A WOMAN stands with expressions of despair amidst the rubble of a collapsed building at Maghazi camp in central Gaza, on Monday.—AFP
A WOMAN stands with expressions of despair amidst the rubble of a collapsed building at Maghazi camp in central Gaza, on Monday.—AFP

PALESTINIAN TERRIT­ORIES: Israel on Monday released around 150 detainees taken from the Palestinian territory, Gaza’s crossing authority said, alleging that they were mistreated in detention.

Israel continued its assault on Gaza and launched dozens of air strikes overnight as tensions in the region remain high over fear of a wider escalation of the conflict.

World powers have urged restraint after Iran on Saturday launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel.

The latest detainees to be released were taken to Israel and returned via the Kerem Shalom border crossing before some were treated in a hospital in Rafah, in the south of the besieged territory, according to the Gaza crossings authority and an AFP journalist.

Gaza authorities claim mistreatment of detainees; US says new truce deal on table for both sides

“It is very noticeable that there is severe mistreatment of these prisoners, as a number of them were sent to Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital for treatment,” the spokesman for the Gaza Crossings Authority, Hisham Adwan, told AFP.

The Israeli military did not comment on the release of these detainees but said the mistreatment of those in detention was “absolutely prohibited”.

“Those who are not involved in terrorist activity are released back to the Gaza Strip,” the military told AFP in a statement.

Overnight strikes

The Hamas government media office said Israeli aircraft launched “dozens” of strikes overnight on central Gaza.

Israel has said it will not be distracted from the war after Iran’s unprecedented attack heightened fears of wider conflict.

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said late Sunday that rescuing prisoners was “our critical mission”.

Hamas is still holding the prisoners in, Hagari said of the roughly 130 people, including 34 presumed dead, who Israel says remain in the hands of the Palestinian group since the attack on Oct 7.

The Israeli army said it was “calling up approximately two reserve brigades for operational activities on the Gazan front” about a week after withdrawing most ground troops from the territory.

Truce deal ‘on the table’

Late on Saturday, Hamas said it had submitted its response to a truce plan presented by US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators at talks that started in Cairo on Apr 7.

The group said it was sticking to its previous demands, insisting on “a permanent ceasefire” and the withdrawal of the Israeli army.

Israel’s Mossad spy agency called this a rejection of the proposal, accusing Hamas of “continuing to exploit the tension with Iran” and aiming for “a general escalation in the region”.

However, the United States said mediation efforts continue.

“We’re not considering diplomacy dead there,” said the National Security Council’s Kirby.

“There’s a new deal on the table… It is a good deal” that would see some hostages released, fighting halted and more humanitarian relief into Gaza, Kirby said.

Desperate to return to their homes, thousands of displaced Palestinians headed towards an Israeli checkpoint on the coastal road on Sunday after rumours that it was reopened.

Israel has denied the rumours.

Hoping to reunite with his wife, who has been in the southern city of Khan Yunis, Palestinian man Mahmoud Awdeh said, “She told me over the phone that people are leaving… she’s waiting at the checkpoint until the army agrees to let her head to the north”.

Retaliation fears

Hostilities between Israel and Iran’s regional allies have flared since the outbreak of the war in Gaza after Hamas’s Oct 7 attack.

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting on Sunday following the Iranian attack, where Israel pressed for new sanctions against Tehran and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the region was “on the brink” of war.

“Neither the region nor the world can afford more war,” the UN chief said.

Iran’s UN envoy, Amir Saeid Iravani, insisted the Islamic Republic was exercising its “inherent right to self-defence” to respond to the Apr 1 strike on Tehran’s consular building in Damascus, which has been widely attributed to Israel.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2024

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