RAMALLAH — US top diplomat Antony Blinken made an unannounced visit to the occupied West Bank today, where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged him to persuade Israel to agree to a ceasefire as more died in a strike on a refugee camp overnight.
A spokesman for the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said earlier today that Israeli military had struck the Maghazi refugee camp overnight, killing at least 47 people.
In a separate attack, 21 Palestinians from one family, including women and children, were killed in Israeli strikes targeting Gaza overnight, the health ministry said.
“We demand that you stop them from committing these crimes immediately,” Abbas told Blinken, demanding an “immediate ceasefire” from Israel.
“There are no words to describe the war of genocide and destruction to which our Palestinian people are being subjected in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli war machine, without regard to the rules of international law,” Palestinian news agency Wafa quoted Abbas as telling Blinken.
Foreign ministers from Qatar, Saudi, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates met Blinken in Amman yesterday and also pushed for Washington to convince Israel to agree to a ceasefire.
But Blinken has dismissed the idea, saying it would only benefit Hamas, allowing it to regroup and attack again. Instead, the United States are pushing for localised pauses in fighting to allow in humanitarian aid and for people to leave the densely populated Gaza Strip.
“The Secretary reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance and resumption of essential services in Gaza and made clear that Palestinians must not be forcibly displaced,” spokesperson Matthew Miller said.
Abbas has had little sway in Gaza since the Hamas takeover of the enclave in 2007.
Israel says it is targeting Hamas, not civilians.
Gaza health officials said today more than 9,770 Palestinians have been killed in the war, which began when Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,400 people and taking more than 240 others hostage.
Evacuations of injured Gazans and foreign passport holders through the Rafah crossing to Egypt have been suspended since Saturday, two Egyptian security sources and a medical source told Reuters.
One of the security sources and the medical source said the evacuations were suspended after an Israeli strike on Friday on an ambulance in Gaza being used to transport injured people.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today disciplined a junior member of his cabinet who voiced openness to the idea of Israel carrying out a nuclear strike on Gaza.
Searching through the rubble
Israel continued to strike the Gaza Strip by air, sea, and ground overnight.
Gaza health officials said Israeli air strikes destroyed a cluster of houses in the Maghazi refugee camp. Asked for comment, the Israeli military said they were waiting and gathering details.
Reuters footage showed people searching through rubble for victims or survivors at the refugee camp in central Gaza. One man, crying, was being embraced by others.
Mohammad Al-Aloul, a photographer for Turkish news agency Anadolu, said he lost his four children, four of his brothers and their children in the strike, which destroyed his house.
“I was doing my job when I heard that an Israeli air strike targeted a residential district in Maghazi and that there are martyrs and injured,” Al-Aloul told Reuters.
“I arrived in hospital and found out that my four children, including my only daughter, were martyred.”
The Palestinian Red Crescent said there was also intense bombardment, violent artillery explosions, and air strikes in the vicinity of the Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza’s Tal Al-Hawa area.
U.S. special envoy David Satterfield said in Amman on Saturday that 800,000 to a million people had moved south, while 350,000 to 400,000 remained in and around Gaza City.
Living conditions in Gaza, already dire before the war, have deteriorated. Food is scarce, residents are drinking salty water and medical services are collapsing.
The UN humanitarian office estimates that nearly 1.5 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are internally displaced.
West Bank violence worsens
Meanwhile, worsening violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank has fuelled concerns that the flashpoint Palestinian territory could become a third front in a wider war, in addition to Israel’s northern border, where clashes with Lebanese Hezbollah forces have mounted.
In Abu Dis, a Palestinian village near Jerusalem, Israeli police conducting an arrest raid were fired on by a gunman and killed him, a police spokesperson said.
The Palestinian health ministry said three Palestinians were killed in the incident, which it described as clashes with Israeli forces. Another Palestinian was killed by Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Hebron, the ministry said. The Israeli military did not immediately comment on that.
Blinken and Abbas “discussed efforts to restore calm and stability in the West Bank, including the need to stop extremist violence against Palestinians and hold those accountable responsible,” spokesperson Miller said.
This year had already been the deadliest for West Bank residents in at least 15 years, with some 200 Palestinians and 26 Israelis killed, according to UN data. Since the war in Gaza began, 121 West Bank Palestinians have been killed.
Israel last month ordered all civilians to leave the northern part of the Gaza Strip and its military has since encircled Gaza City, where it is engaged in fierce street fighting with Hamas militants.
Israeli planes dropped leaflets on Gaza’s biggest city, ordering people to move south through the Salah Al-Deen Road between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. (0800-1200 GMT) today.
“Time has come, the state of Israel asks you to preserve your lives and to evacuate your homes from the areas of fighting,” the leaflets said.
Israel’s assault and siege have stirred global alarm at humanitarian conditions in the narrow coastal enclave.
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators staged protests on Saturday in cities including London, Berlin, Paris, Istanbul and Jakarta, calling for a ceasefire. Tens of thousands gathered in Washington to denounce President Joe Biden’s war policy and demand a ceasefire.
In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi reaffirmed the government’s support for the struggle of the Palestinian people in front of tens of thousands gathered in Jakarta.
Speaking in Shanghai, Mohammad Mokhber, Iran’s first vice president, called Israeli actions “a war crime”.
Blinken is to visit Turkiye tomorrow for talks on the conflict, continuing his second trip to the region since the conflict reignited.