Days after President Biden said Israel was losing support for its military campaign in the Gaza Strip, the president's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, on Friday downplayed differences between the two allies after meetings with top leaders. From Israel.
“We are not here to tell anyone, 'You must do X, you must do Y,'” Sullivan told reporters in Tel Aviv, the latest Biden administration emissary to visit Israel to discuss the war.
His comments came on the same day that the Israeli military said its soldiers had accidentally killed three Israeli hostages in what it described as an “active combat zone.” During fighting in Shejaiya, a neighborhood in Gaza City, troops “mistakenly identified three Israeli hostages as a threat,” the military said in a statement. “As a result, the troops shot at them and killed them.”
The military said they realized the error during checks in the area and “suspicions arose about the identity of the deceased.”
The army identified the three slain Israelis as Alon Shamriz, Yotam Haim and Samer Talalka; all three were kidnapped in the Hamas-led raid on October 7 that sparked the war.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel called the killings “an unbearable tragedy” and praised the “brave warriors who are dedicated to the sacred mission of returning our hostages, even at the cost of their lives.”
Daniel Hagari, chief spokesman for the Israeli army, expressed “deep regret” and said the army was investigating the episode.
On Saturday, relatives of the slain hostages will address the “terrible disaster,” said Liat Bell Sommer, spokesperson for the Hostages and Missing Families Forum, which represents those abducted on Oct. 7 and their relatives.
The Israeli military also said on Friday that it had recovered the bodies of two soldiers and an event planner who were kidnapped on October 7 and held captive in Gaza. The hostages were identified as Cpl. Nik Beiser, 19 years old; Sergeant. Ron Sherman, 19 years old; and Elia Toledano, 28 years old. The military did not provide details on how the three men died or where their remains were found.
While the Israeli military has come under heavy criticism for its widespread use of unguided munitions (“indiscriminate bombing,” in Biden's words) and the huge number of civilian deaths that have resulted, gaps over the continuation of the war between Israel and the United States, its biggest sponsor, has become more prominent in recent days.
Gaza health officials have said nearly 20,000 Palestinians have died since the war began more than two months ago.
On Thursday, Biden administration officials said they wanted Israel to end its large-scale ground and air campaign in Gaza within weeks and transition to more targeted operations against Hamas.
Israeli officials said it would take months of fighting to uproot Hamas from Gaza.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sullivan also met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday and discussed the renewal of the unpopular Palestinian government, which Biden administration officials have said they hope will play a role. in Gaza after the ouster of Hamas.
Sullivan told reporters before his meeting with Abbas that the two would also discuss “efforts to promote stability in the West Bank” and crack down on attacks on Palestinians by extremist Israeli settlers. However, he declined to say exactly what Palestinian changes the United States wanted to see.
“It will be up to those PA leaders to work through the types of steps they need to take to reform and update the authority for the situation we face today,” Sullivan said.
Israeli forces and civilians have killed 276 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since Hamas' surprise attack on October 7 sparked a full-blown war, according to the United Nations.
During their meeting, Abbas called for an immediate end to Israel's campaign in Gaza, which he called “genocide,” according to a statement carried by the Palestinian Authority's official WAFA news agency. Abbas also said there was no alternative to a two-state solution to the conflict, according to the statement.
On Friday, Sullivan declined to publicly discuss a timeline for ending the war in Gaza, but said there was “no contradiction” between saying the fighting would last for months and that during that period there would be a “conflict transition.” high-intensity operations to more specific operations.”
Sullivan appeared to win at least one concession from Israel's leaders during his trip. He said in a statement that Israel's national security adviser, Tzachi Hanegbi, informed him on Friday that Israel would open its border at the Kerem Shalom crossing for aid shipments directly to Gaza, something the government had resisted.
It was unclear to what extent opening the border post would speed up aid deliveries to Gaza, where United Nations officials have described scenes of malnutrition bordering on hunger.
“What we need today is not just 100 or 200 trucks: we need a significant, scaled, uninterrupted and unconditional flow of basic goods to the Gaza Strip,” Philippe Lazzarini, director of the United Nations agency that help the Palestinians. in Geneva on Thursday.
Gaza, he added, “was no longer really a habitable place.”
United Nations facilities in Gaza have been hit “directly or indirectly” by munitions 150 times since the start of the war, he said, and 135 U.N. staff have been killed.
An Al Jazeera cameraman covering the aftermath of airstrikes on a UN school-turned-shelter in Khan Younis in southern Gaza was killed during an attack on Friday, Al Jazeera said, the latest in a series of casualties. of journalists in the war.
Nearly 70 days after the Oct. 7 attacks that sparked the war, Israelis are beginning to think about how to commemorate the victims of the deadliest day in Israel's 75-year history. A new installation in a hangar at the Tel Aviv fairgrounds seeks to recreate with artifacts part of the essence of the Tribe of Nova festival in Re'im, southern Israel, where dozens of ravers were murdered.
According to Israeli authorities, at least 360 festival-goers were killed that day, nearly a third of the 1,200 people killed in the Hamas-led attack. At the exhibit, tables labeled “Lost and Found” were loaded with belongings recovered from the site, including rows of shoes, glasses, sunglasses, purses, and car and house keys.
The attacks left Israelis with a heightened sense of insecurity, a feeling that has been heightened by the near-daily exchanges of rocket fire along Israel's border with Lebanon and the promise of the Iranian-backed Houthi militia and which controls northern Yemen, to block any attack. ship sailing towards Israeli maritime facilities in the Red Sea.
On Friday, two container shipping companies said they had stopped their ships from traveling through the Red Sea after attacks on ships in the region.
German shipping company Hapag-Lloyd said in a statement on Friday that one of its ships, Al Jasrah, had been attacked while sailing near the coast of Yemen. She said she would halt all container traffic through the Red Sea until Monday.
Danish shipping company AP Moller-Maersk also said it would divert all container shipments through the Red Sea after what the company called a “near miss” on Thursday and another attack on Friday.
The U.S. military, which has warships in the Red Sea that have intercepted missiles fired by Houthi rebels, ordered the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford to remain in the Mediterranean Sea for several more weeks.
The Pentagon deployed the Ford and its strike group to the eastern Mediterranean the day after the October 7 attacks.
The report was contributed by Aaron Boxerman, Isabel Kershner, Juan Yoon, Gaya Gupta, Johnatan Reiss and Efrat Livni.
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