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Blinken Says “More Needs to be Done” to Protect Palestinians, After Israel Agrees to Daily Pauses in Fighting

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday he welcomed Israel’s agreeing to daily humanitarian pauses in its offensive in northern Gaza but that more needed to be done. “Far too many Palestinians have been killed. Far too many who suffered these past weeks, and we want to do everything possible to prevent harm to them and to maximise the assistance that gets to them,” Blinken said, speaking in New Delhi.

Fighting has raged in northern Gaza since gunmen from the Islamist group Hamas poured over the border into Israel and, according to Israeli officials, killed at least 1,200 people and seizing about 240 hostages in the worst attack in the country’s history.

Lior Haiat, a spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told CBS News Friday that the death toll from the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants has been revised to 1,200, down from the previously reported approximation of at least 1,400. Haitat said that the other 200 people killed were “probably terrorists.” 

Israel retaliated with an aerial bombing and ground offensive that the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip says has killed more than 10,800 people, many of them children.

The Hamas government said Friday that an Israeli strike on the territory’s largest hospital killed 13 people. A World Health Organization spokesperson said the hospital had been “coming under bombardment” and that 20 hospitals in Gaza weren’t able to treat patients at all, according to the Reuters news agency.

“Thirteen martyrs and dozens wounded in an Israeli strike on Al-Shifa compound today” in central Gaza City, a government statement said, giving a toll AFP couldn’t immediately verify.

Al-Shifa hospital director Mohammad Abu Salmiya said “Israeli tanks fired on Al-Shifa hospital,” while the Israeli military didn’t offer any immediate comment.

Israel had reported heavy fighting on Thursday near the hospital, saying it had killed dozens of militants and destroyed tunnels that are key to Hamas’ capacity to fight.

The Israeli army has repeatedly accused Hamas of using hospitals, particularly Al-Shifa, to coordinate their attacks against the army and as hideouts for its commanders. Hamas authorities and doctors deny the accusations.

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said Friday that Israeli tanks were also surrounding two children’s hospitals in northern Gaza. A spokesperson for Israel’s military said they “cannot discuss potential locations relating to our operations. This can potentially compromise the troops.”  

Separately, the U.N. human rights chief on Friday said a probe is needed into what he called Israel’s “indiscriminate” bombardment and shelling” in densely populated areas of the Gaza Strip, which he said raises “serious concerns that these amount to disproportionate attacks in breach of international humanitarian law,” The Associated Press reported.

Also on Friday, Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah said Israeli fire killed seven of its fighters, without specifying where or when they died as border tensions persist during the Israel-Hamas war.

President Biden on Thursday welcomed the pauses Israel signed onto, which formalize an arrangement that’s already seen tens of thousands of Palestinians flee the devastation in northern Gaza.

Blinken said, “I think some progress has been made. But … much more needs to be done in terms of protecting civilians and getting humanitarian assistance to them.”

Blinken said Israel agreeing to the daily four-hour pauses, as well as two humanitarian corridors, will enable people to move away from the fighting. “These steps will save lives and enable more assistance to get to Palestinians in need,” he added.

Blinken’s India visit is the last stop in a marathon trip that’s included South Korea, a G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in Japan — which sought to find common ground on the Israel-Hamas conflict — and a tour of the Middle East.

Source : CBS