Israel’s Ongoing Conflict with Gaza: Day 137 Update

As Israel threatens to launch offensive in Rafah, the US has drafted a UN resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire.

Here’s how things stand on Tuesday, February 20, 2024:

Fighting and humanitarian crisis

Israel’s assault in Gaza has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians since October 7, the territory’s Ministry of Health said on Monday, marking another grim milestone in one of the deadliest and most destructive military campaigns in recent history.

Footage verified by Al Jazeera shows Palestinian people fleeing to take cover after coming under attack from Israeli forces as they waited for humanitarian aid in northern Gaza.

The Israeli military released a video on Monday showing what is believed to be the youngest captive, his brother and mother being led through the streets of the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. Al Jazeera could not independently verify the Israeli claims.

Separately, Benny Gantz, a member of Netanyahu’s three-man war cabinet, warned that the offensive would expand to Rafah if the captives were not freed by the start of the holy month of Ramadan, expected around March 10.

The war has driven around 80 percent of the Palestinians in Gaza from their homes and left a quarter of the population starving, according to UN officials.

Diplomacy

The US says it is still working with mediators Egypt and Qatar to try to broker another truce and captive release agreement. But those efforts appear to have stalled in recent days. Qatar on Monday criticised comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which he said that the Gulf state should do more to secure the release of captives and that Doha funds the Palestinian group.

The US drafted a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a “temporary ceasefire” in the Gaza Strip “as soon as practical” and opposing an Israeli ground offensive on the southernmost city of Rafah.

The conflict has brought near daily exchanges of fire between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah group risking an escalation in the conflict. Israeli warplanes on Monday carried out at least two strikes near the southern port city of Sidon in one of the largest attacks near a major city, wounding 14 people, Lebanese state media said.

Palestinian representatives on Monday asked judges at the UN’s highest court to declare Israel’s occupation of their territory illegal, saying their advisory opinion could contribute to a two-state solution and a lasting peace.

The 15-judge panel of the International Court of Justice has been asked to review Israel’s “occupation, settlement and annexation … including measures aimed at altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and from its adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures”.

Violence in the occupied West Bank

The Palestinian news agency Wafa reports that the Israeli military has released Muhammad Muhammad Abd al-Majid Sharqiya, a 50-year-old prisoner from the village of Zabuba, west of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, after 23 years in Israeli custody.

Elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, a man has been injured by bullet fragments and dozens of citizens were exposed to tear gas during Israeli raids in the Arroub refugee camp, north of Hebron.

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