Fighting in Gaza continues despite Biden’s optimism that a ceasefire is imminent

Proposal for 40-day ceasefire stops short of Hamas’ demand that agreement include path towards end of war

Despite the optimistic comments from US president Joe Biden that a new Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal could be clinched by the end of the week, there is still no indication that a breakthrough is imminent.

The main bone of contention continues to be the Hamas demand that any deal include a pathway for an end to the war – something Israel says it is not prepared to agree to at this juncture as it has still not engaged the last six Hamas battalions in Rafah and two refugee camps in the centre of the coastal enclave.

As proximity talks continue in Doha involving Hamas representatives and an Israeli delegation, the head of Hamas’s political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, said on Wednesday that it was showing flexibility in negotiations but was prepared to continue fighting. He also called on Muslims in the West Bank, Jerusalem and inside Israel to go en masse to the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s old city and “fortify it on the first day of Ramadan”, which is expected to begin on March 10th.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki said he did not expect “miracles” at talks, scheduled to begin in Moscow on Thursday, to discuss the formation of a unified Palestinian government and the rebuilding of Gaza.


The talks between representatives of Hamas and Fatah come days after Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh resigned ahead of the expected formation of a new government based on technocrats that it is hoped will play a role in a postwar Gaza.

Washington wants a 45-day Ramadan truce to be the first phase of a much wider new regional order that will include a ceasefire on the Israel-Lebanon border and eventually, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. Secretary of state Antony Blinken stressed the United States commitment to Palestinian statehood to the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.

As fighting continued in Khan Younis and in the Gaza city neighbourhood of Zeitoun, large crowds burned tyres and forced merchants out of a market in the southern Gaza city of Rafah in protest over soaring food prices. The protest came after allegations that Hamas has been diverting part of the humanitarian aid entering Gaza and selling it to traders instead of distributing it to needy residents.

Some 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza during the nearly five-month-old war, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Israel says 1,200 people were killed in the surprise Hamas attack on October 7th and more than 250 kidnapped, 134 of whom are still in Gaza.

Families of the 134 hostages began a four-day march to Jerusalem on Wednesday, calling for the release of the hostages after more than four months in Hamas captivity in Gaza.

The marchers set out from the site of the Nova music festival, close to the Gaza border, where more than 360 young partygoers were shot dead by Hamas-led gunmen on the morning of October 7th.

Cross-border exchanges of fire on Israel’s northern border continue and Hamas units based in southern Lebanon claimed to have fired 40 rockets at Israeli military targets on Wednesday.

Israel holds Hizbullah responsible for all fire emanating from Lebanon. “Hizbullah decided on October 7th that it is joining the fighting. For that it must pay a very high price,” said Israel’s army chief Lt Gen Herzi Halevi.

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Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem