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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Demands grow for pause in fighting as humanitarian situation in Gaza worsens

Palestinian women wash dishes in a camp for displaced people set up by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA, in Khan Yunis, Gaza, Nov. 11, 2023.

By Andrés R. Martínez

Pressure is growing on Israel to pause fighting Hamas and to allow more aid to enter the Gaza Strip after five weeks of war have exacerbated a humanitarian crisis, especially at hospitals, which are struggling to provide care.

The situation in Gaza has worsened in the past week, with food and medical supplies dwindling and the death toll surpassing 11,000, according to health authorities. The United Nations, aid groups and key allies, including President Emmanuel Macron of France, urged Israel to stop fighting briefly to allow supplies to enter, foreigners to leave and hostages to be released.

Israel has agreed to short daily pauses to allow Palestinians to flee. Nearly 80,000 headed south last week as the Israeli military moved deeper into the enclave.

The tone of world leaders has also shifted in the past two weeks: Many of Israel’s allies who offered unconditional support at the start of the war are now asking for at least a humanitarian pause, if not a cease-fire. Israel has repeatedly rejected calls for a cease-fire since Oct. 7, when Hamas and other militant groups killed at least 1,200 people in an early-morning ambush in southern Israel.

One of the strongest pleas for a pause came from Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “Far too many Palestinians have been killed,” he told reporters in New Delhi on Friday, after a diplomatic tour through Middle Eastern and Asian nations. Blinken’s remarks were the closest he has come to criticizing Israel’s conduct and suggested that the Biden administration was stepping up pressure on Israel to do more to limit harm to civilians.

Israel’s military has struck thousands of targets in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas, and began a ground invasion more than two weeks ago. Officials have said that they are doing everything possible to limit civilian casualties, but that the efforts are complicated because Hamas uses civilians and civilian facilities, including hospitals, to hide its members and weapons.

In Tel Aviv, Israel, protesters expressed frustration with the government for a second weekend over its response to the more than 200 hostages that Hamas and other militant groups captured Oct. 7. So far, efforts led by the United States and Qatar to secure the release of the hostages has made little progress, fueling discontent in Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government.

Protesters in London and New York continued to hold rallies in support of Palestinians and calling for a cease-fire. More than 300,000 people marched in London on Saturday in support of Palestinians and denouncing the rising civilian death toll in Gaza. It was the largest protest in years in London and the latest pro-Palestinian march held there on Saturdays since the start of the war.

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