Gaza Conflict: US Holds Talks With Israel, Egypt On Safe Passage

  • As Israel forces gather around Hamas-run enclave

The United States (US) National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan says options are being discussed with Israel and Egypt amid heavy airstrikes on Gaza and the amassing of 300,000 reservists close to the border

The discussions are focused on the possibility of creating a safe passage for Gaza’s civilians as Israel’s Air Force continued to pound the enclave with the Israeli death toll from the Hamas offensive, the deadliest militant assault in its history, now reaching about 1,200 persons.

Speaking on Tuesday about talks on safe passage being held with Israel and Egypt, Sullivan said; “We are focused on this question, there are consultations going on. But the details of that are something that are being discussed among the operational agencies and I don’t want to share too much of that publicly at this time.”

It follows pleas from humanitarian groups for the creation of corridors to get aid into Gaza and warnings that hospitals overwhelmed with wounded people were running out of supplies. Israel has stopped entry of food, fuel and medicines into Gaza, and the sole remaining access from Egypt, at Rafah, shut down on Tuesday after airstrikes hit near the border crossing.

A man outside collapsed building following Israeli bombing in Gaza – Getty Images

This is as the World Health Organization (WHO) said there had been 11 attacks on Gaza healthcare sites in the first 36 hours of the conflict, warning that; “There is an urgent need to establish a humanitarian corridor for unimpeded, life-saving patient referrals and movement of humanitarian personnel and essential health supplies.”

Amid mounting expectations that Israel will launch a ground invasion of Gaza within days, its Air Force has been battering the enclave with deadly strikes, using dozens of fighter jets to hit more than 70 targets, according to Israeli military officials.

Spokesperson for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus, said on Wednesday morning that 300,000 reservists had been sent south, close to Gaza, and were getting ready “to execute the mission we have been given by the Israeli government … to make sure that Hamas, at the end of this war, won’t have any military capabilities by which they can threaten or kill Israeli civilians”.

In Gaza’s Rimal neighbourhood, Palestinian Civil Defence forces pulled Abdullah Musleh out of his basement together with 30 others after their apartment building was flattened. “I sell toys, not missiles,’’ the 46-year-old said, weeping. “I want to leave Gaza. Why do I have to stay here? I lost my home and my job.”

In a new tactic, Israel is warning civilians to evacuate neighbourhood after neighbourhood, and then inflicting devastation, in what could be a prelude to a ground offensive. On Tuesday, the military told residents of the al-Daraj neighbourhood to evacuate. New explosions soon rocked it and other areas, continuing into the night.

One blast hit Gaza City’s seaport, setting fishing boats aflame. “There is no safe place in Gaza right now. You see decent people being killed every day,” Gaza journalist Hasan Jabar said after three Palestinian journalists were killed in the Rimal bombardment. “I am genuinely afraid for my life.”

Sporadic fighting continued in southern Israel on Tuesday night, with a group of militants entering an industrial zone in Ashkelon, sparking a gunbattle with Israeli troops, the military said. Three militants were killed, and troops were searching the area for others.

At least 900 Palestinians have been killed and up to 4,600 wounded in Israeli air strikes on the blockaded enclave since Saturday, Gaza’s health ministry said. More than 260,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the Gaza Strip, the UN humanitarian agency, OCHA said in an update Tuesday, warning that “this number is expected to rise further”.

According to Wikipedia, the Gaza Strip, or simply Gaza, is a Palestinian exclave on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The smaller of the two Palestinian territories, it borders Egypt on the southwest for 11 km (6.8 mi) and Israel on the east and north along a 51 km (32 mi) border. Together, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank make up the State of Palestine, which has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967. It is about 40km (25 miles) long by 10km (6 miles) wide, is home to 2.3 million people.

Israeli military spokesman Conricus confirmed early on Wednesday that the Israeli death toll now stood at 1,200, with more than 2,700 wounded, since Saturday’s unprecedented attack. The already “unimaginable” figure would rise, he said, and the overwhelming majority of the dead were civilians. The rising numbers were the result of new discoveries of victims rather than fresh fighting, he said.

Conricus added that Israeli forces had regained control in the south and rebuilt the barriers along the border that Hamas breached to launch Saturday’s attack.

About 150 people are believed to be being held captive by militants in Gaza, with Hamas threatening to start executing its hostages if Israel carried out airstrikes on civilians without giving “prior warning”.

Israel said on Tuesday that it had recovered the bodies of more than 1,500 Hamas fighters inside Israel, giving the clearest indication yet of the scale of the weekend’s assault. It wasn’t clear whether those numbers overlapped with deaths reported by Palestinian authorities.

New exchanges of fire over Israel’s northern borders with militants in Lebanon and Syria on Tuesday have pointed to the risk of an expanded regional conflict.

On Saturday, October 8, 2023, the morning of a Jewish holiday, the militant organisation, Hamas launched a surprise attack from the Gaza Strip that saw gunmen crossing the border, raiding Israeli cities, and gunning down civilians in their homes, cars and at a desert music festival. As many as 150 hostages are believed to have been taken. – Reports by Reuters, Associated Press and Agence France-Presse

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