Aid could arrive in Gaza starting Friday, Biden says, as calls for a ceasefire grow

Humanitarian aid could begin to arrive in the Gaza Strip as early as Friday, according to President Biden, amid increasing calls for a cease-fire.

Background: This potential aid delivery comes nearly two weeks since the start of an Israeli bombardment campaign against militant group Hamas.
* The first shipment since Israel halted resources like food, water, electricity, and fuel to Gaza would contain thousands of tons of food, water, and medicine.
* The announcement comes after President Biden’s visit to Israel where he had discussions with both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Challenges ahead: Israel will not lift its siege until Hamas releases some 200 hostages, leaving the distribution of aid and the refugee situation uncertain.
* Thousands of people have gathered at the Rafah border, hoping to leave Gaza and escape the conflict.
* It is unclear whether any fuel, which is needed to power Gazan infrastructure such as desalination and wastewater plants, will be included in the aid.

On-the-ground effects: Israeli airstrikes have significantly damaged buildings and infrastructure, leading to major displacement.
* More than a million Palestinians are estimated to have left their homes to seek shelter.
* The conflict has led to the destruction of more than 4,800 residential buildings and damages to over 120,000 housing units.

By the numbers: The conflict has resulted in several casualties and vast displacement.
* Palestinian officials report that the death toll in Gaza has reached 3,478, with more than 60 dead in the West Bank.
* About 1,400 people in Israel have been killed in the conflict, and as many as 600 U.S. citizens are believed to be trapped in Gaza.

Calls for action: International leaders like U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres are advocating for an immediate ceasefire, as diplomatic efforts to address the crisis increase.
* Guterres has called for the release of hostages held by Hamas and for Israel to allow unrestricted access to aid.
* A wave of diplomatic visits to the region, including from British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French leader Emmanuel Macron, is anticipated.

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