United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has asked Israel to take “urgent” steps to stop violence being carried out by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
The top US diplomat made the call in a telephone call with Benny Gantz, a centrist opposition leader who joined Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wartime cabinet after Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel.
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Blinken “stressed the urgent need for affirmative steps to de-escalate tensions in the West Bank, including by confronting rising levels of settler extremist violence,” the State Department said in a statement on Thursday.
Blinken also discussed efforts to “augment and accelerate” the delivery of humanitarian assistance into Gaza, secure the release of captives held by Hamas, and prevent the war from widening into a broader conflict, the State Department said.
Israeli settler violence has increased significantly since the start of the Israel-Hamas war, rising from an average of three incidents to seven per day, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA).
Blinken’s comments came as Israeli forces carried out fresh raids in the occupied West Bank and continued military operations in and around several of Gaza’s major hospitals, forcing them to suspend operations.
Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Thursday that Israeli forces stormed the northern city of Jenin, deploying snipers and more than 80 military vehicles and bulldozers in the vicinity of its refugee camp.
In a post on Telegram, the Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, said it was fighting “alongside all the other resistance groups in the camp” and targeting the Israeli army “with heavy fire and explosive devices”.
Several villages surrounding Jenin, including Jalboun, Beit Qad, Faqqua, and Deir Abu Da’if, were also raided, according to Wafa.
In Gaza, Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum said Israel’s military had resumed attacks on the Jabalia refugee camp in the north of the enclave, hitting multiple residential houses.
“It’s important to mention that Jabalia refugee camp has seen multiple attacks by Israeli occupation forces and hundreds of civilians have been killed in this camp, which is considered to be the most densely populated inside the Gaza Strip,” Abu Azzoum said.
Residents in Jabalia have sought refuge at a United Nations shelter that is close to the Indonesian Hospital, where services have ground to a halt amid Israeli attacks, and staff and patients are running extremely low on food and water.
Israeli forces also continued to occupy the al-Shifa Hospital, the enclave’s biggest medical facility, where Israeli officials have claimed to have located weapons and other evidence proving the existence of a Hamas command centre. Hamas and doctors at the hospital have denied Israeli claims that the complex has been used to stage military operations.
“Patients are receiving medical treatment on the ground inside hospitals, and they don’t have enough food and water to survive. As well as the severe wounds they have, they also face hunger,” Abu Azzoum said.
“No humanitarian aid has been delivered to hospitals in the north of the Gaza Strip, including at al-Shifa Hospital, which is occupied by Israeli soldiers,” he said.