Israel-Hamas war: US sanctions 4 Israeli West Bank settlers

US placed sanctions on some Israeli settlers over violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. Meanwhile, UNRWA relief agency said it will "most likely" shut down unless aid contributions resume

Over 27,000 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip in the nearly four months of relentless fighting, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said.(photo: DW)
Over 27,000 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip in the nearly four months of relentless fighting, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said.(photo: DW)
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Hamas views cease-fire proposal positively, Qatar says

Hamas gave an initial positive reaction to a proposed cease-fire agreement and the release of hostages, Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari said on Thursday.

Mediators from the US, Egypt and Qatar met with Israeli officials in Paris over the weekend. They proposed a six-week pause in fighting in Gaza and an exchange of Hamas hostages for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

"That proposal has been approved by the Israeli side, and now we have an initial positive confirmation from the Hamas side," Ansari said. "There is still a very tough road in front of us."

A Hamas source, however, said there was still no consensus on the proposal.

"There is no agreement on the framework of the agreement yet... and the Qatari statement is rushed and not true," the source told the AFP news agency in Gaza.

Reuters news agency reported a Hamas member saying the group received the Paris proposal but had not provided a public response of any sort to it.

Any agreement could still take weeks to reach, Ansari added.

"We're hopeful that in the next couple of weeks, we'll be able to share good news," he said.

Qatar mediated a short November break in fighting that led to the release of scores of Israeli and foreign hostages, as well as aid entering the Gaza Strip.

Israel's Netanyahu calls US settler sanctions unnecessary

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office called US sanctions against four violent settlers in the West Bank unnecessary, in a statement issued soon after US President Biden announced the measures.

"Israel acts against all lawbreakers everywhere, so there is no need for exceptional measures in this regard," Netanyahu was quoted as saying. 

The statement said the majority of Israeli settlers in the West Bank were "law-abiding" and that those who were not were subject to prosecution in Israel.

Israel's allies, including the US, have for years tried — without success — to convince Netanyahu's governments to halt settlement building in the West Bank and other areas that had once been earmarked as a part of a future Palestinian state under the elusive two-state solution. The United Nations has deemed many Israeli settlements violations of international law. 


US sanctions settlers over attacks on Palestinians

US President Joe Biden signed an executive order imposing sanctions on four Jewish settlers over violence against Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank, officials said Thursday. The US State Department is expected to announce the names of the people affected by the first round of sanctions later in the day.

"The situation in the West Bank — in particular high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction — has reached intolerable levels and constitutes a serious threat to the peace, security and stability," Biden said in the order.

"These actions undermine the foreign policy objectives of the United States, including the viability of a two-state solution and ensuring Israelis and Palestinians can attain equal measures of security, prosperity, and freedom," Biden's order added. "They also undermine the security of Israel and have the potential to lead to broader regional destabilization across the Middle East, threatening United States personnel and interests."

The executive order includes freezing assets and placing visa restrictions on people found to have attacked or intimidated Palestinians or seized their property, according to two senior US officials.

United Nations figures show that daily settler attacks have more than doubled in the nearly four months since the Hamas attack and Israel's ensuing assault on the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. The EU has also considered sanctions against violent Israeli settlers. 

The United States, like Israel, Germany and several other countries, designates Hamas as a terrorist organization.

US approves strikes against Iranian targets in Iraq and Syria, media report

US President Joe Biden has given the green light to multi-day strikes against Iranian targets in Iraq, according to a CBS News report citing government officials.

Earlier this week, Biden said he had decided how the US would respond to a drone attack in northeastern Jordan near the Syrian border that killed three US servicemembers and wounded more than 40. But he still has not detailed exactly what the response would be.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday that the US would take "all necessary actions" to defend its troops, adding that it would retaliate against targets in Iraq and Syria, but not Iran.

"If they were to target Iran that would likely escalate the conflict in the Middle East," DW Washington bureau chief Ines Pohl said.

The US blamed the drone attack on Iran-backed militants, and Biden said he placed blame for the attack on Iran because it supplies weapons to militant groups operating in the region.

CBS, an American television station, did not provide details on what the approval means regarding a timeline for the start of the strikes.


UNRWA most likely to shut down by end of month

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) said it will most likely be forced to shut down its operations in the entire Middle East region by the end of February unless international aid resumes.

Several key UNRWA donors, including the United States, Germany, and Japan, halted funding to the agency following allegations from Israel that some staff played a role in the October 7 Hamas attacks.

The UNRWA said it had acted promptly over the Israel allegations, sacking 12 of its staff immediately and launching an investigation and review. 

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said, "If the funding remains suspended, we will most likely be forced to shut down our operations by end of February — not only in Gaza but also across the region."

At least 122 journalists killed in Gaza, UN rights experts say

UN independent rights experts have sounded the alarm regarding the soaring number of journalists killed in Gaza since the start of the war, putting it at at least 122, with several more journalists injured.

The UN Human Rights Council appoints the five independent experts, but they do not speak on behalf of the United Nations. They include the special rapporteurs on freedom of expression, on rights in the Palestinian territories and on extrajudicial executions.

They said that Palestinian militants also killed four Israeli journalists on October 7, while three journalists have been killed by Israeli shelling on the Lebanese side of their border.

The experts said they received "disturbing reports that despite being clearly identifiable in jackets and helmets marked 'press' or traveling in well-marked press vehicles, journalists have come under attack."

They warned that this "would seem to indicate that the killings, injury, and detention are a deliberate strategy by Israeli forces to obstruct the media and silence critical reporting."

"Targeted attacks and killings of journalists are war crimes," they said.

The experts also voiced concern regarding what they said was Israel's refusal to allow media from outside Gaza to access the enclave and report on it unless they are embedded with Israeli forces. 

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