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Palestinians look for survivors following an Israeli airstrike Doaa AlBaz/AP/PA Images
ceasefire talks

UN humanitarian chief calls Gaza war 'betrayal of humanity'

More than 33,000 people have been killed in Gaza in the last six months.


ISRAEL’S WAR AGAINST Hamas in Gaza has escalated into a “betrayal of humanity”, the United Nations’ humanitarian chief said today.

In a statement on the eve of the six-month anniversary of the war, Martin Griffiths, the outgoing under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, called for a “collective determination that there be a reckoning for this betrayal of humanity”.

“Each day, this war claims more civilian victims,” Griffiths, who will leave his post at the end of June due to health reasons, said.

“Every second that it continues sows the seeds of a future so deeply obscured by this relentless conflict.”

The war began on 7 October with an unprecedented attack by Hamas militants resulting in the death of 1,170 people in southern Israel, mostly civilians, Israeli figures show.

Palestinian militants also took around 250 Israeli and foreign hostages, about 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including more than 30 the army says are dead.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel has relentlessly bombarded the territory by air, land and sea, killing at least 33,137 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Griffiths lamented “the unconscionable prospect of further escalation in Gaza, where no one is safe and there is nowhere safe to go”.

He added that “an already fragile aid operation continues to be undermined by bombardments, insecurity and denials of access”.

“On this day, my heart goes out to the families of those killed, injured or taken hostage, and to those who face the particular suffering of not knowing the plight of their loved ones,” he said in the statement.

Humanitarians have warned that famine is imminent in Gaza.

Ceasefire talks

The body of an Israeli hostage was recovered from Gaza this morning, the Israeli Defence Forces said, as American and Israeli negotiators are in Cairo for a renewed push to reach a ceasefire-hostage deal.

The army said the body of Elad Katzir was recovered last night from Khan Yunis and returned to Israel. The Israeli Defence Forces claim Katzir was killed while in custody.

Katzir, 47 at the time of attack, was abducted from Nir Oz kibbutz community along his mother Hanna. She was released on 24 November during a one-week truce in the war in Gaza.

Katzir’s father Avraham was killed during the attack at the kibbutz, the army said. The recovery of Elad Katzir’s body brings to 12 the number which the army says it has brought home from Gaza during the war.

The recovery of Katzir’s body comes as negotiators return to ceasefire talks in Qatar this weekend. The talks, which the United States is strong-arming, comes after Israel made a rare admission of wrongdoing during its war against Hamas militants in Gaza.

The military said it was firing two officers for the killing of seven aid workers – most of them Westerners – in the territory where humanitarians say famine is imminent. Israel’s admission, however, did not quell calls for an independent probe.

biden President Joe Biden has called on Egypt and Qatar to put pressure on Hamas AP Photo / Alex Brandon/PA Images AP Photo / Alex Brandon/PA Images / Alex Brandon/PA Images

The killing of the workers from US-based World Central Kitchen (WCK) on 1 April led to a tense phone call between United States President Joe Biden and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Biden urged an “immediate ceasefire” and for the first time hinted at conditioning American support for Israel on curtailing the killing of civilians and improving humanitarian conditions.

‘Troubling’ reports of AI 

Israel’s army on Friday rejected accusations, made in an independent Israeli-Palestinian magazine +972, that it has used artificial intelligence to identify targets in Gaza.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the reports “deeply troubling”.

Fears that the war could spread intensified after Iran promised to hit back for the killing of seven of its Revolutionary Guards in an air strike on Monday on the consular annex of its embassy in Damascus.

Ahead of the weekend talks, Biden wrote to the leaders of Egypt and Qatar urging them to secure commitments from Hamas to “agree to and abide by a deal”, a senior administration official told AFP.

Stop-start talks have made no headway since a week-long truce in November saw the exchange of some hostages for Palestinian prisoners detained by Israel.

The White House confirmed negotiations would occur this weekend in Cairo, but would not comment on US media reports that CIA Director Bill Burns would attend along with Israeli spy chief David Barnea, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and Egypt’s intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

Biden’s Thursday call with Netanyahu included discussions on “empowering his negotiators” to reach a deal, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

The United States blames the lack of a deal on Hamas’s refusal to release sick and other vulnerable hostages.

Biden is under pressure over the billions of dollars in US military aid to Israel which, so far, Washington has not leveraged despite increasingly critical words about Israel’s conduct in the war.

Charities have accused Israel of blocking aid, but Israel has defended its efforts and blamed shortages on groups’ inability to distribute aid once it gets in.

The Israeli military announced it was firing two officers after finding a series of errors led to the drone strikes that killed the WCK workers as they drove south after supervising the unloading of food aid that arrived on a new sea corridor from Cyprus.

WCK said its operations in Gaza remain suspended after the attack, while other global aid groups said relief work has become almost impossible in Gaza.

© AFP 2024