Photo: Mark Schiefelbein Pool Agence France-Presse US Secretary of State Antony Blinken upon his arrival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Monday
Béatrice Le Bohec – Agence France-Presse, Shaun Tandon – Agence France-Presse, Adel Zaanoun – Agence France-Presse respectively in Jerusalem, Riyadh and the Palestinian territories
- Middle East
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday, the first stop on his tour of the Middle East to try to achieve a new truce in the deadly fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Mr. Blinken, whose country is Israel's main supporter, is making his fifth trip to the region since the war began on October 7. After Riyadh, he must go to Qatar, Egypt, Israel and the occupied West Bank.
As the war that has devastated the Palestinian territory enters its fifth month on Wednesday, 128 people, mostly women, children and the elderly, were killed in 24 hours, the Hamas Health Ministry announced.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) has accused the Israeli army of a naval strike on a food aid convoy preparing to enter northern Gaza .
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A “fatal blow”
For its part, the army said it had carried out “targeted raids” in the north and center of the territory, and killed “dozens of terrorists who were setting up ambushes” in Khan Younes, the large city in southern Gaza, which shelters, according to Israel, leaders of the Palestinian Islamist movement.
Strikes also targeted Rafah, in the far south of the territory, a city which had 270,000 inhabitants before the war, where more than 1.3 million people are now crowded together in desperate conditions. people who fled the fighting, according to the UN.
The overcrowded city, located on the closed border with Egypt, could be the next objective of Israel, which says it wants to “annihilate” the Islamist movement, classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union.
The war broke out on October 7 after an unprecedented attack on Israeli soil by Hamas commandos infiltrated from Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally. made from official Israeli data.
In response, Israel launched a military offensive that left 27,478 people dead in the Gaza Strip, the vast majority of them civilians, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that a “total victory” for the army in Gaza would deal a “fatal blow” to Hamas, but also to Iran and its allies .
At the same time, negotiations continue to reach a second truce, after that of a week at the end of November which allowed the release of around a hundred hostages held in Gaza and 240 Palestinians detained by Israel.
Some 250 people were kidnapped on October 7 and 132 hostages are still being held in Gaza, 28 of whom are believed to have died, according to Israel.
During his tour, Mr. Blinken will support the project developed by Qatari, American and Egyptian mediators in Paris at the end of January, which must still be approved by Hamas and Israel.
The United States continues to support “Israel's right to defend itself,” but displays growing frustration with its ally.
In Israel, Blinken will advocate for increased volumes of food, water and medicine entering the Gaza Strip. The territory, plunged into a major humanitarian crisis, has been completely besieged since October 9 by Israel, which controls the entry of aid.
According to a Hamas source, the proposal currently on the table includes a six-week truce during which Israel will have to release 200 to 300 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for 35 to 40 hostages held in Gaza, and 200 300 aid trucks will be able to enter the territory every day.
Hamas, in power in Gaza since 2007, demands a total ceasefire. This is what Benjamin Netanyahu refuses, despite pressure from the families of the hostages who are demanding the release of their loved ones.
“Hamas has demands that we will not accept,” Mr. Netanyahu said on Monday, adding that the terms of a possible agreement “must be similar” to those of the agreement that had preceded the November truce.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced on Monday the creation of an independent committee to assess the “neutrality” of UNRWA. Israel said it would prove UNRWA's “links to terrorism.”
Several donor countries recently suspended funding to this agency, following accusations from Israel that several of its employees participated in the October 7 attack.
Meeting at the UN
The war in Gaza has caused renewed tension in the occupied West Bank where the Palestinian Authority accuses extremist settlers of deadly violence against Palestinians.
“Settler violence must stop,” declared the head of French diplomacy, Stéphane Séjourné, on Monday, visiting Israel. “There can be no forced displacement of Palestinians under any circumstances, neither outside Gaza nor outside the West Bank,” he added after meeting Mr. Netanyahu.
The UN Security Council also meets on Monday, at the request of Russia, after American strikes in Iraq and Syria in response to the attack on an American base in Jordan on January 28, attributed by Washington to pro-Iran groups, in which three American soldiers were killed.