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CAIRO/GAZA/JERUSALEM: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Europe’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, embarked on a new diplomatic effort on Friday to stop the spillover of the conflict in Gaza to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Lebanon and Red Sea shipping lanes.

Their visits to the Middle East take place almost three months since Hamas from Gaza attacked southern Israel, sparking an Israeli offensive that Palestinian health officials say has killed 22,600 people and devastated the enclave.

Israel, which says it has killed 8,000 fighters since the deaths of 1,200 people in the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, announced a more targeted approach on Thursday as Blinken set off on a week-long tour that will include Israel and the West Bank.

But Gazans said Israeli planes and tanks had intensified attacks overnight on densely populated Al-Maghazi, Al-Bureij and Al-Nusseirat in the centre of the coastal strip.

Health ministry in Gaza says 22,600 killed in war

Some 162 people were killed in the past 24 hours, Palestinian health officials said.

Four others were killed in an air strike on a street in Al-Nusseirat, they said, while further south, where hundreds of thousands of Gazans have moved on Israeli advice, six were killed in a strike on Khan Younis.

“The Israeli government claims democracy and humanity, but is inhumane,” Abdel Razek Abu Sinjar said as he cried over the shrouded bodies of his wife and children, killed in a Thursday strike on his house in Rafah on the border with Egypt.

Shelling had renewed near the Al-Amal hospital in Khan Younis, the Palestinian Red Crescent said. Aid agency MSF said its workers were cornered in southern Gaza and less able to provide desperately needed help.

In Jabalia in northern Gaza, which has been heavily bombed, people picked their way through ruined streets filled with sewage and garbage, video footage circulated by local journalists showed. International health officials say both hunger and deadly diseases are spreading.

Israel focuses aggression on southern Gaza amid concern over wider war

Israel’s humanitarian liason office COGAT said the humanitarian situation was “stabilising” and denied blocking water purifiers, medical supplies and tent poles as stated by sources in Gaza and in an Egyptian Red Crescent document.

The military said it had struck more than 100 targets in Gaza in the past 24 hours, destroying gunmen who tried to attack a tank in Al-Bureij and others in Khan Younis, where Hamas’ military wing said it had killed some troops.

Israel twice sounded sirens warning of incoming rockets in communities around Gaza but there were no reports of casualties.

The war in Gaza has stoked violence in the West Bank, which is governed by its rival Fatah and is another territory where Palestinian hopes for statehood have been dashed since the last US-mediated talks on a solution in 2014.

The Palestinian health ministry said a 17-year-old was killed and four other Palestinians wounded by Israeli army gunfire in the West Bank town of Beit Rima. Israel’s military said troops shot at Palestinians who threw petrol bombs at them.

Killing of Hamas deputy leader in Beirut raises risk of Gaza war spreading

The UN rights office has said Israeli forces are using military tactics in the West Bank and 300 Palestinians have been killed, including eight or nine who were victims of Israeli settlers. Two Israelis, one civilian and one military, have also been killed.

Don’t expect it to be easy

Blinken is due to visit the West Bank during a tour starting on Friday in Turkey, which has offered to mediate. He will also visit Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt and make a stop in Greece.

“It is in no one’s interest, not Israel’s, not the region’s, not the world’s, for this conflict to spread beyond Gaza,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Thursday. “We don’t expect every conversation on this trip to be easy.”

Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, was due in Lebanon on Friday to discuss the situation at the Israeli-Lebanese border, the EU said.

German foreign minister to tour Middle East from Sunday

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who will visit Israel and the Palestinian territories from Sunday, called for a new humanitarian pause.

People in Lebanon “fear that just one more spark could ignite the entire region. Such a regional conflagration must not happen,” she said.

Hamas, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction. Other fighters have hit US forces in Iraq and Syria and struck Israel from Lebanon in what they call revenge for Israel’s avowed attempt to eliminate the Palestinian movement.

The leader of Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, said on Friday the militia had conducted around 670 military operations on the border with Israel since Oct. 8, destroying many Israeli military vehicles.

Houthis, who control much of Yemen, have fired on commercial vessels in the Red Sea since Nov. 19, forcing them to take much longer routes in a blow to global trade.

EU’s Borrell urges world to ‘impose’ solution to Israel-Palestinian conflict

Another hostage declared dead

Under international and economic pressure, Israel has allowed thousands of reservists to return to their jobs from Gaza, where it has listed 175 soldiers as killed in action.

Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has said the next phase would include raids in the north to demolish tunnels and a focus in the south on rescuing some 132 Israeli hostages remaining of some 240 abducted on Oct. 7.

A 25th hostage had been declared dead, a government spokesperson said on Friday.

Gallant said Gaza would be run by Palestinians after the war, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out a role for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.


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