As Gaza Death Toll Tops 10,000, No Sign Of Israel Relenting
As the death toll in Gaza reaches 10,000, Israel has launched what may be its most intense bombardment, as ground offensive continues to accelerate. All of this as U.S. Secretary of State Blinken says he's trying to get Israel to limit the civilian casualties.
The number of Palestinians killed in Gaza since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7 has surpassed 10,000, the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health in Gaza announced Monday.
Ashraf Al Qudra, spokesperson for the ministry, said 10,022 Palestinians in Gaza had been killed by Israeli strikes, including 4,104 children, 2,641 women and 611 elderly people.
The updated casualty numbers come just after the Israel's military said on Monday that its fighter jets had struck 450 Hamas targets in Gaza in a 24-hour span. By some accounts, it was the heaviest bombing since the war began.
Meanwhile, the ground campaign continues as well in Gaza. A spokesperson for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said its forces are moving forward towards Gaza City, which he says the Israeli military has encircled since reaching Gaza's coast on Sunday.
“The north and south (of Gaza) have been cut off from one another and is under IDF control,” Peter Lerner told CNN on Monday. This “indeed means that we are pushing forward towards Gaza City, we have encircled Gaza City two days ago and we are moving forward," Lerner added.
Lerner's comments came after his colleague, IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari, said Israeli troops have split Gaza into two territories. "Essentially today there is a northern Gaza and a southern Gaza. We have arrived at the beach and they (IDF troops) are strengthening this line," Hagari said Sunday.
Calls are multiplying around the world for a ceasefire in the face of the mounting toll of civilian deaths. All major UN agencies have said "enough is enough" in a rare joint statement, as they repeat calls for a humanitarian ceasefire.
French geopolitical commentator Pierre Haski says we may soon see Israel agree to a "pause" for humanitarian aid, a bonafide ceasefire that could allow diplomats to begin to negotiate is nowhere in site.
South Africa recalls diplomats from Israel, with accusation of “collective punishment”
South Africa and Chad have announced they will recall diplomats from Israel for “consultation” in response to the Israel-Hamas war.
In March, South Africa's parliament passed a resolution to downgrade its ties with Israel. The South African government has also been strongly vocal in its condemnation of Israel’s operations in Gaza.
Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor said in a press conference that South Africa believes “the nature of response by Israel has become one of collective punishment”.
“It is a war crime for Israel to directly target Palestinian civilians in hospitals, ambulances, schools, apartment buildings, and in their private cars," the foreign ministry said. The ministry reiterated South Africa’s call for an “immediate ceasefire”.
With Middle East tour over, Blinken says progress can be “absence of something bad”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during their meeting in Ramallah
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken concluded a whirlwind three-day tour of the Middle East by meeting with his Turkish counterpart with the aim of easing tensions in the region around the Israel-Hamas war.
Asked what he had achieved in his trip, Blinken pointed to avoiding the war escalating across the region as success: "Sometimes the absence of something bad happening may not be the most obvious evidence of progress, but it is," he said.
Prior to Blinken's arrival in Ankara, protestors gathered outside an airbase in south-eastern Turkey, which houses U.S. troops. Police reportedly dispersed the protests using tear gas and water canisters.
Despite occasional differences in foreign policy, Turkey is a key strategic ally of the United States. Turkey has been one of the most vocal critics of Israel during the recent conflict with Hamas, accusing Israel of acting as a "war criminal" and committing a "massacre."
This visit to Turkey is part of Blinken's broader series of trips to the Middle East, focused on addressing the aftermath of the Israel-Hamas conflict and working to prevent Iran and its proxies, particularly Hezbollah in Lebanon, from becoming further involved in the conflict.
During his visit to Israel, Blinken privately discussed steps to reduce civilian casualties in the military campaign, including the use of smaller bombs. He also visited the Israeli-occupied West Bank to meet with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the internationally supported Palestinian Authority, with discussions centered on efforts to restore peace in the West Bank. Blinken also made an unexpected detour to Baghdad to held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani, sending a pointed message to Iran.
Jordanian Queen Rania says criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitism
Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan has called for a ceasefire in Israel's conflict with Hamas, emphasizing that supporting the protection of Palestinian lives should not be equated with being antisemitic or pro-terrorism.
"Being pro-Palestinian does not mean you're pro-Hamas or pro-terrorism," she told CNN on Sunday. The Queen also criticized the use of accusations of antisemitism to silence criticism of Israel and stressed that Israel's actions do not represent all Jewish people.
“I want to absolutely and wholeheartedly condemn anti-Semitism and Islamophobia,” she said “but I also want to remind everyone that Israel does not represent all the Jewish people around the world. Israel is a state and is alone is responsible for its own crimes.”
She also raised concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, where thousands of civilians have been killed, and questioned the justification for forced displacement of Palestinians.
“I know that some who are against the ceasefire argue that it will help Hamas. However, I feel that in that argument, they are inherently dismissing the death, in fact, even endorsing and justifying the death of thousands of civilians, and that is just morally reprehensible,” she said.
EU boosts humanitarian aid to Gaza, says situation is “dire”
The European Union will ramp up aid to Gaza by 25 million euros, said EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.
Von der Leyen said the current situation in Gaza is "dire," during a speech to EU ambassadors in Brussels on Monday. The bloc is working alongside Israel, Egypt and the UN to facilitate more aid deliveries into Gaza, she added.
Meanwhile, U.S. officials are still working Monday morning to reopen the Rafah gate for civilians to leave Gaza into Egypt. The crossing into Egypt – the only way out of Gaza since Israel closed its two crossings – shut on Saturday and did not open on Sunday. A breakthrough was reached last week to allow foreign passport holders and a group of critically injured civilians to depart through Rafah.
The danger of reporting from Gaza
Amsterdam-based daily NRC lends its front page to “The danger of reporting from Gaza” after the Committee to Protect Journalists revealed that since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israel and ensuing retaliation, a total of 37 journalists have been killed in Gaza: 32 Palestinians, four Israelis and one Lebanese. For more on the subject: What It Means To Be A Journalist In Gaza from Egyptian publication Mada Masr, and Gaza's Info War: On-The-Ground Journalism v. Fake News Online from Tunis-based Inkyfada.
Lebanon working with Hezbollah to prevent an all-out war
Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib says that the government is working with Hezbollah and Palestinian groups in Lebanon to prevent a war.
In a much anticipated speech, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Friday that "all scenarios" are possible on the Lebanon-Israel border, warning Israel against further escalation of its operations on the Lebanese border.
Bou Habib said Israel provokes Lebanon “every day” and said he believes Hezbollah does not want a war.
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