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Blinken lands in Egypt as Biden admin seeks to push ceasefire, prevent escalation with Hezbollah

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Blinken lands in Egypt as Biden admin seeks to push ceasefire, prevent escalation with Hezbollah
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Egypt as the Biden administration pushes for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
  • The conflict between Israel and Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah has been escalating over months of fighting triggered by the Gaza war.
  • Blinken will discuss the need to reach a ceasefire agreement that secures the release of all hostages.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Egypt on Monday at a critical time as Washington seeks to increase pressure on Hamas and Israel to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and ensure the war does not expand into Lebanon.

Blinken met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo and is scheduled to travel to Israel later on Monday, where he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

In his eighth visit to the region since Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, triggering the bloodiest episode in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the top U.S. diplomat is also set to travel to Jordan and Qatar this week.

BIDEN ADMIN SLAMMED FOR ‘DOUBLING DOWN’ ON ALLEGED GAZA REFUGEE PLANS

The visit comes after U.S. President Joe Biden on May 31 outlined a three-phase ceasefire proposal from Israel that envisions a permanent end to hostilities, the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, and the reconstruction of Gaza.

The Hamas attack killed 1,200 people and took some 250 others hostage, according to Israeli tallies. In response, Israel launched an assault on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said in its Sunday update, and reduced the enclave to a wasteland.

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Israeli forces rescued four hostages held by Hamas since October in a raid in Gaza on Saturday, during which 274 Palestinians were killed, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives at Cairo airport, Egypt, on June 10, 2024. (Amr Nabil/Pool via Reuters)

Blinken’s trip comes after Israeli minister Benny Gantz announced his resignation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s emergency government on Sunday, withdrawing the only centrist power in the embattled leader’s otherwise far-right coalition during the war in Gaza.

Blinken is expected to meet with Gantz on Tuesday, a senior State Department official said.

The departure of Gantz’s centrist party will not pose an immediate threat to the government. But it could have a serious impact nonetheless, leaving Netanyahu reliant on hardliners, with no end in sight to the war and a possible escalation in fighting with Lebanese Hezbollah.

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Blinken has previously met with Gantz in visits to Israel.

The conflict between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah is dangerously poised after more than eight months of fighting triggered by the Gaza war, with hostilities escalating and both sides signaling a readiness for a bigger confrontation.

Blinken during this week’s trip will discuss with partners the need to reach a ceasefire agreement that secures the release of all hostages, as well as the need to prevent the conflict from escalating further, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement on Friday.

He will emphasize the importance of Hamas accepting the proposal on the table, Miller added.

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Ceasefire talks have intensified since Biden’s speech and CIA director William Burns met senior officials from mediators Qatar and Egypt on Wednesday in Doha to discuss the plan.

Biden has repeatedly declared that ceasefires were close over the past several months, but there has been only one, week-long truce, in November.

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Pulisic scores, assists on Balogun goal to lead U.S. over Bolivia 2-0 in Copa America opener

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Pulisic scores, assists on Balogun goal to lead U.S. over Bolivia 2-0 in Copa America opener

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Christian Pulisic scored in the third minute and assisted on Folarin Balogun’s goal in the 44th as the United States cruised past Bolivia 2-0 in their Copa America opener on Sunday night.

Pulisic joined Clint Dempsey as the only U.S. players with a goal and an assist in a Copa America match and reached 30 goals in 69 international appearances, the fewest among Americans.

“We came out flying with a lot of intensity. Obviously, that early goal helped us a lot,” Pulisic said. “All around, a pretty dominant performance. I think we could have put it away and had more goals there.”

Among six invited guests to South America’s championship, the U.S. is expected to advance from Group C to the quarterfinals along with Uruguay.

“It’s a start that’s massive for us. Build the confidence,” American defender Antonee Robinson said. “If we were being picky, we could have been a lot more clinical. We could have put another two, three goals away.”

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Bolivia lost its 13th straight Copa America match dating to 2015 and has one win in its last 31.

“I’m not happy because I think we can deliver more. We had a match against an opponent that had a better physical performance,” Bolivia coach Antônio Carlos Zago said through a translator. “Minute three there was a goal, and it was downstream from there.”

The 11th-ranked U.S. plays Panama on Thursday at Atlanta and closes the group against Uruguay on July 1 at Kansas City, Missouri. No. 84 Bolivia meets Uruguay on Thursday at East Rutherford, New Jersey, then plays Panama on July 1 at Orlando, Florida.

A crowd of 47,873 attended the match under the retractable roof at 80,000-seat AT&T Stadium, which will host a World Cup semifinal in two years. It was 97 degrees Fahrenheit outside (36 Celsius) the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys at kickoff but air-conditioned inside.

Playing a day before his 30th birthday, goalkeeper Matt Turner had three saves in his 25th international shutout. The U.S. improved to 6-0 at AT&T as the Americans opened their fifth Copa America appearance, the first since reaching the semifinals as host in 2016.

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The U.S. had 18 touches inside the attacking penalty area in the first half and Bolivia had none.

Pulisic put the U.S. ahead 2:23 in, the fastest American goal in 34 competitive matches against South American opponents. He played a short corner kick to Tim Weah and ran toward the penalty area. Weah returned the ball to Pulisic, who took a touch and from just inside the area curled a right-foot shot off the outstretched fingertips of goalkeeper Guillermo Viscarra and into the far upper corner.

Balogun doubled the lead when he received a pass from Pulisic, took several touches and threaded a low, left-foot shot along the ground, past defender Jesús Sagredo and inside Viscarra’s far post for his fourth goal in 13 appearances.

Balogun put the ball in the net again in the 53rd off a pass from Weah, but Weah was whistled for offside when he received the ball from Weston McKennie in the buildup, a decision confirmed in a video review.

Midfielder Tyler Adams, regaining fitness after a back injury, played the first half in his first start for club or country since March 30. Adams and Bologun were inserted into the starting lineup in place of Yunus Musah and Ricardo Pepi in the two changes from the lineup for the 1-1 exhibition draw against Brazil on June 12. Musah replaced Adams at the start of the second half and Pepi entered in the 65th.

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Viscarra pushed Pepi’s 79th-minute shot over the crossbar, then stopped Pepi in the 90th on a point-blank initial attempt and another off the rebound.

___

AP Copa America coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/copa-america

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Data used for Gaza famine claims changing as expert cautions 'no one seems to be trying to explain why'

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Data used for Gaza famine claims changing as expert cautions 'no one seems to be trying to explain why'

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Dire warnings from the United Nations, the U.S. EU and aid organizations of mass starvation and famine among civilians in northern Gaza seem to be overstated, according to some experts.

“Leaders said that thousands of children were going to die, and it didn’t materialize, and no one seems to be trying to explain why,” David Adesnik, senior fellow and director of research for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told Fox News Digital. Adesnik has been tracking recent increases in food availability in northern Gaza that have gone without comment from researchers and the media.

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The first warning of famine came on March 18 in a report from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) Famine Review Committee (FRC), which stated famine was “projected and imminent” in northern Gaza and the Gazan governorates. Without “an immediate political decision for a ceasefire together with a significant and immediate increase in humanitarian and commercial access to the entire population of Gaza,” the FRC stated that there would be a markedly increased “impact on mortality and the lives of Palestinians.”

A day following the report, Secretary of State Antony Blinken echoed the report, noting during a press conference in the Philippines that “according to the most respected measure of these things, 100% of the population in Gaza is at severe levels of acute food insecurity. That’s the first time an entire population has been so classified.”

CIGARETTE SMUGGLING HAS CRIPPLED AID DELIVERY IN GAZA AS SMOKES GO FOR $25 APIECE

Palestinians shop for food and clothes at a bazaar in Jabalia, northern Gaza, on Jan. 15, 2024. (Mahmoud Shalha/Anadolu via Getty Images)

By May 31, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), reported that it was “possible, if not likely, that all three IPC thresholds for Famine…were met or surpassed in northern Gaza in April.”

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On June 4, the FRC released a different prognosis, contradicting the FEWS NET’s results and stating they were not “plausible.” Among the reasons cited for disagreement was their finding that “while FEWS NET estimated the caloric availability in the area as covering only 59%- 63% of the needs…in April, the review done by the FRC estimates that this range would be 75% to 109% if commercial and/or privately contracted food deliveries were included,” and “157% if a higher estimate was used.”

Fox News Digital reached out to both the IPC and FEWS NET about the differences between their most recent reports. The IPC said that FRC analysts were unable to respond as they were at work on a forthcoming report, due for release on June 25, about conditions throughout Gaza.

Jabalia, Gaza.

A Palestinian woman works in a makeshift kitchen in the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip on June 20, 2024. (OMAR AL-QATTAA/AFP via Getty Images)

FEWS NET pointed out that where FRC suggested there was not enough evidence to determine barriers to accessing aid, FEWS NET “observed significant challenges in both physical and financial access.”

“Analysis of acute food insecurity does not (and should not) only consider available supply, but access to and utilization of available food,” FEWS NET explained.

FEWS NET also stated that “when combining FEWS NET’s estimate of kilocalories available from food assistance with FEWS NET’s estimate of kilocalories available from subsidized bread from [World Food Programme (WFP)]-supported bakeries and [Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories]-facilitated commercial/private sector food commodities, the differences between FEWS NET and the FRC’s estimates are not significant. FEWS NET estimates that these three sources combined offer a total supply of nearly 150% of caloric needs in the month of April.”

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GROWING CONTROVERSY OVER BIDEN’S GAZA PIER FUELS CONCERNS OVER COST, SECURITY

Eggs are shown at a street market in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, on June 21, 2024.

Eggs are shown at a street market in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, on June 21, 2024. (Majdi Fathi/TPS-IL)

Adesnik, however, pointed out that FEWS NET’s original assessment did not include calories obtained through World Food Program (WFP) bread or commercial and private sector foods, noting that the FRC found that “FEWS NET simply ignored 940 tons of sugar, flour, salt and yeast that the World Food Program delivered to north Gaza bakeries. The tone of the FRC review is always respectful, yet it exposes the extent to which FEWS NET made indefensible assumptions that all serve to underestimate Israel’s efforts to help more food reach the people of northern Gaza.” 

While Adesnik said that without question “hunger persists in northern Gaza and there is a deep need for humanitarian assistance,” he also said that the “stark differences” between FEWS NET and FRC’s assessments “underscore the subjectivity inherent in famine assessments, along with the potential for politicization.”

As an example, Adesnik noted that a lack of humanitarian aid reaching Gazans was “an integral part of the charges” that the International Criminal Court leveled against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant on May 20 when they issued arrest warrants for the men. The ICC believes Netanyahu and Gallant “bear criminal responsibility” for war crimes and crimes against humanity.” Among the allegations the men face is that they “plan[ned] to use starvation as a method of war.” 

Cindy McCain

U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director Cindy McCain (United Nations via Reuters Connect/File)

Adesnik said that “regardless of whether the situation in Gaza improved because the famine declaration was premature or because Israel facilitated dramatically more shipments of food in March and April, this just shows how laughable the ICC’s charges are.”

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Fox News Digital reached out to the ICC to ask whether they would change their assessment that Israeli officials intentionally starved Gazans based on FRC findings about food availability in April, prior to charges being filed. The ICC responded by directing Fox News Digital to its statement announcing war crimes charges against Israeli and Hamas leaders.

STUDY SAYS FOOD AID MEETS QUALITY, QUANTITY FOR GAZANS AS UN, ICC SAY ISRAEL STARVING CIVILIANS

IDF forces in Rafah

IDF forces are seen operating in Rafah in the Gaza Strip. (IDF Spokesman’s Office)

Other institutions likewise seem reticent to acknowledge that the dire threats said to be “imminent” in March have not come to pass.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the WFP’s Hunger Hotspots outlook on food insecurity from June to October notes that “in Palestine, over 1 million people – half of the population of the Gaza Strip – is expected to face death and starvation (IPC Phase 5) by mid-July.” 

In response to Fox News Digital’s questions about whether the FAO planned to amend its report based on the FRC’s latest information on food availability in Gaza, the FAO news team stated that the organization would wait until the FRC released its updated report to revise its assessment.   

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UN aid workers in Gaza

Humanitarian aid trucks from the U.N. and World Health Organization wait to enter the central Gaza Strip on Apr 25, 2024. (Majdi Fathi/TPS)

A State Department spokesperson responded to Fox News’ requests for comment about the disparities between FEWS NET and FRC reporting by expressing concern about the “more than 2 million people and the most rapid onset of the levels of food insecurity that we’ve ever seen.” Noting that neither FRC nor FEWS NET confirmed that a famine was ongoing, the spokesperson said that “Gaza remains in a dire food security crisis with unacceptable rates of child malnutrition and elevated levels of associated sickness and deaths. And the whole point of measurements and early warning is to spur action now and not wait until it’s too late, and we’ve definitively reached a specific threshold.” 

The increased aid entering Gaza has been affected in recent weeks by cigarette smuggling that “now threatens United Nations aid convoys.” Attacks on convoys thought to hold coveted cigarettes have led the U.N. to stop picking up aid, according to Israel’s TPS news agency.

Citing the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the TPS reported that 285 aid trucks were transferred to the Gaza Strip from the Kerem Shalom and Erez crossings. Of these, “only 88 aid trucks were collected by U.N. aid agencies and the private sector.” According to COGAT, “over 1,000 trucks” and “hundreds of aid pallets” await collection and distribution.

“The U.N. needs to scale up,” COGAT posted online on June 20, sharing an aerial video of unclaimed aid in the JLOTS collection and distribution compound.

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People buy food at a market in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, on June 21, 2024.

People buy food at a market in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, on June 21, 2024. (Majdi Fathi/TPS-IL)

The WFP’s country director for the Palestinians, Matthew Hollingworth, recently stated in an interview with CNN that “in terms of our operations, we have been able to bring more food into the north over the past few weeks, which has improved access to basic food commodities for people there, but we need to diversify the assistance given. It’s not enough to have basic food commodities. There needs to be basic health care, there needs to be water and sanitation, otherwise, we won’t turn the curve on famine.”

The WFP spokesperson did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment about whether Hollingworth believed famine to be impending in Gaza.

As various entities continue to indicate that Israel’s efforts to aid the civilian population have fallen short, FRC’s assessment is in line with a study by academics and public health officials in Israel who found that aid entering the Gaza Strip could provide for the population of 2.4 million and meet its nutritional needs.

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Netanyahu says war will continue even if ceasefire deal agreed with Hamas

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Netanyahu says war will continue even if ceasefire deal agreed with Hamas

The Israeli prime minister reiterated he would not agree to any deal that calls for an end to the eight-month war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated that he is open to a “partial” deal that would facilitate the return of some captives still held in Gaza, even if not all.

He reiterated, however, that he would not agree to any deal that stipulated an end to Israel’s war on Gaza, despite previous claims by the United States that an Israeli proposal would be a pathway to ending the offensive.

“The goal is to return the kidnapped and uproot the Hamas regime in Gaza,” he said in an interview with Israeli media outlet Channel 14 on Sunday.

Tens of thousands of Israelis have consistently rallied against Netanyahu and his government, demanding early elections and a deal to return the captives.

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People attend a demonstration against Netanyahu’s government and call for the release of captives in Gaza, in Tel Aviv, Israel [Eloisa Lopez/Reuters]

Last month, US President Joe Biden announced a proposal for a ceasefire, which would see a six-week pause in fighting as well as the release of some Israeli captives in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. These exchanges would then enable negotiations for a permanent ceasefire.

While US officials have insisted that Israel authored the proposal, various Israeli officials, including Netanyahu, have pledged to continue fighting until Hamas is eliminated, and have refused to publicly endorse it fully.

Netanyahu also told Channel 14 that Israel’s “intense” military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah was nearly over.

“The intense phase of the fighting against Hamas is about to end,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that the war is about to end, but the war in its intense phase is about to end in Rafah.”

‘Civilian administration’

Netanyahu, in his first interview with an Israeli news outlet since the war in Gaza began, once again rejected the idea that the occupied West Bank-based Palestinian Authority run Gaza in place of Hamas.

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“We also want to create a civilian administration, if possible with local Palestinians and maybe with external backing from countries in the region, to manage humanitarian supply and later on, civilian affairs in the Strip,” he said.

“At the end of it, there’s two things that need to happen: we need ongoing demilitarisation by the [Israeli military] and the establishment of a civilian administration.”

The Gaza Strip has been gripped by more than eight months of war since a Hamas-led attack on Israel led to the deaths of 1,139 people, with dozens still held captive in Gaza.

Israel’s military offensive on Gaza has since killed at least 37,598 people, according to the Palestinian territory’s Ministry of Health.

Troops to move towards Lebanon

Netanyahu said troops would soon be deployed to the northern border with Lebanon but for “defensive purposes”.

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“After the intense phase is finished, we will have the possibility to move part of the forces north. And we will do this. First and foremost for defensive purposes. And secondly, to bring our [evacuated] residents home,” Netanyahu told Channel 14.

“If we can we will do this diplomatically. If not, we will do it another way. But we will bring [the residents] home,” he said.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced from northern Israel and southern Lebanon, which have seen near-daily exchanges of fire between Israeli forces and Lebanese Hezbollah fighters since the war in Gaza began.

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