Israel and Hamas at war, day 166 | New discussions for a truce in Gaza, on the verge of famine

The head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken is expected in the Middle East on Wednesday to try to secure a truce in the fighting in Gaza, where famine threatens the Palestinian population after five and a half months of war between Israel and Hamas.

Talks between “technical teams” are continuing in Qatar, according to a source close to the negotiations, after a change in Hamas’ position which opened the door to a pause in fighting after unsuccessfully demanding a definitive ceasefire.

Israeli bombings continue meanwhile without respite and have left 104 dead in 24 hours, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health, including at least 30 in Gaza City.

The leader of the Palestinian Islamist movement, Ismaïl Haniyeh, accused Israel on Tuesday of “sabotaging” the negotiations with the large-scale operation carried out since Monday against the al-Chifa hospital in this city, which houses thousands of civilians as well as patients and staff.

The army said Wednesday that it had so far killed 90 Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters in and around this hospital complex, the largest in the territory, and had arrested “more than 300 suspects.”

NGOs and UN agencies continue to sound the alarm about the imminent risk of famine in the Palestinian territory, particularly in the north, which is difficult to access and where more than 300,000 people currently live.

“One hundred percent of the population” of Gaza is “in a situation of serious food insecurity,” said the American Secretary of State on Tuesday, expected in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and then in Egypt on Thursday.

Antony Blinken said he would address in his talks “efforts to reach an immediate ceasefire agreement guaranteeing the release of all remaining hostages,” as well as “intensifying international efforts to increase humanitarian aid to Gaza and post-conflict coordination in Gaza.

Concerns for Rafah

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is also due to go to Washington next week, at a time when the United States is pressing Israel to avoid a major ground offensive on the town of Rafah, in the far south of the Gaza Strip, where there are nearly 1.5 million Palestinians, according to the UN, the majority displaced by the war.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Tuesday the sending of a delegation “at the request of American President Joe Biden” to discuss this operation announced by Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu says this offensive is necessary to completely defeat Hamas, in power in the Gaza Strip since 2007.

An offensive on Rafah would be “a mistake,” the White House said Tuesday, “would lead to more innocent victims, worsen the already serious humanitarian situation, reinforce anarchy in Gaza and further isolate Israel” on the international scene.

Canada will stop sending weapons to Israel, a Canadian government source also announced to AFP. The head of Israeli diplomacy, Israel Katz, described this decision as “unfortunate” which “undermines Israel’s right to defend itself”.

The war broke out on October 7 when Hamas commandos infiltrated from Gaza carried out an unprecedented attack in southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of at least 1,160 people, most of them civilians, according to a government count. AFP established from official Israeli sources.

According to Israel, around 250 people have been kidnapped and 130 of them are still hostages in Gaza, of whom 33 are believed to have died.

In retaliation, Israel promised to annihilate Hamas, which it considers a terrorist organization, along with the United States and the European Union. Its army launched an offensive that has so far left 31,923 people dead in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to Hamas’ health ministry.

“Lack of political will”

According to UN agencies, more than 1.1 million people in Gaza, or around half the population, live in a “catastrophic” food situation, close to famine.

In Rafah, the disastrous humanitarian situation is further aggravated by the torrential rains which fell on Tuesday, flooding the camps of displaced people.

“We no longer differentiate between rain, thunder and bombings. The children were screaming in fear. We were overwhelmed by rainwater and our belongings were soaked,” Oum Abdoullah Alwan, a displaced woman from Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, living in a tent with 14 members, told AFP. from his family.

“In fact, the entire population of Gaza today depends on food aid, but more than half of the population now lives in what is called a ‘critical level of hunger,’” he said on Tuesday. Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA).

The “main obstacle” to the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza “is the absence of political will,” he added.

Since the start of the war, Israel has imposed a complete siege on the Gaza Strip and inspects all aid, reducing the number of trucks entering the territory, mainly through Rafah from Egypt.

Faced with the humanitarian emergency, several countries are organizing airdrops and have opened a maritime corridor from Cyprus, but all emphasize that these supply routes cannot replace land routes.


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