Blinken meets Abbas in West Bank as war casualties mount
Gaza health ministry claims scores more killed in Israeli strike
Gaza/Ramallah — A spokesperson for the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said on Sunday that Israeli military had struck a refugee camp overnight, killing at least 40 people, as calls by the Arab world for a ceasefire were rejected by the US and Israel.
In a separate attack, 21 Palestinians from one family, including women and children, were killed in Israeli strikes targeting Gaza overnight, the health ministry said.
Reuters could not independently verify the accounts.
With the death toll in Gaza mounting, pro-Palestinian demonstrators staged protests in cities around the world on Saturday, calling for an end to the nearly month-old war.
Meanwhile, US secretary of state Antony Blinken made an unannounced visit to the occupied West Bank on Sunday and met Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas as part of a regional tour aimed at tackling the crisis.
Palestinian officials said Blinken flew in to Tel Aviv and travelled over land. Abbas has had little sway in Gaza, however, since the Hamas takeover of the enclave in 2007.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday disciplined a junior member of his cabinet who voiced openness to the idea of Israel carrying out a nuclear strike on Gaza, where the war with Hamas militants is inflicting a spiralling Palestinian civilian toll.
Gaza health officials said on Saturday more than 9,488 Palestinians had been killed in the war, which began when Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack on southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,400 people and taking more than 240 others hostage.
Israel continued to strike the Gaza Strip by air, sea, and ground overnight.
Gaza health officials said Israeli air strikes destroyed a cluster of houses in the Maghazi refugee camp. Asked for comment, the Israeli military said they are waiting and gathering details.
Mohammad Al-Aloul, a photographer for Turkish news agency Anadolu, said he lost his four children, four of his brothers and their children in the strike, which destroyed his house.
“I was doing my job when I heard that an Israeli air strike targeted a residential district in Maghazi and that there are martyrs and injured,” Al-Aloul said.
“I arrived in hospital and found out that my four children, including my only daughter, were martyred.”
Israel says it is targeting Hamas, not civilians, and that the Islamist Palestinian group is using residents as human shields.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said there is also intense bombardment, artillery explosions and air strikes in the vicinity of the Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza’s Tal Al-Hawa area.
Foreign ministers from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates met Blinken in Amman on Saturday and pushed for Washington to persuade Israel to agree to a ceasefire.
“This war is just going to produce more pain for Palestinians, for Israelis, and this is going to push us all again into the abyss of hatred and dehumanisation,” Jordanian foreign minister Ayman Safadi said at a press conference with Blinken.
“So that needs to stop.”
However, Blinken dismissed the idea of a ceasefire, saying it will only benefit Hamas, allowing it to regroup and attack again.
Washington had proposed localised pauses in fighting to allow in humanitarian aid and for people to leave the densely populated Gaza Strip.
Israel’s Netanyahu rejected this when he met Blinken on Friday in Tel Aviv.
Blinken was to visit Turkey on Sunday for talks on the conflict, continuing his second trip to the region since the conflict reignited.
Speaking in Shanghai, Mohammad Mokhber, Iran’s first vice-president, called Israeli actions “a war crime”. He said: “We need to end this immediately and provide more humanitarian assistance to Gaza.”
Israel’s assault and siege have stirred global alarm at humanitarian conditions in the narrow coastal enclave.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators staged protests on Saturday in cities including London, Berlin, Paris, Istanbul and Jakarta, calling for a ceasefire.
Tens of thousands gathered in Washington to denounce President Joe Biden's war policy and demand a ceasefire.
In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, foreign minister Retno Marsudi told tens of thousands gathered in Jakarta on Sunday that the government reaffirmed its support for the struggle of the Palestinian people and would send a second shipment of aid.
Worsening violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank has fuelled concern that the flashpoint Palestinian territory could become a third front in a wider war, in addition to Israel’s northern border, where clashes with Lebanese Hezbollah forces have mounted.
In Abu Dis, a Palestinian village near Jerusalem, a gunman fired on Israeli police conducting a raid. A police spokesperson said he was killed.
The Palestinian health ministry said three Palestinians were killed in the incident, which it described as clashes with Israeli forces. The ministry said Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Hebron killed a Palestinian. The Israeli military did not immediately comment on that.
“This has been a serious problem that’s only worsened since the conflict,” said Blinken said. He said that he raised it with Israeli officials. “Perpetrators must be held accountable.”
Israel ordered all civilians in October to leave the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Its army has since encircled Gaza City, where it is engaged in fierce street fighting with Hamas militants.
Israeli planes dropped leaflets on Gaza’s biggest city, ordering people to move south through the Salah Al-Deen Road between 10am and 2pm on Sunday.
“Time has come, the state of Israel asks you to preserve your lives and to evacuate your homes from the areas of fighting,” the leaflets said.
US special envoy David Satterfield said in Amman, Jordan, on Saturday that 800,000 to 1-million people had moved south, while 350,000 to 400,000 remained in and around Gaza City.
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