Gaza Conflict Escalates: Ceasefire Talks Stalled Amid Heavy Bombardment

The renewed push for a ceasefire in the ongoing Gaza conflict has collapsed, leading to heavy Israeli bombardments in central and southern areas. Mediation efforts by the U.S., Qatar, and Egypt have yet to yield results, as the death toll continues to climb and humanitarian conditions worsen.

Reuters | Updated: 08-06-2024 00:00 IST | Created: 08-06-2024 00:00 IST
Gaza Conflict Escalates: Ceasefire Talks Stalled Amid Heavy Bombardment
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With a renewed ceasefire push in the eight-month-old Gaza war stalled, Israel bombarded central and southern areas again on Friday, killing at least 28 Palestinians, and tank forces advanced to the western edges of Rafah. U.S.-backed Qatari and Egyptian mediators have tried again this week to reconcile clashing demands preventing a halt to the hostilities, a release of Israeli hostages and Palestinians jailed in Israel, and an unrestricted flow of aid into Gaza to alleviate a humanitarian disaster. But sources close to the talks said there were still no signs of a breakthrough.

A month after rumbling into Rafah in what Israel said was an assault to wipe out Hamas' last intact combat units, tank-led forces have advanced to the southwest fringes of the city that skirts the Gaza Strip's border with Egypt, residents said. They said tanks were stationed in the al-Izba district near the Mediterranean coast while snipers had commandeered some buildings and high ground, trapping people in their homes. They said Israeli machinegun fire had made it too dangerous to go out.

Gaza health officials said two Palestinians had been killed and several wounded in western Rafah from tank shelling there. In central Gaza, Palestinian medics said Israeli bombardments killed at least 15 people died overnight. "I think the occupation forces are trying to reach the beach area of Rafah. The raids and the bombing overnight were tactical, they entered under heavy fire and then retreated," one Palestinian resident told Reuters via a chat app.

In north Gaza, three Palestinians were killed in an Israeli airstrike on a Gaza City school building that was sheltering displaced families, rescue workers said. The Israeli military said it had targeted Hamas gunmen operating from a container inside the school premises, similar to its explanation for an airstrike on a U.N. school building in al-Nuseirat in central Gaza on Thursday that medics said killed 40 people including 14 children. Around 6,000 displaced people were sheltering at that site, the U.N. said.

The Israeli military has published the identity of what it said were 17 fighters concealed in the compound who it killed in Thursday's strike. Hamas has rejected Israel's assertion that the school had hidden a Hamas command post.

Israel's military blames Hamas for Gaza's high civilian death toll, accusing it of operating within densely populated neighbourhoods, schools and hospitals as cover, something it denies. U.N. and humanitarian officials accuse Israel of using disproportionate force in the war, which it denies. Hamas accuses Israel of deliberately targetting civilian locations, which Israel also denies. On Friday, Israel said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has added its military to a global list of offenders who have committed violations against children, a move Israel's envoy at the United Nations Gilad Erdan described as "shameful."

Erdan said he was officially notified of the decision on Friday. The global list is included in a report on children and armed conflict that is due to be submitted to the U.N. Security Council on June 14. "Israel's army is the most moral army in the world, so this immoral decision will only aid the terrorists and reward Hamas," said Erdan.

It was not immediately clear what violations Israel's military had been accused of committing. Guterres' spokesperson Stephane Dujarric declined to comment.

According to the Hamas-run Gaza government media office, Israel's assault on Gaza has killed more than 15,500 children since Oct. 7. BLINKEN TO PUSH CEASEFIRE

Israel has ruled out peace until Hamas is eradicated, and much of Gaza lies in ruins, but Hamas has proven resilient, with militants resurfacing to fight in areas where Israeli forces had previously declared to have defeated them and pulled back. Hamas precipitated the war when militants stormed from Israeli-blockaded Gaza into southern Israel in a lightning strike last Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking over 250 hostages back to the enclave, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's invasion and bombardment of Gaza since then has killed at least 36,731 people, including 77 in the past 24 hours, Gaza's health ministry said in an update on Friday. Thousands more are feared buried dead under rubble, with most of the 2.3 million population displaced. Since a brief week-long truce in November, repeated attempts to arrange a ceasefire have failed, with Hamas insisting on a permanent end to the war and full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to the Middle East next week, part of a push by Washington to get Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas to take up the ceasefire proposal laid out last week by U.S. President Joe Biden. Israel says it is prepared to discuss only temporary pauses in the hostilities until the Islamist militant group, which has ruled the narrow, impoverished enclave since 2007, is wiped out and Gaza poses no more security threat.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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