KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel on Friday to urge for increased humanitarian aid to be allowed into the besieged Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Israeli troops continue to tighten their encirclement of Gaza City, which is the primary target of Israel’s campaign against the ruling Hamas group.
Tensions Escalate on Northern Border
Tensions on the northern border with Lebanon have also escalated, with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah set to deliver a speech later today. This will be his first public address since Hamas launched attacks on Israel last month.
Hezbollah’s Actions Raise Concerns
Hezbollah, an Iran-backed ally of Hamas, initiated attacks on Israeli military positions in northern Israel using drones, mortar fire, and suicide drones. These actions have increased concerns that the conflict between Israel and Hamas could potentially escalate into a regional warfare. In response, the Israeli military retaliated with warplanes and helicopter gunships.
Since the war began on October 7th, Hezbollah has been strategically engaging Israel’s military along its border with Lebanon, carefully avoiding actions that could trigger an all-out war.
Devastating Casualty Figures
The ongoing conflict has resulted in over 9,000 Palestinian fatalities in Gaza and approximately 1,400 deaths in Israel, primarily among civilians who were killed during Hamas’ initial attack.
Blinken’s Efforts for Humanitarian Assistance
This marks Blinken’s third visit to Israel since the start of the Hamas attack. On this trip, he will also visit Tel Aviv and Amman, Jordan. President Joe Biden has suggested a humanitarian “pause” in the fighting to allow aid for Palestinians and facilitate the evacuation of foreign nationals and the wounded from Gaza. Approximately 800 individuals have already left Gaza in the past two days.
Israel has not yet responded to Biden’s suggestion. However, Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has previously rejected a cease-fire, stated on Thursday, “We are advancing…Nothing will stop us.” He vowed to eradicate Hamas’ rule in the Gaza Strip.
Unwavering Support for Israel
The United States has reaffirmed its unwavering support for Israel following a devastating attack by Hamas militants that resulted in the loss of hundreds of innocent lives and the capture of around 240 individuals almost four weeks ago.
U.S. Support for Israel’s Right to Defend Itself
Before departing, Secretary of State Blinken received assurances from the U.S. State Department regarding America’s unwavering support for Israel’s right to defend itself. Alongside this, the Biden administration has called for Israel to increase the provision of aid to Gaza, as concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territory continues to grow.
Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza
According to the Health Ministry in Gaza, more than 3,700 Palestinian children have tragically lost their lives during the 25 days of fighting. Additionally, the bombardment has forced over half of the territory’s 2.3 million inhabitants to flee their homes. The scarcity of food, water, and fuel, caused by Israel’s siege, has reached critical levels, and overwhelmed hospitals are on the brink of collapse.
Insufficient Aid and Fuel Shortage
Temporary Pause Instead of General Cease-Fire
The White House’s national security spokesman, John Kirby, clarified that the United States is not currently advocating for a general cease-fire. Instead, they are proposing a “temporary, localized” pause in the hostilities.