Pressure mounts on Israel for Gaza ceasefire


GAZA (Online): Israel faced growing international pressure on Tuesday to agree to a ceasefire with Hamas, as it planned an incursion into the southern Gaza city Rafah where more than a million Palestinians are trapped.

CIA Director William Burns was due in Cairo on Tuesday for a new round of talks on a Qatari-mediated ceasefire that would temporarily halt fighting in exchange for Hamas freeing hostages.

His planned visit comes after Washington and the United Nations warned Israel against carrying out a ground offensive into Rafah without a plan to protect civilians, who say they have nowhere left to go. “Wherever we go there’s bombing, martyrs and wounded,” said Iman Dergham, a displaced Palestinian woman.

On a visit to the White House Monday, Jordan’s King Abdullah II pushed for a full ceasefire to end the four-month-old war. “We cannot afford an Israeli attack on Rafah. It is certain to produce another humanitarian catastrophe,” said the monarch whose country hosts a large number of Palestinian refugees.

“We cannot stand by and let this continue. We need a lasting ceasefire now. This war must end.” The United States has angered some Middle East allies by consistently refusing to back a full ceasefire, with Washington saying it supports Israel’s drive to eradicate Hamas and calling for shorter pauses with hostage-prisoner swaps instead.

Biden said Monday his administration was trying to broker a six-week truce and, that while key elements were in place, “gaps” remained. Once the warring parties agree to the ceasefire, “something more enduring” could be broached, Biden said.

Rafah has become a last refuge for over half of Gaza’s population, who are pressed up against the Egypt border in makeshift encampments where they face outbreaks of hepatitis and diarrhoea, and a scarcity of food and water. “As it is, there is no place that is currently safe in Gaza,” said United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

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