The United States vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Tuesday calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, with Israel continuing to bombard the territory as concern grew about the growing humanitarian crisis.

Global powers trying to navigate a way out of the spiralling crisis have come up short, with so-far fruitless push by mediators to reach a truce, and two rival ceasefire proposals put forward at the UN.

On Tuesday Washington vetoed the first proposal, drafted by Algeria, which demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and "unconditional" release of all hostages kidnapped in the October 7 attacks.

Washington's ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, called the vote "wishful and irresponsible", saying it would put "sensitive negotiations in jeopardy".

The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations Riyad Mansour called Washington's veto of a Security Council push for a ceasefire "absolutely reckless and dangerous".

"The message given today to Israel with this veto is that it can continue to get away with murder," Mansour said in an emotional statement to the Security Council.

With US President Joe Biden facing increasing pressure to dial down support for Israel, Washington has put forward an alternative draft resolution on Gaza.

That text, seen by AFP, emphasises "support for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable" and expresses concern for Rafah.

According to a diplomatic source, the draft stands little chance of being adopted in its current form and risks a Russian veto.

As diplomatic powers wrangled, Israel continued to hit Gaza with air strikes and ground combat that killed a total of 103 Palestinians in the past 24 hours, its health ministry said.

The United Nations has repeatedly sounded alarm over the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza and warned food shortages could lead to an "explosion" of preventable child deaths.

'Where is the humanity'?

Despite having only just re-started much-needed deliveries into the hard-hit north, the UN's food programme said Tuesday it had been forced to stop after having "faced complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order".

The World Food Programme resumed deliveries Sunday but its convoy was met with gunfire, violence, looting, people trying to climb onto the vans, and a truck driver was beaten, it said Tuesday.

The WFP acknowledged that halting deliveries meant the situation "will deteriorate further and more people risk dying of hunger".

More than four months of relentless fighting have flattened much of the coastal territory, pushed 2.2 million people to the brink of famine and displaced three-quarters of the population, according to UN estimates.

The scarcity of food and safe water has triggered a steep rise in malnutrition, the UN children's fund warned Monday, with one in six children in northern Gaza now acutely malnourished.

"How many of us have to die... to stop these crimes?" said Ahmad Moghrabi, a Palestinian doctor in southern Gaza's main city, Khan Yunis.

"Where is the humanity?"

Calls for pause

After months of struggling for a united response, all EU members except Hungary called Monday for an "immediate humanitarian pause".

They also urged Israel not to invade Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah, where some 1.4 million Palestinians are sheltering, many in makeshift tents.

The city -- the last untouched by Israeli ground troops -- is the main entry point for desperately needed relief supplies via neighbouring Egypt.

Israel says the offensive is essential to destroy Hamas.

The war started when Hamas launched its unprecedented attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.

Hamas militants also took about 250 hostages -- 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.

Israel's retaliatory campaign has killed at least 29,195 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by the territory's health ministry.

For weeks, Israel has concentrated its military operations in Khan Yunis, the hometown of Hamas's leader in the territory Yahya Sinwar, the alleged architect of the October 7 attack.

The army said Tuesday troops were continuing "intensive operations" in the city and "killed dozens of terrorists over the past day".

'Dying from hunger or bombing'

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization said it had transferred 32 patients out of the city's Nasser hospital, which Israeli troops raided last week after days of fighting around the medical facility.

Seven patients have died in the besieged hospital since Friday due to a lack of oxygen amid power cuts, according to the Gaza health ministry.

The Israeli army denied that any patients had died since the army began its operation.

The WHO said it feared for patients and staff still inside and warned the damage to the hospital -- the chief facility in southern Gaza -- was a "massive blow".

Witnesses said Gaza City's southern Zeitun neighbourhood had also come under heavy bombardment.

"We don't know where to go -- every place is being bombed," said resident Abdullah Al-Qadi, 67.

Farther south in Al-Zawayda, Ayman Abu Shammali said his wife and daughter had been killed in an Israeli missile strike.

"People in the north are dying from hunger, while here we are dying from bombing," he said.

Israel has rebuffed repeated calls to spare Rafah, including from closest ally the United States.

It has warned that, unless all Israeli hostages still held in Gaza are freed by the start of Ramadan on March 10 or 11, it will push on with its offensive during the Muslim holy month, including in the city.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh meanwhile arrived in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials, the militant group said, days after mediators said prospects for truce had dimmed despite meetings with both Israeli and Hamas negotiators last week.

The lack of progress in securing the release of more Israeli hostages has fuelled protests in Israel against the government's handling of the war.

"We desperately call on all decision-makers in Israel and worldwide to be involved in negotiations and bring them home immediately," said Ofri Bibas, whose sister-in law Shiri is still held in Gaza with her two young children.



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