US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday and later paid an unannounced visit to Iraq. That day, he said that the United States was trying to prevent the conflict in the Gaza Strip, the latest version of which began after the Hamas attack on Israel, from spreading to the entire region. Earlier, Israel set a four-hour “evacuation window” for civilians from the northern Gaza Strip.
Blinken on Sunday first spoke after meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in the West Bank. He warned against the “forced transfer” of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip. He called for a halt to “acts of violence by extremists” against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, where the international community fears the conflict will expand.
Reuters writes that Blinken’s goal, in addition to obtaining assurances that the conflict will not spread to the rest of the region, is also to start a discussion on how to govern the Gaza Strip after the complete destruction of Hamas, because this is, as Israel had previously announced, its main goal.
Talks about the future of the Palestinian Authority
Blinken told Abbas that the Palestinian Authority should play a key role in the future fate of the Gaza Strip, a senior State Department official told Reuters. “(The future – ed.) of the Gaza Strip was not the main topic of the meeting, but it seems that the Palestinian Authority is willing to play some role in this (process – ed.),” the official added.
According to Abbas’ spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the Palestinian Authority leader told Blinken there should be an immediate ceasefire and aid to be authorized for the Gaza Strip.
Secretary Blinken said the United States is committed to bringing aid to the Gaza Strip, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said after the meeting. “The Secretary also emphasized the United States’ commitment to working to advance the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to establish a Palestinian state,” Miller said.
Blinken and Abbas spoke for about an hour but did not meet with reporters afterward.
“Escape window” in the Gaza Strip
Earlier, the Israeli army announced an “evacuation window” for residents of the Gaza Strip. The evacuation began at 10 a.m. local time (9 a.m. in Poland). Four hours were planned for the Palestinians to get to the south of the Gaza Strip, and it was scheduled to end at 2 p.m. local time (1 p.m. in Poland). It is unclear whether the “escape window” has been closed.
The evacuation route ran through the main north-south artery. TVN24 correspondent Artur Molęda said that civilians can evacuate this way towards the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt.
According to a TVN24 reporter, the Israeli military’s decision to evacuate Palestinians is partly “the result of visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Israel“, who talked to Israeli representatives and urged them to hold fire and evacuate as many civilians as possible.
Blinken in Iraq
Then on Sunday, Antony Blinken appeared on an unannounced visit to Iraq. There he stated that the United States was trying to prevent Israel’s war with the Palestinian Hamas from spreading to the entire region.
Blinken assured that the US authorities are striving to achieve a “humanitarian pause” in the clashes in the Gaza Strip. The “pause” would allow the implementation of several priorities, including increasing the supply of humanitarian aid and the release of Israeli hostages kidnapped by Hamas, on which the United States is “strongly focusing attention.”
During a meeting with reporters, Blinken said that currently 100 aid trucks are entering Gaza, but this is “a vastly insufficient number.”
The Secretary of State added that the opinions and aspirations of the Palestinian people should “play a major role” in the future of the Gaza Strip.
Conflicting number of victims of attack on refugee camp
On Sunday, the Palestinian Ministry of Health reported that 45 people were killed and 100 injured in the Israeli bombing of the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. Earlier, a ministry spokesman announced that at least 33 people died in the “massacre committed by the occupier in the Maghazi camp.” Palestinian sources also gave the number of victims as 51.
According to reports, most of the victims were “children and women”. The target of the Israeli bombing was civilian houses, which was confirmed by an eyewitness cited by the AFP agency.
Maghazi is located in the third largest muhafaza of Palestine – Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip.
Main photo source: ALAA BADARNEH/EPA/PAP