Gaza hunger warnings grow, Hamas accuses Israel of sabotaging truce talks -as it happened

Ahram Online , Tuesday 19 Mar 2024

Ahram Online provided coverage of the Israeli war on Gaza on its 165th day.

A woman reacts as she holds a mattress while standing before shelters erected outside a damaged building following overnight Israeli bombardment at the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on March 19, 2024. AFP


22:45 At least 15 people were killed by an Israeli airstrike targeting a house in the Al-Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, Palestinian health officials said on Tuesday.

Medics said rescue operations were still underway as some victims were believed to be trapped under the rubble of the three-floor building.

21:00 Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh accused Israel on Tuesday of sabotaging truce talks after it raided Gaza's largest hospital that Israel said targeted senior militants.

"The deliberate targeting of police officers and government officials in Gaza illustrates their efforts to sow chaos and perpetuate violence among our resilient people. This also reveals the occupation leaders' endeavour to sabotage ongoing negotiations in Doha," Haniyeh said.

18:30 The United States said Tuesday that Israel should let the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA into Gaza after he was denied entry.

"Our belief is that they should be able to visit UNRWA's field of operation, including in Gaza, and we're going to continue to work with the government of Israel to rapidly approve all requested visas for UN and NGO workers," State Department Spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters.

17:30 Italy is opposed to a ground incursion by Israeli forces into the Gaza Strip's southern city of Rafah, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Tuesday.

"We will reiterate our opposition to military action on the ground by Israel in Rafah that could have even more catastrophic consequences for the civilians crowded in that area," Meloni told lawmakers in the Senate.

She added that the opening of new land routes and a maritime corridor from Cyprus to Gaza, to ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian aid to the Palestinian enclave, was a priority.

17:00 Destroying Hamas in Rafah would require a ground incursion by Israeli forces, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday following a call by the White House to rethink strategy around the Gaza border city packed with displaced Palestinians.

Briefing lawmakers, Netanyahu said he had made "supremely clear" to US President Joe Biden "that we are determined to complete the elimination of these (Hamas) battalions in Rafah, and there's no way to do that except by going in on the ground."

16:00 United Nations human rights chief Volker Turk denounced the rampant hunger and looming famine in Gaza, which remains under siege by Israel as the war on Gaza rages on.

In a statement, Turk said that "the situation of hunger, starvation, and famine is a result of Israel's extensive restrictions on the entry and distribution of humanitarian aid and commercial goods."

It was also linked to the "displacement of most of the population, as well as the destruction of crucial civilian infrastructure," he said.

"The extent of Israel's continued restrictions on the entry of aid into Gaza, together with the manner in which it continues to conduct hostilities, may amount to the use of starvation as a method of war, which is a war crime."

His spokesman, Jeremy Laurence, told reporters in Geneva that the final determination of whether "starvation is being used as a weapon of war" would be determined by a court.

15:00 Children in Gaza are playing a critical role in keeping themselves and their families alive in Gaza under challenging and strenuous circumstances.

They are filling up pots with soup. They are collecting drinkable water. They are hauling bags of flour for their mothers to make bread :)

View the full gallery here

14:00 Qatari foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said Tuesday at a news conference that Qatari officials were “cautiously optimistic” after talks with Israel’s intelligence chief in Doha to reach a ceasefire in the Gaza war.

Al-Ansari stressed that an Israeli ground operation in Rafah would set back any talks.

He confirmed that Mossad chief David Barnea "has left Doha," but that talks over a Gaza ceasefire and captives release are continuing in Qatar's capital.

The "technical teams are meeting as we speak," he added.

Barnea had flown to Doha for talks with the Qatari premier and Egyptian officials on Monday, the first since mediators failed to secure a truce before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began last week.

The technical teams are now looking at details of a potential deal after the principal negotiators discussed the "main issues," he added.

"We are at the point now where we are expecting that the counter-proposal would be presented to Hamas, but this is not the final step in the process," Al-Ansari said.

"I don't think we are at a moment where we can say we are close to a deal. We are cautiously optimistic because talks have resumed, but it's too early to announce any successes."

On Monday, a Hamas official said the Palestinian militants would accept a partial Israeli withdrawal before exchanging prisoners, easing previous demands for a complete withdrawal from Gaza.


13:15 The UN warned Tuesday that Israel's severe restrictions on aid into war-ravaged Gaza and its ongoing hostilities could mean it is using starvation as a "weapon of war" which constitutes a war crime.

"The extent of Israel's continued restrictions on entry of aid into Gaza, together with the manner in which he continues to conduct hostilities may amount to the use of starvation as a method of war, which is a war crime," UN rights office spokesman Jeremy Laurence told reporters in Geneva.

Laurence added that the final determination of whether "starvation is being used as a weapon of war" would be determined by a court of law.

A woman and child stand by drying clothes hanging on a laundry line outside tents housing displaced Palestinians in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 19, 2024. AFP


12:45 The incoming Palestinian prime minister said he would appoint a technocratic government and establish an independent trust fund to oversee Gaza’s reconstruction.

In a mission statement acquired by The Associated Press, Mohamed Mostafa laid out wide-ranging plans for the kind of revitalized Palestinian Authority (PA) called for by the United States as part of its postwar vision for resolving the conflict.

But the PA has no power in Gaza, from which Hamas drove its forces in 2007, and only limited authority in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out any return of the PA to Gaza, and his government is staunchly opposed to Palestinian statehood.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas designated Mostafa as prime minister last week.

The US-educated economist and longtime adviser to Abbas is an independent with no political base.

In the mission statement, Mostafa said he would appoint a “non-partisan, technocratic government that can gain both the trust of our people and the support of the international community.”

He promised wide-ranging reforms of PA institutions and a “zero tolerance” policy toward corruption.

Mostafa said he would seek to reunify the territories and create an “independent, competent and transparent agency for Gaza’s recovery and reconstruction and an internationally managed trust fund to raise, manage and disburse the required funds."

The vision statement made no mention of Hamas, which won a landslide victory the last time Palestinians held national elections, in 2006, and which polls indicate still has significant support.

The 88-year-old Abbas, who is in overall control of the PA, has remained in power since his mandate expired in 2009 and has refused to hold elections, citing Israeli restrictions.

Polls consistently find that a large majority of Palestinians want him to resign.

Mostafa said the PA aims to hold presidential and parliamentary elections.

He did not give a timetable and said it would depend on “realities on the ground” in Gaza, the West Bank, and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war that the Palestinians want for their future state.

In 2021, Abbas blamed Israeli restrictions in annexed East Jerusalem for his decision to indefinitely delay elections, in which his secular Fatah party was expected to suffer major losses.

12:00 Dozens of Palestinian civilians were Tuesday morning killed and injured in missile and artillery shelling by Israeli forces in various areas of the Gaza Strip as the ongoing brutal Israeli aggression against Palestinians enters its 165th day, according to WAFA.

WAFA said that the occupation aircraft targeted a house near Al-Matahin Junction, north of the city of Khan Younis, in the south of the Gaza Strip.

Israeli warplanes also targeted another house owned by the Alyan family near the Haidar Abdel-Shafi roundabout, west of Gaza City, and a house near Al-Mashal Foundation, west of the city, killing and injuring several people.

He added that the occupation aircraft launched raids on the neighbourhoods of Al-Rimal, Al-Zaytoun, Al-Daraj, and Sheikh Radwan in Gaza City.

Israeli artillery also bombed the east of Bureij camp and the north of Nuseirat camp in the central Gaza Strip.

WAFA correspondent indicated that 14 civilians were killed following airstrikes that targeted homes and apartments in the city of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip.

A woman embraces a crying child as they mourn relatives who were killed during Israeli bombardment late the previous night, at al-Najar Hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 19, 2024. AFP


11:00 Martin Griffiths, the UN's humanitarian chief, has called for Israel to allow unfettered aid into the besieged Palestinian territory, saying there was "no time to lose.”

With aid agencies reporting huge difficulties gaining access to Gaza, particularly the north, the UN has warned for weeks that a famine is looming.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) partnership said Monday that while the technical criteria for a famine had not yet been met, "all evidence points towards a major acceleration of deaths and malnutrition.”

The United Nations has warned for weeks that a famine is looming in Gaza, with aid agencies reporting huge difficulties gaining access to the territory, particularly the north.

Donors have turned to deliveries by air or sea, but these are not viable alternatives to land deliveries, UN agencies say.

A UN-backed food security assessment warned Monday that half of Gazans are experiencing "catastrophic" hunger, with famine projected to hit the north of the territory by May unless there is urgent intervention.

Palestinians line up to receive free meals at Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Monday, March 18, 2024. AP


10:00 US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Saudi Arabia and Egypt this week to discuss efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza and increase humanitarian aid to the Palestinian territory, a State Department spokesperson said Tuesday.

Blinken will also discuss "a political path for the Palestinian people with security assurances with Israel, and an architecture for lasting peace and security in the region."

He will raise the imperative issue of ending attacks by Yemen's Houthi rebels on commercial ships, to restore stability and security in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, Miller added.

The announcement comes a day after Israel's Mossad spy chief David Barnea was to meet with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and Egyptian officials in Doha, a source close to the talks said.

The meeting follows the latest proposal from Hamas for a six-week truce, vastly more aid into Gaza, and the initial release of about 42 captives in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

During the proposed truce, Israeli forces would withdraw from "all cities and populated areas" in Gaza, according to a Hamas official.

The Israeli military campaign against Gaza has killed at least 31,726 people and wounded nearly 74,000, mostly women and children.

The entire population of Gaza is experiencing "severe levels of acute food insecurity," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday, underscoring the urgency for increasing the delivery of humanitarian aid into the Palestinian territory.

"According to the most respected measure of these things, 100 percent of the population in Gaza is at severe levels of acute food insecurity. That's the first time an entire population has been so classified," Blinken told a press conference in the Philippines, where he is on an official visit.

A boy fills water containers from a hose in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 19, 2024. AFP

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