Hamas maintains Israeli army withdrawal as ceasefire demand

Humanitarian aid packages are seen landing in Gaza as Israeli attacks continue, April 3, 2024. /CFP

Humanitarian aid packages are seen landing in Gaza as Israeli attacks continue, April 3, 2024. /CFP

Head of the Hamas Political Bureau Ismail Haniyeh on Wednesday affirmed the movement’s commitment to its demands for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Haniyeh said in a speech that the demands include the withdrawal of the Israeli army from the Gaza Strip, the return of the displaced to their homes, the entry of aid, the lifting of the blockade, reconstruction, and a dignified prisoner exchange deal.

In the speech, he accused the Israeli side of carrying out “indirect negotiations and not responding to the fair Palestinian demands to stop its aggression on Gaza.”

He called on Arab and Islamic countries to form a popular front to put an end to Israeli aggression, and support the liberation battle waged by the Palestinian people.

During the past 24 hours, the Israeli army killed 59 Palestinians and wounded 83 others, bringing the total death toll to 32,975 and injuries to 75,577 since the Israel-Hamas conflict broke out on October 7, 2023, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

A view of the area where al-Shifa Hospital stood in Gaza , April 01, 2024. /CFP

A view of the area where al-Shifa Hospital stood in Gaza , April 01, 2024. /CFP

The Houthi movement in Yemen on Wednesday hosted an online conference that brought together leaders from Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other groups of the “Axis of Resistance” to discuss the situation in Gaza and the region.

Among the speakers at the conference were Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, and Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh.

Al-Houthi, in his speech, urged unity among the “Axis of Resistance” and pledged his group would support Palestine with “everything we can, and we are constantly striving to develop our capabilities,” according to the Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV.

He also vowed to launch more attacks on the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

For his part, Raisi slammed the “Western silence” over the ongoing conflict in Gaza and called for more protests across the region and the world to pressure Israel.

He also accused Israel of being responsible for Monday’s attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus, warning that “the attack will not remain without a response.”

A ship belonging to the Open Arms aid group, one of three ships loaded with canned food destined for Gaza, has returned to the Cypriot port of Larnaca, Cyprus, April 3, 2024. /CFP

A ship belonging to the Open Arms aid group, one of three ships loaded with canned food destined for Gaza, has returned to the Cypriot port of Larnaca, Cyprus, April 3, 2024. /CFP

Nighttime aid suspended

UN humanitarians have suspended nighttime aid movements in Gaza for at least 48 hours following Israel’s killing of World Central Kitchen staff, said a UN spokesman on Wednesday.

“We have suspended our nighttime movements within the Gaza Strip for at least 48 hours to allow for further evaluation of the security issues that impacted our personnel on the ground,” said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The 48-hour suspension started on Tuesday following Monday’s killing of World Central Kitchen staff, he said.

He said the World Health Organization (WHO) is still waiting for permission from the Israeli authorities to get access to al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza. The WHO team is also planning to visit two other hospitals in northern Gaza – al-Sahaba and al-Ahli. However, no permission has been received to go to those sites.

“We can only underscore once more that delays and the denial of humanitarian missions not only prevent us from reaching those in need. But they also impact other operations and deliveries by diverting scarce resources,” said the spokesman. “We and our humanitarian partners will continue to do all we can to get life-saving aid to civilians all across the Gaza Strip.”

In a phone conversation on Wednesday, King Abdullah II of Jordan and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres discussed the dangerous situation in Gaza, including the recent killing of members of the World Central Kitchen organization who were delivering vital aid to Gazans, according to a statement by the Royal Hashemite Court.

Since the conflict began in Gaza, nearly 196 aid workers have been killed in the Strip, 175 of whom worked for UN agencies.

(With input from agencies)