The visit comes amid progress in talks to free the hostages mediated by the United States and Qatar and as the war continues in Gaza for the 45th day.
Rina Bassist, Ezgi Akin, Beatrice Farhat, Elizabeth Hagedorn, Adam Lucente, Jack Dutton, Jared Szuba and Al-Monitor’s contributors on the ground in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel contributed to this blog.
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Live updates (all times EDT):
Monday, Nov. 20, 2023
4:30 pm: After angering Israel, Macron recalibrates strategy in Gaza war
France is particularly concerned about the Lebanon front and its relations with Gulf states as it works to adjust its stance on the war. Rina Bassist reports from Paris.
4:11 pm: Second US senator calls for cease-fire
Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley is the second US senator to call for a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas to facilitate the release of hostages and an influx of humanitarian aid. Merkley joins Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and nearly 40 House members in calling for a cease-fire, which the Biden administration maintains would benefit Hamas.
In a blog post on Medium, Merkley said more must be done to stop the bloodshed. “Israel has unleashed a bombing campaign on Gaza of phenomenal ferocity,” Merkley wrote. “Israel defends this campaign as necessary to strike Hamas wherever necessary. But the impression the world has been left with is one of indiscriminate bombing.”
3:40 pm: 6 US citizens dead in post-Oct. 7 fighting
At least six US citizens died in the weeks that followed Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said Monday. Five were members of the Israel Defense Forces and another was a border officer in Israel’s national police. Of that group, four died in the Gaza Strip.
Miller said the United States has been unable to verify reports that a Palestinian American had died in the Gaza Strip, where a lack of fuel disrupted communications networks last week.
Miller also said around 800 US citizens, legal permanent residents and their family members have evacuated the Gaza Strip via the Rafah border crossing. The United States is aware of an additional 1,200 Americans and their families who wish to depart.
3:23 pm: US senators push Biden on Gaza aid access
In a letter to President Joe Biden, 13 Senate Democrats called on the Biden administration to push Israel to allow aid deliveries through its Kerem Shalom crossing on the Gaza border. The lawmakers, led by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), also called for wounded civilians to have access to medical attention within Gaza as well as the option to evacuate to a neighboring country.
“We are concerned that increased and prolonged suffering in Gaza is not only intolerable for Palestinian civilians there but will also negatively impact the security of Israeli civilians by exacerbating existing tensions and eroding regional alliances,” the letter said.
2:40 pm: At least 48 journalists killed in Gaza war
At least six journalists were killed in Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip over the weekend, bringing the total number of members of the press killed in the region since Oct. 7 to 48 — 43 Palestinians, four Israelis and one Lebanese — the CPJ said in a Monday report. Beatrice Farhat reports from Beirut.
2:12 pm: Iraqi FM says unless US stops Israel, conflict in Gaza will 'burn all of us'
Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said the United States needs to put more pressure on Israel to end the conflict in Gaza, just as Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani urges Shiite militias to stop targeting US military installations in the country amid a surge in such attacks. Read Amberin Zaman’s exclusive interview.
12:50 pm: Iran’s UN envoy says military boost leaves US 'exposed,' Saudi-Israel normalization derailed
Iran’s envoy to the United Nations said Tehran is not seeking to instigate any regional wars and would only get involved in the Israel-Hamas conflict if its national security is threatened, but he warned an increased US presence in the region leaves Washington more exposed to attack.
Iran’s permanent representative to the UN, Saeid Iravani, told Al-Monitor that a beefed up American military presence in the Middle East will not stop Iran from entering the war if need be.
Speaking about the prospects for normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel, a process that was reportedly advanced before Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, Iravani said normalization had “reached an impasse” for “the foreseeable future.” Read Ali Hashem’s interview with Iravani.
12:30 pm: Turkey works to evacuate 1,000 people from Gaza
Turkey is seeking to evacuate nearly 1,000 individuals including Turkish nationals and their relatives out of the Gaza Strip, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said Monday as 110 more residents of the war-torn enclave arrived in Ankara. Ezgi Akin reports.
11:40 am: Biden says Israel-Hamas hostage deal near
President Joe Biden said he believes Israel and Hamas are nearing an agreement to release some of the roughly 240 hostages held by the Palestinian militants.
“I believe so,” he told reporters during the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon at the White House. Biden added that he wasn’t prepared to talk about the emerging Qatari-mediated deal.
10:32 am: Israel, Hezbollah exchange fire near border
Hezbollah said it fired missiles, rockets and artillery shells at several Israeli military targets near the Israel-Lebanon border, including west of Kiryat Shmona and in the disputed Shebaa Farms area. The group said in a series of statements that the strikes caused damage and an unspecified number of casualties.
IDF spokesperson Avichay Adraee said that 25 rocket shells were fired from Lebanon toward Israel at various points along the border. Some of the shells were intercepted, while others fell in open areas. Three rockets fell near an unspecified military site without causing casualties, Adraee said in a post on X.
Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported Israeli shelling and airstrikes in several border towns in the south, including the shelling of a church in Yaroun that caused significant damage. The agency did not report any casualities.
4:20 am: Arab, Muslim officials call for cease-fire during visit to China
A delegation of Arab and Muslim foreign ministers called for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip during a visit to China. The delegation is headed by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and includes his counterparts from Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Indonesia. “We are here to send a clear signal: That is, we must immediately stop the fighting and the killings. We must immediately deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza,” Prince Faisal said during a meeting with Chinese diplomats in Beijing.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed his country’s support for the Palestinian people and their “legitimate rights.” Speaking to the delegation, Wang further said China will work to “quell the fighting in Gaza as soon as possible, alleviate the humanitarian crisis and promote an early, comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Palestinian issue.” In recent months, China has strengthened its relations with Middle Eastern nations once seen as traditional US allies and helped broker the landmark Saudi-Iranian normalization deal earlier this year.
4:00 am: Turkey’s Fidan says Ankara evacuated more than 150 people from Gaza
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan said 177 Turkish nationals and their relatives who were trapped in Gaza following the Hamas attack on Oct. 7 and the ensuing Israeli blockade have been repatriated. Last month, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said a total number of 700 people including Turkish nationals, Turkish Cypriots and their relatives were in Gaza waiting to be evacuated.
1:25 am: Israeli forces surround, shell Indonesian Hospital in north Gaza amid blackout
At least 12 people have been killed in intense Israeli shelling of the Indonesian Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip. The official WAFA news agency reported that those killed were patients inside the hospital and that two medical personnel were also wounded. Dozens of armored Israeli bulldozers and snipers have surrounded the hospital, which Israel claims sits above a network of Hamas tunnels. The Indonesian Hospital, the only partially operational hospital in northern Gaza, is housing at least 700 patients and staff in addition to thousands of displaced people, according to WAFA. Concerns are also growing about the situation inside the hospital amid reports of a power blackout.
12:40 am: Japan condemns Houthi seizure of cargo ship in Red Sea
Japan condemned the seizure of a cargo ship operated by major Japanese shipping company Nippon Yusen by Yemen’s Houthis rebels in the Red Sea. “Currently, ministries and agencies including the Transport Ministry and the Foreign Ministry are gathering information and working with the relevant countries for the early release of the vessel and its crew,” Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference in Tokyo.
Earlier on Sunday, the Iran-backed Houthi group claimed it seized an Israeli ship in the Red Sea and rerouted it to the Yemeni coast. In a post on the X platform, Houthi spokesperson Yahya Saree warned that all ships belonging to or working with Israel “will become a legitimate target” over the war in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military said the ship was not Israeli and had no Israeli crew members and denounced the seizure, describing it as a “very grave incident of global consequence.”
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