World

Palestinians hope Blinken visit can deliver Gaza truce before Rafah assault

2024.02.05 06:20

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© Reuters. Palestinian youngsters wait to obtain meals cooked by a charity kitchen amid shortages of meals provides, as the continuing battle between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas continues, in Rafah, within the southern Gaza Strip, February 5, 2024. REUTE

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By Nidal al-Mughrabi

(Reuters) – Palestinians huddling beneath bombardment in Gaza mentioned on Monday they hoped a visit to the area by the U.S. secretary of state would lastly deliver a truce, in time to go off a threatened new Israeli assault on the final refuge on the enclave’s edge.

Antony Blinken was within the air headed to the Middle East for his first journey since Washington brokered a proposal with Israeli enter for the primary prolonged ceasefire of the warfare.

The provide, delivered to Hamas final week by Qatari and Egyptian mediators, nonetheless awaits a reply from militants who say they need extra ensures that it’ll carry an finish to the four-month-old warfare within the Gaza Strip.

The U.S. diplomatic push comes at a time when Washington can be attempting to forestall additional escalation elsewhere within the area, after two days of U.S. air strikes towards pro-Iranian armed teams throughout the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Israel has pressed on with its offensive in among the warfare’s most intense fight, and threatened a brand new floor assault on Rafah, a small metropolis the place greater than half of Gaza’s folks at the moment are penned towards the enclave’s southern border abutting Egypt, primarily sleeping tough in makeshift tents.

The ceasefire proposal, described by sources near the talks, would see a truce for no less than 40 days, whereas militants would free remaining hostages from among the many 253 they captured within the lethal Oct. 7 raid into Israel that precipitated the warfare.

It would let in help to alleviate Gaza’s humanitarian disaster and let Gaza’s 2.3 million folks return to properties deserted throughout a warfare that has laid waste to a lot of the enclave. The solely earlier truce to date lasted one week.

“We want the war to end and we want to go back home, this is all that we want at this stage,” mentioned Yamen Hamad, 35, a father of 4 reached by messaging app at a U.N. college in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza. The space is among the few the place Israeli tanks have but to advance and is now jammed with tens of hundreds of displaced households.

“All we do is listen to the news through small radios and view the internet looking for hope. We hope that Blinken will tell (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu enough is enough, and we hope our factions decide in the best interest of our people.”

FIGHTING IN KHAN YOUNIS, GAZA CITY

In one of many greatest battles of the warfare, Israeli tanks have been advancing for the previous two weeks in Khan Younis, the primary southern metropolis, which was already housing a whole lot of hundreds of people that fled different areas. Fighting has additionally resurged in Gaza City within the north of the Strip, in areas Israel claimed to have subdued within the first two months of the warfare.

The Israeli navy mentioned on Monday its forces had killed dozens of Palestinian fighters in fight in areas in northern, central and southern Gaza over the past 24 hours.

Palestinians described heavy preventing in Gaza City, notably its western areas near the Mediterranean shore, which had come beneath bombardment from Israeli warships.

Palestinian well being officers mentioned they’d recovered the our bodies of 14 folks killed in a strike on Khan Younis in a single day. They have mentioned repeatedly in current days that rescuers are unable to succeed in most of the lifeless and wounded within the metropolis.

Gaza authorities say greater than 27,000 Palestinians have been confirmed killed in Israel’s assault, with hundreds extra lifeless feared unrecovered within the rubble. Israel says it has killed 10,000 gunmen and misplaced 226 troopers in Gaza preventing, after 1,200 folks have been killed within the Hamas assaults on Oct. 7.

After Israel introduced final week that it was getting ready for a possible floor assault on Rafah, worldwide help companies and the U.N. mentioned they feared the humanitarian penalties could be catastrophic, with no place left for residents to flee.

Gazans worry {that a} thrust into Rafah would drive them out of the enclave as soon as and for all, into Egypt which rejects any try to power them throughout.

An Israeli official advised Reuters that the navy would coordinate with Egypt, and search methods of evacuating a lot of the displaced folks northward, forward of any Rafah floor sweep.

A ceasefire now may head off such an assault, however would imply Israel pausing with out having achieved its said intention of annihilating Hamas. Some far-right members of Netanyahu’s cupboard have mentioned they might stop quite than again such a deal.

Netanyahu says he’s dedicated to “total victory”, and that any pause in preventing would solely be non permanent so long as Hamas fighters are nonetheless at massive. Hamas says it won’t agree a truce or free its hostages except it receives ensures that Israel will pull out of Gaza and finish the warfare.

The exiled Hamas chief, Ismail Haniyeh, mentioned final week he would journey to Cairo to deliver his response to the ceasefire proposal, however he has but to show up there and Hamas has set no timetable for his journey.

A Palestinian official with information of the negotiations advised Reuters the Hamas response may come “soon”, nevertheless it was as much as Blinken to nudge Netanyahu to make the concessions that might get the ceasefire deal over the road.

“Netanyahu doesn’t want to end the war. He wants a hostage release deal. That is far short of what our people will accept,” the official mentioned in an interview over a messaging app.

“Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other factions want guarantees the occupation will be committed to ending the war on Gaza and pull out its forces from there. Those are the key demands,” he mentioned. “The Americans can restrain Netanyahu if they want to end the war and succeed in mediation.”

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