Hamas in Cairo for truce talks as Israel bombs southern Gaza

Hamas in Cairo for truce talks as Israel bombs southern Gaza

Amidst an escalation of hostilities, Israel intensified its military operations in southern and central Gaza on Friday, simultaneous with Egypt hosting high-level talks with a Hamas delegation to address the nearly 12-week conflict devastating the besieged Palestinian territory.

The Israeli military declared an extension of its operation in Khan Yunis in the southern coastal region, asserting the “elimination of dozens of terrorists” across Gaza within the past 24 hours. AFPTV footage captured smoke rising over Rafah, near the Egyptian border, following fresh strikes early Friday.

Tragically, Israeli shelling near Al-Amal in Khan Yunis resulted in the loss of 41 lives over the last two days, as reported by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society on Thursday. The casualties included displaced individuals seeking refuge in the facility, according to the society.

The UN humanitarian office disclosed that an estimated 100,000 more displaced people have sought shelter in the already densely populated southern border city of Rafah in recent days, driven by heightened fighting around Deir Al-Balah and Khan Yunis.

As the conflict’s epicenter shifts southward, tensions have escalated across the Middle East, leaving much of Gaza’s northern region in ruins. Israel’s declared objective is the destruction of Hamas, labeled a “terrorist” group by the United States and the European Union, in retaliation for the October 7 attack that claimed approximately 1,140 lives, predominantly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

A grim toll of at least 21,320 lives, predominantly women and children, has been reported by the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza due to Israel’s relentless aerial bombardment and ground invasion. The Israeli army acknowledges the loss of 168 soldiers within Gaza.

Sources close to Hamas outlined Egypt’s three-stage plan, encompassing renewable cease-fires, a phased release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israel, and ultimately, an end to the protracted conflict.

Israel’s military actions in Khan Yunis have seen the deployment of an additional brigade, with sustained air and artillery strikes reported. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant emphasized the unprecedented nature of operations in Khan Yunis, citing the takeover of control rooms and the elimination of terrorists.

Efforts to secure the release of hostages remain a focal point, with Israel stating that 129 individuals are still held in Gaza. Tragically, on Thursday, it was revealed that US-Israeli citizen Judith Weinstein Haggai thought to be the oldest woman held captive, had died in the October 7 attack.

Amidst the conflict, more than 80 percent of Gaza’s 2.4 million population has been displaced, seeking refuge in cramped shelters or makeshift tents. The Israeli siege imposed after October 7, coupled with years of blockade, has exacerbated shortages of food, water, fuel, and medicine. A UN aid convoy came under fire on Thursday, exacerbating the challenges of delivering humanitarian aid.

Egypt’s proposed plan envisions a Palestinian government of technocrats, responsible for governing and rebuilding post-war Gaza after talks involving all Palestinian factions. Seeking guarantees for a complete Israeli military withdrawal, Hamas aims to provide a comprehensive response to the Egyptian proposal.

The proposal seeks to bring together all concerned parties with the goal of ending the loss of Palestinian lives, according to Dia Rashwan, Egypt’s State Information Services chief. In Tel Aviv, hundreds rallied for a cease-fire, emphasizing the universal right to live with freedom and dignity for all, regardless of nationality or religion.

As the Gaza conflict continues to escalate, it has also heightened tensions between Israel and Iran, its long-time arch-foe. Reports indicate cross-border exchanges with Iran-backed Hezbollah, and on Friday, Israel claimed to have struck Hezbollah infrastructure in southern Lebanon in response to rocket fire from the area.

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