Israel bombarded the Gaza Strip as it prepared for a ground invasion it says is aimed at annihilating the Palestinian militant group Hamas as Russia warned the conflict could spread beyond the Middle East.
In besieged Gaza humanitarian supplies were critically low, as world powers failed to agree on a lull to the fighting to deliver aid, and residents buried the dead in mass graves as the civilain toll mounted.
U.S. President Joe Biden, in remarks looking beyond the war, said on Wednesday that the future should include Israeli and Palestinian states side by side.
“Israelis and Palestinians equally deserve to live side by side in safety, dignity and in peace,” Biden said at a joint press conference in Washington with visiting Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Biden said he believed one reason Hamas attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing at least 1,400 people and taking scores of hostages, was to prevent normalising relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the conflict could spread beyond the Middle East and said it was wrong that innocent women, children and old people in Gaza were being punished for other people’s crimes.
“Our task today, our main task, is to stop the bloodshed and violence,” said Putin in a meeting with Russian religious leaders of different faiths, according to a Kremlin transcript.
“Otherwise, further escalation of the crisis is fraught with grave and extremely dangerous and destructive consequences. And not only for the Middle East region. It could spill over far beyond the borders of the Middle East.”
Gaza’s war has already sparked conflict beyond the Palestinian territories. Israeli warplanes struck Syrian army infrastructure on Wednesday in response to rockets fired from Syria. Israel has also targeted Syria’s Aleppo airport and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
(Inputs from Reuters)