Deadly fighting, bombardment rock Gaza as mediators push for new truce
GAZA, Palestine (AFP) - Deadly fighting and bombardment rocked Gaza on Tuesday as international mediators pushed for a new ceasefire and hostage release deal in the Israel-Hamas war.
The Health Ministry said at least 26,751 people have been martyred in the Palestinian territory during the war between militants and Israel. A statement said another 65,636 people have been wounded since October 7 when the war broke out. Heavy Israeli strikes and urban combat across the besieged Gaza Strip killed 128 more people overnight, the ministry said.
The epicentre of fighting has been the southern city of Khan Yunis -- the hometown of Hamas's Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar where vast areas have been reduced to a muddy wasteland of bombed-out buildings. Troops fighting in city blocks and tunnels have raided several military sites, Sinwar's office and 'a significant rocket manufacturing facility', the Israeli military said.
Army spokesman Daniel Hagari claimed troops in the city had "eliminated over 2,000 terrorists above and below ground". Israeli undercover troops in the occupied West Bank meanwhile martyred three alleged members of Hamas in a raid on a hospital. The agents – some dressed as medical staff and carrying a wheelchair and baby carrier as props -- shot dead three men at Ibn Sina Hospital in the northern city of Jenin, according to officials and hospital CCTV footage released by the ministry.
The official Palestinian news agency Wafa named the three men as Muhammad Jalamnah, Muhammad Ayman Ghazawi and Basel Ayman Ghazawi. The Palestinian health ministry stressed that hospitals enjoy special protection under international law and urged the United Nations to help end Israel's "daily string of crimes... against our people and health centres".
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has pleaded for continued support to meet the "dire needs", will have talks with donors in New York on Tuesday, his office said, as investigations into Israel's claims continue.
In the latest efforts to broker a new truce, CIA chief William Burns met top Israeli, Egyptian and Qatari officials in Paris on Sunday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office called the talks "constructive" but pointed to "significant gaps which the parties will continue to discuss". Blinken expressed hope for a deal, telling reporters that "very important, productive work has been done. And there is some real hope going forward."
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, whose government helped broker a previous truce in November and who attended the talks, said "good progress" had been made. Sheikh Mohammed said the plan included a phased truce that would see women and children hostages released first, with aid also entering Gaza, and that an initial deal might lead to a permanent ceasefire.