, team lead for health emergencies at WHO in the 
occupied Palestinian territory, said test results and a risk assessment were 
expected this week about how people and medical officials should respond to a 
possible outbreak.

   There have been no confirmed human cases of polio in Gaza, but six of seven 
sewage samples tested positive for vaccine-derived polio virus, he said. That 
means that one or more people who got a polio vaccine jab have shed the virus 
in the environment.

   "I am extremely worried about an outbreak happening in Gaza. And this is not 
only polio -- the different outbreaks of the communicable diseases that may 
happen," he told a United Nations briefing in Geneva by video, alluding to a 
hepatitis outbreak there in 2023.

   Saparbekov said lack of water, sanitation, and access to health care could 
lead to more people dying of communicable diseases than from injury related 
conditions.

   Rolando Gomez, a United Nations spokesperson in Geneva, said Israel "as the 
occupying power" has a responsibility "to ensure assistance reaches those in 
need in Gaza" and to "create an enabling environment for the U.N. and our 
partners to operate."

   Israel has announced plans to vaccinate its soldiers operating in Gaza 
against polio.

   Palestinian factions sign a declaration in the latest attempt to clear the 
way for a unity government as the war in Gaza rages on

   RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah signed a 
declaration in Beijing on ending a yearslong rift, Chinese state state 
broadcaster CCTV said Tuesday, taking a step toward potentially resolving the 
deep divide between the sides as the war in Gaza rages on.

   The declaration by the two heavyweights of Palestinian politics -- and other 
smaller Palestinian groups -- to form a unity government for the Palestinian 
territories is the result of the latest in a series of talks meant to unite the 
sides.

   But previous declarations have failed, including a similar deal in 2011, 
casting doubt over whether the China-sponsored negotiations might actually lead 
to a resolution. It also comes as Israel and Hamas are weighing an 
internationally backed cease-fire proposal that would wind down the nine-month 
war and free dozens of Israeli hostages held by Hamas.

   Still, the future of Gaza is undecided, with Israel vehemently opposed to 
any role by Hamas in governing Gaza. It has also rejected calls from the United 
States for the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority to run Gaza after the war 
ends. The lack of a postwar vision for running the Gaza Strip has complicated 
negotiations over a cease-fire.

   Since the current war broke out in Gaza almost 10 months ago, Hamas 
officials have said that the party does not want to return to ruling Gaza as it 
did before the conflict, and the group has called for formation of a government 
of technocrats to be agreed upon by the various Palestinian factions, which 
would prepare the way for elections for both Gaza and the West Bank, with the 
intention of forming a unified government.

   Conditions for a cease-fire deal that would release hostages from captivity 
in Gaza are 'ripening,' Israel's Netanyahu says

   TEL AVIV, Israel -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has signaled 
that a cease-fire deal that would free dozens of hostages from captivity in 
Gaza could be taking shape.

   In a meeting late Monday in Washington with families of hostages, Netanyahu 
said the conditions to bring the captives back were "ripening," according to a 
statement from his office. He said that was happening because of the fierce 
military pressure Israel was putting on Hamas.

   He gave no further details on the deal's progress.

   For weeks, Israel and Hamas have been weighing a United States-backed 
cease-fire deal that would bring a halt to the nine-month war and free the 
roughly 120 hostages taken by Hamas during its Oct. 7 attack. About a third of 
the hostages are said to be dead, and Israel's military announced Monday that 
two more died in captivity.

   Netanyahu faces intense pressure from a broad swath of Israelis to agree to 
the deal. He has vowed to defeat Hamas before stopping the war, a term that has 
been a main sticking point throughout the negotiations.

   The families of hostages had demanded that Netanyahu nail down a deal before 
flying to Washington, where he will address Congress and is expected to meet 
President Joe Biden.

   Bill labeling UN Palestinian aid agency as a 'terror group' moves forward in 
Israel's parliament

   JERUSALEM, Israel -- An Israeli parliamentary bill that seeks to label the 
main provider of aid for Palestinians in Gaza a terrorist group is moving ahead.

   Legislators voted 50-10 in favor of the bill in a preliminary vote in 
Israel's parliament Monday. The bill requires two more votes before becoming 
law.

   The bill is the product of increasingly tense relations between Israel and 
the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, known as UNRWA. Israel has 
accused the agency of militant links, claiming that hundreds of its employees 
are members of militant groups, including some who allegedly participated in 
Hamas' Oct. 7 attacks on southern Israel. Those accusations led to a global 
cascade of funding cuts to the agency.

   UNRWA employs thousands of workers and provides vital aid and services to 
millions of people across the Middle East. In Gaza, it has been the main 
supplier of food, water and shelter to civilians during the Israel-Hamas war.

   The bill moving through parliament would brand the agency as a "terror 
group," saying that the employees' alleged involvement in the Hamas assault 
shows that "it is a terror organization that is no different from the Hamas 
terror organization." The bill also seeks to cut diplomatic ties between Israel 
and the agency.

   Juliette Touma, director of communications for UNRWA, said she wasn't 
entirely sure how the bill, if made law, would affect the agency, but said it 
would likely complicate its work. She said UNRWA is in contact with Israeli 
authorities on a daily basis, something the law would limit.

   The European Union, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have all previously expressed 
concern about the bill, saying it would hobble the agency's work.

 
 
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