Gaza ceasefire talks end with no deal as Israel ramps up Rafah attacks

by 24britishtvMay 10, 2024, 5 p.m. 24
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UNRWA official accuses Israel of subjecting Gaza to ‘medieval siege’ as 110,000 Palestinians flee Rafah and aid runs out.

The Israeli military has ramped up its attacks in Rafah, southern Gaza, and hit Gaza City while crippling humanitarian aid operations across the Palestinian territory as ceasefire talks ended without a deal.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said on Friday that 110,000 Palestinians have fled Rafah. Israeli troops were advancing in the east of the city in close combat operations and conducting air raids.

“People are petrified. People have been fearing this for a long, long time and it is now upon us. There is constant bombardment. There is smoke on the horizon. There are people on the move,” Sam Rose, director of planning for the UNRWA, told Al Jazeera from Rafah.

He said Israel was subjecting Gaza to a “medieval siege” in a “scorched earth” war.

Israeli forces earlier this week seized control of the Rafah border crossing, sealing the crucial entry point for humanitarian aid.

“No aid has come into Gaza now since Sunday. No aid, no fuel, no supplies, nothing. And we really are now down to our last reserves,” Rose said.

“We have a few more days of flour that we can provide. But everything else will start to shut down very soon without fuel, without water. So the situation is really desperate,” he added.

Under heavy attack, patients and staff have been forced out of hospitals in Rafah, leaving many sick and wounded Palestinians with no way of being treated.

“Al-Najjar Hospital is out of service. And the Kuwaiti Hospital [in Rafah] is just for trauma and emergency,” said Palestinian doctor Mohammed Zaqout. “We have no beds, no hospitals to refer [people to], especially for critical patients.”

Further north, witnesses reported air strikes and fighting in neighbourhoods of Gaza City, targeting Zeitoun, Sabra, Nassr, Tal al-Hawa, and the Shati refugee camp. At least three people were killed and five wounded after Israeli strikes hit a family home in central Gaza City, according to the Wafa news agency.

The Israeli and Hamas delegations left the Egyptian capital, Cairo, after the latest round of ceasefire talks, mediated by Qatar, the United States and Egypt. Hamas said on Friday that the “ball is now completely” in Israel’s hands.

Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the two sides must show “flexibility” in order to strike a deal for a ceasefire and an exchange of captives being held in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas said a deal would involve a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, the return of Palestinians displaced by the war, and captives-for-prisoners swap, with the aim of a “permanent ceasefire”.

The group said it stood by the terms and that Israel had “raised objections to it on several central issues”.

Hamas’s demand for an initial 12-week pause in fighting was a major sticking point for Israel during this week’s ceasefire negotiations, broadcaster CNN reported, citing three sources familiar with the talks.

Israel is determined to press ahead with its offensive on Rafah, where 1.4 million displaced Palestinians were sheltering, in defiance of warnings from the UN and its allies, including its key military and political backer, the US.

While US President Joe Biden warned that he would stop some US weapons supplies to Israel if it carried out the ground assault, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained defiant.

“If we have to stand alone, we will stand alone. If we need to, we will fight with our fingernails. But we have much more than fingernails,” he said in an interview on Thursday.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to submit a report to Congress later on Friday on Israel’s conduct in Gaza, which stops short of concluding that the country has violated the terms for its use of US weapons, US media outlet Axios reported.

On Friday, the UN General Assembly is to vote on a resolution that would grant new “rights and privileges” to Palestine and call on the UN Security Council to favourably reconsider Palestine’s request for full membership.

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