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MIDDLE EAST CRISIS UPDATE: 12 OCTOBER 2023

Blinken heads to Israel to show US support; Netanyahu forms emergency government with opposition

Blinken heads to Israel to show US support; Netanyahu forms emergency government with opposition
An Israeli artillery unit fires towards Gaza along the border in southern Israel on 11 October 2023. (Photo: EPA / STR)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken departed for Israel on Wednesday as part of a US push to show support for Israel, with evidence growing that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is preparing for a major ground assault into Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formed a rare emergency government with the opposition to see through the war. Attention also grew on the fate of the hostages taken by Hamas and what would happen to them if Israel attacked.

Electricity went out in the Gaza Strip after its only power plant stalled. Israel cut fuel supplies to the territory following Saturday’s attack which killed at least 1,200 Israelis. Retaliatory strikes on Gaza have left more than 1,000 Palestinians dead. Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and EU, is holding an unknown number of Israelis hostage.

Latest developments

Blinken heads to Israel with fate of hostages uncertain

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the point of his trip, which may include other stops in the region, is to show the US has Israel’s back at a time of crisis.

The US is also investigating the fate of at least 17 Americans who remain unaccounted for following the Hamas attack in Israel. The White House is only aware of a “very small” number who are believed to be hostages, spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday.

The US has not received proof of life regarding the suspected hostages and does not know where they are, Kirby added.

Israel says reports of intrusion were ‘false alarm’  

Air-raid sirens sounded in northern Israel and residents were told to go to bomb shelters, but authorities later said reports of an “airspace intrusion” from Lebanon were a false alarm.

Israelis have been on high alert for any sign Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon to the north might step up attacks after Hamas’s deadly attacks from Gaza in the south over the weekend.

About 90 minutes after the first report of an intrusion in the north, the Israel Defence Forces said, “a suspected infiltration has been ruled out”. It blamed “human error” for an earlier alert telling residents across the country to remain in shelters.

Biden speaks to Netanyahu as US citizen death toll rises

US President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris spoke to Netanyahu “to discuss ongoing US support for Israel as Israel defends itself and protects its people”, the White House said.

Around the time of the call, the US State Department said the death toll among US citizens had risen to at least 22. It was still not clear how many Americans were being held hostage by Hamas.

Israel engaged in ‘war of extermination’, says Palestinian official  

The Palestinian people are facing a “war of extermination” by Israel, the Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki said on Wednesday, adding that Israel was heading toward an option of “total destruction” of Gaza.

“We have repeatedly warned about the danger of the continued occupation of our land and the Israeli violations,” Malki told an Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo.

Malki detailed what he said were Israeli transgressions, including using illegal weapons in a blitz aimed at destroying Gaza’s infrastructure and its ability to support its residents.

Shale boss warns of oil market peril if Iran is swept into war

Oil prices will surge if the Israel-Hamas war escalates to include Iran, shale magnate Scott Sheffield told Bloomberg Television.

The founder and chief executive officer of Pioneer Natural Resources issued the warning during an interview on Wednesday, hours after ExxonMobil agreed to buy the shale giant for $59.5-billion.

“If Iran gets involved, [the war is] going to get bigger and bigger and it’ll significantly affect oil prices,” he said.

US to send Iron Dome interceptor missiles, other munitions  

The US is sending interceptor missiles for Israel’s Iron Dome air-defence system, as well as other munitions as part of initial support, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in Brussels.

The first munitions arrived on Tuesday and the interceptors would be sent soon, Austin said, speaking after a meeting of the contact group supporting Ukraine. He said the US would keep supporting Ukraine and Israel.

“We’re going to do what’s necessary to help our allies and partners and we’re going to also do what’s necessary to make sure that we maintain the capability to protect our interests and defend our country,” Austin said.

UK foreign secretary runs for cover amid rocket fire during visit 

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly had to run for cover amid rocket fire during a visit to southern Israel, Sky News reported, citing video from the Israeli foreign ministry.

Israel forms rare emergency government 

Israel formed a rare emergency government with some opposition members on Wednesday to see the country through its war with Hamas.

A “war management Cabinet” would be established with three members, according to Netanyahu’s office. They are Netanyahu, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and ex-Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who now heads an opposition party.

Gaza runs out of power after plant stalls

Electricity went out in Gaza after its only power plant stopped working. The station is unable to receive additional fuel after Israel cut off supplies in the wake of the Hamas attack. The Palestinian Ministry of Health said hospitals in Gaza would soon be without power. Hospitals were using backup generators to provide “reduced” emergency services, it said. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Gaza is very dense population. A few days of water, electricity and sewer disruption means diseases by end of the weekend and thousands dying by end of the month unless they get moved.

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