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Gazans mark Eid al-Adha in rubble; Hamas leader ‘ready’ to make cease-fire deal

Muslims in Gaza marked the beginning of the Eid al-Adha holiday on Sunday amid rubble and ruin, as aid organizations warned that food and water were in scarce supply, and that parts of the territory may already be suffering from famine. Israeli forces said they would pause military activities for 11 hours a day along an aid corridor in southern Gaza to safeguard deliveries of humanitarian relief.

As Muslim families observed the religious holiday, which signals the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, the World Food Program warned that at least 1 million people in the enclave’s south were trapped “without clean water or sanitation.” UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinians, said that more than 50,000 children in Gaza are in need of treatment for acute malnutrition, and Doctors Without Borders said that some were surviving on “pigeon food.”

Palestinians held prayers among the rubble on June 16, as Gaza marked a somber Eid al-Adha amid the ongoing war. (Video: Naomi Schanen/The Washington Post)

The arrival of summer heat is also compounding the threats of violence, hunger and thirst that displaced Gazan civilians already faced, aid groups said. UNICEF spokesman James Elder said the onset of high temperatures in the enclave — where it is forecast to surpass 90 degrees Fahrenheit later this week — added a new dimension to the unfolding humanitarian disaster. “It’s hot,” Elder said in a video shared Saturday from a tent camp in Khan Younis. “The heat here simply further increases that hardship on children.”

On Sunday, Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh marked Eid al-Adha with an address to Palestinians that framed Hamas’s response to cease-fire negotiations as “consistent” with the principles underpinning the U.S.backed proposal. Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that some of the changes proposed by the militant group were “not workable.”


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In his speech, Haniyeh said: “What we gave to the mediators is consistent with the principles proposed by Biden and with the Security Council resolution … we are ready to conclude an agreement that includes a permanent cease-fire and withdrawal of Israelis.”

On Tuesday, Hamas said it submitted to Qatari and Egyptian mediators its response to the cease-fire proposal outlined by President Biden last month, which the United Nations Security Council separately approved in a rare diplomatic victory on Gaza for the Biden administration in the U.N. body. In its response, the militant group said it emphasized the need for complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

If agreed on, the U.S.-backed plan would begin with a complete cease-fire lasting six weeks. During that period, Israeli forces would withdraw from populated areas, Hamas would release all women, children, elderly and wounded hostages, Palestinians would be allowed to return to their homes throughout Gaza and the enclave would be flooded with humanitarian aid.

Although Israel said it “authorized” the U.S.-backed plan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other members of his government have publicly objected to certain elements of it, and Netanyahu has indicated that he intends to continue military operations until all elements of Hamas are destroyed.

On Sunday, the Israel Defense Forces announced a daily, limited “tactical pause” of military activities along a route in southern Gaza to safeguard the flow of humanitarian aid within the enclave, beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 7 p.m. each day “until further notice.” In its statement, the IDF said it began pausing military activity on Saturday “along the road that leads from the Kerem Shalom Crossing to the Salah al-Din Road and then northwards.” The IDF later clarified that there is “no cessation of fighting” elsewhere in southern Gaza, including Rafah.

Scott Anderson, the director of UNRWA, said the pause is “very welcome” but cautioned that “this isn’t a cease-fire” as military operations are ongoing in southern Gaza.

“In the past couple of weeks, we’ve had incidents where there is kinetic activity quite close to our convoy — as close as 100 meters, which is frightening,” he said in an interview. “We welcome this [tactical pause] and hope that it will allow us to move freely back and forth” from the border crossing, he said.

For over a month, aid organizations have struggled to get food, fuel and other supplies into Gaza after Israel’s military operation in Rafah shut the territory’s main border crossing with Egypt.

Since then, some aid trucks have been allowed to enter through the smaller Kerem Shalom crossing, and other crossings in the north have been reopened, but the volume remains insufficient to meet the need in Gaza after over seven months of war. On Friday, the Pentagon announced it would “temporarily relocate” a floating pier built by the U.S. military off Gaza’s coast to supplement aid deliveries, after previously suspending its use because of rough seas.

Anderson said the pier has so far failed to supplement aid deliveries into Gaza in a meaningful way. “It didn’t move the needle,” he said.

After Israeli media reported that the announcement caused confusion among Gazans over whether the pause amounted to a cessation of all hostilities, the IDF clarified in a subsequent statement that the pauses would take place only along a corridor.

“There is no cessation of fighting in the southern Gaza Strip, and the fighting in Rafah continues,” the statement read.

Negotiators for Qatar and Egypt plan to resume talks with Hamas leaders over Biden’s cease-fire proposal, Reuters reported Saturday, citing White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on the sidelines of the Ukrainian peace summit in Switzerland. “We anticipate a back-and-forth between the mediators and Hamas. We’ll see where we stand at that point,” Sullivan reportedly said. “We will keep consulting with the Israelis and then hopefully at some point next week we’ll be able to report to you where we think things stand and what we see as being the next step to try to bring this to closure.”

The crew of a cargo ship targeted by Yemen-based Houthi militants last week issued a distress call Saturday and abandoned the ship after being unable to control the fires, U.S. Central Command said. The mariners of the MV Verbena — a Palauan-flagged, Ukrainian-owned, Polish-operated carrier — were rescued by the MV Anna Meta after a nearby Iranian frigate did not respond to the distress call. The MV Verbena was hit on June 13 by two anti-ship cruise missiles as it passed through the Gulf of Aden. On Saturday, Centcom said it destroyed seven radars in Yemen used by Houthis to target maritime vessels.

At least ​​37,296 people have been killed and 85,197 injured in Gaza since the war started, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and it says 308 soldiers have been killed since the launch of its military operations in Gaza.

Suzan Haidamous contributed to this report.

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