Israel to attend new ceasefire talks as UN sounds alarm on worsening hunger crisis in Gaza

Israel to attend new ceasefire talks as UN sounds alarm on worsening hunger crisis in Gaza
Israel is sending a delegation to Qatar on Sunday headed by Mossad chief David Barnea to discuss a ceasefire with Hamas, as more people face starvation in Gaza
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There have been growing calls for a ceasefire in Gaza amid utter devastation and fears of famine [Getty/file photo]

The main UN aid agency operating in Gaza said on Saturday that acute malnutrition is rising more quickly in the north of the enclave as Israel prepared to send a delegation to Qatar for new ceasefire talks.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said one in three children under the age of 2 in northern Gaza is now acutely malnourished amid growing pressure on Israel over looming famine in the embattled enclave.

Israel said on Friday it would send a delegation to Qatar for more talks with mediators after Hamas presented a new proposal for a ceasefire with an exchange of hostages and prisoners.

The delegation will be led by the head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, David Barnea, a source familiar with the talks said, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeking to convene the security cabinet to discuss the proposal before the talks start.

Efforts to secure a ceasefire before the holy Muslim month of Ramadan started a week ago repeatedly failed, with Israel saying it plans to launch a new offensive in Rafah, the overcrowded city located by the Egyptian border where over 1 million Gazans have sought refuge. 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is starting a two-day visit to the region, voiced concern about an assault on Rafah, saying there was a danger it would result "in many terrible civilian casualties".

Israel's military onslaught has killed over 31,500 Palestinians, mostly women and children, targeting schools, hospitals and residential buildings in actions denounced as war crimes by rights groups.

The assault has also devastated the enclave's urban environment, forcing nearly all the inhabitants from their homes, leaving much of the territory in rubble and triggering a massive hunger crisis that has alarmed UN agencies and a number of nations.

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Western countries have called on Israel to allow in more aid, with the UN saying it faced "overwhelming obstacles" including crossing closures, onerous vetting, restrictions on movement and unrest inside Gaza.

Air and sea relief deliveries into Gaza have started, but aid agencies say these are no substitute for bringing in supplies by land.

A first delivery into Gaza by the World Central Kitchen, pioneering a new sea route via Cyprus, arrived on Friday and was off-loaded, the charity said, with another ship ready. The United States and Jordan said they carried out an air drop on Saturday.