Israeli strikes kill civilians at shelters in Gaza combat zone, as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken seeks more aid.
Blinken meets with Arab foreign ministers in Jordan.
Blinken stressed preventing escalation of the conflict between Israel and Hamas, doing more to protect Palestinians and substantially increasing aid to Gaza, when he met Friday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Netanyahu’s war Cabinet.
Israeli airstrikes left multiple fatalities across Gaza Saturday, as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Arab foreign ministers in Jordan seeking a solution for the war-torn area.
Israeli strikes pummeled the enclave, including the south, where Gazans had been urged to seek refuge, Palestinians said. The U.N. Palestinian refugee agency, or UNRWA, told Reuters that a deadly strike on a U.N.-run school in northern Gaza killed at least 15 Gazans and wounded dozens of others.
The al-Fakhoura school in the Jabalia district was housing thousands of evacuees when it was hit, Juliette Touma, director of communications for UNRWA told Reuters.
Touma said there were children among the casualties, but UNRWA had not yet been able to verify the death toll.
Reuters pictures of the aftermath showed broken furniture and other belongings lying on the ground, with patches of blood spilled on the ground and over food, and people crying.
“I was standing here when three bombings happened, I carried a body and another decapitated body with my own hands,” a young boy said in video obtained by Reuters, crying in despair. “God will take my vengeance.”
Nearby, a resident comforted a woman in shock.
Call to protect civilians
In Jordan, Blinken discussed with Arab counterparts the need to do more to protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
Along with Jordanian officials, Blinken met with Arab foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Qatar Saturday, as well as the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee.
Blinken also had a meeting with Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told reporters Saturday that although he condemned the Hamas attacks of October 7 and that though “nobody in their right mind” would “belittle” the pain felt by Israel that day, the war in Gaza could not be permitted to continue.
“The whole region is sinking in a sea of hatred that will define generations to come,” Safadi said after meeting with Blinken and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
The Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers asked for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, but Blinken said that would be counterproductive. He indicated the furthest he would go would be to support a pause to allow humanitarian supplies to be delivered and get civilians out of Gaza.
“It is our view now that a cease-fire would simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did on October 7,” Blinken said, in reference to Hamas’ attack on southern Israel that triggered the latest Gaza war.
The United States stands behind Israel’s right “and obligation” to defend itself, Blinken said, but he also called for Israel to pause military operations and allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza. Protecting Palestinian civilians is the second priority of his trip, he noted.
In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We’re continuing with all our force, and Israel is refusing a temporary truce that doesn’t include the release of our hostages.”
The U.S.-designated terror group Hamas took 230 hostages and killed 1,400 people in its attack.
German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said in a video speech Saturday to members of his party, The Greens, that “basically, Hamas must be destroyed because it is destroying the process of peace in the Middle East.”
Habeck added, according to the German news agency Deutsch Presse-Agentur, that Hamas’ October 7 attack “requires a necessary consequence from Israel.”
The vice chancellor said that “the Palestinians also have the right to their own state,” but he added that Hamas has no interest in such a solution.
In Paris, several thousand protesters calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza took part in a pro-Palestinian march through the streets of Paris, with some shouting “Israel, assassin.”
Chileans also marched to support the victims of Israel’s attacks in Gaza.
U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress, has accused President Joe Biden of supporting a “genocide” against Palestinians and warned of repercussions in next year’s election.
In a video posted on social media platform X late Friday, the Democratic congresswoman from Michigan repeated her calls for Biden to back a cease-fire.
“Joe Biden supported the genocide of the Palestinian people,” Tlaib said in the video clip, which showed images of the dead and wounded from bombings in Gaza, pro-Palestinian demonstrations across the U.S., Biden declaring support for Israel, and Netanyahu thanking the U.S. president.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on her remarks.
Death and hunger
In besieged Gaza, Palestinians say the trickle of humanitarian aid coming through the southern Rafah crossing cannot keep up with the needs of the population.
A rising number of bakeries also have stopped operating due to the fuel and water shortages as well as airstrike damage.
Wael Abu Omar, a spokesperson for the Rafah crossing, said that in recent days the trucks have contained far more body bags than canned food. He claimed that recently delivered biscuits had already expired and were inedible.
Lynn Hastings, a senior U.N. official based in Jerusalem, said she was aware of the reports of expired food but could not independently confirm they were the World Food Program’s food shipments — wouldn’t expire for another month.
The WFP has warned that widespread food insecurity across Gaza was quickly becoming a crisis.
“There is a real threat of malnutrition and people starving,” said Alia Zaki, a spokesperson for the WFP. “There is some food that’s still available, but people can’t reach it. The situation is catastrophic.”
Some information also came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.