Sat. Feb 24th, 2024

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TEL AVIV — CIA Director William J. Burns arrived in Israel on Sunday for talks with intelligence officers there and all through the area, in keeping with a U.S. official briefed on his journey, a transfer aimed toward reinforcing the shuttle diplomacy of Secretary of State Antony Blinken because the Israeli navy introduced that its troops had encircled Gaza Metropolis.

Burns landed as Blinken on Sunday met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah within the West Financial institution, later touring to Baghdad for talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani. Each U.S. officers are within the area to telegraph the administration’s dedication to deterring different international locations or armed teams from widening the battle, in keeping with two administration officers who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate delicate talks.

“We’re working very laborious to guarantee that the battle in Gaza doesn’t escalate, doesn’t unfold to different locations. Whether or not it’s right here, whether or not it’s elsewhere within the area,” Blinken mentioned Sunday throughout a information convention in Baghdad.

His remarks got here as Israel unleashed a wave of airstrikes in northern and central Gaza on Sunday evening, a fiery bombardment that coincided with a near-total communications blackout throughout the territory.

As Gaza dying toll soars, secrecy shrouds Israel’s concentrating on course of

The fierce preventing and hovering civilian toll underscored the challenges Blinken and Burns face, as they search to steadiness U.S. commitments to Israel with the rising outrage of some companions within the area over what the United Nations says is a humanitarian disaster in Gaza. Their push to maintain the raging battle contained additionally comes regardless of flare-ups on the Israel-Lebanon border and in Iraq and Syria, the place Iran-backed militias have staged assaults on U.S. troops and bases.

Blinken’s journey to Ramallah — cloaked in secrecy till it was over due to safety considerations — additionally centered partially on facilitating support to Gaza and restoring calm and stability within the West Financial institution, the place armed Israeli settlers have attacked and displaced Palestinians. Tensions between Palestinian residents of the West Financial institution and Israeli settlers have been excessive even earlier than the Hamas assault that killed not less than 1,400 folks.

Within the assembly, Abbas referred to as for “an instantaneous halt to the devastating Israeli battle on Gaza and urged the swift provision of humanitarian support, together with medical provides, meals, water, electrical energy, and gasoline, to the war-torn enclave,” in keeping with WAFA, the official state-run information company of the Palestinian Authority.

However whilst Blinken urged calm, the disaster escalated on a number of fronts. On Israel’s northern border, its forces clashed with Hezbollah militants, who killed an Israeli civilian after they fired an antitank guided missile, the Israel Protection Forces mentioned. An Israeli drone struck a automobile in a Lebanese village three miles from the border, killing 4 civilians, Lebanon’s state information company reported Sunday.

In Gaza, Palestinian militants fired rockets towards Israeli cities, together with Tel Aviv, and the principle telecom supplier, PalTel, mentioned late Sunday that the territory was experiencing a “full disruption” in web and communications companies. The outage was the third time Gaza has suffered a communications blackout over the previous week.

A minimum of 9,770 folks have been killed in Gaza for the reason that preventing started, in keeping with the Gaza Well being Ministry, and greater than 24,800 have been injured. A further 2,000 are reported lacking, presumed to be trapped underneath the rubble, the United Nations mentioned.

The dying toll is anticipated to rise as Israeli troops and tanks go deeper into Gaza. Israel’s navy mentioned Sunday that it had encircled Gaza Metropolis and break up the territory into north and south. The enclave is simply six miles vast and 25 miles lengthy.

“Right this moment, the IDF forces led by the Golani Brigade surrounded Gaza Metropolis,” Israeli navy spokesman Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari mentioned at a information briefing.

“Right this moment, there’s north Gaza and south Gaza,” he mentioned, including that the Golani Brigade’s infantry troops have been “holding this line.”

The Israeli advances have been backed by intense air and artillery strikes, together with in a number of refugee camps in central and northern Gaza. Late on Saturday, not less than 40 folks have been killed in a strike on the Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza, the well being ministry mentioned.

Abeer al-Athamneh, 50, was in Maghazi, the place she fled early within the battle after Israel warned residents within the north to go away. The strike late Saturday hit the home subsequent to the place she is staying. “Everybody was screaming in excessive ache and worry,” she mentioned. “My physique is stuffed with bruises. I used to be pulled out from underneath the rubble. I nonetheless don’t understand how I’m nonetheless alive.”

Casualties from the strike flooded the close by Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, the place spokesman Khalil al-Dakran mentioned there have been extreme gear shortages.

“The beds are full, and there are not any respirators” for the critically injured, including that the hospital can’t switch sufferers as a result of the roads are harmful.

The more and more determined state of affairs at medical services in Gaza signaled a wider humanitarian disaster within the territory, the place meals, water and gasoline are all in brief provide, whilst support trickles in by means of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Blinken on Sunday described the extent of support getting into Gaza as “grossly inadequate.”

In accordance with the United Nations, almost 1.5 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million folks at the moment are displaced contained in the territory. They’re sheltering in U.N. services, hospitals, church buildings and different public buildings.

“We’re engaged in pursuing humanitarian pauses,” Blinken instructed reporters in Baghdad. He tied the potential pauses — which might halt preventing for transient intervals to permit support distribution — to the 242 hostages Hamas and different teams are holding captive in Gaza.

“This may be one thing that advances the prospect of getting the hostages again,” Blinken mentioned.

In Ramallah, Blinken raised the difficulty of Gaza’s post-conflict future with Abbas, a senior State Division official mentioned. The official spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate the delicate talks.

Israeli leaders have mentioned that their purpose is to destroy Hamas, which guidelines Gaza, however they haven’t provided a imaginative and prescient for who would administer the territory after the battle. Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority from Gaza in 2007 following a disputed election and has managed the territory since.

Blinken mentioned throughout a current Senate listening to that “an efficient and revitalized” Palestinian Authority can be the best-placed entity to manage Gaza and finally be answerable for its safety. Abbas expressed willingness to think about enjoying a job in Gaza’s future, the State Division official mentioned.

Abbas instructed Blinken that “we are going to absolutely assume our tasks inside the framework of a complete political answer that features the entire West Financial institution, together with East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip,” reported WAFA, the state-run information company.

However the Palestinian Authority has lengthy been seen as out of contact and irrelevant by many Palestinians in each the Israeli-occupied West Financial institution and in Gaza. Abbas, nearing his 88th birthday, is deeply unpopular amongst Palestinians, lots of whom see him and the authority as enablers of the Israeli occupation. Abbas is within the 18th 12 months of what was speculated to be a four-year time period as head of the authority.

However Hanan Ashrawi, a distinguished Palestinian chief and adviser, mentioned the remarks by Abbas have been taken out of context, and “weren’t meant to suggest that the [Palestinian Authority] would return to Gaza after the battle.”

Abbas was talking “within the context of an settlement and peace treaty, and naturally then the West Financial institution and Gaza Strip are a part of one Palestinian state,” she mentioned in an interview. “There’s a unanimous Palestinian choice that we are going to by no means take over Gaza on the again of an Israeli assault.”

Harris reported from Washington and Sales space and Berger reported from Jerusalem. Sarah Dadouch in Beirut; Hajar Harb in London; and Rachel Pannett in Wellington, New Zealand, contributed to this report.

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