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Israel will seek to stop UNRWA’s work in Gaza after war

Israel will seek to stop the UN agency for Palestinian refugees from operating in Gaza after the war, its foreign minister has said, after Israel accused several UNRWA staff of involvement in Hamas’s 7 October attack.

The foreign ministry aims to ensure “that UNRWA will not be a part of the day after,” foreign minister Israel Katz said on X, adding that he would try to gather support from the US, EU and other major donors to the agency.

Hamas hit back at what it said were Israeli “threats” against the UN agency.

“We ask the UN and the international organisations to not cave in to the threats and blackmail” from Israel, Hamas’s press office said in a post on Telegram.

Meanwhile, Italy has decided to suspend financing of UNRWA, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said this morning.

Mr Tajani made no direct reference to the allegations that some UNRWA workers were involved in the 7 October attacks.

“The Italian government has suspended financing of the UNRWA after the atrocious attack on Israel on October 7,” Mr Tajani posted on X, adding that some of Italy’s allies had already taken the same decision.

Latest Middle East stories

On the ground in Gaza, the Israeli military said at least 11 militants were killed over the past 24 hours in battles in Khan Younis.

Israeli aircraft, tanks and infantry troops targeted militants who were trying to plant explosives near troops and others firing rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at soldiers, a statement from the Israeli military said.

The military also said it had discovered some 200 tunnel shafts and destroyed more than 130 militant infrastructure sites in its latest operations in southern Gaza.

Residents said Israeli forces blew up buildings and houses in the western part of the city as gun battles raged.

Palestinians say Israel has hampered efforts to rescue the dead and wounded as well as blockading hospitals, which Israel denies, blaming Hamas fighters for operating near them.

Truce talks

Talks on a possible temporary pause in fighting to release hostages and Palestinians held in Israel and allow more aid in Gaza are gathering pace.

US President Joe Biden discussed the issue yesterday in a phone call with the emir of mediator Qatar and the White House said Washington was hopeful about progress.

A source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters that US Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns and his Israeli counterpart are expected to meet Qatar’s prime minister and Egypt’s spy chief in Europe tomorrow for talks on a second potential Gaza hostage deal.

The US and Israeli intelligence chiefs met previously with Qatari and Egyptian officials to help broker a short-lived truce in November that saw more than 100 hostages freed. The Biden administration has been trying to facilitate the release of the more than 100 remaining hostages.

Separately, Hezbollah announced that four of its fighters were killed in an Israeli strike on southern Lebanon late last night. The group has been exchanging fire with Israeli since it launched rockets across Lebanon’s southern border on 8 October in support of its ally Hamas.

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