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U.N. Security Council delays vote on Gaza aid until Friday

U.N. Security Council diplomats delayed until Friday a vote on a resolution to increase humanitarian aid into Gaza and another round of talks took place in Egypt to try to get warring Israel and Hamas to agree on a new truce so hostages can be released.

The U.N. vote was delayed despite the United States saying it can now support an amended proposal that would demand that Israel and Hamas allow the use of “all available routes” for humanitarian deliveries.

Even as diplomatic efforts continued, fighting in the Gaza Strip intensified with Israeli bombardments in the north and south of the 41 km (25 mile)-long Palestinian territory and Hamas firing rockets on Israel's commercial capital Tel Aviv, officials said on Thursday.

Iraq's Kataeb Hezbollah, which goes by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, in a statement on Telegram claimed responsibility for an attack on Israel's Eilat. There was no immediate comment from Israel.

Fourteen Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in three separate attacks on Thursday in northern, central and southern Gaza Strip, medics said. Medics and Hamas media said the Hamas-appointed director of the police station in Khan Younis was killed along with members of his family in a strike on their house.

An Israeli air strike targeted the house of Dr. Munir Al-Bursh, the director of Gaza Health Ministry, medics said. Bursh was wounded and one of his daughters was killed, the medics said.

Israel's government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says it wants to eradicate Hamas, the Islamist group that sent fighters over the border from Gaza into southern Israel on Oct. 7, taking some 240 hostages and killing 1,200 people.

But the high death toll of around 20,000 people reported by Gaza's health ministry during the Israeli military campaign of retaliation has drawn increasing international condemnation.

The Israeli military has expressed regret for civilian deaths but blamed Iran-backed Hamas for operating in densely populated areas or using civilians as human shields, an allegation the group denies.

For journalists, the first 10 weeks of the war have been the deadliest recorded, the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CP) said in a report on Thursday. Most of the journalists and media workers killed – 61 out of 68 – were Palestinian, it said.

UN AND CAIRO TALKS

Negotiations had continued on Thursday to try to avoid a U.S. veto of a United Nations Security Council resolution, drafted by the United Arab Emirates, that would demand that Israel and Hamas allow “the use of all land, sea and air routes to and throughout the entire Gaza” for humanitarian aid deliveries. On Thursday night in New York, after weeks of talks and a vote delayed for days, the vote by the Security Council was delayed again until Friday.

A Nov. 24-Dec. 1 humanitarian pause helped to increase aid deliveries to Gaza. A report by a UN-backed body said the entire population of Gaza is facing crisis levels of hunger. The risk of famine is increasing each day, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification said.

The pause led to the release of more than 100 hostages held by Hamas since Oct. 7 and in exchange, 240 Palestinians were freed from Israeli jails.

Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad reject any deals about exchanges of hostages and Palestinian prisoners “except after a full cessation of aggression” by Israel, the factions said in a statement on Thursday.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was in Cairo for a second day of negotiations, however, which ended late on Thursday. While mediating countries including Egypt and Qatar have previously met separately with Israel, Hamas and other groups, there were no details on who might be engaged with any Israeli party.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said negotiations on a hostage release were continuing but declined to provide details.

MORE SHIPPING COMPANIES AVOID RED SEA

Governments worldwide fear the Gaza war could broaden in the region as Iran-backed Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and Israeli forces have exchanged fire and Houthi militants of Yemen, also Iran-backed, have attacked ships in the lower Red Sea, increasing the risks of trade disruption.

Germany's Hapag-Lloyd and Hong Kong's OOCL said on Thursday they would avoid the Red Sea, the latest shipping companies to do so after attacks by the Houthi group.

The attacks on ships prompted the establishment last week of a U.S.-led force to safeguard commercial traffic in the Red Sea. A total of more than 20 countries have agreed to participate, the Pentagon said on Thursday, although the total would suggest that at least eight of the countries who have signed up have also declined to be publicly named.

(REUTERS)

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