Thursday, May 23, 2024

Israel resumes bombing after a brief halt

Death toll in Gaza crosses 700; Israeli cabinet okays expanding offensives
Agencies, Gaza City
Hopes of a diplomatic resolution to the conflict in Gaza were dampened yesterday as two Palestinians were killed in an Israeli strike after the army resumed bombings in Gaza City after a three-hour lull.
The strike hit the eastern Gaza City neighbourhood of Zeitun, they said. The identity of the victims was not immediately available.
Meanwhile, the death toll from Israel’s 12-day-old offensive on Hamas in the Gaza Strip has passed 700, medics said.
The offensive unleashed on December 27 has killed 702 people and wounded more than 3,100, the head of Gaza emergency services, Moawiya Hassanein, told AFP.
At least 220 of the dead have been children, he said.
The Israeli security cabinet approved expanding the offensive against Hamas in Gaza.
Earlier yesterday, the Israeli army halted bombings around Gaza City for three hours in what the government called a “humanitarian respite.”
Optimism rose with the news that Israel had agreed “on the principles” of a ceasefire proposal.
Details of the plan, put forward by Egypt and France, must still be agreed.
The Palestinian militant group Hamas, which has been targeted by the Israeli military in Gaza, said there were “positive signs but no agreement yet”.
The development came as Israel halted military operations in Gaza for three hours to aid humanitarian efforts.
The lull was the first of what an Israeli spokesman said would be a daily ceasefire to allow Gazans to “get medical attention, get supplies… whatever they need”.
AFP news agency reported that Gaza residents had rushed out into the streets during the lull to stock up on food and visit relatives in hospital.
Israel’s move came as pressure built on it and the Palestinian militant group Hamas to accept a ceasefire deal.
Little official detail has been given about the French-Egyptian proposal, which is backed by the US and UN, but diplomats say it centres around measures to halt weapons smuggling from Egypt into Gaza, coupled with moves to ease the blockade.
In a statement released yesterday, France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy said he welcomed what he described as “the acceptance by Israel and the Palestinian Authority” of the truce plan.
The statement did not mention Hamas.
A senior Hamas official told the BBC that there were “positive signs but no agreement yet”.
Israel said it “welcomes” the initiative but that talks were continuing on the details of the proposal.
An official told the BBC: “We are still having a dialogue. We have agreement on the principles. The challenge now is to get the details to match the principles.”
Israel was not sure how long the diplomatic process would take and would need a working arms embargo on Hamas, the official said.
Israel’s military said the three-hour pause in operations to create “humanitarian corridors” for supplies and fuel would happen every day.
A Hamas spokesman told Al Arabiya television that the group would not launch any missiles at Israeli targets during the lull.
Israel has been criticised by aid agencies who have warned of a mounting humanitarian crisis for the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza, who are unable to escape from the conflict because of Israel’s blockade.
However Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the UN relief agency Unwra, said the move did not go far enough.
“When you are trying to feed 750,000 people a day in Gaza as we are, you need a permanent ceasefire. You can’t do that in a three-hour window,” he said.
The World Bank also warned yesterday of a looming public health crisis in Gaza because of damage to its sewage system and a shortage of clean drinking water.
It urged Israel to allow the entry of parts, fuel and staff to the sewage complex in order to prevent the system breaching its walls and drowning up to 10,000 people.
Israel’s decision to facilitate “humanitarian corridors” follows one of the deadliest days since the offensive began last month, with more than 130 people killed on Tuesday.
Overnight, Israeli forces launched 40 fresh air strikes in Gaza, while Israeli media reports say nine rockets were fired into southern Israel from Gaza early on Wednesday.
Little official detail has been given about the French-Egyptian ceasefire proposal, but diplomats say it centres around measures to halt weapons smuggling from Egypt into Gaza, coupled with moves to ease the blockade. 

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