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Allies urge halt to Gaza aggression

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19 December 2023, The Age / AP, by Wafaa Shurafa

GAZA STRIP: Israel’s government is facing calls for a ceasefire from some of its closest European allies after a series of shootings, including the mistaken killing of three Israeli hostages, fuelled global concerns about the conduct of the 10-weekold war in Gaza.

Israeli protesters are urging their government to renew negotiations with Gaza’s Hamas rulers, whom Israel has vowed to destroy. Israel is also expected to face pressure to scale back major combat operations when US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin visits this week. Washington is expressing growing unease with civilian casualties even as it provides vital military and diplomatic support.

The war has flattened large parts of northern Gaza, killed thousands of civilians and driven most of the population to the southern part of the besieged territory, where many are in crowded shelters and tent camps. Some 1.9 million Palestinians — about 90 per cent of Gaza’s population — have fled their homes.

They survive off a trickle of humanitarian aid. Dozens of desperate Palestinians surrounded aid trucks after they drove in through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, forcing some to stop before climbing aboard, pulling down boxes and carrying them off. Other trucks appeared to be guarded by masked people carrying sticks.

Israel said aid passed directly from Israel into Gaza for the first time on Sunday, with 79 trucks entering from Kerem Shalom, where around 500 trucks entered daily before the war. Another 120 trucks entered via Rafah along with six trucks carrying fuel or cooking gas, said Wael Abu Omar, Palestinian Crossings Authority spokesman.

Aid workers say it’s still far from enough.

‘‘You cannot deliver aid under a sky full of airstrikes,’’ a spokesperson with the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, Juliette Touma, said on social media, while the agency estimated that more than 60 per cent of Gaza’s infrastructure had been destroyed.

Telecom services in Gaza gradually resumed after a four-day communications blackout, the longest of several outages during the war.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel ‘‘will continue to fight until the end’’, with the goal of eliminating Hamas, which triggered the war with its October 7 attack into Israel. Palestinian militants killed some 1200 people that day, mostly civilians, and captured scores of hostages.

Netanyahu has vowed to bring back the estimated 129 hostages still in captivity. Anger over the mistaken killing of hostages is likely to increase pressure on him to renew Qatar-mediated negotiations with Hamas over swapping more of the remaining captives for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

Meanwhile, Israel has been defensively striking Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, said Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, an Israel Defence Forces spokesperson.

The group has ramped up attacks against Israel, he added, killing civilians and soldiers and displacing more than 80,000 Israelis from their homes.

‘‘Hezbollah, a proxy of Iran, is dragging Lebanon into an unnecessary war that would have devastating consequences for the people of Lebanon,’’ Hagari said. ‘‘This is a war that they do not deserve.’’

Hagari said Israel would protect its borders ‘‘until and unless a diplomatic solution is found and implemented.’’

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Article source: The Age / AP | Wafaa Shurafa | 19.12.23

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000