Hamas on Saturday put on hold a second hostages-for-prisoners exchange, alleging that Israel violated the terms of a temporary cease-fire agreement.
« The release of the second round of hostages to be delayed until Israel commits to the terms of the agreement — allowing aid trucks into the north of Gaza, » Hamas’ military wing said in a statement on its television channel.
It was not immediately clear which specific delivery of aid the Hamas statement referred to. The Israeli Prime Minister’s office declined immediate comment, but an Israeli official told NPR that « Israel did not violate the agreement. »
The second batch of hostages were set to be released around 4 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET), but about an hour and a half later, the announcement from Hamas came down.
The delay at least temporarily dashes the hopes of families of the captives and Palestinians waiting for the release of prisoners from Israeli jails.
The sudden reversal capped a day of anticipation after a successful swap on the first day of the cease-fire on Friday, when Hamas handed over two dozen hostages, including 13 Israelis who were seized as part its Oct. 7 assault on Israel that killed around 1,200 people, Israel says. In exchange, Israel released 39 Palestinian prisoners.
Nearly 15,000 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the conflict and more than 30,000 wounded, according to the latest figures from Gaza’s health ministry.
Among the Israelis who won freedom on Friday is Hanna Katzir, who the Palestinian Islamic Jihad — a militia group that also took part in last month’s attack on Israel — had earlier said was killed in an Israeli airstrike. Other Israelis released are eight members of three separate families, including four young children. Five captives, including Katzir, are in their 70s and the oldest is 85.
Hospitals where the freed hostages were taken have reported that they are in generally good condition. Dr. Efrat Bron-Harlev, the CEO of Schneider Children’s Medical Center, said the four children, three mothers and a grandmother there « are in the best and most caring hands. »
« Their physical condition is good and they are currently undergoing medical and emotional assessment by the medical and psychosocial teams at Schneider Children’s in a specially designated and private area, » Bron-Harlev said.
As Israeli hostages were being freed and reunited with their families on Friday, there were scenes of celebration in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where the Palestinians prisoners were being handed over. An enormous crowd in the heart of Ramallah gathered, chanting pro-Hamas slogans and waved the militant group’s green flag.
The temporary truce was brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States. Under the terms of the deal, Israel and Hamas must halt combat operations while at least 50 Israelis and 150 Palestinian prisoners are exchanged in groups each day. Israel says it could extend the cease-fire up to 10 days if Hamas keeps releasing captives.
Egypt’s state information service on Saturday said that Egyptian officials were working with parties involved in the negotiations « to extend the truce period between the Israeli and Palestinian sides, for a day or so. »
Israel’s military has vowed to resume fighting once the deal expires or breaks down. « At the end of the operational pause, we will return promptly to our operations and offensive in Gaza, » military chief of staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said Saturday.
Meanwhile in Gaza, the pause in fighting has opened the door for the besieged Hamas-controlled territory to receive badly needed food, fuel and other supplies after weeks of bombardment from Israeli warplanes and ground forces. Israel has vowed to crush Hamas. The fighting has displaced nearly half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people, according to UNRWA, the U.N. relief agency overseeing Palestinians.
With the temporary cease-fire, some Palestinians are feeling safe enough to visit relatives in central and southern Gaza for the first time since the fighting began. Fuel supplies are scarce so they are using cooking oil to power old cars.
However, last month Israel’s military warned Gazans living in the northern half of the territory, which includes Gaza City’s half-million people, to move to the south or risk being killed during Israeli operations.
Men carry empty canisters to be filled with cooking gas from a tanker that entered the Palestinian enclave via the Rafah crossing with Egypt, on Saturday.
A spokesperson for Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said Saturday that 200 trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered Gaza from Egypt. It said the trucks were carrying food, water, shelter equipment and medical supplies.
« The United Nations led the deployment of over 50 humanitarian aid trucks to both the northern Gaza Strip and shelters that have not yet been evacuated. This deployment is being carried out with Israeli approval through the evacuation corridor, » COGAT said.
The Palestinian Red Crescent says it was able to deliver humanitarian aid by convoy to Gaza City and the North Gaza Governorate. It said the aid delivery was considered the largest since the conflict began.
The same number of trucks were dispatched to Gaza on Friday, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
On his second visit to Gaza, UNRWA Commissioner-General General Philippe Lazzarini said the agency is ready to receive more than 150 trucks a day of aid.
« It is time to remove bureaucratic hurdles and restrictions on UNRWA so that we can expand and accelerate the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance to more than two million people, » Lazzarini said.
14-year-old boy arrested in parents’ deaths, tried to kill sister, sheriff says
A 14-year-old boy was in custody Friday after allegedly killing his parents and trying to kill his 11-year-old sister in their Fresno County, California home, authorities said.
Deputies were dispatched to the residence in the community of Miramonte on Wednesday night on a 911 call reporting a break-in and attack, Sheriff John Zanoni said at a news conference Friday.
Deputies found the parents dead and the sister injured. A 7-year-old sibling was uninjured, and was in the care of relatives, Zanoni said.
The teenage boy told deputies someone broke in attacked family members before fleeing in a pickup, but detectives discovered inconsistencies in his story, and he was ultimately taken into custody, the sheriff said.
Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni during the news conference.
Fresno County Sheriff John Zanoni at a news conference Friday.Fresno County Sheriff’s Office / via Facebook
“He fabricated the story of the break-in,” Zanoni said.
The teen sustained a few scratches, he said, but there was no indication he had self-inflicted injuries.
The parents were identified as father Lue Yang and mother Se Vang, both 37. The cause and manor of death were still pending, a sheriff’s spokesperson said.
The sister had severe injuries and was expected to survive after receiving trauma care, Zanoni said.
Authorities were still cataloging weapons and were not prepared to say exactly what was used in the attacks, the sheriff said, adding that some of the multiple weapons used in the violence were not uncommon in rural areas.
Miramonte is in the Sierra Nevada mountains, about 40 miles west of Mount Whitney.
Miramonte sign by a road at night.
Deputies were dispatched to the residence in the community of Miramonte. Fresno County Sheriff’s Office / via Facebook
The motive has not been determined, Zanoni said. Deputies had not made previous visits to the household.
It wasn’t clear if charges had been formally filed or if the suspect has retained counsel in the case. The Fresno County public defender’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The teen was being held in a juvenile facility on allegations of murder and attempted murder, the sheriff said.
“It is extremely tragic,” he said.
Burundi’s President Calls for Stoning of Gay Couples
Burundi’s President Evariste Ndayishimiye recently launched a virulent tirade against same-sex marriage, denouncing it as an « abominable practice » and advocating for the stoning of gay couples, citing religious reasons.
The President, known for his conservative Christian views, previously called for homosexuals to be « banished » and treated as outcasts. He criticized Western countries opposing LGBTQ+ rights and defiantly rejected aid from those advocating such practices, urging individuals embracing those beliefs to stay abroad.
This strong stance is in line with the conservative Christian values prevalent in the Great Lakes country, where same-sex relations are punishable by imprisonment.
This statement comes in reaction as the global discourse on LGBTQ+ rights has seen some notable developments, such as Pope Francis’ declaration on December 18th regarding the blessing of homosexual couples.
While this marks a symbolic shift in the Catholic Church’s stance, it’s essential to note that the Church maintains a clear distinction between homosexual and heterosexual marriages.
The Vatican’s doctrine of the « one true marriage » underscores its position that while marriage for all is tolerated, it is not yet fully accepted within the Catholic religion.
However, implementing such changes globally is a complex endeavour. Despite the Vatican’s guidance, the ability to enforce a shift in mentality and impose measures across all Catholic communities proves challenging.
Several African churches have already signalled their resistance to these advances. For instance, the bishops of Cameroon explicitly rejected any change, stating, « We formally prohibit all blessings of homosexual couples. » Similarly, Togo has expressed openness to individuals in same-sex relationships but encourages priests to refrain from blessing such couples.
This dynamic reflects the ongoing struggle within the Catholic Church to reconcile differing perspectives on LGBTQ+ issues, illustrating the tension between global doctrinal shifts and the autonomy of individual religious communities, particularly in conservative regions like Africa.
Ivory Coast will deliver 50 million liters of gasoline monthly to Guinea
Ivory Coast will deliver 50 million liters of gasoline per month to Guinea, following the explosion and fire at the country’s main fuel depot, Ivorian national television announced Wednesday evening.
“Côte d’Ivoire is committed to delivering 50 million liters of gasoline per month to Guinea,” said a journalist from Radiotélévision Ivoirienne (RTI), without specifying the duration of this aid.
“The practical terms of the contract and the security of the convoys will be signed this Thursday,” said another journalist from the channel, specifying that Guinea had a monthly need of 70 million liters of gasoline.
The Guinean Minister of the Economy, Moussa Cissé, met on Wednesday in Abidjan with the Ivorian Minister of Mines, Oil and Energy, Mamadou Sangafowa Coulibaly.
Saturday, five days after the explosion and fire in Conakry of the country’s main fuel depot which left 24 dead and 454 injured, according to a new report, the Guinean government announced the resumption of gasoline distribution, in rationing it.
Twenty-five liters per vehicle and five liters per motorcycle and tricycle were authorized, with the use of cans prohibited.
The population was deprived of gasoline throughout the territory since the explosion and fire, leading to the paralysis of a large part of the economy.
Demonstrations in several localities last week sometimes turned into clashes between groups of young people demanding the return of gasoline to service stations and the security forces.
Furthermore, the Guinean government announced Wednesday that the fire at the fuel depot was « completely extinguished », in a press release sent to AFP.
In total, more than 11,000 people were directly affected by the fire.