Today: Jun 19, 2024

Blinken holds talks on Gaza in the wake of Israeli rescue raid and Palestinian deaths

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Jerusalem: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken began a new visit to the region on Monday in the shadow of the dramatic rescue of four Israeli hostages held in Gaza and turmoil in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Blinken met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo, but neither made public remarks. Blinken will also travel to Israel, Jordan and Qatar.

While President Joe Biden, Blinken and other US officials have praised the hostage rescue, the operation resulted in the deaths of a large number of Palestinian civilians and may complicate a cease-fire push by emboldening Israel and hardening Hamas’ resolve to carry on fighting in the war it initiated with its Oct 7 attack into Israel.

Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza has killed more than 36,730 people, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count. Palestinians are facing widespread hunger because the war has largely cut off the flow of food, medicine and other supplies. UN agencies say over 1 million in Gaza could experience the highest level of starvation by mid-July.

Israel launched the war after Hamas’ Oct 7 attack, in which militants stormed into southern Israel, killed some 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and abducted about 250.

Meanwhile in Israel, police have raided the offices of one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s closest allies after launching a criminal investigations of fraud.

The country’s attorney general and state prosecutor ordered an investigation into the Transportation Ministry after Channel 13 TV reported that Transportation Minister Miri Regev gave preferential treatment to Israeli cities and towns whose local officials supported her politically.

Regev is one of Netanyahu’s staunchest supporters in the governing Likud party and has been a lightning rod for controversy throughout her political career.

Officers searched the ministry’s Jerusalem offices and confiscated documents, the police said.

Israeli media reported Monday that Regev called the probe “fraudulent” but said the ministry would comply with the investigation

Netanyahu is currently on trial over a series of corruption allegations.