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KUWAIT: The 44th relief plane of Kuwait airlift heads to Al-Arish airport in Egypt with 10 tons of food and tents for the Palestinians in Gaza. - KUNA
KUWAIT: The 44th relief plane of Kuwait airlift heads to Al-Arish airport in Egypt with 10 tons of food and tents for the Palestinians in Gaza. - KUNA
Gaza death toll nears 30,000
UN agencies warn of ‘imminent’ famine

GAZA: Fighting raged Wednesday in the besieged Gaza Strip, where the reported death toll neared 30,000 as mediators insisted a truce in the Zionist-Hamas war could be just days away. The Hamas-ruled territory’s health ministry reported another 91 deaths in overnight bombardment in Gaza, while UN agencies sounded the alarm on dire humanitarian conditions and food shortages. Mediators from Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been trying to find a path to a ceasefire amid the bitter fighting, seeking a six-week pause in the nearly five-month war.

After a flurry of diplomacy, mediators said a deal could finally be within reach - reportedly including the release of some hostages held in Gaza since Hamas’s October 7 attack in exchange for several hundred Palestinian detainees held by Zionists. Qatar was “hopeful, not necessarily optimistic, that we can announce something” before Thursday, foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari said Tuesday. US President Joe Biden said a day earlier that “my hope is by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire”, but “we’re not done yet”.

GAZA: This picture shows a camp for internally displaced Palestinians in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on February 28, 2024.- AFP
GAZA: This picture shows a camp for internally displaced Palestinians in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on February 28, 2024.- AFP

Ansari also cautioned that “the situation is still fluid on the ground”. Doha has suggested the pause in fighting would come before the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month which starts on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar. Hamas had been pushing for the complete withdrawal of Zionist forces from Gaza - a demand rejected outright by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But a Hamas source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the deal might see the military leave “cities and populated areas”, allowing the return of some displaced Palestinians and humanitarian relief. Zionist military campaign has killed at least 29,954 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the latest health ministry figures. Since the war began, hundreds of thousands of Gazans have been displaced within the narrow coastal territory.

Nearly 1.5 million people now packed into the far-southern city of Rafah, where Zionists have warned they plan to launch a ground offensive. Those who remain in northern Gaza have been facing an increasingly desperate situation, aid groups have warned. “If nothing changes, a famine is imminent in northern Gaza,” the World Food Program’s deputy executive director Carl Skau told the UN Security Council Tuesday.

His colleague from the UN humanitarian office OCHA, Ramesh Rajasingham, warned of “almost inevitable” widespread starvation. The WFP said no humanitarian group had been able to deliver aid to the north for more than a month, accusing Zionists of blocking access. “I have not eaten for two days,” said Mahmud Khodr, a resident of Jabalia refugee camp in the north, where children roamed with empty pots. “There is nothing to eat or drink.”

Most aid trucks have been halted, but foreign militaries have air dropped supplies over southern Gaza. What aid does enter Gaza passes through  the Rafah border crossing from Egypt, fuelling a warning from UN chief Antonio Guterres that any assault on the city would “put the final nail in the coffin” of relief operations. Zionist entity has insisted it would move civilians to safety before sending troops into Rafah but it has not released any details.

Egypt has warned that an assault on the city would have “catastrophic repercussions across the region”, with Cairo concerned about an influx of refugees. Zionist military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said Tuesday that Zionists will “listen to the Egyptians and their interests”, adding that Zionists “cannot conduct an operation” with the current large population in Rafah. An AFP correspondent reported that overnight several air strikes hit the Rafah area as well as southern Gaza’s main city Khan Yunis and Zeitun further north.

The army said it had “killed a number of terrorists and located weapons” in Gaza City’s Zeitun neighborhood. More than 50 UK-based journalists signed an open letter to Zionist entity and Egypt calling for foreign press to be allowed free access to Gaza, plus better protection for reporters already inside the territory. UN reports indicate that at least 122 media workers have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the war began. - AFP

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