Israeli strikes kill 48 more Gazans as fears mount over humanitarian crisis - GulfToday

Israeli strikes kill 48 more Gazans as fears mount over humanitarian crisis


A Palestinian woman and a child cry following overnight Israeli air strikes in Rafah refugee camp on Thursday. AFP

Israeli strikes killed at least 48 people in southern and central Gaza overnight, half of them women and children, health officials said Thursday.

European foreign ministers and UN agencies called for a ceasefire, with alarm rising over the worsening humanitarian crisis and potential starvation in the territory.

Israel's defence minister, Yoav Gallant, announced on Thursday that the government "will expand the authority given to our hostage negotiators.” His comments, delivered in a meeting with US Mideast envoy Brett McGurk, signalled a small sign of progress in cease-fire talks.

Benny Gantz, who sits on Israel’s War Cabinet with Gallant and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said that new attempts are underway to reach a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas that could pause the war in Gaza and bring the release of around 130 Israeli hostages held by Hamas since their Oct.7 attack on southern Israel.

It was the first Israeli indication of new efforts since negotiations stalled a week ago. But Gantz, a former military chief and defence minister, repeated his pledge that unless Hamas agrees to release the remaining hostages, Israel will launch a ground offensive into Gaza’s southernmost town, Rafah, during the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan, which begins around March 10.


More than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million is crowded into Rafah after fleeing fighting and bombardment elsewhere in the territory. Israel has said it will evacuate them before attacking. But it is not clear where they would go, with much of the rest of the tiny Mediterranean enclave consumed in combat — raising fears civilian casualties could spiral in an Israeli assault that has already killed more than 29,400 people.

The heads of 13 UN agencies and five other aid groups issued a joint plea for a ceasefire, warning that an attack on Rafah will bring "mass casualties” and could "deal a death blow” to the humanitarian operation bringing aid to Palestinians, which "is already on its knees.” Earlier this week, the World Food Program had to halt food deliveries to northern Gaza because of increasing chaos.

"Diseases are rampant. Famine is looming,” they said, adding that aid workers are facing "shelling, death, movement restrictions and a breakdown of civil order.” They called for the opening of more entry points for aid to Gaza - including in the north - security assurances of safe passage for distribution and a release of hostages.

If outbreaks of infectious disease, already growing, become severe, they could ultimately cause more deaths than the offensive, a senior official with the World Health Organisation said. "Infectious disease is a major concern for us in Gaza,” Richard Brennan, WHO's regional emergency director, said at a briefing in Cairo.

The foreign ministers of 26 European countries on Thursday called for a pause in fighting leading to a longer cease-fire. They urged Israel not to take military action in Rafah "that would worsen an already catastrophic humanitarian situation.”

Associated Press

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