No ‘cease fire’ in Gaza, but interruptions to allow civilians to flee

Henry

Israel has agreed to pauses in its attacks on northern Gaza that will allow some civilians to flee the heavy fighting. However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed any ceasefire on the border as “surrender” to Hamas.

America’s pres. Joe Biden welcomed the interruptions. This will formalize an agreement in terms of which thousands of Palestinians have already been able to flee the destruction in northern Gaza, but he also said there is “no possibility” of a ceasefire.

Netanyahu says Israeli troops are doing “exceptionally well” in the counterattack launched after Hamas fighters crossed the border on October 7 and killed 1,400 people, most of them civilians. Another 240 people were taken hostage.

In the drive to destroy Hamas, Israel retaliated with airstrikes and a ground attack that the health department in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip said had already claimed the lives of more than 10,800 people. Most are civilians and many victims are children.

Netanyahu says Israel “does not want to rule” Gaza.

“We don’t want to occupy it, but want to give them and us a better future,” he told Fox News.

Thousands of civilians have fled the devastation in northern Gaza in the past few days. Men, women and children clung to their meager possessions as they tried to leave the war zone.

They are fleeing close combat, with Hamas militants using rocket-propelled grenades against Israeli troops, while they are backed by armored vehicles and heavy airstrikes.

The Israeli military says it hit a shipping container off the coast of Gaza that contained rocket launchers, while Hamas’s military wing claimed it fired rockets at the Re’im army base in southern Israel.

The UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, says 70,000 people have already traveled south on the route to flee since November 4. Most of them were on foot.

Nearly 1.6 million people have been uprooted since the October 7 attack; this is more than half of the entire population in the area.

However, the UN estimates that thousands of civilians still remain behind in some of the fiercest war zones in the north.

While Biden hailed the interruptions as a “step in the right direction,” there was little hope for a wider ceasefire that would bring an end to fighting that the UN says it desperately needs to help.

“A ceasefire with Hamas means surrender to Hamas, surrender to terror,” Netanyahu told Fox.

‚ÄúThere will be no ceasefire without the release of Israeli prisoners; it’s not going to happen.”

‘Tragic situation’

Aid groups have called for a ceasefire and warn of a humanitarian “catastrophe” in Gaza where food, water and medicine are already scarce.

“This is the first thing I think about when I wake up – how am I going to feed my children today,” says Amal al-Robayaa from where she lives in Rafah with her husband, six children, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren in a school of the UN is hiding.

Oxfam France’s director, Cecile Duflot, says officials are reporting “the worst, most tragic situation they have ever seen” in the area.

Fierce fighting continued overnight and Hamas-controlled local authorities accused Israel of shelling the vicinity of several hospitals in northern Gaza.

The Al-Shifa hospital, where an estimated 60,000 people are sheltering, as well as the Al-Rantisi children’s hospital and the Indonesian hospital all came under fire overnight, Hamas authorities said.

The bombing caused injuries but no deaths.

Israel has accused Hamas of using hospitals, including Al-Shifa Hospital, to cover up its military operations. The Israeli army did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the alleged bombing.

The fate of the approximately 240 hostages taken in the attack on 7 October complicates Israel’s military counter-offensive.

The director of the US CIA, Bill Burns, and the head of Israel’s Mossad agency, David Barnea, are in Doha for talks on breaks that could allow the release of hostages and more aid to Gaza, an official said.

Hit for development

Donors at an emergency relief conference in Paris pledged nearly $1.1 billion in aid, but access to Gaza is still extremely limited with nearly 100 trucks entering the area on average every day. This is far less than the number allowed before the October attacks.

“According to our most conservative estimate, the conflict will set back development (in Palestinian territories) by more than a decade,” said Achim Steiner, an administrator of the UNDP.

However, Israeli authorities insist there is “no humanitarian crisis” in Gaza.

Violence in the occupied West Bank has escalated since the conflict erupted, with at least 14 Palestinians killed on Thursday, the Ramallah-based health department said.

The conflict has also raised tensions in the rest of the region, with cross-border skirmishes between the Israeli army and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group and Iran-backed Houthi rebels who say they have fired missiles into southern Israel.

A drone struck a school in Eilat in Israel on Thursday and Israeli air defense systems later intercepted a missile over the Red Sea, the army said.

On Friday, the military said it hit the origin of the drone, in Syrian territory.

The organization responsible for sending the drone has not been disclosed, but the Israeli authorities say it “holds the Syrian regime fully responsible for every terrorist act that comes from its territory”.