The head of the United Nations called on donor countries on Sunday (January 28) to guarantee the continuation of activities carried out in favor of civilians in Gaza by the Palestinian Refugee Agency (UNRWA), weakened by the suspected involvement of employees in the Hamas attack on Israeli soil on October 7, 2023. France announced that it did not anticipate “any further payment” until July.

On the ground, in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army described “intense fighting” in Khan Younes, the large city in the south of the Palestinian territory, now the epicenter of the war, specifying that it had killed “terrorists and seized significant quantities of weapons”. At least twenty-four people were killed during the day in this large southern city, relentlessly shelled by Israeli aircraft, according to the Ministry of Health in the Gaza Strip, administered by Hamas.

In New York, Antonio Guterres called on donor countries that have suspended their funding to UNRWA to “at least guarantee” the continuation of its operations in the besieged territory, where humanitarian aid is trickling in. “Two million civilians in Gaza depend on crucial aid [from the UN agency] for their daily survival, but UNRWA’s current funding will not allow it to meet all needs in February,” a- he insisted.

The “extremely serious accusations” against UNRWA employees are the subject of an internal investigation, Mr. Guterres recalled. Nine have been fired, one is “confirmed dead,” and the identities of two others are “being clarified,” he said. “The alleged despicable actions of these employees must have consequences,” but should not penalize “the tens of thousands of men and women who work” for the agency, he stressed. Israel’s UN ambassador, Gilad Erdan, accused him of choosing to ignore “evidence” of UNRWA’s involvement in “incitement and terrorism.”

“If [UNRWA] aid is suspended, there will be famine. They are the ones who give us flour, food and drink,” Bassam Al-Masri, a resident of the northern Gaza Strip and refugee in Rafah, told Agence France-Presse (AFP). , in the extreme south of the territory. More than 1.3 million displaced Gazans, according to the UN, are massed against the closed border with Egypt to flee the fighting further north, which is concentrated around Khan Younes.

In this city, considered by Israel to be a stronghold of Hamas, the clashes particularly took place around the Nasser and Al-Amal hospitals. About 350 patients and 5,000 displaced people were at Nasser Hospital on Saturday, “running out of fuel, [of] food and [of] supplies,” according to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization ( WHO). According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, surgical operations are suspended at Al-Amal hospital due to lack of oxygen.

In the hope of obtaining a truce and the release of hostages still captive in Gaza, William Burns, the director of the CIA, met in Paris with senior Israeli and Egyptian officials, as well as the Qatari prime minister, according to close sources of the participants in these meetings, to the AFP. Qatar, Egypt and the United States had already been involved in negotiating the first truce at the end of November, during which around a hundred of the approximately 250 people kidnapped in Israel during the attack of October 7, 2023 were released, in exchange of Palestinian prisoners.

The meeting in Paris between senior American, Egyptian, Qatari and Israeli officials on a ceasefire in Gaza was “constructive”, announced the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, specifying that there “still remained differences” between the parts. The heads of Mossad (foreign intelligence services) and Shin Bet (domestic intelligence services) were present for Israel, according to the statement. The protagonists “will continue to discuss this week in other meetings,” the text added.

According to Israeli authorities, 104 hostages are still being held in the Gaza Strip, and 28 are presumed dead. The New York Times reported on Saturday a draft agreement that would involve a two-month truce and the release of more than a hundred hostages.

On Sunday morning, Israelis demanding the release of the hostages demonstrated at the Kerem Shalom crossing point near Rafah, turning humanitarian aid trucks back towards the Palestinian territory. According to them, the entry of this aid fuels the continuation of the conflict. The day before, several thousand people across the country demonstrated to demand the return of the hostages and the resignation of the government in view of new elections.

“About 200 protesters” gathered around the Kerem Shalom crossing point, according to Cogat, an arm of the Israeli Defense Ministry that coordinates the army’s civilian activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. “Humanitarianism for humanitarian purposes,” chanted the demonstrators, who want aid not to reach Gaza until the hostages are released. Some demonstrators have relatives still held hostage, according to the testimony of one of them to AFP.

Only two border crossings allow the delivery of aid in the Gaza Strip, that of Rafah, on the border with Egypt, and that of Kerem Shalom, in the south of Israel.