'Israel has achieved nothing': Shtayyeh hits out at Netanyahu over Gaza atrocities

Death toll in enclave nears 29,000 as fears grow over planned Rafah assault

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh speaks on the closing day of the Munich Security Conference in Germany. Bloomberg
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Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh condemned Israel on Sunday, saying the government has "achieved nothing" other than death and destruction in Gaza since the war began in October.

"We know it has been an Israeli programme to push the Palestinians out of Gaza," he said at the Munich Security Conference. "The Israelis can’t speak for anything but the reality speaks for itself.

"[Benjamin] Netanyahu has achieved nothing until now. He killed 28,000 people. He injured 70,000 people and he destroyed 281,000 housing units. This is the only thing that Israel has achieved in Gaza until this single minute."

Prospects of a ceasefire in Gaza dimmed on Saturday as the US vowed to veto a draft UN resolution calling for an immediate end to fighting in the battered enclave, where Israeli forces have killed almost 29,000 Palestinians.

Israel has repeatedly rejected pleas for a ceasefire, saying it will not stop attacks on Gaza until it has "complete victory" over the Hamas militant group.

Washington has said a proposal put forward by Algeria would not achieve what negotiators have wrangled for weeks to secure, including a hostage exchange deal, an extended pause in fighting and increased humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, said Washington was working on a hostage deal between Israel and Hamas, which would bring an “immediate and sustained period of calm to Gaza for at least six weeks”.

The Algerian proposal, she said, "would not achieve these outcomes, and indeed, may run counter to them. We have communicated this concern repeatedly to our colleagues on the council. For that reason, the United States does not support action on this draft resolution."

Palestinian officials told The National the resolution would be put before the Security Council on Tuesday. Guyana, which this month holds the rotating presidency, did not immediately confirm this.

This would be the third ceasefire resolution to be vetoed by the US, which has criticised previous measures for not condemning the Hamas attacks of October 7.

In Munich, Mr Shtayyeh called for an "immediate ceasefire" and said the international community must put pressure on Israel to halt its planned offensive on the southern city of Rafah, where more than a million displaced Palestinians have sought shelter after fleeing Israeli attacks on northern and central areas of Gaza.

"Everyone should be holding Israel responsible for the atrocities," he added.

He later confirmed Moscow has invited Palestinian factions for talks on February 26.

"We will see if Hamas is ready to come to the ground with us," he said. "We are ready to engage. If Hamas is not, then that's a different story. We need Palestinian unity."

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi was also vocal in his criticism of Israel at the Munich summit.

Amman "should not be responsible for cleaning Israel's mess", he told moderator Sarah Kelly on Sunday, reaffirming that Jordan would not allow Israel to expel Palestinians from Gaza.

"The root cause of all of this is occupation, that is consolidated day in and day out. Israel is pushing people into the abyss," he said.

"We are looking at this as if the only problem is Hamas but the only problem is the occupation."

Mr Safadi said Jordan has repeatedly warned Israel against displacing Palestinians in its much-feared offensive on Rafah, which borders Egypt.

"We will not allow the displacement of Palestinians. We have warned them," he said.

"But beyond that it will solve nothing, it will just set the stage for future conflict."

Mr Shtayyeh also said Cairo has been clear it will not "allow anyone across the border."

The situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate, with 127 people killed in the past 24 hours.

Israel arrested "a large number" of medical staff treating patients at Nasser Hospital on Sunday, the Health Ministry in Gaza said, after warning the hospital was now completely out of service due to a continuing Israeli raid.

The arrests are "a war crime and a disregard for the lives of the sick and wounded who are in dire need of direct care and treatment", the ministry added.

The hospital in Khan Younis is the second largest in Gaza and was stormed by Israeli forces last week, with troops destroying graves in the complex and forcing hundreds of people out of the main building.

Adla Massoud contributed reporting from New York

Updated: February 18, 2024, 2:52 PM