Blinken talks Gaza 'humanitarian aid' in Jordan amid Israeli ground invasion threat

Blinken talks Gaza 'humanitarian aid' in Jordan amid Israeli ground invasion threat
3 min read
Despite the US's unqualified support for Israel, Blinken is visiting Arab leaders to discuss the humanitarian catastrophe unleashed by the Israeli bombing of Gaza.
Blinken and King Abdullah met in Amman to discuss Gaza [Getty]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Jordan's king Friday about how to address the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip as Israel readies a US-supported offensive following deadly attacks by Hamas.

Blinken huddled with King Abdullah II as well as Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Amman at the start of a tour of six Arab countries that will also take the top US diplomat to Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

The Jordanian king, a longtime US partner, called for "opening humanitarian corridors to allow for the entry of urgent medical and relief aid to Gaza, and protecting civilians and stopping the escalation and war on Gaza," a statement from the royal court said.

Blinken spent Thursday in Tel Aviv where he promised unwavering solidarity to US ally Israel after Hamas militants breached Israel's southern border on Saturday, killing over 1,200 people and taking about 150 more hostage.

Israel on Friday called on 1.1 million people to move south in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, which is already under an Israeli siege.

Israel has killed more than 2.200 people in strikes in the Gaza Strip since the Hamas attack and has cut off food, water and electricity.

Blinken spoke with King Abdullah on "ways to address the humanitarian needs of civilians in Gaza while Israel conducts legitimate security operations to defend itself from terrorism," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

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US officials are working with Egypt, which also borders Gaza and was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, on a plan for a safety corridor from Gaza.

But Jordan, home to two million Palestinian refugees, warned against permanent displacement.

"The crisis should not be spread to neighbouring countries and exacerbate the refugee issue," the king told Blinken, according to the palace.

Hamas has longstanding ties with US partner Qatar, which has been seen as an intermediary in freeing the hostages.

"We'll continue pressing countries to help prevent the conflict from spreading, and to use their leverage with Hamas to immediately and unconditionally release the hostages," Blinken said late Thursday in Tel Aviv.

Saudi Arabia in the weeks before the attacks had spoken of progress in US-led diplomacy to normalise relations with Israel -- a significant and controversial step for the kingdom that is guardian of Islam's two holiest sites.

Few expect the momentum to be maintained, with the Saudis joining Qatar in blaming Israeli policies towards the Palestinians for the flare-up in violence.

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Working with Abbas 

The nearly 88-year-old Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority enjoys small levels of autonomy in the West Bank, has a long-standing rivalry with Hamas, which took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 following a conflict with his Fatah movement.

Blinken entered his private residence in Amman and shook hands next to a painting that depicted the veteran Palestinian leader superimposed in front of Islam's holy Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

The United States under President Joe Biden and other Democrats have given limited support to the Palestinian Authority.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long sought to sideline the Palestinian Authority and Abbas, with his extreme-right Israeli government rejecting the prospect of a two-state solution.

Abbas made his first public remarks on the conflict on Thursday after meeting King Abdullah.

Abbas called for "an immediate end to the comprehensive aggression against the Palestinian people" and rejected "practices related to killing civilians or abusing them on both sides".

Blinken earlier spoke to Abbas by telephone about the attacks, urging him to condemn the violence and maintain stability in the West Bank.