Photo: Mohammed Abed Agence France-Presse A woman looks out of the window of a building damaged following an Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
Adel Zaanoun – Agence France-Presse and Didier Lauras – Agence France-Presse Respectively to the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem
- Middle East
The Israeli army on Saturday shelled Rafah, a town in the south of the Gaza Strip where more than a million Palestinians threatened by the war have taken refuge, while diplomatic negotiations are underway to reach a new truce.< /p>
Shortly after midnight, an AFP journalist heard powerful strikes in this town bordering Egypt. The Hamas Health Ministry announced the deaths of at least 100 civilians overnight in the Gaza Strip, mostly women, adolescents and children.
The Israeli army said it had killed “dozens of terrorists” in the northern and central Gaza Strip over the past 24 hours.
Since the start of the war on October 7 between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, in power in the Gaza Strip, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced by the violent fighting have fled to Rafah. They crowd into tents which invade the streets of the overcrowded city.
According to witnesses, 12 people were killed there during an airstrike on a house belonging to the Hijazi family. “They bombed without any warning,” said Bilal Jad, 45, a neighbor whose house was damaged in the attack. “There is no safe place. Airstrikes are happening everywhere,” he added.
More than 1.3 million Gaza residents, according to the UN, out of a total of 2.4 million, are now refugees in Rafah, a city which had some 200,000 inhabitants before the war. The displaced crowd near the closed border with Egypt, threatened in the middle of winter by famine and epidemics.
One of them, Abdoulkarim Misbah, said he first fled his home in the Jabalia refugee camp, in the north, to Khan Younès, in the south, before being displaced again: “ We escaped death in Khan Yunis last week, without taking anything with us,” added the 32-year-old.
Faced with this major humanitarian crisis and heavy civilian losses, diplomats are working to achieve a second truce, longer than the one-week truce which allowed the release of around a hundred in November Israeli hostages in Gaza and Palestinians detained by Israel.
Hamas leader Ismaïl Haniyeh, based in Qatar, is expected in Egypt to discuss a proposal drawn up during a meeting at the end of January in Paris between CIA chief William Burns and Egyptian, Israeli and Qatari officials .
According to a Hamas source, the proposal concerns three phases, the first of which provides for a six-week truce during which Israel will have to release 200 to 300 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 35 to 40 hostages still held in Gaza , and 200 to 300 aid trucks will be able to enter the small besieged territory every day.
In recent days, Qatar reported “first” signs of support for the truce from Hamas, but the Palestinian Islamist movement later said it had not yet made a decision on this proposal, wishing for a ceasefire and not a new truce.
The proposed pause in fighting was “approved by the Israeli side”, again according to Doha.
But Israel continues to assert that it will only definitively end its offensive in Gaza once the Islamist movement is “eliminated”, the hostages released and after receiving guarantees on the future security of its territory.
Blinken expected in the Middle East
The war was sparked by an unprecedented attack by Hamas commandos from the neighboring Gaza Strip on Israeli soil, which killed more than 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli data.
In response to the attack, Israel vowed to “annihilate” Hamas, which seized power in Gaza in 2007, and launched a military offensive that left 27,238 people dead, the vast majority civilians, according to a latest report. assessment of the Hamas Ministry of Health on Saturday.
The truce project must also be at the heart of a new tour of the Middle East by the American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, starting on Sunday, which will take him to Qatar and Egypt , in Israel, the occupied West Bank and Saudi Arabia.
The new French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Séjourné, begins his first tour in the region on Saturday which will take him to Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.