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The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, will make a last-ditch effort to mitigate the effects of a potentially disastrous all-out Israeli military assault on Gaza amid concerns that the already ominous Palestinian death toll may grow and spark an intervention by Iran or its allies.
On Monday, Blinken will wrap up a frenetic round of shuttle diplomacy intended to halt the dispute from escalating by traveling back to Jerusalem for a second round of talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in five days. Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, issued the following warning on Sunday as a symptom of the escalating tensions: “If the Zionist aggressions do not stop, the hands of every party in the region are on the trigger.”
If Israel deploys its military into Gaza, “nobody can guarantee the control of the circumstances and the non-expansion of ongoing conflicts,” he continued.
According to US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, a second US aircraft carrier group has been sent to the Mediterranean to prevent “hostile actions against Israel or any bids to widen this war.”
After a phone call between Biden and Netanyahu, Israeli officials announced they were restoring limited water supplies to southern Gaza amid a larger water crisis. This is the first indication that Israel may listen to private US pleas. Blinken has been working on a plan for secure areas for Palestinian civilians inside Gaza and on its borders.
Blinken announced that the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza will reopen to let the entry of aid and the evacuation of certain foreign passport holders following a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Blinken’s meeting with Egyptian President
Blinken met with Sisi and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, separately on Sunday in Cairo.
Sisi warned the secretary of state that Israel’s bombardment was excessive in a stern public lecture. In response to attacks by Hamas terrorists a week ago, Israel launched retaliatory strikes. “The response went beyond the right to self-defence, turning into a unified punishment for 2.3 million people in Gaza,” al-Sisi stated.
“It goes without saying that what happened nine days ago was difficult, and we condemn it again,” he continued. “However, we also need to acknowledge that there has been a 40-year accumulation of animosity and resentment since there was no chance for a resolution to the Palestinian crisis that would provide Palestinians with hope. We’re trying to keep things under control and stop other people from becoming involved in the fight.”
He was speaking after Egypt’s national security council decided to condemn Israel’s “displacement policy and attempts to complete the Palestinian cause at the expense of its neighbours.”
Egypt has increased its military presence at the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, following Israel’s announcement on Friday that residents in the northern part of the enclave had twenty-four hours to move southward.
Egypt worries that Israel will attempt to drive millions of Palestinians into the Sinai Desert, putting Egypt indefinitely in charge of hundreds of thousands of refugees and running the risk of ruining the already fragile Egyptian economy. In the Sinai Peninsula, Cairo is battling its own Islamist insurgency.
Is Israel heading for a full-fledged war?
At a military headquarters in Tel Aviv on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the first meeting of the country’s extended emergency war cabinet and said, “Hamas thought we would be demolished. We are the ones who will destroy Hamas.”
Israeli forces are assembling near Gaza, and the country has declared it will target Hamas within its borders using both air and naval forces.
The UN and nearly all Arab leaders have cautioned Israel that launching a full-scale Israeli attack in retaliation for Hamas’ horrible attack eight days ago could result in numerous lives, violate humanitarian law, and further polarize the Middle East. According to Gaza officials, the number of Palestinian deaths resulting from the Israeli bombardment is 2,670.