Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Friday urged U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to put the focus of his Middle East tour on ending Israel's "aggression" on the Gaza Strip.
In a statement, Haniyeh said he expected the top U.S. diplomat to "glean lessons from the past three months and recognize Washington's mistakes in supporting the occupation."
Blinken and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell began a new diplomatic push on Friday to stop spillover from the Gaza war into Israeli-occupied West Bank, Lebanon and Red Sea shipping lanes.
Blinken is due to visit the West Bank during a week-long tour starting in Türkiye, which has offered to mediate. He will also visit Israel, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Borrell was due in Lebanon.
In a phone call with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on Friday, Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati warned of Lebanon being dragged into a regional war as the ongoing violence and conflict in the region is escalating.
The Israeli army on Friday intensified air strikes on several southern Lebanese villages, with one of them hitting a Lebanese army's military site, causing only material damage, according to Lebanese military sources.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that the Israeli forces fired about 120 shells on dozens of villages and towns along Lebanon's southern border, destroying five houses and damaging 25 others.
Meanwhile, Hezbollah said its fighters carried out attacks using Burkan missiles on several Israeli sites, including Dhahira, Motella, Kiryat Shmona, Al-Marj and Birkat Risha, in addition to spy equipment and a gathering of Israeli soldiers at the Al-Manara settlement. It said the attacks had caused casualties, without giving details.
Israel, which says it killed 8,000 militants after October 7 when the fresh round of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict started, has announced a more targeted approach under global pressure to limit civilian casualties.
But Gazans said Israeli planes and tanks had intensified attacks overnight on densely populated Al-Maghazi, Al-Bureij and Al-Nusseirat in the center of the coastal strip.
Some 162 people were killed in the past 24 hours, Palestinian officials said.
The war in Hamas-run Gaza has stoked violence in the West Bank, which is governed by its rival Fatah and is another territory where Palestinian hopes for statehood have been dashed since the last U.S.-mediated talks on a solution to the decades-long conflict in 2014.
Some 300 Palestinians have died there since the war in Gaza erupted, according to the United Nations.
(With input from agencies)
(Cover: Smoke billows over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment, January 5, 2024. /CFP)