Ongoing Airstrikes and Rocket Attacks Leave Civilians Dead
As the war between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in Gaza entered its 100th day on Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the region in an urgent push to broker a ceasefire and prevent the conflict from spreading further in the Middle East.
Blinken announced on Sunday that the parties had agreed to a U.N. assessment mission in northern Gaza to determine when Palestinians could safely return after intense Israeli bombardment. However, Israeli airstrikes and rocket attacks by Palestinian militants continued overnight into Monday, leaving more civilians dead.
The civilian death toll has mounted on both sides, exacerbating tensions. Gaza officials report nearly 1,500 Palestinians have been killed so far, including hundreds of women and children. Israel has reported 67 deaths.
“The human toll, the humanitarian toll, is exacerbating what was already a dire situation for millions of Palestinians in Gaza,” Blinken said at a joint briefing with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
Blinken said the U.S. was committed to helping rebuild Gaza while also meeting Israel’s security needs. But he said that “starts with dealing with extremism and violence.”
Blinken Pushes for Palestinian Reforms, Israel Urged to Pursue Peace
A key part of Blinken’s agenda was urging Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to carry out political reforms and restore legitimate governance in Gaza after years of control by the militant Hamas group.
In a press conference, Blinken emphasized that the U.S. wanted the Palestinian Authority to play a major role in a postwar Gaza, saying it needed to “demonstrate its capability and commitment” to govern responsibly.
Blinken said that creating a pathway to statehood for Palestinians is the best way to provide opportunities for Palestinians and stabilize the broader region by integrating them politically and economically.
At the same time, Blinken delivered a message that Arab nations are ready to make peace with Israel if it pursues the two-state solution with Palestinians and ends illegal settlement expansion. Blinken warned Israel that further integrating with Arab nations is contingent on making peace with Palestinians.
Tensions with Iran, Hezbollah Could Spark Wider Conflict
Part of the urgency around achieving a ceasefire is the concern that hostilities could ignite a regional war as Israel faces threats on its northern border with Lebanon.
The Iran-backed militant Hezbollah group in Lebanon fired several rockets towards Israel last week, to which Israel responded with airstrikes. While Hezbollah’s leader later said it would not escalate tensions further, the exchanges have raised alarms.
Blinken said that creating a Palestinian state would also isolate Iran, which uses the lack of one to criticize Arab governments’ normalization with Israel. With Iran extending its influence in the region, the Israel-Hamas war has heightened worries that unrest could advantage Tehran.
International Pressure Ramps Up But Breakthrough Still Elusive
As Blinken finished meetings with leaders in Egypt, Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan over the weekend, he headed to Turkey and France to shore up a united front.
The flurry of diplomacy follows months of Israeli-Palestinian hostilities that have only worsened despite repeated international attempts to stop the fighting.
Blinken’s tour revealed both convergence and complications among allies. While the U.S., Arab states, Europe and Israel all want to prevent a regional war, domestic politics have made compromise difficult as positions hardened on both sides.
With Blinken unable to announce a truce, the path forward remains unclear. But his efforts appeared aimed at building consensus around shared principles that could enable an eventual agreement suitable to all parties.
Timeline of Key Recent Events
|Clashes erupt in Jerusalem over Israeli plans to evict Palestinians, triggering Hamas rocket attacks and Israeli airstrikes
|After 11 days of fighting that kills 260 Palestinians and 13 Israelis, Egypt brokers a fragile ceasefire
|Israeli forces launch deadly West Bank raid, Hamas fires rockets in retaliation, Israel carries out airstrikes
|War enters 100th day; over 1,400 Palestinians & 60 Israelis killed; Blinken visits region to push for ceasefire
This timeline shows the events leading up to the current crisis point as Blinken desperately tries to stop the conflict from continuing to spiral.
The story continues to rapidly develop. Blinken plans to meet with NATO allies in Brussels next amid the ongoing violence, signaling that the Biden administration regards the war as an urgent priority with global implications. Analysts warn that the longer the fighting persists, the more instability and civilian suffering will increase across Israel and Palestinian territories.
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