Cape Times

US loses patience with Israel


THE LEADERS of the US and Israel were set to speak yesterday after Washington expressed “outrage” over Israel’s killing of seven aid workers and growing concern over its military operations in besieged Gaza.

President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold their first phone discussion­s since the Israeli strikes on Monday killed the employees of the US-based charity World Central Kitchen.

The bodies of six foreign staff of WCK – Australian, British, Polish and US-Canadian citizens – were repatriate­d from Gaza via Egypt on Wednesday, while the Palestinia­n employee was laid to rest in Gaza.

Biden and Netayahu were also expected to discuss Israel’s plans to send ground forces into Gaza’s densely crowded far-southern city of Rafah, and Israel’s wider conflict with Iran and its allies after it was blamed for a deadly strike on the Iranian consulate building in Syria’s capital. The US president has supported Israel in the almost six-month-old war sparked by Hamas’s October 7 attack and kept up military supplies to its regional bedrock ally.

But, amid rising domestic anger at the war in a US election year, his administra­tion has also voiced frustratio­n with Israel’s right-wing premier over the conduct of the war and the suffering of Gazans. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also “expressed his outrage” at the aid workers’ killings – which Israel has admitted to and pledged to investigat­e – in a phone call with his Israeli counterpar­t Yoav Gallant, the Pentagon said.

Netanyahu has vowed to destroy Hamas, including in Rafah, and bring home the hostages, while pledging to move the more than one million civilians in the city out of harm’s way first.

Austin said the aid charity “tragedy reinforced the expressed concern over a potential Israeli military operation in Rafah, specifical­ly focusing on the need to ensure the evacuation of Palestinia­n civilians and the flow of humanitari­an aid”.

The Israeli army said Gallant and Austin had discussed “plans to expand operations to address Hamas’ remaining battalions and military capabiliti­es”. It said the two had also “discussed the threat posed by Iran and its proxy activities”, after Israel was blamed for the Damascus strike Monday that killed seven Iranian Revolution­ary Guards, two of them generals.

Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali

Khamenei vowed in a social media message that “with God’s help we will make the Zionists repent of their crime of aggression against the Iranian consulate in Damascus”.

The Israeli military said yesterday that it was decided to increase manpower and draft reserve soldiers to the IDF Aerial Defense Array”.

As Netanyahu has fought the war, he has faced intense domestic pressure from the families and supporters of the hostages still held in Gaza, and from a resurgent anti-government protest movement. A street protest in Tel Aviv to highlight the hostage crisis featured signs that warned “they are out of time”, and a gagged man whose hands were tied with wire.

War cabinet member Benny Gantz, a centrist political rival of Netanyahu, has demanded that snap elections be held in September, a call rejected by Netanyahu’s Likud party.

The bloodiest Gaza war has resulted in the deaths of about 1 170 Israelis and foreigners, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures. Israel’s retaliator­y campaign has killed at least 33037 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza. Palestinia­n militants also took more than 250 hostages on October 7, and 130 remain in Gaza, including 34 who the army says are dead.

Talks for a ceasefire and hostage release deal have stalled, with both sides blaming each other.

The charity Oxfam said that people in northern Gaza have been forced to survive on an average of 245 calories a day – less than a can of beans, and a fraction of the recommende­d average daily 2 100 calorie intake per person.

The group WCK, which called the strikes on Monday “targeted”, suspended its Gaza operations and sent ships laden with undelivere­d supplies back to their Mediterran­ean port in Cyprus.

Other aid groups have curtailed or reassessed their operations, with the UN on Tuesday pausing nighttime movement for the “evaluation of the security issues”.

Meanwhile, a letter signed by more than 600 lawyers yesterday placed more pressure on the UK government to suspend arms export licences to Israel after the strike. Britain’s strategic licensing criteria states that weapons should not be exported when there is a “clear risk” they could be used in internatio­nal humanitari­an law violations.

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