US and Arab leaders clash over Gaza ceasefire as death toll passes 9,000

US secretary of state Antony Blinken has dismissed the idea of a ceasefire with Hamas. Meanwhile around 100 British passport holders are struggling to leave to Egypt as Neil Connery reports

  • Arab leaders held talks with US secretary of state Antony Blinken and clashed over the possibility of an immediate ceasefire and a future for Gaza without Hamas

  • Blasts at a United Nations shelter and a hospital on Saturday have killed dozens of Palestinian civilians.

  • Up to 400,000 Palestinians are still in north Gaza despite Israeli calls to evacuate to the south.

  • Around 100 British passport holders are trying to cross from Gaza to Egypt but are struggling to make progress

  • Over the last four weeks, at least 9,448 Palestinians have died - most of them women and children - and the Israeli death toll stands at 1,400, according to their respective health ministries.

Arab leaders decrying the deaths of over 9,000 Palestinians in Israel's war with Hamas pushed for an immediate cease-fire Saturday.

However, they clashed with US secretary of state Antony Blinken, who warned that such a move would be counterproductive and could encourage more violence by the militant group. After an afternoon of talks with Egyptian, Jordanian, Saudi, Qatari and Emirati diplomats and a senior Palestinian official, Mr Blinken held a joint press conference with his counterparts from Jordan and Egypt. The dissonance in the messages was evident, with Arab ministers repeatedly calling for the fighting to stop now and condemning Israel's war tactics. “We cannot accept the justification as considered as the right of self-defense, collective punishment” of Palestinians in Gaza, Egypt’s Sameh Shoukry said. “This cannot be a legitimate self-defense at all.”

Palestinians look at the destruction left by Israeli airstrikes in Khan Younis today Credit: AP

Mr Blinken held firm to the US position that a ceasefire would harm Israel’s right and obligation to defend its citizens after the surprise attack by Hamas on October 7, which left 1,400 Israelis dead.

“It is our view now that a ceasefire would simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did,” he said, adding that the US supports "humanitarian pauses" in Israel's operation to allow for improved aid flows. In another direct contrast, Arab officials said it was far too soon to discuss one of Mr Blinken's main agenda items; Gaza's postwar future. Stopping the killing and restoring steady humanitarian aid are immediate that must be addressed first, they said. “What happens next? How can we even entertain what will happen next?” said Jordan's Ayman al-Safadi. “We don’t have all the variables to even start thinking about that.” He added, “We need to get our priorities straight.”

Israel’s military said it has encircled Gaza City - the main target of its offensive to crush Hamas, with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushing back against US pressure for a humanitarian pause.

On Saturday, it offered a three-hour window for residents trapped by the fighting to flee south which has been designated as a so-called safe zone.

Among those fleeing south are around 100 British passport holders, who are trying to cross from Gaza to Egypt via the Rafah crossing, but many face difficulties, with one woman saying she'd been turned away twice this week.

According to US officials, up to 300,000 to 400,000 people are still in north Gaza, which includes Gaza City, many of whom are sheltering in UN facilities, despite the Israeli evacuation call.

On Saturday, two strikes hit a UN school-turned-shelter just north of Gaza City, killing several people in tents in the schoolyard and women who were baking bread inside the building, according to the UNRWA, the United Nations' agency for Palestinian refugees.

Initial reports indicated that 20 people were killed - but the agency has not yet been able to verify the figure, said spokeswoman Juliette Touma.

The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza reported that 15 people were killed at the school where thousands have sought shelter and another 70 people were wounded.

According to the health ministry, two more people were killed in a strike by the gate of Nasser Hospital in Gaza City.

Israel resists UN's calls for ceasefire in Gaza

Calls for a humanitarian pause increased with the UNRWA reporting the average Palestinian in Gaza is surviving on two pieces of bread a day, and only one of three water supply lines from Israel is operational.

Palestinians comfort a crying man after losing relatives under the rubble of a destroyed house in Gaza City Credit: AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed back against growing US pressure for a 'humanitarian pause' to fighting and said on Friday "we are going full steam ahead” unless the hostages held by Hamas are released.

On Friday, the largest hospital in Gaza was struck in an Israeli attack killing dozens and destroying and a convoy of ambulances. According to the Palestinian Red Crescent, 15 people were killed.

Multiple videos from the scene outside Al-Shifa hospital on Friday showed at least a dozen bodies. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) admitted the airstrike claiming an ambulance was being used by Hamas.

The Palestinian Red Cross said a "group of ambulance vehicles returning from a mission to transport injured individuals to the Rafah border" were hit.

UK government accused of 'failing' Britons trying to leave Gaza

About 1.5 million people in Gaza, or 70% of the population, have fled their homes, according to the U.N.

The Israeli military said it has surrounded Gaza City as part of its goal to wipe out Hamas Credit: AP

Roughly 1,100 people have left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing since Wednesday under an apparent agreement among the United States, Egypt, Israel and Qatar, which mediates with Hamas.

A British surgeon told ITV News he is "happy and relieved" to be back home with his family, after fleeing Gaza via the Rafah crossing - but shared his anger at the British government for "failing" civilians trapped in the besieged territory for a month.

Dr Abdel Hammad, a doctor from Liverpool who was training medics in Gaza, became one of the first British nationals to escape the territory on Thursday.

Dr Abdel Hammad told ITV News of his mixed emotions at being one of the first British nationals to make it out of Gaza

He earlier shared how he was torn about leaving, calling it a "big relief" but also "heartbreaking" when Gazans asked "are you abandoning us?"

“I am happy and relieved to be back home with my family, at the same time sad and devastated at the continuing loss of innocent lives in Gaza, especially children, and the lack of action to stop that," he told ITV News.

"I am angry and frustrated that it took so long for our government to bring us back. This should have been achieved in the first week.

"I am at loss to explain why western governments including British is willing to put the lives of its own citizens at risk. We have elected them to act in our interest, unfortunately they failed us on this occasion."

Palestinian firefighters in Gaza extinguish a blaze caused by an Israeli airstrike today Credit: AP

The Palestinian death toll has reached 9,448, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza.

In the occupied West Bank, more than 140 Palestinians have been killed in violence and Israeli raids. The UNRWA says 72 of its staff members have been killed.

More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, most of them in the October 7 Hamas attack, and 242 hostages were taken from Israel into Gaza by the proscribed terror group.

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