Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza has escalated into a “betrayal of humanity,” the United Nations’ humanitarian chief said Saturday.

In a statement on the eve of the six-month anniversary of the war, Martin Griffiths, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, called for a “collective determination that there be a reckoning for this betrayal of humanity.”

Griffiths lamented “the unconscionable prospect of further escalation in Gaza, where no one is safe and there is nowhere safe to go.”

He added that “an already fragile aid operation continues to be undermined by bombardments, insecurity, and denials of access.”

“On this day, my heart goes out to the families of those killed, injured, or taken hostage, and to those who face the particular suffering of not knowing the plight of their loved ones,” he said in the statement.

Ongoing Cairo Negotiations

American and Israeli negotiators were expected in Cairo over the weekend for a renewed push to reach a ceasefire-hostage deal in a war that has raged for nearly half a year.

Ahead of the talks, US President Joe Biden wrote to the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, urging them to dial up pressure on Hamas to “agree to and abide by a deal,” a senior administration official told AFP on Friday night.

Palestinian movement Hamas refused to “back down” on Saturday from its demands for a Gaza ceasefire but agreed to send a delegation for renewed talks in Cairo over the weekend.

“Hamas confirms its adherence to the position it presented on March 14… and we will not back down from this position,” it said in a statement.

During a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, Biden pushed him to “fully empower” his negotiators to reach a deal.

With both international and domestic outrage mounting, Biden has warned of a reassessment of US support if more is not done to protect civilians.

Allies have been pressing Biden to leverage the billions of dollars in US military aid to Israel.

More than three dozen US lawmakers signed a letter to Biden on Friday, urging him to reconsider the “recent decision to authorize the transfer of a new arms package to Israel and to withhold this and any future offensive arms transfers until a full investigation into the airstrike is completed.”

Protest in Israel

Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have rallied in Tel Aviv and Haifa in addition to gatherings taking place nationwide.

Five protesters were hit by a car and injured in Tel Aviv a short while ago, the police say in a short statement, and are receiving medical treatment. The driver hit the five protesters and kept driving until the police successfully stopped the vehicle and arrested the suspect.

Representatives of the opposition movement against Netanyahu have urged the head of the labor union to declare a general strike, according to Al Jazeera’s correspondent.

Hostage Body Recovered

Israel’s Army said on Saturday that its troops recovered the body of a hostage abducted by Palestinian militants during the October 7 attack and later murdered in captivity in the Gaza Strip.

The recovery of Elad Katzir’s body brings to 12 the number of hostages that the Army says it has brought home from Gaza during the war.

The Israeli Army said in a statement that “the body of the abductee, Elad Katzir, who according to intelligence was murdered in captivity by the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, was rescued overnight from Khan Yunes and returned to Israeli territory.”

According to Israeli figures, the deaths of 1,170 Israelis, mostly civilians, have been registered since October 7.

Palestinian militants took around 250 Israeli and foreign hostages, about 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including more than 30 that the Army says are dead.

Israel has killed at least 33,137 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.


With AFP