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Blinken: Massive Loss of Civilian Life in Northern Gaza Must Not Be Repeated

© AFP 2023 / OMAR EL-QATTAAPalestinians carrying a few salvageable items leave Gaza City to safer areas in the south on November 25, 2023, on the second day of a truce between Israel and Hamas.
Palestinians carrying a few salvageable items leave Gaza City to safer areas in the south on November 25, 2023, on the second day of a truce between Israel and Hamas.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.11.2023
WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that during his visit to Israel he discussed details of Tel-Aviv's military operations and underscored that massive civilian casualties that took place in northern Gaza must not repeat in the south of the enclave.
Blinken's remarks came during his third visit to the region since hostilities first hit a renewed boiling point following the October 7 surprise attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The American diplomat told reporters during a Thursday conference that US officials had renewed calls for Israel to comply with international laws and take steps to ensure that civilians in the Gaza Strip are not enveloped in the conflict.
"We discussed the details of Israel's ongoing planning, and I underscored the imperative the United States, that the massive loss of civilian life and displacement of the scale that we saw in northern Gaza, not be repeated in the South," Blinken said.
"In my meetings today with the Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] and senior Israeli officials, I made clear that before Israel resumes major military operations, it must put in place humanitarian civilian protection plans that minimize further casualties of innocent Palestinians."
IDF soldiers in the Gaza Strip - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.11.2023
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Weighing in on reports of rising extremist settler violence, Blinken further relayed to journalists that the US does in fact expect Israeli officials to take appropriate steps to quell the developments.
"I raised our deep concerns about steps that could escalate tensions in the West Bank, including extremist settler violence and proposals from parts of the Israeli coalition government to further expand settlement," Blinken said.
"With regard to extremist violence, all I can tell you is this. We're looking to the Israeli government to take some additional steps to really put a stop to this. And at the same time we're considering our own steps."

Free & Fair Elections in Palestine

Touching on the importance of free and fair elections, the US secretary of state emphasized that the United States "as a matter of basic principle, we support free and fair elections around the world, including, of course for Palestinians."
Blinken added that Palestinians should have the right to choose their own leaders.

"But that has to be a process. And it's something that we need to be talking about as we move from the conflict to, as we've been calling it, the 'day after,' looking at what needs to happen in Gaza, as well as the West Bank, but starting in Gaza, particularly, with regard to things like governance, like security, like rebuilding," Blinken said. "And part of that discussion needs to be about elections."

Earlier this month, Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced readiness to hold general presidential and parliamentary elections in all Palestinian territories.
President of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.10.2023
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Regarding his recent talks with Abbas, Blinken noted that the pair had discussed the need for a range of reforms to revamp the Palestinian state so it could be more effective in meeting the aspirations of the Palestinian people.
“I had an opportunity to discuss today with President Abbas the need for reform, the need to revitalize, to revamp the Palestinian Authority, so that it can most effectively meet the aspirations of the Palestinian people and deliver for them,” Blinken said.

The Palestinian Authority has not conducted elections since January 2006, when Hamas came to power in Gaza after winning a parliamentary vote.

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