On Friday, Israeli ground troops encircled Gaza City as top US diplomat Antony Blinken arrived in Israel for a tour focused on “concrete steps” to reduce Palestinian civilian casualties.
Prior to Blinken’s arrival, Israel’s military announced on Thursday that it had “completed the encirclement” of the small Palestinian territory’s major city, signaling the start of a new chapter in the almost month-long conflict.
The fighting was sparked by Hamas’s deadly raids on October 7, which Israeli officials estimate killed over 1,400 Palestinians.
According to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry, over 9,000 individuals have died as a result of Israeli airstrikes, the most of whom have been women and children.
According to an AFP correspondent, fresh Israeli strikes shook the Gaza Strip on Friday morning, and the Gaza health ministry reported at least 15 dead in Gaza City’s Zeitun neighborhood and seven in the Jabalia refugee camp.
According to the Hamas leadership, 195 people were killed in Israeli airstrikes on Jabalia earlier this week, with hundreds more missing and injured, statistics that AFP could not independently verify.
Before leaving, Blinken stated that he would work to decrease the harm done to Palestinian civilians, a significant shift in tone for the US, which has vowed complete support and increased military aid to Israel.
“We will be talking about concrete steps that can and should be taken to minimise harm to men, women and children in Gaza,” Blinken said.
“This is something that the United States is committed to.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel’s troops had already achieved “very impressive successes” on the fringes of Gaza City. “We’re making progress,” he said late Thursday at a base outside Tel Aviv.
The Israeli military refers to Gaza City as “the heart of the Hamas terror organization.”
Although majority of the city’s 500,000 residents fled south after Israel warned them to evacuate the north ahead of a ground attack, those who remained have been subjected to weeks of merciless aerial bombardment, depleting supplies, and daily carnage.