1709698349 It is dangerous not to have a ceasefire until Ramadan

It is dangerous not to have a ceasefire until Ramadan

It is dangerous not to have a ceasefire until Ramadanplay

Airdrop of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip

More aid deliveries were airdropped into the Gaza Strip on Tuesday as the enclave faces a growing humanitarian crisis and the war between Israel and Hamas continues.

President Joe Biden warned on Tuesday that failing to reach a ceasefire in Gaza before the start of Ramadan early next week could be “very, very dangerous” as both sides publicly maintained their positions.

A third day of negotiations over a ceasefire and the release of hostages ended Tuesday in Cairo without breakthroughs, The Associated Press reported, but added that the Hamas delegation remained in Egypt and would meet with mediators on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters in Maryland before flying back to the White House, Biden said Israel had cooperated and “it is now in the hands of Hamas” to reach an agreement before the Muslim holy month begins around Sunday, depending on the sighting of the moon.

“We will know in a few days whether it will happen,” Biden said. “If we get into a situation where this continues throughout Ramadan… it could be very, very dangerous.” “So we are on the lookout – we are trying hard to find a ceasefire.”

Egyptian officials who helped mediate the talks said Hamas made a proposal on Tuesday and that it would be presented to Israel, which did not take part in the talks.

U.S. officials have touted a six-week ceasefire that would include the release of some hostages and Palestinian prisoners and an increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza. But Hamas leaders insist on a permanent end to the war and the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and rejected Israel's demand to release the names of the hostages.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected what he called Hamas's “insane” demands and said that, ceasefire or not, his military will eventually pursue the militants in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, where an estimated 1.4 million are Palestinians hold up protection.

In addition to the durability of a ceasefire, the sides must also agree on the conditions for the return of northern Gaza residents, the ratio of a hostage-to-prisoner exchange and which detained militants should be released.

“Hamas is open to proposals and initiatives that are consistent with its position, which calls for a ceasefire, a withdrawal, the return of the displaced, the entry of aid convoys and reconstruction,” said Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha.


∎ An overnight Israeli airstrike killed at least 17 people in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, according to Palestinian officials. The nearby European Hospital said it had received 17 bodies.

∎ According to Gaza's Ministry of Health, 15 children have starved to death and six others are at risk of dying from malnutrition and dehydration at Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza. The UN has confirmed at least 10 such deaths in the devastated area.

The US is increasing pressure on Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, where desperation and hunger are commonplace.

“We need to get more help to Gaza,” Biden said Tuesday. “There is no excuse.”

Biden is the second senior administration official to use the phrase recently in reference to Israel's role in the bottleneck that has prevented the arrival of a large, steady flow of aid trucks, after Vice President Kamala Harris said Sunday that Israel must do more , and added: “No.” Excuses.''

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also raised the issue during their separate meetings on Tuesday with Israeli War Cabinet member Benny Gantz, the Times of Israel reported.

The US wants Israel to open more border crossings than the two existing ones in the south, where lengthy controls and a tough journey into the northern Gaza Strip make it difficult for aid to reach the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in that troubled territory.

Aid agencies said difficult coordination with the Israeli military, ongoing hostilities and a breakdown in public order have made it nearly impossible to deliver aid in most parts of the Gaza Strip.

According to the United Nations, food insecurity is at a state of emergency for half of Gaza's 2.3 million residents, and 500,000 of them – more than one in five – are at catastrophic levels. This does not fully illustrate the rampant need and misery in a war-ravaged area where there is no steady flow of humanitarian aid.

The sight of skeletal toddlers lying side by side on a bed in a clinic in southern Gaza, “with sunken eyes and emaciated faces,” as a Portal report described them, comes closer to the real picture of rampant hunger in the enclave .

Diaa Al-Shaer, a nurse at Al-Awda Health Center in Rafah, where the scene occurred this week, said there had been an unprecedented influx of sick and malnourished children.

One of those toddlers, Ahmed Qannan, weighed just 13.2 pounds, half his prewar weight, said his aunt Israa Kalakh. And this is in the south of the Gaza Strip, which is doing much better than the devastated north, where significantly less aid is arriving.

The U.N. said Tuesday that child malnutrition was about three times higher in the north, where one in six children under two years old were acutely malnourished in January, according to World Health Organization official Richard Peeperkorn. “The situation will probably be worse today,” he said.

U.S. Central Command said it partnered with Jordan to drop 36,800 ready-to-eat meals into food-stricken northern Gaza on Tuesday, the second U.S. airdrop since Saturday.

Last weekend's airdrops cost about $665,000 and included three U.S. and two Jordanian C-130 cargo planes, according to a congressional source briefed on the matter.

Central Command, which oversaw the operation, used mass texts to alert Palestinians that help was on the way, according to the source, who was not authorized to speak publicly. The operation was coordinated with Israel.

John Kirby, the White House national security spokesman, said 66 relief packages containing 38,000 meals were dropped over the weekend and more were in the works. He said the U.S. had provided more than $180 million worth of humanitarian aid to Gaza since the war began, more than any other country, but acknowledged that air drops were not nearly as efficient as aid trucks.

“They are certainly an indication of how desperate things are that we now have to resort to airdrops,” Kirby told CNN. “You can't replicate the size, the scale, the scope and the speed at which you can put things on the ground (with trucks), but unfortunately … the number of trucks coming in just wasn't enough.”

The visit by Gantz, whose star is rising in Israeli politics, offered the Biden administration an opportunity to express concerns about the death toll and conditions in Gaza to an official who may be more receptive than Netanyahu.

The former Israeli defense minister and Israeli military chief of staff met with senior U.S. officials including Harris, Blinken, Austin and national security adviser Jake Sullivan over Netanyahu's objections.

Despite their rivalry, the centrist Gantz joined the coalition government and Netanyahu's three-member war cabinet shortly after the October 7 Hamas attacks as a show of solidarity.

Avi Melamed, a former Israeli intelligence official turned Middle East analyst, said it was no coincidence that the U.S. reaffirmed its military support for Israel during Gantz's visit.

“Gantz's trip to the US comes at a crucial time in the current Israeli government, as growing divisions could lead to a rupture in the coalition and potentially trigger elections that will restructure the Israeli government,” Melamed said. “Preliminary polls suggest Gantz could be the front-runner in this election.”

More: Mass texts to Palestinians: US plans more airdrops into Gaza as calls for a ceasefire grow louder

−Tom Vanden Brook

Contribution: The Associated Press