Israel Rejects Calls for Ceasefire; Hezbollah Fires Rockets After Israeli Airstrike

By Reuters
November 5, 2023Israel–Hamas War
Israel Rejects Calls for Ceasefire; Hezbollah Fires Rockets After Israeli Airstrike
Military action at a location given as Gaza, amid the conflict between Israel and the Hamas terrorist group, in this handout image released on Nov. 5, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces/Handout via Reuters)

GAZA/RAMALLAH—Israel on Sunday rejected calls for a ceasefire and said its forces had encircled Gaza City as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken scrambled to contain a crisis that threatened to cause further escalation in neighboring Lebanon.

Gaza was under “unprecedented bombardment” from Israel on Sunday, Palestinian news agency WAFA reported, while Palestinian telecommunications company Paltel said that all communications and internet services had once again been cut.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas joined international calls for an immediate ceasefire at a meeting with Mr. Blinken, who was making an unannounced visit to the West Bank.

But after Mr. Blinken repeated U.S. concerns that a ceasefire could aid the Hamas terrorist group, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled that out unless hostages held by Hamas were released: “There will be no ceasefire without the return of the hostages. This should be completely removed from the lexicon.”

A military spokesman said Israeli forces had surrounded the main city in Gaza: “They reached the coast in the southern part of Gaza City and they encircled Gaza City.”

Tensions increased with Lebanon as an Israeli strike on a car in the south of the country killed three children and their grandmother, Lebanese authorities said.

Israel’s chief military spokesperson said the military had attacked “terrorist targets of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon” in response to a missile attack against tanks that killed an Israeli citizen. He said a Hezbollah drone was also shot down.

The Hezbollah terrorist group said it responded by firing rockets at the town of Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel. The group said it would never tolerate attacks on civilians and its response would be “firm and strong.”

Sirens sounded across central Israel, with Israeli media reporting rockets struck areas in and around Tel Aviv. No casualties were reported.

Gaza health officials said more than 9,770 Palestinians have been killed in the war, which began when Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,400 people and taking more than 240 hostage.

Israel said 31 of its soldiers have been killed so far.

Ceasefire Calls

Foreign ministers from Qatar, Saudi, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates met Mr. Blinken in Amman on Saturday and also urged him to persuade Israel to agree to a ceasefire. Mr. Blinken also visited Iraq on Sunday and held talks with Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani.

But Mr. Blinken says a ceasefire would benefit Hamas terrorists, allowing it to regroup and attack again. Instead, the United States wants localized pauses in fighting to allow in humanitarian aid and for people to leave Gaza.

“The Secretary reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance and resumption of essential services in Gaza,” spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

Mr. Blinken said the Palestinian Authority should play a central role in the future of the Gaza strip, a U.S. official said after the West Bank visit.

Evacuations Halted

Efforts were under way on Sunday to resume evacuations of foreign nationals and injured Gazans through the Rafah crossing to Egypt, suspended since Saturday after a deadly attack on an ambulance, Egyptian, U.S. and Qatari officials said.

The Rafah crossing to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula is the only exit point from Gaza not controlled by Israel. Aid trucks were still able to travel into Gaza, two Egyptian sources said.

Evacuations began on Wednesday under an internationally brokered deal. More than 300 Americans have left Gaza, but some remain, deputy national security adviser Jonathan Finer said.

Qatar’s foreign ministry said that without a “period of calm” in Gaza its mediators would not be able to secure the release of Israeli hostages held in the enclave.

The Gulf state has, in coordination with the United States, led talks with Hamas terrorists and Israeli officials over the release of hostages.

Israeli military spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were focussing on ground operations in the north of Gaza “to free our hostages and to free Gaza from Hamas.”

“We will adapt our plan to stay with the goals, and it will take us a long time,” he added.

He said the IDF has exposed a network of Hamas tunnels, command centers, and rocket launchers beneath and adjacent to hospitals in northern Gaza.

“Hamas systematically exploits hospitals as part of its war machine,” Rear Admiral Hagari told reporters.

In a statement, Hamas called on the United Nations secretary general to form an international committee to visit hospitals to counter Israel’s “false claims” that Hamas uses them to launch attacks.

The U.N. humanitarian office estimates that nearly 1.5 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are internally displaced.

Aid currently entering Gaza is “nowhere near” enough to meet people’s needs, World Food Programme head Cindy McCain said after visiting the Rafah crossing.

In southern Turkey, police used tear gas and water cannon as hundreds of people at a pro-Palestinian rally tried to storm an air base that houses U.S. troops, hours before Mr. Blinken was due in Ankara for talks on Gaza on Monday.

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