Israeli strikes kill dozens in Gaza as Egypt hosts more talks in bid to secure truce

Israel gives United Nations proposal to dismantle Unrwa, its relief agency in Gaza, as famine looms

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 Hamas.

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,” it said.

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.

It comes as Israel has given the United Nations a proposal to dismantle Unrwa, its relief agency in the Palestinian territories, and transfer its staff to a replacement agency to make large-scale food deliveries into Gaza, according to UN sources.

The proposal was presented late last week by the Israeli chief of the general staff, Lt Gen Herzi Halevi, to UN officials in Israel, who forwarded it to the organisation’s secretary general, António Guterres, on Saturday, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Unrwa was not involved in the talks as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have been refusing to deal with it since last Monday, on the basis of claims, so far unproven, of affiliations of some of the agency’s staff with Hamas or Islamic Jihad.

Israel insists it is prepared to allow large amounts of aid into Gaza and that the limiting factor is UN capacity. Its decision not to co-operate with Unrwa severely affects that capacity.

Under the terms presented last week, 300-400 Unrwa staff would initially be transferred either to another UN agency, such as the World Food Programme WFP, or to a new organisation specially created to distribute food aid in Gaza.

More Unrwa employees could be transferred in later stages and the agency’s assets would also be transferred. Details were vague of who would run any new agency under the scheme, or of who would provide security for its deliveries.

Unrwa, which has been supporting the Palestinian territories since 1950, has been shut out of conversations on its future existence despite being the largest humanitarian actor in the territory.

Guterres’s office and the IDF did not respond to requests for comment.

On Thursday the International Court of Justice, which is examining genocide charges against Israel, ordered the Israeli government to take “all necessary and effective measures” to ensure the large-scale delivery of aid to Gaza “in full co-operation with the United Nations”.

More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s military offensive in Gaza since October 7th, 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 October 7th attack.

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.

Tens of thousands of people across Israel joined families of hostages this weekend to protest against the government and call for the removal of Binyamin Netanyahu, as the Israeli prime minister grappled with one of the most serious threats yet to his coalition.

The protesters in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Be’er Sheva, Caesarea and other cities on Saturday – and at a further demonstration outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on Sunday – demanded the release of those still held captive in Gaza after close to six months, and labelled Netanyahu an “obstacle to the deal”, vowing to persist until he leaves power.

“It’s been 176 days that I haven’t turned a blind eye to the thoughts and fear of what Liri and the other abductees are going through,” said Shira Albag, the mother of one hostage, Liri Albag. “The people of Israel won’t forget or forgive anyone who prevents a deal that would bring them [the hostages] back to us. After 176 days, 4,224 hours, the excuses have run out.”

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 heartbreaking. Complete streets with buildings that used to stand there had been destroyed,” said a 49-year-old man in Gaza City.

“This is not war, this is genocide,” he said.

Like the rest of the 2.3 million population of Gaza, the man, 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.

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. – Reuters