Israel Defence Force said that it has pounding Gaza with "significant" strikes after cutting it in two, as America's top diplomat pressed a Middle East tour focused on humanitarian aid for the Palestinians. Israeli forces "have encircled Gaza City... Now there exists a south Gaza and a north Gaza," army spokesman Daniel Hagari said. He spoke after US Secretary of State visited the occupied West Bank, Iraq and Cyprus Sunday on a whirlwind tour with the focus on aid for beleaguered civilians in Gaza and preventing attacks by Iran-backed groups on American troops in response to Israel's Gaza war.
Secretary of State Blinken met Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas who denounced what he called "genocide" in Gaza, where the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said at least 9,770 people, mostly civilians, had been killed in more than four weeks of war.
Add to the trouble, the telecommunications in Gaza cut for a third time, Washington rebuffed calls for a ceasefire and backed Israel's goal of crushing Hamas who staged the worst attack in the country's history on October 7, killing more than 1,400 people, also mostly civilians, and taking over 240 hostages, according to Israeli officials.
Global concern has soared over the spiralling Gaza death toll, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu again vowed that "there won't be a ceasefire until the hostages are returned". "Let them remove this from their lexicon. We are saying this to our enemies and to our friends," the veteran right-wing premier said after meeting troops at an air force base. "We will simply continue until we win. We have no alternative."
IDF Soldiers engaged in house-to-house combat on Sunday as tanks and armoured bulldozers churned through the sand in footage released by the army. "This strike is like an earthquake," Gaza City resident Alaa Abu Hasera said in a devastated area where entire blocks have been reduced to rubble.
Israel has distributed leaflets and sent text messages urging Palestinian civilians in northern Gaza to head south, but a US official said Saturday at least 350,000 civilians remained in what is now an urban war zone.
Meanwhile, Abbas denounced "the genocide and destruction suffered by our Palestinian people in Gaza at the hands of Israel's war machine, with no regard for the principles of international law." .