The Israeli government has decided to shut down the local offices of Al Jazeera, utilising new laws against the satellite news network. The decision, following a government vote, has drawn criticism from various quarters, with critics labelling it as a blow to press freedom under Benjamin Netanyahu’s hardline government.

Israeli authorities have justified the closure by citing Al Jazeera as a threat to national security, a claim refuted by the network. The prime minister announced the decision on social media following a unanimous cabinet vote.

Orders have been swiftly enacted to implement the closure, including confiscating equipment, cutting off broadcasts from cable and satellite, and blocking its websites. Al Jazeera, funded by Qatar, has been a critic of Israel’s military operations in Gaza, providing extensive coverage during the seven-month war.

Al Jazeera has denounced the accusation of threatening Israeli security as a “dangerous and ridiculous lie.”

The network accuses Israeli authorities of targeting its journalists in the past, including those who lost their lives during the conflict in Gaza. However, Israel denies these allegations.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights denounced the move and emphasised the vital role of a free and independent media in promoting transparency and accountability, particularly in regions such as Gaza where reporting restrictions are prevalent.

Meanwhile, truce negotiations in Cairo, aimed at resolving tensions between Israel and Hamas, have hit a roadblock. Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh accused Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu of sabotaging the talks, leading to the cessation of this round of negotiations.

Central to the negotiations is Hamas’s demand for guarantees from the United States that Israel will refrain from launching a ground invasion in Rafah. Israel claimed that the attack will proceed regardless of the outcome of ceasefire discussions. Israeli officials are yet to send a delegation to Cairo.

Senior Israeli officials, led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, have escalated pressure on Hamas, rejecting any prospect of a permanent ceasefire and issuing threats of a new offensive if Hamas fails to accept proposed ceasefire terms. Netanyahu, in a televised address, argued that a permanent ceasefire would effectively allow Hamas to maintain its grip on power, posing a continued threat to Israel’s security.

Israel’s Defense Minister, Yoav Gallant expressed scepticism about Hamas’s sincerity in reaching a ceasefire agreement. Gallant warned of a potential offensive into Rafah, reportedly a Hamas stronghold, if no deal is reached soon.

These remarks from Netanyahu and Gallant add to the growing uncertainty surrounding ceasefire negotiations, which were rumoured to include a 40-day pause in hostilities and the release of hostages. Netanyahu emphasised Hamas’s demand for the removal of Israeli forces from Gaza as a major obstacle, insisting that Israel cannot accept leaving Hamas in power.

Hamas expressed willingness to negotiate a comprehensive truce, blaming Netanyahu for sabotaging mediation efforts.

Cindy McCain of the World Food Programme has described a full-blown famine in northern Gaza amid Israel’s blockade of entry of food aid into the occupied enclave, where 2.5 million people are facing starvation.

Rafah, home to around a million displaced Palestinians, serves as a vital hub for humanitarian aid logistics.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken insists on the necessity of a credible plan to protect civilians in the area, warning against the potential for unacceptable damage.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cautinoed against a full-scale military operation and foreseeing the possibility of a bloodbath. The warnings come amid incremental progress made in the negotiations, with proposed deals resembling those discussed months ago.

Amid the ongoing diplomatic efforts, witnesses report ongoing shelling, gunfire, and airstrikes, with the United Nations confirming continuous bombardment.

Israeli military is continuing raid in the occupied West Bank. Israel’s army has reported that its troops killed five Palestinians during a 12-hour operation near Tulkarm.

Since the commencement of its war on Gaza on 7 October, Israeli forces have killed at least 34,683 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and wounded 78,018 others.