Egyptian mediators try to build on Israel-Hamas ceasefire
Egyptian mediators on Saturday sought to strengthen a one-day ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants, and aid officials called for a period of calm to begin tackling a humanitarian crisis in Gaza after 11 days of fighting.
The ceasefire, which began before dawn on Friday, was still held on Saturday evening, allowing officials to begin to assess the extent of the damage.
Despite clashes between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at a holy site in Jerusalem on Friday, there were no reports of Hamas rockets being launched from Gaza or of Israeli airstrikes on the Palestinian enclave overnight or on Saturday. .
Rockets fired by Hamas and other militant Islamist groups paralyzed towns in southern Israel during hostilities and caused widespread panic, but did far less damage than the bombing of the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian officials put reconstruction costs in the tens of millions of dollars in Gaza, where medical officials said 248 people had been killed in the fighting.
A senior UN official who visited the densely populated coastal enclave on Saturday warned of increased health risks and widespread desperation after homes, roads and other vital infrastructure, including hospitals , have been damaged or destroyed.
“Everyone just needs to step back and not engage in provocative movements,” said Lynn Hastings, United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, in a rubble-strewn area of Gaza City where she spoke with survivors.
Economists said Israel’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic could be hampered by hostilities, and medics said rocket attacks killed 13 people in Israel before the ceasefire.
After negotiating the ceasefire with US backing, Egypt on Friday sent a delegation to Israel to discuss ways to strengthen the truce, including with aid to Palestinians in Gaza, said officials. Hamas officials to Reuters.
Delegates have since commuted between Israel and Gaza and met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, an aide to the Palestinian leader said.
A source close to the planning said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel and the West Bank on Wednesday and Thursday, hoping to build on the ceasefire. Mahmoud, however, has little influence in Gaza, which is ruled by Hamas.
US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that Washington would work with the United Nations to bring humanitarian and reconstruction aid to Gaza, with guarantees against funds used to arm Hamas, which the West considers a terrorist group. .
The United Nations Security Council on Saturday called for “full adherence” to the ceasefire and stressed the immediate need for humanitarian aid for Palestinian civilians.
The 15-member council issued a statement, which had to be approved by consensus, after being unable to speak during the 11-day conflict due to opposition from the United States.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said in response that it was “very unfortunate” that the Security Council “ignored the launching of more than 4,000 rockets at Israeli civilians from populated areas of Gaza.”
Seeking to build on the truce, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Saturday urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume meaningful negotiations for a two-state solution, which are in the process. deadlock for years.
“The EU cannot be expected to fund the reconstruction of Gaza again without a significant prospect of actually resolving the underlying conflict,” Borrell wrote in a blog post.
After his tour of Gaza, UN Hastings expressed confidence that existing aid mechanisms in Gaza “will ensure that aid does not fall into hands that are not meant to be directed.” .
Gaza has been subject for years to an Israeli blockade that restricts the passage of people and goods, as well as Egyptian restrictions.
Both countries report concerns over weapons reaching Hamas. Palestinians say the restrictions amount to collective punishment of Gaza’s 2 million residents.
Hastings said she was more concerned than ever that people were crowding into overcrowded housing following the destruction of many apartment buildings.
“During COVID it was bad enough here, there was a massive spike in cases just before the escalation. Now people are sheltering together, ”she said.
Israel says its airstrikes were a response to Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli towns on May 10, following Israeli police raids on a sacred compound in East Jerusalem and clashes with Palestinians during the month holy muslim of Ramadan.
“If we come out of this operation with a long period of peace and quiet, it is good for Israeli civilians and it is also good for Palestinians in Gaza,” said Mark Regev, senior adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin. Netanyahu.
Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said later on Saturday that he would meet his Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry soon after their meeting on Friday.
“I stressed to him that any future arrangement should include guarantees regarding security issues and political principles,” Ashkenazi said on his Twitter page, adding that these included “stopping the arming of Hamas.”
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