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Palestinian Diplomat: Gaza Ceasefire Only Possible Once Israel Commits to Ending the War

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Israel and Hamas are both facing calls to support the U.S.-backed ceasefire and hostage deal that was endorsed by the U.N. Security Council earlier this week. While Hamas has welcomed the proposal, Israeli leaders have yet to publicly commit to its terms, including a full end to the war rather than just a pause in the fighting for the exchange of captives. This comes as a major new U.N. report accuses Israel of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity throughout its eight-month assault on the territory. Meanwhile, the death toll in Gaza has now passed 37,000, including more than 15,000 children. “This is inhumane and catastrophic,” says senior Palestinian diplomat Majed Bamya, who says “2.3 million Palestinians, every single day, are fighting to survive” while the ceasefire proposal languishes. He also stresses that peace in the region is only possible by “ending the occupation and allowing two states to live side by side.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to Gaza. The World Health Organization has revealed 8,000 Palestinian children under the age of 5 have been diagnosed with acute malnutrition. This come as a major new U.N. report accuses Israel of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. This is Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the WHO.

TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS: A significant proportion of Gaza’s population is now facing catastrophic hunger and famine-like conditions. Despite reports of increased delivery of food, there is currently no evidence that those who need it most are receiving sufficient quantity and quality of food.

AMY GOODMAN: The dire warning from the World Health Organization comes as Israel and Hamas are both facing calls to support the ceasefire and hostage deal that was endorsed by the U.N. Security Council. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Hamas of being the obstacle to the deal.

SECRETARY OF STATE ANTONY BLINKEN: Hamas has proposed numerous changes to the proposal that was on the table. We discussed those changes last night with Egyptian colleagues and today with the prime minister. Some of the changes are workable. Some are not.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined right now by Ambassador Majed Bamya. He is the deputy permanent observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations.

We thank you so much for being with us. Let’s start off with this major issue, and that is that Tony Blinken has gone from country to country saying that Hamas is the main obstacle, that they agreed to this proposal weeks ago, now they’re putting in obstacles to the agreement. And he says that Israel has agreed, though we have not heard Prime Minister Netanyahu or other Israeli public officials saying they’ve agreed to this. What has Hamas agreed to?

MAJED BAMYA: So, what we’ve seen is that Hamas welcomed the U.N. Security Council resolution that was adopted a few days ago, endorsing the plan and spelling out the most important elements of it. I have not seen such a welcoming from the Israeli side. The most important element, to our understanding, is to secure that all three phases of the plan is implemented, including phase two, which foresees a permanent end of hostilities and a full Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. And that is going to be negotiated by the parties during phase one. And that’s the fear, that given the very aggressive statements by Israeli leaders that the war will continue, this is not in line with the proposal that we will move from phase one to phase two and not return to the assault that we’re seeing with this heavy toll for civilians, as you’ve been explaining.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Ambassador Bamya, yes, it does appear as though there’s been no official statement from Israel that they would accept the present ceasefire proposal, not least because, as some media have reported, Netanyahu’s government could fall as a result, since several members of his government have threatened to abandon his administration in the event that he accepts a ceasefire, permanent ceasefire. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal earlier this week also reported having seen dozens of messages that the head of Hamas, Sinwar, had written to ceasefire negotiators, other officials in Hamas that the war was, in fact, going well, in the sense that Israel’s international standing was falling at such a rapid pace that it may well be in Hamas’s interest for the war to continue until more stringent measures were taken against Israel in a longer term. If you could respond to that report, and your response to these precise messages?

MAJED BAMYA: I can hardly report on what The Wall Street Journal is saying, based on messages it has seen, and how accurate this is. We are calling, demanding a ceasefire, an end of this situation. We want to see Palestinians and Israeli families reunited alive, for those who are held captive. We want to see an end of the atrocities against our people. We want humanitarian aid to come in and to end this organized famine. This is inflicted by the decision of the occupying power upon our people. This is inhumane and catastrophic. And all of this is only possible by a ceasefire. All these attempts to find ways to solve these problems without a ceasefire, including the regional escalation, have all failed. And now, finally, we are seeing that there’s an international consensus, including the United States, conceding that the ceasefire is the only way to achieve all these goals.

And let’s be clear, Israel — there was a lot of empathy towards Israelis after the 7th of October. It’s Israeli government decision to use that empathy to commit a genocide against the Palestinian people, instead of trying to find a solution, including ending its occupation, ending the conflict and ensuring no civilians, Palestinian or Israeli, are harmed, ensuring that no Palestinians or Israelis are held captive, and ensuring that Palestinians are free and Palestine lives side by side with Israel, according to U.N. resolutions.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Ambassador Bamya, if we could also ask for your response to the Israeli operation that led to the release of the four Israeli hostages, but, of course, also resulted in almost 300 deaths of Palestinians? So, there is a report also that the U.S. military was, in some sense, involved in that operation, either by providing intelligence, and possibly more than just intelligence. And in response to that revelation, Hamas has reportedly added another demand to the proposal, the ceasefire proposal, namely that China, Russia and Turkey become guarantors of any deal, along with the countries already agreed upon, the U.S., Egypt and Qatar.

MAJED BAMYA: On this operation — you know, there were seven hostages who were released in operations. There were over a hundred hostages released in a deal. We’ve had multiple hostages killed in the Israeli bombings and Israeli operations, including most probably in this last one.

You know, I fully understand the relief that people feel when they see Noa, who was held captive, finally being embraced by her father or being able to sit by her mother’s side, who’s terminally ill of cancer. I lost my mother to cancer, and I cherish every moment that I was able to spend with her, including the most painful ones.

But I think people need to also think of the 270 Palestinians killed. And the genocidal claim that there are no civilians in Gaza — everyone is responsible, everyone is guilty — is unacceptable and inhumane. And if we had said anything close to that on the Israeli side, the whole world would be up in arms for such unacceptable statements. People also have to think of the thousands of cancer patients in Gaza who are not receiving treatment now for eight months, who have lost their home, who have no hospital to go to, who have lost loved ones and don’t have the time to mourn them, who have to move and be forcibly displaced from place to place, and they cannot answer the aches of their body because they are trying to survive every single day. Two-point-three million Palestinians, every single day, are fighting to survive famine, bombings, killings. This situation — anybody who’s able to justify such harm to civilians, such atrocities committed against civilians, have understood nothing about the lessons of history.

AMY GOODMAN: A new report by a U.N. independent human rights body finds both Israel and Palestinian armed groups have committed war crimes since Hamas’s surprise attack on October 7th. The damning U.N. report accuses Israel of using starvation as a method of warfare and intentionally directing attacks against civilians. The report also goes on to accuse Israel of committing numerous crimes against humanity, including, quote, “extermination; murder; gender persecution targeting Palestinian men and boys; forcible transfer; and torture,” unquote.

The U.N. commission also accused Hamas of also committing numerous war comes, including “intentionally directing attacks against civilians,” as well as torture and, quote, “indiscriminately firing projectiles towards populated areas in Israel,” unquote. And the U.N. accuses both sides of committing sexual violence.

If you can talk about how you see this ending right now? And also, this move from country after country, for example, Spain and Sweden and other countries, recognizing Palestine as a state, does this lead in any way to the end of this conflict?

MAJED BAMYA: So, we need to be consistent and coherent and be against harming civilians, regardless of their nationality, their religion, their ethnicity. That is the only way we preserve the rules of international law. And we are saddened that some are willing to sacrifice legality, humanity, morality to preserve Israeli impunity. That is not the way that these rules function. They cannot be discriminatory, or they will stop existing. If you can justify it in one case, you’ll be able to justify it in all cases.

And the way we see this ending is upholding international laws, ensuring accountability, ensuring there are consequences for these actions, and ending the reasons for the conflict, the root cause of the conflict between us and Israel, which is ending the occupation and allowing two states to live side by side. And that’s what the Israeli leaders are saying exactly they don’t want. They don’t want a Palestinian state. They consider that our existence, that our lives are an existential threat for them. And that is an unacceptable position.

And so, sometimes you feel like the United States is the parent of an unruly child, who is trying to tell him they should act differently, they should accept the two-state solution, they should end their occupation, and at the same time enabling them and shielding them from the consequences of their action. It’s going to be very complicated. We saw that the U.S. proposal for a ceasefire received overwhelming support around the world, because that’s what the world has been calling for. But at the same time, we’ve seen that the providing weapons to Israel has been also denounced across the world, because without them, Israel would not have been able to act the way it has been acting. Israel can insult its ally and say, “We will stand alone if the U.S. is not happy,” while taking the money of the U.S. and taking the weapons by the U.S. And that shouldn’t be an acceptable position.

And so, countries are saying, if we believe in the two-state solution, we need to recognize the state of Palestine. Israel cannot have a veto over the right to existence of a nation. And they are saying we need to take action against the colonization, and we need to take action against the atrocities that are committed, and we need to pursue accountability so this doesn’t happen again.

But for the time being, the priority is to stop the killing. Thirty-seven thousand Palestinians have been killed in Gaza. Five hundred Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank in the last eight months. We have prisoners dying in detention. In Guantánamo, in 20 years, you had nine persons die in custody. We’ve had four times more Palestinians die in Israeli detention in the last eight months than in 20 years in Guantánamo. That’s how they’re treating the Palestinians that they are holding captive.

So, if you want to be outraged, you need to be consistent in your outrage. You cannot be selective in your outrage, that this is unacceptable on this side, but as long as it’s Israel doing it, somehow it becomes humane or justifiable.

AMY GOODMAN: Ambassador Majed Bamya, we thank you so much for being with us, deputy permanent observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations.

That does it for our show. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. To see all our coverage of Israel and Palestine, as well as so many issues, we urge you to go to democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

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Report from Rafah: UNICEF Decries Israel’s “War on Children” as Starvation & Deaths Mount in Gaza

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