Israel Steps Up Attacks in Gaza Amid Cease-Fire Talks

Intense bombardment of a Gaza Strip metropolis stuffed with refugees flattened a big mosque and killed or wounded scores of individuals on Thursday as Israel repeated its intention to push into the realm with floor forces if Hamas doesn’t launch hostages earlier than the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Nearly 100 folks had been killed throughout the enclave from Israeli strikes over the previous day, the Gazan well being authorities stated Thursday, bringing the overall loss of life toll after nearly 20 weeks of battle to almost 30,000.

Around half of the Gaza Strip’s inhabitants of 2.3 million individuals are crammed into the southern metropolis of Rafah alongside the border with Egypt, the place the strike on the mosque occurred Thursday. Wafa, the Palestinian information company, reported that not less than seven Palestinians had been killed in a single day in Rafah and dozens extra wounded.

Israel’s preparations for an invasion of that space come as diplomats raced to forestall it, with Ramadan set to start round March 10.

President Biden’s Middle East coordinator, Brett McGurk, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday for “a good couple of hours,” specializing in whether or not negotiators might “cement a hostage deal” in accordance with a White House spokesman.

Talks final week in Cairo for a hostage deal failed when Mr. Netanyahu withdrew his negotiators, accusing Hamas of refusing to budge on what he referred to as “ludicrous” calls for and pledging to press on with Israel’s offensive.

But on Wednesday evening, Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s battle cupboard, stated there had been momentum on a brand new draft of a deal that indicated a “possibility to advance.” But he additionally warned that if no deal had been struck, the Israeli navy would proceed combating throughout Ramadan.

One individual briefed on the talks stated there have been indications that each Hamas and Israel had been prepared to barter over an interim deal that might trade 35 Israeli hostages who’re both medically frail or older for an undetermined variety of Palestinian prisoners.

On Thursday, Israel’s protection minister, Yoav Gallant, stated that the federal government “will expand the authority given to our hostage negotiators.”

According to Israeli officers, about 130 hostages are nonetheless held in Gaza, although officers consider that not less than 30 of them are useless.

Senior Israeli, Qatari, U.S. and Egyptian officers will meet in Paris on Friday to try to advance a deal for a cease-fire and the discharge of hostages held by Hamas, an Israeli official and an individual briefed on the talks stated on Thursday. Qatar and Egypt have been performing as intermediaries between Israel and Hamas, which don’t negotiate instantly.

The Mossad chief, David Barnea; the C.I.A. director, William Burns; the Qatari prime minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani; and Abbas Kamel, the top of Egyptian intelligence, are among the many anticipated attendees on the Paris talks, the Israeli official stated, talking on the situation of anonymity to debate the diplomatic developments, as did the individual briefed on the talks.

On Thursday, Hamas praised a taking pictures close to a checkpoint in the Israeli-occupied West Bank that killed not less than one individual, whom native media recognized as an Israeli man in his 20s, and injured a number of others Thursday morning. Violence in the West Bank has soared because the battle in Gaza started, underlining the broader challenges of stability and governance throughout the occupied territories.

In Thursday’s taking pictures, three Palestinians used automated weapons to fireplace from a automobile towards a site visitors jam in entrance of the A Za’im checkpoint, which results in Jerusalem, the Israeli police stated. All three attackers had been killed, Eli Levy, a police spokesman, stated in a video assertion.

The Israeli navy stated Thursday that it was combating Hamas throughout the breadth of the Gaza Strip. Troops “continued to expand” their offensives in northern Gaza, the navy stated. At the identical time, the Israeli navy focused vessels that it stated had been being utilized by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, one other militant group. And in the south, Israeli troops engaged and killed 15 fighters in the town of Khan Younis, the navy stated.

In Rafah, the extreme bombardment Thursday heightened fears amongst residents who stated it was the heaviest since 10 days in the past, when Israeli forces performed a raid there to free two hostages and launched a wave of assaults that the well being authorities stated killed dozens of Palestinians.

“It was a very hard night,” stated Akram al-Satri, who’s sheltering in Rafah. “They destroyed Al-Farouk mosque, which is one of the largest mosques in the area,” he added in a voice message on Thursday. Video revealed on Thursday by the Reuters information company reveals a big pile of particles on the web site of the mosque.

The Israeli navy didn’t instantly reply to a request for touch upon Thursday concerning the strikes on Rafah. Mr. Netanyahu has described the town as a Hamas stronghold, and says the aim of Israel’s marketing campaign is to eradicate the militant group.

Since the Rafah raid and Mr. Netanyahu’s announcement of a deliberate floor offensive in Rafah, some folks there — lots of whom had already been displaced a number of occasions — started packing up and transferring north.

On Thursday morning, after an evening of concern as drones buzzed and airstrikes boomed, extra displaced households from Rafah started arriving on the Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al Balah, a metropolis in central Gaza, stated Beirut Hana, a lawyer who’s sheltering there. They arrange tents in and across the hospital and on empty plots of land, she stated.

“Since the Israeli army announced their plans for a ground invasion of Rafah, people became scared and started moving,” Ms. Hana stated in a telephone interview. “Every day since then, large crowds of people have been arriving in Deir al Balah and Nuseirat,” one other metropolis in central Gaza.

Ms. Hana stated that though some folks had been returning to their houses in Deir al Balah, many others who weren’t from the town had come in search of security. But heavy bombardment has additionally continued in central Gaza, residents stated.

“So many people are fleeing Rafah and coming here thinking they would be safer, only to get killed here,” stated Ms. Hana, referring to the central strip.

Aaron Boxerman, Adam Sella Nader Ibrahim and Julian E. Barnes contributed reporting.

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