Israel-Hamas conflict: Israeli military divides Gaza strip; Blinken's unexpected trip to Iraq
Israel-Hamas conflict: As the Israel-Hamas conflict approaches its one-month mark, the Israeli military has announced a significant development: the encirclement and division of Gaza City into two parts. This announcement came as the beleaguered Gaza Strip experienced its third total communications outage since the conflict's onset. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been engaged in diplomatic efforts to address the crisis, with concerns that it could spill over into Lebanon.
The Hamas-run health ministry reported that over 9,770 people have lost their lives in the more than four weeks of conflict in Gaza. The operation began in response to a deadly attack by militants, which claimed the lives of over 1,400 people and took 240 hostages, marking the deadliest attack in Israel's history.
1. Division of Gaza City: On Sunday, Israel initiated an "unprecedented bombardment" of Gaza, leading Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari to announce that Gaza City is now divided into north and south sections. Israeli media reports suggest that Israeli troops may enter Gaza City within the next 48 hours. Additionally, strong explosions were reported in northern Gaza after nightfall.
2. Communications Shutdown: Gaza faced a third round of communication and internet service shutdowns on Sunday. This "collapse in connectivity" was confirmed by the internet access advocacy group NetBlocks.org and Palestinian telecom company Paltel. The first outage lasted 36 hours, and the second one persisted for a few hours.
3. International Calls for Ceasefire: Despite mounting international calls for a ceasefire, Israel reiterated its position, refusing to halt its military operations, as it claimed to have successfully surrounded Gaza City. These developments unfold against the backdrop of Antony Blinken's efforts to manage the crisis, with concerns about potential spillover into Lebanon.
4. Diplomatic Efforts: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the occupied West Bank, where he held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Blinken assured President Abbas that the Biden administration is intensifying its efforts to alleviate the suffering of Gaza's civilians. He emphasized that Palestinians must have a central role in determining the future of their territory following the conflict.
5. Escalation in Lebanon: Following an Israeli strike in south Lebanon that resulted in the tragic deaths of three children and their grandmother, Hezbollah issued a stern warning. Hezbollah stated that it would not tolerate attacks on civilians and promised a "firm and strong" response. The group reacted to the Israeli strike by launching an attack in response.
6. Prime Minister's Statement: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revised his previous statement, in which he suggested that months of protests against his government might have motivated Hamas' attack on October 7. Netanyahu clarified on Sunday that Hamas initiated the conflict because it seeks to harm Israel, not due to any internal disputes.
7. Humanitarian Aid to Gaza: Jordan's air force conducted an airdrop of urgent medical aid to the Jordanian field hospital in Gaza. This action was taken to ensure the hospital's supplies, which were dwindling due to delays in aid delivery through the Rafah crossing.
8. Blinken's Tough Talks: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to hold challenging discussions in Turkey on Monday. His arrival in the country was marked by significant protests. Police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators who marched on an air base housing US forces in Turkey's southeast prior to Blinken's arrival. The discussions aim to address the concerns of a strategic but complex ally regarding the Gaza bloodshed.
These developments reflect the ongoing complexities and challenges in the Israel-Hamas conflict and the diplomatic efforts to manage the crisis.
- With inputs from agencies