Top US diplomat Antony Blinken arrived in Israel on Friday, where he called for temporary halts in the ongoing conflict to allow humanitarian assistance into Gaza. At the same time, Israel reported that it had encircled Gaza City, the primary target in its campaign against Hamas. This marks Blinken’s second visit to Israel in a month as the conflict, now in its fourth week, continues to rage. The Israeli military is engaged in battles with Hamas militants, who are employing hit-and-run tactics from underground tunnels.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced, “We’re at the height of the battle. We’ve had impressive successes and have passed the outskirts of Gaza City. We are advancing.”
As Blinken left Washington for the Middle East, he emphasized the need to take concrete steps to minimize harm to civilians in Gaza. The White House, however, stated that any ceasefires should be localized and temporary and reiterated Israel’s right to self-defense.
The conflict has led to a significant toll on Palestinian civilians, with shortages of essential supplies such as food, water, medicine, and fuel. Calls for a ceasefire or pause in the fighting have intensified from global leaders, but Israel has rejected these calls, claiming that it is targeting Hamas fighters who allegedly hide among the civilian population and in civilian buildings. The White House has also opposed calls for a ceasefire.
According to Gaza health authorities, at least 9,061 people in Gaza have been killed since Israel’s assault began in retaliation for deadly attacks by Hamas militants on southern Israel.
A group of independent United Nations experts expressed concern, warning that Palestinians are at a “grave risk of genocide” and called on Israel and its allies to agree to an immediate ceasefire. The Israeli mission to the UN in Geneva criticized these comments and blamed Hamas for civilian deaths.
The White House has mentioned that it is considering the possibility of implementing a series of temporary pauses in the conflict to facilitate the delivery of aid and the safe evacuation of people, including hostages.
Antony Blinken is also scheduled to meet with Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi in Amman. Safadi has called for an end to the war on Gaza, accusing Israel of committing war crimes by targeting civilians and imposing a siege.
Source: Arab News