Friday, June 14, 2024
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Israel finds the body of a hostage killed in Gaza, while talks will resume on a cease-fire

CAIRO — Israel’s military said Saturday it had recovered the body of a 47-year-old farmer who was held hostage in Gaza, while negotiators prepared to begin another round of talks Sunday on brokering a cease-fire and securing the release of the remaining hostages, six months into the war.

Israel’s army said it had found the body of Elad Katzir and believed he was killed in January by militants with Islamic Jihad, one of the groups that entered southern Israel in the Oct. 7 attack, killed more than 1,200 people and took about 250 hostages. Katzir had been abducted from Nir Oz, a border community that suffered some of the heaviest losses.

The discovery renewed pressure on Israel’s government for a deal to get the remaining hostages freed, as families have long feared time is running out. At least 36 hostages in captivity have been confirmed dead. About half of the original number have been released.

Meanwhile, the toll of Israel’s ongoing offensive in Gaza is measured in tens of thousands of deaths and more than a million Palestinians displaced.

“We have arrived at a terrible milestone,” the U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said in a statement marking six months and noting “the immediate prospect of a shameful man-made famine.” He called the prospect of further escalation in Gaza “unconscionable.”

Israelis are divided on the approach by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government after multiple rounds of stalled cease-fire negotiations. A week ago, tens of thousands of Israelis thronged central Jerusalem in the largest anti-government protest since the war began.

Negotiations will resume on Sunday, according to an Egyptian official and Egypt’s state-owned Al Qahera TV. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the talks.

U.S. President Joe Biden has sent CIA Director Bill Burns to Egypt. And a Hamas delegation will arrive on Sunday to join the talks, the militant group said.

Hamas has insisted on linking a phased end to the war — not a temporary cease-fire — to any agreement releasing hostages. It has said it will agree to release 40 hostages as part of an initial six-week cease-fire deal that would include the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. Hamas also seeks the return of displaced people to devastated northern Gaza and more aid.

Israel has offered to allow only 2,000 displaced Palestinians — mainly women, children and older people — to the north daily during a six-week cease-fire.

The new talks will come days after international condemnation of Israeli airstrikes that killed seven humanitarian workers with the World Central Kitchen charity. The Israeli military has described the strike as a tragic error. Aid groups say the mistake is hardly an anomaly.

Some Israel allies are now considering halting arms sales. Biden warned Netanyahu that future U.S. support for the war depends on swift implementation of new steps to protect civilians and aid workers.

“We need security guarantees for us as humanitarians but also for the people we serve,” said Marika Guderian with the World Food Program, speaking inside Gaza.

The killings halted aid deliveries on what had been seen as a crucial new sea route for humanitarian aid directly to Gaza as the U.N. and partners warn of famine.

In Jabaliya, a refugee camp near Gaza City, families scrounged in the rubble for mallow leaves to make a thin broth to break the daily Ramadan fast. “Life has become miserable. They (daughters) tell me, ‘Father, you are feeding us mallow, mallow, mallow every day. We want to eat fish, chicken, canned food. We are craving eggs, or anything,’” said Wael Attar. They shelter in a school as part of the 1.7 million people displaced in Gaza.

The humanitarian group Oxfam says people in northern Gaza have survived on an average of 245 calories a day since January. Israel has promised to open more border crossings into Gaza and increase the flow of aid.

The war’s death toll in Gaza is now 33,137, the territory’s Health Ministry said. Its toll doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants, but it has said women and children make up the majority of the dead.

The ministry said the bodies of 46 Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes had been brought to hospitals in the past 24 hours — the lowest such daily tally in months.

Israel has blamed Hamas for civilian deaths in Gaza, accusing it of operating in residential communities and public areas like hospitals.

Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah now holds more than half of the territory’s 2.3 million people, and Israel’s vow to carry out a ground offensive there has caused weeks of dread and warnings even from Israel’s top ally, the United States.

An Egyptian official on Friday called Israel’s most recent proposal to evacuate civilians from Rafah an “unrealistic and unworkable plan.” Egypt again threatened to suspend parts of the 46-year-old Camp David Accords that facilitate security cooperation between the states.

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Metz reported from Rabat, Morocco. Associated Press writers Julia Frankel and Jack Jeffery in Jerusalem contributed.

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Find more of AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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