The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was observed for the third day on Sunday as authorities in Gaza and international health agencies rushed to treat 1,900 people injured by Israeli airstrikes.
In Jerusalem, Israeli police, without incident, allowed Jewish visitors to enter a disputed site in the al-Aqsa Mosque complex that is sacred to both Jews and Muslims. The al-Aqsa conflict was one of the earliest clashes that sparked 11 days of cross-border attacks between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza before a ceasefire took effect on Friday.
The fiercest fighting in the region since 2014 left 248 people dead in Gaza and 13 in Israel. The Israeli air defense system Iron Dome destroyed many of the missiles fired from Gaza.
After the end of the conflict, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that the United States believes it is time for a solution that provides “equal rights for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
He told ABC News “This Week” that Palestinians should “hope to live in security and dignity in a Palestinian state”. He said President Joe Biden “remains committed to a two-state solution” with a separate Palestinian state, but acknowledged that “it was not necessarily something that could be achieved today”.
Secretary Blinken, who is traveling to the region this week, blamed Hamas militants for the recent fighting, saying “Hamas has done nothing but destroy the Palestinian people.”
Many civilian structures in Gaza were destroyed by Israeli bombing, making it more difficult to treat the wounded and deal with an increase in coronavirus cases as a result of Palestinians congregating in community centers and underground shelters to avoid bombing.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was sending medical equipment and supplies to Gaza to treat the wounded and cope with the consequences of collapsing infrastructure. Water supplies have been reduced by 40% in Gaza and 700,000 people have power outages.
Palestinian officials say reconstruction will cost tens of millions of dollars.
Lynn Hastings, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, told reporters that the international COVAX vaccine program, run by the World Health Organization and other institutions, plans to send doses of coronavirus vaccines to Gaza within days. Currently, less than 40,000 people have been vaccinated in Gaza, less than 2% of the population.
Israel said it did its best to avoid civilian casualties in the conflict, blaming Hamas for launching rockets aimed at the Israelis.
Mark Regev, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Fox News on Sunday that the Israeli airstrikes had dealt a “severe blow” to Hamas and expressed hope that this would serve as a lesson to them.
Some progressive US Democratic lawmakers have called for an end to US arms sales to Israel, including a $ 735 million supply, believing such arms deals generate more conflict in the region.
Before the ceasefire was reached, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “At a time when US-made bombs are destroying Gaza City and killing women and children, we cannot allow another major arms deal to be approved. without a debate in Congress.
Mr Blinken said the United States was committed to “giving Israel the means to defend itself” against Palestinian missile strikes, but said any arms sales would be made “in full consultation with Congress”.
Police raids in and near al-Aqsa during the last Muslim holy month of Ramadan, along with planned expulsions of Palestinians from homes allegedly by Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem, sparked Hamas rocket attacks on May 10 and led to 11 days of fighting.Meanwhile, Egyptian mediators crossed the Gaza border and met with Hamas-based West Bank rival Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a bid to support the ceasefire./VOA