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Concern about civilian casualties in US Senate
Senior US senators expressed concern about civilian casualties in the Gaza Strip, signalling growing scrutiny in Washington over Israel’s military response to last month’s attack by Hamas.
“Israel has a right to defend itself, but what Israel does not have the right to do is to kill thousands and thousands of innocent men, women and children who had nothing to do with that attack,” Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont and former Democratic presidential candidate, said on CNN’s State of the Union.
Senate armed services committee chairman Jack Reed called on Israel to rely on US intelligence to help “minimise the harm to civilians,” to comply with the laws of war and help with “winning the battle of minds and hearts”.
Palestinians strike the concrete while looking for survivors under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City this weekend.Credit: AP
“We want that intelligence to inform selected targets, precise targets, want them to use precision-guided weapons systems with smaller diameter bombs,” Reed said on Fox News Sunday.
Unease and outright criticism over Israel’s military campaign to eliminate the threat from Hamas has increased among progressives and some mainstream Democrats as the war has dragged on with thousands of Palestinian casualties.
Hamas, designated a terrorist group by the US and the European Union, breached Israel’s border on October 7, killing 1400 people and taking more than 200 hostages.
Mediators work to restart foreign national evacuations
Efforts to resume evacuations of foreign nationals and injured Gazans through the Rafah crossing to Egypt have been ongoing since they were suspended on Saturday after a deadly attack on an ambulance, Egyptian, US and Qatari officials said.
The Rafah crossing to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula is the only exit point from Gaza not controlled by Israel. Aid trucks were still able to travel into Gaza, two Egyptian sources said.
A satellite imagine of the Rafah Crossing between Egypt (left) and the Gaza Strip.Credit: Maxar
Evacuations began on Wednesday under an internationally brokered deal. More than 300 Americans have left Gaza, but some remain, US deputy national security adviser Jonathan Finer said.
Qatar’s foreign ministry said that without a “period of calm” in Gaza its mediators would not be able to secure the release of Israeli hostages held in the enclave.
The Gulf state has, in co-ordination with the US, led talks with Hamas and Israeli officials over the release of hostages.
No ceasefire without hostage release: Netanyahu
Israel has rebuffed growing international pressure for a ceasefire and continued intense bombardment of the Gaza Strip as the top US diplomat scrambled to contain a crisis that again threatened to spread into neighbouring Lebanon.
Gaza was under “unprecedented bombardment” from Israel on Sunday and into Monday (AEDT), Palestinian news agency WAFA reported, while Palestinian telecommunications company Paltel said all communications and internet services had once again been cut.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas joined international calls for an immediate ceasefire at a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was making an unannounced visit to the occupied West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after Blinken repeated US concerns that a ceasefire could aid Hamas, ruled out a ceasefire unless hostages held by Hamas were released. “There will be no ceasefire without the return of the hostages. This should be completely removed from the lexicon.”
Foreign ministers from Qatar, Saudi, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates met Blinken in Amman on Saturday and also urged him to persuade Israel to agree to a ceasefire.
Pope Francis joined calls for peace. “Stop in the name of God,” he said, calling for humanitarian aid and help for the injured to ease the “very grave” situation in Gaza.
Blinken makes surprise trip to West Bank
Good morning and welcome to today’s coverage of the Gaza conflict. My name is James Lemon and I’ll be taking you through to noon.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on a surprise visit to the West Bank, said the Palestinian Authority should play a central role in the future of the Gaza Strip.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is greeted by PLO Secretary General Hussein al-Sheikh as he arrives to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas,Credit: Reuters
Blinken passed through Israeli checkpoints to meet PA President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah on his second visit to the region since Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack on southern Israel on October 7.
The Hamas attack killed 1400 people and taking more than 240 others hostage.
As Israel continued a campaign of air strikes that Gaza health officials say has killed nearly 9500 Palestinians, Secretary of State Blinken rebuffed calls for a ceasefire from Arab officials on Saturday after appealing, unsuccessfully, to Israel for more limited pauses to the fighting a day earlier.
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