LONDON: Protesters gather with placards and flags during the ‘London Rally For Palestine’ in Trafalgar Square on Saturday.—AFP
LONDON: Protesters gather with placards and flags during the ‘London Rally For Palestine’ in Trafalgar Square on Saturday.—AFP

• Blinken holds talks in Amman
• Turkiye recalls ambassador from Tel Aviv
• 15 killed in attack on UN-run school

GAZA CITY: Israeli troops launched an operation in Gaza early on Saturday, including a strike on a UN-run school in which 15 people were killed, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

The strike on school was carried out by Israel even as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken faced a rising tide of anger in meetings with Arab foreign ministers.

Blinken reaffirmed US support for “humanitarian pauses” in the Pales­tinian territory to ensure desperate civilians get help, a day after Israel’s hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave the idea short shrift.

Blinken began the day in Amman by holding talks with Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani of Qatar, a mediator between Tel Aviv and the Palestinians.

The talks come amid mounting Arab anger over the civilian death toll in Gaza, and increasing fears that other states would get involved.

In London, Berlin and other cities aro­und the globe, thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters gathered to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Speaking at a news conference in Amman about sparing civilians and speeding up aid deliveries, the top US diplomat said: “The United States believes that all of these efforts will be facilitated by humanitarian pauses.” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi called for all sides to work together to “stop a catastrophe that will haunt the region for generations”.

Washington has deployed a powerful fleet to the eastern Mediterranean and hopes that it has deterred Hezbollah from a full-scale attack on Israel, but border clashes continue.

A key focus of Blinken’s visit to Israel on Friday was to persuade Netanyahu to enact “humanitarian pauses”.

Netanyahu said later, however, that he would not agree to a “temporary truce” with Hamas until it releases more than 240 prisoners in its custody since Oct 7.

About the school strike, a spokesperson for the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza Strip told a press conference: “The massacre at the Al Fakhura school committed by the occupation (Israel) this morning left 15 martyrs and 70 wounded.”

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees said its school is being used as a “shelter for displaced families”.

“At least one strike hit the school yard where there were tents for displaced families. Another strike hit inside the school where women were baking bread,” UNRWA said.

Evacuation suspended

Gaza’s Hamas-run government suspended the evacuation of foreign passport holders to Egypt on Saturday after Israel refu­sed to allow some wounded Palestinians to be evacuated to Egyptian hospitals.

“No foreign passport holder will be able to leave the Gaza Strip until wounded people who need to be evacuated from hospitals in north Gaza are transported through the Rafah crossing” to Egypt, an official said.

According to the Ha­mas-run health ministry, 9,488 people had been killed across Gaza since Israel started pounding the territory on Oct 7.

The Israeli army said its troops had launched an operation in southern Gaza in the early hours of Saturday, after deadly strikes hit an ambulance convoy and a school-turned-refugee shelter in the besieged Palestinian enclave.

The Israeli military said it had come under attack several times from Hamas “tunnel shafts and military compounds” in northern Gaza and had killed many fighters and destroyed three observation posts. Hamas said it had hit an Israeli convoy with mortar fire.

Turkiye recalls envoy

Turkiye hardened its stance against both Israel and its Western supporters, particularly the Uni­ted States, on Saturday.

In a sign of rising anger in Ankara, the foreign ministry said it had recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told repor­ters that he held Netanyahu personally responsible for the growing civilian death toll in Gaza Strip.

“Netanyahu is no longer someone we can talk to. We have written him off,” Turkish media quoted Erdogan as saying.

‘Targeted raid’

Israeli ground forces launched “a targeted raid” to map tunnels and clear explosive traps in southern Gaza, where it has struck before but rarely sent in troops, a spokesperson said.

“The troops encountered a terrorist cell exiting a tunnel shaft. In res­ponse, the troops fired shells toward the terrorists and killed them,” it said.

A western news agency called upon Israel on Saturday to conduct “an in-depth and transparent investigation” into the exact involvement of its army after a strike severely damaged its office in Gaza City.

The AFP news agency said in a statement it “has taken note of recent statements from the Israeli army spokesman concerning an army strike nearby (the AFP office) that might have caused debris”.

Published in Dawn, November 5th, 2023

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