Photo: Agence France-Presse The road to Rafah was stormed by families fleeing Khan Younes by any means, their belongings piled up in a hurry.
Adel Zaanoun – Agence France-Presse and Chloé Rouveyrolles – Liberation respectively in the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem
January 22, 2024
- Middle East
Fierce fighting continues on Tuesday (local time) between the Israeli army and Palestinian Hamas in Khan Younes, in the south of Gaza, against a backdrop of negotiations to put the war on “pause” for a few weeks , in the absence of a longer-term solution.
Early Tuesday night, Palestinian witnesses reported Israeli artillery fire near the Nasser hospital in Khan Younes, the main town in the south of the territory where local leaders are hiding, according to Israel. of Hamas.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid (OCHA), “hostilities are escalating” in Khan Younes as the Palestinian Red Crescent deplored an “extremely dangerous” situation near another hospital local, al-Amal.
The Palestinian telecoms operator Paltel announced a new cut in Internet and mobile communications, a consequence of Israeli military operations in the territory where the situation was already critical for civilians.
The Israeli army said it had taken control of Hamas command posts in Khan Yunis, and reported a death toll of 200 soldiers since the start of its ground offensive in Gaza.
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The war was sparked by Hamas' unprecedented October 7 attack on Israeli soil, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli data.
Some 250 people were kidnapped and taken to Gaza, including around a hundred released at the end of November in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. According to the same count, 132 hostages are still in the territory, of which 28 are believed to have died.
Israel vowed to “annihilate” Hamas, in power in Gaza since 2007, and launched a vast military operation that killed 25,295 Palestinians – the vast majority women, children and teenagers – according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.
Two months of truce ?
Israel offered Hamas, via the mediation of Egypt and Qatar, a two-month pause in fighting and raids in Gaza in exchange for the release of all hostages, reported Monday evening the American site Axios.
This proposal does not imply the end of the war in Gaza, but a second truce, after that of a week which allowed the release of a hundred hostages in exchange for at least 240 Palestinian prisoners imprisoned in Israel.
Israel's proposal calls for the return of live hostages and remains to Israel in several phases, the first of which would include women and men aged over 60, according to Axios.
Next followed by female soldiers, men aged under 60 but not in the military, male Israeli soldiers, then the remains of hostages.
As part of this plan, Israel and Hamas would have to agree in advance on the number of Palestinian prisoners released in exchange for each hostage according to their category, Axios continues.
During a meeting on Monday with members of the hostages' families, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of an Israeli “initiative”, while claiming not to be able to “detail” it, according to the local press.
“Seeds of Hate”
If the Netanyahu government discusses a truce, it refuses to consider in the longer term the “two-state solution”, an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, European affairs ministers lamented on Monday foreigners.
Meeting in Brussels, the latter met in turn, and separately, their Israeli counterparts, Israel Katz, and Palestinian, Riyad al-Maliki.
Mr. Katz said he was seeking European support for Israel's war against Hamas and for the release of the hostages.
“The [Israeli] minister could have made better use of his time and been concerned about the security of his country and the high number of deaths in Gaza,” reacted the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, irritated by the Israeli refusal to discuss of the two-state solution.
“What other solutions are they thinking ?,” Mr. Borrell asked. “Remove all the Palestinians ? Kill them ?,” he added. Israelis “are sowing the seeds of hatred for generations to come.”
Beyond the Palestinian Territories, the conflict is exacerbating tensions between Israel and Hamas's pro-Iran allies, such as Lebanese Hezbollah and the Yemeni Houthis.
In support of Gaza, the latter are increasing attacks on international traffic in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, which is giving headaches to large shipowners and increasing the cost of maritime transport.
On Monday night, the United States and the United Kingdom again bombed Houthi sites in Yemen in the hope, they said, of “weakening” the military arsenal of these rebels to promote the resumption of traffic in the Red Sea.
But for Mohammed al-Bukhaiti, a senior Houthi official, these strikes “only increase the determination of the Yemeni people to assume their moral and humanitarian responsibilities towards the oppressed of Gaza.”< /p>