Israeli Troops Surround Gaza City as Blinken Makes Visit

Israeli Troops Surround Gaza City as US Diplomat Arrives, Expulsions of Palestinian Workers Continue

Rafah, Palestinian Territories – On Friday, Israeli ground troops, engaged in a war against Hamas, completed the encirclement of Gaza City. This development comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel and expressed support for the country’s right to defend itself. At the same time, Israel has begun expelling thousands of Palestinian workers back to Gaza, despite ongoing fighting and air strikes that have resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians.

In response to the dire situation in Gaza and the West Bank, the United Nations launched an emergency aid appeal, seeking $1.2 billion to assist the 2.7 million people facing a humanitarian crisis. Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, who had remained silent for weeks, is set to deliver a speech amid concerns of a broader regional conflict.

The encirclement of Gaza City marks a new phase in the month-long conflict, which was triggered by Hamas’ deadly raids on October 7, resulting in the deaths of over 1,400 people, according to Israeli officials. The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza reports more than 9,227 deaths due to Israeli bombardments, with the majority of them being women and children.

Israeli forces have begun to send Palestinian workers back to Gaza after trapping them inside Israel following the Hamas assault. The Israeli security cabinet has announced a complete severance of contact with Gaza and the cessation of opportunities for Palestinian workers.

The United Nations Human Rights Office expressed deep concern over the expulsions, not knowing where the workers will be sent and if they have homes to return to. Prior to the war, approximately 18,500 Gazans held Israeli work permits, but it remains unclear how many were present on October 7.

Israeli strikes in Gaza continue, with reports of at least 15 deaths in Gaza City’s Zeitun neighborhood and seven in Jabalia refugee camp. Witnesses state that a strike hit Gaza’s coastal road, which Israel had previously advised civilians to use when traveling south.

Secretary Blinken, upon his arrival, emphasized the importance of reducing harm to Palestinian civilians, indicating a shift in tone from the United States. However, he also reaffirmed the US’s support for Israel’s right to defend itself and prevent further attacks like those on October 7.

With the conflict shifting to urban and underground warfare, as Hamas operates from a tunnel complex spanning hundreds of kilometers, more chaos and violence are expected. Hamas has vowed that Israeli soldiers will return home in “black bags” and labeled Gaza as the curse of history for Israel.

While Israel’s allies support its right to self-defense, there is growing global concern and anger over the conduct of the war. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for an immediate ceasefire, labeling the situation in Gaza as “crimes against humanity.” Irish Premier Leo Varadkar expressed concern that Israel’s response has changed from self-defense against Hamas to something resembling revenge.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has launched an appeal for $1.2 billion to meet the needs of the 2.7 million people in Gaza and the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Both Israel and the United States have rejected a blanket ceasefire, instead supporting temporary, localized pauses to allow for humanitarian efforts.

As countries around the world recall their ambassadors from Israel and sever diplomatic ties, the situation continues to escalate. Bolivia has cut diplomatic ties with Israel, while Egypt has pledged to assist in the evacuation of 7,000 foreigners from Gaza. On Thursday, over 100 trucks with aid crossed into Gaza, a significant increase from previous days, but still short of what aid agencies deem necessary.

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