US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Thursday for a further extension to a truce that has paused fighting between Hamas and Israel in Gaza for seven days, as the hours ticked down to its expiry.
“Clearly, we want to see this process continue to move forward,” he told reporters in Tel Aviv following a visit to Israel and the occupied West Bank. “We want an eighth day and beyond.”
Blinken also urged Israel to create safe zones for Palestinian civilians in Gaza before it resumes “major military operations” in the Hamas-ruled territory.
Israel “must put in place humanitarian civilian protection plans that minimize further casualties of innocent Palestinians,” he told reporters in Tel Aviv, “including by clearly and precisely designating areas and places in southern and central Gaza, where they can be safe and out of the line of fire.”
He said protecting civilians meant avoiding further “significant displacement of civilians inside Gaza” as well as “damage to life (or) critical infrastructure like hospitals, like power stations, like water facilities.”
“And it means giving civilians who have been displaced in southern Gaza the choice to return to the north as soon as conditions permit.”
There should be no “enduring internal displacement,” he said.
Blinken said Israel was “capable of neutralizing the threat posed by Hamas while minimising harm to innocent men, women and children. And it has an obligation to do so."
“I underscore the imperative of the United States that the massive loss of civilian life and displacement of the scale that we saw in northern Gaza not be repeated in the south,” he added.