Blinken rejects Arabs’ calls for Gaza ceasefire



Arab leaders publicly pressed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday to secure an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, hours after Palestinians said an Israeli air strike killed at least 15 people in a UN-run school being used as a shelter.

In a rare open display of disagreement, the top US diplomat pushed back as he stood next to his Jordanian and Egyptian counterparts at a news conference, saying a ceasefire would only let Hamas regroup and launch more attacks on Israel.

Blinken met the Saudi, Qatari, Emirati, Egyptian and Jordanian foreign ministers in Amman four weeks after Hamas fighters burst over the border into Israel, killing 1,400 people and taking more than 240 people hostage.

Israel has since struck Gaza from the air, imposed a siege and launched a ground assault, stirring global alarm at humanitarian conditions in the enclave and, Gaza health officials said on Saturday, killing more than 9,488 Palestinians.

Read also: Israel claims encircling Gaza City as Blinken arrives in Tel Aviv

“Right now we have to make sure that this war stops,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told the news conference. Blinken said all were agreed on the need for peace and that the current status quo in Gaza cold not hold, but he acknowledged there were differences between Washington, which has called only for pauses to led aid into Gaza, and its allies.

“A ceasefire now would simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did on Oct. 7,” said Blinken, on his second trip to the region since Israel and Hamas went to war. “No nation, none of us would accept that.”

Earlier on Saturday, Palestinian witnesses said Israel hit Al-Fakhoura school in Jabalia, where thousands of evacuees were living, in the morning. The Israeli military said that according to a preliminary inquiry it had not targeted the location “but the explosion may have been a result of IDF fire aimed at another target.

The circumstances of the incident are under review.” Juliette Touma, director of communication for the UN. Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA), said the U.N-run school, which is in the Gaza City area, had been hit. “At least one strike hit the schoolyard where there were tents for displaced families. Another strike hit inside the school where women were baking bread,” Touma said by phone.

Read: US special envoy: no record of Hamas blocking or seizing aid

Reuters footage of the aftermath showed broken furniture and other belongings lying on the ground, patches of blood spilled on the ground and over food and people crying. “I was standing here when three bombings happened, I carried a body and another decapitated body with my own hands,” a young boy said in video obtained by Reuters, crying in despair.

“God will take my vengeance.” Nearby, a resident comforted a woman in shock. One man asked angrily: “Since when has it become normal to strike shelters? This is so unfair.”

The ministry of health in Gaza said another Israeli missile strike killed two women at the door of the Nasser Children Hospital. Several more people were injured, it said. There was no immediate Israeli response to that report.

A series of reported air strikes over the past week have devastated parts of the Jabalia refugee camp, the largest of several refugee settlements in Gaza, killing at least 195 people, according to Palestinian authorities.


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