The Israeli army continued its bombings against the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, while the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, made a new visit to Israel to try to prevent the conflict from escalating. extends to the region.
An AFP correspondent reported intense bombardments overnight in Khan Younes and Rafah, the major cities in the south of the besieged Palestinian territory, where thousands of people have found refuge since the start of the war on October 7.
In Iran, a double explosion took place on Wednesday near the tomb of General Soleimani, the architect of Iranian military operations in the Middle East.
For its part, the Israeli army announced that its forces had killed around 40 militants in the past 24 hours as part of “extended ground operations including airstrikes” in Khan Yunis, and that its troops had seized weapons .
The war between Israel and Hamas was sparked by a bloody Hamas attack on October 7 on Israeli soil which killed around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP count based on the Israeli toll. The strikes by the Israeli army, which has sworn to destroy Hamas, considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, have left more than 23,210 dead, mainly women and minors, according to a latest report on Tuesday. of Hamas.
In a speech delivered Tuesday in Doha, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh called on Muslim countries to “support” him in his war against Israel in the Gaza Strip by providing him with “weapons.” Fears of a regional escalation of conflict between Israel and its other enemies, an informal alliance of Iran-backed armed groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, have continued to grow.
“Very difficult moment”
On Monday, sirens warning of rocket fire sounded in central and southern Israel, as well as near the border with Lebanon, where Israeli strikes and exchanges of fire with the Islamist movement Hezbollah supported by Iran raise fears of a risk of extension of the conflict towards the north.
Also on Monday, Hezbollah announced the death of Wissam Hassan Tawil, one of its “commanders”, in an Israeli strike, which constitutes a first since October for this movement. In retaliation, Hezbollah announced on Tuesday that it had targeted, using several suicide drones, an Israeli army command center in the north of the country.
Two other central Hamas figures have been killed in strikes in recent days: one, Hassan Akasha, in Syria on Monday, and the other, Saleh al-Arouri, killed in early January in Lebanon.
In this context, the American Secretary of State, who is making his fourth tour to the Middle East since the start of the war, returned to Israel on Tuesday. Meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his war cabinet, including opposition figure Benny Gantz, are scheduled for today.
Israel vowed to destroy Hamas after the attack carried out on its soil on October 7 from Gaza by commandos of this Islamist organization.
After speaking with President Isaac Herzog early in the morning, Blinken spoke of the “very difficult moment” Israel is going through, while saying the country had a “real chance” of integration with its Arab neighbors.
He said Monday evening that he had discussed the normalization of ties with Israel during a visit to Saudi Arabia. Negotiations on possible normalization with Israel were suspended a week after the start of the war between Israel and Hamas. He also said that Washington would work with countries in the region for the reconstruction and stabilization of Gaza, which had become “uninhabitable” according to the UN.
On Monday, US President Joe Biden said on Monday that he was working “discreetly with the Israeli government to get it to reduce” the presence of its troops in Gaza. In this small territory, bombings razed entire neighborhoods, displaced 85% of the population and caused a catastrophic humanitarian crisis according to the UN.
At the same time, the Israeli army announced a new phase of the war in Gaza. Army spokesman Daniel Hagari told the New York Times it would involve fewer troops and fewer airstrikes, and added that troop deployments would be reduced starting in January.
“Although there are still terrorists and weapons in the north, they no longer operate within an organized military framework,” he said during a press briefing, adding that troops “now operate differently in this area”. He also recalled that the fighting would continue during 2024.
The conflict has also increased violence to a level not seen in nearly twenty years in the West Bank, territory occupied by Israel since 1967. And since the start of the war, cross-border hostilities have left more than 180 dead in Lebanon, including more than 135 Hezbollah fighters, according to an AFP count. On the Israeli side, nine soldiers and five civilians were killed, according to the authorities.
This article is originally published on voaafrique.com