Media: Israel bombards Gaza safe zone amid ceasefire deadlock

    WORLD  13 June 2024 - 10:08

    Israel’s military launched land, sea and air strikes on a designated safe zone in southern Gaza on June 13 as a US-backed ceasefire and hostage deal appeared to have stalled.

    Al-Mawasi, a coastal region west of Rafah previously designated by Israel as a safe zone for Palestinians to evacuate to that is now crammed with refugees, was bombarded early on June 13, including by navy boats firing heavy machine guns, CNN reports, citing the official Palestinian news agency WAFA.

    CNN has contacted the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for comment on the WAFA report.

    The strikes come as a ceasefire plan for the devastating eight-month war between Israel and Hamas stutters, with neither side yet publicly committing to the deal despite intense lobbying from American officials, including US President Joe Biden.

    Hamas said in a statement Wednesday it “has shown the necessary positivity in all stages of negotiations” to reach a “comprehensive and acceptable agreement based on the just demands of our people.”

    The statement comes after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken questioned whether the Palestinian militant group is “proceeding in good faith” in the ceasefire negotiations, saying Hamas had proposed several changes in their response to the latest deal, which “go beyond positions they had previously taken.”

    On June 12, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Rafah said it had received information from Israeli authorities that fighting will continue in western Rafah. CNN video showed many Palestinians taking down shelters and packing up their belongings after warnings spread of a pending military operation.

    An estimated 550,000 people are now in Al-Mawasi, according to a report from Oxfam, after the IDF ordered people in eastern Rafah to head to the “expanded humanitarian area” as it stepped up its operations in southern Gaza.

    Currently, just 121 toilets have been installed in the densely packed tent city, according to Oxfam, meaning every toilet is shared by more than 4,000 people.

    The Al-Mawasi camp was already filled with displaced people before civilians in Rafah were ordered to move there. The United Nations has called facilities in the area unsuitable for the hundreds of thousands of Gazans uprooted by violence in Rafah and across the Gaza Strip.

    More than 1 million people have fled Rafah to the nearby areas of Al-Mawasi, Deir al-Balah and Khan Younis in recent weeks, according to Oxfam. Some 1.7 million people, more than two thirds of Gaza’s population, are now estimated to be crammed into an area of 69 square kilometers (27 square miles) — less than a fifth of the strip.

    The reports of strikes on Thursday follow a mass-casualty operation by Israel to rescue hostages held by Hamas over the weekend. The Israeli military rescued four hostages in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, an operation that Gazan authorities said killed 236 people and injured more than 400 others.

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