Israel should do more to protect Gaza civilians: Blinken

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US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Sunday urged Israel to do more to protect Palestinian civilians in its war with Hamas, as Israeli tanks fought their way into the main city of the southern Gaza Strip.

Two days after the United States vetoed a proposed United Nations demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, Blinken said Israel needs to put “a premium” on protecting Gaza civilians and making sure humanitarian assistance can reach those who need it.

“The critical thing is to make sure that the military operations are designed around civilian protection,” Blinken told CNN’s State of the Union program.

“I think the intent is there. But the results are not always manifesting themselves,” he said.

Among the steps that Blinken said the United States is “not seeing sufficiently” are “deconfliction times, places and routes” that would allow humanitarian operations to deliver aid and help civilians to get out of harm’s way.

Israeli forces battled their way to the heart of Khan Younis in southern Gaza on Sunday after a night of intense combat, while warplanes pounded areas west of the city.

Israel vowed to annihilate Hamas after the October 7 attack, killing 1 200 people and seizing 240 hostages.

Health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza said that about 18,000 Palestinians have since been killed in the war, while 49 500 have been injured. Thousands more are missing and presumed dead.

On Friday, the United States blocked a UN effort to impose a ceasefire, an option that US and Israeli officials believe would only benefit Hamas.

The Biden administration has also used emergency authority to allow the sale of about 14 000 tank shells to Israel without congressional review, the Pentagon said on Saturday.