US still opposes Rafah operation: Blinken tells Israel’s Netanyahu

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated US opposition to an Israeli assault on the crowded Gaza city of Rafah in talks Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed to press ahead, a US official said.

Blinken discussed the deal with Netanyahu and said “it is Hamas that is standing in the way of a ceasefire”, Miller said.(File)

Blinken “reiterated the United States’ clear position on Rafah,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said, two days after Blinken again voiced opposition to an assault over concerns for the safety of civilians sheltering in the southern Gaza city.

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Blinken, on his seventh trip to the Middle East since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, met Netanyahu for two and a half hours at his Jerusalem office, first alone and then with aides.

The US top diplomat has been hoping to push forward an Israel-Hamas deal that will see a temporary halt to fighting and the release of hostages.

Netanyahu had vowed Tuesday to go into Rafah even if a deal is reached.

Blinken discussed the deal with Netanyahu and said “it is Hamas that is standing in the way of a ceasefire”, Miller said.

Blinken has also been pushing for more aid to enter Gaza, where the United Nations has warned of impending famine.

Blinken acknowledged that aid deliveries had increased since Israel agreed under US pressure last month to reopen additional routes into the besieged territory.

He “reiterated the importance of accelerating and sustaining that improvement,” Miller said.

The Gaza war started after Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,568 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Palestinian militants also took some 250 hostages on October 7. Israel estimates 129 remain in Gaza, including 34 believed to be dead.

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