Home Indo-Pacific Blinken Urges Netanyahu To Step Up Humanitarian Aid For Gaza

Blinken Urges Netanyahu To Step Up Humanitarian Aid For Gaza


On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, advocating for increased humanitarian aid to Gaza and encouraging Hamas to agree to a ceasefire that would end hostilities and facilitate the return of Israeli hostages.

After earlier stops in Riyadh and Amman this week, Blinken is now in Israel for several meetings as he concludes his Middle East tour.

It is Blinken’s seventh visit to the region which was plunged into conflict on Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked Israel.

Illustrating the trip’s humanitarian focus, Blinken is set to visit Ashdod port in southern Israel, which has recently started receiving aid for Gaza. He will ask Israel’s government to take a set of specific steps to facilitate aid to Gaza, where nearly half the population is suffering catastrophic hunger.

He met Netanyahu alone at his office ahead of a wider meeting that will include other senior Israeli officials and U.S. diplomats.

“Even as we’re working with relentless determination to get the ceasefire that brings the hostages home, we also have to be focused on people in Gaza for suffering in this crossfire of Hamas’ making,” Blinken said in remarks at the start of his meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv.

“Focused on getting them the assistance they need, the food, and medicine, the water or shelter is also very much on our minds,” Blinken said.

Among the steps that needed to be taken, Blinken said on Tuesday, was to secure enough drivers and trucks within Gaza so aid distribution is done effectively. He also said a clear list of items needed to be identified so there are no “arbitrary” denials of aid shipments.

Blinken has urged Hamas to accept an “extraordinarily generous” truce deal proposed by Egyptian mediators, which would see 33 Israeli hostages released in exchange for a larger number of Palestinian prisoners and a halt to the fighting, with the possibility of further steps towards a comprehensive deal later.

A senior official for Hamas, which has yet to respond to the proposals, said the group was still studying the proposed deal but he accused Blinken of failing to respect both sides and said the real obstacle to an agreement was Israel.

“Blinken’s comments contradict reality,” Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters. “Even the Israeli negotiating team admitted Netanyahu was the one who was hindering reaching an agreement.”

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Blinken’s trip to Israel comes amid growing speculation that Israel will soon launch a long-promised assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than one million Palestinians displaced from their homes further north are sheltering.

On Tuesday, defying U.S. calls to ensure that no military operation took place without adequate steps to protect civilians, Netanyahu declared Israel would go ahead with the Rafah assault regardless of any ceasefire deal.

While facing international calls to hold off on any Rafah offensive, Netanyahu has faced intense pressure from the religious nationalist partners he depends on for the survival of his coalition government to press ahead.

Hamas killed 1,200 people and abducted 250 others in its Oct. 7 assault on Israel, according to Israeli tallies.

In response, Israel has launched a relentless assault on Gaza, killing more than 34,000 Palestinians, local health authorities say, in a bombardment that has reduced the enclave to a wasteland. More than one million people face famine after six months of war, the United Nations has said.

Blinken’s check-in with Netanyahu on aid takes place about a month after U.S. President Joe Biden issued a stark warning to Netanyahu, saying Washington’s policy could shift if Israel fails to take steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted on Tuesday that there has been slight progress in preventing a wholly avoidable famine caused by human actions in northern Gaza. However, he urged Israel to increase its efforts.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned that the initial aid shipments from Jordan to the newly opened Erez crossing in northern Gaza were set to begin on Tuesday. Additionally, supplies were being delivered through the port of Ashdod, and a new maritime corridor is expected to be operational in approximately a week.

With Inputs From Reuters