RAFAH: Palestinian men salvage bread found amid the rubble of a house, destroyed in an overnight Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday. The UN has warned of famine in Gaza. More than 100 people were left dead earlier this week in a frenzied scramble for food from a truck convoy delivering aid when Israeli forces opened fire on the crowd.—AFP
RAFAH: Palestinian men salvage bread found amid the rubble of a house, destroyed in an overnight Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip on Sunday. The UN has warned of famine in Gaza. More than 100 people were left dead earlier this week in a frenzied scramble for food from a truck convoy delivering aid when Israeli forces opened fire on the crowd.—AFP

GAZA STRIP: Egypt on Sunday hosted envoys for talks on a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, but an Israeli newspaper reported that Tel Aviv had boycotted the negotiations after its demand for a complete list of surviving prisoners was turned down.

A Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo for the talks, billed as a possible final hurdle before an agreement that would halt the fighting for six weeks.

But by early evening there was no sign of the Israelis.

“There is no Israeli delegation in Cairo,” Ynet, the online version of Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, quoted unidentified Israeli officials as saying.

As famine spreads, health ministry says at least 16 children have died of malnutrition in recent days

After the Hamas delegation arrived, a Palestinian official told Reuters the deal was “not yet there”. From the Israeli side, there was no official comment.

Washington has insisted the ceasefire deal is close and should be in place in time to halt fighting by the start of Ramazan, just a week away. But the warring sides have given little sign in public of backing away from previous demands.

A Hamas official said earlier that if Israel were to meet its demands — which have included a military withdrawal from Gaza and stepped-up humanitarian aid — this would pave the way for an agreement within the next 24 to 48 hours.

An agreement would bring the first extended truce of the war, which has raged for five months so far with just a week-long pause in November. Dozens of hostages held by the militants would be freed in return for hundreds of Palestinian detainees.

On Sunday, the health ministry in the Gaza Strip said at least 90 Palestinians had been killed in the past 24 hours, including 14 family members whose house in the Rafah refugee camp had been hit. Two of them, twin babies Naeem and Wissam Abu Anza, were buried on Sunday. Relative Shehda Abu Anza said there were only civilians at the family home.

“All of them were sleeping when suddenly a missile hit and destroyed the whole house,” he said while family members and other residents searched the rubble with their bare hands for bodies and also to salvage food.

16 children die of malnutrition

In a sign of the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said at least 16 children had died of malnutrition in recent days as famine spreads to the north.

As Gaza faces dwindling deliveries of relief supplies across its land borders, Israel’s top ally the United States carried out a first airdrop, joining several Arab and European government that have parachuted in aid.

But officials and aid groups have said such operations are limited in scope and cannot replace overland aid access.

The Hamas official said the group would demand the entry of at least 400 to 500 trucks per day carrying food, medicine and fuel as part of a truce deal.

Osama Hamdan, a Lebanon-based Hamas official, told Qatar’s Al-Araby TV that the group insisted on a complete, rather than temporary ceasefire and on ending the aggression against our people.

Abbas to visit Turkiye

Separately, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas will visit Turkiye next week for talks about the war and reconciliation efforts between Palestinian factions.

“There is a serious desire and effort to reach a ceasefire before Ramazan,” Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said in closing remarks to an annual diplomacy forum in Antalya. He confirmed that Abbas would visit Ankara on Tuesday.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2024

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