UN Security Council fails to pass US draft resolution on Gaza after Russia, China veto

TEL AVIV: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday for talks aimed at ensuring more aid flows into Gaza, amid increasingly tense relations between the two allies over the six-month-old war.

In Gaza, Israel claimed to have killed or captured hundreds of Hamas fighters in a five-day operation at the Al-Shifa hospital complex, one of the only medical facilities even partially functioning in the north. Hamas and medical staff deny fighters were present there.

Blinken, on his sixth trip to the Middle East since the war broke out on Oct. 7, has been engaged in an intense round of diplomacy since arriving in the region on Wednesday, meeting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia and foreign ministers and officials from Arab nations in Cairo on Thursday.

Parallel meetings are also taking place in Doha on Friday aimed at securing a ceasefire in the conflict.

The top US diplomat’s latest visit to Israel comes at a time of strained ties between the two countries, with US President Joe Biden calling Israel’s campaign in Gaza “over the top” and saying it has had too great a toll on civilian lives.

Prior to the meeting with Netanyahu, which lasted about 40 minutes, Blinken said he would address the growing gap between the two countries in his one-on-one conversation. He also met with the Israeli war cabinet.

Blinken said he would push Netanyahu to take urgent steps to allow more aid into the densely-populated enclave, where mass death from famine is imminent, according to the United Nations.

The war was triggered by a raid into southern Israel by Hamas fighters who killed 1,200 and took 253 hostages, by Israeli tallies. More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in the subsequent Israeli bombardments, with many more feared dead under the rubble, Gaza health authorities say.

US officials say the number of aid deliveries via land needs to increase fast and that aid needs to be sustained over a long period. Israel says it is not restricting aid.

“A hundred percent of the population of Gaza is experiencing severe levels of acute food insecurity. We cannot, we must not allow that to continue,” Blinken told a news conference late on Thursday.

Israeli Col. Moshe Tetro, head of Israel’s Coordination and Liasion Administration for Gaza, said the military does not believe there is a food shortage in the enclave.

“As much as we know, by our analysis, there is no starvation in Gaza. There is a sufficient amount of food entering Gaza every day,” he told reporters.

Blinken is also expected to discuss Israel’s intention to launch a ground offensive on Rafah, a city on the southern edge of the enclave where more than half of Gaza’s population is now sheltering in makeshift accommodation.

Washington has repeatedly objected to such a plan. Netanyahu told Biden in a phone call on Monday that Israel sees no other way to defeat Hamas fighters it says are holed up there.

Last week, the leader of Biden’s Democratic Party in the US Senate called Netanyahu an obstacle to peace and said Israelis should vote him out. Biden called it a “good speech“; Netanyahu called it “inappropriate” and later held a video conference with lawmakers from Biden’s Republican opposition.

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