Israel bombards Gaza’s south as post-war disagreements with US simmer

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Israel ratcheted up its attacks in the south of the Gaza Strip on Saturday after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Joe Biden discussed differences over a post-war future for Palestinians that have suggested a rift between the two allies.

Witnesses said the Israeli bombardment was again focused overnight on Khan Yunis, the largest city in Hamas-controlled Gaza’s south, although Palestinian media also reported intense fire around Jabalia in the north early on Saturday.

Biden and Netanyahu held their first call since Dec. 23 a day after the Israeli leader reiterated his rejection of any form of Palestinian sovereignty, deepening divisions with Israel’s key backer over the war.

While the two leaders spoke of what might come next, the reality of the war was all too clear in Khan Yunis and elsewhere in the Hamas-controlled territory.

A child with a bloodied face cried on a gurney at Al-Nasser hospital in Khan Yunis, while ambulances carrying the wounded and the dead arrived to the sound of automatic weapons in the distance.

The conflict began with unprecedented attacks by Hamas that resulted in the deaths of about 1,140 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas in response and its air and ground offensive has killed at least 24,762 Palestinians, around 70 percent of them women, young children and adolescents, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Netanyahu has said Israel expects the war to continue for months, but his comments on Thursday rejecting a so-called two-state solution suggested a rift with key backer the United States.

Biden said after Friday’s call with Netanyahu, with whom he has had a complicated relationship over some 40 years, it was possible the Israeli leader might still come around.

“There are a number of types of two-state solutions. There’s a number of countries that are members of the U.N. that… don’t have their own militaries,” Biden told reporters after an event at the White House.

“And so, I think there’s ways in which this could work.”

Netanyahu said on Thursday Israel “must have security control over the entire territory west of the Jordan River”, which “contradicts the idea of (Palestinian) sovereignty”.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had said in Davos a day earlier that Israel could not achieve “genuine security” without a “pathway to a Palestinian state”.

 Famine, disease 

Biden has stood firmly behind Israel since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas, although he has also warned that Israel could lose support by “indiscriminate bombing” in Gaza.

The United Nations says the war has displaced roughly 85 percent of Gaza’s people and warns better aid access is needed urgently as famine and disease loom.

The White House also said after Friday’s call that Israel will allow flour shipments for Palestinians through its port of Ashdod.

Nearly 20,000 babies have been born “in hell” in the Gaza Strip since the start of the Israeli offensive, the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said on Friday.

A week-long communications blackout in Gaza has amplified the challenges, although the telecommunications ministry and operator Paltel said internet services were starting to return on Friday.

Israel’s military offensive has moved further south in Gaza as the conflict has progressed.

Metawei Nabil, recently released by Israeli forces and bearing scars on his arms, told AFP he fled Beit Lahia in northern Gaza only “to face death” in the devastated southern city of Rafah, near the Egyptian border.

Some residents who fled the initial stages of the war in northern Gaza have begun returning to what remains of their homes.

Groups of isolated fighters still confront troops in northern Gaza despite the Israeli military saying this month Hamas’s combat structures in the north had been dismantled.

 Huthi missiles 

The Gaza war has spilled into the surrounding region, with Iran-aligned groups carrying out attacks and regular exchanges of cross-border fire between Israeli forces and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.

The Israeli military said on Friday it struck Hezbollah posts and infrastructure in southern Lebanon and intercepted a drone that crossed from Lebanon into Israel’s maritime area.

Lebanon’s official news agency NNA said Israel’s air force destroyed three houses in the village of Kfar Kila. Hezbollah claimed three attacks against Israeli positions.

Violence has also surged in the occupied West Bank, where Israeli troops and settlers have killed more than 360 people since Oct. 7, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

Palestinian news agency Wafa reported Israeli fire in Al-Mazraa al-Sharqiya, east of Ramallah, killed a 17-year-old Palestinian.

Attacks by Yemeni Huthi rebels on Red Sea shipping in support of Palestinians in Gaza have prompted retaliatory strikes by U.S. and U.K. forces, adding to fears of a wider escalation.

Gaza violence, bombs, US, Huthis, yemen,

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