Reportage. In Gaza, under attack by Israel, even finding a pack of biscuits is a difficult feat. And yet, the food is right there, near Rafah, but on the other side of the border.

Waiting for a ceasefire, Ahmed Qannan is dying of hunger in a hospital

It’s not just Yazan Al Kafarna, the child shown pale and emaciated in photos, with skeletal limbs, who died on Monday and was mentioned a day before by the Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour. Many more children are at risk of dying from lack of food and joining the 15 already killed by hunger at Kamal Adwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza, subjected to the most extreme food shortages.

One of those who are most at risk is Ahmed Qannan, just 2 years old: he weighed 12 kilograms before the Israeli military offensive, and today he weighs half that. With sunken eyes, very weak, reduced to skin and bones, Ahmed lies in a crib in the Al Awda health center in Rafah, on the border with Egypt, being cared for by an aunt. The children around him are no better off.

Like Ahmed, they urgently need calories, vitamins, and protein, but in Gaza under attack by Israel, even finding a pack of biscuits is a difficult feat.

And yet, the food is right there, near Rafah, but on the other side of the border, the Egyptian side, where the trucks are stopped after they’ve been forbidden from entering Gaza and delivering their cargo put together with the Red Crescent, the UN and other international parties.

Speaking to the Reuters news agency, Diaa Al-Shaer, a nurse at the Al Awda center, said the number of children suffering from malnutrition and a range of diseases related to poor nutrition has reached unprecedented levels. “We will face a large number of patients who suffer from … malnutrition,” she warned.

Infants are not faring any better, said Dr. Ahmad Salem of the Kamal Adwan Intensive Care Unit, as the mothers are themselves malnourished: “The mothers cannot breastfeed their children. We do not have formula milk.”

Adele Khodr, regional director of UNICEF, the U.N. children’s agency, said: “The sense of helplessness and despair among parents and doctors in realizing that lifesaving aid, just a few kilometers away, is being kept out of reach, must be unbearable.”

On Tuesday, another U.N. agency, UNRWA, for weeks the target of attacks by Israel for alleged “collusion with Hamas,” through its commissioner general, Philippe Lazzarini, denounced the fact that in northern Gaza, one in six children under the age of two was already “acutely malnourished” in January.

After being subjected to pressure, Israel decided to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza by sea, reported the Canale 13 TV station on Tuesday. According to reports, the Emirates will fund aid shipments to Cyprus, where they will be subject to inspection by Israeli officials. From there, the ships will travel to Gaza and unload goods on the coast. The first flotilla is set to leave for Cyprus in the coming days, with the hope of reaching Gaza at the start of Ramadan, which begins on March 10 or 11.

Nevertheless, a ceasefire remains the only real way to end the massacres of civilians and to regularly supply the population of the Strip, largely displaced in recent months at the behest of the Israeli army. Hamas negotiators remained in Cairo for the third day of ceasefire talks, but as of Tuesday night, the distance between the Islamic movement and Israel appeared unbridgeable. The Netanyahu-led war cabinet refused to send a delegation to Egypt before receiving from Hamas a full list with the names of the around 130 Israeli hostages in Gaza. The Palestinian organization says it is unable to provide such a list because the hostages are scattered over a wide territory and held by different groups.

Israel is stressing that it is only interested in a temporary ceasefire during which the hostages would be freed. Hamas is insisting that any agreement must lead to a permanent end to hostilities and the return of the displaced to the north.

Debunking the reports that a deal is within reach, which had been spread by some media outlets, the Egyptian negotiators say that Israel and Hamas will not budge from their positions and are insisting on the same demands that have prevented an agreement until now.

A Hamas spokesman, Bassem Naim, says his group has submitted a draft ceasefire agreement and is now awaiting a response from Israel. Another Hamas spokesman, Osama Hamdan, stresses that no Israeli hostages will be released without a definitive ceasefire in Gaza. The Netanyahu government insists in turn that his country “is making every effort to reach an agreement. We are awaiting a response from Hamas.”

U.S. President Joe Biden is siding once again with Israel’s version of events: “The hostage deal is in the hands of Hamas right now … there’s been an offer — a rational offer. The Israelis have agreed to it … We’ll know in a couple days if it’s going to happen,” the U.S. president told reporters before boarding Air Force One in Maryland.

On Tuesday, Israel’s armed forces killed a 16-year-old Palestinian teenager at the Huwara road crossing in the West Bank after a knife attack in which a soldier was wounded. Since October, at least 358 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In the same period, at least 12 Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks. In Lebanon, an Israeli air raid against the Shiite Hezbollah movement killed four people in the country’s southern regions.

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