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PA
Gaza

10 deaths in Gaza despite Israel declaring humanitarian pause

At least one strike hit Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, residents said.

FIGHTING HAD LARGELY subsided amid an army-declared “pause” to facilitate aid flows but Israel still struck Gaza yesterday and witnesses reported blasts in the besieged territory’s south.

The health ministry in Gaza said it had recorded 10 deaths over the previous 24 hours, which is one of the lowest daily tolls since the war began but still represents loss of life nonetheless.

It came as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dissolved his war cabinet, reflecting the country’s political fractures.

David Mencer, spokesman for the prime minister’s office, said the body had been disbanded following the resignation of centrist leader Benny Gantz, who had required a war cabinet’s formation in order to join a unity government.

Mencer said the war cabinet’s duties will be taken over by the pre-existing security cabinet which had finalised decisions proposed by the war cabinet.

Israeli media said the move was meant to counter pressure from far-right politicians seeking a greater say in decision-making.

Israel’s offensive aimed at eliminating Hamas has killed at least 37,347 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, especially women and children.

Swathes of the territory’s residential and other infrastructure have been reduced to rubble.

Yesterday, witnesses told AFP they could hear blasts in the centre and west of the southernmost city of Rafah.

Palestinian officials there reported tank shelling early yesterday, before the start of the daily “local, tactical pause of military activity” announced by the army.

In Gaza City, medics at Al-Ahli hospital said at least five people were killed in two separate air strikes, and witnesses reported tank shelling in the Zeitun district.

At least one strike hit Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza, residents said.

The military said the pause “for humanitarian purposes will take place from 8:00 am (0500 GMT) until 7:00 pm (1600 GMT) every day until further notice along the road that leads from the Kerem Shalom crossing to the Salah al-Din road and then northwards”.

Troops were still operating in Rafah and central Gaza, reporting “close-quarters combat” that killed several militants, the military said.

Since ground forces went into Rafah against Hamas in early May, they have killed hundreds of militants and found “hundreds” of tunnel shafts, a military statement claimed yesterday.

“There was no change” in the military’s policy and fighting “continues as planned”, an Israeli official stressed, speaking on condition of anonymity to AFP.

Mahmud Basal, spokesman for Gaza’s civil defence agency, said that apart from the deadly Gaza City strikes, “the other areas of the Gaza Strip are somewhat calm”.

The UN says aid access to Gaza has been severely hindered by factors including insecurity, the closing of crossing points to the territory, and Israeli procedural delays.

The vital Rafah crossing with Egypt has been shut since Israeli forces seized its Palestinian side in early May.

“The idea behind the tactical pause in general is to allow for the UN to collect and distribute more aid,” Shimon Freedman, spokesman for COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry body overseeing Palestinian civilian affairs, told reporters at Kerem Shalom, near Rafah.

In a message late Sunday for Eid al-Adha, the Muslim feast of sacrifice, US President Joe Biden called for implementation of a ceasefire plan he outlined last month, saying it was “the best way to end the violence in Gaza”.

Biden’s plan would bring an initial six-week pause to fighting and Hamas would free hostages in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Hamas has insisted on the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces and a permanent ceasefire. Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners strongly oppose a ceasefire.

He is also facing regular street protests by tens of thousands demanding a deal to free the hostages.

But a senior Israeli negotiator, who told AFP that tens of hostages “are alive with certainty”, said that Israel could not commit to ending the war until all the captives were released.

The official said the Israeli negotiating team had approved Biden’s plan.

“We expect, and are waiting for, Hamas to say ‘yes,’” he said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak publicly on the issue.

© AFP 2024