Israel and Hamas at war, day 218 | Bombings on Gaza, 110,000 people fled Rafah

(Rafah) Israel increased strikes and artillery fire on the Gaza Strip on Friday, particularly on the overcrowded town of Rafah where military operations against Hamas have already pushed 110,000 people to flee, according to the UN, and paralyze the entry of humanitarian aid.

On Thursday, a session of indirect talks aimed at securing a truce between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement, after seven months of war, ended without an agreement in Cairo.

The American President, Joe Biden, had for the first time the day before threatened to stop arms deliveries to Israel, of which the United States is the main military supporter, if the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, carried out his threat to offensive on Rafah.

“If we have to stand alone, we will stand alone. I have already said it, if necessary, we will fight tooth and nail,” Benyamin Netanyahu responded on Thursday.

Early Friday, AFP correspondents reported artillery fire on Rafah, the last town in southern Gaza before the Egyptian border, which is home to nearly 1.4 million Palestinians.

According to the UN, around 110,000 people have fled Rafah since Israel called on the population in the east of the city to evacuate on Monday.

“Some 30,000 people are fleeing the city every day,” said in Geneva the head of the UN Humanitarian Affairs office (Ocha) for Gaza, Georgios Petropoulos, most of whom “have already had to move five or six times » since the start of the war.

Some headed to Khan Yunis, a ruined town a few kilometers to the north, while others wondered where to go in the crowded Palestinian territory.

“Tanks, artillery and the sound of bombing are incessant. People are afraid and want to look for a safe place,” displaced person Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Witnesses also reported airstrikes and fighting in northern Gaza City on Friday.

“Tanks everywhere”

For months, Benjamin Netanyahu has been threatening a major offensive on Rafah to defeat the last Hamas battalions which he claims are grouped there, raising fears of a bloodbath and a worsening of the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. besieged.

Defying international warnings, the army has been carrying out incursions into the east of the city since Tuesday and has taken control of the border crossing with Egypt, blocking a key gateway for humanitarian aid convoys, especially for fuel.

The army said on Friday that it was continuing its “precision anti-terrorist operation” in certain areas of eastern Rafah, and having “eliminated terrorist cells during close combat and airstrikes on the Gaza side of the border crossing”.

Despite the reopening on Wednesday of the Kerem Shalom crossing, neighboring Rafah, closed by Israel for three days after rocket fire claimed by Hamas, the delivery of aid remains “extremely difficult”, Andrea told AFP. From Domenico, the head of the office of the United Nations humanitarian agency (Ocha) in the Palestinian territories.

“It’s crazy,” the Israelis “have tanks everywhere, troops on the ground, they are bombing the area east of Rafah and they want us to go get fuel or basic products” in these areas of war, when “they know we just can’t go,” he added.

If fuel is not allowed in, “the consequences will be felt almost immediately,” UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell warned on Thursday.

“Incubators for premature babies will no longer be fed, children and families will be dehydrated or drink unsafe water, sewers will overflow, spreading diseases,” she warned.

Call for “flexibility”

The war broke out on October 7 when Hamas commandos infiltrated from Gaza carried out an unprecedented attack against Israel, which left more than 1,170 dead, mostly civilians, according to an AFP report based on official Israeli data. .

More than 250 people have been kidnapped and 128 remain captive in Gaza, of whom 36 are believed to have died, according to the army.

In response, Israel promised to destroy Hamas, in power in Gaza since 2007, and launched an offensive which has so far left 34,904 dead, according to the Islamist movement’s Ministry of Health.

Egypt on Friday urged Hamas and Israel to show “flexibility” in order to quickly reach an agreement to “end the humanitarian tragedy” in the Gaza Strip.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Choukri, to reiterate US opposition to “a major military operation in Rafah”.

But after Joe Biden’s threats, the spokesperson for the Israeli army, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, affirmed Thursday that it had enough weapons to “accomplish its mission in Rafah”.

“The ball is in Israel’s court”

After the departure of delegations from both camps from Cairo on Thursday, efforts by mediator countries (Egypt, Qatar, United States) “continue” with a view to a truce, according to the media Al-Qahera News, close to Egyptian intelligence.

Hamas, for its part, sent a message to the other Palestinian factions affirming that “the ball was now entirely in the court” of Israel.

The Islamist movement gave the green light on Monday to a proposed truce in three phases of 42 days each, according to it, including an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza as well as an exchange of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, with a view to a “permanent ceasefire”.

But Israel opposes a definitive ceasefire until Hamas, which it considers a terrorist organization along with the United States and the European Union, is defeated.

The situation in Gaza is on the agenda for Friday at a special session of the General Assembly at the UN.


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