Monday, February 26, 2024

Blinken urges protection for civilians in Gaza

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Khan Younis (Gaza Strip), Nov 3: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Israel on Friday to do everything in its power to protect civilians caught in the fighting in Gaza and ensure they receive humanitarian aid, while underscoring the country’s right to defend itself.
Israel, meanwhile, warned that it was on high alert for attacks on its border with Lebanon as fears grew that the conflict could widen. Israeli troops tightened their encirclement of Gaza City, the focus of their campaign to crush the enclave’s ruling Hamas militants, who launched a brutal attack on Israeli communities that started the war. But ever since that October 7 assault, there have been concerns the conflict could ignite fighting on other fronts, and Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group have repeatedly traded fire along the border. Tensions escalated further ahead of a speech planned for later Friday by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
Hezbollah, an Iran-backed ally of Hamas, attacked Israeli military positions in northern Israel with drones, mortar fire and suicide drones on Thursday. The Israeli military said it retaliated with warplanes and helicopter gunships, and spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said civilians were wounded in the Hezbollah attacks.
“We are in a high state of readiness in the north, in a very high state of alert, to respond to any event today and in coming days,” he said.
More than 9,200 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza so far, mostly women and minors, and more and than 23,000 people have been wounded, the Gaza Health Ministry said, without providing a breakdown between civilians and fighters. More than 1,400 people have died on the Israeli side, mainly civilians killed during Hamas’ initial attack, when some 240 people were also taken hostage. Some 5,400 have also been injured. Twenty-four Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza since the start of the ground operation.
As American officials have before, Blinken pledged unwavering support for Israel and its right to defend itself while on a visit to the country, but he also stressed the importance of protecting civilians amid growing alarm over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“We stand strongly for the proposition that Israel has not only the right but the obligation to defend itself, and to make sure that October 7 should never happen again,” Blinken said.
This is Blinken’s third trip to Israel since the war began and he also plans to visit Amman, Jordan. (AP)

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