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U.S.’ Blinken criticizes Israel’s Gaza operations

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is welcomed by Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Mike Herzog, as he arrives at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, April 30, 2024. 

Evelyn Hockstein | Reuters

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued harsh words for Israel, criticizing its operations in the Gaza Strip and saying it lacked a plan to protect civilian life ahead of an expected assault on the city of Rafah, where more than 1.2 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering.

“We believe two things,” Blinken said in an interview with CBS’ “Face The Nation” that aired Sunday.

“One, you have to have a clear, credible plan to protect civilians, which we haven’t seen. Second, we also need to see a plan for what happens after this conflict in Gaza is over, and we still haven’t seen that.”

The comments came against a backdrop of increasingly tense relations between Israel and its number one ally as the Biden administration last week confirmed it was pausing a shipment of 3,500 heavy-payload bombs to the Jewish state. It was the first ever such move by President Joe Biden, who has long been a staunch supporter of Israel. He confirmed that U.S. support still remains “ironclad.”

Administration officials say the move stemmed from concern over the use of the weapons — 1,000 and 2,000-pound bombs — on a densely populated area like Rafah, which is now completely surrounded by Israeli forces as its war-ravaged population grapples with military strikes, hunger, disease and a severe lack of sufficient humanitarian aid.

Palestinians living in different parts of Rafah, where Israeli attacks are intense, packed their tents with the belongings they could take with them and migrated to Deir al-Balah city, Gaza on May 10, 2024.

Ashraf Amra | Anadolu | Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says that a Rafah ground assault is the only way to defeat Palestinian militant group Hamas, which governs the Strip and which launched a brutal terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7 that killed some 1,200 people there and took roughly 250 hostage.

Around 130 hostages remain in Gaza, with roughly a quarter believed to be dead. Their release is a key part of a potential cease-fire deal, over which Israeli and Hamas officials — along with America, Egyptian and Qatari mediators — have been negotiating for months. The Israel-Hamas war has killed more than 34,000 people in Gaza, according to Palestinian health authorities in the besieged enclave.

‘Hamas is coming back’

The Biden administration has made clear its opposition to a Rafah offensive, and on Sunday Blinken elaborated on its position.

“What are we seeing right now? We’re seeing parts of Gaza that Israel has cleared of Hamas where Hamas is coming back, including in the north, including in Khan Younis,” Blinken said.

“As we look at Rafah [Israel] may go in and have some initial success, but potentially at an incredibly high cost to civilians, one that is not durable, one that is not sustainable, and they will…

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U.S.’ Blinken criticizes Israel’s Gaza operations

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