Israel has rejected a plea from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken for a “humanitarian pause” in Gaza. Blinken discussed the idea with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials during their meetings in Tel Aviv. However, Netanyahu, in a televised statement, dismissed the proposal, stating that Israel would not accept “a temporary ceasefire that does not include the release of our hostages.” He affirmed that Israel would continue its operations against Hamas.
The US diplomatic effort unfolded as Israeli military commanders reported that they had encircled Gaza City and were engaged in a challenging urban battle. Israel’s offensive, involving airstrikes and ground forces, was initiated in response to an attack on October 7, during which Hamas fighters killed 1,400 people in Israel and took more than 240 hostages.
Since then, Israel’s assault has resulted in the deaths of at least 9,200 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
During his visit to Tel Aviv, Blinken reiterated the United States’ support for Israel and sought assurances that Israel would take steps to protect Palestinian civilians. He addressed various key questions raised during their discussions, including how to enhance the flow of humanitarian aid, linking the pause to the release of hostages, and preventing Hamas from exploiting these pauses. Blinken also highlighted the entry of over 100 aid trucks into Gaza in the past 24 hours, emphasizing the need for more.
Blinken stated that the US had offered guidance to Israel on minimizing civilian casualties while pursuing its objectives against Hamas. He also discussed measures to allow more aid, including fuel, to reach Gaza. However, Netanyahu firmly stated that he would not permit any fuel into Gaza and rejected any talk of a ceasefire, insisting on the release of hostages as a condition for a temporary truce.
The US secretary of state emphasized that Israel’s security could only be achieved through the establishment of a Palestinian state, reaffirming the US commitment to a two-state solution. He stressed, “Two states for two peoples. Again, that is the only way to ensure lasting security for a Jewish and democratic Israel.”
During a news conference alongside Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Blinken acknowledged Israel’s right and duty to defend itself, aiming to prevent the events of October 7 from recurring. Herzog revealed efforts to warn Gazans about airstrikes, displaying a pamphlet dropped in the Strip instructing civilians to leave the conflict zone in the north.
Meanwhile, the families of Israelis taken hostage protested nearby. Herzog expressed sympathy for them, while Blinken reassured that the US was continually thinking about the hostages, including Israelis, Americans, and other nationals. White House officials revealed that Hamas had been preventing foreign nationals from leaving Gaza, suggesting that a significant pause in the Israeli offensive was necessary to have any hope of freeing the hostages.
On a political note, a Democratic representative, Rashida Tlaib, criticized President Biden for not demanding a ceasefire and accused him of supporting the “genocide of the Palestinian people.” She issued a warning, stating, “Support a ceasefire now or don’t count on us in 2024,” in reference to Biden’s potential re-election campaign.
Blinken is currently in Jordan, where earlier, the country recalled its ambassador from Israel. He is scheduled to meet with Arab leaders who have been increasingly critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza.