Israel launched a new barrage of airstrikes Monday on Gaza as it vowed to wipe out Hamas militant control of the narrow strip of Palestinian territory along the Mediterranean Sea.
With 300,000 Israeli troops stationed on the Gaza border and poised for a ground invasion, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told visiting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “This will be a long war. The price will be high, but we are going to win for Israel, for the Jewish people and for the values that both countries believe in.”
The top U.S. diplomat assured Gallant of continued American support.
“You know our deep commitment to Israel’s right, indeed its obligation, to defend itself and to defend its people,” Blinken said.
But as an estimated 500,000 Palestinians have adhered to Israeli orders to flee northern Gaza for the southern half of the Gaza Strip, a humanitarian crisis is fast enveloping the territory, with Israel shutting off delivery of food and new fuel supplies, even as it reopened a water pipe in the south.
Trucks full of humanitarian goods are blocked at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, with the United Nations warning of a dire situation. Palestinians said they are fast running out of food, with hourslong lines at bakeries.
“I have been waiting for 10 hours to get bread … and of course, this amount is not enough,” said Ahmad Salah in Deir al-Balah, where he said he had to feed 20 to 30 family members. “This is a painful suffering for us.”
Oil tankers bearing United Nations flags have crossed into Egypt from Gaza to pick up fuel supplies for the besieged enclave.
Blinken, who returned to Israel on Monday after visits to several Arab countries in the region, said the United States was working with Egypt, Israel and the United Nations to ensure aid can enter Gaza and reach those in need.
“Over the past few days, I’ve traveled to Israel, Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt,” Blinken said Monday on X, formerly known as Twitter. “What I’ve heard from every partner is a shared view to prevent the conflict from spreading, to safeguard innocent lives, and to get assistance to those in Gaza who need it.”
U.S. President Joe Biden is considering a trip to Israel, officials said, but no travel plans have been announced.
Biden expressed support for Israel’s response to Hamas, saying in an interview on the CBS “60 Minutes” broadcast Sunday night that Israel “is going after a group of people who have engaged in barbarism that is as consequential as the Holocaust.”
Biden said Israel would do “everything in their power to avoid the killing of innocent civilians.”
He also said it would be “a big mistake” if Israel were to occupy the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, the death toll stemming from the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel and the retaliatory strikes by Israel on Gaza is mounting. The Gaza Health Ministry said 2,750 Palestinians have been killed and 9,700 wounded. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed, and at least 199 others, including children, were captured by Hamas and taken as hostages into Gaza, according to Israel.
“The efforts on the hostages are a top national priority,” military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said. “The army and Israel are working around the clock to bring them back.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on Hamas to immediately release the hostages without conditions. He also urged Israel to allow for unimpeded access for humanitarian supplies and workers to Gaza.
“Each one of these two objectives are valid in themselves. They should not become bargaining chips,” Guterres said in a statement Sunday.
There are fears that the fighting could expand to Israel’s border with Lebanon, where the Iranian-supported militant group Hezbollah said its fighters targeted five Israeli posts along the border in the country’s south.
Speaking to the Israeli Knesset on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran and Hezbollah, “Don’t test us in the north. Don’t make the mistake of the past. Today, the price you will pay will be far heavier,” he said, referring to Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah.
Following a series of cross-border attacks in northern Israel by Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, Israel announced Monday the evacuation of residents from 28 villages within two kilometers of the border.