Sisi, Blinken discuss Gaza conflict


Secretary of State discuss efforts to protect Palestinian civilians and humanitarian workers in Gaza…reports Asian Lite News

Ministers from five Arab countries met Thursday in Cairo with a Palestinian official to discuss the Gaza war, Egypt’s foreign ministry said, ahead of talks with the US top diplomat.

In a joint statement released by Egypt’s foreign ministry, the ministers called for “a comprehensive and immediate ceasefire” and the “opening of all crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip,” where aid has only trickled in and the United Nations has repeatedly warned of imminent famine.

The meeting was attended by the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan, as well as the Emirati minister of international cooperation and the Palestinian Authority minister for civilian affairs, the ministry said.

The Arab officials also reiterated their “rejection of any attempt to displace the Palestinians from their lands,” as a looming Israeli ground invasion of Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah has raised fears for the 1.5 million mostly displaced Palestinians sheltering in the city, penned in by the Egyptian border.

Later Thursday, the ministers were due to hold talks with Secretary of State Antony Blinken who is visiting Egypt as part of his sixth tour of the region since the Israel-Hamas war started on October 7.

Blinken also had separate meetings with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to discuss “ongoing efforts to protect Palestinian civilians and humanitarian workers in Gaza” and “secure an immediate ceasefire that includes the release of hostages”, according to the state department.

Egypt is the main entry point for aid deliveries to Gaza and a key mediator in talks underway in Qatar to secure a six-week truce in the war that would allow hostages to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and increased aid deliveries to Gaza.

The bloodiest ever Gaza war broke out on October 7 after Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, resulting in about 1,160 deaths.

Militants also seized about 250 hostages, of whom Israel believes 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 who are presumed dead.

Israel has waged a relentless offensive against Hamas that has killed nearly 32,000 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

UN agencies have warned that Gaza’s 2.4 million people are on the brink of famine, and UN rights chief Volker Turk said Israel may be using “starvation as a method of war”.

During a visit Wednesday to Saudi Arabia, Blinken unveiled a draft US resolution for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The United States, Israel’s main backer, has previously used its UN Security Council veto to block the world body from calling for an “immediate” ceasefire in the Palestinian territory.

Sisi stressed the need for a truce to address the escalating humanitarian crisis and warned of the dangers of a military operation in Rafah, the last zone of relative safety for civilians where more than half the enclave’s population is now sheltering, pressed against the Egyptian border.

But an Israeli official insisted Israel would take control of Rafah even if it caused a rift with the United States, saying that a quarter of Hamas’s original fighting force was there.

“It’s going to happen. And it will happen even if Israel is forced to fight alone,” Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer said in a podcast.

Officials from 36 countries and UN agencies gathered in Cyprus to discuss ways to expedite humanitarian deliveries.

One aid ship arrived in the enclave last week from Cyprus and two others are expected to depart soon. But aid agencies say the shipments are logistically difficult and cannot replace deliveries by truck.

“Recent efforts to deliver food by air and sea are welcome, but only the expansion of land crossings will enable large-scale deliveries to prevent famine,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“Once again, we ask Israel to open more crossings and accelerate the entry and delivery of water, food, medical supplies and other humanitarian aid into and within Gaza.” At a Gaza school run by the UN Palestinian refugee agency, thousands of people who have fled Israeli airstrikes barely had enough food to break the daily Ramadan fast, unlike fellow Muslims elsewhere marking the holy month with post-fast treats.

“Go and check all the markets … You wouldn’t find a single can of fava beans or chickpeas for the kids to eat,” said Basel al-Soueidi, sheltering in the Jabalia refugee camp.

He was cooking a few red lentils for the surviving members of his family, 17 of whom have been killed in the war.

“I miss them all – there is no food or water, there is nothing. All my cousins died, there’s no one left. We used to all gather during Ramadan, with my uncle,” he said, close to tears.

Israel said its troops had killed more than 50 Hamas gunmen over the previous day, taking the number of fighters killed around the hospital to 140, along with two Israeli soldiers.

It said it had located military infrastructure and weapons in and around the facility, showing images of AK-47 automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and other artillery.


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