Israel-Hamas war, day 120: in the south of the Gaza Strip, intense Israeli strikes hit the town of Rafah

Intense Israeli strikes hit the town of Rafah on Saturday February 3, at the southern tip of the Gaza Strip

Israel-Hamas war, day 120: in the south of the Gaza Strip, intense Israeli strikes hit the town of Rafah

Intense Israeli strikes hit the town of Rafah on Saturday February 3, at the southern tip of the Gaza Strip. According to the Hamas health ministry, at least one hundred civilians were killed in the evening and night, including fourteen early Saturday in strikes on two residences in the city. Now, more than 1.3 million of the approximately 2.4 million inhabitants of the micro-territory are massing in Rafah, threatened in the middle of winter by famine and epidemics, according to the UN.

In recent weeks, Israeli operations have been concentrated in the neighboring town of Khan Younes, the second largest in the territory where, according to the Israeli army, the local Hamas command is hiding.

While the war knows no respite, diplomacy is trying to negotiate a second truce, longer than that of a week, negotiated under the aegis of Qatar, Egypt and the United States, and which had allowed an end November, the release of around a hundred Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

The leader of Hamas, Ismaïl Haniyeh, based in Qatar, is still expected in Egypt to discuss a proposal drawn up during a meeting at the end of January in Paris between the head of the CIA, William Burns, and Egyptian officials , Israelis and Qataris.

According to a Hamas source, the proposal covers three phases, the first of which provides for a six-week truce. During this, Israel will have to release 200 to 300 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 35 to 40 hostages held in Gaza, and 200 to 300 aid trucks will be able to enter the territory every day.

In recent days, Qatar reported "first" signs of support for the truce from Hamas, but the Palestinian Islamist movement later said it had not yet made a decision on the proposal, wanting a ceasefire. fire, not another break.

The proposed pause in fighting was “approved by the Israeli side,” Qatari foreign ministry spokesman Majed al-Ansari said this week. But Israel continues to assert that it will only definitively end its offensive in Gaza once the Islamist movement is "eliminated", the hostages freed and after receiving guarantees on the future security of its territory.

The truce project must also be at the heart of a new tour of the Middle East by American Secretary of State Antony Blinken, starting on Sunday, and which will take him to Qatar, Egypt, Israel, the occupied West Bank and in Saudi Arabia. During the night, Mr. Blinken said he wanted to work during this tour “for lasting peace in the region, including lasting security for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

The new French Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stéphane Séjourné, begins his first tour in the region on Saturday which will take him to Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon. This tour aims to “work for a ceasefire and the release of the hostages” and “to convince to reopen a political perspective” based on the two-state solution, a viable State of Palestine alongside Israel, said the spokesperson for the ministry, Christophe Lemoine.

MM. Blinken and Séjourné will land in a Middle East in dire straits with the war in Gaza expanding into a broader conflict between Israel and its allies on one side, and the “axis of resistance” on the other. led by Iran and affiliated movements such as, in addition to Palestinian Hamas, Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi militias and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

American strikes in Iraq

The United States, for its part, carried out strikes overnight from Friday to Saturday against elite Iranian forces and pro-Iranian groups in Iraq and Syria. Strikes in retaliation for an attack on Sunday in Jordan, fatal to three American soldiers and attributed by Washington to groups supported by Iran.

A total of 85 targets on seven different sites (three in Iraq and four in Syria) were targeted, according to Washington. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (OSDH), at least 18 pro-Iranian fighters were killed in eastern Syria alone.

From Yemen, Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for firing ballistic missiles towards southern Israel. The Israeli army, for its part, assured that it had intercepted a missile which was approaching its territory in the Red Sea.