Uptade UN reports a 35 percent increase in people affected by violence in South Sudan

GAZA STRIP: Efforts to hammer out a temporary truce in Gaza intensified Tuesday after months of war that have devastated the Palestinian territory and pushed hundreds of thousands to the brink of famine.
While a UN-backed assessment said 300,000 people in Gaza’s north would face famine by May without a surge of aid, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said everyone in Gaza was now in need of humanitarian aid.
UN human rights chief Volker Turk blamed Israel for the hunger crisis, telling reporters in Geneva they were blocking aid and conducting the conflict in a way that “may amount to the use of starvation as a method of war.”
Israeli troops on Tuesday pressed an assault on Gaza’s biggest hospital, which they allege is being used for military purposes.
The military said more than 50 fighters had been killed. Hamas said the assault on Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital was a war crime.
Israel’s spy chief David Barnea was in Qatar on Monday for a new round of talks with Egyptian and Qatari mediators, after they failed to secure a truce for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began last week.
Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the latest negotiations but it was “too early to announce any successes.”
The new push for a truce follows a Hamas proposal for a six-week ceasefire, an increase in aid and the initial release of about 42 hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
During the proposed truce, Israeli forces would withdraw from “all cities and populated areas” in Gaza, according to a Hamas official.
Ansari said they were expecting a counter-proposal to be presented to Hamas and technical talks would continue.
The bloodiest ever Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
Militants also seized about 250 hostages, of whom Israel believes 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 who are presumed dead.
Israel has responded with a relentless offensive against Hamas that Gaza’s health ministry says has killed at least 31,726 people, most of them women and children.
Blinken, who will travel to the Middle East this week to try to shore up support for the temporary truce and an increase in aid, highlighted that everyone in Gaza was now suffering “severe levels of acute food insecurity.”
“That’s the first time an entire population has been so classified,” he said during a visit to the Philippines.
On a related diplomatic track, US President Joe Biden has been attempting to put pressure on Israel to call off a threatened ground assault on the southern city of Rafah, where hundreds of thousands have sought refuge from fighting elsewhere in the territory.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted troops will be sent into Rafah to root out Hamas in the area.
The city is already under frequent bombardment by the Israeli military, with AFPTV footage showing residents picking through debris of buildings on Tuesday after another night of bombardment.
Gaza resident Ibrahim Jarghun, at a funeral on Tuesday for those killed in the latest Rafah bombardment, told AFP the killings were shattering Ramadan customs like the traditional pre-dawn “suhoor” meal.
“For us, our suhoor is blood,” he said.
In Washington, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan reported the death of senior Hamas official Marwan Issa.
Israel had on March 11 said an air strike on an underground compound in central Gaza targeted Issa, whom it called the deputy head of Hamas’s armed wing. At the time it was unclear if he had been killed.
In January, Israel said it had “completed the dismantling” of Hamas’s command structure in northern Gaza, but on Monday military spokesman Daniel Hagari said Palestinian militants and commanders have since returned to Al-Shifa “and turned it into a command center.”
Witnesses reported air strikes and tanks near the hospital compound which is crowded with thousands of displaced civilians as well as the sick and wounded.
The Israeli army identified one of the dead as Hamas internal security official Fayq Al-Mabhouh. A Gaza police source confirmed his death and said he was a brigadier general in the force.
Israeli troops previously raided Al-Shifa in November, sparking an international outcry.

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