Hopes dim for Gaza truce before Ramadan as war enters sixth month

Hopes dim for Gaza truce before Ramadan as war enters sixth month
Time is running out to ceasefire a ceasefire in Israel's war on Gaza ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which will begin on Sunday or Monday.
3 min read
The Gaza Strip has been devastated by Israel's brutal war [Ashraf Amra/Anadolu/Getty]

Hopes dimmed on Thursday for a truce before Ramadan in the Gaza war that entered its sixth month with dozens more killed in the enclave, according to the health ministry in the territory.

The ministry said 83 more people had been killed over the previous day, with the overall death toll from Israel's war reaching 30,800, mostly women and children, in a war that China called "a disgrace to civilisation".

US President Joe Biden was set to announce he had ordered the American military to set up a port in Gaza to get more humanitarian aid into the beleaguered territory by sea, senior US officials said, cautioning it would take "a number of weeks".

In the wasteland of Jabalia, northern Gaza, Palestinians gathered to receive meals at a distribution point.

"There is no gas to cook our food on. There is no flour or rice," said Bassam Al-Hou, standing beside large, blackened cooking pots among the rubble.

He said children "are dying and fainting in the streets from hunger".

In Deir Al-Balah in central Gaza, around 14 bodies lay in front of a hospital, the bare feet of some protruding from under coloured cloths.

Biden had urged Hamas to accept a ceasefire plan with Israel before the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan begins, as early as Sunday depending on the lunar calendar.

The proposed deal would pause fighting for "at least six weeks", see the "release of sick, wounded, elderly and women hostages" and allow for "a surge of humanitarian assistance", the White House said.

Hamas said on Wednesday that it had shown flexibility in trying to reach an agreement with Israel via mediators for a ceasefire in Gaza before Ramadan begins.

The group accused Israel of evading parts of an agreement that would lead to a permanent ceasefire.

Gaps 'being narrowed'

On Thursday, Hamas's delegation voiced dissatisfaction with Israeli responses so far and left Cairo for consultations with the movement's leadership in Qatar.

Egypt's Al-Qahera News channel said the talks will now resume "next week".

US ambassador to Israel Jack Lew denied the talks had "broken down".

"The differences are being narrowed. It's not yet an agreement. Everyone's looking towards Ramadan, which is coming close. I can't tell you that it will be successful, but it is not yet the case that it is broken down," Lew said.

Israeli war cabinet member Gadi Eisenkot said Hamas was under "very serious pressure" from mediators to make a "counter-offer".

"Then it will be possible to advance it and take a position," he said.

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Hamas official Bassem Naim said a delegation from the Palestinian group in Cairo for talks "presented a clear and specific vision", The New Arab's Arabic edition Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported on Wednesday.

As talks drag on, the United Nations has warned repeatedly that famine looms in the territory.

"It is a tragedy for humankind and a disgrace for civilisation that today, in the 21st century, this humanitarian disaster cannot be stopped," said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

By late January, the war had damaged around half of all buildings in Gaza and rendered the territory "uninhabitable" for its 2.4 million people, a UN agency said.

The health ministry on Wednesday said 20 people had died of malnutrition and dehydration, at least half of them children.