Aid ship reaches Gaza, Israel rejects Hamas truce offer

STORY: The first ship carrying food aid for the Gaza Strip reached its coast on Friday (March 15).

It comes as hopes for a ceasefire to save the population from starvation suffered a new blow, after Israel rejected the latest truce counter-proposal from Hamas.

The charity World Central Kitchen hopes to deliver the aid to a temporary jetty.

Two hundred twenty tons of food supplies are on board the Open Arms vessel, which has been towed from Cyprus.

But precise details of how aid would reach the shore, let alone be distributed, have not yet been made clear.

And aid agencies have repeatedly said that plans to bring in aid by sea and through air drops is not enough to satisfy the territory's vast needs.

The war began when Hamas Islamist fighters from Gaza killed 1,200 people and seized 253 hostages in Israel on October 7, according to Israeli tallies.

Since then, Israel's assault on the enclave has killed more than 31,000 people, and driven nearly the entire 2.3 million population of Gaza from their homes.

Israel has rejected Hamas' latest counter-offer for a weeks-long ceasefire on the grounds of "unrealistic demands."

The proposal, seen by Reuters, envisions the release of dozens of Israeli hostages in return for hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

It also calls for talks during a second phase that would eventually lead to the end of the war.

Israel has persistently said it will discuss only temporary pauses in fighting, with discussions of ending the war off the table until Hamas is eradicated.

U.S., Egyptian and Qatari mediators had hoped to reach a ceasefire in time for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

That deadline passed earlier this week.

The United Nations says Gaza's entire population is suffering from a food crisis.

And it believes a quarter of them are on the precipice of famine, especially in the north.

Israel, which has sealed off all land routes into Gaza except for two crossings, denies responsibility for the crisis.

It blames aid agencies, saying they should do a better job of distributing food.

Agencies say they need better access and security, both of which are the responsibility of Israeli forces.

The distribution of the limited aid that does arrive has been chaotic, and frequently violent under the watch of Israeli tanks.

In one of the worst reported incidents yet, Gaza health authorities reported at least 21 people had been killed and 150 wounded on Thursday night - blaming Israeli forces for opening fire into a crowd queuing for food at a road junction near Gaza City.

Israel denied its troops were to blame, as it has in past incidents.