Lebanon media says two dead in Israeli strikes on south

RAFAH: Doubts grew on Monday about the Gaza ceasefire plan and hostage release deal outlined by US President Joe Biden, as heavy fighting raged for the third day since his White House address.
On Friday, Biden unveiled Israel’s three-phase plan to end the bloody conflict, free all hostages and lead to the rebuilding of the devastated Palestinian territory without Hamas in power.
However, Netanyahu’s office stressed on Saturday that Israel would continue the war, which was triggered by an attack by Palestinian militants on southern Israel on October 7, until all of its “goals” were achieved, including the destruction of Hamas’ military and governance capabilities.
Israeli media questioned the extent to which Biden’s speech and some key details were coordinated with Netanyahu’s team, including how long the potential truce would last and how many prisoners would ever be released.

Israeli media quoted Netanyahu on Monday as saying the first phase of a US-backed plan to defuse the war in Gaza could be implemented without the necessary agreement on what comes next.
Leaked quotes from a closed-door parliamentary meeting, which officials did not immediately confirm, suggest Israel is open to entering an initial ceasefire in Gaza, although it has ruled out ending the war as demanded by Hamas.
U.S., Qatari and Egyptian mediators later said they urged “Hamas and Israel to finalize an agreement that includes the principles outlined by President Joe Biden.”
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Sunday that “we have every expectation that if Hamas agrees to the proposal … that Israel will say yes.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in a telephone conversation with War Cabinet member Benny Gantz and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, “praised” Israel for the plan, the State Department announced.
But for now, the bombings and clashes show no signs of abating in the Gaza war, which is now entering its ninth month and has devastated the Palestinian coastal territory of 2.4 million people.
On Monday, Israel’s military announced that its forces had attacked “more than 50 targets in the Gaza Strip” in the past day.
Hospitals in Gaza on Monday reported at least 19 killed in overnight attacks.
The war in Gaza was triggered by a Hamas attack on October 7 that killed 1,190 people, mostly civilians, according to AFP, based on official Israeli figures.
The extremists also took about 250 hostages, 120 of whom are still in Gaza, including 37 the military says are dead.
Israeli retaliatory bombing and ground offensives have killed at least 36,439 people, mostly civilians, in Gaza, the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry said on Sunday.
Fierce fighting raged especially in the far south of Gaza, in the Rafah area near the Egyptian border, where most civilians have now been displaced again, according to UN agencies.
Airstrikes and artillery shelling were reported in Rafah, mainly in the Tal Al-Sultan neighborhood, but also in Gaza City, witnesses said.
“The troops are continuing intelligence-based targeted operations in the Rafah area,” the army said.
“Over the past day, units have carried out scans and located terrorist infrastructure and large quantities of weapons.”
The European Hospital in Gaza said an Israeli airstrike on a house near the southern capital Khan Yunis killed 10 people and wounded several others.
Six people were reportedly killed in an attack on a family home in the central Bureij refugee camp, according to Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.
Netanyahu – a hawkish veteran who leads a fragile coalition government often described as the most right-wing in Israel’s history – is under intense domestic pressure from two sides.
Relatives and supporters of the hostages staged mass protests demanding he strike a ceasefire deal, but the prime minister’s far-right coalition allies are threatening to topple the government if he does so.
According to Biden, Israel’s three-step offer would begin with a six-week phase in which Israeli forces would withdraw from all populated areas of Gaza and an initial hostage-for-prisoner exchange.
The two sides would then negotiate a permanent ceasefire, with the truce continuing as long as talks are ongoing, Biden said, adding that it was “time for this war to end”.
Netanyahu pushed back against Bidno’s presentation, insisting that according to the “exact outline proposed by Israel” the transition from one level to the next was “conditional” and designed to allow him to preserve his war aims.
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, leaders of far-right parties, have warned they will quit the government if it supports the ceasefire proposal.
But opposition leader Yair Lapid, a centrist former prime minister, said the government “cannot ignore Biden’s important speech” and vowed to support Netanyahu if his far-right coalition partners quit.
Gallant, who has criticized Netanyahu for lacking a post-war plan for Gaza, said on Sunday that Israel was “evaluating a governing alternative” to Hamas to rule the territory after the war ends.
The UN and other humanitarian agencies have been warning for months about the looming danger of famine in the besieged territory.
At a hospital in Deir Al-Balah, 33-year-old Amira Al-Taweel said her weak, malnourished son “needs treatment and milk, but it is not available in Gaza.”
Israel’s seizure of the Rafah crossing last month further slowed intermittent aid deliveries to Gazans and effectively closed the main exit point at the Egyptian border.
Cairo refuses to coordinate humanitarian deliveries with Israel through Rafah, but has agreed to send some aid through Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing.

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