Incessant and deadly Israeli bombings targeted several sectors of the Gaza Strip including Rafah on Sunday, the day after an urgent appeal from international mediators to Israel and Palestinian Hamas to “finalize” a ceasefire agreement, in the 8th months of the war.

In the past 24 hours, 60 people have died in the Israeli offensive in Gaza, bringing to 36,439 the death toll in the Palestinian territory since the start of the war triggered by an unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 against Israel, according to reports. data from the Ministry of Health of the movement-led Gaza government.

Despite protests from the international community, the Israeli army continues its offensive in Rafah (south), launched on May 7 in order to destroy the last battalions of Hamas.

Around a million Palestinians fled before the advance, under air cover, of Israeli forces to the center and west of this town bordering Egypt, which had become the epicenter of the war.

“Due to Israeli operations, thousands of families have been forced to flee. The 36 shelters in Rafah of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) are now empty,” the organization said.

On Sunday, witnesses told AFP they saw Israeli military vehicles in western and central Rafah. They reported loud explosions, fighting, continuous shooting with drones and Apache helicopters.

The Palestinian Red Crescent said it was receiving calls for help from civilians in Rafah but that it was “very difficult” to reach them “due to continued Israeli bombing.”

In northern Gaza, three Palestinians were killed, including a child, in a bombing that destroyed their home in the Al-Darraj neighborhood in Gaza, according to a hospital source. In the center, the sectors of Deir al-Balah, Bureij and Nousseirat were targeted by strikes.

The army reported “targeted” operations in Rafah and central Gaza. In the last 24 hours, “30 terrorist targets, including arms depots and armed cells” have been targeted, according to her.

– “Finalize the agreement” –
Israel promised to destroy Hamas after the October 7 attack launched from Gaza and which resulted in the deaths of 1,189 people, the majority civilians, according to an AFP count based on official Israeli figures. Of the 252 people kidnapped during the attack, 121 are still held in Gaza, of whom 37 are dead.

As mediators in the conflict, Qatar, the United States and Egypt jointly called on Saturday “Hamas and Israel to finalize the ceasefire agreement based on the principles set out by President Joe Biden (…), which brings together the requirements of all parties”.

On Friday, Mr. Biden announced a road map proposed by him by Israel which aims to achieve, in stages and under conditions, a permanent ceasefire, and called on Hamas to accept it.

The first phase, he said, involves a six-week ceasefire accompanied in particular by an Israeli withdrawal from densely populated areas of Gaza, the release of certain hostages – women and sick – and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

The contours of the second phase of the plan will be negotiated during the ceasefire, according to Mr. Biden. In the event of successful negotiations, the fighting stops definitively and all the hostages return home, soldiers included. And the army is completely withdrawing from the territory.

– Netanyahu under pressure –
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu then insisted on reaffirming his “conditions” for a permanent ceasefire as part of this plan: the “destruction” of Hamas and the “release of all hostages”.

Mr. Netanyahu is under great pressure at home. His far-right ministers, Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, have threatened to leave the government if it ceases hostilities before putting an end to Hamas, while many Israelis continue to take to the streets to demand an agreement ensuring the release of the hostages.

He nevertheless received the support of opposition leader Yaïr Lapid and that of President Isaac Herzog who underlined his “full support for an agreement which would see the release of the hostages (…) and would preserve the security interests of the State “.

Hamas simply said that it viewed the road map announced by Mr. Biden “positively”, after having reiterated its demands for a permanent ceasefire and a total Israeli withdrawal from Gaza first and foremost. agreement.

Hamas took power in Gaza in 2007, two years after Israel's withdrawal from the Palestinian territory it occupied for 38 years. The movement is considered terrorist by Israel, the United States and the European Union.

– Meeting in Egypt –
The large-scale Israeli offensive in Gaza has caused a major humanitarian catastrophe with a risk of famine according to the UN.

With the majority of the roughly 2.4 million residents displaced by the war, the United Nations says there is no longer a place of safety in the Palestinian territory besieged by Israel and devastated.

On Sunday, a meeting between Egypt, the United States and Israel is planned in Cairo according to Egyptian media to discuss the Rafah crossing, crucial for the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza and closed since Israeli forces in took control of the Palestinian side on May 7.

According to Israeli authorities, 764 Egyptian trucks carrying aid entered Gaza this week via the Kerem Shalom crossing, with Israel. But NGOs continue to say that aid does not always reach the population.

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