Jerusalem, Nov 30 (EFE) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on Israel not to resume its military offensive in the Gaza Strip unless it comes up with a concrete plan to protect Palestinian civilians, he told a news conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday.
“In my meetings today with the prime minister and senior Israeli officials, I made clear that before Israel resumes major military operations, it must put in place humanitarian civilian protection plans that minimize further casualties of innocent Palestinians,” Blinken said.
The Secretary of State stressed that it was “imperative” to the US that the “massive loss of civilian life and displacement of the scale we saw in northern Gaza not be repeated in the south” and added that he tols Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “intent matters, but so does the result.”
The US official explained that Israel must implement “more effective steps to protect the lives of civilians” that include “clearly and precisely designating areas and places in southern and central Gaza where they can be safe and out of the line of fire,” avoiding further massive internal displacement and allowing the choice to return to the north and preventing damage to critical infrastructure such as hospitals, power generators and water supply systems.
“All of this can be done in a manner that still enables Israel to achieve its objectives. (…) (because it) has one of the most sophisticated militaries in the world. It is capable of neutralizing the threat posed by Hamas while minimizing harm to innocent men, women, and children. And it has an obligation to do so,” Blinken said, assuring that the leaders he met with agreed with this approach.
The head of US diplomacy arrived in Israel on Thursday for an official visit, as he has done repeatedly since war broke out with the Islamist group Hamas on Oct. 7.
In a meeting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Blinken that he “intends to continue the war” once the cease-fire – which began Nov. 24 with the aim of recovering hostages taken by Hamas – ends.
During Thursday’s press conference Blinken insisted on Israel’s right to defend itself, “Israel has the right to do everything it can to ensure that the slaughter Hamas carried out on October 7th can never be repeated. Hamas cannot remain in control of Gaza. It cannot retain the capacity to repeat that carnage.”
But added that “the way Israel defends itself matters” saying that it is “imperative” that Israel respects “international humanitarian law and the laws of war, even when confronting a terrorist group that respects neither.”
In addition, Blinken said that the number of aid trucks going into Gaza has “more than doubled” but insisted on the need of “sustaining and increasing the flow of humanitarian aid,” asserting that “the Government of Israel agrees with the imperative of humanitarian assistance and the need to sustain it.”
The secretary of state, who stressed the importance of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that includes a “credible path” towards Palestinian’s “legitimate aspiration for statehood”, urged Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a meeting to reform the institution that governs small areas of the West Bank in order to regain credibility and popularity.
Blinken expressed concern about the growing wave of violence in the occupied West Bank, particularly attacks by Jewish settlers against Palestinians, as well as Israel’s policy of expanding settlements in the territory.
The Secretary of State also called on Hamas to release all hostages immediately, to refrain from using civilians as “human shields” and civilian infrastructure to “stage and launch terrorist attacks”, to lay down its arms, to “surrender the leaders who are responsible for the slaughter, the torture, the rapes of Oct. 7” and to renounce “its stated goal of eliminating Israel, killing Jews, and repeating the atrocities of Oct. 7 again and again and again.”
Blinken’s visit coincides with the seventh day of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States, an agreement that includes the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails and the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza.
The ceasefire has brought a pause in the war that erupted on Oct. 7 following an attack by the armed wing of Hamas that included the firing of thousands of rockets into Israel and the infiltration of some 3,000 militiamen who killed 1,200 people, including soldiers and civilians,and kidnapped 240 people in Israeli villages.
Since then and until the day the ceasefire began, Israeli forces carried out a relentless offensive by air, land and sea against the Palestinian enclave, leaving more than 15,000 dead, thousands of people buried under rubble and a serious humanitarian crisis due to the collapse of hospitals and shortages of housing, drinking water, food, medicine and electricity. EFE