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‘Any small incident could spiral into big explosion’ as ceasefire nears

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‘Any small incident could spiral into big explosion’ as ceasefire nears



After lengthy negotiations, a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that includes the release of hostages was approved by both warring sides early Wednesday. The announcement was made by the Foreign Ministry of Qatar, the main mediator of the agreement.

For more stories from The Media Line go to themedialine.org
Also part of the negotiations were the United States and Egypt.

The Israeli government approved the deal—which would see the release of approximately 50 Israeli children and women—after an extended cabinet meeting. In return for the 50 hostages, Israel will release 150 Palestinian prisoners and stop its offensive on the Gaza Strip for four days. During this period, the hostages will be released gradually.

The deal is to begin implementation on Thursday. It will also include an increase in humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

The gradual nature of the agreement and the elusive character of Hamas make the deal a highly sensitive one that could easily be derailed and unfulfilled.

Families of Israelis held hostage by Hamas militants in Gaza set a symbolic shabbat table with more than 200 empty seats for the hostages, at ”Hostage Square”, outside the Art Museum of Tel Aviv, October 20, 2023. (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

“Any argument against the deal is valid,” Dr. Michael Milstein, head of the Palestinian Studies Forum at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, told The Media Line. While Milstein believes the deal is necessary, he cautions that “Hamas is going to use the cease-fire to prepare itself for the next phase of the war.”

Hamas is not the only one holding hostages. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad has admitted to holding some Israelis, and other Gaza warlords are believed to be keeping others in hiding.

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“Not all of these elements are under Hamas control. Any small incident could spiral into a big explosion,” said Milstein. “[Also], Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar is not to be trusted. At any given moment, he can renege and decide to operate against the Israeli military.”

Families of hostages poised for tension-filled days

The families of those hostages set to be released are now poised for tension-filled days, holding their breath until they see their loved ones. The order of the release of the hostages is unknown, making the coming days almost impossible to bear.

Seven weeks into the fighting, there are also concerns that the lull could pose a grave danger for Israeli soldiers in Gaza. The forces are expected to remain inside the territory, putting them at risk, neck-to-neck with Hamas terrorists. But Israel has decided to take the risk.

“The government of Israel is committed to bringing all of the hostages home. Tonight, the government approved the outline for the first stage of achieving this goal,” read a statement by the Office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, released after the approval of the deal.

The Netanyahu government has been under intense pressure from the public to secure the release of the hostages. Three ministers voted against the deal, led by extreme right-wing National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who said it was a “dangerous outline that changes the equation.” Ben Gvir raised concerns that the deal would encourage more abductions.

According to Dr. Omer Zanany, Lt. Cl. (Res.), director of the Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking Program at Mitvim, the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policies, and head of the “Day After” Program of Mitvim and the Berl Katznelson Center, there are tactical risks that Israel took into consideration before agreeing to the deal.

“There is no question that the hostage issue is unparalleled to any other strategic issue on the agenda,” Zanany told The Media Line. “The cost of the pause and the ability of Hamas to regroup is one that is tolerable in order to achieve the main goal of releasing them.”

Israel has experience in botched cease-fires and lopsided prisoner deals. Hamas still holds the body of an Israeli officer whom it killed in a 2014 war, during a cease-fire between the sides.

Until today, Israelis are divided about the deal that brought the release of one Israeli soldier in 2011 in return for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. Not only was the price deemed too high by many, but also the identity of those released was controversial. Many of the prisoners were murderers who had killed Israelis.

Moreover, one of the released murderers came to be Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar. Sinwar is believed to be the mastermind behind the surprise and murderous offensive that started the current war. He is also the one Israel negotiated with, albeit indirectly, on the current deal.

Israeli officials, including Netanyahu, have not ruled out the assassination of Sinwar. Senior military officers have said they are searching for him “round the clock” as troops scour Gaza.

The current deal is only a partial one that is intended to release 50 or so of the 240 people abducted as part of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

“The hostages are Hamas’ and Sinwar’s insurance policy,” said Zanany. “As long as we are in some kind of a journey to release all of the hostages, any thoughts of assassination are in question. Whoever says there is no connection between the military operation and hostage release deals is lying. There is a price to pay for the release of hostages, but there is no other choice.”

By approving the current deal, which could be the first in a series of deals to release the hostages, Israel has perhaps forfeited its goal of destroying Hamas—a goal that Netanyahu has repeatedly promised the Israeli public he will deliver.

“We are at war, and we will continue the war,” Netanyahu said just before the approval of the deal. “We will continue until we achieve all our goals.”

Israel holds approximately 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in its jails. On Wednesday morning, the Justice Ministry released the names of those eligible for release as part of the deal. Most of them are males aged 18 and under, being held for rioting or rock-throwing. There are also several adult women, convicted of attempted stabbings of Israelis. Few are from the Gaza Strip.

In the statement released by the Israeli government regarding the terms of the deal, it added that the truce would be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages released by Hamas.

A longer pause in the fighting could lead to pressure on Israel to end its war without achieving its goal of toppling Hamas.

“Israel’s motive will remain after this deal, and there will still be hostages to release,” said Zanany. “However, Israel could lose momentum. It also depends on whether Hamas will continue firing rockets into Israel.”

Since the beginning of the fighting, Hamas has continued to fire rockets towards Israel. However, once Israel began its ground invasion over three weeks ago, the number of rockets fired into Israel has been reduced drastically.

“The army will know how to maintain its operational achievements,” said Israeli Defense Forces Spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari when asked about the cease-fire.

As part of the deal, Israel has also agreed to daily pauses in drone surveillance over the Gaza Strip.

“This is one of Hamas’ greatest achievements,” Milstein said. “This will give it enough time to rearm, mobilize rockets, and reposition Hamas forces in Gaza City, where Israel has not gained full control of yet.”

Israel has focused most of its military activity in the northern Gaza Strip, directing the Palestinian civilian population to the south of the territory. The army has said the next phase of the fighting will focus on Gaza’s southern area. This will be an especially tricky phase, given the large number of displaced civilians there along with Hamas senior leadership believed to be in hiding there.

“Southern Gaza and the continuation of cleansing Gaza of Hamas are the next steps for Israel,” said Zanany. “Everyone in Israel agrees that there is still need to fight and realize the military goals.”

There are many stumbling blocks to be surpassed in the sensitive deal reached between Hamas and Israel.

“As long as Hamas feels like the agreement is beneficial to the rehabilitation of its military activities, the cease-fire will continue and the hostage releases will progress,” said Milstein. “This is the only criterion.”

With so many things that could go wrong, the region and its people are holding their breath.





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Israel’s High Court rejects petition of east Jerusalem family facing eviction

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Israel’s High Court rejects petition of east Jerusalem family facing eviction



Israel’s High Court of Justice rejected on Sunday a petition by an east Jerusalem family seeking to challenge a previous court decision – which ruled that the family must vacate their home in Silwan in favor of Jewish residents,  the Israeli NGO Peace Now reported. 

The Shhadeh family, from Batan al-Hawa in Silwan, challenged Judge Noam Solberg’s ruling, which rejected their appeal request. However, the Shhadeh family claimed that the court did not seek their response to the Jewish buyers’ applications in the case, leading to a flaw in the court’s decision-making process. Their voices were not heard before the decision – contrary to procedural rules. 

However, on Sunday, the High Court rejected the petition. 

Peace Now, an Israeli NGO working to promote a two-state solution, made a statement on the ruling, saying, “This is a political move, under the guise of legal proceedings, for the forcible displacement of a Palestinian community and its replacement by settlers in the heart of a Palestinian neighborhood in east Jerusalem.” 

Palestinian children stand outside an apartment in the Silwan district of East Jerusalem in Jerusalem, May 15, 2024. (credit: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

“The responsibility to prevent the injustice lies with the government,” Peace Now added. “It must determine that if settlers have rights to properties from before 1948, they should be compensated for them, not to have the right to evict families who lawfully purchased the property and lived there for decades.”

Currently, all legal paths have reportedly been exhausted, and the family will need to evict its four-floor home by June 1. If they do not leave willingly, the Jewish buyers can file a procedure that would see police forcefully evict residents. 

Background on the case

In November 2022, the District Court rejected the Shhadeh family’s appeal and ruled that they must vacate their home. The family then filed a request to appeal to Israel’s High Court. Solberg, the judge who received the case, decided in 2023 to wait for the position of the Attorney General in a similar eviction case.

In the months that passed, while waiting for the Attorney General’s decision, the Jewish buyers’ lawyer submitted six requests to the court to expedite the decision and rule on the case. 

Following their sixth request in April 2024, Judge Solberg decided not to wait for the Attorney General’s decision and determined that the family must vacate their home. The family submitted a motion for reconsideration, which was also rejected by the judge. Last week, the family filed a petition to the High Court against the decision, which was rejected on Sunday. 

Ateret Cohanim, a right-wing group, was involved in the case and has filed numerous eviction lawsuits against some 84 Palestinian families in Silwan, Peace Now stated. Since 2015, 14 families have been evicted from Batan al-Hawa. 





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FM Katz severs connection between Spain’s representation in Israel and Palestinians

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FM Katz severs connection between Spain’s representation in Israel and Palestinians



Israel will bar the Spanish Consulate in Jerusalem from servicing West Bank Palestinians to protest Madrid’s decision this week to unilaterally recognize Palestinian statehood.

“I have decided to sever the connection between Spain’s representation in Israel and the Palestinians,” FM Israel Katz wrote in a post on X on Friday.

Spain has an embassy in Tel Aviv that services Israelis and a consulate located in east Jerusalem that acts as a de facto embassy to the Palestinian Authority.

Most countries similarly split their missions, with an embassy in the Tel Aviv area that services sovereign Israel and a second mission located either in east Jerusalem or Ramallah for West Bank Palestinians.

Flags of Spain, Norway and Ireland seen as Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the United Nations (illustrative) (credit: REUTERS, WIKIPEDIA COMMONS)

Decision came after recognition of Palestinian statehood

Katz wrote Friday that he would “prohibit the Spanish consulate in Jerusalem from providing services to Palestinians from the West Bank.”

He ordered the measure two days after Spain, Ireland and Norway announced they would unilaterally recognize Palestine as a state, a measure that officially goes into effect on May 28.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry immediately recalled its envoys from those three countries and severely reprimanded the ambassadors of those three countries at a meeting in Jerusalem.

Israel also plans to take additional measures against those three countries. Katz focused in particular on Spain because the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz used the phrase “from the River to the Sea Palestine will be free” in a video message this week.

The slogan which calls for the borders of a Palestinian state to stretch from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, is seen as a call for the elimination of the state of Israel, which is located din that territory.

Katz wrote, “If this ignorant, hate-filled individual wants to understand what radical Islam truly seeks, she should study the 700 years of Islamic rule in Al-Andalus—today’s Spain.”





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Ireland & Palestine – A brief history

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Ireland & Palestine – A brief history



Ireland is set to announce the recognition of a Palestinian state on Wednesday, following a similar move made hours earlier by Norway. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez also plans to announce Spain’s recognition of an independent Palestinian state on the same day.

“Today, Ireland, Norway, and Spain are announcing that we recognize the state of Palestine,” said Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris at a press conference. “Each of us will now undertake the necessary national steps to give effect to that decision. I’m confident that further countries will join us in taking this important step in the coming weeks.”

Ireland and Palestine have maintained official relations since 2000, with Ireland establishing a representative office in Ramallah and Palestine maintaining one in Dublin. Both nations are members of the Union for the Mediterranean.

However, the relationship between Ireland and Palestine dates back much further. The Irish nationalist movement has long viewed the Palestinian cause through a similar lens of seeking to overthrow what they see as oppressive colonizers and achieve independent statehood, particularly aligning the Irish Republican Army (IRA) with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO.)

By the late 1960s, Ireland grew increasingly concerned about Palestinians displaced by the Six-Day War. In 1969, Irish Foreign Minister Frank Aiken highlighted this issue as a top priority in Ireland’s Middle East policy. Since then, Ireland has supported UN resolutions calling for Israel’s complete withdrawal from the territories captured during the war.

Flags of Palestine and Ireland flutter next to each other over the International Wall in support of Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, March 29, 2024 (credit: Clodagh Kilcoyn/Reuters)

‘IRA-PLO one struggle’

The connection between the Northern Ireland-based IRA and the PLO was most evident in the 1970s and early 1980s, often depicted in murals in nationalist areas. A notable example in Belfast showed armed IRA and PLO members with the slogan “IRA-PLO one struggle.” Sinn Féin linked its political strategy with movements like the ANC and PLO to provide a broader political context for its efforts. This alignment was regularly featured in the Sinn Féin newspaper An Phoblacht and grew stronger under Adams’ leadership in the 1980s.

In 1980, Ireland became the first EU member state to support the establishment of a Palestinian state. In 1999, then-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern visited Gaza, meeting PLO chief Yasser Arafat and touring the Jabaliya refugee camp, becoming the first national leader to fly directly from Palestine to their home country. In 2001, Foreign Affairs Minister Brian Cowen also visited Gaza to meet Arafat.

Despite significant support for Palestine within Ireland, the government has yet to implement the 2014 decision to formalize diplomatic relations, preferring a coordinated EU approach. However, in April 2024, Foreign Minister Micheál Martin announced plans to recognize a Palestinian state within weeks.

Former Irish PM Leo Varadkar acknowledged differing views between the US and Ireland regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict, particularly concerning Israeli actions in Gaza.

In 2009, Northern Ireland’s Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams’ meeting with Hamas highlighted the longstanding ties between Irish Republicanism and Middle Eastern groups. This relationship began in the early 1970s with Libya’s support for the IRA. The IRA’s connections extended to Hezbollah, influencing tactics used in both Lebanon and Northern Ireland. The most enduring relationship was with the PLO, which trained IRA operatives.

Since the official end of the IRA’s armed campaign in 2005, mainstream Republican support for Palestine has been political. While Sinn Féin remains critical of Israel, accusing it of human rights violations, leaders like Gerry Adams publicly adopt a more moderate tone. Sinn Féin calls for EU sanctions against Israel and supports the Palestinian cause through various platforms.

Irish Republicanism’s anti-Israel stance has sometimes been accused of antisemitism. Historically, figures like Arthur Griffith and elements within the IRA expressed antisemitic views. Although overt antisemitism has decreased since the late 1960s, anti-Israel rhetoric sometimes crosses the line, reflecting an underlying historical bias.

Graffiti and murals in Republican areas during the second intifada often glorified Palestinian terrorism, and some Republicans suggested arming Palestinians with decommissioned IRA weapons. While modern Irish Republicanism may not be inherently antisemitic, its century-old undercurrent persists, influencing its stance on Israel and the Jewish people.

In January 2011, Ireland granted diplomatic status to the Palestinian delegation in Dublin. Later that year, Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister indicated that the country might lead efforts to recognize Palestinian statehood, contingent on the Palestinian Authority gaining full control over its territories. In 2014, both houses of the Irish Parliament passed motions urging the Government to recognize the State of Palestine.

Today, this has finally come to fruition. 





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