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Israel and Hamas extend truce for 2 days, paving way for release of 20 more hostages

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The truce between Israel and Hamas that began on Friday has been extended for at least another two days, meaning that the Gaza-based terror group has pledged to release an additional 20 Israeli hostages beyond the approximately 50 it agreed to free in recent days.

Hamas, Qatar and the Biden administration all confirmed the extension of the truce, while Israeli government spokespeople declined to comment. The White House said that the 20 additional hostages will be women and children, as were the vast majority of the 40 hostages freed since Friday.

“The State of Qatar announces, as part of the ongoing mediation, an agreement has been reached to extend the humanitarian pause for an additional two days in the Gaza Strip,” Majed Al Ansari, the  spokesman for the Qatari Foreign Ministry, said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

“Hamas declares that it has agreed with Qatar and Egypt to extend the temporary humanitarian truce for an additional two days under the same conditions reached before,” the group said on Telegram.

Israel is set to receive another group of 11 hostages on Monday night, fulfilling the terms of its initial deal with Hamas. In addition to the truce, Israel agreed to release some 150 Palestinian women and minors in Israeli prison on security offenses. It will release three Palestinian prisoners for each additional hostage freed by Hamas.

President Joe Biden has taken a leading role in brokering the agreement, and Qatar and Egypt have acted as intermediaries.

According to the mechanism in place under the existing truce, if Hamas relays to Israel by midnight the names of 10 hostages it plans to release the following day, Israel will extend the truce for 24 hours.

Hamas terrorists killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in their Oct. 7 attack on Israel, and abducted some 240. Israel launched counterstrikes and a ground invasion with the aim of deposing the terror group.  More than 13,000 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, including thousands of children. It is not known what portion of that number are combatants, and what portion have been killed by misfired rockets aimed at Israel.

A growing group of progressive lawmakers and activists in the United States has called for a ceasefire in the conflict, which Israel has rebuffed because it would leave Hamas in power. Israel has vowed to resume the fighting following the truce, a stance the Biden administration has backed.


The post Israel and Hamas extend truce for 2 days, paving way for release of 20 more hostages appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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A New Dawn: The Case for Regime Change in Iran

Protestors gather in solidarity with anti-regime protests in Iran outside the Iranian embassy in Helsinki, Finland. Photo: Reuters/Lehtikuva/Heikki Saukkomaa.

In an unprecedented shift from previous approaches, the Biden administration’s recent policy towards Iran marks a pivotal moment, signifying a bold departure from the strategy of appeasement that has characterized US dealings with the Mullahs. The release of a new video by the US State Department, featuring Deputy Special Envoy Abram Paley, encapsulates this turning point. This gesture hints at a newfound resolve within the White House to confront the Iranian regime head-on, prioritizing support for the Iranian populace over futile attempts at placating Tehran’s leadership.

This policy shift is reminiscent of the decisive moment at the Guadalupe meeting in 1979, when global leaders chose to withdraw support from the Shah of Iran. That decision precipitated the fall of his regime, and the rise of a government that has since been a thorn in the side of international security. The current administration’s stance effectively closes the door on appeasement with a regime characterized by criminality and a lack of legitimacy, acknowledging that diplomacy with such an entity is not just fruitless but counterproductive.

The indispensability of leaders like Reza Pahlavi in this context cannot be overstated. Their advocacy for a democratic Iran free from the grip of authoritarianism and terrorism is not only a beacon of hope for the Iranian people, but also a strategic imperative for the international community.

The necessity for regime change in Iran, underpinned by the quest for stability and peace in the Middle East, is a complex yet unavoidable conclusion. The current regime’s entrenched position as a destabilizing force, through its support for proxy conflicts and its pursuit of nuclear capabilities, presents an insurmountable obstacle to regional harmony and international security. The transition towards a government that embodies the principles of democracy, respect for human rights, and peaceful coexistence is essential for dismantling the architecture of conflict that has defined the region for decades.

Such a transition requires a multifaceted strategy encompassing international diplomacy, economic incentives, and the empowerment of civil society within Iran. The global community must unite in its support for the Iranian populace, advocating for peaceful change and the establishment of a governance structure that reflects the will and aspirations of its people. This approach not only addresses the immediate challenges posed by Iran, but also lays the groundwork for a sustainable peace, facilitating the country’s reintegration into the global community as a constructive and responsible actor.

The recalibration of US policy towards Iran and the advocacy for regime change are not merely policy positions, but essential steps towards achieving stability and peace in the Middle East. The leadership of figures like Pahlavi is critical in navigating the complex landscape in Iran, and helping move the country towards democracy and prosperity. As the international community contemplates the path forward, it must recognize that the quest for a peaceful and stable Iran is intrinsically linked to the broader aspirations for global security and harmony. The journey is undoubtedly fraught with challenges, yet the promise of a democratic Iran, championed by visionary leaders and supported by a unified international effort, remains a goal worth pursuing for the sake of the Iranian people and the world at large.

In the journey toward a future free from the clutches of tyranny, I am reminded of a pivotal conversation between George W. Bush and an Iranian political figure, wherein Bush stated that the US wanted to see a democratic regime in Iran, but didn’t want to interfere. This sentiment encapsulates the delicate balance of supporting change without direct intervention. The onus, therefore, falls on the Iranian people to dismantle this brutal regime — a task of monumental difficulty.

The demise of such a regime cannot be achieved lightly or without a comprehensive plan. It necessitates the strategic support of the US intelligence community and the diplomatic engagement of global powers, including Russia and other Asian states, who eye a stake in Iran’s future post-regime. The path is arduous, but the collective effort can pave the way for a new Iran, marking the end of tyranny and the dawn of a new era of peace and democracy.

Erfan Fard is a counter-terrorism analyst and Middle East Studies researcher based in Washington, D.C. He focuses on Middle Eastern regional security affairs, with a particular emphasis on Iran, counter-terrorism, IRGC, MOIS, and ethnic conflicts in MENA. Erfan is a Jewish Kurd of Iran, and he is fluent in Persian, Kurdish, Arabic, and English. Follow him from this twitter account @EQFARD.

The post A New Dawn: The Case for Regime Change in Iran first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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CBS Falsely Reported That Biden Warned Israel Against Rafah Operation

An UNRWA aid truck at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip. Photo: Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

On the Feb. 10 CBS Saturday Morning News broadcast, correspondent Deborah Patta falsely reported that the United States warned Israel against attacking Rafah, Hamas’ remaining stronghold in the south of the Gaza Strip.

In reality, the Americans warned Israel not to carry out an attack that did not take into account the more than one million Palestinians sheltering there. Contrary to CBS’ reporting, the American warning did not rule out an Israeli operation.

In her error-ridden reporting, Patta claimed:

Palestinians who fled to Rafah are bracing themselves for an Israeli military advance. National Security spokesman John Kirby has said this would be a disaster. … It’s been 126 days of war, one of the deadliest in modern history, almost 28,000 dead, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, nearly half of them are children. Utter misery everywhere you look. Prompting President Biden’s strongest rebuke of Israel yet, calling its conduct in Gaza “over the top.”

[President Biden]: A lot of innocent people who are in trouble and dying, and it’s got to stop.

Reporter: But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stubbornly refuses to listen, instead ordering his military to evacuate civilians in Rafah ahead of a massive push there.

In his press briefing, Kirby did not call a potential Israeli military advance into Rafah a “disaster.” He called an Israeli military advance with no plans to safeguard civilians sheltering there a disaster. Here’s what he actually said:

I think you all know more than a million Palestinians are — are sheltering in and around Rafah. That’s where they were told to go. There’s a lot of displaced people there. And the Israeli military has a special obligation as they conduct operations there or anywhere else to make sure that they’re factoring in protection for — for innocent civilian life, particularly, you know, the civilians that were — were pushed into southern Gaza by operations further north — Khan Younis and North Gaza.

I could tell you that — absent any full consideration of protecting civilians at that scale in Gaza — military operations right now would be a disaster for those people, and it’s not something that we would support. [emphasis added]

Nor has President Biden warned Israel not to operate in Rafah. One day after Patta’s report falsely claiming a sweeping US warning against attacking Rafah, it was widely reported that President Biden warned Prime Minister Netanyahu to implement a strong plan to protect civilians before launching operations in Rafah. As Reuters reported (“Biden urged Israel’s Netanyahu to protect civilians in Gaza – White House“):

U.S. President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that Israel should not launch a military operation in Rafah without a credible plan to ensure the safety of the roughly 1 million people sheltering there, the White House said. …

Biden also emphasized his view that “a military operation in Rafah just really cannot proceed without a credible and implementable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the more than 1 million people that are now sheltering there,” the official said, adding that they simply had “nowhere to go.” [Emphasis added.]

Thus, far from “stubbornly refus[ing] to listen” to his American interlocutors, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was attentively listening when he ordered the military to devise a plan to evacuate civilians from Rafah.

Furthermore, contrary to Patta’s reporting, Netanyahu did not order “his military to evacuate civilians in Rafah ahead of a massive push there.” Rather, as was widely reported, he ordered the military to develop an evacuation plan.

Patta didn’t need to read The New York Times (“Netanyahu Orders Evacuation Plan…“) or CNN (“Netanyahu directs Israeli military to draw up plan to evacuate…”) for information on Netanyahu’s orders for an evacuation plan. CBS Morning Show host Jeff Glor himself accurately reported in the introduction to Patta’s very own segment (10 seconds in): “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his military forces to submit an evacuation plan for Rafah.”

Further pushing the erroneous reporting that the Israeli military has already issued evacuation orders, Patta claimed:

Our team in Gaza tells us that the Israeli military has given people several options, move to an already overcrowded part of Rafah, go to Khan Younis, which is still being bombed, or return to the north, which has been all but obliterated.

Finally, Patta’s assertion that Israel’s war with Hamas “is one of the deadliest in modern history,” with 28,000 reported dead, is patently false. (She fails to identify the figure’s source as Hamas, the designated terror organization that carried out one of the worse mass atrocities targeting civilians in recent memory on October 7.)

Israel’s current war with Hamas is hardly the deadliest in recent history even within the Middle East; Syria’s war saw 470,000 fatalities; 150,000 died in Yemen’s Yemen’s war; another 150,000 perished in Lebanon’s civil war; 500,000 lives were lost in the Iraq’s war with Iran; and 150,000 Iraqis died during the Gulf War. But those facts clearly did not matter to CBS or its reporter.

Tamar Sternthal is the director of CAMERA’s Israel Office. A version of this article previously appeared on the CAMERA website. This article was written with research by CAMERA Arabic.

The post CBS Falsely Reported That Biden Warned Israel Against Rafah Operation first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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UN-Aware? Media Defend UNRWA as Agency Plays Dumb About Hamas Tunnels Under HQ

Palestinians pass by the gate of an UNRWA-run school in Nablus in the West Bank. Photo: Reuters/Abed Omar Qusini.

Within hours of the IDF revealing the extensive tunnel beneath UNRWA’s headquarters in the Gaza Strip, the UN agency’s Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, was on the defensive.

“UNRWA did not know what is under its headquarters in Gaza,” he claimed on the social media site X (formerly Twitter), prompting a fair amount of ridicule given UNRWA’s long history of seeing its facilities used by Hamas to hide terrorist infrastructure.

Lazzarini added 10 more equally unconvincing points underneath, including an assurance that no UNRWA staff were “aware of any activity that may have taken place there.”

Strange that nobody who worked at UNRWA’s Gaza HQ noticed the cables that diverted electricity directly from UNRWA’s supply and right into Hamas’ control room below.

Likewise, they must have missed all of the other blindingly obvious clues as to who was sharing their basement, like terrorists filing in and out of the headquarters daily, and computers and steel doors being delivered to the facility.

Indeed, as one journalist observed, it took a total of “two minutes touring UNRWA’s headquarters in the heart of the upscale Rimal neighborhood to understand that they knew everything.”

– UNRWA did not know what is under its headquarters in Gaza.

– UNRWA is made aware of reports through the media regarding a tunnel under the UNRWA Headquarters in Gaza.

– UNRWA staff left its headquarters in Gaza City on 12 October following the Israeli evacuation orders and as…

— Philippe Lazzarini (@UNLazzarini) February 10, 2024

Yet, when evidence was released by the IDF of the Hamas command center being quite literally beneath UNRWA’s nose, it was met with what could only be described as sheer incredulity at The New York Times, while some other media outlets treated this dramatic discovery with barely an acknowledgment.

Rather than report on the IDF’s disturbing findings, particularly how it is likely UNRWA staff knew of the terror base, the Times reframed the story to push a wildly distorted narrative of a plucky UNRWA fighting against Hamas in the Strip and resisting the terror group’s efforts to infiltrate the UN agency:

Worryingly, the piece only mentions the uncovering of the tunnels beneath UNRWA’s offices in the 17th paragraph, with the article’s authors, Patrick Kingsley and 

Most of the story is instead dedicated to an implicit defense of UNWRA, including anonymous former staffers’ assurances that the agency has “long taken seriously and investigated accusations of infiltration by Hamas,” and the Times casting doubt on whether UNRWA staff would have spotted the tunnels.

What’s more, at least one journalist from the paper, along with various other domestic and foreign media, was physically taken on a tour of the tunnel by the IDF, which should have left no doubt as to the magnitude of the story.

Sadly, The New York Times wasn’t alone in its effort to recast UNRWA as an innocent victim in this whole saga.

The Associated Press appeared to suggest Israel had only “unveiled” the tunnels as a way of attacking UNRWA in a piece that stated: “The unveiling of the tunnels marked the latest chapter in Israel’s campaign against the embattled agency, which it accuses of collaborating with Hamas.”

CNN, meanwhile, relegated the story to a short post included in its live updates feed. Casting doubt on the existence of the tunnels at all, CNN turned the story into mere “claims” made by Israel against the UN agency, describing the tunnel as an “alleged finding.”

It couched the finding as occurring against a backdrop in which “Israel has longstanding issues with UNRWA,” suggesting the evidence is part of some nefarious campaign against an organization tasked with caring for Palestinians.

Judging from the lack of a dedicated story, it appears nobody from CNN was represented on the IDF’s press tour of the UNRWA tunnel. But the simple fact that multiple journalists from other top-tier publications were able to verify the findings for themselves makes one wonder why CNN didn’t see the stories from those media that had been on the tour.

At least that’s what The Washington Post did when it stated: “The military showed journalists from the Associated Press and other outlets what it said was an electrical supply hub powering tunnel infrastructure in the area.”

Sadly, the tunnel story was buried 12 paragraphs in at the end of The Post’s war coverage, and framed as Israel having “taken aim” at UNRWA.

In summary, the international media were presented with further damning evidence of UNRWA’s infiltration by Hamas terrorists in the form of its HQ directly above a Hamas base.

So why did they have such trouble believing the evidence or treating it in a way that isn’t portrayed as an Israeli assault on UNRWA?

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The post UN-Aware? Media Defend UNRWA as Agency Plays Dumb About Hamas Tunnels Under HQ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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