After a night of heavy bombardment the PA warns Israel’s Rafah offensive has begun. Meanwhile, the invasion of al-Shifa hospital continues; all communication with medical staff trapped inside the hospital has been silent since Monday evening.


  • 31,819 + killed* and at least 73,934 wounded in the Gaza Strip.
  • 435+ Palestinians killed in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.**
  • Israel revises its estimated October 7 death toll down from 1,400 to 1,147.
  • 594 Israeli soldiers killed since October 7, and at least 3,221 injured.***

*Gaza’s Ministry of Health confirmed this figure on Telegram channel. Some rights groups put the death toll number at more than 40,000 when accounting for those presumed dead.

** The death toll in West Bank and Jerusalem is not updated regularly. According to PA’s Ministry of Health on March 17, this is the latest figure.

*** This figure is released by the Israeli military, showing the soldiers whose names “were allowed to be published.”

Key Developments
  • Palestinian Authority warns that Israel started offensive on Rafah without official announcement to avoid international pressure.
  • Majed Al-Ansari, spokesperson for Qatar’s Foreign Ministry, says Israeli attack on Rafah will negatively affect the ceasefire talks in Doha.
  • Ansari says “it is still too early to talk about any breakthrough in the negotiations” between Israel and Hamas, but mediators remain “optimistic.”
  • All communication with Palestinian medical staff trapped inside al-Shifa Hospital went silent on Monday evening
  • Israel arrests Al-Jazeera correspondent Ismail Al-Ghoul in al-Shifa Hospital. He says Israeli forces detained them for 12 hours, destroyed media tent, and seized smartphones, cameras, and laptops from journalists.
  • WHO chief says, “hospitals should never be battlegrounds. We are terribly worried about the situation at al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, which is endangering health workers, patients, and civilians.”
  • Israel bombs several houses on Al-Jalaa Street in north Gaza, close to al-Shifa Hospital, killing and injuring several Palestinians and causing immense damage.
  • Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA chief, was barred entry by Israel to Rafah, while Tel Aviv says he did not follow “proper procedure.”
  • Lazzarini says his visit “was supposed to coordinate and improve the humanitarian response. This man-made starvation under our watch is a stain on our collective humanity.”
  • Israeli settlers vandalize UNRWA’s headquarters in occupied Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood and affix posters on main gate calling for its closure.
  • In Jerusalem, only 25,000 Palestinians were allowed by Israeli forces to enter Al-Aqsa Mosque to perform Ramadan’s prayer on the ninth night.
  • Ahmed Al-Tibi, Palestinian Knesset member, warns that the life of national figure and Fatah leader Marwan Al-Barghouti is at risk inside Israeli prison.

PA warns that “Israel began to destroy Rafah”

The Palestinian Authority (PA) warned that Israel has started an offensive on Rafah without an official announcement to avoid international pressure.

Overnight, Israel heavily bombed Rafah, killing at least 14 Palestinians in the area where more than one million people are displaced, the majority of them living in tents.

“Israel began to destroy Rafah on a daily basis and in a systematic manner through repeated attacks on homes, bombing them, and killing and wounding dozens of civilians,” the PA’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday.

It added that to avoid condemnation and international pressure to halt such attacks, “Israel… did not wait for permission from anyone, and did not announce” the operation publicly.

Israel’s Genocide War in Gaza Continues

Israeli Delegation Heads to Qatar for Gaza Ceasefire Negotiations

An Israeli negotiation team, led by Mossad Chief David Barnea, is heading to Qatar today to discuss a ceasefire and prisoner exchange with Hamas. The Israeli cabinet has granted the team broad, though limited, negotiation powers. Hamas has presented 13 new demands for the deal, which include the release of around 800 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 40 Israeli hostages. The potential agreement also involves a 6-week ceasefire in Gaza, with further conditions for withdrawal of Israeli forces and easing of the blockade for reconstruction efforts. This round of talks could last up to two weeks.

Ben-Gvir and Smotrich Threaten to Leave Government Over Potential Hostage Deal with Hamas

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich have threatened to withdraw from PM Netanyahu’s government if a potential deal with Hamas includes the release of Palestinian prisoners convicted of killing Israelis. Their declaration comes as an Israeli delegation heads to Qatar for negotiations on a prisoner exchange plan. Despite wide support within Israeli circles for the emerging deal, Ben-Gvir and Smotrich’s stance represents a significant potential political rift. The Israeli Cabinet has authorized the delegation, led by the Mossad chief, to negotiate the deal, which remains a contentious issue due to Hamas’s demands for guarantees from international actors.

Israel and Hamas for the first time in months are negotiating details of a possible deal to release Israeli hostages and for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza, according to two Israeli officials and a source with direct knowledge. Israeli officials said that while there are still gaps between the parties, Hamas’s response last week to a hostage deal framework proposed by the United States, Qatar, and Egypt have allowed negotiations to progress. The main sticking point remains Hamas’s demand that Israeli forces withdraw from the corridor it created south of Gaza City, which prevents the return of Palestinians to the north of the Strip. Other sticking points include Hamas’s demand for a permanent ceasefire, and the ability to choose which Palestinian prisoners will be released, especially those who are serving life sentences. A senior Israeli official said an Israeli negotiations team will stay in Doha to continue talks. Barak Ravid reports for Axios.

Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam brigades, said that its forces were “engaged in fierce clashes with enemy forces” at Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital after Israeli forces used tanks and bulldozers to raid the medical complex yesterday. The Israeli military said that Hamas fighters had shot at its soldiers from within the complex and soldiers had returned fire, while the Hamas-run health ministry said Israeli forces had launched missiles at the complex and fired into surgery rooms. Israel said its forces killed 20 militants, including the head of operations for Hamas’s internal security forces, Faiq Mabhouh, who was “armed and hiding in a compound” at the hospital. Hamas has not confirmed his death or role in the group. The New York Times reports. 

Famine is imminent in northern Gaza where 70% of the population are suffering “catastrophic” levels of hunger, a U.N. backed report said yesterday. All 2.2 million people in Gaza do not have enough food to eat, with half of the population on the brink of starvation and famine projected to arrive in the north “anytime between mid-March and May 2024,” according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report. The IPC warned that acute hunger and malnutrition have already “far exceeded” the threshold for famine in northern Gaza, with the report warning of a “a “major acceleration of death and malnutrition.” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said this is “the highest number of people facing catastrophic hunger ever recorded … anywhere, anytime” by the IPC. CNNreports.

Israeli authorities are preparing to send a group of Palestinian patients who were being treated in East Jerusalem hospitals back to Gaza this week. The group of 22 Gazan Palestinians includes five newborn babies and their mothers, cancer patients now in remission, and a few companions who had accompanied them, according to hospital officials. They had all received permission from Israeli authorities to travel to Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem for advanced medical care – most before the Oct. 7 attacks. CNNreports. 


At the request of President Biden, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed yesterday to send a team of military, intelligence, and humanitarian officials to Washington to discuss alternatives to a promised Israeli invasion of Rafah, the city that has become the last refuge for roughly half of Gaza’s population, according to Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan. In a phone call yesterday, Biden told his Israeli counterpart that any efforts to “smash” into Rafah, as Netanyahu has vowed repeatedly to do, could be disastrous when there are other options for defeating Hamas, Sullivan said. The team of Israeli officials will hear U.S. concerns about Israel’s plans for Rafah, and the U.S. team will “lay out an alternative approach that would target key Hamas elements in Rafah and secure the Egypt-Gaza border without a major ground invasion,” Sullivan said. Zach Montague reports for the New York Times.

The entirety of Gaza’s population is facing acute food insecurity and in need of aid, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today, marking the highest-level U.S. endorsement of the dire international assessment of Gaza’s humanitarian crisis. “According to the most respected measure of these things, 100 percent of the population in Gaza is at severe levels of acute food insecurity. That’s the first time an entire population has been so classified,” Blinken said, referring to the ICP report released yesterday. Blinken was speaking to reporters alongside Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo as part of a multi-region tour, which will include visits to Saudi Arabia and Egypt later this week. Michael Birnbaum reports for the Washington Post.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Blinken “will discuss efforts to reach an immediate ceasefire agreement that secures the release of all remaining hostages, intensified international efforts to increase humanitarian assistance to Gaza, and coordination on post-conflict planning for Gaza, including a two-state solution,” during this week’s visit with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi. 

The deputy commander of Hamas’s military wing, Marwan Issa, “was killed in an Israeli operation last week,” Sullivan told reporters at a White House briefingyesterday. A senior Israeli official said Israel had not confirmed Issa’s death but that there were many indications he had been killed. Israeli officials have said that Issa was targeted by an Israeli airstrike on the night of March 9-10. Neither the Israeli military nor Hamas have commented on Sullivan’s remarks at the time of writing. Adam Rasgon reports for the New York Times.

Biden Rules Out Israeli Operation in Rafah, Urges Targeted Approach

In a significant policy shift, US President Joe Biden expressed opposition to a major Israeli ground offensive in Rafah during a conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on 18 March. Biden pressed Netanyahu for a more targeted strategy to avoid civilian casualties and worsening the humanitarian situation. This call, marking their first discussion since February 15, underscored concerns about the operation’s potential to deepen Gaza’s anarchy and isolate Israel globally. The discussion follows Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s critique of Netanyahu’s leadership and his call for early Israeli elections, a stance that has stirred tensions between the US and Israel.

Blinken to Discuss Gaza Ceasefire in Saudi Arabia and Egypt

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to visit Saudi Arabia and Egypt this week, focusing on efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza and increase humanitarian aid delivery to the region. Blinken highlighted the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, noting that 100% of its population requires aid. Emphasizing the need for Israel to prioritize civilian protection and humanitarian assistance, Blinken’s trip aims to lay the groundwork for a lasting regional peace. This visit follows President Biden’s expression of concern over a potential Israeli ground operation in Rafah and the urgent need for humanitarian relief in Gaza.


Israel denied the chief of the U.N. agency that supports Palestinians (UNRWA) entry to the Gaza Strip yesterday, according to the agency and the foreign minister of Egypt. Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA’s commissioner general, said that Israeli authorities had blocked him from making a visit that was “supposed to coordinate & improve the humanitarian response.” At a news conference with Lazzarini in Cairo, the foreign minister of Egypt also expressed dismay over Israel’s denial. The Israeli defense ministry’s agency that oversees policy for the Palestinian territories, known as COGAT, said that Lazzarini’s request for entry to Gaza “was not submitted by the necessary coordination processes and channels,” adding that “this is another attempt by UNRWA to blame Israel for their own mistakes.” The New York Times reports. 


China’s Foreign Ministry said its envoy Wang Kejian spoke with Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh in the first known meeting between a Chinese and Hamas official publicly acknowledged by Beijing since Oct. 7. During Sunday’s meeting in Qatar, Wang and Haniyeh “exchanged views on the Gaza conflict and other issues,” the ministry said. The Chinese ministry added that last Wednesday, Wang visited the occupied West Bank and met with Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad Al-Maliki. Wang told Al-Maliki that China is “deeply concerned” about the war and the humanitarian situation in Gaza, and that China has been working hard to bring about a ceasefire. Wang then visited Israel last Thursday and met with the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s head of Asia and Pacific Bureau. Wayne Chang, Simone McCarthy, Nectar Gan, and Celine Alkhaldi report for CNN.

The European Union will impose sanctions on an undisclosed number of “extremist settlers” in the West Bank, E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said. Sanctioned individuals face European travel restrictions and could have their assets seized, he added. The Washington Post reports. 

EU Will Sanction Hamas Members and, for the First Time, Israeli Settlers

European Union foreign ministers have reached a preliminary agreement to impose sanctions on Israeli settlers committing violence against Palestinians in the West Bank and to intensify sanctions on Hamas members. This marks the first time the EU, consisting of 27 member states, has agreed to sanction Israeli settlers for violence, aligning with actions previously taken by the United States and Britain.


U.S. forces destroyed seven anti-ship missiles, three drones, and three weapons storage containers in Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen yesterday, U.S. Central Command said, adding that the strikes took place in “self-defense.”

High-Ranking Hamas Commander Killed in Gaza, White House Says. 

An Israeli strike on the Gaza Strip last week killed (NYT) senior Hamas commander Marwan Issa, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan confirmed for the first time yesterday. Issa was a presumed mastermind behind the group’s October 7 attack on Israel; his death makes him the most senior Hamas official killed so far during the war. The news comes as U.S. President Joe Biden asked (Times of Israel) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday to send an interagency team to Washington to discuss Israel’s plans to carry out a military operation in the populous southern Gazan city of Rafah.

Israeli military leaders have argued that invading Rafah is crucial for taking down more of Hamas’s leadership, while the White House has repeatedly warned of its humanitarian costs. Yesterday, a UN World Food Programreport warned that famine will be “imminent” in two parts of northern Gaza by May, where around three hundred thousand people remain trapped. Some three hundred trucks of food per day are needed in the enclave to meet basic food needs, the report said.

“Israeli officials have characterized the strike [that killed Issa] as a breakthrough in their campaign to wipe out the Hamas leadership in Gaza. But experts cautioned that his death would not have a devastating effect on Hamas’s leadership structure,” the New York Times’ Adam Rasgon writes.

“Israel should bring an end to major military operations, including the planned assault on Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold in Gaza and the home now of well over a million desperate Palestinian refugees,” CFR President Emeritus Richard Haass writes for the Wall Street Journal. “Ceasing major military operations would not be the same as a total cease-fire—Israel must be able to go after those responsible for Oct. 7 or anyone planning new attacks—but it would give civilians in Gaza a respite from bombing and make it easier to provide them with much-needed food, medicine and other supplies.”

The first day of the truce in Gaza…imperceptible hope

Mustafa Ibrahim – Palestinian human rights activist

We need a chance to breathe some fresh air enough to remember that we are alive and to bring our sadness, pain, and fear out for a moment when death and destruction stop. We are now trying to understand our suffering and the severity of the loss suffered by the people of Gaza, hoping for a life and a future worthy of our sacrifices.

On the 49th day of the war on Gaza, the four-day humanitarian truce began, during which the prisoner exchange agreement between Hamas and Israel will be implemented. There are contradictory feelings that fill people’s hearts, their eyes are confused, and their faces are rigid. Perhaps it is anger, sadness, or postponed joy until the return of displaced people to their cities and homes.

Hope now is the final ceasefire, fear is both known or unknown, and trying to lose homes, missing, and absent. As for the joy, it may be caused by the possibility of getting some rest, but the Gazis’ search for drinking water, and their quest to collect what is left of food, goods, and flour to survive, has not stopped.

It is not true that the “extermination” in Gaza is the result of the anger and pain of what happened on the 7th of October, and the claim that there is an existential threat to Israel. In my opinion, this brutality, the dehumanization of the Palestinians, and the extermination speech of the political and military elite are driven by great failure, and the attempt at revenge for their dignity and their failure to read the Palestinians’ abilities to break Israel’s arrogance.

This is an English version of an Arabic Article that appeared first on website.

To read the full text in English, click here

To read in Arabic, click here

‘The war will end’: Remembering Mahmoud Darwish, Palestine’s poetic voice.

By Indlieb Farazi Saber

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The beauty of Gaza is that our voices do not reach it.
Nothing distracts it; nothing takes its fist from the enemy’s face.

Gaza is devoted to rejection…
Hunger and rejection, thirst and rejection, displacement and rejection, torture and rejection, siege and rejection, death and rejection…”

Extracts from Silence for Gaza, Mahmoud Darwish (1973)

These are the words of celebrated Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, penned 50 years ago and perhaps more poignant now than ever as Gaza is devastated by more than five months of an Israeli onslaught that has killed more than 31,000 people and destroyed vast swaths of its infrastructure.

Born on March 13, in 1941, Darwish is feted as Palestine’s national poet for his words expressing the longing of Palestinians deprived of their homeland, which was taken by Zionist militias to make way for present-day Israel.

His poetry gave voice to the pain of Palestinians living as refugees and those under Israeli occupation for nearly a century.

Today, Al Jazeera remembers Darwish, whose words are relevant today as the hopes of a free Palestine struggle against increasing Israeli control of the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

Darwish died in 2008 after open-heart surgery leaving behind more than 30 collections of lyrical Arabic poetry.

Translated into 39 languages, Darwish’s laments of loss, longing and exile spoke to people struggling against occupation around the world.

The power of poetry

For Palestinians, words are often the only weapon available to fight back, finding the power to shape perception.

Atef Alshaer, a senior lecturer in Arabic language and culture at London’s University of Westminster, says Palestinian poetry “moves people to action, protest, commemorate, to remember, and bear witness”.

“In the absence of a fair response to Palestinian political outcries, poetry has helped to give shape and voice to what they have lost,” he tells Al Jazeera.

Darwish did just that, becoming the voice of the Palestinian people.

On this Earth, there is what makes life worthwhile:
On this earth is the Lady of Earth, the mother of all beginnings, the mother of all endings. 

Her name was Palestine.
Her name became Palestine.
My Lady, because you are my Lady, I deserve life.

On this Earth (year unknown)

Read the full article here