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US Secretary of State Blinken holds talks with Arab nations in Amman for ceasefire and aid flow to Gaza

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived here from Tel Aviv on Saturday and plunged into discussions with top diplomats from Arab nations — Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and the Palestinian Authority — to mollify them as they are angry and suspicious of Israel’s intentions, asking them to think about the future of Gaza and its population.

Blinken left Tel Aviv for the Jordan capital after wrapping up his third trip to the country since the Israel-Hamas war began to push US President Joe Biden’s agenda calling for a brief halt in the fighting to redress the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza with sparse relief flowing into the enclave which is facing horrors of aerial strikes leaving civilians dead and wounded.

However, Blinken’s calls to Israel seemed to go unheeded as Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains adamant and stubborn in his stand that there could be no humanitarian pause until Hamas releases all the 232 hostages it held, media reports said.

On Saturday, Blinken held meetings in Amman with top diplomats from Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and the Palestinian Authority, who are angry and deeply suspicious of Israel’s intentions in the war to crush the Hamas.

Blinken was seen pushing Jordan and other Arab states to give a thought to the future of Gaza if and when Israel succeeds in wresting control from Hamas.

His talks also focused on aid distribution, allowing foreigners to get out and the release of hostages.

Jordan has already made its stand clear as it has condemned the aerial strikes of Israel on a civilian population even if it was collateral damage, calling for immediate ceasefire. 

Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Rania al Abdullah have been highly critical of Western nations’ silence on the deaths and devastation caused to Palestinian civilians in Gaza, calling it double standards as they were vocal earlier in protesting the October 7 attacks.

Arab governments were unanimous in opposing US attempts to think of the post-Israel occupation of Gaza, resisting the suggestion of “any talks” on the post-war period in Gaza before establishing a ceasefire and allowing the delivery of more humanitarian aid and fuel to the enclave, according to the Egyptian officials.

More than 9,400 Palestinians have died in Gaza in the war so far, including more than 3,900 children, the Gaza Health Ministry said, but it did not provide a breakdown between civilians and fighters, USA TODAY reported.

Over 1,400 people, including civilians and soldiers, died on the Israeli side in the October 7 carnage. Rockets fired by Hamas operatives into Israel territory continue disrupting life for millions of people, forcing an estimated 250,000 to evacuate.

Twenty-four Israeli soldiers have lost their lives since the start of the expanded ground operation. The overall death toll is likely to rise as the assault on densely built-up Gaza city continues.

More than 386 Palestinian dual nationals and wounded persons exited Gaza into Egypt on Friday, according to Wael Abou Omar, the Hamas spokesperson for the Rafah border crossing.

This totals to 1,115 people who have successfully fled the war-torne zone.

Meanwhile, military strikes left several civilians dead on Saturday at a UN shelter house and a hospital in the main war zone in the Gaza Strip as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) intensified its attacks on the besieged enclave’s Hamas rulers by encircling the perimeter.

International uproar over the soaring death toll and deepening humanitarian crisis has gone unheeded by the IDF and the Israel government, reports said.

Israel’s military said it had encircled Gaza, the target of its offensive to crush Hamas, but on Saturday it offered a three-hour window for residents trapped by the fighting to flee south. The new attacks came even as Blinken was in the region seeking ways to ease the plight of civilians caught in the fighting. 

Egyptian officials said they and Qatar are asking for a six to 12-hour ceasefire daily to allow aid into Gaza.

On Saturday, two strikes hit a UN school-turned-shelter just north of Gaza city, killing several people in tents in the schoolyard and women who were baking bread inside the building, according to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, USA TODAY reported. 

About 1.5 million people in Gaza representing 70 per cent of the population have so far fled their homes, according to the UN.

With food, water and the fuel needed for generators that power hospitals and other facilities running out, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged for an immediate cease-fire to allow aid to flow.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is horrific. An entire population is traumatised,” Guterres said late on Friday.

Guterres added that he had not forgotten the slaughter of civilians at the hands of Hamas militants when they launched their attack on Israel almost a month ago, but said that civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected.

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