The US Secretary of State has visited Tel Aviv

Blinken calls on Israel to "protect" civilians in Gaza if truce expires

PHOTO/AFP/SAUL LOEB - El presidente de Israel, Isaac Herzog, estrecha la mano del secretario de Estado estadounidense, Antony Blinken (izq.), durante su reunión en Tel Aviv el 30 de noviembre de 2023, tras el anuncio de una prórroga de la tregua entre Israel y Hamás justo antes de que expirara
photo_camera PHOTO/AFP/SAUL LOEB - Israeli President Isaac Herzog shakes hands with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) during their meeting in Tel Aviv on November 30, 2023, following the announcement of an extension of the truce between Israel and Hamas just before it was due to expire

US Chief of State Antony Blinken, visiting Tel Aviv on Thursday, told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that it is "imperative" to protect civilians in southern Gaza if the truce with the Islamist Hamas movement expires. 

Blinken "underscored the imperative of ensuring humanitarian and civilian protection needs in southern Gaza prior to any military operation there," the State Department said in a statement. 

The secretary of state reaffirmed US support for "Israel's right to defend itself against terrorist violence while respecting international humanitarian law" but at the same time called on Israel "to take all possible steps to prevent civilians from being hit". 

The US fears that if fighting resumes and spreads to southern Gaza hundreds of thousands of civilians will be at risk. 

Blinken also called on the Israeli judiciary to bring to justice "extremist settlers who commit acts of violence against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank", according to the text. 

Blinken later travelled to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, where he met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. 

The truce between Israel and Hamas, accompanied by an exchange of hostages from the Palestinian Islamist movement against Palestinian prisoners, "is yielding results," and should continue, Blinken said in Tel Aviv. 

"In the last week we saw the very positive news of the return of hostages to their homes, to their families," Blinken told a meeting with Israeli President Isaac Herzog. 

"It has also led to an increase in humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians in Gaza, who desperately need it. So this process is yielding results. It is important, and we hope it can continue," he added.