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Fighting rages across Gaza amid revival of truce talks


By Nidal al-Mughrabi

CAIRO (Reuters) -Israeli strikes killed 77 Palestinians in Gaza in the past 24 hours, health authorities said on Sunday, as Egypt hosted an Israeli delegation for a new round of talks in a bid to secure a truce with Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

The Israeli military said it killed a senior Islamic Jihad militant in a strike on a command centre in the courtyard of the Al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza. It did not mention his name or rank.

“The command centre and terrorists were struck precisely, the military said, adding it was intended to minimise “harm to uninvolved civilians in the area of the hospital”. “The Al-Aqsa Hospital building was not damaged and its functioning was not affected.”

There was no immediate comment from Islamic Jihad, a militant group and ally of Hamas.

Palestinian health officials and Hamas media said the strike hit several tents inside the Al-Aqsa Hospital, killing four people and wounding several, including five journalists.

More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s military offensive in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the health authorities.

The war erupted after Hamas militants broke through the border and rampaged through communities in southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and abducting 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

The two sides have stepped up negotiations, mediated by Qatar and Egypt, on a six-week suspension of Israel’s offensive in return for the proposed release of 40 of 130 hostages still held by Hamas militants in Gaza after their Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel.

Hamas says any deal must secure an end to the fighting and withdrawal of Israeli forces. Israel has ruled this out, saying it would eventually resume efforts to dismantle the governing and military capabilities of Hamas.

Hamas would not be present at the talks in Cairo, an official told Reuters on Sunday, as it waited to hear from mediators on whether a new Israeli offer was on the table.

In the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, Israeli forces continued to blockade the two main hospitals, and tanks shelled areas in the middle and eastern areas of the territory.

Palestinian health officials said an Israeli air strike killed nine people in Bani Suhaila near Khan Younis, while another air strike killed four people in Al-Maghazi camp in the central Gaza Strip.

In Gaza City, Israeli forces continued to operate inside Al Shifa Hospital, the territory’s biggest, the health ministry said. Residents living nearby said residential districts had been destroyed by Israeli forces near Al Shifa.

“I went out looking to buy some medicine from a pharmacy and what I saw was heart-breaking. Complete streets with buildings that used to stand there had been destroyed,” said Abu Mustafa, 49.

“… This is not war, this is genocide,” he told Reuters over the phone from Gaza City.

Like the rest of the 2.3 million population of Gaza, Abu Mustafa, a father of six, is struggling to provide his family with food in the north of the enclave, where the United Nations warned famine was imminent.

“We’ve had enough, we sleep and wake up dreaming of a ceasefire that will end the war and preserve the lives of whoever remains in Gaza,” he said, refusing to give a name fearing Israeli reprisals.

At Gaza City’s The Holy Family Church some Christian Palestinians took part in a sombre Easter service.

“My wish is that they leave us alone and that we go back to our lands and children,” said Winnie Tarazzi, a Gaza woman praying at the church.

Gaza’s population comprises an estimated 1,000 Christians, most of whom are Greek Orthodox.

The Israeli military (IAF) said forces operating in Al Shifa killed gunmen barricading the area and had found weapons.

“Several compounds used to launch anti-tank missiles and where snipers operated were struck by IAF aircraft” in the Rimal neighbourhood near Shifa, the military said.

It added that forces killed 15 gunmen in the central Gaza Strip and several in Khan Younis, including near Al-Amal hospital.

Israel said it killed and detained hundreds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad gunmen at Al Shifa during a raid. Hamas and medical staff deny any armed presence inside medical facilities, accusing Israel of killing and arresting civilians.

In the peace talks, Hamas also wants hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were displaced from Gaza City and surrounding areas southward during the first stage of the war to be allowed back north.

The World Court on Thursday unanimously ordered Israel, accused by South Africa of genocide in Gaza, to take all necessary and effective action to ensure basic food supplies to the population.

(Reporting and writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi.Additional reporting by Ari Rabinovtich in Jerusalem. Editing by Nick Macfie and Louise Heavens)

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