24 Feb 2024, 15:51

Scores killed overnight in Gaza, Israeli negotiators in Paris

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories, Feb 24, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - More than 100 
people were reported killed early Saturday in overnight strikes across Gaza, 
as Israel's spy chief was in Paris for talks seeking to "unblock" progress 
towards a truce and the return of hostages held by Palestinian militants.

The Paris negotiations come after a plan for a post-war Gaza unveiled by 
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drew criticism from key ally the 
United States and was rejected by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas on 

They also come as fears for civilians in the territory are deepening, with 
the UN warning of the growing risk of famine and its main aid body for 
Palestinians, UNWRA, saying early Saturday that Gazans were "in extreme peril 
while the world watches on".

AFP footage showed distraught Gazans queuing for food in the territory's 
devastated north on Friday and staging a protest decrying their living 

"Look, we are fighting each other over rice," said Jabalia resident Ahmad 
Atef Safi. "Where are we supposed to go?"

"We have no water, no flour and we are very tired because of hunger. Our 
backs and eyes hurt because of fire and smoke," fellow Jabalia resident Oum 
Wajdi Salha told AFP. 

"We can't stand on our feet because of hunger and lack of food."

In a Friday night statement on social media platform X, the UN humanitarian 
agency OCHA said: "Without adequate food and water supplies, as well as 
health and nutrition services, the elevated risk of famine in #Gaza is 
projected to increase."

- Post-war plan -

The war started after Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack, which resulted 
in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to 
an AFP tally of official figures.
Hamas militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 
presumed dead, according to Israel.

Israel's retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,514 people, mostly 
women and children, according to the latest count by Gaza's health ministry 
on Friday.

An Israeli air strike Friday destroyed the Gaza home of well-known 
Palestinian comedian Mahmoud Zuaiter, killing at least 23 people and injuring 
dozens more, the health ministry said.

The ministry announced early Saturday that at least 103 more people were 
killed in strikes overnight, with many others believed to be missing under 

Netanyahu on Thursday night presented his war cabinet with a plan for the 
post-war Gaza Strip that envisages civil affairs being run by Palestinian 
officials without links to Hamas. 

The plan stipulates that, even after the war, the Israeli army would have 
"indefinite freedom" to operate throughout Gaza to prevent any resurgence of 
terror activity, according to the proposals.

It also states that Israel will move ahead with a plan, already under way, to 
establish a security buffer zone inside Gaza along the territory's border.

The plan drew criticism from the United States, with National Security 
Council spokesman John Kirby saying Friday that Washington had been 
"consistently clear with our Israeli counterparts" about what was needed in 
post-war Gaza.

"The Palestinian people should have a voice and a vote... through a 
revitalised Palestinian Authority," he said, adding the United States also 
did not "believe in a reduction of the size of Gaza".

Asked about the plan during a visit to Argentina, US Secretary of State 
Antony Blinken said he would "reserve judgement" until seeing all the 
details, but that Washington was against any "reoccupation" of Gaza after the 

Senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan dismissed Netanyahu's plan as unworkable.

"When it comes to the day after in the Gaza Strip, Netanyahu is presenting 
ideas which he knows fully well will never succeed," Hamdan told reporters in 

- Paris delegation -

Meanwhile, an Israeli delegation led by David Barnea, head of the Mossad 
intelligence agency, was in Paris on Saturday for a fresh push towards a deal 
to return the remaining hostages.

Barnea will be joined by his counterpart at the domestic Shin Bet security 
agency, Ronen Bar, Israeli media reported.

The United States, Egypt and Qatar have all been deeply involved in past 
negotiations aimed at securing a truce and prisoner-hostage exchanges.

Pressure has been mounting on Netanyahu's government to negotiate a ceasefire 
and secure the hostages' release after more than four months of war, with a 
group representing the captives' families planning what it billed as a "huge 
rally" to coincide with the Paris talks on Saturday night to demand swifter 

The United States, Egypt and Qatar have all been deeply involved in past 
negotiations aimed at securing a truce and prisoner-hostage exchanges.

White House envoy Brett McGurk held talks this week with Israeli Defence 
Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv, after speaking to other mediators in Cairo 
who had met Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh.

A Hamas source said the new plan proposes a six-week pause in the conflict 
and the release of between 200 and 300 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 
35 to 40 hostages being held by Hamas.

Barnea and his US counterpart from the CIA helped broker a week-long truce in 
November that saw the release of 80 Israeli hostages in exchange for 240 
Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

US National Security Council spokesman Kirby had told journalists earlier 
that so far the discussions were "going well", while Israeli war cabinet 
member Benny Gantz spoke of "the first signs that indicate the possibility of 

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