Israel-Hamas war: UN chief calls on countries to resume funding for UNRWA

Rafah, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel said there were “significant gaps” after cease-fire talks with the United States, Qatar and Egypt on Sunday, but called them constructive and said they would continue into the coming week, a tentative sign of progress. Possible deal It could see Israel suspend military operations against Hamas in exchange for the release of the remaining hostages.

The The US announced its first military death in the region Since the start of the war and has blamed Iran-backed militias for a drone strike in Jordan that killed three US service members amid concerns of a wider conflict.

A statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office on the ceasefire talks did not say what the “significant gaps” were. There was no immediate announcement from other parties.

According to local health officials, 26,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war. Destroyed vast areas of Gaza And nearly 85% of the territory's population was displaced. Israel claims, without evidence, that its air and ground strikes have killed more than 9,000 fighters. An October 7 attack by Hamas in southern Israel killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and militants took about 250 hostages.

The United Nations secretary-general has called on the United States and others to resume funding to a key aid agency to the besieged territory after Israel accused a dozen staff members of a Hamas attack in the deepening humanitarian crisis affecting Gaza's 2.3 million people. That provoked war.

Director of Communications Juliet Touma warned Agency for Palestine RefugeesUNRWA, known as UNRWA, will be forced to end its support in Gaza by the end of February.

The ceasefire continues

An intelligence meeting was held on Sunday CIA Director Bill BurnsDavid Barnia, head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

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Ahead of the meeting, two senior Biden administration officials said American negotiators made progress A potential deal could play out in two phases, with the remaining women, elderly and injured hostages being released in the first 30-day phase. Call on Israel to provide more humanitarian aid inside Gaza. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations.

More than 100 hostages, mostly women and children, were released in November in exchange for a week-long ceasefire and the release of 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

Speaking to the troops, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said, “These days we are conducting a negotiation process for the release of the hostages,” but promised that as long as the hostages remain in Gaza, “we will intensify the (military) pressure and continue our mission. Efforts – this is already underway.”

At least 17 Palestinians were killed in two Israeli airstrikes that hit apartment buildings in central Gaza, an Associated Press journalist who saw the bodies at a local hospital said. A building in Zaweida killed 13 people and another killed four in an apartment complex in Nusirat refugee camp.

Also on Sunday, 10 Palestinians were killed in a strike that hit a residential building in the Shaadi refugee camp in Gaza City, according to Dr. Modas Harara, a doctor at Shifa Hospital.

Israel's military said troops were engaged in close combat with Hamas in the southern part of Gaza's second-largest city, Khan Younis.

US deaths highlight regional tensions

The three deaths announced by Biden were the first U.S. deaths in months of strikes against U.S. forces across the Middle East by Iranian-backed militias amid the war in Gaza. US Central Command said 25 soldiers were injured.

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U.S. officials are trying to pinpoint the group responsible for the attack, but estimate that one of several Iranian-backed groups was responsible. Jordanian state television said the attack took place on the border with Syria, citing a government spokesman. US officials insisted it happened in Jordan, which US troops have long used as a base point.

The U.S. has struck targets in Iraq, Syria and Yemen in recent months in response to attacks on U.S. forces and to continue deterring Iran-backed Houthi rebels. A threat to commercial shipping In the Red Sea.

There is war in Gaza fueled concerns about regional conflict. The United States, Israel's closest ally, has called for control of Gaza and for more humanitarian aid to be allowed into the territory. When supporting an attack.

A Gaza lifeline at risk of 'collapse'

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said there must be “consequences” for the “allegedly despicable actions” of the staff accused in the October 7 attack, but added that the agency should not be penalized by withholding funds. They need to meet the desperate people they serve.”

The United States, the agency's biggest donor, cut funding over the weekend, followed by eight countries, including Britain and Germany. Together they provided almost 60% of UNRWA's budget in 2022.

Guterres said 12 employees were accused, nine people were immediately stopped, one was confirmed dead and two are still being identified. They will be held accountable, including criminal prosecution, he said.

UNRWA provides basic services to Palestinian families who have fled or are now expelled from Israel. 1948 during the war related to the formation of the country. Refugees and their descendants make up the majority of Gaza's population.

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Since the war began, most of the region's 2.3 million people have depended on the agency's programs for “sheer survival,” including food and shelter, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said.

A quarter of Gaza's population facing starvation War and Israeli restrictions prevent aid from being delivered

Over the past week, family members and supporters of the hostages have blocked aid trucks from entering the Kerem Shalom crossing. Dozens blocked the entry again on Sunday, chanting “no help until the last hostages return”.

The army later declared the area around the crossing a closed military zone, which would ban protests there.

As Gaza's future is debated, thousands of far-right lawmakers and senior cabinet ministers from Netanyahu's coalition have gathered in Jerusalem to call for the renewal of Jewish settlement in Gaza. The settlements were evacuated in 2005, when troops unilaterally withdrew, ending a 38-year occupation that had sharply divided Israel.

The crowd chanted “death to terrorists” when far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Ghir took to the stage and announced that it was “time to encourage immigration” of Palestinians from Gaza.

The international community, including the United States, has said it opposes any attempt to expel Palestinians from Gaza. It also largely considers settlements in occupied territory to be illegal.

Netanyahu said such comments did not reflect official policy and that he had no plans to resettle Gaza, but he had laid out some details of his post-war vision.

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Shurafa reported from Deir al-Balah, Gaza Strip, and Litman from Jerusalem. Amir Madani, Matthew Lee and Jake Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

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