GAZA CITY: Israel will take on security responsibility for Gaza Strip for an indefinite period after the end of fighting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday in the first direct comment on his government’s plans for the Palestinian territory’s future.

Hamas has been ruling Gaza for the past 16 years.

The White House, however, said that the United States would oppose a reoccupation of Gaza by Israel’s military in post-conflict Gaza.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that Israel and the United States are friends and do not have to agree on every single issue.

Blinken urges G7 to speak ‘in a clear voice’ about crisis

Israel has pounded Gaza with strikes since the Hamas raid on Oct 7. The bombardment has left more than 10,000 Palestinians dead, around 4,000 of them children.

Israel says its forces have surrounded Gaza City, home to a third of the besieged enc­lave’s 2.3 million people, and are poised to attack it soon in their campaign to annihilate Hamas.

Netanyahu said in an interview with ABC News that Israel would consider “tactical little pauses” in the Gaza fighting to let prisoners leave or aid enter, but again rejected calls for a ceasefire.

Asked who would be responsible for security in Gaza after Hamas was defeated, the Israeli premier said: “I think Israel will, for an indefinite period, have the overall security responsibility because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t have that security responsibility.”

Netanyahu said a “general ceasefire” would hamper his country’s “war effort”, but pauses to fighting for humanitarian reasons could be considered based on circumstances.

US President Joe Biden discussed such pauses by phone on Monday with Netanyahu, reiterating support for Israel while emphasising it must protect civilians, the White House said.

Hamas also has rebuffed calls for a halt in fighting, saying it will not free Israeli prisoners or stop fighting while Gaza is under attack.

Israel’s overnight barrage killed 292 people in Gaza and hit two paediatric hospitals as well as the besieged enclave’s only psychiatric hospital.

“These are massacres. They destroyed three houses over the heads of their inhabitants,” Mahmud Meshmesh, a resident of Deir Al Balah in central Gaza, said.

Blinken’s plea to G7

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called upon the G7 on Tuesday to speak “in a clear voice” about ongoing unrest in the Middle East as he kicked off talks with foreign ministers from the grouping in Japan.

“This is a very important moment... for the G7 to come together in the face of this crisis and speak as we do in one clear voice,” Blin­ken said at the start of the two-day meeting in Tokyo.

Arriving in Tokyo following his latest whirlwind tour of the Middle East, Blinken “briefed his counterparts on his trip... and progress on delivering humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza and efforts to contain the conflict,” a senior State Department official said.

‘Most dangerous trip’

According to Gaza’s interior ministry, 900,000 Palestinians are still sheltering in northern Gaza, including Gaza City.

“The most dangerous trip in my life. We saw the tanks from point blank. We saw decomposed body parts. We saw death,” resident Adam Fayez Zeyara posted with a selfie of himself on the road out of Gaza City.

While Israel’s military operation is focused on the northern half of Gaza, the south has also come under attack. Pales­ti­nian health officials said 23 people were killed in two air strikes early on Tuesday in the southern Gaza cities of Khan Yunis and Rafah.

“We are civilians,” said Ahmed Ayesh, who was rescued from the rubble of a house in Khan Yunis, where health officials said 11 people had been killed.

‘Warren of tunnels’

Israel’s military claimed on Tuesday it had captured a compound used by Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip and was set to attack fighters in a “warren of underground tunnels”.

It released footage showing troops using bulldozers to dig up earth and knock over walls.

Lt Col Richard Hecht of the Israeli army told reporters Hamas fighters were firing rocket-propelled grenades at his forces from tunnels.

“So we’re really putting an effort into taking out these tunnels as we move in and close in on Gaza City,” he said.

The Israeli military claimed its aircraft struck several Hamas fighters who had barricaded themselves in a building near the Al Quds Hospital inside Gaza City.

Around 30 Israeli soldiers have been killed in Gaza since the start of ground invasion 10 days ago, according to Israeli sources.

‘Breaking point’

Civic services in Gaza are close to “breaking point” without fuel supplies, the UN humanitarian office said on Tuesday. All bakeries in northern Gaza are out of service due to Israeli attacks and lack of fuel.

There are fears that the month-old fighting could spread to other fronts, including the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the northern border with Lebanon, both areas that have seen a surge in unrest to the deadliest levels in many years.

In the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian health ministry said a total of 163 Palesti-nians had been killed by Israeli forces there since Oct 7.

Waiting to enter Egypt

Hundreds of Palestinian foreign passport holders waited on Tuesday inside the besieged Gaza Strip to escape through the Rafah crossing with Egypt.

While most still queued nervously, the first arrivals were seen on the Egyptian side where paramedics transferred an injured woman on a stretcher into an ambulance to rush her to a hospital.

Tuesday was set to mark the fifth day on which Gaza’s sole land crossing not controlled by Israel has opened in the past week, to wounded Palestinians as well as foreigners and Palestinian dual nationals.

Video footage from the Gaza side showed hundreds waiting with suitcases, bags and other scant belongings at the Rafah terminal complex.

Departures from the Gaza Strip resumed for many more on Tuesday afternoon after 500 people had received authorisation to enter Egypt.

“Every person in Gaza is in danger,” said Myrian Abu Shaban, a resident of Gaza City.

Statue of Liberty protest

Hundreds of US Jewish activists occupied New York’s Statue of Liberty on Monday to demand a ceasefire and end to the genocidal bombardment of civilians in Gaza.

“As long as the people of Gaza are screaming, we need to yell louder, no matter who attempts to silence us,” said photographer Nan Goldin at the protest.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2023

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