Blinken warns of ‘forced displacement’ of civilians in Gaza

The head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken, visiting the West Bank, warned on Sunday against the “forced displacement” of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is continuing its offensive launched almost a month ago in retaliation to the bloody attack by Hamas.

Mr. Blinken stopped, for the first time since the start of the war on October 7, in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, where he met the President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, at a time when violence is increasing in this Palestinian territory.

Mahmoud Abbas denounced before the American Secretary of State “the war of genocide” led according to him by Israel in Gaza, where the death toll from Israeli bombings carried out in retaliation for the Hamas attack approaches 10,000 deaths, including nearly half of them children, according to the Palestinian Islamist movement.

The Palestinian Authority no longer exercises any control over the Gaza Strip since Hamas took power there in 2007.

Israel, which has sworn to “annihilate” Hamas, is relentlessly shelling the small besieged territory where 2.4 million inhabitants live in a catastrophic humanitarian situation. The army has been carrying out increasingly deep ground operations in parallel since October 27, facing Hamas fighters holed up in a network of tunnels.

The Secretary of State warned against “forced displacement” of civilians in the Gaza Strip, while Israel has been calling on the population since mid-October to flee the north of the territory, where most of the fighting is concentrated. , to take refuge in the south.

On Sunday, the Israeli army once again scattered messages to this effect in the sky over Gaza.

Mr. Blinken also called for an end to “extremist violence” in the West Bank, a Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967. More than 150 Palestinians have been killed there by fire from Israeli soldiers or settlers since October 7, according to the Palestinian Authority.

Israeli flag

Fierce fighting once again pitted Israeli soldiers against Hamas on Sunday in the Gaza Strip, where the army continued its advance despite multiple calls for a truce in the face of civilian despair.

On Sunday, a blue and white Israeli flag flew on a destroyed building in the north of the territory, in the middle of a field of ruins, according to AFP images filmed from the Israeli town of Sderot.

Images released by the Israeli army showed soldiers, accompanied by tanks and bulldozers, patrolling the rubble or along the Mediterranean coast of the Gaza Strip.

Arab countries allied with the United States called for a ceasefire on Saturday during a meeting in Amman with the American Secretary of State. But Washington favors “pauses” to deliver humanitarian aid, believing that a ceasefire would “only keep Hamas in place”.

France called on Sunday for an “immediate humanitarian truce”.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was opposed to any pause in the war until the hostages held by Hamas had been released.

Antony Blinken was still expected in Turkey on Sunday, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared breaking all contact with Benjamin Netanyahu to protest against the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

“Difficult” fights

The Israeli army said on Sunday that it had struck 2,500 targets since the start of ground operations in the Gaza Strip.

During the night, strikes targeted “a Hamas compound housing a command center and observation posts,” the army added, while Israeli soldiers “continue to eliminate terrorists in close combat.”

The army announced that it had “intensified” its operations after surrounding Thursday the city of Gaza, in the north, in order to destroy the “center” of Hamas, classified as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel.

During the night, the Hamas Ministry of Health claimed that a bombing had killed 45 people, mostly women and children, in the Maghazi refugee camp.

A journalist with Turkey’s Anadolu agency, two of whose children were killed, told AFP that his house had partially collapsed when an airstrike hit his neighbors’ home in the camp, leaving numerous victims.

At least 29 Israeli soldiers have been killed since the start of the ground operation, according to the army, and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant reported “difficult fighting”, vowing to “find” and “to eliminate » Yahya Sinouar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“The bombs were falling”

Since October 7, 9,770 people, mainly civilians, have been killed by Israeli bombings in the Gaza Strip, according to Hamas.

In Israel, where rocket warning sirens sound regularly, at least 1,400 people died according to the authorities, the majority of them civilians killed during the Hamas attack, of a violence and scale unprecedented since the creation of Israel in 1948.

Hamas also holds 241 hostages, according to the army.

On Saturday, another strike left 15 dead, according to Hamas, in a UN school where displaced people were sheltering, in the Jabaliya refugee camp. This camp, the largest in the Gaza Strip, has been hit several times in recent days, as have several other schools transformed into shelters.

“The bombs were falling on us, people were cut into pieces, they are all dead or injured, we want a truce, please, we are exhausted,” implored Sajda Maarouf, taking refuge in a school.

In four weeks, Israeli bombings have caused immense destruction in Gaza and led, according to the UN, to the displacement of 1.5 million people.

Since October 9, Israel has placed this poor, very densely populated territory of 362 square kilometers under a state of “complete siege”, cutting off deliveries of water, electricity and food. The Gaza Strip had already been subject to an Israeli land, air and sea blockade since 2007.

According to an American official, 350,000 to 400,000 people are still in the north while hundreds of thousands of others are massed in the south, near the border with Egypt.

This border has partially opened since October 21 to allow humanitarian convoys to pass through the Rafah crossing point. A total of 450 trucks crossed the border on Saturday, according to the UN, which is calling for more massive aid.

Several hundred wounded, foreigners and dual nationals have been able to leave Gaza for Egypt since 1er November via Rafah, but the Hamas government decided to suspend these evacuations on Saturday due to Israel’s refusal to let other wounded Palestinians leave.

Tensions are also very high in northern Israel, on the border with southern Lebanon, where there are daily exchanges of fire between the Israeli army and the pro-Iranian movement Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas.

Since October 7, 76 people have died on the Lebanese side, according to an AFP count, including 58 Hezbollah fighters. Six soldiers and one civilian were killed on the Israeli side.

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