The Israeli offensive in Gaza, which has resulted in nearly 500,000 people facing “catastrophic” hunger, entered into its tenth month on Sunday while deadly air strikes continued.

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, the assault on Gaza, which began on October 7, 2023, has so far killed 38,098 and injured 87,705, most of whom are women and children.

The offensive has uprooted 90 per cent of Gaza’s population, destroyed much of its housing and other infrastructure, and left almost 500,000 people enduring “catastrophic” hunger, UN agencies say.

With fighting raging across the Palestinian territory, fresh diplomatic efforts are underway to halt the violence. Israel has said it will send a delegation in the coming days to continue truce talks with Qatari mediators that began recently in Doha.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman said “gaps” remained with Hamas on how to secure a ceasefire and hostage release deal.

“It was agreed that next week Israeli negotiators will travel to Doha to continue the talks,” the spokesman said in a statement on Friday. “There are still gaps between the parties”.

Meanwhile, the fighting in Gaza continued unabated, with the Palestinian Red Crescent saying Sunday that the bodies of six people, including two children, who were killed in Israeli strikes had arrived at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central city of Deir al-Balah.

Paramedics also said Sunday that six people had been killed in an Israeli strike on a house in a northern area of Gaza City.

The day before, the health ministry in Gaza said 16 people had been killed in a strike on a school run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) that was sheltering displaced people in Nuseirat, in central Gaza.

The Israeli military said its aircraft had targeted “terrorists” operating around the Al-Jawni school.

The military earlier said it had conducted operations across much of the Gaza Strip, including Shujaiya in the north, Deir al-Balah, and Rafah in the south.

Shujaiya is among the areas the military had previously declared to be cleared of Hamas, but where fighting has since resumed.

Gaza’s media office and paramedics said four journalists working for local media outlets were killed in strikes overnight into Saturday, and UNRWA said two of its employees had been killed.

UNRWA, which coordinates much of the aid delivered to Gaza, says 194 of its employees have been killed in the onslaught.

‘Ball in Israel’s court’

The United States, which has mediated ceasefire negotiations alongside Qatar and Egypt, has talked up the prospects of a deal, saying there is a “pretty significant opening” for both sides.

US President Joe Biden announced a pathway to a truce deal in May that he said had been proposed by Israel.

It included an initial six-week truce, an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza’s population centres, and the freeing of hostages held by Palestinian fighters.

Talks subsequently stalled, but a US official said Thursday that a new proposal from Hamas “moves the process forward and may provide the basis for closing the deal”.

Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan told AFP that new ideas from the group had been “conveyed by the mediators to the American side, which welcomed them and passed them on to the Israeli side”.

“Now the ball is in the Israeli court.” There has been no truce since a one-week pause in November when 80 Israeli hostages were freed in return for 240 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Pressure has mounted domestically for another hostage release deal, with regular protests and rallies in Israel.

“It’s important that we reach a deal so that all the mothers can embrace their children and husbands, just as I hug my mother every morning now,” rescued hostage Almog Mair Jan said in a recorded message to a rally in Tel Aviv Saturday.

The offensive began with Hamas’ unprecedented October 7 attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

The fighters also seized hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza, including 42 the military says are dead.

In response, Israel has carried out a military offensive that has killed at least 38,098 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the territory.

The main stumbling block to a truce deal has been Hamas’ demand for a permanent end to the fighting, which Netanyahu and his far-right coalition partners strongly reject.

The veteran hawk demands the release of the hostages and insists the conflict will not end until Israel has destroyed Hamas’ ability to fight or govern.

Lebanon attacks

Israel and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement have exchanged cross-border fire almost daily since the Gaza offensive began, but attacks have escalated over the past month.

This has raised fears of a major conflagration between the bitter enemies that could draw in others including Iran.

Israel’s army said late Saturday that its jets had struck Hezbollah targets in southern Lebanon and troops had fired artillery across the border “throughout the day”.

Earlier Saturday, sirens blared over northern Israel and the military said it had downed a “suspicious aerial target” and that two “hostile aircraft” launched from Lebanon had hit open ground.

A source close to Hezbollah said an Israeli drone strike targeted a vehicle in eastern Lebanon Saturday, killing a Hezbollah official.

Israel said he was part of the group’s air defence unit.

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