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Israeli war on Gaza rages as mediators push for new truce

Row over UN agency 'distraction' from dire Gaza crisis — WHO

By AFP - Jan 31,2024 - Last updated at Jan 31,2024

Civilians watch as Gaza-based Palestinian Health Ministry workers bury the bodies of unidentified Palestinians at a mass grave east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday (AFP photo)

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories — Deadly bombardment rocked Gaza on Tuesday as international mediators pushed for a new halt in the Israeli aggression against the strip and a deal to release hostages.

Heavy Israeli strikes across the besieged Gaza Strip killed 128 more people overnight, the health ministry in the Palestinian territory said.

The epicentre of Israeli offensive has been the southern city of Khan Yunis, where vast areas have been reduced to a muddy wasteland of bombed-out buildings.

Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian resistance group fighting alongside Hamas, said it was battling Israeli troops near Khan Yunis and in other areas including Gaza City.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Israeli undercover troops raided a hospital in the northern city of Jenin, killing three men.

Some of the Israeli agents were dressed as medical staff and carried a wheelchair and baby carrier as props, according to officials and hospital CCTV footage released by the Ramallah-based Palestinian health ministry.

Hamas said one of the three killed, Muhammad Jalamnah, was a commander in its armed wing.

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”.

The Gaza war, now in its fourth month, has left much of the coastal territory in ruins and sparked a spiralling humanitarian crisis for its 2.4 million people, many of whom face the threats of hunger and disease.


Truce talks 


Fears have grown that the Middle East could face a wider conflict, after months of violence involving Iran-backed allies and proxies of in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, who have also targeted US forces.

In the latest efforts to broker a new truce, a meeting in Paris on Sunday between top US, Israeli, Egyptian and Qatari officials resulted in a proposed framework.

Hamas confirmed on Tuesday that it had received the proposal, saying on its Telegram account that it was “in the process of examining it and delivering its response”.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, whose government helped broker a previous truce in November, voiced hope an initial deal might lead to a permanent ceasefire.

According to him, the current plan included a phased truce that would see women and children hostages released first, with more aid also entering Gaza.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose office earlier also called the talks “constructive”, on Tuesday ruled out releasing “thousands” of Palestinian prisoners as part of any deal to halt fighting in Gaza.

The United States expressed hope for a deal, with Blinken telling reporters that “very important, productive work has been done”.

In southern Gaza, Palestinians buried dozens of bodies in a mass grave after officials said Israel returned remains it had exhumed from the territory.

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