GAZA STRIP: Deadly fighting rages on in Gaza, with no truce in sight on the eve of holy month of Ramazan and a dire humanitarian crisis gripping the besieged Palestinian territory.

Egypt said on Sunday it was in contact with senior Hamas and Israeli figures, as well as other mediators, in an effort to restart negotiations for a truce, two Egyptian security sources told Reuters.

Egypt’s contacts with Hamas and Israeli intelligence agency Mossad on Sunday were carried out under a mandate from the Egyptian presidency in an effort to bring the two sides’ divergent positions together, the sources said, without providing further details.

Qatar, Egypt and the US have been trying to negotiate a deal for a ceasefire, but the latest round of talks, not attended by Israel, broke up in Cairo earlier this week.

Saudi king calls for halt to ‘brutal crimes’ in Gaza as death toll crosses 31,000

Both sides have blamed each other for failing to reach a ceasefire deal so far, after Israel had demanded a full list of surviving prisoners, and Hamas had called for Israel to pull out all its troops from Gaza.

As famine looms in parts of besieged Gaza, US, Jordanian and other planes have also airdropped food aid there, but UN agencies warn this falls far short of the needs of its 2.4 million people.

Israel’s massive bombardment and ground offensive have turned vast swathes of Gaza into bombed-out wasteland, killing 31,045 people, mostly women and children, the health ministry in Gaza said on Sunday.

The health ministry in Gaza said on Sunday that at least 23 children have died from malnutrition and dehydration.

Drinking water shortage

Inside Gaza, displaced Palestinians were lining up at a truck carrying scarce drinking water, which they filled into jerry cans and plastic containers.

“Now, on regular days, we can barely get water, so what about the upcoming Ramazan?” said one woman, Nesreen Abu Yussef.

“In the camp we have sick children who need sugar and protein, our children are getting dizzy,” she said. “I swear, for the last five months we haven’t seen a single egg or meat.”

Fighting and bombardment again rocked Gaza, where 81 bodies arrived overnight at barely functioning hospitals, according to the health ministry.

The army earlier dropped leaflets with pictures of Hamas leaders enjoying a lavish meal. One Gaza man, Attallah al-Satel, told AFP: “What is the purpose of this leaflet? We want a solution, to stop the war. We are just exhausted citizens.”

Al Aqsa mosque

Thousands of police have been deployed around the Old City in Jerusalem, where tens of thousands of Muslims are expected every day at the Al Aqsa mosque compound.

After some confusion last month when hard-right Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir said he wanted restrictions at Al Aqsa mosque, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the numbers admitted would be similar to last year.

“This is our mosque and we must take care of it,” said Azzam Al-Khatib, director general of the Jerusalem Waqf, the religious foundation that oversees Al Aqsa. “We must protect the presence of Muslims at this mosque, who should be able to enter in big numbers peacefully and safely.”

King Salman seeks halt to ‘brutal crimes’

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz said on Sunday the international community must assume its responsibilities to halt what he called “brutal crimes” against Palestinians in Gaza.

In a speech read out on his behalf by Saudi Minister of Media Salman al-Dosari to mark the start of Ramazan, the king also said the international community must help provide safe humanitarian passages in the enclave.

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2024

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