U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday met with Israel's Arab neighbors to discuss the future of Gaza, as Israel resumed bombardments on the Palestinian enclave after the collapse of the Israel-Hamas seven-day truce.
At least 178 Palestinians were killed and 589 injured in in the day's bombing, the Gaza health ministry said.
Blinken met with his counterparts from Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan and Bahrain, along with representatives of the Palestinian Authority, on the sidelines of the U.N. COP28 climate conference in Dubai, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.
Blinken was on his third trip in the Middle East since Israel declared war against Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group. Hamas had launched attacks on Israeli civilians on October 7, killing 1,200 people and abducting an estimated 240, about 100 of whom were released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners during the just-ended truce.
The talks with Arab foreign ministers centered on the state of the Israel-Hamas war and how to deliver more humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, Blinken told reporters before boarding a flight back to Washington.
He said they also talked about "what happens the day after in Gaza and how we can get on the path to a just, lasting and secure peace for Israelis and Palestinians - in fact, for everyone in the region."
Israel's airstrikes and ground invasion in Gaza, aimed at eradicating Hamas, have left more than 15,000 people dead and thousands more injured, according to Palestinian health authorities.
Israel's military said its ground, air and naval forces had struck more than 200 of what it called terror targets in the enclave since the end of the truce.
Khan Younis in southern Gaza was heavily bombarded Friday, sending residents fleeing for shelter farther west, according to Reuters journalists there.
The U.N. said the fighting would exacerbate an acute humanitarian emergency. "Hell on Earth has returned to Gaza," said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the U.N. humanitarian office in Geneva.
UNICEF spokesperson James Elder excoriated the impact of Israel's renewed attacks on Gaza civilians, especially on children. "Today those in power decided that the killing of children would recommence in Gaza," he said via video link from Rafah, Gaza.
Elder stressed the "dire" lack of nutrition, water and sanitation in Gaza and pleaded for a lasting cease-fire. He said the alternative was unthinkable for people already living in a nightmare. "Inaction, at its core, is an approval of the killing of children," he said.
Israel wants Gaza DMZ
Meanwhile, Israel has presented some of its neighboring states with plans to carve out a buffer zone on the Palestinian side of Gaza's border with Israel to avert attacks after the war ends, Egyptian and regional sources said, according to Reuters.
Israel has communicated its postwar plans to Egypt and Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey as part of its future security goals for Gaza, sources told the news agency.
Ophir Falk, foreign policy adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Reuters the Israeli government has a three-tiered plan: destroying Hamas, demilitarizing Gaza and deradicalizing the enclave.
"A buffer zone may be part of the demilitarization process," Falk said, although he did not say whether these plans had been shared with international partners, including Arab states.
Arab states have dismissed as impossible Israel's goal of wiping out Hamas, saying it was more than simply a militant force that could be defeated.
Blinken said last month that Washington wanted Palestinians to govern Gaza and did not want to see the territory reoccupied by Israel, blockaded or reduced in size.
Israel and Hamas have blamed each other for the breakdown of the negotiations, although the White House singled out Hamas, noting it had failed to produce a new list of hostages to release as required for an extension of the truce.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his Emirati counterpart, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on the sidelines of the COP28 summit in Dubai that the resumption of Israeli attacks on Gaza was "very negative," Erdogan's office said Friday.
Turkey said in a statement that it was working to achieve a lasting cease-fire, but that the Muslim world needed to act in unison.
"While discussing the climate crisis, we cannot ignore the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Palestinian territories right beside us," Erdogan told leaders during his formal speech to the COP28 conference.
"The current situation in Gaza constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity; those responsible must be held accountable under international law," he said.
Erdogan's comments were echoed by South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.
"Continuous bombardment of Gaza complicates mediation efforts and exacerbates humanitarian catastrophe," the Qatari minister said.
Egypt also is exerting the utmost effort with its partners to reinstate the truce in Gaza as soon as possible, according to a statement from Diaa Rashwan, the head of Egypt's State Information Service.
However, Israel's Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Hamas understands only force "and therefore we will continue to act until we achieve the goals of the war." He spoke while riding in one of Israel's warplanes to observe the assault. "The results are impressive," he said.
At a pro-Israel conference in the U.S. city of Denver, Colorado, the Israeli ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, said Israel was in a fight for its survival.
"We are in a fight against pure evil, sheer evil, evil that whether it calls itself Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah, ISIS or al-Qaida shares the same hegemonic goal of spreading its radical ideology and defeating Western civilization through barbaric terror and violence," he said.
Colorado Governor Jared Polis also spoke at the conference.
"There's a lot of pain. It's made worse by the fact that we are seeing the rise of antisemitism and hate in America, across the world, the antisemitic demons of old that we all hoped had been vanquished, now fueled by social media being used to amplify dangerous rhetoric and misinformation," he said.
In Washington, pro-Palestinian demonstrators held a prayer vigil and rally outside the Israeli Embassy.
In Atlanta, a protester with a Palestinian flag self-immolated Friday outside the Israeli Consulate, injuring a security guard who tried to intervene and put out the fire, authorities said.
Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.