US, Europe intensify efforts to quell Gaza war
The US and Europe have intensified diplomatic efforts to prevent the Gaza war's escalation into Israeli-occupied West Bank, Lebanon, and Red Sea shipping lanes. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Europe's senior diplomat Josep Borrell spearhead these initiatives.
Three months since Hamas militants in Gaza attacked Israel, triggering a devastating offensive, Blinken and Borrell's Middle East visits come at a critical time. The conflict has uprooted 90% of Gaza's population and claimed 22,600 lives, according to Palestinian officials.
In response to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack, which resulted in 1,200 deaths, Israel asserts it has neutralized 8,000 militants. Under global pressure, Israel has shifted to a more targeted strategy to minimize civilian casualties.
Overnight, Israeli forces intensified attacks in densely populated Gaza areas like Al-Maghazi, Al-Bureij, and Al-Nusseirat. Palestinian officials reported 162 fatalities in the last 24 hours.
In southern Gaza, where many have fled following Israeli warnings, at least 22 deaths were reported in Khan Younis due to Israeli strikes. Among the casualties were ten people killed in an Israeli airstrike on a house in the Al-Bayouk family.
Other reported incidents include an airstrike in Al-Nusseirat killing four, and shelling in central Gaza's Deir Al-Balah causing three deaths and seven injuries, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.
In Jabalia, northern Gaza, residents navigate streets filled with sewage and garbage, facing hunger and disease spread. The conflict has also led to increased violence in the West Bank, governed by Hamas' rival, Fatah.
The Palestinian health ministry reported a 17-year-old killed and four wounded by Israeli army gunfire in Beit Rima. Since the conflict's onset, around 300 Palestinians have died in the West Bank, says the UN.
Blinken's week-long tour, starting in Turkey, includes stops in Israel, Jordan, Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. "Preventing the conflict from spreading beyond Gaza is crucial for everyone," said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.
Borrell is set to visit Lebanon amid the backdrop of Iranian support for Hamas and other militants targeting US forces and Israel.
The US has offered a $10 million reward for information disrupting Hamas' financial networks. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh urges the US to end its support for what he calls Zionist occupation.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah claims around 670 military operations against Israel since Oct. 8. The Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen have also targeted Red Sea shipping since Nov. 19.
Israel reports 175 soldiers killed since the offensive began. Defence Minister Yoav Gallant focuses on northern raids and rescuing 132 Israeli hostages, with one recently declared dead.
The WHO states that Gaza's medical infrastructure has been attacked nearly 600 times, with over 613 deaths and 770 injuries in medical facilities. France and Jordan have air-dropped seven tonnes of aid for Khan Younis.