The glimmer of peace that Gaza has regained in the last six days has not only brought no calm to the West Bank, but has coincided with an even greater upsurge in violence in that occupied Palestinian territory, where some of its inhabitants denounce a war that does not bear that name.
While Hamas was open on Wednesday to the possibility of extending the truce in the Gaza Strip for another four days, which expires this Thursday at 07:00 a.m. (one hour less in Spanish peninsular time), in the West Bank some thirty Palestinians were arrested this morning in Ramallah, Jericho, Nablus and Jenin, Abdallah Zgari explained to this newspaper. president of the NGO Palestinian Prisoners' Club. That number exceeds the number of prisoners from the West Bank and East Jerusalem released Tuesday thanks to the hostage swap in Gaza that accompanies the truce. In Jenin, the Israeli army carried out a major military incursion that lasted more than 16 hours. The city has been declared a "closed military zone."
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While the latest and umpteenth military incursion in Jenin has just ended, from Gaza, a Hamas source quoted by Agence France Presse has assured that the Palestinian fundamentalist movement is "in agreement" to extend the truce for four more days. This suggests not only that the armed group is managing to locate some more of the 161 hostages that, according to the Israeli government, remain in Gaza, but also that Israel and Hamas could also begin to exchange adult males, soldiers or even consider the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for the return of bodies of Israelis held by Palestinian militias. So far, among the 66 freed Israeli hostages, there is only one adult male: a male with dual Israeli-Russian citizenship. The rest are women and children, in addition to the 20 Asian workers released in the Palestinian enclave outside the framework of the agreement between Israel and Hamas. Israel has released 180 Palestinians, including women and children, since last Friday.
In that same period, a very similar number of Palestinians have been detained by Israel: 168, according to Abdallah Zgari. The president of the Palestinian Prisoners' Club denounces that the Israeli authorities also continue to arrest minors, such as the 12-year-old boy who, he says, was arrested on Tuesday night in Ramallah, the capital of the West Bank.
The Egyptian daily Al Arabi Al Jadid reported on Wednesday that Hamas and Israel — mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the United States — have reached an agreement to extend the truce for at least two days, although neither side has officially confirmed this, beyond statements by the source close to Hamas quoted by France Presse. According to the Egyptian newspaper, which cites official sources, the temporary cessation of fighting would be extended with conditions very similar to those that have been in force since the beginning of the truce on Friday, that is, the cessation of bombing in exchange for the delivery every day of 10 hostages in the hands of Palestinian militias to Israel. whereas, for its part, it would continue to release Palestinian prisoners and allow 200 trucks carrying humanitarian aid into the Strip each day. That amount is "insufficient," the United Nations said Tuesday night. Before the war, some 500 heavy-duty vehicles entered Gaza each day with humanitarian aid and goods.
Israeli officials quoted by the Haaretz newspaper have confirmed that this proposal to extend the temporary ceasefire by two days is being analyzed by the Israeli government, which has not yet signed it. In line with the official discourse, the officials quoted by the newspaper maintained that Israel does not consider in any case extending the pause in the war beyond Sunday, a short deadline that the mediators between that country and Hamas aspire to extend, especially Qatar and Egypt, which have reiterated that their goal is to make this truce a definitive ceasefire.
The head of the US intelligence services, William Burns, the director of the CIA, met again on Wednesday in Doha with David Barnea, head of the Israeli Mossad, to discuss the new phase of the truce, according to a source cited by Reuters. The U.S. is trying to understand what conditions Israel is setting for this new extension and whether there is a possibility that it could be extended beyond the two days that were added to the four days of cessation of fighting initially agreed. At a press conference in Brussels, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that "looking ahead to the next two days", his country will focus on "doing everything we can to prolong the pause, so that we continue to take out more hostages and get more humanitarian aid [to Gaza]".
Among these new conditions, the possibility of starting to exchange adult male hostages and soldiers of both sexes is being discussed. This issue seems essential for a somewhat more lasting peace, given that a good number of civilian women and children — 65 — held captive by Palestinian militias have already been released and that Israel makes the cessation of fighting conditional on the surrender of 10 new hostages every day. Israeli government spokesman Eylon Levy on Wednesday put the number of people kidnapped in Gaza at 161, of whom 141 are Israelis and the rest are foreigners.
At the press conference in which he offered this information, the spokesman assured that his country will continue to "increase military pressure for Hamas to release more hostages in Gaza." It reaffirmed the official Israeli argument that the bombings in the Gaza Strip, which have already killed at least 15,000 people, according to Gazan health authorities, also pose a danger to the hostages. The Ezedin al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, announced on Wednesday the death of three Israeli hostages of the Argentine-Israeli Bibas family: 10-month-old baby Kfir Bibas, his older brother, Ariel, four, and their mother, Shiri, who were killed in a bombing, according to the militants. An official Israeli statement responded by attributing "full responsibility for the safety of the hostages" to Hamas.
The Israeli narrative claims that continuing the war will lead Hamas to release more hostages. The official Israeli argument also describes this truce as "an operational pause" that will allow better preparation for the next phases of a conflict that Benjamin Netanyahu's government can hardly renounce.
On the one hand, the prime minister faces pressure to honour his promise to "wipe out Hamas", a goal that is difficult to achieve given the dual military and political character of the religious-nationalist movement, the implementation of its social and charitable infrastructure and the impossibility of destroying an ideology with cannon fire. Beyond that promise, Netanyahu faces the bellicosity of the most far-right wing of his government. One of its representatives, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, warned his partner in X, formerly Twitter, on Tuesday that stopping the war was tantamount to breaking the coalition that allows the prime minister to govern.
Military Zone Closed
The guns have so far fallen silent in Gaza but not in the West Bank, where its inhabitants have been living since October 7 — the day of the Hamas attack on Israel in which 1,200 people were killed — in a constant escalation. Especially in some of the towns considered by Israel to be strongholds of the Palestinian resistance, such as Jenin, in the north of the West Bank, with a population of about 50,000. Of these, between 11,000 and 14,000, according to various Palestinian sources, live in a refugee camp whose area does not even cover half a square kilometre.
On Tuesday afternoon, a large number of Israeli military vehicles entered the city and the countryside again, while snipers were stationed on rooftops and drones flew over buildings, health sources told this newspaper on condition of anonymity. Luz Saavedra, coordinator of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Jenin, the only international organization that works permanently in the refugee camp and in the city, later confirmed to EL PAÍS in an audio note that the Israeli military blocked the entrance to the largest public hospital in the city, the Khalil Suleiman. "with military vehicles and snipers" that prevented the wounded from accessing the emergency rooms of the centre, to which MSF offers support.
"On this occasion, we even saw storm troopers near the entrance to the emergency room inside the hospital compound," an event of a "significant gravity" that had not been seen "in previous incursions," Saavedra said. MSF says it is unable to give death or injury figures at the moment.
"Since October 7," Dr. Wisam Bakr, director of the Khalil Suleiman hospital, told this newspaper in Jenin hours before the raid, Israeli soldiers "do not follow any rules." Not only do they "prevent the wounded and patients from accessing medical care" during their raids, but they also "stop ambulances, search them and take away the wounded in custody," Bakr said. The snipers shoot directly at the hospital, the doctor said. The windows of the downtown stairwells are riddled with huge bullet holes, apparently of large caliber given their diameter. Attacking hospitals, ambulances and detaining wounded people, even if they are combatants – as long as they are no longer a danger – can constitute a war crime.
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