Blinken flies in to Israel to meet Netanyahu as IDF pushes further into Gaza city


US secretary of state Antony Blinken was due in Israel on Friday and was expected to call for localised pauses in fighting to allow aid into Gaza, as Israel’s military said it had surrounded the Palestinian enclave’s biggest city and was moving further into the centre and fighting in close quarters.

As Blinken left Washington, he said he would discuss concrete steps to minimise harm to civilians in Gaza when he holds talks with Benjamin Netanyahu. It is his second meeting with Israel’s prime minister since the war began nearly a month ago, when Hamas militants killed 1,400 Israelis, mostly civilians, and took more than 240 hostages.

Since then, Israel’s retaliatory strikes on Gaza have killed at least 9,061 people, including 3,760 children, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said on Thursday, drawing warnings from independent United Nations experts that Palestinians in the territory were at “grave risk of genocide”.

Following Joe Biden’s stated support for a pause in fighting to allow time for hostage releases, US national security spokesperson John Kirby said on Thursday the White House was exploring the idea of “as many pauses as might be necessary to continue to get aid out and to continue to work to get people out safely, including hostages”.

The White House has said any pauses in fighting should be temporary and localised, and insisted they would not stop Israel defending itself.

Blinken is due to meet Jordan’s foreign minister Ayman Safadi in Amman on Saturday. In a statement, Safadi said Israel must end the war on Gaza, where he said it was committing war crimes by bombing civilians and imposing a siege.