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Explosions following an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah. Xinhua News Agency/PA Images
United Nations

Hope of a breakthrough after stand-off at UN; Israel targets six Hamas leaders

Following a stand-off between the US and France, reports are emerging that a UN agreement may have been reached.

THE CONFLICT IN the Middle East has stirred up a diplomatic stand-off at the United Nations between France and the United States, the first open tension between the two allies since President Joe Biden took power.

Despite guaranteed opposition from Washington, France proposed another draft UN Security Council resolution calling for the end of hostilities between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip.

According to the text obtained by AFP, the draft “demands an immediate cessation of hostilities” and calls for “intensification and acceleration of diplomatic efforts and support for a negotiated two-state solution”.

The US has repeatedly vetoed similar resolutions in recent days, saying it is pursuing other avenues to solve the crisis.

There are reports this morning that a joint-statement from the UN to call for an end to the violence has been reached; while Reuters reports that a senior Hamas official predicted a ceasefire within days in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

It comes after the US President recently called for a “significant de-escalation” in Israel’s conflict with Gaza’s armed groups ahead of a diplomatic push to stem the violence, as the sides traded further fire.

Israeli fighter jets have hit the residences of at least six Hamas leaders, according to an army statement, which said “military infrastructure” was stored at each site.

As air raid sirens sounded again early today in southern Israel, the second most powerful group in Gaza, Islamic Jihad, claimed credit for a fresh volley of rockets.

mideast-nablus-clashes A protester uses a slingshot to hurl a stone at Israeli soldiers during a protest at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Nablus. Xinhua News Agency / PA Images Xinhua News Agency / PA Images / PA Images

Over 10 days, Israeli strikes have killed 227 Palestinians, according to the Gaza health ministry, while Palestinian rocket fire has claimed 12 lives in Israel, according to Israeli police.

An Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel was assessing at what stage it may stop its military campaign.

“We are looking at when is the right moment for a ceasefire,” said the source.

Netanyahu earlier issued a tough threat against Hamas, who Israel says is responsible for the estimated 4,000 rockets fired at the Jewish state since 10 May.

“You can either conquer them, and that’s always an open possibility, or you can deter them, and we are engaged right now in forceful deterrence,” Netanyahu told foreign ambassadors.

“But I have to say we don’t rule out anything.”

Speaking later, the hawkish premier said: “I am determined to continue this operation until its objective is achieved: to restore quiet and security” for Israelis.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said the group that has run Gaza since 2007 could “continue its resistance longer than the occupation (Israel) estimates.”

mideast-gaza-city-israel-airstrikes Palestinians inspect a destroyed house after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City. Xinhua News Agency / PA Images Xinhua News Agency / PA Images / PA Images

Sitting in a wheelchair

Among those killed in Israeli bombardment in Gaza yesterday were a disabled man, his pregnant wife and their three-year-old child, the health ministry in the enclave said.

The family’s living room was blasted to bits, and the mangled parts of a child’s red bicycle lay amid the wreckage.

Omar Saleha, 31, whose brother Eyad was killed in the strike, said the family was having lunch when their home was hit.

“What did my brother do? He was just sitting in his wheelchair,” Saleha told AFP.

Humanitarian crisis

The Hamas rocket barrages have prompted many living in communities near the Gaza border to hide in bomb shelters virtually around the clock.

The dead on the Israeli side include one child, one Indian and two Thai nationals, with 333 wounded, Israeli authorities said.

Gaza’s death toll counts 64 children, and 1,620 injured, according to health ministry figures.

Israel’s bombing campaign has also left the two million population in Gaza, under Israeli blockade for 14 years, desperate for relief.

Hospitals have been overwhelmed, and some 75,000 civilians have fled their homes, seeking refuge in UN-run schools and other public buildings, the United Nations says.

The International Committee of the Red Cross yesterday said that people in both Gaza and Israel “urgently need respite from non-stop hostilities”.

“People in Gaza – exhausted from sleepless nights, from constant fear, worry and grief – need a window during which they can go outside and about their business without fear of being killed or injured, or of witnessing death,” Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC director for the Near and Middle East, said in a statement.

West Bank deaths

The latest escalation was sparked after clashes broke out at Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, one of Islam’s holiest sites.

This followed violence over the attempted evictions of Palestinian families from homes in the eastern sector’s Sheikh Jarrah district.

The conflict has since sparked mob violence between Jews and Israeli Arabs, and sharply heightened tensions in the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinian health ministry said a Palestinian woman was shot dead Wednesday near Hebron, as the army said she had tried to attack Israeli forces.

The death brought to 25 the number of Palestinians killed in the West Bank since 10 May.

In northern Israel, the army said it fired artillery shells toward southern Lebanon, in response to four rockets launched at the Jewish state from Lebanese territory, in the third such attack in less than a week.

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