Israel, Hamas deny ceasefire reports as UN calls for ‘urgent need’ of aid in Gaza

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Israel, Hamas deny ceasefire reports as UN calls for ‘urgent need’ of aid in Gaza

GAZA, OCT 16: Israel and Hamas officials denied the reports that a ceasefire had been implemented in southern Gaza to allow foreigners out of the besieged Palestinian enclave and aid to be brought in amid a deepening crisis.

Security sources in Egypt said a deal had been reached to open the Rafah border crossing to allow aid into the enclave from 0600 GMT.

Hamas official Izzat El Reshiq told Reuters that there was no truth to reports about the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt or a temporary ceasefire.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement: “There is currently no truce and humanitarian aid in Gaza in exchange for getting foreigners out.”

The situation at the Rafah crossing remained unclear.

The bombardment of Hamas-ruled Gaza continued overnight, with residents saying it was the heaviest pounding yet in nine days of conflict.

As a humanitarian crisis gripped Gaza, two Egyptian security sources said Israel had agreed to halt its bombardment of southern Gaza. The Egyptian-controlled Rafah border crossing was expected to reopen to allow foreign passport holders to leave, they said.

Diplomatic efforts have been intensifying to get aid into the enclave, which has been under complete blockade following the Hamas attack on Israel.

‘Urgent need for ceasefire’
Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Office has raised alarm over humanitarian situation in the besieged Palestinian enclave, calling for “urgent need” to halt hostilities to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.

“There have been very mammoth diplomatic efforts to try to make this happen. The secretary-general is constantly liaising with all the parties that are involved, and many other member states are also exercising what leverage they can. We need the security for the aid deliveries to be able to happen,” UNHRO spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told CNN on Monday.

“We have seen hospitals that have been forced to evacuate. Doctors insisting that they will stay with patients who are in the ICU wards and the neonatal units, where you had the impossible choice of whether to abandon your patients or to stay with them and risk death.

The access to water, access to food, the forced evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people into southern Gaza has created a very, very difficult humanitarian situation in southern Gaza as well,” Shamdasani said.

She said there is a significant amount of aid waiting at the border to get in.

‘Biden warns against Gaza occupation’
As Israel is preparing for the Gaza invasion, US President Joe Biden has warned Israel against the occupation of the Palestinian territory, saying the ground assault would be “a big mistake”.

Massing thousands of troops and heavy weaponry in the desert south of the country, the Israeli military has said it is awaiting the “political” green light to go into northern Gaza.

In a video clip posted by CBS News’s 60 Minutes on Monday, Biden backed a humanitarian corridor to let people flee the war-hit area as well as allow the delivery of humanitarian aid, including food and water, into Gaza.

“I am confident that Israel is going to act under the rules of war,” Biden said.

The US president said that he did not believe Hamas represented “all the Palestinian people” and that he wanted to see the group totally eliminated.

Biden said he did not think American troops would be necessary on the ground as Israel has one of the “finest fighting forces,” even as American warships headed to the area amid growing clashes on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

Over 1 million people flee Gaza
More than one million people have fled their homes in Gaza in scenes of chaos and despair as Israel bombarded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and continued amassing troops Monday in preparation for a full-blown ground invasion.

Israel declared war on the group a day after waves of its fighters broke through the heavily fortified border on October 7, shooting, stabbing and burning to death more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians.

Israel then unleashed a relentless bombing campaign on Gaza that has flattened neighbourhoods and left at least 2,750 people dead in the territory, mainly civilians.

Another 1,000 people were missing and believed to be under rubble.

Palestinians walk past the rubble of houses following Israeli strikes in Gaza City October 15, 2023. — Reuters
Palestinians walk past the rubble of houses following Israeli strikes in Gaza City October 15, 2023. — Reuters
Palestinians carrying whatever belongings they can, in bags and suitcases, or packed onto three-wheeled motorbikes, battered cars, vans and even donkey carts have become a common sight.

Fleeing the bombardment and following an Israeli order to move to the south of the Gaza Strip, people have had to find shelter wherever they can, including on the streets and in UN-run schools.

“No electricity, no water, no internet. I feel like I´m losing my humanity,” said Mona Abdel Hamid, 55, who fled Gaza City to Rafah in the south of the enclave, and is having to stay with strangers.

‘Verge of abyss’
A bereaved and infuriated Israel has massed forces outside the long-blockaded enclave of 2.4 million in preparation for what the army has said would be a land, air and sea attack involving a “significant ground operation”.

An Israeli armoured personnel carrier (APC) is obscured as it whips up dust near Israels border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel October 15, 2023 — Reuters
An Israeli armoured personnel carrier (APC) is obscured as it whips up dust near Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel October 15, 2023 — Reuters
Hamas backer Iran and Lebanon´s Hezbollah, which is also supported by Tehran, have warned that an invasion would be met with a response.

“No one can guarantee the control of the situation and the non-expansion of the conflicts” if Israel sends its soldiers into Gaza, said Iran´s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Fire along the Israeli-Lebanese border has intensified in the last week, prompting Israel to shutter the area to civilians.

On Sunday, a rocket hit the UN peacekeeping base in southern Lebanon, while Hezbollah attacks killed one person in Israel, the Israeli military said.

More than 10 people have been killed in Lebanon and at least two in Israel in the past week.

Among those killed in Lebanon was a Reuters journalist, Issam Abdallah.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due back in Israel on Monday after a crisis tour of Middle Eastern countries in a frantic attempt to avert a wider crisis in the volatile region.

But as Israel seeks to avenge the worst attack in its history, the Arab League and African Union warned the invasion could lead to “a genocide of unprecedented proportions”.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has warned that the entire region was “on the verge of the abyss”.

‘Escalation risk’
Israel´s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said his country had “no interest in a war in the north, we don´t want to escalate the situation”.

The United States, which has given unequivocal backing to Israel, has sent two aircraft carriers to the eastern Mediterranean as a deterrent.

The United States has also appealed to China to use its influence in the region to ease tensions.

On Sunday Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Israel´s response had “gone beyond the scope of self-defence”, and demanded that it “cease its collective punishment of the people of Gaza”.

‘Fuel to run out in 24 hours’
In Gaza, hospitals are becoming overwhelmed with increasing numbers of dead and injured.

The UN has warned that fuel reserves at Gaza hospitals are expected to last about 24 more hours.

“The shutdown of backup generators would place the lives of thousands of patients at risk,” the UN humanitarian office said on its website.

“In terms of medical supplies, we consume a month or a month-and-a-half of medical supplies every day in this emergency,” he told the BBC.

Health officials on Sunday said some 9,600 people have been wounded.