US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Israel on Thursday it must ensure that Palestinian civilians in southern Gaza are safe and their humanitarian needs are met before resuming military operations there, his spokesperson said.
Blinken met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet in Jerusalem before heading to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
He said a 7-day-old truce between Israel and Hamas had produced results and the United States hoped it would continue.
In the Jerusalem meetings, Blinken reaffirmed US support for Israel’s right to protect itself, spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement.
Blinken urged Israel to take every possible measure to avoid civilian harm, Miller said.
“The secretary stressed the imperative of accounting for humanitarian and civilian protection needs in southern Gaza before any military operations there,” Miller said.
Washington has urged Israel to narrow the zone of combat and clarify where Palestinian civilians can seek safety in southern Gaza, US officials said on Wednesday, to prevent a repeat of the massive death toll from Israel’s northern Gaza attacks.
In a statement following the meeting, Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to wiping out Hamas, which rules Gaza. Health authorities in Gaza say Israel’s bombardment has so far killed more than 15,000 people.
Miller said Blinken urged immediate steps be taken to hold settler extremists accountable for violence against Palestinians in the West Bank and reiterated that Washington remains committed to tangible steps to advance a Palestinian state “living in peace, freedom and security alongside Israel.”
The US top diplomat said Washington was focused on helping to secure freedom for more hostages held in Gaza.
At a meeting in Tel Aviv with Israeli President Isaac Herzog earlier in the day, Blinken said: “We have seen over the last week the very positive development of hostages coming home, being reunited with their families.
“And that should continue today. It’s also enabled an increase in humanitarian assistance to go to innocent civilians in Gaza who need it desperately,” Blinken said.