Blinken reaffirms US support for ‘humanitarian pauses’ in Gaza

The top US diplomat’s stance is at odds with that of Arab states who are calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Right to left, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi hold a news conference after discussing the Israel-Hamas war, in Amman, Jordan, November 4, 2023 [Jonathan Ernst/Pool/Reuters]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has reaffirmed Washington’s position calling for “humanitarian pauses” in Gaza to protect civilians and allow foreign nationals to leave, as the Israeli military bombarded a UN shelter and hospital in the Gaza Strip.

Blinken held a news conference in Jordan’s capital, Amman, on Saturday alongside Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi and Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, during his third visit to the region since the war began.

While Jordan and Egypt reiterated the demand of Arab states calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, Blinken said humanitarian pauses “can be a critical mechanism for protecting civilians, getting aid in and getting foreign nationals out of Gaza” while “still enabling Israel to achieve its objective” to defeat Hamas.

“It’s our view that a ceasefire now would leave Hamas in place to regroup and repeat attacks,” Blinken said.

“We spoke about ways to accelerate and expand the sustained delivery of aid,” he told reporters, adding that “as Israel conducts its campaign, how it does it matters.”

Countries across the Middle East have played an essential role in preventing the spread of conflict to the rest of the region, Blinken said, and that discussions were continuing with Qatar on efforts to release hostages in Gaza.

He pointed out that while 100 trucks are now moving through Rafah every day, up from about 20 a week ago, that is still “not nearly enough”.

‘Region sinking in sea of hatred’

Safadi said Israel was “committing war crimes” in Gaza and it should not be above international law.

He condemned the Hamas attack on October 7, but said the war on Gaza could not be permitted to continue.

“The whole region is sinking in a sea of hatred that will define generations to come,” Safadi said.

“We don’t accept that this is self-defence,” Safadi said, calling for an immediate ceasefire. “It cannot be justified under any pretext and it will not bring Israel security, it will not bring the region peace.”

Safadi also said Blinken has a leading role to play in efforts to end the war.

Shoukry said Egypt demands an international investigation into “blatant” actions seen in the war on Gaza.

“It’s clear there is unhappiness about how the United States is handling this,” Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher said from occupied East Jerusalem.

US ‘ineffective’ in the region

Blinken’s talks in Amman came as the US has been facing criticism from regional leaders for failing to get Israel to sign on to the idea of humanitarian pauses to ease the suffering of civilians in Gaza.

Speaking during a policy conference in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, the diplomatic adviser of the president of the United Arab Emirates, Anwar Gargash, said the US needs to push for a quick end to the conflict and a new strategy or else be considered ineffective by the region.

“If this crisis continues, especially the humanitarian side, and if this crisis brings us back full circle to the old containment policy of pre-October 7, I think the American role here, forget right or wrong, but it will not be seen as effective,” Gargash said.

Earlier this week, Jordan recalled its ambassador to Israel and told Israel’s envoy not to return to Jordan until the Gaza crisis was over.

On Saturday, Turkey followed Jordan’s lead and recalled its ambassador to Israel for consultations due to the humanitarian crisis and continuing Israeli attacks in Gaza. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said earlier that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was “no longer someone we can talk to”.

Blinken will go to Turkey on Sunday for meetings with Erdogan and top officials on Monday, the US Department of State said.

On Saturday, at least 15 people were killed and dozens more wounded in an Israeli attack on Al Fakhoura school in Jabalia refugee camp.

9,488 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the war began, mostly women and children, while 1,400 people died in Israel, mostly in the Hamas attack on October 7.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies