Hamas leader: Gallant is “selling illusions” to Israelis

Blinken: Israel has a “real opportunity” to consolidate in the Middle East

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told Israeli leaders today (Tuesday) that there is still a chance to win the recognition of neighbors if it leads to the establishment of a new Arab state in its latest mission to stop a war in the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian state, according to Reuters.

Blinken said he would report on what happened during two days of talks with Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in a so-far fruitless effort to quell the violence during his fourth tour of the region since October.

His talks included a meeting with the Israeli war cabinet, which was formed after attacks by Hamas militants on October 7, which Israel says killed 1,200 people.

The Israeli offensive has led to the deaths of more than 23,000 Palestinians, the destruction of much of the Gaza Strip, and the displacement of most of the 2.3 million population, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in Tel Aviv (Reuters).

Blinken said he would urge Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government “on the urgent need to protect civilians and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those in need.”

US President Joe Biden said last night that Washington was quietly pressing Israel to begin withdrawing some of its forces.

Blinken's meetings across the region focused on trying to chart a long-term approach to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict as part of a path to ending the Gaza war.

After his meetings with Arab allies, he said the region's countries should integrate with Israel, a long-standing Israeli goal, but one that includes a “practical path” to establishing a Palestinian state.

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He told his Israeli counterpart, Israel Katz: “Over the years, I have known your own efforts to create greater communication and coordination in the Middle East, and I believe there are indeed real opportunities.”

He continued: “But we must overcome this difficult moment, ensure that October 7 does not happen again, and work towards a different and better future.”

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken (left) meets with Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz (second right) in Tel Aviv on January 9, 2024, during his week-long visit to defuse tensions across the Middle East (AFP).

Fighting in southern Gaza intensifies

After weeks of U.S. pressure to scale back its attacks, Israel said its forces were moving from an all-out war to a more targeted campaign in northern Gaza, but they were intensifying fighting in the south.

He added that Israeli forces killed around 40 Palestinian militants, attacked a group of militants and discovered tunnel openings during expanded operations in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip since yesterday (Monday).

Israeli airstrikes killed 57 Palestinians and wounded 65 in the past 24 hours at Al-Aqsa Hospital in the 45-kilometer-long central Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza said.

The massive humanitarian crisis has put intense pressure on Israel's closest ally, the United States, to ease its assault on Gaza.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said, “As the death toll continues to rise, the capacity to treat them is at risk.”

He said three hospitals in central Gaza, including Al-Aqsa Hospital and Khan Younis, were “at risk of closure due to evacuation orders in neighboring areas and continued hostilities in nearby areas”.

Biden hears chants of “ceasefire now.”

On the other hand, the charity Médecins Sans Frontières said late yesterday that a shell had penetrated the wall of one of the shelters at Khan Yunis, where more than 100 staff and their families live, seriously injuring the daughter of one of the organization's staff members.

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Protesters chanted in front of Biden: “Stop shooting now!” When he visited a church in South Carolina.

The US president said he would work peacefully with the Israeli government to reduce attacks on Gaza and encourage a significant withdrawal from Gaza.

Israel's continued bombardment and its restrictions on humanitarian aid to Gaza prompted South Africa to file a case at the International Court of Justice accusing Israel of genocide against the Palestinians. The trial is scheduled to begin on Thursday.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog told Blinken: “There is nothing more cruel and absurd” than the case filed before the International Court of Justice, and pointed out that “Hamas” had vowed to destroy Israel.

The conflict has spilled over into Lebanon, where Hezbollah fires rockets into Israel's border in solidarity with Hamas. Both groups are allied with Israel's arch-enemy, Iran.

Three members of the Lebanese group were killed today in an attack on their car in southern Lebanon after a senior party leader was killed in the region on Monday, two sources familiar with Hezbollah's operations told Reuters.

Hezbollah said it carried out a drone strike on Israeli military headquarters in retaliation for yesterday's killing of senior Hezbollah leader Wissam al-Tawil and deputy head of the Hamas political bureau, Saleh al-Aruri. Last week in Beirut. Israel neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the attack.

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