February 20, 2024

GAZA: Lethal strikes had been reported early Saturday within the overcrowded Gaza border city of Rafah — dubbed a “strain cooker of despair” by the UN — as worldwide mediators readied a brand new push to seal a tentative truce deal between Israel and Hamas.

Tons of of hundreds of displaced Palestinians have fled south to Rafah for the reason that outbreak of the battle, with the previous metropolis of 200,000 now housing greater than half of Gaza’s two million-plus inhabitants, a WHO consultant mentioned Friday.

The United Nations’ humanitarian company OCHA mentioned it was deeply involved concerning the escalation of hostilities in close by Khan Yunis, which have pushed an increasing number of folks south in latest days.

“Most live in makeshift buildings, tents or out within the open,” OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke mentioned throughout a briefing in Geneva.

“Rafah is a strain cooker of despair, and we worry for what comes subsequent.”

An AFP journalist within the metropolis heard highly effective explosions shortly after midnight on Saturday, with the Hamas-run well being ministry later reporting 14 folks killed in two strikes there.

The ministry mentioned greater than 100 folks in whole had been killed throughout the territory in a single day.

Abdulkarim Misbah, one of many many individuals searching for refuge in Rafah, mentioned he had first left his house within the northern Jabalia refugee camp for Khan Yunis, solely to be uprooted once more.

“We escaped final week from dying in Khan Yunis, with out bringing something with us. We didn’t discover a place to remain. We slept on the streets the primary two nights. The ladies and youngsters slept in a mosque,” the 32-year-old father mentioned.

The household later obtained a donated tent, setting it up proper beside the Egyptian border.

“My 4 youngsters are shivering from the chilly. They really feel sick and unwell on a regular basis,” he mentioned.

Winter storms and torrential rain lashed Gaza on Friday, with some folks carrying hazmat fits left over from the Covid pandemic as safety in opposition to the cruel climate.

Mounting deaths

The battle in Gaza was sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 assault on Israel, which resulted within the deaths of round 1,160 folks, principally civilians, in keeping with an AFP tally based mostly on official figures.

Militants additionally seized about 250 hostages, and Israel says 132 stay in Gaza, together with not less than 27 believed to have been killed.

In response, Israel launched a withering offensive that has killed not less than 27,131 folks within the Gaza Strip, principally ladies and youngsters, in keeping with the well being ministry within the Hamas-run territory.

The UN youngsters’s company UNICEF mentioned Friday that an estimated 17,000 youngsters in Gaza had been left unaccompanied or separated from their dad and mom as a result of battle.

“Each has a heartbreaking story of loss and grief,” mentioned spokesman Jonathan Crickx.

Practically 4 months of preventing have devastated the coastal strip, whereas an Israeli siege has resulted in dire shortages of meals, water, gas and medicines.

Picture evaluation launched Friday by the UN’s satellite tv for pc heart UNITAR based mostly on footage collected on January 6 and seven confirmed that “roughly 30 p.c” of Gaza’s buildings had been affected by the battle.

The Worldwide Federation of Crimson Cross and Crimson Crescent Societies (IFRC), in the meantime, introduced the deaths of three Palestinian Crimson Crescent employees — two on Wednesday and one on Friday — round Al-Amal hospital in Khan Yunis.

“Any assault on well being care employees, ambulances, and medical services is unacceptable,” the IFRC mentioned in a press release.

Truce talks

The hovering civilian dying toll in Gaza, in addition to fears amongst Israelis over the destiny of the hostages, have fueled requires a truce.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will journey to the Center East but once more within the coming days to press a brand new proposal involving the discharge of Israeli hostages in return for a pause within the preventing, the State Division mentioned.

Blinken will go to Qatar and Egypt — the mediators of the proposal — in addition to Israel, the occupied West Financial institution and Saudi Arabia beginning Sunday, it added.

The journey — his fifth for the reason that battle broke out — comes after Qatar’s international ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari mentioned there have been hopes of “excellent news” a few recent pause to the preventing “within the subsequent couple of weeks.”

He mentioned a truce proposal thrashed out in Paris earlier this week had “been accepted by the Israeli facet” and obtained a “constructive” preliminary response from Hamas as effectively.

Nevertheless, a supply near the group instructed AFP: “There isn’t a settlement on the framework of the settlement but — the factions have essential observations — and the Qatari assertion is rushed and never true.”

A Hamas supply mentioned it had been offered with a plan involving an preliminary six-week pause in preventing that will see extra assist delivered into Gaza and exchanges of sure Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

The leaders of Hamas and its Gaza ally Islamic Jihad, Qatar-based Ismail Haniyeh and Ziyad Al-Nakhalah, respectively, mentioned the most recent improvement and mentioned any future ceasefire should result in “a full withdrawal” of Israeli troops from Gaza, Haniyeh’s workplace mentioned.

Increasing tensions

The battle has sparked a surge in assaults by Iran-backed teams within the area in assist of the Palestinians.

The US navy launched a wave of air strikes in opposition to Iranian forces and Tehran-backed fighters in Iraq and Syria on Friday in retaliation for a drone assault in Jordan that killed three US troopers on Sunday.

US forces within the Center East and their allies have confronted stepped-up assaults for the reason that battle in Gaza started, coming beneath hearth greater than 165 instances since mid-October.

Friday’s air strikes had been directed on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Power and “affiliated militia teams,” and hit “greater than 85 targets,” the US Central Command mentioned in a press release.

Additionally on Friday, the Israeli military mentioned its protection system “efficiently intercepted a surface-to-surface missile that approached Israeli territory within the space of the Crimson Sea,” with Yemen’s Houthi rebels claiming that they had fired missiles towards Israel.