Valletta peace walk for Palestine, ceasefire announced in PA, Israel
Hundreds of people took to the streets of Valletta, Malta, this evening in a symbolic solidarity walk against the atrocities being committed on Palestinians in the ongoing Gaza Strip conflict.
The protest was organised by Moviment Graffitti and brought together activists and Palestinian nationals, waving banners and holding lit candles.
The crowd included the ambassador for Palestine in Malta, Jubran Taweel.
Addressing the crowd, Mr Taweel said that this would not be the last protest to be held.
"We won't stop until Israel realises that the atrocities it is carrying out against our people have to stop."
Moviment Graffitti said it welcomed the Maltese Foreign Ministry’s stand in voicing its concern and disapproval of the violence in the middle east, but felt that due support for the Palestinian people demanded a clear condemnation of the Israeli atrocities as well as due recognition and stand against those perpetrating the violence and those suffering victimisation as a result of this uneven conflict.
Ceasefire agreed between Palestine, Israel
A ceasefire agreement had been reached to halt the week-long conflict in Gaza, the Egyptian foreign minister had announced.
It came into effect at 9pm Cairo time, Muhamed Kamel Amr announced at a press conference with Hillary Clinton, who met the Israeli and Egyptian leaders, and the president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbass.
Egypt had been leading efforts to end the violence which had claimed 136 Palestinian and five Israeli lives since it started a week ago. Clinton flew into the region late on Tuesday night.
The outgoing US Secretary of State told a press conference: “Every step must lead us to a comprehensive settlement . . . There’s no substitute for a just and lasting peace.”
The White House said US President Barack Obama had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and “commended him for accepting the Egyptian-brokered deal”.
Obama also promised that the US would use the ceasefire period to help Israel “address its security needs”, including the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. He said the US government would seek more funding to provide anti-aircraft defences such as the existing Iron Dome system.
Israel had been threatening an escalation of the violence with a land attack until shortly before the ceasefire was announced.
Hopes of reaching a ceasefire were rocked earlier on Wednesday when a bomb exploded on a bus near the ministry of defence in the Israeli city Tel Aviv, injuring 10 people.
It was the first such attack in Israel since the conflict began and the first in the city since 2006.
Media in Gaza reported celebratory gunfire in the enclave after people heard news of the explosion. However, there has been no official claim of responsibility for the attack. It was followed by heavy blasts in Gaza, including at a sports stadium.
Trying to explain why it was proving so hard to agree a truce, a western diplomat in Cairo said the Egyptian mediators had wanted Israel and Hamas “to agree to a ceasefire first to be followed by discussions of the guarantees demanded by each side.
“I think what happened is that it wasn’t possible to announce a ceasefire because the two sides want to make progress on the guarantees first,” he said. “Possibly also there are aims they want to achieve in the ground before agreeing to end hostilities. There is now a lot of shuttling and a lot of international pressure to reach a truce, but we will have to see if there is enough momentum after this terrible bombing in Tel Aviv.”
Hamas was reported to have wanted a commitment from Israel on easing the blockade on Gaza before agreeing to the truce. It also wanted targeted assassinations to stop.
Qatar would be asked to guarantee an influx of investment into the territory once the ceasefire came into effect.
Hamas leaders had already publicly asked Egypt to allow its Rafah crossing with Gaza to be used for commercial traffic and not just for the movement of people.
The diplomat said Israel had wanted to ensure that there would be controls to stop arms from entering the territory.
Earlier yesterday, Clinton met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, in the West Bank city of Ramallah. She had reportedly just arrived in Cairo following another meeting with the Israeli leadership. The US considers Hamas as a “terrorist organization” and did not engage with it.
The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, based in Gaza City, said yesterday afternoon that 136 Palestinians had been killed since the beginning of the offensive last Wednesday. Other estimates put the death toll above 140.
Oxfam, the UK-based charity, had warned earlier in the day that hospitals and health providers in Gaza had reported running out of essential drugs including antibiotics and painkillers, and medical supplies such as bandages and syringes.
Photos by Christian Mangion