US leader Blinken calls on Israel to end settler violence in the West Bank

A top U.S. diplomat is making the appeal amid growing reports of settler violence since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged Israel to take “urgent” steps to end violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

A top U.S. diplomat made this phone call to Benny Gantz, a centrist opposition leader who joined Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wartime cabinet following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

Blinken “underscored the urgent need to take positive steps to de-escalate tensions in the West Bank, including by confronting rising levels of settler extremist violence,” the State Department said in a statement Thursday.

Blinken also discussed efforts to “increase and accelerate” the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, secure the release of prisoners held by Hamas and prevent the war from escalating into a broader conflict, the State Department said.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OHCA), violence among Israeli settlers has increased significantly since the beginning of the war between Israel and Hamas, rising from an average of three to seven incidents per day.

Blinken’s comments came as Israeli forces carried out new airstrikes in the occupied West Bank and continued military operations in and around several major hospitals in and around Gaza, which were forced to suspend operations due to Israeli bombings and dwindling supplies of fuel and medical supplies.

Palestinian news agency Wafa reported on Thursday that Israeli forces attacked the northern city of Jenin, deploying snipers and more than 80 military vehicles and bulldozers near the refugee camp.

In a post on Telegram, the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said they were fighting “together with all other resistance groups in the camp” and targeting the Israeli army “with heavy fire and explosive devices.”

According to Wafa, several villages surrounding Jenin were also attacked, including Jalboun, Beit Qad, Faqqua and Deir Abu Da’if.

In Gaza, Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum said the Israeli military had resumed attacks on the Jabalia refugee camp in the north of the enclave, hitting many residential homes.

“It is important to mention that the Jabalia refugee camp has seen multiple attacks by Israeli occupation forces and hundreds of civilians have been killed in this camp, which is considered the most densely populated in the Gaza Strip,” Abu Azzoum said.

Residents of Jabalia have sought refuge in a United Nations shelter near an Indonesian hospital, where services have been suspended amid Israeli attacks and staff and patients are running out of food and water.

Israeli forces also continued to occupy al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical facility in the enclave, where Israeli officials claimed to have located weapons and other evidence confirming the existence of a Hamas command center. Hamas and doctors at the hospital denied Israeli claims that the complex was used for military operations.

“Patients receive on-site medical treatment in hospitals and do not have enough food and water to survive. In addition to serious wounds, they are facing the problem of hunger,” Abu Azzoum said.

“No humanitarian aid has been delivered to hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip, including al-Shifa Hospital, occupied by Israeli soldiers,” he said.


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