As the US Secretary of State Visits, Gaza Siege Intensifies Amid Calls for Humanitarian Assistance

by Ethan Kim
Gaza humanitarian crisis

In a concerted effort to facilitate humanitarian relief for Gaza, Antony Blinken, the U.S. Secretary of State, has landed in Israel. Concurrently, Israeli forces are escalating their siege around Gaza City, which is at the heart of Israel’s effort to dismantle the Hamas leadership in Gaza.

The Lebanese frontier has also witnessed heightened tensions in anticipation of a speech by Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader. His address is particularly significant as it marks his first public statement following the onslaught by Hamas on Israel the previous month.

The involvement of Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas with support from Iran, and their assaults on Israeli military outposts in the northern region of Israel with various means including drones and mortar fire, have raised concerns about the conflict with Hamas escalating to encompass broader regional hostilities. The Israeli defense forces have responded with airstrikes and helicopter assaults.

The conflict, which commenced on October 7, has seen Hezbollah maintaining pressure on Israel’s defenses along the Lebanese border without escalating to full-scale war.

The human toll of the conflict has been grave, with over 9,000 Palestinian fatalities in Gaza and about 1,400 deaths in Israel, predominantly non-combatants, due to the initial offensive by Hamas.

Blinken’s visit, his third to Israel following the Hamas-initiated attacks, includes stops in Tel Aviv and Amman, Jordan. This visit aligns with President Joe Biden’s call for a “pause” in hostilities to allow humanitarian aid for Palestinians and to evacuate foreign nationals and the injured. Over the last 48 hours, approximately 800 individuals have exited Gaza.

The Israeli response to President Biden’s suggestion is pending. However, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been firm in his stance against a ceasefire, asserting on Thursday that Israel’s operations will continue unabated with the goal of eradicating Hamas governance in the Gaza Strip.

After the loss of hundreds of lives at the hands of Hamas militants, the United States has assured its steadfast support for Israel. This backing came after the capture of around 240 individuals by Hamas nearly four weeks prior.

As Blinken embarked on his journey, the U.S. State Department echoed its endorsement of Israel’s self-defense right. Simultaneously, the U.S. administration is urging Israel to increase aid access to Gaza, as the humanitarian plight there becomes increasingly dire.

In the 25 days of conflict, over 3,700 Palestinian children have perished, as reported by Gaza’s Health Ministry under Hamas. The extensive bombing has displaced over half of the 2.3 million residents. Essential supplies such as food, water, and fuel are critically scarce due to Israel’s siege, and the medical facilities are signaling a near breakdown.

While Israel has permitted entry for more than 260 trucks loaded with food and medical supplies, humanitarian agencies argue that the assistance is inadequate. Israel has denied fuel access, alleging that Hamas would redirect it for military purposes.

John Kirby, the White House national security spokesperson, clarified that the U.S. is advocating not for a broad ceasefire but for a “temporary, localized” suspension of hostilities.

Amidst the ongoing campaign, there is no definitive strategy from Israel or the U.S. regarding the potential consequences of overthrowing Hamas’s rule in Gaza — an issue high on Blinken’s agenda, according to State Department officials.

Earlier in the week, Blinken had proposed that the Palestinian Authority assume governance in Gaza. The Authority was ousted from Gaza by Hamas in 2007 and now exercises limited authority in certain areas of the West Bank, which is under Israeli occupation.

Military sources confirm that Israeli troops have fully surrounded Gaza City, which is densely populated and considered by Israel as the epicenter of Hamas’s military operations, housing a complex network of subterranean passageways and command hubs.

The Israeli Chief of Staff, Herzi Halevy, acknowledged the complexities of the urban warfare scenario. Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military spokesperson, reported that the forces were engaged in direct combat with militants, resorting to airstrikes and artillery fire as necessary, and were systematically dismantling Hamas infrastructure.

The advancement of Israeli forces towards the populous districts of Gaza City suggests an inevitable increase in casualties. Israel has cautioned inhabitants to vacate the Shati refugee camp, adjacent to the city’s core.

The Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, have claimed engagements with Israeli forces in various zones within Gaza and have reported Israeli soldier casualties at Beit Lahiya’s northern boundary. They also claim to have destroyed tanks using locally produced anti-tank missiles.

Recent Israeli footage of the conflict showcases ground troops exchanging gunfire and maneuvering armored vehicles in urban settings.

In northern Gaza, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians remain imperiled by the conflict, despite Israel’s evacuation directives. Many are seeking refuge in U.N. facilities, deemed to be safer environments.

Despite this, four U.N. schools, now serving as shelters in northern Gaza and Bureij, have come under attack, resulting in 24 deaths, as stated by Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, the U.N.’s agency for Palestinian refugees.

The war has seen over 9,061 Palestinian lives lost and more than 32,000 wounded, as per the Gaza Health Ministry, which did not specify the division between civilians and combatants.

The Israeli toll includes approximately 5,400 injuries and 1,400 fatalities, alongside 19 Israeli military personnel lost since the ground offensive began.

Rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel, coupled with daily confrontations between Israeli forces and Hezbollah militants, have disrupted life for millions in Israel and prompted around 250,000 individuals to vacate border areas.

A number of Palestinians holding foreign citizenship were granted exit from the conflict zone this week, traversing through the Rafah crossing into Egypt.

U.S. representatives have confirmed that 79 Americans were among the evacuees, and efforts are ongoing to facilitate the departure of 400 U.S. citizens along with their families.

Egypt has declared its refusal to accept a surge of Palestinian refugees, citing concerns that Israel might prohibit their return to Gaza post-conflict.

Reported by Mroue from Beirut and Rising from Bangkok.

For comprehensive coverage, visit bigbignews.net/israel-hamas-war

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Gaza humanitarian crisis

What is the current situation in Gaza as of the latest conflict?

The situation in Gaza is dire, with Israeli forces having tightened their encirclement of Gaza City. Over 9,000 Palestinians have been killed, and more than half the territory’s 2.3 million people have been displaced. There is a severe shortage of food, water, and fuel, and hospitals are warning of imminent collapse.

Has the US intervened in the Israel-Gaza conflict?

Yes, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Israel to advocate for increased humanitarian aid to Gaza. The U.S. has also reiterated support for Israel’s right to self-defense while pressing for aid to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

What are the dynamics between Israel, Hamas, and Hezbollah in the current conflict?

Hamas attacked Israel, which led to Israeli retaliation against Gaza. Tensions have risen with Lebanon as Hezbollah, allied with Hamas, engaged Israeli military positions, raising fears that the conflict could regionalize. Despite the escalation, Hezbollah has avoided actions that could trigger an all-out war.

How many casualties have been reported in the Israel-Gaza conflict?

More than 9,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, and more than 32,000 have been injured. On the Israeli side, 1,400 people have died, and around 5,400 have been injured, with 19 soldiers killed since the start of the ground operation.

What is the U.S. Secretary of State’s agenda in the Israel-Gaza conflict?

Antony Blinken’s visit aims to secure a humanitarian pause in the fighting to allow aid into Gaza and to discuss the prospect of the Palestinian Authority governing Gaza post-conflict. He is traveling to Tel Aviv and Amman, Jordan, to further these discussions.

Have any humanitarian aid efforts been successful in Gaza?

Israel has allowed over 260 trucks with food and medicine into Gaza, but aid workers claim it is insufficient. Additionally, Israel has restricted fuel entry, citing concerns over Hamas’ potential diversion for military use.

What is the international community’s stance on the Israel-Gaza conflict?

The international community, including the U.S., has called for more humanitarian aid to Gaza. However, there is no consensus on a ceasefire, with the U.S. advocating for a temporary, localized pause rather than a general ceasefire. Concerns about the humanitarian situation are growing, especially after several U.N. schools serving as shelters were hit, resulting in casualties.

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Michael T. November 3, 2023 - 2:56 pm

Has anyone else noticed how these reports often miss out on the nuances of the conflict? There’s talk about the casualties which is tragic but what about the politics behind all this, surely that’s important too

Dave Brown November 3, 2023 - 11:44 pm

there’s a line here about ‘Hamas hoarding fuel for military use’ – how can they know this for sure? seems like there’s always an excuse to limit aid, while people are suffering either way…

Lisa Rey November 4, 2023 - 8:50 am

I think Blinken’s got a tough job on his hands, trying to push for aid in the midst of all this violence, I mean how effective can diplomacy be when there’s active conflict on the ground?

Sara O'Connor November 4, 2023 - 10:00 am

i’m reading about the humanitarian crisis and the lack of sufficient aid getting through and it just breaks my heart, those poor children caught in the crossfire, something needs to be done and fast

John Smith November 4, 2023 - 10:48 am

this article really brings to light the severity of whats happening in Gaza, it’s shocking to see the numbers laid out like this and it makes you wonder how long this can go on for with so many people suffering…


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