Medics in southern Gaza say hundreds of patients and thousands of displaced people were unable to leave the main hospital in Khan Younis because of heavy fighting Wednesday. The Israeli military said its forces were battling militants there, after encircling the city the day before.
Thousands of people have rushed to escape Khan Younis, the second-largest city in Gaza, in recent days. The UN says some 1.5 million people — around two-thirds of Gaza’s population — are crowded into shelters and tent camps in and around Rafah, which is on the border with Egypt.
Israel's war against Hamas militants in Gaza has set the wider region on edge. Off the coast of Yemen, officials said two American-flagged ships carrying cargo for the US Defense and State departments came under attack Wednesday. The Houthi rebel group, which has been launching attacks on ships since November over Israel’s war, did not immediately acknowledge the latest assault.
The Health Ministry in Gaza says more than 25,400 people have been killed and another 63,000 wounded in the enclave since the Oct. 7 attack in southern Israel in which militants from Gaza killed around 1,200 people and took about 250 hostages.
But Israel is also facing more pressure to work toward a ceasefire in the short term, and in the longer term, to revive the long-stalled plan for a two-state solution. The Biden administration and the European Union have been pushing for that, and even Saudi Arabia is signaling support for the idea.
Lior Haiat, spokesperson with Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Israel pursued that goal for many years, and that the Palestinians rejected it — by choosing violence instead.
After the Hamas attack of Oct. 7, Haiat said that Israel has no other choice but to defeat Hamas militarily and make sure that Gaza will no longer be a security threat.
“We're willing to a humanitarian temporary ceasefire in order to release the hostages. We've done that before, but it does not mean that we will stop the war.”
Intense military pressure, Haiat said, is the only way to eliminate Hamas and force them to release the remaining hostages.
“I don't agree. I think that there is no military way to defeat Hamas,” said Nadav Tamir. He’s a former Israeli diplomat based in Tel Aviv and an advisor with the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.
Tamir said that the deaths of 24 Israeli troops on Monday should be a wake-up call for the public in Israel.
“I think the military campaign was justified, but it pretty much reached its limit. Like every military campaign. I think people [in Israel] are starting to realize that there should be another way, and that we have to listen to everybody around us. Our Arab friends, our European friends are all saying the same.”
There’s plenty of skepticism about the two-state vision among Israelis.
But David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said that now is the time to start talking about that vision.
“The question is not, should there be a state or not a state? The question is, what sort of a state; if it's a state like Costa Rica, it would get universal support in Israel. And if it was a state like Iran, nobody will support it.”
Palestinians have heard American presidents talk about a Middle East peace deal going back to Bill Clinton in the 1990s.
Then, George W. Bush talked about it. So did Barack Obama and Donald Trump. And now, President Joe Biden has said that the two-state solution is the only way to bring this conflict to an end.
Mkhaimer Abusada is a political scientist with Al-Azhar University in Gaza — he is now based in Cairo.
He said that there’s good reasons for Palestinians to be cynical about the prospects of getting their own independent state someday.
“There have to be some tools to try to put this idea into implementation. And not just to mention the two-state solution, I think the US has to show more seriousness with regard to putting pressure on Israel and Netanyahu, or whoever is in the prime minister's office, in Israel to the idea of a Palestinian state next to the state of Israel.”
If that happens, Abusada said, most Palestinians will be responsive. But for now, he said that their top priority is putting a stop to the bloodshed in Gaza.
But Israel’s prime minister and his supporters are digging in their heels. They say that talking about a two-state solution, especially now, while the war is still not finished, does not make sense.
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