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Palestinians inspect a vehicle destroyed by an Israeli military drone Alamy Stock Photo

Israeli minister says Gaza ceasefire talks in Cairo have raised 'possibility of progress'

A UN official has said has said Nasser Hospital in Khan Yunis has turned from a “place of healing” to a “place of death”.

LAST UPDATE | 14 hrs ago

AID AGENCIES HAVE warned of a looming famine in Gaza as new talks are being held in Cairo towards an Israel-Hamas ceasefire and hostage release deal.

The White House sent Middle East envoy Brett McGurk for renewed talks involving mediators and Hamas, a day after a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire was blocked by the US.

An Israeli minister said the talks had raised the “possibility of progress”.

The UN has warned the population of 2.4 million in Gaza is on the brink of famine and could face an “explosion” of child deaths.

The UN’s World Food Programme has announced a pause in food and aid deliveries to northern Gaza after its drivers faced gunfire and violence from desperate residents swarming the trucks.

The convoys “faced complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order”, according to a statement from the WFP. Hamas called the move a “death sentence”.

The WFP had attempted to resume aid deliveries in northern Gaza after a three-week pause following a strike on an aid convoy from the Israeli military.

Family of NGO doctor killed in Israeli strike

More Israeli strikes have also continued to pound Gaza, leaving 103 people dead during the night, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory, which put the overall death toll at 29,313.

Caught in these strikes were two family members of a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) staff member and six others inside a MSF building in Al-Mawasi, along the coastline of Gaza.

The strike has been strongly condemned by the NGO, who say five of the six injured parties were women or children.

attack-in-al-mawasi-khan-younis Aftermath of the bombing at the MSF site in Khan Younis. Médecins Sans Frontières Médecins Sans Frontières

The members of the charity, who are providing invaluable medical aid to those still in the region, also saw bullets marking the MSF building and hitting the front gate.

Ambulance teams in the area were delayed due to continued shelling in the Khan Younis province, where airstrikes remain ongoing this evening, and in southern Rafah, according to an AFP correspondent.

“These killings underscore the grim reality that nowhere in Gaza is safe, that promises of safe areas are empty and deconfliction mechanisms unreliable,” said Meinie Nicolai, the MSF General Director for the charity’s mission in Gaza.

Elsewhere, concerns remain high today around Nasser Hospital in the heavily-bombarded southern city of Khan Yunis, where the World Health Organization has called the devastation “incredible”.

The UN agency managed to evacuate some 32 patients from the besieged hospital, which was raided by Israeli troops last week.

It called the situation in Gaza “inhumane”, saying the territory had become “a death zone”.

Jonathan Whittall, a senior humanitarian affairs officer with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has said Nasser Hospital has turned from a “place of healing” to a “place of death”. 

New truce talks

McGurk, the White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, is in Egypt as part of efforts to advance a hostage deal, before heading to Israel tomorrow.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh is already in Cairo for talks, the militant group said.

Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz said there were efforts to “promote a new plan for the return of the hostages and we are seeing the first signs that indicate the possibility of progress in this direction”.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller meanwhile said: “We want to see a hostage agreement that secures a temporary ceasefire where we can get the hostages out and get humanitarian assistance.”

Qatar and Egypt have proposed a plan to free hostages in return for a pause in fighting and the release of Palestinian prisoners, but Israel and Hamas have so far failed to agree on a deal.

Washington has argued that approving the UN resolution on Tuesday would have imperilled ongoing efforts to free hostages, after it vetoed an Algeria-drafted resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the release of all hostages.

Hamas said the US veto amounted to “a green light for the occupation to commit more massacres”.

Rafah concerns

Particular concern has also centred on the packed city of Rafah, where 1.4 million people now live in crowded shelters and makeshift tents, fearing attack by nearby Israeli ground troops.

Israel has threatened in recent days to invade Gaza’s Rafah by the start of Ramadan, which happens around 10 March, if Hamas does not return the remaining hostages by then.

The city – the last untouched by Israeli ground troops – is the main entry point for desperately needed relief supplies via neighbouring Egypt.

Aid groups warn a ground offensive could turn Rafah into a “graveyard” and the US has said the vast numbers of displaced civilians must first be moved out of harm’s way.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted the army will keep fighting until it has destroyed Hamas and freed the remaining 130 hostages, around 30 of whom are believed to be dead.

The conflict started when Hamas launched its unprecedented attack on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Hamas also took about 250 hostages, many of whom were released during a week-long truce in late November.

Includes reporting by Muiris O’Cearbhaill, © AFP 2024 and Press Association