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First boat loaded with food arrives in Gaza

Photo: Agence France-Presse The boat of the Spanish NGO Open Arms, which is towing a barge, has arrived in Gaza City.

Adel Zaanoun – Agence France-Presse and Mathieu Gorse – Agence France-Presse respectively in the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem

March 16, 2024

  • Middle East

A first boat carrying food for the population of Gaza starved by more than five months of war arrived on the coast of the Palestinian territory on Friday, at a time when Hamas seems to have changed its position with a view to a truce.

The Palestinian Islamist movement, which has so far demanded a definitive ceasefire from Israel before any agreement on the release of hostages held in Gaza, has said it is ready for a six-week truce associated with an exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then announced that an Israeli delegation would travel to Qatar as part of negotiations around this exchange, without specifying when.

The White House is “cautiously optimistic” about truce negotiations, a spokesperson said Friday.

Hamas' proposal “is, in broad terms, compatible with the principles of the agreement on which we have been working for several months,” said John Kirby, spokesperson for the National Security Council.

Meanwhile, a first boat from the Spanish NGO Open Arms, towing a barge loaded with 200 tonnes of food, arrived in Gaza City (north), according to AFP images.

In the morning, locals peered at the boat from the Mediterranean coast in the distance.

“I want help for my children. I want them to live and not die of hunger,” said one of them, Abou Issa Ibrahim Filfil.

The UN fears widespread famine in the Palestinian territory, particularly in the north, torn by war and difficult to access.

Hamas accused the Israeli army of opening fire Thursday evening with “tanks and helicopters” on a crowd waiting for a distribution of flour at the entrance to Gaza City.

The army rejected the accusations and said it was “armed Palestinians” who fired into the crowd.

These shots left 20 dead and 155 injured, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.

300,000 meals

A race against time is underway to try to deliver more humanitarian aid. This arrives mainly from Egypt via Rafah (south), after having been inspected by Israel, but remains very insufficient given the immense needs of the 2.4 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip.

Faced with the humanitarian emergency, several countries have started to organize airdrops or a maritime corridor from Cyprus, but all emphasize that these routes cannot replace land routes.

Leaving Cyprus on Tuesday, the Open Arms boat is carrying 300,000 meals prepared by the American NGO World Central Kitchen.

A team from WCK built a floating jetty where cargo was being unloaded late in the afternoon, according to a spokesperson for the NGO.

“The boat was subjected to a complete security check,” the army said, stressing that the entry of humanitarian aid “does not violate” the blockade to which the Gaza Strip is subject since 2007.

The war was sparked on October 7 by an unprecedented attack by Hamas commandos infiltrated from Gaza into southern Israel, which resulted in the deaths of at least 1,160 people, most of them civilians, according to one count from AFP from official Israeli sources.

According to Israel, around 250 people have been kidnapped and 130 of them are still hostages in Gaza, of whom 32 are believed to have died.

In retaliation, Israel promised to annihilate the Islamist movement which it considers terrorist, like the United States and the European Union.

His army launched an offensive that left 31,490 dead in the Gaza Strip, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health, which counted 149 dead in 24 hours on Friday.

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Prayers in the ruins

Dozens of strikes targeted the territory on Friday, notably Gaza City, Khan Younes (south) and the center, according to Hamas.

The war has also inflamed tensions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where Muslim faithful participated on Friday in the first major prayer since the start of Ramadan on Monday.

In Jerusalem, tens of thousands of faithful gathered without incident on the Esplanade des Mosques, under heavy police surveillance, while in Gaza, residents gathered to pray in the middle of the ruins.

“We gather on the rubble of our destroyed mosque. This year, Ramadan is completely different because of all the martyrs and many injured, and the lack of food,” testified Baker Abou Ghiran, a displaced person in Rafah.

American, Egyptian and Qatari mediators failed to reach a truce agreement as they hoped before Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer for Muslims.

But Hamas seems to have changed its position on Friday. One of its leaders announced to AFP that the movement was now ready for a six-week truce, during which 42 hostages, women, children, elderly and sick people could be released in exchange for 20 to 50 Palestinian prisoners.

With this in mind, the Islamist movement demands the “withdrawal of the army from all towns and populated areas”, the “return of the displaced without restrictions” and the entry of at least 500 trucks humanitarian aid per day in Gaza.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said mediating countries were working “hard to bridge the remaining gap” towards a hostage deal and a ceasefire. fire.

But while negotiations are expected to resume, Mr. Netanyahu approved the army's “action plans” for an offensive in Rafah, where, according to the UN, around 1.5 million Palestinians are massed.

“The Israeli army is ready for the operational side and for the evacuation of the population,” according to an official statement which gives no further details on this long-announced operation, against which the States -United States and the UN continue to warn.

“We will not support a plan that does not take into account the million and a half Palestinians,” John Kirby warned once again.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116