The US and Israel agreed to come up with a plan to get badly needed humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip without it falling into the hands of Hamas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after about nine hours of talks with Israeli officials.
(Bloomberg) — The US and Israel agreed to come up with a plan to get badly needed humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip without it falling into the hands of Hamas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after about nine hours of talks with Israeli officials.
Blinken said President Joe Biden would discuss the idea when he arrives in Israel on Wednesday. Otherwise, he offered few details aside to say that the US and Israel would work on a way to get aid to civilians and create areas where people could get out of harm’s way.
“If Hamas in any way blocks humanitarian assistance from reaching civilians, including by seizing the aid itself, we’ll be the first to condemn it,” Blinken said in a brief statement in Tel Aviv early Tuesday. “And we will work to prevent it from happening again.”
Blinken’s trip has seen him stop twice in Israel and shuttle throughout the region as he tries to keep the conflict from spreading. The violence began more than a week ago when Hamas militants stormed into southern Israel from Gaza and killed some 1,200 people.
Since then, Israel has responded with punishing airstrikes and told civilians to clear out of northern Gaza before an expected ground invasion. That’s sent hundreds of thousands of people, including hundreds of foreign citizens, south toward the border with Egypt and the Rafah crossing point.
Egypt had refused to open a border crossing at Rafah, with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry saying earlier Monday that Israel has refused to “take a stance” that would allow aid to pass through and foreigners to leave. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, in Cairo on Monday, said France was in contact with Israeli officials to allow the passage of humanitarian aid to Gaza. She said Hamas wasn’t allowing people to cross.
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It’s not immediately clear if the plan announced by Blinken would address those concerns. Hamas, which has been designated a terrorist group by the US and the European Union, has urged people to remain in northern Gaza despite Israel’s threats. Yet many people have ignored that and fled the expected Israeli assault.
Earlier, Biden spoke with Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, and “discussed ongoing efforts to alleviate the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” the White House said.
(Updates with dateline.)
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