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Negotiations underway for a truce in Gaza, on the verge of famine

Photo: Said Khatib Agence France-Presse A boy inspects the damage caused by overnight Israeli bombardments on the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday.

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

March 19, 2024

  • Middle East

Mediators' efforts intensified further on Tuesday to achieve a truce in the besieged Gaza Strip, where famine threatens hundreds of thousands of Palestinians after more than five months of war between Israel and Hamas .

While discussions on a possible truce agreement continue in Qatar, the leader of the Islamist movement, Ismaïl Haniyeh, accused Israel on Tuesday of “sabotageing” these negotiations by carrying out an operation since the day before. scale against the al-Chifa hospital, in northern Gaza.

NGOs and UN agencies continue to sound the alarm about the imminent risk of famine in the Palestinian territory, particularly in the difficult-to-access North, where more than 300,000 people currently live.< /p>

“One hundred percent of the population” of Gaza is “in a situation of serious food insecurity,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday, on the eve of a new regional tour. “This is the first time that an entire population has been classified in this way,” he added.

Israel's severe restrictions on the entry of humanitarian aid and the possible use of hunger as a weapon could “constitute a war crime”, the UN warned on Tuesday.< /p>

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“Thunder and the bombardments”

According to UN agencies, one in two inhabitants of Gaza, or more than 1.1 million people, are experiencing a “catastrophic” food situation close to famine.

The Hamas Health Ministry on Tuesday reported 93 deaths in 24 hours in Israeli operations, including 15 people, including women and children, killed in Rafah, in the far south of the territory.

A torrential rain fell during the night from Monday to Tuesday on this city, which according to the UN is home to nearly a million and a half Palestinians, most of them displaced by the fighting.

“We no longer know the difference between rain, thunder and bombings. The children were screaming in fear. We were overwhelmed by rainwater and our belongings were soaked,” Oum Abdoullah Alwan, a displaced woman from Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, living in a tent with 14 members, told AFP. of his family.

In Jabaliya, Palestinians jostled behind a closed gate hoping to receive a plate of carrot soup.

“We came to queue, but they threw us out. There is not enough food,” testified a resident, Mousaab al-Masry.

“Sowing chaos”

The army continued its operation on Tuesday in the al-Chifa hospital in Gaza City, the largest hospital complex in the territory, which it had already stormed on November 15 before withdraw.

The action of Israeli forces “illustrates their efforts to sow chaos and perpetuate violence,” said Ismaïl Haniyeh.

The army said Tuesday it had killed “dozens” of Hamas and Islamic Jihad fighters in and around the hospital complex, and had arrested “more than 300 suspects”.

Hundreds of civilians have fled the bombed sector since Monday.

The war broke out on October 7 when Hamas commandos infiltrated from Gaza carried out an unprecedented attack in southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of at least 1,160 people, most of them civilians, according to a government count. 'AFP established from official Israeli sources.

According to Israel, around 250 people have been kidnapped and 130 of them are still hostages in Gaza, of whom 33 are believed to have died.

In retaliation, Israel promised to annihilate Hamas, in power in Gaza since 2007 and which it considers a terrorist organization, along with the United States and the European Union. Its army launched an offensive that has so far left 31,819 dead in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.

After months of unsuccessful efforts by the three mediating countries, the United States, Qatar and Egypt, discussions are continuing in Doha to try to reach a truce associated with the release of hostages.

“Cautiously optimistic”

After a Monday visit by Israeli intelligence chief David Barnea, “technical teams” continue to discuss a possible deal, according to Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed al-Ansari, who said he was “cautiously optimistic.”

At the same time, Antony Blinken is expected in Egypt on Wednesday, then will travel to Saudi Arabia, as part of efforts to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza and increase humanitarian aid there .

Despite international pressure, Israel is preparing for a ground operation in Rafah, which it describes as Hamas's “last bastion.”

During a telephone interview Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, American President Joe Biden said he was “deeply concerned” about this announced offensive. He requested that an Israeli delegation be sent to Washington to discuss “ways to target Hamas without carrying out a large ground offensive in Rafah.”

Israel has imposed a total siege on the Gaza Strip since the start of the war and controls the entry of humanitarian aid which arrives mainly from Egypt via Rafah, but remains very insufficient in the face of immense needs of the population.

Faced with the humanitarian emergency, several countries are organizing airdrops and have opened a maritime corridor from Cyprus, but all emphasize that these supply routes cannot replace land routes.

A second boat loaded with humanitarian aid is due to leave Cyprus in the coming days, after the arrival on March 15 in Gaza of a first boat from the Spanish NGO Open Arms, loaded with 200 tons of food provided by the American NGO World Central Kitchen.

This NGO announced on Tuesday that the shipment began to be distributed in northern Gaza by the United Nations World Food Program.

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