Hatem Ali Associated Press Palestinians crowd around a kiosk offering free food on Tuesday in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.
Mai Yaghi – Agence France-Presse and Léon Bruneau – Agence France-Presse respectively in Gaza and Tel-Aviv
January 9, 2024
- Middle East
The head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, on Tuesday in Tel Aviv called on Israel to spare Palestinian civilians in its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, believing that they, particularly the children, paid a price “far too high”.
The hostilities entered their fourth month on Sunday and, despite numerous diplomatic efforts, nothing seems to be able to put an end to them, while the UN sounds the alarm on the disastrous living conditions of the population in the besieged territory.
Mr. Blinken, whose country is Israel's main ally, reaffirmed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “[U.S.] support for Israel's right to prevent a repeat of the October 7 attacks,” while emphasizing ” the importance of preventing further harm to civilians” in Gaza, according to the State Department.
“The price paid every day by civilians in Gaza, especially children, is far too high,” he later said at a press conference, noting that the Palestinian territory had need to receive “more food, more water, more medicine”.
He further urged Israel to “stop taking steps that undermine the Palestinians’ ability to govern themselves.”
Separately, the Israeli Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a request from international media for free access to the Gaza Strip, citing “the extreme security situation” in the Palestinian territory.
The war between Israel and Hamas was triggered by an unprecedented attack carried out on October 7 from the Gaza Strip by the Palestinian Islamist movement on Israeli soil which left around 1,140 dead, mostly civilians , according to an AFP count based on the Israeli toll.
In retaliation, Israel, which has sworn to destroy Hamas, in power in the Gaza Strip since 2007, launched an offensive in the Palestinian territory, with massive bombings and ground operations.
Since the start of the ground offensive on October 27, 185 Israeli soldiers have been killed, according to a report released Tuesday.
The Israeli army's strikes left more than 23,210 dead in the Palestinian territory, mainly women, adolescents and children, according to a Hamas report on Tuesday.
- Blinken in Tel Aviv to discuss future of Gaza
- UN 'very concerned about the high toll _ of journalists killed in Gaza
- In Lebanon, “the Palestinian identity is like an olive tree planted in our hearts”
“Crucial” pressure on Iran
After massively bombing the north of the territory at the beginning, Israel is now mainly striking the center and south of the Gaza Strip, where hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced by the war have gathered. According to Mr. Blinken, Israel accepted the principle of a UN “assessment mission” on the situation in the north of the Palestinian territory with a view to the return of the displaced.
The Israeli army has announced a new phase of the war, with its spokesperson Daniel Hagari telling the New York Times on Monday that it would involve fewer troops and airstrikes, adding that troop deployment would be reduced starting in January.
During an interview with Mr. Blinken, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, however, said that army operations would intensify in the region of Khan Yunis (south).
The American Secretary of State began a tour of the Middle East last week aimed in particular at trying to avoid a spillover of the conflict in the region, where Hamas has several allies, with armed groups supported by Iran in Lebanon. , in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
“Increasing pressure on Iran is crucial and could prevent regional escalation” on other fronts, Mr. Gallant said Tuesday during his meeting with Mr. Blinken.
Lebanese Hezbollah announced Tuesday that it had targeted a military command center with drones in northern Israel, a country neighboring Lebanon, in retaliation for the death of one of its commanders, Wissam Tawil, killed Monday in a strike attributed to Israel.
Israel confirmed that “an enemy aircraft fell on its base”, without causing any injuries.
“Bring Them Back Now”
An Israeli drone also targeted a car parked in a town in southern Lebanon, according to the official Lebanese Agency. The attack left “three people dead within Hezbollah,” according to a security source.
For its part, the Jordanian royal palace said that King Abdullah II would host Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday for discussions on Gaza.
These discussions would be part of Jordan's efforts to “achieve an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and ensure the uninterrupted delivery of humanitarian aid”, the palace said royal.
On Tuesday, Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, called on Muslim countries to “support” his movement in the war by providing it with “weapons.”
At the start of a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz, Mr. Blinken said Israel had “real chances” of integration in the Middle East with its Arab neighbors, “but we must overcome this very difficult moment.”
On the sidelines of his talks with Israeli officials, the US secretary of state met with families of hostages, reiterating “relentless efforts to have them released.”
Some 250 people were kidnapped during the October 7 attack in Israel and taken to Gaza, around 100 of whom have since been released.
At the same time, international organizations are warning of the health disaster in the Gaza Strip, where 85% of the population has been displaced and where humanitarian aid is arriving in trickles.
Despite a UN Security Council resolution last month calling for more aid to be delivered, according to the World Health Organization things have only progressed. 'get worse.
The organization said on Tuesday that its capacity to help Gaza residents was “diminishing,” calling it a “humanitarian catastrophe.”
In the West Bank, territory occupied by Israel since 1967 where the conflict has also increased violence to a level not seen in nearly twenty years, the Palestinian Authority accused Israeli forces on Tuesday of having rolled over the body of a man during of a military operation.
A video posted on social networks shows a military vehicle stopping in front of an inanimate body before driving over it.
The Israeli army, which frequently carries out operations in the West Bank, confirmed exchanges of fire during an operation in the Tulkarem sector and the deaths of “three terrorists”, but did not makes comments on the images.