Truce in deadlock; Palestinians in Rafah brace for assault

Talks over a truce involving US, Israel Egypt, and Qatar for Gaza has come to a nought and Palestinians are seeking refuge in Rafah as Israel would launch a planned assault on the city.

The lack of agreement dealt a new blow to the more than one million Palestinians crammed into Rafah, next to the border with Egypt, where many are living in tent camps and makeshift shelters after fleeing Israeli bombardments elsewhere in Gaza.

The Israeli Defence Forces wants to flush out militants and free hostages who have been held by Hamas since October 7. IDF however did not mention any plans about evacuating civilians.

Israel says it takes steps to minimise civilian casualties and accuses Hamas fighters of hiding among civilians, including in hospitals and shelters – something the militant group denies.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who was expected to hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, said an Israeli army offensive on Rafah would “completely jeopardise the humanitarian situation.”

Israeli forces shelled eastern areas of Rafa overnight, Palestinian witnesses said.Its planes and tanks pounded several areas of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, and there was heavy fighting in some parts of the city, residents said.

Meanwhile Egypt and Qatar would be engaging the warring sides separately.

Israel has vowed to fight on until it eradicates Hamas and has made the return of the last hostages a priority. Hamas says Israel must commit to ending the war and withdrawing from Gaza.