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Israeli Warplanes Strike Ambulances in Gaza as Top U.S. Diplomat Pays Visit

Israeli warplanes on Friday struck an ambulance convoy outside a Gaza hospital, killing 6 Palestinians as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken embarked on his fourth visit to Israel since the conflict broke out.

The Hamas-run health ministry said the ambulances carrying patients were on their way to the Rafah border crossing to exit Gaza for treatment, adding that “a large number” of people were also injured.

The attack took place in front of the main gate of the Shifa Medical Complex, the largest hospital in Gaza, according to the health ministry.

The Israeli military said the ambulance was being used by the Hamas fighters to transport militants and weapons, adding that several Hamas fighters were killed in the operation.

World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a social media post that he was “utterly shocked by reports of attacks on ambulances evacuating patients,” adding that patients, health workers, and medical facilities must be protected.

Israel has been accusing Hamas of using the Shifa hospital to conceal command centers and tunnel entrances, a claim refuted by both Hamas and Shifa hospital authorities.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continued their military operations in Gaza, launching attacks on Hamas sites from various fronts, including land, sea, and air.

The IDF claims that their operations resulted in the death of several Hamas militants, including Mustafa Dalloul, commander of Hamas’s Sabra-Tel al-Hawa battalion, who played a “key role” role in the ongoing conflict.

The IDF also reported that six Israeli soldiers and officers were killed during the Gaza operation on Thursday and Friday, bringing the total Israeli forces’ death toll to 25 since the start of the ground offensive against Hamas.

In the West Bank, clashes between Israeli forces and gunmen took place in multiple cities. According to WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency, at least 10 individuals were killed in the West Bank since Thursday night.

Also on Friday, Blinken made his fourth visit to Israel since the conflict began. During the visit, he expressed support for Israel while underscoring the importance of protecting civilians in Gaza.

The top U.S. diplomat is also expected to meet foreign ministers of Jordan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt in Amman, the capital of Jordan, on Saturday.

After meeting with Blinken, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that his country would not accept a temporary ceasefire unless it included the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

Additionally, he issued a stern warning to what he referred to as the “enemy in the north,” namely the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah. He cautioned against any escalation of the conflict along the Israel-Lebanon border, emphasizing that the consequences would be “unimaginable” for Hezbollah.

In his first public speech since Oct. 7, Hezbollah Leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Friday that the daily exchanges of fire between his group and Israel have reached an intensity not seen since 1948.

He warned of an expansion of the confrontations with Israel if the conflict in Gaza continues.

According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, around 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, mostly civilians who were slain in the initial Oct. 7 Hamas surprise attack that triggered the conflict. A total of 241 hostages were kidnapped from Israel into Gaza, said IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari on Friday, adding that the number does not include four released hostages and an Israeli soldier who was rescued by Israeli forces.

The death toll in Gaza surpassed 9,200 on Friday, while over 32,500 were injured, according to health ministry in Gaza.