Blinken says Israel’s ‘job number one’ is protecting Gaza civilians

Remark comes after meeting with The foreign ministers from Britain, Cyprus, the EU, Qatar and the UAE


The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and the Palestinian authority on November 04, 2023 in Amman, Jordan. (Getty)

(JNS)  US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that protecting and aiding Gazans is Israel's primary mission as it wages war against the Hamas terrorist group.

“We look to the government of Israel to make sure this is a priority. Protecting civilians, getting people the assistance they need — that has to be job number one, even as they do what is necessary to defend the country and to deal with the threat posed by Hamas,” the American diplomat told reporters in Washington after a meeting with his international counterparts on Gaza.

The foreign ministers from Britain, Cyprus, the European Union, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates spoke with Blinken about the initiative underway to establish a temporary pier off the Gaza coast, announced by US President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress last week.

Hamas is still holding 134 of the 253 Israelis it abducted during its bloody October 7 assault on the northwestern Negev. Their safe return is one of the three goals set forth by the Israeli War Cabinet, the other two being the destruction of Hamas and ensuring that Gaza can never again threaten Israel.

Concern has been mounting in Washington and European capitals about the safety of non-combatants during an Israeli offensive to defeat the final four Hamas battalions concentrated in Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah – consisting of roughly 3,000 fighters –  which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated on Tuesday is essential to winning the war.

“To win this war, we must destroy the remaining Hamas battalions in Rafah. If not, Hamas will regroup, rearm and reconquer Gaza and then we’re back to square one. And that’s an intolerable threat that we cannot accept,” the premier stressed.

Jerusalem rejects accusations that the IDF is not doing enough to protect Gaza's civilian population and facilitate humanitarian aid into the Strip, of which Israel claims Hamas hijacks upwards of 60 per cent.

The Israeli military is piloting a programme to deliver aid directly into northern Gaza to bypass Hamas, and will be providing security for the American effort to deliver aid via the Mediterranean Sea.

Six aid trucks from the World Food Programme (WFP) directly entered the northern Gaza Strip early Tuesday via the 96th Gate along the security fence after being inspected at Kerem Shalom, according to the army, who facilitated the entry.

The IDF also said on Thursday that for the first time it was preparing to facilitate the entry of Gaza aid via the sea. A ship carrying nearly 200 tons of food for Gaza will arrive from Cyprus as part of a pilot program to provide humanitarian aid to the enclave via the Mediterranean Sea.

The ship is carrying humanitarian aid from the US-based World Central Kitchen in a project funded by the United Arab Emirates. Israel inspected the shipment at the port of Larnaca before setting sail on Tuesday.

"The delivery of the aid was facilitated after all the equipment on the ship underwent a comprehensive security check and was accompanied by Israeli officials to ensure that humanitarian aid alone reaches the Gaza Strip," the IDF said.

Israel has also coordinated multinational efforts to deliver aid to Gaza via the air.

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