Deadly fighting took place on Saturday between the Israeli army and Hamas in the south of the Gaza Strip, where hundreds of thousands of civilians are trapped, while the UN agency which plays a central role in their care is weakened. by a controversy linked to October 7.
Israel promised on Saturday to put an end to this UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), whose funding eight countries have suspended since Friday, after Israeli accusations according to which employees were involved in the bloody attack on the Hamas on Israeli soil.
The large town of Khan Younes, in the south of Gaza, considered by Israel as a stronghold of the Palestinian Islamist movement, is now at the heart of the war triggered by this attack.
The fighting continued there on Saturday, according to witnesses, particularly around the two main hospitals, Nasser and al-Amal.
At the Nasser hospital, “short of fuel, food and supplies”, there remain “currently 350 patients and 5,000 displaced people”, described Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), calling back to an “immediate ceasefire”.
Seven countries, including Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Italy and Germany, suspended their contributions to UNRWA during the day, following in the footsteps of the United States.
The head of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, considered these suspensions of funds “shocking”, “in reaction to allegations against a small group of employees”, given the measures taken by the agency and the fact that “depend on two million people for their simple survival.”
The agency separated itself from several employees involved and opened an investigation.
“No safe place”
Israel wants to “ensure” that UNRWA no longer plays any role in Gaza after the war, declared its head of diplomacy, Israel Katz, on Saturday, with Hamas denouncing “threats” against this structure.
UNRWA “needs support”, not that “we are cutting off” its supplies, reacted the Palestinian Authority.
South of Khan Younes, more than 1.3 million displaced Gazans are massed in Rafah, forced, in “conditions of despair”, against the closed border with Egypt, according to the UN.
The streets where wastewater flows are filled with hundreds of thousands of tents, paltry shelters against torrential rains, according to an AFP journalist.
“What’s happening doesn’t make sense. Let them open the crossing points so we can leave! There is nothing left in Gaza,” laments Hind Ahmed, a mother.
“We will not leave Gaza, the Jews came here and they are the ones who should leave,” interrupts an angry passerby.
The city was not spared from bombs either. “There is no safe place in the Gaza Strip. Everything that is said is false,” testifies Mohammed Al-Chaer, a resident of the city, in his devastated neighborhood.
Attempt at mediation
The attack by Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel, resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people in Israel, mainly civilians, according to an AFP count based on figures Israeli officials.
In response, Israel vowed to “annihilate” Hamas, in power in Gaza since 2007, and launched a vast military operation which left 26,257 dead, the vast majority of women, children and adolescents, according to the latest report on Saturday. Ministry of Health of the movement.
The International Court of Justice, the highest court of the UN, seized by South Africa, called on Israel on Friday to prevent any possible act of “genocide” in Gaza and allow the entry of humanitarian aid. However, the ICJ has no means to enforce its decisions.
While the war, at its 113e day, knows no respite, Qatar, Egypt and the United States are trying to mediate to reach a new truce, which would include the release of Palestinian hostages and prisoners.
Some 250 people were kidnapped in Israel during the October 7 attack and taken to Gaza, including around 100 released at the end of November during a truce. According to Israeli authorities, 132 hostages are still held in the Gaza Strip, including 28 presumed dead.
The director of the CIA, the American intelligence service, will meet “in the coming days in Paris” his Israeli and Egyptian counterparts, as well as the Qatari prime minister, to try to conclude a truce agreement, according to a security source.
Several thousand people also took part in rallies in Israel on Saturday evening, particularly in the center of Tel Aviv, to demand the return of the hostages and the resignation of the government with a view to holding elections.
But in a televised address, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again hammered home his determination: “if we do not eliminate the Hamas terrorists (…) the next massacre is only a matter of time,” he said. he assures.