Israel to join truce talks in Paris, amid heavy Gaza bombardment

February 23, 2024 9:23 am

[Source: Reuters]

Israel will send negotiators on Friday to truce talks in Paris, Israeli media said, as Gazans hoped for a ceasefire that could hold off a full-blown Israeli assault on Rafah, after it endured one of its worst bombardments of the conflict.

Israel’s Channel 12 television reported on Thursday that the war cabinet approved sending negotiators, led by the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, to Paris for talks on a potential deal to free more than 100 hostages whom Palestinian militant group Hamas is believed to be holding.

The head of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, has been in Egypt this week in the strongest sign in weeks that negotiations remain alive.

Article continues after advertisement

Earlier Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said in a statement, “We will expand the authority given to our hostage negotiators” while preparing to continue intense ground operations.

In the night to Thursday, Israeli bombing flattened a mosque and destroyed homes in Rafah in a fierce surge of violence in the city where over half of the Gaza’s 2.3 million people are huddled, mostly in tents.

In Khan Younis, the territory’s principal battlefield since Israel launched an assault on the city last month, Israeli forces raided Nasser Medical Complex, shortly after withdrawing from it, the Palestinian enclave’s health ministry said.

The World Health Organization had said earlier it aimed to evacuate some of the roughly 140 patients stranded there, where Palestinian officials said bodies of dead patients had begun to decompose amid power cuts and fighting.

Israel gave no immediate comment.

In Rafah, mourners wept over at least seven corpses in body bags, laid on cobbles outside a morgue.

Gaza health authorities said 97 people were confirmed killed and 130 wounded in the last 24 hours of Israeli assaults, but many more victims were still under rubble.

They later said a bombardment in the central Gaza Strip killed a further 23 people.

Rafah’s al-Farouk mosque was flattened into slabs of concrete, and the facades of adjacent buildings were blasted away. Authorities said four houses had been struck in the south of the city and three in the centre.

Residents said the bombing was the heaviest since an Israeli raid on the city 10 days ago that freed two hostages and killed scores of civilians.

The head of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) told the United Nations Security Council in New York that children who survive the war will not only bear the visible wounds of traumatic injuries, but the invisible ones too.

Israel launched its campaign in Gaza after Hamas militants who control the territory stormed through Israeli towns on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and seizing 253 hostages according to Israeli tallies.

Since then, nearly 30,000 people have been confirmed killed in Gaza, according to health authorities, with thousands more feared dead, unrecovered under ruins.