UN humanitarian chief heading to Middle East for Gaza aid negotiations

UN humanitarian chief heading to Middle East for Gaza aid negotiations
The UN's relief chief Martin Griffiths will head to the Middle East to try to negotiate aid access to Gaza through Egypt's Rafah crossing.
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Edwards will attempt to help negotiate aid access for the besieged and bombarded Gaza strip [Getty]

The UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said he would be heading to the Middle East on Tuesday to try to help negotiate aid access to the Gaza Strip.

Griffiths said he was hoping to hear some "good news" later Monday on aid access into the blockaded and besieged Palestinian enclave via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

Israel said Monday there was no temporary truce to allow aid in or foreigners out of the Gaza Strip, as fears grew over the dire humanitarian situation faced by millions of Palestinians trapped in the heavily bombarded territory.

"We need access for aid. We are in deep discussions with the Israelis, with the Egyptians and with others," Griffiths said in a video statement, adding that the process had been "hugely helped" by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to countries in the Middle East.

"I shall be going myself tomorrow to the region to try to help in the negotiations, to try to bear witness and to express solidarity with the extraordinary courage of the many thousands of aid workers who have stayed the course," he said.

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The United Nations emergency relief coordinator is expected in Cairo on Tuesday and his trip to the region, including Israel, will last for "several days", a spokesman told AFP.

Israel declared war on Hamas after the Palestinian Islamist group's fighters broke through the heavily fortified border on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians.

Reeling from the deadliest attack in its history, Israel unleashed a relentless bombing campaign of the Gaza Strip that flattened neighbourhoods and killed at least 2,808 people, mainly civilians.

The Israeli military on Monday said 199 people were confirmed to have been abducted by Hamas.

Griffiths urged Hamas to release the hostages "straight away".

Israel's army has told people in the north of the Gaza Strip -- nearly half of its 2.4-million population -- to head south to safety, ahead of an expected ground offensive.

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"You cannot ask people to move out of harm's way without assisting them to do it, to go to places of their choice where they want to be safe, and with the humanitarian aid that they need to make that journey safely," Griffiths said.

He said he was hoping for good news Monday on the Rafah crossing "to help those million people who have moved south, as well as those who live there already".

It has been closed since Tuesday after three Israeli strikes in less than 24 hours, which damaged the terminal on the Palestinian side.

"We're living in the worst of times," said Griffiths.

"We need to be concerned about creating a situation -- absurd as it may seem at the moment -- where Israelis and Palestinians can live as neighbours, as friends, ideally, certainly as interlocutors, where they do not need to teach each other lessons through war."