Israel relentlessly attacks Gaza after Netanyahu rebuffs Blinken humanitarian pause call

Israel relentlessly attacks Gaza after Netanyahu rebuffs Blinken humanitarian pause call
With US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visiting Amman where he is expected to meet the foreign ministers of several Arab states, Israel has rebuffed his call for a 'humanitarian pause' in no uncertain terms, with schools and ambulances bombed.
3 min read
04 November, 2023
US secretary of state Anthony Blinken is in Jordan to meet with the foreign ministers of several Arab states [Getty]

Israel's unrelenting air and ground attack on Gaza battled on into its fifth week with no sign of slowing Saturday, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Arab foreign ministers in search of a diplomatic opening to ease the catastrophic humanitarian crisis.

Washington's top envoy arrived in Jordan for talks with five of his counterparts one day after Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffed his call for a "humanitarian pause" to allow aid into Gaza.

The Israeli army said its troops had launched an operation in southern Gaza overnight after deadly strikes hit an ambulance convoy and a school-turned-refugee shelter in the besieged Palestinian territory, which was denounced as a 'war crime' by the Palestinian Red Crescent and condemned by the heads of the UN and WHO. 

The health ministry in Gaza says more than 9,488 Gazans, which includes 3900 children, have been killed in Israeli strikes and the intensifying ground campaign.

The ministry said at least 15 people, almost all of them women and children, had been killed when Israel struck a United Nations school where thousands of displaced Palestinians were sheltering.

Separately, at the Osama bin Zaid Boys School north of Gaza City, AFP saw the aftermath of an Israeli tank shelling that killed 20 people.

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'Targeted raid' 

Ambulance teams rushed into the debris-littered building to aid the wounded and remove the dead.

Stunned onlookers wept and wandered the scene with their hands clasped on their heads in horror.

A long row of washing still hung from windows on the building's first storey, evidence the school had become a temporary home for some of the hundreds of thousands displaced by the war.

The Israeli military on Saturday sent text messages to Gazans saying the territory's main north-south road would be open for three hours in the afternoon so people could evacuate.

A key focus of Blinken's Israel visit on Friday was to convince Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to enact "humanitarian pauses", which the United States believes could help secure the release of roughly 240 hostages thought to be in Hamas captivity and allow aid to be distributed to Gaza's beleaguered population.

Netanyahu said later, however, that he would not agree to a "temporary truce" with Hamas until the group releases the hostages.

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Shuttle diplomacy

Blinken began the day in Amman by holding talks with Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani of Qatar, a mediator in the conflict.

He is also scheduled to meet the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The talks come amid mounting Arab anger over the civilian death toll from war, and increasing fears that the conflict could spread.

Washington has deployed a powerful fleet in the eastern Mediterranean and hopes that it has deterred Hezbollah, the heavily armed Iranian-backed faction in Lebanon from a full-scale attack on Israel, but border clashes continue.

The Israeli military said Saturday it had struck "two terrorist cells" and a Hezbollah post in response to attempted firing from Lebanon.

Saturday's six-nation talks are also likely to touch on the question of Gaza's future beyond the war.

The United States has renewed calls for the creation of a Palestinian state, but few expect success now after decades of failed international efforts to find a "two-state solution".

Netanyahu has spent decades opposing that vision, and it is unclear what appetite  Israelis will have for reconciliation or concessions.

The United States has also urged the Palestinian Authority, which ceded power in Gaza to Hamas more than 15 years ago after democratic elections, to retake control. A representative of the Palestinian Authority led by President Mahmud Abbas will also attend the meeting in Amman.