Blinken tells Israel that it must act urgently to boost Gaza aid

U.S. Secretary of State Blinken meets with Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani at the State Department in Washington

By Simon Lewis and Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz at their meeting on Tuesday in a "quite frank" way that Israel needs to act urgently to allow more aid into Gaza, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

Speaking at a news briefing, Miller said Washington has seen some Israeli ministers in government blocking flour shipments to Gaza and support protesters who blockaded aid going into the densely populated enclave, and he said the U.S. has called out on such actions.

Washington now wants to see another border crossing into Gaza opened by Israel and is engaged with its Israeli counterparts directly to make that happen, Miller said, and those engagements include Blinken's meeting with Gantz.

"He (Blinken) was quite direct and quite frank about the seriousness of the situation on the ground and the fact that it is incumbent on everyone involved to do more to get aid in urgently, as soon as possible," Miller said, describing the humanitarian situation in Gaza as "horrific."

Gantz, speaking to reporters outside the State Department after his meeting with Blinken, said: "Meeting was very good." He did not respond to shouted questions on whether Israel would open another border crossing to allow in more aid.

Famine is now looming over the Gaza Strip as aid supplies, already sharply curtailed since the start of the war, have dwindled to barely a trickle over the past month. Swathes of the territory are completely cut off from food. Gaza's few functioning hospitals, already overwhelmed by the wounded, are now filling with children starving to death.


Blinken on Tuesday also discussed the ongoing ceasefire talks in Cairo with Gantz, Miller said, but he declined to provide details.

"The obstacles are not insurmountable," Miller said. "In our view, it should be possible to reach an agreement. We think the proposal that Israel put on the table in consultation with the United States and with Qatar and Egypt is one that Hamas should agree to."

Hamas negotiators stayed in Cairo for a third day of ceasefire talks on Tuesday to achieve a deal in time for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins at the start of next week. Three security sources from host and mediator Egypt told Reuters that the warring sides were sticking to demands that had held up an agreement.

A 40-day ceasefire in the war between Hamas and Israel would allow some hostages captured by Palestinian militants in the October attack that precipitated the war to go free, while aid to Gaza would be increased and families would be able to return to abandoned homes.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis, Humeyra Pamuk and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Leslie Adler)