The ongoing war between Israel and Hamas has displaced tens of thousands more Palestinians and worsened dire humanitarian conditions in the center of Gaza’s second-largest city. This week, the United Nations chief urged the UN Security Council to use its clout to avert ‘a humanitarian catastrophe’ in Gaza, leading Israel to accuse the organisation of supporting Hamas terrorists.
According to the United Nations, more than 80 per cent of Gaza’s population have been driven away from their homes since the start of the war. It also said all telecom services have been shut down due to cuts in the main fiber routes. Distribution of food, water and medicine has been prevented outside a sliver of southern Gaza, and new military evacuation orders are squeezing people into ever-smaller areas.
ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR: THE LATEST
Hezbollah’s anti-tank missile attack near the community of Shtula on the Lebanon border injured two Israeli soldiers, the Israel Defense Forces said. Later, in response to the attack, Israeli troops struck a series of Hezbollah sites. According to the military, the sites included a position used to fire projectiles at Israel earlier.
In his strongest public criticism of Israel’s conduct of the war on Hamas in south Gaza, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there was a gap between the government’s declared intentions to protect civilians and the casualties.
“As we stand here almost a week into this campaign in the south… it remains imperative that Israel put a premium on civilian protection,” Blinken said at a press conference following a meeting with British Foreign Secretary David Cameron in Washington on Thursday.
“And there does remain a gap between the intent to protect civilians and the actual results that we’re seeing on the ground,” Blinken said.
This comes as Israel said it must wipe out the Hamas terrorist group after its attack on Israel two months ago and said it was doing everything possible to get civilians out of harm’s way, including warnings about military operations.
White House national security aide Jon Finer has said the United States has not given Israel a firm deadline to end major combat operations against Hamas in Gaza, and if the war ended now, the Islamist group would continue to pose a threat.
“We have not given a firm deadline to Israel, not really our role. This is their conflict. That said, we do have influence, even if we don’t have ultimate control over what happens on the ground in Gaza. Frankly, if the war were to stop today, (Hamas) it would continue to pose (a threat) which is why we are not in a place yet of asking Israel to stop or to force ceasefire,” Finer told the Aspen Security Forum in Washington.
Israel has two objectives in Gaza, Finer said, ensuring Hamas can no longer govern the densely-populated enclave and it can no longer pose a threat to Israel following the deadly October 7 attack during which its militants killed 1,200 people and abducted 240 others.
Israel and the United Nations have signalled that the Kerem Shalom crossing in Israel could soon be opened to help speed up the delivery of humanitarian supplies into Gaza, where the Israel-Hamas war has left people desperately short of basic needs.
In Israel, Colonel Elad Goren, head of the civil department at COGAT, the Israeli agency for civilian coordination with the Palestinians, told reporters: “We will open Kerem Shalom just for inspection. It will happen in the next few days.”
In Geneva, United Nations aid chief Martin Griffiths told reporters that negotiations were underway.
US President Joe Biden, during his latest phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expressed his deep concern regarding the roughly 135 hostages still in Gaza and reiterated the need for the Red Cross to be permitted to visit them. According to the White House, Biden has agreed that last week’s truce fell apart because of “Hamas’s refusal to release young women, civilian hostages. The leaders agreed to remain deeply engaged to pursue every possible opportunity to free the remaining hostages.”
Biden also underscored the importance of a sustained flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza, giving a nod to the cabinet’s decision to expand fuel deliveries “but stressed that much more assistance was urgently required across the board,” the White House readout said.