United States and Europe in new efforts to calm conflict in Gaza

Amidst the escalating Gaza conflict, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Europe’s senior diplomat Josep Borrell have embarked on a crucial diplomatic mission to halt the spread of violence into the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Lebanon, and Red Sea shipping lanes.

Blinken and Borrel
Antony Blinken (left) and Josep Borrel (right). Photo courtesy: US Department of State

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Europe’s senior diplomat Josep Borrell have initiated a diplomatic effort to prevent the escalation of the Gaza conflict into the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Lebanon, and Red Sea shipping lanes.

Their visit to the Middle East comes three months after Hamas militants from Gaza launched an attack on Israel, prompting a devastating offensive that has resulted in the displacement of 90% of Gaza’s population and the loss of 22,600 lives, as reported by Palestinian officials.

In response to international pressure to minimize civilian casualties, Israel has announced a more targeted approach, claiming to have eliminated 8,000 militants since the initial attack by Hamas on October 7. However, Gazans have reported intensified attacks by Israeli planes and tanks overnight in densely populated areas such as Al-Maghazi, Al-Bureij, and Al-Nusseirat in the central part of the coastal strip.

According to Palestinian officials, 162 people were killed in the past 24 hours alone. Additionally, it was later reported that at least 22 people were killed in Khan Younis in the south, where many Gazans had relocated in response to Israeli warnings. This included the deaths of 10 individuals and several injuries resulting from an Israeli airstrike on a house belonging to the Al-Bayouk family.

Other casualties occurred in Al-Nusseirat, where four individuals were killed in an airstrike on a street, and in Deir Al-Balah, where three people died and seven were injured due to Israeli shelling on a house. Medics also reported the deaths of two more individuals in the same central Gaza town as a result of fresh Israeli airstrikes after dark.

Abdel Razek Abu Sinjar, whose wife and children were killed in a strike on his house in Rafah on the border with Egypt, expressed his grief and criticized the Israeli government, stating, “The Israeli government claims democracy and humanity, but is inhumane.”

Videos from Jabalia in northern Gaza showed streets filled with sewage and garbage, with residents struggling to navigate the ruins. The dire conditions have led to the spread of hunger and deadly diseases.

The Israeli military reported striking over 100 targets in Gaza in the past 24 hours, including gunmen who attempted to attack a tank in Al-Bureij and others in Khan Younis. In response, Hamas’ military wing claimed to have killed some Israeli troops.

The conflict in Gaza has also fueled violence in the West Bank, which is governed by Fatah, a rival of Hamas. The West Bank has long been a territory where Palestinian aspirations for statehood have been thwarted.

In the town of Beit Rima, a 17-year-old Palestinian was killed and four others were wounded by Israeli army gunfire. The Israeli military stated that troops fired in response to Palestinians throwing petrol bombs.

According to the United Nations, around 300 Palestinians have lost their lives in the West Bank since the outbreak of the war.

Blinken’s week-long tour, starting in Turkey, will include visits to the West Bank, Israel, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. The State Department spokesperson emphasized the importance of preventing the conflict from spreading beyond Gaza, stating, “It is in no one’s interest, not Israel’s, not the region’s, not the world’s, for this conflict to spread beyond Gaza.”

Meanwhile, EU foreign policy chief Borrell is scheduled to visit Lebanon as part of his diplomatic efforts.

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