U.S. and U.K. carry out fresh strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen

U.S. and U.K. carry out fresh strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen

Officials negotiating Gaza cease-fire talks have tentatively agreed to the “basic contours” of a deal, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Sunday, adding that the United States hopes a final agreement can be reached “in the coming days.”

Sullivan, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” declined to give specifics but urged negotiators to move swiftly on any deal, which could see ramped-up aid to Gaza and the release of some hostages still held by Hamas.

“We hope that in the coming days, we can drive to a point where there is actually a firm and final agreement on this issue,” he said. “So we are telling everyone, including the Israeli government, that it is our firm position that every effort be exercised to get to this agreement, and then we can move forward from there.”

Sullivan’s remarks came after a round of talks was held in Paris on Friday, when officials from Israel, Egypt, the United States and Qatar, which acts as an intermediary for Hamas, met to discuss a new framework for a deal. Negotiations had stalled over the past few weeks after Israeli forces pressed further into Gaza and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Hamas’s cease-fire demands “delusional.”

But on Saturday, Netanyahu said he was convening his war cabinet to deliberate the new framework, after which they would decide whether to move forward with negotiations. It was unclear Sunday whether the government approved new talks, but reports in Israeli media, citing unnamed officials, said the cabinet responded positively to the proposal.

The next step, according to Sullivan, will include discussions by Qatar and Egypt with Hamas. “That work is underway,” he said.

On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Netanyahu said Israel wants a deal to free the hostages and hopes Hamas will abandon its “crazy demands,” which included, among other things, a phased withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and negotiations for a permanent end to the war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he does not know if there will be a hostage deal in an interview on Feb. 25 on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” (Video: CBS)

He also said that Israel plans to attack Rafah, a city in southern Gaza that is overflowing with displaced civilians, even if a cease-fire agreement is reached. The United States has warned Israel against a full-scale military operation there without a credible plan to evacuate and protect civilians.

“We can’t leave the last Hamas stronghold without taking care of it; obviously, we have to do it,” Netanyahu said. “If we have a deal, it’ll be delayed somewhat. But it’ll happen. If we don’t have a deal, we’ll do it anyway. It has to be done.”

He said he would again convene the war cabinet early this week to approve “operational plans for action” in Rafah, including the “evacuation of the civilian population” to an area north of Rafah.

When asked about the Rafah operation on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Sullivan said that the United States had not yet seen a plan from Israel that addresses the White House’s humanitarian concerns.

“We’ve been clear that we do not believe that an operation, a major military operation, should proceed in Rafah unless there is a clear and executable plan to protect those civilians, to get them to safety and to feed, clothe and house them,” he said. “And we have not seen a plan like that.”

The Israel Defense Forces said it concluded combat operations in Gaza’s Nasser Hospital. Israeli forces said that they were targeting Hamas militants, and that they detained about 200 people. Earlier this month, Gaza’s Health Ministry said Israel’s days-long raid inside the hospital collapsed medical services and swept up scores of people, including patients and doctors, in mass arrests.

The United States and Britain carried out fresh strikes against Houthi targets in Yemen on Saturday night, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement, marking the largest military action against the militant group in weeks. The strikes are the latest effort to stop Houthi attacks against commercial ships transiting the Red Sea, Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden, actions the group has said are in response to Israel’s military operations in Gaza.

The last time the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees was able to deliver food aid to northern Gaza was Jan. 23, the head of the organization, Philippe Lazzarini, said on social media Sunday. He warned of looming famine and called the crisis “a man made disaster,” also saying, “Our calls to send food aid have been denied.”

At least 29,692 people have been killed in Gaza and 69,879 injured since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack and says 240 soldiers have been killed since the start of its military operation in Gaza.

Masih reported from Seoul, Sands from London, and Alfaro and Foster-Frau from Washington. Shayna Jacobs in Washington also contributed to this report.

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