Blinken says daily toll in Gaza remains too high, US pushing Israel to maximize civilian protection

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, on February 7, 2024. (Mark Schiefelbein / POOL / AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv, on February 7, 2024. (Mark Schiefelbein / POOL / AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says he and Israel’s war leadership spoke at length about the IDF campaign to defeat Hamas and ensuring October 7 never happens again. Discussion also focused on the Lebanon front.

He stresses the imperative for “maximizing humanitarian protection” and relieving the suffering of Gazans. “Most have lost someone that they love,” he says, “and day after day, more people are killed.”

Blinken says that the US has and continues to “press Israel in concrete ways to strengthen civilian protection” and to get more assistance to those who need it.

He says that “Israel has taken important steps” on starting the flow of aid, then doubling it during the first ceasefire, opening civilian corridors and opening the Kerem Shalom border crossing.

“As a result, more assistance than ever” is flowing into more places in Gaza “than any time since October 7.”

He cites the US role in providing flour.

He says a UN team began its mission to northern Gaza to assess conditions there, including for displaced Palestinians to move back home to the north.

“The daily toll that [Israel’s] military operations continue to take on innocent civilians remains too high,” Blinken says.

He says he highlighted key steps that Israel should take to ensure that more aid reaches more people. He calls on Israel to open the destroyed Erez Crossing in northern Gaza, to expedite the flow of aid from Jordan, to strengthen deconfliction and to improve coordination with aid agencies.

“Israel must ensure that the delivery of life-saving assistance to Gaza is not blocked for any reason, by anyone,” he says, alluding to civilian protests by Israelis at Kerem Shalom.

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