Berliner Boersenzeitung - Fierce battles rage across Gaza as US calls for post-war plan

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Fierce battles rage across Gaza as US calls for post-war plan
Fierce battles rage across Gaza as US calls for post-war plan / Photo: JACK GUEZ - AFP

Fierce battles rage across Gaza as US calls for post-war plan

Israeli troops fought Hamas militants in multiple battles across the Gaza Strip, forcing new waves of Palestinian mass displacement, as Israel marked a sombre Independence Day on Tuesday.

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Clashes have rocked the densely crowded far-southern city of Rafah but also flared again in northern and central Gaza, months after troops and tanks first entered those areas.

The United States has repeatedly urged a Gaza ceasefire and called on its ally Israel to devise "a strategic endgame" and post-war plan, said White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

This would help Israel avoid "getting mired in a counterinsurgency campaign that never ends and ultimately saps Israel's strength and vitality," Sullivan told a briefing in Washington on Monday.

Recent battles and heavy Israeli bombardments have been reported around Rafah as well as in Gaza City and Jabalia refugee camp in the north and Nuseirat camp in the centre.

More than seven months into the war, Israeli strikes and ground combat have claimed another 82 lives in Gaza over the past 24 hours, the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said.

Nearly 450,000 Palestinians have been newly displaced from Rafah in recent days, and around 100,000 from northern Gaza, said UN agencies which warn that "no place is safe" in the territory.

Palestinian mother Hadeel Radwan, 32, who fled northern Gaza for Rafah with her family, told AFP that she was terrified by the constant shelling while enduring shortages including of drinking water.

Many people had fled her Tal al-Sultan district, but she said joining them would be hard because "I had a C-section and moving quickly, under threat, would be difficult to me".

- Aid trucks ransacked -

Talks toward a truce and hostage release deal have stalled after months of efforts involving US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said that "unfortunately things didn't move in the right direction and right now we are on a status of almost a stalemate".

"Of course, what happened with Rafah has set us backward," he added of Israel's insistence on launching a ground attack on the city in defiance of a global chorus of warnings against the operation.

Israel has also imposed a siege on Gaza which has brought dire shortages of food, drinking water, medical supplies and fuel, only occasionally eased by aid shipments and airdrops.

A convoy of trucks delivering humanitarian aid from Jordan was attacked and vandalised by Israeli far-right activists on Monday, with its cargo spilt onto a road near the West Bank village of Shekef.

One of the activists, Hana Giat, insisted that "we have hostages in Gaza and no humanitarian aid should go in before our hostages are out, safe in their homes".

The Israeli military said the strike was "under review" and that "an initial inquiry conducted indicates that the vehicle was hit in an area declared an active combat zone" and that the army had "not been made aware of the route of the vehicle".

The bloodiest ever Gaza war broke out after Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Militants also seized about 250 hostages, 128 of whom Israel estimates remain in Gaza, including 36 the military says are dead.

Israel's retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed at least 35,173 people, mostly civilians, according to the Gaza health ministry.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that almost half of those killed are Hamas fighters, playing down the ministry's toll that has sparked global outrage.

Israel's military says 272 of its soldiers have been killed in the Gaza campaign since ground operations began on October 27.

On Israel's Memorial Day Monday, the country remembered those killed in its wars and in attacks, and on Tuesday it marked the country's Independence Day, commemorating the creation of their state in 1948.

Palestinians remember Israel's establishment as the "Nakba", or catastrophe, when hundreds of thousands were expelled or pushed out of their homes, an event they commemorate on Wednesday.

- 'Out of revenge' -

US President Joe Biden wants to see Hamas defeated but realises that Palestinian civilians are trapped in "hell", Sullivan said.

He insisted that the responsibility for peace lay with Hamas but stressed that "Israel can and must do more to ensure the protection and wellbeing of innocent civilians".

He rejected the charge often levelled at pro-Palestinian protests, and being considered by the International Court of Justice, that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza.

The United States on Monday also voiced concern and called on Israel to investigate after a CNN report of Palestinian prisoners being blindfolded, beaten and put in diapers.

The US-based network said it spoke to three Israeli whistleblowers at the Sde Teiman base in the Negev desert that holds Palestinians detained or injured during the military operation in Gaza.

One whistleblower, who was not identified, told CNN that the prisoners were beaten not to gather intelligence but "out of revenge" for the October 7 attack.

Asked about the claims, State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters: "We're concerned by them and we're looking into these and other allegations of abuse against Palestinians in detention."

burs-fz/nl/kir

(L.Kaufmann--BBZ)