Internet InfoMedia as u n warns of famine in gaza cease fire remains elusive
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With the approach of Ramadan, as well as protests by hostage families and a threatened Palestinian march on the Aqsa mosque, pressure is rising to reach a deal.

A top Hamas official on Wednesday appeared to raise the stakes for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, saying the militant group was ready to continue fighting and calling on Palestinians to defy Israeli restrictions and march to the Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem to pray at the start of Ramadan.

In a televised speech, Hamas’s political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said the group was open to indirect negotiations with Israel, but that “any flexibility we show in the negotiation process is a commitment to protecting the blood of our people, matched by a readiness to defend them.”

He called on Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank to march to the Aqsa mosque when the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins around March 10. That creates the prospect of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces around the mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam and a longtime flashpoint in relations with Israel. Israel has restricted access to the Aqsa mosque for West Bank Palestinians, and it has severely limited movement within the West Bank since the start of the war in Gaza.

Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, declined on Wednesday to comment on Mr. Haniyeh’s call for a march to the mosque, which is part of a 35-acre site that is also holy for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount.

“I would just say, as it pertains to Al Aqsa, we continue to urge Israel to facilitate access to Temple Mount for peaceful worshipers during Ramadan, consistent with past practice and that’ll continue to be our position,” Mr. Miller said.

Displaced Palestinians in Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s population is sheltering.Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters

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