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UN chief on Gaza border, Israel-Washington dispute over Rafah

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected here on Saturday. the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip, the time when Israel is planning a controversial ground offensive on the other side. Rafah, even without the support of his ally American.

In the Gaza Strip, clashes show no respite, particularly in and around the al-Chifa hospital in Gaza City (north), where the Israeli army claimed to have killed more than of 150 Palestinian fighters and arrested hundreds of suspects since the start of the week.

Early Saturday morning, the Hamas Ministry of Health reported 67 deaths in during the night and evening.

“We have had enough, I assure you. Drop a bomb on us and free us from this life. It is unfair, by God, no human being could bear what is happening to us,” cries Turkiya Barbakh, close to the victims strikes in southern Gaza. “How long will we endure this ? We are exhausted and can no longer bear this life and this immense pressure.”

UN boss Antonio Guterres meets humanitarian workers on Saturday on the “Egyptian side” of Rafah, a Gaza town backed by the border where 1.5 million Palestinians are crowded, hence the fears for the population in the event of a land operation there.

The question was at the heart of exchanges on Friday in Tel Aviv between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken, who disagree on how to militarily weaken the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas.

“I said that we did not have the possibility of defeating Hamas without entering Rafah and without eliminating the battalions that remained there. I told him that I hoped to do it with the support of the United States, but if necessary, we will do it alone,” Mr. Netanyahu said after the meeting with the American secretary of state.

UN chief on Gaza border, Israel-Washington dispute over Rafah

A young Palestinian looks at the damage caused by an Israeli bombardment in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip on March 22, 2024 © AFP – SAID KHATIB

The latter affirmed that such an operation “risks killing more civilians (…), further isolating Israel globally and endangering its long-term security.”

“We have the same goals as Israel: the defeat of Hamas. But a major ground operation in Rafah is not the way to achieve it. The week “Next time, I will meet again with Israeli officials in Washington to discuss another way to achieve this goal,” he added on X.

In a sign of growing tensions between the Biden administration and Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel announced the seizure of 800 hectares of land in the Jordan Valley, in the occupied West Bank, on the day of Mr. Blinken's visit.

“You know our point of view on the expansion of colonies (…) we have a problem with that”, commented the official, about the largest seizure of land in the territory Palestinian since the Oslo Accords (1993) according to the Israeli anti-colonization organization Peace Now.

– Veto by Moscow and Beijing –

M. Blinken completed a new tour of the region on Friday to support talks in Qatar for a six-week truce in the fighting, involving indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas officials.

UN chief on Gaza border, Israel-Washington dispute over Rafah

Palestinians in front of a house destroyed by an Israeli bombardment in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, March 22, 2024 © AFP – SAID KHATIB

Meanwhile at the UN, a draft resolution to the Security Council, presented by the United States, on an “immediate ceasefire”, was not adopted due to Russian and Chinese vetoes.

Since the start of the Israel/Hamas war, the United States had opposed the use of the term “ceasefire” in UN resolutions, blocking three texts to this effect.

They finally decided to put to the vote on Friday this new text which mentioned “the need for an immediate and lasting ceasefire” and this, “in connection with the liberation of hostages still held”.

Russia and China vetoed this resolution by denouncing, like Arab countries, an ambiguous wording which does not directly call for silence the guns. Hamas welcomed these vetoes, denouncing the “misleading wording” of the American text.

“China and Russia simply did not want to vote for a project drawn up by the United States, because they would rather see us fail than see the Council succeed,” criticized American Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

UN chief on Gaza border, Israel-Washington dispute over Rafah

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassili Nebenzia during a UN Security Council vote on a ceasefire in Gaza and a deal on hostages, March 22, 2024 in New York © AFP – ANGELA WEISS

Russian Ambassador Vassili Nebenzia denounced the “hypocritical spectacle” of the United States while “Gaza has almost been erased from the map”.

A vote scheduled for Saturday on a new draft resolution demanding an “immediate” ceasefire, prepared by eight of the Council's ten non-permanent members, has been postponed to Monday in an attempt to avoid another failure.

The war broke out on October 7 when Hamas commandos infiltrated from Gaza carried out an unprecedented attack in the south of Israel, which resulted in the deaths of at least 1,160 people, most of them civilians, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli data.

UN chief on Gaza border, Israel-Washington dispute over Rafah

The northern Gaza Strip and al-Chifa hospital © AFP – Nalini LEPETIT-CHELLA, Jean-Michel CORNU, Hervé BOUILLY

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 vowed to “annihilate” Hamas and launched a vast offensive which left a total of 32,070 dead in the Gaza Strip, according to a latest report on Friday from the Palestinian movement's Ministry of Health.

– From 500 to 150 trucks –

Israel has imposed a complete siege on the Palestinian territory since the beginning of the war and strictly controls the aid which arrives mainly from Egypt via Rafah. However, these controls have the effect, according to the UN, of reducing the number of trucks entering the territory.

UN chief on Gaza border, Israel-Washington dispute over Rafah

Parachuting of humanitarian aid from an American military plane into the Gaza Strip, March 21, 2024 © AFP – Giuseppe CACACE

“Before October 7, an average of 500 to 700 trucks entered Gaza every day. Today, the average is barely 150”, quoted Philippe Lazzarini, the boss of the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA).

To relieve the population, several countries are organizing airdrops of food and have opened a maritime corridor from Cyprus towards Gaza. But aid remains insufficient to meet the needs of Gaza's 2.4 million inhabitants.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

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