Netanyahu approves new Gaza ceasefire talks


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given the go-ahead for a new round of talks on a Gaza ceasefire, a day after the world's top court ordered Israel to ensure aid reaches desperate civilians.

But despite a binding U.N. Security Council resolution earlier this week demanding an "immediate ceasefire," fighting raged on unabated in Gaza Friday, including around its few functioning hospitals.

The health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said dozens of people were killed overnight.

Among them were 12 people killed in their home in the southern city of Rafah, which has been bombed repeatedly ahead of a threatened Israeli ground operation.

Men worked under the light of mobile phones to free people trapped under the debris, AFPTV images showed.

Netanyahu's office said new talks on a Gaza ceasefire and hostage release will take place in Doha and Cairo "in the coming days... with guidelines for moving forward in the negotiations."

Those talks had appeared deadlocked in recent days despite a major push by the United States and fellow mediators Egypt and Qatar to secure a truce in time for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, now more than half way through.

- Famine 'setting in' -

In its ruling, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague said it had accepted South Africa's argument that the further deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Gaza required Israel to do more.

"Palestinians in Gaza are no longer facing only a risk of famine, but... famine is setting in," it said.

Philippe Lazzarini, head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, said the ruling was "a stark reminder that the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is man-made (and) worsening."

A U.N.-backed report released last week warned that half of Gazans are feeling "catastrophic" hunger and projected imminent famine in the territory's north.

The Israeli defense ministry body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs (COGAT) hit back on Friday, alleging the assessment contained inaccuracies and questionable sources.

The ICJ had ruled in January that Israel must facilitate "urgently needed" humanitarian aid to Gaza.

The latest binding ruling by the court, which has little means of enforcement, came as Israel's military said it was continuing operations in Gaza's largest hospital Al-Shifa for a 12th day.

- Fighting around Gaza hospitals -

The United Nations says Gaza's health system is collapsing "due to ongoing hostilities and access constraints."

Israel's military accuses Hamas and the Islamic Jihad of hiding inside medical facilities, using patients, staff and displaced people for cover -- charges the militants have denied.

On Friday the army said it was "continuing precise operation activities in Shifa Hospital" where it began a raid early last week.

Troops first raided Al-Shifa in November, but the army says Palestinian militants have since returned.

About 200 militants have been killed during the latest Al-Shifa operation, it said.

In north Gaza's Shati refugee camp, Amany, a 44-year-old mother of seven, described how it felt to live under relentless Israeli bombardment.

"Explosions and air strikes go on throughout the night, it's petrifying," she said. "I feel like I'm living a continuous nightmare that doesn't want to end."

Netanyahu said on Thursday that troops "are holding the northern Gaza Strip" and also the southern city of Khan Yunis, amid heavy fighting.

Near Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Yunis, troops carried out "targeted raids on terrorist infrastructure," killing dozens in combat backed by air support, the army said on Thursday.

Israeli tanks have also surrounded another Khan Yunis health facility, the Nasser Hospital, the Gaza health ministry said.

The war began with Hamas' October 7 attack that allegedly resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel's retaliatory campaign against Hamas has killed at least 32,623 people, mostly women and children, according to health ministry figures.

Palestinian militants also seized about 250 hostages. Israel believes about 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 who are presumed dead.

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