In an early morning offensive on Sunday, Israeli warplanes targeted a refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, leaving dozens of civilians dead, health officials in Gaza reported. This latest strike adds to the escalating civilian death toll as the conflict between Israel and Hamas militants intensifies.
The Maghazi refugee camp, the site of the catastrophic airstrike, had been an area where Palestinian civilians were advised to seek refuge. According to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza, the total Palestinian death toll has reached 9,700, including over 9,488 in Gaza since the war began with a surprise Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7. In the Israeli strikes targeting Gaza overnight, it was reported that 21 members of a single family were among those killed.
Amidst the ongoing conflict, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a previously unannounced visit to Ramallah in the West Bank. Blinken, continuing his efforts in the region, had previously conferred with Arab foreign ministers in Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who asserted that Israel would not agree to a ceasefire until all hostages held by Hamas are released.
President Joe Biden has hinted that progress towards a humanitarian pause is on the horizon, despite Netanyahu’s firm stance on the continuation of military operations until the hostage situation is resolved. However, Blinken dismissed the ceasefire proposal during his visit, claiming it would benefit Hamas by allowing them to regroup and launch new attacks against Israel.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza has reached alarming levels. Rafah crossing, the primary exit point into Egypt, closed on Saturday after approximately 1,100 people had evacuated since Wednesday. Meanwhile, Israel dropped leaflets urging civilians to evacuate areas of conflict, emphasizing the preservation of life.
Global responses to the crisis have been diverse. In Jordan, Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, alongside Blinken, underscored the urgency of the situation, saying, “This war is just going to produce more pain for Palestinians, for Israelis, and this is going to push us all again into the abyss of hatred and dehumanization.” Protests erupted worldwide over the weekend, with demonstrators demanding an end to hostilities and criticizing the U.S. for its support of Israeli policy.
On the other side of the spectrum, Iranian Vice President Mohammad Mokhber denounced Israel’s actions as “war crimes” and called for immediate cessation and humanitarian assistance to Gaza.
The Israeli military campaign has drawn scrutiny for the heavy toll on civilian life, including the intensification of violence in the West Bank, which could potentially open a third front in the conflict. UN figures indicate that the ongoing hostilities have been the deadliest for West Bank residents in at least 15 years.