Tel Aviv, Israel:
Israel said on Sunday it was bombarding Gaza with “significant” strikes after cutting it in two, as America’s top diplomat insisted on a Middle East tour focused on humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. Israeli forces “surrounded Gaza City… There is now a southern Gaza and a northern Gaza,” army spokesman Daniel Hagari said.
He spoke after the US secretary of state visited the occupied West Bank, Iraq and Cyprus on Sunday as part of a whirlwind tour focused on helping civilians under siege in Gaza and preventing attacks by Iranian-backed groups against US troops in response to the Israeli war in Gaza.
Blinken met with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas who denounced what he called a “genocide” in Gaza, where the Hamas-controlled territory’s health ministry said at least 9,770 people, mostly civilians, had been killed in more than four weeks of war.
As telecommunications in Gaza are cut for the third time, Washington has rejected calls for a ceasefire and backed Israel’s goal of crushing Hamas which staged the worst attack in the history of the country on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people, also mostly civilians, and taking control of 240 people. hostages, according to Israeli officials.
Global concern has grown over the escalating death toll in Gaza, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has again pledged that “there will be no ceasefire until the hostages will not be returned.
“Let them take this out of their lexicon. We say this to our enemies and our friends,” the veteran right-wing prime minister said after meeting troops at an air base.
“We’ll just keep going until we win. We have no alternative.”
Soldiers fought house to house on Sunday as tanks and armored bulldozers moved through the sand, according to footage released by the army.
“This strike is like an earthquake,” said Alaa Abu Hasera, a resident of Gaza City, in a devastated area where entire blocks have been reduced to rubble.
Blinken, in his talks with Abbas, said Palestinians in Gaza “should not be forcibly displaced,” a US State Department spokesperson said.
Israel has distributed leaflets and sent text messages urging Palestinian civilians in northern Gaza to head south, but a U.S. official said Saturday that at least 350,000 civilians remained in what is now an urban war zone.
Abbas denounced “the genocide and destruction suffered by our Palestinian people in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli war machine, in defiance of the principles of international law,” the official Palestinian news agency Wafa said.
“Stop extremist violence”
Israel has relentlessly pounded Gaza in its battle to destroy Hamas, destroying entire city blocks.
“Right now, parents in Gaza don’t know if they can feed their children today and if they will survive until tomorrow,” said Cindy McCain, director of the World Food Program.
Blinken told a Senate hearing last week that Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) should regain control of Gaza after the war. It currently exercises only limited autonomy in parts of the West Bank and Netanyahu has long sought to sideline it.
Abbas said on Sunday that the PA could return to power in Gaza in the future only if a “comprehensive political solution” was found to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Washington has said it supports a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but Netanyahu’s far-right government has been implacably opposed.
The war has heightened tensions in the West Bank, where more than 150 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli forces and settler attacks, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.
Blinken and Abbas discussed “the need to end extremist violence against Palestinians” in the West Bank, the State Department said.
“We saw dead bodies”
Since Israel sent ground forces into northern Gaza late last month, “more than 2,500 terrorist targets have been struck” by “land, air and naval forces”, the army said on Sunday.
Telephone and Internet connections were cut for the third time during the war, according to Paltel, the last remaining major operator.
Shortly after the power outage, the Israeli army began its intense bombardment of Gaza City and other neighboring areas in the north of the territory.
Some explosions were so powerful that they could be heard in Rafah, in the far south, noted an AFP journalist.
Hamas said Israel was carrying out “intense bombardment” around several hospitals in northern Gaza.
The images showed civilians heading south, away from the fighting, although military spokesman Hagari told foreign journalists that Hamas was using roadblocks to try to prevent them from fleeing.
“We saw dead bodies in the streets,” Suhad Zorob said as she fled south. “We saw the tanks…only a street away from us.”
Gaza’s health ministry said Israeli bombing of the Al-Maghazi refugee camp on Saturday evening killed 45 people, with one eyewitness reporting children dead and homes destroyed.
“An Israeli airstrike targeted my neighbors’ house in Al-Maghazi camp, my house next door partially collapsed,” said Mohammed Alaloul, 37, a journalist working for Turkey’s Anadolu Agency. .
He told AFP that the attack killed four of his children, four of his brothers and several of his nieces and nephews.
The Israeli military said it was investigating whether its forces were operating in the area at the time of the bombing.
Blinken faced a growing wave of anger during his meetings with Arab foreign ministers in Jordan on Saturday, where he reaffirmed US support for “humanitarian pauses” rather than a ceasefire. fire.
The new US ambassador to Israel, Jack Lew, said Sunday that the October 7 Hamas attack was “a stain on humanity that cannot happen again.”
“Not a war, a massacre”
After touring the West Bank, Blinken made a brief stopover in Cyprus, the nearest EU member state, which said it was working to establish a maritime corridor for aid to Gaza.
He then flew to Baghdad and met Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani.
“I have made it very clear that attacks or threats from Iran-aligned militias are completely unacceptable,” Blinken said in Baghdad.
Later, Blinken was expected in Turkey, whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has held Netanyahu personally responsible for the growing number of civilian deaths in Gaza.
Turkey announced on Saturday that it was recalling its ambassador to Israel and cutting contacts with Netanyahu.
International concern has increased over the suffering.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, visiting Qatar, called for “an immediate, lasting and respected humanitarian truce” which could “lead to a ceasefire”.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who is the only channel for foreigners to flee Gaza and for aid to enter, called on Saturday for an “immediate and complete ceasefire.”
This call was echoed by thousands of demonstrators in Washington in solidarity with the Palestinians, during one of multiple rallies organized from Indonesia to Iran, as well as in European cities.
Thousands of people also demonstrated in Israel on Saturday as pressure mounts on Netanyahu over his government’s lack of preparation for the October 7 attacks and its handling of the hostage crisis.
Hundreds of people outside Netanyahu’s residence in Jerusalem called on him to resign, while in Tel Aviv, relatives and friends of some of the hostages chanted “take them home now.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)