Israel bombards Gaza's south as leaders discuss post-war future

AFP , Saturday 20 Jan 2024

Israel ratcheted up its attacks in the south of the Gaza Strip on Saturday after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden discussed differences over a post-war future for Palestinians that have suggested a rift between the two allies.

Palestinians rescue a child from under the rubble after Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Gaza Strip
Palestinians rescue a child from under the rubble after Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, Gaza Strip. AP


Witnesses said the Israeli bombardment was again focused overnight on Khan Younis, the largest city in Gaza's south, although Palestinian media also reported intense fire around Jabalia in the north early on Saturday.

A child with a bloodied face cried on a gurney at Al-Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, while ambulances carrying the wounded and the dead arrived to the sound of automatic weapons in the distance.

Biden and Netanyahu held their first call since December 23 a day after the Israeli leader reiterated his rejection of any form of Palestinian sovereignty, deepening divisions with Israel's key backer over the war.

While the two leaders spoke of what might come next, the reality of the Israeli war on Gaza was all too clear in Khan Younis and elsewhere in the Palestinian territory.

Netanyahu has said Israel expects the Israeli war on Gaza to continue for months, but his comments on Thursday rejecting a so-called two-state solution suggested a rift with key backer the United States.

Biden said after Friday's call with Netanyahu, with whom he has had a complicated relationship over some 40 years, the Israeli leader might still come around.

"There are a number of types of two-state solutions. There's a number of countries that are members of the UN that... don't have their own militaries," Biden told reporters after an event at the White House.

"And so, I think there are ways in which this could work."

Netanyahu said on Thursday Israel "must have security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River", which "contradicts the idea of (Palestinian) sovereignty".

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said in Davos a day earlier that Israel could not achieve "genuine security" without a "pathway to a Palestinian state".

Famine, disease 

Biden has stood firmly behind Israel in its brutal war, although he has also warned that Israel could lose support by "indiscriminate bombing" in Gaza.

However, the US still opposes a ceasefire in Gaza. "We do support humanitarian pauses, as I said, to try to get hostages out and more aid in. But we don't support a ceasefire at this time," US National Security Council spokesman, John Kirby said.

The United Nations says the Israeli war has displaced roughly 85 percent of Gaza's people and warns better aid access is needed urgently as famine and disease loom.

The White House also said after Friday's call that Israel will allow flour shipments for Palestinians through its port of Ashdod.

Nearly 20,000 babies have been born "in hell" in the Gaza Strip since the start of the Israeli offensive, the UN children's agency UNICEF said on Friday.

A week-long communications blackout in Gaza has amplified the challenges, although the telecommunications ministry and operator Paltel said internet services were starting to return on Friday.

Israel's military attacks has moved further south in Gaza as the war has progressed.

Metawei Nabil, recently released by Israeli forces and bearing scars on his arms, told AFP he fled Beit Lahia in northern Gaza only "to face death" in the devastated southern city of Rafah, near the Egyptian border.

Some residents who fled the initial stages of the war in northern Gaza have begun returning to what remains of their homes.

In Gaza City's Rimal district, "everything is destroyed and the people are dying of hunger", said Ibrahim Saada, who told AFP he lost his whole family.

Groups of isolated fighters still confront the occupation troops in northern Gaza despite the Israeli army saying the Palestinian resistance combat structures in the north had been dismantled.

The health ministry in Gaza said at least 90 people were killed in Israeli "attacks" across Gaza overnight.

At least 27 Israeli captives also died, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

A resistance group in Gaza released a video on Friday showing an Israeli captive who it said was killed in an Israeli strike.

Violence has also surged in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli troops and terrorist settlers have killed more than 360 people since October 7.

Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that Israeli fire in Al-Mazraa al-Sharqiya, east of Ramallah, killed a 17-year-old Palestinian.

* This story has been edited by Ahram Online.


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