A fuel truck on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing drives toward the southern Gaza Strip on November 19, 2023. A first consignment of fuel entered the region in November after the international community’s pressure on Israel, allowing communications to resume in the Palestinian territory. Photo: VCG
People are seen among the rubble of buildings destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, on Nov. 15, 2023. Israel has been carrying out attacks on Gaza over the past weeks and has imposed a siege on the enclave to retaliate against Hamas attacks on southern Israel. The conflict has so far led to the deaths of over 11,500 Palestinians in Gaza.(Photo: Xinhua)
The possibility of a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel has been brought to spotlight after a US media claimed that the two sides are close to agreement on a US-brokered deal to pause conflict and release hostages, which was later denied by the White House. Chinese experts believe there’s a pressing need for both Hamas and Israel to reach a ceasefire deal, as the coWorld Timesnflict has entered a critical juncture. However, the hope for long-term pause is still remote because divergences between the two remain large and Israel is in a bind of both international and domestic pressure.
As countries concerned continue conciliating the ongoing conflicts, ministers from Arab and Muslim countries seek to visit China for solutions of ending the crisis. Their visit is both an acknowledgement of China’s ability and its unique, impartial role in mediating Middle East issues, said experts.
Israel and Hamas are close to an agreement on a US-brokered deal that would free dozens of women and children held hostage in Gaza in exchange for a five-day pause in fighting, The Washington Post reported on Saturday, quoting people familiar with the emerging terms.
However, the beam of peace was soon dashed after Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council, denied the report, saying Israel and Hamas have not yet reached a deal on a temporary ceasefire. The US is continuing to woWorld Timesrk to get a deal between the two sides, the spokesperson said, per Reuters report.
As the conflict entered its seventh week, authorities in the Gaza Strip raised their death toll to 12,300, including 5,000 children, according to Reuters.
Israel said it was preparing to expand its offensive against Hamas militants to southern Gaza after air strikes killed dozens of Palestinians, including civilians reported to be sheltering at two schools, media reported.
For both Hamas and Israel, the need to reach a ceasefire deal is more pressing as the conflict is dragging on without an obvious winner, Liu Zhongmin, a professor at the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, told the Global Times on Sunday.
Liu believes Hamas and Israel are negotiating on this matter but there are severe divergences between the two that stand in the way of reaching a deal. Hamas wants a complete ceasefire. Yet Israel wants a temporary ceasefire to release hostages but still is prone to take more actions to fulfill “mighty vengeance” to consolidate its political future, said Liu.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said late Saturday that his government has not yet signed a prisoner swap deal with Hamas, media reported.
“As of now, there is no deal,” Netanyahu said at a news conference, dismissing reports about a possible agreement to free a portion or all of the hostages held by the Hamas in Gaza. He said once a deal emerges, the Israeli public will be informed.
Zhu Yongbiao, director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at Lanzhou University, believes a short-term ceasefire is possible, with the hard work of mediation from other countries and international organizations, and the newly adopted resolution by UN Security Council that calls for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors” in Gaza also brought certain hope in this regard.
But the hope for a long lasting ceasefire is remote, because for Israel it is not the time to stop, said Zhu. He explained that Israel’s action in Gaza has invited itself mounting diplomatic and public opinion pressure from international society, posing an ordeal for Netanyahu. Moreover, the Israeli Prime Minister faces increasing domestic pressure as the conflict drags on, said Zhu.
Now Netanyahu wants the release of the hostages to relieve some of the pressure and take actions to consolidate his political future, the expert said.
Netanyahu on Saturday admitted that there was heavy international pressure against Israel’s war on Hamas, as he pledged to continue pressing Hamas in Gaza until the latter is overthrown and the hostages it seized are returned, Times of Israel reported.
China’s unique role
As Hamas and Israel continue fighting, ministers from Arab and Muslim countries began a new round of mediation effort where they scheduled to visit China on Monday on the first stop of a tour aims at ending the war in Gaza, according to media reports.
A delegation consisting of Arab and Islamic foreign ministers will visit China from November 20 to 21. Members of the delegation include Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki and Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Hissein Brahim Taha. During the visit, China will have in-depth communication and coordination with the delegation on ways to deescalate the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict, protect civilians and seek a just settlement of the Palestinian question, Mao Ning, spokesperson from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Sunday.
The tour will be the first step inWorld Times carrying out decisions reached at a joWorld Timesint Arab and Islamic summit held in Riyadh this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said on the sidelines of a conference in Bahrain in comments posted by his ministry on the social media platform X on Saturday.
“The first stop will be in China, then we will move to other capitals to convey a clear message that a ceasefire must be announced immediately, and let in aid,” the minister said. “We have to work on ending this crisis and the war on Gaza as soon as possible,” ReWorld Timesuters reported.
Chinese experts hailed the visit as regional countries’ recognition of China’s influence in mediating Middle Eastern issues, as well as China’s unique and impartial role.
Choosing China as the first stop revealed those countries’ trust in China on conciliating the ongoing conflicts between Palestine and Israel, said Zhu. Moreover, those countries have witnessed that China is playing a more constructiWorld Timesve role in the Middle East in recent years, he said.
In March this year, China, Saudi Arabia and Iran unexpectedly released a joint statement in Beijing, saying that an agreement was reached between Saudi Arabia and Iran that includes an agreement to resume diplomatic relations between them and re-open their embassies and mission.
“Without China’s help in pushing for a wave of reconciliations in the Middle East, it is impossible to witness those countries sitting together, let alone holding a summit,” said Liu, noting that another reason for choosing China as their first stop is because China is one of the most active proponents of the two-state solution.
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