U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is flying around the Middle East meeting leaders and officials, and today in Turkey he “will underscore the importance of protecting civilian lives in Israel and the Gaza Strip,” according to the State Department. However it seems that no one is talking to the leaders of Hamas, or that if they are, they are not admitting it.
On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “We want to see Gaza as a peaceful region that is a part of an independent Palestinian state, in line with 1967 borders, with territorial integrity, and with East Jerusalem as its capital,” according to broadcaster Haberturk and others.
On Saturday, Blinken met with Arab leaders in Amman, Jordan. They pressed him on the need for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza as Israel’s military struck a U.N. shelter and school, killing civilians.
In a day of diplomacy, Blinken met with his counterparts from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Qatar, as well as the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee and Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, Najib Mikati.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told reporters Saturday that although he condemned the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7th and that “nobody in their right mind” would belittle the pain felt by Israel that day, the war in Gaza could not be allowed to continue.
“The whole region is sinking in a sea of hatred that will define generations to come,” Safadi said after meeting with Blinken and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry.
The Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers asked for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, but Blinken said that would be counterproductive.
He indicated he could support a pause to allow humanitarian supplies to be delivered and get civilians out of Gaza.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that will happen only if Israeli hostages are freed.
“It is our view now that a cease-fire would simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did on October 7,” Blinken said, in reference to Hamas’ attack on southern Israel that triggered the latest Gaza war.
Protests, critical of Israel’s assault on Gaza, took place in cities around the world, including Ankara, Berlin, Istanbul, London, Paris and Washington Saturday. Demonstrators called for a cease-fire in Gaza.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian news agency reported that 51 Palestinians were killed late Saturday when Israel bombarded the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. The Reuters news agency could not independently verify the WAFA report. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When such numbers are given to reporters, it is never clear how many of the dead were Hamas fighters, and how many civilians.
Such strikes have leveled large areas of northern Gaza neighborhoods. About 300,000 of the area’s residents are sheltering in U.N. facilities, one of which was hit Saturday, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens of others.
The al-Fakhoura school in the Jabaliya district was housing thousands of evacuees when it was hit, Juliette Touma, director of communications for UNRWA, told Reuters.
“I was standing here when three bombings happened; I carried a body and another decapitated body with my own hands,” a young boy said in video obtained by Reuters, crying in despair. “God will take my vengeance.”
Nearby, a resident comforted a woman in shock.
The health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza says at least 231 people were killed in the past day, bringing the death toll to at least 9,488 since the war began between Israel and the Palestinian militants.
The armed wing of the Palestinian militant faction Hamas said Saturday that more than 60 hostages were missing after Israeli airstrikes hit Gaza.
Abu Ubaida, the spokesperson for the Izz ad-Din al Qassam Brigades, said on Hamas’ Telegram channel that 23 bodies of the 60 missing Israeli hostages were trapped under the rubble.
The truth of this statement could not be independently verified.
In besieged Gaza, Israel opened a three-hour window for Palestinians to move south, but few if any did.
“We don’t trust them,” said Mohamed Abed, who sheltered with his wife and children on the grounds of Shifa hospital, one of thousands of Palestinians seeking safety at medical centers in the north.
Palestinians say the trickle of humanitarian aid coming through the southern Rafah crossing cannot keep up with the needs of the population.
A rising number of bakeries also have stopped operating due to the fuel and water shortages as well as airstrike damage.
Wael Abu Omar, a spokesperson for the Rafah crossing, said that in recent days the trucks have contained more body bags than food. He said that recently delivered biscuits had expired and were inedible.
Lynn Hastings, a senior U.N. official based in Jerusalem, said she was aware of the reports of expired food but could not independently confirm they were the World Food Program’s shipments.
The WFP has warned that widespread food insecurity across Gaza was quickly becoming a crisis.
“There is a real threat of malnutrition and people starving,” said Alia Zaki, a spokesperson for the WFP. “There is some food that’s still available, but people can’t reach it. The situation is catastrophic.”
Roughly 1,100 people have left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing since Wednesday under an apparent agreement among the United States, Egypt, Israel and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas.
Sources: VOA with information included from Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.