Blinken urges cease-fire, aid boost for Gaza at Jordan conference

Blinken urges cease-fire, aid boost for Gaza at Jordan conference

'Israel must take further steps to reduce civilian casualties,' US secretary of state says

By Gizem Nisa Cebi

ISTANBUL (AA) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday stressed the dire situation in Gaza Strip and called for immediate and bold actions to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians.

"The crisis in Gaza is immense," Blinken said at a summit on Gaza's humanitarian crisis in Sweimeh, Jordan. "The single most effective step we can take to address the urgent humanitarian challenges in Gaza is to reach an immediate and ultimately enduring cease-fire."

The US diplomat flew to the Jordan conference from Israel where he made his latest push for a truce.

Jordan's King Abdullah II and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, are the co-hosts of the summit, Call for Action: Urgent Humanitarian Response for Gaza.

Referencing a comprehensive proposal annoucned by President Joe Biden earlier this month, which includes a full cease-fire, withdrawal of Israeli forces, release of hostages, and reconstruction he said: "When I met Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday in Israel, he reaffirmed his support and his commitment to bringing this proposal across the finish line," and highlighted support for the proposal from the UN Security Council on Monday.

The war that started last October after Hamas launched a cross-border offensive on Israel has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians. Israel has also destroyed much of the Gaza Strip, and imposed a strict blockade on the enclave, bringing its population of more than 2 million on the verge of famine.

"I think we all know there is no time to waste, given the hell that hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are enduring every single day," Blinken said.

He claimed that Hamas is an obstacle to the latest truce proposal's implementation, and urged all international actors to press the group to accept the deal. "Press them publicly. Press them privately. And Hamas should not require much convincing," he said.

Blinken also called for increased international aid to meet the UN's appeal, citing a $2.3 billion shortfall. He announced an additional $404 million in new aid from the US and urged other countries to contribute more generously.

To improve aid delivery, Blinken stressed the need for cooperation from Israel to speed up inspections, reduce backlogs, and facilitate aid workers' access.

"Israel must take further steps to reduce civilian casualties," he said, acknowledging the challenges posed by the ongoing conflict.

Blinken also shared stories of children affected by the conflict, including 10-year-old Abed, who lost his family in an airstrike, and 11-year-old Dunia, who dreams of becoming a doctor despite losing her leg and her family.

"These three children, Abed, Fadi, Dunia, and all the Palestinian civilians suffering in Gaza, we know they're not numbers. They're not abstractions. They're human beings."

Concluding his address, Blinken called for a recommitment to upholding humanity and building "a better future for both Palestinians and Israelis."

"If we can see the humanity in everyone and commit to do everything we possibly can to uphold that humanity, then everything's possible," he said.

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