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Blinken arrives in Israel for talks amid Rafah ground offensive fears

The US secretary of state will present alternative proposals to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

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Antony Blinken

US secretary of state Antony Blinken has arrived in Israel for what are expected to be fractious talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the war in Gaza as public differences over the conflict have intensified.

Mr Blinken said he will share alternatives to Israel’s planned ground assault into the southern Gaza town of Rafah when he meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet.

On Thursday, Mr Blinken and Arab leaders discussed efforts towards a ceasefire and ideas for Gaza’s post-conflict future.

Russia and China vetoed a US-sponsored UN resolution calling for “an immediate and sustained ceasefire” in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza to protect civilians and enable humanitarian aid to be delivered to more than two million hungry Palestinians.

The vote on Friday in the 15-member Security Council was 11 members in favour, three against and one abstention.

So little food has been allowed into Gaza that up to 60% of children under five are now malnourished, compared with fewer than 1% before the war began, World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Smoke rises in Gaza
Tens of thousands of people have died in the Israeli offensive (AP)

The health ministry in Gaza raised the territory’s death toll to nearly 32,000 Palestinians.

The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people in the surprise October 7 attack out of Gaza that triggered the war, and abducted another 250 people.

Hamas is still believed to be holding some 100 people hostage, as well as the remains of 30 others.

Gaza wreckage
Members of the Al-Rabaya family break their fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan outside their destroyed home by the Israeli airstrikes in Rafah (AP)

Mr Blinken has arrived in Tel Aviv for the final stop in his sixth urgent diplomatic mission to the Middle East, where he is expected to hold meetings with Netanyahu and his war cabinet aimed at convincing them not to proceed with plans for a large-scale military offensive in the southern city of Rafah that many fear could make an already disastrous humanitarian crisis in Gaza even worse.

Mr Blinken said on Thursday in Cairo: “A major military operation in Rafah would be a mistake, something we don’t support.

“And, it’s also not necessary to deal with Hamas, which is necessary.”

Instead, Mr Blinken will present Mr Netanyahu with alternatives for dealing with Hamas in Rafah in discussions that will continue next week when Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant and a separate delegation of senior Israeli officials visit Washington.

Mr Netanyahu agreed to send the delegation in a Monday phone call with US President Joe Biden – their first conversation in a month amid the widening divisions.

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