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Death toll in Gaza expected to surpass 30,000 as Israel gets ready for an assault on Rafah

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As the Israeli government moves on with plans for an attack on Rafah and negotiators attempt to iron out a ceasefire and hostage-release agreement, the death toll in Gaza is expected to surpass the terrible milestone of 30,000 this week.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, called a meeting of the war cabinet late on Saturday to inform negotiators who had been in Paris for discussions.

It will convene once more this week to talk about getting ready for an attack on Rafah, the southern border town where an estimated 1.5 million Palestinian refugees have taken refuge. According to Netanyahu, an agreement may postpone the operation but wouldn’t stop it in a CBS interview.

Negotiators from Israel, Qatar, Egypt, and the US had reached a consensus on the “basic contours” of a deal during weekend talks in Paris, but the finer points still needed to be ironed out, according to White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan, who spoke to CNN.

Israeli media said that a possible arrangement would see up to 300 Palestinian prisoners and a six-week truce exchanged for the release of thirty or forty hostages, including women, the old, and injured.

The Associated Press was informed by an Egyptian official that negotiations for further releases and a continuous ceasefire will go on over the holiday.

The agreement would involve a rise in much-needed aid, and the violence would pause for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins on March 10 this year. Following intense international criticism over the high civilian casualty toll and the potential for much worse carnage in Rafah, it is recommended. According to Egyptian security officials who spoke to Reuters, there would be follow-up negotiations in Cairo and Doha following the first talks in Paris.

Aid organizations report “pockets of famine” in Gaza, where the majority of the 2.3 million residents suffer from hunger, some of them severely. There is limited access to healthcare, with just 13 of Gaza’s 34 facilities operating, albeit only partially. Contagious illnesses have spread quickly.

Plans to launch an attack on Hamas forces in Rafah, the home of many desperate people, have sparked demands from all across the world, including Israel’s most significant ally, the US, urging Israel to show caution.

Netanyahu, however, who has called for “total victory,” stated that an operation is required to eliminate the four battalions of Hamas fighters that are stationed there.

“We can’t leave Hamas in place. We can’t leave a quarter of Hamas battalions in Rafah and say, well, that’s fine,” he told CBS in an interview. “If we have a deal, [the operation in Rafah] will be delayed somewhat. But it’ll happen. If we don’t have a deal, we’ll do it anyway. It has to be done.”

About 130 Israelis are being held hostage in Gaza, although around a quarter of them are thought to be dead. More than 100 others were released under a deal in November, in return for a week’s break in fighting and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

After that deal collapsed, Hamas said it would not free any other hostages without a permanent ceasefire and the release of senior militants held prisoner. Netanyahu has said Israel cannot accept those terms, or a Gaza still controlled by Hamas.

Health officials in the Hamas-run government report that since October, Israeli strikes in Gaza have resulted in 29,692 Palestinian deaths—two-thirds of them women and children—and 69,879 injuries.

At least 86 people have died since Saturday as a result of the ongoing, severe attacks, with more unidentified remains buried beneath blasted structures, doctors reported on Sunday.

There is no distinction made between fighters and civilians by this toll. Without offering any proof, Israel claimed to have killed over 10,000 Hamas militants in Gaza.

Israel has received repeated warnings from US President Joe Biden not to enter Rafah without a “credible” strategy to safeguard civilians. Sullivan said that Biden was not informed of Israel’s preparations for the Rafah attack.

Netanyahu claimed that Israel was developing a plan to relocate Palestinian people into “cleared zones” in the north, despite the fact that severe bombing has destroyed the infrastructure and structures in these areas and that combat is still ongoing in several of the northern regions that Israel initially targeted.

Ayman Abu Awad, a resident of Gaza City’s Zaytoun neighborhood, told the Associated Press, “We’re trapped, unable to move because of the heavy bombardment.”

The ongoing conflicts serve as a reminder of the difficulty Israeli troops confront in carrying out Netanyahu’s declared goal of “destroying Hamas” following the cross-border attacks on October 7 that resulted in over 200 hostages and 1,200 fatalities.

The only senior Hamas commander to be killed by Israeli troops since then, despite the large number of civilian casualties, was struck by a drone in Beirut. According to a Wall Street Journal story from last month, US officials reportedly think that up to 80% of the tunnel network that Hamas employs for operations and supplies is still in place.

Police in Tel Aviv on Saturday night fired water cannons on anti-government demonstrators demanding a hostage deal, a reminder of the growing strain on Netanyahu within Israel. Targets included relatives of those detained in Gaza and at least one hostage who was freed—Ilana Gritzewsky.

A police horse broke Moran Michel’s leg, among other injuries sustained by the wounded party. The Haaretz newspaper quoted her as saying, “This event will bring more people out. There are young people who came back after four months in Gaza, and the water cannon does not scare them.”

Protesters demand an urgent election to replace the current administration with one that is dedicated to rescuing captives, organizer Amir Haskel, who was detained, told Haaretz.

 

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Dulal Ahmed Chowdhury is the Editor of The Daily Dazzling Dawn. Previously, he has been serving in important positions in all the famous national dailies of the Bangladesh since the nineties. He has played a commendable role in journalism by participating in various events at the national and international levels. United Nations Conference, World Climate Conference, SAARC Summit are notable among them.

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