gaza aid-1714576907248
An Israeli soldier stands guard near humanitarian aid near the Erez Crossing point in northern Gaza, May 1, 2024. Image Credit: REUTERS

JERUSALEM: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, pushing to get more aid into Gaza, while urging Hamas to accept a deal that would halt fighting and bring some hostages home from the enclave.

Israel is the final stop on the top U.S. diplomat’s Middle East tour, his seventh visit to the region which was plunged into conflict on Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked southern Israel.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

Illustrating the trip’s humanitarian focus, Blinken will visit Ashdod port in the south, 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.

During a meeting with Netanyahu in Jerusalem lasting about 2 and 1/2 hours, Blinken noted improvement in delivering aid “and reiterated the importance of accelerating and sustaining that improvement,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

Also read

The United States is Israel’s main diplomatic supporter and weapons supplier. Blinken’s check-in with Netanyahu on aid comes about a month after U.S. President Joe Biden issued a stark warning that Washington’s policy could shift if Israel fails to take steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers.

Blinken also reiterated the US position that Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist group widely proscribed in the West, was “standing in the way of a ceasefire,” Miller said.

The US diplomat has urged Hamas to accept an “extraordinarily generous” truce deal proposed by Egyptian mediators, which would see 33 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 said the group was still studying the proposed deal but accused Blinken of failing to respect both sides and described Israel as the real obstacle.

“Blinken’s comments contradict reality,” Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.


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.

While facing international calls to hold off on any Rafah offensive, Netanyahu has faced pressure from the religious nationalist partners he depends on for the survival of his coalition government to press ahead. Israel has described Rafah as a last bastion of Hamas, which it has vowed to eliminate.

Hamas killed 1,200 people and abducted 253 others in its Oct. 7 assault on Israel, according to Israeli tallies. The hostages are mostly Israeli but include some foreign nationals.

In response, Israel has overrun Gaza, killing more than 34,000 Palestinians, local health authorities say, in a bombardment that has reduced much of the enclave to a wasteland.

More than one million people face famine after six months of war, the United Nations has said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Tuesday there had been incremental progress toward averting “an entirely preventable, human-made famine” in the northern Gaza Strip, but called on Israel to do more.

The first shipments of aid directly from Jordan to northern Gaza’s newly opened Erez crossing were to start on Tuesday, goods were also arriving via the port of Ashdod, and a new maritime corridor would be ready in about a week, Blinken said.