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Medicine for hostages, fresh aid enter Gaza: Qatar

Medicine for hostages and fresh aid for civilians entered war-torn Gaza on Wednesday under a newly brokered deal, mediator Qatar said, as Israel intensified strikes on the Palestinian territory’s south. Fighting has ravaged the Gaza Strip since Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attacks on Israel that resulted in the death of about 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures. At least 24,448 Palestinians, about 70 percent of them women, young children and adolescents, have been killed in Israeli bombardments and ground assaults, according to the Gaza health ministry’s latest figures. Hamas and other militants seized about 250 hostages during the October 7 attacks, and around 132 remain in Gaza, including at least 27 believed to have been killed. The fate of those still in captivity has gripped Israeli society, while a broader humanitarian crisis in besieged Gaza marked by the threat of famine and disease has fuelled international calls for a ceasefire. Writing on X, formerly Twitter, Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari said medicine for hostages and aid entered Gaza “over the past few hours” under the agreement announced on Tuesday following French and Qatari mediation. Qatar earlier said two planes arrived in the Egyptian city of El-Arish near the Gaza border with 61 tonnes of aid provided by Doha and France, including medicine and food. The International Committee of the Red Cross welcomed the deal, under which 45 hostages are expected to receive medication, as “a much-needed moment of relief”. The agreement appeared to be at risk after a top Hamas official set new conditions for providing the drugs, insisting Israel must not inspect the trucks carrying them. Musa Abu Marzuk demanded 1,000 boxes of aid for Gaza for every one going to the hostages and that a country Hamas trusts, not France, supply the medicine. But the Israeli military body responsible for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, COGAT, told AFP five trucks carrying medicines would undergo security inspection at the Kerem Shalom crossing. France said the drugs would be sent to a hospital in Rafah, given to the Red Cross and divided into batches before being transferred to the hostages. – ‘Our life is gone’ – Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said the army was hitting Gaza’s main southern city of Khan Yunis particularly hard to dismantle the Hamas leadership. Gaza’s Hamas government earlier spoke of “the most difficult and intense night in Khan Yunis since the start of the war”, with its health ministry reporting 81 deaths across the Palestinian territory. Israel’s army announced the death of one soldier on Wednesday, bringing to 193 the total number killed in Gaza since ground operations began in late October. At the Abu Yussef Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah, Palestinians stood in front of bodies wrapped in shrouds, mourning the loss of loved ones killed in an overnight Israeli strike. Hassan Gebril Franjee, a resident of central Gaza’s Nuseirat refugee camp, could not recognise his home when he returned to find it had been destroyed. “I wish they would stop the war because the situation is devastating. Our youth is gone, our whole life is gone,” he told AFP. The United Nations says the war has displaced roughly 85 percent of Gaza’s 2.4 million people, many of whom have been forced to crowd into shelters and struggle to get food, water, fuel and medical care. The Israeli public has kept up intense pressure on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to return the hostages, with officials insisting military pressure is necessary to strike any deal. At Nir Oz kibbutz, where about one in four residents was killed or kidnapped, Yossi Schneider is clinging to hope for his baby relative Kfir Bibas despite Hamas announcing his death. The youngest hostage kidnapped by Hamas was less than nine months old on October 7 and would be celebrating his birthday this week. “We are thinking about them every day, every second, every minute,” Schneider said of Bibas and his missing brother and mother. – West Bank violence – Violence has also surged in the Israeli-occupied West Bank since October 7 to a level not seen since the second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, between 2000 and 2005. Israeli army raids and attacks by settlers have killed around 365 people in the territory, according to the Palestinian health ministry. The ministry said five people were killed inside Tulkarem refugee camp, with the Israeli military confirming an air strike that killed “a number of terrorists”. Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party, said five of its fighters died in a strike east of the city of Nablus. The Israeli army said it killed a Palestinian militant to avert his “imminent terrorist attack”. Fears are mounting that the Israel-Hamas conflict will trigger an all-out war across the Middle East, with growing violence involving allies of the Iran-backed Hamas. Israel has exchanged regular cross-border fire with Lebanon’s Hamas-aligned Hezbollah since the start of the war. Army chief Herzi Halevi on Wednesday warned the likelihood of war on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon in the coming months was “much higher”. And Yemen’s Huthi rebels on Wednesday claimed to have launched an attack on an American vessel off the war-torn country’s coast. It came after the US military said it carried out fresh strikes in Yemen on Tuesday after the Iran-backed Huthis claimed another missile attack on a cargo ship in the Red Sea. Days earlier, the United States and Britain bombed scores of targets inside Huthi-controlled Yemen in response to attacks by the rebels, who say they are targeting Israeli-linked shipping in solidarity with Gaza. Meanwhile, Iran — which backs the Huthis and Hezbollah — carried out a missile attack in Iraq against what its Revolutionary Guards alleged was an Israeli spy headquarters and a “gathering of anti-Iranian terrorist groups”.

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