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.

On Tuesday, defying U.S. calls to ensure that no military operation took place without adequate steps to protect civilians, Netanyahu declared Israel would go ahead with the Rafah assault regardless of any ceasefire deal.

While facing international calls to hold off on any Rafah offensive, Netanyahu has faced intense pressure from the religious nationalist partners he depends on for the survival of his coalition government to press ahead.

Hamas killed 1,200 people and abducted 250 others in its Oct. 7 assault on Israel, according to Israeli tallies.

In response, Israel has launched a relentless assault on Gaza, killing more than 34,000 Palestinians, local health authorities say, in a bombardment that has reduced the enclave to a wasteland. More than one million people face famine after six months of war, the United Nations has said.

Blinken’s check-in with Netanyahu on aid takes place about a month after U.S. President Joe Biden issued a stark warning to Netanyahu, saying Washington’s policy could shift if Israel fails to take steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted on Tuesday that there has been slight progress in preventing a wholly avoidable famine caused by human actions in northern Gaza. However, he urged Israel to increase its efforts.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken mentioned that the initial aid shipments from Jordan to the newly opened Erez crossing in northern Gaza were set to begin on Tuesday. Additionally, supplies were being delivered through the port of Ashdod, and a new maritime corridor is expected to be operational in approximately a week.

With Inputs From Reuters

Published on StratNews Global on May 1, 2024