Photo: Agence France-Presse According to the UN, more than 1.3 million displaced Gazans are massed in Rafah, against the closed border with Egypt, to flee advancing Israeli troops.
Mai Yaghi – Agence France-Presse
January 28, 2024
- Middle East
Deadly fighting took place on Sunday between the Israeli army and Palestinian Hamas in Khan Younès, in the south of the Gaza Strip, the epicenter of the war which is ravaging the small Palestinian territory, while in Paris, the United States, Egypt and Qatar are working to negotiate a truce.
The United Nations Secretary-General, for his part, called on donor countries to guarantee the continuation of aid to civilians in Gaza, despite the suspected involvement of employees of the Palestinian Refugee Agency, UNRWA, in the attack of Hamas on Israeli soil on October 7.
- Israel wants to end UNRWA, donors withdraw
On the ground, on the 114th day of war, the Israeli army described “intense fighting” in Khan Yunis, which it considers a Hamas stronghold, saying it had killed “terrorists and seized large quantities of weapons.”
At least 24 people were killed during the day in this large southern city, relentlessly shelled by Israeli aircraft, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.
The clashes there take place in particular around the Nasser and al-Amal hospitals, which are only partially functioning and shelter thousands of refugees fleeing the shooting.
“Constructive” meeting on a truce
The war was sparked by the unprecedented attack on October 7 by Hamas, which resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to a tally by the Agency France-Presse based on official Israeli figures.
In response, Israel vowed to “annihilate” the Islamist movement – which it classifies as terrorist like the United States and the European Union – and launched a vast military operation in Gaza, which left 26,422 dead, largely majority of women, children and adolescents, according to the latest report on Sunday from the Hamas Ministry of Health.
To negotiate a truce in hostilities, William Burns, the director of the CIA, met on Sunday in Paris with senior Israeli and Egyptian officials, as well as the Qatari prime minister, according to sources close to the participants.
This meeting was “constructive”, indicated the office of the Israeli Prime Minister, specifying that there however “still remained differences” between the parties, which “will continue to discuss this week in other meetings”.
Qatar, Egypt and the United States were involved in negotiating the first truce at the end of November, during which around a hundred of the approximately 250 people kidnapped in Israel on October 7 were released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.
According to Israeli authorities, 132 hostages are still held in the Gaza Strip, including 28 presumed dead.
According to the New York Times, the proposed agreement would involve a two-month truce and the release of all hostages, as well as Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
In New York, António Guterres called on donor countries that have suspended funding to UNRWA to “at least guarantee” the continuation of its operations in the besieged territory, where humanitarian aid comes into play. -drops.
“Two million civilians in Gaza depend on [the agency’s] crucial aid for their daily survival,” he stressed.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization, also urged donors “not to suspend their funding”.
Several countries, including the United States and Germany, the main contributors, did so after UNRWA announced Friday that 12 of its employees were suspected of having participated in the Hamas attack.
Norway, another major donor country, on the other hand, indicated on Sunday that it would maintain its funding, so as not to “collectively punish millions of people”.
Israeli UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan accused Mr. Guterres of choosing to ignore “evidence” of UNRWA’s involvement in “terrorism.”
Hamas, which took power in Gaza in 2007, denounced “threats” against the agency. In the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Authority has slammed a campaign to “liquidate the Palestinian refugee issue.”
“If [UNRWA] aid is suspended, there will be famine. They are the ones who give us flour, food and drink,” worries Bassam al-Masri, a resident of the northern Gaza Strip, taking refuge in Rafah, in the far south.
More than 1.3 million displaced Gazans, according to the UN, are massed against the closed border with Egypt to flee the advance of Israeli troops.
On the Israeli side, on Sunday morning, demonstrators demanding that aid not reach Gaza until the hostages are freed blocked the entry of trucks of humanitarian equipment at the Kerem Shalom crossing point, near Rafah.
In an explosive regional context, three American soldiers were killed and 25 injured in a drone attack in Jordan, Washington announced on Sunday, naming pro-Iran groups as responsible.
This is the first time that American soldiers have been killed in the Middle East since the start of the war in Gaza, which is exacerbating tensions against a backdrop of latent conflict between Israel and Iran.