Israeli forces tighten grip on Gaza City as conflict marks 29th day

New Delhi, Nov 3: The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has touched down in Israel for his third visit to the country since the Hamas attacks on October 7. During this significant diplomatic mission, Blinken engaged in high-level discussions with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, focusing on charting a path forward and taking “concrete steps” to minimize harm to civilians in the Gaza Strip.

Addressing the ongoing hostage situation, Blinken conveyed a strong commitment, stating, “So many, both Israelis, Americans, and other nationals are at risk, and we’re determined to do everything we can to bring them back safely to be with their families and loved ones.”Blinken acknowledged the challenges of the current situation, describing these as “difficult days.” He expressed his solidarity with Israel, emphasizing that the United States firmly stands with the nation. “Israel has the right and obligation to defend itself and to ensure the events of October 7th never happen again,” Blinken asserted.

Secretary Blinken Discusses Humanitarian Ceasefires with Israeli Leaders

Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlighted the significance of “humanitarian pauses” in the ongoing conflict. He stressed their critical role in safeguarding civilians and described them as a key topic of discussion during meetings with Israeli leaders. According to Blinken, the United States believes that these pauses will facilitate the increased delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Blinken expressed the belief that such ceasefires could contribute to creating a more favourable environment for the release of hostages. However, he acknowledged that the specific operational details of these humanitarian pauses are still under negotiation.

Blinken also noted that Israeli officials have raised several “legitimate questions” regarding these pauses, including how they can be optimized to maximise aid delivery, assist in hostage release efforts, and prevent potential exploitation by Hamas.

While emphasizing the importance of Israel’s self-defence, Blinken stressed that how it is executed is crucial, especially in safeguarding civilians caught in the crossfire of the ongoing conflict.

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Furthermore, Blinken underscored the necessity of delivering assistance to those in dire need in Gaza. He highlighted the shared determination of both countries to collaborate in this endeavour.

Secretary Blinken also brought a message from US President Joe Biden, who recently addressed the urgent need for a pause in the conflict to facilitate humanitarian aid delivery to Gaza. Biden stated, “I think we need a pause” during a campaign event on Thursday.

A statement by US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby clarified that any such humanitarian pause would be “temporary, localized, and focused, with a clear objective of delivering humanitarian aid while ensuring the safety of the people.”

Both Israel and the United States have rejected a broad ceasefire between Palestinians and Israel, expressing concerns that it might allow Hamas to regroup and resupply. The US President has consistently voiced his “unwavering support” for Israel’s right to self-defence, and this visit by Secretary Blinken reaffirms the strong bond between the two nations during these challenging times.

Gaza conflict on the 29th day continues to witness airstrikes and intermittent explosions in and around Gaza City, Israel’s military has declared that it has “completed the encirclement of Gaza City.” The situation in the Gaza Strip has grown increasingly dire, with the health ministry reporting a tragic toll of over 9,000 casualties since Israel initiated retaliatory strikes.

The ongoing conflict has intensified in five different areas within Gaza City and the north, where the Israeli ground operation expanded in the previous day. The most significant military incursion is concentrated in the west Gaza area. The Israeli army is employing firepower from the air, sea, and land to engage with Hamas militants as they engage in urban warfare with the hiding Hamas militants.

Reports suggest that Hamas has been using anti-tank missiles in their fight against the Israeli army. Furthermore, air strikes persisted overnight, particularly in the vicinity of Al-Quds Hospital near Gaza City, where approximately 14,000 people have sought shelter. Israel’s control of critical roadways, including main exits to the north and the coastal road, has made it extremely challenging for Gaza residents to leave the area.

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A substantial portion of Gaza’s population is reliant on aid from Egypt in the south, with hundreds of lorries providing essential supplies. However, the humanitarian situation is worse for those in the northern region. Media reports indicate that around 700,000 people in Gaza currently lack access to essential services such as electricity, water, and internet, exacerbating the dire circumstances.

The Rafah crossing has opened for the third time since Wednesday, enabling the evacuation of dual nationals and their dependents. Among those leaving Gaza for Egypt are the family of Scotland’s first minister, Humza Yousaf, who had been stranded in the territory since the Hamas attacks on Israel.

Thousands of Gazans who were working in Israel have been sent back to Gaza, with their work permits revoked by the Israeli government. Before the Hamas attacks on October 7th, these Gazans had received permits to work outside the Gaza area. Witnesses have reported that some of these workers returned through the Kerem Shalom crossing, a commercial goods junction with Israel in southern Gaza.

The return of over 3,000 Palestinians from Gaza who were working in Israel when the conflict erupted underscores the upheaval and displacement faced by the population.

Hezbollah Leader Praises Attacks on Israel in his first public speech

Tensions along the Lebanon-Israel border have escalated as the leader of the Hezbollah group, Hassan Nasrallah, addresses the congregation on Friday.  He is marking his first public statement since the outbreak of the conflict.

Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari said that they are currently on “very high alert” along Israel’s northern border. Recent weeks have witnessed clashes at the northern border between the Hezbollah Islamist group and the Israeli army.

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Addressing the recent developments, Hagari stated, “Yesterday, we conducted a broad offensive operation, targeting several Hezbollah terror cells in response to a significant attack by Hezbollah that resulted in civilian casualties.” He highlighted the Israeli military’s commitment to responding firmly to any threats to Israeli civilians, stressing their preparedness and vigilance on the northern border.

The leader of Hezbollah, the powerful military organization in Lebanon, and banned in several countries delivered his first speech addressing the Israel-Gaza conflict. Speaking from an undisclosed location to a massive gathering in Beirut, Hassan Nasrallah applauded the attacks on Israel that occurred on October 7, resulting in the tragic loss of 1,400 lives.

Nasrallah publicly endorsed the actions of Hamas which, much like Hezbollah, is designated as a terrorist organization by the United Kingdom, the United States, and other nations.

He described these attacks as “right, wise, and just.” Notably, Nasrallah emphasized that these attacks were “100% Palestinian” in nature, underlining his support for the Palestinian cause.

The Hezbollah leader condemned the United States, holding it accountable for the conflict in Gaza. Furthermore, he expressed gratitude towards Iran-backed groups in Yemen and Iraq for their roles in the broader regional dynamics. Houthi rebels in Yemen launched drone attacks on Israel, while Shia Iraqi militants targeted U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria.

Nasrallah disclosed that Hezbollah entered the fray on October 8, a day after launching a surprise attack in southern Israel.  Nasrallah confirmed that 57 Hezbollah cadres have lost their lives in the ongoing conflict. However, he did not unveil any concrete plans for Hezbollah’s future actions. Instead, he laid the blame for the Gaza war squarely on the United States, characterizing Israel as a mere “executive tool.”

Nasrallah proposed that Israel could secure the release of captives held in Gaza through negotiations, arguing that the ongoing situation in Gaza exposed Israel’s alleged folly and inability.

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