Israel resumes combat as truce expires, accuses Hamas of violation

Israel resumes combat as truce expires, accuses Hamas of violation
Each of these children is pictured holding something important they took with them when they fled northern Gaza. The UN estimates that 1.7 million people have been displaced by the fighting. (AFP)
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Updated 01 December 2023
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Israel resumes combat as truce expires, accuses Hamas of violation

Israel resumes combat as truce expires, accuses Hamas of violation
  • Seven-day pause began on Nov. 24 and was extended twice
  • Qatar, Egypt have been making intensive efforts to extend truce

GAZA/TEL AVIV: Israel’s military said it had resumed combat against Hamas in Gaza on Friday after accusing the Palestinian militant group of violating a seven-day temporary truce by firing toward Israeli territory.
The seven-day pause, which began on Nov. 24 and was extended twice, had allowed for the exchange of dozens of hostages held in Gaza for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and facilitated the entry of humanitarian aid into the shattered coastal strip.
In the hour before the truce was set to end at 7 a.m. (0500 GMT), Israel said it intercepted a rocket fired from Gaza.
Further sirens warning of rockets sounded again in Israeli areas near Gaza just minutes before the deadline, the Israeli military said.
Palestinian media reported Israeli air and artillery strikes across the enclave after the truce expired.
There was no immediate comment from Hamas or claim of responsibility for the launches.
Qatar and Egypt have been making intensive efforts to extend the truce following the exchange on Thursday of the latest batch of eight hostages and 30 Palestinian prisoners.
Israel had previously set the release of 10 hostages a day as the minimum it would accept to pause its ground assault and bombardment.
“We’re ready for all possibilities.... Without that, we’re going back to the combat,” Mark Regev, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said on CNN ahead of the expiry of the truce.
Israel has sworn to annihilate Hamas, which rules Gaza, in response to the Oct. 7 rampage by the militant group, when Israel says gunmen killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostages.
Israel retaliated with intense bombardment and a ground invasion. Palestinian health authorities deemed reliable by the United Nations say more than 15,000 Gazans have been confirmed killed.




These children are pictured in the courtyard of a government school in Gaza’s Rafa. The UN estimates that 1.7 million of Gaza’s 2.4 million people have been displaced by the fighting. (AFP)

Hostages head home
Thursday’s releases brought the totals freed during the truce to 105 hostages and 240 Palestinian prisoners.
Among those released were six women aged 21 to 40 including one Mexican-Israeli dual national and 21-year-old Mia Schem, who holds both French and Israeli citizenship.
Photos released by the Israeli prime minister’s office showed Schem, who was captured by Hamas along with others at an outdoor music festival in southern Israel on Oct. 7, embracing her mother and brother after they were reunited at Hatzerim military base in Israel.
The other two newly released hostages were a brother and sister, Belal and Aisha Al-Ziadna, aged 18 and 17 respectively, according to the Israeli prime minister’s office. They are Bedouin Arab citizens of Israel and among four members of their family taken hostage while they were milking cows on a farm.
One of Qatar’s lead negotiators, career diplomat Abdullah Al Sulaiti, who helped broker the truce through marathon shuttle negotiations, acknowledged in a recent Reuters interview the uncertain odds of keeping the guns silent.
“At the beginning I thought achieving an agreement would be the most difficult step,” he said in an article that detailed the behind-the-scenes efforts for the first time. “I’ve discovered that sustaining the agreement itself is equally challenging.”
 




The warring sides had agreed a further extension to the pause in fighting, but soon after that ended Israeli troops resumed their attacks. (FILE/AFP)

Israel agrees to protect civilians Blinken says
The truce had allowed some humanitarian aid into Gaza after much of the coastal territory of 2.3 million people was reduced to wasteland in the Israeli assault.
More fuel and 56 trucks of humanitarian supplies entered Gaza on Thursday, Israel’s defense ministry and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said.
But deliveries of food, water, medical supplies and fuel remain far below what is needed, aid workers say.
At an emergency meeting in Amman, Jordan’s King Abdullah on Thursday urged UN officials and international groups to pressure Israel to allow more aid into the beleaguered enclave, according to delegates.
When the cease-fire first came into effect a week ago, Israel was preparing to turn the focus of its operation to southern Gaza after its seven-week assault to the north.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Israel during his third visit to the Middle East since the war began, said he told Netanyahu that Israel cannot repeat in south Gaza the massive civilian casualties and displacement of residents it inflicted in the north.
“We discussed the details of Israel’s ongoing planning and I underscored the imperative for the United States that the massive loss of civilian life and displacement of the scale that we saw in northern Gaza not be repeated in the south,” Blinken told reporters in Tel Aviv.
“And the Israeli Government agreed with that approach,” he said. This would include concrete measures to avoid damaging critical infrastructure such as hospitals and water facilities and clearly designating safe zones, he said.


Calls on compatriots to choose between being a democratic state or an apartheid one

Calls on compatriots to choose between being a democratic state or an apartheid one
Updated 8 sec ago
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Calls on compatriots to choose between being a democratic state or an apartheid one

Calls on compatriots to choose between being a democratic state or an apartheid one
  • Israeli journalist Gideon Levy accuses Israel of dehumanizing, demonizing Palestinians
  • Calls on compatriots to choose between being a democratic state or an apartheid one

DUBAI: With the war in Gaza heading toward its sixth month, some are wondering if there is any end in sight to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. What is certain, however, is that Israel carries out a policy of dehumanization of Palestinians to justify its occupation, according to one of Israel’s most famous journalists.

“Israel systematically, from its first day, dehumanized and demonized the Palestinians in order to maintain their occupation, to maintain even the creation of the state of Israel,” Gideon Levy said.

He said Israel “is very efficient in manipulating propaganda and brainwashing all over the world,” and is “the only occupier in history which presents itself as a victim.”

Levy, who has spent over four decades as a journalist writing for the Israeli daily Haaretz covering mainly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, made these remarks on the Arab News current affairs show “Frankly Speaking.”

Gideon Levy has spent over four decades as a journalist and columnist for the Israeli daily Haaretz. He spoke to Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking,” the Arab News current affairs show. (AN photo)

Levy has been harshly critical of Israel’s actions, particularly those carried out in the wake of the Hamas attack in southern Israel in October 2023 which resulted in 1,200 deaths and the kidnapping of 240 people. According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, nearly 30,000 people, many of which are women and children, have been killed so far in Israel’s retaliatory offensive.

Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, have been putting pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire or scale back its offensive. The Kingdom has made the establishment of a Palestinian state a prerequisite for any normalization deals, with Israeli officials keen on the idea of improved relations with Arab states.

Levy, however, doubts that any Israeli prime minister, including current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would go that far.

“I don’t see them … putting an end to the occupation,” he told Katie Jensen, host of “Frankly Speaking.”

Israeli politicians might be hoping for a repeat of the 2020-2021 Abraham Accords, which saw Israel normalize relations with the UAE and Bahrain.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu (2-R) grins from ear to ear after signing the so-called Abraham Accords with Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani (L) and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (R), brokered by the US government under President Donald Trump (2-R), at the White House in Washington, DC, on Sept. 15, 2020. (AFP/File)

Israel quickly also normalized ties with Morocco and Sudan.

“Maybe they also hope that, like in the Abraham Accords, in which they got quite a good deal without changing the policy toward the Palestinians, only by all kind of lip services for this,” he said.

“I think that all the candidates for being prime minister in Israel, not only Netanyahu but also the opposition, would still prefer to maintain an occupation rather than to have normal relations with an important country like Saudi Arabia.”

Even beyond the Arab world, Israel’s counteroffensive in Gaza has triggered international backlash, including South Africa’s landmark court case against Israel in the International Court of Justice. However, Levy sees most of this as empty words.

This photo taken on January 26, 2024, shows the International Court of Justice panel assembled in The Hague during the reading of the genocide case filed by South Africa against Israel over its attacks on civilians in the Gaza Strip. (X: @CIJ_ICJ)

“Sympathy toward the Palestinians is very deep rooted among the grass roots, but I don't see many leaders really care about the Palestinians. Unfortunately, they fall between the chairs for many years now, when many statesmen give their lip service about solidarity with them, but finally almost nobody is doing for them anything and they are left quite alone, especially in (the) last years,” Levy said.

“Yes, there is a lot of talking going on; condemnations, resolutions, rulings, rules, hearings, many, many things. There is only one thing lacking, and this is action. That is, taking measures.

“The world never took real measures and the US, in particular, never took any measures to promote its interest, to promote its ideas. The US claims that it wants to see this war ended. And (at the same time) it is supplying Israel with more ammunition and more arms.”

Israel has learned “that you can very easily ignore the talk and stick to its policy, because Israel doesn’t pay any price for its policy,” Levy said.

A shipment of 155mm artillery shells supplied by the US for use by the Israeli army is transported on a truck along a highway between the Jerusalem and Beersheba in southern Israel on October 14, 2023. (AFP)

With Palestinians themselves and leaders across the world calling for peace, Levy is not certain that peace should be the top priority when it comes to talks on Palestine, but rather justice for the Palestinian people.

“I am calling for justice, not for peace … maybe peace will be the bonus that we’ll get out of it. But I am not sure that two people are ready for peace, but there is one people who deserve justice. And this must be pushed by the world.”

From 1978 to 1982, Levy worked as an aide and spokesman for Shimon Peres, the then leader of the Israeli Labor Party. In 1982 he began to write for Haaretz, and later worked there as a deputy editor.

He has long written of his support for a one-state solution in which Jews, Arabs, and all citizens have equal rights — a controversial opinion among both Israelis and Palestinians.

“There are 700,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied territories. Nobody is going to evacuate them. And there is no viable Palestinian state with 700,000 Jewish settlers, part of them very violent, all of them very ideological. I don’t see (a two-state solution) happening.”

Objects are scattered more than a week after Jewish settlers attacked the occupied West Bank village of Wadi al Seeq on October 24, 2023. (AFP/File)

He added: “If not the two-state solution, what is left? Only the one state … the only problem is that it’s not a democracy.

“I have to tell my fellow Israelis, you can’t have it all. If you wanted a Jewish state, you had to pull out from the occupied territories a long time ago.

“If you want a democratic state, you should give up the Jewish state because you cannot have it both, because there are two peoples here. Either you are an apartheid state or you are a democracy.”

As the Israeli bombardment continues across the entirety of Gaza, many Palestinians have begun to lose hope in their own officials. Even one month prior to the start of the most recent Israel-Hamas war, 78 percent of Palestinians wanted the resignation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on Feb. 7, 2024, during a Middle East tour, his fifth urgent trip to the region since the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza erupted in October. (POOL / AFP)

Observers now speculate whether there could be a replacement for Abbas, one that could carry out reforms and to revitalize the PA.

For Levy, jailed Palestinian dissident Marwan Barghouti could be a contender.

“He was the only one who would really unite the Palestinian people, Hamas and Fatah, together. I believed also that he is a man of peace. And he proved it in many ways,” he said.

Barghouti was arrested by Israel in Ramallah in 2002, and two years later was sentenced to five cumulative life sentences on five counts of murder.

“I hope he’s still capable of leading the Palestinians. I don’t have a better idea. I’m not sure Hamas will accept him today. Twenty years ago, yes, (but) I’m not sure today,” Levy said.

“I’m a great believer of him. And because I believe in him, and because so many people believe in him, Israel will never release him. And that’s so tragic.”

The portrait of jailed Palestinian dissident Marwan Barghouti (R) is seen along with that of the  late South African president Nelson Mandela at an office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Barghouti, in Israeli custody for nearly two decades after being convicted over multiple killings during the second intifada, is being compared to Mandela, who successfully led the resistance to apartheid in South Africa. (AFP/File)

Particularly since October, the popular rhetoric in Israel has increasingly turned against Palestinians, something that Levy blames on a combination of racism and dehumanization.

“If you conduct such a brutal occupation over so many years, if you teach your soldiers and your young people, generation after generation, that there is nothing cheaper, and there is nothing cheaper than the life of a Palestinian, I can tell you, if the Israeli army would have killed so many dogs as it did (people) in Gaza, it would be a huge, huge scandal in Israel.”

In addition to this, Israeli news media, which Levy explains “doesn’t cover the suffering of Gaza,” has played a role in inflaming racist attitudes in the country.

“They know Israelis don’t want to see it, don’t want to hear about it. It’s an outcome of decades of brainwashing, decades of humanization; as I said before, decades of demonization of the Palestinians.

“Israelis don’t meet Palestinians anymore at all, because of the barrier of the (West Bank) separation wall. There’s almost no contact anymore between the two peoples,” Levy said, explaining that the Oct. 7 attack has led Israelis to lump all Palestinians in the same category as Hamas and the perpetrators of the attack.

Participants run past a section of Israel's controversial separation barrier during the "Freedom of Movement Palestine Marathon" in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on March 10, 2023. (AFP/File)

“We are in a very, very low moment in history. And obviously the racism is now politically correct in Israel. It's enough to have one attack, like this terrible attack on the 7th of October, to make all the incorrect political ideas as politically correct.

“Because after what they have done to us, most of Israelis think, we have now the right to do and say whatever we want, because of those horrible things they did.

In the minds of Israelis now, Levy said, “all Palestinians must take responsibility for the October 7 crimes, all of them took part in it.”

 


WTO convenes ministers in UAE with slim hopes for breakthrough

WTO convenes ministers in UAE with slim hopes for breakthrough
Updated 28 min 17 sec ago
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WTO convenes ministers in UAE with slim hopes for breakthrough

WTO convenes ministers in UAE with slim hopes for breakthrough

ABU DHABI: The world’s trade ministers gathered in the UAE on Monday for a high-level WTO meeting with no clear prospects for breakthroughs, amid geopolitical tensions and disagreements.
The World Trade Organization’s 13th ministerial conference (MC13), scheduled to run until Thursday in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is the first in two years.
The WTO is hoping for progress, particularly on fishing, agriculture and electronic commerce.
But big deals are unlikely as the body’s rules require full consensus among all 164 member states — a tall order in the current climate.
“I don’t have hopes that a very substantive agreement will be announced,” said Marcelo Olarreaga, Professor of Economics at the University of Geneva.
“My impression is that the negotiators are dealing with tactical positions — how to make it look like it is the other (side) who is blocking negotiations,” he told AFP.
Even WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said she expects the meeting to be challenging due to the “economic and political headwinds” — from the war in Ukraine, attacks in the Red Sea, inflation, rising food prices and economic difficulties in Europe and China.
Her team is working around the clock to draft agreements for the talks, she told journalists this month, noting that “negotiating positions are still quite tough,” notably on agriculture.

During the WTO’s last ministerial meeting, held at its Geneva headquarters in June 2022, trade ministers nailed down a historic deal banning fisheries subsidies harmful to marine life and agreed to a temporary patent waiver for Covid-19 vaccines.
They also committed themselves to re-establishing a dispute settlement system which Washington had brought to a grinding halt in 2019 after years of blocking the appointment of new judges to the WTO’s appeals court.
“Replicating the success, the miracle, of MC12 in 2022 will be extremely challenging,” European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said this month.
“Negotiations on the big-ticket items” — such as fisheries, agriculture and the e-commerce moratorium — will “remain open until the final phase of the conference,” he added.
“Negotiations on dispute settlement reform and potentially some parts of the outcome document will also be challenging.”
However, the WTO faces pressure to eke out progress on reform in Abu Dhabi ahead of the possible re-election of Donald Trump as US president.
During his four years in office from 2017 to 2021, Trump threatened to pull the United States out of the trade body and disrupted its ability to settle disputes.
“There will be the US elections in November...so this is the last chance,” a diplomatic source in Geneva told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“Postponing anything until after MC13 is not a good strategy.”
Earlier this month, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai underlined Washington’s “commitment to reforming the WTO and creating a more durable multilateral trading system.”
But Olarreaga of the University of Geneva said the other members of the WTO “cannot expect huge concessions” from the administration of US President Joe Biden in an election year.

While there is doubt over progress at the WTO on major issues such as agriculture, there is hope for small advances on other fronts, particularly aid for developing countries.
On Monday, two new countries, the Comoros and East Timor, are expected to be accepted as WTO members.
More than 120 countries and regions, including China and the European Union, but not the United States, issued a ministerial declaration early Monday, marking the finalization of an agreement aimed at facilitating international investments in development.
They also issued a submission requesting the official integration of the deal into the WTO, but some diplomats fear opposition from India, which rejects any agreement that does not include all member states.
But amid the difficulty of obtaining full consensus, more and more plurilateral agreements — deals with a narrower number of signatories — are being reached, applying only to the participating countries.
Adding to the challenges for those gathering in the UAE, is the ongoing war in Gaza and related attacks by Yemeni rebels on ships in the Red Sea, a campaign that has disrupted global maritime trade.
“The current situation is characterized by geopolitical tensions,” said a European diplomat who spoke to AFP on the condition of anonymity.
“High expectations from developing nations following the financial crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as economic tensions due to inflation... (add to the) risk of fragmentation of the global economy,” the diplomat said.

 


Most UK exporters hit by Red Sea disruption, survey shows

Most UK exporters hit by Red Sea disruption, survey shows
Updated 26 February 2024
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Most UK exporters hit by Red Sea disruption, survey shows

Most UK exporters hit by Red Sea disruption, survey shows
  • 55 percent of exporters reported disruption, British Chambers of Commerce reports
  • Houthi militants have launched repeated drone and missile strikes in the Red Sea

LONDON: Most British exporters and manufacturers have felt an impact from disruption in the Red Sea caused by attacks on shipping by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, according to a survey.
The British Chambers of Commerce said 55 percent of exporters reported disruption, as did 53 percent of manufacturers and business-to-consumer services firms, a category that includes retailers and wholesalers. Across all businesses, 37 percent reported an impact.
“There has been spare capacity in the shipping freight industry to respond to the difficulties, which has bought us some time,” the BCC’s head of trade policy, William Bain, said.
“But our research suggests that the longer the current situation persists, the more likely it is that the cost pressures will start to build,” he added.
Some businesses reported container hire costs had quadrupled, while others faced delivery delays of three to four weeks, as well as cashflow difficulties and shortages of parts.
The Bank of England has highlighted the Red Sea disruption as one of the main upside risks to inflation this year, although to date the attacks and broader conflict in the Middle East has had less economic impact in Britain than it originally feared.
Houthi militants have launched repeated drone and missile strikes in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab Strait and Gulf of Aden since November in support of Palestinians, as the Israel-Hamas war continues.
Last week the Houthis said they would step up attacks on shipping with links to Israel, the United States and Britain.
The BCC conducted its survey between Jan. 15 and Feb. 9 with responses from 1,087 firms, 90 percent of which had under 250 employees.
On Thursday, the S&P Purchasing Managers’ Index showed British businesses’ costs rose at the fastest rate in six months in February. Higher freight costs related to Red Sea disruption were cited by many manufacturers, but rising wage bills were a bigger factor for most.


Gaza deal won’t affect Israel’s Hezbollah fight: defense minister

Gaza deal won’t affect Israel’s Hezbollah fight: defense minister
Updated 26 February 2024
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Gaza deal won’t affect Israel’s Hezbollah fight: defense minister

Gaza deal won’t affect Israel’s Hezbollah fight: defense minister
  • Talks are underway toward a possible deal for Hamas to release hostages and pause the fighting in Gaza

JERUSALEM:  Defense minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday said there would be no let up in Israeli action against Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, even if a ceasefire and hostage deal is secured in Gaza.

Gallant visited the military’s Northern Command in Safed, which was hit earlier this month by a militant rocket strike from southern Lebanon, killing a soldier.

Talks are underway toward a possible deal for Hamas to release hostages and pause the fighting in Gaza, which was sparked by the militants’ attack on southern Israel on October 7.

Since then, there have been near-daily cross-border exchanges of fire between Israel and Hamas’s allies Hezbollah on the border with Lebanon, prompting fears of a regional escalation.

Both Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Iran.

Gallant said he was keen to assess how Israel was combating increased Hezbollah activity from across the heavily fortified border.

“If anyone thinks that when we reach a deal to release hostages in the south and the firing stops it will ease what is happening here they are wrong,” he said in a video message.

Israel’s aim is to ensure the Iran-backed militants do not pose a threat from border areas in southern Lebanon, he added.

If a diplomatic solution to the situation is not possible, “we will do it by force,” Gallant warned.

On Sunday, the Israeli military said it had intercepted a “suspicious aerial target” in the Upper Galilee region of northern Israel, and rockets were fired at a number of locations.

Jets then struck a “terrorist cell exiting a Hezbollah military compound” and two “military compounds” on the Lebanese side of the border, it added.

Since October 7, 10 Israeli soldiers and six civilians have been killed by hostilities in the north, according to an AFP tally.

On the Lebanese side, at least 276 people have been killed, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also 44 civilians.

Hamas’s attacks on October 7 left around 1,160 people dead and saw 250 hostages taken, of whom about 130 are still thought to be in Gaza, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

In Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry says at least 29,692 have been killed in the war between the militants and Israel.


Sudan authorities block cross-border aid to stricken Darfur

Sudan authorities block cross-border aid to stricken Darfur
Updated 26 February 2024
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Sudan authorities block cross-border aid to stricken Darfur

Sudan authorities block cross-border aid to stricken Darfur

PORT SUDAN: Authorities loyal to the army in war-ravaged Sudan have blocked cross-border aid to the western Darfur region, a move decried by aid workers and the United States.

The vast Darfur region, bordering Chad, has been one of the hardest hit parts of Sudan since war began 10 months ago between the Sudanese Armed Forces and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

RSF are descendants of the Janjaweed militia which began a scorched earth campaign in Darfur more than two decades ago.

In their current battle against the army, which started last April, the RSF have taken over four out of the five Darfur state capitals.

More than 694,000 people have fled over the border to Chad, according to the International Organization for Migration, but many more remain trapped in Darfur and in need of assistance.

The United Nations has had to limit its work in Darfur to cross-border operations from Chad, but last week the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) country director Eddie Rowe told reporters that “authorities have restricted the Chad cross-border operation.”

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on Friday said the United States is deeply concerned by the army’s “recent decision to prohibit cross border humanitarian assistance from Chad and reports that the SAF is obstructing assistance from reaching communities in areas controlled by the RSF.”

Sudan’s foreign ministry, loyal to the army, expressed “confusion and rejection” of the “false accusations” by Washington.

The ministry said the Sudan-Chad border “is the main crossing point for weapons and equipment” used to commit “atrocities” against Sudanese.

Miller, of the State Department, also expressed concern about RSF “looting homes, markets and humanitarian assistance warehouses.”

In Brussels, Rowe of WFP said his agency was “engaging with the authorities to ensure this critical lifeline” from Chad remains operational.

It is essential, an international aid worker told AFP on Sunday from Darfur, requesting anonymity so as not to jeopardize their mission.

“Children and babies are already dying from hunger and malnutrition. There will be an immense human impact... and quite possibly large-scale mortality rates,” the aid worker said.

“The highest levels of diplomacy need to unblock this situation immediately because millions of lives hang in the balance,” the aid worker said, calling it “a huge region already facing an imminent and immense food security crisis on top of a civil war, ethnic violence and state service collapse.”

The war has killed thousands, including up to 15,000 in the West Darfur city of El Geneina alone, according to the UN experts.

Washington has accused both sides of war crimes, and said the RSF also carried out ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.