Blinken says he'll press Israel on more humanitarian aid to Gaza

Special meeting to discuss the humanitarian crises faced in Gaza, in Riyadh

By Humeyra Pamuk

RIYADH (Reuters) - The U.S. has seen measurable progress in the humanitarian situation in Gaza, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday, but he cautioned that it still wasn't sufficient and vowed to press Israeli officials later this week to do more.

Blinken’s remarks during a Middle East trip to check in on humanitarian aid to Gaza come about a month after Biden issued a stark warning to Netanyahu, saying Washington’s policy could shift if Israel fails to take steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering, and the safety of aid workers.

Speaking at the opening of a meeting with the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council in Riyadh, Blinken cited the opening of new border crossings and higher amount of humanitarian aid as evidence of progress.

"But, it is not enough. We still need to get more aid in and around Gaza. We need to improve de-confliction with the humanitarian assistance workers," Blinken said, referring to a mechanism that will ensure Israel does not strike aid groups.

"We finally have to make sure that we're not just focusing on inputs but on impact. All of this is going to be focus of the next few days for me, as I travel onto Jordan and Israel," Blinken said.

The top U.S. diplomat is on a tour of the Middle East, his seventh since the region plunged into conflict on Oct. 7 when Palestinian Hamas militants attacked Israel, killing 1,200 people and abducting 250 others according to Israeli tallies.

In response, Israel has launched a relentless assault on Gaza, killing more than 34,000 Palestinians, health authorities there say, in a bombardment that has reduced the densely populated enclave to a wasteland. More than one million people risk famine, the United Nations warns, after six months of war.

Following Riyadh, Blinken will head to Jordan and then Israel, where the focus of his trip will shift largely to how to sustain increased humanitarian aid into Gaza and identifying what the remaining obstacles are to doing so.

"I’ll have a chance to meet with humanitarian groups, with the Israeli Government, to hear from them where more work is needed, and to continue to press for tangible, immediate, and sustained progress."

A spiraling humanitarian crisis has prompted calls from Israel's Western and Arab partners to do more to facilitate the entry of aid to the enclave, where most people are homeless, many face famine, and where civilian infrastructure is devastated and disease widespread.

The amount of humanitarian aid going into the Gaza Strip will be ramped up in coming days, Israel's military said on Sunday, citing new corridors that use an Israeli seaport and border crossings into the Palestinian enclave.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Editing by William Maclean)