Blinken pushes Hamas to accept ceasefire, but warns Israel again over Rafah invasion

Blinken pushes Hamas to accept ceasefire, but warns Israel again over Rafah invasion
Israel awaits a response from Hamas over ceasefire talks as threats of a ground invasion into Rafah mount, despite concern from top US diplomat Antony Blinken
21 min read

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken concluded meetings with Israeli officials on Wednesday by urging the government to consider alternative ways to deal with Hamas rather than a major offensive into Rafah, the southern city of Gaza where some 1.5 million Palestinians have sought refuge.

A response from Hamas over the current ceasefire proposal is expected over the coming 24 to 48 hours, officials said, while the group maintained that a deal must include a permanent end to the fighting - an issue which has stalled talks for months.

Israel remains determined to push ahead with its vast ground offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

"Hamas needs to say yes and needs to get this done," Blinken told reporters on Wednesday. "If Hamas actually purports to care about the Palestinian people and wants to see an immediate alleviation of their suffering, it should take this deal."

Hamas is considering a plan for a 40-day ceasefire and the exchange of scores of hostages for larger numbers of Palestinian prisoners.

While ceasefire talks have been ongoing, the Israeli military has been preparing to open up an offensive in its northern frontier with Lebanon's Hezbollah, the army chief of staff said on Wednesday. The two parties have been engaged in attacks since October.

12:41 AM

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Osama Hamdan: truce negotiations will stop if Rafah invaded
12:19 AM
The New Arab Staff

Osama Hamdan head of Hamas' politburo in Lebanon said that truce negotiations would stop if Israel invades Rafah, as mediators scramble to get a deal across the line following days of talks in Cairo.

Hamdan was speaking to Hezbollah media channel Al-Manar TV on Wednesday evening and said that Hamas has welcomed support from Chinese mediators but he criticised the United States for building an aid pier off the Gaza coast.

“Any armed soldier on the ground of Gaza is an enemy of the Palestinian people,” he said, in reference to the United States. He added that Hamas has "thwarted the project of a new political authority in the Gaza Strip".

"If the enemy carries out the Rafah operation, negotiations will be stopped, and the resistance does not negotiate under fire," he said.

The official's comments come as the war in Gaza reaches seven months with no let-up in sight, and the population pushed to the brink. Israel believes four Hamas battalions are sheltering in the southern city of Rafah, which has also turned into a humanitarian hub for some 1.5 million civilians.

Hamas hails Colombia cutting ties with Israel
11:20 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Hamas on Wednesday hailed as a "victory" Colombia's decision to cut ties with Israel over the war in Gaza.

"We greatly appreciate the position of Colombian President Gustavo Petro... which we consider a victory for the sacrifices of our people and their just cause," Hamas said in a statement, calling for other countries in Latin America to follow suit.

Earlier on Wednesday, Colombian President Gustavo Petro announced that his country would formally cut ties with Israel, describing its war on Gaza as "genocidal".

Schoolchildren in Gaza express thanks to US students
10:45 PM
The New Arab Staff

Schoolchildren in Gaza have expressed their gratitude to US students for the show of support in their campus protests which have taken over US universities over the past two weeks.

In a video shared by translating_falasteen Instagram account, school children in Gaza hold banners showing their thanks to students at universities including Columbia, Yale, UCLA, Emory and Paris Institute of Political Sciences, which have all seen hundreds of students participate in pro-Palestine demonstrations.

"They express profound thanks to over 120 university campuses across the United States, as well as numerous demonstrations in Europe, for standing in solidarity with their cause," the account posted.

Educational facilities, including schools and universities, have suffered major damage over the past few months and all Gaza's 12 universities have been destroyed by Israeli bombardment.


Palestinians facing high unemployment in Gaza and West Bank
10:08 PM
The New Arab Staff

Poverty and unemployment in Gaza has reached unprecedented levels with at least 201,000 jobs lost since the outbreak of war, according to the International Labour Organisation.

Prices of essential items in Gaza have surged amid shortages and the instability, according to international humanitarian organisation ActionAid.

One kilogram of sugar costs up to £17 while a bag of flour is selling at £324, the organisation said.

The curtailment of economic activity in Gaza has worsened living conditions with people struggling to find basic items.

In the occupied West Bank, at least 306,000 jobs have been lost since the war, according to the ILO, many of them from Israel stopping work permits.

280 arrested at student pro-Palestine protests in New York
9:35 PM
The New Arab Staff

Around 280 people have been arrested at pro-Palestine protests at universities in New York over the past few days, the district attorney said on Wednesday.

Demonstrations have roiled campuses across America for nearly two weeks and in the past day tensions have boiled over as police forces moved in to remove and arrest hundreds of students.

New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg said there were approximately 280 arrests between two protests at Columbia University and the City University of New York.

"As my office does … we will look carefully at each individual case on our docket and make decisions based on the facts and the law," Bragg said.

Police deployed a heavy presence on US university campuses Wednesday after forcibly clearing away some weeks-long protests against Israel's war with Hamas.

Dozens of police cars patrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles campus in response to violent clashes overnight when counter-protesters attacked an encampment of pro-Palestinian students.

Read more about the protests in The New Arab's explainer here.

UN humanitarian missions in Gaza face delays: OCHA
8:58 PM
The New Arab Staff

Some 75 percent of UN coordinated aid missions to deliver supplies were blocked or delayed because of hostilities between Palestinian armed groups and Israel, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Wednesday.

"One of those missions that went to the north was forced to wait for a total of over 9 hours – before departing, on its way north, and on the way back to Rafah – due to heighted security procedures at the checkpoint," OCHA wrote in a post on X.

The UN has repeatedly complained that Israel has held up aid and medical convoys attempting to reach Palestinian civilians throughout the war, which in some cases has resulted in the deaths of injured civilians.

Israel says Colombia move to cut ties a 'reward' to Hamas
8:32 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel's foreign minister on Wednesday said Colombian President Gustavo Petro's decision to cut diplomatic ties between the two countries over the war in Gaza amounted to handing a "reward" to Hamas.

"The Colombian president has promised to reward Hamas murderers and rapists -- and today he delivered," Israel Katz said on X, formerly Twitter, warning that "history will remember that Gustavo Petro decided to stand by the most despicable monsters humanity has known".

Gaza aid pier 50 percent complete: Pentagon
7:55 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The temporary pier being constructed by the US military to increase humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza is more than halfway complete, the Pentagon said Wednesday.

"As of today, we are over 50 percent complete on setting up the pier," Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told journalists.

The start of construction was announced on April 25, and US officials say the pier will be operational sometime early this month.

Plans for the pier -- which the Pentagon said earlier this week will cost at least $320 million -- were first announced by US President Joe Biden in early March as Israel held up deliveries of assistance by ground.

Read about Palestinians concerns for the US intervention in Gaza in this dispatch from The New Arab's Gaza correspondent here.

Israeli army chief: 'preparing for offensive in the north'
7:34 PM
The New Arab Staff

Israel's army chief of staff Herzi Halevi said on Wednesday during a tour in northern Israel near the Lebanese border that the military is "preparing for an offensive in the north".

Speaking to commanders from Israel's 'Etzioni' brigade that has been operating against Lebanon's Hezbollah group, Halevi praised the fighters for doing "an excellent job of operational  defense in the north".

"And we are preparing for an offensive in the north," he added.

Israel and Hezbollah have been locked in fighting since 8 October and attacks have included drone strikes, air strikes, guided rockets and anti-tank missiles. Some 290 Hezbollah members have been killed by Israel since then, according to Lebanese newspaper L'Orient Today.

There has been speculation for some time that Israel would launch a major offensive into Lebanon to push Hezbollah away from the frontier.

Israel threatens to punish PA if ICC issues arrest warrants
7:15 PM
The New Arab Staff

Israel is threatening to take action against the Palestinian Authority if the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top officials.

Over the past week, concerned Israeli officials have been calling in support from the US in light of speculation that the ICC could issue warrants regarding its probe into Israel and Palestine which dates back to 2021.

According to a report in US outlet Axios on Wednesday, Israel has told the White House that it will "retaliate" with strong action against the Palestinian Authority - which governs the occupied West Bank and receives US funding - if the US does not intervene in the ICC case.

The report said that Israel would look to freeze the transfer of tax revenues that Israel collects for the PA which would lead to its effective bankruptcy.

Colombia to break diplomatic ties with Israel over Gaza war
6:48 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Colombian President Gustavo Petro said on Wednesday he will break diplomatic relations with Israel over its actions in Gaza.

Petro has already heavily criticized Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and requested to join South Africa's case accusing Israel of genocide at the International Court of Justice.

"Here in front of you, the government of change, of the president of the republic announces that tomorrow we will break diplomatic relations with the state of Israel...for having a government, for having a president who is genocidal," Petro told cheering crowds in Bogota, who marched to mark International Worker's Day and back Petro's social and economic reforms.

Petro has expressed support for Palestine since the start of the war and said in October that his country would open an embassy in Ramallah.

Blinken: 'better ways' to deal with Hamas than Rafah assault
6:34 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that he made clear to Israeli leaders US opposition to a major attack on the Gaza city of Rafah and said he suggested "better ways" to address Hamas.

"Our position is clear. It hasn't changed, it won't change," Blinken told reporters.

"We cannot and will not support a major military operation in Rafah absent an effective plan to make sure that civilians are not harmed, and we've not seen such a plan."

"At the same time, there are other ways -- and in our judgement, better ways -- of dealing with the real ongoing challenge of Hamas that does not require a major military operation" in Rafah, Blinken said.

Blinken has been holding talks with Israeli officials including Prime Minister Netanyahu over ceasefire talks and Israel's plan to invade Rafah.

Israel FM hits back at comments from Iran's Khamenei
6:20 PM
The New Arab Staff

Israel's foreign minister Israel Katz accused Iran of hypocrisy over remarks from supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei earlier Wednesday in which he criticized Arab governments who had normalised ties with Israel.

Khamenei said states that "ignored Zionist regime's crimes" and normalised relations should expect their citizens to protest against them.

In response, Katz said that Iran "brutally suppresses protests for freedom" but encourages "citizens in Arab countries that have ties with Israel to rise up against their own governments".


Progress on Gaza aid real, needs to be accelerated: Blinken
5:50 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit to Israel on Wednesday that progress on improving humanitarian access to Gaza is real but, given the immense need in the Palestinian enclave, it needs to be accelerated.

Thousands protest over pay, Gaza at France May Day marches
5:28 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Thousands marched at May Day protests across France on Wednesday, making demands ranging from better salaries to a ceasefire in Gaza, with minor skirmishes in some cities.

At May Day protests across the country - including in Paris, Marseille, Toulouse, Lyon and Nantes - marchers sometimes held up Palestinian flags as well as their union banners.

"I'm here for the workers, it's important to mobilise for our rights," said a 27-year-old protester called Louise among the crowd in Paris, refusing to give her second name.

"But I'm also here to call out the terrible situation in Gaza and in Palestine," she added.

Blinken visits Gaza border crossing to check aid delivery
5:26 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday toured a key Gaza border crossing for a first-hand look at aid shipments, after calling on Israel to do more to help the war-ravaged territory.

Blinken travelled to Kerem Shalom, an Israeli entry point into Gaza a few kilometres from the southern flashpoint city of Rafah, where he saw dozens of trucks waiting to enter - as well as several Israeli military tanks parked nearby, according to an AFP journalist.

Israel allows trucks from Erez crossing after US pressure
3:43 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israel reopened the sole crossing on the northern edge of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, allowing aid trucks to pass through the Erez checkpoint following U.S. demands to do more to address the growing humanitarian crisis.

Reopening the Erez crossing has been one of the main pleas of international aid agencies for months, to alleviate hunger which is believed to be most severe among the hundreds of thousands of civilians in the enclave's northern sector.

Colonel Moshe Tetro, head of Israel's Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza, said he hoped the crossing would be open every day, and help reach a target of 500 aid trucks entering Gaza daily. That would be in line with pre-war supplies entering the enclave and far more than it has received during the last seven months.

"This is only one step of the measures that we took in the last few weeks," he told reporters.

France, Egypt urge Israel not to carry out Rafah offensive
3:31 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

France and Egypt's message to Israel is to not carry out an offensive in Rafah: France's foreign minister from Cairo.

Approximately 300 detained at Columbia and City College
3:28 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

New York City police took about 300 people into custody late on Tuesday at Columbia University and City College of New York at pro-Palestinian demonstrations, Mayor Eric Adams said on Wednesday.

Iran's Khamenei criticises Arab-Israel normalisation bids
3:17 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday efforts underway to forge a normalisation of ties between Israel and Arab countries will not resolve the crisis in the Middle East.

"Some people think that by forcing neighbouring countries to normalise their ties (with Israel) the problem will be solved," said Khamenei. "They are wrong."

"Palestine should be returned to them (Palestinians)," said Khamenei. "They should form their own regime, their own system, then that system should decide how to deal with the Zionists."

Khamenei's remarks came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday said Washington is nearly ready with a security package to offer Saudi Arabia if it normalises relations with Israel.

Turkey to get join South Africa's ICJ appeal against Israel
1:54 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said on Wednesday that Turkey had decided to get involved in the case brought by South Africa against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Hamas official insists Gaza ceasefire must be permanent
1:31 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Hamas will respond to an Israeli truce proposal for Gaza "within a very short period", an official with the Palestinian group said Wednesday, stressing though that any ceasefire needs to be permanent.

Suhail al-Hindi, a senior Hamas official, told AFP the group would "deliver its response clearly within a very short period", although he would not say precisely when that was expected to happen.

He stressed the aim was "to reach an end to this war".

More war debris in Gaza than Ukraine: UN
1:29 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The Gaza Strip is filled with more war debris and rubble than Ukraine, the head of UN demining operations for the narrow Palestinian territory said Wednesday.

And the danger for clearance work is restricted not just to unexploded ordnance but includes possible exposure to toxic substances such as asbestos.

The United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) estimated the amount of debris in Gaza at 37 million tonnes in mid-April, or 300 kilogrammes per square metre.

"Gaza has more rubble than Ukraine, and to put that in perspective, the Ukrainian front line is 600 miles (nearly 1,000 kilometres) long, and Gaza is 25 miles (40 km) long," said Mungo Birch, head of the UNMAS programme in the Palestinian territories.

Blinken tells Netanyahu US still opposes Rafah operation
1:08 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated US opposition to an Israeli assault on the crowded Gaza city of Rafah in talks Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed to press ahead, a US official said.

Blinken "reiterated the United States' clear position on Rafah," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said, two days after Blinken again voiced opposition to an assault over concerns for the safety of civilians sheltering in the southern Gaza city.

Jordan says Israeli settlers attacked Gaza aid convoys
1:06 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Jordan's foreign ministry said some Israeli settlers attacked two of its humanitarian aid convoys as they made their way toward the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.

Both convoys continued on their way and managed to reach their destination in Israeli-besieged Gaza, the ministry said in a statement.

"Two Jordanian aid convoys carrying food, flour and other humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip were attacked by settlers," the ministry said, without giving details of the incident.

Honenu, an Israeli legal aid agency, said in a statement that four men who "blocked aid trucks (going) to Gaza" near the large West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim had been arrested by Israeli police.

One of the convoys was bound for the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza and the other for the Erez crossing, the Jordanian foreign ministry said.

Blinken notes improved Gaza aid and urges more
1:06 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, noted improved Gaza aid deliveries "and reiterated the importance of accelerating and sustaining that improvement," the State Department said.

Still work to be done to secure Israel-Gaza truce: French FM
1:05 PM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

France's foreign minister said on Wednesday that there was still work to be done to secure a truce between Israel and Hamas after he was updated by Egyptian officials in Cairo on the status of negotiations.

"We came to coordinate our efforts for a truce. The messages given by France and its Arab partners in the region is that Israel pulls back on this offensive in Rafah," Stéphane Séjourne said after meeting his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shukri.

He declined to say how optimistic he was of a deal being concluded, but added that if there were a truce he hoped that three French-Israeli dual nationals being held in Gaza would be on the list for release.

UK policeman charged over allegedly pro-Hamas image
11:19 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

A police officer in northern England is set to appear in court this week to face terror charges after allegedly sharing an image supporting Palestinian group Hamas, a watchdog said Wednesday.

West Yorkshire Police constable Mohammed Adil, 26, is due at Westminster Magistrates' Court in London Thursday after being charged with two offences under the Terrorism Act, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said.

He was charged Monday with two counts of publishing an image in support of Hamas, which is a proscribed organisation in the UK, after allegedly sharing the image on WhatsApp, it added.

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The offences are alleged to have taken place in October and November, shortly after the start of Israel's war on Gaza.

The IOPC said it had directed an investigation into the WhatsApp messages - carried out by regional counter-terrorism police - which was then referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The CPS, a public body that decides on criminal charges in England and Wales, opted to prosecute Adil, who is currently suspended from his police role.

Greeks condemn Gaza war in May Day protest
11:15 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Hundreds of Greek workers marched through central Athens on Wednesday to demand pay rises that would bring their salaries close to the European average and to protest over the war in Gaza.

Many of the demonstrators who had gathered peacefully outside the Greek parliament buildings held Palestinian flags and let balloons fly in the sky in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

"It was our duty not to forget that genocide as the (Labour) day calls," said Marianna Tsagari, 48, who joined the demonstration.

Hezbollah's fighting with Israel has harmed Lebanon: Geagea
9:37 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The leader of a main Christian political party in Lebanon blasted the Shia militant group Hezbollah for opening a front with Israel to back up its ally Hamas, saying it has harmed Lebanon without making a dent in Israel’s crushing offensive in the Gaza Strip.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday night, Samir Geagea of the Lebanese Forces Party said Hezbollah should withdraw from areas along the border with Israel and the Lebanese army should deploy in all points where militants of the Iran-backed group have taken positions.

"No one has the right to control the fate of a country and people on its own," Geagea said in his heavily guarded headquarters in the mountain village of Maarab. "Hezbollah is not the government in Lebanon. There is a government in Lebanon in which Hezbollah is represented." In addition to its military arm, Hezbollah is a political party.

Blinken ceasefire comments attempt to pressure us: Hamas
9:36 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said on Wednesday that U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is blaming the delay of a Gaza ceasefire agreement on the Palestinian group unfairly.

"Blinken's comments contradict reality. It is not strange for Blinken, who is known as the foreign minister of Israel, not America, to make such a statement," Abu Zuhri told Reuters.

"Even the Israeli negotiating team admitted Netanyahu was the one who was hindering reaching an agreement," he added.

Abu Zuhri said that the group was still studying the recent ceasefire offer.

Use of ICC against Israel a threat to 'democracies': Herzog
9:31 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday urged allies to reject efforts to use the International Criminal Court against his country over its war in Gaza, warning of a threat to "democracies everywhere."

"Trying to use the International Criminal Court against Israel, which is fighting terror, is a clear and present danger to democracies and to free peace-loving nations who pursue the norms of international law," he told journalists.

Israel claims it wants to dismantle Hamas, but has killed over 34,000 people in Gaza, mainly civilians, and laid waste to much of the enclave.

"I call upon all our allies and friends to object and reject any such efforts."

Protesters block UK ministry over arms sales to Israel
9:30 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Hundreds of workers blocked the entrances to the Department for Business and Trade in central London to oppose the UK’s continued arms sales to Israel amid the war on Gaza.

Pro-Israelis attack Pro-Palestinian encampment at UCLA
9:09 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Violent clashes erupted on Wednesday on the University of California campus in Los Angeles between pro-Palestinian protesters and a group of pro-Israeli counter demonstrators, according to live video coverage provided by a U.S. broadcaster.

UCLA student newspaper the Daily Bruin says Israeli supporters violently tried to tear down the pro-Palestinian encampment on the university campus.

Videos shared online showed pro-Israeli demonstrators firing fireworks into the encampment.

Israeli attack in Rafah would be 'tragedy beyond words: UN
9:04 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

A ground operation by Israeli troops in the southern Gaza city of Rafah would be a "tragedy beyond words", the UN's humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said in a statement on Tuesday.

"The simplest truth is that a ground operation in Rafah will be nothing short of a tragedy beyond words. No humanitarian plan can counter that," Griffiths said, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to launch an offensive on Rafah

"The world has been appealing to the Israeli authorities for weeks to spare Rafah, but a ground operation there is on the immediate horizon," said Griffiths.

"For the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled to Gaza's southernmost point to escape disease, famine, mass graves and direct fighting, a ground invasion would spell even more trauma and death.

"For agencies struggling to provide humanitarian aid despite the active hostilities, impassable roads, unexploded ordnance, fuel shortages, delays at checkpoints, and Israeli restrictions, a ground invasion would strike a disastrous blow.

"We are in a race to stave off hunger and death, and we are losing."

French FM heads to Cairo as Gaza truce talks intensify
9:00 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

France's foreign minister will travel to Cairo on Wednesday in an unscheduled stop during a Middle East tour as efforts to secure a truce between Israel and Hamas in Gaza reach a critical point, a French diplomatic source said.

Diplomatic efforts towards securing a ceasefire were intensifying following a renewed push led by Egypt to revive stalled negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

"The surprise visit of the minister is in the context of Egypt's efforts to free hostages and achieve a truce in Gaza," the source said.

Gaza death toll reaches 34,568
8:57 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Gaza's health ministry said Wednesday the death toll from Israel's offensive has reached at least 34,568.

The tally includes at least 33 deaths in the past 24 hours, a ministry statement said, adding that 77,765 people have been wounded in the Gaza Strip since the war broke out.

NY police clear pro-Palestine protesters from Hamilton Hall
8:47 AM
The New Arab Staff & Agencies

The pro-Palestinian demonstration at Columbia University ended in dramatic fashion late Tuesday, with police carrying riot shields swarming the Ivy League campus, bursting into an administration building protesters took over the previous night and making dozens of arrests.

A statement released by a Columbia spokesperson said New York City officers entered the campus after the university requested help. A tent encampment on the school's grounds to protest Israel's war on Gaza was cleared, along with Hamilton Hall where a stream of officers used a ladder to climb through a second-floor window. Protesters seized the hall about 20 hours earlier.