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Hunger grips north of war-torn Gaza amid ongoing truce talks

Dire food shortages sent hundreds of Palestinians fleeing northern Gaza on Sunday as Israel’s war against Hamas raged on despite stuttering efforts towards a ceasefire and hostage release deal.

Desperate families in the north of the besieged war zone have been forced to scavenge for food as fighting and looting have stopped humanitarian aid trucks from reaching the devastated area.

Hundreds fled northern Gaza Sunday and headed south whichever way they could, walking down garbage-strewn roads between the blackened shells of bombed-out buildings, said an AFP correspondent.

“I came on foot from north Gaza,” said one of them, Samir Abd Rabbo, 27, who arrived with his one-year-old daughter at the Nuseirat camp in the central Gaza Strip.

“I can’t describe the kind of starvation spreading there.”

Without milk, he said, he had tried to feed his baby girl bread made from animal feed, which she was unable to digest. “Our only hope is God, there is nobody else to help.”

Israeli forces meanwhile kept striking targets across the Palestinian territory and battling Hamas militants in heavy urban combat centred on the southern city of Khan Yunis.

The army said “troops killed a number of terrorists and located weapons” and “apprehended terrorists who had attempted to escape by hiding amongst the civilians”.

Close to the main battlefront, in the far-southern Rafah region, alarm has grown among 1.4 million Palestinians of a looming ground invasion feared to bring more mass civilian casualties.

The war started by the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel has ground on well into a fifth month and sent the death toll rapidly surging towards 30,000, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

However, talks have been held for weeks with the goal of reaching a temporary truce, to exchange Hamas’s hostages for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, and to step up aid deliveries.

The US, Arab and other mediators have voiced hope a deal can be reached before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.

An Israeli delegation returned Saturday from the latest round of closed-door talks in Paris, also involving Egyptian and Qatari mediators hoping to bridge remaining differences.

Israel’s national security advisor, Tzachi Hanegbi, said “there is probably room to move towards an agreement”.

Media reports suggest both sides are weighing a six-week halt to fighting and the initial exchange of dozens of female, underage and ill hostages for several hundred Palestinian detainees.

Hamas has so far also insisted on a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, a demand Netanyahu has dismissed as “delusional”.

An Israeli team will this week head to Qatar for further talks, media reports said, but Israel also ramped up the pressure by warning again that it will eradicate Hamas.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would convene the cabinet early in the week “to approve the operational plans for action in Rafah, including the evacuation of the civilian population from there”.

“Only a combination of military pressure and firm negotiations will lead to the release of our hostages, the elimination of Hamas and the achievement of all the war’s goals,” he added.

Israeli warnings of a Rafah ground invasion have sparked deep concern, and questions about where the Palestinians now living there would flee to in the devastated territory.—AFP

Adel Zaanoun with Phil Hazlewood in Jerusalem, "Hunger grips north of war-torn Gaza amid ongoing truce talks," Business recorder. 2024-02-26.
Keywords: Social sciences , Dire food , Hamas attack , Health ministry , National security , Samir Abd Rabbo , Khan Yunis , Palestinians , Israel , Gaza , Hamas , Paris , AFP

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