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  4. Israel-Hamas war: 67 Palestinians killed in Gaza over last 24 hours as Ramadan begins

Israel-Hamas war: 67 Palestinians killed in Gaza over last 24 hours as Ramadan begins

The United States, Qatar and Egypt had hoped to broker a cease-fire ahead of Ramadan that would include the release of dozens of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners. However, the ceasefire talks stalled after Hamas and Israel rejected each other's conditions for a truce.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Gaza Published on: March 12, 2024 7:10 IST
Israel-Hamas war, Palestinians killed, Ramadan
Image Source : AP Over 31,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza over the five-long month war.

Gaza: Palestinians in the beleaguered Gaza Strip began fasting for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on Monday with no end to the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict, as hunger worsens and pressure grows on Israel over the growing humanitarian crisis. Gaza's Health Ministry said the bodies of 67 people killed by Israeli strikes were brought to hospitals over the past 24 hours, raising the death toll well past 31,000.

The United States, Qatar and Egypt had hoped to broker a cease-fire ahead of the normally joyous month of dawn-to-dusk fasting that would include the release of dozens of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, and the entry of a large amount of humanitarian aid. However, the cease-fire talks stalled last week after both sides rejected the conditions demanded by the other side.

Five months of war have forced around 80 per cent of Gaza's 2.3 million people from their homes and pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine. There are also concerns that Israel would launch a further invasion in the city of Rafah bordering Egypt in Gaza's south, which would further the humanitarian crisis in the coastal Palestinian enclave.

What is happening in Gaza now?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday said Israel had killed “Hamas’ number four” leader and added that more targeted killings were to come. His administration has vowed to continue the offensive until “total victory” against the militant group and the release of all the remaining hostages held in Gaza. “Three, two, and one are on the way. They are all dead men. We will reach them all,” he said.

The war began when Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 250 hostages. Hamas is still believed to be holding around 100 captives and the remains of 30 others following an exchange last year. Israeli forces have largely sealed off northern Gaza since October, and aid groups say Israeli restrictions, ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of law and order have made it nearly impossible to safely deliver desperately needed food in much of the territory.

Israel has vowed to expand its offensive to the southern city of Rafah, where half of Gaza’s population has sought refuge, without saying where civilians would go to escape the onslaught. US President Joe Biden has said an attack on Rafah would be a “red line” for him, but that the United States would continue to provide military aid to Israel. 

What did Biden say?

Biden acknowledged in his annual Ramadan message that the holy month comes “at a moment of intense pain". “As Muslims gather around the world over the coming days and weeks to break their fast, the suffering of the Palestinian people will be front of mind for many. It is front of mind for me,” he said. The US has provided crucial military support to Israel and shielded it from international calls for a cease-fire while urging it to do more to avoid harming civilians and facilitate humanitarian aid.

As differences between Biden and Netanyahu grow over Israel's actions and stance over post-war Gaza, the US President said the Israeli leader was “hurting Israel more than helping” the country by not preventing civilian casualties in Gaza, as a result of its war against Hamas. In response, Netanyahu said most Israelis back his decisions on Gaza.

The United States and other countries have begun airdropping aid, but humanitarian groups say such efforts are costly and insufficient. The US military has also begun transporting equipment to build a sea bridge to deliver aid, but it will likely be several weeks before it is operational.

International pressure grows

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Israel and Hamas to honor the spirit of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by “silencing the guns” and to show compassion by releasing all hostages seized by the militant group during its attack in southern Israel on October 7.

“The eyes of the world are watching. The eyes of history are watching. We cannot look away,” he said. “We must act to avoid more preventable deaths. … Desperate civilians need action — immediate action.” He warned that Israel's threatened assault on the southern city of Rafah where over a million Palestinians have sought safety “could plummet the people of Gaza into an even deeper circle of hell.”

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is calling for a new and longer humanitarian cease-fire and says that more humanitarian aid must reach Gaza. Germany is a staunch ally of Israel and has repeatedly expressed its solidarity with the country in its war against Hamas. However, it has pressed for better aid supplies and for an eventual two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

(with inputs from AP)

ALSO READ | Netanyahu ‘hurting Israel’ by not preventing more civilian deaths in Gaza, says Biden

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