Israel has accepted truce proposal, US says

Published March 3, 2024
Havana: People take part in a demonstration in support of the Palestinians outside the US embassy in Cuba, on Saturday.—AFP
Havana: People take part in a demonstration in support of the Palestinians outside the US embassy in Cuba, on Saturday.—AFP

GAZA STRIP: Israel has “more or less accepted” a proposal for a six-week ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, a US official said on Saturday as Palestinian negotiators were expected in Cairo.

Mediators have been scrambling to lock in a truce before Ramazan begins on March 10 or 11.

The US official told reporters that “there’s a framework deal” for a ceasefire which “the Israelis have more or less accepted”.

“Right now, the ball is in the camp of Hamas.”

A source close to Hamas said a delegation from the group was headed from Qatar to Egypt on Saturday

Washington begins airdropping aid into Gaza amid reports 12 children had died of malnutrition

Meanwhile, Israel’s top ally the United States began air-dropping aid into Gaza on Saturday, as the territory’s health ministry reported more than a dozen child malnutrition deaths.

The start of the US relief operation came hours after President Joe Biden, who has pushed Israel to allow more aid in, announced the move and spoke of the “need to do more” after nearly five months of devastating conflict. It also comes as negotiations continue for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which has been under siege since Oct 7.

“We conducted a combined humanitarian assistance airdrop into Gaza” involving three US Air Force C-130 transport planes to provide “relief to civilians affected by the ongoing conflict,” a US military official said.

US Central Command, in a post on social media platform X, said the operation was conducted together with Jordan and saw planes drop “over 38,000 meals along the coastline of Gaza allowing for civilian access to the critical aid”.

The dire humanitarian situation in Gaza has led to the deaths of at least 13 children from “malnutrition and dehydration” in recent days, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

In an incident that has thrown a spotlight on the crisis, dozens of Palestinians were killed before dawn on Thursday in a chaotic rush for aid from a convoy of trucks in Gaza City. The Gaza health ministry said Israeli forces shot them but the Israeli army insisted most died in a stampede or crush.

‘Famine almost inevitable’

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the shooting “against civilians trying to access foodstuff is unjustifiable”. He joined calls for an “impartial international investigation on this tragic event”.

British foreign minister David Cameron said Israel had “an obligation to ensure that significantly more humanitarian aid reaches” Gazans.

On Friday a UN team visited some of the wounded from the aid incident, in Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital, and saw a “large number of gunshot wounds”, UN chief Antonio Guterres’s spokesman said.

The hospital received 70 of the dead, and around 200 wounded were still there during the team’s visit, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Hossam Abu Safiya, director of Gaza City’s Kamal Adwan Hospital, said all the casualties it admitted were hit by “bullets and shrapnel from occupation forces”.

Gaza has faced dwindling supplies of humanitarian relief across its land borders, which aid groups blame at least in part on Israel — the recipient of billions of dollars in US military aid.

Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian office OCHA, said that “a famine is almost inevitable” in Gaza unless things change. Laerke cited the near-total closure of commercial food imports, the “trickle of trucks” coming in with food aid, and the “massive access constraints” to moving around inside Gaza.

The United Nations has spoken of particular problems accessing northern Gaza, where residents have been reduced to eating animal fodder.

‘Everyone is suffering’

Jordan first announced an aid airdrop in November and has carried out multiple missions since then, some with the cooperation of European countries, including Britain, France and the Netherlands. Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have also begun working together on airdrops.

TV images showed people running and pedalling fast on bicycles past bomb-damaged buildings on a rutted dirt road to reach aid floating down to Gaza City.

Published in Dawn, March 3rd, 2024

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